Daily Archives: December 30, 2007

Blogging’s a Low-Cost, High Return Marketing Tool

To its true believers at small businesses, it is a low-cost, high-return tool that can handle marketing and public relations, raise the company profile and build the brand.

That tool is blogging, though small businesses with blogs are still a distinct minority. A recent American Express survey found that only 5 percent of businesses with fewer than 100 employees have blogs. Other experts put the number slightly higher.

But while blogs may be useful to many more small businesses, even blogging experts do not recommend it for the majority.

Guy Kawasaki, a serial entrepreneur, managing partner of Garage Technology Ventures and a prolific blogger, put it this way: “If you’re a clothing manufacturer or a restaurant, blogging is probably not as high on your list as making good food or good clothes.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Economy

Calvin and Hobbes for the Season

What a lot of fun.

Posted in * General Interest, Humor / Trivia

Connecticut Begins Offering Online High School Classes

Connecticut high school students can now enroll in online courses taught by state teachers.

The pilot program offers courses in basic subjects for students who need credits to graduate. It also offers other electives, such as Mandarin Chinese and “Shakespeare in Film.”

The idea is to allow students who have fallen behind to catch up online rather than in summer school and also to provide interesting electives that are not widely available.

“We want to use online courses to increase access to high-quality content so that every student in Connecticut will have access to the courses they need when they need them,” said Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Education

Officials Falling Behind on Mortgage Fraud Cases

The number of mortgage fraud cases has grown so fast that government agencies that investigate and prosecute them cannot keep up, lenders and law enforcement officials have said.

Reports of suspected mortgage fraud have doubled since 2005 and increased eightfold since 2002. Banks filed 47,717 reports this year, up from 21,994 two years ago, according to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the Treasury Department. In 2002, banks filed 5,623 reports.

“I don’t think any law enforcement agency can keep up with mortgage fraud, because it’s such a growth industry,” said Chuck Cross, vice president of mortgage regulatory policy for the conference of state bank supervisors, an organization of regulators and bankers. “There’s too many cases, not enough agents.”

Mortgage fraud covers crimes like false statements on mortgage applications and elaborate “flipping” schemes that involve multiple properties and corrupt appraisers, title companies and straw buyers.

In one common flipping plot, someone buys a house, has it appraised for more than its true value and sells it to a straw buyer for the inflated price, pocketing the difference. The straw buyer lets the house fall into foreclosure, leaving the bank with the loss.

The cases coming into view reflect the recent boom in mortgages with limited borrower documentation and lax scrutiny.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

Washington Post: Shoppers Loved Gadgets No More Than Last Year

This is the year consumer technology holiday sales went flat.

U.S. spending on gadgets was $4.5 billion from Nov. 18 to Dec. 9, according to research firm NPD, half a percent less than in the comparable period last year. Sales figures for the rest of the shopping season were not available.

Digital cameras topped the list of popular consumer electronics products, but sales did not grow over last year. According to NPD, camera unit sales were up less than 1 percent, while in dollar terms sales were down 13 percent because the cameras were less expensive. MP3 player sales were flat.

The sales plateau hit by both gadgets is the result of a saturated market, said Stephen Baker, an NPD analyst. The typical consumer is already on his or her third digital camera and probably owns a digital music player too, he said.

Tim Bajarin, president of Silicon Valley research firm Creative Strategies, said the lackluster tech sales, like holiday sales across the board, were probably the result of consumer anxiety about the economy.

“It’s just indicative of cautiousness of the consumer market overall due to uncertainty,” he said. “Because of the mortgage crisis, I think people were more restrained and didn’t go overboard with their spending.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Science & Technology

(London) Times: Top twenty religion stories of 2007

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media, Religion & Culture

Jonathan Romain: All the true miracles happen in the human heart

To be honest, it did not matter very much, because the significance of all miracles is not how they happen but what their effect is, and in this case the impact it had made on the despondent person who had felt hopeless and who now felt a new sense of enthusiasm.

Maybe the candle had been imperceptibly burning drowsily all along, but it had reminded him of the value of hope, the power of optimism, and opened his eyes to a more positive outlook on life. The incident had rekindled his spirits even if there was a thoroughly rational explanation to it all.

It is the same with us: often we are so weighed down with a problem that we cannot fathom out who we are or where we are heading; then something ? a candle, a person’s kind word, music from a passing car ? can clear the haze and help us to find a way forward. Often, it is a matter of inner blindness: being blind to the possibilities around us and then suddenly seeing the light.

That is the real miracle, without any thunderbolts overhead or earthquakes below, but when something inside us moves and our eyes are more open than they were before.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Judaism, Other Faiths

Episcopal Diocese of San Diego convention information

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

Michael Poon asks some questions on 'The Global Anglican Future Conference'

Has the Global South Anglican Primates Steering Committee endorsed this Statement? So far, it has remained silent on the matter. It is important to note that the authority of the Global South Anglican “movement” and of the Steering Committee arise from the South-South Encounter and most recently the Kigali Meeting in 2006. The Global South represents a broad spectrum of Anglican churches that hold onto the historic faith and ecclesiology informed by the historic formularies. It does not answer to the dictates of the radical evangelical wings within the Communion. It is regrettable that Asia, West Indies, and Middle East are glaring omissions among the “conveners” of the proposed Conference. Have they been consulted? Have they rejected the proposal? In their place, we find names of colleagues (with due respect) from a particular strand in the Northern churches. Why was this Statement issued with such haste? And without broader representation?

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Global South Churches & Primates

Modesto Bee: Bishop Schofield removes Episcopal vicar from Atwater post

About two months ago, Risard said, the bishop summoned him to Fresno. He took along a church official.

“He started building a case as to why he was getting rid of me,” Risard said. “I asked him, ‘What’s this all about?’ He said, ‘We already talked that you’re going to leave at the end of ’08.’ He said, ‘The bottom line is you have to go because we’re not going to have the money to support the mission. If we vote up (to leave the Episcopal Church USA and join Anglicans elsewhere), we’re going to lose the liberals and their money, and if we vote down, we’re going to lose the conservatives and their money.’ ”

The diocese office in Fresno was closed this week. The bishop and other officials could not be reached for comment. But an e-mail from the bishop’s assistant, the Rev. Canon Bill Gandenberger, sent to two St. Nicholas officials on Dec. 25, reads in part:

“The attached document is the letter notifying Fr. Risard that his deployment at St. Nicholas is now over. We wish you to know that the Bishop and the Diocese are fully behind the continuation of your church in Atwater and we will do all that we are able to support you during this transition.”

It also says the “most important directions from the bishop” include changing the exterior locks “immediately,” as well as locks “to the priest’s office and any file cabinets”; retrieving bank statements; forwarding minutes from past committee meetings (“This is especially important if there are commitments made to Mr. Michael Glass, an attorney referenced in the letter of Fr. Risard to the Bishop”); and an assumption that the church’s deacon can “lead worship for a short period of time, especially this next Sunday.”

Despite the loss of his church, Risard isn’t bitter.

“The bishop hasn’t defrocked me. He’s just asked me to go away and leave him alone. He’s the one who priested me and tried to form me in his way, so I still have some affection for him.

“I believe as a priest that Christ calls us to love one another as friends. I sign my letters to the bishop ‘faithfully, your friend in Christ.’ He really is a Christian, maybe operating in a particular way these days, but he truly means well.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

Dallas Area–New church leaders, new church divisions made news in 2007

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media, Religion & Culture