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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mickey gets his own kid size MickeyPod

This new Disney MP3 player looks like fun.

Disney Sassy Pixie MP3 player Mickey Digital Mix Sticks MP3 Player
Mickey Digital Mix Sticks MP3 Player

Our innovative digital music players combine Disney design magic with the latest technology. Each plays MP3 and WMA audio formats and offers 128MB of built-in memory, expandable up to 1GB via SD/MMC slot. Features built-in, rechargeable battery for up to 10 hours of playback time. Disney Music samples, an audio-jack, lanyard and ear-bud headphones, USB port, and rechargeable batteries are all included. Easily portable. Stores music and data files. Also plays Disney Mix Clips, sold separately. Average battery life 8-10 hours. 4 1/5'' H x 1 1/2'' W x 3/5'' D. Plastic/metal. Imported. This item will ship in 5 weeks.

links:
Disney Mix Stick Player [disney.com]
Mickey Digital Mix Sticks MP3 Player ($49.99) [disneyshopping.go.com]
Disney To Offer MP3 Player Aimed At 6-12 Year Olds [paidcontent.org, Sept. 29, 2005]
Disney’s MP3 Player for Kids [redherring.com]
Disney Mixes It Up [msnbc.msn.com]
Disney Launches MP3 Player Lineup [betanews.com]
Disney's MP3 players for preteens [cnet at news.com]

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Cell Phones: Legal Liability in Traffic Accidents?

Accidents involving a driver who is distracted while talking on a cell phone have been prosecuted as negligence similar to driving while intoxicated. In many states and foreign countries, such as Ireland, the United Kingdom and France, driving while using a cell phone is illegal.

Bostonworks.com reported on the Yoon v. Cooley Godward case.

In October 2004, the San Francisco law firm Cooley Godward settled a $30 million lawsuit in the death of 15- year-old Naeun Yoon, who was struck and killed in 2000 on a busy highway outside Fairfax, Va., by one of its employees - a lawyer accused of making a business call on her cellphone while driving. After serving a year in jail and surrendering her law license, Jane Wagner was ordered to pay $2 million in damages to Yoon's family by a circuit court jury in Loudoun County, Va. While the firm's insurance company paid $92,500, according to its attorney, John McGavin of Fairfax, the firm was not held liable.

However, the case of Yoon v. Cooley Godward had broader implications. It suggested that employers could be "vicariously liable for the cellphone-induced distracted driving of their employees, even if phone calling is not within the scope of employment," noted Ross Guberman, an adjunct professor at George Washington University Law School who has written about the case.

"The classic case of vicarious liability," he wrote in an e-mail to The Boston Globe, "is a truck driver who runs into a pedestrian while asleep at the switch. But with the civil suit over the Yoon tragedy, law firms and corporations are now terrified that they could be hit with a million-dollar judgment simply because one of their employees swerves and kills someone while talking about work."


links:
State laws vary on driving distractions [stateline.org, Mar. 22, 2005]
Can Cooley Godward Avoid Blame in Girl's Death? [law.com, Sept. 10, 2003]
Cell phones – Great New Technology or Latest Per Se Negligence?
Is Your Company Responsible For Your Cellphone Misuse? [wsj, July 19, 2001]
Firms formulate guidelines for employee cellphone use [bostonworks.com, Jan. 23, 2005]

Thursday, September 22, 2005

CNBC: The Growing Forehead Network

CNBC loves middle aged white guys with shiny foreheads and so does TJN:

Ron Insana James Cramer Steve Liesman
Ron Insana, James Cramer, and Steve Liesman

Bill Griffeth
Larry Kudlow Tyler Mathisen
Bill Griffeth, Larry Kudlow, and Tyler Mathisen

What would CNBC network executives call a show that had all of these gentlemen on at the same time?

related:
Rating Financial TV personalities [BillCara.com]

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

LASIK Advisory: Warning Label for Eye Surgery

LASIK eye surgery has a relatively short history. There is not yet a large body of conclusive evidence on the chances of long-term complications from the LASIK procedure. The American Academy of Ophthalmology now offers the following advisory regarding the procedure:


  • Lasik may not give you perfect vision. Seven of 10 patients achieve 20/20 vision, but 20/20 doesn't always mean perfect vision.
  • If you have Lasik to correct your distance vision, you'll still need reading glasses around age 45.
  • The procedure is too new to know if there are any long-term ill effects beyond five years of surgery.
  • Lasik can't be reversed.
  • Most insurance doesn't cover the surgery.

Is the Ophthalmology profession and the LASIK industry starting to take steps to limit their future liablity and put a warning label of sorts on the procedure? The statement that "20/20 doesn't always mean perfect vision" is probably news to most people. Are they at all worried about future class action lawsuits?

The American Academy of Ophthalmology to their credit as a medical institution release reports on problems that crop up from LASIK surgery. One recent report is entitled: Stromal opacities exacerbated after LASIK. It is not too encouraging:
A case presented by Christopher S. Banning, MD, at the July 2005 meeting of the Georgia Society of Ophthalmology reported on the exacerbation of stromal opacities after LASIK. The patient, a 25 year-old Caucasian female, complained of decreased vision in both eyes 14 months after LASIK. Preoperative records indicated only sparse, faint stromal opacities present bilaterally. Postoperatively, the patient developed multiple stromal opacities bilaterally, which appeared granular in nature and reduced her visual acuity to 20/50 OD and 20/70 OS. Genetic testing revealed that the patient actually had Avellino corneal dystrophy. Although numerous cases of Avellino dystrophy after LASIK have been reported from Korea, this is the first case reported in North America.

Dr. Banning and R. Doyle Stulting, MD, PhD, discussed the importance of preoperative evaluation for any suspected corneal stromal abnormalities, including genetic testing when indicated, and recommended avoiding LASIK in any patients with evidence or strong suspicion of corneal stromal dystrophies. They also recommend avoiding enhancements if possible in these individuals because additional exacerbation may occur and further compromise vision.

LASIK procedures are currently being advertised for $290 in Niagara Falls, Canada. Some dentists charge more than that to fill a cavity. The question remains - is it as safe as getting a cavity filled?

Lasik- From $290 Per Eye
Dr. Taylor has performed over 50,000 Procedures. Get Info Here!
www.LasikNiagara.com

related:
Learning About LASIK [fda.gov]
LASIK — IS IT FOR YOU? (pdf)[aao.org]
LASIK Risks (pdf)[aao.org]
Dangers of LASIK eye surgery [TJN]

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Dangers of LASIK eye surgery

Laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is a surgical procedure to reduce nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism by reshaping tissue in the cornea, the clear covering of the front of the eye. Its purpose is to reduce a person's dependency on corrective devices, such as glasses or contact lenses.

It evolved from a variety of refractive surgery techniques including photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). In LASIK, an automated device called a microkeratome is used to create a thin flap in the cornea that is lifted; an excimer laser is then used to reshape the underlying corneal tissue and the flap is replaced over the treated area.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the excimer laser in 1995 for the PRK correction of nearsightedness and in 1998 for the LASIK correction of nearsightedness with or without astigmatism.

LASIK is the most popular elective surgery in the U.S. About 1.35 million total LASIK procedures were performed in the U.S. in 2004, up from 1.15 million procedures in 2003.

Tiger Woods had LASIK surgery in October 1999, and claims it helped his golf game. Other celebrities like tennis play Jennifer Capriati, U2 bass player Adam Clayton, and professional golfer Ian Leggatt have had complications from the surgery.

Before anyone gets this surgery they should understand that some patients suffer complications. Here are some of their stories:


related:
VisionSimulations.com - help individuals with normal vision understand the visual aberrations and complications of refractive surgery (i.e., LASIK, LASEK, PRK)
SurgicalEyes.Org - Deals with LASIK and other refractive surgery complications
Banker Gets $7 Million in LASIK Suit [consumeraffairs.com, Aug. 2, 2005]
LASIK Advisory: Warning Label for Eye Surgery [TJN]

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Find-A-Human -- Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Phone System Shortcuts

In telephony, interactive voice response, or IVR, is a computerized system that allows a person, typically a telephone caller, to select an option from a voice menu and otherwise interface with a computer system. Generally the system plays pre-recorded voice prompts to which the person presses a number on a telephone keypad to select the option chosen, or speaks simple answers such as "yes", "no", or numbers in answer to the voice prompts.

The latest systems use natural language speech recognition to interpret the questions that the person wants answered.

* Bank and stock account balances and transfers
* Surveys and polls
* Call center forwarding
* Simple order entry transactions
* Selective information lookup (movie schedules, etc.)

However, many IVR systems make it difficult to reach a human operator. Here are some documented shortcuts. Please note all shortcuts are subject to change.

Banks

Astoria Federal Savings ..... 800-ASTORIA
Shortcut: When you hear the womans voice press zero. Will transfer right away to a human.

Bank of America ..... 800-900-9000
Hit zero twice, after menu choices play

Bank One ..... 877-226-5663
Press 0 thru the options to get a live person

Chase ..... 800-CHASE24
Hit five, pause, then hit one, four, star, zero

CIBC ..... 800-465-2422
Enter card# and pin, then press 0

CitiBank ..... 800-374-9700
Zero

Commerce Bank ..... 800-YES-2000
touch "0" anytime after the computer answers

MBNA ..... 800-421-2110
press "0" twice when menu begins

Sovereign Bank ..... 800-SOV-BANK
personal banking: 1 for english 1 for personal banking 3 then enter social number then # then passcode then # then hit 0 (between 1 and 3 times)

Sun Trust Banks ..... 404-588-7815
Yes

US Bank ..... 800-USBANKS
Press 0 twice

Wachovia ..... 800-922-1800
accounts personal banking

Washington Mutual ..... 800-756-8000
At any time after the announcement(s) start press 'O'.

Wells Fargo ..... 800-869-3557
Zero

Cell Phone Companies

AT&T Wireless ..... 800-888-7600
No easy escape

Cellular One ..... 888-910-9191
press 4, say "agent", then #

Cingular ..... 800-331-0500
For faster service, press the option that you are looking to close your account,  You get the same ppl but an immediate answer

Cricket ..... 800-274-2538
Press 3, 1, then 3 again.

Nextel ..... 800-639-6111
Press "0" five times

Sprint PCS ..... 888-788-5001
Zero twice, then say "agent"

T-Mobile ..... 800-937-8997
Enter your phone number

Verizon Wireless ..... 800-922-0204
dial # then double zero

Credit Card Companies

American Express ..... 800-528-4800
Hit zero, pound, three times over (ignore prompts that it's an invalid entry)

Discover ..... 800-347-2683
Yes

MasterCard ..... 800-MC-ASSIST
Hit zero three times (once on each menu)

MBNA ..... 800-421-2110
press "0" twice when menu starts

Visa ..... 800-847-2911
Hit zero three times (ignore prompts saying that it's an invalid entry)

Insurance Companies

Aetna ..... 800-537-9384
2, then say "operator" (check this)

Aetna ..... 800-680-3566
Hit * then zero anytime

CIGNA ..... 800-516-2898
REGARDING A BILL

PC/Internet

AOL ..... 888-346-3704
0

Apple ..... 800-275-2273
Zero three times; if virtual rep answers, say "operator"

Compaq ..... 800-652-6672
No easy escape

Dell ..... 888-560-8324
Hit zero twice

Dell Customer Service ..... 800-624-9897
option 1, xt 7266966, option 1, option 4, option 4

Earthlink ..... 888-earthlink
"0" sometimes works!

Epson ..... 800-922-8911
yes

Gateway ..... 800-846-2301
Hit zero, pound

HP ..... 800-474-6836
Say "agent"

HP ..... 888-560-8324
Hit zero twice

IBM ..... 800-IBM-4YOU
You go into a hold queue immediately

Symantec ..... 800-441-7234
Subscription Services

Retail

Amazon.com ..... 800-201-7575
Direct to human

Best Buy ..... 800-365-0292
sales

Best Buy ..... any local store
wait for extension prompt (sometimes must press 4), then ext. 2021

Eckerd ..... 800-eckerds
press 0 for pharmacy, 8* for manager

KMart ..... Local
Press 0

Lowes Home Centers ..... All local numbers
hit 0 for customer service or #450 for commercial sales

Target ..... Local call
Press "0" during greeting.

Wal-Mart ..... 800-546-1897
press 0

Walgreens ..... local pharmacies
press 0 to speak to a pharmacy employee

Shipping

FedEx ..... 888-GO-FEDEX
hit 0 during msg.

FedEx ..... 888-GO-FEDEX
say "REP" during the message

UPS ..... 800-pick-ups
yes

Telco

AT&T (now a division of SBC) ..... 800-222-0300
..

BellSouth ..... 877-678-2355
Press "*" then "0"

SBC ..... 800-585-7928
Again, an (intelligent, this time) IVR wants YOUR phone number first.

Verizon On Line ..... 800-567-6789
Say "I don't know it" then "technician"

Travel

American Airlines ..... 800-433-7300
Press zero twice, then say "agent"

Amtrak ..... 800-872-7245
Zero or say "agent"

Continental ..... 800-523-3273
Three Delta 800-221-1212 Zero then say "operator"

Delta ..... 800-221-1212
say "agent" four times - every time it asks for a response from you

Kayak.com ..... 203 899-3120
0

Northwest ..... 800-225-2525
Star, zero, after initial greeting

Southwest ..... 800-435-9792
Calls answered by operator; during busy times you might have to hold

United ..... 800-864-8331
Say nothing (but you have to listen through lots of menus)

US Airways ..... 800-428-4322
Hit four after initial greeting, then hit one to connect.

Television

Comcast ..... 800-266-2278
Customer service, but an IVR wants your number first.

Dish Network ..... 800-333-3474
press "0" during menu

utilities

BG&E Power Company ..... 410-685-0123
For power outage in your area

links:
Find-A-Human [Quickbase.com]

Monday, September 5, 2005

New Orleans: Why rebuild a criminal cesspool?

Will there be a big debate about rebuilding New Orleans? Hopefully, yes, and the bigger the better. House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, was quickly condemned when he suggested it made no sense to rebuild NOLA. Asked whether it made sense to spend billions of federal tax dollars reconstructing a city that sits below sea level and remains vulnerable, Hastert said: "It doesn'’t make sense to me."

As Speaker Hastert quickly found out you won't make many friends if you bad mouth New Orleans as it is still reeling from the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina and the levee breach. Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, demanded an immediate apology from Hastert. She added:

"To kick us when we're down, to destroy hope when hope is the only thing we have left, is absolutely unthinkable for a leader in his position."

George W. Bush, who is trying to overcome the impression that he was asleep on the job regarding the disaster response, gave a more politically correct response:
"I want the people of New Orleans to know that after rescuing them and stabilizing the situation, there will be plans in place to help this great city get back on its feet,"” Bush said. "“There is no doubt in my mind that New Orleans is going to rise up again as a great city."

However, is New Orleans really a "great city?" Any city that is over 300 years old has certainly proven that it is important. New Orleans is a vital port and it has a world famous historic district - "The French Quarter," 70+ small city blocks which sit 5 feet above sea level. But, other than the maritime transportation infrastructure and the historical "theme park" what is so great or economically important about New Orleans? The Louis Armstrong Airport is small and under utilized. Only one Fortune 500 company (Entergy Corp. the area utility) calls New Orleans home.

The Waterbury, Conn., Republican-American newspaper wrote an editorial Wednesday, August 31, 2005, entitled, "Is New Orleans worth reclaiming?" It said:
"Americans' hearts go out to the people in Katrina's path," it said. "But if the people of New Orleans and other low-lying areas insist on living in harm's way, they ought to accept responsibility for what happens to them and their property."

Additionally, no one yet is addressing the following issue: was the quality of life that existed in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina worth restoring?

The AP reported the following facts about the City of New Orleans and its growing crime problem two week before Katrina hit:
Last year, university researchers conducted an experiment in which police fired 700 blank rounds in a New Orleans neighborhood in a single afternoon. No one called to report the gunfire.

New Orleans residents are reluctant to come forward as witnesses, fearing retaliation. And experts say that is one of several reasons homicides are on the rise in the Big Easy at a time when other cities are seeing their homicide rates plummet to levels not seen in decades.

The city's homicide rate is still far lower than a decade ago, when New Orleans was the country's murder capital. But in recent years, the city's homicide rate has climbed again to nearly 10 times the national average...

Homicides hit their historic peak here in 1994, with 421 dead more per capita than any other U.S. city that year...

There had been 192 [homicides] this year by mid-August, compared with 169 at the same time in 2004. Adjusted for the city's size, those numbers dwarf homicide rates in Washington, D.C.; Detroit; Baltimore; Atlanta; Chicago; Los Angeles and New York City.

Only one in four people arrested in the city for homicide is eventually convicted, according to a recent study by the New Orleans Police Foundation, a private nonprofit group.

According to the study, 42 percent of serious crime cases reviewed by prosecutors - about 22,000 - were turned away between 2002 and 2004 because the cases were not deemed suitable for court.

District Attorney Eddie Jordan said the lack of eyewitness testimony was one reason for the dropped cases. New Orleans has had such a problem with retaliation against witnesses that the district attorney's office started a local witness protection program.

Witnesses may also be reluctant to talk to police because of the department's struggles with allegations of brutality and corruption.

As a side issue it appears that the criminal element in New Orleans will be moving on. It will be interesting to see if this exodus of refugees (politically correct: evacuees?) and the associated parasitic criminal element from New Orleans turns out anything like the 1980 Mariel Boat Lift. As cubanet.org described it:
Floods of refugees crossed the Florida Strait in 1980 during the six-month Mariel Boat Lift, when Fidel Castro temporarily lifted restrictions preventing his people from leaving their Caribbean homeland.

More than 125,000 people left Cuba; among them the "undesirables"--people from the nation's prisons and insane asylums...

In June 1980, the refugees rioted and set several base buildings [at Ft. Chafee, Arkansas] afire. About 300 escaped and ran through the streets of nearby Barling before being captured. Clinton mobilized the National Guard, and officials from the Carter administration flew down to help.

By the time the last Cubans left the base in February of 1982, law enforcement officials estimated that at least 450 assaults had occurred. Two Cubans died in the 7 attacks on the base.

"The people of Barling and all that area were carrying guns," said J. Fred Patton, 94, a historian and lifelong Ft. Smith resident. "They were scared to death."

He said the town divided into two groups--people who sympathized with the Cubans and those angered at their presence. In the end, he said, it was a lesson about patience and tolerance.

Returning to the future of New Orleans - the oceans are getting warmer, sea levels are rising, hurricanes will become more severe. Why invest in rebuilding a city in harm's way and why rebuild a crime infested city? Additionally, dealing with the hazardous material contamination is a problem that dwarfs all others.

"This is the worst case," Hugh B. Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency, said of the toxic stew that contaminates New Orleans. "There is not enough money in the gross national product of the United States to dispose of the amount of hazardous material in the area."

The economic bottomline: rebuild a smaller and safer New Orleans - make it safe from category 5 hurricanes and crime. Make New Orleans a great port with a great historic and arts district. Help relocate and reestablish the majority of the victims. Do not reclaim or rebuild the cesspool - the parts of the city that are currently below sea level. Go green and turn the low lying areas back into protective swamps and wetlands - naturally barriers to hurricanes. The lowlands are lost.

Links:
A Reason to Rebuild New Orleans Where It Is [tpmcafe.com, Sept. 1, 2005]
Extraordinary Problems, Difficult Solutions [washingtonpost.com, Sept. 1, 2005]
Should New Orleans rebuild? [abc-tv]
Hastert: why rebuild New Orleans? It's just gonna get flooded again. [dailykos.com]

Calculated Risk

MishTalk - Mike Shedlock

Paul Krugman - NY Times

The Big Picture - Barry Ritholtz

naked capitalism - Yves Smith

Pragmatic Capitalism

Washington's Blog

Safe Haven

Paper Economy

The Daily Reckoning - Australia