Monthly Archives: April 2012

Social Security is slipping closer to insolvency



A dire forecast by trustees of Social Security and Medicare adds urgency to calls on Washington to do something soon as baby boomers begin retiring.

WASHINGTON — The nation’s Social Security and Medicare programs are sliding closer to insolvency, the federal government warned in a new report underscoring the fiscal challenges facing the two mammoth retirement programs as baby boomers begin to retire.

Medicare, which will provide health insurance to more than 50 million elderly and disabled Americans this year, is expected to start operating in the red in its largest fund in 2024, according to the annual assessment by the trustees charged with overseeing the programs. That’s unchanged from last year.

And the Social Security trust fund, which will provide assistance to more than 45 million people in 2012, will be unable under current trends to fulfill its obligations in 2033, three years earlier than projected last year.

“We must take steps to keep these programs whole for the future,” Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, the senior trustee, told reporters Monday.

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US says gasoline prices still too high



(Reuters) – The Obama administration said on Monday gasoline prices were still too high despite a decline at the pumps and that the government is in talks with international partners about high energy costs.

Rising fuel costs have stirred economic concerns and become a central theme in the U.S. presidential election race this year, prompting the administration to consider several options, including releasing emergency oil reserves, to tamp down prices.

Gasoline prices have dipped for three consecutive weeks, however, easing concerns that U.S. motorists could face $5 a gallon during the summer.

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How Long Can Apple Remain King of Mobile Devices?

Comunicando 114 ¿Qué móvil prefieres? iPhone, ...


Think back over the last decade. Twelve years ago, Motorola one of the leaders in the development of the entire cell phone industry, was clearly #1. It invented the flip phone and then disrupted the market with its super thin RAZR that drove it to a peak market share in the mid-30’s.  Its biggest strength was its enormous patent portfolio. Then new CEO Ed Zander closed down Motorola’s intellectual property pursuits and started the company on a death march.  It didn’t take long for the company to wind up in the junk heap.Even Carl Icahn lost money.

Rimm was the next true disrupter in the mobile market with its Blackberry device. The sound quality wasn’t the best but for sure, if you wanted to be able to monitor your email from the road you had to have a Blackberry.  Corporations embraced them until they missed their next generation transition.  Fade to black.

During this last decade, Nokia was slowly disappearing from the U. S. market even as it dominated global phone sales with the largest world market share. It was asleep as the smart phone revolution overtook the industry and is now suffering the consequences of not responding fast enough with enough horsepower.  Its phones still deliver the best “phone” experience but otherwise, Nokia became irrelevant to U.S. carriers. As Nokia has learned in spades, if you fall behind, you lose ground quickly and now even in developing countries, consumers are rejecting plain vanilla devices.

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1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed



WASHINGTON (AP) — The college class of 2012 is in for a rude welcome to the world of work.

A weak labor market already has left half of young collegegraduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge.

Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.

An analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press lays bare the highly uneven prospects for holders of bachelor’s degrees.

Opportunities for college graduates vary widely.

While there’s strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder. Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.

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With all this natural gas, who needs oil?


oil and gas

Bob Mann leans against his wife’s 2006 Volkswagen Jetta in his tool-packed garage. The mechanic and inventor has just converted the car, which is the color of a ripe crab apple, to run on natural gas. He shakes his head.

“It’s a no-brainer. We could jump-start the economy overnight, put 100,000 people to work – easy – and help the environment,” says Mr. Mann, a former Volkswagen technician who’s as comfortable talking about global energy solutions as he is around a socket wrench.

From his suburban home in a wooded neighborhood once known for its shipbuilding prowess, Mann is crafting automotive gadgets for a future that many believe could help solve the nation’s long-intractable energy woes – one fueled mostly by natural gas. During the past five years, Mann has converted more than 10 cars to run on compressed natural gas, in addition to gasoline, using a device he invented, the “CNG Fogger,” which boosts the vehicles’ mileage. Commuters in the Boston area have snapped up his cars from Craigs­list as have CNG enthusiasts as far away as Wisconsin. Mann has also built a CNG race car and wants to design another to compete in theIndianapolis 500.

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Verizon Promises to Throw Weight Behind Windows Phone: Why?

Nokia Lumia 900 VerizonWhen talking about the best smartphone released ever, the discussions are mainly focused around Apple iPhone and Android smartphones. But unexpectedly, Verizon is throwing weight behind Windows Phones.

Verizon Wireless CFO Fran Shammo and his team is all set to launch a marketing campaign for the third mobile platform -Windows Phone – that can compete against Google and Apple in smartphone wars, by backing Microsoft.

Previously, Verizon has greatly helped Google’s Android OS to spread its roots in the U.S. market. Now the company is ready to do the same thing with Microsoft’s mobile platform. Cell phone manufacturers are already lining up to grab the code of Microsoft’s next installment in smartphone world, the Windows Phone 8 (codenamed Apollo), which is expected to hit the market in second half of 2012.

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Windows Phone to beat Android


apple, microsoft, windows phone, android, cellphones

While Android has become the smartphone platform with the largest installed base, its future in that position is not guaranteed and it is seeing competition from a contender many had considered also-ran: Microsoft.

Android has had a fantastic run over the last couple of years and was positioned as the best alternative to Apple’s ambitions in the space, which makes recent comments by Google’s new leader somewhat disconcerting.

During this week’s proceedings surrounding Oracle’s lawsuit against Google over use of Java code in Android, Larry Page made a very curious remark: he said he wasn’t sure that Android was a critical asset to Google and saw it as mainly a vehicle to get Google products to run on mobile devices. This was an odd bit of signaling as it seemed to imply that support for Android as a platform is far from guaranteed. As a developer, this could be a cause for substantial concern: if I develop for Android today, what kind of guarantees do I have that the OS will still be supported tomorrow.

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Consumer Spending Probably Paced Growth: U.S. Economy Preview




The biggest gain in consumer spending in a year probably helped the U.S. economy keep expanding in the first quarter even as fuel costs climbed, economists said before a report this week.


Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services the nation produced, rose at a 2.5 percent annual rate after advancing 3 percent in the previous three months, according to the median forecast of 72 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before the Commerce Department’s April 27 release. Consumer purchases that account for about 70 percent of the economy climbed by the most since the end of 2010, the survey showed.


Job creation and warmer winter weather helped Americans overcome higher prices at the gas pump as auto sales powered ahead and retailers enjoyed more foot traffic. At the same time, the pace of growth may not be enough to convince Federal Reserve policy makers meeting this week to stray from their plan to keep borrowing costs low through 2014.


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US gasoline futures post biggest weekly loss since Sept

Old gasoline pumps


(Reuters) – U.S. gasoline futures posted the biggest weekly loss in seven months this week, as fears of a supply squeeze that threatened to send prices soaring for the summer fade, analysts and traders said on Friday.

The drop, which came after the specter of $5 a gallon gasoline became a hot issue in the U.S. presidential election debate, was driven by expectations that cargoes of fuel from Europe and the potential sale of one or two East Coast refineries would ease the potential for a shortfall during the driving season.

The fall has been extreme — down more than 6 percent this week alone to $3.1427 a gallon and off almost 9 percent from March 29, when gasoline futures hit an 11-month high. At the time, it appeared three refineries on the U.S. East Coast could shut due to poor margins over the summer, roughly half of the region’s capacity.

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How to beat government bonds — Using Social Security


social security retirementFor an investment return that tops those offered by hedge funds, insurance firms or Wall Street banks, baby boomers should look to Social Security.

That’s right: The same math that is driving Social Security costs higher can provide fat returns for people approaching retirement. All you need is a way to make ends meet while delaying the start of Social Security benefits from age 62 to as late as 70.

Sure, those who defer will miss a bunch of checks in the early years—but then will lock in bigger payments for life. This trade-off can be calculated as an investment return, just like a bond yield.

I asked John Shoven, director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and author of numerous books and studies on Social Security, to perform such an analysis. The numbers might come as a surprise.