Tag Archive | "cruise"

The True Cost of War

The U.S. announced it could launch air strikes against Syria as early as Thursday. That’s because the U.S. believes the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its rebels, killing 1,000 men, women and children.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said any strike would be limited, such as cruise missiles that would strike specific Syrian military targets. These missiles would be launched from U.S. warships that have already been moved to the Mediterranean. It would not be massive bombing on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The action would be in partnership with allies in NATO and the Arab League. (Source: New York Times, Momentum Builds for Military Strike in Syria, August 27, 2013

How It Affects You

The Dow dropped 100 points, adding to its decline since August 2. (For more, see Dow Closing History.) Investors flocked to the traditional safe haven investments, gold and Treasuries. As a result, gold prices rose while Treasury yields dropped to 2.76%. Oil prices rose above $108 a barrel, as investors grew worried the conflict could escalate and create shortages. (Source: CNBC, Dow Drops 100 Points, August 27, 2013)

This potential conflict affects you in two ways, one short-term and one long-term. The short-term impact will be felt over the next few months, depending on how involved the U.S. becomes. This, of course, depends on the reaction of Syria and its allies, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. The current unrest in Egypt could also be worsened, which has investors worried. Therefore, expect volatility in the next few weeks, which will drive stock prices lower and gold, Treasuries and oil prices higher.

The long-term impact may surprise you. Most analysts say that war is good for the economy. The theory is that defense spending creates jobs. This theory is based on the boost in U.S. economic growth from World War II, which many say ended the Great Depression.

However, times have changed. First, military spending is not the way to create jobs. A Brown University study estimated the cost of the Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan wars at $3.7 trillion, or $31,000 for every family in America. This counts benefits to disabled vets — nearly half of the 1.25 million who served have made health or disability claims.  It also counts the interest on the debt incurred to finance the wars — $185 billion.

A U Mass/Amherst study showed that $1 billion of military spending created 8,555 jobs and added $565 million to the economy. That sounds great until you compare it to other ways the money could have been spent. That same $1 billion given back to your family as a tax cut would have created 10,779 jobs and put $505 million into the economy as retail spending.

The best way to create jobs? Spend $1 billion on building mass transit. That creates 19,795 construction jobs and puts $880 billion into the economy. If you want to leverage that $1 billion in government spending into the best bang for the buck, try spending it on education. It puts $1.3 billion into the economy, while creating 17,687 jobs.

Even more important than the money are the lives disrupted. A quarter of a million people were killed, half of them Iraqi civilians.  The wounded total 365,000, while 7.8  million have been displaced.

As put so well by Reuters reporter Daniel Trotta:

In one sense, the report measures the cost of 9/11, the American shorthand for the events of September 11, 2001. Nineteen hijackers plus other al Qaeda plotters spent an estimated $400,000 to $500,000 on the plane attacks that killed 2,995 people and caused $50 billion to $100 billion in economic damages.What followed were three wars in which $50 billion amounts to a rounding error. For every person killed on September 11, another 73 have been killed since.

Perhaps it’s time to admit we can no longer afford the true cost of war. Tell us in How Much Should the U.S. Spend on National Security?

Related Articles

  • Current Military Budget
  • How Bin Laden’s Death Could Help the Economy
  • The War on Terror: Facts About Its True Cost


Source: About.com

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Cheap Cruise Tips

Finding an affordable cruise isn’t quite the same as looking for hotel discounts or bargain airfares. You have to understand how the industry works and learn to avoid the pitfalls that can quickly turn a cruise bargain into a budget disaster.

For example, some cruise lines will sell you a bargain trip, but soak your budget with overpriced shore excursion charges. The industry likes to add up profits on little extras like your beverage at dinner, photography and even gratuities.

It’s important to consider some cheap cruise tips so that you can approach the buying decisions as an informed consumer. In my experience, informed consumers have a lot more fun on cruises, and don’t look back at a wake of unexpected bills after they return home..

Source: About.com

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Five for Friday: Other Forms of Travel That Won’t Happen Before Hyperloop

This week* Hyperloop came and went, leaving a trail of speculation in its wake. If you weren’t on the Internet this week and have no clue as to what I’m talking about, Elon Musk – the current real life Tony Stark, of Space-X and Tesla fame – demonstrated his idea for high-speed travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The idea itself is something out of 1950s futurism: Tubes parallel to the interstate freeway, shooting people in pods 800 mph between the two cities.

If Hyperloop can get up and running, it would no doubt change collaboration between the Bay Area and LA. The commute would be a mere 30 minutes, and solar power would keep costs and ticket prices down. This would allow riders to attend separate meetings in San Francisco and Los Angeles as easily – and maybe more easily – than getting from one meeting in Palo Alto and another in San Francisco.

There are other methods of transportation that are also in the works that will bring us even closer together to other cities, and even the stars. However, all of these are a ways off. In the meantime we still have have stuffy planes and miles of asphalt, which is why unified communications and BYOD are still important. We can still take a look at some of the most futuristic transport ideas out there and see how close they are to reality.

1. Teleportation

THE DREAM: How awesome would this be? No long lines at the airport, no all-day international flights, no screaming toddlers on the red-eye. Just one place to the next with all of the ease of putting on a pair of pants.

THE REALITY: China has successfully teleported a photon. Not a hamster, a photon. Also this is called quantum teleportation, and isn’t geared towards sending you from work to vacation. Also, you’ll probably die. On the off chance you don’t, there’s what I will call “The Fly” problem (from the movie). You see, you are not really just you. Inside of you there’s over a trillion organisms. So the transporter would have to copy and reassemble your gut bacteria too, somehow without mixing you and them up. Which means you should probably keep driving your car into work.

2. Warp Drive

THE DREAM: If you love space operas, you’ve probably seen this scene: The captain stands at the helm authoritatively, orders the pilot, and then suddenly there’s a cool CG shot where the stars are all blurry. It was probably called jumping, warp, hyperspace, hyperspeed, FTL, or something similar. However they’re all the same, the ability to travel faster than the speed of light. The meeting on the Mars colony? Who needs a video conference, you’re going to be there in a few minutes.

THE REALITY: We think this is possible, and NASA is testing it out. You wouldn’t be traveling through space, space itself would be moving, contracting behind your ship and expanding in front, as you rest within a “warp bubble.” While scientists are in the testing and building phases, don’t expect a trip to the Alpha Centauri Marketing Conference anytime soon. NASA has yet to prove that warp bubbles can be created – much less exist. Their technology is so delicate that even the slightest seismic motion can skew the data.

3. Hoverboards and Anti-Gravity Transportation

THE DREAM: Okay, so this is more like a hobby form of transportation, but I would consider trading in my car for a hoverboard if someone told me I could. How cool would it be to cruise on into work on your hoverboard? Or you head in on your speeder bike? You would no longer be a slave to gravity!  

THE REALITY: We want hoverboards, badly. But true anti-gravity technology (not powerful fans) may not be real. Scientists think it may be related to anti-matter and are testing for it, but the results so far are inconclusive. We do however have other possible options that will produce a similar effect, just not that true anti-gravity tech we grew up watching.

image courtesy of gizmodo.au

4. The Space Elevator

THE DREAM: Say Google’s new headquarters were located on the Google HQ Space Station. While you couldn’t hop on a Google bike and ride on up there, you could take the Google Space Elevator. Just strap in and check in with your boss via your Avaya One-X Mobile app as the elevator shoots up into space on a series of cables. It docks, and you float in to catch your Q3 meeting and some free space food packets.

REALITY: We want this to happen, but as of right now we don’t have strong enough materials to make the components needed. And that’s just one of the many complications.

5. Self-Driving Car

THE DREAM: Driving yourself is a thing of the past, because your sedan has a silly- looking spinning camera on top that helps drive you around. Just sit back and get work done or play Candy Crush while getting chauffeured around.

THE REALITY: This is the one piece of tech on this list that’s actually close to being cracked, and we’re getting excited. Google’s smart cars can be seen zipping around the Bay Area, whether they’re out on the highway or stopping off to let their riders buy some comics. The cars so far have been largely successful, including mostly accident-free, for the past few years, but they still need supervision and are not considered “fully autonomous”. While some smart cars may be rolling out within the next few years, a completely self-driven car is still several years away. Also, you’re going to have to get used to not freaking out you aren’t controlling your own car. Still though, you could very well have a fully decked out Avaya virtual office in your self-driving car in several years. Giving you the full power of collaboration on the highway.

*This article has time traveled from the past! Or it’s been re-posted at a later date. Whatever.

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Underrated Cruise Departure Ports

To get full value from a cruise, budget travelers need to consider the departure port their first port-of-call.

It sounds like simple advice, but many travelers get in a hurry. Pressed with busy schedules, they fly into the departure port, take a cab or bus directly to the cruise terminal, and board the ship.

Take a look at 10 underrated departure ports offering free and unique attractions frequently missed by a lot of cruise travelers.

Source: About.com

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Is HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Luring Tourists to Croatia?

Dubrovnick's Walled Center

Croatia is an increasingly popular destination for U.S. travelers, especially since the country became a backdrop for segments of the popular Game of Thrones TV series. When we were staying in  Dubrovnick, we watched hundreds of cruise-ship passengers visit the historic walled city every day.  (We’d head there after seeing the crowds board buses to return to their ships.)

Croatia has just joined the European Union, but will retain its own currency and customs.

If you’re staying in a city along the Dalmatian Coast, book a private excursion with Domagoj (Dom) Nikoli, an author, winemaker, cosmologist and expert on the Illyrian mysteries so vital a part of this country’s history.

Photo: (c) Lois Friedland

Source: About.com

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Travel Tips for Finding Cheap Cruises

About 2,200 cruise passengers earned a free future trip this past week.

Royal Caribbean’s The Grandeur of the Seas caught fire en route from Baltimore to The Bahamas. No passengers were injured, but the seven-day itinerary was cut short. Everyone received a full refund and that “cruise to be named later.”

There have been a lot of those free cruise certificates circulating in the past year or so, following a sad string of cruise mishaps. Most of us don’t want to earn free travel that way, and some of us might ask how many of these affected passengers will ever set foot on another ship.

Remember: the few cruises that go wrong wind up in the spotlight. Thousands of trips that end happily receive no attention.

Cruises present some distinct advantages for budget travelers, but know-how is necessary to reap the benefits. With that in mind, take a look at a collection of articles aimed at budget cruising.

Clearly, cruising poses some risks. But don’t let all the bad publicity surrounding a few ill-fated trips discourage you from full exploration of your cruise options.

Source: About.com

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What’s new from classic rock artists in June

Blackmore's Night - Dancer and the Moon

When you’re loading up your “beach reads” for your summer vacation at the beach, on the camper, on a cruise ship, or even staying close to home, I’m sure you won’t be forgetting your vacation classic rock playlist as well.

Potential new additions coming our way this month include eclectic, electric, southern, psychedelic, metal, punk, and a couple of artists who thoroughly defy being assigned one particular genre.

• New releases/reissues from classic rock artists coming in June

Image courtesy Caroline/Universal

Source: About.com

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5 Pre-Sail Cruise Tips

Source: About.com

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Earl Weaver was master of a lost art

Earl Weaver was a great manager, and perhaps the greatest at one thing: Getting ejected from a game.

Weaver, who died early Saturday while on a Caribbean cruise, did it for motivational purposes at times, and at times just because he was so mad. (One of his best? Check this link on YouTube of an epic meltdown that was caught on microphone.)

Nobody really does that anymore, perhaps because from a distance, it seems so pointless. When is the last time an argument actually changed somebody’s mind?

But in Weaver’s day, it seemed a lot more common. Billy Martin had some epic meltdowns with umpires. Bobby Cox was the most-ejected skipper ever, but he got there on longevity. Lou Piniella had some great arguments.

But they’re all either retired or dead now. Today’s managers seem more likely to sit back and examine some statistics than kick dirt or pull a base out of its foundation. Sure, there still were 178 ejections last season, and getting run from a game is still a staple of the manager’s handbook. But Joe Maddon actually tells umpires that he loves them.

Never could see Earl Weaver doing that.

Source: About.com

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Freighter Cruises for Budget Travel

Cargo ships and cruise vessels pull out of the Port of Seattle on a regular schedule. But there the similarities end.

Cruise ships visit tourist-friendly destinations. Sometimes, cargo ships visit those ports-of-call. But these ships also spend days in exotic ports the cruise ships bypass.

The itineraries are much longer on a cargo ship, and for that reason alone this is not an option for many budget travelers. But if you’ve got time and you don’t mind missing out on glitzy cruise ship packaging, check out freighter cruise options for budget travel. It might make for the most interesting budget cruise of your lifetime.

Source: About.com

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