Archives for the Month of December 2005 on Through the Magnifying Glass
Ok, when you get a group of people together to buy a batch of lottery tickets for the Megamillions Lottery or the Powerball Lottery, or even the state lottery, remember to do the following:
1. The organizer of the lottery purchase must get the required $5 or any specified amount from each participant
2. He/she would go the nearest convenience store that sells lottery tickets and make the necessary purchase
3. He/she would then make a copy of the lottery tickets and distribute it among the people that have entered the pool.
4. If any of the lottery numbers score, the group can choose to re-invest the winnings (if the amount won was really small), or ensure that each person gets the proper winning amount (if won 1st or 2nd prize).
Unfortunately, it did not happen for a group of Ohio lottery players in Warren. These ten people used to get together regularly for breakfast, and they would chip in five bucks apiece, and the organizer would buy the lottery tickets for the group. Sometimes they would win 10-12 dollars from time to time. But on October 7, one of the organizer's tickets did win -- $250,000.
The bad news is that the organizer said the winning ticket did not come from the group's batch but from his wife's who purchased them a few days earlier. The rest of the group investigated, got some data from the Lottery Commission, and confronted the organizer with evidence that the winning ticket was bought with the group's batch, not his wife. The result out of all of this -- LAWSUIT!
They are suing the organizer for $450,000 in punitive and compensatory damages. I guess that's one way to lose the group's friendship. This whole thing would not happen if the guy made copies of the tickets he bought to the rest of the players. It would have avoided any miscommunication or any mistrust. I know of some friends that would do a pool of tickets, then buy some on the side.
The preliminary hearing is being held next Thursday morning at Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.
WKBN News - Friendly Lottery Club Turns to Lawsuit
SBA Loan 9/11 Scandal
As the year draws to a close, we want to give a bah-humbug to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for issuing loans from a program designed to help businesses hurt from the events of 9/11 to recipients not even hurt by the attacks.
In the Business Week article, it stated that most companies interviewed told investigators from the IG, the agency's internal watchdog that they weren't hurt by the suicide attacks and didn't know they were getting terrorism assistance.
85% of the loans failed to document that the recipient were actually hurt by the attacks and therefore eligible for federal aid.
Out of a sample case of 59 recipients, only 9 of them were qualified for special disaster loans. The Associated Press (AP) found that loans were sent to businesses including a South Dakota radio station, a Virgin Islands prefume store, a Utah dog boutique, and more than 100 Dunkin' Donuts and Subway sandwich shops in various locations. For small businesses situated around Ground Zero, they couldn't get the assistance or were denied automatically. In a NY Post article today, Jan Fried, owner of Steamers Landing, an eatery for pizza, pastas, and seafood, was just blocks away from the former WTC site, but her loan application to the SBA, but was denied. The feds demanded that Fried's business partner put up his home for collateral, his condo board wouldn't allow it. She had to go get a bank loan for herself and after spending $600,000, she managed to reopen the restaurant.
SBA Administrator Hector Barreto said that lender documentation could have been better. A ridculous answer. Lenders that participated in the program stated that the requirements were unclear and that the SBA was marketing heavily that almost any small business could "claim" that they were negatively impacted by the attacks, and therefore, eligible to receive a STAR loan.
So how can this program be mis-managed so inappropriately? What was Hector Barreto's previous job before this? He raised a lot of funds for Republican campaigns. According to Hispanic Business, he was one of the GOP's top ten Hispanic fundraisers in 2000. I guess money management was not a "Top Ten" category for him.
The SBA faced a congressional inquiry but when it defended itself saying that it followed the law in issuing nearly $5 billion in loans to small businesses, it distributed an audit report that praised its operations. Unfortunately, it failed to hand out a second report by the same congressional auditing agency that criticized its post-9/11 relief work.
It's a damn shame that businesses around Ground Zero were denied funds while a Subway sandwich shop in Ohio got a loan from the program. With an almost bottomless money barrel, the federal government just doesn't know how much money it is accurately giving out. No wonder why it is so easy to dupe the feds.
Happy New Year!
Student Loan Cuts
Cutting federal spending has proved elusive as ever. As defense and the entitlement juggernauts of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security continue to grow, mostly everything else in our US federal budget has been squeezed again and again in search of savings.
The spending cuts bill that was passed by the Senate last Wednesday would save $39.7 billion during the next five years. In the bill that was passed 51-50 with Vice President Cheney's vote, approximately $12.7 billion will be cut from the student loan programs.
The legislation would fix interest rates at 6.8 percent for Stafford loans, even if commerical rates are lower. Currently, rates are variable and for this year, the rate is 5.3 percent. Parents who take advantage of the Parent PLUS loan will be fixed at 8.5 percent. This year it was at 6 percent. Overall, the program will also be extended to parents of graduate students.
Now, some say that with the economy continuing to get better, interest rates will continue to rise. So in the end students will see some savings by the time they graduate, but for those that have chosen to pursue a variable rate on their federal loans and they are looking at graduating this year, you may have to start consulting the Financial Aid Dept on whether it should be appropriate for you to consolidate your loans to a low fixed interest rate.
The bill will also raise the amounts that first-year and second-year students can borrow through the Stafford loan program. Under the plan, the cap of $2,625 for freshmen would go up to $3,500. for sophomores, it will go from $3,500 to $4,500. Unfortunately, the overall cap of $23,000 over five years will remain the same, and it has stayed at that same level over more than a decade. This may prove difficult for students that are pursuing double-degrees or programs that will last for five years, and they may almost max out the amount of federal subsidized loans they can get from the Stafford program.
The Pell Grant allocation remains capped at $4,050, but the annual income cutoff for the maximum grant goes from $15,000 to $20,000. The legislation also creates $4,000 grants for students who major in math, science, and certain foreign languages.
With Case's average cost of $41,429 per year, the actions by the federal govt concerning federal loans has to be a sign of worry among propsective and current students.
The bill which has been passed by the Senate will go to the House for approval. If there are no changes, then it will go to President Bush for his signature. The legislation will go into effect immediately. So we may look at mid-January as the implementation date. For seniors graduating this coming May, you may have to start consulting with the FinAid office on whether you can consolidate your loans now and lock them at a fixed low interest rate. For current students, I do not know if you can consolidate your existing loans now, then deal with getting loans at a higher interest rate next year. All answers will likely be found at the FinAid dept, or check with the Dept of Education web site.
Free-Region DVD Players
So the Trivia Pursuit DVD game I bought in London and brought back for my family cannot be played on any of our DVD players. Europe is Region 2, USA is Region 1, so I get the blasted "Region Error" msg on the screen.
Region coding is the dirty little secret of DVD. The world is divided into six major geographical regions, with two additional regions for specialized use. This means that DVD players and DVDs are labeled for operation within a specific geographical region in the world.
The reason for the existence of region coding is to protect copyright and film distribution rights. Since movies are released in theaters in different parts of the world at different times, a summer blockbuster in the US will be a winter blockbuster in the UK. If that occurs, the DVD version of the movie may be out in the US while it is still showing in theaters overseas.
In the UK, many stores are selling free-region dvd players so you would be able to view movies bought in the US, Asia, and other countries. Because of the popularity of such code-free DVD players, Hollywood has instituted another layer of coding on Region 1 DVD's called RCE (Regional Coding Enhancement). This would prevent selected Region 1 DVD's from playing on code-free dvd players. Another hitch are the different video systems. In the US, NTSC is the preferred method. In Europe, it is the PAL. Thus, customers in Europe own multi-system TVs that can view DVD's in either NTSC or PAL.
The best solution is to release films and videos at the same time everywhere. There have been a few cases where Harry Potter opened in both the US and UK at the same time. For Lord of the Rings, it opened at the same time in several countries. But in the end, opening it at the same time for everyone is the best result for the consumer. This would eliminate the need for region coding.
While movie and video companies believe that region coding protects them, it is just a pain for the consumer. I have to play the Trivia Pursuit DVD on my computer since I have a region-free software so we can enjoy the game. Since I travel quite a lot, I own a free-region DVD player, so by the time I get back to the states, I wouldn't have to worry about buying a DVD player for Region 1 and another for Region 2. Plus, I wouldn't have to worry about buying a NTSC or PAL player either. Some DVD programs on PC give you a certain number of tries to select your region, then it stays permanent. Fortunately, you can find many applications out there that can break it, or find a DVD player program that plays any region DVD you may have.
The only groups that are benefiting from this are the movie studios and the marketers of Code-Free DVD players since they are providing a way to get around the region coding. I am sure that if region coding is eliminated, then I wouldn't have to worry to buy a third-party free-region dvd player.
Preserving Xmas for the children
In Lebanon, PA, a substitute teacher decided to do a literal analysis of the Clement C. Moore's poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" to a bunch of six-year and seven-year olds. She proceeded to refute each section of the poem, and mentioned that the myth of Santa Clause was based on a person who died in 343AD. Of course, the kids thought it meant that Santa was dead after all.
The substitute does not believe in Santa Claus and she made her feelings clear to the classroom. She explained that "those same children are going to know someday that what their parents taught them is false."
Parents have expressed concerns about the incident when they reported their kids came home crying saying that the sub stated there was no St. Nick.
I am sure that all of us have grown up realizing that there is no Santa Claus and that our parents were the ones that bought the xmas presents, but a good many of us still leave a glass of milk and a plate of cookies near the fireplace. Parents tell their children generation after generation that they have to be good to get their present from St. Nicholas. Of course there will be a time and place where the truth comes out, but it's better to find that on your own or from your parents.
The sub made a poor decision in telling the kids the truth. I don't see why she felt it was necessary to tell them what is really out there. At what appropriate age is this justified?
LDNews.com - Grinchy remark sends kids home in tears
For international travelers coming into the US, in particular for Newark Liberty International Airport, we have to pay $3.00 for getting the baggage cart from the turnstile. Now, for some common sense, not all arrivals will have US currency especially quarters or dollar coins for the machine (though it does accept credit cards).
From the gate to customs, there is no change machine nor a Travelex currency booth so travelers can exchange their foreign currency for US dollars. Plus, in most cases, you would get mostly bills, not coins since US does not really hand out dollar coins (nor does it have two-dollar coins like the euro or pound).
Second, you are not allowed to use your mobile phone in the international baggage claim area because they conveniently placed the area right next to the customs section. Frankly, half of the people at each baggage claim area were trying to quickly talk into their mobile phones before security would tell them to stop. Also, the customs area is fenced off and you couldn't see through the walls anyway. This is especially a problem when your flight got delayed or you are waiting a very long time for your luggage, the people who are supposed to pick up are very anxious in finding out where you are, and what's the holdup.
There is really no danger of using your mobile in the baggage claim area. The immigration section was upstairs and the customs section was just on the far side of the area. Common sense would make it prudent to just to fence off the customs area enough so the travelers can make their necessary phone calls.
Anyways, happy xmas.
The Four Courageous Republicans
Senator Majority Leader Bill First (R-Tenn) stated that "the Patriot Act expires on December 31, but the terrorist threat does not. Those on the Senate floor who are filibustering the Patriot Act are killing the Patriot Act."
The majority leader, the President, and the National Republican Committee Chairman have naturally blamed the Democrats who are in near unanimous agreement to uphold the filibuster. But they fail to note that there are four senators who have crossed party lines to join with the Democrats (all except two are their side that are voting against the Patriot Act).
They are Larry E. Craig (Idaho), Chuck Nagel (Nebraska), John E. Sununu (N.H.), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).
They come from states where their constituents are somewhat distrustful of the federal government and believe that there should be more civil liberties safeguards added to the proposal renewal of the Patriot Act. The federal government has too much power and it can target people with national security letters and special subpoenas that give the FBI overly excessive powers in deciding what records should be surrendered.
You would have expect that Republican senators who are moderates from Maine and Rhode Island to be against the Act, but this time these four senators are pretty much conservative.
Senator Hagel pretty much summed it all up in one sentence, "I took an oath of office to the Constitution, I didn't take an oath of office to my party or my president."
While it's true these four are getting angry calls from Republican activists, lobbyist firms, and other colleagues, the constituents that have elected these four remain mostly in agreement with them.
Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman stated that "it's wrong to put politics before national security." How can this be politics when these senators are doing what is right for their constituents? Yes, we are all concerned with national security, but what about upholding the civil rights of each American. Honestly, it's better to have Bush take the 3-month extension because it preserves the Act to stay in effect without expiring at the end of the year. He is a lame duck, and he knows he cannot no longer maintain a 100% hold on his party to vote for his agenda. If this was the beginning of his second term, or after he was re-elected, then passing the renewal of the Patriot Act would happen quite easily.
It is probably likely that the Patriot Act will expire without any progress in negotiations, but a compromise will be reached in January where the Act will be put back into effect, but with the necessary safeguards to placate the four Republican senators as well as a considerable number of Democratic senators. Thus, the administration can be satisfied with a bi-partisan agreement. But somehow it won't be that pleasant.
Washington Post - 4 GOP Senators Hold Firm Against Patriot Act Renewal
Can we just be sensible and turn off your mobile phone?
In California, the National Association of Theatre Owners want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow the blocking of mobile phone signals in theatres.
The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, a Washinton-based cell phone lobby, said it would fight any move to block mobile phone signals.
In London, movie theatres would air a short clip asking attendees to turn off or switch their mobile to vibrate. Unfortunately, it has happened 2-3 times where a mobile will ring off several times before the person even answers it. It would be quite courteous if the person could answer their phone on the first ring.
However, asking people to switch it to vibrate has really fallen on deaf years. Somehow people just think that no one would call them, and by Murphy's Law, it does happen. I would like to thank those customers for quickly leaving the theatre to answer their phone, but there are those that would try to lower their voice and talk. C'mon here, it really does not help the situation.
I usually savor the commercial in the US theatre where a guy answers the phone while watching the movie, and is thrown out of his chair into the screen.
It not limited to the movie theatres but also musicals and operas. Why do people believe that they have the right to leave their phone on ring while watching a concert or a Broadway musical? Does it make more sense to switch it to vibrate? There was one story of an actor doing a stand-up show, and a woman's mobile went off. The actor proceeded to tell off the person for not shutting her phone off. We understand the need to keep the phone on for emergencies but unless you are a heart surgeon, I think you can deal with the phone being turned off for an hour or two. Or just switch it to vibrate, it's simple enough.
I still think we can do this voluntarily but with a twist. If the person next to you has their phone on and it rings off, you have the right to tell him/her off. Throwing the phone may be considered in extreme situations. :)
I am still paying off my college loans unfortunately. Some of my colleagues are in the same bind, but why are we so reluctant to use a good chunk of our paycheck to pay it off? Back in the day, we were fortunate to lock in our repayment rate at 5-6%. Today's graduates have managed to get theirs locked in at 1-2%.
In any case, the one thing that do remain in our minds after graduation is that five or six-figure loan to pay back. For the Class of 1995, CWRU was first with average per-student debt of $26,031. For 1996, we dropped to third with average debt at $23,756. Of course the University claims that the figures incorrectly calculates the debt load for their nursing students, and that parent loans were not counted. Nevertheless, the data is mostly accurate.
For the 2006 edition, US News has found Case Western Reserve in eighth place with average debt at $27,780. 54% of the class graduated with debt. The top school laden with debt is the University of Miami in Florida with $31,723. Carnegie Mellon came out at 32nd with $22,902. Only NYU out of the Ivy League schools is just below CWRU with $27,639.
Undergrads are fortunate though than their counterparts attending medical and dental schools. Cost of education for them are $50,044 and $60,885 respectively so debt load will be quite higher after they have completed their study and go into residence. For them, the ratio between grants and loans will flip-flop in favor of the latter.
Some may try to work a few years before starting into the medical field, others have to go right into it and graduate with a debt load of over $100,000. At what cost do students and/or families decide that certain schools are just priced way out of their range?
Case will always say that they are priced lower than the other Research I institutions, but we have to understand the financial reality of dealing with the end result.
Wearing a cap is a sign of anti-social behaviour
In the UK, the government is cracking down on "anti-social behaviour." The term of it has become quite vague where the government can easily intrepret this to be anything that could harm or offend any cultural, ethnic, and religious group that resides in the country. Bascially, anyone that disrupts the perfect social fabric of our society is considered to be socially deviant.
The latest news today is that a chain of Internet cafes have banned the wearing of baseball caps in their stores because the headwear promotes hooliganism. The easyInternetcafe chain says net surfers wearing the caps make other users feel uncomfortable. The company claims that the caps, often worn by teenagers, are associated with anti-social "deviant behaviour."
So if you wear a baseball cap, you are assumed to be a troublemaker. I would kinda feel bad because the most popular cap here in London are the Yankees, so what if they stopped an American wearing one and questioned him about his actions (or lack thereof). But nevertheless, this type of trial is being picked up by other chain stores. Sooner or later, you may asked to remove your cap anywhere you go.
Sky News - Net Cafe Cap Crackdown
European mega-brewers are better
Most people that lived outside of the US would tell those that are moving to the states that they felt sorry for them having to drink American beer.
Having lived in London for almost 1 1/2 years, that statement is probably true. Let us concentrate on the fact that we are going to compare brand-name beers that have wide recognition, not the microbrews. I know that microbrews and certain local beers in the US are probably better than the national brands, but I will compare those at a future date.
In the US, it is most common to find Budweiser, Coors, MGD, and Busch, then you got the cheap stuff, Hi-Life, Milwaukee Best, and Natural. Then you got the regional which are pretty decent, Rolling Rock, Sam Adams, Yuengling, Molsons from Canada, and so on. I am sure I am missing a few more, but the idea is to compare this group with their counterparts in Europe. The mega-brewers vs. mega-brewers.
Strange enough, I do not see quite a lot of beer advertising on the tele. In the US, you got huge multimedia, marketing campaigns that attempt to sell the brand image rather than beer flavor. Perhaps in London and elsewhere in Europe, they know their beer just tastes good.
Budweiser is the official sponsor of England Premiership Football League, but not all stadiums sell the product. The only place so far where I noticed Bud was selling was at Chelsea FC. The place to drink American beers are at American sports bars in London. For the Brits, they usually favor Carling (British), Carlsberg (Denmark), Guinness (Ireland), Stella (Belgium [corrected]), Fosters (Australia), Corona (Mexico), Heineken (Netherlands [corrected]), and Amstel Light (Netherlands).
If you head over to France, the Kronenbourg 1664 is your beer of choice. In Brussels, it would be Maes or Hoegartner. In the Netherlands, you may get a pint of Jupiler or Grolsch. In Germany, I would recommend the Warsteiner or Kolsch. Asian beers are also popular in continental Europe. Asahi, Kirin, or Sapporo from Japan, Cobra beer from India, Tiger beer (Singapore), Tsingtao (China), and Singha (Thailand).
While some of these items may not be readily available at your local supermarket, you may have to find a state beverage shop to grab a six-pack of those imported beers (such as Bass, Killians, Newcastle, Becks, and so on). Yes, it does cost a bit more, but if you want quality, then that's your choice.
[Heineken is Netherlands, not Germany. my bad, since I have visited the Netherlands several times this year, and I love to get those big stein glasses everytime I order one :P]
Lehigh Sophomore Class President is a Bank Robber
Lehigh Class of 2008 president Greg Hogan was arrested last Friday (Dec 9) on charges of robbery. It occurred at the Wachovia Bank at 943 Union Blvd. at 3:02pm. The student handed the teller a note that demanded money and said he had a weapon. The son of a Baptist minister, he left the bank with $2,871 and entered a black Ford Explorer owned and driven by Student Senate President Kip Wallen.
Hogan was arrested at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house. Both student leaders were brothers at the chapter. Hogan has confessed to the robbery, and Wallen was questioned and released. He maintains that he was an unknowing accomplice.
The Brown and White - Class of 2008 President arrested in bank robbery
Breitbart.com - College Class President Charged in Robbery
Private Universities Implementing Public Policy
On Friday, December 9, New York University (NYU) will implement a ban on the sale of products produced by the Cola-Cola Company. This decision was made in accordance with a resolution passed by the NYU Senate on Nov 3, which gave Cola-Cola until Dec 8 to agree to a third-party protocol that would lead to an "independent investigation" about the company's human rights violations in Colombia.
Products will be pulled from all vending machines and shelves on campus. The ban will apply to all Coca-Cola products, including the Cola-Cola, Minute Maid, and Dasani brands.
So think of it...if you love Coke instead of Pepsi, students at NYU may look at you with contempt for buying something from a company that is not doing a good job in another country. Would this be a prudent action by the school? Would students concur with the same assessment?
Blog the USG meeting
Remember back during the election in 2004, we had bloggers on every political pundit web site giving almost real-time news on the latest events coming off the news wire, the mood and reaction of the crowd as each state's electoral votes were being announced, either for Bush or Kerry. It is basically a hacked version of your 24 hours live coverage. Of course, a blogger trying to do that in the middle of Hurricane Katrina may have trouble holding on to his/her laptop.
Since USG meetings are public to the students (unless they vote to close it), it would be kinda interesting to blog the meeting as it goes on. Obviously, because of one reason, there is currently no access to their agendas and minutes of their meetings of the web site. It is much like the press box in the U.S. Senate and House at the Capitol.
It would introduce a different perspective to how the meeting is run by your elected reps instead of reading the formalized minutes. Think of it... reading about how the reps argued for most of the meeting about whether the chairs should be arranged in a classroom or circular configuration (that has happened 2-3 times in the last several years). Get the reaction of reps as they scrutinized the huge mass funding bill and get antsy over funding a series of weekly discussions for a student group for just 80 dollars. Read the rundown as reps argued about constitutional amendments. Perhaps a few insults here and there, though a fight would highly be unlikely (except in the Indian and Taiwanese parliaments).
Who knows, it may get students more interested into USG to do their part, or even get some to run if they felt the meetings are going all wrong.
Update on Marquette Censorship Blog
Almost 300 signatures were submitted in a petition to the University officials and The Marquette Tribune about the blog incident.
Because of the high publicity of the blog censorship scandal, the Director of Educational Development and Assessment, who's in charge of teaching evaluations sent out an e-mail to all students that their answers will be held confidential.
One interesting point is that the Marquette Student Government is siding with the administration in suspending the dental student for his blog comments. In other words, SG action on this, as reported by other blogs at Marquette, has been effectively zero.
For the SG, while they conceded that the University may have the right to limit certain types of speech, it should have noted that the punishment does not fit the crime. How can such a thing result in being suspended for at least two semesters, he loses his scholarship and has to pay part of it back to the school, and it stays on his record permanently. At least the student government should upheld the right of the student to free expression without undue consequence that is considered unjustly.
Another politically incorrect xmas incident
Third-graders in Madison, Wisconsin would not be allowed to ring bells to raise funds for the Salvation Army as they have in the past because one parent decided to complain that the kids are helping a religious-based charity.
Each year, hundreds of students would join the "red kettle brigade" and help ring bells to raise funds for the Salvation army at Christmas time. Also, many student groups volunteer to do their part for community service.
It is true that the Salvation Army was founded by a Methodist minister in England in 1865, but the goal of the organization is to help feed, shelter, and clothe people. Has it really promoted religion all this time?
Because of one parent, these students cannot do this nice tradition.
The Capital Times - Chavez students won't ring bells for Salvation Army
No gaming in the computer lab
Honestly, if you want to play a multiplayer online game (WoW, Counterstrike 2, etc etc etc), do it in your room, not in the computer lab.
Hundreds of students need them for printing out reports, checking out course schedules, download notes, and e-mail.
It's simple as that. I think for any student, if you see someone playing WoW on a lab workstation, go ahead and turn off the power switch.
Red Light Cameras
The current reason going for red light cameras is to reduce accidents and promote safety. The side bet is that the city gets more money in speeding tickets without the need for a physical person being there to catch you in the act. Everything one thinks this is a win-win situation.
However, these are other issues to consider. The red light cameras places another variable into a motorist decision-making ability. Does the driver abruptly slam the brakes and risk a collision, or cruise through the intersection wrong by just 12 inches that cannot cause the accident? How is a red light violation determined? What if your vehicle was slightly pass the white line, are you liable to be penalized for that? I would not be surpised that most violations that do occur will be split-second violations. These "technical" violations are going to be the cash cow of cameras.
What if you were approaching a red light and it was about to turn green? At some intersections, drivers could notice the cross intersection traffic lights, and they will, by habit, speed up to catch the traffic light the moment it turns green. Again, this would constitute a split-second violation.
Honestly, by installing traffic cameras everywhere we install an inflexible rule on all drivers, and I think this would likely bring about an increase in accidents, not reduce them. For the city of Cleveland, it is not about safety, but money. This is one way for them to increase their revenue stream, and I don't think you'll see more money for the city police force. I would say the mayor would tout the benefits of it and say "Hey! We got the budget balanced, or a slight surplus, and we can cut your taxes!"
Here is the current list so far:
Shaker Blvd at Shaker Square (Northwest quadrant)
Chester Ave at Euclid Ave
West Blvd at North Marginal Road
Shaker Blvd and East 116t St
West Blvd at I-90 ramp
Chester Ave at East 71st St
East 55th St at Carnegie Ave
East 131st St at Harvard Ave
Carnegie Ave at East 30th St
Cedar Ave at Murray Hill Rd
Grayton Rd at I-480 ramp
Euclid Ave at Mayfield Rd
Warren Rd at I-90 ramp
Prospect Ave at East 40th St
East 116th St at Union Ave
I-90 and West 41st St
I-90 and West 44th St
Pearl Rd at Biddulph Rd
Carnegie Ave at East 100th St
Carnegie Ave at Martin Luther King Jr Drive
Memphis Ave at Fulton Rd
Lake Shore Blvd at East 159th St
St. Clair Ave at London Rd
Locations for cameras to catch speeders:
Clifton Blvd between West 100th and West 104th streets
Chester Ave between East 55th and East 40th streets
Woodland Ave between East 66th and East 71st streets
West Blvd between I-90 ramp and Madison Ave
Broadway between Harvard and Miles avenues
Lee Rd between Tarkington Ave and I-480 ramp
Chester Avenue at Euclid Avenue
Cedar Road at Murray Hill Road
Euclid Avenue at Mayfield Road
Carnegie Avenue at East 100th Street
Carnegie Avenue at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
So what solutions can we offer? How about lengthening the yellow light cycle by a second or two? Or how about synchronizing the traffic lights along the major roads heading towards downtown Cleveland? There was a time when Chester Road was terrible with this and this was mostly fixed a few years ago. It keep the traffic flow going and you reduce the tendency of drivers to try to speed up to avoid the next traffic light from quickly changing to red.
For those that heavy pedestrian traffic, install flashing light poles at either end of the sidewalk. This way drivers know that they are approaching an active pedestrian crosswalk. Use highlighted white paint so the car light would emphasize the color, then by instinct, the driver would slow down.
For late nights, I don't think the major traffic lights along Cedar Road should turn from the standard green > yellow > red to the blinking yellow / red configuration. That's used for minor and side streets. This usually entice drivers to speed up quickly, and this would increase the chances of an accident. Another idea is for Euclid Blvd to install speed bumps at the Adelbert/Euclid and the Cornell/Euclid intersections. I know it's a pain but it does slow down the traffic, and that's where you usually get a high rate of students crossing the road to get to class.
Red light cameras are somewhat of a good idea, but I don't think we need to install them everywhere. The only places that require them are those that have high-risk accidents. Then after a while, they should be taken out. I think by leaving an empty redlight camera box, the drivers would not even know whether it is real or not.
Take Care While Traveling Abroad
I almost got mugged this past weekend while sightseeing Brussels, Belgium. The interesting part is that I realized what had happened after the incident took place.
After having a nice dinner at Ixelles district in the south, I got a taxi back to near the city centre (where my hotel is located). I got off near Brussels du Nord station and started to walk through the underpass to the other side.
Two men entered from the other end. The lighting was not that bad, and there were a few cars going by alongside. Both men were acting drunk, they were talking loudly, and they were not walking straight. As we walked passed each other, the first guy kept on going, the second guy appeared to trip and started to fall in front of me. I grabbed his hand to prevent him from falling to the ground, then he suddenly turned around, and wrapped his leg around mine, and tried to trip me. Of course, I held my balance and started to move away, but he kept his leg locked onto mine. His free hand went for my back pant pocket, but nothing was there. As I tried to free my hand from his, he then tried to pry open my jacket right front pocket.
Since it was a new jacket, the front pockets were mostly sewn shut. His hand forced it open and obviously there was nothing there. Then I managed to free myself and shove him away. He then just resumed walking to the other end to meet up with his buddy. Then they just walked off laughing.
I didn't think of it until I got out the other end, then I suddenly realized what the guy was trying to do. I was lucky that I decided to bring just cash and two credit cards that night, and put them in my front pant pocket, and my ID was in my inner top pocket of my jacket. Then my mind went through the "what if's." What if his buddy helped him out, it would be 2 against one? What if the guy had a knife or gun in his hand? It could have been worse.
Next time, avoid underpasses at night, no matter how lighted it can be. Go if there's a group of people heading in the same direction. Otherwise, go through another way to your destination, or just flag down a taxi.
Mmm...better pack a taser too.
Young vs. Old Workers
I always believed that when you apply for that job position, you are expected to fulfill all the obligations that come with it. We often talk about students heading for their first full-time employment job after college, and the need for them to build experience, learn how to adapt to a real-time work environment, and handle different kinds of people.
For those fortunate to have done some work-study, you probably had a chance to work with good and bad co-workers, interact with polite and rude customers, and learning how to do your job at the same time. I always find it a plus to be able to learn that before getting that first full-time employment position.
To suggest that there is a divide between the young and old workers are based on pre-determined attitudes. It depends on the company you are working for. It is much different working in a construction company versus a financial services one. You cannot set this type of crtieria for all companies.
Starting out as a young worker, we are more flexible, tend to work longer hours, think somewhat faster, and bring in fresh new ideas. Older workers have lots of experience, they have gone through the mistakes, learned from them, and used them to work out better solutions. They're the ones you look to for advice. It is true that there are good and bad workers, and this can be applied to both young and old alike. We should take care to treat this as a case-by-case basis.
I also don't like the assumption that an older worker who is married and has a family tend to have less commitment to the company. I have seen fellow co-workers who have been married, or have kids, and they still do their 100% to finish that deadline, or to help out with an emergency production issue. It is only obvious if such a worker uses a lame excuse on a consistent basis and is not productive to the team and the company. You should not even use this assumption to start a family later or get married after 30.
Young and old...well I call them experienced workers is the best balanced group to have. I would even guess that having a bunch of young people working together may not be totally conducive. It gets too competitive and easily political. The team suffers and the work does not get finished.
World Cup Excitement
Over 350 million people tonight will be watching a special event for a sport that most of the USA are probably not interested in, but is closely monitored by Europe, Asia/Pacific, and the rest of the Americas.
Today at 2120 Central European Time (2020 GMT), the first-round draw for the 2006 World Cup in Germany will take place.
It is also the day where the World Cup is six months away, starting with the opening match on June 9. Eight teams are currently seeded: Germany (hosts), Brazil, England, Spain, Mexico, France, Argentina, and Italy. With these and the rest of the 24 qualified teams, they will be placed in eight-first round groups of four teams. Those that are unseeded but are considered to be strong opposition are the Czech Republic and Netherlands, currently ranked second and third in the world (according to FIFA).
As usual Brazil is considered the favorite to win the 2006 World Cup, having won it back in 2002. England is currently ranked second in the competition (though ranked 9th in the world). USA just missed getting seeded (lost to Italy) despite its excellent record at this year's preliminaries but it did not do that well at the 2002 World Cup. The scoring makeup took into account USA's performance overall. They are currently ranked 8th in the world.
There is not much news about USA's chances. Perhaps it will get into the Final 16 or perhaps the Final 8, but it's very hard to compare USA with the likes of Brazil, England, France, or Argentina. It is highly doubtful USA will get into the finals this time.
Anyway, look forward to the growing excitement of World Cup Football in the next several months.
Almost 1 1/2 Years in London
So I am now approaching 1 1/2 years living and working in London. The experience is just different. There's really no other word to describe it. Since the time difference is 5 hours, when I start having lunch and afternoon tea, my friends in the states are waking up, eating breakfast, and heading to work. The only downside is when there's work needed to be done after US market close, it's already late evening over here.
The language is pretty much the same though words are just interpreted differently and you have to know the slang. Of course it was odd at first when someone asked me for a "fag," which really means cigarette. The loo is the toilet which also means bathroom. It's lift, not elevator. Diversion instead of detour. Subway means underground walkway, not the train. The train is called the Tube. If you want to talk football, don't say soccer. If we are talking about the NFL, you have to say American football. Talk about home, it's your flat, not apartment. Tele not television set, and so on.
Public transport is just the way to travel. At almost every tube and bus stop, there's always a real-time display showing how long before the next transport arrives. Now I wish I had that in Cleveland or for the greenie. In NYC, they started testing it on the L line. So far I only know of the metro in DC that gives you a time estimate. Of course, you would need to stand on the right, walk on the left on the escalators and walkways in the airports.
There much more variety in drinking beer. Drink a pint of Stella, Carling, Carlsberg, Fosters, 1664, Guinness, Peroni, San Miguel, Tiger, or any micro brew at any local pub. By the time you are done, drinking High Life (which is the worst beer you can have, I prolly only had it once), Bud/Bud Light, or Coors just does not taste right. It is also humorous that Budweiser is the official sponsor of the English Premiership Football League, but I haven't seen anyone drink it. The only time I saw it being served was at Stamford Bridge stadium, home of Chelsea FC.
English food is just not exciting. At least you get the authentic fish n chips, pie n mash, shephard's pie, and crisps (fries). But with Chinatown, French, Italian, Spanish, and other european/african cuisines, you'll have no trouble finding a good place to eat.
Location of London just puts you so close to the rest of Europe, it is practically cheap to take the Eurostar to Paris, or fly to almost anywhere for a few hundred dollars. So far, I have been to Normandy and Paris, France; Dublin, Ireland; Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Maastricht, Rotterdam, and Utrecht, Netherlands; Athens and Delphi, Greece; and Berlin, Germany. This weekend, I will head out to Brussels, Belgium. I even flew over to Shanghai from London too. Plus, you don't have to worry about losing frequent flyer miles. Most European airlines are partners of Continental, United, Delta, Northwest, and American.
As for the capital itself, I saw the Queen's Jubilee and changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, saw Tower Bridge (not London Bridge), and enjoyed Trafalgar Square. I will have to look at visiting the rest of England soon.
I think for anyone choosing to do a JYA, heading to the UK is a great choice. If you are working and you get an opportunity to work abroad, go for it. It is a different experience and you just see how life is in a different country and how people view the US in a different light. For any American, traveling abroad is a must. We are only one out of over 180 countries, and going to Canada or Mexico does not count to being an international traveler.
My stay over here will likely last until the end of 2006, so if any of my friends are passing thru London, let me know. Cheers! :)
C'mon here, it's Christmas
To continue with the politically incorrect about Christmas...
Suddenly, everyone is so afraid of saying Merry Christmas without getting sued. The notion of Christmas as the invader of Christianity makes me think it was some radical's idea. People are saying that the Christmas trees are now devices used to intimidate other religions to accept the Christian faith. How can people just say that? That is one way to ruin the spirit of the holidays.
Holiday concerts or festivities are ok to use because they are general terms, but if there is a tree in the administration office, it's a christmas tree, not a holiday tree. We were all brought up to believe that. Now the current and next generation of kids are being told that the politically correct answer is that it is a holiday tree. Parents are suddenly so anxious to complain if they see a Christmas tree anywhere on public property. Have they all become Mr. Scrooge in disguise?
At Medina Elementary School in Bellevue, Washington, a Christmas charity drive by the kids was axed after some parents complained that the "Giving Tree" with colored mittens all over it was a symbol of Christianity and that it had no place in a public school. The school tried to replace the star on the tree with a red bow, but the whining parents say it was not enough. The school then had to remove the tree and put everything (the gifts, mittens, etc) on the counter, and called it the "Giving Counter."
There was a point in time where at my old high school, we had both Christmas and Chanukah decorations. Even though our school was predominantly Jewish, we celebrated those holidays as well as Kwanzaa. It was quite festive in the halls, because with the decor and lights, it just made everyone cheerful. Unfortunately, in today's world, it can no longer happen.
When I walk out of my flat, I see a Christmas tree in the lobby, should I be offended? If I see lights on a deli store at the corner, should I be upset? If a greeter at a department store says "Merry Christmas," should I threaten to sue?
Can we just remember that during Christmas, we celebrate and give each other presents, enjoy the falling snow, go shopping, sing carols, tells the kids or your young cousins about Santa Clause? So to everyone, good luck with finals, have a merry christmas and a happy new year.
Blog Censorship at Marquette
It had to happen sooner or later. Slashdot reported that a dental student at Marquette "Censorship" University was suspended for the rest of the academic year because of entries he had made in his blog which the school viewed unfavorably. The student is appealing the University's decision in an effort to remain in classes and finish out the current semester, and perhaps transfer to a better school. However, re-admittance is not a free card. The student would likely be placed on probation for the duration, lose his scholarship, and cannot express his right to "blog."
Dental School Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Denis Lynch at Marquette accused the student of "crude, demeaning and unprofessional remarks" that violated "standards of acceptable behavior as described in the Standards of Conduct, published in At Marquette (2005-2006), as well as the School of Dentistry's Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. Dean Lynch offered the student the option of signing "an admission of guilt" and accepting a punishment that included probation for the rest of the student's career at Marquette, make a public apology to his dental class, and make an appointment with the Director of the Counseling Center "to assess both your alcohol abuse and the underlying basis of your remarks posted on your blog site."
The full scope of the letter can be found here.
However, for those that had read the student's blog (before it was taken down), it made one negative comment about a professor, a negative comment about 25% of the year-two dental school class, and talked about going out and drinking too much. No specific names were mentioned in either entry.
First of all, does the punishment fit the crime? For the student trying to talk about his everyday life and things at school, would this somehow damage the reputation of the entire school? Would a prospective frosh decide to visit this particular page to determine whether he/she should go to this school? Likely not. The actions taken were overzealous and completely ridculous! It seems to me that the Dean wants to show an image of happy dental students working together for the betterment of humanity. That's the official line, but honestly, does everyone believe that? I hope not.
Second, it sounds hypocritical for the Dean to say that since the school encourages students to post public comments through an online posting board called "DogEars" (hosted by their student government).
Third, who gives the dean the right to say the student is a victim of alcohol abuse? I think all of us have had some fun times going out with friends drinking. I find it hard to believe that after reading this blog, the dean felt that the student requires counseling.
Fourth, by twisting the clause about interpersonal interactions in their Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, the administration can easily intrepret any student blog as a violation.
Dental school is hard, quite hard. I do know a couple people studying dentistry, and it's complete mayhem. You got exams almost every week and constant studying. It is almost a given where you get students complaining about the profs and the people in their study groups or project teams. This is all normal. It is quite competitive so there is a lot of criticism of those that can hack it and those that cannot.
I feel that the Dean believes that his dental students possess a higher caliber and integrity than their undergraduate counterparts. As such, he places a higher ethical and moral standards that might impress even Pat Robertson. The problem is that it promotes an atmosphere of intimidation and discourages students from being able to criticize and speak out without consequence. Interestingly enough, the dental school's own ethicist, Dr. Daniel D'Angelo, does not believe that the contents of the blog amount to a violation of the school's codes of conduct.
Could this happen at Case? Since we are a private institution, free speech is "free" as long you do not upset any religious, ethnic, cultural, or political group on campus.
London 07/07/05 Bombings
The terrorist events of 7/7 in London was all deja vu to me. How can these things happen not once, but twice for me? Back on 9/11, I can still remember watching the end of the second explosion of the plane hitting the World Trade Center North Tower, and seeing both towers fall from Jersey City. July 7 was just like any other day, but it was actually festive at first. On the day before, London was awarded the 2012 Olympic Games so the mood was quite pleasant.
When the first reports of an accident in the London Underground tube came in at around 8:50AM GMT, it was just the usual thing, a bad signal failure or a broken down train. It was thought to be a electric transformer exploded in Liverpool/East Aldgate stations, but then another "incident" occurred near Kings Cross station. Then the power company providing supplies to the Tube said in a news conference there were no problems with any transformers. People in the office began to worry somewhat. On the plasma tele, BBC News and Sky News were showing full live coverage. CNN was just coming up with breaking news but they did not have much. A Skycopter showed people streaming out of the affected stations, police and emergency vehicles were concentrated there. When the third explosion occurred near Russell Square, it became practically known that London was under a terrorist attack.
Markets were somewhat negative, and people were talking about the London Stock Exchange contemplating shutting down their systems because of the attacks. People tried to do their trading business as best they could, but what can you do when the live feed through most of the news channels were focused on London. It was surreal when you start seeing thousands of people walking on the streets, much like the New Yorkers leaving Manhattan island on foot. This was after the London Underground shut down the entire tube network at 9:19 (Code Amber Alert) because they could not guarantee the full safety of all of its passengers.
Then the fourth bomb on a London bus (No. 30) really made things a bit more frightening. It happened at around 9:47, and when the first pictures came through, the bus was just a former shell of itself. The top and backside of the bus were just gone, and you have to be amazed at how some people managed to survive after the blast. The office decided that people that needed to leave because they lived outside of London were allowed to do so. It was obvious it will take hours to get out since public transportation (bus and tube) was shut down. There was pretty much nothing we can do, but watch the tele and see the events fold out.
Our US office checked to make sure we were all right. Fortunately, everyone was present in the office. I had to field several phone calls and IM / text messages from friends to see if I was alright. Somehow I wish that I would never want to go through another event like this but it does reveal that a terrorist attack could happen anywhere, and we have to stay vigilant and be aware of what is going around us.
Escalators in London are just quick, and remember the etiquette!
I just think the escalators in London are just quicker than our American counterparts. I have to wonder if the set speed standard is just higher. I have been to train stations in New York and DC, and the escalators just aren't fast enough like the ones in the London Tube.
The fastest escalator I have seen is the Bank station tube in London. It goes pretty quick taking you and from the Central Line.
The slowest I have been on was the Wheaton station on the metro red line in DC. It's like you are not moving.
Perhaps Londoners are just fast walkers. No one is complaining about the speed. But I think they should crank up the speed on the escalators in the US. The ones in the mall are pretty slow, and only the ones in the airport are pretty decent.
As for the etiquette, it's always stand to the right, walk on the left. For the touristy people, if you disobey, you will get the glare and the slight bump to move along or find a space on the right. It does make the foot traffic go a bit faster, and you just hate when a person gets on the escalator on the left side, and just stands there, and there's like 10-15 people waiting. Don't piss the Brits off when you're visiting.
In the states, I guess there's nothing you can do. In the airports, people do pay attention somewhat. Anywhere else, no one really cares. I often get stories from friends while they're in malls or train stations, and they politely ask a person standing on the left to move along, they get the finger or they just feign ignorance and just stay there. And when they quickly move around them when the escalator ends, the person actually had the gall to complain about cutting him off.
While we remain transfixed with the troubles in Iraq, the nuclear issue with Iran, and keeping the peace in Afghanistan, we should keep an eye on the progress of democracy in one of the financial centers of the world, Hong Kong.
On Sunday, organizers estimate that over 250,000 people took to the streets to demand full democracy that was promised when the UK handed its former colony back to China eight years ago. Though police said only 63,000 have gathered, witnesses say that there were far more by the end of the rally. In any case, this is another warning to the government administration under territory's chief executive, Donald Tsang, and to the central government in Beijing that a timetable must be published for universal suffrage.
A few concessions might be given by the central government, but it is very doubtful that universal suffrage would be announced in any timetable. When there were mass protests in 2003 and 2004, Beijing offered to enlarge the 800-strong election committee charged with selecting a new leader. New proposals such as increasing the size of the legislature are not enough to satisfy the demands of the protestors.
According to the island's constitutional document, or Basic Law, it contains provisions for ultimately selecting the leader by universal suffrage. China has so far refused to implement such reforms, and there is very little chance of something happening in 2007 when the next chief executive is selected. Perhaps they are afraid that direct elections might encourage citizens in nearby Guangdong Province to demand a say in their local villages and cities. If these mass protests continue, would Beijing continue to ignore them? Chief executive Donald Tsang is probably the closest ally that Hong Kong has, but he needs to maintain a fine balance between keeping the people of this former British colony and his superiors in Beijing happy. This person wonders if when HK reaches their 10th anniversary after the handover, would democracy groups stage a bigger protest and disrupt official ceremonies marking the event? Is it possible that Beijing may try to suppress these demonstrations?
Listen to Greenspan, not Bush
On Friday, President Bush made his "feel good" remarks about the economy after the latest payroll data showed a gain of 215,000 jobs last month, the most since July, and the unemployment rate staying at 5 percent. Since the President was going through some of the lowest job approval ratings of his presidential term, it was a political opportunity for him to get on TV and praise the employment report. He extolled the strength of the American economy and good "old-fashioned" hard work. Of course, this would mean that every worker's productivity have gone up substantially, but the wages haven't. Then it was back into the White House before the reporters could ask him about Iraq, Katrina, media propaganda by his military, and the deficit.
While Bush was talking about such a great future for all of us, outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan gave a different outlook on our economy. He warned that the United States' budget position "will substantially worsen in the coming years unless major deficit-reducing actions are taken." He also said that "the fundamental fiscal issue is the need to make difficult choices among budget priorities, and this need is becoming ever more pressing in light of the unprecedented number of individuals approaching retirement age."
This is far different when Bush said that the country's economy was due to "American hard work, productivity, innovation, and sound economic policies of cutting taxes and restraining spending." Gaining 215,000 jobs is good news, but the federal deficit still remains high as we pay supplemental funding for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan (which the administration does not count towards the official federal budget) and the money needed to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. The latest CBO figures state that the 2005 federal budget deficit will be approximately $331 billion. If you add the war costs and Katrina re-construction, we are looking at $400+ billion. Our national debt currently stands at $8.1 TRILLION! Due to this, we pay about $352 billion in interest payments this year to keep the debt in check, but because the government is still spending more than what it receives, the debt continues to go up. CBO predicts that by 2015, we may be paying over $700 billion in interest payments to the debt. Think of that when trying to balance the federal budget.
The blame falls on our politicians, not just any one major party. Democrats are not willing to compromise on social security reform. It is true they are often known as the "tax and spend" party but Republicans are not that much better, having corrected only part of the economic equation by limiting government greed while allowing federal squandering to flow unchecked. For both of them, it is nothing more than the difference between no financial responsibility whatsoever and financial responsiblity only when it's popular. No matter which political party is in control, government spending will continue to grow. No one cares about balancing the budget as long the politicians get their pork-barrel projects and as long people are thinking about their paycheck right now, not 10 years from now.
Vice President Cheney got it wrong when he told former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill that "deficits don't matter." Greenspan is probably the only person that understands that if we do not control our deficit spending, our children's future will essentially be bankrupt. How can we explain to future generations when the debt is over $20 trillion, 80% of the budget is devoted to retirees, and our paycheck gets slashed over 90% just to keep everyone slightly fed? Is this the future that we want?
It is unfortunate that Greenspan is leaving. We do not know how his successor, Ben Bernanke, would do to continue to warn the politicians that continued overspending would severely hurt us in the long-term. All we are given is that if we do nothing, according to Greenspan, the "consequences for the US economy of doing nothing could be severe."
Tuition Goes Up, so does the SAF
It's time to open those checkbooks and check on your latest investments. Case tuition for undergrads will go up again for the 2006-2007 academic year, but with a new twist! Upperclass students, or those that entered the University in Fall 2005 and earlier, will pay $30,240, an increase of 6.48 percent. For the first-year students coming in for Fall 2006, they will pay $31,090, an increase of 9.47 percent from the previous year.
This year's tuition (2005-2006) was $28,400. The year before that, it was $26,500. Thirteen years ago, tuition was just $14,500 for the 1992-1993 academic year.
As for the Student Activity Fee, the SAF remains the same as usual 0.8% of tuition, but because of the annual increases, the SAF fee goes up every time. This year, each student is paying about $227. Next year, the upperclass students will pay almost $242 per student. The incoming freshmen class will pay almost $249 each. With a larger student body, the revenue coming into the five major groups (UPB, USG, Media, IFC, and Panhel) is much more higher than usual. Two years ago, most of them estimate their budgets based on a FTE of about 3,100 undergraduate students. With the student body exceeding 4,100 this semester, that estimate is now probably up to 3,800 to 3,900 (since the full total includes part-time students).
So for next year, let's say based on 3,900 full-time students times $242.00 (to avoid any complex calculations with the frosh rate) would generate $943,800.00 dollars! That's even more than two years ago when the SAF brought in over $650,000.
Ok, so the SAF is bringing in almost one million dollars. Where does it go to? The Observer would usually publish an article after next year's tuition rate is announced listing the breakdown of where your money is spent.
Up to now, right off the top, 4.3% of the total revenue is set aside for Senior Week, and a further 2.8% is given to the annual SpringFest event in the Spring. After that, it is divided between UPB, USG, Media Board and IFC/Panhel. Depending if the percentages have not changed recently, UPB gets 42.5, USG has 27.5%, Media 22.5%, and IFC/Panhel 7.5%.
Now who is accountable to who? In its constitution and bylaws, USG is required to publish an annual budget based on the estimated revenue given. The other three groups are in no obligation to do the same unless they are doing it voluntarily. Only the members of the Student Executive Council would be privy to such amounts and the specific budgets of each major organization. While we all may have a sense of how much each group is getting, we do not know how it is broken down from a public standpoint.
Since every student is paying the SAF fee, we all have a right to seek the specifics of each major group's budget figures, and these should be made readily available. USG should take this lead since they are the primary representative body for the students.