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Huge economic challenges ahead

martes, 26 de enero de 2010

Few economists see a solid way ahead without higher taxes, and not just for the wealthy.

"Taxes are going to have to go up," said William Galston, a domestic policy aide to President Bill Clinton and now a scholar with the Brookings Institution. To suggest otherwise is "a denial not only of reality, but of necessity."

Obama faces rising public fury toward bankers and bailouts at a time of double-digit unemployment along with pressure to rein in spending. This populist anger helped sweep little-known Republican Scott Brown to victory in the Massachusetts Senate race.

Taking a harder line that some Democrats say was late in coming, Obama has proposed a special tax on large banks to recover "every last dime" of bailout money and wants to let regulators break up banks deemed too big to fail.

Beating up on banks and bankers is one of the few causes in town embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Obama is expected to make spending restraint a theme of his State of the Union address, although aides say that significant belt-tightening will have to wait until after the recovery gains more steam.

He plans to create a bipartisan commission to make recommendations by the end of 2010 on how to reduce the budget deficit. This year's projected $1.4 trillion deficit would add to a $12-trillion-plus national debt.

The commission also would make recommendations on taxes and spending on "entitlement" programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Its plan would go to Congress for up-and-down votes.

Obama must steer the economy through a darkening political storm for Democrats. In addition to dropping the Senate contest in Massachusetts on Tuesday, the party lost governors' races last fall in New Jersey and Virginia. Coming this fall are congressional elections, where the Democrats' majority in Congress could be threatened.

Despite improvements in manufacturing and a strong 10-month stock market rally, housing prices are still depressed, mortgage foreclosures increasing and bank loans tight for all but the biggest businesses. Factor in those people who have stopped looking for work or who are unable to find full-time jobs, and the "underemployment" rate swells to over 17 percent.

Gone at the White House is talk about "stimulus," a word the public seems to associate more with bank bailouts and wasteful spending than new jobs. Instead, White House officials now talk about "target ideas" that "will have a positive impact on private sector hiring."

"The road to recovery is never straight. We have to work every single day to get our economy moving again. For most Americans, and for me, that means jobs," Obama said recently.

It won't be easy.

Forecasters say it could be years before the employment rate drops below 8 percent, let alone to pre-recession levels of 5 percent to 6 percent. It took four full years for employment to regain its peak after the mild 2001 recession.

Economists cite a rule-of-thumb that suggests it takes a 2 percentage point rise in the gross domestic product to lower the unemployment rate by 1 percentage point. Government and private economists expect GDP growth of no more than about 2.5 percent to 3 percent this year.

"Where are the jobs?" House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, asks in news release after another, as the GOP lashes out at Obama's policies and basks in the Massachusetts victory.

How to Use Twitter During Office Hours

miércoles, 20 de enero de 2010

Some organizations have this policy that social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc. are a waste of time and therefore ban their staff from using such sites during office hours.

Then you also have companies that have no such rules in place and allow unrestricted access to the web as long as the employees are able to deliver what's expected.

A. When Twitter is Not Allowed in Office

Twitter on Mobile PhoneIf you are working for a company that falls in the first category (no social media please), its better that you install a Twitter mobile app on your cell phone and not use the office computer at all for tweeting. After all, your boss will get a web usage report at the month-end and he will easily figure out which sites have you been visiting secretly during office hours.

If you don't have a data-plan on your phone and cannot resist that urge to tweet ever 10 minutes, you may use tools like Posterous or Nutshell that allow anyone to send and receive tweets through regular office email.

Brizzly - Twitter AlternativeThere's another option that will come handy if the twitter.com website itself has been blocked by your office firewall. You can use Twitter indirectly through third-party sites like Brizzly or Dabr.

These sites offer a fresh interface to your Twitter account with all the regular features (retweets, @replies, etc.) but the more interesting part is that they will work even if Twitter domain is inaccessible from your office computer. You can track up to 5 accounts with Brizzly.

Create Feedburner FeedsYour Twitter friends' timeline feed is protected by a password but you may still subscribe to it with a simple hack involving FeedBurner.

You can then follow tweets from your friends using Outlook or any other newsreader. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the friend's feed directly with FeedDemon provided that access to Twitter is open in your office.

If you are allowed to use IM clients in Office, you can add twitter@twitter.com as a buddy in Google Talk and send tweets through IM. TweetSwitch is another free service that lets you send and receive tweets through popular instant messaging clients including AIM, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, Skype and GTalk.

B. Use Twitter Without Letting Anyone Know

Now let's look at the second category – you are very much allowed to use Twitter at work but you still don't want to give your boss an impression that you are a Twitter addict.

In that case, here's what you can do to possibly hide your Twitter addiction from boss and colleagues.

Twitter Client for DOS You can probably find a gazillion desktop apps for Twitter but if you are looking for something that doesn't scream to the world that its a Twitter client, try Quitter.

Quitter is a simple twitter client that runs through the command prompt or the DOS window. With Quitter, you can read and reply to tweets, follow /unfollow people or even manage your direct messages. All you need is a Windows computer and no one in the office will ever have a clue that you are engrossed in Twitter.

Twitter Spreadsheet If you are a Microsoft Office user, Spreadtweet is another interesting option for you. This is a proper Twitter client but in the guise of a spreadsheet so your boss will think that you're working on an Excel sheet while you are up there tweeting your heart out!

With SpreadTweet, you can send and receive updates, @replies and direct messages all inside an application that looks like a clone of Excel 2007.

The other great option for Microsoft Office users in TwInbox – you probably have Outlook open on your screen all the time and this free Outlook add-in will simply turn your Outlook into a powerful Twitter client.

Twitter in Outlook You can handle tweets just the way you manage your Inbox and the add-in will even let you tweet email messages with a click. The service is integrated with TwitPic so you can tweet pictures by simply dragging them into Outlook.

There's more – all standard Outlook features like search, mail archiving, categories, etc. will also become available to your Tweets. This screencast explains TwInbox in detail.

Related: Do Interesting Things With Twitter

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