Monday Edition: Selling Junk Mail

Selling Junk Mail
 -- Look, you are not going to get rich on this, but there may actually be hope that the tons of junk mail you get could be worth something. Somewhere along the line, people figured out that they could sell the coupons that retailers send them. Leave it to Poynter’s Larry Larsen to find this from Wired News: "Enterprising souls have taken to selling their junk mail on the popular auction site -- and people are buying. Those pre-approved credit card offers may not have much resale value yet, but auctioneers have swarmed to resell the discount coupons that big retailers like Lowe's and Bed Bath & Beyond send out every week. Discount coupons -- typically good for 10 to 20 percent off a single purchase -- currently sell for about $1 to $2 on eBay, plus shipping. Larger coupon lots can yield $20 or more."

It gets better. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 3,000 companies distribute nearly 330 billion coupons each year. And people really use them: Some 77 percent of American households use about 8 billion coupons to save $4.7 billion at grocery stores each year, the FTC reportsMany eBay sellers hawk these vouchers in bulk. Others have turned to unloading inserts from their Sunday paper. One seller who goes by the nickname charleysangelgirl clips Sunday coupons and sells them in lots of 100, typically earning about 30 cents, plus a buck for shipping. I noticed lots of baby formula and tuna coupons. 

Presidents’ Day
In honor of Presidents’ Day, I wonder what kids would say if you asked them if they ever dreamed of being President. I can’t imagine why ANYONE would want to be President. (Note-I have asked my pal Dr. Ink to consider writing a column explaining the apostrophe rule. Lots of sites call it President’s Day and others call it Presidents Day. I am using the style used by the Federal Government, which indicates a day that belongs to more than one President.)

I also wonder if there will ever be a national conversation about the prohibition against a Naturalized citizen being president. Given that ours is largely a country of immigrants, has that part of the requirements to be President become outdated? (Disclosure-all of my kids are Naturalized immigrants.)
Schoolboy lore has it that anyone can grow up and become president. But the reality is that the vast majority of U.S. presidents have come from the top tiers of society. Some, including John F. Kennedy and George Washington, ranked among the superrich. Just a couple--Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton spring to mind--were born poor. Forbes pulled together a list of the richest presidents. 

More than 100 Bodies Still Unidentified at Crematory
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation plans to post a list of the unidentified bodies from Tri-State Crematory on its Web site ( ) today-Monday.

In all, 339 bodies were found on the grounds of the rural crematory last February.

The AJC says," Crematory operator Ray Brent Marsh has been charged with 338 counts of theft by deception and 64 counts of abuse of a corpse. The GBI has identified 222 bodies, mainly through DNA."

"We will post a list Monday of each body, listing the estimated date of death, height, sex, race and whether we were able to extract a DNA sample from the body," the GBI's John Bankhead said Friday.
I wonder if missing persons bureaus will be running the list to see if they can close some cases. 100 bodies seems like a lot. Even if your city cannot close a case using this information it might be an interesting entry into a story about how they take any piece of information and track it down hoping they can use it.

Embedded Journalist Rules

Editor and Publisher ran a remarkable story giving the most in-depth details I have seen about how the embedded journalist program might work. The document lists the groundrules for journalists’ behavior and some guidelines on what they will and will not be allowed to do.
Among the 19 "not releasable" categories of information (besides those already mentioned) is any mention of a specific number of troops, aircraft, or ships below very large levels.

Also forbidden:
* Photography showing level of security.
* Rules of engagement.
* "Information on effectiveness of enemy camouflage, cover, deception, targeting, direct and indirect fire, intelligence collection, or security measures."
* Information on effectiveness of enemy electronic warfare.
* "Information on missing or downed aircraft or missing vessels while search and rescue and recovery operations are being planned or underway."
* Photographs or broadcast showing an enemy prisoner of war or detainee's "face, nametag, or other identifying feature."

Material that will be "releasable":
* "Approximate friendly casualty figures by service."
* Within certain limits, "embedded media may ... confirm unit casualties they have witnessed."
* Figures on enemy personnel detained or captured.
* "Size of friendly force participating in an action or operation can be disclosed using approximate terms."
* Information and location of military targets and objectives previously under attack.
* Generic description of origin of air operations, such as "land-based."
* Types of ordnance expended in general terms.
* Number of missions or sorties flown.
* Names and hometown of military units and service member names and hometowns with their consent.

Businesses and War
Here are several good online aritcles about how to keep businesses strong in a wartime economy. Among the angles, people cocoon. Restaurants see a drop in businesses but movie theatres don’t so long as they are not showing war-like movies.
Vacation resorts may have problems.
Security related items sell well in a war economy.
The Air Transport Association has predicted that if war breaks out, international air traffic will fall by at least 10%. However, most of the losses are expected to come from leisure travelers canceling their vacations. The same article said, "Desperate to attract new business, airlines and hotels normally cut prices during a major conflict. But that alone isn't the only reason to hit the road, according to James Turner, author of the book "Threat Assessment: A Risk Management Approach." "It's one of the safest possible times to fly," he says. Security is extra-tight at the airport. The entire country is on its guard against a counter-attack by the enemy. In many respects, flying is safer than during peacetime, when we aren't expecting any kind of terrorist hit..

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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