Archive for January, 2011


Galaxy S is a hot item

Selling 10 million units of any product in its first six months of initial release is nothing to scoff at. In the world of smartphones, it’s certainly a number to notice.

That’s why our eyebrows perked up when we read Samsung’s e-mail this morning, announcing that the company’s Android-based Galaxy S model has sold more than 10 million units worldwide since its debut in late June.

It’s an admirable number, although not quite in the same league as Apple, which sold 14.1 million iPhone 4 phones during the third quarter of 2010.

And it definitely gives RIM reason to worry: RIM sold 12.1 million phones in the third quarter, down 2.8% from the previous quarter, according to Comscore data released in November.

The battle for operating system share has been heated between the big three contenders: Apple’s iOS, Android and RIM’s Blackberry OS. But Android has seen a surge in attention in 2010.

More than 40% of U.S. customers purchasing smartphones over the last six months have chosen Android-based phones, according to a recent report released by Nielsen, beating out the percentage of people who chose Apple, which rests at 26.9%.

But in the same Nielsen data, Apple shows its slight (if dwindling) edge in the overall number of phones out there. Apple’s iOS has an overall U.S. market share of 28.6%, edging out Android, which rests at 26.1%. RIM’s Blackberry OS comes in only slightly behind Android at 25.8%.

There’s been a steady upward trajectory of Android-based phone sales over the past two years. Motorola’s Droid sold an estimated 100,000 units over the weekend of its release in late 2009. It took the Droid 74 days to reach the 1 million mark, according to research firm Flurry Analytics.

But it took Samsung a month less to reach the same point with the Galaxy S. The company said it had sold 1 million in the first 45 days since launch.



Adhd, lack of sleep linked

Get Some Sleep: ADHD, sleep disorders often entwined
January 4th, 2011
11:25 AM ET

The young mother looked tired and sad, and when she started to speak, her voice quivered with frustration:  “I don’t know what we’re doing here.  Jimmy sleeps fine.  It’s the other 14 hours of the day that’s the problem.”

The reason she was there in my sleep center was because her 6-year-old son, Jimmy, was being evaluated for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).  Her astute pediatrician was up on the latest research that shows an association between sleep disorders in school-age children and behavior disorders such as ADHD.  The sleep disorder that has been studied the most in this regard is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA.

There are many population studies from all over the world showing that approximately 2-3% of children have OSA.  Just as in adults, this disorder is caused by a collapse of the upper airway during sleep.  This results in a drop in oxygen, a rise in carbon dioxide, and fragmented sleep because the brain is disturbed by these fluctuations in oxygen and CO2.  The classic example of a kid with sleep apnea is the skinny kid with big tonsils.  Often these kids also have large adenoids, which make it difficult for them to breathe through their nose even in the daytime.  So one clue that kids have OSA is if they have trouble breathing in the daytime, whether from chronic congestion, allergies or asthma, then they just might have problems breathing at night.

Because of the growing problem of pediatric obesity, we are starting to see a new group of pediatric OSA patients who have weight as the major contributing factor to their sleep apnea.

The telltale sign of pediatric sleep apnea is the same as for adults:  snoring.  Although with children, observers often describe “heavy or rapid breathing” rather than snoring.  Per the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, pediatricians are supposed to ask about sleep problems and about snoring at every well-child visit.  I am afraid that they are already overburdened by all the things they must check and ask about.  So it is not surprising that if the parents don’t complain about the child’s sleeping habits, then often this vital aspect to growth and development can get overlooked.

And parents of kids with sleep apnea often have no idea that their children have disturbed sleep.  These are usually kids who go through their bedtime routine with little resistance, including even the children with behavior problems in the daytime, and they seem to fall asleep readily, and as far as the parents know, they sleep through the night without disturbing them.



Mexico fights growing obesity problem

Click to play
Study: Obesity a problem for Mexico
  • Diabetes is the No. 1 killer in Mexico, health agency says
  • Nearly 70% of the population is overweight or obese
  • Mexicans drink more than 42 gallons of soft drinks per person each year

(CNN) — Sizing up the magnitude of Mexico’s obesity problem is as simple as visiting a clothing manufacturer. At Arush, a clothing factory in Mexico City, the changing demand has modified production. Buyers, including Mexican giant retailers like Soriana and Liverpool, are increasingly asking for “large” and “extra large” sizes, which have all but replaced production of “small” and “medium.”

Designer Adriana Moreno, who works at Arush, said they’re simply adapting to Mexico’s new reality: an explosion of overweight and obese people, mostly in the last three decades. “In our market, I can tell you we’ve had a 50% growth in sales of large and extra-large sizes in the last three years,” Moreno said.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 69.5% of the Mexican population aged 15 and older is overweight or obese. This is the highest rate in the world, even higher than in the United States — which historically had the highest rate — and the United Kingdom, which has the highest in Europe.

The Mexican government launched a campaign last year urging people to exercise, drink more water, and eat fruits and vegetables. President Felipe Calderón said that “since 1980, the percentage of overweight or obese Mexicans has tripled.”

The problem starts early: 4.5 million children between the ages of 5 and 11 are already overweight. Many school districts have banned junk food in their facilities, but it’s readily available right outside, much to the chagrin of parents. “You can see how many stands there are outside. And they’re all selling junk food! I think they should also control what they sell out here,” Daniela Piña said as she waited for her child outside a grammar school in Mexico City’s Doctores neighborhood.

Adela Garcia, a stay-at-home mother, said parental responsibility plays a vital role in solving the problem. “It really starts at home,” she said. “We as parents have to take that kind of food away from children so that they eat healthier.”

Mexico’s Institute for Public Health reports that the number of overweight or obese school-aged children increased from 18.4% in 1999 to 26.2% in 2006. It also says that diabetes — of which obesity is a contributing factor — has become the No. 1 cause of death in Mexico.

Other statistics provided by the institute are very telling. Mexicans drink 160.1 liters (42.3 gallons) of soft drinks per year. The institute also says that school-aged children get at least a fifth of their calories from drinks with a high content of sugar and other sweeteners.

“We trust that the public interest will prevail over private interests and that the federal government will do, under the law, everything possible so that our proposals are quickly implemented,” the institute says. Their proposals include increasing physical activity in schools and improving nutrition guidelines.

Back at the clothes factory, Adriana Moreno is faced with a challenge: pleasing people in spite of their size. “It’s a very demanding market, very demanding. People are always trying to look good, not seem so overweight. They look for a beautiful garment, a good design that doesn’t make them look heavier than they really are,” Moreno said.



Holder may face more challenges

Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledges the GOP-led House is likely to press him on a range of issues.
Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledges the GOP-led House is likely to press him on a range of issues.
  • Attorney general, House Republicans have no imminent clashes
  • Eric Holder sometimes has had difficulties with White House
  • He hopes for cordial exchanges on policies

Washington (CNN) — “It could be a bumpier road,” a smiling Attorney General Eric Holder said to a reporter in a recent casual conversation at the Justice Department.

His aides say, however, there is no reason to expect that road contains unmanageable potholes or insurmountable barriers.

In fact, Holder exudes confidence as he acknowledges the Republican-led House is likely to press him on a range of controversial issues. He has heard most of the arguments before from disgruntled GOP lawmakers when they were in the minority.

— Are al Qaeda operatives mere criminals or are they terrorists bent on perpetual war against the United States and the West?

— Why insist on closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, while supporting indefinite detention for some inmates?

— Why not admit the obvious and acknowledge alleged 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheik Mohammed will not be tried in a civilian court?

— Why hasn’t the founder of WikiLeaks, responsible for the release of classified documents, been indicted?

— Were the New Black Panthers given a break because they were black and those allegedly intimidated at the polls were white?

— Why do you challenge Arizona’s immigration law, while ignoring “sanctuary cities”?

— Aren’t Justice policies paving the way for the legal use of marijuana?

These and other potentially partisan flash points are likely to be raised over time — but are apparently not imminent. The House Judiciary Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over Holder’s department, has made clear it’s going to respond first to the public demand to fix the economy and help provide jobs.

Mild-mannered Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is not confrontational by nature, and aides say he plans to stick to the script from House Speaker John Boehner’s team.

“The Judiciary Committee will support industries that employ millions of Americans by protecting their patents and copyrights,” Smith said.

That’s hardly a recipe for gaining public or media attention, but will be welcomed by Holder’s Justice Department.

“I hope that we’ll be able to focus on things that are not going to be politically attractive, but will be of substance and things that have an impact on the day to day lives of the American people,” Holder said.

Holder and Smith know each other. They have socialized at the White House and at a Washington Redskins game. Holder recently hosted Smith for a private lunch.



Hiring may spike in 2011

After three years of economic pain, a growing number of economists think 2011 will finally bring what everyone’s been hoping for: More jobs and a self-sustaining recovery.

“We’re looking at some leading indicators on employment, and they’re all flashing green lights,” said Bernard Baumohl of the Economic Outlook Group, a Princeton, N.J. research firm.

Though most economists still expect a painfully high unemployment rate of about 9% at the end of this year, some think that stat masks more important signs of strength.

Economists surveyed by CNNMoney are forecasting an average of 2.5 million jobs added to the U.S. economy this year, which would be the best one-year gain in hiring since the white-hot labor market of 1999.

Of the dozen economists who responded, several of the more bullish are predicting more than 3 million jobs added — about 250,000 jobs a month. Even the most pessimistic of those surveyed, David Wyss of Standard & Poor’s, expects 1.8 million jobs to be added this year, roughly double the pace of hiring in 2010.



Small shops could get swipe fee relief

It’s not every day that Main Street gets a slam dunk on Wall Street. But the Federal Reserve’s proposed cap on “swipe fees” could significantly reduce small businesses’ costs while cutting into big credit card company’s profits.

When a consumer pays with a debit or credit card, the retailer has to pay a fee to the credit card company, a so-called “interchange fee.” For small retailers, these interchange fees, or “swipe fees,” can add up fast.

Dennis Lane spends between $600 and $700 a month on electronic interchange fees at his 7-Eleven convenience store in Quincy, Mass. About 80% of the fees stem from debit card transactions — or about $560 per month. The Fed’s proposed fee cap could slash those expenses by as much as 80% to 90%, according to a J.P. Morgan research note.

That would be “really significant” help, Lane said. Multiplied across the nation’s small businesses, those savings could make a big difference for owners and help give the economy a boost, say small business advocates.

“The Fed proposal stands to put more money back into the hands of small-businesses owners – the folks who are out there trying to stay afloat and hire new employees,” said Kyle W. Kempf, Senior Director of Government Affairs at the National Small Business Association, in an e-mail.

Swipe fees have become a growing sore point, as the rise of debit card use has led the fees to take an ever-bigger bite of small businesses’ budgets.

“Every year the number of people who don’t use cash increases,” said Lane, who’s owned his 7-Eleven for 36 years. “There are an awful lot of people who come through my door who have no money in their pocket.”

Rather than send buyers to an ATM, Lane accepts debit cards for any item at his 7-Eleven, even just a newspaper or coffee. (Unlike many convenience stores, his doesn’t sell gas.) He is often “upside down” on small purchases, but even if he loses money sometimes, “you never turn a customer away,” he said. “Because a customer remembers that you turned them away.”

Lane isn’t alone. For small retail grocers that operate between one and nine stores, swipe fees are “No. 1 or No. 2 in the list of budget items they have,” said Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of Food Marketing Institute, on a conference call organized by the Merchants Payments Coalition Thursday.

Nevertheless, Lane said he understands that banks charge swipe fees for a reason. “We don’t have a problem paying our fair share of interchange fees,” he said. “We have a problem with the interchange fees not being what we consider fair and reasonable.”

The average debit card processing fee is about 1.3 percent of the transaction — but many small businesses pay significantly more than that, “certainly far more than the actual costs of processing a debit transaction,” said Kempf at the SBA.




Obama, Sarkozy to meet

Obama to meet with Sarkozy
January 4th, 2011
11:09 AM ET
Obama to meet with Sarkozy
mug.cnn By: 

Washington (CNN) – U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the White House on January 10, according to a White House statement released Tuesday.

France is assuming the presidency of the G-8 and G-20 economic groups in 2011.

Obama “looks forward to working with President Sarkozy to sustain the global economic recovery and create jobs,” the White House statement noted. “The two presidents will also discuss a broad range of current foreign policy and security issues.”