Monday, August 22, 2011

It's a love-hate relationship with technology

It's a love-hate relationship with technology
By Marco R. della Cava
So here's the tech question of the moment:

Have we fallen so in love with gadgets that allow us to e-mail, text, friend, like and tweet that face-to-face connections will soon feel as awkward as first dates?

Or is there a failure to appreciate how these social network-tethered devices are enabling us to reach new levels of global connectivity?

The answer is, of course, yes and yes.

Novelist Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom and The Corrections, recently took up one side of this debate in a widely republished commencement address at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. It touted his rediscovered passion for environmental activism as an antidote to the illusion of connection offered online.

But dip your toe into the vast national tub of tech users, thinkers and analysts, and one senses both excitementand concern — often expressed by the same people — about how technology has fast become the furious love of our lives.

Parents are prime offenders, and kids are taking notice

Being in love is a many splendored thing, but it can also be obnoxious if you insist on nuzzling and uttering sweet nothings in public. The same may apply to our infatuation with technology and its myriad devices. Social science researchers at chipmaker Intel have been conducting occasional surveys on the subject, and they recently found that nine out of 10 adults surveyed said they’ve seen people misuse technology, including:

• Using a mobile device while driving: 74%
• Talking loudly while in public: 64%
• Using a device during a performance or event: 40%
• Divulging private information in a public area: 37%
• Using a mobile device at a funeral: 24%

And young users picking up those bad habits, too:

• 50% of children ages 8 to 12 have two or more mobile devices.
• A third of children would rather forgo summer vacation than give up their mobile devices.
• 49% of children say they don’t see anything wrong with using technology at the dinner table.
• 40% of parents admit they spend too much time using a device in front of their kids, and 42% of children think their parents need to disconnect more while they’re at home.
• But 49% of parents prohibit mobile device use during school, 43% during family time; 18% set limits on whom kids can contact, 14% on picture texting and 31% on Internet use.

Source: Intel

"My life is rooted in technology, but because I don't want to miss real relationships, my attitude is everything in moderation," says Janet Stauble, 27, social media community manager at in Jupiter, Fla.

When Stauble walks her dogs, she deliberately leaves her cellphone at home. "I love that I can shoot a picture off to friends by text or a Facebook update, but at the same time, I want to be sure I can have time to myself," she says.

Frank Rice, 67, is in love with his PDA, but he isn't a fan of the way people text while walking and bump into him without apologizing.

"Overall, my attitude toward technology is I can't wait to see what's going to happen tomorrow," says Rice, a telecommunications consultant in Atlanta. "But I also grew up walking in the woods with my father, who showed me how to spot mushrooms that wouldn't kill you. We need more of that these days."

In Franzen's speech, titled "Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts," he lamented facile infatuations with tech devices (as a BlackBerry fan, he included himself in that crowd), contending that "the ultimate goal of technology is to replace the natural world that's indifferent to our wishes — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self."

Relationships are intact
The writer isn't commenting on his controversial speech; his book agent says everything the author wanted to impart on the topic is in his address. But Franzen is far from alone in analyzing our current addiction to technology. One recent survey indicates that, contrary to Franzen's argument, the ultimate byproduct of technology may be to take us outside ourselves.

The study by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project suggests that those heavily invested in online relationships tend to be more altruistic offline than the unwired crowd. Specifically, Pew found that 80% of Internet users participate in voluntary organizations, compared with 56% of non-Internet users. "It's clear technology does not negatively impact our friendships or our engagement with the world," says project director Lee Rainie.

He says human beings have been "shifting signal-sending processes" for centuries and that our mushrooming technological bounty simply means getting used to new codes and signals.

"What stands out today as a gesture is the handwritten note or shutting off your phone to sit and talk with someone," Rainie says. "We're navigating new spaces with new norms of etiquette."

Etiquette is in fact a huge part of this tech love debate. No one is pining for the inconvenient days of the rotary pay phone; what is being objected to is the intrusive nature of our gizmos.

Many companies already mandate that some meetings be "topless" (no laptops or PDAs), while children's camps often require that portable electronic devices be left at home. Just recently, lawmakers in the Michigan towns of Royal Oak and Sterling Heightsvoted to ban all digital communication between city council members during meetings. The move was made to discourage any deal-making that the public could not hear.

A survey this year by chipmaker Intel revealed that 91% of adults have seen people misuse mobile technology, and 75% say mobile manners are worse today than in 2009. "We haven't yet worked out for ourselves, our families, communities and societies what all the right kinds of behaviors and expectations will be," says Genevieve Bell, head of interaction and experience research at Intel Labs.

David Polk found similarly high numbers in conducting his annual Professionalism in the Workplace study for the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, where he also teaches.

"The kids I see in my classes are part of a generation that expects to be always reachable, and as a result, they tend to text, surf the Internet and even take calls at inappropriate times," says Polk, who runs the Polk-Lepson Research Group.

In his 2010 survey of 430 human resource professionals, the majority reported that younger employees text (78%), use the Web (77%) and make personal cellphone calls (72%) when they should be working. When Polk asked the participants if they would describe those staffers as unfocused, 20% said yes, a jump from 6% in 2009.

"For the younger generation, it's clear tech and social media are ruling their lives," says Polk. "They just can't seem to go a few minutes without checking in."

Few in this tech love debate will argue that what's being sacrificed at the altar of technology is solitude.

Being connected means never having to be alone — and that's a shame, says Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future, a deliberately provocative title that has won its author public boos and even death threats.

"Solitude is important," says Bauerlein, agreeing with Franzen's argument that getting truly involved with a person or a cause often is messy and painful, but ultimately richly satisfying. "Our tech tools make everything so easy. What that means is in a person's formative years, there's no pain and no gain."

Bauerlein laments the erosion of reading and writing skills in the age of txt msgs and says students at his lectures complain when he scolds that "99% of what happens to you is of no interest to anyone" and "online friendships aren't real friendships."

"Kids say I'm unpleasant and that I don't understand them, but what I want is a dialogue with them, and they're too busy e-mailing each other," he says. "My concern is that a society in which a younger generation is not involved in a constant dialogue with the older one is inherently dangerous. Look what happened in the '60s."

Means to same end

But is there really that big a generational divide? In the '60s, there was a stark contrast between staid Eisenhower-era parents and LSD-dropping hippie offspring. Today, Facebook and Twitter are hardly the exclusive domain of the young.

Though the Gen Y crowd may indeed process and relay signals differently from the pre-cellphone gang, they don't differ all that much from their parents, says T. Scott Gross, an Austin-based consumer research expert who constantly engages with twentysomethings.

"I find that deep down, these kids are not as obsessed (with tech) as we think they are," Gross says. "Sure, they may not be that well-read, and you can tick them off by leaving them a note in cursive, but overall, this is a poised, articulate generation who use a different set of skills to accomplish the same thing an older generation did."

Gross loves one particular anecdote from a recent focus group he conducted. A woman in her 30s said her husband wasn't particularly talkative, but he texts that he loves her many times a day. "There is no lumping technology, pro or con, into one boat," he says.

Just as there's no turning back the tech clock, says Peter Sealey, a longtime Silicon Valley adviser and founder of the Sausalito Group consultancy.

"It's a strained argument that we need to be careful where technology is taking us, because we're never going back to Walden Pond," says Sealey, who is passionate about his iPhone.

"When Gutenberg started printing, there were negative repercussions, things being printed that people thought were outrageous," he says. "As with all tech, it's a one-way street."

Go unplugged

So where does that leave us on the question of tech love? On the one hand, we have to take the good (momentous revolutions fueled by Twitter) with the bad (senseless deaths as a result of drivers being digitally distracted at the wheel). On the other, we have the power to enjoy our tech toys while at the same time acknowledging their boundaries. We can, in a word, just turn it off.

That's the approach of telecom expert Rice, who says he continues the tradition his father started and often takes his thirtysomething nieces and nephews into the nearby Georgia woods to hunt for mushrooms, where the only buzzing comes from bees. "I'd like to think that at some point, people will realize how special it is to truly communicate with another person, one on one, without technology," he says.

So maybe author-turned-bird-lover Franzen has a point. Maybe the best way to make sure technology's magnetic march doesn't trample our social instincts is to take a walk in the woods and leave the smartphone/tablet/laptop in the car.

After all, love them or hate them, those shiny, beckoning gizmos aren't going anywhere.

AT&T to simplify texting plans

AT&T to simplify texting plans
By Mike Isaac, WIRED
AT&T confirmed today that it will slim down its text-messaging service plans, offering customers either unlimited messages for a flat monthly fee, or a pay-per-text service.

The company is eliminating its middle-of-the-road option, a plan that allots customers 1,000 text messages for $10 monthly.

"The vast majority of our messaging customers prefer unlimited plans," an AT&T spokesman said in a statement provided to "With text messaging growth stronger than ever, that number continues to climb among new customers."

AT&T's change in service, which was first reported by Engadget, will begin on Sunday. AT&T made a point to note that its existing customers aren't required to make the switch if they'd rather stick with 1,000 monthly messages, the spokesman said, "even when changing handsets."

Text messaging services are in a state of tumult, as a carrier-backed SMS (or short message service) is no longer the only texting option.

Apps like Pinger provide free SMS to users through its ad-supported system. Facebook recently released its Messenger application, which allows users to send chat, text or e-mail messages to one another using the Facebook platform alone.

RIM has offered its BlackBerry Messenger platform, which allows BlackBerry smartphone owners to trade text messages freely to one another using instant messaging protocols, skipping out on carrier fees.

And Apple, of course, plans to introduce a similar service for iOS device users when iOS 5 launches later this year.

Still, the majority of the world's mobile phones are still "dumbphones" -- not BlackBerrys, not iPhones, and not smartphones that run Facebook's app -- so SMS isn't going anywhere in the short term.

We've compiled a chart showing what other carriers are offering in the way of SMS. Check it out, and make sure you're paying for the plan that works best for you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Google Aquires Motorola Mobility & Time Warner Cable Buys Insight

Google Goes Soup-To-Nuts On Android With Bid For Motorola

Google’s surprise $12.5 billion bid for Motorola Mobility this morning is a bold attempt to move the needle for Google on several fronts. Google is going all in, dipping into its $39 billion of cash to make its biggest acquisition ever. The deal signals that mobile will be one of Google’s main growth drivers and that growth will come from entering new markets, specifically mobile hardware. With the acquisition, Google gains a portfolio of 17,000 patents and another 7,000 patents pending globally, an area where it is acurrently a laggard. But more than anything, it signals how crucial it is for Google to control the Android experience from soup to nuts.

There may now be 150 million Android phones and phones running the Android operating system command the largest smartphone market share, but Android the most popular single smartphone by far is still the iPhone. Buying Motorola is an acknowledgement on Google’s part that it must control the experience from software to hardware if it hopes to unseat Apple.

Up until now, Google has taken the Windows approach to mobile—create an OS that all manufacturers can build on top of and just concentrate on the software—but that approach is not enough. More than 550,000 Android phones are activated every day across 39 manufacturers, but there is no single phone or Android manufacturer that can best the iPhone. By owning Motorola, Google can create Android phones to its exact specifications and take advantage of the latest advances in the operating system, just like Apple does. When CEO Larry Page says that buying Motorola will “supercharge” Android, that is what he means I suspect.

Page is careful to note that “Android will stay open” and that Motorola will remain but one of many licensees. But there is no doubt that if the deal passes antitrust review, Motorola’s Android phones will be the first among equals. Google also gains a strong foothold in the living room with Motorola’s set-top box business, which could help its lackluster Google TV efforts

It’s a big bet. What if Google messes it up? Well, it will still have all those mobile patents, which arguably could be worth a good portion of the total acquisition price. Remember, Nortel’s patents went for $4.5 billion to Google’s competitors. During today’s conference call explaining the deal, Page noted that Motorola’s “strong patent portfolio” will help Google defend Android against “Microsoft, Apple, and other companies.” The first two questions on the call went right to the patent issue as well. With Android under attack on the patent front by Apple, Microsoft, Oracle and others, buying Motorola is very much a defensive move as well.

Time Warner Cable Buys Insight For $3B In Cash
NEW YORK — Time Warner is buying cable operator Insight Communications Co. for $3 billion in cash as it bolsters its presence in the Midwest.

Insight serves more than 750,000 customers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. The privately held company has about 537,000 high-speed data subscribers, 679,000 video subscribers and 297,000 voice subscribers.

Insight is owned by The Carlyle Group, Crestview Partners, MidOcean Partners, members of Insight management and others. It

Time Warner Cable Inc., based in New York, said Monday that it expects the deal to create annual cost savings of about $100 million, with the majority of those savings coming within two years of the deal closing.

Time Warner

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Starbucks Conspiracy

The Vast Starbucks Conspiracy: Jonathan’s Card Wasn’t Faked


The Internet (namely the corner populated by some dude with a coffee blog) is a place where no good deed goes unpunished. A few days ago, Jonathan Stark posted his Starbucks card online asking people to buy coffee and then recharge the card when it was falling low. The result? Lots of good will, lots of people with free coffee, and my day was improved immensely by being able to write about something nice for a change. Then this poststarted circulating claiming that Jonathan was a viral shill for the Starbucks chain and that he was, in fact, mercenarily driving up Starbucks sales through his act of kindness.
You see, Stark works for a company called Mobiquity and, at some point, the company did work for Starbucks. When the negative post went up, the Mobiquity client list disappeared down and – get this – the Google cache of the page disappeared. It was then that author, Mr. Hetzel, really found out how deep this rabbit hole was about to go:
UPDATE AUGUST 9, 2011 7:30AM HST: The Mobiquity Inc “Client” page cache has been deleted from Google; clearly someone is following this post and cleaning up loose ends on the Jonathan’s Card scheme to make it appear more organic. Don’t worry boys, I got screenshots.
Don’t worry, boys. He’s got screenshots. Clearly Starbucks has their hands in some pretty powerful pockets if they can convince Google to erase all knowledge of an insidious caffeinated crime. Concerned that I was being conned, I talked to Jonathan who said, when I asked him about his relationship to Starbucks, “My only connection to Starbucks is that I spend a lot of time at the Wayland Square Store in Providence, RI.” I then contacted Starbucks itself, expecting to see a curt reply and a whole mess of Google cache pages to mysteriously disappear relating to the Zapruder film and the source of solar flare activity. Instead, I got a nice note:
Thanks for reaching out. Starbucks had no knowledge of Jonathan’s plans, and has no official relationship with him or the company he works for. We do think his project is interesting and we’re flattered that he is using Starbucks as a part of his ‘pay-it-forward’ experiment and look forward to watching it develop.
Case closed, but not quite. The saddest thing about this is that Jonathan is actually upset by the accusations. He wrote:
The thing that really bothers me is that the accusation threatens to erase the good feelings generated by this. He’s turning hope into remorse.
While doing so might be disruptive to my friends and family, I feel strongly that I owe it to believers everywhere to take a stand against cynics who are too jaded to believe that anyone would ever do something nice for others for the simple reason that it feels good.
I think Mr. Hetzel owes Jonathan an apology and all of us a coffee. After all, sometimes a social payments experiment is just a social payments experiment.
UPDATE – Mobiquity replied:
Jonathan Stark is a creative and innovative thinker, who pushes the limits of technology. And that’s what Mobiquity is all about: innovation in mobile technology. To be clear, the “Jonathan’s Card” experiment was in no way a paid viral campaign conducted with or on behalf of Starbucks. Rather, as Jonathan has explained, the idea came about as he was researching mobile payment ideas for another organization.
Mobiquity has no professional affiliation with Starbucks. As a young company launched this past March, Mobiquity had initially included on its website the logos of companies with whom members of our team had worked with in the past, as we stated on the page. Mobiquity took down the l page in late July as part of an ongoing site redesign – complete coincidence, not conspiracy. Jonathan Stark was not the Mobiquity team member who had previously worked with Starbucks. But he does admit to liking their coffee. If you read Jonathan’s original post on the subject on July 14th, you’ll see he was as surprised as anyone else that his experiment in “broadcasting money” (by taking a screenshot of his Starbucks card barcode via his iPhone and emailing it to himself to use on his Nexus S) was successful. Jonathan’s exact quote was, “I bought a coffee with a picture.”

Hacker Group Anonymous Promises To 'Kill' Facebook

Hacker Group Anonymous Promises To 'Kill' Facebook

UPDATE: Some Anonymous participants are distancing themselves from "Operation Facebook."
"#OpFacebook is being organised by some Anons. This does not necessarily mean that all of #Anonymous agrees with it," read a tweet posted by @AnonOps on Wednesday.
Gizmodo spoke with Anonymous IRC sources and concluded that the group's "prominent operators" don't seem to be behind the purported Facebook offensive. "#OPFacebook is not endorsed by Anonops at this time," an Anonymous member told Gizmodo.
PREVIOUSLY: The hacker group known as Anonymous reportedly has a new target: Facebook.
This announcement comes in the form of a YouTube video titled "Message from Anonymous: Operation Facebook, Nov 5 2011" uploaded to the site on July 16th under the username "FacebookOps." As of this writing, the user has no other videos under its account.
"If you are hactivist or a guy who just wants to protect the freedom of information then join the cause and kill Facebook for the sake of your own privacy," the video's narrator says in an eerie, modulator-disguised voice, which ends the video with the sign off "we are Anonymous. We are legion. Expect us." "Everything you do on Facebook stays on Facebook regardless of your privacy settings, and deleting your account is impossible."
According to the video, November 5, 2011 is the day Anonymous will allegedly launch its operation against Facebook.
"Think for a while, and prepare for a day that will go down in history," the voice in the video says (You can read the full statement onZDNet here). "This is our world now. We exist without nationality, without religious bias. We have the right to not be surveilled, not be stalked, and not be used for profit. We have the right to not live as slaves."
Whether the message is a real threat from Anonymous remains to be seen. Security expert Eugene Kaspersky, co-founder and CEO of Kaspersky Lab, tweeted that he doubts the veracity of the message. "The news around #Anonymous to attack #Facebook on Nov 5 most probably is fake," he wrote.
Facebook declined to comment on the video and threat. The social networking site offers information on how to deactivate and delete accounts on its help center, where users can also find more information about its privacy settings.
Facebook has been hacked before, but attacks by Anonymous are known for causing victims more than just a headache.
Prior attacks carried out by Anonymous have targeted security company HBGary Federal, which had thousands of emails stolen, according to Ars Technica, Booz Allen Hamilton, which had 90,000 email addresses belonging to military officials, among others, revealed, as well as PayPal, U.S. police forces, and others.
Anonymous allegedly told the FBI earlier this year, ""Your threats to arrest us are meaningless to us as you cannot arrest an idea. [...] [T]here is nothing - absolutely nothing - you can possibly to do make us stop."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Flavor Flav, Dee Snider to swap wives

Flavor Flav, Dee Snider to swap wives

Now that ABC has given "Celebrity Wife Swap" the green light, Entertainment Weekly reports that the midseason reality show is filling out its cast.
Among the "Wife Swap" contenders are none other than aging music stars and reality show vets Flavor Flav and Dee Snider. The two will reportedly swap spouses in an as-yet-unscheduled episode of the spinoff series.
Snider and Suzette, his wife of 30 years, have four kids together, and Flav asked for his current wife Liz's hand in marriage during a 2008 reunion episode of "Flavor of Love."
"Celebrity Wife Swap" is exactly what it sounds like - a Hollywood spin on the network's "Wife Swap" series, which has participants "switch lifestyles for a week." Back in May it was reported that ABC had ordered six episodes of the show and that casting was underway.
Who else would you want to see trade lives on TV?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Captain Morgan's Ship Found

Captain Morgan's Ship Found: Famed Pirate's Vessel Found Near Panama
he lost wreckage of a ship belonging to 17th century pirate Captain Henry Morgan has been discovered in Panama, said a team of U.S. archaeologists -- and the maker of Captain Morgan rum.

Near the Lajas Reef, where Morgan lost five ships in 1671 including his flagship "Satisfaction," the team uncovered a portion of the starboard side of a wooden ship's hull and a series of unopened cargo boxes and chests encrusted in coral.

The cargo has yet to be opened, but Captain Morgan USA -- which sells the spiced rum named for the eponymous pirate -- is clearly hoping there's liquor in there.

"There's definitely an irony in the situation," Fritz Hanselmann, an archaeologist with the River Systems Institute and the Center for Archaeological Studies at Texas State University and head of the dive team, told KVUE Austin. The Captain Morgan rum group stepped in on the quest for Captain Morgan after the team -- which found a collection of iron cannons nearby -- ran out of funds before they could narrow down the quest.

The new funding let the team run a magnetometer survey, which looks for metal by finding any deviation in the earth's magnetic field.

"When the opportunity arose for us to help make this discovery mission possible, it was a natural fit for us to get involved. The artifacts uncovered during this mission will help bring Henry Morgan and his adventures to life in a way never thought possible," said Tom Herbst, brand director of Captain Morgan USA, in a statement.

In the 17th century, Captain Henry Morgan sailed as a privateer on behalf of England, defending the Crown's interests and pioneering expeditions to the New World. In 1671, in an effort to capture Panama City and loosen the stronghold of Spain in the Caribbean, Morgan set out to take the Castillo de San Lorenzo, a Spanish fort on the cliff overlooking the entrance to the Chagres River, the only water passageway between the Caribbean and the capital city.

Although his men ultimately prevailed, Morgan lost five ships to the rough seas and shallow reef surrounding the fort.

The underwater research team included archaeologists and divers from Texas State University, volunteers from the National Park Service's Submerged Resources Center and NOAA/UNC-Wilmington's Aquarius Reef Base. And pirate booty or no, they said the story of Captain Henry Morgan was the real treasure.

"To us, the ship is the treasure -- the story is the treasure," Hanselman told MSNBC's Alan Boyle. "And you don't have a much better story than Captain Henry Morgan's sack of Panama City and the loss of his five ships."

Artifacts excavated by the dive team in 2010, including the six cannons, as well as any future relics will remain the property of the Panamanian government and will be preserved and displayed by the Patronato Panama Viejo.

Captain Morgan's ship found

Friday, August 5, 2011

Court says: Bacardi’s Havana Club not misleading

Court says: Bacardi’s Havana Club not misleading


An appellate court ruled that Bacardi U.S.A.’s marketing of Havana Club rum is not misleading to consumers.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit unanimously ruled in Bacardi’s favor in the ongoing dispute with Pernod Ricard. The Appellate Court reaffirmed that Bacardi has accurately portrayed both the geographic origin and the Cuban heritage of the Havana Club.

Bacardi’s labeling of the product says that the product is made in Puerto Rico based on the original Cuban recipe from the creators of the brand, the family of Jose Arechabala.

Pernod Ricard had argued that using the Havana Club name for a rum not made in Cuba was misleading to consumers. Pernod has been trying to block Bacardi from selling Havana Club in the U.S.

The Appellate Court found that the packaging is “factually accurate” and “unambiguous” regarding the geographic origin of Havana Club rum. The Court added “no reasonable consumer could be misled by those statements and the rest of the label does not put those statements in doubt.” The ruling upheld the original ruling on April 6, 2010 by the Wilmington, Delaware, District Court.

Bacardi re-launched Havana Club rum in the U.S. in August 2006 based on the original recipe created in Cuba in the 1930’s.
This is just the latest ruling in a fight that has dragged on for more than a decade, through multiple courts and government agencies, over who has the rights to the Havana Club trademark. Pernod Ricard sells Havana Club internationally and in Cuba through a partnership with the Cuban government.


An appellate court ruled that Bacardi U.S.A.’s marketing of Havana Club rum is not misleading to consumers.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

LeBron Defends Tebow After ESPN Analyst Criticizes QB

LeBron Defends Tebow After ESPN Analyst Criticizes QB

Tim Tebow defended himself and got a little backup from LeBron James after ESPN’s Merril Hoge was critical of the Broncos’ second-year quarterback. This all came about on Wednesday as the Broncos officially named Kyle Orton their starting quarterback.
Tebow posted on Twitter early Wednesday, saying, “Hey Merrill ….. ‘ppreciate that”.
Tim Tebow is trying to win the Broncos' starting quarterback job, and has one believer in LeBron James. (AP Photo)
Later, James, who dealt with his fair share of criticism in the past year said via Twitter, “Guys get on that TV and act like they was all WORLD when they played. How bout encouraging him and wishing him the best instead of hating!!”
Hoge played fullback for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1987-1993 and ended his career in 1994 with the Chicago Bears. He ran for 3,139 yards and 21 scores as well as catching 254 passes for another 13 touchdowns. The Steelers did not reach a Super Bowl during Hoge’s tenure.
James continued, “Tim Tebow will succeed in the NFL. He's a hard worker, a student of the game, a natural born leader and most of all a WINNER! It takes time and he'll be nice."
The Twitter volleys were in response to Hoge posting a series of earlier tweets saying, "It's embarrassing to think the Broncos could win with Tebow!! ...That throwing motion he changed? You can't change who you are!... College credentials do not transfer to NFL, rah-rah speeches do not work! You must possess a skill set to play! Tebow struggles with accuracy!"
Hoge also said on ESPN’s SportsCenter that Tebow has poor fundamentals that prevent him from being an accurate passer, particularly when he must move outside the pocket.
The Broncos could have a quarterback controversy on their hands, with many fans clamoring for a glimpse of the quarterback who led the Florida Gators to two national championships. SN’s Clifton Brown reported Tuesday that if Orton isn’t traded, it sounds like many Broncos players would prefer that the veteran be the starting quarterback.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Miami condo rents rise in double digits

Fueled by strong demand, Miami condo rents rise in double digits
By Marilyn Bowden

Strong demand and rapidly diminishing inventory is significantly boosting rental rates in Brickell's condos, brokers say"Rents have gone up by 12%-15%," said Edgardo Defortuna, president of Fortune International Realty. "In our luxury buildings, we used to rent for $1.85-$1.90 a foot. Now it's $2.20-$2.35 a foot."

In some properties such as Icon Brickell, he said, there's a waiting list for rentals. At the same time, units that were initially rented by their owners are being marketed for sale when leases expire.

"There are several rental markets going on," said Melanie Hyer, leader of the Revest Group at Keller Williams Miami Beach. "There are investors who purchased in the past four years and got wonderful deals. They will hold the unit for five to 10 years, renting them while they wait for really good appreciation.

"Then there are developers who have rented out some units until they can sell. They will enter them into the market a few at a time. Icon is a good example of that."

For one-bedroom units, said Alicia Cervera Lamadrid, managing partner of Cervera Real Estate, the median rent over May, June and July of this year was $1,650 — an increase of $100-$150 a month over the same period the year before.

The median rent for two-bedroom units from May-July 2011 was $2,200, up from $1,950-$2,000 in 2010.
The median time a Brickell condo stays on the rental market, Cervera's researchers find, is 30 days. 
Cervera's survey covers the whole of the Brickell area, from the south bank of the Miami River to the Rickenbacker Causeway. 

Demand, Ms. Lamadrid said, continues to be extremely strong.

"Inventory is dropping dramatically, and rates are increasing," she said. "That's one of the first strong indicators that prices are going to move up, because there's a tipping point where renters become buyers. We are getting close to that point as it gets harder to find a nice rental unit."

Renters, she said, are typically young professionals who work in the downtown area, "and those tenants will grow up to be our buyers. Long term, they will give us a much more interesting city and a much more affordable base."
"We also have some foreigners who are looking into the area," Mr. Defortuna said, "and some people who were renting in Kendall, South Miami, West Dade and Broward and now find Brickell is much more convenient."

The trend for condo units to be occupied by renters, Mr. Defortuna said, is the opposite of the rage a few years ago to convert rental properties to condos.

Since cash is still king in the residential market, buyers tend to be Latin Americans looking for investments in a relatively stable economy.

"We see a big demand among international buyers," Ms. Hyer said, "some Europeans, but largely people from Brazil, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Venezuela.

"Upper-class Latins love Brickell, and especially when they can buy foreclosed units as investments and then rent them out, it really makes sense. They can't buy this quality in their own countries at this price.
"These are people who still believe in the long-term future of Miami real estate."

About 75% of these buyers paid cash, Mr. Defortuna said, and are under no pressure to resell. "They're happy to keep them rented and generate cash flow," he said.

Ms. Hyer said the numbers of younger renters, many migrating from older and more expensive properties in South Beach, are not only eating up excess rental inventory but also changing Brickell's image.

"There are so many young professionals here now that it's become very cool," she said, "and more people want to live there. So while in 2008-'09, when a lot of new projects came on at the same time, there were so many beautiful units, all empty, and a lot of competition, now there's not so much rental inventory left."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Police: Man tries steal cop's car, blames 'Batman'

Police: Man tries steal cop's car, blames 'Batman'

Pittsburgh police say a man tried to carjack a plainclothes officer near filming for the latest Batman movie -- and allegedly told him it was part of the script.

Detective Robert DiGiacomo was in an unmarked vehicle around 7:15 p.m. Saturday, looking for a suspect in an assault. That's when police say a man opened the car door, sat down and told the officer to get out.

The officer drew his gun and ordered the suspect, 21-year-old Micah Calamosca, out of the car. He says the suspect told him he was part of filming for "The Dark Knight Rises" and that taking the vehicle was in the script.

Calamosco was taken into custody and faces a charge of robbery of a motor vehicle. It's unclear if he has an attorney.

Should Your Boss Be Able to Fire You Because of Facebook Posts or Photos?

Facebook Firings: Feds, Managers Navigate 'New Territory' In Employment

WASHINGTON -- The federal agency tasked with enforcing labor law has been fielding complaints from workers across the country who have been fired or disciplined for their work-related indiscretions on Facebook. Although the feds have taken up the cases of a number of jaded workers, others have essentially been told they have no one to blame for their workplace troubles but themselves.
That includes a Walmart worker who referred to his manager as a "puta" -- Spanish for "whore" -- on the social networking site after a spat over store displays, as well as a frustrated Illinois bartender who took to Facebook to air his desire to see the "redneck" patrons on the other side of the bar "choke on glass" as they drove home drunk.
The latter worker was canned and the former admonished for their respective online outbursts, andboth appealed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in hopes that their employers' actions would be deemed unlawful. In both of those cases, the NLRB declined to issue complaints on the workers' behalf, essentially saying the punishments were legitimate.
Like others that have preceded them, the two cases give workers, managers and lawyers a better idea of where the labor board stands in what is still a largely unexplored area of employment law. Although the NLRB deals primarily with issues surrounding union elections, the board has stood out in recent months as an agency willing to grapple with the question of when firing someone over a Facebook missive is fair game.
"The NLRB is the one making big splashy decisions, and people are drawing conclusions from those," said Tina Hsu, a lawyer specializing in employment and social media at Shulman Rogers in Potomac, Md. "They seem to be trying to discern whether private or non-work postings are having an adverse effect on the workplace. That's a difficult or blurry line to draw."
"It's new territory," said Nancy Cleeland, spokeswoman for the NLRB.
Cleeland said the agency received "several dozen" pleas from fired or otherwise punished workers in the wake of a complaint the board issued last fall in a Facebook case. Because of the inundation, board officials have asked that the NLRB's regional offices steer any Facebook cases toward the agency's Washington headquarters, where the general counsel is currently drafting a report that will outline certain Facebook scenarios and how the board has acted upon them.
"It's to give more guidance and to help employers understand where we're coming from on these," Cleeland said.
In the case from last fall, an employee at a Connecticut ambulance company was fired for knocking her boss on Facebook. "Love how the company allows a 17 to become a supervisor," Dawnmarie Souza wrote, "17" being an insider's term for a psychiatric patient. The company, American Medical Response, had a policy that forbid employees from criticizing the company online. The NLRB took up Souza's complaint, arguing in part that such a policy was too broad.
In its complaint, the board's counsel said that Souza's online griping amounted to "protected concerted activity," for which, under American labor law, an employer cannot fire a worker. The agency basically argued that the Facebook chatter was no different from workers gathering around the water cooler to discuss working conditions. The case was settled in February, with American Medical Response agreeing to no longer punish employees for such online discussion.
The agency has applied that virtual water cooler argument to a handful of other Facebook cases, including that of a Chicago-area car dealership worker who was let go after criticizing his employer. The employee mocked management for serving hot dogs from Sam's Club at an event designed to promote a luxe new BMW model. The NLRB filed a complaint in May arguing that the firing violated labor law.
But according to the board's counsel, a worker's sniping doesn’t always amount to protected activity.
In the Walmart case, an employee at one of the retail giant's Oklahoma stores alighted on Facebook after an argument with an assistant manager, as reported on Labor Relations Today. "Wuck Falmart!" he wrote. "I swear if this tyranny doesn’t end in this store they are about to get a wake-up call because lots are about to quit!" His Facebook friends included several Walmart co-workers. One responded with "bahaha like! :)" and another with "Lol."
In response to his friends' comments, the employee called the manager a "super mega puta," going on to say that if the situation at the store didn't improve, then Walmart "could kiss my royal white ass!" A co-worker who saw the posting provided the boss with a printout of the exchange.
The manager prepared a written disciplinary report saying that the worker's behavior reflected poorly upon the company and that he would be fired if it continued. The worker appealed to the NLRB, but the board's counsel threw out the case last month, finding that the Facebook tirade was nothing more than "an expression of an individual gripe," rather than concerted activity with other co-workers. "Mere griping," the dismissal noted, "is not protected."
NLRB counsel dismissed the bartender's complaint for similar reasons. In that case, a bartender at JT's Porch Saloon & Eatery in Lombard, Ill., had a back-and-forth on Facebook with his stepsister, complaining that waitresses at the bar didn’t share their tips with bartenders and that he hadn't seen a raise in five years. He threw in the comments on the "redneck" drinkers for good measure. The night manager later informed the bartender that he would probably be terminated for the remarks.
In a cruel bit of irony, the owner of the establishment then fired the bartender via Facebook message.
As in the Walmart worker's case, NLRB counsel found that the bartender's complaint fell short of concerted activity since the posting didn’t involve an earnest discussion about working conditions with any of his co-workers.
According to Cleeland, the NLRB will probably release its report on Facebook cases sometime in the coming weeks. Careful not to call it a guide, Cleeland said it will merely detail particular complaints that have come before the agency and what the outcomes were.
Hsu said employers and workers alike could use a little guidance on social media, however small.
"You can't stick your head in the sand and tell your workers to abstain," she said. "They're not going to. A lot of people growing up, they don’t know anything but communicating through Facebook. You have to teach them how to navigate this new area."