May 26, 2013

Ken Robinson "Gets" Creativity

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple learning styles…

In this video from TED talks he makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.


Why you should listen to him:

Robinson argues that it's because we've been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers that we are not developing critical minds. Students with restless bodies and questioning brains -- far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity -- are ignored or even stigmatized in our schools. "We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says. It's a message with deep resonance. Robinson's TEDTalk has been distributed widely around the Web since its release in June 2006. The most popular words framing blog posts on his talk? "Everyone should watch this."

What is TED? Billed as "Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world," TED is a small nonprofit devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading," and its archives are housed at

TED started in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become broader. The annual conferences in Long Beach and Oxford bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes.

May 17, 2013

Banks Take Advantage of Technology to Earn Huge Bucks in Unfair Overdraft Fees

From Eleazar David Melendez at Huffington Post
Financially struggling Americans paid an increasing amount of money in overdraft fees last year, in spite of a 2010 rule designed to prevent abusive overdraft charges, analysts say a new report reveals.

The report, by Illinois-based Moebs Services, found banks and credit unions were able to increase how much they earned in overdraft fees to $32 billion last year, a jump of 1.3 percent from the previous year.
Consumer advocates and banking experts told The Huffington Post those increased bank revenues came at the expense of people in dire financial straits, and they show much needs to be done to keep those consumers from being forced into costly overdraft-protection schemes.
“Consumers might be trying to hide from the banks, but the banks keep coming up with creative ways to pick their pockets,” said Ed Mierzwinski, the consumer program director at the public advocacy group U.S. PIRG.
In 2010, the Federal Reserve issued rules that prevented banks from enrolling account holders in overdraft-protection programs without their permission. The rules were meant to keep consumers from being hit with fees for a service they hadn't agreed to. But Mierzwinski said those rules have proven ineffective.
“We have rules that say if you buy a toaster, it shouldn’t catch on fire. We have rules that say if you buy a cheap car, the brakes still have to work. We don’t have that for banks on this issue,” he said.
According to Mierzwinski and others, the overdraft rules have led to a host of unexpected consequences, hurting consumers. Some banks now take advantage of computer programs to  routinely change the chronological order of consumer transactions, putting larger purchases first, so that account holders sometimes find themselves paying multiple overdraft fees even if they exceeded their account balance only once. (The biggest banks charge a fee of $35 for each overdraft, on average.) Some institutions have raised the penalties on bounced checks to scare consumers into opting into overdraft protection.
In addition, consumers have seen fewer options for securing affordable lines of credit, Mierzwinski said. Instead, banks are increasingly going into the business of providing high-priced short-term loans to consumers. For some consumers, the choice is between taking those loans at usurious terms or paying hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees.
Claes Bell, a senior banking analyst at, said many banks are offering consumers what they call "direct deposit loans."
"It sounds reasonable on its face, but when you think about the fact they’re extending those loans for only two weeks or so, you realize they’re charging a ridiculous interest rates," he said. "They’re payday loans, except they don’t call them that."
“Obviously it’s very lucrative for the banks,” Bell added. "Right now, it is looking to be an issue because in the end, people don’t know what they’re signing up for, and even if they [do], they might be in a desperate situation anyway."
The banking industry has said the increase in overdraft and other fees over the past few years has occurred because banks are looking to make up for revenue lost due to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, which limited some of the fees banks could charge vendors when processing debit transactions.
They’ve also made the point that overdraft fees only affect a sliver of consumers. According to the American Bankers Association, only 16 percent of bank customers were charged overdraft fees in 2011, the latest year for which the industry group has released data.
But for those consumers being affected, “overdrafts can be a big issue,” Bell said. “It can destroy your budget. It pushes people out of the banking system altogether.”
Blogger's Note: Many banks have been named in multidistrict litigations involving more than 30 different institutions in federal courts in Miami, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. The banks are accused of using software to re-sequence customer transactions from chronological order to highest dollar volume to lowest, causing accounts to be depleted faster and triggering more overdrafts.
Last year, TD Bank agreed to settle its case for $62 million. On April 25, Citizens Bank agreed to pay $137.5 million to settle. Last year, the court approved a $410 million settlement for Bank of America. Yet these practices continue.

December 20, 2012

A Bad Haircut May Have Led Adam Lanza to Shoot Innocent Children in Newtown

New reports out today suggest that Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza may have suffered from a permanently bad hair day prior to shooting 20 children and the 7 adults that included his own mother in Newtown CT last week.

According to representatives from Nancy Lanza's snow removal service who visited the house regularly and peeked in the windows, Lanza’s unmanageable cowlicks were a primary factor in the young man’s reported inability to look anyone directly in the eye. Confirming this fact, the Lanza's pool boy recalled, “No matter how many times Nancy combed his hair jauntily to the side, Adam always looked like someone had placed a bowl upside down on his head and squarely trimmed around the circumference.”

Former classmates say they were obviously aware of the bad hairdos but chose to pretend not to notice--finding clever but subtle ways instead to leave combs and coupons to Vidal Sassoon’s in Lanza’s backpack. Janet Padiddle who attended sixth grade with Lanza said sadly,  “I even offered him my tube of BedHead once but he just stared at the floor.”

“It was weird,” says Pete Neet, owner of a Newtown bar where the Lanza's sometimes stopped in for change for their parking meters. “You had the feeling Adam wanted his hair to be completely unmovable. It was like he just plastered it wet to his head in the morning and then he’d be afraid to turn his head all day in case it might mess up. Some people thought he had a stiff neck but it was the hair.”

Also present at the bar we visited, Nancy’s plumber who cleaned the home’s drains last year and noticed there were no loose hairs in the boy’s bathroom but lots of posters of Donald the pink-hatted trombone-playing character from Fat Albert. “It was scary. I think that cartoon kid, Dumb Donald, may have been Adam’s fashion hero.

“If you look at photos of those Sandy Hook kids,” the town drunk mused from his regular barstool in the aforesaid establishment, “every one of them had lovely hair. I think Adam was pissed off that everybody in town had nicer hair than him.”

After several drinks, our reporters also spoke late in the evening to a woman who cleans a number of parsonages in the Newtown area and who may have uncovered the real key to Adam Lanza’s rage: “From what I heard at Molly Maid when I punched in this morning, Nancy was at her wit’s end with Adam's hair and ready to shave it all off. That, coupled with the fact that she’d refused to cut the crusts off his PB&J sandwich the night before the shooting was just jelly on Adam’s toast. He couldn’t cope with potential baldness and he just went shit-ass hair-hog crazy.”

According to Dr. Lena McWig, the town’s court-appointed barber, there may indeed be a direct link between unattractive hair and criminal intent. “We often find a bad haircut precedes these acts of extreme violence,” she reported.  “You can tell a lot about a mass murderer's motives from his do. It’s just too bad that with kids that might have violent potential we don’t check into their hair before disaster strikes. There is pre-emptive help out there in the form of salon-quality hair products if parents would just educate themselves. Nancy Lanza obviously could have afforded some top of the line mousse for Adam if she’d just been aware.”

But of course, there are others out there who can’t even afford a good shampoo. And most health insurance won’t cover hair improvement. Connecticut voters say they hope this is something President Obama will look into in the near future.

In Related Stories:

. Lanza’s Dental Hygienist Reveals an Overabundance of Plaque May Have Led to the Rage that Resulted in Newtown Disaster

. Last Remaining Six-Degree-Separated Peripheral Resident of Newtown Refuses Interview: Press Forced to Contact School Crossing Guards in The United Arab Emirates for Comment

Billionaires for Wealthcare

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CHOMPSKING AT THE CENTER BIT: "What's next depends on people like you." (Noam Chomsky)

CHOMPSKING AT THE CENTER BIT: "What's next depends on people like you." (Noam Chomsky)
Noam Chomsky on "what now after the election?" (from Democracy Now on You Tube). Thirty minutes from Chomsky's first public talk since the November election. (From Boston).