Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Closings, cancellations, delays in Charles County
Maryland Independent

Due to inclement weather, Charles County Government will open at 10 a.m. today, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, with the liberal leave policy in effect for all non-essential employees. Essential personnel and employees required to maintain operations during inclement weather are to report to work as scheduled.

The Commissioners’ meeting agenda will start with the 10 a.m. agenda item. Prior Commissioner meeting items will be rescheduled, including the employee recognition event.

Sammy 08:28 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Consumer advocates call for cheaper auto insurance for low-income residents in Maryland
Kevin Rector ― Carroll County Times

Automobile insurance in Baltimore and other cities across the country is prohibitively expensive for low-income drivers, particularly those who have financed a vehicle, according to a report released Monday by the Consumer Federation of America.

Variations in rates charged by insurers based on factors unrelated to driving — including where they live, their credit score, their education level and their occupation — also make it more difficult for less affluent city residents to afford coverage, the group said.

“High auto insurance premiums represent a huge barrier to car ownership, and economic opportunity, for millions of lower-income Americans,” said Stephen Brobeck, the group’s executive director, in a statement.

Sammy 08:20 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Insurance Commissioner Redmer: Maryland needs more insurers
Sarah Gantz ― Baltimore Business Journal

Maryland needs more insurance companies, and newly appointed state Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Jr. is making it his business to attract them.

“I think more options and more competition benefits the consumer,” Redmer said. “More competition usually results in better selection of products, better customer service and ultimately more competitive pricing.”

Redmer said he does not yet have specific insurance companies in mind that he wants to recruit to Maryland. He said he plans to evaluate the state’s insurance markets and determine which areas could benefit from more competition.

Sammy 08:16 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
A closer look at why two Md. casinos want to cut slot machines, add more table games
Sarah Meehan ― Washington Business Journal

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission will vote this week whether to allow two local casinos to add more table games in place of slot machines. And a closer look at that proposal reveals just how the change will benefit both the casinos and the state in the long run.

State legislators worried reducing the number of slot machines by 300 at both Maryland Live! Casino and the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore would generate less tax revenue for Maryland because slot machines command a higher tax rate than table games.

Sammy 08:14 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Lack of clear goal, information hampers effort to control blue catfish
Karl Blankenship ― Bay Journal

Efforts to rein in the region’s escalating blue catfish population through an expanded fishery and other measures could face numerous obstacles, the greatest of which is a lack of basic information about the voracious predators, a new report says.

Nonnative blue and flathead catfish were introduced into Virginia tributaries in the late 1970s but have since exploded in numbers and spread to Maryland.

They are a top predator, and their rapid expansion has raised concerns that they could outcompete native species and also consume large numbers of shad, river herring, blue crabs and other species of concern to fishery managers.

Sammy 08:07 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Maryland Budget Analyst Criticizes Unspecified Cuts

Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal for a 2 percent cut across the board for state agencies without specifying what the cuts will be is “a very dangerous” approach to balancing the state’s finances, a top Maryland budget analyst said Monday, but the governor’s budget secretary said the idea was to give agency leaders more time to find efficiencies.

Warren Deschenaux, the director of the Office of Policy Analysis for the Department of Legislative Services, told a panel of lawmakers he believes lawmakers should know details about the cuts as they work on finalizing the governor’s budget plan by the end of the legislative session in April.

“This is a very dangerous, in my estimation, approach to budgeting,” Deschenaux said. “It’s too easy. It doesn’t let you see what you’re doing and what the impact of what’s going to happen will be.”

Sammy 08:02 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Selling advertisers on reader attention, not clicks
Roger Yu ― USA TODAY

First came clickbait. Now comes engagement.

Disillusioned with page views as a reliable metric of their ads’ effectiveness, advertisers are increasingly demanding to know whether readers stick around long enough to actually see their online ads. Publishers — as if the need to pursue clicks and Facebook “virality” wasn’t stressful enough — implore their troops to post stories that might actually be read, preferably all the way to the end.

The Economist, Gawker, Forbes and the Financial Times are among some notable names in the online publishing business starting to rethink the way they present their content and sell their ads, focusing on the amount of time spent on their content by readers. To be sure, no one wants less traffic. But some news outlets are starting to pitch “audience attention” as a selling point in response to skepticism from advertisers about clicks and as a self-serving way to stand out among the hundreds of millions of websites.

Sammy 07:54 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Legal Marijuana Is The Fastest-Growing Industry In The U.S.: Report
Matt Ferner ― Huffington Post

Legal marijuana is the fastest-growing industry in the United States and if the trend toward legalization spreads to all 50 states, marijuana could become larger than the organic food industry, according to a new report obtained by The Huffington Post.

Researchers from The ArcView Group, a cannabis industry investment and research firm based in Oakland, California, found that the U.S. market for legal cannabis grew 74 percent in 2014 to $2.7 billion, up from $1.5 billion in 2013.

The group surveyed hundreds of medical and recreational marijuana retailers in states where sales are legal, as well as ancillary business operators and independent cultivators of the plant, over the course of seven months during 2013 and 2014. ArcView also compiled data from state agencies, nonprofit organizations and private companies in the marijuana industry for a more complete look at the marketplace.

Sammy 07:50 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
CBO: Obamacare to cost $2 trillion over the next decade
Philip Klein ― Washington Examiner

President Obama’s healthcare law will spend about $2 trillion over the next decade on expanding insurance coverage but still leave 31 million Americans uninsured, according to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office released on Monday.

When Obama pitched the healthcare law to Congress, he said it would cost “around $900 billion” over 10 years. But his statement was misleading because the way the law was designed, the major spending provisions didn’t kick in until 2014. This meant that 10-year estimates at the time the law was passed in 2010 were artificially low, because they included four years (2010 through 2013) in which spending was negligible.

Sammy 07:48 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Obama ends day of Indian pageantry with $4 billion pledge
Sanjeev Miglani and Roberta Rampton ― REUTERS

U.S. President Barack Obama ended a landmark day in India on Monday with a pledge of $4 billion in investments and loans, seeking to release what he called the “untapped potential” of a business and strategic partnership between the world’s largest democracies.

Earlier in the day, at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Obama was the first U.S. president to attend India’s annual Republic Day parade, a show of military might that has been associated with Cold War anti-Americanism.

Sammy 07:47 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Credit cards can be stolen right under your nose
Christine DiGangi ― USA TODAY

There are several things people freak out about when their wallets or purses have been stolen: knowing a thief has your ID (and your home address), losing irreplaceable gift cards or cash, and having to cancel your credit cards. That’s usually the first thing people do — call their banks — but it’s easy to act quickly when you realize you’ve been robbed. Sometimes, it’s not that simple.

Thieves steal credit and debit cards all the time without taking the physical card. The most common kind of card theft results from data breaches. Last year, millions of U.S. consumers had their cards replaced after their information was compromised in one of the massive cyberattacks on retailers, even if their cards didn’t show unauthorized activity. People have gotten used to the idea that data breaches are inevitable, but there are lots of daily activities that put your cards at risk for theft, without you noticing.

Sammy 07:42 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
GM ignition switch deaths hit 50 as deadline looms
Chris Woodyard ― USA TODAY

The death toll from General Motors’ defective ignition switches rose to 50 on Monday, according to the independent administrator for GM’s compensation plan, with deadline for filing claims coming on Saturday.

Compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg, administrator for the plan, now has deemed 50 deaths eligible for compensation, with 67 still under review and 53 submitted without documentation. Another 58 were deemed ineligible and 110 are were rejected as deficient.

Last year the company set aside $400 million to make payments under the compensation plan, but conceded the final total could grow to $600 million. The company’s chief financial officer told analysts earlier this month that those numbers have not changed.

Sammy 07:39 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
IRS commissioner: ‘It’s a challenging year’
Hadley Malcolm ― USA TODAY

The Internal Revenue Service is turning to Twitter and YouTube to reach taxpayers this year in an effort to increase online information about filing taxes as the agency faces an abysmal customer-service rate.

Strained by budget cuts and a declining staff, the IRS plans to direct more taxpayers to the Web to try to reduce the burden on its ill-equipped call center, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told USA TODAY in an interview Monday.

YouTube videos posted in recent months explain how the free file program works and give advice to first-time filers. The IRS Twitter feed is filled with links to commonly asked questions and answers and information about the effect of health coverage on tax returns this year. In addition to social media, the tax body has also increased the capability and advertising of its website features. That includes the “Where’s My Refund?” application that the IRS launched last tax season to let people check the status of their refunds.

Sammy 07:38 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Boeing, SpaceX aim for manned launches in 2017
James Dean ― USA TODAY

Boeing and SpaceX said Monday they expect to fly astronauts from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station in 2017, flights that will end U.S. reliance on Russia to get humans into orbit.

“We’re on track, and it’s just as exciting as can be to be a part of it,” said John Elbon, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space Exploration, during a news conference in Houston.

NASA last September awarded Commercial Crew Program contracts worth up to $4.2 billion to Boeing and up to $2.6 billion to SpaceX.

Sammy 07:32 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Open Thread - January 27, 2015

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” ― Alexander Pope

Pauleen Brewer 04:00 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
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