Friday, November 30, 2012

VIDEO: Humane Society's Pets of the Week - Waterford, CT Patch

If you're looking for a pet, drop into the?Connecticut Humane Society's Waterford branch?and have a look around. They have dogs, cats and the occasional small animal.?

The animal shelter is located at 169 Old Colchester Road and is open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dog adoption hours begin at 10:30 a.m. The phone number is 860-442-8583.

Humane Society employee Hailey St. Pierre-Casati introduced us to these animals this week:

  • Dutchess, a white boxer-mix who gets along with children,
  • Brie, a grey-and-white lady cat who can be shy,
  • and Rolaids, a black-and-white bunny who can do black flips.

Animals are adopted and dropped off at the Humane Society on a daily basis so if you see an animal in this video who you want, act fast. If you miss your chance however, these ones are still waiting for someone to bring them home:

  • Casey, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois-mix who is very playful,
  • Violet and Dusty, two attractive rabbit sisters.
  • Trixy and Harley, two chubby cats who love to be pet,
  • Scrunchy, a black-and-white cat who can entertain herself,
  • Ace, Joker and King, three beautiful birds,
  • BooBoo and Bear, a brother-sister cat pair,
  • and Harvey, an active 1-year-old dog.?

If you aren't interested in any of these animals, log onto the?Humane Society website?to see a gallery of all the adoptable pets.

If you have plenty of pets at home but still want to help out these great animals, the Humane Society is always accepting donations of food, toys and supplies.


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Barak: UN vote on Palestinians not a big move (The Arizona Republic)

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Celebrity Real Estate - Curbed National

Wednesday, November 28, 2012, by Amy Schellenbaum

grammerQL.jpgAccording to the rabid celebrity journalists at TMZ, Frasier star Kelsey Grammer can no longer afford to live in his new home in Beverly Hills, so he wants to move back into the Holmby Hills house he owns with ex and 'Real Housewife' Camille Grammer. Apparently the former Mrs. is none too pleased about this?yet she, too, is currently living in their joint Malibu home, which is also on the market. [TMZ; previously]


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Spain's rescued banks to shrink, slash jobs

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Fiscal cliff: White House steps up pressure on GOP to reach a deal

White House economists warn that unless Congress extends expiring middle-class tax cuts 'without delay,' consumer confidence will take a hit at a critical holiday season for retailers.

By Linda Feldmann,?Staff writer / November 26, 2012

Holiday shoppers wait on a check-out line in the Times Square Toys-R-Us store after doors were opened to the public at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving in New York. White House economists warned on Monday that the holiday shopping season will be hurt, if Congress does not extend middle-class tax cuts.

John Minchillo/AP


The White House is ramping up pressure on Republicans to make a deal that averts a trip over the ?fiscal cliff.?

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'; } else if (google_ads.length > 1) { ad_unit += ''; } } document.getElementById("ad_unit").innerHTML += ad_unit; google_adnum += google_ads.length; return; } var google_adnum = 0; google_ad_client = "pub-6743622525202572"; google_ad_output = 'js'; google_max_num_ads = '1'; google_feedback = "on"; google_ad_type = "text"; google_adtest = "on"; google_image_size = '230x105'; google_skip = '0'; // --> Monitor correspondent Liz Marlantes discusses why Democrats have the upper hand over the GOP when it comes to 'fiscal cliff' negotiations.

Monday morning, the White House put out a report warning that Americans might pull back on spending in the face of a tax increase, threatening the economy. A typical family of four will see a tax increase of $2,200 next year if the Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire on the middle class, the report says.

Later on Monday, a top White House economist made a surprise appearance at the daily briefing to reinforce the report.

?One of the many reasons why I think it's important that Congress extend the middle-class tax cuts without delay, without drama, is because it will help to maintain the increase in consumer confidence that we've seen since August of 2011,? said Alan Krueger, chairman of President Obama?s Council of Economic Advisers.

The ?fiscal cliff? refers to the $607 billion in tax increases and deep spending cuts that will automatically go into effect at the end of the year if Congress does not act. The Obama administration is adamant that taxes rise on the top 2 percent of taxpayers, while holding taxes steady for the rest.

Mr. Krueger says the White House economic team calculated that if taxes rise on the middle class, consumption would decline next year by about $200 billion.

?To put that in some perspective, that would reduce the growth of consumption by 1.7 percentage points and shave 1.4 percentage points off of GDP growth next year,? Krueger said, noting that consumption accounts for about 70 percent of GDP.

?Our estimates are quite close to estimates of private sector forecasts and also quite close to the Congressional Budget Office's estimate that GDP growth would be reduced by 1.3 percentage points next year if the middle-class tax cuts are not extended,? Krueger said.

The White House also suggested that uncertainty over taxes could harm the holiday shopping season, a particularly critical time for retailers.

In separate action, White House officials met Monday with Thomas Donohue, president of the Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable president John Engler, and other business leaders. Two weeks ago, Mr. Donohue complained in a press conference that he had been left out of the fiscal-cliff discussions.

At the White House briefing, press secretary Jay Carney rejected the characterization of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) that the fiscal-cliff talks were ?at an impasse.?

?We remain hopeful and optimistic that we can achieve a deal,? Mr. Carney said.

Over the weekend, Obama spoke with the leaders of both houses of Congress, Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Senate majority leader Harry Reid, about the negotiations. In addition, some Republicans ? including Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina ? indicated flexibility over allowing a tax increase for the wealthy, as long as the Democrats makes concessions on entitlements.


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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Forrester: Microsoft licence hike makes no sense

Windows users can expect a 15% increase in the cost of licensing key Microsoft products as the software giant raises its prices.

From December 1 2012, Microsoft will increase the price of per-user licensing of several products including Exchange, its Lync communications server, Windows Server and Terminal Services.

The change in price reflects change in usage, as more users access Windows software from several devices, rather than a single PC. But analyst Forrester believes the licence fee increase is flawed and will erode the value of its products against the likes of Google.

Forrester's Duncan Jones said Microsoft was struggling to decide how to shift from device Client Access Licences (CALs) to per-user CALs.?

?A lot of companies are on device licensing. Some have a mixture. If everyone has PC then per user makes sense, but if you are a company like a manufacturer where not all users have a PC, then per device is cheaper,? said Jones.

But per-device licensing for software is obsolete in the mobile and virtual world according to Jones.?

"It is impossible to control and not relevant to the app internet world. Gradually software companies will change licensing accordingly,? he said.

However Jones believes Microsoft?s approach to changing its client access licensing is flawed.?

He said: ?I told Microsoft it was a mistake to charge more for user CALs than device CALs.?It?s inside-out thinking.?

"There is no evidence that people are deriving more value from MS software and people will not be willing to pay 15% more because they can access it from a tablet.?

While Microsoft has increased the pricing of user CALs to address device proliferation, it has not added anything extra to justify the price increase. He said they should have cut the cost of device CALs rather than increase user CALs.?

?User CALs are not more valuable than device CALs. Device CALs now have less value,? said Jones.

He believes the change in pricing will affect how IT departments upgrade. If they have an Enterprise Agreement (EA), their organisation buys the right to upgrade to the newest product release, but businesses may consider they are happy with the current release.?

?Many will likely stay put on current versions,? he added, which will impact EA revenue.

Lack of communication

In a research paper on Microsoft's licensing price increase, analyst Gartner criticised Microsoft for not informing its customers directly. The supplier has relied on software resellers to explain to customers what the price increase will mean.?

In the report, Gartner research direct Frances O'Brien noted: ?Gartner agrees that some, but not all Microsoft customers may have received additional value from user-based CALs.?

"But we believe that Microsoft?s silence and lack of advance notice to its customers may prove problematic for some organisations that rush to renew early, simply to avoid a price increase.?

"These price hikes ? combined with licensing changes and the inherent cost implications for SQL 2012, System Center 2012, Windows Server 2012, and the price changes alluded to in Microsoft's 1 October 2012 Product Use Rights Document for SharePoint Server 2013 and Lync Server 2013 ? could add unexpected expenses to some customers' budgets.?

Phil Heap, head of products and services at Fast, the software asset management specialist, said: ?This adds another layer of complexity to Microsoft licensing and it?s obviously being driven by the need for flexible and mobile working scenarios.?

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GL: Iraq Could Dominate Middle Eastern Energy ... - LNG World News

GL Iraq Could Dominate Middle Eastern Energy Output by 2030

Iraq could develop its oil and gas infrastructure quickly enough to dominate Middle Eastern energy output within 18 years, according to a poll of industry professionals at the ADIPEC Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi.

According to the survey held by global independent technical advisor to the oil and gas sector GL Noble Denton, 65% of participants said that Iraq has the potential to develop its energy infrastructure at such a pace that it will dominate the region?s output by 2030.

By contrast, 35% of participants thought that inadequate facilities, a disadvantaged economy and an under-developed regulatory framework ? among other issues ? could prevent the country from expanding its oil and gas footprint at speed.

A study published by the International Energy Agency last month suggests that Iraq has the potential to reshape the global energy industry in the near future. According to the report, an increase in oil exports could add a cumulative USD $5 trillion to the country?s economy over the next two decades; a number that would grow its gross domestic product five-fold.

Moss Daemi, GL Noble Denton?s Executive Vice President for the Middle East and Africa, said: ?Iraq?s oil and gas industry shows huge promise, but the country has some major infrastructure challenges to overcome if it is to realise its potential. The result of this poll shows that industry professionals are extremely optimistic that the country will be able to tackle those issues.

?With the support of experienced international and regional players, there is every possibility that Iraq?s oil and gas industry can develop a significant infrastructure in a short period of time.?

GL Noble Denton also surveyed ADIPEC delegates? opinion over the United Arab Emirates? (UAE) potential to become energy self-sufficient, and whether the country is investing enough money in maintaining the integrity of its assets.

The poll revealed that oil and gas professionals think the UAE will produce enough gas to fuel its growing domestic energy demands by 2030. 81% of participants said that the development of new gas recovery projects will meet the UAE?s rising demand for the commodity and make the country energy self-sufficient by 2030. By contrast, 19% of participants thought that the UAE will need to continue relying on gas imports to sustain domestic energy consumption over the next 18 years.

Industry professionals also believe that the UAE is making the right investments in asset integrity to meet the country?s rising challenges in production from established oil fields. According to GL Noble Denton?s poll, 72% of participants said that the country?s oil and gas industry is spending sufficiently on optimising asset integrity, as facilities are increasingly called upon to operate beyond the lifespan for which they were originally designed. Only 28% of participants thought that the industry is under-investing in asset performance in the Emirates.

LNG World News Staff, November 27, 2012; Image: GL



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Real Estate and Branding?What is in the name? | Richard Silver's ...

In late July or early August I migrate to Northern California for a few days of Inman Connect in San Francisco. It is a great conference that is an opportunity for REALTORS, Brokers, Franchisors and Franchisees to come and hear from the latest ?mouse trap? movers and shakers about what the next five years may bring to the world of Real Estate.

One of the best sessions led by Kelly Mitchell of Hawaii fame turned into an open and honest discussion about branding?for some attendees the first question was whether the topic of branding was and should be agent driven, broker driven or franchise driven.

Years ago, when I began my career?a REALTOR chose a brand that fit their vision and worked within the brand?.and if things did not work out or their marketplace changed, they moved to another brand that was more suited to the what they wanted for their future.

Now, as I look around in our large market that not only has competing franchises, but competing brokers within the franchises, competing agents within the competing brokers, within the competing franchises, I am really becoming confused?.and if I am confused, what is the consumer feeling?

What I don?t get is why would I choose to move to a ?brand? and then spend time, money and energy re-designing the brand? Is it because the brands are not moving fast enough to accommodate their agents? Is it because as independent contractors we all feel that we are the brand first and foremost and we are looking for that competitive edge?

BUT?here is the biggest question: Is branding just the logo design and colours or is it the quality and professionalism of the agents within the Company? ?Does everyone reflect the vision of the owners? ?Are owners aware of how they are being represented in the marketplace by their salespeople? If the salesperson?s income level is high, does the owner care they are not, or is profit the primary motivator?

I have?watched talented agents over the years leave their Brands to establish new companies that expressed their vision of the Real Estate profession. In a lot of these cases the new Boutiques brands are diluted by mini offices that take new directions? Will the everyday race to pay the bills mean the erosion of the Boutique visionaries as reality sinks in?.

So what does the future hold for the existing, the new and the Brands to come? Will they evolve quickly enough for the consumer and the REALTORS? Will they learn to be ahead of the curve and can they be profitable in the long term if they are enticing agents with high splits and the latest in technological mouse traps. Will Brands truly reflect the owner?s vision or are we, as REALTORS, our own worst enemies?

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fostering Curiosity: Mars Express relays rocky images

ScienceDaily (Nov. 26, 2012) ? For the first time, ESA's Mars orbiter has relayed scientific data from NASA's Curiosity rover on the Red Planet's surface. The data included detailed images of 'Rocknest3' and were received by ESA's deep-space antenna in Australia.

It was a small but significant step in interplanetary cooperation between space agencies.

Early on the morning of 6 October, ESA's Mars Express looked down as it orbited the planet, lining up its lander communication antenna to point at Curiosity far below on the surface.

For 15 minutes, the NASA rover transmitted scientific data up to the ESA satellite. A few hours later, Mars Express slewed to point its high-gain antenna toward Earth and began downlinking the precious information to the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, via the Agency's 35 m-diameter antenna in New Norcia, Australia.

The data were immediately made available to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California for processing and analysis, proving again that NASA's amazing new rover can talk with Europe's veteran Mars orbiter.

Curiosity's ChemCam images Rocknest3

The information included a tremendously interesting image acquired on 4 October by Curiosity's ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager camera.

ChemCam comprises the camera together with a Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectrometer, which fires a laser at targets and analyses the chemical composition of the vaporised material.

The laser zaps areas smaller than 1 mm across on the surface of martian rocks and soils, and then the spectrometer provides information on the minerals and microstructures in the rocks.

"The quality of these images from ChemCam is outstanding, and the mosaic image of the spectrometer analyses has been essential for scientific interpretation of the data," says Sylvestre Maurice, Deputy Principal Investigator for ChemCam at France's Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology (IRAP).

"This combination of imaging and analysis has demonstrated its potential for future missions."

ChemCam laser targets

A third image, relayed separately by NASA, indicates the locations of the laser target points on Rocknest3, as seen by the RMI camera.

'Rocknest' is the area where Curiosity stopped for a month to perform its first mobile laboratory analyses on soil scooped from a small sand dune. Rocknest3 was a convenient nearby target where ChemCam made more than 30 observations using 1500 laser shots.

A wide-angle context image was acquired by Curiosity's MastCam and shows Rocknest3 as targeted by ChemCam. Rocknest3 is about 10 x 40 cm, or roughly the size of a shoe box.

Fostering Curiosity -- and others

ESA's Mars orbiter has also relayed data for NASA's other surface missions -- Phoenix, Spirit and Opportunity -- since 2004, and it relayed Curiosity's radio signal during its arrival at Mars last August.

During the Curiosity mission, Mars Express is set to provide additional relay slots, while maintaining its own scientific observation programme, under an ESA-NASA support agreement.

It can also rapidly provide relay services in case of unavailability of NASA's own relay orbiter or if there is a problem on the rover itself.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by European Space Agency (ESA).

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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Obama to appeal to public on fiscal cliff

FILE - In this Nov. 21, 2012, file photo, President Barack Obama speaks about the Thanksgiving holiday in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. The White House said Tuesday, Nov. 27, that the president plans to make a public case this week for his strategy for dealing with the looming fiscal cliff, traveling to the Philadelphia suburbs Friday as he pressures Republicans to allow tax increases on the wealthy while extending tax cuts for families earning $250,000 or less. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE - In this Nov. 21, 2012, file photo, President Barack Obama speaks about the Thanksgiving holiday in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. The White House said Tuesday, Nov. 27, that the president plans to make a public case this week for his strategy for dealing with the looming fiscal cliff, traveling to the Philadelphia suburbs Friday as he pressures Republicans to allow tax increases on the wealthy while extending tax cuts for families earning $250,000 or less. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(AP) ? President Barack Obama plans to make a public case this week for his strategy for dealing with the looming fiscal cliff, traveling to the Philadelphia suburbs Friday as he pressures Republicans to allow tax increases on the wealthy while extending tax cuts for families earning $250,000 or less.

The White House said Tuesday that the president intends to hold a series of events to build support for his approach to avoid across-the-board tax increases and steep spending cuts in defense and domestic programs. Obama will meet with small business owners at the White House on Tuesday and with middle-class families on Wednesday.

The president's visit to a small business in Hatfield, Pa., that makes parts for a construction toy company will cap a week of public outreach as the White House and congressional leaders negotiate a way to avoid the tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. The trip will mark Obama's first public event outside the nation's capital since winning re-election.

Both sides warn the so-called "fiscal cliff" could harm the nation's economic recovery, but an agreement still appears far from assured. The White House and congressional Republicans have differed on whether to raise revenue through higher tax rates or by closing tax loopholes and deductions.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has pushed for raising additional revenue through the reducing of tax loopholes instead of raising tax rates on wealthy Americans. The White House has countered that the president will not sign legislation that extends current tax rates for the top 2 percent of income earners, or those households with incomes over $250,000.

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, a conservative Republican who opposes Obama's plan to increase taxes on the wealthy, said that while a presidential visit to his state "is always welcome," he remains staunchly against Obama's strategy for avoiding the fiscal cliff crunch.

"The president seems absolutely determined to inflict a tax increase on the American people," Toomey told CNN on Tuesday. He said Obama and congressional Democrats must come up with cuts in entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Obama, only weeks after winning re-election, has signaled his intention to rally the public to pressure Congress to support his agenda, an approach that helped him win passage of a payroll tax cut extension and prevented interest rates on millions of federal student loans from doubling last summer.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in an email to supporters after the election that the president's volunteer base was crucial to his re-election but said it was not aimed "just to win a campaign. We have more progress to make, and there's only one way to do it: together."

Following the election, Obama aides asked supporters to record YouTube videos discussing the need to have the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes. Some of the people who shared their stories on YouTube planned to join Obama at the White House on Wednesday.

On Friday, Obama will tour and deliver remarks at The Rodon Group manufacturing facility in Hatfield, Pa., offering the company up as an example of a business that depends on middle-class consumers during the holiday season. The company manufactures parts for K'NEX Brands, a construction toy company whose products include Tinkertoy, K'NEX Building Sets and Angry Birds Building Sets.

Congressional Republicans, led by Boehner, have expressed openness to discussing additional revenue but oppose any plan that raises tax rates on the wealthy. They argue that the higher rates would also hurt some small businesses and hinder economic growth.

Republicans have called for changes to the tax code to eliminate tax breaks and loopholes that primarily benefit the wealthy. Several key Republican lawmakers have also said they would not be bound by a no-tax-increase pledge that they have adhered to in the past.

Boehner and GOP leaders planned to meet Wednesday with members of a bipartisan coalition of former members of Congress and business leaders that has advocated cuts in spending in major health care programs as well as changes in the tax code to raise more money but also to lower rates.

Associated Press


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Monday, November 26, 2012

Minus the Bear: Get Me Naked 2: The Electric Boogaloo

This Thanksgiving, I did something a lot of us do on most holidays; I took a long drive. It's always key to have the right soundscape for your holiday travels whether it be podcasts, audiobooks, or music. If you're looking for driving tunes, Minus the Bear's "Get Me Naked 2: The Electric Boogaloo" is up there. More »


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Forex Market Review And News Calendar For November 26 ~ 29 ...

\"ForexAlthough the?week was cut short by the Thanksgiving Holiday with at least 80% of liquidity reduction?by Wednesday,?risk sentiments showed?remarkable improvements as positive developments in Europe, U.S., and the Middle East helped to boost optimism. Market is now pricing in a potential resolution for the fiscal cliff in the U.S, release of the bailout tranche to Greece, and the cease fire agreement between Israel and Hamas to hold?? Towards the end of the week, EURUSD approached the 1.30000 psychological level.

In?Europe, despite of?a sovereign credit downgrade of France, due to?a sustained loss of competitiveness and the failure to tackle structural problems, according to Moody?s, market still remained optimistic for the Euro.? As a matter of fact, French Finance Minister Moscovici claimed that the downgrade?would force leaders to agree to pursue reforms, and that would not necessarily be a bad thing.? Although?the downgrade have already?impacted the rating of the ESM/EFSF bailout facilities, and the EFSF was forced to delay the auction of three-year notes on Tuesday.

In Greece, the negotiations continued on?with final details expected to be negotiated this weekend ahead of another Eurogroup meeting this coming Monday.? This timetable would still allow Greece to receive the anticipated aid tranches in early December.? (Note: Both German and French Finance Ministers commented after the Econfin meeting on the 20th?that a minor technical detail is holding up the negotiation and the tranche of bailout payment should be approved on Monday the 26th.)

In the commodity market,?market focused on the?tension between?Israel?and Hamas as both sides continued launch new offensives.?By mid-week, the new Egyptian President is said to have brokered a cease fire deal?and?energy prices start to drop.? For the week WTI and Brent each finished up more than 1.5%, but well off the Monday highs.

In Japan,?the USD/JPY pair hit fresh 7-month highs?as?a number of factors were responsible for the weaker JPY currency including:?worse than expected Japan merchandise deficit, Japanese LDP opposition election platform, and dealer chatter of M&A flows with rumor that Softbank had started buying USD for acquisition of Sprint with cited.? The JPY was off its worst levels by Friday after LDP opposition leader Abe changed his FX intervention rhetoric that he was not thinking of currency intervention to weaken the JPY currency and wanted the BOJ to address strong yen through monetary policy.

In conclusion, EUR should be a?BUY ON DIPS, especially considering that the market has been very positive for the EURO despite of Moody?s downgrade on France.? As a matter of fact, because of the intentional downplay by the finance ministers last week after the much anticipated Eurogroup meeting on the 20th, I believe there is a very strong possibility that a decision will be reached for Greece on Monday, which means we should see stronger EUR following the decision? EURUSD could retest the 1.3150 level before the end of the week, therefore I recommend to buy on dips.? GBP is also a BUY ON DIPS, with the quarterly Revised GDP scheduled on Tuesday, if we get a even better release, GBP should move up and potentially retest the 1.6300 level by the end of the week.? JPY consolidated a bit on Friday after LDP Abe?s comments on intervention, but JPY should still be a SELL ON RALLY currency, especially when Abe has not changed his stance on depreciating the JPY to inflation.? CAD and AUD should both be?BUY ON DIPS, especially considering that recent IMF report calls for both CAD and AUD as reserve currencies.? CHF should gain following EUR, therefore a BUY ON DIPS; we should see CHF gaining against USD sharply, my view is that we?ll probably see 0.9200 or lower this week.? NZD should be a BUY ON DIPS, considering the risk appetite sentiment that is currently driving the market.? USD is a SELL ON RALLY, considering that there will be plenty of risk appetite events around, USD will probably remain bearish or just neutral.

Here are the tradable releases for the week:

  1. Tue November 27, 2012 ? 4:30am EST ? UK Revised GDP q/q
  2. Wed November 28, 2012 ? 10:00am EST ? US New Home Sales
  3. Thu November 29, 2012 ? 8:30am EST ? US Prelim GDP q/q
  4. Fri November 30, 2012 ? 8:30am EST ? CA GDP m/m






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Guest Blog: Giving Leasing Proper Credit ? Ideas and Information ...

don-vance-135x180Leasing has long been recognized as a smart financial option that can help to maximize cash flow while minimizing investment outlays. ?And indeed, more companies are now acquiring new equipment through leases than through bank loans, according to the Association for Equipment Leasing and Finance. ?Over the last ten years, use of leasing finance options in the U.S. has tripled-and while there was a slowdown in leasing activity in the past two years, a recent lease market study predicted that in 2008, because of tightening credit and cash-flow squeezes, growth in this option will be seen again.

Resorts and clubs are very much a part of this trend, with 73% of properties now reporting in industry surveys that they do some leasing, both in their staff offices (for copiers, computers, phone systems, postage meters, etc.) and elsewhere on their properties (for course maintenance equipment, kitchen equipment, furniture, etc.). ?The top three reasons cited by clubs and resorts for leasing instead of buying are: 1) to have a better ability to manage their property?s growth; 2) to take advantage of the latest technology; and 3) to improve asset management.

Leasing can be an especially good idea for minimizing initial cash investments when starting up a new club; as a manager who?s been involved in several property start-ups myself, I can personally attest to how they were a huge help in getting us up and running and through those first years. ?But I?ve also seen how too many start-up properties can get in over their heads with too many leases. ?It?s sort of like college students who sign up for too many credit cards and then find themselves with so many obligations they can?t even pay off their college loans, let alone their credit debt.

But unlike college kids who are probably charging things they really don?t need and should just find a way to live without them, the challenge for club managers is to find ways to strike a pro per balance of their financing options for all of the equipment that?s needed to run their operations. ?Usually, this comes down to cash flow-related decisions. Here are some of the key factors that, in my experience, have helped me make the best calls on lease- vs.-buy issues:

  • Replacement Costs- When I arrived at my current club, I found that we had lease arrangements set up for all computer printers. While this might make sense for higher-end laser printers, the price of the inkjet printers that are fine for most departments? needs have fallen so low, they?ve also become disposable. ?Why lease these printers, when they can be purchased for a minimal amount of cash?
  • Changing Technology- Equipment that meets your business needs today may be obsolete three years from now. ?Leasing can give you the flexibility to maintain a competitive edge by not only making it easier to start out with today?s best technology, but then also all owing you to upgrade more readily, if the pace of change is such that the equipment soon loses its advantage.
  • Upfront Outlays-Most leases require minimal (if any) down payments, although if you?re with a startup property that hasn?t yet established a credit history, you may find that larger advance costs (or at least an extra month or two?s payments, as deposits) may be involved. ?But generally leases allow you to get immediate use of equipment with minimal upfront costs.
  • Payment Flexibility-The number and variety of payment options that leasing companies now offer make it much easier to find an arrangement that works best for a specific need or budget. ?There are plans for seasonal or ?skip payment? arrangements (good for properties that have significant swings in month-to-month activity); deferred payment plans (which can help hold down costs while you?re ramping up with training and learning how to use new equipment most efficiently and productively); ?step down? and ?step up? programs (to either start out with larger payments and then lower the finance charges over time, or increase payments in step with improved revenues), and many other creative options.
  • Accounting Simplicity-Leasing can eliminate the need for complicated depreciation schedules, because lease payments are generally line-item expenses on your profit and loss statement. ?And, because these payments can often be treated as a pre-tax business expense, you may even reduce your taxes, depending on your club?s status. ?(As always, you should make sure to get your club?s finance and accounting experts involved with each individual lease-vs.-buy decision; this has become even more critical as the options for leasing arrangements have expanded. ?It is also critical to have other sets of expert eyes read the fine print of any leasing contract, to make sure you haven?t missed some hidden traps.)
  • Predictability-Unlike bank lines of credit that usually have variable rates, lease payments are fixed, no matter what happens in the financial markets. ?So if you?re looking to fund equipment over a period when interest rates promise to be volatile, leasing can help lock in some peace of mind. ?Remember the 1980s, when interest rates rose from 9% to over 20% in one year? ?That?s what drove a lot of the growth in the leasing market cited earlier, because no one wanted to go through that again.
  • Cost of Ownership-A variety of tax benefits can often be gained through ?finance to own? leases. ?If your property qualifies (again, this is a call your finance and accounting experts will have to help you make), you may be able to deduct a significant portion of a capital expense in the first year of a lease arrangement. ?Certain types of equipment are especially well-suited to this path to ownership, including golf cars and other vehicles, course aeration, mowing and other maintenance equipment, and other equipment with long ?life expectancies? and an extended projected value to club operations.? (How a lease can qualify to be capitalized in this way is an article in itself-but you should start by becoming familiar with the ?four-point test? that?s involved with the process; if a lease satisfies any one of the four tests, it is automatically classified as a capital lease. ?The tests include Transfer of Ownership; a Bargain Purchase Option (below fair-market value); Lease Terms Above 75% of the Life of the Leased Item; and Greater than 90% Fair- Market Value.)
  • Year-round Efficiency-For properties that acquire equipment at different times throughout the year, leasing can help streamline the process, through Master Lease Lines that can be secured to cover ongoing needs. ?A discounted rate can be earned for all items cove red by the master lease, and there?s only one agreement to sign.
  • Avoiding ?Passing the Hat?-In private clubs, this may be the most compelling factor for taking a longer look at leasing right now. ?Because of what so many clubs are now spending on major renovation projects that are funded through special assessments, it?s certainly not nearly as easy-or advisable-to try to ? tax? membership through capital dues that fund needed equipment acquisitions. ?That often makes leasing more attractive, to help lessen the blow of unexpected expenses, retain more working capital when revenues are low, and keep more cash on hand for future needs.

Lessor Beware

If any or all of these factors lead you to a decision to lease, you still, of course, need to be careful as you proceed with the arrangement. ?Beware of early termination charges, term lease costs, and end-of-lease buyout options. ?In addition, if at the end of your lease the equipment shows more wear and tear than normal, you may be subject to additional fees; many new properties that have leased their initial equipment have found this out the hard way, getting hit with substantial extra charges at the end of the lease because of the added wear and tear caused by heavy construction dirt and grime.

As with all decisions we make as club managers, its best not to be forced by habit or convenience into any specific financing method.? Every property can benefit from using a variety of financing options, so it?s important to stay flexible. ?Yes, it takes more time to look at all of the options-but it can be well worth the effort, to help optimize savings and financial efficiencies for your club.

Don E. Vance, CCM, CPC, Chief Operating Officer/General Manager, Hound Ears Club

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers ? those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what?s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International - Management Resources for Clubs!

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Tags: club operations, leasing


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Sunday, November 25, 2012

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China's Wenzhou unveils reform plans as bad loans climb

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's entrepreneurial hub of Wenzhou has unveiled measures to turn grey-market lending into formal credit to support cash- starved small firms while reducing financial risks, state media reported on Saturday.

Under the plans announced by the municipal government, the wealthy coastal city of Wenzhou, aims to channel private money into local businesses through formal institutions - mainly small credit firms, the official Securities Times said, citing officials.

These credit firms will be allowed to issue bonds via private placements while qualified credit firms could be turned into rural banks, the newspaper quoted Zhang Zhenyu, head of the municipal government's finance office, as saying.

Wenzhou, in eastern Zhejiang province, is known throughout China as a Mecca for private entrepreneurship and grey-market lending.

A string of bankruptcies last year - which spawned suicides and disappearances by entrepreneurs unable to repay high-interest loans - prompted a visit by Premier Wen Jiabao and a decision to bring underground financing out of the shadows.

In March, China's cabinet approved the launch of a financial reform pilot project in the city, which it hoped to replicate across the country later to tame the underground lending market where interest rates can reach 100 percent.

Several Wenzhou-based companies have submitted applications to national regulators to set up rural banks, trusts as well as insurance and securities firms, the Securities Times said.

The city will also develop specialized asset management companies and provide support for major projects through asset securitization and bill issuance.

"(But) regulator departments will be very strict in approving new financial institutions. The financial reform won't be done overnight," the newspaper quoted Zhang as saying.

The city will publish an index to track changes in local borrowing costs as early as this month, Zhang said.

Some 30 small loan firms have already registered with the government since March, with total registered capital of more than 8 billion yuan ($1.28 billion), according to state media.

A surge in bad loans in Wenzhou has highlighted difficulties facing the free wheeling city, as private firms cannot get enough loans from state-owned banks while exporters are struggling to cope with weak demand and soaring wages.

The average non-performing loan ratio at banks in Wenzhou reached 3 percent by the end of August - the highest level in at least a decade, according to local media.

Wenzhou is awaiting cabinet approval to allow the city's residents to make direct overseas investments in yuan, the newspaper quoted Wu Guolian, head of the local branch of the People's Bank of China, as saying. Such a move would be a big step towards liberalizing capital account transactions.

China's premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang said this week that the country must embrace market-based reforms to help sustain economic growth.

($1 = 6.2285 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Kevin Yao; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)



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Puro Desert Lounge Volume 3 (Compiled By Ben Sowton) (2012)

Label: Seamless Recordings
Release Date: 2012
Genre: Downtempo, Lounge, ChillOut
Quality: 320 KBPS
Tracks: 27
Size: 710 MB

PREVIEW | ?????????????????


01. Recuerdo - Rarotango
02. So Far Away - Justin Le Mar
03. Haze - Ranu Raraku
04. A Baia - Frontera feat.. Sophie Barker
05. Breathe - Bliss
06. Sirenas - Alacran
07. L'Incontro - Bunkerstudio
08. Trust Me - Bunkerstudio
09. Island Of Deceased Ships - Koan
10. Unconscious Reality - Forest Effects
11. Soi'nam - David Clavijo
12. The Perfect Stranger - Lauge & Baba Gnohm
13. Souk Rok - Ranu Raraku
14. Dunia - Bliss
15. Drawning (Original Mix) - Sydney & Klod Rights
16. Suntan Warriorz (Groove Cocktail Mix) - Budai & Vic
17. Furthest Drive Home (Martin Brodin Mix) - Sebastian Davidson
18. Deep Touch (Original Mix) - Groove Cocktail
19. Change (Bring It) (Word Of Mouth Mix) - Beaten Soul & Keith Thompson
20. My Destination (Dave Mayer Mix) - Justin Michael & Phonic Funk feat.. Maiya
21. Haze (Original Mix) - ken fan
22. Shameless (Mark Lowry Mix) - Karol XVII & Mb Valence
23. Morning Mist (Original Mix) - Paronator
24. Nightbird (Paronator Mix) - Sebastian Davidson
25. Deep Shit (Original Mix) - Martin Brodin
26. Puro Desert Lounge Vol.3, Mixed by Ben Sowton (Continuous Mix) - Ben Sowton
27. Puro Desert Lounge Vol.3, Mixed by Niko Bellotto (Continuous Mix) - Niko Bellotto

:: MP3 DOWNLOAD LINKS :: ??????? MP3 ::


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Castles, Towns, Lands, and Locations

Game of Kings: Succession

The old King of Renova has died, leaving no heirs to the throne. The nobility gathers in the capital for a Witan, a gathering of nobles. But with the nobility is divided and many seek greater power, conflict is inevitable for Renova.


Game Masters:

This topic is an Out Of Character part of the roleplay, ?Game of Kings: Succession?. Anything posted here will also show up there.

Topic Tags:

Forum for completely Out of Character (OOC) discussion, based around whatever is happening In Character (IC). Discuss plans, storylines, and events; Recruit for your roleplaying game, or find a GM for your playergroup.
This is where lands and cities will be posted, mostly by nobles who own such estates, castles, etc. For now, here's Aurora:



The jewel of the Kingdom, located just thirty miles upriver and surrounded by the River Danu on one side and Moin, Aurora has great white walls and gleaming towers with the outer wall enclosing the farmland just outside the city. A trade center and formidable fortress, this city has never fallen to an attacker. It is rumored to be impossible to take by force of arms. It is here the nobility gather for a Witan to elect a new king or queen.

Aurora is a center of trade and learning as well as political and economical power. The Auroran Cathedral is here as is the dwelling place of the Grand Cleric . Towering far above the city is the Palace of the King where the King or Queen holds court and where nobles tend to congregate and stay at while they are in the capital. It boasts a large army and a dock along both rivers for ships traveling inland and out to sea.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

VA Home Loan Applications and the Holiday Shopping Season | VA ...

VA Home Loan Applications and the Holiday Shopping Season

Today is Black Friday, the biggest retail shopping day of the year and a time when many find incredible bargains at their favorite shops. With people camping out in advance of the post-Turkey Day shopping spree, and many getting their credit cards ready for a big round of holiday gift-buying, it?s sometimes difficult to slow down during Black Friday until all the bargains have been exhausted.

But if you?re considering applying for a VA home loan in the near future, you may wish to rethink your holiday shopping season plans. Borrowers who aren?t sure about their debt-to-income ratio need to be wary of running up large amounts of credit card debt in the six to 12 months leading up to a VA home loan application. If your debt-to-income ratio is too high, it could put your VA home loan at risk.

The holiday shopping season is ?safer? for those who know?and are comfortable with?their debt to income ratio as it applies to a VA home loan. If you have not done the numbers, consider the following information from on the subject:

?Add up the total mortgage payment (principal and interest, escrow deposits for taxes,? hazard insurance, homeowners? dues, etc.) and all recurring? monthly revolving and installment debt (car loans, personal loans, student loans, credit? cards, etc.). Then, take that amount and divide it by the gross monthly income.?

What is the maximum a borrower can have in the debt-to-ratio department??41%.? continues, ?In the event the number exceeds the 41%, the VA? has a residual income guideline which can allow approval, yet are not considered a?compensating factor.?

It?s always a good idea to be more conservative with credit card spending in the year leading up to a VA mortgage loan application, especially during the holiday season. Don?t let credit card debt stand in the way of home loan approval?check your debt to income ratio!

Do you have questions about VA home loans? Ask us in the comments section.

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About Joe Wallace

Joe Wallace has been specializing in military and personal finance topics since 1995. His work has appeared on Air Force Television News, The Pentagon Channel, ABC and a variety of print and online publications. He is a 13-year Air Force veteran and a member of the Air Force Public Affairs Alumni Association.


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