The average cost of Christmas in America

Christmas in America seems to be getting more extravagant.

With just a few days until Christmas day, many shoppers are feverishly trying to find the perfect meaningful gifts for everyone on their list. commercialization of the American Christmas plays a very big part in how much the average American pays for all of his or her holiday expenses. Between gifts, holiday parties and decorations, Christmas in America seems to be getting more and more extravagant. Here is a look at the average cost of an American Christmas and a glance at why the cost of the holidays is steadily rising.

 

 

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41% of young adults skip health care as medical costs rise

medical-debt

41% of young adults between age 19 and 29 failed to get medical care in a recent 12-month period because of cost.

There are millions of young adults who are skipping necessary care and treatment because of rising health care costs in the U.S., according to a new report released on Friday.

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Poor Countries Have More Piracy Because Media Costs Too Much — Report

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Media Piracy in Emerging Economies, an academic report on pricing and copyright infringement in poor countries, comes to the conclusion that high media prices (as measured against the average wage in poor countries) are responsible for piracy — that is, when you control for social attitudes towards copying, enforcement differences, and so on, the largest predictor of whether a country will have rampant copyright infringement is whether the media in that country is priced high relative to peoples’ earning power.

To make their point, the authors have released the report under a provocative “Consumer’s Dilemma license” that charges escalating rates depending on whether your IP address is in a rich or poor country.

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China’s Labor Unrest Helping U.S. Manufacturers

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Worker showing their frustration as wages are not keeping up with rising costs

Their demands may seem commonplace: Better pay and better conditions.
But the impact of Chinese workers walking off their factory lines in recent weeks could one day reshape China’s economic relationship with the United States.
Labor unrest at companies including Honda Motor Co., electronics giant Foxconn and, on Friday, a parts supplier for Toyota Motor Corp. has shifted attention in China toward the gap between rich and poor and the sustainability of cheap labor. It also comes as minimum wages are rising in a handful of provinces and cities.
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For those keeping score, such responses would qualify as a step toward rebalancing China’s economy — something American lawmakers have been pleading for to help the U.S. win back a larger share of global trade.
Workers have not shared in China’s booming economy. In 1999, the ratio of Chinese laborers’ income to the gross domestic product was 53%. Today it has declined to 40% — compared with 57% in the U.S.
Many economists have long argued that boosting Chinese household income is a key to resolving the yawning trade imbalance with the U.S., which grew to $19.3 billion in April — up $2.4billion from March.
In theory, getting more money into the hands of ordinary Chinese would spur the buying of goods and services. That would take pressure off Beijing to rely on exports to keep its share of the economy humming and would give U.S. manufacturers a more level playing field.
The problem is that such structural changes in any economy can take years to achieve. Raising wages too fast could decimate manufacturers and their supply chains and spark ever-higher inflation. And despite robust expansion, China’s efforts to balance its growth are complicated by mounting risks.
As much as policymakers would like to increase wages, they must weigh the effects of the European debt crisis on exports, of a sizzling property market that could jeopardize the nation’s banks and of an end to the Chinese government’s approval of new stimulus projects — and then gauge how much slowdown they can stomach.
“The Chinese government is very closely watching the economic picture at home and the state of other economies before we decide on our economic policies, including on the … exchange rate,” Zhang Tao, director of the international department of China’s central bank, said at a news conference Friday in Beijing on Friday, Bloomberg reported. “The recent volatility in the international financial markets indicates the global economy still faces challenges.”
The World Bank — which predicted strong but slower economic expansion in China this year — noted in a forecast released Friday a menu of moves being undertaken by the central government to better balance the economy. Among those moves: bolstering the nation’s social safety net, curtailing over-investment in state-owned companies and trying to improve conditions for private enterprises.
The problem with imbalances, said Ardo Hansson, the bank’s lead economist for China, is that “it’s not one where there’s a silver bullet…. It’s a slow process.”
Rebalancing won’t come nearly fast enough to ease Washington’s calls for China to revalue its currency. Congress is threatening legislation to urge China to appreciate the yuan if it doesn’t do so after the G-20 summit in Toronto this month.
Raising China’s exchange rate could immediately make that country’s exports less competitive, benefiting U.S. and other international producers.
Some analysts predict Beijing will eventually agree to strengthen its currency this year, but only about 3% against the dollar to combat rising inflation — far below the more than 25% that some U.S. manufacturers believe the yuan is undervalued.
Although it is still somewhat taboo for officials and economists in China to support currency appreciation, speaking in favor of labor and wage increases is acquiring populist cachet.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said this week that conditions for China’s 130 million migrant workers needed to improve. And on Thursday the People’s Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, ran an editorial saying that adjusting the gap between rich and poor was crucial for China’s economic development.
In China’s tightly controlled media, coverage of the unrest in factories has been muted. There were reports Friday in foreign outlets that strikes were continuing at a Toyota parts factory in the northern city of Tianjin and at a Carlsberg brewery in the southwestern city of Chongqing.
Factory workers at Honda and Foxconn appear to have won wage concessions, but experts are still divided on whether China stands at a turning point in favor of labor.
Some see the declining population of working-age Chinese and recent labor shortages as evidence that companies will have to raise pay.
Others believe that the demand for workers is cyclical and that ample labor still remains in the countryside, waiting to be pulled into factory towns.
The need for workers could also ease when stimulus-financed infrastructure projects are completed and if a widening European financial crisis stalls exports. In addition, domestic consumption will grab a bigger share of China’s growth this year as investment in infrastructure such as roads, rail and buildings slow down with the tightening of credit, economists predict.
“The effects of the stimulus will diminish and thus will release more labor,” said Yasheng Huang, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. “One danger is that there is a massive rise of labor costs, forcing some firms to go to Vietnam, but in two years the stimulus money wears off and you have lots of labor seeking jobs again.”
“I support labor getting their due,” he said, “but I have always argued that it is best to do this in a gradual manner.”

Their demands may seem commonplace: Better pay and better conditions. But the impact of Chinese workers walking off their factory lines in recent weeks could one day reshape China’s economic relationship with the United States.

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Why College Costs Rise, Even in a Recession

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Operating in an artificial economy

If you have paid a college tuition bill recently, perhaps the sticker shock has abated and your children have been good enough to friend you on Facebook so you can see what they are doing on your dime.
What probably still lingers, however, is the desire to ask some pointed questions of the people who are doing the educating. Where does all that money go? And why can’t the price tag fall for a change?
Earlier this year, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities announced with some pride that the average increase in tuition and fees at private institutions this school year would be the smallest in 37 years — 4.3 percent, just a little higher than inflation.
Is this where we are supposed to stand up and cheer?
To get some perspective, I set out to find a college president with an M.B.A. and some experience outside the academy. I found one at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. Its president, Daniel H. Weiss, is an expert in medieval art, but he also worked as a management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. So he knows his way around a corporate restructuring.
Lafayette does not have the strongest name recognition and tries to set itself apart through its location near both New York City and Philadelphia, its strong engineering program and liberal arts offerings, and by being one of the smallest colleges to compete in N.C.A.A. Division I athletics.
That it is not a top-tier college by most measures, however, makes Lafayette an excellent test case as it and other private colleges cross the $50,000 annual cost threshold in shaky economic times.
Public universities will always appeal on price, and Wellesley and Harvard are likely to remain oversubscribed forever. But Lafayette and colleges like it could have trouble justifying themselves and their cost soon, and the resistance may not simply pass once the economy improves.
Tuition costs have gone in only one direction — up — during Mr. Weiss’s career. “I genuinely believe that we are at a crossroads here in higher education,” he said. “I think we have reached a ceiling that we’re beginning to bump into.”
Mr. Weiss has not had to make any drastic budget cuts so far. He has frozen many salaries, cut some hours in the student dining halls and scaled back a few building projects.
This will seem rather tame to anyone who has lived through even a medium-grade corporate revamping. “We haven’t been good at cutting when we add,” said Robert Massa, Lafayette’s new vice president for communications, speaking of colleges in general. “We just add.”
Rising tuition and income from endowments have made this possible. But the unique structure of universities has also made it inconvenient to do otherwise. “In some ways, higher education is more like a political environment than the management of a private corporation,” Mr. Weiss said. Except that thanks to tenure, it is difficult to vote anyone out of office. Still, he added, “Alienating some of your faculty members, if you can avoid it, is something you shouldn’t be doing.”
This is just one of the reasons why it is so hard to make big cuts to a college’s budget and reduce tuition in turn. Here are some others:
CUTTING DEPARTMENTS The political challenges with faculty make something as seemingly simple and obvious as cutting expensive and undersubscribed academic departments pretty hard. In fact, Mr. Weiss could not remember the last time Lafayette had done such a thing.
But such cuts are practically inevitable for programs that have fewer students. “Fine arts has studio-based production, so capital and facility costs are high,” said Jane Wellman, executive director of the nonprofit group Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability, speaking of colleges in general. “Piano tutoring is pretty much one to one in a room with a piano. Pianos are expensive. Agriculture is expensive because of the lab costs, which means a barn.”
An English student, however, is generally a profit center. “They’re paying for the chemistry major and the music major and faculty research,” she said. “They don’t want to talk about it in institutions, because the English department gets mad. The little ugly facts about cross-subsidies are inflammatory, so they get papered over.”
About all Mr. Weiss will say about this is that he agrees that Lafayette needs to do a better job of discriminating between the things it can and cannot do well. He is too good on the politics to single out any department. But there is little doubt that he and administrators like him will need to give up on some foreign languages, minor sciences or parts of the arts pretty soon.
FACULTY PRODUCTIVITY Professors at Lafayette teach five classes a year over two semesters and work with students on their independent research projects. At some colleges and universities, the number of classes is lower and at others it is higher. Couldn’t Lafayette lower costs by demanding that the faculty perform less research and teach one additional class?
“The question is what is the quality of that interaction,” Mr. Weiss said. “Our faculty must have the opportunity to revitalize their teaching through research. If you’re teaching the same old course the same old way every year, you’re not keeping up with the discipline and not able to animate your own teaching with that experience.”
Not every academic agrees. “Am I, for example, as a tenured professor or any tenured faculty member necessarily, or even probably, a better undergraduate teacher because I am doing research?” asked Burton A. Weisbrod, co-author of “Mission and Money: Understanding the University” and an economics professor at Northwestern. “The answer to that is not clear at all.”
Nevertheless, Lafayette is so certain in its convictions that it grants faculty members a year off every six or seven years for a sabbatical. How does a college defend such a practice to parents who have had to work ever harder to pay the growing tuition bill?
“What parents should be looking for is the opportunity for their children to have their lives transformed by what happens inside the classroom and out of it,” Mr. Weiss said. And that cannot come, he continued, without access to faculty members who have had the opportunity to recharge their own intellectual reservoirs. “At the end of the day, parents should want their children to have that experience, and we believe that’s the cost of it.”
Still, parents are helping to subsidize those sabbaticals. So the optics around this are all wrong in the current economic environment, even if this is one of those things no one can change.
ADMINISTRATIVE OVERLOAD Lafayette, like many colleges, spends more on nonfaculty salaries than it does on pay for the teachers. How did that happen? Mr. Weiss uses the evolution of career counseling as an example. He does not recall whether there was a placement office when he was an undergraduate at George Washington University in the 1970s. “Now there is the expectation, and I don’t think it’s misplaced, that students can get help in entering the workplace,” he said. If Lafayette did not create a rigorous support system, he noted, its graduates would be competing with students from other colleges and universities that had done so. “And therefore, we’ve invested very significantly in new administrative staff.”
Security is another area where costs have gone up. Just a quick glance at a dormitory bulletin board gives a sense of the breadth of what security departments deal with these days. One posting offered detailed instructions on what to do when encountering a bat, and an eye-opening piece of literature called “Active Shooter Survival Tips.” (Yes, I have linked to it from the online version of this story.)
THREE YEARS Perhaps the biggest cost-saving measure for private colleges like Lafayette would be to allow students to pay the same price per year but graduate in three years instead of four. Hartwick College in New York is already trying this; 13 students have signed on this fall.
Mr. Weiss said this is worth considering, though he had not looked at how the numbers would work. “Although without sounding in any way defensive, we also do offer time for personal development,” he explained. “And that is part of what college is supposed to be. Not only to learn stuff but to have your life changed. For some students, three years is more than enough, while for others four years is not nearly enough.”
He’s right, of course. Or at least that is how college used to be. The question all of us have to ask now is whether the price of that transformative experience is simply too dear — and whether a basic education ought to be the highest (or maybe only) priority.

If you have paid a college tuition bill recently, perhaps the sticker shock has abated and your children have been good enough to friend you on Facebook so you can see what they are doing on your dime.

What probably still lingers, however, is the desire to ask some pointed questions of the people who are doing the educating. Where does all that money go? And why can’t the price tag fall for a change?

Continue reading… “Why College Costs Rise, Even in a Recession”

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Plasma Gasification Plant Planned For Florida

Plasma Gasification Plant Planned For Florida 

Now here’s a system I can get behind: turning trash into energy via the magic of plasma. Yep, it kills two birds with one stone, and it’s coming soon. The first plasma plant in the country is being planned for St. Lucie County in Florida, where it’ll use 10,000 degree plasma to vaporize 1,500 tons of trash every day. The vapor will then spin turbines to create enough juice to power a whopping 50,000 homes. Holy crap, how sweet is this?

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Bit Weld Business File Exchange – Web Based Sharing And Storing Of Confidential Data

Business File Exchange - Web Based Sharing And Storing Of Confidential Data

Solve the challenge of sharing and storing confidential data with our secure and easy-to-use web based Business File Exchange.

Featured Invention at the Colorado Inventor Showcase 

The Bit Weld Business File Exchange is an Internet based business class service that is easy to use, secure, and cost effective.

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The Cost of Greed – Speculators in the Global Food Crisis

 The Cost of Greed - Speculators in the Global Food Crisis

 Profiting off of peoples hunger is a ticking time bomb

Vast amounts of money are flooding the world’s commodities markets, driving up prices of staple foods like wheat and rice. Biofuels and droughts can’t fully explain the recent food crisis — hedge funds and small investors bear some responsibility for global hunger.

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China: Education Not Delivering ‘Results’

China: Education Not Delivering ‘Results’

About 10,000 Chinese college students look for a job at a job fair in Changzhou

Four in 10 Chinese complain about the yawning gap between large investments in education and its returns, a recent nationwide survey has showed.

The Horizon Research Consultancy Group polled 3,355 residents aged 16 to 60 in both urban and rural areas, including seven metropolises such as Beijing and Shanghai. The survey found that only 16 percent of respondents believed their investments on education gave good returns.

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