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United States Postal Service Letter Carrier Lakesha Dortch-Hardy sorts mail at the Lincoln Park carriers annex in Chicago, November 29, 2012. The USPS, which relies on the sale of stamps and other products rather than taxpayer dollars, has been grappling for years with high costs and tumbling mail volumes as consumers communicate more online.  REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - RTR3CKKA

The United States Postal Service is looking to get in on the big-data-for-profit game played by tech giants like Facebook and Google, and begin mining and selling private data gathered from personal mail sent from and received by Americans everywhere. USPS chief marketing and sales officer Nagisa Manabe recently told the forward-looking PostalVision 2020 conference that the post office is “actively looking for ways to build new business lines around what not long ago might have been considered science fiction,” eCommerce Bytes reports. Read more...

Wednesday, 16 April 2014 18:54

ComEd asks state for rate hike

ComEd

Commonwealth Edison Co. is asking regulators to add $3 to the average electricity bill next year to help it fund its massive overhaul of the electricity grid. The rate increase, if approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission, would go into effect in January 2015. The filing is the utility’s fourth request under a formula-based ratemaking process established by a law passed in 2011 to modernize the electrical grid. The idea is to add digital technology to the grid that can automatically repair many outages, eliminate the need for meter readers and lower incidences of electricity theft. Read more...

Wednesday, 16 April 2014 18:11

BRICS countries to set up their own IMF

BRICS countries to set up their own IMF

Very soon, the IMF will cease to be the world's only organization capable of rendering international financial assistance. The BRICS countries are setting up alternative institutions, including a currency reserve pool and a development bank. Read more...

medicare

Do you know what happens to your earnings after they are swept up and tossed into the Medicare black hole? A massive, new Medicare data release has uncovered a multimillion-dollar scandal that has been growing through the years. Consumer groups have been pressuring the government to release recent Medicare data and were taken aback when the numbers were finally unveiled. Read more...

RIA Novosti / Maksim Bogodvid

Russia will not import GMO products, the country’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, adding that the nation has enough space and resources to produce organic food. Moscow has no reason to encourage the production of genetically modified products or import them into the country, Medvedev told a congress of deputies from rural settlements on Saturday. If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food,” he said. Read more...

Fujitsu's vein-recognition technology identifies a person by scanning the unique pattern of veins.

Scanning veins in the human hand could become the biometric measure of choice  for authentication when we pay for things or want to unlock devices such as smartphones, an Australian professor says. Thanks to the iPhone 5s and Galaxy S5 smartphones, fingerprint scanners are going mainstream quickly. But how will they fare against vein scanning? Read more...

Reuters / Shannon Stapleton

A software company that promises to help Americans avoid the annual misery of filing their IRS returns has, in fact, spent years trying to convince lawmakers to make sure filing taxes remains difficult, thus protecting its business, a new report found. Every year Americans spend an estimated $2 billion and 225 million hours preparing their tax returns by April 15. The process can include obtaining information from a bank or employer, intensive financial disclosures, and, for many Americans, an appointment with a professional accountant who is qualified to evaluate how much money the state and federal government is due. The annual drudgery could be avoided with “return free-filing.” The process would involve an Americans’ employer and bank sending information to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the government sending a bill to an individual, and that person essentially returning their payment in mere minutes, free of charge. Read more...

We previously noted that both beef and pork (courtesy of the affectionately named Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus) prices have been reaching new all time highs on an almost daily basis. It is time to update the chart. Read more...

Tuesday, 15 April 2014 09:34

DNA and Insurance, Fate and Risk

DNA

As costs for DNA sequencing drop, hundreds of thousands of Americans are undergoing the procedure to see if they are at risk for inherited diseases. But while federal law bars employers and health insurers from seeking the results, insurers can still use them in all but three states when considering applications for life, disability and long-term care coverage. Should insurance companies be barred from seeing genetic information when considering those policies so people can get the tests without fear that the results would be used against them? Read more...

googleeye

Google has officially changed its Terms of Service to make it quite clear that users are consenting to the search giant scanning the content of their emails in order to allow the company deliver more targeted ads and better search results. While it may now be saying it more openly, this is not a new practice. Read more...

AFP Photo / Philippe Huguen

China’s rejection of shipments of US corn containing traces of unapproved genetically modified maize has caused a significant drop in exports. According to a new report, US traders have lost $427 million in sales. Overall, China has barred nearly 1.45 million tons of corn shipments since last year, the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), an American industry association, said Friday. Read more...

google buys titan aerospace

Google has bought Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones, saying it could help bring Internet access to remote parts of the world as well as solve other problems. Financial terms have not been disclosed. Google said on Monday that atmospheric satellites could also be used in disaster relief and assessing environmental damage. Read more...

andrewsvictimgrab22.jpg

Two months ago, Mary Grice, a career employee at the Food and Drug Administration, was notified the U.S. Treasury had confiscated her state and federal tax refunds totaling $4,500. The government had taken the money before she knew there was a problem. "To be honest, I was ticked off," Grice said. "I'm like 'how can they intercept or take my funds without my first being notified about it?'" The claim against her came from the Social Security Administration which said it overpaid death benefits to Mary's family after her father Scott Grice died in 1960. Mary was five years old. In other words, without notice and for a debt that was not hers, the government had her refund seized anyway. Read more...

Tuesday, 15 April 2014 07:20

The World Bank’s New Shock Doctrine

World Bank Washington DC photo

One of the problems with neoliberal economic policy is that it’s tough to get countries to agree to it; especially democratic ones. It has often required quite extreme measures, such as invasion – the classic example being the US-backed coup against Chile’s democratically elected president – or debt bondage and structural adjustment led by the International Monetary Fund. Both are effective ways of forcing countries to deregulate their markets. But neither of these methods has been very popular. It turns out that most people don’t like it when sovereign nations are invaded for corporate gain, as the global protests against the Iraq war made clear. And structural adjustment proved to be so damaging and inspired so many riots that the IMF was forced to step back from it – at least ostensibly – in the early 2000s. To avoid these messy PR nightmares, the latest approach has been to get countries to impose neoliberalism on themselves. Read more...

Since bestselling author Michael Lewis appeared on 60 Minutes on March 30 to promote his new book, “Flash Boys,” and explained how the U.S. stock market is rigged; and Brad Katsuyama, the head of IEX, an electronic trading platform who plays a central role in the Lewis book, did the same on CNBC a few days later, the debate has gone viral. But Lewis and Katsuyama were not the first to blow the whistle on rigged U.S. stock markets. Sal Arnuk and Joseph Saluzzi, Wall Street insiders and co-founders of Themis Trading LLC literally wrote the book on “Broken Markets” in 2012 and have been exposing details of the rigging  on their blog ever since. Read more...

 SponsorChange.org connects college grads with nonprofits that could use some skilled help.

Like many college grads, Jessica Pipkins has struggled to pay off her student loan debt, slowly chipping away at the $35,000 she still owes from the bachelor's degree she completed in 2007. But the 29-year-old Uptown resident and Wayne State University graduate is hopeful she'll soon make a bigger dent in her debt — by volunteering. SponsorChange.org — an organization new to Chicago — pairs college graduates with nonprofits looking for an extra set of skilled hands. In exchange for their volunteer work, the grads get money put toward the repayment of their student loans. Read more...

Monday, 14 April 2014 17:11

IMF, World Bank push for price on carbon

A plume of exhaust extends from a coal-fired power plant located southwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 24, 2013

The IMF and World Bank on Friday urged finance ministers to impose a price on carbon, warning that time was running out for the planet to avoid worst-case climate change. The heads of the two global economic institutions convened ministers from 46 countries—including the United States, China, India and European powers—on the sidelines of spring meetings in Washington to press the case for urgent climate action. Read more...

Monday, 14 April 2014 16:50

Is the US or the World Coming to an End?

2014 is shaping up as a year of reckoning for the United States. Two pressures are building on the US dollar. One pressure comes from the Federal Reserve’s declining ability to rig the price of gold as Western gold supplies shrivel and market knowledge of the Fed’s illegal price rigging spreads. The evidence of massive amounts of naked shorts being dumped into the paper gold futures market at times of day when trading is thin is unequivocal. It has become obvious that the price of gold is being rigged in the futures market in order to protect the dollar’s value from QE. The other pressure arises from the Obama regime’s foolish threats of sanctions on Russia. Other countries are no longer willing to tolerate Washington’s abuse of the world dollar standard. Washington uses the dollar-based international payments system to inflict damage on the economies of countries that resist Washington’s political hegemony. Read more...

Financial newsletter writer Dr. Jim Willie thinks 2014 will be a pivotal year for the U.S.  Dr. Willie says, “We’re going to end this year with no resemblance to the beginning.  We spent a lot of years trying to hold this thing together.  The whole system broke in 2007 and 2008 with the subprime mortgages.  I was saying before that we’ve got the entire U.S. economy depending on the housing bubble and the mortgage finance bubble, and when that breaks, the system is going to break. In the following couple of years, it continued to break. What did we do?  We went to zero percent interest rates and made it pretty clear it’s forever.  What else did we do?  We did bond monetization, QE.  I love QE, it makes it sound like CPR.  It’s death.  It’s hyper-monetary inflation. It’s what Nazi Germany did . . . it wrecked everything.  These are desperation measures to hold it together because the system is broken.”  Dr. Willie, who holds a PhD in statistics, contends, “Now all the QE and bond purchases are causing some major problems, breaking major economic structures. . . It’s all breaking, it’s all breaking, and they are having a tremendous problem holding it together.  Now, the whole Eastern World is rebelling against the dollar.” Read more...

We’re being Fed to the sharks, every day, one morsel at a time. What a way to go…. What can we say about the Federal Reserve’s policies that hasn’t been said a million times? How about simplifying the two primary purposes of Fed policies? I will cover one today and the second one tomorrow. Both involve feeding the 99.5% to the financier/ Wall Street/bank sharks. Read more...

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