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Wikileaks cable disclosure shows Arab fears of Iranian ambitions

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sunday night’s release of leaked United States diplomatic cables shows widespread concern in the Arab world over Iran’s ambitions to build a “Persian Empire in the 21st Century”.

Wikileaks, so far, have released under 300 of the quarter million plus diplomatic communications posted to them on a memory stick. The small sample shows, over several months, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Bahrain asserting that further sanctions against Iran will likely have no effect.

Early November last year, General David Petraeus discussed the situation with King Hamad of Bahrain, who argued for the use of force to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions; stating: “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”

In that meeting concern was expressed that more Arab involvement in Iraq was needed to frustrate Iranian plans. Petraeus was told Bahrain sought Egyptians and Saudis support, but talks with the latter revealed no interest in taking a leading rôle.

The King did welcome the prospect of India becoming involved in the region as a stabilising influence.

A mid-December meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE and US Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman saw the subject brought up again. In a discussion that touched on the two countries renewable energy plans, and reliable movement of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, the Prince asserted Iran saw itself as spearheading a campaign for a “Persian Empire in the 21st Century.” Alleging Iran has established “emirates” in Kuwait, Bahrain, Eastern Saudi Arabia, Southern Iraq, Yemen, and South Lebanon, his picture of Iranian nuclear ambitions is “Al-Qaeda is not going to get a nuclear bomb; Iran is a matter of time.”File:Iran strait of hormuz 2004.jpg

The Prince was keen to stress that those in power are the same people who, in 1979, seized the US embassy in Tehran.

Subsequent talks between a congressional appropriations sub-committee and UAE’s Foreign Minister were the scene of equally serious predictions. The sub-committee, consisting of Nita Lowey, Tom Cole, Barbara Lee, and Donna Edwards, heard from Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan that if Iran became a nuclear state the rest of the region would likely follow suit.

Plans to keep the fifteen-millions-plus barrels of oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz each day moving were discussed. Whilst keen to weaken Iranian ties with China, Sheikh Abdullah stressed the US$50 billion in trade between the two; this being considered an obstacle to China backing, and enforcing, a stronger sanctions regime.

The sub-committee’s Emirates host, like many in the region, stated progress on the Israeli peace process was a good route to de-escalation.

A meeting in February this year with Kuwaiti Interior Minister Jaber Al-Khaled Al Sabah was the scene of comparable warnings. Alongside discussions on travel restrictions to be enforced against former Guantanamo Bay detainees, he described Iran as the “beating heart” of Islamic Extremism.

Concerns over Iran’s involvement in Yemen were discussed, with the minister saying Iran is intent on exporting its revolution; that its nuclear ambitions can only be thwarted by force.

Updating the US on perceived Iranian actions, he claimed they were attempting to infiltrate Egypt by recruiting the poor. And, they were becoming involved in the drugs trade, shipping narcotics into Yemen to fund militants.

The cable on the Kuwait meeting closes referring recipients to a wiki page: http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Kuwait. Wikinews has been informed this is a page on the US intelligence community’s Intellipedia; an internally-maintained project, based on the same technology as Wikipedia, and intended for use in building intelligence dossiers on countries, regions, their politicians, diplomats, plus political and terrorist groups.

A cable originating in London from January this year is corroborated by later U.S. news reports; hinting that the Iranian government may indeed be using tactics more reminiscent of the cold-war.

In the opening weeks of the year, London-based Voice of America commentator Ali Reza Nourizadeh was advised that Mohammed Reza Sadeqinia intended to target him for assassination, along with others. Sadeqinia was previously arrested in California, and prosecuted for attempting to hire a hit man. The target at that time was reported to be Iranian-American broadcaster Jamshid Sharmahd, one of the main figures behind Tondar — a loose collection of in-exile Iranians opposed to the current regime.

Tehran insists Tondar is a terrorist organisation, accusing it of being responsible for a 2008 bombing that killed 14.

Sadeqinia, who worked as a painter in Ann Arbour, was arrested on July 28, 2009 near Los Angeles International Airport in possession of thousands of dollars and an Iranian passport. FBI investigations into his possible Iranian government ties were still ongoing a month before his scheduled release in July this year.

Found guilty by Los Angeles Superior Court of attempting to hire someone to murder Sharmahd, he had been expected to spend around a year in jail. Tondar spokesman Iman Afar, in the lead up to Sedeqina’s release, expressed concern for his own safety and that of others in the L.A. area.

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Facelift Alternative Treatments

Facelift Alternative Treatments

by

Anna Woodward

As people age their skin naturally loses its elasticity and firmness. This loss results in fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes, across the forehead, and around the mouth and nose. Historically the solution has been to have one of the several varieties of surgical interventions that are called a facelift. There is only so much surgery a person can have and as skin loses its ability to hold its shape it also begins to scar more easily and this can make operations more conspicuous. On the other hand there are several non-surgical forms of facelift available.

The most popular form of non-surgical facelift is called a Botox injection. In fact Botox is the most popular cosmetic procedure of all time. Using an incredibly diluted solution of botulinum toxin the doctor inserts some into the muscles of the forehead and face. This solution temporarily paralyzes the facial muscles and smoothes the skin. The results typically last from between three and six months and the results are fairly stunning.

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It is also possible to continue having these procedures consecutively with little ill effect reported. That being said it is critical to only have this treatment administered by a doctor or other medical professional. Some beauty spas are offering Botox injections but because of the serious danger of botulinum toxin it is highly recommended that you only have this done by a professional.

Another popular alternative to facelift is called dermabrasion. This uses a variety of mediums to remove the outer layers of skin. It is used to remove scars and tattoos but also has been found to be successful in removing fine lines of the face. It also is successful in removing sun-damaged skin to reveal new and younger skin beneath. It usually takes awhile for the skin to regrow and during that time there is a fair amount of redness and dryness that has been reported. Wearing a moisturizer and avoiding harsh sun has been shown to help reduce this discomfort.

A new and exciting alternative is called fractional laser treatment. This laser creates a number of controlled wounds on the face. These in turn begin producing new cells to heal themselves and it results in filling in of wrinkles and fine lines. It also stimulates the skin in a way that causes it to tighten and smooth over. The real beauty of this type of treatment is that there are almost no side effects. It is minimally invasive and the healing time is very short compared to microdermabrasion. Additionally the results seem to last for several months to a year.

Whether you opt to get a facelift or one of these alternative cosmetic procedures there is undoubtedly a treatment that can help you look as young as you feel.

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As increase in digital music sales slows, record labels look to new ways to make money

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Every September, the Apple iPod is redesigned. Last year saw the release of the iPod Nano 5th generation, bringing a video camera and a large range of colours to the Nano for the first time. But as Apple again prepares to unveil a redesigned product, the company has released their quarterly sales figures—and revealed that they have sold only 9m iPods for the quarter to June—the lowest number of sales since 2006, leading industry anylists to ponder whether the world’s most successful music device is in decline.

Such a drop in sales is not a problem for Apple, since the iPhone 4 and the iPad are selling in high numbers. But the number of people buying digital music players are concerning the music industry. Charles Arthur, technology editor of The Guardian, wrote that the decline in sales of MP3 players was a “problem” for record companies, saying that “digital music sales are only growing as fast as those of Apple’s devices – and as the stand-alone digital music player starts to die off, people may lose interest in buying songs from digital stores. The music industry had looked to the iPod to drive people to buy music in download form, whether from Apple’s iTunes music store, eMusic, Napster or from newer competitors such as Amazon.”

Mark Mulligan, a music and digital media analyst at Forrester Research, said in an interview that “at a time where we’re asking if digital is a replacement for the CD, as the CD was for vinyl, we should be starting to see a hockey-stick growth in download sales. Instead, we’re seeing a curve resembling that of a niche technology.” Alex Jacob, a spokesperson for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which represents the worldwide music industry, agreed that there had been a fall in digital sales of music. “The digital download market is still growing,” they said. “But the percentage is less than a few years ago, though it’s now coming from a higher base.” Figures released earlier this year, Arthur wrote, “show that while CD sales fell by 12.7%, losing $1.6bn (£1bn)in value, digital downloads only grew by 9.2%, gaining less than $400m in value.”

Expectations that CDs would, in time, become extinct, replaced by digital downloads, have not come to light, Jacob confirmed. “Across the board, in terms of growth, digital isn’t making up for the fall in CD sales, though it is in certain countries, including the UK,” he said. Anylising the situation, Arthur suggested that “as iPod sales slow, digital music sales, which have been yoked to the device, are likely to slow too. The iPod has been the key driver: the IFPI’s figures show no appreciable digital download sales until 2004, the year Apple launched its iTunes music store internationally (it launched it in the US in April 2003). Since then, international digital music sales have climbed steadily, exactly in line with the total sales of iPods and iPhones.”

Nick Farrell, a TechEYE journalist, stated that the reason for the decline in music sales could be attributed to record companies’ continued reliance on Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, saying that they had considered him the “industry’s saviour”, and by having this mindset had forgotten “that the iPod is only for those who want their music on the run. What they should have been doing is working out how to get high quality music onto other formats, perhaps even HiFi before the iPlod fad died out.”

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When Jobs negotiated a deal with record labels to ensure every track was sold for 99 cents, they considered this unimportant—the iPod was not a major source of revenue for the company. However, near the end of 2004, there was a boom in sales of the iPod, and the iTunes store suddenly began raking in more and more money. The record companies were irritated, now wanting to charge different amounts for old and new songs, and popular and less popular songs. “But there was no alternative outlet with which to threaten Apple, which gained an effective monopoly over the digital music player market, achieving a share of more than 70%” wrote Arthur. Some did attempt to challenge the iTunes store, but still none have succeeded. “Apple is now the largest single retailer of music in the US by volume, with a 25% share.”

The iTunes store now sells television shows and films, and the company has recently launced iBooks, a new e-book store. The App Store is hugely successful, with Apple earning $410m in two years soley from Apps, sales of which they get 30%. In two years, 5bn apps have been downloaded—while in seven years, 10bn songs have been purchased. Mulligan thinks that there is a reason for this—the quality of apps simply does not match up to a piece of music. “You can download a song from iTunes to your iPhone or iPad, but at the moment music in that form doesn’t play to the strengths of the device. Just playing a track isn’t enough.”

Adam Liversage, a spokesperson of the British Phonographic Industry, which represents the major UK record labels, notes that the rise of streaming services such as Spotify may be a culprit in the fall in music sales. Revenues from such companies added up to $800m in 2009. Arthur feels that “again, it doesn’t make up for the fall in CD sales, but increasingly it looks like nothing ever will; that the record business’s richest years are behind it. Yet there are still rays of hope. If Apple – and every other mobile phone maker – are moving to an app-based economy, where you pay to download games or timetables, why shouldn’t recording artists do the same?”

Well, apparently they are. British singer Peter Gabriel has released a ‘Full Moon Club’ app, which is updated every month with a new song. Arthur also notes that “the Canadian rock band Rush has an app, and the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, led by Trent Reznor – who has been critical of the music industry for bureaucracy and inertia – released the band’s first app in April 2009.” It is thought that such a system will be an effective method to reduce online piracy—”apps tend to be tied to a particular handset or buyer, making them more difficult to pirate than a CD”, he says—and in the music industry, piracy is a very big problem. In 2008, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry estimated that 95% of downloads were illegitimate. If musicians can increase sales and decrease piracy, Robert says, it can only be a good thing.

“It’s early days for apps in the music business, but we are seeing labels and artists experimenting with it,” Jacob said. “You could see that apps could have a premium offering, or behind-the-scenes footage, or special offers on tickets. But I think it’s a bit premature to predict the death of the album.” Robert concluded by saying that it could be “premature to predict the death of the iPod just yet too – but it’s unlikely that even Steve Jobs will be able to produce anything that will revive it. And that means that little more than five years after the music industry thought it had found a saviour in the little device, it is having to look around again for a new stepping stone to growth – if, that is, one exists.”

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Two children killed in fire in Derbyshire, England; man arrested

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Two children were killed in a “suspicious” house fire in Buxton, Derbyshire, England, on Friday evening. Police arrested a 17 year old in the early hours of Saturday morning.

During the fire, which occurred in the town of Buxton at approximately 2245 UTC on Friday, 23-year-old Fiona Adams and an eight-month-old baby successfully escaped through a first floor window, jumping down onto a child’s trampoline. Both mother and child are currently in a hospital, having suffered from severe burns. The two children killed have been identified as five-year-old Niamh and two-year-old Cayden.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill stated that police attended the house, following reports of nuisance and noise in the garden. Nothing was found, and the area has now been cordoned off as investigations continue. Cotterill said that incident had been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and that “[s]omeone on the estate may well know any particular intelligence that we’re after, or information which may assist us in this case. And I would offer for them to come forward to us in full confidence.”

Flowers and teddy bears have now been placed at the house where the fire occurred, with one tribute reading: “Sleep with the angels little darlings. God bless.” Karen Jackson, a resident of one of the nearby houses, spoke out about the family. “They were brilliant, a lovely family,” she commented. “Everyone liked them, everyone. They didn’t have any enemies. It’s heartbreaking, I’m still in shock now. I just feel numb.”

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Food with cancer-causing dye recalled in Britain

Saturday, April 30, 2005

The British Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced a recall of foods containing banned dyes which increase the risk of cancer. The food products were sold at the Tesco, Waitrose, and Somerfield supermarkets.

A Bristol company called “Barts Spices” found the illegal Para Red substance in their Barts Ground Paprika, which was sold in 48g and 46g jars with a “Co-op” label. The batch codes on the affected products are 5032 and 5089 (expiration Dec 2007), and 5075 (expiration February 2007).

Tesco also found that their 130g package of BBQ rice cakes (expiration November and December 2005) contained both Para Red and Sudan I.

“It would be very prudent to assume that it could be a genotoxic carcinogen,” FSA scientific advisers told reporters.

“As a company committed to supplying only the very finest quality food ingredients, we took the immediate decision to withdraw our ground paprika spice from all outlets selling the product and advertised a product recall in the national press,” a Barts Spices spokesman said in a statement.

Sudan I is only authorized for industrial use to colorize petroleum products, such as shoe polish. Para Red and Sudan I are banned under the British Colours in Food Regulations of 1995.

Britain last went through a major food recall in February, when Worcester Sauce was found to contain chili powder dyed with Sudan 1.

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What Do I Need To Know Before Buying A Business In Florida

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What due diligence should I doThe primary goal of business due diligence is to test the veracity of the representations of the seller. The due diligence that you can do before buying a Florida business can include reviews of the internal financial operations, online business health, and verification of assets.Your due diligence may also include, investigating the community where the business operates and customer demographics. In addition to business lawyers, financial professionals like CPAs together with valuation experts and business brokers can provide good assistance and guidance in determining the health of a business.Should I buy the company or just its assetsFor an existing business, you can buy the entity or some or all of its assets. Buying the entire business is accomplished by purchasing the ownership interest that is usually documented in a stock purchase agreement. Technically only corporations have stock, but LLC membership interests are often called stock in common parlance.When you buy the stock, you get the whole business including its assets, liabilities, and even licenses. In my experience, stock purchase transactions have been commonly used in recent years with drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. This structure lends itself well to these businesses because of the licenses that transfer to the purchaser.In other situations, particularly where liability avoidance is the primary goal, it may make more sense to buy only the assets of an existing business. This is accomplished through an asset purchase agreement. In that transaction, it is important to specifically identify the assets being purchased and sold to avoid confusion. There may also be transfers for certain assets that may need to be documented such as a title transfer for a motor vehicle or deed to real estate. This further highlights the importance of due diligence to identify and value the assets.In either a stock purchase or asset purchase transaction, it is the important to have experienced corporate counsel. Due diligence should also be done.Can I totally rely on the representations of the sellerPurchasers are entitled to rely on certain representations of the seller. Florida law, however, has grown increasingly complex as to whether such reliance is justified and proper. Also, a significant factor is the degree to which any representation impacted the ability of a buyer to verify information.Relying entirely on representations of the business without performing any independent verification may place the buyer in a precarious position later. The buyer may also incur substantial litigation expenses that might have avoided.Business purchasers who fail to conduct any pre-purchase investigation or due diligence essentially fail to plan and consequently have a plan to fail. Upon identifying a purchase opportunity a better initial approach is to retain qualified experts to help you in the due diligence process. A good business lawyer will identify the representations for you to focus on to avoid problems later.How should I document my due diligenceIt is important from the beginning to maintain clear records. Recording any representations by the seller that induce the purchase are very important to document. What you need to know is that Florida law distinguishes between representations that are opinions from those that are material but are false or fraudulent.In certain situations, you simply may not be able to uncover any deception through due diligence. The seller may just disguise the true facts too well. If it later becomes necessary to sue the seller over the representations, proper and thorough documentation from early in the process will greatly aid in presenting a full and complete picture to a judge or jury. Your experienced business attorney can provide guidance on how to document those representations.It is also equally important to clearly document the closing. By so doing, the parties can have a clear understanding of the scope of the transfer. It also makes it easier to enforce any rights post-closing. Properly defining the assets of an asset purchase transaction closes avoids post-closing confusion and disputes. Having an experienced business lawyer at your side throughout the process increases the chance of a trouble-free transaction.

Time Warner/Comcast bid to snap up Adelphia cable service

April 9, 2005

A bid topping $17.7 billion was jointly proffered by Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corporation on Thursday to buy beleaguered Adelphia Communications Corporation in an industry consolidation move. Adelphia is the fifth largest cable service provider in the United States with nearly 5 million subscribers.

The market-share grabbing bid trumps the previous Cablevision offer of $16.5 billion. The bid is under scrutiny by the presiding judge over the Adelphia’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, and must also be approved by the company’s creditors owed in the range of $20 million.

The acquisition race to gain dominance in the cable service provider market is driven by the high cost of installation and maintenance of cable lines. Fiber optic networks deliver traditional entertainment programming over a cable wire and is becoming increasingly popular for broadband internet content. The growing trust and recognition of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) suggests phone service subscribers will eventually migrate to cable voice communication as opposed to keeping with traditional copper land lines. Telephone company operators are scrambling to keep up.

The largest percentage of the bid would be put up by Time Warner (TW), who could gain by getting subscribers from the valuable Los Angeles market currently owned by Comcast and Adelphia. TW can also simultaneously divest itself of a stake owned by Comcast in TW by making a tax-free swap using some of the newly garnered Adelphia subscribers.

While the consolidation would likely get a look by the government with an eye towards a growing monopoly in the market, it would doubtfully be blocked considering the existence of competing technologies. Competition exists in the form of still numerous television by airwaves usage, satellite providers, radio content companies, and telecom providers.

Adelphia suffered a corporate scandal in 1992 with similarities to the WorldCom fall. Members of the Rigas family, founders of the company, were alleged to have siphoned off millions of dollars and hidden $2.3 billion leading to the bankruptcy filing. John Rigas and son Timothy were convicted July of 2004 and await sentencing.

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Bank of America leads Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaints about mortgages

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A review this week by Wikinews of US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) complaints about mortgages in the United States shows Bank of America leads all lending institutions in complaints.

Since mortgages complaints were recorded in December 2011, 77,622 total have been added to CFPB’s database. 29.2% of these complaints involved Bank of America, with the second most received by Wells Fargo, accounting for 15.5% of all complaints. JPMorgan Chase ranked third by volume of complaints with 9.8%. Ocwen was fourth with 8.7% and Citibank was fifth with 4.8%. Nationstar Mortgage; Green Tree Servicing, LLC; HSBC; PNC Bank; U.S. Bancorp; OneWest Bank; SunTrust Bank; Flagstar Bank; and Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. each had between 1.0 and 3.8% of total complaints. The remaining 14.4% of all complaints about consumer mortgages were divided between about 530 other lending institutions.

The Motley Fool reported last month that for the past fiscal quarter, the biggest US based mortgage lenders were from first to fifth Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Quicken Loans and U.S. Bancorp.

According to the US Federal Reserve, debt for family residences stands at US$10.706 trillion for the second quarter of 2013. As of the end of June of this year, Bank of America is the United States’s second largest commercial bank with US$1.343 trillion in domestic assets. Wells Fargo is the fourth largest commercial bank with US$1.251 trillion in domestic assets. JPMorgan Chase is the largest US commercial bank with US$1.329 trillion in domestic assets and US$1.947 trillion in total assets.

The mortgage complaints in the CFPB report include several subproducts. Conventional fixed mortgages account for 27.1% of all complaints. Conventional adjustable mortgages account for 10.0%. FHA mortgages account for 7.7% of all complaints. Home equity loans or lines of credit account for 3.8% of all complaints. VA mortgages are 1.4% of all complaints. Second mortgages and reverse mortgages each account for 0.6% of complaints. The remaining 48.7% of complaints are about other mortgages or other mortgage issues. A few years ago, FHA loans accounted for about 10% of all US mortgages while VA loans accounted for about 3%. Prime loans accounted for over 75% of the market and the rest were subprime mortgages.

California leads all states by volume of complaints with 14768. It is followed by Florida, New York, Georgia and Texas. When complaints are divided by a state’s total population, New Hampshire leads. The state is followed by Washington D.C., Maryland, Georgia and Florida. Complaints do not correlate with national rankings for August’s foreclosure rate by state where Nevada topped the list, followed by Florida, Ohio, Maryland and Delaware.

Two zip codes account for over 1,000 total complaints between them. 565 complaints originated in the 48382 zip code, which is in Commerce Township, Michigan, located in suburban Detroit. 553 complaints originated in the 33071 zip code, in Coral Springs, Florida. According to real estate website Zillow, there are currently 1,033 properties in foreclosure in Coral Springs while Commerce Township only has 131 properties currently in foreclosure. Four other zip codes have 100 plus complaints originating from them. 91730, in Rancho Cucamonga, California, had 158 complaints. 33409, in West Palm Beach, Florida, had 132. 92626, in Costa Mesa, California, had 125 complaints. 92660, in Newport Beach, California, had 122 complaints. Respectively, the towns had 534, 1,068, 153, and 134 properties currently in foreclosure. These numbers are higher than for the cities of a few sampled zip codes where there was only one complaint, such as Gold Hill, Oregon which has 4 properties in foreclosure, and Decatur, Illinois which has 6 properties in foreclosure.

The CFPB categorizes complaints into six categories: “Loan modification, collection,foreclosure” or problems when a person is unable to pay; “Loan servicing, payments, escrow account” or problems with making a payment; “Application, originator, mortgage broker”; “Credit decision / Underwriting”; “Settlement process and costs”, and “Other”. The CFPB says the complaint types indicate consumers “appear to be driven by a desire to seek agreement with their companies on foreclosure alternatives. The complaints indicate that consumer confusion persists around the process and requirements for obtaining loan modifications and refinancing, especially regarding document submission timeframes, payment trial periods, allocation of payments, treatment of income in eligibility calculations, and credit bureau reporting during the evaluation period.” Currently, 59.6% of all complaints against lenders deal with being unable to pay. 25.1% deal with problems in making a payment. 7.0% have to do with the application process.

Of the complaint-heavy zip codes, for 48382 in Commerce Township, Michigan, 98.9% of all complaints have to deal with being unable to pay. Accounting for 23.4% of all mortgage complaints in Commerce Township, 132 of the complaints for being unable to pay were made regarding Bank of America, accounting for 97.8% or all but 3 complaints against them from the zip. 121 of the Bank of America responses in Commerce Township were closed with explanation and 12 were closed with non-monetary relief. 33071 in Coral Springs is different, with 537 of the 553 complaints being categorized under other. Only 11 complaints relate to foreclosure and issues with being able to pay. 92626 in Costa Mesa, where 32% of the mortgage complaints were about Bank of America and 26.4% were about Wells Fargo, had 93.6% of its complaints dealing with being unable to pay. 5 total complaints dealt with payment issues and 3 dealt with applications.

Beyond regional variance in complaint types lodged, the top five mortgage lenders by volume of complaints all had being unable to pay as their top complaint category, ranging between 55.8% for Citibank and 69.4% for Bank of America. Problems with payment accounted for the second largest area of complaints, with Ocwen having the largest percentage of complaints at 31.9% and Bank of America having the smallest at 18.8%. Foreclosure was the top area of complaints for a number of other lending institutions including 1st Alliance Lending, OneWest Bank, Ally Bank, Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, Bank of the West, BMO Harris, BOK Financial Corp, Caliber Home Loans, Inc, Capital One, Deutsche Bank and EverBank.

Nationally, complaints reached a high of 5,840 for January 2013, 1,107 more than the next highest month of April 2013. The total emerging for September is the second lowest since records were first kept in December 2011. On a state by state level, this pattern largely repeats with a major exception for Florida which saw a peak of 849 complaints in June 2012. Then, as now, Florida was one of the top five states in the nation in its foreclosure rate. The national January spike came as the Qualified Mortgage standard required by the The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 came into play. It required mortgage lenders to take steps to insure borrowers could repay their mortgages.

Bank of America’s complaint volume follows the national trend, with a spike in January 2013 with 1,925 total complaints. Unlike nationally, the next month by volume of complaints was February of this year with 1,598 complaints. Prior to that, the highest month was May 2012 with 1,418 complaints. The lowest volume of complaints is September this year with 334.

Wells Fargo matched national trends for volume of complaints by month, with the exception of the current month being the lowest on record for number of complaints with 197 compared to the next lowest month, December 2011, when they had 221. JPMorgan’s complaint volume by month spiked in January and March of this year with 504 complaints. April of this year was the next highest month with 493 complaints, edging out May of last year with 488 complaints. September this year is on track to be the lowest month by complaint volume.

The federal government shutdown is unlikely to impact the current mortgage situation in the United States directly for most consumers, though mortgage processing by the Federal Housing Administration could be slower, resulting in fewer mortgages processed.

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The History Of Family Offices Through The Ages

The History of Family Offices – Through the Ages

by

Stuart MitchellMW

Having briefly described the incarnations that family offices in the present can take, the second installment of the article looks at how we have arrived at these business models through centuries of evolution.

Ancient History

The concepts behind family offices have developed independently across the world, especially in Asia where there was a strong tradition of family dynasties in countries such as China and Japan. These dynasties required the means to preserve their legacies and power and significant facet of that would have revolved around their wealth. Some of the earliest incarnations of family office-type teams can be traced to these roots, with evidence of people being employed to preserve the wealth and welfare, for example, of the Shang dynasty in China as long ago as the 17th century BC.

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Early European History

In Europe, the idea of a family office can trace its financial history back to the inception of the concept of banking for the sake of sustaining and preserving wealth; in contrast to money lending. One of the earliest examples of this practice can be attributed to the age of the crusades when a need arose to place wealth in trust whilst noblemen were away fighting in foreign lands. The demand for trusts to conserve wealth remained throughout the many conflicts that affected the continent down the subsequent centuries.

Generally speaking, family office-type and trust services were provided by traditional banking operators such as the Jewish communities, the protestant Swiss and Scottish bankers. However, prominent, sometimes ruling, European families from the middle ages – those that we now think of as dynasties like the Medicis of Florence and, more latterly, the Rothschilds family who spread across western Europe – also created their own banks and would have provided similarly styled services, They would have managed wealth creation on behalf of their own families but then, in turn, would have also offered services to the other prominent families of the time; effectively acting as forerunners of what we would now think of as private banks or specialist banking for HNWs. The lines for such families would no doubt have been very blurred, between entities that we would class as family offices and their banking services – because the family wealth would have been inextricably tied up with their banking activities. The families who were creating these early banks, and providing financing for others, were also likely to be those with the wealth to warrant a need for family office-style services.

Away from the financial management, land owners, from the middle ages onwards, also employed people to run their estate and the workers who would have toiled on their lands and serve the family in their day to day lives. Through the feudal systems of medieval Europe (for example, after the Norman invasion in England), ownership of land became focused within the minority nobility who in turn could give access to that land to vassals in exchange for their loyalty and labour. These labourers evolved through time, beyond the breakdown of feudalism, into teams of land workers and servants. These workers were free citizens and simply employed by the wealthy land owners to maintain the estate – lands and properties. The concept of these servant classes arguably reached its zenith in the Victorian era but as relative wealth declined the larger teams became the preserve of the ultra-wealthy only, creating the footprint for family offices.

Modern US History

The modern European incarnations of family offices in particular can therefore trace their lineage back to the medieval estate managers and family banks (indeed for those looking for a family office london is still a centre for the industry) but the modern concept is also heavily influenced by the resurgence of family offices as financial management organisations in the US. In fact term itself, Family Office originates from modern US usage.

The American resurgence occurred at the end of the 19th century and start of 20th when private offices were established by wealthy US families in response to a lack of third party financial services, such as private banks, which targeted ultra-HNW individuals. The banks were prohibited by US legislation from offering joined-up services and so it was left to teams of advisors and other financial firms, such as accountants and legal partnerships, to provide the services associated with family offices, often creating family trusts in the process.

The specialist companies that started to appear focused on managing the financial elements of multiple wealthy families in contrast to the in-house offices that had existed before and that were previously popular across the pond. Latterly, relaxation in the US laws has allowed for the integration of family office services back into private banks.

© Stuart Mitchell 2012

If you want to find out more about financial or estate management services for ultra-high net worth families then you can visit Family Office London.

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ArticleRich.com

Bangladesh security tightened following Pilkhana massacre and Bashundhara City fire

Friday, March 20, 2009

Following the Pilkhana massacre which occurred February 25 and 26 leaving 74 dead and the inferno at the Bashundhara City shopping mall complex March 13 leaving seven dead, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said security measures are being tightened countrywide across Bangladesh.

Fire drills will be enacted at all key-point installations (KPI). Fire fighting systems will be examined by the fire brigade and the public works department (PWD) to ensure functionality. Security measures will be enhanced supplementing areas under private security such as at the Bashundhara City Complex.

The Fire Service and Civil Defence Department requires modernization and needs new equipment to fight fires past the sixth floor of buildings. The Fire Brigade says it needs turntable ladders, snorkels, foam-tenders, lighting units, emergency tenders, fireproof uniforms, and rescue ropes for fire fighting and rescue operations. Transportation to fires is also an issue due to narrow roads, low electrical wires and congestion.

The Bangladesh National Building Code requires fire fighting equipment installed in buildings over seven floors. This code is to be monitored by authorities to ensure compliance with the new guidelines and to make sure buildings are being maintained.

The Bashundhara City Complex opened Monday for shoppers two days after Friday’s blaze. A probe is underway to determine the cause of the fire and to assess structural damage.

Loss of life was minimized as the blaze broke out on a Friday, the beginning of the weekend in Bangladesh, so offices in the upper floors were empty. The lower eight floors are used for shopping and the upper floors are all Bashundhara Group offices.

The mall is valued at Tk 7.0 billion (US$100 million). It is not known if the complex is covered by fire insurance.

It is estimated that it will take over two years to rebuild the area damaged by flames which were burned down to a skeleton. Bashundhara City’s technical advisor, Latifur Rahman, estimated damages at Tk 2.0 billion (US$29m).

Only one television cameraman has been allowed in to film the burnt area. None of the 2,500 shops, cinemas or cafes were burnt by the inferno. The seventh and eighth floors still experience smoke damage, and there was water damage to merchandise.

A three member committee is currently investigating the cause of the fire which will consist of Iqbal Khan Chowdhury, joint secretary of the ministry, representatives of the police, IGP Noor Muhammad, and fire brigade, Director General Abu Nayeem Md Shahidullah. The committee is required to report within the week with their findings. The forensics department is also sifting through the burnt remains.

The Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries has also formed a committee which has begun interviewing witnesses and recording their testimony alongside the government committee.

It has been discovered that 150 closed circuit cameras were not being used when the fire started. Another mystery is why the mall fire fighting system has been found unused.

Why the fire burnt so fiercely is a matter to think….These matters seem to be mysterious

“In the shopping mall there is an ultra-technology elevator which runs even without electricity but we have found that locked,” Iqbal Khan Chowdhury, joint secretary (Police) of the home ministry, said. “Why the fire burnt so fiercely is a matter to think. We have to see if there was any incendiary substance there. These matters seem to be mysterious.”

Mall management has been asked to submit substances and items which would have been in the upper floors when the fire started. The fire erupted on the 17th floor and spread quickly to the two floors above and engulfed the three floors below. The aerial ladders belonging to the Fire Service and Civil Defence reached as high as the 13th floor of the 21-storey building.

Videos have been sent to the United States (US) for examination to assist in determining the cause of the fire and to help in the damage assessment. Experts from the US are expected to arrive soon.

Firefighters were brought to the rooftop of the 20-storey tower by helicopter. The only fatality in this operation was Baki Billa, a firefighter of Bashundhara City firefighting department, who fell when climbing down a rope from a helicopter to the roof of the building. Three other firefighters made the transition safely. At this same time, the chief security officer was safely rescued by the Bangladesh Air Force helicopter, a Bell 212. Six security officers of the complex also lost their lives.

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