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- 06/04/12--08:59: _Zara May Be The Onl...
- 06/04/12--09:15: _8 Myths You Shouldn...
- 06/04/12--09:23: _This One Leadership...
- 06/04/12--10:10: _The Only Sales E-Ma...
- 06/04/12--10:16: _Mint.com & Other Wo...
- 06/04/12--10:53: _Four Employers That...
- 06/04/12--11:18: _Has Gold's Next Mov...
- 06/04/12--12:09: _Having A Hot Wife C...
- 06/04/12--12:32: _This Is What A Coun...
- 06/04/12--12:41: _Don't Even Think Ab...
- 06/04/12--13:29: _If You're Using Thi...
- 06/04/12--13:56: _A Woman Is Facing J...
- 06/04/12--14:07: _Japanese Manufactur...
- 06/04/12--14:19: _Hate SOPA And CISPA...
- 06/04/12--14:30: _Prison Officers At ...
- 06/04/12--14:49: _A Judge In The Ande...
- 06/04/12--15:07: _This Boss Doesn't T...
- 06/04/12--15:50: _Private Equity Firm...
- 06/04/12--16:00: _Village Elders In I...
- 06/04/12--19:57: _Yes, You Can Get He...
- 06/04/12--08:59: Zara May Be The Only Company In Spain Not Failing
- 06/04/12--09:15: 8 Myths You Shouldn't Believe About About Long-Term Care Insurance
- Transferring (for example, from a bed to a wheelchair)
- Maintaining continence
- 06/04/12--09:23: This One Leadership Trait Will Boost Your Whole Team's Performance
- 06/04/12--10:10: The Only Sales E-Mails You Should Bother Signing Up For
- 06/04/12--10:16: Mint.com & Other Worthy Personal Finance Apps
- 06/04/12--10:53: Four Employers That Will Help You Pay Your Way Through College
- 06/04/12--11:18: Has Gold's Next Move Higher Begun?
- Gold can rise in good times if inflation is believed to be a threat to the purchasing power of cash. It can fall in times of optimism when if there is no concern about fiat currencies losing value, or if it’s believed that risk asset yields will outpace inflation.
- Gold can fall in bad times because inflation is usually not a threat, or if fear is so high that demand for liquidity overrides demand for assets that preserve wealth. However, when plunging risk assets suggest rising risk of policies that dilute purchasing power (like money printing) that are seen as inflationary, gold rises.
- The threat of money printing, stimulus, and other programs that risk diluting the purchasing power of cash (especially the widely held EUR and USD) continues, be it from Eurobonds, emergency bailouts, QE 3, etc., (likely if both EU and US economies continue to slide).
- Inflation remains a threat
- Markets avoid the level of panic that makes holding cash a priority over preserving wealth (typically short term conditions)
- 06/04/12--12:09: Having A Hot Wife Could Help You Land That Job
- 06/04/12--12:32: This Is What A Country On The Brink Of Collapse Looks Like
- 06/04/12--12:41: Don't Even Think About Buying A New Condo Until You've Read This
- Is new better than old? Prewar vs. new construction
- How to analyze a rendering
- The perfect condo
- Make sure you understand tax abatements
- Know what the 421a tax exemption is all about
- Check out the developer's track record
- My new construction nightmare
- Confessions of a preconstruction buyer
- Some people find the pain is worth it
- "Splitters" can save you thousands
- Guide to concessions
- Getting punch list finished
- Does it make sense to sue for construction defects?
- Raising the money to sue a developer
- 06/04/12--13:29: If You're Using This Insurance, Then You're Wasting Your Money
- Is it OK for the government to collect, store, and search every website you visit online?
- Is it OK for Google to do the same?
- Is it OK for Google to share all the data it collects about you with the FBI?
- What about the local police department?
- Should the government do everything it can do to detect and prevent terrorists or organized crime from communicating over the Internet, even within the country?
- Should the government (the DHS in Lieberman’s bill) regulate your local utility company so that Russian mobsters cannot turn off your power at will?
- Should Google and other large Internet companies be allowed to share with the government signs of ongoing economic espionage by Chinese state-sponsored hackers?
- 06/04/12--19:57: Yes, You Can Get Health Care Even When You're Uninsured
It may not be a favorite of those with wide waistlines, but Inditex, owner of the Zara fashion chain, now comes in extra large.
This week the La Coruña-based fashion retailer overtook telecoms company Telefónica and a host of beleaguered banks to become Spain's biggest listed company.
With a market capitalisation of €40.5bn (£32.36bn) at close of play on Friday, Inditex is now worth €300m more than Santander, the international bank, and €190m more than Telefónica. It's another landmark for the Spanish clothing company's founder, Amancio Ortega, the world's fifth richest man, who still retains a 59% stake in the company.
Ortega, the son of a railway worker, left school at 14 to work as a delivery boy for a shirt maker. In 1963, aged 27, he used his savings of 5,000 pesetas to set up Confecciones Goa with his then wife Rosalia Mera, making dressing gowns and lingerie. He opened his first store, Zara, in La Coruña in 1975 and developed it into a global powerhouse.
The company saw sales rise 10% last year to €13.8bn and made net profits of €1.9bn, up 12% on the year before, despite the global downturn.
Inditex listed on the Spanish stock market in 2001 at a value of €9.1bn, and it has more than quadrupled in value since then. Now 76, the publicity-shy Ortega stepped down as head of Inditex last July and is worth about $37.5bn (£25bn), according to Forbes.
His empire extends to more than 5,500 stores in 82 countries and eight retail brands including Massimo Dutti, Bershka and Pull & Bear. It opened its first UK store, a Zara, on London's Regent Street in 1998 and now has 95 shops across Britain.
Inditex's global reach, broad appeal to shoppers at the top and bottom of the market and highly efficient business model have made its shares a safe haven for Spanish investors.
News that Inditex had topped Spain's Ibex index came even as the country reported disastrous monthly retail figures, with April sales down 9.8% on the year before.
Although Inditex's Spanish home market, which accounts for 25% of sales, is in trouble, most analysts and investors believe the retailer can hold steady there. With its Zara chain controlling just 6% of the market, it has the opportunity to steal share from rivals as wealthy shoppers trade down to its cheaper prices. That belief will be tested on 13 June when the company delivers its next set of quarterly results.
Paul Rossington, a retail analyst at HSBC, says: "There would have to be a substantial decline in the Spanish market before it materially impacted on Inditex. The current climate is only helping big chains like Zara."
Inditex's shares have fallen slightly in recent months amid concerns for its stores in the struggling economies of Italy and Greece. But confidence has held up because Inditex is expanding quickly in China and other fast-growing developing markets. It has also only just begun to sell online in developed markets such as Japan and the US where it has relatively few high street shops.
This year, Inditex is expected to open about 500 new stores, about half outside Europe's troubled economies.
Lorna Hall, senior retail analyst at trend forecaster WGSN, says Zara's aspirational fashions ensure it has a warm reception in new markets. "Its collections are very influenced by catwalk looks and that has a global appeal," she says.
Inditex does not advertise. Its success relies on providing must-have fashion at relatively cheap prices.
Its unusual way of sourcing its merchandise is key to maintaining a steely focus on the latest trends. The company produces a third of its clothing in Spain, where it largely controls and owns factories, a third is produced in countries nearby such as Turkey and a third in the Far East. By sourcing closer to its shops and centralizing distribution in Spain, Inditex is able to take decisions on which clothing to produce and distribute much more quickly than rival stores, many of which source 70% or more of their clothing in the far-off Far East. Inditex can get a new item to the shop floor in just two weeks so that its stores are more likely to be in tune with the latest trends.
Buying more goods from Europe also protected the retailer from cost rises and capacity problems at Chinese manufacturers last year and is likely do so again as wages continue to rise outside Europe over the long term.
Inditex also works closely with its store managers, who feed back information about what is selling to help fine-tune the latest ranges.
They can dictate what goods are sent to them, to suit their shoppers, while deliveries arrive at least twice a week, keeping the look of the stores fresh and up-to-date.
That attention to detail has served Inditex well as it has spread around the world – insulating it against costly fashion mistakes in new markets.
Chances are about 70 percent that you'll need long-term care sometime after age 65, according to the nonprofit Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE). And it won't come cheaply.
The median cost of a full-time nursing home room is $81,030 per year, according to the Genworth 2012 Cost of Care Survey. The national median hourly rate for a licensed home health aide is $19, which would total $55,480 a year for eight hours a day of care.
Statistics like those make long-term care insurance sound like a no-brainer, but misunderstandings still abound.
Here are eight myths about long-term care insurance -- and the truth.
Myth No. 1: I don't have to worry -- I've got Medicare
Of all the misconceptions, this is one of the biggest, says Steve Casto, founder and president of Strategic Wealth Solutions Inc. in Omaha, Neb., and author of "Is Your Retirement Headed in the Right Direction?"
Generally, health insurance -- including Medicare -- pays for hospital and doctor bills but not for custodial care when you have a long-term disability or illness. Custodial care includes help with such daily tasks as eating, getting out of bed, toileting, bathing and remembering to take medications. Casto says he counsels clients not to expect a dime from Medicare for long-term care.
Medicaid will pitch in for long-term care expenses, but only after you've depleted your assets.
Myth No. 2: My spouse will take care of me
"A lot of people tend to be in denial," says Wendy Spencer, a Certified Financial Planner with Spencer Capital Strategies Co. in Arvada, Colo.
Although you may be able to depend on your spouse, it's something of which you can't be sure. What if you outlive your partner? What if you develop Alzheimer's disease and need around-the-clock supervision? What if you become physically disabled and need more help than your spouse alone can provide?
Myth No. 3: Everybody should buy long-term care insurance
For many people, long-term care insurance is simply out of reach.
"Typically, long-term care insurance is for middle-income people," Casto says.
Poor people generally can't afford the premiums, and the very wealthy may prefer to pay for their care out of pocket. If assets, other than a home, are less than $30,000 for single people and $80,000 for married people, they probably can't afford long-term care insurance, according to the LIFE organization.
If you lack adequate assets, you'll have to spend your own money and then rely on Medicaid, the federal and state program for low-income families and elderly and disabled adults, to cover your long-term care.
If you have assets to protect, you should consider purchasing long-term care insurance, unless you've done a thorough financial analysis and determined that you can self-insure.
Myth No. 4: The premium will never go up
No company guarantees premiums on long-term care policies will remain the same, says Charles Matt, a financial adviser with Sapient Financial Group in San Antonio. Insurance companies reserve the right to increase premiums through the life of the policy, depending on overall claim costs and investment earnings.
Myth No. 5: I should put off applying for long-term care insurance until I'm ready to retire
Many people wait until they approach retirement to apply for long-term care insurance, thinking it's best to put it off as long as possible. But Matt has seen this backfire for some clients. By the time they applied for coverage, they had developed conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, which disqualified them for the best rates for their age or made them ineligible for coverage, period.
"I make a concerted effort to get clients to start looking at long-term care insurance at age 50," Matt says.
Myth No. 6: It's nursing home insurance
Although long-term care insurance covers care in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, most of the claim dollars today are spent on home health care, Matt says.
Myth No. 7: The elimination period is a waiting period
Most policies have an elimination period, typically 90 days, before the policy will pay for services.
"People think this is a waiting period when you sit around and twiddle your thumbs," Spencer says.
But it works more like a deductible. The elimination period begins when you meet the policy's terms for qualifying for benefits and you start paying for services from a qualified provider.
Typically to qualify for coverage you must be unable to perform two out of six "activities of daily living" on your own. Those are:
In many cases, you also can qualify if you suffer from a severe cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer's disease, that puts your health and safety at risk.
You can't just sit out the elimination period and rely on neighbors and relatives to help out, and then expect the insurance company to pay for services once the 90 days are up, Spencer says. You have to pay for health care services from providers approved by the insurance company through the elimination period. Then the insurance company will start paying.
Myth No. 8: The quote is too high. I can't afford it
Long-term care policies have lots of variables you can tweak to bring the premium down. For instance, you can reduce the daily benefit amount, the number of years of coverage or the inflation rider. Work with a good financial adviser to adjust the policy to provide the best combination of features for you.
"It's not an all-or-nothing situation," Matt says.
Charismatic leaders bring out our best and make us do better work.
If you’re a leader, or aspire to be one, charisma matters. It gives you a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining the very best talent. It makes people want to work with you, your team, and your company. Research shows that those following charismatic leaders perform better, experience their work as more meaningful, and have more trust in their leaders than those following effective but noncharismatic leaders.
As Wharton School business professor Robert House notes, charismatic leaders “cause followers to become highly committed to the leader’s mission, to make significant personal sacrifices, and to perform above and beyond the call of duty.”
Charisma is important in doctors too; you're more likely to follow through on your treatment with a doctor who has charm:
Charismatic physicians are better liked by patients and are in greater demand, and their patients are more likely to adhere to the medical treatments they prescribe.
Want to be more charismatic? Check this out.
Oh, email inbox. You cluttered hot mess.
We hear that chime indicating that someone likes us–really, really likes us, and wants to tell us something right now–but when we click over to you, it’s just a Top Ten List from Guilty Pleasure Weekly, or SignThisPetitionDotCom.
Your instinct might be to cull this list to the very bones, or to at least create a separate folder (with rules automatically shunting specific addresses to a “read-later” outpost) or even a separate email address for sales and other non-essential emails.
While these are fine ways to deal with the mess, believe it or not, there are a few marketing emails that, when used correctly, can actually enhance your bargain-hunting.
Because let’s face it–the one thing every mom secretly wishes she had was a replica of herself, someone to handle the home front or the bargain hunting or the office, while the other takes care of the kids and family. So while it might seem counterintuitive, we argue that, instead of clearing out the inbox clutter completely, you instead stuff that email in-box with five types of emails that can actually make your financial life a little bit easier.
1. ‘Sales’ Email From the Stores You Shop Most
For me, this means parenting/kid-store places. For instance, I live ten minutes from the Carter’s Outlet. The last time I shopped there, the cashier asked if I had an email promotion code. I stepped aside, used my smartphone to go to their site and sign up for the emails, et voilà, within minutes I had the code.
This little maneuver ended up saving me $30 on the 3T- sized, ballet-monkey-festooned pajamas I had to buy anyway. The downside, of course, is that now I’m hammered with nearly-daily emails exhorting me to return to the scene of the crime to get more 3T-sized, elephant-heart-bedecked pajamas that I don’t need.
That’s where the separate folders come in handy. While email discounts to the shops you frequent will be mostly helpful, don’t be tempted to impulse-buy just because you got an email with “$5 Dresses!” in the subject line. Instead, when you sniff summer in the air, and realize everyone’s swimsuits are too small, do what I do and head over to the secret bargain folder, see what sales are current, grab your coupon code and go.
2. Your Most-Used Airline
If you know you’re taking a trip soon, and the dates are flexible, go ahead and sign up for marketing announcements from your favorite airline–particularly if it’s an indie darling, like Virgin or JetBlue. They’re notorious for having limited-time sales; my mom will often email me an announcement for one a few days after it was sent, then complain she couldn’t get the deal listed.
Yes. That’s correct: You have to jump on these things right away to take advantage of them. That’s why you want to limit the amount of time you’ll allow yourself to get them–once you have booked your flight, click “unsubscribe.” (Of course, if you only fly major carriers, you can just sign up for a service like Kayak’s flight tracker, which is a site that tracks multiple carriers all at once.)
3. Coupon Sites
You saw the story in The New York Times about the crazy coupon ladies, right? I’m obsessed with them. They’re ca-raaaazy, with their second-freezer-in-the-garage and spare-room-stacked-with-tuna-fish. But you know what else they’re doing? Pulling in six-figure incomes and saving enough to count their coupon-clipping work as income.
Seriously, if you can organize these coupons to use them on command–and make a quick assessment of brand-name “bargains” that are actually more expensive than your usual choice–then being on a weekly list is a great option. You just want to set aside a block of time before your regular shopping trip to plan ahead: Which coupons will you use, can you shop on double-coupon day and are you sure you need everything you’re purchasing? Like my grandma said–It’s not a bargain if you don’t use it.
I’m signed up with Couponmom, a site that offers grocery deals by state, drugstore deals and restaurant coupons.
4. Cheap Event Roundup
When I lived in New York, I was on a list from the Theater Development Fund that would release cheap tickets to shows for theaters who needed to “paper the house” (also known as getting butts into seats).
When I moved to San Francisco, I hooked up with Goldstar Events for their weekly roundup of theater, sports and miscellaneous bargains. But my heart really belongs to Johnny Funcheap. Whoever Mr. Funcheap is, he collects all the free events (and sometimes advertises cheap tickets) in my area, and has saved more than one weekend from crashing boredom.
I guarantee you have similar sites in your area (Try Googling “the name of your city AND family-friendly event lists” for starters), and if you’re a family who always needs to be on the go to avoid the dreaded I’m-booooored-itis—you owe it to yourself, and your family, to figure out how to make it affordable to go to ballgames, street fairs and concerts. We saw OK GO! for free, not to mention the mochi pounding party at the Asian Art Museum that we won tickets to–not the kind of awesome adventure I’d have thought to go to without a little help!
5. Web Calendar Reminders
This is a little bit of a different idea, one that might make you wonder “what does this have to do with my financial well-being?” But being organized–not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and, yes, financially–can save you hundreds of dollars a year in late fees, interest payments on emergency credit-card use and overdraft charges.
You probably already use an online calendar, such as Google Calendars or upstart Cozi–to keep your family’s activities in order. Take a moment to go through your bills and note the due date of each various payee. Likewise for monthly charges for gymnastics class, occasional expenses like rec center signups, preschool tuition and even birthday parties (so you can shop ahead for gifts). Then click “remind,” and allow the program to email you a few days ahead of each bill.
Voilà! No more late payments and no more last minute, budget-busting shopping trips for birthday gifts makes mom a very, very happy person.
We all aspire to better, simpler finances. These apps and tools can help.
1. Mint.com is the industry leader in the personal finance app space. I currently use Mint on my iPhone and iPad (occasionally logging into the full desktop site as well) in order to track where I am financially: Mint does a great job of showing you a "snapshot" of your total outstanding credit card debt versus your total assets/worth across all of your bank accounts, credit cards, and investment accounts. As their site explains, "Mint does the work of importing your accounts and shows you everything in one place using a single password." The service is free; Mint makes its money by suggesting financial products that they think would be of interest to you.
2. Credit card comparison web sites. I'm obviously partial to Outlaw's credit card deals portal, where we rank and compare many of the top offers from major banks each week. Savvy credit card users are keen deal hunters, and the right 0% introductory balance transfer or cash back bonus could add a simple boost to your financial health. Competing sites offer a similar user experience; the important thing is that you compare offers somewhere. Blindly responding to "pre-approved" card offers in the mail seems archaic (and not at all precise).
3. BillGuard is an innovative "personal finance security service that analyzes millions of consumer billing complaints to find deceptive, erroneous and fraudulent charges on your credit card and debit card bills." You get monthly scan reports and real-time alerts to keep an eye on any "subscription charges" or other weird unwanted charges to your credit card that might be bogus. The free version of BillGuard allows you to monitor up to three of your cards; a paid service ($79/year) allows you to protect up to 10 accounts instead, and includes "priority support" should you need it. Yet another prudent way to keep thieves away from your hard-earned cash.
4. Banking apps. Some of the most useful personal finance apps these days come from the banks themselves. Chase's mobile banking app is speedy and slick, offering the ability to photograph and electronically deposit checks from your iPhone (ING DIRECT's app reportedly offers the same feature).
Capital One's newly upgraded app, which I wrote about here, includes money-saving deals and offers for cardholders from leading merchants.
5. Square. This beautiful, simply designed point-of-sale system allows store owners and individuals to accept credit cards via an iPhone, iPad, or Android device. They send you a free card reader (in the shape of a little square), the fee structure is simple (2.75% per swipe), and customers can sign using their finger on your iPhone or iPad touchscreen; after that, Square sends them a receipt.
Deposits into your bank account are ultra-fast and Square-using businesses can benefit from the marketing boost of being featured within Square's marketplace: Square users like to check out Square-using shops and vendors, since they tend to be independent, and you can pay in an innovative way (just say your name to the cashier; he or she looks you up in the Square system and compares you to the profile photo on file). Additionally, frequent Square shoppers can receive all kinds of discounts and perks from participating stores.
The Square system works with all major Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express cards. Square's competitors include Intuit GoPayment (2.7% per swipe) and PayPal Here (2.7% per swipe; service coming soon).
It has been said that credit cards will serve as the foundation for a revolution in person-to-person banking apps. I think we are already seeing a strong start to that prediction with the rise to prominence of Square.
Disclosures: We're a credit card promotions site, and as such we maintain financial relationships with numerous banks and financial institutions, including some of the offers and cards mentioned or featured herein. This article originally appeared in slightly different form on Credit Card Outlaw.
By Christopher Maag
Getting financial help with college was one of the major reasons why Benjamin Armstrong joined the Marine Corps.
But when the veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars finally started using the G.I. Bill to attend Texas State University in 2004, he accidentally missed out on the Marine Corps College Fund, which would have paid $12,000 toward his education.
"I was not prepared" to make the best use of the military's financial aid, Armstrong says.
After a few early stumbles, Armstrong earned his bachelor's degree in 2008 and his master's in 2011. And since G.I. Bill covered the vast majority of the costs, Armstrong finished school with minimal student loan debt.
"I basically got two degrees for $2,000" in student loans, he says. "I just feel blessed and excited."
It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the cost of college. The average university student graduates with over $25,000 in student loans, according to the Project on Student Loan Debt.
Americans owe more than $1 trillion in student loans, more than they've charged on their credit cards.
But there are ways for students of all ages to earn college degrees without racking up mountains of debt. Some, like the G.I. Bill, are well-known, and have been around for generations. Others, including law school programs that wipe away graduates' student loans in return for work in the public interest, may be less well-known but just as helpful.
[Related Articles: The Best Student Loan Advice on Twitter]
Whatever the mechanism, most of these alternative ways of paying for college share a similar goal: Helping young people enjoy the opportunities that come with having a college degree without the crushing debt that prevents many graduates from enjoying those opportunities.
"We want to make sure that concerns about debt or income are not stopping any of our students from going out and changing the world in whatever way they choose," says Janet Conroy, a spokeswoman for the Yale Law School, which offers a generous loan repayment program for graduates who pursue low-paying jobs or public service.
Adam Levin, chairman and co-founder of Credit.com, recently proposed a new National Service Corpsthat would help hundreds of thousands of young Americans pay for college in exchange for two years of service to their country. While larger and broader in scope than any existing service program, there are many precedents for this kind of aid. Here are some of the more popular programs people already use to help pay for college and graduate school.
The grandfather of all college aid programs is the G.I. Bill. Originally introduced in 1944 to help soldiers returning from World War II avoid the unemployment and economic stagnation that often follows major wars, the G.I. Bill has been expanded to help generations of military service members attend college and improve their professional skills.
It's been expanded, and it's also become much more complicated. There are actually two G.I. Bills, plus a host of other programs offered by the Veterans Administration to help veterans and their families go to school. Some of these programs are stand-alone, and can only be used by themselves. Others can be layered one after the other, so that one student can tap multiple programs to obtain a number of different degrees and certificates.
"It is fairly complicated," says Armstrong, who works as coordinator of student veteran services at the University of Texas at Austin. Even though he is immersed every day in the intricacies of the G.I. Bill, he often turns to experienced experts at the Texas Veterans Commission for help answering more complicated questions.
"I haven't mastered it yet," he says.
At its simplest level, the G.I. Bill takes two different forms: The Montgomery G.I Bill, and the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. The biggest difference between the two is how they pay, says Ron Kness, who retired after 36 years of military service and now helps veterans navigate military's educational benefits for veterans as a G.I. Bill expert on GIBill.com.
Under the Montgomery, the older version of the G.I. Bill, veterans pay tuition, living expenses and other fees from their own pockets, and later are reimbursed by the government up to $1,473 per month for full-time students.
Under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, meanwhile, the government pays tuition and fees directly to the school. The bill also pays a monthly housing allowance that varies based on the student's zip code, plus up to $1,000 a year for books.
Many students prefer this newer version of the bill, Armstrong says, because direct payments from the government to colleges makes it easier for veterans to plan their finances.
"The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill is, without a doubt, the best G.I. Bill veterans have ever had," Kness says.
The two bills are not necessarily exclusive, either. If a veteran plans to go for a master's doctorate or other advanced degree, she can start out on the Montgomery G.I. Bill, which covers up to 36 months of schooling. After that, they can switch to the Post-9/11 bill and get an additional 12 months.
"Since the introduction of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, it is really common for veterans" to string the different benefits together like this, Kness says. "The 36 months takes them to their four-year degree and the additional one-year get them half-way through their advanced degree."
Nor are veterans limited to attending in-state public universities. Thanks to the Post-9/11 bill's Yellow Ribbon program, students can get additional financial help to attend private schools if tuition at their institution exceeds the $17,500 traditionally paid by the Veteran's Administration. In addition to the different versions of the G.I. Bill, the Veterans Administration offers other financial aid programs for veterans and their families. Here are a few:
- Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP), to help reservists called to active duty during wars and national emergencies.
- Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP), in which service members can deduct money from their paychecks to fund later schooling. The government matches these contributions 2-for-1.
- National Call to Service Program. In return for service in the active duty military and the National Guard, students can choose from a range of different education benefits, including a one-time cash bonus of $5,000 or repayment of existing student loans up to $18,500.
- Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), which gives up to 12 months of retraining assistance to unemployed, middle-aged veterans to attend community college or technical school.
- Survivors & Dependents Assistance (DEA), which helps the spouses and children of deceased or disabled veterans pay for up to 45 months of education.
If you're considering the G.I. Bill or other military programs to pay for college, the Veteran Administration's website is a good place to start, here. But don't stop there, Kness and Armstrong agree. Scan the Internet for forums, like the one Kness runs as "Ask the G.I. Bill Expert." Each state has its own veterans commission, which is staffed with G.I. Bill experts. Also, every school that accepts funding from the G.I. Bill must have someone on staff to administer it, and these employees often understand how federal and state benefits can combine to pay for more of your education.
"In most cases, the onus is on the veteran to sort through everything and to make the best decision on what they can find," Kness says.
National Health Service Corps
Between college and medical school, the average new doctor graduates with a crushing loan of student loan debt. That debt often changes how young doctors think of their careers
"A lot of my classmates originally wanted to open their own practices," says Rashid M. Rashid, a dermatologist in Houston, Texas. "After school that all changed. They said, 'I have to make my money immediately because I've got so much loan debt.'"
For people who want to practice medicine without the need to make lots of money upfront, the National Health Service Corps offers to repay loans for people who agree to work in underserved, often low-income areas. The corps' Loan Repayment Program offers up to $60,000 in tax-free loan repayment in exchange for two years of full-time service, or four years of part-time.
After two years, corps members can apply to re-up and earn even more money.
"With continued service, providers may be able to pay off all their student loans," says Michelle Daniels, a spokeswoman for the Health Resources and Services Administration, which runs the program.
There are currently over 10,000 corps members across a broad range of professions, including primary care physicians, dentists, social workers and family therapists. Another 524 current students are receiving scholarships from the corps; in return they will be expected to work in underserved communities upon graduation.
Current students cannot necessarily depend on the corps to cover their loans, however. Rather, graduates must already be working at an approved health care site, or have a job offer to begin working at such a site within 60 days of submitting their application, to be considered for a repayment award.
This means that, rather than serving as a stepping-stone to more lucrative careers in medicine or mental health, the National Health Service Corps usually helps people who are committed to serving the poor for years to come. The loan repayment and scholarship program "provides the financial freedom to follow their passion for serving the underserved," Daniels says. "NHSC members typically become part of the communities where they serve, and more than 80 percent remain in underserved communities after they complete their service commitment."
Ben Duda spent two years traveling America building houses, restoring trails and repairing 4-H camps as a member of the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), which is part of the federal AmeriCorps program. For all this work he earned just barely enough to live on -- Duda and his fellow corps members pooled their meal stipends together to buy enough groceries to survive.
"It's not glamorous, it doesn't pay well," says Duda, executive director of AmeriCorps Alums, a network of former AmeriCorps members. "I think the appeal has got to be the experience itself."
Duda also received an education benefit of around $5,000 to help pay for college or graduate school. He wound up using it towards his master's degree in public policy from Johns Hopkins University. (Currently AmeriCorps pays education awards of $5,500, but because that amount is taxed, the actual benefit drops to around $5,000.)
That may not sound like much, especially when the average college student graduates with more than five times that amount in student loan debt. But if used wisely, an AmeriCorps education award could make a significant dent in students' college costs.
Since the average tuition at community colleges is $2,963 a year, according to the American Association of Community Colleges, the AmeriCorps education award could cover nearly all the tuition for a two-year associate degree. Many of those credits could be transferred to a four-year pubic university, where tuition averages $8,244.
Meanwhile, the experience of being an AmeriCorps member itself may be just as educational as college.
[Related Article: For Middle-Age Students, Is College Worth the Risk?]
"It's a way to do some meaningful, impactful work" and decide if that's the kind of work you want to do as a career, Duda says.
AmeriCorps volunteers work on education, health care, community building and environmental projects around the country, often serving in low-income areas. The program includes a number of different volunteer programs, including NCCC and VISTA, which was created in 1965 as the domestic version of the Peace Corps.
About 80,000 volunteers are currently serving the three programs, says said Kate Enos, a spokeswoman for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs all three. But even given the modest living stipend and education award that comes with AmeriCorps service, competition for those slots is fierce. AmeriCorps received 582,000 applications for its volunteer positions in 2011, the corporation reported, an all-time record.
Law School Loan Repayment Programs
After graduating from Yale Law School in 2002, Kristen Jackson won a prestigious job clerking for a federal judge, followed by years working to protect immigrant children as an attorney for Public Counsel, a nonprofit law office in Los Angeles.
But Jackson also graduated with $102,000 in student loan debt (which meant about $150,000 with interest.) That translated to monthly payments of $900. Working at Public Counsel, which paid her $35,000 when she started in 2003, Jackson could not afford to both pay for school and follow the career path she loves.
But thanks to Yale's generous Career Options Assistance Program (COAP), Jackson was able to work for years without paying a dime for her student loans. As her income rose, she gradually became responsible for an increased amount of her loan payments.
In the end, Jackson figures COAP will have covered about half of her school debt.
"It made a huge difference," says Jackson, 40. "If I didn't have that loan repayment program, I would definitely not be doing my job, and my career would be much different. There would be no way I could afford it."
Many law schools offer such loan repayment assistance programs. The goal is to remove the pressure many graduates feel to take a job with large corporate firms, which often pay large salaries, just to make enough money to pay off their loans. Yale is famous for being especially generous, and for putting fewer limitations on who can qualify; any graduate who makes below a certain income can receive full or partial forgiveness for their law school loans (the amounts vary based on marital status and other factors.)
That means Yale Law graduates are free to pursue whatever career path they want, whether it be as a lawyer, elementary school teacher or janitor.
[Related Article: How I'm Repaying $120,000 in Student Loans]
"We don't want money to be an impediment for people to follow their dreams of using their law school degree," says Jan Conroy, a spokeswoman for the school. The program costs the school more than $3 million a year.
Other schools handle this task differently. At New York University, for example, law school applicants can try out for Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholarships, which pay full tuition for three years of law school to top students who pursue careers in public service. Other students can apply for the school's Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which wipes clean their entire law school debt as long as they work in public interest law for ten years after graduation and earn salaries of less than $80,000.
"This commitment to easing the burden of student loan repayment allows our graduates the flexibility to pursue a wide range of careers in nearly every corner of the globe," according to the program's website, "from advocating for homeless youth in New York City to working for death penalty reform in China."
If you're applying for law school and believe that the world of big corporate firms is not for you, you may want to factor each school's loan repayment program into your decision.
Last Friday’s spike in gold after the terrible US jobs report has many wondering whether gold is ripe for a reversal. Here’s the answer short & sweet.
Here’s a brief gold forecast based on its true nature and relation to currency and other asset markets, with particular focus on gold’s relationship with the EUR and USD, as well as likely policies related to them.
It’s part of an ongoing series of articles from www.thesensibleguidetoforex.com, a site dedicated to showing mainstream investors how to achieve currency diversification for lower risk and better returns, either via conservative forex trading or currency diversified income investing
Gold has been sliding since last summer. However the global slowdown raises the risks of widespread policies that dilute the purchasing power of the most widely held currencies, and that favors a renewed gold uptrend. We may have had our first taste of the coming move with this past Friday’s US job reports disappointment and spike in gold.
After the initial panic of a Greek exit from the EUR and related default risk subsided, gold held support ~$1575. This past Friday’s awful US jobs reports sent gold soaring, because the bad jobs data caused markets to assume that QE 3 (believed dilutive to the USD’s value and a pro-risk move that pressures safe havens like the USD) was likely and would both sink the USD and send gold on its next leg higher.
1. NO EZ BAILOUTS OTHERWISE
Even if the coming Greek election brings a pro-bailout party, Greece is an ongoing default threat and likely requires ongoing money printing to fund its bailouts. No one is willing to pay, so the likely funding mechanism is money printing, with Germany once again backing down (for the last time, perhaps).
If/when contagion threat kicks in, either from a Greek default, Spanish or Italian 10 year bonds hitting 7% yields, so that one of them needs a bailout, then the EU must choose: print or die. Given the risks of contagion spreading globally on a scale equal or greater to that of the Lehman collapse, the Fed and other leading central banks may well end up kicking in some cash, most likely freshly printed given how their voters might respond to new taxes or spending cuts. Spain is the big concern, and is the 4th largest economy in Europe, needing an estimated €400 bln in funding for the coming 3 years, far beyond the current actual means of EZ bailout funds. Italy would present an even bigger funding dilemma.
2. TECHNICAL PICTURE: GOLD READY FOR OVERSOLD BOUNCE
As we noted in our recent article, COMING WEEK MARKET MOVERS: 11 REASONS TO PAY ATTENTION, even without considering the eventual money printing of the second most widely held currency, the EUR, markets appear convinced that last Friday’s US jobs reports means the Fed is about to do some serious USD printing via QE 3. Yes, technically it’s not necessarily money printing, but markets have generally (and probably correctly) ignored the technical distinction, typically treating both gold and the USD as if the USD was now worth less (again, probably true in the end) and gold correspondingly worth more as the prime USD hedge. We discuss particulars of the technical picture in the above mentioned article.
3. GOLD IS NEITHER RISK NOR SAFE HAVEN ASSET – IT’S A CURRENCY HEDGE
This is they key to grasping how gold behaves.
There are those who somehow believe that because commodities are hard assets they should share a positive correlation. Wrong. Oil is an industrial commodity, essential though it is, its demand does vary to a degree with economic activity. Oil is a classic risk asset, likely to decline during economic downturns. Gold is uniquely neither risk nor safe haven asset. It’s a currency hedge. Therefore its value rises or falls with fear about the purchasing power of the most widely held currencies, the USD and EUR. Both are at risk of de facto devaluation from continued printing. That means ongoing fear of loss of purchasing power that favors higher gold prices. Only in time of panic, when need for liquidity overrides need to preserve wealth, does gold drop despite fears of money printing, inflation, or other threats to the USD, EUR, or at times other widely held currencies (gold prices can rise in local markets when the local currency ‘s use as a store of value becomes doubtful, as may happen in India or other emerging markets).
Gold’s correlation to other classic risk assets like the bellwether S&P 500 is tenuous at best, 11% and 17% respectively since the start of the current quarter. For more on our thoughts on gold: see here and here.
Nor has gold correlated reliably to other safe haven assets.
Because gold is a currency hedge and neither risk nor safety asset, it can rise or fall in good or bad times. For example:
1. GOLD TENDS TO MOVE IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF THE USD ABOUT 50% OF THE TIME
Thus, if the dollar continues to rise on safe haven flows, gold could suffer. However, a 50% correlation is by definition only right half the time. Moreover, by logic this correlation should be even less reliable if the USD is under threat of dilutive policies like QE 3.
2. THE EU CRISIS COULD SPARK PANIC THAT GIVES PRIORITY TO LIQUITIDY OVER PRESERVATION OF PURCHASING POWER
If the EU crisis worsens and contagion threat spreads through the banking system and threatens another banking crisis like that seen after the Lehman crash or worse, liquidity demand will trump desire to preserve wealth. Indeed, Lehman was just one bank. The EU crisis threatens the entire EU banking system and those directly or indirectly tied to it (all banking systems to some degree).
3. LONG GOLD POSITIONS YIELD NO INCOME
Thus gold positions are more expensive to hold than other assets. Thus if we get more panic from the EU, investors may sell it to fund losses elsewhere. When you need cash, you want to sell your most profitable assets, or get rid of the lowest yielders.
We remain bullish for the coming year on gold, if
We believe the above conditions are more likely than not.
One of the biggest lessons of recent years is the need to protect yourself against the risk of crashing markets and currencies dragging you down with them. The best help I can offer you is, THE SENSIBLE GUIDE TO FOREX, SAFER, SMARTER WAYS to SURVIVE and PROSPER from the Start. It’s the first forex book ever published to show how both prudent active traders and long term investors with limited time and risk tolerance can tap forex markets to hedge currency risk and improve returns. See here for description, and here for advanced reviews.
DISCLOSURE /DISCLAIMER: THE ABOVE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL TRADING DECISIONS LIES SOLELY WITH THE READER. IF WE REALLY KNEW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN, WE WOULDN’T BE TELLING YOU FOR FREE, NOW WOULD WE?
As a candidate, you know that people considering you for employment judge you on everything, right?
Clothes. Your Car. How you talk. Whether your spouse is smoking hot.
Hold up, what was that last one?
Your spouse—he or she needs to be smoking hot. You didn't get the memo?
I made it gender neutral because I'm a long term HR guy and that's how I roll. But let's face it, men are pigs. So it stands to reason that men, not women, would be the ones to judge the ultimate accessory held by a candidate—the wife. Don't believe me? Here's the rundown from Coachingsearch.com (hat tip to a blogging friend who doesn't want his name on this), which covers comments made by the Vanderbilt head football coach on the topic:
"Breaking: Do not apply for a job on James Franklin's staff if your wife is not a smoke show.
While in Destin on Wednesday afternoon, Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin told Clay Travis on 104.5 The Zone that he evaluates the appearance of coaches' wives during the interview process.
Franklin, in a relaxed mood near the beach, explained, "I've been saying it for a long time, I will not hire an assistant until I see his wife. If she looks the part and she's a D1 recruit, then you got a chance to get hired. That's part of the deal. There's a very strong correlation between having the confidence, going up and talking to a women, and being quick on your feet and having some personality and confidence and being articulate and confident, than it is walking into a high school and recruiting a kid and selling him."
Does this apply to more than football? Probably.
The general rule of thumb is that the spouse starts becoming a factor once you start getting into leadership positions, especially with smaller companies where great sacrifices might be required on the part of families—that's when the hiring executive wants to meet Mrs. Candidate, more often than not to gauge whether she'll be supportive of the sacrifices required, and also to sell her in to the promise of the role, etc.
So it stands to reason that a high attractiveness level might be a plus in that situation, if not a requirement via the progressive views of James Franklin.
Women: does this ever hold true for the male spouse of a key female candidate? That would explain my wife's amazing career success before she opted out of the game. I'm just sayin'...
Tourism, Greece’s second largest industry after the shipping industry, and already in a downdraft, is taking another hit as tour bus drivers will go on strike for four days next week; wage negotiations have deadlocked.
Owners demand that drivers take a 50% cut in pay and benefits on top of the 20% cut they’ve already suffered.
The National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY), Greece’s state-owned health insurer, hasn’t paid pharmacists for months and owes them €540 million.
In turn, pharmacists are refusing to sell medications to insured patients, including cancer patients, unless they’re paid in cash—and even hospitals are reporting shortages.
Greece’s ship repair and shipbuilding industry, a highly competitive activity in a global market, has collapsed.
Over 90% of its union workers are jobless—though Greek shipping companies own 16% of the global merchant fleet, more than any other nation. They’re just not having their ships built and repaired in Greece anymore—whatever the reason, high cost of labor, lack of investment, changing shipping routes, strikes. A sign that there are fundamental problems related to competitiveness that a bailout, no matter how generous, won’t be able to solve.
And yet, President Barak Obama—whose reelection hinges on the US economy, which is wobbling, and on the jobs picture, which remains dismal—blamed European leaders, specifically German leaders, for refusing to bail out Greece and the rest of the tottering Eurozone at taxpayers’ expense, just so he could sail to four more years. Everything in the book, from the loss in US manufacturing jobs to cancelled IPOs, was “attributable to Europe and the cloud that’s coming over from the Atlantic,” he said at a fundraiser in Chicago.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel shrugged off the bullying and just said no to Eurobonds, again. Despised in Germany, they’re seen as an insidious transfer from bleeding German taxpayers to other countries. Instead, her government wants struggling Eurozone countries to overhaul their economies with utmost speed—and Germans are willing to dole out hundreds of billions of euros to make that possible—but it’s proving to be impossible, at least in Greece, and very painful everywhere, to unwind years of an economic gravy train fueled by cheap euro debt. Read.... Germany Walks Away From Greece.
Unpaid bills are threatening Greece’s electricity supply
And unpaid bills are now threatening Greece’s electricity supply. State-owned Electricity Market Operator (LAGIE), a clearing house for power transactions, hasn’t paid independent power producers for electricity it bought from them. They, in turn, haven’t paid their natural gas supplier, Public Gas Corporation (Depa), which now doesn’t have the money to pay its supplier.
Payment is due on June 22. Alas, its supplier is Gazprom in Russia, and they insist on getting paid. If not, they will shut the valve, and Depa won’t get the gas to supply the independent producers, which will have to take their power plants off line, removing about a third of the country’s electricity production.
But Germany isn’t even worried about Greece’s return to the drachma anymore—a fait accompli. It’s worried about Spain and Italy. Greece simply is the model. The costs appear to be steep, but most of the actual costs have already been incurred. They’re hidden in Greece’s debt, now held largely by European institutions, such as the ECB, and in the infamous Target2 balances within the European System of Central Banks. Hundreds of billions of euros. They were spent on everything: social benefits, German frigates, inflated wages, now weedy and abandoned Olympic facilities, profits, bribes, votes. What remains aren’t productive assets to service this debt, but simmering unrest and the debt itself.
International companies have long been preparing for Greece’s return to the drachma, quietly and in secret, but occasionally word seeped out. According to the latest revelation, Heineken NV has moved excess cash out of Greece, doing what the Greeks themselves have been doing. And currency traders were surprised on Friday to see the new identifier for the drachma (XGD) on their Bloomberg terminals; a test, the company said, so that it would be ready for trading drachmas.
When Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Radical Left Coalition (Syriza)—in first place with 31.5% in the latest poll—laid out his program, he left no doubt: his first action if he won the June 17 elections would be to annul the bailout memorandum signed by the previous government. The memorandum spelled out the structural reforms Greece would have to implement in order to receive further bailout payments. He’d stop the privatization of state-owned companies, undo wage and pension cuts, lower the Value Added Tax, offer debt relief to households, raise the minimum wage back to the original €751, raise unemployment benefits.... His program had vote-buying promises for practically everyone. And yet, he wanted to keep the euro and expected taxpayers of other countries to fund his promises. Program of “dignity and hope” he called it.
Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative New Democracy—in second place with 25.5%—also laid out his program. He’d renegotiate the bailout memorandum, though he stressed that Greece should stay in the euro—whose flood of cheap debt had made the Greek elite rich, and certainly he wouldn’t want to stop the gravy train. He promised to raise pensions, private-sector wages, child benefits ... undoing much of the economic restructuring already agreed to. And he threw in some new goodies: unemployment benefits for the self-employed and compensation to Greek institutions for the haircut they’d suffered on their Greek government bonds. Every item on the long list was at the expense of restive taxpayers in other countries.
Greek politicians, even the new generation, are sticking to their time-worn strategy: vote-buying with ruinous promises that can only be fulfilled with an endless flow of borrowed money. Thus, they define themselves as leaders who need a central bank that can print however much is needed to fund these promises, with periodic devaluations or defaults to get a fresh start.
Sure, pre-war buildings are charming, but there's something about many new condos that feels, well, cooler...particularly to anyone who has endured the limitations of NYC's vintage real estate.
We get it--even if we can't afford to live it. But for those of you who can, this week's SurvivalList is focused on new construction--in an effort to help you find the perfect condo.
Let's start with how to analyze a rendering (and avoid overpaying for some grossly overexaggerated or--gasp--non-existent feature) and how to understand tax abatements (including the 421a tax exemption program, which is kind of like winning a short-lived lottery).
Before you sign on any dotted lines, you'll want to check thedeveloper's track record. Doing your research can diminish the chance of moving into a building with serious defects and becoming a new-construction cautionary tale.
Assuming the developers pass muster, it's time to make a deal. Check out our guide to negotiating concessions, tips on getting the punch list finished and advice on how to take advantage of one insider's trick that can keep the developer happy while saving you a small fortune.
For these, and more, posts on new construction, take a look below:
Finding the right new development
Learn from those who've gone before you
Dealing with the developer
Imagine you’ve flown into town to attend a friend’s wedding. You’re driving down the highway in a rental car, dog by your side, chatting on your cellphone.
Insure all that and it’s possible that you and your friend have wasted hundreds of dollars.
Do you buy travel insurance? Rental car insurance? Pet insurance? Cellphone insurance? And did your friend buy wedding insurance?
Life has risks, and paying to protect yourself makes sense – health insurance to cover big hospital bills, for example, or homeowner’s insurance to cover catastrophe. But in the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson tells you about five types of protection that you shouldn’t buy, at least without careful consideration. Check it out, then read on for more insurance and warranty products that often aren’t worth the money…
Here’s more information on what Stacy was talking about, plus a few other types of protection you don’t need…
1. Identity theft insurance
Identity theft insurance doesn’t protect you from becoming a victim of the crime, or sometimes even replace money lost. The insurance only covers some of the expenses you accrue dealing with identity theft – like the cost of mailing letters to your creditors and maybe some legal fees. And it costs $20 to $100 per year – plus a $100 to $1,000 deductible, according to MSNBC.
If your card doesn’t come with it, you can still protect yourself. The Federal Trade Commission has a list of steps to take if you’ve been victimized by identity theft on their website – like placing a fraud alert on your credit report and canceling affected credit accounts.
2. Extended warranties
Almost anything you buy these days has an extend warranty option: appliances, electronics, even lawn mowers. According to CBS News, extended warranties cost an average of 15 to 25 percent of the purchase price. So if you buy a $900 TV, that’s around $225.
Problem is, not all repairs are covered by extended warranties and you may have to cover shipping costs even if they are covered.
But if you’re still considering an extended warranty, do the math first. Call a local electronics repair shop and ask how much they charge to fix a common problem with whatever you’re buying. If the price quote is less than the cost of the extended warranty, buying one doesn’t make sense.
3. Home warranties
Fidelity National Home Warranty says buying a warranty will cost $200 to $400 on average. For that money, it’s supposed to cover the cost of repairing big-ticket items like a dishwasher, AC unit, plumbing system, and electrical wiring.
But some consumer advocates say they’re full of exclusions, and the repair you need may not be covered. As he explained in the video above, Stacy once had a home warranty. When his refrigerator broke, the warranty didn’t cover the repairs. Because the coils were dusty, the company claimed he hadn’t properly maintained the refrigerator, thus voiding the coverage.
4. Pet insurance
I’ve written about my dog before – specifically, how I use nine websites to save hundreds on his food, toys, and medicine. But I was unsure about getting pet insurance, so I went online and requested a few quotes. The cheapest coverage I could find was “emergency only” for $11 a month through the ASPCA. Full coverage cost $90 a month for a healthy, young dog.
The cheapest plan covered emergencies like a broken limb. The most expensive plan included an annual vet checkup and some medications. But no plan covered everything. I was still going to have to pay out of pocket for dental cleanings, grooming, and some illnesses. Genetic conditions and cancer also weren’t covered.
While some people swear by pet insurance, others swear at it. So if you’re going to get a pet policy, be very clear on the details.
Vet care is expensive, but you have other options. We’ve written before about Ways to Keep Your Pet Away From the Vet. Also check out the Humane Society’s Having Trouble Affording Veterinary Care? article for a list of resources.
5. Cell phone insurance
Unless you’re accident-prone, cell phone insurance isn’t likely to pay for itself. The insurance costs an average of $5.64 a month, according to the Los Angeles Times, and most plans have exclusions – like not paying for water damage or dropped phones. If you do have a covered repair, you’ll pay a deductible depending on the price of your phone. (The deductible for my Android would be $100.)
If you have a smartphone, you probably have a manufacturer’s warranty that already covers replacements and repairs. HTC has replaced my phone three times without charge – no insurance needed.
6. Wedding insurance
My friend just spent $26,000 on her wedding – which included the venue, dress, photographer, caterer, and everything else that goes into the perfect wedding day.
She could have purchased wedding insurance to protect some of those things. The insurance typically covers some types of cancellations, companies going out of business before the wedding, and liability for guests. But it would have cost $320 to $420, according to USAToday.
Instead, she booked through reputable companies, charged purchases to her credit card to get reimbursement protection, and used her homeowners insurance to cover the wedding rings and gifts.
When the wrong flowers arrived, her credit card company issued her a refund. She didn’t need extra insurance. You probably don’t, either. Before buying this type of insurance, read more about what’s typically covered and what’s excluded. Then read the fine print.
7. Travel insurance
What if you travel overseas and there’s a natural disaster? Or civil war breaks out? Some travel insurance might help you safely evacuate the country, but few policies would reimburse the cost of your lost vacation.
Basic travel insurance covers your expenses should you get sick or have an accident while on vacation. But it won’t cover you should a health or weather issue force you to cancel your trip. For that you’ll have to purchase a more expensive plan that offers cancellation coverage.
According to Bloomberg Business Week, a basic plan costs 5 to 7 percent of the purchase price of your vacation. A plan that includes cancellations costs 40 percent more.
Travel insurance isn’t always a bad deal – depending on your age, health and where and when you’re going (e.g., the Caribbean during hurricane season) cancellation or other types of coverage might be prudent. But before you buy, see what your existing policies will cover. Your health insurance might cover you in other countries, and some credit card companies provide free insurance for travel. Ask before you leave.
If you do buy travel insurance, always read the fine print. The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported on an elderly couple who had to cancel a trip after purchasing $10,000 of cancellation coverage. They were denied any reimbursement because they failed to purchase enough insurance for the entire cost of the trip: $10,074. (After the paper intervened, the company agreed to reimburse them.)
8. Rental car insurance
When you rent a car, the company will try to sell you a “loss damage waiver.” For about $19 a day, according to Autos.com, you’re protected if you wreck the rental.
But you’re probably already protected. If you have full coverage insurance on your own car, it may cover your rental as well, although many policies won’t reimburse the rental car company for “lost use” of the rental car while it’s being repaired, as well as administrative and other fees.
You might also be covered by your credit card company, if you rent the car on that card. Check with your insurance provider and your credit card company before you buy rental car insurance. But when you talk to your card company, be sure and tell them the specific vehicle you’re renting. For example, virtually no credit cards provide coverage for pickups or other types of trucks.
Bottom line? Buying protection is one thing – but paying too much or paying for protection that might turn out iffy is something else. Carefully consider these and all types of insurance, and always read the fine print. And don’t forget to check credit card coverage. Find the card that’s right for you on our credit card page.
Establishing a trust fund with a family member as trustee is a common practice, but it works out best when the trustee doesn’t gamble away all the assets.
Unfortunately, that’s allegedly what happened over the course of six years as 73-year-old Edna Sue Pate lost more than $93,000 of her grandson’s college trust fund at an Indiana casino.
The grandson’s father became suspicious and filed suit when Pate ignored his attempts to reach her, and Pate was later arrested after skipping court appearances related to the suit. She now faces up to eight years in prison for mishandling the money.
As the trustee, Pate was legally obligated to manage the money within the terms of the trust. But with no one else watching over the trust’s assets as the years passed, the fund was empty by the time her grandson graduated from high school.
Choosing the Right Trustee
Trustworthy relatives can make great trustees when the beneficiaries are also in the family. They usually don’t deduct trustee’s fees from the fund, and their personal interest in the trust should be enough of an incentive for them to invest and manage the assets wisely. But as Pate’s case shows, familial bonds aren’t always enough.
“All too often, we don’t have the ideal trustee candidate in our lives,” said New York attorney Ann-Margaret Carrozza. “But when you don’t have that ‘A’ candidate, you’re better off picking two ‘B’ candidates. With two trustees, you arguably have the chance of more accountability.”
When a trust is established with two or more trustees, they must all approve each investment, payment or other use of the fund’s assets. Alternatively, a trust can be written so that each co-trustee has a specific role; for example, one may be authorized to use assets for investments, while another manages the transfer of funds to beneficiaries.
Still, having multiple trustees doesn’t absolutely guarantee that the trust will be managed responsibly. The most reliable trustee option is not a person at all, but rather a bank or another financial institution.
“In theory, having a bank as your trustee is great,” Carrozza said. “But banking institutions generally aren’t interested in serving trusts of less than about five million dollars. For typical family estate planning, appointing a bank as a trustee just isn’t a realistic option.”
Checks and Balances
Outside of establishing co-trustees, another way to proactively avoid trustee misappropriation is to appoint a trust protector. A trust protector does not bear the same responsibilities as a trustee, but inspects the records of the trust periodically to make sure that it’s being managed properly. Depending on the powers granted to the protector in the trust, this person may have the authority to override trustee decisions or even appoint replacement trustees.
Grantors or beneficiaries who fear that assets have already been misused can demand an accounting of the trust, but this safeguard comes at a price.
“When a beneficiary compels an accounting, the trustee must hire a CPA to conduct a formal accounting of the trust,” Carrozza said. “But the downside to this is that the expense of the accounting is borne by the trust’s assets, and it can cost thousands of dollars. So it’s not a move to be taken lightly. You’ll want to be pretty sure there’s something going on before you compel an accounting.”
If a trust fund is clearly being mismanaged, a grantor or beneficiary can also file a criminal complaint against the trustee. Carrozza warns that while this approach can be less costly than an accounting, the likelihood of criminal charges hinges on the trust’s exact language.
“Depending on the terms of the trust, the trustee may be allowed to borrow assets or the terms may simply be vague enough to allow for whatever the other parties are objecting to,” Carrozza said.
If all else fails, a court petition can be filed to have a trustee removed. But again, the existing language of the trust can make or break this effort. Trusts drafted by diligent attorneys will include language dictating how trustees may be removed or added, but a poorly written trust instrument can set the stage for a costly court battle.
In a darkened industrial hangar in eastern Osaka, Yoshihiro Yamanaka is tearing up the rule book that once made Japanese manufacturing the feared global standard of efficiency.
At Fuji Spring, a company with one factory, one product and 18 workers, Yamanaka has dimmed the lights, allowed inventories to pile up and - most strikingly - shut off an automated part of his assembly to do more jobs by hand.
The goal is to slash power consumption in the face of possible electric shortages, a new uncertainty that has pushed Japan's already embattled manufacturers closer to the brink.
But in rejecting Japan's accepted industrial wisdom, Yamanaka is also accepting the do-or-die risk that customers will pay more for his springs.
"Until recently, my priority had been to cut people and unnecessary steps as much as possible. Unless we did so, we could not win the pricing battle," Yamanaka, 59, said on a recent tour of his factory, which makes springs that go into console boxes in the Nissan Leaf electric car and Panasonic Corp's fuel cells assemblies.
"But we are no longer battling on price."
How small Osaka factories like Fuji Spring ride out the summer and its uncertainties is a window into the bigger question of whether resource-poor Japan will follow the United States in its drift away from manufacturing, a source of national anxiety and debate for three decades.
INDUSTRIAL FOOD CHAIN
Fuji Spring is one of some 43,560 manufacturers in Japan's second largest city. Most are at the bottom of an industrial food chain that winds its way to the likes of automakers Nissan Motor Co and Toyota Motor Co and electronics makers such as nearby Panasonic and Sharp Corp.
On average, three Osaka manufacturing have closed shop every day since the peak year of 1983, hit by a shakeout caused by a strong yen, an ageing labor pool and brand-name customers moving out of Japan to chase lower costs and faster growth.
The latest blow comes from the uncertain outlook for power, with all 50 of Japan's operable nuclear reactors still offline after last year's accident at Fukushima. The problem is especially acute in Osaka because its utility Kansai Electric had relied on nuclear power for 40 percent of its electricity generation, the highest of any power company.
The government is pushing to restart two of Kansai Electric's nuclear reactors, a controversial step. But even if the reactors restart as expected, both will not be ready by early July, when the hot summer season begins.
In response, some Osaka manufacturers are considering starting shifts at odd hours such as 2 a.m. so they can shut down by the afternoon when power demand peaks. Others have invested in costly energy-saving technology. But some cannot afford such steps or distrust the power shortage forecasts and say they will opt to do nothing.
WHAT IF THE LIGHTS GO OUT?
What they all share is fear of a blackout.
"If electricity stops due to a power shortage, that would be fatal," said Chikashi Kawakatsu, 51, a specialist welder who fixes broken dies for Japanese automakers and other industries.
The share of manufacturing as a percent of Japan's overall output has fallen to about 20 percent from near 30 percent in 1975, government data show. By comparison, the U.S. equivalent figure was near 13 percent in 2008.
But Japan has traditionally relied on a trade surplus in manufactured goods to buy the energy and food it needs and to pile up savings that have allowed it to fund its huge government deficit, now twice the size of its $5 trillion economy.
The lack of any decisions on a long-term energy policy has darkened the outlook from the shopfloor. "It's another bad thing on top of all the other bad stuff," said Ryuzo Kanezaki, the 38-year-old president of Kyoei Die Casting, which makes parts used in car navigation systems and other products.
Osaka's surviving manufacturers, who make everything from toothbrushes to massive metal dies, are hanging on to a tradition of "monozukuri", a pride in making things many see as their last defense against a hollowing out.
Kawakatsu, the welder, works on a dirt-floored shop that once employed 15. He is down to just one worker, himself. After nearly 30 years on the job, he has a method of fixing broken dies within one-hundredth of a millimeter, a precision he sees as protecting his remaining business.
The picture is similar at Fuji Spring, which sits upriver from Osaka Castle, famed as the site of a failed rearguard battle against forces from eastern Japan in the 17th century.
Production of all kinds of springs inside Japan has dropped by 40 percent since 1990. At the same time, the number of Japanese spring makers with factories in Thailand and China shot up five-fold from 1995 to 2008, according to the Japan Spring Manufacturers Association.
That trend rocked Fuji Spring, which was founded in 1953 by Yamanaka's father. The company saw its customers moving production offshore and demanding steep price cuts.
In response, Fuji pushed into product development to create springs that could not be easily knocked off by rivals.
After the Fukushima crisis, triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan last March, Yamanaka also pushed the company to save power.
The firm cut electricity costs by around 300,000 yen ($3,850) in the 13 months to April and targets a 30-percent consumption cut this year. That has meant shutting down some automation. Workers now collect springs from coiling machines before running them through a heat-treating furnace in batches.
Fuji Spring has also piled up inventories to prepare for the summer months when the company plans to trim output to conserve energy. That is the opposite of the "just-in-time" production principle that made Japan's biggest and best-run factories the subject of study and admiration around the world in the 1980s.
The costs outweigh the power savings, but Yamanaka sees a long-term, if intangible benefit in the pride he believes it fosters in his workers.
"To survive is to be able to do something that others can't," said Fuji's senior manager Hiroshi Sugiura.
(Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Alex Richardson)
Is 2012 a landmark year for Internet security bills, or is it just the tip of the iceberg?
So far this year we’ve had SOPA, CISPA, CSA and SECURE IT - the latter three still up for votes in the Senate or House. It’s doubtful that any of them will pass in the current legislative session but it does raise an interesting point: why are so many Internet protection bills suddenly coming up in Congress?
For one simple reason: for the first time since the War of 1812, the US cannot protect its borders.
We are witnessing the start of a massive shift in how sovereign countries assert power and control their borders. Until recently, global power has come down to controlling the world’s oceans, which the US Navy (and her allies) has done successfully since 1945. But now cyberspace is surpassing the world’s oceans as the primary means for transit, shipping goods and of course attack.
Part of the problem is the difficulty in developing policy over abstract concepts that are poorly understood by the public or any governing body. For example, cyberspace is not a place in the traditional terms. And its very nebulousness means there are tipping points in cyberspace that are crossed both invisibly and irretrievably - think of Napster and how it has changed the music industry for one example. Even more than in physical space, where we feel security’s effects most stringently when forced into airport-style security lines, information security tends to rub up against accepted conventions in personal privacy and established ideas of individual freedom.
Ask yourself these questions:
These are all exactly the questions that Congress has to tried to balance in proposed bills this session. The most prominent of which are the Cyber Information Sharing & Protection Act (CISPA) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (CSA). If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, then you are probably against either bill passing (which is why neither bill really has overwhelming support).
But of course, you could restate those questions to be more about security:
That last question, of course, has the keyword that runs this election year – JOBS. Protecting businesses from ongoing successful economic espionage by China is the main thrust of each and every one of these legislative efforts. So far, these efforts have failed.
When I was at the NSA, one of the luminaries posed the question of whether it would be better to have a completely secure Internet, even from the government, or a completely insecure Internet. I know which one we ended up with, but it’s worth thinking that maybe those are the only options. The binary nature of the underlying digital architectures may, in fact, bubble up to the biggest policy questions of our time.
What if it’s simply not possible to have a secure Internet and personal freedom? If it is an either/or proposition it is going to be very messy for US Internet users over the next few decades.
Because for the federal government and major corporations, there’s too much at stake to leave our networks unsecured. Right now, the focus is on critical infrastructure systems and massive economic espionage levels, but soon cybersecurity demands will radiate into every type of industry and facet of our lives.
America’s ability to conduct war is only the smallest part of it, but it’s a visible one. As the director of the NSA has mentioned, the military can’t go to war with an exposed digital flank.
So big changes will have to happen - and the legislation will keep coming until it gets passed.
That brings us to the other half of the equation - money. America’s cybersecurity is not a billion dollar problem - it’s a trillion dollar problem.
Even in a time of budget cuts, the President and the Defense Department have indicated that the military and DHS will continue to ramp up their spending on cyber defense (and I even think that by 2032, we could see the Pentagon spending as much on cybersecurity as it does on the Marines). But they simply can’t keep up with the total cost of keeping America safe from the kind of coordinated threat cyber-espionage poses.
That means more bills like Sen. Lieberman’s CSA, which try to mandate cybersecurity reforms to the private sector. This could raise their costs (and hence your power bill).
It goes without saying that corporations will have a huge stake in the coming cybersecurity reforms. And they’ll be expecting a quid pro quo for footing so much of the bill.
Expect to see the anti-piracy SOPA bill may come back in one form or another. As well as new legislative attempts to limit corporate liability, reduce the cost of failure, and allow them to access and share personal user information with the government. There’s a good chance we’ll also see a stronger legislative effort to push “trusted identities” on Internet users to identify who’s using the Web and how. These measures won’t pass in this legislative session, but they just might in the next.
Dramatic changes in America’s cybersecurity, and with it, our daily lives, are inevitable, so get ready. Big Brother won’t exist in our everyday lives, but he just might when we go online.
Jose Martin Vega was no saint. Convicted in 1995 of 15 counts of racketeering and armed drug trafficking, he was sentenced, at the age of 20, to four consecutive life sentences.
Nine years after his conviction, and after a violent confrontation at another maximum security federal prison, Vega found himself at the United States Penitentiary -- Administrative Maximum ("ADMAX" or "ADX") near Florence, Colorado.
As its name suggests, this lonely place is where America sends many of its most troublesome prisoners.
Vega first came to ADX on April 5, 2004. Six years and 26 torturous days later he was dead -- at the age of 35. On May 1, 2010, using a bed sheet, Vega hanged himself in his cell in the control unit of the prison, an especially isolating part of the facility.
Although Vega was not shackled when he hanged himself, the photos contained in the coroner's report show an unconscious man shackled at the hands and feet while prison officials are administering rescue efforts. At ADX, in the control unit especially, even the dead or dying are shackled.
Fremont County Deputy Coroner Carlette Brocious estimated the time of Vega's death at 9:10 a.m., but she noted in her report that "the scene of the death was 'cleaned up' when I sought to go out to the prison to finish my investigation.
Therefore, I was unable to go to the scene of the death, see the cloth utilized as a ligature or talk to anyone other than the attending PA [physician assistant] regarding the decedent." She had first seen Vega's body hours later, at a local hospital, where it had been brought, still shackled, by prison officials.
Brocious also noted in her report that she talked with two prison health officials about Vega and was told by Mark Kellar, ADX's health administrator, "that the decedent had a long psychiatric history. ... As to whether or not the decedent had ever attempted suicide previously neither men could tell me." That "psychiatric history," and how ADX officials dealt with it in Vega's case, is at the heart of an important new federal lawsuit that seeks to dig down deeper into ADX's mental health policies and practices.
Why should we care about how our most difficult prisoners are treated? Why should we interfere with a "prison code," expressed or implied, that emphasizes both the use of official force and the denial of official help to humiliate and ultimately control inmates? The answers are both simple and complex. Because we tell the world (and each other) that we are an enlightened nation of laws and not a medieval land ofbarbarism. Because even our harshest prison isn't supposed to be the Tower of London.
You probably know ADX better by its stage name, "Supermax," the forbidding place that houses such criminal luminaries as Terry Nichols, Ramzi Yousef, and Ted Kaczynski as well as hundreds of other, less notable prisoners. When I visited the facility in 2007 as part of a media tour that was carefully choreographed by the Bureau of Prisons, I found the place sterile and soulless. But the hard-ass approach to incarceration was obvious, right down to the tiny circus-like cages where some of the men -- one at a time, of course -- are permitted to briefly exercise.
Today, Supermax is the most famous prison in America, a worthy if far less visible heir to Alcatraz out in California. When 60 Minutes did a memorable piece on ADX in October 2007, Scott Pelley interviewed one of its former wardens, a man named Robert Hood. Pelley asked Hood why he had been so excited to come to Florence when the job opportunity presented itself. "In our system," Hood answered, "there's 144 prisons. And there's only one Supermax. It's like the Harvard of the system."
If anything, the past five years since Hood spoke those words have only heightened the national perception of ADX as some sort of forbidden fortress, America's chamber of secrets. Terrorist after terrorist has been deposited there since 2007-- most under Special Administrative Measures which largely preclude them from communicating to the world (or having it communicate back). Meanwhile, inside the prison, for the few guests ever allowed in, there is a place where you can buy ADX shirts and coffee mugs.
Supermax has nine different units, some more secure than others, and in that sense it's a microcosm of the nation's federal prison system. There is a unit for the terrorists, for example, and also one where prisoners have some measure of interaction with one another. But the Control Unit, where Vega lived and where his body was found, is the harshest. This is especially true for prisoners suffering from mental illness, who often are ostracized by other inmates even as they become more isolated by prison officials.
Generally speaking, unless you are an infamous terrorist, you have to do something bad in prison to make it to Supermax -- and then to its control unit. And Vega had. On March 13, 2003, while at the federal prisonin Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Vega attacked an associate warden with a razor blade at the late-morning meal. Vega was subdued after a struggle, given an injection to render him defenseless, stripped naked, and then "assaulted by prison staff for a duration of at least one hour," according to an unpublished federal trial court ruling.
The Lewisburg prison health officials who saw Vega after the incident neither treated him properly nor adequately recorded his injuries. That same day, Vega was transferred to the nearby Allenwood federal prison facility, where authorities saw fit to place him on "suicide status." Soon thereafter, Vega was sent to the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners, located in Springfield, Missouri (the same place where the Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner, was more recently sent for pre-trial competency tests).
In July 2003, while at the Missouri facility, Vega was charged in federal court for his attack upon the warden. He pled guilty and was given a 188-month sentence added to his existing life sentences. But he also had the nerve to complain, officially, about the way he had been treated by Lewisburg officials after they had gotten the razor blade out of his hand. Unsurprisingly, prison officials rejected his claims -- and then promptly shipped him to ADX, where he'd be subject to a whole other level of incarceration.
The facts about how Vega made it from Pennsylvania to Colorado are set forth in an opinion dated November 4, 2005, by U.S. District Judge William Caldwell, a distinguished Reagan appointee. Vega didn't stay at ADX long, however. Less than one year after he arrived in Colorado, and a few months after an ADX psychologist there diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia, Vega was sent back to the Missouri prison facility for more mental health evaluations. About one year later, after another diagnosis of severe mental illness, he was back in ADX Florence. And back in the control unit.
Exactly what happened next to Vega is the subject of a new lawsuit that has been filed in federal court in Colorado. Vega's brother, Raymond Vega, has brought a wrongful death action against ADX warden Blake R. Davis and other prison officials, alleging that they helped cause Vega's death by exhibiting a "persistent and deliberate indifference" to the prisoner's "serious mental illness." The lawsuit accuses ADX officials of giving Vega "cruel and unusual" punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Raymond Vega contends that mental health officials at the special Springfield facility concluded in 2005 or early 2006 that Jose Martin Vega (his family called him "Martin") had a "history of depression and antisocial personality disorder." This diagnosis, says the plaintiff, should have precluded Vega from being transferred back to ADX at Florence and from being assigned to the control unit. Once there, the complaint charges, Vega's continued presence in the control unit prevented him from receiving "medication to treat or ameliorate the effects of his mental illness."
It's not hard to predict what happened next. The worse Vega acted without his meds, the more prison officials in the Control Unit clamped down. And the more they clamped down, the worse he got. The complaint alleges that "ADX staff members repeatedly chained Vega unnecessarily, sometimes for periods of ten days or more." In the meantime, when he could, Vega was reportedly telling "other prisoners that he believed the ADX Florence guards were poisoning his food and spraying things into his vents."
Indeed, Vega's prison file, portions of which I have seen, reveal a delusional man. On January 18, 2008, for example, Vega complained in writing that a prison guard had "violated" his "bodily integrity" after drugging him following a "verbal altercation." The response from the feds? "Your allegations of staff misconduct have been referred to the appropriate Bureau component for investigation," wrote a bureaucrat. "The results of the investigation and the action taken against staff, if any, are not disclosable to you."
The pending complaint alleges that Supermax officials mistreated Vega in contravention of Bureau of Prison policies governing the treatment of prisoners with mental health diagnoses. "BOP policies require that mentally ill prisoners be monitored on an ongoing basis to asses treatment compliance," the complaint states, but "BOP does not provide adequate mental health staffing at ADX Florence, given the size of the mental health caseload at that facility." Vega may be gone, in other words, but the problems his case highlight likely linger.
You probably won't be surprised to learn that federal law and judicial precedent make it tremendously difficult for the families of prisoners like Vega to win wrongful death claims brought against federal officials. In fact, the procedural and substantive hurdles make it virtually impossible. The right to bring such a claim -- a right that is contested by many conservative scholars -- was first recognized, in 1971, in a Supreme Court case styled Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents.
In Bivens, the Court's majority ruled that an individual could recover money damages from federal officials for particularly odious conduct -- "flagrant and patently unjustified," is how Justice John Marshall Harlanput it. In the 41 years since Bivens, however, the lower federal courts have gone back and forth on the extent of the right. But this much is clear. The Bivens right to sue applies in the prison context. It extends beyond the death of the individual who is acted upon by government officials. And inadequate mental health care in prison can trigger actionable Eighth Amendment rights.
Raymond Vega, Jose Martin Vega's brother, is represented pro bono in the case by Ed Aro, a partner atArnold & Porter, a revered white-shoe law firm with a history of pro bono work on behalf of the indigent and mentally ill. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, the fearless Oklahoma City bombing trial judge, has been selected to handle the litigation, which likely will take years to resolve. The federal government has not yet responded to the complaint -- it has not yet even been served -- but federal lawyers will almost certainly ask Judge Matsch to quickly dismiss the case.
When the feds react, I will write about their response to the complaint. Vega v. Davis, as the case now is styled, represents an enormous opportunity for all of us to gain some rare insight into one of the most secret places in America, a prison where hundreds of men go and are never heard from again. We want to be safe from our most dangerous criminals. But how we treat these men, and how are government treats them in our name, ultimately says more about us than it does about them.
One of the five judges in the trial against Anders Behring Breivik has been caught on camera playing solitaire online during proceedings.
In a screen capture published on the website of newspaper Verdens Gang, one of the three lay judges hearing the case, Ernst Henning Eielsen, can be seen playing the card game on his computer as a Swedish professor testifies to the court.
"The judges are attentively following what is being said and what is being presented to the court," an Oslo court spokesman, Irene Ramm, said.
"There are different ways of staying focused," Ramm said, adding that Eielsen did not deny having played a game of cards.
On July 22, 2011, Breivik first bombed a government building in Oslo, killing eight people, before going on a shooting rampage on the nearby island of Utoya where the ruling Labour Party's youth wing was hosting a summer camp.
He killed 69 people in his island massacre, most of them teens.
Many years ago I had the pleasure of working for a mid-sized regional law firm based out of Washington, D.C.
It was a thriving practice driven primarily by the skill and amazing work-ethic of the founding partners.
I was fortunate enough to work directly for one of the named partners who truly led by example. He expected his people to work hard because he worked hard.
He expected results because he achieved results. He expected dedication because he was dedicated to his firm and the people who worked for him.
But aside from leading by example he did have one quirky habit that I did not understand until years later. Whenever he scheduled a vacation he would always leave a day or so late or often would come back seemingly in the middle of when he was supposed to be out.
I never really gave it much thought until years later I ran into him at a bar function and the subject of vacations came up. As we chatted about our summer plans with our respective families I joked with him about how difficult it must have been to always leave late for a vacation or be interrupted in the middle. That is when a wry grin crossed his face.
"You never figured out why I did that?" he inquired. "No," I replied, now realizing a lesson would soon ensue. "I never missed a day of my vacations. But I also never told anyone exactly when I would be gone so that they never knew when I was coming and going."
"Why?" I inquired although the answer was beginning to become clear.
"Because while the cat's away, the mice will play, unless they don't know when the cat will be back," he said.
And there it was. He had never missed a day of vacation. He simply did not want the office to know when he would be out or return so as to keep them at their respective desks working away.
When The Trademark Company was just a fledgling start-up we had an employee that truly took advantage of my vacations. It started as a long lunch but by the end of the week had stretched to the point where she was barely in the office. When I confronted the employee initially she denied that she had taken any liberties. Later, her story changed as she was presented with evidence of her liberties.
That employee is no longer with us. But in these two stories I learned a lot about hiring and managing employees. First, some people will take advantage of managers' absences to the detriment of work and the business. Second, you can either develop a system of cat and mouse with your employees to keep them working efficiently or you can hire the right people who will work just as hard whether or not you are in the office. In our experience, the latter is always preferable.
So how do you make sure that while the cat's away the mice won't play?
1. Hire the right people
During interviews try asking the question, "When I am on vacation or out of the office will it alter your behavior?" By asking such a question in the interview it establishes an expectation that irrespective of where you are they are expected to perform their job in the same manner as if you were in the office. Discuss those expectations in the interview.
2. Put systems in place
If you have read anything else I've written then you should know I am all about the systems. One of the easiest ways to measure whether work decreased during your absence is by checking your systems. If your systems have been set up such that you know what is to be done in a given day by a given person and they have accomplished that every week while you were in the office but were not able to do so in your absence you may have an issue. Someone is playing.
3. Address the issue
If your systems or other evidence reveal that there has been a slowing of productivity while you were away identify why. If it appears that it was due to an employee's failure to conduct themselves in a professional manner quickly address it in a private meeting. Remind the employee that you must be able to trust them to be professional and work at the same level when you are in the office as when you are not.
4. Separate when appropriate
Hopefully you never get to number three above. If you do, be prepared to separate the employee from employment with your company should they ignore your advice. Trust is invaluable in the employer-employee relationship. If you cannot trust an employee then it is better in the long run to move on and get someone into their position that you can trust.
Some venture capitalists call it "geo-arbitrage"; others know it as "tropicalisation". The term refers to the practice of backing start-ups that take an established business model and adapt it to an emerging market. Whatever you call it, it is becoming a bigger part of the venture-capital industry as competition at home forces Silicon Valley investors to look farther afield.
Julio Vasconcellos, one of the founders of Peixe Urbano, a Brazilian site offering users discounted deals, is thrilled by the "huge flood" of American investors he has noticed coming to Brazil, for instance. No wonder. Some of them, including Benchmark Capital and General Atlantic, have invested in his own company alongside Brazilian venture capitalists. The financiers have reason to be upbeat, too. Peixe Urbano is a clone of Groupon, an American start-up that went public last year; its business model is one they know can take off.
The idea of tropicalisation has been around for a while. It has already been lucrative for venture capitalists in India and China. Take Baidu, a Chinese interpretation of Google, which made early venture investors a killing; or Alibaba.com, a Chinese version of eBay, an online-auction site. Now venture capitalists are looking at other markets, including Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, South Africa and Turkey. Last year $3.4 billion of venture-capital deals were done in emerging markets, more than double the amount in 2008.
This push into emerging markets has gained momentum because venture capital is experiencing problems in its traditional markets. Silicon Valley was once so inward-looking that venture capitalists used to say they would not back a start-up unless they could cycle to its office. But valuations in North America have risen for both early-stage and later-stage investments (see chart), making it much harder to make great returns.
That is partly because there are too many firms; 369 of them are currently in the market trying to raise $50 billion, according to Preqin, a research firm. There is a lot less competition in emerging markets. The pressure from investors is also rising. A damning new report by the Kauffman Foundation, an outfit which promotes entrepreneurship, analysed its venture-capital portfolio and concluded that 62 out of 100 funds failed to exceed the returns offered by the public market.
Most venture-capital firms do not head abroad with the sole aim of looking for copycats, but plenty of their investments end up that way. Douglas Leone of Sequoia Capital, a big venture-capital firm, reckons that in emerging markets like China around 50% of start-ups backed by foreign venture capitalists in the internet and mobile sectors are copycats, and in markets like Brazil it is closer to 70%.
That is not so surprising. Backing tested concepts mitigates the risk inherent in start-ups and means companies are likely to grow quickly, because the original firm has already worked out the kinks. Often the originator of the business does not have the expertise to enter new countries quickly, so copycats can get there first.
They can also gain an edge by tailoring businesses to local habits. Flipkart, an online-commerce site in India founded by two former Amazon employees, has received funding from Tiger Global, a New York-based hedge fund that specialises in this kind of investing, and Accel Partners, a venture-capital firm. Flipkart has taken off in part because credit cards are less common in India and it offers the option of payment on delivery.
Another example is Trendyol, a Turkish "flash sale" site that mimics Vente-privee.com and Gilt Groupe, which popularised the idea of time-limited online sales of designer clothing. But Trendyol, whose backers include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, also sells its own mass-market clothing line, with seasonal designs "crowdsourced" from users in Turkey.
There are different ways to play the copycat game. Rocket Internet, started by the Samwer brothers--Alexander, Marc and Oliver--in Germany, is a cloning "factory" that copies American and European businesses, hiring entrepreneurs to run them and exporting these start-ups to emerging markets as fast as possible so they are the first entrants. More traditional venture capitalists are setting up offices and selectively backing local entrepreneurs. American venture investors often prefer to bring in a local partner to provide more consistent mentorship to these entrepreneurs and give advice on how to navigate the domestic market.
Such advice can be valuable, given the specific risks of setting up in emerging markets. First, companies can take longer to get off their feet, given grinding local bureaucracy. "An eight-year fund might not be sufficient in Brazil," says José Luiz Osorio of Jardim Botânico, a Brazilian seed investor. Second, there are cultural barriers: it can be hard to recruit employees to work for an unknown company in exchange for equity, for instance. Third, exiting through large initial public offerings is unlikely in countries like Turkey and Brazil, where IPO activity is muted and investors like to buy well-known firms; that means venture firms are reliant on strategic buyers to gobble up their creations.
Tropicalisation piles on an additional set of risks. Copycats can easily lose share when the original company eventually enters the local market. Sonico, once the Facebook of Latin America, got "pummelled" when Facebook arrived, says Nenad Marovac of DN Capital, which was behind Sonico. And even if they can see off competition, the copycats are unlikely to be mega-blockbusters because, by definition, they are not new. "With innovation you have a global upside, but with copycat innovation you have geographical limits," says Eric Archer of Monashees Capital, a Brazilian venture firm.
It will not be long before emerging markets spawn their own innovations that can be trotted out on a global scale. That would be closer to the spirit of venture capital, which is supposed to ferret out and fund new ideas, not imitations. Until then, however, tropicalisation is set to become an ever more popular strategy. Copy that.
Village elders in south-east India have ordered a young woman to be ostracised for 60 years because she took a menial job as a sweeper despite belonging to a higher caste.
Pinki Rajak, a 22-year-old member of the Dhobi community, which traditionally washes and irons clothes, caused outrage among her group's elders when she accepted a lowly sweeper's job at a local school near Raipur, Chhattisgarh.
Ms Rajak's plight has highlighted the continuing power of caste in rural India where strict segregation is maintained between 'higher' and 'lower' castes.
Sweeping work in India, including shoe polishing, is reserved for members of the Chamar 'untouchable' caste, along with other 'dirty' jobs like 'night-soil carrying' of human waste and tannery work. The Dhobis however are regarded as a 'cleansing' caste, said Dr Vidhu Verma, a caste expert at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Ms Rajak broke her community's strict caste rules because her elders believed she had stigmatised them by associating them with one of India's lowliest and most shunned castes. Some higher castes still believe it is polluting to even lay eyes on a chamar while others insist on calling a priest to 'purify' their homes if a Dalit has crossed the threshold.
Violence against Dalits or untouchables remains common in India. Despite government policies to reserve government jobs and college places for Dalits and other 'backward' castes, many lower caste students face abuse from higher caste students and teachers.
The discrimination and persecution suffered by India's 65 million 'untouchables' was declared an abuse of human rights in 2011.
Ms Rajak and her family, including her father who is himself a Dhobi community elder remain determined to defy the elders' order and have defended her right to make a living as best she can.
The first villager to obey the community or Samaj's order was her violent husband, she said, after the elders said he could no longer live with her while she was working as a sweeper.
Her father, who owns a small bicycle repair shop and is himself an elder of the Dhobi community told the Hindustan Times he was standing by his daughter. "Instead of appreciating her efforts to find a job, the community is punishing us," Budhulal Rajak told the Hindustan Times.
Ms Rajak remains defiant and insists she will not give up her job however great the 'stigma.' "No one can live without money. Why should the caste system be tied to employment?" she asked.
A couple of years ago, I had a cold for about four months. I thought I had somehow caught five colds in a row, which I thought was no big deal, because they were just colds after all.
But then I started dropping a lot of weight while eating a lot of chocolate cake. My hair started falling out, and I had the shakes so bad that my handwriting—which I used to be proud of—became illegible.
My short-term memory stopped working. It was difficult to have a conversation, because by the time I neared the end of a sentence, I had already forgotten what I was talking about.
Things were bad, but I had no health insurance, which I thought meant that the only thing to do was try to ignore it, and hope that whatever was wrong with me would go away on its own.
Each new symptom added another few hundred dollars to the imaginary doctor’s bill in my head, which meant that as things got worse, I had more incentive to pretend that I had some sort of temporary bug that would eventually go away.
Then one day, I got up to go to work— at the time, I had a part-time job copyediting product labels and PowerPoint presentations—but I couldn’t make it out the door. About halfway through my morning shower, I started panting, and my heart was beating out of my chest. It was as if I had just run a mile, when I had actually just walked 20 feet from my bed to the bathroom. There had been signs before this incident: The day before, I found myself so nauseous and out of breath during my four-block walk to work, that I turned around and went straight back home.
It took near-complete incapacitation for me to bite the bullet and go to the doctor. It turned out that I have Graves disease, a congenital, autoimmune hyperthyroid condition that I’ll have for the rest of my life. Missy Elliot, George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush also have it. Graves disease affects every cell in your body, so it gets bad if it goes untreated. But it’s very manageable as long as I take my pills, see my endocrinologist and get a blood test every six weeks.
As a freelancer, I still don’t have health insurance. But at this point, I’ve gone to a bunch of doctors, and have learned some things along the way about getting health care without health insurance. The more I know about the health care system, the less I do stupid things like get so sick I can’t function anymore.