Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pacquiao vs Cotto

Manny Pacquiao and Cotto fight are almost here.
Lets wait and see!

10 Highest-Paying Blue-Collar Jobs

Who says hard work doesn't pay? These 10 blue-collar jobs show that the color of your collar doesn't necessarily dictate the level of your income.

What Does It Mean to Be a Blue-Collar Worker?

Blue-collar jobs are typically classified as involving manual labor and compensation by an hourly wage. Some fields that fall into this category include construction, manufacturing, maintenance and mining.

What It Does Not Mean

Do not mistake blue-collar jobs for easy to land, easy to keep or low-paying ones. Although some blue-collar jobs do not require a four-year degree, many of them require additional education by way of specialized training, a certification or an apprenticeship.

There are several blue-collar jobs that offer competitive compensation packages, relative to their white-collar counterparts.

Elevator installers and repairers sit atop the list with an average hourly wage of $42.08. This hands-on occupation involves many tasks, including assembly, testing, maintenance and repair of elevators, escalators and moving sidewalks. On average, an elevator installer or repairer can bring in over $87,000 per year.

Ship and boat captains and operators earn an average of $24.86 per hour for navigating their vessels through a variety of waterways. On average, a captain or operator brings in almost $58,000 each year, but these captains have to work a bit harder for the money -- the average work week is 51.8 hours.

The pressure is on, literally, for gas plant operators who control compressors to keep gas flowing through pipelines. This essential job pays workers just under $64,000, or approximately $30.71 on an hourly basis.

There are several specialties within the electrical and electronic repair industry. The most lucrative area involves inspecting and repairing electrical equipment at generating stations, substations and in-service relays. These workers bring in an average salary of $68,000 per year.

The Top 10 List

1. Elevator Installer and Repairer

Average salary: $87,518
Average hourly wage: $42.08
Average work week: 40 hours

2. Electrical and Electronics Repairer -- Powerhouse, Substation and Relay

Average salary: $68,084
Average hourly wage: $32.75
Average work week: 40 hours

3. Power Plant Operator, Distributor and Dispatcher

Average salary: $65,846
Average hourly wage: $31.50
Average work week: 40 hours

4. Gas Plant Operator

Average salary: $63,872
Average hourly wage: $30.71
Average work week: 40 hours

5. Locomotive Engineer

Average salary: $63,125
Average hourly wage: $28.27
Average work week: 42.5 hours

6. Electrical Power Line Installer and Repairer

Average salary: $60,354
Average hourly wage: $29.02
Average work week: 40 hours

7. Structural Iron and Steel Worker

Average salary: $59,224
Average hourly wage: $28.55
Average work week: 39.9 hours

8. Construction and Building Inspector

Average salary: $59,144
Average hourly wage: $28.31
Average work week: 40.2 hours

9. Ship and Boat Captain and Operator

Average salary: $57,910
Average hourly wage: $24.86
Average work week: 51.8 hours

10. Radio and Telecommunications Equipment Installer

Average salary: $57,149
Average hourly wage: $27.48
Average work week: 39.9 hours

About the List

The jobs are ranked by annual salary, from highest to lowest, excluding overtime. The data was pulled from the National Compensation Survey: Occupational Earnings in the United States, 2008, which is published by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

HP jump-starting Compaq brand with ultra-cheap machines

Remember Compaq? Hewlett-Packard acquired the venerable computer company way back in 2002, but it's kept the name alive as a secondary brand ever since, mainly relegating Compaq to overseas markets (Compaq is particularly popular in Asia) and as second-tier PCs sold on the cheap at warehouse-style stores.

But now HP is looking to breathe a little new life into the Compaq brand, positioning it not just as a label for extremely cheap computer equipment but also as one with mainstream appeal in the U.S.

Today the company is announcing the rollout of a line of ultra-inexpensive PCs, both laptops and desktops, with extreme budgets in mind.

Consider first the Compaq CQ61z (pictured), a 15.6-inch laptop with an AMD Sempron CPU, 2GB of RAM, DVD burner, 160GB hard drive, and discrete graphics. Running Windows 7 Home Premium, the machine costs a nearly unfathomable $399. That price point probably sounds familiar -- it's the usual cost for your average netbook, which in comparison offers a tiny screen, minimal hard drive, and an ultra-low-power Atom CPU.

With the $400 laptop's arrival, Compaq wants potential buyers to ask: Why not jump up to a much larger and more capable system for exactly the same price? I'm having a hard time seeing any reason not to. Seriously, it even has a numeric keypad.

Even better bargains abound for desktop shoppers. The attractive Compaq Presario 4010f has similar specs (with a 250GB hard drive) and starts at just $309 after a $100 rebate.

Both systems are available on Windows 7 launch day, October 22.

Compaq's aggressively inexpensive hardware -- particularly the $399 laptop -- could have massive ramifications for the computer market. Will netbooks finally feel the pinch that they've been giving to standard laptops for two years now? And what kind of pressure will machines like this bring to bear on more expensive notebook PCs? Price war in 3... 2... 1...

Monday, October 12, 2009

2012 isn't the end of the world, Mayans insist

MEXICO CITY – Apolinario Chile Pixtun is tired of being bombarded with frantic questions about the Mayan calendar supposedly "running out" on Dec. 21, 2012. After all, it's not the end of the world.

Or is it?

Definitely not, the Mayan Indian elder insists. "I came back from England last year and, man, they had me fed up with this stuff."

It can only get worse for him. Next month Hollywood's "2012" opens in cinemas, featuring earthquakes, meteor showers and a tsunami dumping an aircraft carrier on the White House.

At Cornell University, Ann Martin, who runs the "Curious? Ask an Astronomer" Web site, says people are scared.

"It's too bad that we're getting e-mails from fourth-graders who are saying that they're too young to die," Martin said. "We had a mother of two young children who was afraid she wouldn't live to see them grow up."

Chile Pixtun, a Guatemalan, says the doomsday theories spring from Western, not Mayan ideas.

A significant time period for the Mayas does end on the date, and enthusiasts have found a series of astronomical alignments they say coincide in 2012, including one that happens roughly only once every 25,800 years.

But most archaeologists, astronomers and Maya say the only thing likely to hit Earth is a meteor shower of New Age philosophy, pop astronomy, Internet doomsday rumors and TV specials such as one on the History Channel which mixes "predictions" from Nostradamus and the Mayas and asks: "Is 2012 the year the cosmic clock finally winds down to zero days, zero hope?"

It may sound all too much like other doomsday scenarios of recent decades — the 1987 Harmonic Convergence, the Jupiter Effect or "Planet X." But this one has some grains of archaeological basis.

One of them is Monument Six.

Found at an obscure ruin in southern Mexico during highway construction in the 1960s, the stone tablet almost didn't survive; the site was largely paved over and parts of the tablet were looted.

It's unique in that the remaining parts contain the equivalent of the date 2012. The inscription describes something that is supposed to occur in 2012 involving Bolon Yokte, a mysterious Mayan god associated with both war and creation.

However — shades of Indiana Jones — erosion and a crack in the stone make the end of the passage almost illegible.

Archaeologist Guillermo Bernal of Mexico's National Autonomous University interprets the last eroded glyphs as maybe saying, "He will descend from the sky."

Spooky, perhaps, but Bernal notes there are other inscriptions at Mayan sites for dates far beyond 2012 — including one that roughly translates into the year 4772.

And anyway, Mayas in the drought-stricken Yucatan peninsula have bigger worries than 2012.

"If I went to some Mayan-speaking communities and asked people what is going to happen in 2012, they wouldn't have any idea," said Jose Huchim, a Yucatan Mayan archaeologist. "That the world is going to end? They wouldn't believe you. We have real concerns these days, like rain."

The Mayan civilization, which reached its height from 300 A.D. to 900 A.D., had a talent for astronomy

Its Long Count calendar begins in 3,114 B.C., marking time in roughly 394-year periods known as Baktuns. Thirteen was a significant, sacred number for the Mayas, and the 13th Baktun ends around Dec. 21, 2012.

"It's a special anniversary of creation," said David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin. "The Maya never said the world is going to end, they never said anything bad would happen necessarily, they're just recording this future anniversary on Monument Six."

Bernal suggests that apocalypse is "a very Western, Christian" concept projected onto the Maya, perhaps because Western myths are "exhausted."

If it were all mythology, perhaps it could be written off.

But some say the Maya knew another secret: the Earth's axis wobbles, slightly changing the alignment of the stars every year. Once every 25,800 years, the sun lines up with the center of our Milky Way galaxy on a winter solstice, the sun's lowest point in the horizon.

That will happen on Dec. 21, 2012, when the sun appears to rise in the same spot where the bright center of galaxy sets.

Another spooky coincidence?

"The question I would ask these guys is, so what?" says Phil Plait, an astronomer who runs the "Bad Astronomy" blog. He says the alignment doesn't fall precisely in 2012, and distant stars exert no force that could harm Earth.

"They're really super-duper trying to find anything astronomical they can to fit that date of 2012," Plait said.

But author John Major Jenkins says his two-decade study of Mayan ruins indicate the Maya were aware of the alignment and attached great importance to it.

"If we want to honor and respect how the Maya think about this, then we would say that the Maya viewed 2012, as all cycle endings, as a time of transformation and renewal," said Jenkins.

As the Internet gained popularity in the 1990s, so did word of the "fateful" date, and some began worrying about 2012 disasters the Mayas never dreamed of.

Author Lawrence Joseph says a peak in explosive storms on the surface of the sun could knock out North America's power grid for years, triggering food shortages, water scarcity — a collapse of civilization. Solar peaks occur about every 11 years, but Joseph says there's evidence the 2012 peak could be "a lulu."

While pressing governments to install protection for power grids, Joseph counsels readers not to "use 2012 as an excuse to not live in a healthy, responsible fashion. I mean, don't let the credit cards go up."

Another History Channel program titled "Decoding the Past: Doomsday 2012: End of Days" says a galactic alignment or magnetic disturbances could somehow trigger a "pole shift."

"The entire mantle of the earth would shift in a matter of days, perhaps hours, changing the position of the north and south poles, causing worldwide disaster," a narrator proclaims. "Earthquakes would rock every continent, massive tsunamis would inundate coastal cities. It would be the ultimate planetary catastrophe."

The idea apparently originates with a 19th century Frenchman, Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, a priest-turned-archaeologist who got it from his study of ancient Mayan and Aztec texts.

Scientists say that, at best, the poles might change location by one degree over a million years, with no sign that it would start in 2012.

While long discredited, Brasseur de Bourbourg proves one thing: Westerners have been trying for more than a century to pin doomsday scenarios on the Maya. And while fascinated by ancient lore, advocates seldom examine more recent experiences with apocalypse predictions.

"No one who's writing in now seems to remember that the last time we thought the world was going to end, it didn't," says Martin, the astronomy webmaster. "There doesn't seem to be a lot of memory that things were fine the last time around."

Friday, October 9, 2009

NASA probes give moon a double smack

WASHINGTON – Take that, moon!

NASA smacked two spacecraft into the lunar south pole Friday morning in a search for hidden ice. Instruments confirm that a large empty rocket hull barreled into the moon at 7:31 a.m., followed four minutes later by a probe with cameras taking pictures of the first crash.

But the big live public splash people anticipated didn't quite happen. Screens got fuzz and no immediate pictures of the crash or the six-mile plume of lunar dust that the mission was all about. The public, which followed the crashes on the Internet and at observatories, seemed puzzled.

NASA officials said their instruments were working, but live photos of the actual crash were missing. Some select photos should be ready by a 10 a.m. press conference, they said.

But so far all NASA had was "images on the way in," said NASA spokesman Grey Hautaluoma.

Expectations by the public for live plume video were probably too high and based on pre-crash animations, some of which were not by NASA, project manager Dan Andrews told The Associated Press Friday morning 80 minutes after impact.

Another issue, one NASA thought was a good possibility going into Friday, was that the lighting was bad and work needs to be done on images to make them easier to see, Andrews said. Experts said the images could be essentially "gray against black," he said.

"What matters for us is: What is the nature of the stuff that was kicked up going in?" Andrews said. "All nine instruments were working fine and we received good data."

Andrews said the science team is pouring through the information — including what are supposed to be good images from ground-based telescopes on Earth — to answer the big question: Is there some form of water under the moon's surface that was dislodged? It will probably be two weeks before scientists will be certain about the answer, he said.

Before the crash, mission scientists said there was a chance that if it was really moist under the crater, they'd know about water within an hour. That's not the case now, Andrews said.

People who got up before dawn to look for the crash at Los Angeles' Griffith Observatory threw confused looks at each other instead.

Telescope demonstrator Jim Mahon called the celestial show "anticlimactic."

"I was hoping we'd see a flash or a flare," Mahon said.

About 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, 70 elementary school students at the Lewis Center for Educational Research charter school in Apple Valley capped off their weeklong "moon camp" experience by rising early to watch NASA television along with 300 members of the public.

"It was cool seeing actual pictures of the moon live," said 10-year-old Jackson Bridges, but he added: "I wanted to see the debris flying out. It was still interesting to watch, but it was less interesting without the flying debris."

The first and much bigger crash was supposed to hit with the force of 1.5 tons of TNT into crater Cabeus and create a mini-crater about half the size of an Olympic pool. The second crash was to be about one-third as strong.

The idea is to confirm the theory that water — a key resource if people are going to go back to the moon — is hidden below the barren moonscape.

The images were to come from the probe itself. The probe is LCROSS, short for Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite and pronounced L-Cross. It had five cameras and four other pieces of equipment to look for ice or any form of water as it dove through the dust storm created by the empty hull.

Minutes before the first crash, NASA was riding high, reporting no trouble at the Ames Research Center in California, where the mission was being controlled.

"Everything is working so very well," NASA's Victoria Friedensen, a manager in NASA's exploration office, said minutes before the one-two smack.

Best Jobs in America

Money/'s list of great careers

AP Photo

In the midst of the worst job market in three decades, you might think the only thing people care about when it comes to their career is having a job and keeping it. But when Money and, a leading online provider of employee-compensation data, surveyed 35,000 people online about what makes a great job, they rated intellectual challenge, a passion for the work, and flexibility just as highly as security. Perhaps the financial crisis has made many of us realize that we’re going to be on the job a few extra years, so we might as well be doing work we can enjoy.

1. Systems Engineer

Median salary (experienced): $87,100
Top pay: $130,000
Job growth (10-year forecast): 45%
Sector: Information Technology

What they do: They're the "big think" managers on large, complex projects, from major transportation networks to military defense programs. They figure out the technical specifications required and coordinate the efforts of lower-level engineers working on specific aspects of the project.

Why it's great: Demand is soaring for systems engineers, as what was once a niche job in the aerospace and defense industries becomes commonplace among a diverse and expanding universe of employers, from medical device makers to corporations like Xerox and BMW. Pay can easily hit six figures for top performers, and there's ample opportunity for advancement. But many systems engineers say they most enjoy the creative aspects of the job and seeing projects come to life. "The transit system I work on really makes a tangible difference to people," says Anne O'Neil, chief systems engineer for the New York City Transit Authority.

Drawbacks: Long hours are common; project deadlines can be fierce.

Pre-reqs: An undergrad engineering degree; some jobs might also require certification as a certified systems engineering professional (CSEP).


2. Physician Assistant

Median salary (experienced): $90,900
Top pay: $124,000
Job growth (10-year forecast): 27%
Sector: Healthcare

What they do: Call it MD lite. Working under the supervision of a doctor, PAs do all tasks involved in routine medical care, such as diagnosing illnesses and assisting in surgery. In most states they can write prescriptions as well.

Why it's great: You get the satisfaction of treating patients minus insurance hassles, since PAs have far less administrative responsibility than the typical MD. "I'm part of a team yet have a lot of autonomy," says PA Robert Wooten. You don't have to take on the time or expense of med school (see pre-reqs) and the field is virtually recession-proof, owing to an ongoing shortage of primary-care physicians. PAs are also far cheaper to employ than MDs, so demand is expected to steadily increase as medical facilities try to rein in costs, says Bill Leinweber, CEO of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. And since they don't need as much specialized training as doctors, PAs can switch from, say, geriatrics to emergency care with relative ease.

Drawbacks: It's a fairly new profession, so the number of annual job openings is still small.

Pre-reqs: A master's degree; 100 hours of training every two years; recertification every six.


3. College Professor

Median salary (experienced): $70,400
Top pay: $115,000
Job growth (10-year forecast): 23%
Sector: Education

What they do: Teach and grade papers, of course. But profs also spend about half their time doing research and writing articles and books about their field.

Why it's great: For starters, major scheduling freedom. "Besides teaching and office hours, I get to decide where, when, and how I get my work done," says Daniel Beckman, a biology professor at Missouri State University. And that doesn't even take into account ample time off for holidays and a reduced workload in the summer. Competition for tenuretrack positions at four-year institutions is intense, but you'll find lots of available positions at community colleges and professional programs, where you can enter the professoriate as an adjunct faculty member or non-tenuretrack instructor without a doctorate degree. That's particularly true during economic downturns, when laid-off workers often head back to school for additional training. More valuable perks: reduced or free tuition for family members and free access to college gyms and libraries.

Drawbacks: Low starting pay and a big 50% salary gap between faculty at universities and community colleges. If the position is at a four-year university, you'll probably have to relocate, and you'll be under pressure to constantly publish new work to sustain career momentum.

How to get it: For a tenure track position, you'll need a Ph.D. But all colleges want at least a master's degree and prefer plenty of teaching experience.

Getty Images

4. Nurse Practitioner

Median salary (experienced): $85,200
Top pay: $113,000
Job growth (10-year forecast): 23%
Sector: Healthcare

What they do: In addition to performing routine caretaking tasks, nurse practitioners have the advanced medical training to diagnose and treat a wide range of ailments. They can also prescribe medication without consulting an MD.

Not that stability and growth don’t matter, of course. We put the heaviest weight on those factors when we began crunching the numbers to come up with our list of the 50 best jobs. But to make the final cut, a job had to get high quality-of-life marks too. Whether you’re thinking of switching careers, are job hunting, or want to nudge a child in the right professional direction, this list should give you plenty of fodder for discussion.

Why it's great: Thanks to the growth of retail health clinics and the shortage of primary-care doctors, opportunities abound for nurse practitioners in settings from hospitals and urgent-care centers to private practice. They can specialize in fields such as women's health or oncology. Experienced nurse practitioners looking for a change of pace can shift to teaching or medical research. Nurse practitioners are also specifically trained in patient teaching; disease prevention is typically a large part of their practice. "Helping people see that small changes in their lifestyles can make a big difference to their health is very rewarding," says New York City nurse practitioner Edwidge Thomas.

Drawbacks: Constant insurance headaches. Education requirements are ratcheting up.

Pre-reqs: Must first complete training to get license as a registered nurse; master's degree, plus certification. A doctor of nursing practice degree is increasingly in demand, which requires about three additional years of study.

Getty Images

5. Information Technology Project Manager

Median salary (experienced): $98,700
Top pay: $140,000
Job growth (10-year forecast): 16%
Sector: Information Technology

What they do: Keep big tech projects like software upgrades running on time--and on budget. "We bring order to chaos," says April Ellison, an IT project manager in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Why it's great: Lots of opportunity. "Just about all companies need techsavvy people who are great managers," says Houston tech recruiter Linda Ranostaj. Figuring out how to implement cutting-edge technologies keeps the job challenging. Good upward mobility: IT project managers can rise to chief technology officer of a company, where the salaries can hit $300,000. Do you prefer to work for yourself? The field offers plenty of consulting work.

Drawbacks: Hours (and hours and hours) of meetings. Aggressive project timelines. Staff jobs can be outsourced to consultants.

Pre-reqs: Five to seven years of technology and computer-related experience. A project management professional certification, along with an MBA, will enhance career prospects.


6. Certified Public Accountant

Median salary (experienced): $74,200
Top pay: $138,000
Job growth (10-year forecast): 18%
Sector: Financial

What they do: Crunch the numbers, whether it's for financial analysis or tax preparation.

Why it's great: Businesses began stocking the payroll with CPAs after major accounting scandals earlier this decade, and a host of new corporate accounting rules going into effect soon should ratchet up demand further. Government agencies are also hiring CPAs, to monitor how well companies are complying with the new regs. Add inevitable changes to personal income tax rules and you have a pretty recession-proof profession. "Unless Congress does away with taxes, we'll always have work," says CPA Lisa Featherngill of Winston- Salem, N.C. Some 33,000 independent CPAs also work for themselves, typically as tax preparers.

Drawbacks: Deadlines are nonnegotiable; if you're in tax preparation, kiss your personal life goodbye between mid-February and April 15.

Pre-reqs: A certification exam and, typically, 150 hours of business and accounting classes and work experience.

Getty Images

7. Physical Therapist

Median salary (experienced): $74,300
Top pay: $98,100
Job growth (10-year forecast): 27%
Sector: Healthcare

What they do: Restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion to people who have been sidelined by injury, illness, or disease.

Not that stability and growth don’t matter, of course. We put the heaviest weight on those factors when we began crunching the numbers to come up with our list of the 50 best jobs. But to make the final cut, a job had to get high quality-of-life marks too. Whether you’re thinking of switching careers, are job hunting, or want to nudge a child in the right professional direction, this list should give you plenty of fodder for discussion.

Why it's great: Unlike many health-care professionals, physical therapists generally see great progress in their patients. "I don't just treat the symptoms-- I give people the tools to get better," says Jennifer Gamboa, an orthopedic physical therapist in Arlington, Va. Plus, there's no overnight or shift work. Medical advances that allow a growing number of people with injuries and disabilities to survive are spurring demand, says Marc Goldstein, senior director of research at the American Physical Therapists Association. And hey, baby boomers' knees aren't getting any younger: An aging population means more chronic conditions that need physical therapy treatment.

Drawbacks: The impact of health reform on the profession is a wild card. Can be physically demanding.

Pre-reqs: A master's degree, plus certification and state licensing. Many employers prefer a doctor of physical therapy degree.


8. Computer/Network Security Consultant

Median salary (experienced): $99,700
Top pay: $152,000
Job growth (10-year forecast): 27%
Sector: Information Technology

What they do: Protect computer systems and networks against hackers, spyware, and viruses. "I consider myself a cybercrime fighter," says Gregory Evans, an independent computer security consultant in Atlanta.

Why it's great: No company or government agency can afford to have a serious breach in the security of its computer system. New technologies and an unending supply of creative hackers around the world keep the field challenging. Consultants can often work from home. And top-level pros command big paychecks.

Drawbacks: Talk about stress. If a system is infiltrated by a virus or hacker, it could mean lights out for the security consultant's career. "This is a job you can't afford to ever fail in," says Evans.

Pre-reqs: Mostly major geekdom, since the skills can be self-taught. Still, a computer science degree comes in handy. An information systems security professional certification (CISSP) is increasingly favored. Experience is key for better-paying positions: Most companies won't hire a consultant with less than five years of experience.

AP Photo/CIA

9. Intelligence Analyst

Median salary (experienced): $82,500
Top pay: $115,000
Job growth (10-year forecast): 15%
Sector: Government

What they do: Gather and analyze data related to international policy and military strategy, most often for the government or defense contractors.

Why it's great: Like adventure? Data might be collected from satellite images, wiretaps, Internet chatter, and military and spy reports. Given the country's continued vigilance about national security, demand should remain high. "The best part is helping our country," says Nate Copeland, an intelligence analyst in Herndon, Va.

Drawbacks: High stress; you often can't talk about your job outside of work.

Pre-reqs: Security clearance, of course. Foreign languages and often military experience are a huge plus.


10. Sales Director

Median salary (experienced): $140,000
Top pay: $239,000
Job growth (10-year forecast): 10%
Sector: Sales and Marketing

What they do: Set and meet sales goals, generate new accounts, and mentor and train new recruits.

Why it's great: A successful sales director--especially one who can weather an economic downturn-- will always be sought after. "I feel secure since I'm bringing money into the company," says Holly Anderson, a sales director in St. Helena, Calif. Sales directors often move into high-level management.

Drawbacks: Sales down? You're vulnerable to getting the ax. Commission-based pay can fluctuate dramatically. Expect to be on the road about 50% of the time.

Pre-reqs: 10 years of sales experience and a year or two in management. A proven track record beats an advanced degree.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where Americans Earn The Most

Median incomes in these metro areas are the country's highest.

Though fewer Americans these days have salaries to brag about, and unemployment at is at 9.7% nationwide, there are enclaves of the country where the rich keep getting richer, figures released Tuesday show.

Families earn the highest median income in the Bridgeport, Conn., San Jose, Calif., and Washington, D.C., metro areas, according to the latest numbers from the United States Census Bureau. (These areas are broader than the city limits; the Bridgeport metro area, for example, encompases wealthy suburbs Norwalk and Stamford.) What's more, as incomesplummeted in many areas across the country--real adjusted family income was the lowest it has been since 1997, according to the Census Bureau--these cities all saw a rise in median family income from the previous year.

The fact that residents of these wealth centers bring in over $100,000 per year is hardly surprising. Some of these places create wealth, like Washington, where the U.S. government is a robust employer, or San Jose, a tech-industry hot spot. Others, like the Bridgeport area, are where powerful executives make their home--and bring their paychecks--after a long week in the big city.

Behind the Numbers

Forbes ranked the median family income for all 369 Metropolitan Statistical Areas for which the U.S. Census Bureau publishes data as part of its annual American Community Survey. MSAs are geographic entities that the U.S. Office of Management and Budget defines and uses in collecting statistics. The survey, released Tuesday, updates select subjects from the decennial U.S. Census, using a smaller sample of the population. It measures characteristics of the population for the year 2008.

Though the economic news has been dismal across the country, all 20 of the highest-earning cities in the U.S. saw higher incomes than in 2007. In part, this can be explained by timing: The survey asked Americans about calendar year 2008, which hit workers the hardest only at the end of the year.

"In 2008 we were debating what income would look like because of inflation," says Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank that focuses on policy issues. "But things didn't get grim until October, when cascading job losses began."

Bedroom Communities Do Best

While urban centers, growth-industry towns and university hubs may generate profits, it is often the suburbs and small cities surrounding those areas where workers take their paychecks. That's why Bridgeport tops our list, as the metro area it inhabits also includes Stamford and Norwalk; all are roughly an hour commute from New York City, and Stamford is a financial center in its own right, the location of companies like General Electric Capital and Xerox.

Similarly, in the Trenton, N.J., area, families live well, on a median income of $88,789 annually. This is likely not thanks to the town itself, which had 989 violent crimes in 2008, but neighboring Ewing, which has emerged as a key business location for the recent biotech boom in the state. The metro is also within commuting distance of New York and Philadelphia.

Areas where one might expect families to do quite well, like New York City itself (it ranked 29th), instead see much of their wealth transferred to outlying suburbs. New Yorkers still earn a lot (the $77,760 that families there gross is well above the $58,270 national average), but comparatively less than in some suburban areas. In part, this is because the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area isn't just limited to Manhattan; it includes the outer boroughs, Long Island and parts of New Jersey. Thus many working-class families live adjacent to the wealthy city center, and their incomes are reflected in the lower median number.

Baltimore and Poughkeepsie, N.Y., modest areas in many ways, found their way onto this list with their surprisingly high median incomes of $81,036 and $85,463, respectively, for the same reason that other suburban metros made the top 20: Baltimore is close to Washington, D.C, and Poughkeepsie houses commuters to New York City.

Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Boston families also took home more pay in 2008 than those in nearly all other metro areas in 2008. Boston's sprawling metro area includes Cambridge and Quincy--both relatively well-to-do cities. In San Francisco, the high end of incomes are so far above the national average that the median is tugged upward.

The Jobs Picture

The numbers also confirmed something that most already knew: Where tech goes, so goes the money. Highly skilled workers congregate in high-tech cities like San Jose, Calif., where families earn a median $103,164 annually.

Other growth industries can create clusters of well-off families, and help explain why Oxnard, Calif., families make around $86,784 a year. The health industry, one of the fastest-growing in the country, helps support the city. St. John's Regional Medical Center employs more of this city's residents than any other company.

While high gross pay doesn't always trickle down evenly when taxes, Social Security, housing and other living costs are factored in, looking at median family income does give a good indication of where the country's money is pooling.

"Because 2008 was so bad, clearly, some places have borne the brunt more than others," says Bouchey. "It could be that these are the places left standing."

Top 5 Places Where Median Incomes Are Highest

1. Bridgeport, Conn.
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn., Metropolitan Statistical Area
Median Family Income: $105,132

2. San Jose, Calif.
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., Metropolitan Statistical Area
Median Family Income: $103,164

3. Washington, D.C.
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.V., Metropolitan Statistical Area
Median Family Income: $101,590

4. San Francisco, Calif.
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif., Metropolitan Statistical Area
Median Family Income: $94,236

5. Trenton, N.J.
Trenton-Ewing, N.J., Metropolitan Statistical Area
Median Family Income: $93,912

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Somali pirates attack French military flagship

NAIROBI (AFP) – Somali pirates attempted to storm the French navy's 18,000 tonne flagship in the Indian Ocean after mistaking it for a cargo vessel, the French military said on Wednesday.

The crew of La Somme, a 160-metre (525-foot) command vessel and fuel tanker, easily saw off the brazen night-time assault by lightly armed fighters on two lightweight skiffs and captured five pirates, a spokesman said.

"The pirates, who because of the darkness took the French ship for a commercial vessel, were on board two vessels and opened fire with Kalashnikovs," Admiral Christophe Prazuck said in Paris.

La Somme is the French command vessel in the Indian Ocean, overseeing French air, sea and land forces fighting Somali pirates and hunting terrorists under the banner of the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom.

Officers on the ship have directed commando operations to free French hostages in the hands of Somali pirates.

The pirates tried to flee when they realised their mistake but were pursued by French forces who, after an hour-long chase, caught one of the skiffs, Prazuck said.

On it they found five men but no weapons, water or food as the pirates had apparently thrown all of the boat's contents overboard, the spokesman said.

A Western official at sea in the area, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that there had been an exchange of fire between the warship and the pirate launches.

"One of the skiffs managed to get away in the night because La Somme was busy with the first pirate boat," he said.

"Despite the arrival of other vessels, they haven't yet managed to find the second boat," he said, adding that many warships in the area were busy hunting another group which attacked a cargo ship off the Seychelles on Sunday.

The world's naval powers have deployed dozens of warships to the lawless waters off Somalia over the past year to curb attacks by pirates in one of the world's busiest maritime trade routes.

La Somme was operating 250 nautical miles (460 kilometres) off the Somali coast, on its way to resupply fuel to frigates patrolling shipping lanes as part of the European Union's Operation Atalanta anti-piracy mission.

This was not the first time that Somali pirates have mistakenly attacked a French naval vessel. Several pirates were captured in May when they attempted to board a frigate in the area.

Somalia has had no proper government since it plunged into lawlessness after President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

The country is riven by factional fighting and pirate gangs operate freely from several ports along its Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden coasts.

According to the environmental watchdog Ecoterra International, at least 163 attacks have been carried out by Somali pirates since the start of 2009 alone, 47 of them successful hijackings.

Last year, more than 130 merchant ships were attacked, an increase of more than 200 percent on 2007, according to the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

Pirates have in recent weeks resumed attacks with the end of the monsoon season. Last week Somali gunmen captured Spanish fishing boat The Alakrana with 36 crew members in the Indian Ocean.

The US Maritime Administration warned last month that the end of the monsoon season was likely to bring an increase in piracy off Somalia and urged shipping companies to be vigilant.

Calmer waters allow pirates, who often operate in small fibreglass skiffs towed out to sea by captured fishing vessels, to hijack freighters, trawlers and private yachts. Cruise vessels have also been attacked.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Philippines in 'state of calamity' as typhoon looms

Philippines in 'state of calamity' as typhoon looms
Slideshow: Faces of Asia PH

MANILA (AFP) - – President Gloria Arroyo placed the Philippines under a "state of calamity" on Friday and terrified people fled their homes as a powerful typhoon threatened to unleash more carnage following deadly floods.

After being accused of not preparing her country adequately for last Saturday's storm that killed 293 people in and around Manila, Arroyo also ordered forced evacuations of towns in the direct path of Typhoon Parma.

"Our prayers are that no lives will be lost," said Bella Angara, the governor of the northern Philippine province of Aurora, which is one of the areas predicted to feel Parma's full force on Saturday afternoon.

The government warned Parma would tear down houses in and around Aurora, while likely bringing more heavy rain to the nation's capital, Manila, and nearby areas that were still recovering from Saturday's record floods.

"We're praying very hard that the super typhoon will spare us," said housewife Nita Solita, 42, who was living in a makeshift evacuation centre in Manila after losing her home in the floods.

"I don't know what's happening to our country."

Nearly 400,000 people remained in under-prepared schools, gymnasiums and other makeshift government shelters after tropical storm Ketsana unleashed the heaviest rains in more than four decades on Manila.

The rains from Parma threatened to worsen already squalid conditions and further hamper relief supplies for the survivors in those shelters.

Many parts of Manila and neighbouring regions also remain under water -- with mud, debris and trash still blocking drains -- so any more rain could lead to another surge in flood waters.

In one town that remained in chest-deep water on the outskirts of Manila, people were fleeing their homes in preparation for another surge in the floods.

"I ordered this morning the evacuation of people in flood-stricken areas... thousands have already transferred to public schools and my own rice milling compound," said San Pedro mayor Calixto Cataquiz. Related article: Prison under water

Arroyo also ordered the evacuation of those living in coastal and low-lying regions further north on the Philippines' main island of Luzon, such as Aurora province.

"We need that preventative evacuation," Arroyo said in a nationally televised conference with government officials that was held to discuss preparations for Parma.

Her spokesman, Cerge Remonde, told reporters later that Arroyo had declared a state of calamity for the whole country, which allows local authorities to tap emergency funds and the national government to impose price controls.

Large areas of the Philippines, including Manila, are already under a state of calamity because of tropical storm Ketsana.

"(But) it is much better if the whole country (is under a state of calamity) so that local governments are prepared," Remonde said.

About 1.8 million people could be exposed to Parma's worst winds, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"We are extremely concerned," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The government weather station said that Parma, which was originally forecast to hit Aurora on Saturday morning, was now predicted to make landfall on Saturday afternoon after its pace slowed.

But it was still packing wind gusts of 230 kilometres per hour and could even strengthen with the more time it spends over the sea, it said.

"These gusts are strong enough to destroy houses, to rip the roofs off houses," said Nathaniel Cruz, head of the weather forecasting unit.

The Philippines is normally battered by about 20 typhoons annually, but the pattern has changed in recent years and the ferocity of some has increased.

Some weather experts have blamed the changing nature and pattern of the typhoons on climate change.

Classes to resume Monday unless...


MANILA - Classes in pre-school, elementary and high school will likely resume on Monday except in schools that are being used as evacuation centers and in areas still flooded, according to Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Jesli Lapus.

Based on the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) meeting on Friday, Lapus said classes should resume on Monday except:

1) where schools are being used as evacuation centers; 2) where local government authorities declare suspension of classes in their respective areas; 3) where schools are still inaccessible due to various reasons such as floods.

However, Lapus said this policy may still change depending on the impact of supertyphoon Pepeng, which was expected to hit Bicol and northern Luzon starting Saturday afternoon.

"We have to wait for what Pepeng is going to develop into as far as Metro Manila is concerned," he said in an interview with ANC on Friday. "Assuming Pepeng does not disturb the situation right now, we are inclined to localize the suspension of classes."

This means local government authorities will decide whether to resume classes on Monday.

Lapus said many believe classes, especially in private schools, should already resume on Monday in Metro Manila and other areas affected by Ondoy.

He expressed concern over the many class suspensions saying this has affected the minimum number of school days of 204.

"So marami na tayong mga araw na nawalan ng pasok. We cannot indefinitely be on regional suspension, dahil magme-make na tayo ng klase nito," Lapus said.

He suggested that schools may hold make-up classes on Saturdays or shorten the semestral break. Another option is home study.

"We have modules for home study. This is one way--to learn in the houses," Lapus said.

Teenager rescued 40 hours after Indonesia quake

PADANG, Indonesia – Rescuers pulled a teenager alive from her collapsed college 40 hours after a powerful earthquake devastated western Indonesia, while cries for help Friday from beneath a flattened hotel spurred the frantic search for more survivors.

Two days after Wednesday's 7.6-magnitude quake toppled thousands of buildings on Sumatra island, the government said nearly 3,000 may still be trapped under the rubble. At least 715 people are already confirmed dead. Paramedics laid out dozens of corpses and the stench of decomposing bodies filled the air.

Some victims have yet to receive help. In a district north of the hard-hit city of Padang, stricken residents said they'd seen no rescue workers. Most structures there had been leveled, and people were using shovels and their bare hands to clear landslides and dig out bodies.

Against a grim backdrop of grief and destruction, rescuers found a reason to cheer: Ratna Kurniasari Virgo, 19, an English major sophomore, was found alive under the rubble of her college in Padang, the Foreign Language School of Prayoga. She was pulled out Friday morning, conscious, 40 hours after the quake hit at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday.

With excited shouts and giving words of encouragement to each other, rescuers pulled Virgo hands-first from a hole drilled in the debris. Her olive-colored T-shirt almost spotless, Virgo was laid on a stretcher before being taken to hospital to be treated for a broken leg.

"She is fine, conscious and does not have any life-threatening injuries," said Nining Rosanti, a nurse, at the hospital.

Elsewhere in the city, at the site of the former Ambacang Hotel where as many as 100 were feared trapped, rescue workers detected signs of life under a hill of tangled steel, concrete slabs and broken bricks of the three-story structure, said Gagah Prakosa, a spokesman of the rescue team.

"We heard some voices of people under the rubble, but as you can see the damage is making it very difficult to extricate them," Prakosa said, as a backhoe cleared the debris noisily.

The voices were heard 44 hours after the disaster, giving hope that many lives could still be saved.

But as the first foreign relief teams made their way to the scene, Indonesian officials said a lack of heavy digging equipment was hampering the search.

"Heavy equipment and rescuers are our priority," said spokesman Priyadi Kardono of the Health Ministry's national disaster management agency.

Kardono said Friday that 715 people have been confirmed dead and 2,400 hospitalized. U.N. spokeswoman Laksmita Noviera in Jakarta said the United Nations fears the toll could rise to 1,100.

That appeared a conservative estimate. Kardono said nearly 3,000 people may still be trapped under rubble. It is the first confirmed government figure for the missing, suggesting that the final death toll could be in the thousands.

The damage from the undersea quake was believed most extensive around Padang, a coastal town of 900,000 people and the capital of heavily populated West Sumatra province.

But about 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the north, in the rural, hilly district of Pariaman, which is home to about 370,000 people, an Associated Press reporter saw virtually no buildings still standing. The region was largely cut off and had received no outside help, leaving many to clear roads of landslides and dig out bodies using shovels and bare hands.

Officials said more than 10,000 homes and buildings had been destroyed there. It was unclear how many had died.

At a makeshift center for the homeless, dozens sheltered from the burning sun under a 15-by-30 foot (5-by-10 meter) canopy donated by a local business.

"It's too crowded here at night. We need more space and we need more shelter," said resident Ahmad Razali. "I'm worried about looters. They are out there and the police are too busy to do anything. We haven't gotten any help from the government yet."

Medical teams, search dogs, backhoes and emergency supplies, some of it given by other countries, were flown into Sumatra on Friday after Indonesia issued an appeal for international help.

"Please be patient," Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told the crowd of people whose relatives are missing, assuring them that the government was doing everything in its power to save lives.

But death was pervasive as bodies began decomposing in the tropical heat.

Paramedics laid out dozens of corpses at the Dr. M. Djamil General Hospital, Padang's biggest, which also was partly damaged in the quake. The air was filled with the wail of ambulance sirens.

Anwari, who uses only one name, burst into tears when asked who he was waiting for outside the hospital.

"Don't ask me about my daughter ... She is still missing," Anwari said, between sobs. "Please don't ask me ... it reminds me of her." He was too distraught to say anything more.

With communications and power supplies still down in many areas, fuel was being rationed to focus on locating the missing.

Twenty-eight tons of supplies, including water, medicine and basic food provisions, were flown into regional airports to be distributed to the needy. Aid workers handed tents to some of the tens of thousands of people made homeless, disaster management spokesman Kardono said.

Russia sent two planeloads of supplies, along with doctors and nurses to treat the seriously injured.

Also donating millions of dollars in aid and financial assistance were governments and charities of Australia, Britain, China, Germany, Japan, the European Union, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Denmark and the United States, Indonesian officials said.

President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, pledged to support earthquake recovery efforts there, as well as provide assistance to the South Pacific countries of Samoa and American Samoa, which were hit by a deadly tsunami Tuesday. The United States pledged $3.3 million in immediate assistance to Indonesia.

Indonesia sits on a major geological fault zone and experiences dozens of quakes every year. Wednesday's quake originated on the same fault line that spawned the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen nations.

It was the deadliest since May 2006, when more than 3,000 people died in the city of Yogyakarta.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani said the government has allocated $25 million for a two-month emergency response. She said the earthquake will seriously affect Indonesia's economic growth, because West Sumatra is a main producer of crude palm oil.

(UPDATE) Smart, Globe lower call rates to P3/min as 'Pepeng' hits RP


MANILA - The country's top 2 telecommunications firms will reduce rates rates for domestic mobile voice calls in preparation for the onslaught of typhoon "Pepeng" (international code name Parma).

In separate statements, Smart Communications Inc. and Globe Telecom Inc. said they will lower per-minute voice call charges to P3 on Saturday, October 3.

Standard voice calls are usually priced at P6 per minute.

Smart's rate cut will start at 2 a.m. on Saturday, and will end at around the same time on Monday, October 5.

On the other hand, Globe subscribers can avail of the P3 per-minute call rate from 12:01 a.m. on Saturday until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, October 4.

The price adjustment will cover subscribers of Smart's and Globe's mass-market brands, which are Talk 'N Text and Touch Mobile, respectively.

However, the lower rate will only be applicable to users belonging to the same network (Smart to Smart, Smart to Talk 'N Text, Globe to Globe, and Globe to Touch Mobile).

Smart added that the temporary voice call rates are effective for both pre-paid and post paid subscribers.

"No special dialling procedure will be required to avail of the P3 per minute rate. Just dial directly as you would when making a regular voice call," Globe said. Subscribers of the Ayala-led phone firm typically have to add prefix numbers to avail of lower call rates.


As of 3 p.m., Globe said 99% of its affected facilities are already back online. The company said it is expecting a full restoration of its cellular sites "very soon."

For its part, Smart ensured its subscribers that its network "will continue operating and provide vital communication services to the public and to emergency authorities."

The government has already placed the entire Philippines under a state of calamity as "Pepeng" is expected to make landfall on Saturday.

Just last week, tropical storm "Ondoy" dumped the heaviest rains in more than 40 years in Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces, leaving 293 people dead and 42 people missing.

Phone companies have business continuity and preparedness plans to allow them to bring back operations to normal after typhoons the soonest possible time.

Pinay confirmed dead in Samoan tsunami

A Filipino immigrant was among those killed by a destructive tsunami that hit the Samoa Islands in the South Pacific on Tuesday (before dawn Wednesday in Manila), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday.

DFA spokesperson Ed Malaya identified the Filipino victim as 62-year-old Godofreda Reambonza-Palma of Pago Pago town in American Samoa, a US territory that is home to 65,000 people.

Malaya said Palma was a native of Dipolog, a city in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Norte. She migrated as an entrepreneur to Samoa.

The DFA official said the victim had no other relative in the US territory and that the repatriation of her remains is being arranged by the Filipino community there.

Malaya said Palma's relatives in the Philippines were already informed of the incident.

News about the Filipino immigrant's death was first told to GMANews.TV on Thursday by Michelle Parungo, a resident of Samoa. According to her, the village that had the most damage were Pago Pago and Leone, which she said were "totally washed out."

"Thank God it was just 7 a.m. so most people were not at work/school yet and were able to evacuate," Parungo said in an e-mail.

An Associated Press report said enormous ocean waves caused by an earthquake swept the shores of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga, flattening villages.

Samoan officials on Friday said the death toll rose to 169 and they were planning a mass funeral and burial on Oct. 6.

Of the dead, 129 were from Samoa, 31 from American Samoa and nine from Tonga.

According to a report by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the tsunami was triggered by a magnitude-8 earthquake that occurred at 5:48 GMT Tuesday (6:48 a.m. Tuesday, Samoan time and 1:48 a.m. Wednesday, Manila time).

Convoys of military vehicles have brought food, water and medicine to the tsunami-stricken villages as victims wandered through what was left of their villages with tales of being trapped underwater, watching young children drown and hoisting elderly parents above the waves.

The quake struck at about 11 kilometers below the ocean floor. It was centered about 200 kilometers from Samoa, an island nation of 180,000 people located about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii and about about 190 kilometers from neighboring American Samoa.

The DFA said there are some 2,000 Filipinos in American Samoa and 25 in Samoa.

On Friday, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck at local time about 242 kilometers north-northeast of Tonga, and 377 kilometers southwest of Pago Pago, said the USGS. No tsunami warning was issued. - GMANews.TV

Rio wins 2016 Games

By Paul Radford

COPENHAGEN - Rio de Janeiro will stage the first Olympics in South America in 2016, the International Olympic Committee decided on Friday, delivering a stunning rebuff to U.S. President Barack Obama and favourites Chicago.

IOC President Jacques Rogge announced the decision to give the Games to Rio after three rounds of voting which produced a landslide victory for the Brazilians in a final showdown with Madrid.

Chicago, despite a speech to the IOC by President Obama, who had put his credibility on the line by flying in to address the IOC just before the vote, went out as fourth and last in the first round of voting, one of the biggest shocks in an Olympic ballot.

Chicago had started as front-runners and most Olympic observers had expected the Obama factor - first lady Michelle Obama spent two days lobbying in Copenhagen and also addressed the IOC session - to be decisive.

The fourth candidate, Tokyo, was knocked out in the second ballot.


The Brazilian delegation at the Bella Convention Centre, including Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and soccer great Pele, cheered wildly, then broke down in tears of joy and began singing as they hugged each other and celebrated a momentous victory.

Lula's impassioned appeal to the IOC to stop its habit of awarding Olympics to Europe, North America and the Far East and give Brazil and South America a long overdue chance clearly touched the right buttons as did an appealing video display, showing beaches, mountains and a joyous people having fun.

Rio's Copacabana beach erupted in joy after the vote was announced, kicking off a carnival-style celebration in front of the big stage and screens broadcasting events from Denmark.

In the final round of voting by 98 eligible IOC members, Rio picked up more than two thirds, winning by 66 votes to Madrid's 32 with one abstention.

Madrid had led the first round by 28 votes to 26 for Rio with Tokyo on 22 and Chicago last on 18.

After Chicago's elimination, there was a strong switch to Rio in the second round, the Brazilians almost winning an outright majority, picking up 46 votes to 29 for Madrid and 20 for Tokyo.


Though the U.S. President and his wife produced strong appeals in the day's first 45-minute presentation by Chicago, they were almost certainly undone by the emotional tugs provided by Lula and former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch for Madrid.

Lula raised the emotional stakes in his speech. "This is a continent that has never held the Games," he said.

"It is time to address this imbalance. The opportunity is now to extend the Games to a new continent. It's an opportunity for an Olympics in a tropical country for the first time, to feel the warmth of our people, the exuberance of our culture and the sensation of our joy."

Even more emotionally, Samaranch, now 89, pulled powerfully at the heart-strings of members when he spoke for Madrid. "I know I am very near the end of my days," he said. "May I ask you to consider granting my country the honour and also the duty to organise the games in 2016?"

Obama's appearance, the first by a sitting U.S. President at an IOC session, provoked huge interest from IOC members, even though they are used to being courted by major political figures.

Obama told the IOC: "I've come here today to urge you to choose Chicago for the same reason I chose Chicago nearly 25 years ago, the reason I fell in love with the city I still call home."