Tag Archive | "History"

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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Congress Has Six Weeks to Avoid Debt Ceiling Crisis

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew gave Congress until the middle of October to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, or risk a possible debt default. This means that the rate of currently authorized spending will drive the U.S. debt above the $16.7 trillion debt limit.

What makes this a bit confusing is that it will occur two weeks after Congress must pass the FY 2014 budget, due September 30. Many Republicans said they will only pass a budget that takes away funding (defunds) Obamacare.

What Will Probably Happen

Congress won’t risk a repeat of the 2011 debt ceiling crisis. This was devastating to the economy, and no one won. Instead, it will pass a short-term continuing resolution to raise the debt ceiling by October 15, just like it has throughout history. House Speaker John Boehner can pass this debt ceiling override, even without 100% of Republicans agreeing.

However, this is only a temporary fix. The FY 2014 budget needs to be passed, or many government agencies will run out of money as of the end of September (the end of the Federal fiscal year). This is a bigger issue. Republicans will insist that nothing will be passed unless Obamacare is defunded. Therefore, the budget probably won’t be passed.

This isn’t as dire as it sounds. The FY 2013 budget has never been approved, either. Instead, Congress enacted a continuing spending resolution in October 2012 and March 2013.

That’s probably what will happen with the FY 2014 budget. This means that spending will continue at current levels, continuing the sequestration spending cuts.

How It Affects You

You will hear a lot of reports in the news that there could be another crisis brewing. This could disrupt the stock market, and your investments. Gold prices will probably rise, like they did in 2011.

However, in all likelihood, it will pass over by November. Your best bet is to focus on leading economic indicators, to see how the real economy is performing. For example, yesterday’s Durable Goods Orders report showed there could be a temporary soft spot.

Related Articles

  • Who Owns the U.S. Debt?
  • Watch the Video: What Is the National Debt?
  • The History of the U.S. Debt Clock


Source: About.com

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This Week in Radio History: 8/25 – 8/31

August 26 On this day in 1873 Lee De Forest was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the inventor of the Audion vacuum (radio) tube. More on the Founding Fathers of Radio…

August 28 On this day in 1922, WEAF in New York City aired the first radio commercial. It was for a Queensboro Realty and cost $100 dollars for 10 minutes.

August 29 On this day in 1958 – Alan Freed’s “Big Beat Show” opened at the Fox Theatre in Brooklyn, New York. Alan Freed is the Cleveland DJ who coined the term “Rock and Roll”. More about Alan Freed…

August 31 On this day in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama bringing catastrophic devastation. The only New Orleans radio station to stay on the air with only temporary interruption was WWL-AM. More about Katrina and WWL-AM…

Source: About.com

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cassette tape

Back in the Day – The Death of Magnetic Tape

cassette tapeToday’s dying media spotlight is magnetic tape. By definition magnetic tape “is a plastic ribbon coated on one side with an iron-oxide material that can be magnetized by electromagnetic pulses for storing data.”

Magnetic tapes came in open reel-to-reel as well as (housed in) cartridge formats and were used for audio or video recordings, and the storage of information in early computers. Tapes are played back and recorded on decks which wind the tape past a read/write device or “head”. Photo Credit: Freefotos

Why is Magnetic Tape a Dying Medium?
Finding something on magnetic tape involves moving the tape sequentially, and even with the fast forward button, tape does not provide the same random access that newer recording mediums do. Copying from one magnetic tape to another results in a loss of quality with each generation of copying.

  • Examples of Magnetic Tape Media
  • Early History of Magnetic Tape
  • Cassette Tape
  • 8 Track Tape
  • Video Tape
Source: About.com

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How A Photovoltic Cell Works

photovoltaicThe “photovoltaic effect” is the basic physical process through which a PV cell converts sunlight into electricity. Sunlight is composed of photons, or particles of solar energy. These photons contain various amounts of energy corresponding to the different wavelengths of the solar spectrum. When photons strike a PV cell, they may be reflected or absorbed, or they may pass right through. Only the absorbed photons generate electricity. Photo Credit: NASA

You might also be interested in Solar Power, Timeline of Photovoltics, Photoluminescence, How a Photovoltic Cell Works, and The History of Electric Vehicles.

Source: About.com

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Off to College? Here’s How to Build a Good Score

If you’re going off to college for the first time, expect to hear a lot about credit. Granted, the most important credits to worry about are your college credits. You might also start hearing some buzz about credit cards, from marketers near campus, from your school credit union, or from your peers. If you apply for a private student loan, you’ll soon learn that credit history is one of the deciding factors.

Before you get derailed, know that your goal is to achieve a good credit score, whether you start while you’re in college or you wait until after graduation.

At age 18, you’re old enough to qualify for a credit card on your own, if you have your own income. That first credit card will be the starting point of building your credit score. Use it wisely and you’re on your way to good credit.

Some actions (like not paying your bills) can jumpstart your credit score without you even trying. Unfortunately, that’s not how you want to get your credit score started.

Here are some tips for building a good credit score in college. Keep in mind that you don’t have to start working on your credit score right now. Your education is the most important thing.

More Credit Articles for Students

  • How to Get Your First Credit Card
  • Don’t Let a Roommate Ruin Your Credit
  • How to Choose a Student Credit Card
Source: About.com

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Five for Friday: Top 5 technology commercials from the ’90s

Like most kids born in the early ’80s, I have a very special affinity for the ’90s. My dad bought the first personal computer on our block (an IBM 386), we had a 28.8K modem at home, and cell phones were as big as a brick.

My family was unflaggingly optimistic about technology in the ’90s, eager to try new digital products and formats, most of which died before gaining mass adoption.

For one glorious year–it must have been 2001–I carried around a Nokia 5110 with custom faceplate, a PalmPilot, anti-skipping Sony DiscMan, GameBoy Color, calculator watch and clear plastic pager. Today, that collection of ancient technology is contained in a single smartphone, which is capable of more than anything I could have imagined at the time (just 12 years ago!).

It’s pretty incredible to see how far technology, convergence and communication have come in less than 20 years. Today, we’re pulling together a list of our favorite ’90s technology commercials, all of which introduce, or hint at, communication tools we take for granted today.

#1: Send faxes from your cell phone

In the late ’90s, AT&T introduced PocketNet, a text-based web-browsing interface on mobile phones. In this ad, a man stuck in a snowstorm delights his son by showing him how he reads email and sends faxes from his phone.

#2: Early unified communications (with an (800) number)

The promise of unified communications today is to connect with people instantly on any device, anywhere in the world, easily and seamlessly. Back in the ’90s, that concept was considerably more basic… most people didn’t have cell phones, voice messages were stored on tape, and faxes trumped email.

What do you do if you want to stay connected 24/7? Buy an (800) number that rings your office, home number and cell phone at the same time. It was a rudimentary idea, but was the closest thing to unified communications we had at the time.

#3: Bell Atlantic predicts telecommuting

Telecommuting is so ubiquitous today that it’s easy to take it for granted. Sophisticated communication and collaboration tools make working anywhere incredibly easy.

Video conferencing puts us one click away from our coworkers, documents in the cloud are easy to work on, and email, instant messaging, mobile phones, voice conferencing and shared calendars make us just as efficient at home as we are at the office.

In 1995, telecommuting was so foreign that Bell Atlantic had to create a commercial introducing the idea to people.

#4: AT&T predicts dozens of technological breakthoughs

I love these AT&T ads from the 1993 and 1994, because they paint a picture of how technology would make our lives easier and help us connect with one another at some point in the near future. You can feel it–these breakthroughs are nearly here.

AT&T predicted the future with incredible accuracy (not surprising, as researchers inside the company had been working on many of these products for years). Here’s what they got right:

  • E-book rentals
  • GPS directions
  • The ability to send and receive faxes from your computer
  • Electronic tolls
  • Video conferencing
  • Video on demand
  • Video-based distance learning
  • Telemedicine
  • Remote security monitoring
  • Automated computer assistants, like Siri

Some of their predictions haven’t been built yet, or were built but failed to gain mass adoption. These include:

  • E-commerce at the ATM
  • DMV transactions at the ATM
  • Voice-activated door locks
  • Portable medical history on a card
  • Automatic product scanners
  • Phone calls on your wrist
  • Automatic audio translation from one language to another

2013 is shaping up to be the year for wearables, so a Dick Tracy-style mobile phone watch could be in our very near future. Researchers are racing to improve automatic audio translation technology, and will undoubtedly solve this challenge within our lifetime.

As for voice-activated door locks, we may have to leave that to Star Trek.

#5: Pacific Bell’s superhighway of information

In 1994, Pacific Bell put out its own list of predictions, mostly around networking, intelligent switches and improved communication. The 3D graphics may be cringe-worthy, but the ideas put forth were anything but: PacBell promised limitless connections over the Internet, at a time when most Americans had yet to sign up for their first email address, and Jerry Yang and David Filo had just launched Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.

OK, now it’s your turn. Share your favorite vintage tech commercials with us in the comments, and reminisce with us about the ’90s.

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Rapper’s Boast Leads to Biggest Gun Bust in NYC History

Source: About.com

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yosemite camping 1920

The National Park Service turns 97!

yosemite camping 1920 The National Park Service is celebrating its birthday this week by waiving entrance fees at National Parks across the country . On August 25, the National Park Service turns 97 years old.

Sunday, August 25, is a fee-free day, so head to any of the country’s 401 national parks and take in the scenery, learn a little history, or simply enjoy the great outdoors;  join in the festivities taking place coast-to-coast. Parks across the country are offering loads of fun activities. Take the kids on a snorkel adventure, bike ride, kayak tour, hike, or archaeological dig. Catch a campfire talk, make a painting, or explore the cavernous underworld. Search the events calendar to find out what’s happening at a park near you! You can help the kids earn a free Junior Ranger badge at almost any park–just ask at the visitor center.

Share your national park photos or videos with the National Park Foundation at: http://www.NPSbirthday.org.

More: National Park Fee Free Days Calendar | Your Favorite National Parks to Pitch a Tent

Photo: Camping in Yosemite Valley in the 1920s. | National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection

Source: About.com

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CIA Admits Area 51 Exists, but Little Else

I know…”Trust no one.” But while a recently declassified CIA report officially acknowledges the existence of Area 51, it contains no accounts of any extraterrestrial beings ever visiting, dyeing, being imprisoned or nursed back to health there.

In its 1992 report — “The U2 and OXCART Programs, 1954-1974″ — the CIA refers repeatedly to “Area 51″ as being the secret test site for the U2 and A-12 OXCART high altitude surveillance aircraft, and even displays a map of Area 51′s location in the Mojave Desert, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada.

The A-12 OXCART was the prototype of the amazing SR-71 Blackbird high-altitude, long-range, ultra-sonic spy plane.

The CIA report was acquired by George Washington University’s National Security Archive through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Area 51′s First Day

The report even describes details of the day on April 25, 1955, when CIA project director Richard Bissell and Air Force officer Col. Osmund Ritlandt first selected Area 51 – named for its military map grid designation – as the location for the super-secret test flight programs.

According to the CIA history Bissell and Col. Ritlandt were flying over the desert in a small plane piloted by Lockheed’s chief test pilot Tony LeVier, when they saw what appeared to be an abandoned runway on a salt flat labeled as “Groom Lake” on their maps. Noting that Groom Lake was near the Atomic Energy Commission’s Nevada Proving Ground, the trio decide to land and have look around.

“After debating about landing on the old airstrip, LeVier set the plane down on the lakebed, and all four walked over to examine the strip,” states the history. “The facility had been used during World War II as an aerial gunnery range for Army Air Corps pilots. From the air the strip appeared to be paved, but on closer inspection it turned out to have originally been fashioned from compacted earth that had turned into ankle-deep dust after more than a decade of disuse.”

“If LeVier had attempted to land on the airstrip, the plane would probably have nosed over when the wheels sank into the loose soil, killing or injuring all of the key figures in the U-2 project.”

Based on their brief inspection, the group agreed Groom Lake “would make an ideal site for testing the U-2 and training its pilots,” according to the CIA history.

But What About the UFOs?

While it does address the countless UFOs reported in the vicinity of Area 51, the CIA history states that people were actually seeing U2 spy planes flying at extremely high altitudes, rather than alien spacecraft.

“High altitude testing of the U2 soon led to an unexpected side effect — a tremendous increase in reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs),” states the history.

The government’s steadfast refusal to directly address the UFO reports or even admit the existence of Area 51, led to theories of the base being used as everything from a landing strip and hideaway for alien spacecraft, to a hospital and prison for wayward extraterrestrial beings.

The reality of the UFO’s was far less exotic, according to the CIA, involving only a combination of silvery wings, high altitude and the sun.

According to the CIA, most of the UFO reports were made by pilots of airliners flying from east to west – toward the setting sun – during the early evening. “When the sun dropped below the horizon of an airliner flying at 20,000 feet, the plane was in darkness,” the history explains. “But, if a U-2 was airborne in the vicinity of the airliner at the same time, its horizon from an altitude of 60,000 feet was considerably more distant, and being so high in the sky, its silver wings would catch and reflect the rays of the sun and appear to the airliner pilot, 40,000 feet below, to be fiery objects.”

While the airline pilots were aware of the optical effects of flying toward the setting sun, the history suggests they reported the sightings because, “At this time, no one believed manned flight was possible above 60,000 feet, so no one expected to see an object so high in the sky.”

Area 51 and Operation Blue Book

According to the CIA history, the Area 51 UFO reports resulted in the often-maligned Operation Blue Book, the Air Force’s ongoing attempt to officially link the sightings to natural phenomenon.

“Blue Book investigators regularly called on the Agency’s (CIA’s) Project Staff in Washington to check reported UFO sightings against U-2 flight logs,” states the history. “This enabled the investigators to eliminate the majority of the UFO reports, although they could not reveal to the letter writers the true cause of the UFO sightings. U-2 and later OXCART flights accounted for more than one-half of all UFO reports during the late 1950s and most of the 1960s.”

So while the CIA history will do little, if anything, to dispel the theories of extraterrestrial doings at Area 51, at least a little bit more of the truth is out there.

Also See: Bush Orders Area 51 Can Keep its Toxic Secrets (2003)

Source: About.com

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