Sunday, June 30, 2013

Detroit?s Default May Spark U.S. Death Spiral of Debt

Source: CP

Debt is deadly, and it?s made even worse with rising interest rates that can prevent you from eliminating the load. What happens with rising interest rates is that more of the payments go toward the interest and less to the principal. In fact, it?s what I call a death spiral of debt that worsens as rates move higher.

When individuals face excessive debt, often the solution is to reduce spending and adhere to a strict repayment program.

When corporations face excessive debt, they tend to streamline; but they must be careful when they do so, because any cost-cutting could impact the company?s growth. What generally happens is more debt or credit is issued.

But when governments build up massive debt loads, there is no definitive solution, and it becomes problematic. The?national debt?is estimated to reach $17.55 trillion by the end of this year, while the country?s total debt, including federal, state, and municipal debt,?is earmarked at $20.54 trillion. (Source:, June 18, 2013.)

Congress and Obama must resolve the national debt limit.

Take a look at the chart below of the national debt from 1970 to today (blue bars), and the projected national debt to 2018 (red bars). What?s made clear from this chart is not only the steady buildup of national debt but the rate of the buildup since early 2000, especially following the Great Recession in 2008. It?s obvious that the national debt is spiraling out of control.

Gross Public Debt Chart

Chart courtesy of

Despite the popular adage ?a picture is worth a thousand words,? this chart of the national debt can be defined by one word: debt.

That?s why the?Federal Reserve?and the U.S. government must deal with the country?s massive national debt load?and how it?s getting out of hand.

But not only is the national debt an issue, the debt buildup at the state and municipal level is also a major concern. By the end of this year, the debt amassed by the state governments is estimated to reach $1.19 trillion. (Source: Ibid.)

What?s alarming is that the municipal, state, and federal governments will inevitably be subject to a cash crunch when yields and interest rates ratchet higher.

As I recently mentioned in these pages, we?re seeing debt issues in many states that are vulnerable to rising interest rates, and not only with the federal debt.

Recall that California and its municipalities have accumulated a debt load of about $848 billion,?which could eventually be eclipsed by $1.1 trillion, according to The California Public Policy Center. (Source: ?Report: California?s Actual Debt At Least $848B; Could Pass $1.1T,? CBS web site, May 1, 2013.)

And then this past Monday, we found out that the city of Detroit, which has been ravaged by decades of slow growth and major population decline, has run out of money after defaulting on roughly $2.5 billion in unsecured debt. The city is trying to convince its creditors to accept $0.10 on the dollar to eliminate this debt. (Source: Williams, C., ?Emergency manager: Detroit won?t pay $2.5B it owes,? Associated Press, June 14, 2013.)

But the problem won?t stop there, because Detroit will need new funds to survive, and based on the city?s default and low credit rating, the cost of the loan would likely be significant.

So, while the stock market rises to new records and new millionaires surface each day, the real problem will be when rates move higher and debt payments become unmanageable.

I would start to take some profits off the table, or move funds into more defensive sectors.


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Drool Over this Chart of All the Glorious Superpowers You'll Never Have

Drool Over this Chart of All the Glorious Superpowers You'll Never Have

I don't have any superpowers. Neither do you. But we can both salivate with envy at all the marvelous flavors of superpowers we could have, if they were real. And to aid us in that noble pursuit, Pop Chart has put out their Giant-Size Omnibus of Superpowers, a (fairly) comprehensive menu of powers and their associated owners.

This isn't Pop Chart's first attempt at that righteous goal, but it's definitely the most involved so far. The powers?gathered from decades upon decades of superhero fiction mainstream and indie alike?are broken down into seven distinct families: powers of the body, animal powers, force control, mastery, object manipulation, weapons-based, and powers of the mind. It's intense.

Drool Over this Chart of All the Glorious Superpowers You'll Never Have

The 24" x 36" poster boasts 200 superpowers belonging to 600 superheroes/villians, and can be yours for the modest price of $32. It's a far cry from being able to buy your favorite superpower, but hey, let's take what we can get. You can hop over to Pop Chart to see the whole thing up close and personal. [Pop Chart via Wired]

Drool Over this Chart of All the Glorious Superpowers You'll Never Have


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Transportation Safety Board of Canada will deploy a team of investigators to a fatal air accident near Pemberton, British Columbia

RICHMOND, BC, June 29, 2013 /CNW/ - The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) will deploy a team of investigators?to a fatal accident near Pemberton, British Columbia, where a Cessna and a glider collided. The TSB will be launching an investigation.

The TSB is an independent agency that advances transportation safety by investigating occurrences in the marine, pipeline, rail and air modes of transportation. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

SOURCE: Transportation Safety Board of Canada

For further information:

Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations

The TSB is online at? Keep up to date on the latest from the TSB through?RSS,?Twitter @TSBCanada,?YouTube and?Flickr


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No, manufacturing jobs won?t revive the economy

In the American imagination, the phrases ?the decline of the middle class? and ?the loss of factory jobs? are almost inextricably linked. But the promise of a U.S. manufacturing revival has gained strength and currency in policy circles, with many arguing it?s a way to turn the economy around. President Obama has trumpeted the growth of factory jobs in speech after speech.??Think about the America within our reach,? he told his audience at last year?s State of the Union address. ?An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs!?

But, for all the optimism and nostalgia for an America that once was, it?s worth asking whether factory jobs are more likely to help workers rise to the middle class today ? or leave them stranded among the working poor.

Elena Suarez was on her lunch break, taking a walk on the side of the road in the industrial park where she works, and eating a sandwich as she walked, when I stopped her to ask about her job. She?s a machine operator at Resonetics, a manufacturing company in Nashua, New Hampshire that specializes in precision laser micromachining for the medical device industry.

I asked Suarez how her job pays.

?Poor,? she said. ?I pay for working.?

Suarez commutes from Manchester, about half an hour away, and gas and car maintenance eat up quite a bit of her pay. She said she got the job through a staffing agency three years ago at a pay rate of $11 an hour. After two years, she was hired as a direct employee of the company, which meant she got a handful of paid sick days and access to medical and dental plans that cost a significant chunk of workers? paychecks. Her hourly pay also dropped to $10.50.

Her husband also works at a factory, but even with two incomes, the family has to budget carefully to get by. Suarez said she sees other families with more kids, or with only one working parent, and wonders how they manage.

?Sometimes I ask people, ?how do you do it??? she said. ?It?s not easy sometimes.?

Overall, even as the sophistication of manufacturing jobs has grown over the past 40 years, their pay has come nowhere near keeping pace with the growth in the economy as a whole. Adjusted for inflation, the average job in the industry now pays less than it did in the mid-1970s. If there are some high-skill factory jobs, there are also plenty of low-skill ones, filled, in many cases, by a rotating cast of temps or by people whose wages never rise above the temp level.

There are arguments for paying workers better. One was made by a 2012 Brookings Institute paper that argues the future of U.S. manufacturing depends on companies? willingness to take a ?high road? approach to production. That means investing in technology, using innovative methods and ensuring that workers have the skills to contribute to process improvements.

A second argument is a more fundamental one that applies to the economy as a whole: Workers are contributing to increasingly productive companies and ought to get a fair share of what they?re making.

The $1.2 billion international plastics molder Nypro is one company that embraces the notion of high-road manufacturing. Inside the old brick walls of a former carpet mill in Massachusetts, sophisticated plastic extruding machines turn out machinery for fixing human bodies. The plant makes components for medical devices, and it requires significant sophistication from its workers. Even many floor-level production workers need to understand computers and robots and industry quality standards.

?It?s very unusual to find somebody who?s been out here for two years with less than a two-year college education level,? said company spokesman Al Cotton.

Workers come in with less education, he said, but they?re put into classes at ?Nypro University? before or after their work shifts, mostly at the company?s expense, and some go as far as a master?s degree from local colleges that have affiliation agreements with the training program. Some workers handling advanced, computer-driven machines can make more than $100,000 a year, Cotton said, although that?s partly because there?s such a shortage of people who can fill these positions that they end up working 60 hours a week.

Nypro is growing. When I talked to Cotton in late May, the company was looking to fill 100 positions at the Massachusetts location.

Atrium Medical in Hudson, New Hampshire is another growing plastics company in the medical device industry, but, at least according to some of its workers, it puts less focus on investing in its employees. (Officials at the company didn?t return my calls, which was also the case with Resonetics.)

Atrium was acquired by Maquet Getinge Group of Sweden in 2011 for $680 million, and it has plans to move to a larger building soon. When I stopped by the plant on a sunny afternoon, workers were outside, eating lunch at picnic tables. I approached two women speaking with each other quietly in Spanish and asked about their jobs. They?re assemblers, they said. When I asked if the jobs are good ones, they hesitated.

?They pay the minimum,? one said. ?Like $8 an hour.?

That?s the starting pay, she added. She and her friend have been working here for 10 years. How much do they make now? $9 an hour.

Another woman, eating lunch in her car, told me the assemblers move between standing and sitting. ?We do everything by hand,? she said, except ?the guys,? who run welding machines. ?If you can?t keep up, watch it,? she said.

?We don?t get paid much, let me put it that way,? she added. ?For the work we do, we don?t get paid much.?

When I approached another worker, a machine operator named Julio Abreu, he immediately told me ?I love this place.?

The benefits aren?t the best, he said, but, after two years on the job, he recently got a $1 raise to $11 an hour. Since his girlfriend makes a similar wage they?re able to support their son. And he likes the schedule, working 10-hour days Monday through Thursday and getting Fridays off. When I asked him if he?d like to stay at the job, though, he laughed and said it?s good enough until he can go back to college. With a slight edge of sarcasm, he added ?It?s not my dream job.?

The differences between Nypro and Atrium aren?t black and white. Ten to 15 percent of the production workers at Nypro?s Massachusetts plant are temps making as little as $10 an hour, and there are certainly some highly technical, well-paid jobs at Atrium, but the two companies begin to give a sense of how varied production jobs are.

If you want to really see how all-over-the-map manufacturing jobs can be, look no further than Craigslist. In Michigan, one of the states where the industry?s employment has been growing quickly, jobs promising $35 an hour plus benefits for running computer-operated lathes sit alongside ones like this: ?We are looking for candidates with at least one year of manufacturing experience. Candidates must be able to lift 50lbs and bend, twist, and stand all day long. All candidates must be flexible in shifts and available to work overtime and weekends when required?. Compensation: $8.00/hr.?

The current moment is an interesting one for manufacturing. The industry did a spectacular nose-dive between 2006 and 2010, losing more than 2.5 million jobs and hitting a historic low of less than 11.5 million. After that, it began a slight upswing, rising to nearly 12 million. There is much debate among economists about whether that growth will continue, but advocates, including President Obama, have begun a push to help make it happen. Obama has created several pilot programs to help companies adopt high-tech manufacturing processes and to get workers trained to participate in them.

And yet, for all the talk of good jobs in an increasingly high-tech industry, as manufacturing employment has begun to grow, pay in the industry hasn?t gone up. In real terms, the median hourly wage for production workers in manufacturing?which includes front-line supervisors and programmers of computer-controlled machinery as well as hand assemblers and meatpackers?fell from $15.87 in 2010 to $15.51 in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those numbers are probably a bit high, since they don?t include temps.

On average, factory workers with little education still make a bit more than they might in retail or fast food, but that?s by no means always true. And, unlike service-sector employers, manufacturing plants are almost worshipped by American politicians. It?s hard to find a plant that expands or opens a new location without getting some sort of tax subsidy. Resonetics got a government-supported financing package when it opened its plant in Nashua, and when Atrium moves to its new location, it will be eligible for a New Hampshire state tax incentive.

Howard Wial, one of the authors of the Brookings Institute paper that advocates high-road manufacturing, said some state and local incentives do require that companies pay a certain wage, but they?re not common, and even when they exist there?s often no enforcement mechanism. In general, he said, the incentives are not particularly connected to creating good jobs.

?They?re just about poaching jobs from one place to another without creating any new value,? he said.

Wial, who is the head of the University of Illinois at Chicago?s Center for Urban Economic Development, said Obama?s efforts to encourage high tech manufacturing growth would also be stronger if they encouraged companies to pay well and supported unionization. Even without that, though, he said the federal programs are one way of helping manufacturers to be smart about their approach to technology. Right now, he said, technical sophistication varies dramatically from plant to plant.

?Some companies have thought very hard about how best to organize work and how to make the best use of workers? skills, how to use more skilled workers, how to involve workers in making decisions that are important for improving production and innovating,? he said. ?And some companies don?t really think very systematically about this at all.?

The difference, he said, means some companies are far more productive?and internationally competitive?than others. And, he said, there?s generally a correlation between the more productive companies and the pay levels of their workers.

?Certainly there are high-productivity companies where the workers don?t share in the benefits,? he said, ?But, in general, to reach the highest levels of productivity, you need to have workers actively involved in solving problems, and they?re not going to be willing and able to do that if they don?t share in the benefits.?

Among the report?s findings are that manufacturing wages are on the low end in the U.S. compared with other industrialized countries, and yet the nation lost more jobs between 2000 and 2010 than higher-paying countries. The study also found that even within one narrow category of workers?automotive stampers who use stamping presses to make car parts from sheet metal?U.S. wages ranged from $10 to $17 an hour.

Aside from the conclusion that high wages go along with higher productivity, the report also notes that direct labor costs typically make up ?far less than 20 percent? of a manufacturer?s total costs, making pay level a relatively unimportant factor in competitiveness.

?Overall, manufacturing is not nearly as labor-intensive as it once was, so it?s mattering less,? Wial said.

And yet, he added, that doesn?t mean companies are being particularly generous when it comes to wages.

?Over time we?ve seen this very disturbing trend of, we?ve had productivity growth and the typical worker hasn?t shared in that very much, if at all.?

Steve Sawin is one of the people who believes in a manufacturing resurgence. An old-school American businessman dressed neatly in shirt and tie and well-shined shoes, he sees high-profile companies like GE rethinking their processes and finding that it just makes more sense to make many products in the U.S. than overseas.

?Manufacturing built the middle class of this country,? he said. ?We need to rebuild that manufacturing base to rebuild our middle class.?

Sawin is the CEO of Operon, a company that, he says, is not a temp agency. It provides medical device companies, including both Nypro and Atrium, not just warm bodies to run machines and assemble parts but people who?ve been chosen for their ability to work in modern manufacturing settings and then trained for the specific companies where they?ll be working.

At Nypro, Sawin and Amy Oskirko, an Operon area manager, have a workspace set up in a corner of the factory, defined by temporary partitions enclosing several large tables. There, applicants?20 to 40 of them a week for Nypro alone?take tests in reading comprehension, basic math, manual dexterity and vision. If they do well, they move on to get trained in industry standards for documentation, use of calipers and microscopes for inspecting plastic parts and how to ?gown and degown??dressing in hygienic plastic from hair net to shoe coverings to keep the products clean. The entire process takes 6 ? to 8 ? hours over two days?unpaid?depending on the client company?s training needs, Oskirko said.

Sawin said his company offers services that help U.S. companies compete. With employees that work for Operon, they can easily add or subtract workers based on their needs at any given moment, and they can hire the ones that work out best as permanent employees. His company helps take the guesswork out of labor, the most variable component in any production process.

?You go out and buy a bag of screws, you?re confident they?re all going to work with very little exceptions,? he said. ?People on the other hand? they are all over the map.?

For the most part, Sawin said, the positions he?s filling aren?t complex, thanks partly to the automation of production functions.

?It has relegated the human role in many cases to inspecting, monitoring and controlling machines, packaging, labeling and maybe a little assembly,? he said.

Along with all the other training topics, new recruits watch a DVD labeled ?work ethic.? Sawin said it?s something you can?t really teach, but they try because it?s a big issue among the people they hire?the biggest reason they don?t get hired on full-time.

?For some reason a lot of young people have not been indoctrinated in the basic tenet of the good work ethic,? he said.

Sawin said the pay rate for the people he hires is between $9 and $12 an hour. Operon doesn?t offer health insurance?the plans it wanted to provide didn?t meet state-mandated minimums in Massachusetts or New Hampshire.

Even if the pay were only $8, a level that?s not uncommon for temps in the industry, Sawin said that?s not bad considering that the work is entry level.

?This guy could have been bagging groceries at Stop & Shop last week,? he said.

I asked Sawin if people might work harder if they were paid more, but they said he doesn?t think so.

?I don?t think it has to do with pay as much as it does with principles,? he said.

If there?s debate over whether paying production workers more increases productivity, there is also that other argument to consider.? How much does a worker contribute to a company?s success, and what kind of compensation does she deserve for her work? Companies are quite unlikely to pose this question to themselves. Raising it has, historically, been the job of the labor movement.

But few workers in manufacturing today are represented by unions?13.4 percent of production workers in 2012, down from 19.2 percent as recently as 2002.

?It?s become almost impossible to form a union through the National Labor Relations Act procedures nowadays,? said Brad Markell, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council.

When it comes to a real resurgence in manufacturing, Markell is skeptical that there will be much progress unless the U.S. revises its trade policies, but he said there?s no inherent reason why the production jobs that do exist in the country now don?t pay better than they do.

?The value added per employee in those areas is enough to support a well-paying job, but the question is whether the workers have the power to extract the pay from those companies,? he said. ?In an era of high unemployment, and when we?ve lost a lot of manufacturing jobs, and when people aren?t joined together in a union it?s very hard.?

Markell said it?s also not clear that more complicated products and processes in manufacturing lead to jobs that demand better training, or command better pay.

?The average 17-year-old is extremely sophisticated on computers, so how much education does it take?? he said. ?It?s certainly not the case that because jobs involve computers that they pay better. It?s more about the power dynamic.?

Resonetics, the laser micromachining company where Elena Suarez works, is a high-tech manufacturer by almost any measure. Its machines can features as small as a thousandth of a millimeter, and it does this for the medical device industry, a sector that is obsessively interested in new technology. But when I asked Suarez if the job took much training she shrugged and said, well, you have to learn to use the machines.

One of Suarez?s coworkers, who asked me to refer to her only as Judy, said running the machines isn?t particularly hard. ?If anything it?s more boring than demanding,? she said.

Judy, a woman with a look and manner that suggest an office manager more than a machine operator, has been in manufacturing for 30 years. She spent most of that time at a company that makes electronic testing equipment. She trained there as a computer programmer and went back to school for blueprint reading. Over time she brought her pay up to $20 an hour. But when that company closed the local plant, she found her skills didn?t translate. When she was hired at Resonetics four years ago, her experience won her a starting wage of $12.50 an hour. Soon she learned new skills, including inspection, which means staring into a microscope looking for flaws in the plastic products the machines produce?it?s harder on the shoulders and neck than on the eyes, she told me. Today her pay is up to $15 an hour.

She?s able to live on that, she said, partly because she paid off her mortgage over her years at the higher paying job. It also helps that she?s getting a pension from that job.

Judy said management seems to have improved at Resonetics since she started there, but in general she thinks the industry is tougher for workers than it once was.

?I think years ago loyalty played a role in it,? she said. ?That?s not the case anymore. It?s all about the money. The bottom line for the people who own the business is ?how can I make the most money by expending the least money???


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Spy program gathered Americans' Internet records

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration gathered U.S. citizens' Internet data until 2011, continuing a spying program started under President George W. Bush that revealed whom Americans exchanged emails with and the Internet Protocol address of their computer, documents disclosed Thursday show.

The National Security Agency ended the program that collected email logs and timing, but not content, in 2011 because it decided it didn't effectively stop terrorist plots, according to the NSA's director, Gen. Keith Alexander, who also heads the U.S. Cyber Command. He said all data was purged in 2011.

Britain's Guardian newspaper on Thursday released documents detailing the collection, though the program was also described earlier this month by The Washington Post.

The latest revelation follows previous leaks from ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who is presumed hiding at a Moscow airport transit area, waiting to hear whether Ecuador, Iceland or another country might grant him asylum. He fled Hong Kong over the weekend and flew to Russia after being charged with violating American espionage laws.

The collection appears similar to the gathering of U.S. phone records, and seems to overlap with the Prism surveillance program of foreigners on U.S. Internet servers, both revealed by Snowden. U.S. officials have said the phone records can only be checked for numbers dialed by a terrorist suspect overseas. According to the documents published by The Guardian on Thursday, the Internet records show whom they exchanged emails with and the specific numeric address assigned to a computer connected to the Internet, known as the IP, or Internet Protocol, address.

The program, described in a top secret draft report from the NSA inspector general, described the efforts of then-NSA Director Gen. Mike Hayden to fill gaps in intelligence gathering after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. One NSA officer quoted in the report described "NSA standing at the U.S. border looking outward for foreign threats" and "the FBI looking within the United States for domestic threats. But no one was looking at the foreign threats coming into the United States. That was the huge gap that NSA wanted to cover."

The draft added that the sweeping phone and Internet data-gathering programs were meant to speed up the process of surveillance of a terrorist suspect overseas, because "the average wait time was between four and six weeks" to get a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. "Terrorists could have changed their telephone numbers or Internet addresses" before the NSA received permission to spy on them on U.S.-based phone or Internet systems.

Alexander said at a Baltimore conference on cybersecurity that the NSA decided to kill the Internet data gathering program because "it wasn't meeting what we needed and we thought we could better protect civil liberties and privacy by doing away with it."

He said the program was conducted under provisions of the Patriot Act, and that NSA leaders went to the Obama administration and Congress with the recommendation to shut it down.

Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the director of national intelligence, said the program has not resumed.

The Washington Post had described the Internet surveillance in an earlier report, without publishing the documents or releasing as many details. The Post described it as part of four secret surveillance programs ? two aimed at phone and Internet metadata, while two more target contents of phone and Internet communications.

Alexander, who has been up on Capitol Hill frequently for hearings and meetings since the NSA phone and email surveillance was made public, laid out a broad defense of the programs.

He said he worries that more leaks are coming, adding that "every time a capability is revealed we lose our ability to track those targets."

While never mentioning Snowden by name, Alexander said his irresponsible releases of classified information "will have a long term detrimental impact on the intelligence community's ability to detect future attacks."

He declined to provide more details on what the NSA is doing to prevent such leaks in the future. He has said that the agency is changing passwords and improving its ability to track what system administrators are doing.

On Thursday, he said he was looking at how the leak happened and the people involved. He said the NSA can't do its job without contractors because it doesn't have all the talent or access it needs to do the job.


Baldor reported from Baltimore.


Follow Kimberly Dozier on Twitter at

Follow Lolita C. Baldor on Twitter at


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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Phoenix, Las Vegas bake in scorching heat

PHOENIX (AP) ? A blazing heat wave expected to send the mercury soaring to nearly 120 degrees in Phoenix and Las Vegas over the weekend settled across the West on Friday, threatening to ground airliners and raising fears that pets will get burned on the scalding pavement.

The heat was so punishing that rangers took up positions at trailheads at Lake Mead in Nevada to persuade people not to hike. Zookeepers in Phoenix hosed down the elephants and fed tigers frozen fish snacks. And tourists at California's Death Valley took photos of the harsh landscape and a thermometer that read 121.

The mercury there was expected to reach nearly 130 through the weekend ? just short of the 134-degree reading from a century ago that stands as the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth.

"You have to take a picture of something like this. Otherwise no one will believe you," said Laura McAlpine, visiting Death Valley from Scotland on Friday.

The heat is not expected to break until Monday or Tuesday.

The scorching weather presented problems for airlines because high temperatures can make it more difficult for planes to take off. Hot air reduces lift and also can diminish engine performance. Planes taking off in the heat may need longer runways or may have to shed weight by carrying less fuel or cargo.

Smaller jets and propeller planes are more likely to be affected than bigger airliners that are better equipped for extreme temperatures.

However, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport officials reported no such heat-related problems with any flights by Friday evening.

The National Weather Service said Phoenix reached 116 on Friday, two degrees short of the expected high, in part because of a light layer of smoke from wildfires in neighboring New Mexico that shielded the blazing sun. Las Vegas still was expecting near record highs over the weekend approaching 116 degrees while Phoenix was forecast to hit nearly 120. The record in Phoenix is 122.

Temperatures are also expected to soar across Utah and into Wyoming and Idaho, with triple-digit heat forecast for the Boise area. Cities in Washington state that are better known for cool, rainy weather should break the 90s next week.

"This is the hottest time of the year, but the temperatures that we'll be looking at for Friday through Sunday, they'll be toward the top," said National Weather Service meteorologist Mark O'Malley. "It's going to be baking hot across much of the entire West."

The heat is the result of a high-pressure system brought on by a shift in the jet stream, the high-altitude air current that dictates weather patterns. The jet stream has been more erratic in the past few years.

Health officials warned people to be extremely careful when venturing outdoors. The risks include not only dehydration and heat stroke but burns from the concrete and asphalt. Dogs can suffer burns and blisters on their paws by walking on scorching pavement.

"You will see people who go out walking with their dog at noon or in the middle of the day and don't bring enough water and it gets tragic pretty quickly," said Bretta Nelson, spokeswoman for the Arizona Humane Society. "You just don't want to find out the hard way."

Cooling stations were set up to shelter the homeless as well as elderly people who can't afford to run their air conditioners. In Phoenix, Joe Arpaio, the famously hard-nosed sheriff who runs a tent jail, planned to distribute ice cream and cold towels to inmates this weekend.

Officials said personnel were added to the Border Patrol search-and-rescue unit because of the danger to people trying to slip across the Mexican border. At least seven people have been found dead in the last week in Arizona after falling victim to the brutal desert heat.

In June 1990, when Phoenix hit 122 degrees, airlines were forced to cease flights for several hours because of a lack of data from the manufacturers on how the aircraft would operate in such extreme heat.

US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher said the airline now knows that its Boeings can fly at up to 126 degrees, and its Airbus fleet can operate at up to 127.

While the heat in Las Vegas is expected to peak on Sunday, it's unlikely to sideline the first round of the four-week Bikini Invitational tournament.

"I feel sorry for those poor girls having to strut themselves in 115 degrees, but there's $100,000 up for grabs," said Hard Rock casino spokeswoman Abigail Miller. "I think the girls are willing to make the sacrifice."


Carlson contributed in Death Valley, Calif. Also contributing were Robert Jablon in Los Angeles, Julie Jacobson and Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas, Michelle Price in Salt Lake City, Cristina Silva and Bob Christie in Phoenix and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, N.M.


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A space shuttle's final mission: Atlantis opens to the public

The much-anticipated Atlantis exhibit - showcasing the last space shuttle to make a mission - will open at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Saturday.

By Elizabeth Barber,?Contributor / June 28, 2013

Here's a quick look into the current state of the new Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit opening at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in June 2013.

Space shuttle Atlantis will begin one last mission on Saturday ? and this is one on which we can join her.

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The Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, will open to the public on Saturday, after a Friday event that boasts some 50 astronauts on the guest list.

Some 60 displays and interactive simulators in the new, much-heralded exhibit will tell the story of the entire NASA shuttle program, which was closed in 2011. Those shuttles ? beginning with the April 1981 launch of shuttle Columbia and continuing with the journeys of shuttles Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour ? were the space ambassadors on which Americans pinned their celestial dreams for some three decades.

And so, in the center of it all, is the space shuttle Atlantis.

?Although the multimillion-dollar interactive exhibit encompasses much, much more than the display of Atlantis, there is no denying, she is truly the star of the show,? said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of the visitor complex. ?We know that this majestic beauty, which safely ferried men and women to space and back on 33 successful missions, is the real reason that our guests will travel thousands of miles ? to see her in all her glory."

Bathed in purple-blue light, the shuttle?s new 90,000-square-home looks part hanger, part space. Raised some 30 feet off the ground, the shuttle is tilted at a 43-degree angle, as it would be in flight. Its payload doors are open and its robotic arm is extended. Visitors can walk both under and around the shuttle on suspended bridges, like astronauts bobbing around their home.

?Atlantis is on display as she would be normally in flight. It?s the first time ever that a lot of people are going to see her this close,? Tim Macy, director of project development and construction for Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts, told Florida Today.


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New flame trench will support new era at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39B

June 27, 2013 ? For the first time since NASA's Apollo-era rockets and space shuttles lifted off on missions from Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, one of the launch pads is undergoing extensive upgrades to support the agency's 21st century space launch complex.

At launch pad B, construction workers are removing the legacy flame deflector that sits below and between the left and right pad surface crawlerway track panels, along with Apollo-era bricks from both walls of the flame trench. A contract to perform the work was awarded earlier this year to Vanguard Contractors in Paducah, Ky.

"A new universal flame deflector is being designed that will support NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and a variety of other commercial launch vehicles," said Jose Perez Morales, the Pad Element project manager in the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program. "The bricks will be removed due to their age and because they are debonding from the flame trench structure."

Constructed specifically for space shuttle launches, the current flame deflector was designed to deflect the rocket exhaust away from the launch vehicle and launch pad to reduce the potential for damage. The flame trench bricks, which date back to the Apollo program, were installed during construction of the pad in the 1960s.

Perez Morales said the bricks have lost some of the bonding from the pad structure and represent a safety hazard for new launch vehicles and need to be replaced.

Dr. Bruce Vu, the Gas and Fluid Systems lead in the Design and Analysis Branch in Kennedy's Engineering Directorate, with assistance from NASA's Ames Research Center, at Moffett Field, Calif., worked with three different design concepts and used several computational methods to analyze each design's performance.

"We spent almost a year working with other NASA centers and the commercial space partners to come up with several concepts," Vu said. "The three primary objectives we focused on while evaluating these concepts were plume containment, surface pressure and thermal performance."

For several weeks, Vu and his team ran simulations of a single launch vehicle over a flame deflector concept, using Ames' supercomputer. They were looking for a deflector design that could withstand the high heat from plume exhaust, that did not result in plume blow-back, and whose surface pressure was within design margin limits.

"At the end of the simulations, we selected the best design and received approvals from the Engineering Review Board and the Element Integrated Team to proceed with the design," Vu said. "The design actually is closer to that of Apollo rather than space shuttle."

Now that the shape of the deflector has been selected, Vu said there are many other details to be worked out, including what kind of surface refractory to use and what to do about the south slope of the deflector where there will be no exhaust plume.

The universal flame deflector design must be able to accommodate the SLS and other commercial launch vehicles.

The firm Reynolds, Smith and Hills, with offices in Merritt Island, is designing the new flame deflector and the refurbishment of the flame trench. The design review currently is at the 30 percent phase.

"The goal is to create a deflector design that will be less costly to construct and more efficient," Vu said.

The new flame deflector and flame trench designs are schedule to be completed in early 2014. The construction of the flame trench and deflector is scheduled to start in early 2015.


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Friday, June 28, 2013

Ecuador heats rhetoric as Obama downplays Snowden

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) ? President Barack Obama tried to cool the international frenzy over Edward Snowden on Thursday as Ecuador stepped up its defiance and said it was preemptively rejecting millions in trade benefits that it could lose by taking in the fugitive from his limbo in a Moscow airport.

The country seen as likeliest to shelter the National Security Agency leaker seemed determined to prove it could handle any repercussions, with three of its highest officials calling an early-morning news conference to "unilaterally and irrevocably renounce" $23 million a year in lowered tariffs on products such as roses, shrimp and frozen vegetables.

Fernando Alvarado, the secretary of communications for leftist President Rafael Correa, sarcastically suggested the U.S. use the money to train government employees to respect human rights.

Obama, meanwhile, sought to downplay the international chase for the man he called "a 29-year-old hacker" and lower the temperature of an issue that has raised tensions between the U.S. and uneasy partners Russia and China. Obama said in Senegal that the damage to U.S. national security has already been done and his top focus now is making sure it can't happen again.

"I'm not going to have one case with a suspect who we're trying to extradite suddenly be elevated to the point where I've got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues, simply to get a guy extradited so he can face the justice system," Obama said at a joint news conference with Senegal's President Macky Sall.

While the Ecuadorean government appeared angry over U.S. threats of punishment if it accepts Snowden, there were also mixed signals about how eager it was to grant asylum. For days, officials here have been blasting the U.S. and praising Snowden's leaks of NSA eavesdropping secrets as a blow for global human rights.

But they also have repeatedly insisted that they are nowhere close to making a decision on whether Snowden can leave Moscow, where he is believed to be holed up in an airport transit zone, for refuge in this oil-rich South American nation.

"It's a complex situation, we don't know how it'll be resolved," Correa told a news conference Thursday in his first public comments on the case aside from a handful of postings on Twitter.

The Ecuadorean leader said that in order for Snowden's asylum application to be processed, he would have to be in Ecuador or inside an Ecuadorean Embassy, "and he isn't." Another country would have to permit Snowden to transit its territory for that requirement to be met, Correa said.

WikiLeaks, which has been aiding Snowden, announced earlier he was en route to Ecuador and had received a travel document. On Wednesday, the Univision television network displayed an unsigned letter of safe passage for him.

Officials on Thursday acknowledged that the Ecuadorean Embassy in London had issued a June 22 letter of safe passage for Snowden that calls on other countries to allow him to travel to asylum in Ecuador. But Ecuador's secretary of political management, Betty Tola, said the letter was invalid because it was issued without the approval of the government in the capital, Quito.

She also threatened legal action against whoever leaked the document, which she said "has no validity and is the exclusive responsibility of the person who issued it."

"This demonstrates a total lack of coordination in the department of foreign affairs," said Santiago Basabe, a professor of political science at the Latin American School of Social Sciences in Quito. "It's no small question to issue a document of safe passage or a diplomatic document for someone like Snowden without this decision being taken directly by the foreign minister or president."

The renunciation of trade benefits was a dramatic but mostly symbolic threat. The U.S Congress was widely expected to let the benefits lapse in coming weeks, for reasons unrelated to the Snowden case. And if they continued, it appeared highly unlikely that the Ecuadorean government would be able to unilaterally cancel tariff benefits that went directly to their country's exporters.

Behind Ecuador's mixed messages, some analysts saw not confusion but internal divisions in the Ecuadorean government.

Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank focused on Latin America, said many in Washington believed that Correa, a leftist elected to a third term in February, had been telegraphing a desire to moderate and take a softer tack toward the United States and private business.

Harder-core leftists led by Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino may be seeking to maintain a tough line, he said, a division expressing itself in confusing messages.

"I think there really are different factions within the government on this," Shifter said. "Correa wants to become more moderate. That has been the signal that has been communicated in Washington."

Embarrassment for the Obama administration over the surveillance revelations continued as the British newspaper The Guardian reported that it allowed the National Security Agency for more than two years to collect records detailing email and Internet use by Americans. The story cited documents showing that under the program a federal judge could approve a bulk collection order for Internet metadata every 90 days.

A senior Obama administration confirmed the program and said it ended in 2011, according to The Guardian. The records were first collected during the Bush administration and involved "communications with at least one communicant outside the United States or for which no communicant was known to be a citizen of the United States."

The report said that eventually the NSA was allowed to "analyze communications metadata associated with United States persons and persons believed to be in the United States," according to a 2007 Justice Department memo marked secret.

The U.S. administration was expected to decide by Monday whether to grant Ecuador export privileges under the Generalized System of Preferences, a program meant to spur development and growth in poorer countries. The deadline was set long before the Snowden affair and officials said Thursday that there would be an ongoing review of Ecuador's privileges under the program.

More broadly, a larger trade pact allowing reduced tariffs on more than $5 billion in annual exports to the U.S. is up for congressional renewal before July 21. While approval of the Andean Trade Preference Act has long been seen as doubtful in Washington, Ecuador has been lobbying strongly for its renewal.

On Wednesday, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pledged to lead an effort to block extension of U.S. tariff benefits if Ecuador grants asylum to Snowden, who turned 30 last week. Nearly half of Ecuador's billions a year in foreign trade depends on the United States.

The Obama administration said Thursday that accepting Snowden would damage the overall relationship between the two countries and analysts said it was almost certain that granting the leaker asylum would lead the U.S. to cut roughly $30 million a year in military and law enforcement assistance.

Granting asylum to Snowden would cause "great difficulties in our bilateral relationship," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. "If they take that step, that would have very negative repercussions."

Alvarado, the communications minister, said his country rejects economic "blackmail" in the form of threats against the trade measures.

"The preferences were authorized for Andean countries as compensation for the fight against drugs, but soon became a new instrument of pressure," he said. "As a result, Ecuador unilaterally and irrevocably renounces these preferences."

Alvarado did not explicitly mention the separate effort to win trade benefits under the presidential order.

He did suggest, however, how the U.S. could use the money saved from Ecuadorean tariffs ? to train government employees to respect citizens' rights.

"Ecuador offers the United States $23 million a year in economic aid, an amount similar to what we were receiving under the tariff benefits, with the purpose of providing human rights training that will contribute to avoid violations of people's privacy, that degrade humanity," he said.


Pace reported from Dakar, Senegal. Gonzalo Solano in Quito, Peter Orsi in Caracas, Venezuela, and Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.


Follow Michael Weissenstein on Twitter at


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WSJ: Google is Developing a New Nexus Q, Gaming Console and ...

google nexus q

According to a report out of the Wall Street Journal, Google has plans to introduce an Android gaming console of their own, along with new model of the Nexus Q?and a?smartwatch. Wait, that sort of sounds familiar? That?s right, because just before I/O, sources of ours said that Google was indeed working on a new version of the Nexus Q with a ?gaming focus.? We were also told at that time that a watch was in the works, possibly even already on the wrists of select Google employees, but that it wouldn?t arrive for some time. As you all know now, neither appeared at Google I/O, so their status became a question mark. Seeing both appear in a story at the WSJ is always a good sign, though.?

In the WSJ?s report, they don?t specifically mention that the new Nexus Q will be the Android gaming console, only that it will be released. Their report isn?t exactly clear, but it almost sounds as if they believe that there will be both a console and a Nexus Q as separate devices (which makes little sense). Our sources made it sound like they were one-and-the-same, but the details at the time were extremely fuzzy. This new report mentions that this version of the Q will be much more affordable. The original Q was priced at $299. Keep in mind that we saw a media player built by Google touch down at the FCC a month or so ago, so there is something to this idea that a Q would return even if Google continues to kill off the original.

As far as smartwatch goes, no exact details were released, only another report that Google is working on one.

The WSJ expects at least one of these devices to be released this fall.

Via: ?Wall Street Journal

Cheers David!


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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fujitsu ARROWS A 202F launching on SoftBank this week, Snapdragon 600 and 3,000mAh battery in tow (video)

Fujitsu ARROWS A 202F launching on SoftBank this week, Snapdragon 600 and 3,000mAh battery in tow video

Fast smartphones are great and all, but they're useless once the battery goes flat. Fujitsu aims to solve that with the ARROWS A 202F. Launching with SoftBank in Japan later this week, the phone features a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdraon 600, 2GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded via microSD, a 5-inch 1080p display and a generous 3,000mAh battery in a package that's less than 10mm thick. Fujitsu's "Human Centric Engine" is said to further increase battery life, to the tune of two days worth of juice, but details of how that works are light. Chances are slim the ARROWS will make it to US shores, though the recently announced HTC Butterfly s, with an even larger 3,200mAh battery, just might.

Filed under: ,


Via: The Next Web

Source: Fujitsu


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WSJ: Google working on an Android-powered game system, smart watch and new Nexus Q

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google might make another foray into living room hardware as it's currently developing an Android powered gaming console. Since that's just not enough of a rumor bomb, the talkative "people familiar with the matter" also claim a wristwatch and followup to its "postponed" Nexus Q project are on the way. If you believe the rumors, its reason for jumping into all these categories is to beat products Apple is reportedly developing in the same categories, with at least one of them launching this fall. Finally, the leaks indicate Google's next major Android update will be "tailored to low-cost devices in developing countries." Companies like Ouya, Mad Catz, Pebble and GEAK probably think Mountain View is already late to the party, but official OS-level support and heavily marketed hardware could take these segments to the next level.

Filed under: ,


Source: Wall Street Journal


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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Azarenka, Isner and Darcis out of Wimbledon

Essential News from The Associated Press

AAA??Jun. 26, 2013?8:27 AM ET
Azarenka, Isner and Darcis out of Wimbledon

John Isner of the United States, right, is attended to before retiring injured from his Men's second round singles match against Adrian Mannarino of France at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

John Isner of the United States, right, is attended to before retiring injured from his Men's second round singles match against Adrian Mannarino of France at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

John Isner of the United States, right, is attended to before retiring injured from his Men's second round singles match against Adrian Mannarino of France at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, second from right, is helped up after taking a fall during her Women's first round singles match against Maria Joao Koehler of Portugal at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Monday, June 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, left, is attended to after taking a fall during her Women's first round singles match against Maria Joao Koehler of Portugal at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Monday, June 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

John Isner of the United States leaves the court after retiring injured during his Men's second round singles match against Adrian Mannarino of France at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

(AP) ? Injuries have knocked three key players out of Wimbledon ? second-seeded Victoria Azarenka, the Belgian who stunned Rafael Nadal in the first round and the American who won the longest match in tennis history.

Azarenka pulled out Wednesday after hurting her right knee in her opening-round win against Maria Joao Koehler. She withdrew minutes before her second-round match against Flavia Pennetta was to begin.

Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, had reached the semifinals at Wimbledon the last two years and had been seeded to face Serena Williams in the final.

Steve Darcis, who beat two-time champion Nadal in straight sets on Monday in one of Wimbledon's greatest upsets, pulled out on because of a right shoulder injury.

The 135th-ranked Darcis withdrew was scheduled to play Lukasz Kubot of Poland.

John Isner, the 18th-seeded American, retired during his second-round match against Adrian Mannarino of France with a left knee injury after only two games.

Associated Press
People, Places and Companies: Steve Darcis, John Isner, Victoria Azarenka, Rafael Nadal, Maria Joao Koehler, Flavia Pennetta, Serena Williams, Lukasz Kubot, Adrian Mannarino, United Kingdom


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In order to be able to give us the chance for varied play and more powerful enemies, I've decided to revamp the way the Saiyans in this RP will increase in strength after each battle. Obviously, this is going to be done because if we're to reach the level of Super Saiyan anytime in the foreseeable future (which requires a power level of 1,000,000 at minimum), we'll need to beef up much faster. So, here goes nothing! If you have suggestions I'd be glad to hear them.

Obviously, these new calculations will make the inequalities in power much more prevalent, but that's where we will all have to work together and tolerate each other's differences as we continue through the RP.

As a final note, all categories include recuperation time in their calculations. None of these calculations take place immediately after battle. Using Grisha and Trish as examples, if they were given time to fully recuperate after their fights then Blaze wouldn't stand a chance against either of them. Also, victorious battles against named enemies do not stack. Obviously, if they did stack, Blaze would multiply his base power of 1030 by 29.9 bringing it all the way up to 30,797. Not quite fair, is it? So yeah, they don't stack. Only the most relevant calculation will be used, and in Blaze's case, that will be his fight with Jagoda.

(OPL - Original Power Level)

Category 1 - Victory

* Participation in (but not directly responsible for) victorious battle against named enemy = OPL * 5.3
* Victory in Battle (Random Enemy/ies) = OPL * 3.2
* Victory in Battle (With another cast member) = OPL * 7.6
* Victory in Battle (Named Enemy) = OPL * 11.5

Category 2 - Defeat (Obviously, thanks to Saiyan DNA, these will be much higher than victory calculations)

* Defeat in Battle (Random Enemy/ies) = OPL * 9.7
* Defeat in Battle (With another cast member) = OPL * 12.4
* Defeat in Battle (Named Enemy) = OPL * 16.8
* Near Death Defeat (Any Circumstance) = OPL * 25

Category 3 - Training

* Random = Random Number generator provided in the link below will be used to determine what your increase is and will be given a range determined by your base power level. Obviously, the higher your base power level, the smaller the range.

* Special Training = Special Training is now a calculation which will become realized through direct discussion with me. You will contact me via a private message and make your initial request based on what you think would be fair and what you think your character should be able to accomplish given their location, equipment, and wether or not they have a training partner.


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Advice For Education Bloggers | Scenes From The Battleground

Since I first started blogging 57 years ago I?ve picked up a few ideas about how best to go about. Also, scouring the interweb for reblogging fodder for the Echo Chamber, I have learnt a fair bit about where some bloggers go wrong. What follows is my advice. However, be aware that I am not claiming I have, or will be, great at following it myself.

1) Think carefully about anonymity. If you are not going to be anonymous be very, very careful about what you write. Don?t mention your current school, current pupils or anything that might have a bearing on your professional life at the moment ? even discussion of theoretical matters that have consequences for anything you are currently doing. If in doubt make sure you are anonymous. If you aren?t you will have to accept that what you can say is highly limited in terms of information you can give out and who you can risk annoying.

2) If you are anonymous, be careful. Anonymous bloggers are always being found out and often quitting as a result. There are definitely people who know who I am who I wish didn?t (nobody from last weekend, don?t worry). Often it is simply because when people start blogging they don?t particularly think it matters who knows and this comes back to haunt them later. Think through a contingency plan for what to do if you were found out. Limit the number of people who know who you are even if it?s tempting to do otherwise. That said, people who meet you in real-life are probably not going to be the biggest problem, it?s people who only know you online and don?t like what you say. So the key thing is to make sure there is no connection between what it written about you on the internet under your real name and under your blogger identity. Don?t do anything to express your views in public under your real name at the same time as you express them under an assumed name. If you can be uncovered using Google then there is a problem. If a work colleague would recognise you if they read your blog then there is a problem. When writing about real-life incidents then a delay is often advised.

3) Expect to get better with time. I won?t spend a lot of time on this point as I don?t really want to go on about how bad I was when I started, but blogging is something people tend to grow into and while the best often had something great about them from the start, they do still tend to improve with time.

4) Avoid cliches (like the plague). The three worst phrases I see in education writing are:

  • ?regurgitation of facts?
  • ?[education is] used as a political football?
  • ?the factory model of schooling?

Metaphors and similes should, as far as possible, be original and at the very least they?should not be familiar. This is not just about style, but also about the amount fo thought put into an argument. As Orwell pointed out??the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts? and the worst arguments are invariably those expressed in stock phrases. It?s almost guaranteed that if you use one of the above then you haven?t thought through what you are saying.

5) Use Twitter (and other social media) to support your blogging.

Twitter is where you can expect to get most hits. Tweet 3 or 4 links to every blogpost, varying the time of day if possible. Encourage the readers of your blog to follow you on Twitter. It really works. Other ways to get people to see your work are:

  • Link to it in the comments of other blogs (where it?s justified);
  • Share it on facebook;
  • Let me know about your blog so I can put it on the Echo Chamber blogroll.

Be careful to ensure that you don?t overdo it and become seen as a spammer. Also, blog titles which give a clear indication of the content of a blogpost will also help encourage people to follow links on social media.

6) Don?t use your blog to support your Twitter account.

Twitter is great as a source of inspiration, and a discussion on Twitter will often provide the basis for a good blogpost exploring an issue or an idea in more depth. However, you should not be assuming that your blog readers will have read your Twitter feed. Try to avoid in-jokes from Twitter, or assuming prior knowledge of a Twitter discussion. If you do continue a debate from Twitter then try to represent the Twitter argument first. Some of the worst blogs I have read recently have been written apparently as direct responses to something on Twitter that was not clearly identified.

7) Give credit where it?s due.

If you are answering or criticising something, please provide a link. Only in the most extreme cases should you respond at length to anything you haven?t clearly identified. Firstly, it?s very rude to talk about people behind their back. Secondly, it suggests that you have a problem with people hearing the other side of the argument. Thirdly, it may cause people to wonder if you are getting at them when you are not. Even if you are being critical of an idea, at least giving credit (particularly with a link) gives somebody a chance to respond and demonstrates that you are not responding to straw man.

Any time you are referring to someone else?s ideas, whether positively or negatively, identify them. We tend to remember ideas better than people (or at least I do) so we are always likely to repeat without credit the ideas of others accidentally, so it is important not to do it deliberately as well. People like to be credited with good ideas.

8) Use a popular platform and make your work easy to share.

This is something that might not have occurred to me before I started the Echo Chamber, but your work is more likely to be shared if there are other bloggers using the same platform. I would recommend WordPress (the actual site rather than using WordPress software on another site) as it is particularly easy to reblog. Blogger/blogspot is probably the next best option but pick a theme with the button for posting links. The ?orange cogs of death? on blogspot are difficult to share even on blogspot (and difficult to read on some devices). Also, an established blogging site is less likely to be suddenly shut down. Early on I lost almost my entire blog when the hosting site was shut down without warning.

9) Be careful when repeating what you have heard elsewhere. Don?t blog what you read in the Guardian this morning. It?s good to share ideas but if the ideas were originally written in a national newspaper (especially one with an easily accessible website) they probably don?t need sharing in much detail. It is also worth checking facts before repeating them. False information seems to spread at incredible speed. Never use a quotation if it is not from a reliable or familiar source. ?Inspirational? or ?wise? quotations are routinely misattributed (See the Quote Investigator website for multiple examples). Also sometimes a quotation may turn out to mean something other than what you thought. As well as there being far too many education writers who quote the wisdom of Jean Brodie approvingly, I recently heard of a technology company using the slogan ?A Brave New World?. Don?t make a literary reference if you don?t know the book; those who have may be shocked and appalled.

10) Don?t quit.?As far as I know the only UK based education blogger who regularly gets more hits than me is Tom Bennett?and a lot of his hits might be people desperately trying to find a way to navigate past the orange cogs of death. However, I haven?t become (possibly, I admit I don?t really know) the second most read education blogger in the UK by doing anything as difficult as being the (second) best. I have got here because all the people who were better than me when I started have quit and all the people who are better than me now haven?t had as long to find readers. Longevity seems to be the key to success as an education blogger. That and writing posts with ?OFSTED? in the title.

As an additional point about not giving up, don?t get disheartened because of criticism. Expect it. The best of it will help you improve. The worst of it will only bring attention to your blog. Some of the worst blogs are written by SMT members who delete every comment disagreeing with them and block anyone who disagrees with them on Twitter. Blogging is essentially a public performance, so you should expect critics, and it?s better than being ignored.

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White House wants Moscow to send Snowden home

WASHINGTON (AP) ? The U.S. assumes National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden remains in Russia, and officials are working with Moscow in hopes he will be expelled and returned to America to face criminal charges, President Barack Obama's spokesman said Monday. He declared that a decision by Hong Kong not to detain Snowden has "unquestionably" hurt relations between the United States and China.

Snowden left Hong Kong, where he has been in hiding, and flew to Moscow but then apparently did not board a plane bound for Cuba as had been expected. His whereabouts were a mystery. The founder of the WikiLeaks secret-spilling organization, Julian Assange, said he wouldn't go into details about where Snowden was but said he was safe.

Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador, Iceland and possibly other countries, Assange said.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. was expecting the Russians "to look at the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged."

"The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust," he added. "And we think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback. If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem. And that is a point we are making to them very directly."

Snowden has given highly classified documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers disclosing U.S. surveillance programs that collect vast amounts of phone records and online data in the name of foreign intelligence, often sweeping up information on American citizens. He also told the South China Morning Post that "the NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS data."

Snowden still has perhaps more than 200 sensitive documents, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said over the weekend.

He had been in hiding in Hong Kong, a former British colony with a degree of autonomy from mainland China. The United States formally sought Snowden's extradition but was rebuffed by Hong Kong officials who said the U.S. request did not fully comply with their laws. The Justice Department rejected that claim, saying its request met all of the requirements of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Hong Kong.

Said Carney: "We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official. This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship."

The dual lines of diplomacy ? harsh with China, hopeful with the Russians ? came just days after Obama met separately with leaders of both countries in an effort to close gaps on some of the major disputes facing them.

Snowden arrived in Moscow on Sunday, but his whereabouts were thrown into question Monday when a plane took off from Moscow for Cuba with an empty seat booked in his name. The U.S. has revoked his passport.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it would be "deeply troubling" if Russia or Hong Kong had adequate notice about Snowden's plans to flee to a country that would grant him asylum and still allowed him leave.

"We don't know, specifically, where he may head, or what his intended destination may be," Kerry said, responding to a question during a news conference in New Delhi where he was discussing bilateral issues between the U.S. and India.

U.S. officials pointed to improved cooperation with the Russians in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and to assistance the U.S. has given Russia on law enforcement cases.

"We continue to hope that the Russians will do the right thing," Kerry told NBC News. "We think it's very important in terms of our relationship. We think it's very important in terms of rule of law. These are important standards. We have returned seven criminals that they requested for extradition from the United States over the last two years. So we really hope that the right choice will be made here."

"We don't know, specifically, where he may head, or what his intended destination may be," Kerry said during a news conference in New Delhi.

Carney said the U.S. was in touch through diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries through which Snowden might travel or where he might end up.

"The U.S. is advising these governments that Mr. Snowden is wanted on felony charges and as such should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him here to the United States," Carney said.

An Aeroflot representative who wouldn't give her name told The Associated Press that Snowden wasn't on flight SU150 to Havana, which was filled with journalists trying to track him down.

In Moscow, security around the aircraft was heavy prior to boarding and guards tried to prevent the scrum of photographers and cameramen from taking pictures of the plane, heightening the speculation that Snowden might have been secretly escorted on board.

After spending a night in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, Snowden had been expected to fly to Cuba and Venezuela en route to possible asylum in Ecuador.

Some analysts said it was likely that the Russians were questioning Snowden, interested in what he knew about U.S. electronic espionage against Moscow.

"If Russian special services hadn't shown interest in Snowden, they would have been utterly unprofessional," Igor Korotchenko, a former colonel in Russia's top military command turned security analyst, said on state Rossiya 24 television.

The White House's tough response to Hong Kong's decision to let Snowden leave came just two weeks after Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping for two days of personal diplomacy in a desert retreat in California.

Carney said that after the U.S. sought Snowden's extradition from Hong Kong, authorities there requested additional information from the U.S.

"The U.S. had been in communication with Hong Kong about these inquiries and we were in the process of responding to the request when we learned that Hong Kong authorities had allowed the fugitive to leave Hong Kong," Carney said.

Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said his government had received an asylum request, adding Monday that the decision "has to do with freedom of expression and with the security of citizens around the world."

Ecuador has rejected some previous U.S. efforts at cooperation and has been helping Assange avoid prosecution by allowing him to stay at its embassy in London.

But Assange's comments that Snowden had applied in multiple places opened other possibilities of where he might try to go.

WikiLeaks has said it is providing legal help to Snowden at his request and that he was being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from the group.

Icelandic officials have confirmed receiving an informal request for asylum conveyed by WikiLeaks, which has strong links to the tiny North Atlantic nation. But authorities there have insisted that Snowden must be on Icelandic soil before making a formal request.


Associated Press White House Correspondent Julie Pace and Associated Press writers Philip Elliott, Matthew Lee and Frederic J. Frommer in Washington, Lynn Berry and Vladimir Isachenkov and Max Seddon in Moscow, Kevin Chan in Hong Kong and Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.


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