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April 18, 2014

Chow, Tory target curb parking scofflaws in gridlock-fighting plans

Filed under: loans, technology — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 11:40 am

Two prominent mayoral candidates took aim Thursday at lane hogs and intersection blockers in describing how they would fight gridlock in Toronto.

John Tory told reporters the city needs to adopt zero tolerance for delivery trucks and errand runners blocking curb lanes of busy streets in rush hour.

In a separate news conference at Donlands Ave. and O’Connor Dr., Olivia Chow called for a crackdown on motorists blocking intersections. She said she saw a van block an intersection Wednesday for an entire light as gridlocked motorists fumed.

Tory said stricter enforcement, including more aggressive towing, is needed to discourage courier companies and people doing errands from parking illegally in the curb lane.

Tory, a former Rogers Cable chief executive, said that goes for cable trucks as well. He characterized lane blocking as a form of anti-social behaviour.

“Those are people who’ve decided that getting a coffee, fixing somebody’s cable or delivering a courier package are more important than the lives and time of hundreds of people,” he said.

“I think it’s time we said no to that. I think if you start towing people away, they’ll pretty quickly stop parking there.

“But the bottom line is we can’t just go on saying, ‘Oh well, it’s okay for people to park in rush hour on busy streets.’ It’s not okay. It’s strangling the city.”

Related:

Gridlock: The $6 billion (at least) problem

More Election 2014 coverage on Thestar.com

Both Chow and Tory would also try to discourage condo developers from occupying the curb lane, in some cases for years, while the building is going up. Tory specifically mentioned hoarding on projects on Adelaide and Charles Sts. downtown that has bedeviled motorists for a long time.

Chow said contractors should be fined for blocking lanes when no work is going on, and should pay increasing fees the longer a lane is cordoned off.

“If a company is not performing well, blocking the lane for construction and dragging their feet, then they should pay more,” she said. “We should reward good performance.”

The current city council is considering ways to reduce construction-related lane blocking, said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works and infrastructure committee.

“If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I am very flattered,” Minnan-Wong said. “We’re looking at the lane closures for development applications, substantially increasing the fees and limiting the time.”

Tory’s anti-gridlock plan also includes keeping the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway from Jarvis to the Don Valley Parkway, improving transit bus movement and considering whether the private sector might operate water taxis unsecured personal loans.

Chicago has water taxis on the Chicago River, and such watercraft might work in Toronto, for example by bringing residents downtown from the Palace Pier area of Etobicoke’s waterfront, which is poorly served by transit, he said.

“I think we have to think a little bit outside the box. If you think it (water taxi) is of interest, come forward with your ideas and we’ll take a look at it,” he said.

Chow said Tory is out of touch in bringing up water taxis; she doesn’t believe such a service would be viable. She suggested her proposal to increase bus service in rush hour would deliver better results.

Tory, meanwhile, said he’s open to hearing anyone’s ideas on how to reduce traffic congestion.

“I think the worst enemy of the public in Toronto right now is inaction on this and not being willing to open our minds to new ideas that can move people.”

Tory unveiled his plans at a news conference at the home of Marsha Seca, in the Bayview and Eglinton area. Seca spoke about her frustrations trying to commute to her job in Vaughan.

Chow’s gridlock plan

Crack down on drivers who block curb lanes during rush hour and those who block intersections, preventing traffic from moving. Charge builders more, the longer they close a curb lane to construct a building. Fine contractors hired by the city who close lanes when no work is underway. Fine utility companies that dig holes in the road but don’t repair them properly. Use fine revenue to fill potholes. Co-ordinate traffic lights better. Give people better notice of upcoming road closures. Hire a traffic liaison person for the mayor’s office.

Tory’s gridlock plan

Tow vehicles, including delivery and service trucks, that block curb lanes of busy streets in rush hour. Review fees that builders pay the city for permission to close curb lanes to ease construction. Co-ordinate traffic lights better. Add road space for buses to drop off and pick up, out of the flow of traffic. Add express buses on some routes, such as Dufferin St. and Don Mills Rd. Explore private-sector interest in operating water taxis on Lake Ontario. Retain the east end of the Gardiner Expressway from Jarvis St. to the Don Valley Parkway. Explore changing the alignment to free up more waterfront land for development.

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April 13, 2014

Matthew Weiner talks seven seasons of Mad Men

Filed under: mortgage, small business — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 2:44 pm

Jon Hamm’s Don Draper has never been an easy man to like, much less love, and Mad Men’s previous season saw him burning nearly every bridge in his life, with his partners, his wife, even his daughter. But with just 14 episodes left to find Don’s (un)happy ending, notoriously evasive creator/showrunner Matthew Weiner sat down with us in his spacious, well-appointed Los Angeles office to discuss the future of Sterling Cooper & Partners, the pressure of writing the finale — and the possibility of a spinoff.

Q: What can you reveal about the new season?

A: We know that Don had that catastrophic confession at work and then hopefully had a more healing confession to his family; that Peggy and Ted have split; that Pete and Ted are going to Los Angeles; (Sterling Cooper & Partners) are going to hire someone to replace Don; and Don has been put on leave, whatever that means. And that’s where the story picks up.

I think it’s always hard for (viewers) that I just (continue) the story whenever I want to. The second season, everyone was like, “Peggy had a baby. When are we going to find out about that?” Well, you did, eventually. It did become a big part of the story. But I can say that all of the repercussions of last season, that’s what this season is about. What are the things that you do that you can’t undo? Don was caught by his daughter in an affair. That affair was then ended by Sylvia and Don couldn’t take it. In fact, I don’t think Don even cared about that affair until Sylvia ended it. But Megan doesn’t know about it. She just knows that their marriage has gone bad. Was the affair the symptom or was it the disease? Don says he’s going to try to stop drinking: is that a commitment? That’s setting the stage for the season.

Q: Do you think Don can be sober?

A: I don’t think Don needs to be sober, actually. I think he has to approach his life in less of a haze. I always felt he drank to avoid feelings and last year (his drinking) intensified them instead of numbing them. Last season was really a step in his life that was created by the panic of his personal life. Sally walking in on him (and Sylvia), and his destroying the relationship with the person who looked up to him unequivocally: that was a turning point.

Q: Did the fact that this final season is split into two affect your storytelling?

A: It did — a lot. Having a gap in the middle of a season is tough. I’m sure someone will still complain that nothing happens, but there is a lot of story in the show, probably the most we’ve had. I wouldn’t say that it’s all racing around. We can’t turn this into 24. But this season is very dense.

Q: The year in which a new Mad Men season takes place is always such a big secret.

A: I made it a big secret because I use that as an energy to start the story. The audience is going to have to be filled in on what transpired while we were gone. We can start the characters in the middle of something instead of picking up the next day free business cards. But the interesting thing to me is that sometimes the show is very focused on American history and sometimes it isn’t. We left off with the United States in a mess. And I feel Don talking to his kids was a moment to turn a little bit away from the world.

Q: Some have theorized that the show is about Peggy becoming Don. Is there any validity to that?

A: Yes. I like that when we left her, she never wanted to be less like Don. The worst parts of Don were exposed and directed at her. His jealousy and self-destruction were in her path, and I don’t know that she wants to be like him anymore. Peggy has her own thing to do that is so complicated and unprecedented, and she has no role models.

Q: What will this season bring for Joan?

A: Joan is a know-it-all, but she seems to be right. (Laughs.) I’ve enjoyed watching that character who’s so sure of her values and her goals. She’s living in a very different world from what she anticipated, or from what she seemed to have wanted. And I see her adapting to it. She’s almost shocked by it. The real question for Joan is, is a man going to make a difference in her life? She’s the most modern person on this show. Add 30 years to Joan and you will see someone who is a very special kind of pioneer.

Q: Were you surprised when James Wolk’s Bob Benson became a breakout character?

A: I was shocked. And thrilled. You never expect that people would even notice Bob. He was like a joke in our office. Like, “Oh, my God, there’s that guy Bob Benson again and he’s Pete’s prot

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April 2, 2014

Gov’t says new rule to make power-plant work safer

Filed under: Uncategorized, term — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 5:48 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government is mandating new safety regulations that it says will help protect workers on electrical power plants and transmission lines.

Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels says the update to 40-year-old safety standards could save nearly 20 lives and prevent 118 serious injuries each year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that 74 workers die each year from accidents in these industries.

The agency says the new rules will require better fall protection for workers on poles and towers, protective clothing for some workers and training to avoid electrical hazards easy pay day loans.

OSHA announced Tuesday that the new rules will take effect 90 days after being published. Publication is scheduled for April 11.

OSHA has been working on the rules for about a decade.

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March 26, 2014

Blue Jays: Dustin McGowan to start home opener

Filed under: small business, uk — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 6:16 pm

DUNEDIN - Dustin McGowan will start the Blue Jays home opener on April 4, while J.A. Happ will start the season on the disabled list, the club announced Wednesday morning.

Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers and Jeremy Jeffress have all been named to the team as part of an eight-man bullpen.

Josh Thole has also been named the Jays’ backup catcher over Erik Kratz. Kratz had a far better spring at the plate, hitting .400 with a pair of homers, but the Jays opted to go with the more familiar battery mate for R paydayloans.A. Dickey.

Thole has caught Dickey more than any other backstop, and he was believed to be Dickey’s preference, despite his offensive struggles. Manager John Gibbons said Thole has “something special” with Dickey.

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March 23, 2014

House Plans Russia Sanctions Bill Without IMF Quota Funds - Bloomberg

Filed under: business, small business — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 1:00 pm

House lawmakers may vote as soon as next week on a bill that would expand U.S. sanctions on Russia, including additional asset freezes and visa bans for senior officials and corporations.

The measure would codify sanctions already announced by President Barack Obama, while encouraging more for any individual

March 21, 2014

Stocks move higher, head for solid weekly gains

Filed under: Uncategorized, uk — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 9:16 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are higher in midday trading as the market gets set to close out a turbulent week with solid gains.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose eight points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,880 as of midday Friday. If the gains hold the index will close at a record high, its first in two weeks.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 93 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,424. The Nasdaq composite slipped two points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,316.

All three major U no fax payday loans.S. indexes are up about 2 percent for the week.

Nike fell 3 percent after the company said a stronger U.S. dollar will dampen its sales this quarter.

Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.77 percent.

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March 18, 2014

Russia Sounds Alarm on Economy as West Starts With Sanctions - Bloomberg

Filed under: economics, marketing — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 3:48 pm

Russia

March 17, 2014

Meet the SAT tutor to the 1%

Filed under: finance, management — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 12:52 am

But his finely honed — and expensive — methodology could be in flux now that the College Board plans sweeping changes for the college entrance exam.

Among the changes: Test takers will no longer need to commit scores of obscure vocabulary words to memory, and math sections will focus much more on real-world problem solving. College Board president David Coleman said the changes, beginning in the spring of 2016, aim to level the playing field for those who can’t afford pricey tutors and classes.

So what about Green, who’s built a business around that uneven playing field?

Over the past nine years, he’s cultivated a strategy in which he observes each client one on one and zeroes in on the student’s biggest weakness.

“Before you ever teach students anything, you need to know the enemy — what is it that they don’t get and what’s stopping them from getting their perfect score,” he said.

Whatever he does, it seems to work. Green said his students improve an average of 430 points after working with him.

His method is in such demand from New York’s 1% that he charges up to $650 per hour at his company, Test Prep Authority. The more hours you purchase, the lower the price (but it still bottoms out at $500 an hour).

He only takes about 10 students each quarter, though he said about 60 hopefuls clamor to work with him. He requires his students to spend three hours with him each week.

On top of the hundreds of thousands of dollars he rakes in from tutoring, Green also sells SAT tutoring software for $297 a pop to those who don’t get a chance for in-person sessions.

“A few years ago, I’d never imagine that my rates would be this high,” he said. “But I get really good results. You don’t get to this kind of rate if what you’re doing doesn’t work.”

Green said he did horribly on his early SAT prep tests and went to several tutoring sessions without improving no fax payday loans. Once he got an individual tutor, he said he scored in the 99th percentile.

As a freshman at Columbia, Green realized he could put what he’d learned to use. Since then, he’s tutored about 325 students.

For his clients, many of whose parents are in finance, law and business, his price tag for three months of tutoring is a drop in the bucket if it means their child could go from state school to Ivy League.

“My typical client places a big value on education and results,” he said. “They also place a high value on someone who can handle things for them, like reminding their kid to bring a prep book on vacation.”

The college test that America fails

For stressed-out students and parents, the College Board’s announcement was rattling. Green received dozens of panicked e-mails from parents asking if this test would be better for their children and what he thought of the changes.

What he thinks is that it will be a lot of work to relearn a test he’s spent thousands of hours mastering. He plans to devour any material the College Board releases about the new version next month.

He said he’s thrilled the College Board is trying to make the test more reflective of what kids learn in school and not what they can get from private tutors. But he thinks there will still be rich parents willing to pay for a leg up.

“There’s always going to an optimal strategy to beat the test, and it’s a beautiful thing that I have a lot of time to alter my methodology,” he said. “Anyone who claims that standardized testing is fair is ridiculous.”

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March 13, 2014

Inside the underground sex economy

Filed under: Uncategorized, term — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 7:12 pm

But a study released Wednesday by the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center analyzes the size and structure of the underground commercial sex economies in eight major cities: San Diego, Seattle, Dallas, Denver, Washington, D.C., Miami, Atlanta and Kansas City, Missouri.

The three-year effort, which began in 2010, was funded by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, which supports research that can aid in the prevention, detection and prosecution of human trafficking.

Researchers interviewed pimps, traffickers, sex workers and child pornography offenders, as well as local and federal law enforcement officers.

Of the eight cities studied, Atlanta had the largest cash-based underground sex economy at $290 million a year and Denver the smallest at $40 million, based on 2007 data. (There was insufficient data available for Kansas City, so it was dropped from the estimation analysis.)

The way in: Often pimps and prostitutes get into the business because they had a relative who worked in it or a friend who encouraged them. Neighborhood influence, poor job prospects and childhood trauma also played a role.

Coercion: It’s often assumed that sex workers are physically coerced to work for and stay with a pimp. But researchers found that psychological manipulation played a major role, too — whether it was the promise of attention from the pimp or more tangible incentives.

Likewise coercion through psychological or emotional abuse was used as a form of punishment to keep employees in line.

The report recommends that states should include coercion — not just physical but also the more subtle, non-physical forms — in their definition of sex trafficking.

Gang involvement: Gangs are increasingly involved in prostitution and sex trafficking, especially in San Diego.

Often rival gangs will temporarily put aside their differences to work cooperatively to maximize their profits — for instance, by sharing the same hotel out of which their prostitutes work.

Pimp circuits: Some pimps form networks across cities and regions, operating more as a brotherhood than as rivals. When transporting their sex workers to another city, their networks keep them apprised of law enforcement activities and offer advice on finding clients.

Pimps ‘friend’ victims on Facebook

Pimps interviewed also indicated that they thought pimping was a less risky crime than others, such as drug trafficking.

And many felt that “no one actually gets locked up for pimping,” according to the report.

Role of the Internet: The cash-based sex trade has traditionally been street-based. But now the street is just one part of the trade, which has been greatly expanded by the online sex market. Participants told researchers they perceived the Internet to be less risky in terms of detection by law enforcement and it let them vet potential clients more easily.

Family, friends and legal businesses as facilitators: The underground sex economy is aided by above-board businesses. For example, a hotel’s employees may look the other way when a pimp does business out of that hotel, and may even accept payment for doing so.

Meanwhile a pimp’s friends or family may serve as drivers or security detail for his prostitutes.

No profit in child porn: Researchers found that there’s an increasing amount of child pornography being produced in the United States, and it’s increasingly graphic and violent.

But it’s often available for free and offenders interviewed said they were part of online child pornography communities.

“Why pay?” one respondent told researchers. “I guess I just assumed that anyone asking for money was a sting.”

Those incarcerated for non-contact child porn offenses — such as possession and distribution — said they consider it a victimless crime since they weren’t producing the pornography.

Offenders did, however, indicate that they want treatment but said there are few options for it in prison.

Among the report’s recommendations: Laws should hold criminally responsible anyone who facilitates or hosts online child pornography content and communities.

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March 12, 2014

What

Filed under: Canada, management — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 4:04 am

AUSTIN, TEX — Back in 1971, the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — even earlier, if one considers the source novel, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was written in 1964 — predicted a sweet, sweet, chewy future where one would see an image of a chocolate bar tantalizingly suspended in a TV screen and then be able to reach in and grab it.

If B. Bonin Brough, the fast-talking vice-president of “global media and consumer engagement” for multinational snack maker Mondelez International, is to be believed, that future is sitting on our doorstep. Maybe even sitting outside the Austin Convention Centre in a vacant corner lot occupied during last year’s South by Southwest Interactive conference by feline celebrity Grumpy Cat, but this year given over to an elaborate 3D-printing prototype system that allows SXSW patrons to custom-print their own Oreo cookies.

3D printing is nothing new, of course — it’s been a staple of SXSW Interactive discussions for several years, notably in 2013 as it pertains to creating working firearms — but the viability of using the technology to “print” edible food products is growing less and less fanciful with each passing year.

The ChefJet “sugar printer” already exists, in fact, and allows those who can afford the $10,000 price tag to design and create their own candies and chocolates in real time, while orbiting astronauts have already “printed” meals for themselves in zero gravity. Apparently, armed with the right array of gear and raw proteins, you can also “print” pizzas and even meat, or something like meat, today (“People are printing steaks right now,” affirms Bough), although judging by the photos Bough brought to his presentation on Tuesday we’re a long way away from making the finished product even look edible.

Printed Oreos, though, are a first step everyone can get with. SXSW patrons have been lining up for up to two hours over the past few days for a chance to customize their own cookies at the Oreo “Trending/Vending” booth, which uses 3D-printing technology and a robotic, goo-dispensing rotary arm to combine 12 flavours and four patterns into some 10,000 different Oreo-outcomes dialed up beforehand by users on a computer screen.

“We are not that far away, ladies and gentleman, from a world that looks very much like Willy Wonka,” proclaimed Bough near the top of his SXSW session, after showing a representative clip from the movie. “I tried to get some Oompa-Loompas to man our booth but apparently they’re really aggressive.”

This being SXSW Interactive, the Oreo booth makes some vague pretence to tailoring its available flavours to trending Twitter topics. “Eat the Tweet,” goes the motto. That part about “tasting culture” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but what Bough has to say about the technology’s potential to revolutionize the food industry does cashadvance.

Humanity has already progressed in a relatively short time in cosmic terms from hunting and gathering to shopping at supermarkets to consuming fast food to dialing up exactly what we want, when we want it, delivered to our domiciles from online outlets like JustEat.com and Seamless.com, as he pointed out; the next step, should food-printing rigs ever become standard in the average home, will be downloading the specs for, say, a Big Mac or a Whopper to our computers and “printing” the burgers out at home.

“Hungry? Plug in your printer and print it out,” said Bough. “We might actually be getting there … McDonald’s might actually go into the printing business.”

Food-printing tech is still in its “infancy,” he conceded. Apparently, the Oreo machine is prone to changing humidity and weather conditions that alter the viscosity of the filling and mess things up particularly badly when it rains, which explains why it went down a couple of times when things got wet in Austin over the weekend — prompting a few Tweets of the “I’ve been here for an hour + and no cookie” variety dumped to the hashtag “#oreofail”during the dark hours.

That’s what you get for “experimenting in the wild,” however, said Bough. And besides, the purpose of experimentation is to learn.

“What did we learn from this experiment? First, it’s all about customization,” he said. “One machine was just printing cookies that we decided — you could just go see it print, see what trends it’s printing and taste the cookie. It’s all the same experiment. But we had another machine where you could select the trend and you could add some customization to it and you could mash it up. There was a two-hour wait — a two-hour wait — for the machine you could customize and nobody in line for the one just to see it and experience it printing. People do want a unique, customized experience.”

On the R&D front, throwing an Oreo-printing machine or some variety thereof out in public in key locations once in a while allows a company like Mondelez to see how thousands of “taste profiles” perform with consumers in the space of a few hours or days instead of the year it usually takes to taste-test a new product to market, he added.

And if the cost of rolling out 3D food-printing gear everywhere seems prohibitively expensive at the moment, one shouldn’t forget that eventually large companies might be able to give up all the costly warehouse space they retain for, y’know, storing actual food in lieu of simply maintaining a database of digital instructions to be downloaded to individual homes so that the products can be … er … “cooked up” on your personal food printer.

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