News Blog by pdrbt
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created on 01/16/2007  |
CAIRO, Egypt - Osama bin Laden will release a new video in the coming days ahead of the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in what would be the first new images of the terror mastermind in nearly three years, al-Qaida's media arm announced Thursday. Analysts noted that al-Qaida tends to mark the Sept. 11 anniversary with a slew of messages, and the Department of Homeland Security said it had no credible information warning of an imminent threat to the United States. Still, bin Laden's appearance would be significant. The al-Qaida leader has not appeared in new video footage since October 2004, and he has not put out a new audiotape in more than a year, his longest period without a message. One difference in his appearance was immediately obvious. The announcement had a still photo from the coming video, showing bin Laden addressing the camera, his beard fully black. In his past videos, bin Laden's beard was almost entirely gray with dark streaks. Bin Laden's beard appears to have been dyed, a popular practice among Arab leaders, said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, a Washington-based group that monitors terror messages. "I think it works for their (al-Qaida's) benefit that he looks young, he looks healthy," Katz said. The announcement and photo appeared in a banner advertisement on an Islamic militant Web site where al-Qaida's media arm, Al-Sahab, frequently posts messages. "Soon, God willing, a videotape from the lion sheik Osama bin Laden, God preserve him," the advertisement read, signed by Al-Sahab. Such announcements are usually put out one to three days before the video is posted on the Web. IntelCenter, which monitors Islamic Web sites and analyzes terror threats, said the video was expected within the next 72 hours, before the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 suicide hijacker attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The anniversary has always been a major media event for al-Qaida — a chance for it to drum up support among extremists, tout itself as the leading militant group and show off its continued survival. "They've always gone out of their way to commemorate it," said Ben Venzke, chief executive officer of IntelCenter, which is based in Alexandria, Va. "Historically the anniversary of 9-11 has never been drawn to attacks. It's drawn to video releases." But the fact that bin Laden is delivering the message is significant, he said. Whether the message will indicate a potential attack will depend on what bin Laden says. Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said he could not confirm the existence of a tape, "and there is no credible information at this time warning of an imminent threat to the homeland." But he said increased activity overseas and recent arrests of militants in Germany reinforce the department's assessment that the country is currently in a period of increased risk. If bin Laden does appear in new footage, it would be the first images of him since an Oct. 29, 2004 videotape, just before the U.S. presidential elections. In that appearance three years ago, he said America could avoid another 9-11 style attack if it stopped threatening Muslims. The new video would also end the longest period bin Laden has gone without releasing a message. His last audiotape was on July 1, 2006, in which he welcomed new leader of al-Qaida in Iraq succeeding the slain Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Bin Laden went silent for a similar long stretch before — from Dec. 28, 2004 to Jan. 19, 2006. That absence sparked widespread speculation he was ill, wounded or possibly dead. There has been little such speculation since then. U.S. officials have repeatedly said over the past year they believe the al-Qaida leader is alive. He is thought to be hiding in the tribal regions of western Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan. During bin Laden's silence, his deputy Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri has been frequently issuing videos and audiotapes. Al-Zawahri appeared in a 2006 video marking the 9-11 anniversary. An anniversary video in 2003 showed footage of bin Laden and al-Zawahri walking through mountain paths, with voice-over messages from both leaders. ___
Office life can have its ups and downs, but having to endure a jerk can make it miserable. Office jerks take on many forms, and thus require creative strategies for dealing with them. Handling Six Common Types The Loud Phone-Talker. "Obviously the first step is to pull them aside quietly and ask them to lower their voice when using the phone," says Julie Jansen, a career coach, consultant, and trainer. "If this doesn't stop them, you could dish out the same treatment and stand near their cube on your cell phone and talk loudly. Or you can hold up a sign that says, 'Please turn volume down.'" The Hang-Arounder. When confronting the co-worker who chronically lingers to chat when you are trying to make a deadline -- a subtle jerk, but a jerk nonetheless -- try standing up when they enter your office or cube. "The unspoken message of your body language will clearly tell him or her to keep it brief and head for the door," says Ken Lloyd, author of "Jerks at Work: How to Deal With People Problems and Problem People." The Idea Stealer. There is a strong possibility that this jerk can't distinguish between a good idea and a bad one. "Somewhere along the way, slip in a really bad idea and let the jerk steal that," Lloyd says. However, beware that this might only encourage the jerk to become worse. The Meeting Monopolizer. Get creative. "Try eliminating the chairs and making it a standup meeting," Lloyd suggests. The monopolizer will likely get thrown off and won't have time to settle into the usual routine of unproductive dominance. The Bully. Remember, you're not in high school anymore. "Hold your ground and refuse to be bullied," says Steve Piazzale, a career and life coach who runs "They'll usually back off over time." The Boss. Sometimes dealing with a jerk should not be your problem, particularly if you have a manager who is a jerk. In this case you might take a look around the company and notice several jerks. "This may be part of the company culture," Piazzale says. "In which case get out!" More General Coping Strategies Passive. Avoidance is the most obvious solution if you don't want a confrontation with any type of office jerk. "You can go to your boss and ask him to intervene," says Jansen. Or, if things are really unbearable, you could ask to be relocated to another part of the office. Active. Avoidance can backfire if the jerk continues the annoying behavior. Try talking to the person. "Difficult people don't always know they're being difficult," Jansen says. "People generally don't have a very high level of self-awareness, so specific and constructive feedback is important." If you must confront a jerk, it is wise to take the high road. Career coach Piazzale says, "Try to understand where the behavior is coming from, and tailor your response to that."
Experts say Mississippians need to skip the gravy, say no to the fried pickles and start taking brisk walks to fight an epidemic of obesity. According to a new study, this Deep South state is the fattest in the nation. The Trust for America's Health, a research group that focuses on disease prevention, says Mississippi is the first state where more than 30 percent of adults are considered obese. Aside from making Mississippi the butt of late-night talk show jokes, the obesity epidemic has serious implications for public policy. If current trends hold, the state could face enormous increases in the already significant costs of treating diabetes, heart disease and other ailments caused by the extra poundage. "We've got a long way to go. We love fried chicken and fried anything and all the grease and fatback we can get in Mississippi," said Democratic state Rep. Steve Holland, chairman of the Public Health Committee. Poverty and obesity often go hand in hand, doctors say, because poor families stretch their budgets by buying cheaper, processed foods that have higher fat content and lower nutritional value. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — a self-described "recovering foodaholic" who lost 110 pounds several years ago — explained during a Southern Governors' Association meeting in Biloxi last weekend that there are historical reasons poor people often fry their foods: It's an inexpensive way to increase the calories and feed a family. Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the nation, and the Delta is the poorest region of Mississippi. Dr. Marshall Bouldin, director of the diabetes and metabolism center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, told the Southern governors that if the Delta counties were excluded, "Mississippi would wind up being about 30th in diabetes problems in the United States." Mississippi's public schools already are taking steps to prevent obesity. A new state law enacted this year requires schools to provide at least 150 minutes of physical activity instruction and 45 minutes of health education instruction each week for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. Until now, gym class had been optional. The state Department of Education also is phasing in restrictions on soft drinks and snacks. All public schools are currently banned from selling full-calorie soft drinks to students. Next academic year, elementary and middle schools will allow only water, juice and milk, while high schools will allow only water, juice, sports drinks and diet soft drinks. The state Department of Education publishes lists of snacks that are approved or banned for sale in school vending machines. Last school year, at least 50 percent of the vending offerings had to be from the approved list. That jumped to 75 percent this year and will reach 100 percent next year. Among the approved snacks are yogurt, sliced fruit and granola bars, while fried pork rinds and marshmallow treats are banned. One middle school favorite — Flamin' Hot Cheetos — are on the approved list if they're baked but banned if they're not. State Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds said he hopes students will take home the healthful habits they learn at school. "We only have students 180 days out of the year for seven hours in a school day. The important thing is that we model what good behavior looks like," Bounds said Monday after finishing a lunch of baked chicken. Bounds ate at a Jackson buffet that's popular with state legislators. On Monday, the buffet included traditional, stick-to-your-ribs Southern fare: fried chicken, grits, fried okra, turnip greens. Dr. William Rowley, who worked 30 years as a vascular surgeon and now works at the Institute for Alternative Futures, said if current trends continue, more than 50 percent of adult Mississippians will be obese in 2015. Holland, who helps set the state Medicaid budget, said he worries about the taxpayers' cost of treating obesity. "If we don't change our ways," he said, "we're going to be in the funeral parlors ... because we're going to be all fat and dead."
Real, fresh food comes from real people, devoted to selling the very best for to their customers. This week's content shows that it's worthwhile to go the extra step for delicious ingredients. Try these recipes filled with delicious, garden-fresh ingredients to satisfy your tastebuds! Real Food Found Here: The Idiot's Guide to the Farmers Market Innovative and health-conscious cooks can find the freshest seasonal ingredients from their local farmer's market or even by knowing how to shop your local supermarket. Here are my four tips for picking the best produce: 1- Take a tour. See what's available to you before you begin checking things off your list. You never know what will inspire you or what's in season that you forgot about! 2- Get there early. You'll have the most variety to choose from. 3- Ask Questions. Whether it's your local grocer or a farm stand at a market, the more you know about where your food came from, the better off you'll be. 4- Loyalty Pays. When you're dealing with family-run operations, like most farms, getting to know them pays off in the end. They'll be able to give you tips on recipes, how the produce is best prepared, or a preview of what's coming up in the season. And they might even give you a little extra for your loyalty! The best news is that fresh, seasonal, interesting ingredients are always available, even if you stick to your supermarket for groceries. For a refreshing summertime cocktail, use the fresh herbs and spices found at your local market to make a Market Mojito-made with just-picked whole mint leaves for bold flavor. Market Mojito (Recipe Courtesy of Dave Lieberman) 6 fresh mint sprigs, 1 sprig for garnish 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar ½ a lime cut into 4 wedges 1 ½ oz. light rum Chilled club soda In a tall glass, combined sugar, lime wedges and mint and muddle with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved and mint and lime wedges crushed. Top with ice. Add rum and mix. Top off with more ice and finish with chilled club soda (or seltzer). Garnish with a lime slice and the mint sprig and enjoy! To learn more about farmers' markets and to find a farmer's market near you go to: Dave Cooks: Beefsteak Tomato, Bean and Corn Salad As far as fresh, crisp ingredients go, you can't beat all the wonderful fruits and vegetables that sprout during the summer! The combination of hearty Beefsteak tomatoes, sweet summertime corn, crunchy green beans and a delicious mayonnaise-based dressing makes the perfect side for any summer grilled meal. Beefsteak Tomato, Bean and Corn Salad (Recipe Courtesy of Dave Lieberman) 4 Beafsteak tomatoes, diced 2 cups fresh corn, blanched and kernels cut off cob ½ lbs. wax beans or green beans, blanched 3 Tbsp. Hellmann's/Best Foods mayonnaise 1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar 1 clove garlic, crushed Cracked black pepper Salt Thai Basil In a small bowl combined mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, garlic, season with a salt and pepper. Whisk together until well blended and set aside. In a large bowl or platter, combine tomatoes, corn, beans and Thai basil. Drizzle mayo dressing over veggies and toss until well coated. Real Food Viewer Video: David & David's Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Salad California's David Mahr and David Bicha love using fresh vegetables year round! Use my farmer's market shopping tips to gather the freshest ingredients and try their recipe for a scrumptious and satisfying grilled chicken and vegetable salad with creamy basil dressing. Farmer's Fresh Chopped Salad with Creamy Basil Salad Dressing (Recipe Courtesy of David Mahr) Chopped Salad: Choose your favorite salad fixings from your local Farmer's Market. We chose lettuce, yellow tomatoes heirloom tomatoes, red bell pepper, carrots, & lemon cucumbers. Rinse and chop all the vegetables and place in a large salad bowl. Creamy Basil Salad Dressing: 1/4 cup fresh basil 1 cup Best Foods mayonnaise 12 cup sour cream 1/2 cup chopped parsley 3 scallions with tops, chopped 3 Tbsp. vinegar 1/8 Tsp. dried tarragon 1 Tsp. Worcestershire sauce 1/2 Tsp. dry mustard 1/4 Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper 1 clove garlic 2 Tsp. chopped chives Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Grilled Chicken Breasts (Topping): 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast (1/2 - 3/4 pound each) Black pepper Garlic powder Seasoned salt Olive oil Drizzle olive oil into a sturdy pan and heat to medium heat. Sprinkle one side of each breast with pepper, salt, and garlic powder. When oil is hot, put breasts in pan seasoned side down and then repeat the seasonings on the unseasoned side. Cook about 6 minutes on each side, or just until the juice runs clear. Serve the salad in bowls, place sliced chicken on top then drizzle with dressing and serve. Real Food, Real People: Shrimpers Pete and Clara Gerica In his fight to save a struggling New Orleans shrimp industry, Pete Gerica has become a leading advocate for environmentally-conscious, local commercial fisherman. Working as a shrimper for over 37 years, Pete provides this all-natural poppy, crunchy crustacean delight to loyal customers at their local market with the help of his wife Clara. This shrimp scampi dish combines savory ingredients for a spectacular result. Gulf Shrimp Scampi with Linguini 1 pound linguini 4 tablespoons butter 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling 2 shallots, finely diced 2 cloves garlic, minced Pinch red pepper flakes 1 pound gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined ¼ cup all purpose flour Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup dry white wine Juice of 1 lemon 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves For the pasta, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When it has come to the boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and the linguini. Stir to make sure the pasta separates; cover. When the water returns to a boil, cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is not quite done. Drain the pasta. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and lightly dreg in the flour and shake off any excess flour so that the shrimp are just lightly coated. Add them to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley and cooked pasta. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil and serve immediately. For more information about the New Orleans shrimp fishing industry and about Louisiana seafood go to:
FORT LAUDERDALE - More people get sick after eating in Florida restaurants than in any other state, according to a new report issued by a Web site that monitors data on government health inspections. said the leading causes of food poisoning were seafood, ethnic food and all-you-can eat buffets. Florida, with 29,729 restaurants, had 77 separate outbreaks of food-borne illness affecting 300 people during 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available. California, with 58,426 restaurants, ranked second with 62 outbreaks, and Ohio was third with 38, followed by Michigan with 35 and New York with 31. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. But Roberta Hammond, a food-borne-illness expert with the Florida Department of Health, said the state's numbers could be higher because the state has a strict system for tracking illnesses caused by water and food. "We report a lot of outbreaks, maybe more than other states," said Hammond, who had not seen the report. Rich Carlish of Hollywood said the industry nationwide has problems. When he eats out locally, Carlish said, he often sees workers at fast-food restaurants failing to wash their hands, one of the main causes of food-borne diseases. "Regulators should take this seriously, but they won't," said Carlish, author of Restaurants: It's a Dirty Business, who spent 20 years managing restaurants in North Carolina and New Jersey. "You got a lot of unqualified people managing restaurants." Consumer advocates said the report highlights the need for more training and education, and more-frequent inspections. They said gaining easy access to food-inspection reports is important to consumers. Threat to life possible Based in North Carolina, is a public-service site affiliated with a software company that works with health departments nationwide. The site, which can link consumers to state health inspections from 40 states, created its rankings by analyzing food-borne-disease data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Mark Garrison, editor. The rankings show the top six states had a total of 264 outbreaks of food poisoning in restaurants. More than 2,000 people, including 300 Floridians, got sick from bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella, or from the norovirus. An outbreak is when two or more people get sick from eating the same items or eating at the same place. People can develop anything from a short, mild illness, often mistakenly referred to as "food poisoning," to life-threatening disease. The CDC estimates that 76 million Americans get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 people die from food-borne illnesses each year. Washing hands a must Chirag H. Bhatt,'s food-safety director, said managers need to focus more on food safety. "People don't think hard enough about how a simple task such as washing hands can make a difference," said Bhatt, a registered sanitarian and a former chief of Houston's Health Department. "Its all about attitude." Nationwide, fish and seafood, including oysters and shrimp, were tied with ethnic buffets, serving items such as spring rolls and tacos, as the most common cause of food-borne illness, followed by lettuce-based salads. "I think it is terrible," said Marilyn Shiffer, a retired businesswoman living in Fort Lauderdale. "I got sick two months ago after eating seafood at a restaurant. I called them to complain, and they offered me a free meal." South Florida's restaurants may have even more problems than those in other parts of the state. Hammond of the state's Health Department said the area's dense population, large tourist industry and increasing number of restaurants could all be a cause for South Florida's increase in cases. But also it may be because of the simple fact that more people are eating out, Hammond said.
From Sentinel staff reports 2:52 PM EDT, August 24, 2007 Convicted sex offender John Evander Couey sentenced today to death in killing of 9-year-old neighbor Jessica Lunsford. In March, a six-man, six-woman jury recommended after just 75 minutes of deliberation and less than two days of testimony that he be executed for the crimes. "This is justice for Jessica," her father, Mark Lunsford, a truck driver turned child-protection advocate, said after the recommendation was read in a hushed courtroom, his eyes red from weeping. "The fight continues. We still have to make things tougher. . . . Instead of them stalking our kids, we'll stalk them." A week earlier, the same jurors unanimously found Couey guilty. The case prompted tougher sex-offender laws across the nation.
The closing of a dog track is the best possible news for greyhounds, and today we bring confirmation that two more dog tracks will be shut down within days. On August 7, local Kansas voters rejected a proposal to approve slot machines at Wichita Greyhound Park. Within moments of the news, track owner Phil Ruffin announced the shutdown of his struggling facility. WGP will wind down activities within three months time. Two days later, on August 9, the general manager of Florida’s Tampa Greyhound Track also announced an end to live racing. Citing low attendance, track owners will cease live racing operations on August 18. With these closures, 36 operational tracks remain in 13 states. Thanks to the efforts of greyhound advocates like you, six tracks will have closed and an additional two ended live racing within the past three years. This trend will continue, and thousands of greyhounds will be spared if we all keep working.
HUNTINGTON, Utah - The search for six miners missing deep underground was abruptly halted after a second cave-in killed three rescue workers and injured at least six others who were trying to tunnel through rubble to reach them. It was a devastating turn for the families of the six men trapped in the Aug. 6 collapse at the Crandall Canyon mine and for the relatives of those trying to rescue them. It's not known if the six are alive. All rescue workers were evacuated from the mine Thursday evening and work underground was stopped. Asked if the search would be suspended, "that's something to be determined," said Rich Kulczewski, a U.S. Department of Labor spokesman. The cave-in at 6:39 p.m. was caused by a mountain bump in which pressure can force chunks of coal from walls of the mine with great force. Seismologists say such a bump caused the Aug. 6 cave-in that trapped the six men more than 3 miles inside the central Utah mine. That led to the frenetic effort by rescuers to dig through the mine toward the men and drill narrow holes atop the mountain in an attempt to learn their whereabouts and perhaps drop down food and water. It was not immediately clear where the rescuers were working or what they were doing when Thursday's bump occurred. Underground, rescuers had advanced only 826 feet in nine days. Before Thursday's cave-in, workers still had about 1,200 feet to go to reach the area where they believe the trapped men had been working. Mining officials said conditions in the mine were treacherous, and they were frequently forced to halt digging because of seismic activity. A day after the initial collapse, the rescuers were pushed back 300 feet when a bump shook the mountain and filled the tunnel with rubble. The digging had been set back Wednesday night, when a coal excavating machine was half buried by rubble by seismic shaking. Another mountain bump interrupted work briefly Thursday morning. "The seismic activity underground has just been relentless. The mountain is still alive, the mountain is still moving and we cannot endanger the rescue workers as we drive toward these trapped miners," said Bob Murray, chief of Murray Energy Corp., the co-owner and operator of the Crandall Canyon mine. On top of the mountain, rescuers were drilling a fourth hole on Thursday, aiming for a spot where devices called "geophones" had detected mysterious vibrations in the mountain. Kulczewski said he believed that work continued after the accident. No details were available early Friday about the official cause of the rescuers' deaths. Their identities were not released. Injuries to the survivors ranged from cuts and scrapes to head and chest trauma. Six of the injured were taken to Castleview Hospital in Price. One rescuer died there, one was airlifted to a Salt Lake City hospital, one was released and three were being treated, said Jeff Manley, the hospital's chief executive. The second dead worker passed away at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, hospital spokeswoman Janet Frank said. Another worker there was in serious condition with head trauma but was alert, she said. The third death was confirmed by Kulczewski, the Labor Department spokesman. Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman flew to the hospital in Price early Friday and planned to meet with mine safety officials later in the day to discuss the future of the rescue operation. Huntsman said he did not want underground tunneling to resume, but that the decision rested with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. "We're pushing for that to cease right now unless MSHA and others can guarantee that it can continue safely," he said. "Whatever happens, we're going to want to ensure that it is done safely and that may take a little while. "We as a state don't want any more injuries," he added. "We've had enough." Before the latest cave-in, officials said the third of three holes drilled reached an intact chamber with potentially breathable air. Video images were obscured by water running down that bore hole, but officials said they could see beyond it to an undamaged chamber in the rear of the mine. It yielded no sign the miners had been there. Murray said it would take at least two days for the latest drill to reach its target, in an area where a seismic listening device detected a "noise" or vibration in 1.5-second increments and lasting for five minutes. The drilling began Thursday. Officials say it's impossible to know what caused the vibrations and clarified the limits of the technology. The geophone can pinpoint the direction of the source of the disturbance, but it can't tell whether it came from within the mine, the layers of rock above the mine or from the mountain's surface, said MSHA chief Richard Stickler. The "noise," a term he used a day before, wasn't anything officials could hear, Stickler said. "Really, it's not sounds but vibrations." Officials stressed that the motion picked up by the geophones could be unrelated to the mine, even as they drilled the new hole in an effort to uncover the source of it.
The Securities and Exchange Commission recently held a big get-together to debate the current state of mutual fund 12b-1 fee disclosure. That's the marketing fee charged by many -- but not all -- mutual funds buried within the fund's annual expense ratio. Little Awareness, Big Profit Because it's not a line-item fee on fund statements, many people have no idea whether they pay a 12b-1 fee or not. That's a costly lack of awareness: the Investment Company Institute (ICI) estimates that fund companies collected $11.8 billion on this fee alone in 2006. The main use of the 12b-1 is for fund companies to compensate brokers and advisers who steer clients into these funds. Because it's an ongoing fee that's merely a component of the annual expense ratio rather than an outright sales load, it's become popular with advisers as a means of telling clients that they're investing without paying a sales load. This pitch is technically correct, in that there's no upfront sales charge, but it's nonetheless a bit disingenuous. The expense ratio is bloated by the 12b-1 fee, which is then used to funnel a commission back to the adviser. The fee can be 1 percent or even more. And the fee is levied on every investor every year they're in a 12b-1 fund. A Long-term Disclosure Gap I don't need to explain what a lousy deal this is for consumers. As I wrote in my previous column, it's fine if you want to work with a financial adviser. But if you're already paying them a fee to handle your money, why would you also agree to invest in mutual funds that charge a big expense ratio in large part to send more compensation your adviser's way? It's a no-brainer that fund companies should be required to make the 12b-1 fee more transparent to investors, but I'm not holding my breath until the fund industry or regulators step up. Lousy disclosure has been around since the 12b-1 came into existence more than 25 years ago. I'm more interested in what investors can do right now to avoid this costly fee. It's remarkably easy to build either a mutual fund or exchange traded fund (ETF) portfolio that's 100 percent free of 12b-1 fees. By steering clear of funds with high annual expense ratios, you keep precious dollars growing in your account. A Revealing Comparison As an example, let's compare two funds: A no-load index fund that doesn't charge a 12b-1 fee and has an expense ratio of 0.19 percent, and a mutual fund that has a 12b-1 fee that pushes the total expense ratio up to 1.5 percent. If both funds earn a gross (pre-expense) annualized return of 8 percent, the index fund's net return, after the expense ratio is deducted, is 7.81 percent; the mutual fund's gain is shaved to 6.5 percent. In the investing world, that's a huge difference. Consider that $10,000 invested in the low-expense-ratio fund will grow to nearly $45,000 after 20 years, and only to around $35,000 in the fund with the higher expense ratio. The ETF Advantage If you opt for ETFs, you can push your fees even lower. In case some of you need a refresher course, an ETF is very similar to your standard index mutual fund except for one major difference: it trades on a stock exchange just like a stock. This means that during the trading day, you can get a price to buy or sell based on the market value of the underlying securities in the ETF. With a mutual fund you can always place an order during the trading day, but mutual fund prices are calculated just once a day, at the market close. There are also some structural differences between index funds and ETFs that can make ETFs a more tax-efficient choice. But one of the most compelling ETF advantages are expense ratios that can be under 0.10 percent. True, 0.19 percent for an index fund is already pretty great, but 0.07 percent or even 0.10 percent is even better. Room for Improvement That said, index funds can be more cost-effective if you make frequent periodic investments. A no-load index fund doesn't charge any sales commission, but because ETFs are essentially stocks, there's always a brokerage commission charged on your buy and sell orders. Even if you use a discount brokerage and pay just $10 or so for ETF trades, that can add up if you invest smaller amounts every few weeks. Still, the overall cost advantage is a big reason that ETF assets have increased more than 44 percent over the 12 months through May 2007, according to ICI data. But while it's great that investors are finally catching on that expenses do matter, the $485 billion in ETF assets is still just a fraction of the $11.4 trillion invested in mutual funds. I'd be fine with this if I was certain that the bulk of that money was in the lowest-cost options. The $11.8 billion paid out in 12b-1 fees last year, however, tells me there's still plenty of room for fund investors to get their costs down. Give Your Portfolio a Fee Exam Finding the expense ratio for your investments is just a few clicks away. Just enter a fund or ETF ticker symbol in the Yahoo! Finance "Get Quotes" box, then click "Profile" on the left side of the page that appears. A fee and expense table appears in the lower right of the next page. To see the expense ratios of all ETFs from lowest to highest, click here. So what's a "good" expense ratio? If you're investing in a broad large-cap index, there are plenty of good options that charge less than 0.20 percent; international indexes and ETFs tend to be a bit more expensive, but that means maybe 0.40 percent to 0.50 percent. That's still a whole lot less than the 1 percent to 1.5 percent or more many actively managed mutual funds charge. Of course, if you feel that the manager of that fund is so good that he or she is worth the extra expense, that's a conscious fee decision you need to make. But the operative word is "conscious." Be Fee-Aware If you're aware of the higher fee and think it's justified, that's your choice. But I think in many cases once you understand your fund's fee structure and compare its performance to what you could get in a low-cost index fund or ETF, you'll be hard pressed to justify sticking with the expensive option. Finally, if you're stuck with high-cost funds through your employer's 401(k) or 403(b) plan, I suggest you get a bunch of colleagues together and start besieging HR with requests to change the plan's funds. Don't be timid: A 401(k) is supposed to be run for the benefit of the participants -- that's you. There's no way to justify that high-fee funds are a benefit to anyone.
You may have heard that by following a proper diet and exercise program, you can actually turn body fat into muscle. Not true. Fat and muscle are two separate entities. You must burn fat and build muscle. Here's how fat is burned: When you lose weight (by eating less and exercising more), an enzyme located in fat cells disassembles the fat compounds and sends the components into the bloodstream. Liver and muscle cells take up these components and disassemble them even further until what's left is a compound called acetyl-CoA. Acetyl-CoA then enters the Krebs cycle, a series of chemical reactions that takes place in the mitochondria -- the cell's "power plant." The end product is made up of... • Carbon dioxide, which is expelled when you exhale. • Water, which is lost as urine and perspiration. • Heat, which helps maintain body temperature. • ATP, the molecule that fuels cellular activities that require energy. On the flip side, to build muscle you need to work those muscles on a regular basis (no pain, no gain)...and eat appropriate amounts of dietary protein. Your protein grams for the day should total about 50% of your body weight in pounds, unless you're a serious athlete, in which case your protein requirements should total about 50-80% of your body weight in pounds.
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