Monday, September 1, 2008

The 10 Worst Job Tips Ever

by Liz Ryan

Nearly every day, someone sends me a bit of astounding job-search advice from a blog or a newsletter. Some of this advice seems to come directly from the planet X-19, and some of it seems to have been made up on the spot. Here are 10 of my favorite pieces of atrocious job-search advice, for you to read and ignore at all costs:


The Summary or Objective at the top of your résumé is the wrap-up; It tells the reader, "This person know who s/he is, what s/he's done, and why it matters." Your Summary shows off your writing skills, shows that you know what's salient in your background, and puts a point on the arrow of your résumé. Don't skip it, no matter who tells you it's not necessary or important.


Another piece of horrendous job search advice tells job-seekers to share as much information as possible. A post-millennium résumé uses up two pages, maximum, when it's printed. (Academic CVs are another story.) Editing is a business skill, after all—just tell us what's most noteworthy in your long list of impressive feats.


Any résumé that trumpets "cross-functional facilitation of multi-level teams" is headed straight for the shredder. The worst job-search advice tells us to write our résumés using ponderous corporate boilerplate that sinks a smart person's résumé like a stone. Please ignore that advice, and write your résumé the way you speak (, 8/22/08).


A very bad bit of job-search advice says "Whatever you do, don't ever miss a phone screen! Even if you're in the shower or or on your way to be the best man at your brother's wedding, make time for that phone interview!" This is good advice is your job-search philosophy emphasizes groveling. I don't recommend this approach. Let the would-be phone-screener know that you're tied up at the moment but would be happy to speak at 7 p.m. on Thursday night, or some other convenient time. Lock in the time during that first call, but don't contort your life to fit the screener's schedule.


Do bring up money (, 8/7/08) by the second interview, and let the employers know what your salary requirements are before they start getting ideas that perhaps you're a trust-fund baby and could bring your formidable skills over to XYZ Corp. for a cool $45,000. Set them straight, at the first opportunity.


Successful job-seekers use friends, LinkedIn contacts, and anybody else in their network to locate and reach out to contacts inside a target employer. Playing by the rules often gets your résumé pitched into the abyss at the far end of the e-mail address If you've got a way into the decision-maker's office, use it. Ignore advice that instructs you to send one résumé via the company Web site and wait (and wait, and wait) to hear from them.


I've been recommending sending snail-mail letters to corporate job-search target contacts for three or four years now, and people tell me it's working. The response rate is higher, and the approach is friendlier. A surface-mail letter can often get you an interview in a case where an e-mail would get ignored or spam-filtered. One friend of mine sent her surface-mail résumé and cover letter to a major company's COO in New York, and got a call a week later from a general manager wanting to interview her in Phoenix, where she lives. She showed up at the interview to see her paper letter—yes, her actual, signed letter, on bond paper—and résumé sitting on his desk in Phoenix (probably conveyed via an old-fashioned Inter-Office envelope). An e-mail might have ended up in the COO's spam folder.


You can't wait for companies to call you back. You've got to call and follow up on the résumés you've sent. If an ad says "no calls," use your LinkedIn connections to put you in touch with someone who can put in a word with the hiring manager. Don't sit and wait for the call to come. Your résumé is in a stack with 150 others, and if you don't push it up the pipeline, no one will.


Give them your résumé, your cover letter, and your time in a phone-screen or face-to-face interview. But don't give anyone your list of references until it's clear that mutual interest to move forward exists (usually after two interviews), and don't fill out endless tests and questionnaires in the hope of perhaps getting an audience with the Emperor. Let the employers know that you'd be happy to talk (ideally on the phone at first) to see whether your interests and theirs intersect. If there's a good match, you'll feel better about sharing more time and energy on whatever tests and exercises they've constructed to weed out unsuitable candidates. Maybe.


This is the best way in the world to get overexposed and undervalued in the job market. (Exception: If you're looking for contract or journeyman IT work, it's a great idea to post your credentials all over.) People will find your LinkedIn profile if they're looking and if you've taken the time to fill it out with pithy details of your background. If you're not employed, include a headline like "Online Marketer ISO Next Challenge" or "Controller Seeking Company Seeking Controller." Your résumé posted on a job board is a spam-and-scam magnet and a mark that your network isn't as robust as it might be. These aren't the signs you want to put out there. Use your network (vs. the world at large) to help you spread the job-search word.

What's the worst job-seeking advice you've ever gotten?

Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.

Original here

For bicyclists, a widening patchwork world

Commuters ride their bicycles along Blackfriars Bridge in London on June 4.

By Blaine Harden

TACHIA, Taiwan - Antony Lo is one happy biker. He is 60 but looks younger, with a body buffed by commuting 130 miles a week on his bike. He is also president of Taiwan-based Giant, the world's largest bicycle company, where sales are soaring, helped along by global anxiety over oil prices. With undisguised glee, Lo says: "High-priced gasoline is here to stay. I tell my people we are just at the beginning of a very big cycling boom."

Boom it is. The number of cyclists has doubled in a decade in cities as disparate as Berlin and Bogota. Global bicycle production has increased for six consecutive years, according to a report by the Earth Policy Institute. Sales at Giant have doubled since 2002 and continue to accelerate, up 24 percent in the first half of this year.

Yet when it comes to using a bike for everyday transportation, the boom appears to have bypassed many countries. While Northern Europe and Japan have figured out how to make bicycle commuting a safe, cheap alternative to driving, the United States, Canada, Australia and Britain have not. And the world's two most populous nations, China and India, are discarding bicycles in favor of cars. A rising middle class in both countries views cycling as an unhappy reminder of the recent past, when nearly everyone was poor.

Still, among the world's most developed countries, a reliable recipe has emerged for making cycling a mainstream means of getting to work.

Commuters in Northern Europe have been lured out of their cars by bike lanes, secure bike parking and easy access to mass transportation. At the same time, steep automobile taxes, congestion-zone fees and go-slow rules have made inner-city driving a costly pain in the neck. In the Netherlands, where such carrot-and-stick policies have been in place for decades, 27 percent of all trips are by bike.

"It is very clear how to do this," said John Pucher, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University and lead author of a global study of strategies that promote cycling. "It is not rocket science."

U.S. ignores bike strategies
In the United States, with the exception of a handful of cities, these strategies have been ignored. Car-centric transportation policies and suburban sprawl continue to make bicycle commuting rare, arduous and relatively dangerous. Although millions of Americans recreate on bikes, they ride them for just 0.4 percent of their trips to work, according to the U.S. Census.

Germans are 10 times more likely than Americans to ride a bike and three times less likely to get hurt while doing so. On any given workday, more commuters park their bikes at train and subway stations in Tokyo (704,000) than cycle to work in the entire United States (535,000), according to the Tokyo government and the U.S. Census.

In recent months, bike shops across much of the United States have been flooded with new customers fed up with high gasoline prices, said An Le, the Los Angeles-based global marketing director of Giant.

Yet without major changes in U.S. transportation policy and infrastructure, an earnest desire to save money on gas is not enough to turn American bike owners into everyday cyclists who ride to work, according to urban planners, transportation experts and bicycle company executives.

"In the United States, we simply have not figured out how to fit the pieces together for a coordinated package that puts people on bikes," Pucher said.

'Britain makes a start'
When cities do fit the pieces together, they often see an almost instantaneous surge in cycling.

In Britain, a country whose nationwide transportation system is nearly as inhospitable to cycling as that of the United States, London has emerged as Exhibit A for the quick infrastructure fix that gets commuters out of cars.

In 2003, the city imposed a steep "congestion charge" of about $16 for cars driving into the city center. Within a year, inner-city cycling had increased by about 25 percent. In the past eight years, there has been a 10-fold increase in city spending on bike lanes, bike parking and education programs. The effort has nearly doubled cycling throughout London.

There also seems to have been a fundamental change in the way Londoners think about cycling. It's become cool. Model Elle McPherson, Mick Jagger and Madonna have been spotted on bikes.

Angela Simoes, 55, sold her car seven months ago. When the mother of two needs groceries, three miles away, she cycles. When she visits the doctor, one mile away, she cycles. She is studying to become a teacher, and when she wants to let off steam, she cycles, sometimes for hours.

She rarely uses the subway, but when she does, she locks her bicycle to one of the many bike rails provided outside the station. She also has a folding bike, which she carries on the train like an oversize handbag.

The decision to ditch her car was easy, she said. Gas prices had shot up, she won the folding bike in a contest, and her car needed costly repairs.

She doesn't miss the car. "It's so much quicker to jump on the cycle and get a few things," she said. "There's no pollution and you're keeping fit."

As much as she can, she rides in London's new bike lanes and uses bus lanes that have been opened to cyclists. But Britain still has a long way to go before it connects the cycling dots.

There is "no one long path we can call our own" in London, and roads outside the city are dangerous, she said. "A cyclist has to keep her eyes peeled."

Europe's full embrace
Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have been connecting the dots for three decades. They started in the mid-1970s, in the wake of the world's first oil shock and after 25 years of American-style, car-centric traffic management that had coincided with a sharp decline in cycling.

There is now an integrated system of safe bicycling routes in most cities in all three countries. It allows cyclists to go almost everywhere on paths that are separated from automobiles and in "traffic-calmed" neighborhoods. Besides pampering cyclists, these countries punished drivers with fees and restrictions intended to make commuting by car expensive, slow and frustrating.

The policies have resulted in the developed world's highest per-capita rates of cycling and lowest rates of cycling accidents, the Rutgers study found.

In Berlin, biking now accounts for 12 percent of all transportation. The city has 3.4 million residents, and the city estimates that they use their bicycles a million times a day.

One of those cyclists is Michael Abraham, 35, an engineer at Berlin's Technical University. He has been riding a bicycle to stay in shape most of his life, but in the past year, goaded by high gasoline prices, he started cycling to work. "It's simply cheaper with your bike," he said.

Abraham estimates that he now saves about $35 a week on gasoline. That's not the only benefit. Thanks to Berlin's finely tuned cycling network, he also knows exactly how long his 7 1/2 mile commute will take -- 35 minutes. If he drives, the trip takes between 20 minutes and 1 1/2 hours, depending on traffic.

"With a car you can't reliably predict how long your commute will be, but you can with a bike," he said. "You are not affected by traffic jams -- you can just ride through them. It's a real advantage."

Build it and they'll come
While the northern European model for promoting cycling certainly works, it is costly and requires lots of government intervention. There are other ways to get people on bikes. Japan does not pamper cyclists, but it does provide easy access to mass transit.

In greater Tokyo, where 35 million people live in the world's most populous metro area, there are almost no bike lanes. Guided by vague laws about what cyclists can and cannot do, police tend to ignore them -- except for confiscating illegally parked bikes.

Traffic chases most Tokyo cyclists onto sidewalks, where they periodically bump into pedestrians. Mothers are forbidden by law to carry more than one child on a bicycle, but tens of thousands of them do it every day.

"The manners of Tokyo cyclists are very poor and sometime suicidal," said Nobuyuki Tsuchiya, director general of public works in Edogawa, a Tokyo ward with 640,000 people, most of whom ride bikes. As for government transportation officials in Japan, Tsuchiya said it is difficult to find one who doesn't show some "negative thinking about bicycles. We are far behind our counterparts in Europe."

Still, a bicycle is an essential component of life in Tokyo. Impossibly thin women in four-inch heels ride them, as do important-looking men in black suits. Cycling's chaotic ubiquity is a result of several factors: population density, the high cost of driving and arguably the world's best train and subway system.

Commuters ride bikes often but not for very long -- usually less than 15 minutes. Train stations are no more than 1 1/2 miles apart in most of the city. Compared with walking or taking a bus, riding a bike shaves precious minutes off the daily trip to and from a station.

The one bone that some municipal governments have thrown cyclists is bike parking near stations. This year in Edogawa, that bone went high-tech. The ward government spent $67 million to build a cluster of computerized bicycle parking towers that use robotic arms to snatch bikes away from subway-bound commuters.

Pickup is just as easy as drop-off. At the swipe of a magnetic card, the arm finds the bike and returns it to its home-bound owner. The wait is about 10 seconds.

"It is revolutionary," said Minato Karube, 35, a secretary who had pedaled to the parking tower in high heels and a frilly black dress. "The bike comes back instantly."

Since April, when robots went to work parking bicycles at Edogawa's Kasai station, there has been a 20 percent spike in commuting by bike.

The build-it-and-they-will-come approach has also worked in Bogota, Colombia, where Dutch bicycle engineers were recently imported to build bike lanes and redesign traffic flows. In two years, bike use jumped tenfold, from 0.5 percent of all trips to 5 percent.

It also works in the United States. Rainy Portland, Ore., offers compelling evidence that bike lanes can transform Americans into bike commuters.

A recent study by Portland State University found that while just 15 percent of Portland's streets have bike lanes, they attract half of the city's bike travel. Since 1991, counts of cyclists in the city have jumped 400 percent. Portland now has the highest share of bike trips among major U.S. cities -- about 4 percent.

Asia's bicycle cycle
Rapid economic growth often generates a populist backlash against cycling.

In China and India, where middle-class aspirations have trumped concern about gas prices and climate change, cars continue to chase bicycles off the streets.

"People want cars, as it indicates development, progress and that you are more influential," said Nalin Sinha, program director in New Delhi for a nonprofit transportation group. Sinha said that when he began riding a bicycle his friends thought that something had "gone wrong financially."

Two decades ago in New Delhi, bicycles held a 60 percent share of traffic flow; now that figure is about 4 percent.

Bike lanes still run alongside many broad avenues in Beijing and other large cities in China, where 500 million bicycles remain on the road. But the bike fleet has declined in the past decade, from a peak of 670 million, while private car ownership has more than doubled, according to a report by the Earth Policy Institute.

Recent history, though, suggests that the cycling decline in China and India may be short-lived. A similar decline occurred here on the island of Taiwan about 30 years ago, when the export-based economy shifted into high gear. Many of the island's 23 million residents bought motorcycles and then cars, as bicycles disappeared from the commuting mix.

The Taiwan government began pushing about 17 years ago for a modest return to cycling. It built rural bike paths. Taipei, the largest city on the island, joined the campaign, building 155 miles of bike lanes along rivers and through parks. Abundant bike parking was provided at transit stations. A network of 5,000 rental bikes appeared.

In the past year, with better facilities for bikers, a doubling of gasoline prices and growing concern about global warming, cycling has continued its climb. In Taipei, about 3 percent of all commuters ride bicycles, a 35 percent increase in 18 months.

At the headquarters of Giant, the island-based bicycle maker, Antony Lo said that if gasoline prices remain high worldwide, government transportation policies will have to change. Then, he said, everyday cycling will sweep across the United States, and later China and India.

"People are waking up," he said. "This is a long-term trend, not a fad."

Correspondent Edward Cody in Beijing and special correspondents Karla Adam and Jill Colvin in London, Ayesha Manocha in New Delhi, Shannon Smiley in Berlin and Akiko Yamamoto in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Original here

The Death of the Credit Card Economy

The most revolutionary notion in commerce today is one of the oldest. If you want to buy something, you may actually have to pay for it. We are reverting from a "borrow and buy" economy to the "cash and carry" model of our grandparents.

The Olesons may have extended store credit to Ma and Pa Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie, but widespread consumer credit is a very recent phenomenon. It began in the 1920s, when expensive consumer durables—cars, refrigerators—were first produced in mass quantities. It wasn't until Bank of America began carpet-bombing California with credit-card applications in the 1960s that the debt wave started in earnest.

In the decades since, consumer credit became so pervasive that paying cash became passé. Want a new $32,530 Dodge Ram Crew pickup? Take a lease. Sick of your old house? Get a 100 percent mortgage and trade up. Face lift? Round-the-world cruise? New PC? Three-hundred dollar sushi dinner at Nobu? Whip out that plastic. It was this behavior—the endless willingness of lenders to lend and borrowers to borrow—that kept the consumer economy humming uninterrupted from the early 1990s, straight through the brief recession of 2001, until the credit meltdown of 2007.

But many of the lenders who extended credit recklessly are now acting like a single twentysomething who, after having a few bad dates, takes a vow of celibacy. Students returning to college are finding that student loans have vanished. Retailers who freely extended credit to any customer with a pulse are deploying bean counters armed with sophisticated software to sniff out potential deadbeats. And when higher rates and fees don't deter their borrowers, credit-card companies resort to slashing credit lines. "We predicted there would be some degree of spillover from the mortgage meltdown," said Curtis Arnold, founder of "But the credit line reductions by big credit card companies in the last six months have been fairly unprecedented."

This shock to the system may further damage the already-fragile psychology of the consumer. Writing a check or deducting the price of a pair of shoes directly from your bank account packs a much more potent emotional punch than charging the pair of Allen Edmonds loafers on your American Express platinum card. Chalk it up to a concept called "the pain of paying," said Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational. (It's a concept the parents of his students at Duke University feel every semester.) Imagine that a restaurant, rather than charging $30 per meal, charged 50 cents per bite, with a waiter standing tableside collecting after each chomp. That would be an extremely unpleasant meal. But credit puts a safe distance between the ecstasy of consumption and the agony of payment, and thus makes us feel better. Said Ariely: "If it's more difficult to get credit, it might make people feel more pain of paying and therefore spend less."

The availability of credit also changes the calculus people use to determine what they can afford. Blowing $6,000 on a week in Tuscany might be tough to swing if you have to pay for it all next month. Convince yourself it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you can pay for over three years, and it becomes a bargain. With credit, Saturday night means dinner and a movie. When you pay cash and have a fixed budget, it's dinner or a movie.

The tightening of credit is forcing more people to confront these uncomfortable choices. In the second quarter, credit giant MasterCard reported that the gross dollar volume, or GDV, of credit charges processed in the United States rose just 0.7 percent from 2007, while the GDV of debit charges rose 15.8 percent. The huge retailer Target in late August said that in the second quarter, for the first time in memory, the percentage of sales charged to credit cards fell, while the proportion of purchases made with debit cards rose. That's partially by design, since the company has undertaken an "aggressive reduction of credit lines and significant tightening of all aspects of our underwriting." (Translation: No credit for you!!)

Leverage is an appropriate synonym for credit because it allows you to lift more than you could with simply your own financial muscle. Take away the leverage, and the power lifter becomes a 98-pound weakling. That's clearly a factor in the housing market. In 2007, according to the National Association of Realtors, 45 percent of first-time homebuyers put no money down, and the median first-time homebuyer financed a massive 98 percent of the purchase. But no-money-down mortgages, like Rudy Giuliani's presidential candidacy, began fading in late 2007 and largely disappeared in the cruel winter of 2008. No wonder existing home sales fell 13.2 percent in July from last year while new home sales plummeted 35.3 percent.

In effect, the lack of credit makes things seem more expensive to consumers, even if prices are holding steady. And in a world of scarce credit, consumption is likely to resemble a meal at Dan Ariely's nightmare restaurant: a series of small bites rather than an all-you-can-eat extravaganza.

A version of this article also appears in Newsweek.

Original here

Internet Traffic Begins to Bypass the U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO — The era of the American Internet is ending.

Invented by American computer scientists during the 1970s, the Internet has been embraced around the globe. During the network’s first three decades, most Internet traffic flowed through the United States. In many cases, data sent between two locations within a given country also passed through the United States.

Engineers who help run the Internet said that it would have been impossible for the United States to maintain its hegemony over the long run because of the very nature of the Internet; it has no central point of control.

And now, the balance of power is shifting. Data is increasingly flowing around the United States, which may have intelligence — and conceivably military — consequences.

American intelligence officials have warned about this shift. “Because of the nature of global telecommunications, we are playing with a tremendous home-field advantage, and we need to exploit that edge,” Michael V. Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2006. “We also need to protect that edge, and we need to protect those who provide it to us.”

Indeed, Internet industry executives and government officials have acknowledged that Internet traffic passing through the switching equipment of companies based in the United States has proved a distinct advantage for American intelligence agencies. In December 2005, The New York Times reported that the National Security Agency had established a program with the cooperation of American telecommunications firms that included the interception of foreign Internet communications.

Some Internet technologists and privacy advocates say those actions and other government policies may be hastening the shift in Canadian and European traffic away from the United States.

“Since passage of the Patriot Act, many companies based outside of the United States have been reluctant to store client information in the U.S.,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. “There is an ongoing concern that U.S. intelligence agencies will gather this information without legal process. There is particular sensitivity about access to financial information as well as communications and Internet traffic that goes through U.S. switches.”

But economics also plays a role. Almost all nations see data networks as essential to economic development. “It’s no different than any other infrastructure that a country needs,” said K C Claffy, a research scientist at the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis in San Diego. “You wouldn’t want someone owning your roads either.”

Indeed, more countries are becoming aware of how their dependence on other countries for their Internet traffic makes them vulnerable. Because of tariffs, pricing anomalies and even corporate cultures, Internet providers will often not exchange data with their local competitors. They prefer instead to send and receive traffic with larger international Internet service providers.

This leads to odd routing arrangements, referred to as tromboning, in which traffic between two cites in one country will flow through other nations. In January, when a cable was cut in the Mediterranean, Egyptian Internet traffic was nearly paralyzed because it was not being shared by local I.S.P.’s but instead was routed through European operators.

The issue was driven home this month when hackers attacked and immobilized several Georgian government Web sites during the country’s fighting with Russia. Most of Georgia’s access to the global network flowed through Russia and Turkey. A third route through an undersea cable linking Georgia to Bulgaria is scheduled for completion in September.

Ms. Claffy said that the shift away from the United States was not limited to developing countries. The Japanese “are on a rampage to build out across India and China so they have alternative routes and so they don’t have to route through the U.S.”

Andrew M. Odlyzko, a professor at the University of Minnesota who tracks the growth of the global Internet, added, “We discovered the Internet, but we couldn’t keep it a secret.” While the United States carried 70 percent of the world’s Internet traffic a decade ago, he estimates that portion has fallen to about 25 percent.

Internet technologists say that the global data network that was once a competitive advantage for the United States is now increasingly outside the control of American companies. They decided not to invest in lower-cost optical fiber lines, which have rapidly become a commodity business.

That lack of investment mirrors a pattern that has taken place elsewhere in the high-technology industry, from semiconductors to personal computers.

The risk, Internet technologists say, is that upstarts like China and India are making larger investments in next-generation Internet technology that is likely to be crucial in determining the future of the network, with investment, innovation and profits going first to overseas companies.

“Whether it’s a good or a bad thing depends on where you stand,” said Vint Cerf, a computer scientist who is Google’s Internet evangelist and who, with Robert Kahn, devised the original Internet routing protocols in the early 1970s. “Suppose the Internet was entirely confined to the U.S., which it once was? That wasn’t helpful.”

International networks that carry data into and out of the United States are still being expanded at a sharp rate, but the Internet infrastructure in many other regions of the world is growing even more quickly.

While there has been some concern over a looming Internet traffic jam because of the rise in Internet use worldwide, the congestion is generally not on the Internet’s main trunk lines, but on neighborhood switches, routers and the wires into a house.

As Internet traffic moves offshore, it may complicate the task of American intelligence gathering agencies, but would not make Internet surveillance impossible.

“We’re probably in one of those situations where things get a little bit harder,” said John Arquilla, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., who said the United States had invested far too little in collecting intelligence via the Internet. “We’ve given terrorists a free ride in cyberspace,” he said.

Others say the eclipse of the United States as the central point in cyberspace is one of many indicators that the world is becoming a more level playing field both economically and politically.

“This is one of many dimensions on which we’ll have to adjust to a reduction in American ability to dictate terms of core interests of ours,” said Yochai Benkler, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. “We are, by comparison, militarily weaker, economically poorer and technologically less unique than we were then. We are still a very big player, but not in control.”

China, for instance, surpassed the United States in the number of Internet users in June. Over all, Asia now has 578.5 million, or 39.5 percent, of the world’s Internet users, although only 15.3 percent of the Asian population is connected to the Internet, according to Internet World Stats, a market research organization.

By contrast, there were about 237 million Internet users in North America and the growth has nearly peaked; penetration of the Internet in the region has reached about 71 percent.

The increasing role of new competitors has shown up in data collected annually by Renesys, a firm in Manchester, N.H., that monitors the connections between Internet providers. The Renesys rankings of Internet connections, an indirect measure of growth, show that the big winners in the last three years have been the Italian Internet provider Tiscali, China Telecom and the Japanese telecommunications operator KDDI.

Firms that have slipped in the rankings have all been American: Verizon, Savvis, AT&T, Qwest, Cogent and AboveNet.

“The U.S. telecommunications firms haven’t invested,” said Earl Zmijewski, vice president and general manager for Internet data services at Renesys. “The rest of the world has caught up. I don’t see the AT&T’s and Sprints making the investments because they see Internet service as a commodity.”

Original here

1.2 Million Homeless After Floods


(SAHARSA, India) — The deluge came and turned his world to water, so Umesh Kushyaha decided to build a boat.

Kushyaha squatted Saturday hammering nails into his rickety-looking wooden row boat on the side of the road, a lone strip of dry land that cuts across miles of water. He was preparing for what authorities say will be months more of life submerged under flood waters.

About 1.2 million people have been left homeless and scores have been killed in the impoverished state of Bihar in the two weeks since the monsoon-swollen Kosi river in neighboring Nepal burst its banks, dramatically changing course and spilling billions of gallons of water into the plains of northern India.

Authorities say hundreds of thousands remain stranded after their homes and villages were inundated, clinging to the roofs of houses or whatever dry speck of land they can find. An estimated 3 million residents of Bihar have been affected.

Those who could flee fled, piling their families, goats, chickens and sacks of grain into boats and heading for safety. Some waded for miles through the waters, carrying bundles of their belongings on their heads as they sought refuge.

But as the waters rushed in and flooded more than 750 villages and towns, many were unable to escape. Twenty people drowned Friday when their rescue boat capsized.

By Saturday, some 330,000 people had been rescued, said Prataya Amrit, secretary of the state's disaster management department. Many of them were being housed in state-run relief camps.

But while rescue efforts — buoyed by a $200 million Indian government relief fund — were finally picking up steam, officials warned the flooding was spreading to new areas and the high waters would last for months.

Authorities say the breach in the Kosi embankment is more than a mile wide and growing every day, and they will be able to fix it until late November, when the monsoon ends and the torrent begins to subside.

"Since they say the waters will be here until the end of October, I'm making a boat," said Kushyaha, a 49-year-old farmer from the badly hit Saharsa district, some 750 miles northeast of New Delhi.

"We will be able to use it to get to the market and come back with supplies," he said.

At a nearby relief camp set up in a four-room high school, teachers said the government had asked them to look after people for two months.

"From tonight, we will begin supplying them with cooked food," said Rameshwar Prasad Mandal pointing to sacks of rice and lentils stored in a classroom under the watchful eye of a portrait of Indira Gandhi, India's prime minister in the 1970s.

For many of the 800 people in the camp, it will be the first hot meal since the floods.

"We have had nothing to eat except some rice cakes and palm sugar," said Lalita Devi, a 28-year-old mother of four, who grabbed her children and two goats and fled when the waste-high water swept through her village.

Since then, they have been living with thousands of others camped out on the sides of the roads or railway, which are built on high embankments to prevent them being washed away.

India's monsoon season, which lasts from June to September, brings rain vital for the country's farmers but also often causes massive destruction.

This flooding, however, is different from the annual monsoon deluge.

Apart from the roads, the vast plains have been turned into a massive lake, with only an occasional tree or rooftop breaking the surface.

The waters are deceptively placid in places but swirling and menacing in others where dozens of workers pile sandbags and rocks on the road embankments, trying to strengthen them and prevent these last vital links from being washed away.

Those who have made it to the few points of high ground consider themselves lucky. The government has some 900 boats carrying out rescue operations but they have not even penetrated some regions.

D. R. Ayub was trapped on the roof of his home for more than 10 days until he managed to get word to his brother-in-law who owns a boat.

"We did not see anything of the government," he said as he wearily clambered out the rescue boat, which he had shared with 100 others people and several goats.

The boat was heading back to the village where about 1,000 more people were waiting, he said.

But not everyone wanted to leave their homes.

Nearby, a government worker was loading relief packets — each containing 5.5 pounds of rice, 9 ounces of sugar and a matchbox and a candle — into a boat along with 300 polyester sheets to use for shelter.

They were for people who were refusing to leave their homes, fearing looters, said the worker, Binod Senha.

The government says it has not yet been able to asses the extent of the devastation, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described as a national calamity.

"We will only be able to tell the extent after the water recedes," said Amrit. "But it is colossal."

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Iraq and China Sign $3 Billion Oil Contract

Washington Post Foreign Service

BAGHDAD, Aug. 28 -- Iraq and China signed a $3 billion deal this week to develop a large Iraqi oil field, the first major commercial oil contract here with a foreign company since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The 20-year agreement calls for the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. to begin producing 25,000 barrels of oil a day and gradually increase the output to 125,000 a day, said Asim Jihad, a spokesman for the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

The contract revamps a deal the Chinese company had reached with Saddam Hussein in 1997 to develop the Ahdab oil field in Wasit province, south of Baghdad near the border with Iran. Unlike that deal, which called for China to share in the revenue, the current contract is based on a fixed-fee structure.

Western oil companies came close this summer to reaching agreements with the ministry to return to Iraq. Those smaller technical service contracts involved giving advice on how to boost production. The China deal is a service contract, which is more lucrative and involves large-scale development of the field.

Jihad said the technical service contracts, which were to be finalized June 30, have been delayed as negotiations continue with the Western concerns, including Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil. Most of the major oil contracts are to be awarded in the next 1 1/2 years through a process involving 35 companies identified by the Oil Ministry, he said.

Jihad said Iraqi officials hope the deal with China "will refute all the rumors that say the American companies are the only ones benefiting from the American occupation."

The contract also requires China to build a major electrical station in the area to help boost Iraq's overworked power grid.

The deal requires the approval of the Iraqi cabinet, which the Oil Ministry expects as early as next week.

Also Thursday, Ahmed Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile who sought to convince U.S. officials that Hussein's government had weapons of mass destruction, said a close associate of his had been detained by the U.S.-led coalition.

Chalabi, head of Iraq's de-Baathification commission, which is responsible for purging members of Hussein's Baath Party from the government, said the agency's executive director, Ali Faisal al-Lami, was detained at Baghdad International Airport after returning with his family from Lebanon.

"This action shows that every Iraqi faces arrest and detention without any reason," Chalabi said in a statement. "We demand that Mr. Ali be freed immediately."

Sgt. Susan James, a U.S. military spokeswoman, said a man was detained at the airport Wednesday for "working within the highest echelons of the special groups," a term the military uses to refer to Iranian-backed militia cells.

James said the detainee, whom the military declined to name, was involved in multiple bombings, including a June attack in Sadr City that killed four Americans and six Iraqis.

Meanwhile, anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr indefinitely extended a cease-fire order for his Mahdi Army militia. The suspension of the group's fighting, first announced almost exactly a year ago, has been credited as a major reason for the sharp decline in violence in Iraq.

"The freeze of the Mahdi Army will continue for an open-ended time," Sadr said in a statement. "And anyone who breaks this freeze should not consider himself part of the ideological movement."

Special correspondent Saad Sarhan in Najaf contributed to this report.

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Most Verizon FIOS Installations Violate National Electric Standards

A two-year investigation has concluded that most Verizon FIOS installations fail to meet national safety standards, and could cause fires or electrocutions. FIOS is famous for house fires, but New York's Public Service Commission first started its investigation back in 2006 after several inspectors discovered improperly grounded installations.

PSC staff said FiOS "may form an electrically conductive path" and could create an electrical hazard. PSC spokesman James Dean called the public safety risk "minimal - however, there is a potential risk."

Under a plan submitted to the PSC last month, Verizon would review all of its fiber-optic installations to ensure connections are properly grounded and correct violations.

The company also said it would issue credits of up to $20 to customers for installations after Aug. 18 unless it meets standards at least 95 percent of the time. The credits would "compensate such customers for the inconvenience of the inspection (and, where applicable, remediation) process," according to documents filed with the PSC.

Verizon added that they take the Public Service Commission's concerns "very seriously."

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