Companies Are Putting Sensors On Employees To Track Their Every Move

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The idea of having employees walk around with electronic sensors to track their every move is unsettling. There are privacy and legal issues, and who wants to feel like they are just a cog in a system?

But data companies say that the resulting reams of information will improve life for companies and employees.

Sociometric Solutions has created tracking devices for Bank of America, Steelcase, and Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., and is in talks with General Motors. It was started by a team of Ph.D students from MIT who decided to study the chemistry behind what makes certain workspaces like Google great at building teams. They came up with sensors placed in employee identification badges that gather real-time information to help companies measure productivity. The sensors identify a person’s tone of voice, movement and even their posture when communicating with others.

“Google really cares about creating a community because the social conversations — the ones at the water cooler, coffee maker — those are the ones that have the biggest impact,” says Ben Waber, president of Sociometrics and one of the company’s founders. “In the U.S., there’s this notion that your most productive time is when you’re sitting at your desk staring at the computer,” and that’s not necessarily true.

The sensors are intended to measure when and how employees are truly productive. While individual information is collected, it’s anonymized to provide metadata and hedge against privacy concerns. The information is then used to suggest how employees, and the company as a whole, can work more efficiently.

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Inflation Highest In More Than Three Years

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U.S. consumer prices rose 0.7% in February for the largest gain since June 2009. Gasoline prices rose 9.1%, also making the largest jump since June 2009, and accounted for almost three-fourths of February’s gain in the consumer price index. The broader price category for energy increased 5.4%.

Despite the CPI’s large jump in February, longer-term trends remain within the Federal Reserve’s target. The overall CPI and the core reading, which excludes volatile energy and food categories, increased 2% over the 12 months that ended in February. Economists expect that today’s data should continue to support the Fed’s accommodative policy stance.

Looking forward, analysts expect monthly inflation to moderate as some of February’s surge in gasoline prices is reversed this month. In the most recent weekly data, average per-gallon gas prices across the U.S. fell five cents to $3.71.

“Overall, despite the sharp rise in headline prices and some modest firming in core consumer inflation pressures, the overall backdrop for consumer prices remains favorable, providing further breathing room for the Fed,” wrote Millan Mulraine, a macro strategist at TD Securities, in a research note.

Prices for food rose 0.1% in February. The core CPI rose 0.2%. Read RetireMentors: From ammunition to zucchini, prices are up.

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Texas Fed Chief Says Too-Big-to-Fail Banks Should Be Shrunk

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Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher said the government should break up the biggest U.S. banks rather than allow them to hold a “too-big- to-fail” advantage over smaller firms.

The 12 largest financial institutions hold almost 70 percent of the assets in the nation’s banking system and profit from an unfair implicit guarantee that the government would bail them out, Fisher said today in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. The biggest banks enjoy a “significant” subsidy, enabling them “to grow larger and riskier,” he said.

“These institutions operate under a privileged status,” Fisher said. “They represent not only a threat to financial stability, but to fair and open competition.”

The biggest banks came under scrutiny yesterday at a Senate hearing on JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), which hid trading losses, according to a report by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The New York-based firm under Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon lost more than $6.2 billion last year in a credit derivatives bet by Bruno Iksil, known as the London Whale.

Fisher said in a phone interview with Bloomberg News that his proposal “will not lead to the denial of credit for U.S. corporations.” The cost from big banks “far exceeds the benefits,” and the U.S. doesn’t need “to have the largest banks in the world to compete,” Fisher said after his speech.

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Rand Paul Wins The Washington Times-CPAC 2013 Straw Poll

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Sen. Rand Paul won the 2013 Washington Times-CPAC presidential preference straw poll Saturday, and Sen. Marco Rubio was a close second, easily outdistancing the rest of the field and signaling the rise of a new generation of conservative leaders who will take the Republican Party into the 2016 election.

Mr. Paul won 25 percent of the vote, and Mr. Rubio collected 23 percent. Former Sen. Rick Santorum was third with just 8 percent, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — who was not invited to speak at the three-day Conservative Political Action Conference — was next with 7 percent, and Rep. Paul D. Ryan, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee last year, was fifth with 6 percent.

Mr. Paul’s victory puts him in the footsteps of his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, who won in 2010 and 2011.

“I’ve been standing with Rand since I came out of the womb,” said Austin Alexander, a 26-year-old consultant from New York who voted for the senator in the straw poll and who volunteered for the elder Mr. Paul’s campaign in 2012. Mr. Alexander said he believes the GOP is moving in the direction the Pauls espouse.

Mr. Rubio, meanwhile, won the hearts of more traditional conservatives. “I’ve been a supporter for Marco, like a lot of people, since the first time I heard the guy speak,” said Gary Kim, 62, from Colorado, who described himself as a social conservative and said Mr. Rubio can deliver that message in a way previous candidates such as Mr. Santorum could not.

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Democrats Step Back From Ashley Judd For Senate Drive

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Hollywood actress-turned-Senate-hopeful Ashley Judd may have a harder time winning the hearts and minds of Democrats to support her campaign against Sen. Mitch McConnell after all.

Democratic Party leaders are stepping back and taking a clear look at the candidate, and some say she may not be best to run against the five-term Kentucky senator in 2014, Newsmax reports.

“She’s going to have a tough road to hoe,” said Jim Cauley, campaign manager for Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in 2007, in a ThisWeek.com report. “She doesn’t fit the damn state,” which is a conservative stronghold. Fully 60 percent of Kentuckians voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.

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Video: Feds Swarm Chicago Train After Detecting Nuclear Threat

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It was stunning for those who watched Thursday night as federal agents investigated a possible nuclear threat at Chicago’s Ogilvie Transportation Center.

CBS 2′s photojournalist Lana Hinshaw-Klann happened to be at the scene and used a cell-phone camera to record agents in action. Reporter Dave Savini looks into what agents were looking for and what they found.

Sources say the agents were members of the elite TSA VIPR team on the 5:04pm Union Pacific West line. They were carrying hand-held nuclear-detection devices that picked up a reading.

VIPR teams were created after the 2004 bombing of a train in Madrid, Spain, to protect U.S. transportation. At the Ogilvie station, officers held the train and searched for a person or bag that posed a potential nuclear threat.

Jerry Jones, a Chicago lawyer, was heading home on that train. He says the federal officers narrowed the trouble to the area where he was sitting.

Watch video here:

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+$30.5B: Federal Spending Up, Not Down, In First 5 Months of FY13

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Federal spending was up $30.5 billion in the first five months of fiscal 2013 compared to the first five months of fiscal 2012, according to newly released data from the U.S. Treasury.

The federal fiscal year begins on Oct. 1 and runs through Sept. 30. In the first five months of fiscal 2012 (October through February), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement, total federal spending was approximately $1,473,999,000,000.00. In the first five months of fiscal 2013, total federal spending was $1,504,547,000,000.00.

Thus, federal spending was $30,548,000,000.00 more in the first five months of fiscal 2013 than it was during the first five months of fiscal 2012.

The federal government is also spending at a much faster pace this year than it did before President Barack Obama took office.

In the first five months of fiscal 2008 (the last full fiscal year before Obama took office), the federal government spent $1,230,412,000,000.00. That is $274,315,000,000.00 less than the $1,504,547,000,000.00 that the federal government spent in the first five months of this fiscal year.

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U.S. Cancels Part Of Missile Defense That Russia Opposed

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The United States has effectively canceled the final phase of a Europe-based missile defense system that was fiercely opposed by Russia and cited repeatedly by the Kremlin as a major obstacle to cooperation on nuclear arms reductions and other issues.

Russian officials here have so far declined to comment on the announcement, which was made in Washington on Friday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as part of a plan to deploy additional ballistic missile interceptors to counter North Korea. The cancellation of some European-based defenses will allow resources to be shifted to protect against North Korea.

Aides to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said there would be no reaction until early next week, when they expect to be briefed by American officials. But Russian news accounts quickly raised the possibility that the decision could portend a breakthrough in what for years has been a largely intractable dispute between Russia and the United States. A headline by the Itar-Tass news agency declared, “U.S. abandons fourth phase of European missile defense system that causes the greatest objections from Russia.”

Pentagon officials said that those longstanding objections by Russia played no role in the decision to reconfigure the missile interceptor program, which they said was based on the increased threat from North Korea and on technological difficulties and budget considerations related to the Europe-based program.

“The missile defense decisions Secretary Hagel announced were in no way about Russia,” George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, said Saturday.

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Portman’s Gay Marriage Stance Sparks Conservative Backlash

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Sen. Rob Portman on Friday became the first Republican in the Senate to support gay marriage — and his switch set off harsh words from many conservatives.

“Sen. Portman is a great friend and ally, and the speaker respects his position,” Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, told Politico. “But the speaker continues to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that it was Portman’s “prerogative” to change his views on same-sex marriage, but that the traditional definition of marriage won’t change “no matter what politicians decide.”

“I don’t think they have the power to change what is a religiously inspired definition,” the Georgia GOP leader told CNN.

And Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said to cheers at the Conservative Political Action Caucus in Washington: “Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot.” In an essay published on Friday in the Columbus Dispatch, the Ohio senator said that his reversal was based on him and his wife, Jane, learning two years ago that their son, Will, 21, was gay.

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Google Glass: The Opposition Grows

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The opposition will congregate in dark corners. They will whisper with their mouths, while their eyes will scan the room for spies wearing strange spectacles.

The spies will likely be men. How many women would really like to waft down the street wearing Google Glass? It won’t be easy. Once you’ve been cybernated, there’s no turning back. Which is why the refuseniks are already meeting in shaded corners of the Web. One site is called “Stop The Cyborgs.” It claims to be “fighting the algorithmic future one bit at a time.”

It’s going to take a lot of bitty fighting, but the people behind this site — they’re naturally anonymous, in an attempt to stop Google spying on them — say they’re fighting Google Glass in particular.

They say that it will herald a world in which “privacy is impossible and corporate control total.”

Some would say that, thanks to Googlies and other bright, deluded sparks, we’re there already. The Lord and Master Zuckerberg explained to us a long time ago that he knows us better than we do and that we don’t actually want privacy at all.

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