The Best Entertainment Value

March 5th, 2009

San Diego, CA — What can a family do for free? Not only at no cost but as great entertainment? If you have never been to a FIRST Robotics competition, come to the San Diego sports arena on Saturday… and find out! Children of all ages will be competing in a variety of events, and it is FREE to the public.

For sure, the big robots will be on the main floor with big kids taking battle in the Lunacy events. But, there will also be younger children trying to win the First Lego League (FLL) matches. FIRST and LEGO have created a “powerful program that helps people discover the fun in science and technology.” You be amazed at what you can do with LEGOs. Also, there will be the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). FTC allows teams to get their feet wet with smaller robots. Teams put together robots out of modulars that look like Erector Sets. These smaller robots allow younger students to get started at a much lower expense. After all, building robots isn’t cheap, but the event is. It’s free to attend! Come out and be inspired by the youth. You’ll gain faith in the future when you see all these children have to offer.

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Lunacy — Robots In Space Land In San Diego

Lunacy — Robots In Space

March 5th, 2009

San Diego Sports Arena — The FIRST Robotics regional competition is being held at the San Diego Sports Arena. High school teams from across the country came to Southern California to compete in one of the challenges leading up to the national championships in Atlanta, GA.

We Kick Bot!

We Kick Bot!

It was unusual for the Ambler, PA Wissahickon team to make the trip to the Western Regional. But, there were also teams from Indiana, Colorado and even Brazil. That is just one of the things that makes a FIRST competition so much fun — the flixability to let kids try something different.

This year’s competitive season is based on robots competing in conditions that mimic the moon. Every year on New Years Day weekend, the FIRST orginization releases that season’s rules and regulations. NASA helps design, orginize and officiate. For this season, the floor surface and robot parts are designed to simulate 1/6 the gravity of Earth. Cleverly, the competition is called Lunacy. Normally the robots are not allowed to smash into each other. Not this year. For this season, that rule had to be relaxed due to the lack of friction. It is inevitable that the robots will collide in a crash-up-derby fashion.

The object of the game is scoop up “moon” balls and shoot them into a goal. The goal is actually a trailer being hauled behind the oppositions robot. During the preliminaries, three high schools are randomly paired to form an alliance against three opposing schools.

The schools were given a six week build season. Then, their robots are crated and shipped to the competition location. The students do not get to see their robots until they arrive at the regionals. On the first day, teams are allowed to unpack their robots and conduct practice rounds.

video: robot up-close

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Moon Balls

Moon Balls

In a Downturn, a Growth Opportunity?

March 4th, 2009

Published: February 13, 2009

THE curving hilltop farm fields of the Hickories, which would seem to explain how this town got its name, are snow-covered the first week in February, with only skeletons of peach trees and raspberry canes as reminders of their summer abundance. This means it is the perfect time to be talking about summer community-supported agriculture.

Known as C.S.A., the distribution system in which people buy shares in return for a weekly allotment of local fresh farm food has never been more popular in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The dead of winter is a kind of high season because that is when farmers open registration for their coveted membership slots as part of preparation for the growing season.
Read More

Jim Rogers Buys Land, Starts Farming

March 3rd, 2009

By: | 03 Mar 2009 | 05:35 AM ET

Commodities are still the best play for the long term, legendary investor Jim Rogers told CNBC,
confessing that he has been buying farmland himself.

“We’re still going to eat, probably; we’re still going to wear clothes, probably. Farmers cannot get loans
for fertilizers right now. So the supplies of everything are going to continue to be under pressure,” Rogers

He is the director of two funds which are buying greenfield land in Brazil and existing farms in Canada
and starting to farm it. The funds are clearing the land, fertilizing it, irrigating it and hiring farmers and,
Rogers said, some day will probably sell the land but that is a remote prospect.

“If I’m right, agriculture is going to be one of the greatest industries in the next 20 years, 30 years.”

Food inventories are at their lowest in 50 years, Rogers said, while the oil and mining sectors are also good bets.

“Even if demand goes flat or down, as it did in the 30s, as it did in the 70s, you can still have a nice market,” he told CNBC.

Despite the recent rally, gold is still a good opportunity if investors choose the right time and way to get in, according to Rogers.

“I own some gold, of course I own some gold. If gold goes down, I’ll buy more,” he said. “The IMF is trying to sell their
gold and if they do then they’ll drive the price of gold down a lot. If they do … that’ll be the last opportunity to buy gold
in a long, long time.”

“You can buy coins, you can buy the real stuff, you can buy ETFs and ETNs on the exchanges, you can buy
mining companies if you know what you’re doing…,” he added.

Earlier this year, Rogers said he liked the Swiss franc and the yen but gave up the Swiss currency. “I stopped
buying the Swiss franc when the Swiss (central) bank bailed out UBS. I still hold the yen.”

Asked whether the current collapse in commodities prices worries him, he said: “You’re supposed to buy
when they’re collapsing. I expect to own commodities for years, for a long time.”

Big Bank says “No more money!”

March 3rd, 2009

Don’t give money to deadbeats.
“Stephen Green, HSBC’s current chairman, said the London- based bank regrets the 2003 purchase of Prospect Heights, Illinois-based Household International, which added almost 50 million U.S. clients, many with spotty credit histories.”

Don’t give money to thieves, either.

“HSBC also confirmed that it lost about $1 billion in the alleged investment fraud by Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff.”


and (the following site will open obnoxious popup windows if you have javascript enabled)

The State Of Advertising

February 28th, 2009

If you search for “NASCAR sponsorship problems” at Google, there are over half-a-million results. NASCAR has seen a huge decline in advertisers. So much so, that entire race teams have been laid-off. It’s not just racing that is being hurt in this economic downturn. Most professional sports, such as the PGA, are feeling the crunch.

Print advertising is also under pressure. Newspapers have been failing at a rapid rate including some of the nations biggest and oldest. (See the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News)

Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater
Yes, it is important for companies to examine the effectiveness of their marketing. Perhaps sports sponsorships and print advertising are not wise places to place your advertising budget. However, the current economic crisis calls for companies to do a better job of advertising than ever before. During the great depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said if he could do it all over again he’d “go into the advertising business in preference to almost any other. The general raising of the standards of modern civilization among all groups of people during the past half century would have been impossible without the spreading of the knowledge of higher standards by means of advertising.”

Internet advertising is one of the best returns on investment. For instance, there is a huge readership for employment opportunities and help wanted advertising. It’s a great time for a company to find the best qualified workers. It’s also a good way for a publisher to reach a wider audience.

Some of the other industries that are discovering the benefits of advertising during this economic downturn include:
Real Estate Foreclosures, Builders and Contractors for Energy Conservation, Doctors, Practitioners, Health & Wellness, Lawyers, Attorneys and Law Offices and Credit Repair Agencies.

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The Ever Shrinking Economy

February 27th, 2009

Washington, DC — The Commerce Department released its report on the 4th Quarter GDP. Though it was expected to be bad, it came in even worse — down 6.2 percent on an annual rate.

FDIC Changes Charges

February 27th, 2009

In 2007, there were 3 bank failures. In 2008, there were 25 bank failures. So far in 2009, there have been 13 bank failures.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation expects bank failures will cost the insurance fund $65 billion through 2013.

In response, the FDIC is raising fees on banks, as well as, adding emergency fee to help collect 27 billion dollars this year.

Insured Banks and Thrifts Lost $26.2 Billion in the Fourth Quarter

February 27th, 2009

from the FDIC

Commercial banks and savings institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported a net loss of $26.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, a decline of $27.8 billion from the $575 million that the industry earned in the fourth quarter of 2007 and the first quarterly loss since 1990. Rising loan-loss provisions, losses from trading activities and goodwill write-downs all contributed to the quarterly net loss as banks continue to repair their balance sheets in order to return to profitability in future periods.

More than two-thirds of all insured institutions were profitable in the fourth quarter, but their earnings were outweighed by large losses at a number of big banks. Total deposits increased by $307.9 billion (3.5 percent), the largest percentage increase in 10 years, with deposits in domestic offices registering a $274.1 billion (3.8 percent) increase. And at year-end, nearly 98 percent of all insured institutions, representing almost 99 percent of industry assets, met or exceeded the highest regulatory capital standards.

“Public confidence in the banking system and deposit insurance is demonstrated by the increase in domestic deposits during the fourth quarter,” FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said. “Clearly, people see an FDIC-insured account as a safe haven for their money in difficult times.”

For all of 2008, insured institutions earned $16.1 billion, a decline of 83.9 percent from 2007 and the lowest annual total since 1990. Twelve FDIC-insured institutions failed during the fourth quarter and one banking organization received assistance. During the year, a total of 25 insured institutions failed. The FDIC’s “Problem List” grew during the quarter from 171 to 252 institutions, the largest number since the middle of 1995. Total assets of problem institutions increased from $115.6 billion to $159 billion.

In its latest release, the FDIC cited deteriorating asset quality as the primary reason for the drop in industry profits. Loan-loss provisions totaled $69.3 billion in the fourth quarter, a 115.7 percent increase from the same quarter in 2007. In addition, the industry reported $15.8 billion in expenses for write-downs of goodwill (which do not affect regulatory capital levels), $9.2 billion in trading losses and $8.1 billion in realized losses on securities and other assets.

The FDIC provided data on industry use of the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program (TLGP), which was established in mid-October to address credit market disruptions and improve access to liquidity for insured financial institutions and their holding companies. The TLGP, which is entirely funded by industry fees that totaled $3.4 billion as of year-end, has two components. One provides a 100 percent guarantee of all deposits in noninterest-bearing transaction accounts, such as business payroll accounts, at participating institutions. The other provides a guarantee to newly issued senior unsecured debt at participating institutions. At the end of December, more than half a million deposit accounts received over $680 billion in additional FDIC coverage through the transaction account guarantee, and $224 billion in FDIC-guaranteed debt was outstanding.

“The debt guarantee program has been effective in reducing borrowing spreads and improving access to short- and intermediate-term funding for banking organizations,” Chairman Bair noted. “In recent weeks, banks have been able to issue debt without guarantees and other corporate borrowers have issued debt more frequently and in larger amounts. These are positive signs.”

Financial results for the fourth quarter and full year are contained in the FDIC’s latest Quarterly Banking Profile, which was released today. Among the major findings:

Provisions for loan losses continued to weigh on earnings. Rising levels of charge-offs and noncurrent loans have required insured institutions to step up their efforts to increase their reserves for loan losses. The $69.3 billion in provisions that the industry added to reserves in the fourth quarter represented over half (50.2 percent) of its net operating revenue (net interest income plus total noninterest income), the highest proportion in any quarter in more than 21 years.

The rising trend in troubled loans persisted in the fourth quarter. Insured institutions charged off $37.9 billion of troubled loans, more than twice the $16.3 billion that was charged-off in the fourth quarter of 2007. The annualized net charge-off rate of 1.91 percent equaled the previous quarterly high set in the fourth quarter of 1989. The amount of loans and leases that were noncurrent (90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status) increased by $44.1 billion (23.7 percent) during the fourth quarter. At the end of 2008, a total of 2.93 percent of all loans and leases were noncurrent, the highest level for the industry since the end of 1992.

The FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund reserve ratio fell. A higher level of losses for actual and anticipated failures caused the insurance fund balance to decline during the fourth quarter by $16 billion, to $19 billion (unaudited) at December 31. In addition to having $19 billion available in the fund, $22 billion has been set aside for estimated losses on failures anticipated in 2009. The fund reserve ratio declined from 0.76 percent at September 30 to 0.40 percent at year end. The FDIC Board will meet tomorrow to set deposit insurance assessment rates beginning in the second quarter of 2009 and to consider adopting enhancements to the risk-based premium system.

The complete Quarterly Banking Profile is available at on the FDIC Web site.

# # #

Congress created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 1933 to restore public confidence in the nation’s banking system. The FDIC insures deposits at the nation’s 8,305 banks and savings associations and it promotes the safety and soundness of these institutions by identifying, monitoring and addressing risks to which they are exposed. The FDIC receives no federal tax dollars – insured financial institutions fund its operations.

FDIC press releases and other information are available on the Internet at, by subscription electronically (go to and may also be obtained through the FDIC’s Public Information Center (877-275-3342 or 703-562-2200). PR-27-2009

Get Out Of Town… Or, At Least Iraq

February 27th, 2009

President Obama announced today that the USA would pull its military troops out of Iraq over the next 18 months.

The announcement comes one day after the Secretary of Defense announced a change to the Photographing of Caskets of Fallen Troops policy.

Fallen Soldiers Return From Iraq

Fallen Soldiers Return From Iraq

SEC. GATES: I’d like to address two subjects today.

First, I would like to make an announcement regarding the department’s policy toward media coverage of the return of our fallen heroes at Dover Air Force Base. As you know, the president asked me to review this policy. After receiving input from a number of sources, including all of the military services and organizations representing military families, I have decided that the decision regarding media coverage of the dignified transfer process at Dover should be made by those most directly affected: on an individual basis by the families of the fallen. We ought not presume to make that decision in their place.