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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Learning things!

I didn't want to call this another ItN since it's not all news, but still informational and interesting nonetheless!

Now Obama Wants To Build A $5 Billion Bullet Train From Las Vegas To Nowhere

"On a dusty, rock-strewn expanse at the edge of the Mojave Desert, a company linked to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to build a bullet train that would rocket tourists from the middle of nowhere to the gambling palaces of Las Vegas.

Privately held DesertXpress is on the verge of landing a $4.9 billion loan from the Obama administration to build the 150 mph train, which could be a lifeline for a region devastated by the housing crash or a crap shoot for taxpayers weary of Washington spending.

The vast park-and-ride project hinges on the untested idea that car-loving Californians will drive about 100 miles from the Los Angeles area, pull off busy Interstate 15 and board a train for the final leg to the famous Strip.

Planners imagine that millions of travelers a year will one day flock to a station outside down-on-its-luck Victorville, a small city where shuttered storefronts pock the historic downtown.

"Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has publicly blessed the train - it means jobs, he says - and it's cleared several regulatory hurdles in Washington.

Yet even as the Federal Railroad Administration considers awarding what would be, by far, the largest loan of its type, its own research warns it's difficult to predict how many people will ride the train, a critical measure of financial survival, an Associated Press review found.

There are other skeptics, as well.

"It's insanity," says Thomas Finkbiner of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver. "People won't drive to a train to go someplace. If you are going to drive, why not drive all the way and leave when you want?"

Construction cost projections have soared to as much as $6.5 billion, not including interest on the loan. Some fear taxpayer subsidies are inevitable.

Reid and other supporters point to research that shows 80,000 new jobs, but FRA documents show virtually all those would be temporary - no more than 722 would be permanent.
(Business Insider)

WTF: New Study Finds Young Moviegoers Want Theaters to Allow Texting

"A recent study by The Hollywood Reporter uncovered a bunch of interesting facts about the modern moviegoer. For example, did you know that 88% of people think Twitter and Facebook now count as a form of entertainment? Or how about the fact that 80% of Facebook users check the site while watching television? Also, they found that over half of people ages 18-34 think using social media in a movie theater enhances the experience and would patronize a theater that allowed them to do that.

Wait, WHAT??!?!?!

Yup, it’s true.

The Hollywood Reporter hired a firm called Penn Schoen Berland to survey 750 social network users ages 13 to 49. Their primary goal was to find out how social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook, effect people’s viewing habits. It turned out they’re both quite important. You can read the full results here but one in three people has decided to see a movie based on a post on Facebook or Twitter and those numbers get even bigger looking at television and music.

But the most disturbing finding is the one mentioned above. Over 50% of people ages 18-34 like to use their phones in a theater and just under 50% would seek out a theater that allowed them to do that.

What the survey also found, though, was that overall, not just that smaller segment, 75% of total people think using a phone in a theater is distracting and ruins the expeirence. So it’s just the younger kids who disagree.


Not to harp on this, but my previous attempts to sound the alarm on student loans seem to be reinforced daily.

Student-Loan Debt Tops $1 Trillion

"The amount Americans owe on student loans is far higher than earlier estimates and could lead some consumers to postpone buying homes, potentially slowing the housing recovery, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Total student debt outstanding appears to have surpassed $1 trillion late last year, said officials at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency created in the wake of the financial crisis. That would be roughly 16% higher than an estimate earlier this year by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

THE NEXT SHOE DROPS: More Than 25% Of Student Loans Are Already Delinquent...

"Back in late 2006 and early 2007 a few (soon to be very rich) people were warning anyone who cared to listen, about what cracks in the subprime facade meant for the housing sector and the credit bubble in general.

They were largely ignored as none other than the Fed chairman promised that all is fine (see here).

A few months later New Century collapsed and the rest is history: tens of trillions later we are still picking up the pieces and housing continues to collapse.

Yet one bubble which the Federal Government managed to blow in the meantime to staggering proportions in virtually no time, for no other reason than to give the impression of consumer releveraging, was the student debt bubble, which at last check just surpassed $1 trillion, and is growing at $40-50 billion each month. However, just like subprime, the first cracks have now appeared.

In a report set to convince borrowers that Student Loan ABS are still safe - of course they are - they are backed by all taxpayers after all in the form of the Family Federal Education Program - Fitch discloses something rather troubling, namely that of the $1 trillion + in student debt outstanding, "as many as 27% of all student loan borrowers are more than 30 days past due."

In other words at least $270 billion in student loans are no longer current. That this is happening with interest rates at record lows is quite stunning and a loud wake up call that it is not rates that determine affordability and sustainability: it is general economic conditions, deplorable as they may be, which have made the popping of the student loan bubble inevitable.

It also means that if the rise in interest rate continues, then the student loan bubble will pop that much faster, and bring another $1 trillion in unintended consequences on the shoulders of the US taxpayer who once again will be left footing the bill.
(via Business Insider)

Schools these days...

Students At N.J. Middle School Say Principal Announced Ban On Hugging

"There is a lot of confusion at Matawan-Aberdeen Middle School, where students say the principal made an unusual announcement last week.

“First, I heard over the loudspeaker ‘We are a no hugging school’ and we are…’This is our new policy,’” student John Carelli told CBS 2′s Cindy Hsu on Thursday.

Some of the students went home with stories about a hugging ban that if they hugged in school, they could be suspended.
Some parents, including Tammy Sabatini, who has had three kids attend the school, found the idea crazy.

“They’ve hugged forever since they were babies and now they’re being told they can’t do it,” Sabatini said.

"On Wednesday night, many parents received the following recorded message from the principal, trying to clarify things:

“Hugging can be inappropriate and we want to make sure that there’s no inappropriate physical contact. We certainly do not have a policy against hugging nor do we intend to or have we suspended students for hugging,” the message said.

The message went on to say the school wants the students to stay focused on academics. CBS 2′s Hsu tried to talk to the principal about the issue, but he had no comment. The school superintendent also had no comment.

“I just think it’s an outrage. It’s hugging. It’s not like it’s going to kill anyone,” said student Miranda Allen.
(CBS via TDW)

Schools ban children making best friends

"TEACHERS are banning schoolkids from having best pals — so they don't get upset by fall-outs.

Instead, the primary pupils are being encouraged to play in large groups.

Educational psychologist Gaynor Sbuttoni said the policy has been used at schools in Kingston, South West London, and Surrey.

She added: "I have noticed that teachers tell children they shouldn't have a best friend and that everyone should play together.

"They are doing it because they want to save the child the pain of splitting up from their best friend. But it is natural for some children to want a best friend. If they break up, they have to feel the pain because they're learning to deal with it."

Russell Hobby, of the National Association of Head Teachers, confirmed some schools were adopting best-friend bans.

He said: "I don't think it is widespread but it is clearly happening. It seems bizarre.

"I don't see how you can stop people from forming close friendships. We make and lose friends throughout our lives." The Campaign for Real Education, which wants more parental choice in state education, said the "ridiculous" policy was robbing children of their childhood.

Spokesman Chris McGovern added: "Children take things very seriously and if you tell them they can't have a best friend it can be seriously damaging to them. They need to learn about relationships."
(The Sun via TDW)

Very cool interactive infographic from NYTimes on household income vs. the rest of the country.

What Percent Are You?

(NYTimes via Chartporn)

And ending with this interesting tubecast by Peter Schiff:
The truth about rising gas prices, the stock market, & Warren Buffett's taxes
(Inflation, not the lack of production, is the cause behind raising gas prices).

(via EuroPacific thanks to Dave D)

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