Experts stress debt reduction before retirement

Experts stress debt reduction before retirementAs the value of investment portfolios has shrunk during the financial crisis, many Americans who are nearing their retirement age may benefit from the tips provided by veteran financial advisors.

Scott Hanson and Pat McClain have more than 20 years of experience working with employees of telecommunications and utilities companies, and they say many people are reexamining their priorities these days.

"Some are intentionally choosing to simplify – to live in smaller homes, collect less stuff and drive smaller, more fuel-efficient cars," says Hanson.

"As a financial advisor, I’m pleased to see this trend," he adds.

They further stress the importance of trying to eliminate as much debt as possible, especially when approaching retirement age.

A competent advisor is also important, especially one that can offer a holistic approach to creating a sound financial and investment plan.

"Clients and their financial needs come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s essential that they receive customized advice," says McClain, adding, "one-size-fits-all may be okay for some things, but it’s a seriously flawed approach to financial planning."

The two experts add that the trend towards staying on the job past the retirement age is only partially motivated by financial reasons. Just as important is the growing desire to remain active, productive and contributing members of society.


ATF: Obama breaks another campaign promise

Obama breaks another campaign promise, says ATF The anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform (ATF) has said that by placing a new tariff on tire imports from China, President Obama has broken his campaign pledge not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $250,000 a year.

It also alleged that bowing to pressure from labor unions, the president has put additional burden on already cash-strapped American families.

Grover Norquist, president of ATF, says a tariff is a tax on consumers. "This decision will drive up the cost of tires, increasing the economic burden on families already struggling with the high cost of transportation," he stresses.

The organization adds that because the tariffs will be applied to low-end tires (costing $50-$60), low-income families and individuals will be the most affected.

Last week, President Obama authorized a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tire imports in an effort to stem a surge of foreign-made tires on the U.S. market, which some have said cost 7,000 jobs here in America, according to Asia Times.

United Steelworkers president Leo W. Gerard praised the decision saying the president has "made [it] clear that he will enforce America’s trade laws and stand with American workers."

However, the move attracted criticism from free-trade and free-market supporters who expressed concerns it could spark a trade war of retaliatory tariffs and spur a protectionist trend in U.S. trade policy.

A Golden Role Reversal

Sometimes, things aren’t what they seem on the surface.

Case in point: Pundits have been making a lot of hay recently over gold’s apparent role-switch. Instead of rising on bad economic news and acting as a safe haven, the metal has been falling. And instead of falling when the economic picture brightens, it’s been rising.

Of course, gold’s fortunes are tied to the U.S. dollar, which remains (at least for now) the reigning king of fiat currencies. But the dollar has also apparently reversed roles.

So what’s going on here? Have gold bugs entered some sort of Bizarro world where down is up, up is down and they need to start hoping for a rip-roaring economy instead of a fiscal catastrophe?

Good News Is Golden

When you dig just beneath the surface of the recent headlines, data points and trend lines, you see that things aren’t quite as confusing or misplaced as some might imagine.

Bottom line: The investing world is currently divided between those who think another economic crisis lies ahead and those who feel that “happy days are here again”… or at least will be soon.

So, follow the logic: Negative economic data raises the specter of another economic nosedive toward deflation. In that scenario, investors are assuming the U.S. dollar would rise in value as the prices of everything else fall. The dollar would also function, as we saw at the depths of last year’s credit crisis, as a safe haven investment, and would accordingly benefit from this demand.

Of course, gold could also do well in a deflation. In the Great Depression, for example, gold and gold stocks were about the best investments you could make (if you had any money left), because gold was also the official U.S. currency at the beginning of the downturn. And later, when the gold standard was abandoned by FDR, that decision was accompanied by a dramatic devaluation of the dollar and upward valuation of gold.

But forget about this for now. Few investors today realize that gold can do well in a deflation, and the rest wouldn’t believe it if you told them. So this doesn’t currently factor into the decision-making of the investing public at large.

Now let’s look at the other side of the coin. Positive economic data points toward a recovery, which in turn means an unlocking of the U.S. credit market.

As you know, the supply of U.S. dollars has been expanded—by trillions of greenbacks—thanks to the various bailouts, Federal debt issuances and monetization, corporate and mortgage debt buy-backs and other assorted efforts to liquefy the U.S. economy. But relatively little of this new currency has been put to use: Monetary velocity—money at work in transactions—has remained moribund.

Think of it this way: A veritable ocean of fiat notes has been amassed, but this flood of money remains trapped behind a dam. Banks are risk-averse and reluctant to lend. Consumers are concerned that unemployment is still high and are reluctant to spend.

But if things start to look up, as they appear to be doing now, the dam holding back this ocean of money will burst.

That means inflation… which means a lower dollar and higher gold prices.

And here’s another way to think of it: We may be seeing only a tiny spark of life in the economy. But if that spark is enough to rekindle risk-taking by lenders and consumers it will be as if a bucket of gasoline is being thrown upon the budding flame.

And then, at some point, we’ll see the stimulus spending finally hitting the economy. As with nearly all government meddling in the free market, it will hit at the worst time… and throw more gasoline on the fire.

Keep in mind that I’m not predicting either the positive or negative scenario in the discussion above; I’m only explaining the thought process of the market right now.

So what do I think? Frankly, I’m worried about the next couple of months, as the stock market is discounting much better economic performance than we’re going to see anytime soon. It might not be pricing in “perfection,” but it’s definitely pricing in “pretty damn good.”

The slightest hiccup in the recovery will send the longs running for the exits, eager to capture whatever profits they’ve amassed on paper. This would likely precipitate a very significant sell-off in the U.S. and global stock markets.

That prospect aside, I do think that an economic recovery is beginning to take hold, both in the U.S. and in the economies of our major trading partners.

As you know, I noted last month in the article Gold Quietly Marshalling Strength that the recession here was technically ending, although there would be considerable economic pain still ahead.

So it appears we’re going to dance along a razor’s edge for the next couple of months.

Study: Compounds in fruit seeds may protect against food-borne diseases

Compounds in fruit seeds may protect against food-borne diseases, study saysThere may soon be a reason to recycle mango seeds as new research suggests they contain compounds that may turn them into a natural food preservative and become a new resource in the fight to prevent deadly food infections.

The work was conducted by a graduate student working on her thesis in agricultural, food and nutritional science at the University of Alberta in Canada. She discovered that tannins – which are compounds extracted from fruit kernels, including mango and grapes – have inhibitory effects against various strains of bacteria such as Listeria.

The latter causes Listeriosis, a potentially deadly digestive system disease, which was responsible for the deaths of 21 people in Canada last year when it was found in some packaged meats.

Christina Engles, the researcher in the study, says that in addition to discovering a natural way of preventing food-born illnesses her work also has a commercial dimension since by processing the kernels to extract tannins businesses will be able to utilize all fruit parts and therefore increase their profits.

The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Obama to Wall Street: ‘Do not block regulation’

Obama to Wall Street: 'Do not block regulation'In a speech delivered in New York on Monday, and coinciding with the first anniversary of the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers, President Obama said regulation was urgently needed and he cautioned financial industry representatives not to try to block it.

Obama also struck a warning tone when he exhorted bankers from using the recovery to engage in "reckless behavior" that could lead to another financial meltdown, saying taxpayers were getting tired of bailouts.

"It is neither right nor responsible after you’ve recovered with the help of your government to shirk your obligation to the goal of wider recovery, a more stable system and a more broadly shared prosperity," Obama said, quoted by the Associated Press.

The president wants the financial sector reform bill ready by the end of the year, but industry groups as well as some Republicans have expressed worry about what regulation might bring.

"We must be wary of the reality that – in an attempt to address yesterday’s failures – Congress will put in place regulatory schemes which will fundamentally undermine risk taking," says Senator Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican.

The collapse of Lehman Brothers was the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history and sent shockwaves through the financial system. It subsequently transpired that a number of financial organizations, including Citibank, Merrill Lynch and AIG, were on the brink of bankruptcy due to their exposure to the subprime mortgage market.

Ultimately, several rounds of multimillion dollar bailouts saved them from following in Lehman’s footsteps, but did not prevent the economy from falling into a deep recession.

Research sheds light on benefits of selenium

Research sheds light on benefits of selenium The molecular basis of the metabolism of selenium – a trace element that is key to human health – has been discovered and detailed in a new article.

The study described in a recent issue of the journal Science explains selenium is believed to offer protection from conditions such as mood swings, cardiovascular disease, viral infections and cancer.

Researchers from Yale University and University of Illinois at Chicago have shown how selenocysteine – the most bioactive metabolite of selenium – is created on a super-sized tRNA molecule. The other 20 amino acids and their associated tRNAs use the same protein vehicle for transport to the ribosome, but selenocystine appears to have its own large tRNA that does so.

Michael Bender of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences says the compound is a critical component of enzymes involved in a number of physiological and pathological processes.

"This study could ultimately have an impact on many aspects of human health, including the immune response, neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease and cancer," he stresses.

The study may prompt some people to complement their diet with selenium supplements.

Research uncovers rejuvenating properties of white tea

Research uncovers rejuvenating properties of white tea Tea lovers may be happy to learn that their favorite drink has just been found to be like a fountain of youth.

According to researchers, white tea may offer significant protection from an array of health and aging problems, from lowering the risk of cancer to preventing wrinkles.

In particular, a team of British scientists and natural health experts tested 21 plant and herb extracts for their medicinal properties and found that white tea consistently outperformed them all. They explain the effects are mainly due to high levels of antioxidants as well as compounds that block the enzymes which breakdown elastin and collagen in the skin which can lead to wrinkles.

Professor Declan Naughton, from the School of Life Sciences at Kingston University in the UK, says there are indicators white tea reduces the risk of inflammation which is a factor in aging as well as a characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers.

Those looking for ways to preserve a youthful appearance and maintain good health can find an array of remedies in natural health stores, including bladderwrack as well as supplements containing extracts of cleavers, rose, green tea, angelica, anise and pomegranate.

Survival plan should include finances, experts say

Survival plan should include finances, experts say According to the American Financial Services Association Education Foundation (AFSAEF), readying one’s finances for emergencies such as natural disasters is a critical yet often-overlooked part of the preparation process.

It says that next to stacking up on non-perishable food, water, batteries and charged mobile phones, care should be taken to put all important papers, including insurance policies, checking and savings account information and backups of computer files, in a safe location that is likely to withstand damage.

"Taking time to collect financial information before a disaster strikes can save precious time in the aftermath of one," says Susie Irvine, president and CEO of AFSAEF.

"The more information you have about your finances – including contact phone numbers – the more likely you will get help promptly," she adds.

AFSAEF further say that setting aside money in a checking or savings account for easy withdrawal in an emergency can also save valuable time.

In the aftermath of floods, hurricanes and other disasters, insurance and other type of financial fraud frequently proliferates, so care should be taken to research companies offering help before assistance is accepted.

AFSAEF is based in Washington, DC and provides tips on responsible money management. It is affiliated with the American Financial Services Association, the national trade association for the consumer credit industry.

The Atlantic hurricane season lasts through November 1.

Despite massive deficit, earmarks increase in 2009

Despite massive deficit, earmarks increase in 2009 Media reports suggest excessive government spending has not ended with the bailouts of financial companies and the stimulus bill, as estimates suggests earmarks have grown from last year.

The fiscal year ends on September 30, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing for appropriations bills to be passed and signed into law on time, something which has not happened since the mid-1990s.

At the same time, it has transpired that in addition to the $787 billion stimulus package and the $410 billion omnibus spending bill passed earlier this year, total earmarks have increased from $18.3 billion in 2008 to $19.9 billion in 2009, according to

Earmarks are spending measures inserted into appropriations bills at the request of individual lawmakers and typically benefit projects in their home states. They are, according to Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, "part and parcel of the pay-to-play system that permeates Washington."

Democrats in both Houses are among those who have pushed for most pork barrel spending this fiscal year, with Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia leading the pack at $349.6 million (95 earmarks) and Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania who has won 46 of them at the cost to taxpayers of $120.5 million, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Meanwhile, a recent White House budget office estimate put the federal deficit at $9 trillion for the 2010-2019 time period.

FAIR insists Obama misleading public on healthcare

FAIR insists Obama misleading public on healthcare Despite the fallout from Representative Joe Wilson’s outburst, in which he accused President Obama of lying on the healthcare issue, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) says there is evidence the government is not truthful about publicly-funded healthcare for illegal immigrants.

The organization says the proposed House bill known as America’s Affordable Health Care Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200) would allow illegal aliens to be covered by a government-run public option and would include no verification provisions to prevent them from receiving subsidies to purchase private insurance.

To support its claims, FAIR cites the study conducted by non-partisan Congressional Research Service entitled Treatment of Noncitizens in H.R. 3200 which concluded that the bill does not contain restrictions on noncitizens participating in the health insurance exchange, a scheme which would allow participants to enroll in a government-run program.

"There is no reason why the controversy over whether illegal aliens will be eligible for massive health care subsidies should persist," says Dan Stein, president of FAIR.

"[Its] authors can easily remove the ambiguities from the House bill, and Senate leaders can include specific language barring illegal aliens from all nonemergency benefits in the bill that is being written in that chamber," he adds.

Study stresses benefits of repealing estate tax

Study stresses benefits of repealing estate taxOpponents of estate tax may have received new ammunition with the publication of a study which says the provision’s repeal will contribute to economic growth and enhance government revenue.

The work is detailed in the report published jointly by the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Business Foundation and suggests eliminating the tax could create more than 1.5 million jobs.

"[Estate tax] kills jobs, family prosperity and necessary federal revenues," says FRC president Tony Perkins.

"It is regressive, punitive taxation at its worst, and shows how Washington’s impulse to redistribute wealth only produces less growth and greater economic inequity," he adds.

The study stresses the tax affects mainly small businesses, which it calls America’s "main economic engine," responsible for creating 60 to 80 percent of new jobs in the last decade. It estimates that raising the rate to 55 percent with only a $1 million exemption would eliminate 500,000 jobs.

The estate tax is imposed on the transfer of the taxable estate of a deceased person, and according to the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the applicable exemption increases to $3.5 million in 2009, the tax will be repealed in 2010, but in 2011 it is scheduled to return with the exemption of only $1 million.

In speech to Congress Obama touts ‘cost saving’ public option

In speech to Congress Obama touts 'cost saving' public option In an eagerly awaited speech delivered before Congress on Wednesday, President Obama failed to rule out a government-run health insurance option as part of healthcare reform.

With the public growing increasingly skeptical about his plans to overhaul the ailing healthcare system, the President appeared in front of lawmakers to restate his case and reconfirm his administration’s commitment to ensuring that Americans will no longer have to fear bankruptcy caused by medical bills.

Stressing the U.S. is the only wealthy democracy that "allows such hardships for millions of its people," Obama sought to convince his listeners that his proposals would reduce costs, expand coverage, improve care and regulate the insurance market so that sick people are no longer denied coverage.

At the same time, he pledged he will not sign any bill that would increase the deficit, saying his proposal would cost $900 billion over 10 years.

Obama further warned special interests that he will not tolerate "the same old tactics," designed to block the reform.

"If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out," he stressed, adding, "I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now."

The Republican response to the speech came from Representative Charles Boustany of Louisiana who criticized Obama for pushing an expansive package that fails to benefit families and small businesses. He also expressed his party’s disappointment with the President’s unwillingness to drop the public option idea, according to


U.S. pensions inch higher in August

U.S. pensions inch higher in August As global stock markets have rallied in recent weeks, the funding status of the typical U.S. corporate pension plan has increased, according to an asset management company.

The estimates from The Bank of New York Mellon Asset Management suggest that the funding of the typical plan improved by 0.5 percentage points to 79.7 percent at end of August, up from 79.2 percent at the end of July.

"Six straight months of improving stock markets have bolstered the assets of these plans, which is good news given the corresponding decline in Aa corporate bond yields," says Peter Austin, executive director of BNY Mellon Pension Services.

He further added that the stabilization of the markets combined with attractive corporate bond nominal yields have resulted in greater demand for high quality bonds, much of it generated by corporate pension plan sponsors seeking to better manage risk and reduce volatility.

The report also found that assets for the typical moderate risk portfolio increased 2.7 percent during the month, while the liabilities rose by only 2.1 percent. For the year through August 31, the funding ratio for the typical plan was up 5.8 percentage points.

The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation is a financial services company operating in 34 countries. It has $20.2 trillion in assets under custody and administration, $928 billion in assets under management, services more than $11 trillion in outstanding debt and processes global payments averaging $1.8 trillion per day.

Emigrate to Canada & Beyond, and Leave U.S. Taxes Behind

More years ago than I care to recall, I graduated from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. (and GU Law too).

One of my SFS classmates from Canada told a memorable story about how his grandfather was constantly troubled about the possibility that “the Yanks were coming.” This elder Canadian, steeped in colonial history, was convinced that someday those ornery Americans would storm north across the border and invade again.

Well, in truth, a small number of Americans have headed north across that 5,525-mile long United States-Canadian border, famously styled as “the longest undefended border in the world.”

The objective of this migration is not to conquer, but to become Canadian citizens—and thereby reduce the American migrant’s U.S. taxes to zero.

Canada is not an offshore tax haven. Commonwealth and provincial taxes are relatively high. Except in specific programs designed to entice new immigrants to come to Canada (more on that below), there are few tax breaks for foreigners. However, little-known Canadian trust and tax laws, when properly employed, offer Americans a legal way to forever end the obligation to pay U.S. taxes—by becoming Canadians.


This unusual tax freedom is accomplished by a process known as “expatriation” in which a U.S. person voluntarily ends U.S. citizenship. That may seem extreme, but it can be done legally and consistent with U.S. and Canadian law—with the right expert professional legal and tax advisors.

American tax laws require “U.S. persons”—citizens or resident aliens—to pay income taxes on earnings from any source anywhere in the world no matter where they live. Unlike most other countries with “territorial” tax systems, a U.S. person can’t escape taxes by moving offshore.

By contrast, most other countries tax only the people who actually live within their borders. Canada for example, does impose taxes on the worldwide income of residents. But if a Canadian moves out of Canada and establishes a new residence in another country, the legal duty to pay Canadian taxes ends with few exceptions. This feature of Canadian tax law is an important part of our tax-saving expatriation plan.

Tax-Free New Residents

However tough taxes may be for the average Canadian, wealthy immigrants can take advantage of tax-free loopholes available only to them. Here are some of the options for high net worth immigrants who come to Canada:

1) A qualified immigrant accepted for eventual Canadian citizenship is eligible for a complete personal income tax moratorium for the first five calendar years of residence in Canada. They pay no taxes if the source of their income is a previously existing offshore, non-Canadian trust, (known as an “immigrant trust”) or an offshore corporation.

Because the high establishment and administrative costs of such a trust, it generally is best suited for immigrants who have at least $1 million or more in assets that can be placed in the offshore immigrant trust.

2) After living five years tax-free in Canada as a new citizen, the new Canadian can move his or her residence (and tax domicile) to another country, preferably a tax haven, and afterwards pay taxes only on income earned or paid from within Canada. They pay no taxes on their worldwide income. (There is a Canadian “departure” tax to be paid after filing a notice of intent to live abroad. There is no way of determining the exact rate of this tax since various types of property are taxed at differing rates.)

3) Canadian citizens and resident aliens employed by certain “international financial centers” are forgiven 50 percent of all income taxes.

4) Canada has abolished all national death (estate) taxes (but the provinces do have such taxes).

Investors Welcome

Canadian law favors a specific class of preferred immigrants including investors, entrepreneurs, the self-employed and those who will add to the “cultural and artistic life” of the nation. With minor variations in each of the provinces, investor immigrants generally must have a net worth in excess of C$500,000 (US$443,000) and be willing to invest at least C$250,000 (US$222,000) in a Canadian business for a minimum three- to five-year period. Purchase of a residence usually does not qualify as an investment, although it may if you work from home.

American Tax Burden

While most foreigners can relocate to a tax haven as a legal way to avoid home country income taxes, U.S. persons cannot. The only way a U.S. person can escape taxes is to end U.S. citizenship and residency—but only after acquiring a new citizenship from another country, another important step in the expatriation process. (No one wants to be the man or woman without a country!)

Let me assure doubters that, yes, this is legal. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Americans’ right to acquire another citizenship, to end their U.S. citizenship and to expatriate.

Likely Candidates

Q: Which Americans should consider expatriation?

A: Those concerned with high taxes. Without good estate planning, U.S. death taxes can take up to 55 percent of your assets from your heirs when you pass away—and that final tax insult comes after a working lifetime of paying up to 40 percent of your earnings in federal income taxes every year. Add in state and local income and sales taxes and you stand to lose in taxes well over half your earnings during your lifetime—and your heirs lose another half of what’s left at death.

The potential emigrant from America eventually must surrender U.S. citizenship in order to end U.S. tax obligations. But be aware of the new (2008) U.S. “exit tax” now in effect. If you qualify as what the law calls a “covered person” the exit tax may outweigh any benefit to be gained by immigration to Canada.

A Potential Savings of Millions of Dollars

There you have it. It may seem a difficult road to travel, but becoming a Canadian citizen investor can save a U.S. citizen millions of dollars that would otherwise go directly to the Internal Revenue Service.

Yes, these savings are predicated on major changes—including surrender of your U.S. citizenship. You must move yourself, your family and your business to Canada and possibly to another country later on. Despite these drawbacks, the true bottom line measured in dollar savings can be enormous.

–By Robert E. Bauman JD

Obama advisor resigns after alleging conspiracy

Obama advisor resigns after alleging conspiracy President Obama’s key environmental advisor has resigned after a petition he signed that suggested the 9/11 attacks were conducted with the knowledge of the previous administration was revealed online by bloggers.

At the heart of the controversy is a 2004 petition Van Jones signed which called for an investigation into whether government officials deliberately allowed the attacks to occur as a pretext of war. The petition can still be found on the internet, and Jones has distanced himself from it.

Jones, a close Obama aide and friend, was a member of the Council on Environmental Quality whose job it is to help implement the government’s agenda of creating millions of green jobs. His resignation was announced over the weekend, with the administration insisting Jones was not fired, but made the decision himself.

However, Jones appeared to lay the blame squarely on the Republicans saying in a statement that "on the eve of historic fights for healthcare and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me," adding, "they are using lies and distortions to distract and divide."

Meanwhile, his departure was welcomed by Republicans with Representative Mike Pence of Indiana saying, "[such] extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration."

The development has also prompted critics to call for more careful vetting of the people appointed to the so-called "czar" positions within the administration.

Study analyzes retirement fund’s response to financial crisis

Study analyzes retirement fund's response to financial crisis A new survey has looked at how corporate pension funds have adjusted their investment programs in response to the economic downturn, including reducing their equity allocations and replacing fund managers.

The work was conducted by the consultancy Watson Wyatt, and found that 67 percent of companies have made or are planning to make changes to their defined benefit plan asset allocations in 2009 and 2010.

The senior-level financial executives from the organizations included in the poll estimate their average target equity allocations will decrease to 47.8 percent, which represents a drop of almost 10 percent from last year. The survey also found that nearly 73 percent of companies have hired or fired managers since June 2008.

"Given the current market, finding solutions to reduce exposure to risk and improve overall investment performance is critical," says Carl Hess, global director of investment consulting at Watson Wyatt.

"While some employers may be limited by the steps they can take, most should be able to find ways to better manage their risks, optimize returns and improve their overall governance strategies," he adds.

The survey also found that employers have made significant changes to their defined contribution plans, with 45 percent planning to add new U.S. equity funds to their lineup, and 62 percent dropping an existing U.S. equity fund this year or next.


Allergies threaten overweight kids more, researchers say

Allergies threaten overweight kids more, researchers say The list of reasons why parents may want to turn off the computer and send their kids outdoors has just grown longer, as a new study found obese youngsters are at a greater risk for developing allergies than their leaner peers.

The research conducted by experts from the National Institutes of Health examined data on more than 4,000 children aged 2 to 19 and analyzed their allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) or antibody levels developed in response to a range of indoor, outdoor and food allergens.

Overweight children, they found, were about 26 percent more likely to have high IgE levels and therefore develop allergies than those with normal weight.

Dr. Linda Birnbaum, NIEHS director, says the possible link between obesity and allergies should provide additional motivation for parents and teachers to undertake the challenge of reducing childhood obesity.

There are many natural approaches to losing weight, including physical exercise and a diet low in refined sugars and rich in fish, fresh fruit and vegetables as well as nutritional supplements with vitamin D that has been shown to help prevent obesity.

Fire emergency survival tips

Fire emergency survival tips As wildfires are raging in California it may be useful to keep some survival tips in mind, as fire is a type of emergency that can happen anywhere and anytime.

As with most emergencies, prevention is the best way to start. While some types of fire disasters may be better prevented by smoke detectors than others, it is always a good idea to install one at home as they have helped prevent loss of life. Installing fire extinguishers is also good practice.

Each household should have a fire emergency plan and conduct periodic drills to keep the escape plan fresh in mind. All members should know how to use fire extinguishers, know their way out of the house, have emergency phone numbers and working cell phones handy, and know where to meet afterward.

The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) says that during a fire emergency, it is important to crawl low in smoke towards the nearest exit covering the mouth with a cloth and once outside never go back. Moreover, tall buildings should be evacuated via stairs not elevators, which can act as chimneys during fire.

When smoke is spotted, OEM says, it is crucial to leave the property first and then dial 911 as most people die from smoke inhalation and not from flames.

As many fires start in the kitchen, the source also suggests keeping combustible items away from the cooking area, and never pour water on grease fires. Rather, use a fire extinguisher or put a lid over the burning pan.

Those who live in areas prone to wildfires should take care to landscape the grounds properly and fireproof all buildings.


Study says citrus fruit ingredient may prevent metabolic syndrome

Study says citrus fruit ingredient may prevent metabolic syndrome According to new research, a compound called naringenin, which is a flavonoid found in citrus fruit, may become a valuable tool in the fight to prevent the onset of metabolic syndrome.

The condition is a combination of medical disorders, such as insulin resistance, that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

Researchers at the Robarts Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario studied the impact of naringenin supplements and found that they lowered triglyceride and cholesterol levels, and normalized glucose metabolism in animal models.

Murray Huff, director of the Vascular Biology Research Group at Robarts, says the research is unique in that the mice in the supplementation group and in the control group ate exactly the same amount of food and the same amount of fat.

"There was no suppression of appetite or decreased food intake, which are often the basis of strategies to reduce weight gain," he adds.

While grapefruits are a good source of naringenin, the researchers say the amount of the citrus-derived flavonoid needed to produce the desired results is higher than what can be obtained from dietary sources and additional supplementation may be necessary.

The findings were published online in the journal Diabetes.

The Lifeboat Strategy: Legally Protecting Wealth and Privacy in the 21st Century By Mark Nestmann

Identity theft, a falling dollar, rising inflation and an intrusive, over-reaching government are among the topics dominating the headlines these days. And they are frightening headlines, especially for those who aren’t prepared to protect themselves.

But Mark Nestmann’s The Lifeboat Strategy: Legally Protecting Wealth and Privacy in the 21st Century can give you the information you need and the steps to follow to help you to deal with today’s legal, economic and political uncertainties.

Nestmann is not just an author writing about a subject he has researched. As president of The Nestmann Group, Ltd., an international consultancy, he assists individuals in achieving their wealth preservation and privacy goals.

He also writes extensively about the subject. He serves as Tax and Asset Protection editor for The Sovereign Society, and he has authored other books and publications as well. Additionally, Nestmann is a graduate of Denison University and holds a LL.M. (Master of Laws) in international tax law from the Vienna University School of Economics and Business Administration in Austria.

The Lifeboat Strategy is laid out in such a way as to make it easy to read from beginning to end, or to find specific sections that deal with the subject of most concern. First written in 2003, the book has been updated several times, most recently for 2009.

Nestmann begins the book with a short “yes or no” quiz to give the reader an idea of his vulnerability to invasion of privacy. From there he explains the threats to wealth and privacy and how to overcome them both in the U.S. and abroad.

Did you know that your car and your cell phone are spying on you all the time? They are. And Nestmann explains how it works and what it means. Have you heard of biometric surveillance? It involves the use of fingerprints and DNA profiling to link people to crimes, and Nestmann tells how the government is compiling a vast database and how courts have upheld compulsory DNA profiling of certain convicted felons. Civil liberties experts believe such court decisions can be a precedent that allows the government to collect DNA samples from everyone.

What about Internet privacy? Recently the government has come under fire over a website encouraging people to report what it perceived as disinformation on government policies, and over information gathered through the “Cash for Clunkers” program via the computers of auto dealers. But those threats, though real, only scratch the surface of the Big Brother government’s intrusion into the lives of its citizens via the Internet.

The USA Patriot Act, passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, is used by the government to invade the privacy of America’s own citizens. Nestmann explains the act and how it permits the government to confiscate property without proof of wrongdoing.

Nestmann also provides background on the many laws passed and court rulings handed down that have eroded the right to privacy American citizens think they enjoy.

Interested in obtaining an alternative citizenship and passport? Nestmann explains how it can be done legally. He also explains how to choose the best countries to store your assets and hide them from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Additionally, Nestmann covers such things as:

  • Twenty types of public records that can be used to steal your identity
  • The 10 worst electronic eavesdropping threats
  • Do you fit the definition of a "terrorist?" You may if you are a member of any of these organizations
  • Are you a "racketeer?" If you’ve ever made this simple mistake, you might be
  • Six legitimate ways individuals use offshore centers
  • What to do if police want to search you, your vehicle or your home
  • How to avoid looking like a "money launderer"
  • Fourteen ways to preserve postal privacy
  • Six tactics for private phone service
  • Eight ways to achieve "residential anonymity"
  • Twenty-two tactics to audit-proof your tax return
  • Ten tips for private banking
  • Six gold and silver investments you can buy and sell privately
  • Nine hiding places for your valuables
  • An ideal business for privacy seekers
  • Nineteen ways trusts protect privacy and wealth
  • Using corporations, limited liability companies and other business entities
  • Three types of international bank accounts—which one is right for you?
  • An anonymous safety deposit box
  • How to move money privately
  • How to invest your IRA or pension internationally

Thinking people are becoming increasingly aware of how their privacy wall is being chipped away in favor of Big Brother. This book will help you to understand all the threats you face and what you can do about them.

This book is a must have for every privacy- and liberty-minded individual.