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Showing posts from June, 2010

A Gift of Wisdom for a Graduating Senior

BY: Barbara Kantrowitz One professor's notes on success could help make the next four years a little easier
This is the time of year when many of us are getting ready for high school graduation parties – the last step before the empty nest. We’re anxious for our children as they head off on their own, usually for the first time. Will they make friends? Will they stay healthy? And will they really get what they need from the college experience?
The answers to those first two questions depend a lot on the individual student, but be reassured: by the time most graduate, they usually have at least a few pals and have managed to stay reasonably intact despite all-nighters and frat parties. The last question is a lot trickier. With the cost of college adding up to a huge amount of debt these days and a bleak job market for new grads, it’s especially critical to make the most of these years.

A new book by an Iowa professor offers some useful tips. Philip Freeman received his PhD from Harv…

Report: Employers to see 2011 medical costs jump

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Companies that offer employee health insurance expect another steep jump in medical costs next year, and more will ask workers to share a bigger chunk of the expense, according to a new PricewaterhouseCoopers report.

For the first time, most of the American workforce is expected to have health insurance deductibles of $400 or more, the consulting firm said in a report released to The Associated Press.

Deductibles are the annual amount a patient pays out of pocket for care before insurance coverage starts. They are generally separate from co-payments and coinsurance.

Two years ago, only 25 percent of companies participating in the annual survey said they asked employees to pay deductibles of $400 or more. That grew to 43 percent in 2010 and is expected to pass 50 percent next year.

Employees who are asked to pay more through things like higher deductibles help keep cost growth in check because they use less health care.

The health care reform law passed by Congress…

'Smart' traffic lights could remotely stop vehicle engines -- IBM patent application

Speeding through a red light? Not a chance, according to IBM Corp.

The technology behemoth, known for its work with computers, is now trying its hand at traffic. The company recently filed a patent application for a system that could remotely stop and start vehicle engines at traffic signals in order to save fuel and prevent crashes.

The system would sense vehicles’ positions and send a “stop engine” notification – either by automatically turning off the engine or displaying an alert telling drivers to manually switch off power.

At intersections, railway crossings and other locations, the system could use anything from weight sensors to camera and GPS units to track vehicles. The technology could also be used to calculate when cars have been idling for too long and should be shut down.

Once the light turns green, the system may be able to time when drivers should crank up the ignition based on where they are in the line.

Drivers might also be able to sign up for a sort of service th…

Devices turn cellphones into credit card processors

Card readers from such companies as Square and Intuit enable anyone to take plastic for payment, for a fee. For those who want the ability without the fees, PayPal Mobile has come up with an app.

"I don't have any cash on me" may no longer be a valid excuse with new credit card readers that can be used with mobile phones.

In a potential boon to street vendors, mom-and-pop shops and even those who lend a few bucks to a friend, several companies have rolled out ways to use cellphones to instantly process credit card payments.

Square, a brainchild of Twitter Inc. creator Jack Dorsey, enables anyone to accept credit cards using a tiny white attachment and software that can be downloaded to a smart phone.

"The future has arrived," Mayer Hawthorne, a singer and songwriter who used Square to sell his CDs and merchandise while on the road, wrote in a Twitter message to his fans.

The plastic card reader plugs into the headphone jack on an iPhone or Android-based phone a…

Can Google be held legally responsible for bad directions?

“Use caution — This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.”

Punch a pair of addresses into Google Maps and ask for walking directions between them, and Google will warn you of the above, noting that its walking directions are in beta.

And that’s because these walking directions (like many driving directions) aren’t always the best. But while bad driving directions are often just an inconvenience that may cost you a few extra minutes, tell someone to walk on the wrong road and you could very well be sending them into harm’s way.

That’s exactly what happened to a woman named Lauren Rosenberg last January, when she typed an address into her BlackBerry, asked for walking directions, and was ultimately led onto a busy highway with no sidewalks. She was promptly hit by a car and is now suing Google (and the driver of the car who ran her over) for six figures.

While the question of whether the driver is responsible for the incident is a matter of facts on the ground, the more in…

iPad idea came before iPhone

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. – Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs shared a secret with his audience at a technology conference outside Los Angeles Tuesday: The idea for the iPad came before the iPhone.

The idea to ditch the keyboard for what Jobs calls a multi-touch display came about in the early 2000s, although the company was working on a telephone at the time, he said. That's when a prototype came to him that used the device's now-famous scrolling mechanism.

"I thought, 'My God we can build a phone out of this,'" Jobs said at The Wall Street Journal's "D: All Things Digital" conference in Rancho Palos Verdes.

But the tablet product was put on the shelf, the iPhone went into development for several years before making its debut in 2007 and Apple started selling the iPad tablet computer in April.

Both products have taken on more of the personal computing tasks once handled by computers running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system and other pro…

Buffett to testify before financial crisis panel

NEW YORK – Billionaire investor

Warren Buffett and the CEO of credit rating agency Moody's Corp. are scheduled to face questions Wednesday from a bipartisan panel probing the roots the financial crisis.

The congressionally chartered

Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission subpoenaed Buffett to appear at the New York hearing on the credibility of credit ratings and the investments made based on those ratings.

Rating agencies like Moody's,

Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings have been criticized for giving unrealistically high ratings to complex investments backed by risky mortgages and other assets. When homeowners started defaulting on their mortgages, the rating agencies downgraded billions of dollars of investments at once. That helped spark the financial crisis.

Buffett will appear alongside

Moody's Corp. CEO Raymond McDaniel. Berkshire Hathaway, which Buffett leads as chairman and CEO, is Moody's largest shareholder.

Despite his company's stake in Moody…

FBI warns of mass-marketing scams

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

That's the advice authorities gave Tuesday to avoid getting scammed in mass-marketing fraud schemes proliferating throughout the globe.

The warning was issued by the FBI in Los Angeles in partnership with various other federal agencies and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as part of a "Multi-National Day of Action" aimed at mass-marketing fraud.

Authorities in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are also raising awareness about the problem this week.

The schemes, which often prey on the elderly and originate in foreign countries, involve variations of fake prize promotions, advance-fee loan rip-offs, fake lotteries, and credit card or loan scams.

Typically, people with poor or nonexistent credit are offered credit cards or loans for an advance fee.

One common scam known as the mystery shopper involves sending victims fake checks and asking them to deposit the money and then wire the funds to t…