Showing posts from October 10, 2010

Your Money - Avoid the Foreclosure Market Until the Dust Settles

Are you out of your mind to even consider buying a foreclosed property right now? Todd Phelps and Paul Whitehead didn’t think they were last month when they were the winning bidders in a foreclosure auction on the steps of the main Riverside, Calif., county courthouse. They thought they had won the lottery. For years, they had been living in a rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica and waiting out the housing bubble in hopes of buying a weekend getaway in the Palm Springs area. And on Sept. 10, they thought they had finally done it, getting a house for $137,000. Several days later, however, they realized that what they had really bought was a second mortgage from Wachovia on a house that still had an enormous, unpaid primary loan. In other words, they did not own the home free and clear, and the auction company wouldn’t give back their $137,000 check. The tale is certainly enough to give anyone pause, especially as several banks slow or ha

Ajay Banga, New MasterCard Chief, Wages ‘War on Cash’

MUMBAI, India A DAY after the Indian government started a campaign to give identification numbers to all its 1.2 billion citizens, Ajay Banga, the newly minted chief executive of MasterCard , arrived in town, eager to lend a hand. The program will identify people based on fingerprints and retina scans, and could make it easier for the government to route food stamps and other payments to people below the poverty line. Mr. Banga says he believes he has a simple way to process the payments: via the MasterCard network. “I wasn’t educated in the U.S.; I was educated in India . I understand what you are trying to do,” he said during a news conference at the Trident Hotel, in the financial center here. “I think it’s a huge opportunity for our government and people and companies like ours.” Though Mr. Banga has risen to the top ranks of American business, the roots of his success are firmly planted in India, where he was born, raised and got hi -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids

SOLAR FLARE! Sunspot 1112 erupted today at 1900 UT, producing the brightest solar flare in nearly three months. Click here to view a movie of the M1-class explosion from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. GREAT FILAMENT: A vast filament of magnetism is cutting across the sun's southern hemisphere today. Run a finger along the golden-brown line in this extreme UV image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and your digit will have traveled more than 400,000 km: A bright 'hot spot' just north of the filament's midpoint is UV radiation from sunspot 1112. The proximity is no coincidence; the filament appears to be rooted in the sunspot below. If the sunspot flares, it could cause the entire structure to erupt. UPDATE: Today's M1-flare did not destabilize the filament. Stay tuned, however, because sunspot 1112 is growing and more activity is possible in the hours ahead. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to

Cat People Are People Too

Townies is a series about life in New York. Tags: cats , dogs , New York City I only have the one and she’s a rescue so it’s O.K. So goes the party line regarding my cat. Five years ago, her pregnant mother was abandoned and locked in a warehouse in North Carolina where she gave birth to a small litter of kittens. For days, the kittens survived without food or water before being discovered by a friend who knew exactly where the pictures should be sent. By the next week, I had a gray tabby with snowcapped paws peering at me from the laundry basket in the closet. I named her Mabel after a store that once existed on Madison Avenue. The store — itself named for the owner’s cat — dealt exclusively in overpriced feline-themed merchandise. And it did so with no sense of irony whatsoever. There were cat-head mugs and wide-brimmed hats with knit Persians curled on their brims and museum-sized oil paintings of cats lounging in the branches of an oak tree. I know, I

The Pragmatist - The Tools You Really Need to Maintain Your Home

I DON’T love working on my house. I have a full-time job and a similarly situated wife, four children, two dogs, one cat, various subordinate pets (fish, gecko), a tower of unread books and hobbies that purr at me when I have a free moment. I also have a 40-year-old, 2,000-square-foot colonial-style home that creaks, leaks and breaks frequently, and because this place protects my family and welcomes my friends, I oblige. I tackle these jobs with a collection of tools that has diminished in stunning lockstep with my children’s ability to reach the toolbox. The last time I peeked in that box, it contained two vise grips, four ancient standard screwdrivers, a screwdriver with six replaceable bits, two adjustable crescent wrenches, needle-nose pliers, a narrow chisel I didn’t buy (I’m not sure where it came from), a spackling knife and one tool I have never seen before and have no idea how to use. My hammer is wherever my children la

iPhones for Toddlers

THE bedroom door opened and a light went on, signaling an end to nap time. The toddler, tousle-haired and sleepy-eyed, clambered to a wobbly stand in his crib. He smiled, reached out to his father, and uttered what is fast becoming the cry of his generation: “ iPhone !” The iPhone has revolutionized telecommunications. It has also become the most effective tool in human history to mollify a fussy toddler, much to the delight of parents reveling in their newfound freedom to have a conversation in a restaurant or roam the supermarket aisles in peace. But just as adults have a hard time putting down their iPhones, so the device is now the Toy of Choice — akin to a treasured stuffed animal — for many 1-, 2- and 3-year-olds. It’s a phenomenon that is attracting the attention and concern of some childhood development specialists. Natasha Sykes, a mother of two in Atlanta, remembers the first time her daughter, Kelsey, now 3 1/2 but then barely 2 years old, held her husband’s iPhone

Hitler Exhibit Explores German Society That Empowered Nazis

BERLIN — As artifacts go, they are mere trinkets — an old purse, playing cards, a lantern. Even the display that caused the crowds to stop and stare is a simple embroidered tapestry, stitched by village women. But the exhibits that opened Friday at the German Historical Museum are intentionally prosaic: they emphasize the everyday way that ordinary Germans once accepted, and often celebrated, Hitler . The household items had Nazi logos and colors. The tapestry, a tribute to the union of church, state and party, was woven by a church congregation at the behest of their priest. “This is what we call self-mobilization of society,” said Hans-Ulrich Thamer, one of three curators to assemble the exhibit at the German Historical Museum. “As a person, Hitler was a very ordinary man. He was nothing without the people.” This show, “Hitler and the Germans: Nation and Crime,” opened Friday. It was billed as the first in Germany since the end of World War II to focus

Once Dynamic, Decline Leaves Japan Disheartened

OSAKA, Japan — Like many members of Japan’s middle class, Masato Y. enjoyed a level of affluence two decades ago that was the envy of the world. Masato, a small-business owner, bought a $500,000 condominium, vacationed in Hawaii and drove a late-model Mercedes. But his living standards slowly crumbled along with Japan’s overall economy. First, he was forced to reduce trips abroad and then eliminate them. Then he traded the Mercedes for a cheaper domestic model. Last year, he sold his condo — for a third of what he paid for it, and for less than what he still owed on the mortgage he took out 17 years ago. “Japan used to be so flashy and upbeat, but now everyone must live in a dark and subdued way,” said Masato, 49, who asked that his full name not be used because he still cannot repay the $110,000 that he owes on the mortgage. Few nations in recent history have seen such a striking reversal of economic fortune as Japan. The original Asian success story, Jap

Op-Ed Columnist - The Mississippi Pardons

Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi has to decide whether to show mercy to two sisters, Jamie and Gladys Scott, who are each serving double consecutive life sentences in state prison for a robbery in which no one was injured and only $11 was taken. This should be an easy call for a law-and-order governor who has, nevertheless, displayed a willingness to set free individuals convicted of far more serious crimes. Mr. Barbour has already pardoned four killers and suspended the life sentence of a fifth. The Scott sisters have been in prison for 16 years. Jamie, now 38, is seriously ill. Both of her kidneys have failed. Keeping the two of them locked up any longer is unconscionable, grotesquely inhumane. The sisters were accused of luring two men to a spot outside the rural town of Forest, Miss., in 1993, where the men were robbed by three teenagers, one of whom had a shotgun. The Scott sisters knew the teens. The evidence of the sisters’ involvement has always b

Op-Ed Columnist - Department of Childish Errors

How far back in a candidate’s history do we want to travel? It’s pretty clear that kindergarten behavior is off-limits, although there are several people running for important offices this year who remind me of a preschooler I once knew who hated sharing so much that whenever other children came to play he’d pile everything he could get his hands on, down to large pieces of lint, in one huge mound and sit on it all afternoon. College years are more problematic. In Delaware, Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate for Senate, has been haunted by an essay he wrote for the Amherst College student newspaper, in which he light-heartedly referred to himself as a “bearded Marxist.” During a debate this week, Coons and his opponent, Christine O’Donnell, tangled over whether the line, which he wrote in 1985, was more damning than the multitude of strange things O’Donnell “said on a comedy show 10 years ago.” It was arguments like this that made the Delaware debate by

Vikings call Favre questionable for Sunday's game - Yahoo! News

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – With an NFL-record streak of 289 regular-season starts on the line, Brett Favre is listed as questionable for Minnesota's game Sunday against Dallas. Favre had only limited practice this week for the Vikings while trying to rest his ailing right elbow, which has been bothered by tendinitis. Coach Brad Childress said Friday he would give his quarterback the 50-50 designation on the injury report and that a final decision on Favre's status would be made before the Cowboys game. "It will be right up 'til then. You never know coming back. Of course he took a few more turns today. I can't look into a crystal ball and see how he wakes up tomorrow," Childress said. "He could wake up with the gout tomorrow morning," he jokingly added. Favre said this week he'd consider sitting out to rest if necessary, but worse injuries haven't kept him from playing in the past. He wore a wrap on his throwing elbow, and Childres

German "heatball" wheeze outwits EU light bulb ban - Yahoo! News

BERLIN (Reuters) – A German entrepreneur is bypassing a European Union ban on light bulbs of more than 60 watts by marketing his own brand as mini heaters. Siegfried Rotthaeuser and his brother-in-law have come up with a legal way of importing and distributing 75 and 100 watt light bulbs -- by producing them in China, importing them as "small heating devices" and selling them as "heatballs." To improve energy efficiency, the EU has banned the sale of bulbs of over 60 watts -- to the annoyance of the mechanical engineer from the western city of Essen. Rotthaeuser studied EU legislation and realized that because the inefficient old bulbs produce more warmth than light -- he calculated heat makes up 95 percent of their output, and light just 5 percent -- they could be sold legally as heaters. On their website ( , the two engineers describe the heatballs as "action art" and as "resistance against legislation which i

New machine offers relief for high heel disco misery - Yahoo! News

BERLIN (Reuters) – Stumbling out of a nightclub and walking home barefoot with aching feet after dancing all night in killer heels could be a thing of the past for women thanks to new vending machines which sell disposable shoes. German student Isabella Fendt came up with the idea "Ballerina to go" -- ballerinas are flat shoes -- after too many nights of aching disco feet. Machines selling the shoes are already installed in four clubs in the south German city of Munich. A pair of the disposable shoes costs 7 euros ($10) and comes with a bag in which to put the high heels. (Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Steve Addison) via Posted via email from Peace Jaway

How is elitist Ayn Rand a tea party hero? The contradiction should concern America. - Yahoo! News

East Lansing, Mich. – The tea party is the most influential movement in American politics today. But what does it really stand for – and how will it affect American society and politics? Tea party leaders themselves talk about restoring America to the vision of the founding founders. That’s hardly a revealing insight; almost every political movement claims to carry on the founders’ legacy. We can learn much more about the tea party’s identity by looking to its heroes. At tea party rallies, posters and praise single out the usual suspects: Thomas Jefferson, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck. But there’s another person who figures prominently at these rallies, one who serves as the intellectual fountainhead ... Ayn Rand. And that should concern all Americans. Ignoring Rand's real philosophyTea partiers portray themselves as ordinary Americans fed up with an out-of-control, deeply indebted welfare state. Many no doubt see Ms. Rand – the 20th-century writer and philosopher who raile

States linking prescription databases, fight abuse - Yahoo! News

RALEIGH, N.C. – Starting next year, dozens of states will begin knitting together databases to watch prescription drug abuse , from powerful painkillers to diet pills. With federal money and prodding, states are being asked to sign onto an agreement allowing police, pharmacies and physicians to check suspicious prescription pill patterns from Nevada to North Carolina. Civil liberties and privacy advocates have objected to the state databases, which would be linked with technology and standards developed by the Justice and Homeland Security departments. Thirty-four states operate databases to fight a drug problem authorities say is growing more deadly than heroin. "I've got people that are kin to me that's addicted and I see firsthand what it does," said Tracy Carter, sheriff in Lee County, N.C.. about 30 miles southwest of Raleigh. "The thing that's so darn frustrating is our young people don't think it's that big of a deal. 'It's a

Disfiguring tropical disease surges in Afghanistan - Yahoo! News

KABUL, Afghanistan – An outbreak of a tropical disease caused by sand fly bites that leaves disfiguring skin sores has hit Afghanistan, with tens of thousands of people infected, health officials said Friday. Cutaneous leishmanisis is a parasitic disease transmitted by the female phlebotomine sand fly — an insect only 2-3 millimeters long that requires the blood of humans or animals so its eggs can develop. Treatable with medication and not life-threatening, cutaneous leishmanisis can leave severe scars on the bodies of victims. The disease threatens 13 million people in Afghanistan, the World Health Organization said, and many impoverished Afghan victims can't afford the medication to treat it. In Kabul — described by the WHO as "the world capital of cutaneous leishmaniasis" — the number of cases jumped from an estimated 17,000 a year in the early 2000s to 65,000 in 2009, WHO said. Most victims are women and children. WHO said women and children are more vul

Gov't: No increase for Social Security next year - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON – Another year without an increase in Social Security retirement and disability benefits is creating a political backlash that has President Barack Obama and Democrats pushing to give a $250 bonus to each of the program's 58 million recipients. The Social Security Administration said Friday inflation has been too low since the last increase in 2009 to warrant a raise for 2011. The announcement marks only the second year without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted in 1975. This year was the first. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to schedule a vote after the Nov. 2 election on a bill to provide one-time $250 payments to Social Security recipients . Obama endorsed the payment, which would be similar to one included in his economic recovery package last year. Obama had pushed for a second payment last fall, but the proposal failed in the Senate when a dozen Democrats joined Republicans on a procedural vote to block it. Michael