Monday, December 31, 2012

Fiscal cliff showdown already damaged economy

1 hr.

Even if eleventh-hour wrangling among lawmakers yields a solution to the worst-case fiscal cliff scenario, some say damage has already been done.?

The political brinkmanship has hurt investor confidence and consumer spending, and if a prolonged stalemate drags into the early months of 2013, the price of Washington?s inaction on the economy could be even steeper.

?I think we have seen effects of the uncertainty over the last few months, intensified over the past few weeks,? said Alice Rivlin, senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution. ?Companies and banks have a lot of cash, but they?re not investing. ... It may partly be because they don?t think the aggregate demand is there but it might also be the uncertainty? over the prospect of rising tax rates and cuts in government spending, she said.

While the markets were quiet as of midday Monday, the calm followed a two-day slide as Wall Street grew pessimistic that Congress would come to a compromise. ?In the market, we?ve seen almost day by day reactions, positive and negative, to the fiscal cliff,? said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial.

?If they can?t reach some kind of compromise here, it?s going to set the stage for a very negative environment that will last for months,? he said. ?There?s no doubt it will be a drag on equities.?

Last Thursday, the Conference Board?s monthly Consumer Confidence Index posted a second consecutive decrease, this one much larger than its November drop. Although Americans are more upbeat about business and jobs conditions today, their outlook for the next six months is gloomier. More people in December said they expect fewer jobs, lower income and worsening business conditions in six months.

?Consumers? expectations retreated sharply in December? The sudden turnaround in expectations was most likely caused by uncertainty surrounding the oncoming fiscal cliff,? director of economic indicators Lynn Franco said in a statement.

?The recent numbers in retail sales for this holiday season have been dismal; well below expectations,? Mitchell Goldberg, president of ClientFirst Strategy Inc., said via email. ?The consumer has very quickly come to an understanding how the fiscal cliff could potentially impact him or her.?There?s evidence that the expectation of a rocky first half of 2013 is throwing a wet blanket on consumer spending. After a strong Black Friday, holiday spending failed to keep up its momentum. The MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse said holiday sales grew less than one percent from 2011.

What?s so frustrating to economists is that, absent the cliff standoff, a slew of recent economic indicators all give reason for optimism. Real GDP increased at an annualized rate of just over 3 percent last quarter, and data on housing, spending, employment and corporate earnings have been steadily inching higher.

The improvement isn?t as far or as fast as anyone would like, but Kaufman said the country has reached the point where most consumers were starting to relax and worry less about their jobs and their financial security; that is, until the cliff became front-page news.

Although most economists consider it remote, the biggest danger is that the country drifts along for weeks or even months without a deal and run headlong into the still-unresolved issue of the debt ceiling. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said this is unlikely, but if it happens, it?s ?definitely affecting spending.? Consumers would buy fewer durable goods, cars and other big-ticket items, and pare back discretionary spending on items like restaurant meals and vacations.Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of Pimco, told CNBC businesses were confronting a ?new normal [of] sluggish growth and persistently high unemployment and concerns about debt and deficits.? El-Erian referred to an ?uncertainty premium? curbing corporate investment and hiring.

Affluent Americans, whose spending helped lift the economy out of recession a few years ago, would be especially sensitive an extended period without a deal, said Daniel Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas. In the face of a volatile stock market and uncertainty over how much they?d owe in taxes, wealthy consumers would keep their wallets shut.? ?

?The debt ceiling, to me, is the bigger problem,? Kaufman said. If the situation gets down to the wire as it did last year, ?The market?s definitely going to have conniptions again.? Companies can anticipate and adjust to negative market conditions, he said, but only if they know what those conditions are. ?The problem is, right now they don?t know the rules.??


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Dem. Rep. Accuses GOP of ?Literally? Trying to ?Take Food Out of The Mouths of Hungry Babies?

It looks like Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) has been taking lessons from Vice President Joe Biden. Either that or she has become extraordinarily ?comfortable with hyperbole.

?The Republicans, the disdain that I have seen for poor people, for people who are struggling, like senior citizens on Medicare and Social Security, for low income people and the Women Infant Children (WIC) program,? ?Rep. Schakowsky said during a Friday broadcast of MSNBC?s ?The Ed Show.?

?We saw the Republicans, last week, vote [for] spending cuts that would literally take food out of the mouths of hungry babies,? she added, signaling that she has either a remarkably poor understanding of the word ?literally? or that she?s interested in a permanent spot on MSNBC:

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

(H/T: WZ). The AP contributed to this report.


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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Las mejores im?genes del Ca?n Vel?squez ? Dos Santos II

El peleador mexicoamericano Ca?n Vel?squez recuper? este s?bado el cintur?n de peso Completo del Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) al derrotar por decisi?n un?nime al brasile?o Junior dos Santos en la pelea estelar del UFC 155 que se celebr? en el Hotel MGM Grand & Casino de Las Vegas.

Vel?squez (11-1) domin? toda la pelea. Desde el primer asalto puso en malas condiciones al sudamericano, y de haber sido otro el r?feri se hubiera acabado todo en ese momento.

Los tres jueces vieron ganar a Ca?n por 50-45, 50-44 y 50-43. De esta manera todo queda dispuesto para la tercera pelea entre ambos, la cual ya se rumorea que ser?a en junio o julio de 2013, una vez m?s en Las Vegas.

Dos Santos (15-2), que le hab?a quitado el t?tulo a Ca?n al noquearlo en 64 segundos en noviembre del 2011, sum? apenas su segunda derrota. No perd?a desde noviembre de 2007.


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Frederick Maryland Real Estate professional William Bill Price ...

You need to interview multiple brokers rather than just using the first one you come across. It is the same as choosing any other expert. You will want to be sure to shop around the Frederick Maryland area to make sure you are getting exactly what you need.

It is much more difficult to get traditional financing for these properties because they are looked at a little different than a primary residence.

When working on fixers you may want to consider seeking a hard money lender for financing rather than a traditional mortgage broker.

Read the local paper in the Frederick Maryland area, and you can find financing options and alternative mortgages here as well as through your real estate agent and via investment property finance firms.

Hard money lenders are willing to loan between 50 and 80% of the value of a property after repairs, whereas traditional lenders will only loan based on a property?s current value.

You may even find that it is the bank loan officer in that knows exactly ho to call in any investment situation.

Traditional financing is much cheaper than getting a hard money loan. Interest rates average between 12-16% with a possible 3 to 5 point deposit.

The benefit to the investor is that hard money lenders will lend estimated value after repairs and lend money on that amount allowing you to finance all of the repairs that are needed.

All you have to do is look at the costs of hard money loans like the cost it takes to do business. To end up with the profits that you are looking for on a property, make sure to include those costs in your purchase and holding costs.

In order to qualify for your very first loan in Frederick MD you will need to be well qualified.? Being an investor can be hard work until you have yourself established.

To get a Free list of Frederick MD foreclosures that meet all of your specifications, and any ask of your Frederick Maryland real estate or mortgage questions, please contact me toll Free, 24/7, at 1-800-395-9636 x7 or E-mail me at My Office number at Real Estate Teams, LLC is 301-695-3020 x2793

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Global Strategies: "Higher ed gets a place of its own at the Legislature"

Oregon capitolThe Oregonian and I are both pleased that the Oregon House will have a committee solely devoted to higher education n Oregon in its 2013 session. However, I am concerned that the Higher Ed committee will not take a look at online learning in the Oregon University System, and, as for the Oregonian, they do not even raise the issue of online ed in their editorial.

From the Oregnian?s editorial ?At long last, higher ed gets a place of its own at the Legislasture? (here):

....The new committee has a pile of homework already assigned.

This session it gets to look at university governance, at the now widely accepted bids by the University of Oregon and Portland State for institutional boards of trustees, at what the power of those boards would be and how Bankruptthey would fit into the overall university system. It will be part of the effort to make sense of the multiplicity of higher ed oversight structures either already existing or set up by recent legislation.

The committee will look at the pressing question of access, as state defunding of higher ed has shifted most of the burden to students and families, creating graduates -- and dropouts -- with heavy college debt burdens. State Treasurer Ted Wheeler has a proposal to use much of the state's bonding capacity, as it becomes available, to set up scholarship funds. Dembrow is also interested in a variation, developed by a Portland State class, to set up a loan fund to be paid back by a percentage of post-college income.

Dembrow, a community college professor, intends to examine other issues, such as the increasing reliance on adjunct per-course professors rather than full-time, more available faculty. "If you go to school weekends and evenings (as a number of Oregon college Online learningstudents do), you'll hardly ever have a full-time faculty member," he notes. "But the students who do that are more likely to fall through the cracks," not getting the guidance that would help their chances of graduating....

Note no mention of online education. Tyler Cowen in his ?Marginal Revolution? blog post ?How many bankruptcies to come in higher education? writes (here):

1. The absolute wages of college graduates have been falling for over a decade, even though the relative premium over ?no college degree? is robust.? Still, absolute wages do determine the long-term viability of any revenue model.? And note that a pretty big chunk of the relative college wage premium is captured through post-secondary education only.

2. The ?debt bubble? behind a lot of recent higher education expansion won?t be repeated anytime soon.

Mooc3. A large number of institutions in the top one hundred will move to a hybrid on-line model for a third or so of their classes and they will do so gradually, without seriously disrupting norms of conformity or eliminating campus life.? In fact this will become the new conformity and furthermore through time-shifting it may increase the quantity and joy of drunken parties and campus orgies.? Eventually these on-line classes will be sold for credit to outside students.? Some top schools will sell credits in this manner, even if the more exclusive Harvard and Princeton do not.? Many lesser schools will lose a third or so of their current tuition revenue stream.? Note that the prices for these on-line credits, even if hybrid, will likely be much lower, plus lesser schools lose revenue to the schools better at designing on-line content.

4. Some state governors will try to put out a supposedly semi-passable degree from their state schools Cash 2for 10k a year, with some on-line components of course.? That will put price and revenue pressure on many other schools.


Still, I think it is quite possible that one hundred or more schools in the U.S. News rankings will find their enrollments or at least their tuition revenue streams cut in half or more within twenty years.? They will be shells of their former selves, though on-line education might not even be their major economic challenge.? It will be one of three or four major whammies facing them.?

Both the House Higher Ed committee and the Oregonian editorial board need to give more attention to online education.


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Texas Tech rallies to beat Minnesota 34-31

Texas Tech's Derreck Edwards (19) flips into the end zone for a touchdown ahead of Minnesota's Antonio Johnson (11) during the first quarter of the Meineke Car Care Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)

Texas Tech's Derreck Edwards (19) flips into the end zone for a touchdown ahead of Minnesota's Antonio Johnson (11) during the first quarter of the Meineke Car Care Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)

Minnesota coach Jerry Kill reacts to a double penalty during the second quarter against Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)

Texas Tech's Seth Doege gestures after scoring a touchdown against Minnesota during the second quarter of the Meineke Car Care Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)

Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson scrambles during the first quarter against Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)

Minnesota's MarQueis Gray (5) runs by Texas Tech's Jackson Richards (43) during the second quarter of the Meineke Car Care Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)

HOUSTON (AP) ? D.J. Johnson returned an interception 39 yards and Ryan Bustin made a 28-yard field goal as time expired to give Texas Tech a 34-31 comeback victory over Minnesota on Friday night in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Seth Doege found Eric Ward on a short pass, and he outran a defender for a 35-yard scoring play to tie it at 31 with just more than a minute remaining.

Michael Carter intercepted two of Doege's passes in the fourth quarter before the tying score, but Minnesota couldn't convert either of the turnovers into points.

The Red Raiders (8-5) got their third straight bowl win to wrap up a month that began with coach Tommy Tuberville's abrupt departure for the job at Cincinnati. Texas Tech has hired Kliff Kingsbury to replace him, but interim coach Chris Thomsen led the team against Minnesota (6-7). Kingsbury was at the game, watching from a suite.

Associated Press


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Friday, December 28, 2012

Google Music scan and match only adding clean versions of songs

Google Music

It seems that users taking advantage of Google Music's new scan and match feature aren't always getting exactly what they expected added to their music libraries. The new feature, which launched in the U.S. just a week ago, lets users bypass uploading of new music by instead "matching" the music on the user's computer with the same file in Google Music automatically. That's all fine and dandy if it works, but users are reporting that songs with explicit lyrics are having the clean versions of songs added instead. This doesn't come as a complete surprise considering the same reports came out when iTunes started its own matching service, but this still shouldn't be happening.

Whether its because of a licensing shortcoming or technical issue with identifying music, we hope that Google can get this one figured out. Users with explicit music usually have it for a reason, and don't really want it replaced erroneously because a service isn't operating properly.

Source: Droid Life


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Fix Incorrectly Matched Songs on Google Music

Fix Incorrectly Matched Songs on Google MusicGoogle Music's new scan-and-match feature makes uploading your music much faster, but some users have been noticing incorrect matches?particularly getting clean versions of a song in place of explicit versions, and vice-versa. Here's how to fix that.

If you're having problems with a song Google Music has matched, just find it in your library, click the arrow to the right of its title, and choose "Fix Incorrect Match" from the dropdown. It should then upload the version you have to ensure its the correct song. Unfortunately, you can't do this for entire albums, but if you just have a few incorrect songs it should be an easy fix.

Tip: How to Fix Poorly Matched Songs in Google Music, Explicit Ones Included | Droid Life


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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Daily Kos: The Five Biggest Regrets of the Dying

For those wondering; in the book, there was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps.

Instead, Ware, a nurse who specializes in palliative care has counselled the dying in their last days and in her book, revealed the most common regrets that we have at the end of our lives.

Interestingly for me, among the top from men in particular, is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'.

*Editor's Note - Most of the patients that she is recording are in the last 12 week of their lives and they are AWARE OF THIS.*

In her book, Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware in her book The Top Five Regrets of The Dying:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled.

Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize ?until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners.

All of the men that Bronnie nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.

Many developed illnesses, relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

"Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years.

There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives.

Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

With many of us living with regret; think about this deeply. ?What's your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?

For the original story : ?Caf? Con Leche


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Ga. communities opt to keep sales tax on energy

ATLANTA (AP) -- Some Georgia communities are keeping their share of a tax on the energy used in manufacturing even as the state government gradually eliminates its share of that tax.

Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, signed a tax package this year gradually phasing out a 4 percent state tax on the energy that manufacturers use to produce their goods. Manufacturers typically pay another 2 or 3 percent in taxes on that energy to local governments. The Republican lawmakers who backed the bill allowed local officials to create a new tax that phases in as their share of the energy tax disappears.

While no one officially tracks how many counties have imposed the tax, several counties have taken that step before the beginning of the four-year phase-out.

"I just didn't see the county could take that kind of hit," said Clarence Brown, the sole commissioner for Bartow County, which imposed a tax. "That was just too much."

He noted that local manufacturers will still benefit from reduced state taxes, even if their local taxes stay the same. Brown said no firms have complained to him.

"I think they realize how bad the shape Bartow County is in," he said. "They want the fire trucks and the ambulances to keep rolling."

Bill supporters have urged local communities to get rid of the manufacturing tax altogether. Lawmakers opted to give the locals a choice to keep the tax revenue as a political compromise when local governments objected to losing it, said Rep. Mickey Channell, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Channell said cutting the tax will encourage energy-intensive manufacturers to stay or expand their operations in a community.

"What you're going to have is industry looking at one county rather than another," he said. "I think there will be times when industry locates in a county that does not have a tax verse one that does."

Manufacturers are more cost conscious now that the economy is weak and facilities are producing less than their actual capacity, said Roy Bowen, president of the Georgia Association of Manufacturers. As a result, firms are looking for opportunities to consolidate manufacturing operations and save costs. Costs, including local taxes, are a factor when firms decide which plants to shutter.

"The county that imposes the tax is going to be the first to have layoffs and curtailments," Bowen said. "And they're going to be the last county to ramp up."

Of course, giving a tax break to one group can mean less money for other purposes. Troup County officials voted unanimously in October to impose a new tax to keep money that would otherwise be lost to the new tax break. County officials estimated the tax break would have cost $700,000 to $900,000 once it totally vanished, or up to 2 percent of the general budget, said Troup County CFO Scott Turk. Money generated by the tax is used to pave and resurface roads and build bridges.

The local government has already cut 30 jobs in the last year.

Crisp County has also opted to keep its share of the tax, said Commissioner Wallace Mathis, who described himself as an anti-tax Republican.

In addition to financial losses caused by the Great Recession, Mathis said his community lost money when a construction project on Interstate 75 reduced the number of travelers stopping in Cordele, driving down sales tax collections. While businesses have to pay the tax, they also get public benefits, he said. For example, local tax money has been used to extend roads and sewer lines to plants. Mathis said abruptly taking away the money would endanger the ability of local governments to pay back loans for already approved infrastructure projects.

"When you just come in and knock out a tax like that, the revenue's got to come from somewhere," he said.


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Take an IRA Distribution Before Fiscal Cliff ? Wise Money Israel

Many Americans, and investors around the world, are watching anxiously this week to see what the U.S. Congress will do (or not do) to save the U.S. economy and taxpayers from the ?fiscal cliff?. If new legislation is not enacted by December 31, 2012, taxes for all Americans will automatically increase. The Congressional Budget Office has already estimated that this will lead to another recession in 2013.

That would mean a 20 percent capital gains rate, and a dividend rate at income tax levels, which could revert to the Clinton-era 39.6 percent for the highest earners. The Affordable Care Act in 2013 adds 3.8 percent to those rates for the wealthiest Americans.

As you may know, your U.S. retirement account (IRA, 401k, etc.) can fund an Israeli investment account and keep the funds tax-deferred. But sometimes, it is wiser to take out your funds and pay the taxes now, while the tax rates are relatively low, instead of waiting until next year when the tax rates may be higher. Read PR Newswire?s short article on the surprise that awaits many IRA owners in 2013.

If you?ve considered opening an Israeli investment account in the past, you may be able to save tens of thousands of shekels by taking a lump distribution from your IRA in 2012 before tax rates go up. For example, if your IRA had $100,000 of dividends and $100,000 of capital gains, the tax you could pay in 2013 would be up to $33,400 more than if you paid the tax in 2012. That is 125,000 more shekels with which to invest in Israel if you act quickly. The Israeli investment account itself can be funded in 2013.

What can be done to prevent automatic tax increases on your retirement account (IRA, 401k, etc.) from going into effect for you? Consider calling your retirement fund administrator or downloading their simple form for withdrawing your funds in 2012 before the Bush tax cuts expire on December 31, 2012.

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Stores look to week after Christmas for sales

Shoppers walk past an H&M location, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, in New York. This holiday season is shaping up to be the weakest since the country was in the middle of a deep recession in 2008. That not only shows that stores misread Americans' willingness to spend during this period of economic uncertainty. It also could indicate that the days of throngs of shoppers spending thousands of dollars willy nilly on holiday gifts may be long gone. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Shoppers walk past an H&M location, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, in New York. This holiday season is shaping up to be the weakest since the country was in the middle of a deep recession in 2008. That not only shows that stores misread Americans' willingness to spend during this period of economic uncertainty. It also could indicate that the days of throngs of shoppers spending thousands of dollars willy nilly on holiday gifts may be long gone. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Shoppers navigate their way around Toys R Us in Times Square Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, in New York. This holiday season is shaping up to be the weakest since the country was in the middle of a deep recession in 2008. That not only shows that stores misread Americans' willingness to spend during this period of economic uncertainty. It also could indicate that the days of throngs of shoppers spending thousands of dollars willy nilly on holiday gifts may be long gone. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Shoppers navigate their way around Toys R Us in Times Square Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, in New York. This holiday season is shaping up to be the weakest since the country was in the middle of a deep recession in 2008. That not only shows that stores misread Americans' willingness to spend during this period of economic uncertainty. It also could indicate that the days of throngs of shoppers spending thousands of dollars willy nilly on holiday gifts may be long gone. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Shoppers navigate their way around Toys R Us in Times Square Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, in New York. This holiday season is shaping up to be the weakest since the country was in the middle of a deep recession in 2008. That not only shows that stores misread Americans' willingness to spend during this period of economic uncertainty. It also could indicate that the days of throngs of shoppers spending thousands of dollars willy nilly on holiday gifts may be long gone. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, photo, a holiday shopper walks past a large Christmas tree at Fashion Island shopping center in Newport Beach, Calif. U.S. holiday retail sales this year are the weakest since 2008, after a shopping season disrupted by storms and rising uncertainty among consumers. A report out Tuesday that tracks spending, called MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, says holiday sales increased 0.7 percent. Analysts had expected sales to grow 3 to 4 percent. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Bargain-hungry Americans will need to go on a post-Christmas spending binge to salvage this holiday shopping season.

Despite the huge discounts and other incentives that stores offered leading up to Christmas, U.S. holiday sales so far this year have been the weakest since 2008, when the nation was in a deep recession.

So stores now are depending on the days after Christmas to make up lost ground: The final week of December can account for about 15 percent of the month's sales, and the day after Christmas is typically one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Stores, which don't typically talk about their plans for sales and other promotions during the season, are known for offering discounts of up to 70 percent after the holiday. This year, they're hoping to lure more bargain hunters who held off on shopping because they wanted to get the best deals of the season.

The Macy's location in Herald Square in New York was bustling with shoppers on Wednesday. There were a variety of deals throughout the store: candy dispensers for 70 percent off, various men's clothes were "buy one get one free," belts for 50 percent off, a bin of ties for $9.99.

Ulises Guzman, 30, a social worker, was shopping in the store. He said he waited to shop until the final days before Christmas, knowing that the deals would get better as stores got more desperate. He said he was expecting discounts of at least 50 percent.

The strategy worked. He saw a coat he wanted at Banana Republic for $200 in the days before Christmas but decided to hold off on making a purchase; on Wednesday, he got it for $80.

"I'm not looking at anything that's original price," he said.

Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta was also crowded by midday on Wednesday. Laschonda Pitluck, 18, a student in Atlanta, was shopping after Christmas because she wanted to get the best deals. Last year she spent over $100 on gifts but this year she's keeping it under $50.

Pitluck said she found items for 50 percent off, including a hoodie and jeans for herself at American Eagle and a shirt at Urban Outfitters. She said she would have bought the clothes if they hadn't been 50 percent off.

"I wasn't looking for deals before Christmas," said Pitluck, who also bought boxers for her boyfriend.

The shopping rush after Christmas illustrates just how important holiday sales are. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, and many retailers can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the two-month holiday period at the end of the year.

So far, holiday sales of electronics, clothing, jewelry and home goods in the two months before Christmas increased 0.7 percent compared with last year, according to the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report. SpendingPulse, which tracks spending, said that's the weakest holiday performance since 2008 when sales dropped sharply, although the company did not know by how much.

The SpendingPulse data released Tuesday, which captures sales from Oct. 28 through Dec. 24 across all payment methods, is the first major snapshot of holiday retail sales. A clearer picture will emerge next week as retailers like Macy's and Target report monthly sales.

In the run-up to Christmas, analysts blamed bad weather for putting a damper on shopping. In late October, Superstorm Sandy battered the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, which account for 24 percent of U.S. retail sales. That, coupled with the presidential election, hurt sales during the first half of November.

Shopping picked up in the second half of November, but then the threat of the country falling off a "fiscal cliff" gained strength, throwing consumers off track once again. Lawmakers have yet to reach a deal that would prevent tax increases and government spending cuts set to take effect at the beginning of 2013. If the cuts and tax hikes kick in and stay in place for months, the Congressional Budget Office says the nation could fall back into recession.

Still, The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, said Wednesday the trade group is sticking to its forecast for sales in the November and December period to be up 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion this year. That's more than a percentage point lower than the growth in each of the past two years, and the smallest increase since 2009 when sales were up just 0.3 percent.

Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the group, noted that the trade group's definition of holiday sales not only includes clothes and electronics, but also food and building supplies.

"Stores have a big week ahead, and it's still too early to know how the holiday season fared, at this point," she said.


Anderson reported from Atlanta and Choi reported from New York.

Ann D'Innocenzio in New York and Daniel Wagner in Washington contributed to this report.

Associated Press


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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Iranian exiles blame Iraqis for camp death

BAGHDAD (AP) ? An Iranian exile group representing residents of a refugee camp outside Baghdad alleged Monday that one of its members has died after Iraqi authorities prevented him from being hospitalized last month.

The allegation is the latest in a series of charges against the Iraqi government by the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran over what it sees as poor treatment at two refugee camps in Iraq.

Members of the NCRI's Mujahedeen-e-Khalq militant wing, which until recently was labeled a foreign terror organization by Washington, began moving from their longtime home at Camp Ashraf in northeast Iraq to a new camp close to the Iraqi capital's airport earlier this year.

The Baghdad-area camp, a former American military base known as Camp Liberty, is meant to be a temporary way station while the United Nations works to resettle the residents abroad. They are unlikely to return to Iran because of their opposition to the regime.

Behrooz Rahimian, the 56-year-old resident who died, was staying at Camp Liberty when he began complaining of chest pains on Nov. 25, according to a statement by NCRI spokesman Shahin Gobadi. He was taken to a Baghdad hospital, but Iraqi authorities intimidated doctors there, and he was soon taken back to Camp Liberty after being given medicine, the group alleges.

Rahimian died of cardiac arrest on Sunday, the NCRI said. The group blames his death on Iraqi officials' refusal to keep him in the hospital, and it criticizes the United Nations mission to Iraq for not taking what it sees as sufficient steps to intervene.

Iraqi Human Rights Minister Mohammed Shiyaa al-Sudani told The Associated Press he would launch an investigation into the issue and "find out the problem if there is any." He noted that there are monitors on site to ensure residents are receiving adequate treatment.

"Their claims are endless. We have two teams at Camp Liberty ? one from the U.N. and another from my ministry ? to offer them all the services they need according to the U.N.'s standards," he said.

The U.N. is aware of Rahimian's death, and its human rights monitors are trying to establish the facts in the case, Baghdad-based spokeswoman Anne Czichos said.

Iraq's government is eager to have the MEK out of the country. The group, which is also called the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, opposes Iran's clerical regime and carried out assassinations and bombings in Iran until renouncing violence in 2001.

Labeled by some as a cult, it fought in the 1980s alongside Saddam Hussein's forces in the Iran-Iraq war. Several thousand of its members were given sanctuary in Iraq by Saddam.

Iraq's current Shiite-led government, which has close ties to Iran, considers the MEK a terrorist group and says its members are living in Iraq illegally. Iraqi security forces launched two deadly raids since 2009 on Camp Ashraf, a small city near the Iranian border that the exiles never wanted to leave.

The Obama administration took the MEK off the U.S. terrorism list in late September. Canada did the same last week.


Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed reporting.


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Monday, December 24, 2012

Spoil Yourself to a Mommy Makeover | Jackies Womens Interest ...

Related eBooks

Being a mother is a very rewarding and time consuming role. Sometimes you end up spending so much time taking care of everyone else that you neglect yourself. Treat yourself to a mommy makeover to help you feel and look more attractive.

Source:Spoil Yourself to a Mommy Makeover

Related Reading:

Cosmetic Surgery For DummiesCosmetic Surgery For DummiesCosmetic surgery is one of today?s hottest topics. From daytime talk shows and popular magazines to conversations at the salon, it seems that almost everyone has had it, is thinking about it, or knows someone who is getting it. Statistics show more and more women?and men?are having cosmetic surgery. And with all the options now available, it?s important to be fully informed before you make any decisions about having a procedure.

Now, Cosmetic Surgery For Dummies is here to guide you through today?s top procedures, candidly addressing both the benefits and the risks. R. Merrel Olesen, MD, the medical director of the La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre, and Marie B.V. Olesen, a nationally known cosmetic surgery consultant, give you the tools you need to:

  • Decide if surgery is right for you
  • Find a qualified surgeon
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Evaluate the costs
  • Enhance your recovery and results

This plain-English guide shows you how to take advantage of all the advances in cosmetic surgery while avoiding the pitfalls that could compromise your safety or the quality of your result. From implants to liposuction to Botox, you?ll understand the right questions to ask your doctor, how to prepare for surgery (both physically and financially), and the best ways to influence the healing process. You?ll also:

  • Discover the latest surgery techniques and medications
  • Understand the different surgeon specializations
  • Sort through the various non-surgical facial treatments
  • Evaluate your post-op care options
  • Cope with complications
  • Deal with family, friends, and coworkers before and after surgery

Complete with lists of questions to ask before surgery and top Web sites for cosmetic surgery information, Cosmetic Surgery For Dummies is a practical, friendly guide that will help you say hello to a new you!

Cosmetic Facial Surgery, 1eCosmetic Facial Surgery, 1e

Take your practice to the next level! Cosmetic Facial Surgery provides a highly illustrated, case-based approach to common face and neck procedures. In this full-color reference, internationally renowned surgeon Joe Niamtu III, DMD, covers techniques including brow, face, and neck lifts; nose, eye, and ear surgery; cosmetic surgery practice with discussions of the process of facial aging, diagnosing and consulting with patients, clinical digital facial implants; skin resurfacing; the use of neurotoxins; and the removal of skin lesions. The book also prepares you for photography, and anesthesia considerations. In a companion DVD, video clips feature Dr. Niamtu demonstrating key procedures addressed in the text.

  • Comprehensive coverage includes the full range of surgical procedures from the upper face to the lower face/neck area.
  • Over 3,000 full-color photos show surgical techniques and before-and-after shots of actual cases done by Dr. Niamtu.
  • A DVD includes videos of procedures performed by the author, bringing complicated procedures to life.
  • Accessible, easy-to-grasp descriptions, written in an engaging, first-person narrative, explain concepts based on real cases and on Dr. Niamtu's experience.

Tags: cosmetic surgery


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Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) price target has been increased by Needham & Co. from $25 to $33, 27 percent higher than current trading levels. According to Monday?s research note, the analysts decided to increase their 2013 revenue estimate to $6.5 billion from $6.27 billion and their earnings-per-share estimate has been raised to 65 cents a share from 59 cents. The firm cited expectations for strong mobile revenue growth along with an upside coming from Facebook?s global platform.

LinkedIn Corporation (NYSE:LNKD): Staples Inc., which is the second largest internet retailer, decided to team together with LinkedIn, which is the most prominent professional network globally, to launch SUCCEED: Small Business Network.?The online forum is expected to act as a platform for networking, advice, and content that is intended mainly for small business professionals, according to LinkedIn.?In SUCCEED, Staples and LinkedIn are creating an online community that enables small businesses to connect and collaborate. The group has provided small business professionals with the opportunity to network and discuss important issues, along with sharing success stories and professional hurdles via an online forum that has been created especially for them.

Catalysts are critical to discovering winning stocks. Check out our newest CHEAT SHEET stock picks now.

Groupon, Inc. (NASDAQ:GRPN) acquired CommerceInterface as it attempted to improve the manner in which its e-commerce business operates as attempts to expand globally. CommerceInterface provides a Web-based platform has been designed as a way to help manufacturers, distributors, and retailers facilitate online sales, interact with vendors, and manage their operations. Shares recently traded at $4.82 premarket, which is the same as Friday?s market close.

Zynga, Inc. (NASDAQ:ZNGA) launched landing pages which are precursors to real money online gambling in the United Kingdom. Zynga introduced its social online gambling web site with the tag lines like ?Casino For The People? and ?Poker For The People.? This has been launched as marketing efforts and will be viewable in America, but when the sites go live they will only be accessible to those those who are eighteen years old and over and resident in the United Kingdom.

Don?t Miss: Facebook Pulls a Fast One.

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Good Reads: Mexico?s rise, Lincoln?s precedence, and tomorrow?s truth

A round-up of this week's long-form good reads include a look at Mexico's competitive growth, the virtues of compromise in multiple administrations, and how facts 'decay.'

By Marshall Ingwerson,?Managing editor / December 14, 2012

Shipping trucks in Veracruz, Mexico, a major port city on the Gulf of Mexico.

Alfredo Sosa/Staff/File


Which country produces the biggest share of America?s flat-screen TVs? You know it can?t be China, or we wouldn?t bother asking.

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Three years ago, a Pentagon report warned that Mexico was on the brink of becoming a failed state, notes a special report in The Economist. Instead, Mexico?s economic growth has overtaken and surpassed that of Brazil. And as Chinese wages have quintupled in the past 10 years, Mexico?s competitiveness is rising to match its great field position next door to the US Sun Belt. The flat-screen TVs are the least of it. What?s amazing to The Economist is how little Americans know about the progress of their southern neighbor. It estimates that nearly a tenth of current US residents, or their children, are Mexican citizens. But as the Monitor has noted, net migration from Mexico has dropped to zero or lower as opportunities there have expanded.

Many Americans have heard, if vaguely, of Mayan calendars that seem to predict the end of the world coming in a few weeks. But few have heard that recent translations revise that apocalypse into something more like a renewal or fresh start. And that, the magazine argues, looks to be where Mexico is heading.

Lincoln?s example for today?s mess

In these times of winter winds whipping across the ?fiscal cliff? at Americans? feet, compromise is suddenly in again. What was scorned in the tea party upswell of 2010 as caving in to bad Washington habits, is lauded in late 2012 as adult behavior and getting something done.

History, of course, stands on both sides of the compromise question. Abraham Lincoln may have been the self-effacing pragmatist who could hold together a diverse ?team of rivals.? But he was not about compromise. This is something the new Steven Spielberg film on Lincoln gets right, says The New Yorker?s Adam Gopnik. The United States had been straddling various compromises over slavery for years, he says, and there are still arguments over whether Lincoln could have avoided the unprecedented human suffering of the war. But Lincoln instead stood at the end of the line for compromise. His position was absolute, both on union and on slavery.

?Lincoln was an uncompromising man who sponsored violence on a hitherto unimaginable scale; that he paid the highest price himself for the noble but hugely costly morality in which he believed is one of the things that makes his story still so fateful and, in its way, uncompromised.?


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Science of Relationships - | - Marriage Killer

In one of the Top Ten Articles in the Wall Street Journal for 2012, Elizabeth Bernstein discusses an important dynamic that may undermine your relationship (and it is something you may not realize). Click here for the Top Ten list (the Marriage Killer is #8). For the full original article, please click here.??



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Ferrari hope to start 2013 with competitive car ? Formula 1 news ...

Ferrari hope to start 2013 with competitive car ? Formula 1 news

Ferrari president, Luca di Montezemolo has said that their target is to provide their drivers, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, a competitive car right in the start of the 2013 Formula 1 season so as to attain better results as compared to this season.

The Scarlet expected to face immense difficulties in the opening few races of 2012 as they had the most struggling pre-season testing programme this year in which they failed to develop a competent car.

Nevertheless, Alonso performed exceptionally well right from the start of the season and efficiently minimised the damaged for his team. Furthermore, he scored points with remarkable consistency and even led the drivers? championship for quite a long time.

However, the Spaniard lost the championship title by just 3 points to his rival, Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing, who had the most competitive car in the field towards the end of the season, with which he seemed unbeatable in the last few races.

On the other hand, Massa could not score good points in the first few races and faced a lot of criticism over his poor form. Nonetheless, he came back very well after the Mugello test with the improved car and attained very good results for his team. Afterwards, he successfully secured his race seat at Ferrari for the coming year.

Although, Montezemolo has said that they are not upset over the result of this season as they achieved so much even with the incompetent car. However, he insisted that they must come up stronger right from the start of the next season with a more competent car.

?On the glass half full side, we had amazing reliability which allowed us to come second in constructors' championship despite the fact McLaren was quicker than us and despite the fact that, in first half of season we pretty much only had Alonso's points to count on,? he said.

?There were those great starts and pit stops and the fact Fernando had an extraordinary season, the best since he has been in F1,? he added. ?Next year, let's hope we can say it was our best season, given that we want to give him and Felipe a car that's competitive right from the start.?


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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Genetic defect causing fragile X-related disorders more common than thought

Friday, December 21, 2012

A single genetic defect on the X chromosome that can result in a wide array of conditions ? from learning and emotional difficulties to primary ovarian insufficiency in women and tremors in middle-aged men ? occurs at a much greater frequency than previously thought, research led by the UC Davis MIND Institute has found.

The research is based on the first large-scale, multi-center newborn screening effort for the defect in the United States, conducted in a group of more than 14,200 male and female infants at three research university medical centers piloting a new infant screening test developed at UC Davis.

The study, "FMR1 CGG Allele Size and Prevalence Ascertained Through Newborn Screening in the United States," was led by Flora Tassone, professor-in-residence in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, and was conducted using blood spots obtained from infant heel pricks as part of the normal newborn genetic screening process. It is published online today in the journal Genome Medicine.

The investigators examined the prevalence of expanded alleles of the fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene. Defects in FMR1 cause conditions as diverse as fragile X syndrome ? the leading cause of intellectual disability and the leading known single-gene cause of autism ? and a Parkinson's disease-like condition called fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome, or FXTAS. The term "fragile X" is used because of the altered appearance of the X chromosome among sufferers from the conditions.

"This study demonstrates that there is a higher frequency of mutations of the FMR1 gene across racial and ethnic groups than previously believed," said Randi Hagerman, medical director of the UC Davis MIND Institute and one of the world's leading experts on fragile X-related conditions. "It also demonstrates that newborn screening for fragile X mutations is technically feasible in a large-scale setting using the blood spot technique developed by Dr. Tassone."

The degree of disability from defects in FMR1 depends upon the number of repetitions of the sequence of the proteins cytosine-guanine-guanine (CGG) in the promoter region of the gene. The range of repeats in normal individuals is between six and 40. CGG repeats greater than 200 cause what is called the full mutation and fragile X syndrome. Fewer repeats ? in the range of 55 to 200 ? result in a variation called a premutation.

The current study found the estimated prevalence of the premutation to be 1 in 200 females, a finding somewhat greater than earlier estimates. However, it estimates the prevalence among males to be 1 in 400 ? double what had previously been reported. The researchers said that the sample size in the current study was not great enough to estimate the true prevalence of the full fragile X mutation, currently estimated at between 1 in 2,500 and 1 in 8,000 females and 1 in 5,000 males.

While most people with the premutation appear normal, some individuals can have mild difficulties in childhood, such as such as learning problems or emotional difficulties including social anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), said Hagerman, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics. Individuals with the premutation also can suffer from FXTAS, which causes debilitating tremors, balance problems and dementia primarily in older men, and premature ovarian insufficiency in women.

Tassone, a researcher affiliated with the MIND Institute, is one of the world's leading experts on screening and identification of the FMR1 mutation. Her polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based test used in the current study was described in January 2008 in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics.

"This study shows that newborn screening for the FMR1 mutation is technically possible on a large scale," Tassone said. "However, the screening will identify far more carrier and gray-zone infants than those with a full fragile X mutation. As we now know that there may be clinical involvement with these individuals, such as FXTAS, we need to better understand the impact of identifying these mutations on families before widespread newborn screening can be instituted."

Hagerman said that the study is important because early intervention can be helpful for children with these mutations who experience developmental problems. In addition, a baby who is positive for the mutation will have other family members who also carry mutations. Genetic counseling is essential for the family members, in addition to treatment for the medical or psychiatric problems associated with the premutation or full mutation, she said.


University of California - Davis Health System:

Thanks to University of California - Davis Health System for this article.

This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.

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Editorial: Healthy Gaming |

Hello, and welcome to Friday! Video games are an easy target for the media who are looking for scapegoats to blame for making children lazy and overweight. Any high profile murderer usually ends up having his actions blamed on his choice of video game rather than his psychological state. Games are not at fault in either case. The mentally disturbed need little provocation to initiate violence and children just need to get out more. Today we will be looking at the health benefits that come with spending time enjoying our favourite medium.

Just don't interrupt me during a boss fight.

The modern media view of games.

First and foremost, gaming is fun. Having fun is good for your health. That sentence probably sells itself, but it is backed up by a study of leisure time and associated health benefits. In 2009 researchers found that participants in the study who enjoyed more leisure activities had lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, and body mass index, and perceptions of better physical function. On the other hand, lack of leisurely pursuits is linked to several less than desirable outcomes, like lack of energy, lowered immunity to illness and strained relationships.

So gaming is fun and fun is healthy, but there are more specific benefits to gaming. Research dating back to the early 1980s has consistently shown that playing computer games (irrespective of genre) produces reductions in reaction times, improved hand-eye co-ordination and raises players self-esteem. Curiosity and the nature of the challenge also appear to add to a games educational potential. People often overlook the fact that character dialogue in games helps children develop their reading comprehension skills; score keeping aids their efforts to grasp basic mathematics; and their ability to communicate improves because gaming facilitates discussing and sharing.

When playing games with my son, I often find he tries to read text on the screen, sounding out words he does not know and asking me to explain their meaning to him. While playing Lego Batman 2 he comes across characters he can purchase. He can see if he has enough money to buy them, or if not, work out how much he needs to collect to do so. When the day is over and he heads home, he explains to anyone who will listen how to play his favourite game and what he has been up to recently.

Games can be used to educate in specialised jobs as well. Many pilots, soldiers and even surgeons have honed their important skills by training on simulators. A 2007 study, for example, found that surgeons who played for at least 3 hours a week made fewer errors and completed operations faster than their non-gaming colleagues.

Here sonny, would you like to play some Pokémon?

Granny Gamer

An older generation of gamers are looking to games to keep their minds active. Puzzle games are perfect for keeping the mind sharp. The elderly have relied on crosswords and number games in the back of the local paper for years, but now they have access to a wealth of puzzles on mobile platforms that they can take anywhere. My own mother plays Sudoku on her DS every night before she goes to sleep. Playing on a gaming device means that traditional games can also be bought and the elderly can enjoy all the other health benefits that come with playing a variety of games.

Inevitably someone tries to argue that gaming is detrimental to society because it promotes violent behavior and discourages physical activity. Critics of gaming also have research to support these conclusions, but they are hotly contested. Some scientists have pointed out that there is no correlation between real world violence statistics and the rising popularity of video games. Others have argued that depression in young people is a much better predictor of violent behavior than exposure to video games. While it is true that fat kids play a lot of video games, childhood obesity has more to do with our offsprings? diets than it does how much Call of Duty they play.

The debate will probably continue for many years. Concerned parents and politicians, and a growing gaming industry, all but guarantee the controversy has not reached its end. It is also apparent, however, that video games benefit society in many ways, and have the potential to do so to an even greater extent in the future. We should pay attention to how our favorite forms of entertainment affect us, but exaggerating their negative effects would be just as dangerous as ignoring them.


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