Monday, January 31, 2011

Consumer spending rose in December 2010 Americans spent at the fastest pace in 3 years

Carrie Marable of Waco, Texas, shops at the Family Dollar store, in Waco,
Texas: Consumer spending has risen at the sharpest rate in three years

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Americans increased their spending sharply in December and consumer purchases for all of 2010 rose at the fastest pace in three years, figures revealed today.
Consumer spending rose 0.7 per cent in December, the sixth straight monthly increase, the US Commerce Department reported. 
Households saw their incomes rise 0.4 per cent, the same as November.
For all of 2010, consumers boosted spending 3.5 per cent. That was the best performance since a 5.2% rise in 2007, before the recession began.

Economists expect further gains this year that will give the economy a boost. Consumer spending accounts for 70 per cent of total economic activity.
The government reported on Friday that consumer spending rose at a 4.4 per cent rate in the final three months of 2010 - the most since 2006 and helping retailers to the best Christmas shopping season in that time.

For 2010, incomes rose three per cent after having fallen 1.7 per cent in 2009.
The rise in incomes and the faster increase in spending meant that the savings rate dipped slightly in December to 5.3 per cent of after-tax incomes.

The savings rate edged down slightly to 5.8 per cent from 5.9 per cent in 2009. 
But the 2010 figure is well above the low of 1.4 per cent hit in 2005 at the height of the housing boom when rising home prices encouraged Americans to spend more.
The increased economic activity is not leading to higher inflation. A price gauge tied to consumer spending showed prices outside of food and energy increased 0.7 per cent in the 12 months ending in December, a record low.Economists expect a slowly improving job market and a payroll tax cut will boost spending further in 2011.

The big question is whether the gains in consumer spending will be enough to offset weakness in the housing market and further cutbacks in government spending.
For all of 2010, the economy grew 2.9 per cent, the best performance since 2005. That is a sharp contrast to the 2.6 per cent drop in GDP in 2009, the worst decline in more than 60 years.


The Tudors Star- Henry Cavill will take the lead role in the forthcoming Superman: Man of Steel movie

For decades, British actors have cornered the market in a certain kind of Hollywood villain, full of posh, foreign and often camp menace. But now they are being signed up to play the ultimate all-American good guys: superheroes.
Warner Bros announced today that 27-year-old Henry Cavill will take the lead role in the forthcoming Superman: Man of Steel movie, which means that British actors are now playing the three biggest US comic book legends.
Andrew Garfield, who was seen in Red Riding on Channel 4, is shooting a "reboot" of the Spider-Man franchise, while Christian Bale is preparing to reprise his role as Batman, after the worldwide success of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
Cavill, 27, is best known for playing the Duke of Suffolk in the recent TV series The Tudors. He was born and brought up on Jersey, before becoming a pupil at Stowe – the same school attended by another successful acting export, David Niven. He was described by the Man of Steel director, Zack Snyder, as the "perfect choice to don the cape and 'S' shield".

Rovio Developing Angry Birds Animated Series

Rovio Mobile recently turned the characters from its popular Angry Birds game into plush toys, so it was only a matter of time before those birds and pigs came to life in an animated series.
In an interview with British TV industry site, Rovio CEO Mikael Hed said an Angry Birds cartoon is in the works. "We have been looking at that for quite a while, and that is definitely one of my personal big focus areas right now - to work on broadcast content for 'Angry Birds,'" Hed said.
When asked on its Twitter feed if Hed's statements were accurate, Rovio tweeted that it "must be if we say so."
Hed did not have any additional details about who Rovio might partner with on the animated series or whether it would be viewable online or on TV. Rovio did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In August, Variety reported that Rovio execs were making the round with Hollywood studios and investors in an effort to broaden the Angry Birds franchise into TV shows, movies, toys, and comic books.
By Chloe Albanesius PC Mag

Earn a Groundhog Day 2011 badge on Foursquare

Groundhog Day 2011 is February 2 and Foursquare users can earn a PA Groundhog Day badge even if there's a good chance Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow. 
The Pennsylvania Tourism Office has partnered with Foursquare giving a "one-time only opportunity to proudly sport a badge on your virtual chest as we discover the fate of winter." 
According to Mickey Rowley, deputy secretary for tourism, "There is only one weather-forecasting groundhog: Punxsutawney Phil in the Pennsylvania Wilds. This year, anyone will have the opportunity to earn a badge featuring his likeness from visitPA."
Earn the "PA Groundhog Day" badge by following visitPA on Foursquare; and then checking in to "shout" the word "groundhog" on Feb. 2, 2011.

Cheryl Phillips

AEG & Farmers Insurance $700 million deal,would be a Major step toward bringing #NFL to Los Angeles

Backers of a plan to build a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles are set to announce Tuesday that they have reached a naming-rights deal worth $700 million, which would be the most valuable such agreement ever and a significant step toward bringing an NFL team to Los Angeles.

AEG, the huge entertainment company that, among other holdings, owns Staples Center and the L.A. Live complex, plans to announce a 30-year agreement with Farmers Insurance. The deal would provide AEG's proposed project a crucial chunk of contractually obligated income, starting at $20 million for the first year and escalating incrementally every year after, according to individuals familiar with the negotiations but not involved in them. The stadium would be named Farmers Field.

Announcing a naming-rights deal for a stadium that has not been built, on a site that has not been approved, for a team that has not been acquired is unheard of. No money will change hands unless each of those wishes becomes fulfilled. But for AEG, making an announcement now provides a concrete benefit — providing a sense of momentum as the company, owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz, tries to persuade state and city officials to approve other crucial deal points, including a long-term lease agreement on the land for the stadium and expedited review of the environmental impact of building it.

In a display of support for their proposal for a $1-billion downtown stadium, AEG officials plan to unveil the agreement at a news conference Tuesday attended by MayorAntonio Villaraigosa, other municipal officials, business leaders and sports stars. The mayor has a close relationship with AEG President and Chief Executive Tim Leiweke, but has so far not spoken publicly on the stadium plan.

The agreement with Farmers significantly increases the likelihood of the NFL's return to Los Angeles, but does not guarantee it, NFL leaders said. AEG will need to weather a likely litigious entitlement process lasting a year or longer. Its plan also is in competition with that of real estate magnate Ed Roski, who is proposing a stadium in the city of Industry. And, ultimately, the potential owners need to convince an existing NFL franchise to move to L.A. — a goal that has eluded several previous groups.

AEG has had discussions with every NFL team that could potentially move, Leiweke said in an interview, although he declined to list them. League officials have made it clear, however, that the L.A. vacancy will not be addressed until the current labor dispute between team owners and players is resolved. That could take months. The teams considered potentially movable because of their stadium leases are San Diego, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Oakland, San Francisco, St. Louis and Buffalo.

Leiweke said the deal with Farmers "doesn't mean that football is back tomorrow. But it means we took probably the most significant step in the last 15 years to getting football back here soon."

Two highly influential members of NFL ownership families agreed that the naming-rights deal distinguishes the downtown plan from any that has come before it.

"If I'm a fan in L.A., I have to be really encouraged," said Stephen Jones, chief operating officer of theDallas Cowboys and son of team owner Jerry Jones. "You've got to be encouraged that there is a real chance for football there. Every owner to a man thinks that we've got to have a team in the second-largest market in the country."

Jones said he was particularly impressed that AEG had reached a naming-rights agreement on a proposed venue when there are still no deals for the NFL's two newest stadiums, the homes of the Cowboys and New York Giants and Jets.

But, "we've got to get a labor agreement before any of this happens," Jones said. "That's where our focus is."

Jonathan Kraft, president of the New England Patriots and son of team owner Robert Kraft, said a deal of the size of the Farmers agreement is "very impressive," particularly in this difficult economic climate. Kraft's family has been a partner in Major League Soccer for 16 years with Anschutz.

"When you take a naming-rights deal like that, and their history of building and running venues, nothing can compete with this," Kraft said.

Critics of AEG's plan take issue with the location of the proposed 64,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium, which would be part of the Convention Center complex at the intersection of the I-10 and I-110 freeways. They question the potential traffic and parking problems a stadium could cause and whether the project can be completed without a significant contribution of public money, as Leiweke has promised.

AEG is asking the city to issue $350 million in bonds. The money would pay for building the stadium and parking and would pay off the remaining debt on the existing West Hall of the Convention Center, which would be torn down to make room for the stadium. Leiweke said new ticket-tax revenue the city would get from the site would be enough to pay off that debt, and AEG would pay any shortfalls.

AEG's proposal calls for the stadium to be used not just for 10 football games a year, but other sports events such as NCAA Final Fours and major soccer games and for conventions. Farmers has been promised at least 50 events per year, with an attendance of at least 40,000 per event.

The Industry proposal is significantly ahead of the downtown bid in that it is shovel-ready with a piece of land that already has necessary zoning and the environmental exemption that AEG is seeking from the state. Additionally, Industry backers say their site is far more accessible for fans in San Bernardino and Orange counties, as well as much of Los Angeles.

Several NFL owners and executives have quietly indicated they prefer the AEG concept to Roski's.

Kraft emphasized that any decision on returning to the L.A. market will be made by all 32 owners and the league office, not by an individual franchise impressed by a proposal.

"But," he added, "this is as credible as anything that has taken place since the expansion [in 1998] that brought Houston into the league when L.A. had a chance then and didn't win it."

Leiweke said the naming-rights deal should stand as proof that Anschutz is committed to getting the event center built.

"I'm sure every owner in the league today looks at this and says, `This is going to happen,'" Leiweke said.

Leiweke said he's relying on the muscle of L.A.'s business, community and political leaders to help make the event center a reality. He cautioned, however, that Anschutz has "clearly warmed up" to the idea but that building an NFL stadium "is not his life ambition."

AEG hopes to have the stadium built in time for the 2015 NFL season, so the stadium could host the 50th Super Bowl in early 2016. The timing is meaningful to the NFL because L.A. was the site of the first Super Bowl. Making the deadline even tighter, AEG would have to build the new West Hall before beginning demolition on the existing one, so no currently booked conventions would be disrupted.

Farmers, the largest auto insurance company in California, was founded in L.A. and has been headquartered here for 83 years. The company sponsors the PGA Tour's Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines each January, the Farmers Classic tennis tournament, and has an airship.

Kevin Kelso, chief marketing officer for Farmers, called the agreement "a fantastic branding opportunity" and "a great way to give back to the city."

L.A. businessman Casey Wasserman, who brought the downtown stadium concept to AEG, said: "It's the first time L.A. has provided a solution to the questions required to bring a team back. This plan guarantees the NFL and a team financial success."

For the moment, Leiweke is optimistic the deal will be done.

"Even if you don't like football, you've got to love the Convention Center and the economic impact this is going to create," he said. "We've taken a major step forward to putting L.A. in a position to be a top-five convention market in the United States going forward.

"If you don't like football, you've got to love that. And it didn't cost you a penny."


A state lawmaker has introduced a bill that aims to protect pot smokers.

A state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would prohibit employers from firing qualified medical marijuana users who consume pot when they're not on the job. 
The bill, proposed by Democratic state Sen. Mark Leno, also would make it illegal for employers not to hire someone solely because they use marijuana for medical reasons.
Leno, who represents Marin and parts of San Francisco and Sonoma counties, proposed a similar bill in 2007 that was passed by the legislature, but vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"The bill simply establishes a medical cannabis patient's right to work," Leno told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It astounds me that there would be any controversy around it."
The California Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that nothing in the state's current medical marijuana laws bars an employer from firing medical marijuana users who test positive for pot.

Amazon rolling out Netflix-like unlimited video streaming for Prime subscribers?

Rumors of Amazon either purchasing Netflix or launching a competing option have been circling and now one of our readers says he's seeing an unlimited video streaming section to complement the currentAmazon VOD options. That's a nice bonus for the $79 / year package that currently adds a few free shipping bonuses and it would be cheaper on a yearly basis than Netflix's Watch Instantly ($95.88.) As seen above and in the gallery, it consists of "unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of 5,000 movies and TV shows" with selections that mirror the Watch Instantly catalog closely. Resolution is apparently limited to a "pretty solid" 480p SD, but there's no word on audio or subtitle options. We'll wait to hear if anyone else is seeing a similar page before assuming a wide rollout, but it certainly appears that there could finally be a viable competitor to the Netflix juggernaut.

Update: We weren't able to pull up the option on any of our Prime-enabled accounts and from the comments it doesn't appear any of you were either. According to our tipster, the option has disappeared from his page as well. One other interesting note came from commenter vfiz, who found that several variations of the domain name were registered by Amazon-owned DPReview January 5.

By Richard Lawler- Engadget

Taco Bell Says " Of Course we use Real Beef " yeah & soy, oatmeal & many more fillers.

What is in Taco Bell's Beef?

"Our recipe for seasoned beef includes ingredients you'd find in your home or in the supermarket aisle today:
88% USDA-inspected quality beef
3-5% water for moisture
3-5% spices (including salt, chili pepper, onion powder, tomato powder, sugar, garlic powder, cocoa powder and a proprietary blend of Mexican spices and natural flavors).
3-5% oats, starch, sugar, yeast, citric acid, and other ingredients that contribute to the quality of our product.
"Our seasoned beef contains no "extenders" to add volume, as some might use. For more information about our ingredients go to"
Greg Creed
President and Chief Concept Officer
Taco Bell Corp.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- Popular fast-food chain Taco Bell issued a public response Friday to claims that its beef isn't really, well, beef.

The Mexican-style restaurant took out full page ads in several major newspapers across the nation, including the L.A. Times that said "Thank you for suing us. Here's the truth about our beef."

The ad goes on to explain that their meet is 88 perfect beef with 12 percent going to a combination of secret ingredients that include water, mexican spices and oats.

Taco Bell released a statement earlier in the week saying it doesn't exaggerate what it gives consumers and that there has been no false advertising about any of its products.

Taco Bell's menu came under scrutiny when a class-action lawsuit was filed in federal court saying there is not enough animal meat to qualify as beef.

The plaintiff is identified as Amanda Obney of California, and the suit was filed January 21 in U.S. District Court in the Central District, Southern Division, in Santa Ana.

he class-action suit, which does not ask for money, objects to Taco Bell calling its products "seasoned ground beef or seasoned beef, when in fact a substantial amount of the filling contains substances other than beef."

It says Taco Bell's ground beef is made of such components as water, isolated oat product, wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch, sodium phosphate, as well as some beef and seasonings.

Just 35 percent of the taco filling was a solid, and just 15 percent overall was protein, said attorney W. Daniel "Dee" Miles III of the in Montgomery, Ala., law firm Beasley Allen, which filed the suit.

"Taco Bell's definition of 'seasoned beef' does not conform to consumers' reasonable expectation or ordinary meaning of seasoned beef, which is beef and seasonings," the suit says. Beef is the "flesh of cattle," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Google's Wael Ghonim reported missing in Egypt

Photo: Wael Ghonim's Facebook profile picture.

Wael Ghonim, Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, is missing in Egypt as protests continue on for a seventh day, according to reports from multiple news sources.
Al Jazeera said in a blog post on its English websitethat it had been contacted by friends of Ghonim and that he has been missing "since last week. His wife is appealing for any information on his whereabouts. Ghonim was guest speaker at the Al Jazeera Forum for Online Journalism & Freedom of Opinion earlier this month."
On what appears to be Ghonim's Facebook page, it says he admires Egyptian opposition figureMohamed ElBaradei, who recently returned to Egypt to take part in the nationwide protests against the government of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for more than 30 years.
Gohnim's page also lists Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs as people who inspire him

According to Ghonim's LinkedIn page, he graduated from the American University in Cairo in 2007 with an MBA after getting a bachelor's degree from Cairo University in 2004. The page says he has been Google's marketing head since January 2010. It also lists him as being based in the United Arab Emirates.
On his Twitter account, @Gohnim, he posted messages that indicate active participation in protests in Egypt.
On Jan. 24, he wrote:
Despite all the warnings I got from my relative and friends, I'll be there on #Jan25 protests. Anyone going to be in Gam'et Dewal protest?
Tuesday, the first day of Egypt's protests, he tweeted:
Egypt after #Jan25 is no way going to be the same as Egypt before it. Today we proved so many points.
Later that day, he wrote:
Heading to Tahrir square now. Sleeping on the streets of Cairo, trying to feel the pain of millions of my fellow Egyptians. #Jan25
On Wednesday, referencing the Farmville game on Facebook, he said:
A government that is scared from #Facebook and #Twitter should govern a city in Farmville but not a country like #Egypt #Jan25
Pray for #Egypt. Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die #Jan25
The last tweet sent from the @Gohnim account was from Thursday, in response to a Twitter user going by @SweetOwl, who asked:
@Ghonim how can you tweet when its blocked??
@SweetOwl proxy servers
Google declined to confirm if Ghonim was in fact missing. A spokeswoman did say in an e-mail: "We care deeply about the safety of our employees, but to protect their privacy, we don't comment on the individually."
- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Top 10 universities where the highest percentage of undergraduates live in campus housing.

While it's common for colleges to require students to live in campus housing during their freshman year, students often opt to move to off-campus houses or apartments as upperclassmen. Many schools, especially larger universities, account for this by not offering enough on-campus housing to accommodate their entire undergraduate population. However, there are a number of prominent institutions with endowments large enough to enable them to provide housing for all undergraduates.
According to an analysis of student housing data provided by universities in U.S.News & World Report's 2010 survey of undergraduate programs, students at many of the country's top ranked schools opt to remain on campus until they graduate. Of the top 10 national universities with the highest percentage of students that live on campus, five are Ivy League institutions and eight are ranked in the top 10 of U.S. News's rankings of national universities. The lone exceptions are Vanderbilt University (ranked 17th) and the Stevens Institute of Technology (ranked 86th).
Among the 1,203 schools that provided data to U.S. News, almost half—49.02 percent—of undergraduates live on campus, which is not surprising given that a majority of underclassmen live on campus and most upperclassmen live off of it. The average among the 245 national universities that reported student housing data was even lower: 40.13 percent. The following table highlights the top 10 national universities ranked by the percentage of their undergraduate student body living on campus:

School NamePercent of Undergrads Living on CampusU.S. News National University Ranking
Princeton University98%2
Harvard University96%1
California Institute of Technology95%7
Columbia University95%4
Massachusetts Institute of Technology92%7
Stanford University91%5
Vanderbilt University90%17
Yale University88%3
Dartmouth College87%9
Stevens Institute of Technology85%86

Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the Premium Online Edition of the U.S. News 2011 College Guide to find student housing statistics, complete rankings, and much more. 
U.S. News surveyed more than 1,700 colleges and universities for our 2010 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News's data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News's rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools.
By Brian Burnsed U.S.News & World Report