Dec 30th, 2011
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This Day in History 1922
In post-revolutionary Russia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is established, comprising a confederation of Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine, and the Transcaucasian Federation (divided in 1936 into the Georgian, Azerbaijan, and Armenian republics). Also known as the Soviet Union, the new communist state was the successor to the Russian Empire and the first country in the world to be based on Marxist socialism.
During the Russian Revolution of 1917 and subsequent three-year Russian Civil War, the Bolshevik Party under Vladimir Lenin dominated the soviet forces, a coalition of workers' and soldiers' committees that called for the establishment of a socialist state in the former Russian Empire. In the USSR, all levels of government were controlled by the Communist Party, and the party's politburo, with its increasingly powerful general secretary, effectively ruled the country. Soviet industry was owned and managed by the state, and agricultural land was divided into state-run collective farms. Click here to read more.
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US Retailers Gifted Christmas Boost
Late holiday shoppers—in the week leading up to Christmas and on the day after—provided the boost to lift 2011 holiday sales past the last year’s total, according to data released Wednesday. Consumers spent approximately $44 billion in GAFO retail sales for the week ending Dec. 24—a 37.8 percent increase over the previous week and a 14.8 percent gain year-over-year, according to ShopperTrak, which provides traffic counting services at retail stores and malls. Foot traffic was also high, increasing 32.4 percent from the prior week.
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'Outrage' Over Verizon's Plan For $2 Payment Fee
There's been an "uproar on the Web," as The New York Times says this morning, over the plan by Verizon Wireless to charge $2 for some methods of paying your bill. As Eyder reported Thursday, Verizon plans to start charging the fee if you go online or call the company on the phone to make a one-time payment with a credit or debit card. What Verizon is trying to do is steer customers toward signing up to pay their bills via electronic checks, through automatic payment programs or the old-fashioned way — by dropping a check in the mail.
Looking Forward to 2012: The Continued Demise of Cash
Okay, so cash isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, but 2012 looks to be a pivotal year in the transition towards a world where we have options besides just cash and credit. What’s wrong with the way things are? Let’s start with cash. It costs a lot to withdraw from the ATM, nobody will reimburse you if it’s stolen, not to mention that walking around with a bulging wallet seems strangely anachronistic in a world where super-slim smartphones do everything from recording video to telling you where your friends are eating dinner.
Four Trends to Watch for Prepaid Cards in 2012
Prepaid credit cards are growing in popularity among consumers fed up with bank fees. In 2011, consumers loaded about $460 billion onto prepaid cards, according to research from Mercator Advisory Group. And by 2016, the amount of money added to prepaid cards is expected to mushroom by almost 50 percent to nearly $685 billion. If you are considering a prepaid card, here are four trends among prepaid cards to watch for in 2012.
Mobile Payments to Make Slow Progress in 2012
Operator partnerships and small-scale mobile payment trials will start to bear fruit in 2012 and some analysts think Apple will make a play for our wallets. But mass-market acceptance will still allude the sector, according to analysts. In some ways, 2011 was a disappointing year for mobile payments and NFC (Near Field Communications). Even if the industry isn't as far along as expected, it is moving forward.
McAfee Labs 2012 Threat Predictions
Predicting future threats can be a hit-or-miss exercise. Certainly it is interesting to put on our wizard hats and prognosticate about what may happen in the coming months, but how much do threats really change each year? The past 12 months were a transformative year in many ways, but were these transformations revolutionary or evolutionary? We saw great changes in mobile threats, hacktivism, client-side exploitation, social-media exploitation, and targeted attacks.
Smaller Firms Optimistic but Worries Linger; 'At Some Point You Have to Spend Money'
12/29/11 The Wall Street Journal
After years of sputtering, many of America's nearly 30 million small businesses could see at least modest improvements next year. About 24% of 781 small-business owners surveyed in Nov. said they were planning capital outlays in the next three to six months, according to the National Federation of Independent Business, a Washington-based small-business lobbying group. That's the highest its been in 40 months, but 5 to 10 percentage points below typical levels in past periods of growth.
Confidence Rises Sharply, but Home Prices Fall
12/27/11 The New York Times
A monthly survey released Tuesday shows consumers' confidence in the economy in December surged to the highest level since April and was near a post-recession peak. But a separate private report said home prices in most major cities in the United States fell for the second straight month in October. The New York-based Conference Board said that its Consumer Confidence Index rose almost 10 points to 64.5, up from a revised 55.2 in November. Analysts had expected 59.
Different Degrees of Breach Response
The key message from the recent court ruling on the Hannaford data breach: You don't have to suffer fraud to be a victim. A federal appeals court recently ruled in favor of victims of the 2007 Hannaford data breach. According to this ruling, some victims of the payment card breach at Hannaford, a supermarket chain, can sue for damages resulting from the costs of card replacement, theft insurance and other "reasonable" mitigation efforts.
New DoJ Interpretation Could Lead to State-by-State Online Betting, Despite UIGEA
12/28/11 Digital Transactions
A 5-year-old law that bans U.S. banks and processors from handling online-gambling transactions won’t stand in the way of a U.S. Justice Department opinion released last week that appears to clear the way for intrastate online betting. The DoJ on Dec. 23 released a 13-page memorandum giving states the authority to sell lottery tickets online within their states. Experts have interpreted the document as a green light for intrastate online poker and other wagering games as well.
Who Needs Banks? Mopay Pushes Broadband Bill as an Alternative
When online shoppers are looking for alternatives to credit and debit cards, Mopay Inc. hopes they will consider adding charges to their Internet service provider's bill. Enrolling in such systems "may require an extra step, but it doesn't take as many steps as going to get the credit card out of your wallet, entering a 16-digit credit card number and additional three-digit code, and then worrying about fraud," says Kolja Reiss, Mopay's managing director.
HSBC Card & Retail Services Renews Private Label Credit Card Agreements With Saks Incorporated and Three Other Top Companies
HSBC North America's Card and Retail Services business has reached agreement with Saks Incorporated and three other major retailers to continue their private label credit card programs. In addition to reaching a new agreement with Saks, HSBC also renewed the programs for Darvin Furniture, Big Lots and Jordan's Furniture. All four companies have also agreed to the assignment of their program agreements to Capital One upon closing of its planned acquisition of HSBC's card and retail services business.
The Top 10 Tech Stories of 2011
From the TouchPad to the iPad, Steve Jobs to the fictional "iPhone 5," 2011 had its share of major tech stories. We lost an icon, debated the merits of Android vs. iOS, saw a few notable companies struggle through major PR snafus, and witnessed more than one battle play out in the courts and on Capitol Hill. Barring the release of a new Apple product, a huge merger, or a major privacy gaffe in the next few days, here are the biggest tech news stories of 2011, as well as a few honorable mentions.