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LA PLAZA Drug violence is bad for business The...

September 07, 2008|Deborah Bonello; Alana Semuels; Johanna Neuman

LA PLAZA

Drug violence is bad for business

The drug violence that continues to sweep across Mexico isn't only damaging citizen confidence in the country's government and public security. It also is taking a toll on Mexico's economy, according to Treasury Secretary Agustin Carstens.

The Mexican government estimates that the violence has slowed economic growth by more than 1%.

Increased safety concerns have meant that companies and businesses spend 5% to 10% more on security services. This has hurt domestic competition and sales, according to Carstens, as well as having a negative affect on national development generally.

Last week was another bloody one for Mexico -- on Thursday, 12 headless bodies turned up in the normally quiet southern state of the Yucatan. Five bodies -- four of them decapitated -- were found earlier in the week in Tijuana. All the deaths are thought to have been drug war related.

The ongoing drug wars and rising levels of crime and kidnappings in Mexico prompted thousands across the country to march over the weekend, expressing their anger and demanding action.

Carstens, speaking to the newspaper Reforma, also announced that the security budget for 2009 will increase substantially.

For our special report on Mexico's drug problems, go to latimes.com/siege.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

From La Plaza: News, links and observations on Latin America from Times' correspondents

For more, go to latimes.com/laplaza

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TECHNOLOGY

Pomona, USC 'wired' colleges

Some kids choose which college to attend by its proximity to (or distance from) home. Others choose by how well the grub is rated by college guides, the size of the Greek life or, yes, the academic prowess.

Now, high school students can choose their college by how "wired" it is, thanks to new rankings by PC Magazine and Princeton Review.

The rankings take into account the amount of classes and course materials offered online, the degree of tech support available for problem-solving, the strength of the school's wi-fi network and the type of computers available for student use.

(It doesn't measure the amount of time students spend instant-messaging in class while pretending to listen to their professors.)

Local schools did well in the survey: Pomona College in Claremont was ranked fifth and lauded for its 24-hour on-campus computer repair service. The University of Southern California was 17th.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took the top spot, followed by Kansas State University, the University of Utah at Salt Lake City and Bentley College in Waltham, Mass.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, famed for its science and technology curriculum, was ranked only 20th, down significantly from its No. 2 ranking in 2006.

The University of Illinois ranked high in part because of its free laptop loan program and computing classes. Kansas State excelled because more than 76% of its lectures are available online. Bentley also gives laptops to every freshman. Villanova University, at No. 15, says it sends laptops to students while they're still in high school. The University of Pennsylvania, which came in 16th, offers intellectual property law classes related to high tech.

But wait a minute, you say. Back when I walked uphill to college both ways in the snow, we didn't have any of these highfalutin technologies, and I turned out just fine. Does it really matter how fast a wi-fi network is and how many Macs are on campus?

It doesn't matter that much, but kids are so tech-savvy these days that they're accustomed to always being connected, said Eric Griffith, a senior writer for PC Magazine. This is information both students and parents want to know, he said. Besides, he said, "everybody wants to know where their school falls in a ranking."

-- Alana Semuels

From Technology: The business and culture of our digital lives from the Los Angeles Times

For more, go to latimes.com/technology

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COUNTDOWN TO CRAWFORD

Vegetarian wrote red-meat speech

Matthew Scully worked as a speechwriter for President Bush for five years, starting in the 2000 campaign. During Bush's first term, he was part of the team that drafted the post-9/11 speeches and every major presidential address. He's also written speeches for Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.

So maybe it wasn't a surprise that Republican John McCain's team hired him to produce a prime-time debut speech for vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the first-term governor of Alaska who attacked Democrat Barack Obama in her role as what she called a pit bull with lipstick.

Obama press secretary Bill Burton was one of the first to take note of the Scully connection. In a statement released after the speech, he said:

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