"Smoking Ban May Strike Military"

Fox News has this:

U.S. soldiers are trained to handle deadly weapons and smoke out enemies but they may soon find that they aren't allowed to handle cigarettes and light up a smoke.

Pentagon health experts are pressing Defense Secretary Robert Gates to ban the use of tobacco by troops and ends its sale on military property, according to USA Today.

Jack Smith, head of the Pentagon's office of clinical and program policy, told the newspaper that he will advise Gates to adopt proposals by a federal study that cites rising tobacco use and higher costs for the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs as reasons for the ban.

The study by the Institute of Medicine calls for a phased-in ban over a period of perhaps up to 20 years.

"We'll certainly be taking that recommendation forward," Smith told the newspaper.

The VA and the Pentagon requested the study, which found that troops worn out by repeated deployments often rely on cigarettes as a "stress reliever." The study also found that tobacco use in the military rose after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

Tobacco use costs the Pentagon $846 million a year in medical care and lost productivity, according to the study, which was released last month and used older data. The Department of Veterans Affairs spends up to $6 billion in treatments for tobacco-related illnesses, the study found. . . . .

Smoking both calms and increases alertness, both of which are valuable for soldiers who have to go on patrol.

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Larry Summers then and now

Larry Summers now:

“I don’t think the worst is over ... It’s very likely that more jobs will be lost. It would not be surprising if GDP has not yet reached its low. What does appear to be true is that the sense of panic in the markets and freefall in the economy has subsided and one does not have the sense of a situation as out of control as a few months ago.”

In January when he was pushing for the stimulus package, he said that the plan would start working "within weeks."

As to the concern of panic, Obama encouraged the panic and the panic stopped when Obama stopped exaggerating what was happening with the economy.

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"Report and small arms survey mask anti-gun agenda"

Amazing: Dems target that New Haven firefighter in recent Supreme Court case

I hope that the Republicans raise this on the talk shows tomorrow.

Supporters of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor are quietly targeting the Connecticut firefighter who's at the center of Sotomayor's most controversial ruling.

On the eve of Sotomayor's Senate confirmation hearing, her advocates have been urging journalists to scrutinize what one called the "troubled and litigious work history" of firefighter Frank Ricci.

This is opposition research: a constant shadow on Capitol Hill.

"The whole business of getting Supreme Court nominees through the process has become bloodsport," said Gary Rose, a government and politics professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn.

On Friday, citing in an e-mail "Frank Ricci's troubled and litigious work history," the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way drew reporters' attention to Ricci's past. Other advocates for Sotomayor have discreetly urged journalists to pursue similar story lines.

Specifically, the advocates have zeroed in on an earlier 1995 lawsuit Ricci filed claiming the city of New Haven discriminated against him because he's dyslexic. The advocates cite other Hartford Courant stories from the same era recounting how Ricci was fired by a fire department in Middletown, Conn., allegedly, Ricci said at the time, because of safety concerns he raised. . . . .

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A few important California Democrats support a (semi) flat tax

Well, this is surprising, though if they are willing to give up some redistribution through taxation, they can get more more money, in a more stable way than the current system.

Karen Bass is an unlikely tax cutter. She's the Democratic speaker of the California State Assembly, a fierce defender of the labor movement, and an advocate for repealing a constitutional provision that requires that tax increases pass the state legislature with a two-thirds majority.

But as California faces a budget crisis that defies efforts to resolve it, there is a woman-bites-dog story developing with Ms. Bass at its center. By the end of the month, a commission she pushed to create is expected to recommend that the state adopt a flat (or at least flatter) personal income tax and cut or repeal corporate and sales taxes.

Normally, such proposals would be dead on arrival in Sacramento. But now many Democrats, including the speaker, are realizing that what they need is a tax base that will provide steady funding for their programs. In other words, they need a tax base that doesn't count on a large slice of revenue from taxes on a relatively small number of wealthy residents who can flee the state or who are themselves vulnerable to losing a substantial portion of income in a recession. . . . .

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Historical return on stocks may be a lot lower than first thought

Sounds as if there are some real basic problems with Jeremy Siegel's "Stocks for the Long Run." The Smith and Cole book that he relied on apparently made clear how they constructed their data, and Siegel seems to have not understood or acknowledged these problems. From the WSJ:

Using data assembled by other scholars, Prof. Siegel extended the history of U.S. stock returns all the way back to 1802. He came to two conclusions that became articles of faith to millions of investors: Ever since Thomas Jefferson was in the White House, stocks have generated a "remarkably constant" average return of nearly 7% a year after inflation. (Adding inflation at 3% yields the commonly cited 10% annual stock return.) And, declared Prof. Siegel, "the risks of holding stocks decrease over time."

There is just one problem with tracing stock performance all the way back to 1802: It isn't really valid. . . .

For the years 1802 through 1820, Profs. Smith and Cole collected prices on three dozen banking, insurance, transportation and other stocks -- but ended up including only seven, all banks, in their stock-market index. Through 1845, they tracked 19 insurance stocks, but rejected 95% of them, adding only one to their index. For 1834 onward, they added a maximum of 27 railroad stocks.

To be a good measure of stock returns, an index should be comprehensive (by including many stocks) and representative (by including the stocks commonly held by investors). The Smith and Cole indexes are neither, as the professors signaled in their 1935 book, "Fluctuations in American Business." They cherry-picked their indexes by throwing out any stock that didn't survive for the whole period, whose share prices were too hard to find or whose returns seemed "inflexible," "erratic," or "non-typical."

The database of early U.S. securities at EH.net has so far identified more than 1,000 stocks that were listed on 10 different exchanges -- including Charleston, S.C., New Orleans, and Norfolk, Va. -- between 1790 and 1860. Thus the indexes relied on by Prof. Siegel exclude 97% of all the stocks that existed in the earliest years of the U.S. market, and include only the bluest of the blue-chip survivors. Never mind all of the canals, wooden turnpikes, rubber-hat companies and the other doomed stocks that investors lost millions on -- and whose returns may never be reconstructed.

There is a second problem with Prof. Siegel's data. . . .

"I made an estimate of the dividend yield," Prof. Siegel told me, "through looking at a smaller set of securities and projecting it out." Money manager Robert Arnott of Research Affiliates LLC has recently estimated the early dividend yield at 5.2%. "Arnott has a much lower estimate, and that's a big difference," said Prof. Siegel. "I mean, I don't know what more to say."

I later called Prof. Siegel to ask him again about the difference between his original research and his book, but he didn't get back to me by press time. . . . .

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Democrats say no rationing, but half the costs of their medical changes come from further reductions in payments to medical providers

Does anyone see the inconsistency here? From the WSJ:

The House bill, expected to be formally unveiled as soon as Monday, is likely to cost $1 trillion overall. About half the cost of the bill will come from budget savings from ratcheting down payments that health-care providers receive through programs like Medicare, which covers the elderly. The balance will come from revenues generated by a graduated surtax that would begin in 2011, said New York Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. . . . .

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Sotomayor to claim that bias statements hasn't effected her decisions in court

The WSJ has this lead about what will happen with Sotomayor this coming week. This is so self-serving. If a Republican male had said that men would reach better conclusions than a woman, the wouldn't even get to the hearing and Schumer would be screaming the loudest.

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life," she said.

The White House initially argued that, as spokesman Robert Gibbs put it, "She'd say her word choice in 2001 was poor." But it soon emerged that Judge Sotomayor had used similar language on several other occasions.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), a strong supporter of Judge Sotomayor, said she pointed out to him that several sentences later in the same speech, she observed that many white men had issued great opinions, including Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 case outlawing segregation in public schools.

Mr. Schumer made the argument that is likely to be Judge Sotomayor's chief response -- that her 17-year judicial record, including hundreds of rulings, shows no evidence of unfairness or tilting the scales in favor of minority groups, whatever she may have said in speeches.

"Paraphrasing Joe Friday, 'Just look at the record, folks,'" Mr. Schumer said.

But many Republicans consider the comment biased on its face. Judge Sotomayor has told Republican senators her wording was "inadvertent" and "inartful," but they will press her hard at the hearing for a persuasive disavowal.

"I do think that based on her speeches and writings, that it will be essential that she convincingly assert that she will be impartial," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), the Judiciary Committee's top Republican. . . . .

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House Health Care Vote may be Delayed Until September

A small revolt by some Democrats may slow down House passage of the government health care takeover.

The drive to remake the nation's health care system suffered yet another setback in Congress on Thursday when a pivotal group of House Democrats demanded numerous changes in legislation the leadership was drafting on a fast track.

The emerging bill "lacks a number of elements essential to preserving what works and fixing what is broken," 40 members of the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate to conservative Democrats wrote in a letter to party leaders.

To win their support, they said, any legislation would need to be much more aggressive in reining in the growth of health care.

The letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also called for greater protections for small businesses and rural health care providers. It did not specify how much additional time the group wanted, but Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., said he believes no vote should take place until September. . . .


Time Magazine (1974): "Another Ice Age?"

They seemed so certain of this back in the mid1970s. This is from Time Magazine in 1974:

In Africa, drought continues for the sixth consecutive year, adding terribly to the toll of famine victims. During 1972 record rains in parts of the U.S., Pakistan and Japan caused some of the worst flooding in centuries. In Canada's wheat belt, a particularly chilly and rainy spring has delayed planting and may well bring a disappointingly small harvest. Rainy Britain, on the other hand, has suffered from uncharacteristic dry spells the past few springs. A series of unusually cold winters has gripped the American Far West, while New England and northern Europe have recently experienced the mildest winters within anyone's recollection.

As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.

Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds —the so-called circumpolar vortex—that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world. Indeed it is the widening of this cap of cold air that is the immediate cause of Africa's drought. By blocking moisture-bearing equatorial winds and preventing them from bringing rainfall to the parched sub-Sahara region, as well as other drought-ridden areas stretching all the way from Central America to the Middle East and India, the polar winds have in effect caused the Sahara and other deserts to reach farther to the south. Paradoxically, the same vortex has created quite different weather quirks in the U.S. and other temperate zones. As the winds swirl around the globe, their southerly portions undulate like the bottom of a skirt. Cold air is pulled down across the Western U.S. and warm air is swept up to the Northeast. The collision of air masses of widely differing temperatures and humidity can create violent storms—the Midwest's recent rash of disastrous tornadoes, for example.

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Healthcare bill micro managing people's lifestyles

If I want to jog or walk, I don't need billions of dollars spent by the federal government to make it happen. Does anyone think that they aren't going to tell you what surgeries you can have when they are going to control where walking paths are? From the Boston Globe:

Sweeping healthcare legislation working its way through Congress is more than an effort to provide insurance to millions of Americans without coverage. Tucked within is a provision that could provide billions of dollars for walking paths, streetlights, jungle gyms, and even farmers’ markets.

The add-ons - characterized as part of a broad effort to improve the nation’s health “infrastructure’’ - appear in House and Senate versions of the bill.

Critics argue the provision is a thinly disguised effort to insert pork-barrel spending into a bill that has been widely portrayed to the public as dealing with expanding health coverage and cutting medical costs. A leading critic, Senator Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, ridicules the local projects, asking: “How can Democrats justify the wasteful spending in this bill?’’

But advocates, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, defend the proposed spending as a necessary way to promote healthier lives and, in the long run, cut medical costs. “These are not public works grants; they are community transformation grants,’’ said Anthony Coley, a spokesman for Kennedy, chairman of the Senate health committee whose healthcare bill includes the projects.

“If improving the lighting in a playground or clearing a walking path or a bike path or restoring a park are determined as needed by a community to create more opportunities for physical activity, we should not prohibit this from happening,’’ Coley said in a statement. . . . .


What is Pelosi thinking when Dems are trying to claim again that she was mislead by CIA

Politico has an interesting video here.

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New GAO Report on Global Warming

I am not yet sure how great this GAO report is, but it does have some information on what industries they think will be hurt the most by the Cap & Trade bill.

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USA Today: "Billions in aid go to areas that backed Obama in '08"

From USA Today:

Billions of dollars in federal aid delivered directly to the local level to help revive the economy have gone overwhelmingly to places that supported President Obama in last year's presidential election.
That aid — about $17 billion — is the first piece of the administration's massive stimulus package that can be tracked locally. Much of it has followed a well-worn path to places that regularly collect a bigger share of federal grants and contracts, guided by formulas that have been in place for decades and leave little room for manipulation.

Counties that supported Obama last year have reaped twice as much money per person from the administration's $787 billion economic stimulus package as those that voted for his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, a USA TODAY analysis of government disclosure and accounting records shows. That money includes aid to repair military bases, improve public housing and help students pay for college.

The reports show the 872 counties that supported Obama received about $69 per person, on average. The 2,234 that supported McCain received about $34. . . .

See also a new GAO audit of where the stimulus money is going.

"For example, the GAO said about half the money set aside for road and bridge repairs is being used to repave highways, rather than build new infrastructure. And state officials aren't steering the money toward counties that need jobs the most, auditors found."

USA Today discusses the GAO report with this headline: "States aren't using stimulus funds as intended."

See also this discussion on Fox News between Sean Hannity and John Kasich.

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LA Police Department public database on crime omits nearly 40 percent of crime

By Ben Welsh and Doug Smith in today's LA Times:

The Los Angeles Police Department's online crime map intended for public use has failed to include nearly 40% of serious crimes reported in the city, a Times analysis has found.

The omissions, which date back at least six months, include thousands of crimes known to LAPD officials and are included in their official crime statistics.

Among the 19,000 incidents between Jan. 1 and June 13 that do not appear at lapdcrimemaps.org:

* 26 homicides

* 137 rapes

* 10,766 personal, vehicle or other nonviolent thefts

In one of those rapes, a man hid in the back of a woman's car, forced her to drive to an abandoned North Hollywood apartment and assaulted her. It was the kind of incident that residents of the neighborhood around Sherman Way and Kester Avenue would have wanted to know about. . . .


Obama administration trying to increase the instability of commodity market prices

How can these guys not understand that speculators make money by smoothing out swings in the market? The BBC has this:

A US regulator is to hold hearings to decide whether it should clamp down on speculation in the energy market.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) imposes limits on trading positions in agricultural commodities but not on oil or gas. . . . .

The hearings are being seen as part of the Obama administration's attempts to stabilise financial markets.

They will take place in July and August. . . . .



New Fox News Op-ed: Stimulus Spending Is Making Things Worse Not Better

My new Fox News piece starts this way:

It isn't that President Obama's policies aren't working. It is just that the economy was so much worse off than anyone realized. -- Or so the Obama administration claims.

Vice President Joe Biden repeated the mantra again this past Sunday on ABC's "This Week." Host George Stephanopoulos asked him how the 9.5 percent unemployment rate in June squared with the administration's prediction that if the stimulus package was passed, "unemployment will peak at about 8 percent." Biden replied: "we and everyone else misread the economy. The figures we worked off of in January were the consensus figures and most of the blue chip indexes out there."

Translation? The economy being much worse than ever predicted isn't Obama's fault, the Bush administration supposedly left us a worse economy than anyone realized. Even to Stephanopoulos, the alternatives were only two: "either you misread the economy [that the economy was worse than they realized], the stimulus package is too slow and to small." A headline in today's Wall Street Journal reports "Calls Grow to Increase Stimulus Spending." . . . .

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Where are the media comparisons over Obama trusting Medvedev

President Bush was strongly criticized for his statement about Putin:

"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue," Bush said. "I was able to get a sense of his soul."

Where is the media discussion about Obama's statement:

"I trust President Medvedev to not only listen and to negotiate constructively, but also to follow -- follow through on the agreements that are contained here today."

Obama's statement goes at least as far as Bush's, though outside of Fox News I am not sure that a comparison has been made.

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Exaggerating the risks of acetaminophen?

The WSJ claims:

Whether or not the Food and Drug Administration decides to limit sales of acetaminophen, consumers should know this: It’s easy to take more than the recommended daily dose without realizing it. . . . .

The latest Slone Survey report (June 2009) shows that 48 million Americans took acetaminophen weekly during 2006. With 298 million Americans in the US that year and 450 fatalities from acetaminophen poisonings, this means that 1 out of every 5.6 million people who take one or more doses during a week die. That is something that the government should spend a lot of time worrying about?



Strange emission goals for G8 countries

From the BBC:

The G8 leaders are set this week to deliver their strongest statement so far on global warming.

They are likely to agree that the world ought to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 - with rich nations reducing them by 80%.

The group will probably also say that any human-induced temperature rise should be held to 2C - a level considered to be a danger threshold . . . . .

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Why you might not be using Social Security numbers on all the forms that you fill out much longer

MSNBC has this story:

There’s a new reason to worry about the security of your Social Security number. Turns out, they can be guessed with relative ease.

A group of researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University say they’ve discovered patterns in the issuance of numbers that make it relatively easy to deduce the personal information using publicly available information and some basic statistical analysis.

The research could have far-ranging implications for financial institutions and other firms that rely on Social Security numbers to ward off identity theft. It could also unleash a wave of criminal imitators who will try to duplicate the research.

Details of the research were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal and will be explained at the annual Black Hat computer hacker convention in Las Vegas later this month.

The report means companies and other agencies should once and for all stop using Social Security numbers as passwords or unique identifiers, said Professor Alessandro Acquisti, who authored the report.

"We keep living as if they are secure, a secret," he said. "They're not a secret." . . . . .


Anti-trust enforcement is going after everything

Airlines upset that DOJ won't let them work together on sharing passenger miles.

Nine airlines in the global Star Alliance and aspiring member Continental Airlines Inc. on Monday criticized the Justice Department's objections to their plans to cooperate more closely on international routes, fares and capacity.

The airlines' application for antitrust immunity for such cooperation was provisionally granted in April by the Department of Transportation, which has sole authority over such pacts. But on June 26, the Justice Department weighed in with a belated broadside against the airlines' plans. Justice said the cooperation would lead to higher fares, hinder competition and hurt consumers. . . . .

Now they are looking into AT&T's deal with Apple on the iPhone.

The Department of Justice has begun an initial review to determine whether large U.S. telecom companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. have abused the market power they've amassed in recent years, according to people familiar with the matter.

The review of potential anti-competitive practices is in its very early stages, and it isn't a formal investigation of any specific company at this point, the people said. It isn't clear whether the agency intends to launch an official inquiry. . . . .

More on the iPhone related investigation see here. Some critics of the investigation can be seen here.

Let me get this straight. DOJ is upset with the airlines because they all miles to be shared (thus preventing some type of "lock in"), but they are upset that a model telephone is available for only one carrier.

Additional examples:


The Department of Transportation gave final approval for Continental Airlines Inc. to enter a cooperative agreement with nine other airlines for international routes, largely brushing aside concerns from the Justice Department.

The DOT order came two weeks after the Justice Department blasted the plan as harmful to consumers and competition. The order gave the Star Alliance airlines nearly everything they wanted and imposed only modest concessions.

UPDATE: Making investments riskier.

As if investors needed more to worry about. The outlook for corporate profits already is clouded by an uncertain economy, and markets remain skittish. Now there is a burst of antitrust activism.

The Justice Department is conducting a review of the telecom industry. Last week, it toughened its line on payments paid by drug makers to avoid defending patents in court. It also convinced the Department of Transportation to put restrictions on a route-sharing pact between Continental Airlines and the Star Alliance. . . .

UPDATE 2: Something to put these concerns into perspective.

Yesterday Apple (AAPL) finally made good on threats and blocked the ability of Palm Pre owners to synch their devices with Apple's iTunes software. And that's just fine.

Expectations that Apple should open up its software to let other devices use it are unreasonable. Yes, in a perfect world of perfect interoperability, all devices should play nice with each other. But we don't live in that world and most of the technology companies I know of don't either. So why should Apple?

Here's Apple's statement: "iTunes 8.2.1 is a free software update that provides a number of important bug fixes. It also disables devices falsely pretending to be iPods, including the Palm Pre. As we've said before, newer versions of Apple's iTunes software may no longer provide synching functionality with unsupported media players," said Apple spokesperson Natalie Kerris. Translation? Yes, we blocked Pre synching. Are you surprised?

Apparently, the masses were shocked, shocked! As reports filtered out over the internet that Apple had blocked Palm Pre owners from synching to iTunes, howls of outrage filled the blogosphere. Pre owners screamed bloody murder. The free information crowd went crazy. "Apple's iPhone and iPod Monopolies Must Go!" thundered one headline. It was as if there were no other options to Apple in music-playing and smartphones.
Naturally, no one seemed to be protesting that iPhone owners couldn't synch their devices with Windows-based music-playing devices or that Pre owners couldn't synch their devices with Blackberry software systems.

In a nutshell, it sure looks like Apple is being held to an extremely unreasonable standard. You can't play Wii games on an Xbox 360. But I have yet to hear complaints that video game packages are not compatible. The principle is the same. Makers of proprietary hardware devices allow software from competitors to run on those devices at their discretion. Period. If Apple doesn't want to support Palm, that's its prerogative.

This issue is not only confined to the technology sector. Honda doesn't feel compelled to support Toyota owners who would like to use Honda's superior airbag control systems, for example. . . . .

UPDATE 3: Verizon responds to this political pressure and says that it will limit new exclusive handset deals to six months

Applies to carriers with less than 500,000 customers

* Could also apply to other "small" carriers

* Offer open to Cellular South, not U.S. Cellular (Adds analyst, consumer group comment)

By Diane Bartz and Sinead Carew

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, July 17 (Reuters) - Verizon Wireless is dialing back on its exclusivity agreements with handset makers after pressure from U.S. lawmakers and smaller carriers.

The biggest U.S. mobile service said on Friday it will limit exclusivity periods with cellphone makers to six months and then allow the country's smallest wireless service providers to sell the devices.

The move comes after reports that the U.S. Department of Justice was taking a preliminary look into whether U.S. operators had violated antitrust laws by obtaining exclusive deals to sell specific phones.

Exclusivity deals are common among the biggest U.S. carriers but have recently faced strong opposition from small, rural carriers, which say they lack the clout to make deals to carry the most popular advanced phones.

The iPhone has drawn such deals into the spotlight because AT&T Inc (T.N), the second biggest U.S. wireless service, has had exclusive U.S. rights with Apple Inc (AAPL.O) since 2007. . . .

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A story for those who don't think that concern about profits motivates firms to be efficient

Compare this discussion to how the government operates. The UK Telegraph has this:

Airlines are reducing the size of spoons and dropping in-flight magazines to make planes lighter and save fuel during the recession, according to the International Air Transport Association.

In the United States, Northwest Airlines has excluded spoons from its cutlery pack if the in-flight meal does not require one.
It is not alone, according to Paul Steele, director of the environment at IATA.

Another carrier, JAL of Japan, took everything it loaded from a 747 and put it on the floor of a school gym to see what it really needed.

As a result it shaved a fraction of a centimetre off all its cutlery to cut weight.

"When you are talking about a jumbo jet with 400 people on board, being served two to three meals, this can save a few kilos," he said.

"You work out how much fuel that consumes over a year, and you can be talking about a considerable amount of money".
Other carriers have come up with all sorts of ingenious initiatives to shift the flab off their aircraft.

In-flight magazines are going and carriers are even putting their duty-free catalogues onto the seat-back televisions.
"Airlines are going through what they put on a plane. They are now saying that if we are only carrying 100 passengers, then only load what they need," said Mr Steele.

Catering trolleys are becoming lighter and less water - both bottled and in the tank - is being loaded.

The next generation of aircraft seats are likely to be up to 30 per cent lighter than the current generation, with composite replacing aluminium. . . . .


Venezuela's Chavez moves to take control of country's banking system

How many banks say that they "favor" certain sectors of the economy? Possibly banks could say that they have expertise in certain sectors, but saying that they "favor" sectors is quite different.

President Hugo Chavez's government assumed control of Venezuela's third-largest bank on Friday - making the state the largest player in the nation's banking system. . . .
The acquisition will "strengthen the public banking system," which favors sectors including agriculture, energy, housing and tourism, Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said in a statement. . . . .

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The Wife of the UK's MI6 chief put personal family details up on Facebook

This is pretty bizarre. From the BBC:

Details about the personal life of the next head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, have been removed from Facebook.

The Mail on Sunday says his wife, Lady Shelley Sawers, put details about their children and the location of their flat on the social networking site.

The details, which also included holiday photographs, were removed after the paper contacted the Foreign Office.

MP Patrick Mercer, counter-terrorism sub-committee chairman, said he was disappointed by the couple's actions. . . .

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