(CNN) - A top Republican U.S. senator brushed off the anti-tax pledge pushed by activist Grover Norquist and embraced widely for years by GOP lawmakers.
“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss told Georgia television station WMAZ, a CNN affiliate, on Wednesday. “If we do it his way, then we’ll continue in debt and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”
Thanks to recent teacher layoffs and the miserable job market, I’ve gone from substitute high-school teacher to Wal-Mart associate.
Teaching gave me weekends off for more pleasurable activities like annoying the roommate’s cat or plucking my nipple hair. But this Sunday, I spent eight hours playing Avoid the Customer. It’s a challenging game in which, at the end of the day, I reward myself by not committing suicide.
Why do I play this game? Sanity. Last week, for example, I walked behind a middle-aged mother who, after ordering her kid to drop a toy in the hardware section, told him, “Don’t worry, they’ll pick it up.”
Customers may be the worst part of my job, but they’re not the only part of this gig that sucks.
See, like millions of Americans, I’m underemployed. The government doesn’t count people like me in its official unemployment numbers.
And those numbers are pretty grim; the national unemployment rate is at 9.6 percent, with 15 million Americans looking for work. I guess working at Walmart is better than nothing.
But working for low pay is about as rewarding as stabbing out your own eyeballs with a stale baguette. $14 billion in profits last year bumped Walmart back on top of the Fortune 500 list, and the company keeps up those profits partly by paying associates as little as (legally) possible. Walmart wages are not only well below living wage, we’re paid significantly less than comparable jobs at other retailers.
But I don’t have children or major medical expenses, so I do OK with my pathetic paycheck. But several of my coworkers support spouses or children; one just told me he relies on government support to pay his bills, including child support.
My coworkers are a diverse mix. Many are immigrants with limited English skills. Others have college degrees and wound up at Walmart when the economy tanked.
Still others are well past retirement age, requiring canes or shopping carts to move around the store. Yet these are the people management sees fit to post at the front of the store for hours at a time as a shoplifting deterrent. (Did I say shoplifting deterrent? I meant, “Store Greeter.”) I haven’t been at the store long enough to ask these sextegenerians (and well beyond) why they’re still working, but I’m guessing it’s not because they really, really, really like wearing blue. They’re probably like the growing number of seniors who have lost their retirement savings and are forced to work to keep their health benefits (if the store offers them any), and to keep themselves out of poverty. Hell of a way to spend your final years, demanding to check the receipt of every person walking out of the store.
This article was written 2 years ago, situation is no different today.
I realize that workers at Target, Meijer, Best Buy and other “big box” stores aren’t treated much better, but once the Walmart workers organize and get better treatment and are paid enough to stay off food stamps, the others should fall in line.
If you do shop at Walmart (or any similar store), smile and say hi! to the underpaid, abused “greeter” and the cashier who checks out your purchases. Say “Thank you, [their name!] Have a great day!”
Over the past few years, retinal implants have come a long way. The continued development and miniaturization of optical and computer technology has allowed engineers to create devices like the Argus II: a retinal prosthesis that uses a small camera, a computer and a series of electrodes surgically implanted on a blind person’s retina to convert the world around them into electronic impulses that enter the brain.
Now, researchers at Second Sight, the company that created the Argus II, have altered the device for use in a novel and potentially significant way. As they report in an article published today in Frontiers in Neuroprosthetics, they’ve connected the implant to a computer that produces digital braille patterns, allowing them to directly stream braille onto a blind patient’s retina. In trials, the patient was able to read the braille letters much more easily and quickly than using the system to read normal printed letters.
“Instead of feeling the braille on the tips of his fingers, the patient could see the patterns we projected and then read individual letters in less than a second with up to 89 percent accuracy,” the paper’s lead author, Thomas Lauritzen, said in a statement. “There was no input except the electrode stimulation, and the patient recognized the braille letters easily.”
Getting the agencies responsible for national security to communicate better was one of the main reasons the Department of Homeland Security was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
But according to a recent report from the department’s inspector general, one aspect of this mission remains far from accomplished.
DHS has spent $430 million over the past nine years to provide radios tuned to a common, secure channel to 123,000 employees across the country. Problem is, no one seems to know how to use them.
Only one of 479 DHS employees surveyed by the inspector general’s office was actually able to use the common channel, according to the report. Most of those surveyed — 72 percent — didn’t even know the common channel existed. Another 25 percent knew the channel existed but weren’t able to find it; 3 percent were able to find an older common channel, but not the current one.
The investigators also found that more than half of the radios did not have the settings for the common channel programmed into them. Only 20 percent of radios tested had all the correct settings.
To a traditionalist, a stuffed loaf of tofu and wheat gluten at the center of the Thanksgiving table might be a sacrilege. But the company that makes those loaves (better known as Tofurky) says that the idea has caught on quickly.
Sales of Tofurky roasts, marketed as a holiday alternative to Thanksgiving birds, have grown at a tremendous pace over the last 17 years, according to the company that makes the roasts. Turtle Island Foods, the Oregon-based company that makes Tofurky, sold its three millionth Tofurky roast this year. In 2011, the company sold nearly 400,000 of the holiday turkey alternatives, up nearly 12 percent from 2010 and nearly double the amount sold in 2006.
Why the growth in popularity? Maybe it’s that carving a Tofurky isn’t an eight-step process. Or the pesky risk of undercooked stuffing (and salmonella) lurking in a real bird’s cavity.
Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Thursday he is aiming to wipe out the federal budget deficit by 2015, in time for the next election, but cautioned the Conservative government would be flexible with that target if the economy soured.
Canada’s fiscal shortfall of 1.4 percent of gross domestic product is tiny compared to that of the United States and some other major economies. But it is a sore point for policy makers in a country that ran an 11-year string of surpluses prior to the global financial crisis.
“It remains our intention to balance the budget during this session of Parliament,” Flaherty said in the prepared text of a speech he was delivering in Toronto.
“Although we are prepared to be flexible and pragmatic should circumstances warrant — our plan is to stick to our plan: balanced budgets and low taxes,” he said.
Elderly men wait patiently, carefully combing their hennaed beards, while a guitar-playing student entertains the long queue of Pakistanis lined-up to be photographed, fingerprinted and questioned inside a crowded office in the capital Islamabad.
This is the unlikely setting for possibly one of Pakistan’s few success stories - a massive increase in citizens signing up for government identity cards.
Such things rarely top the agenda of a deeply unpopular government, crippled by daily power cuts, a Taliban insurgency and massive corruption.
But bureaucrats say the successful ID registration has dramatically cut the number of ghost voters and is assisting in the distribution of cash payments for the poor and displaced.
“The database has brought a lot of transparency. We signed up so many people,” said Tariq Malik, the 44-year-old chairman of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).
During elections five years ago, less than half of Pakistani adults had a government-issued ID. Now 91 percent have the plastic green cards, said Malik, who previously worked as a county technology officer in Michigan in the United States.
Like me, Jonathan Chait can’t help noticing John Podhoretz’s Awkward Postelection Epiphany.
The postelection Podhoretz argues that Obama’s win was “an astonishing technical accomplishment but in no way whatsoever a substantive one.” He owes it all to the brilliance of his campaign strategists — “a peerless political instrument, a virtual machine.” Obama’s assault on Romney business career may have “been the smartest and most effective political campaign of our lifetime.”
This may be a jarring message for Podhoretz’s devoted readers, whom Podhoretz spent months assuring that Obama was flailing about and headed for near-certain defeat. Obama was politically incompetent (“what we’ve seen so far is a reminder that the skills required to mount an insurgent campaign with a charismatic unknown aren’t those needed to mount a re-election effort featuring an incumbent with a problematic record”). On top of this he was weighed down by a terrible economy. Romney was in much better condition than the polls showed, Obama in deep, deep trouble. “Without a stark turnaround in his fortunes,” observed Podhoretz, he might lose [North Carolina] by 10 points this November.”
TAIWAN has decided to bar the Dalai Lama from entering the island, triggering an angry response from a women’s organisation that had invited him to a meeting there next month.
The Taiwan chapter of the Federation of Business and Professional Women, headed by former vice president Annette Lu, said the move reflected fear of angering China, which sees the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as a separatist.
“We are angry as the government is obviously worried about China’s reaction. It’s ridiculous that Taiwan has to listen to China and seek its approval before doing anything,” said a spokeswoman for Lu on Thursday.
The federation said they had contacted the Dalai Lama directly and that he had agreed to attend their Asia Pacific regional conference in Taipei in December.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry confirmed that they would not allow the visit, but denied China had anything to do with the decision.
“It’s just not a good time,” foreign ministry spokesman Steve Hsia told AFP, declining to elaborate.