Archive for November 2008

It’s Just a Little Melamine…

November 30, 2008

we ought to be used to it by now.

FDA sets safe level for melamine in infant formula

WASHINGTON – Federal regulators set a safety threshold Friday for the industrial chemical melamine that is greater than the amount of contamination found so far in U.S.-made infant formula.

Food and Drug Administration officials set a threshold of 1 part per million of melamine in formula, provided a related chemical isn’t present. They insisted the formulas are safe.

The setting of the standard comes days after The Associated Press reported that FDA tests had found traces of melamine in the infant formula of one major U.S. manufacturer and cyanuric acid, a chemical relative, in the formula of a second major maker. The contaminated samples, which both measured at levels below the new standard, had been analyzed several weeks ago.

The FDA had stated in early October that it was unable to set a safety contamination level for melamine in infant formula.

Continue reading…

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Just for Fun – The Web’s Most Useless Sites

November 30, 2008

 AOL AIM Dashboard, Zombo, Weekly World News. Wait, Weekly World News?!

The Web’s Most Useless Sites

 Finding great sites on the Web is easy. But it takes hard work and dedication to find the truly annoying and dazzlingly useless ones. Of course we didn’t shrink from the task.

While locating the most useful sites on the Web, we felt it only fair to call out the some of the most useless, too. We found no shortage of sites that are poorly designed or boring, but we list here some of the sites that go that extra mile — the dazzlingly ugly, the patently offensive and the mind-bogglingly pointless.

Continue reading…

Books for Soldiers

November 30, 2008

Clearing some space on your bookshelves this holiday season? If you have used (or new) books you no longer want, consider donating them to injured soldiers.

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue,NW
Washington,D.C. 20307-5001

Thanks to my favorite author, F. Paul Wilson, for passing on the info and a great idea.

UPDATE: Oops! Looks like “The War on Terror” makes this a bad idea after all! Here is a letter received by a generous person who sent some books to Walter Reed last year (thanks, Tony):

“Walter Reed Army Medical Center appreciates your consideration for our recovering soldiers, addressed to ‘Any woundeed soldier’. Unfortunately WRAMC is unable to accept these packages in support of the decision by the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Transportation policy of 2001.

This decision was made to ensure the safety and well-being of our recovering troops as well as ensuring the safety of our staff at the medical center and throughout the department of defense.

In addition, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting “Any Service member”, “Any wounded soldier”, or the like as an addressee. Any such posted address depositied into a collection box will not be delivered.

Instead of sending an “Any wounded Soldier” letter or package to WRAMC, please consider making a donation to one or more of the 300 registered non-profit oragnizations dedicated to providing for the needs of the soldiers and their families. You can find the organizations on the “America Supports You” website at www.americasupportsyou.mil

Please pass this notice on to your friends and family to prevent them from spending on postage for an undeliverable item. Your sentiments are greatly appreciated and we hope that you understand or policies as they are in the best interest of those recovering at our facility. Happy Holidays to you and yours.”

F. Paul Wilson confirms that another source verified this as true today  as well.

A Visual Guide to the Financial Crisis

November 30, 2008

Pretty good visual found at http://blog.mint.com/blog/finance-core/a-visual-guide-to-the-financial-crisis/.

Hooray for Layaway

November 30, 2008

According to this MSNBC report, layaway is making a comeback. KMart was the only major retailer that never stopped offering layaway but now several other retailers are joining (or re-joining) KMart in offering customers a layaway program. Stores like TJ Maxx Corp., Goody’s Family Clothing Inc., Marshalls Inc. and Burlington Coat Factory Direct Corp are advertising layaway for holiday shopping.

I grew up in typical 1970’s middle class family – four kids, mom stayed home, dad worked a blue collar job with decent pay and benefits. My mom and my aunts often used layaway programs, especially just before Christmas. I remember standing with my mom in long lines for the layaway desk to make the weekly payment – but never the last payment, the one when you get to take the stuff home. Layaway was also a great way to hide Christmas gifts from the kids in a place they couldn’t possibly “accidentally” find them.

As a young adult working my first full-time job, I used layaway several times to get good deals on higher ticket items I couldn’t otherwise afford. I was sad to see so many stores stop their layaway programs in recent years. And even though I haven’t used layaway in a long time, it always made me happy in a nostalgic sort of way to see that KMart kept their program going.

Layaway was (and is) a great way to get the items you want when they are on sale even if you don’t have all the money to buy them on the day of the sale – without paying high credit card interest rates. It’s also a good option for anyone who has difficulty saving money until they have enough to buy a particular item. Once you’ve started making layaway payments you’re much more likely to keep making those payments to the end because if you stop you not only lose the things you put on layaway, you also forfeit most (if not all) of the money you paid to that point.

So hooray for layaway! I hope this is a growing trend and we start to see more and more stores with layaway programs again. As a nation we need to re-learn fiscal responsibility. Layaway is one small step in that direction.

Wal-Mart Employee Killed in Black Friday Stampede

November 29, 2008

A Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island store Friday morning, police and witnesses said.

The 34-year-old employee, a temporary maintenance worker, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.

Continue reading…

I think this terribly sad story shows a desperation in people that didn’t exist even a year ago. I’ve worked in retail on “Black Fridays” in years past. The crowds were elbow-to-elbow but I never saw this kind of “escape the burning building” mob mentality. Ever.

It’s frightening too because this could end up being typical behavior at grocery stores if the worst-case-scenario predictions about our economy come true. You’re fooling yourself if you think it can’t happen here.

Quantitative Easing

November 29, 2008

When the Federal Reserve announced its new $800 Billion rescue package earlier this week, the phrase “quantitative easing” began appearing in numerous articles discussing the announcement. Not being an economist, the phrase was new to me and I wanted to know exactly what it means.

I found an absurdly simple definition at Guardian.co.uk:

“Quantitative easing is what non-economists call ‘turning on the printing press’.

In extreme circumstances, governments flood the financial system with money, easing pressure on banks by giving them extra capital.

Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Fed, won the nickname ‘helicopter Ben’ when he floated just such an idea earlier this decade. US economist Milton Friedman had originally said it would be theoretically possible for governments to drop large amounts of cash out of helicopters for the public to pick up and spend. ”

And Ohio.com lays it out pretty plainly in an article titled, Federal Reserve uses power to print money.

Ok, that’s easy enough to understand, but can it work? Japan tried it from 2001 – 2006. Nobody is certain yet if it was helpful or harmful. Germany tried it following World War I and it was an absolute disaster. Somehow, I don’t find either example reassuring.

It may be time to get a wheelbarrow.