How bad is the credit crisis. This bad. The Wall Street Journal reports that 2009 saw the lending fall at an "epic pace," the most severe drop since 1942. The article predicts that more banks will fail this year than last, even as the largest banks have begun to post profits. Small companies, which typically rely on smaller community banks, have been especially hard hit. The Journal says that President Obama's $30 billion small business lending program may help, but that many community banks, which are supposed to make the small business loans, have problems of their own. Community banks face defaults in commercial real estate loans that they made before the recession and that generally take longer than home loans to default.

Could the nation's capital be the next Silicon Valley? As part of an ongoing series on cities around the world that might one day usurp the Valley as the nexus of innovative start-ups, ReadWriteWeb has turned its scope on Washington, D.C. The piece highlights some pros and cons of the city's entrepreneurship scene -- Mixx founder Chris McGill notes, for example, that "the best thing about D.C. is the diversity of people," and the worst is the "inability to walk down the street and form a strategic partnership" as one would in Silicon Valley. The article also acknowledges the government's role in shaping the development of local companies, citing an $80 billion allocation in the President's budget for new technology, which could represent a lucrative opportunity for tech start-ups in the area.

A happy 55th birthday to Steve Jobs. A round of kudos goes out today for entrepreneurial icon and Apple founder Steve Jobs, who was born on this date in 1955. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the folks over at tech blog Walyou have put together a virtual trip down memory lane in his honor. The tribute includes old photos of Jobs throughout the ages, fan artwork of Jobs, YouTube clips, and a video of the Simpsons episode inspired by Apple. Best of all is a rare clip of a young Jobs at a 1983 Mac event hosting something called the Mac Dating Game. One of the contestants is none other than Microsoft's Bill Gates. It's amazing to see the two giants in their youth getting along so well. What's even more amazing is Gates' praise of Apple. As he explains, "To create a new standard, it takes something that's not just a little bit different. It takes something that's really new and really captures people's imagination. The Macintosh, of all the machines I've ever seen, is the only one that meets that standard."

A tech investor's public insult binge on Twitter. Former PayPal-er Keith Rabois, an investor in LinkedIn, Yelp, YouTube, Slide, and more went on a Twitter rampage yesterday and Valleywag has the 140-character carnage. designer-cum-venture capitalist Jason Putori was told he was "confident and ignorant," for someone who's never sourced a deal. Rabois also had no respect for startup advisor Tyler Will since, as he says, "I have raised more capital than you will ever see in your life." And in a twofer, Rabois also manages to undermine both TechCrunch and an "idiotic 'professor' who has never accomplished anything except creating pseudo-titles." Warning: contains strong language.

VCs and Intel attempt to inspire confidence. Intel is announcing that through a partnership with 24 VC firms, they will be investing $3.5 billion in U.S. start-ups over the next couple of years. It sounds nice, right? However, no new capital has been raised, these commitments aren't signed in blood, the company and its VC partners are simply looking to send a message, says the Wall Street Journal (via AllThingsD). The announcement is "an attempt by venture send out a confidence-inspiring message especially to Washington but more generally to the public and the tech ecosystem at large to let them know we're open for business," says Dixon Doll, a general partner at DCM, one of the firms involved. If you'd like to join the ranks of the investees, see how your business plan could affect VCs' investment decisions.

McDonald's gives free Wi-Fi a big boost. In December, the home of the Big Mac announced that it would start offering free Wi-Fi service at its 11,000 U.S. locations where customers had to previously pay for access. Now, as VentureBeat explains, a new report from the Wi-Fi hotspot ad service JiWire explains just how big a deal the McDonald's move is to the overall free Wi-Fi hotspot marketplace.

Wondering where to recycle your cellphone? Try an ecoATM. Though Inc. reported on a San Diego-based cellphone recycling startup called ecoATM in December, the company has since begun creating outposts for its environmentally-friendly kiosks across the country, Reuters reports. The ecoATM, which is similar to a Coinstar vending machine, allows customers to plug in the phones they wish to recycle, and its software will then inspect the phone for content, scratches, and the like, and assess whether the device has any monetary value. Customers were reported to have paid an average of $11 for each phone during recent trials at store in Nebraska. "It's hard to predict how consumers will react to kiosks," said ecoATM founder Mark Bowles. "But we're not asking for consumers to pay us. We're paying them for the used phones, like a Coinstar machine, which is why we think this automated approach will work."

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