Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Thinking about lending money to a friend or relative...":

Steve on "Thinking about lending money to a friend or relative...":

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Thinking about lending money to a friend or relative?

Lending money to a friend could be risky if you don't set up ground rules
By Eileen Ambrose | Tribune Newspapers
March 22, 2009
With banks being so tightfisted these days, you might find friends or relatives falling on hard times and turning to you for a loan.

Should you do it?

Your loan could prevent a loved one's foreclosure, bankruptcy or other dire fate.

Then again, the borrower might never repay. You fume, the borrower resents your hints to repay and the relationship blows up.

Loans to friends and relatives are dicey. You can play it safe by saying "No" to all loans or offering the money as a gift without expecting to be repaid. But if you do decide to play banker, set some ground rules for yourself and the borrower.

•Never lend more than you can afford to lose. That way, if the borrower defaults, you haven't put your finances in jeopardy.

•Make the loan as business-like as possible, drawing up a promissory note that both of you sign. The note should contain loan details, such as the amount borrowed, the interest rate and repayment terms. Discuss what you'll do if the borrower can't repay.

Indianapolis financial planner Grace Worley said some parents worry about favoring one child over others by making a loan. To be fair, some execute a promissory note so there's evidence of the loan to a child, and when the parents' estate is settled, the loan is subtracted from that child's share if necessary, she said.

The IRS requires that you charge interest if the loan is more than $13,000, the amount one person can give another this year without triggering gift tax issues, said Cindy Hockenberry, research coordinator with the National Association of Tax Professionals.

The IRS publishes minimum rates to charge, depending on the length of loan. •One option gaining in popularity is peer-to-peer lending site Virgin Money, which acts as an intermediary for loans between friends or relatives.

Under Virgin Money's Handshake Plus program, you can set up a promissory note with a borrower. Virgin Money will electronically debit payments from the borrower's account and forward them to you.

If the borrower doesn't repay, collection action can be taken or the default could be reported to the credit bureaus. Families usually, though, revise the loan terms if a relative is struggling to repay, said Asheesh Avandi, chief executive of Virgin Money USA.

The cost is a one-time fee of $199, plus $9 per payment.

Not all lending stories end well. And if yours doesn't, you might be able to get some consolation by writing off a bad loan on your tax return.

To pass muster with the IRS, it must be a bona-fide loan, meaning you have a written agreement and both parties have signed the pact, Hockenberry said. And you must be able to show that you took steps to try to collect the money—a trip to small claims court, for example, or letters from you or a lawyer seeking to wring out payments from the borrower, she said.

Losses on loans can be deducted as a short-term capital loss, the same way you write off investment losses, Hockenberry said.

Hockenberry's job is to answer questions for tax professionals, and queries about writing off bad loans to friends and family come up year after year. "It's really a common thing," she said.

Friday, April 10, 2009

And you say you don’t have any “Friends”. Wow!

A message of hope for the young adults
Recently, I hosted a “Girls Night Out”, with some of my closest friends. We range in age from 30 to 50. We have different levels of education and varying job titles. We also vary in our marital statuses . In this group, there is a mother of 4, as well as a mother of none. Some I’ve known for 20+ years and others less than 2. We are all on a spiritual journey, but not all at the same place on this journey. Each of them hold a special place in my life and they are women that I love, trust and depend on.
For young women who think that people are only in your life because “they want something”, they’re right. Everybody wants something, but their perspective of what someone wants may be distorted. One friend offers me a reality check. Another a shoulder to cry on. Another offers a laugh just when I need it and another an uplifting word, and yes, I want all of these things. Each of them offers me something that I need and I’m more than certain I offer them something in return. I learned a long time ago, that in order to have a friend, you must be a friend. You can’t expect that someone will be a firend to you without reciprocating that action.
Have we failed the next generation of women? I hope not. Are their challenges different than the generation before them, not really, but perception is reality. They peceive that they do not have true friends, and that is true for them. What can we do to help mentor these women? How can we show them that the women they don’t trust, can be a great asset.
First, we have to acknowledge that this is what they feel. Pulling the sheets up to our necks won’t cover up what they are experiencing. We may not understand it, but be open to listening. Next, we need to address why they feel this way. Some of us have not experienced whatever it is that placed them on this path. Then, teach them that in order to pick a gem, they have to ensure that their jewelry is shining. Again, you can’t expect to have a friend, if you’re not willig to be one. Finally, teach them to LOVE themselves. Self-preservation is the first law of nature. When you learn to love yourself, the journey to loving someone else doensn’t seem so far.
This is not a one size fits all, but I feel we need to start somewhere or our next generation could trully be lost to the world.
To All my Friends, Thank you in advance for whatever it is you have to offer. May sun always grace your presence.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

There's always the Media's version and then there's the Truth!!! The Somalians are fending for themselves and their survival

News, analysis and and reporting from independent journalist Jeremy Scahill.

I'm Putting Today's 'Pirate' Attack in Context

A US ship, owned by a Pentagon contractor with ‘Top Security’ clearance, was seized off the Somali coast. Reports say the US crew has retaken the ship. But the question remains: Why are the pirates attacking?

By Jeremy Scahill

The Somali pirates who took control of the 17,000-ton “Maersk Alabama” cargo-ship in the early hours of Wednesday morning probably were unaware that the ship they were boarding belonged to a US Department of Defense contractor with “top security clearance,” which does a half-billion dollars in annual business with the Pentagon, primarily the Navy. The ship was being operated by an “all-American” crew—there were 20 US nationals onboard. “Every indication is that this is the first time a U.S.-flagged ship has been successfully seized by pirates,” said Lt. Nathan Christensen, a spokesperson for for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. The last documented pirate attack of a US vessel by African pirates was reported in 1804, off Libya, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The company, A.P. Moller-Maersk, is a Denmark-based company with a large US subsidiary, Maersk Line, Ltd, that serves US government agencies and contractors. The company, which is based in Norfolk, Virginia, runs the world’s largest fleet of US-flag vessels. The “Alabama” was about 300 miles off the coast of the Puntland region of northern Somalia when it was taken. The US military says the Alabama was not operating on a DoD contract at the time and was said to be delivering food aid.

The closest US warship to the “Alabama” at the time of the seizure was 300 miles away. At the time of the seizure, the US Navy did not say how or if it would respond, but seemed not to rule out intervention. ”It’s fair to say we are closely monitoring the situation, but we will not discuss nor speculate on current and future military operations,” said Navy Cmdr. Jane Campbell.

The seizure of the ship seemed to have been short-lived. At the time of this writing, the Pentagon was reporting that the US crew retook the ship and was holding one of the pirates in custody. At this point, it is unclear if the crew acted alone or had assistance from the military or another security force.

Over the past year, there has been a dramatic uptick in media coverage of the “pirates,” particularly in the Gulf of Aden. Pirates reportedly took in upwards of $150 million in ransoms last year alone. In fact, at the moment the Alabama’s seizure, pirates were already holding 14 other vessels with about 200 crew members, according to the International Maritime Bureau. There have been seven hijackings in the past month alone.

Often, the reporting on pirates centers around the gangsterism of the pirates and the seemingly huge ransoms they demand. Indeed, piracy can be a very profitable business, as the following report from Reuters suggests:

A rough back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that the operation to hijack the Saudi tanker, the Sirius Star, cost no more than $25,000, assuming that the pirates bought new equipment and weapons ($450 apiece for an AK-47 Kalashnikov, $5,000 for an RPG-7 grenade launcher, $15,000 for a speedboat). That contrasts with an initial ransom demand to the tanker’s owner, Saudi Aramco, of $25 million.

“Piracy is an excellent business model if you operate from an impoverished, lawless place like Somalia,” says Patrick Cullen, a security expert at the London School of Economics who has been researching piracy. “The risk-reward ratio is just huge.”

But this type of coverage of the pirates is similar to the false narrative about “tribalism” being the cause of all of Africa’s problems. Of course, there are straight-up gangsters and criminals engaged in these hijackings. Perhaps the pirates who hijacked the Alabama on Wednesday fall into that category. We do not yet know. But that is hardly the whole “pirate” story. Consider what one pirate told The New York Times after he and his men seized a Ukrainian freighter “loaded with tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition” last year. “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits,” said Sugule Ali:. “We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.” Now, that “coast guard” analogy is a stretch, but his point is an important and widely omitted part of this story. Indeed the Times article was titled, “Somali Pirates Tell Their Side: They Want Only Money.” Yet, The New York Times acknowledged, “the piracy industry started about 10 to 15 years ago… as a response to illegal fishing.”

Take this fact: Over $300 million worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are “being stolen every year by illegal trawlers” off Somalia’s coast, forcing the fishing industry there into a state of virtual non-existence.

But it isn’t just the theft of seafood. Nuclear dumping has polluted the environment. “In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed,” wrote Johann Hari in The Independent. “Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.”

According to Hari:

As soon as the [Somali] government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

Monday, April 6, 2009

What do you think?

This is from one of my oldest friends. What do you think? SB

Black people are an intense people. Watch us in popular sports and we dominate; watch our church services - so much intensity & creativity. I had a conversation with a co-worker and we surmised that American Idol intentionally had to pick more white winners or Idol would have come to be dominated by Black folks - and who wants to see Blacks folks winning in open competition. A white early childhood instructor admitted to me that most people in her field knew that Black children at 3 or 4 years usually have better language & communication skills and better motor skills/muscle development; Black children are at the top of their class until 2nd grade; then bad upbringing, lack of motivation, laziness, shiftlessness from bad parenting diminish their lead steadily until 7th grade when we are probably the worst students in the country - and it goes downhill from there. I hate most Black conservatives, but as one Black conservative stated 'Black people in the US are at the bottom because we choose to be at the bottom' - there is some truth in that.

I held out for 20 years waiting on a good Sista, because I know the potential for greatness & happiness in our people; but eventually I had to get with a woman who chose to respect me & treat me nice rather than hoping that a Sista would finally decide to respect me as a man - you can't wait forever for things to change.

What’s up! I attended the Women of Color Conference this weekend, at U of I, in Champagne. I had the opportunity to hang out with some really cool young sisters. The conference addressed how we interact with one another, self Images, and relationships overall. Typically, women I’m around are between the ages of 38-60, that said; I’ve just not been around many young adults (21-35). Let me just say, I was extremely taken back by how they discussed and addressed the treatment of one another, their self-image, and their experiences. During and upon leaving the conference, I left knowing that some how, somewhere, we’ve failed them. Don’t get me wrong, the sisters are doing some amazing things, and the workshops were very interactive, and it gave me insight into what some of our young adults are dealing with. Apparently, I’ve had my head stuck in the sand; it was definitely an eye opener for me. Hearing you guys rant over some sisters, holds some truths,however, is it not the responsibility of each of us to somehow treat and teach our young sisters and young men the importance of loving self and others? I was taught as young girl that I was valued and special and if not to anyone else, but to the Ward Family. Knowing that, allowed me to love and also value others. I don’t have the answers, but for those of us that know better have failed our young. Let’s not go off into how terrible we are, but let’s began simply correcting our wrongs. Both my parents constantly drilled do’s and don’ts, and no, I can't argue that we are living in very different times, nevertheless, some things must not change…Our people need much help…Let’s stop making this about us and look at how we can help our young people. I left saddened… Cheech

Friday, April 3, 2009


Obama's message to Europe
Speaking before a French and German audience at a town-hall meeting, President Obama pledged to repair damaged relations with Europe. I watched coming in on the train this morning, and I'm hopeful that he will restore the damaged relationships inherited by the Bush administration. We're so proud of you Barack and Michelle!!!!!!

Obama and Michelle are doing their thing in Europe...

President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have received a rapturous welcome in the French town of Strasbourg ahead of a Nato summit. They were greeted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni.

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