Kindle to iPad: Bring it on

This wasn’t a discussion about computing, although the little Kindle did mention, offhand, that it was surprised the iPad was not going to come with any USB or Firewire ports, and so on. Rather, we concentrated on the book-reading and shopping experience exclusively.

Schools, schmools. Who needs ’em, anyway?

Jack and Jill went up the hill. Jack got robbed. Jill got jobbed.

Shortchanged J & J

It isn’t the classic nursery rhyme but it is what students may learn this year as school budgets across the country are gutted.

From Oshkosh, Wis. to Puyallup, Wash., schools will suffer the axe this year as districts and states continue to grapple with big budget holes due to the recession.

The Oshkosh School District, for example, is debating the closure of middle and elementary schools, larger classes and culling around 35 positions, according to WLUK-TV in Green Bay.

Oshkosh’s problems arose after Wisconsin ended the fiscal year with a $2.71 budget gap. Varying by state and district, schools are usually funded by a combination of local, state and federal money.

Thousands of miles away, the Puyallup School District faces a 21 percent budget cut that could result in layoffs, larger classes and a possible school closing, according The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash.

When High-Speed Internet Isn't, Try a Carrier Pigeon

South Africa’s largest Internet service provider has been one-upped by a carrier pigeon with a four gigabyte memory stick strapped to its leg. Winston, the bird in question, took off for a 60-mile trip at the same time that four gigabytes of data were transmitted to a computer at the destination. The plucky pigeon got there first, beating out Telkom’s ADSL service by more than an hour, according to BBC and other sources. Wealthy nations, as well as the developing world, are often plagued by poor Internet connectivity — and the slow speeds come at a cost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture noted in an August study that rural economic growth and broadband go hand in hand.

Prison Labor out of the Box, and in

Labor by prisoners is complicated enough — but it doesn’t get any easier once an offender’s sentence is complete. In difficult economic times, it’s that much harder for ex-prisoners who have to check off the “yes” box on job applications that ask, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” Nationwide, an array of reform organizations decry the question, which they say unfairly punishes former offenders who have already served their time. In Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reports that the American Civil Liberties Union wants to ban the felony question from state employment applications. “Once you check that box in this tight market, it’s fatal,” Orlando attorney Glenn R. Leong, told the newspaper.

Consumers Feel the Credit Card Slam

With new federal credit-card regulations on the horizon, banks and card providers are boosting interest rates, fees and minimum payments, according to news reports. Before the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act takes full effect in February 2010, credit-card issuers are “raising annual percentage rates, slashing credit limits and hiking minimum payments,” writes Dallas Morning News columnist Pamela Yip. She also cites a loophole on a regulation set to kick in Aug. 20, requiring companies to issue a notice 45 days in advance of any rate increase. Yet the law only applies for cards with fixed rates; variable rate cards, which account for two-thirds of all cards issued, are excluded.

Cloudy Skies at the Microfinance Horizon?

Microfinance may be in for some rough times, as the impact of the global recession works its way down the economic food chain. In Africa, less money for microfinance projects is coming in from Europe and the United States, the Daily Nation of Kenya reports. Meanwhile, the demand for microfunds is up threefold, reports the Africa Microfinance Action Forum, as people lose their regular jobs and look to become entrepreneurs. The same scenario is playing out in Europe. Although a new European Union microfinance institution is being set up to provide small-business loans for the unemployed, New Europe reports that critics are already saying it offers too little.