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Category Archives: African American News

Here you will find news featuring African Americans

How to Use Credit Cards Like the Wealthy

It seems like the wealthy wouldn’t have a need for credit cards since they can pay for everything with cash, right? Well, the wealthy didn’t get that way by leaving money on the table. They know that by using credit cards they can get big cash back for every purchase they make, up to 6%. But this strategy is not limited to the wealthy. All you have to do is use the right card for purchases that you’re going to make anyway. If you pay off your balance every month, you won’t be charged interest rates or late/penalty fees.

Those who want to maximize their earnings know to have a few “specialty” credit cards that give them the most cash back in different categories and to use those cards specifically in those categories, then have a general purpose card with a high base cash back rate they can use for everything else. For example, you can use a credit card that gives 6% cash back from supermarkets to do your grocery shopping, one that gives you 3% back on gas every time you fill your tank and one that gives you 2% on all purchases for everything else.

Best for Grocery Shopping: Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

To maximize your earnings at the grocery store, get the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express. With this card, you’ll earn 6% cash back at supermarkets (for up to $6,000 in purchases annually), as well as 3% cash back for gas, 3% back at select department stores and 1% cash back on everything else. You’ll also get a $150 bonus when you spend $1,000 within the first three months, as well as a generous 0% intro APR for the first 15 months of card membership. This card does have a $75 annual fee, but it’s more than worth it for most cardholders. It placed first in our Cash Back Card Analysis.

Best for Gas: BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card

If you commute every day or spend a lot of time in the car, you should get a card that gives you the most rewards on gas. The aforementioned Blue Cash Preferred card is a great choice for gas as well, since it gives 3% back for unlimited gas purchases. But for those that want to avoid that card’s $75 annual fee, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card gives you 3% cash back on gas, 2% cash back on groceries (for the first $1,500 combined gas and grocery purchases each quarter) and 1% cash back on everything else with no annual fee. In addition, you get a 0% intro APR for the first 12 billing cycles, as well as a $100 bonus when you spend $500 within the first three months. Another way to make some extra money is to link your card to your Bank of America account so you’ll get an additional 10% cash back when you redeem your rewards directly into this account.

Best for All Other Purchases: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard or Citi Double Cash Card

For those who want the convenience of one high cash back rate for all their purchases, or who just want to maximize cash back for purchases that fall outside of specific categories, there is the Citi Double Cash Card and Barclaycard Arrival Plus. Citi Double Cash gives you an effective 2% cash back on everything you buy with no annual fee.  We say “effective” because it gives you 1% back when you make the purchase and the other 1% when you pay for it (and for the math nerds, if you redeem for a statement credit instead of a check, you actually get 1.99% back).  Still, for most people, especially the wealthy who are sure to pay their full balance every month, this is 2% cash back, the highest base cash back rate we’ve ever seen for a consumer card.

For those who want to spend their rewards on travel purchases, you can’t beat Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. This card gives you effectively 2.2% cash back to spend on travel, which is the most overall rewards from any travel rewards card that we reviewed. It also offers 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 within the first three months, which basically equals $440 in travel expenses. Redemption is simple, you can simply apply your reward points as a statement credit against any travel purchase (hotel, air, rental car, etc.) so it really is like cash back to spend on travel. We should note that it does have an $89 annual fee but it’s waived the first year.

Best for Those With Less-Than-Perfect Credit:  Capital One Venture and Capital One Quicksliver

The cards we’ve mentioned so far require excellent credit (usually considered having a credit scorearound 750 or higher). But you can still get the benefits of a top-end card if your credit is merely “good” (usually around a 700 credit score) or average (around 650).  If your credit score is “good,” theCapital One Venture card will give you almost exactly the same benefits as Barclaycard Arrival Plus mentioned above. You can get the equivalent of a $400 intro bonus to spend on travel if you spend $3,000 on your card within the first three months.  You’ll also get 2% cash back to spend on travel for every purchase with no limits.  If you’re not sure you want to redeem your rewards for travel, Capital One Quicksilver will give you a straight 1.5% cash back on everything plus a $100 intro bonus when you spend just $500 within the first three months.

For those with merely “average” (a credit score of around 650 or higher) credit, the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard can make you feel wealthy, giving you 2 points per $1 spent (effectively 2% cash back) on gas, grocery and utility purchases, and 1 point per $1 spent (effectively 1% cash back) on everything else.  Considering this card also has no annual fee, it’s our top pick for those with average credit.

 
 

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Curiosity Is as Important as Intelligence

There seems to be wide support for the idea that we are living in an “age of complexity”, which implies that the world has never been more intricate. This idea is based on the rapid pace of technological changes, and the vast amount of information that we are generating (the two are related). Yet consider that philosophers like Leibniz (17th century) and Diderot (18th century) were already complaining about information overload. The “horrible mass of books” they referred to may have represented only a tiny portion of what we know today, but much of what we know today will be equally insignificant to future generations.

In any event, the relative complexity of different eras is of little matter to the person who is simply struggling to cope with it in everyday life. So perhaps the right question is not “Is this era more complex?” but “Why are some people more able to manage complexity?” Although complexity is context-dependent, it is also determined by a person’s disposition. In particular, there are three key psychological qualities that enhance our ability to manage complexity: 

1. IQ: As most people know, IQ stands for intellectual quotient and refers to mental ability. What fewer people know, or like to accept, is that IQ does affect a wide range of real-world outcomes, such as job performance and objective career success. The main reason is that higher levels of IQ enable people to learn and solve novel problems faster. At face value, IQ tests seem quite abstract, mathematical, and disconnected from everyday life problems, yet they are a powerful tool to predict our ability to manage complexity. In fact, IQ is a much stronger predictor of performance on complex tasks than on simple ones.

Complex environments are richer in information, which creates more cognitive load and demands more brainpower or deliberate thinking from us; we cannot navigate them in autopilot (or Kahneman’s system 1 thinking). IQ is a measure of that brainpower, just like megabytes or processing speed are a measure of the operations a computer can perform, and at what speed. Unsurprisingly, there is asubstantial correlation between IQ and working memory, our mental capacity for handling multiple pieces of temporary information at once. Try memorizing a phone number while asking someone for directions and remembering your shopping list, and you will get a good sense of your IQ. (Unfortunately, researchshows that working memory training does not enhance our long-term ability to deal with complexity, though some evidence suggests that it delays mental decline in older people, as per the “use it or lose it” theory.)

2) EQ: EQ stands for emotional quotient and concerns our ability to perceive, control, and express emotions. EQ relates to complexity management in three main ways. First, individuals with higher EQ are less susceptible to stress and anxiety. Since complex situations are resourceful and demanding, they are likely to induce pressure and stress, but high EQ acts as a buffer. Second, EQ is a key ingredient of interpersonal skills, which means that people with higher EQ are better equipped to navigate complex organizational politics and advance in their careers. Indeed, even in today’s hyper-connected world what most employers look for is not technical expertise, but soft skills, especially when it comes to management and leadership roles. Third, people with higher EQ tend to be more entrepreneurial, so they are more proactive at exploiting opportunities, taking risks, and turning creative ideas into actual innovations. All this makes EQ an important quality for adapting to uncertain, unpredictable, and complex environments.

3) CQ: CQ stands for curiosity quotient and concerns having a hungry mind. People with higher CQ are more inquisitive and open to new experiences. They find novelty exciting and are quickly bored with routine. They tend to generate many original ideas and are counter-conformist. It has not been as deeply studied as EQ and IQ, but there’s some evidence to suggest it is just as important when it comes to managing complexity in two major ways. First, individuals with higher CQ are generally more tolerant of ambiguity. This nuanced, sophisticated, subtle thinking style defines the very essence of complexity. Second, CQ leads to higher levels of intellectual investment and knowledge acquisition over time, especially in formal domains of education, such as science and art (note: this is of course different from IQ’s measurement of raw intellectual horsepower). Knowledge and expertise, much like experience, translate complex situations into familiar ones, so CQ is the ultimate tool to produce simple solutions for complex problems.

Although IQ is hard to coach, EQ and CQ can be developed. As Albert Einstein famously said: ““I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”


Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in personality profiling and psychometric testing. He is a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London (UCL), Vice President of Research and Innovation at Hogan Assessment Systems, and has previously taught at the London School of Economics and New York University. He is co-founder of metaprofiling.com. His book isConfidence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, and Self-Doubt.

 
 

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The Convict Settlement of Australia

Roderick Cameron explains how, during the 50 years that followed Governor Phillip’s landing at Botany Bay in 1788, convicts and free settlers turned New South Wales into a flourishing colony.

Women in England mourning their lovers who are soon to be transported to Botany Bay, 1792. National Library of AustraliaWomen in England mourning their lovers who are soon to be transported to Botany Bay, 1792. National Library of AustraliaWhen, in 1776, America declared her independence, England lost Virginia as a convict settlement. The Gold Coast was tried as an alternative, till transportation there was discovered to be the equivalent of a death-sentence; and, within a few years, English gaols became dangerously overcrowded. Captain Cook’s voyages suggested a solution of the problem; and Lord Sydney at the Home Office selected Botany Bay. Before Cook’s discovery of Australia’s Eastern shores, the whole vast Australian continent appears as an unfinished coast line, winding its vague way northwards towards the Gulf of Carpentaria, the uncharted spaces filled with dots. Cape York, still awaiting a name, lies doubled back, like a broken finger, against the Northern Territory; while the geography of Victoria and New South Wales is still a matter of speculation. Neither the Spanish nor the Dutch had shown any enthusiasm over their discoveries; and Dampier, describing New Holland in 1698, observes that the only pleasure he derived from his voyage was “the satisfaction of having found the most barren space on the face of this earth.”

It was, presumably, in a somewhat doubtful frame of mind that Governor Phillip set sail for the new colony, with a small fleet of eleven ships, six of which were convict-transports, the rest being a man-of-war, its tender and three supply ships. After a voyage that lasted exactly eight months, Botany Bay was sighted in February 1788; and, if one has oneself seen this forbidding country, it is not difficult to imagine the feelings of the men on board. Occasional spirals of smoke rising from native fires among the endless gum-trees were then, as now, the only signs of life in a desolate landscape that has never changed. Since Botany Bay proved too shallow an anchorage, the ships were forced to lie nearer the Heads, at the mercy of the great waves rolling in against them; and, during his search for a more suitable refuge, Governor Phillip discovered, to the north, the world’s most perfect natural harbour, calling it Sydney in honour of the Secretary of State, though Captain Cook, when he passed it by, had named the opening Port Jackson.

Many of the eight hundred male and female convicts had died on the outward voyage; more than a third of their number were ill with scurvy and other diseases; and they must have presented a sorry sight as they struggled with the hoary bush, hacking and sawing, the shouts of the two hundred soldiers who guarded them rising above the crash of trees. It is hostile, hard and cruel—this Australian bush. Everything that grows in it is tough.and spiky and will wound you if you touch it. Over low-growing plants and shrubs tower the gums, with their sun-refusing foliage, like dark, hardened flakes of rubber. The harsh sun pours down on them, and they stand up peeled and dry, incapable of tempering the glare. Indeed, their long curved leaves seem to intensify the light, reflecting it as it slides off their pointed ends, as from a thousand mirrors, to splinter on the ground below—a ground so dry that it echoes at every step with the sound of cracking twigs.

Once the bush had been conquered, and the land cleared for cultivation, the alarming discovery was made that none of the new settlers knew anything of farming—except for a single man, a servant in the Governor’s suite. Without his advice their labour would have been completely fruitless. As it was, the farming in which they engaged was of the very rudest kind. Even a highly experienced man could have done little to direct so many. The officers and soldiers might be smart enough on parade, but they were completely useless at farm work; while the convicts devoted all their ingenuity to robbing the stores or picking one another’s pockets. Only a trifling crop was raised; and to increase their difficulties, everything they used had to be imported; for no plant they found in Australia could be, or ever has been, coaxed into edibility; no animal indigenous to Australia yields milk fit for human consumption, and no native tree has ever been persuaded to bear better fruit.

Such were the inauspicious beginnings of the new Australian settlement. “Enterprise and dexterity,” writes one of the early settlers, “are, undoubtedly, valuable qualities in one who proposes to strike out for himself a new existence in a new and rough country; but the skill and nerve not to mention the frankness of the promising youngster who boasted of having picked his mother’s pocket while both were spectators at his father’s execution are not precisely those calculated to adorn or profit a rising community.” The Home Office, nevertheless, persisted in their hopes that the convict element, when reformed, would become the nucleus of its new domain. The first settlement had, perforce, a somewhat ephemeral air. The Governor occupied a canvas building. Behind him were encamped those women convicts whose innocence, according to his view, still deserved protection; and in front of him he set up the commissariat store, which he judged equally in need of his personal surveillance. While the officers lived in marquees, the convicts ran up wattle and daub huts, thatched with cabbage tree palm or rushes. Yet slowly the colony grew; and, when next we catch sight of Sydney, it is a white town set amid gardens and orchards. Pleasant villas push their way out into the scrub; so little is there to indicate a foreign clime, one might almost imagine oneself on the outskirts of Brighton or Cheltenham. The only concession to geography are the verandas that relieve the simplicity of private houses, and the brilliant caged parrots which adorn almost every window.

Lachlan Macquarie, appointed Governor of New South Wales in 1810, fresh from a successful army career in India and a short governorship in Ceylon, was exactly the type of man that growing Australia needed. A nabob, who arrived in this harsh new world with all the paraphernalia of his rank, he made astonishing progress during his twelve years of governorship. Besides constructing some two hundred buildings—from cottages to guard-barracks for a thousand men—he left New South Wales with three hundred miles of turnpikes and carriage roads. Macquarie was responsible, moreover, for the creation of eleven townships, most of them raised from the wilderness; and it is interesting to remember that he employed a convict-architect—Francis Howard Greenway, who had previously practised in Bristol. Extravagant, unable to resist the temptation of buying works of art, Greenway had run deeply into debt and been adjudged a bankrupt. Tried, and sentenced to fourteen years’ imprisonment for concealing his effects at bankruptcy, he had been transported to Sydney in the year 1814.

Owing to the shortage of skilled labour, it was the practice in the convict settlements to grant artisans, accountants, and farm labourers, providing that their conduct warranted it, what was called a “ticket-of-leave”. Since few of the convicts were desperate characters, it was a practice widely adopted, and meant that the convict chosen was, to a great extent, free. Although not allowed to quit a particular district without the Governor’s permission, he was at liberty to behave, to all intents and purposes, as if he had been pardoned. Emancipation was the next step up the ladder—freedom granted when his sentence had run out or he had received a direct pardon. No pardon, however, could be granted unless the wrong-doer had served at least a part of his sentence. To the colonists themselves, this supply of labour was an inestimable boon. It also relieved the treasury from the expense of maintenance, separated the convicts, and associated the better-conducted of them with reputable families.

Twenty years after the original settlement, the first object upon which the visitor’s eye alighted in an Australian town was its gaol, or “factory”—an imposing two-storied edifice built of brick. The census of 1833 gives the population of New South Wales as just over sixty thousand, twenty-five thousand of whom were convicts; and it was still a common sight to pass chain-gangs of silent, grey-clad labourers clanking along with a straddling gait, their close-cut hair covered with leather caps—each x marked with his number and the name of his station in large letters on his back. The disproportion of the sexes in the total population was remarkable—some forty-five thousand men as opposed to fifteen thousand women. This led to the habit of using the female “factories” as marriage markets; and in the Mitchell Library in Sydney there is an account of a visit paid with matrimonial intentions by a respectable farmer. At the entrance of the factory he was received by a dignified matron with a large bunch of keys, who conducted him to the central yard where fifty or sixty young women were lined up for his inspection. They were dressed in grey duffle with white mob caps, under which protruded, untidy wisps of short-cropped hair. As he passed down the ranks, the poor creatures saluted him with curtsies. Not a word was spoken. The farmer does not tell us whether or not he found a wife, but one gets the impression that he did not much enjoy his visit.

From the yard he was taken round to see the several courts, the solitary cells, the hospital and dormitories; and in one of the yards he was shown the more troublesome and notorious characters. The visiting-surgeon of the establishment had just found it necessary to prescribe half-rations, and a gende treatment of ipecacuanha, to a ferocious giantess who had let fly at him with a fine display of Billingsgate oaths. In another yard, he came across a group of women with their illegitimate children. They were sitting in an open shed sheltering from the sun, while they watched over some wooden cribs in each of which lay three or four babies, stowed away, head to tail, like sardines; others were curling about like a litter of kittens in a basket of straw. Another part of the prison was devoted to laundry work, with squads of women up to their elbows in suds, some displaying their thick ankles as they spread the linen over the drying lines.

As he was escorted along the avenues of solitary cells, there was a great unlocking of massive doors, in one of which a woman was carding, while in another a woman was combing wool. A third cell was opened and found to be in complete darkness. “It seemed empty,” writes the farmer, “so I passed within the door better to examine its contents. It looked like the den of a wolf, and I almost started back when from the extreme end of the floor I found a pair of bright, flashing eyes fixed on mine. Their owner arose and took a step or two forward. It was a small, slight and quite young girl—very beautiful in feature and complexion—but it was the fierce beauty of the wildcat.” At no period of his life, confessed the honest fellow, would he have “shared for half an hour the cell of that sleek little savage.” As the heavy door slammed in her face, and the strong bolts shot in the groove, the turnkey informed her visitor that this was one of the most refractory and unmanageable characters in the prison.

In 1840, we find that twenty-one thousand convicts were assigned to private service; and a further census taken in 1849 shows a free population of two hundred and forty-three thousand versus four thousand convicts. Meanwhile, free grants of land having been offered to encourage settlers, the population had swelled and the new colony was expanding. Tasmania was discovered, and a road wound its way over the Blue Mountains to the interior. Melbourne was founded, then Adelaide. At last, Australia has become the compact land mass familiar to us in our atlas. Once she established herself and her commercial future had been assured by the production of magnificent wool, the colony developed national pride, and began to display some sensitiveness on the subject of her humble origins. As the result of a petition to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, transportation was temporarily suspended in 1840, and finally abolished in 1850. Backed by the clergy, the Colonial Council had managed to convince the authorities at home “of the moral and social evil inherent in a penal colony and of the degradation attached to it in the opinion of mankind at large.” The “Hashemy”— “that Floating Hell,” as popular orators called her, with her “cargo of moral poison”—was the last convict-ship to drop anchor in Sydney Harbour. Exactly sixty-one years had elapsed since Governor Phillip had planted the Union Jack on precisely the spot where this last shipment of convicts now landed.

“Convict,” thenceforward, was a word seldom heard in New South Wales. The transportee was referred to as “a pensioner of the Crown,” an “old Hand,” a “Government Man,” or was merely described as having been “sent out.” These euphemisms were employed not so much for the benefit of the actual offenders as to spare the feelings of their descendants. Macquarie, with his liberal rule, had shown the way. Officers of the garrison were continually complaining of having to dine at Government House in the company with convicts, “dubious characters that one would avoid in the street”; and Macquarie was even accused of preferring their company. They may, indeed, have been more amusing, more nimble-witted than many officials and free colonists. A settler newly arrived in Sydney, say in the year 1840, must have been curious, and perhaps uneasy, regarding the degree of influence exerted on the social system by the numerous body of affluent emancipists; and here is a contemporary account by Colonel Mundy, Deputy Adjutant-General in Australia, author of Our Antipodes, of the situation as he knew it.

“It seems almost incredible (writes Colonel Mundy) that, living in the very midst of this community—in many cases in equal and even superior style to what may be called the aristocracy—possessing some of the handsomest residences in the city and suburbs— warehouses, counting houses, banking establishments, shipping, immense tracts of land, flocks and herds, enjoying all the political and material immunities in common with those possessing equal fortunes, of the more reputable classes—they are, nevertheless, a class apart from the untainted.

There is a line of demarcation by them peremptorily impassable. The impudent and pushing, and these are few, are repelled. The unobtrusive and retiring are not encouraged. Their place on the social scale is assigned and circumscribed. They have, humanly speaking, expiated their crimes, whatever these may have been, the nature of them has, probably, never passed beyond the record of the Superintendent’s office. They belong indeed to the common flock; but they are the black sheep of it. They are treated with humanity and consideration, but in a certain degree they are compelled to herd together.

The merchants and men of business generally meet them on equal terms in the negotiation of affairs in which their wealth, intelligence, and commercial weight sometimes necessarily involve them. They do not presume on this partial admission to equality, but fall back into their prescribed position when the business which has called the two orders into temporary contact has been completed. Official juxtaposition does not bring with it any plea for social intimacy… As I write this,” continues the Colonel, “there passes my window a well-known individual of this class in a smart new barouche, with a showy pair of horses caparisoned in plated harness, and a coachman and page in livery and laced hats.”

The brand was bound to wear out in the course of time; in fact, this is precisely what has happened; for it would be difficult at the present day to trace any family among Australia’s seven and a half millions whose ancestors are known quite definitely to have been convicts. Many of them, I am told, disabled by the hardships they had endured, died without issue.

Thus began the immense development of the post-convict period. Sydney grew from an outpost into a large modern city. Macquarie had rechristened her streets; Sergeant-Major’s Row became George Street after the King, and Windmill Alley Castlereagh Street. A town with Sydney’s future, he argued, could not go through life with so plebeian a nomenclature. There were, of course, frequent reminders of the Governor himself; while, beyond George Street, spread a network of streets named after royal dukes, Clarence, York, Kent, Essex, Cambridge and Cumberland. From an obelisk, erected in Macquarie Place, the mileage was measured, and new thoroughfares radiated out into the fast developing hinterland. The monotonous bush, subjected to the axe, took on a more gracious aspect. Rivers, banked with willows, meandered through rolling fields, and cattle grazed in rich pastures.

Driving today around the country, through the early grants developed by Australia’s leading families, one is astonished by the number of charming old houses, churches and inns. Since ships still took three months or more to reach Australia from Europe, building fashions were necessarily slow to change; and, well on into the Victorian era, the colony was still living fifteen or twenty-five years behind the times. Instead of the bad taste that had begun to manifest itself in English domestic architecture, we see Ionic colonnades of golden-yellow stone, six-panelled doors and twelve-panel windows. The sun filtering through circular bays falls on stone-flagged floors. Handsome cornices frame white plaster ceilings. From the shade of white porches we look out on to cloud-capped plains. As new townships extended in an ever-widening circle, explorers investigated the interior, and brought back reports of the excellent grazing in the great central deserts. Gold was discovered. Convicts became a thing of the past, a legend almost, a subject for humour. Australians today rarely speak of them. They have simply been forgotten. It is only the visitor who shows a certain curiosity.

 

 
 

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The Key to a Good-Paying Job Is…Microsoft Excel?

 

Could this be the ticket to a good-paying job?

iStockphoto/Getty Images

Want a job that promises a living wage and a good shot at a middle-class life? LearnMicrosoft MSFT +0.13% Excel and other basic digital skills.

That’s the conclusion of a report released Thursday by Burning Glass Technologies, a labor-market analysis firm that reviewed millions of job postings to understand which skills companies expect workers to have. The report focuses on middle-skill jobs – roles that require a high school diploma but not necessarily a college degree.

Some 78% of these jobs, or about 6.3 million open positions, call for some fluency with technology, Burning Glass found. Those positions are also the most promising in terms of pay and job creation, including occupations in healthcare, technology, and operations.

The most commonly required skills are also the most basic ones: spreadsheet and word-processing software such as Microsoft Corp.’s Excel and Word, or the software from SAP SE SAP +0.14% and Oracle Corp.ORCL +0.36%, which large companies use to manage things like finances and human resources. (A worthwhile aside: Planet Money’s deep dive into the history of the spreadsheet.) Such expertise has become critical for office and administrative positions, retail supervisors, and store managers, among others.

Sixty-seven percent of middle-skill jobs demand proficiency with these tools.

“Effectively, entire segments of the U.S. economy are off-limits to people who don’t have basic digital skills,” the report notes.

Positions that require basic digital skills tend to pay 13% more than jobs that require no digital chops: median pay of $22.66 per hour versus $20.14 per hour.

Roles calling for advanced digital skills, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software like that offered by Salesforce.com Inc.CRM +1.05% or a design tool like Adobe Systems Inc.ADBE +0.92%’s Photoshop, pay even more: a median of $27.73 per hour.

Middle-skill jobs have become the holy grail to economists who are concerned that the U.S labor market is becoming “hollowed out,” with employers adding mostly low-wage jobs for the two-thirds of workers without a college degree and high-paying jobs for graduates, but few jobs in between that can build and sustain a middle class.

The digital revolution has hardly affected prospects for workers in fields like transportation, construction and installation/repair. But wages and growth are lagging in those occupations, Burning Glass found, suggesting that middle-skill careers in healthcare, financial operations, sales, and management offer far more career and earnings potential.

The findings about basic skills should ease some worries among people who have become convinced that workers are sunk unless they learn to code. In fact, the report suggests that schools and other training sites should go back to the basics as they think about developing the future workforce:

Important challenges are being overlooked in the debate over how to invest in education and training. That debate often centers on high-tech industries, sophisticated computer skills (coding, for example), or specialized skill development for particular occupations. To be sure, these more advanced skills also represent important areas for workforce investment, but clearly a focus on the basics—such as widely used productivity applications and social media tools—would pay significant dividends for many workers.

Burning Glass reviewed nationwide job postings collected from December 2013 to November 2014. It defines middle-skill jobs as “those with less than 80% of job postings calling for a bachelor’s degree and with a median hourly wage above the national living wage of $15.” Part of the reason for the 80% cut-off score is that employers in recent years have exhibited “credential creep,” demanding college degrees for positions where the skills required don’t suggest a degree should be necessary.

The report was commissioned by Capital One Financial Corp.COF +0.20%, which on Thursday also announced that it will invest $150 million over five years in efforts to train mostly low-income individuals in digital skills via partnerships with technology school General Assembly and Grovo Learning Inc., a website that offers short training videos focused on skills such as using Google GOOGL +0.45% Analytics and Microsoft Office.

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FCC adopts historic Internet rules: The FCC has passed a historic measure to more strictly regulate the Internet.

FCC adopts historic Internet rules

The FCC has passed a historic measure to more strictly regulate the Internet.

The new rules, based on the principles of “net neutrality,” act to provide equal opportunity for Internet speeds and access to websites.

The central question was whether network owners — like Comcast (CMCSA) or Time Warner Cable(TWC) — can discriminate what runs on their cables. The FCC’s answer on Thursday was: No.

The Democratic-led commission approved 3-to-2, split along party lines, to assert extra government authority over the Internet.

Now for the wild claims on both sides: “We saved the Internet!” or “We’ve destroyed it with government bureaucracy!”

Don’t believe the hype. Take a deep breath. It’s a long, tricky road ahead.

The FCC rules won’t be official until maybe summertime. Then major telecom companies will challenge new rules in court. A judge might put the rules on hold. The next president, if Republican, could let this fizzle away.

That’s why, in the near term, nothing changes. No, Netflix won’t suddenly stream any faster. No, AT&T and Comcast won’t abruptly stop laying down high-speed fiber cables in your neighborhood as retaliation. And yes, Netflix can still cut deals with broadband companies for faster access to a network.

So what just happened, exactly? The FCC just granted itself the power to defeat a raging, fire-breathing monster: the monopolistic network owners who can kill Internet freedom by blocking websites — or by creating an Internet fast lane for the privileged, few, rich tech companies that can pay for it.

But this monster is actually a phantom menace. Sure, in the past, telecoms have been bullies. Verizon blocked Google Wallet. AT&T blocked video chatting apps. Comcast slowed down file-sharing services like BitTorrent. Rural telephone provider Madison River blocked Vonage’s over-the-Internet phone calls. However, the FCC used existing rules to fix those problems.

The new rules essentially maintain the status quo. The Internet sure feels free today. It’ll feel the same way tomorrow.

That’s why some worry about how the FCC just ensured net neutrality. To enforce fairness rules, the agency will regulate network owners by scooping them up under Title II of the 1934 Telecommunications Act, a specific set of regulations that apply to phone companies. Telecoms say the rules don’t match the services they provide. They don’t trust the FCC’s promise that it will apply only a tiny fraction of those rules and won’t regulate rates and increase taxes.

“Assurances like these don’t tend to last very long,” warned Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. “Expect … regulation to ratchet up as time goes on.”

Meanwhile, Tom Wheeler, the FCC chairman who ditched his original dialed-back plan for this one, assured this isn’t a government power grab.

“This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech,” he said. “They both stand for the same concept: openness, expression and an absence of gatekeepers.”

How did we start caring about this? Credit comedian John Oliver, who got enough viewers of his HBO show that a record 4 million Americans sent comments to the FCC.

He framed it from the point of view of the average person dealing with their Internet service provider. Plans are expensive, service is inexplicably spotty and you have little choice. Clearly, the network owners are the bad guys.

During Thursday’s hearing, the testimony of those who spoke in favor of the FCC’s new rules all took that populist tone. Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson thanked the FCC for “protecting the Internet as an engine for economic opportunity.” Celebrated technologist Sir Tim Berners-Lee said this ensures modern entrepreneurs the same opportunity he had when he created the World Wide Web 26 years ago.

After the vote, President Obama issued this statement via Twitter: “Today’s FCC decision will protect innovation and create a level playing field for the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

But wait, there’s a third option. As this fight makes its way through the courts, Congress has the opportunity to stand up and write rules that work too.

After all, both network owners and the websites that flow data through them have a point. Outright blocking and anti-competitive behavior is unfair and should be illegal. On the other hand, for technical reasons, network owners need to manage traffic. Your video stream needs to move faster than your email for your experience to feel smooth.

That’s why critics call the Title II approach — what the FCC did today — a blunt instrument. But it’s not clear that it’s as wonderful — or terrible — as everyone says.

Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a technology policy think tank, laments how the conversation has spiraled out of control.

“This has become a debate about a false choice: letting carriers do whatever the heck they want and overly burdensome regulations,” Atkinson said.

Cisco CEO critical of net neutrality
Cisco CEO critical of net neutrality

 

 
 

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The Problem with Being Too Nice

Leaders are placed under a tremendous amount of pressure to be relatable, human and … nice. Many yield to this instinct, because it feels much easier to be liked. Few people want to be the bad guy. But leaders are also expected to make the tough decisions that serve the company or the team’s best interests. Being too nice can be lazy, inefficient, irresponsible, and harmful to individuals and the organization.

I’ve seen this happen numerous times. A few years ago, a senior staff member of mine made the wrong hire. This can happen to anyone, and the best way to remedy the situation is to address it quickly. Despite my urging to cut the tie, this staff member kept trying to make it work. While I laud the instinct to coach, fast forward two months later, and we were undergoing a rancorous – and unnecessary – transition process. There’s a key lesson here for any leader. Nice is only good when it’s coupled with a rational perspective and the ability to make difficult choices.

Here are a few other other recognizable scenarios where being nice isn’t doing you – or anyone – any favors:

Turning to polite deception. You’ve been in these brainstorming meetings – everyone is trying to hack a particular problem, and someone with power raises a ridiculous idea. Instead of people addressing it honestly, brows furrow, heads nod like puppets on strings, and noncommittal murmurs go around. No one feels empowered to gently suggest why that particular idea won’t work. At my company, rejecting polite deception is a big part of how we do business. When something isn’t right, we call each other out on it respectfully, then and there, without delay. Why? It’s not helpful to foster an everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality; you have to earn the honors to get the honors.

The long linger. Sometimes a hire just won’t cut it in a certain role. It might seem easier to keep an employee in place rather than to resolve the mismatch – but it actually is not. Resist the temptation to prolong confrontation, to see if things will get better. It is more of a disservice to let someone flounder, especially when it’s clear that he or she just isn’t hitting the mark. Be kind and communicate clearly, but don’t be nice. Be surgical about it. Make the clean cut. Help the person transition somewhere he or she can succeed. Handling employee issues immediately helps your culture and productivity – over time, you’ll attract employees with similar values and convictions.

Don’t be a doormat. When you’re too nice – to suppliers who can’t deliver on time, to colleagues who don’t do their work, to customers who refuse to pay – you’re actually letting others take advantage of you and your business. When you’re overly generous with your allowances for others, you create a fertile atmosphere for contempt to spread. Imagine the reactions of your most talented, focused, and motivated employees as they watch lackluster coworkers get pass after pass. Anger and resentment take root, morale plummets, and turnover starts to go up, up, up. Think of how loyal customers will react if they see how easy it is for others to take advantage of your services. Your reputation will surely suffer. These problems become more difficult to solve as they pile up. You don’t need to be severe to be respected, but you do need to hold your organization to certain standards — and you must be firm about people meeting them. Setting rules will help you when decisive action is needed. No more delays, no demurring, no debating.

Failing the introspection test. Are you too nice to yourself? Introspection is a powerful leadership tool, but we often forget to use it. When you ask yourself what behaviors hold you and your team back, you can recalibrate your leadership style for the better. When you give employees the space to give you the hard truths, without fear of repercussion, you’ll get valuable perspective and make a giant leap forward in maturing as a leader.

Of course, this doesn’t mean managers get a free pass to be disrespectful, cruel, or a bully in the workplace. There’s a world of difference between being an effective leader with high expectations and dealing with problem after problem caused by milquetoast management. Beware of confusing being nice – or being liked – with being a good leader.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in African American News

 

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16 Weird Forgotten English Words We Should Bring Back

IMAGE CREDIT:
GETTY IMAGES (MAIN) / THINKSTOCK (CHEESE) / ERIN MCCARTHY

English changes all the time, often in subtle ways—so it’s not surprising that we’ve lost many delightful words and phrases along the way. In his wonderful book Forgotten English, Jeffrey Kacirk takes a closer look at the origins and histories of these language relics. Here are a few of our favorite words from the book; for more, check out Kacirk’s website.

1. ASTROLOGAMAGE

The medieval era’s Miss Cleos, these so-called wise men made predictions based on what was happening in the sky.

2. CRAPULENCE

This word, from the Latin root crapula, arose in the 18th century. According to Kacirk, it “denoted intestinal and cranial distress … arising from intemperance and debauchery.” Put another way: If you get crunk, expect crapulence.

3. EYE-SERVANT

A term describing a servant who did his duty only lazily except when within sight of his master, “a form of insincerity known as ‘eye-service,'” Kacirk notes. Replace servant with employee and master with boss, and you could probably know a few people to whom this term would apply.

4. FLITTERWOCHEN

This Old English expression (probably borrowed from German) meant “fleeting weeks,” and refers to what we today call a honeymoon. Flitterwochen is, obviously, a much better word.

5. FRIBBLER

Though this term comes from the 18th century, chances are you know a fribbler. He says he’s really into a lady, but just won’t commit. The behavior of a fribbler was called fribbledom, by the way.

6. GROANING-CHEESE

Back in the day, husbands didn’t just hold their wives’ hands during childbirth—they gave them the medieval version of an epidural: Cheese. Groaning-cheese was said to soothe a lady in labor, and so husbands paired it with groaning-cake and groaning-drink.

7. GROG-BLOSSOM

A word from the 18th century for the dilation of blood vessels—caused by long-term overconsumption of the drink—in an alcoholic’s nose.

8. LETTICE-CAP

A medical device (which Kacirk says resembles a hair net) that was used in the 16th and 17th centuries. After the patient’s head was shaved, the cap was filled with herbs and placed on his head, supposedly curing him of ailments like headaches and insomnia.

9. MUMPSIMUS

This Middle English word originally meant “an incorrigible, dogmatic old pedant,” but eventually came to refer to an incorrect opinion that someone clung to. According to Kacirk, the word originated with an illiterate 15th century clergyman, who incorrectly copied the Latin word sumpsimus and read it in mass.

10. NIGHT-HAG

If people living from medieval times up until the 19th century had a bad dream, they could blame it on a night-hag. This female demon’s M.O. was to kidnap people at night on horseback, and give them nightmares by “producing a feeling of suffocation,” according to Kacirk. There were a number of strategies for keeping a night-hag at bay, including: placing bread blessed at the local parish under a child’s pillow; arranging shoes under the bed with the toes pointing out; and hanging flint chips—aka hag-stones—around the bedposts.

11. NIMGIMMER

A 17th century term for a surgeon who specialized in curing pox or the clap.

12. NUMBLES

This Anglo-Saxon word, taken from Old French, refers to animal intestines and internal organs, which were eaten by peasants in a dish called garbage pye. Yum!

13. PETTY-FOGGER

From the the 16th to 19th centuries, people would have called lawyers like Breaking Bad‘s Saul Goodman petty-foggers. “For a fee, these attorneys were willing to quibble over insignificant legal points … or use unethical practices in order to win a case,” Kacirk writes.

14. PIGGESNYE

Chaucer coined this term (which, according to Kacirk, comes from the phrase “pig’s eye”) for a sweetheart. Use it next Valentine’s Day and see what happens.

15. PILGARLIK

A 16th century word for a bald head, which apparently resembled peeled garlic.

16. RATTONER

Nobody wants to say that the exterminator is coming over. Use this 14th century term—taken from the Old French word raton and the Medieval Latin word ratonis, which both refer to rats, according to Kacirk—instead.

May 21, 2014 – 7:00pm

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2015 in African American News

 

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