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By Sally M. Win Tickets to the Ronald Reagan Library. Explore Ronald Reagan Presidential Library tours, entry tickets, opening hours. Americans are in the mood to be fed up. Maybe it's the delayed Howard Beale syndrome. Remember him? The crazy anchorman from the movie "Network," who told people to open the window and scream "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more! Consumers showed the banking industry how fed up they are and banks finally listened. Other industries imposing fees certainly must be paying attention.

In , when I selected my college of choice, it was based, primarily, on academics. I didn't know much about the social scene on campus or what to expect from the town. So, I drove cross-country with my father to tour the campus. We got the royal treatment from the school's well-groomed and smooth-talking student reps. Looking back on it now, what I did not get from the campus brochures and tour was a feel for what the students really thought of the school and the town. Was the school worth its weight in student loans?

Were they happy with their choice? Nearly twenty years since I took my tour of that campus, social media has made it possible for prospective students to find out, on their own, what a school really has to offer, by hearing it from current students themselves. Schools are using Facebook and Twitter to engage these young adults, peer-to-peer. Daniel Creasy, the associate director of admissions and one of the people behind Johns Hopkins University Interactive, believes that social media provides an uncensored look at the school.

Dean Tsouvalas, editor-in-chief of StudentAdvisor. Instead, Tsouvalas says that applicants often turn to the web to talk with enrolled students about their experiences. I switched schools after two years because I wanted something different. While the school I started at in was, and remains, a fine institution, it never quite felt like the right fit for me. The school I eventual wound up earning my degree at suited me well. I researched the school through friends I knew there.

There was no Facebook page for me to have exchanges on. I had to go right to the source. And that is what students are doing now with social media. Higher education is big money and students, and parents, want to get their money's worth. Social media are now the new campus brochure. All right, it's official I'm talking to you, the holiday shopper who is so busy thinking about others during your shopping that you turn your head from the bargains on the goodies that you so desire. Well, it's not wrong. In fact, according to some new data, you're not alone if you splurge a little bit on yourself this holiday season.

According to the National Retail Federation's Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, which is conducted by BIGresearch, consumers say they plan to spend less on gifts for others and more on themselves while doing their holiday shopping this year. Of course, with the sluggish economy impacting much of the nation, I am not suggesting that selfish shopping armageddon will be the rage this year. The survey found that But all funny business aside, what I take away from this is that Americans might treat themselves to, well, a treat this year.

Be it a sweater, television, jewelry or whatever, don't feel guilty about taking advantage of some of the bargains for yourself. It has been a tough year for the nation, and the numbers are mixed on the economic front. So, if you catch a deal go for it. You're not being selfish. The last time I dressed up for Halloween was in the late nineties, when I was in my twenties, just a kid ha! My roommates and I were having a massive Halloween party at our rented house. Some 60 people were expected to be there. I wanted to be original. We all did. So, I kept my devious plan to myself.

I would dress up as Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movie. I bought the bold skull cap, found the uniform and got the make-up for the fake plastic face scar. I was hands down the winner at the party. I am out of the costume game these days, until I have kids at least.

But it seems to me that everyone wants to be original, and they will pay for it too. According to American Express Spending and Saving Tracker, costumes rank as the biggest Halloween expense for young professionals. That is a good thing these days. But what I find fascinating is that the secret to being original these days might be not keeping secrets at all. Enter Facebook. In other words, you are telling your friends, or potential competition, "hands off, I found it first!

Halloween is heavy online traffic time for Facebook and its more than million members. Facebook spokesman Larry Lu tells USA Today that the site is already preparing for the day after Halloween - its biggest day of the year for uploaded photos. So, who wouldn't want to have the standout picture that everyone is talking about among your circle of friends? My Dr. Evil costume was part of a covert operation; it was guarded in secrecy. Now, it seems it might pay, literally, to make your costume ideas well known ahead of time to your friends in order to be the standout.

Especially now, with the explosion of social media, the best costume is fodder at the water cooler the next day for better or for worse. So, stake your claim now and make it known. By the way, I still have my Dr. Evil costume if anyone wants to use it. It was just last week that I was talking about the "Occupy Wall Street" movement and whether they would fade away. Well, the protesters have now officially entered their second month of occupancy in the financial district in New York City, and by all accounts it would appear that they are here to stay a while. Watching the news reports and seeing the images today of the protesters camped out at Zuccotti Park, where the demonstrators are based in New York, I was reminded of something in particular that I said last week.

For now, as long as things remain peaceful that is good enough for me. The protest, by and large, has remained peaceful, though there have been minor scuffles with police in satellite movements of "Occupy Wall Street" across the nation. In Seattle, police arrested six men and one woman who refused orders to remove their tents from a city-owned site. Most of the others asked to move voluntarily complied.

A potential confrontation in Atlanta was averted when Mayor Kasim Reed extended an executive order allowing demonstrators to remain in a city-owned park through November 7. And just last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got out of what would have been a sticky situation when he, and the owners of Zuccotti Park, backed off their attempt to clear the park for cleaning. Protesters vowed not to be moved. So the peaceful part of this movement seems to be holding up, for now. But what about leadership? There is no official spokesperson for "Occupy Wall Street," no "go-to" person.

Perhaps that is because this movement is tackling so many issues and still has not defined itself to itself. However, most don't know enough to take a position. Sooner or later "Occupy Wall Street" may need to develop a hierarchy of leadership to keep it growing long after they have left the parks I think it is fair to say that last week was hell for anyone working in Research in Motion's costumer support department. The maker of the BlackBerry smartphone suffered its largest-ever network disruption.

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By Tuesday it had spread to South America and on Wednesday costumers in the United States were experiencing problems with the phones. The outage primarily affected text messaging and Internet access, leaving some voice calling services operational. The problem was eventually fixed. But how much damage was done to the company's image? RIM doesn't have much room for technical mishaps like this. Its last financial quarter was grim, with sales missing forecasts. RIM's current devices have drawn mixed reviews.

But BlackBerry's user base is strong. Coming up, RIM will have a high-profile platform to debut their new line. At the U. But RIM has a lot of catching up to do with its new line of phones, no matter how good they are. Apple reports that it sold more than 4 million iPhone 4S smartphones since its launch three days ago, setting a sales record for the device. That's the kind of news RIM is looking to generate for itself. The apps will be made available to customers over the coming weeks on BlackBerry App World and will continue to be available until December 31st.

In addition, technical service plans for existing customers will be extended. We are taking immediate and aggressive steps to help prevent something like this from happening again. It may be too soon to tell if their offer of free apps will help the company. It may. Or it may be a band aid on a wound that will leave a scar. But scarring is part of life, and as a BlackBerry user myself, I am not ready to ditch the phone. I consider it more of a hassle to start a new contract or pay for a new phone. The problem was fixed. My phone works. Now, If there were only an app that could make a stock price go up.

On television this morning, news crews in New York City were ready to capture a possible showdown between the 1,strong "Occupy Wall Street" protesters gathered in the financial district and police. The owners of Zuccotti Park, where the protesters are camped out, asked for police assistance to clean the area this morning. Many of the protesters started to clean the park on their own to avert a confrontation with police and to show their care for the property.

But then word came from the mayor's office that Brookfield Properties, the owners of Zuccotti Park, told the city that the scheduled cleaning was off for now and "for the time being" they were "withdrawing their request" made earlier in the week for police assistance during the cleaning operation. Was this a win for the protesters or a PR move by the city and Brookfield Properties?

I think it was a little of both. At least, in the end, any potential disturbance to the overall peace was averted. A few days ago I wrote about "Occupy Wall Street" and whether or not they had enough traction to keep their cross-country momentum going. Now, it seems to me, the answer is yes. In fact, they are getting more organized, at least in New York, it would appear. The fundraising was made through donations via mail, two websites and in person to members of what the movement calls its "Finance Working Group.

A "Finance Working Group! The "Finance Working Group" is made up of 12 individuals, many of whom have backgrounds in business and finance. They have been entrusted with the responsibility of disbursing funds to the other groups within the movement, which range from security and media teams, to temporary teams assigned to isolated tasks. The influx of money has given "Occupy Wall Street" some added lift to its wings. And some protesters have expressed interest in larger long-term goals.

By all indications, an infrastructure is starting to take shape within "Occupy Wall Street. And whether you agree with their agenda or not, they are making their voices heard for U. But their message is still varied. Listen to any one reporter ask a protester what they are there for and you will get a different answer every time: Part of me wants to say "Occupy Wall Street" needs a unified voice.

Another part thinks diversity in message is a good thing. After all, take a look at political campaigns. It's one voice tackling a myriad of issues. If the protest keeps growing, organization, of course, will be key. Service disruptions on five continents! The manufacturer of a cell phone used by more than 70 million earthlings reporting an "extremely critical issue! Meanwhile, I thought I had done something wrong when I noticed I didn't have any new messages when I made the habitual morning grab for the Blackberry Wednesday morning.

As sleepy as I was, I seriously didn't think I had brought the smartphone's network to its knees. My first instinct was that once again I had failed to get my e-mail inbox in digital terms the weight of a grand piano with an anvil tied to it under control and that I wasn't able to get new messages. When I learned otherwise, I was relieved. But relief was certainly not an emotion felt over at Research in Motion, the makers of the Blackberry smartphone.

The outage first reported in the Middle East and Europe before spreading to other regions, could not come at a worse time for the company. To be fair, headline grabbing smartphone problems aren't exclusive to RIM, as folks who dealt with iPhone 4's "antennagate" can attest to. The current situation with Blackberry is not an isolated incident -- there have been noted outages with the service every year since A reasonable person might figure this could happen again. Hopefully I won't be responsible for any of those either! The other night, I left for my daily commute from Philadelphia to New York City in the middle of the night I work the early, early shift.

Driving along, I thought everything was perfect. I had good tunes on the radio, a full tank of gas and I was heading off to a job I enjoy. Then, it all came crashing down on me. I had left my cell phone at home! I was already ten miles away from the house and on a highway with long stretches between exits.

There was no turning back. I couldn't waste the time. What if something happened mechanically to the car? How would I get in touch with my wife, co-workers, AAA, anyone? It dawned on me that had I had the choice I would have rather left my wallet at home than my phone. Well, the time is now upon us when we won't have to worry about leaving anything behind when we leave the house. We won't have to choose between our wallet and our keys, like in my crazed scenario. Our keys, wallet and everything else we stuff into our pockets and need for the day will be stored in our cell phones.

The phone-as-wallet trend has its origins in South Korea and Japan, and it has recently caught on in the United States. Even though that only represents a small group of people with that capability for Sprint, Google says there is a bigger rollout on the way. For a purchase, instead of pulling out a credit card to pay, you get out your phone.

You tap it on a special electronic reader to log the payment. You have to enter a PIN for security. Google Wallet currently works only with Citi MasterCard. This technology is still in its infancy. But imagine how it will grow. When you think about all of the apps and connectivity we get with smartphones these days, it is not hard to imagine a day when our phones will indeed be the only thing we need to carry with us. The trend, at least to me, seems to point to consumers wanting newer and better features from their phones.

Just look at the craze for the iPhone for proof. When you're carrying around this small computer, you can do all kinds of things with it. I just don't think it will happen. Phones these days have apps for just about anything. It would be great to have an all-in-one device to make life simpler. But when it gets taken away, lost or stolen you're out of luck. So, there are risks. Rest assured there are developers out there right now trying to take smartphone technology to the next level where you can do anything from starting your car with it to showing it as a legitimate form of identification.

It's either a case of technology making our lives simpler or more complicated. In the meantime I've developed a new pre-2 a. That cell phone will not be left home again. When I was younger, like a year ago, the holidays were all about the gifts. Will I get what I asked for, and did I buy the right thing? But now, as Hannukah and Christmas approach, and the time for gift buying and gift giving is upon us, I find myself more involved with planning for my family to be together under one roof.

I'm hoping that will be the best gift I can give. According to a new survey, wealthier Americans are bucking a stereotype and putting the holiday emphasis back on family and friends rather than on expensive gifts. Surprisingly, these findings aren't suggesting that the wealthy have fallen on hard times and have to scale back. In fact, nearly one-third of wealthy families said their household income actually rose since last year. Of course, there is a down side to this. America's sluggish economy needs an infusion of consumer spending on gifts so that retailers can make money and, in turn, do more hiring.

It's almost like a "Catch I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. The holidays don't need to be expensive. Last year I bought my wife multiple gifts some cheap, some expensive because I was so afraid of buying her the wrong thing. I know now all she really wants is to be with family. This year I will be focusing on one gift. I don't know how much it will cost, but it will be all about sentiment. It might be as simple as a card or as expensive and logistically involved as flying her parents out from New Mexico to see us.

The point is, it all goes back to family. There is no denying that there is a certain gleam in all of our eyes when we unwrap a gift. And whether it's eight nights of fantastic gifts for Hannukah or a bundle of boxes underneath the tree, we will always be giddy with excitement to see what we got and maybe how much was spent. But it is nice to know that there is new data out there showing the trend going in the opposite direction.

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It just goes to show that some people define wealth differently around the holiday season. In addition, it doesn't matter if you select "debit" or "credit" at the point of sale. You are going to get charged. You can still use ATMs at will without getting hit with the new charge, as long as you don't make any debit purchases in the same month. In addition, customers with certain premium accounts will be exempt.

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As a Bank of America cardholder, who doesn't have a premium account, I dumbfounded by this move. Why is this happening? After all, isn't my bank supposed to be paying me for my business? Bank of America's move is a reaction to new rules limiting the revenue banks will be able to get from merchants. Banks used to charge merchants an average fee of 44 cents for processing every purchase put on a debit or credit card.

Now, the maximum fee is only 21 cents. This will cost the banking industry billions of dollars. Those words don't come as much comfort to me, or to Bank of America customer Rian Kelly who told CNN that he wasn't too "psyched" about the charge and was going to switch banks.

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But which bank do you switch to? As noted above, several of the biggest banks are also implementing the new fees. Reacting to Bank of America's move, Durbin said, "After years of raking in excess profits off an unfair and anti-competitive interchange system, Bank of America is trying to find new ways to pad their profits by sticking it to its customers.

It's overt, unfair and I hope their customers have the final say. It will be interesting to see who has the final say in this tussle with the banks. It feels like David verse Goliath. I use my debit card for almost every transaction. I can either get off my butt and look for another bank, call Bank of America and raise my voice in opposition to this or live with it. Five dollars a month isn't going to kill me, but it's my money!

I earned it, and I want to do with it as I please. Bank of America, like other banks instituting such fees, is treading on shaky ground, at the very least in terms of an image standpoint. The banks aren't going to be too "psyched" when they see more and more reaction to these fees.

Is Facebook watching you? Invading your privacy? The massive social network with more than million members is under scrutiny by two members of Congress, Reps. They have filed a letter with the Federal Trade Commission asking for an investigation of Facebook's business practices. Earlier this week, an Australian tech blogger claimed that after logging off of Facebook, the website was still collecting information about sites he was visiting online.

The information was gathered by "cookies," or small files that websites commonly leave on a user's computer. In their letter, Markey and Barton said that "tracking users without their knowledge or consent raises serious privacy concerns When users log out of Facebook, they are under the impression that Facebook is no longer monitoring their activities. We believe this impression should be the reality.

For its part, a spokesman for Facebook said, "Facebook did not store or use any information it should not have. It's not clear if the FTC will launch an investigation. But Markey and Barton are pushing hard for one nonetheless because they say the violation falls within the agency's mandate to protect Americans from "unfair and deceptive acts or practices.

This is just the latest salvo in what appears to be a backlash against Facebook by many users, and in this case lawmakers, who are unhappy with recent changes made to the site and are concerned with its reach. It seems consumers are less and less confident that when they flip the off switch to anything connected to the Internet they are truly disconnected. You leave an online footprint. That's at the heart of Facebook's massive success. It has followed and fed your likes and dislikes. The debate is about where that pursuit is legitimate and where it is an invasion of your privacy. Job loss is painful.

You don't need me to tell you. I have been through it, and more than 14 million Americans are living with it currently. It is hard to imagine that a sympathy card could do the trick, but Hallmark and other card makers think differently.


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Examples of Hallmark cards for the unemployed include one with a photo of a cat that reads: So I want you to remember I'm in your cheering section. Stanford University professor Bob Sutton tells the Dallas Morning News that layoff cards might be a good way to show compassion to someone who needs support during a tough time. David Smason, unemployed in the hospitality industry, tells the paper he's unsure if getting a layoff card would have been all that encouraging for him when he lost his job.

Although a card can never replace a paycheck, it can help friends reach out to you if they're unable to find the right words on their own. I believe that's why we buy cards. We let someone else do the talking for us, but the gesture is our own. And that's what matters. We would much rather be able to give someone a job. A card isn't necessarily the next best thing. It's just a way to say I'm thinking about you. In today's economy, with so many people out of work and down on their luck, a card won't make much difference.

But if it provides just a little bit of comfort, then it's worth its weight in gold. Social networking, tweeting, texting are all great methods of communication in a world where technology is increasingly playing a part in the way we interact with each other. What it isn't so great for is the "good" old-fashioned break up.

In my day, if you wanted to break up, you did it face to face. Maybe a hand-written letter would suffice tear-stained of course. But an email or phone call, to me, was simply taking the easy way out. But now it seems that bleeding hearts like me may be a lost cause in this age of social networking where you can drop a relationship with ease of hitting "send. Twenty-five percent of the more than 1, people who responded to a Facebook survey conducted by AreYouInterested.

Ouch, that's cold! As noted in the Huffington Post, these trends have opened the door for entrepreneurs to discover a new niche in online dating: Audio recordings of the calls are also posted on the website as audio files for others to hear. On average, the site gets about 15, to 20, hits per month, with numbers going up around Valentine's Day and other holidays.

This goes to prove that there is money to be made anywhere. But when it comes to the break up, it's gotta be one-on-one. I have had my heart broken a few times. It would have been worse if it came via the Internet or by any other third-party means. Spend your money on a card if you can't bring yourself to do it face to face. Today, DreamWorks Animation, the studio behind the highly successful "Shrek" movies among others, announced a new licensing agreement making Netflix the exclusive subscription television service for first-run DreamWorks feature films and select television specials.

Starting with its feature films, new DreamWorks Animation titles, once they finish their theatrical run, will be made instantly available for Netflix members on multiple platforms. With the DreamWorks deal, according to the Times, Netflix will be able to provide customers with exclusive access to films which have the potential to become the year's biggest box office successes.

The opportunity to bolster its children's and family offerings was a primary reason why Netflix pursued a DreamWorks deal. This is not the first time I have addressed Netflix in a blog. Twice last week I talked about issues with the company. I am a bit biased, I will admit.


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Angered, many Netflix subscribers dropped the service. Netflix cut its subscriber forecast for the current quarter to 24 million customers -- down from the 25 million the company projected just a few weeks ago. This comes as a result of a failed renegotiation with the premium cable channel Starz. Also, Netflix will be separating its streaming video service and DVD-by-mail operation in two. Streaming video will be offered through Netflix and DVDs-by-mail through a new service called Qwikster, which will also offer video games. Customers will have to log onto the separate websites to purchase content.

In a move that caught many off guard last week, Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings apologized for some of the company's missteps. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology In hindsight, I slid into arrogance based upon past success The DreamWorks Animation deal is the latest attempt Netflix is making to keep its members, bring back the ones who left, and gain some new ones. But can DreamWorks really be the rescue ladder? I don't know if I can justify the expense of being a member for the sake of some family-oriented animated movies that I won't be able to watch until and I don't even have children yet!

That said, if Netflix continues to make deals with major production studios like DreamWorks Animation and Discovery, then it remains a top contender amid a growing field of competitors. And I'll keep watching Facebook has some million members, and many of them of them are not happy about some of the changes made to the site this week. One of the most talked about changes involves the News Feed.

Instead of defaulting to your friends' most recent posts, the Feed is now topped by what the site calls "Top Stories" for you. An algorithm is used to combine factors like which friends you interact with most and which friends' posts have the most comments and "likes" on them. News Feed will act more like your own personal newspaper," he wrote. All your news will be in a single stream with the most interesting stories featured at the top.

Facebook's PR department might be working late hours in the coming weeks because more changes are in store for the world's largest social networking site. Several thousand Facebook developers gathered in San Francisco on Thursday for Facebook's annual F8 strategy conference to hear about some of the new features coming down the pike. In his keynote speech at F8, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said there would be new ways for users to share information -- and for content creators to gather fresh intel on what is being shared. Facebook's vocabulary is expanding beyond "Like.

Facebook also announced changes to the permissions process users go through when they install new apps. Facebook is also venturing into streaming music. Facebook has competition in its rearview. That said, Facebook has no choice but to be innovative and stay ahead of the pack. But at the same time, they have to remember what their members want first and foremost. It seems to me, as a Facebook user myself, that we want a simple means to stay in touch with family and friends, near and far, and share life's experieces.

The initial negative reactions will most likely fade as users become adjusted to the new features. But Facebook should take heed of the warnings none-the-less, and users should have seen this coming. Change is inevitable in business. When I was younger, just out of college and beginning my career, I lived in an apartment with a roommate who had a library card- and used it quite frequently. I never thought much of it because I never cared to spend much time in libraries. I always associated them with homework, essays, book reports, research, etc.

From grade school on up through college I never found much joy in a library. That's not to say I didn't, or don't, read. It just wasn't my thing. But my roommate went to the library for the simple joy of discovering a new book or re-reading a classic. It was free entertainment and enrichment. Maybe I missed out on something. Then again, maybe it's not too late. I'm a big fan of all the latest technological gadgets, which currently include e-readers like Amazon's Kindle. I bought one for my wife, and she can't put it down.

These devices have opened up a new window into how we purchase and read books. Whether you like reading a book on an e-reader or by print is a separate debate. But what caught my attention recently is that a reader now has the ability to use your Kindle, in this case, to borrow books from a public library. The latest in technology meets the traditional public library. The driver and her son, who was in the vehicle, were taken to the hospital, the station reported. Read Next.

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