Balloons ready to fly as Freedom Weekend Aloft kicks off

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Freedom Weekend Aloft, the annual hot-air balloon and concert festival, kicks off this afternoon to start Memorial Day weekend with a blend of music, food, rides and activities at Heritage Park in Simpsonville.
The 28th annual festival returns to its roots this year with general admission prices that open up concerts in the Heritage Park Amphitheater to all comers and an expansion back to four days of one of the Upstate’s largest festivals.

Activities kick off from 3 p.m.-11 p.m. today and continue each day through the weekend.

And in a move to show appreciation to the community, the festival turned over an entire day to Bi-Lo, which erased admission costs for Memorial Day on Monday and stocked the day full of patriotic and beach-themed concerts and a giant cookout.

When FWA first started at the Donaldson Center in Greenville, it charged a single admission price, which allowed customers to attend all concerts and activities. Once again, the festival will charge general admission but will open up the expanded concert schedule to all comers at no additional cost.

FWA executive director Keri Hall said it was time for changes to put a new face on the festival and to keep it relevant as one of the Upstate’s premier events.

“Due to the event itself and the signature attractions – concerts, hot-air balloons, the Family Fun Zone, disc dogs – coupled with incredible support from sponsors, necessitated that we return to four days,” Hall said. “We just couldn’t fit it all into three days.”

The festival runs from 3-11 p.m. today; noon-11 p.m. Saturday; noon-11 p.m. Sunday; and noon-8 p.m. Monday at Heritage Park, 861 S.E. Main St., Simpsonville.

Organizers expanded the concert schedule to take full advantage of the Heritage Park Amphitheater and to bring more musical flavor to the public.

“Two years ago we had three nights of concerts, or about nine hours,” Hall said. “Last year we had two nights, or about six hours. And you look at the venue, and it’s just an incredible resource and we said ‘Wow, we need to use this part of the event as much as possible.’ ”

Hall said the music will run “nonstop” throughout the weekend, with performers Corey Smith, The Voltage Brothers, Mothers Finest, Outlaws, Firefall, Crossroads, Sister Hazel, Foghat, the Catelinas, Gavin Degraw and Green River Ordinance on the amphitheater stage.

Memorial Day will offer a giant outdoor cookout at the amphitheater sponsored and run by Bi-Lo. Concerts will kick off at 1 p.m. with Four Star – the Navy Rock Band, followed by General Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board and ending with the U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Band.

And of course the hot-air balloons will be back in town, with about 80 balloonists competing in morning competitions and launching each evening from Heritage Park with rides, tethered rides and a new “walk balloon” set up inside the park.

“That’s a balloon that they can’t fly anymore but they can cold-inflate it on the ground, and they’re going to let the kids run in it and play in it,” said Cindy Nelson, FWA associate director.

The popular U.S. Disc Dog Freedom Weekend Nationals qualifying tournament will return this year with a twist that spectators haven’t seen before. Following the regular choreographed freestyle and distance toss and fetch competitions May 23-24, two former national champions from Atlanta will present dog agility shows for the first time at FWA.

Dogs from Woof Sports, an Atlanta business run by Melissa Heeter and featuring other Greater Atlanta Dog and Disc Club members, will demonstrate speed and agility as they run a course with jumps, tunnels, weave poles and other obstacles.

“They’ll get to see dogs doing agility courses, and they’ll get to see different breeds of dogs,” Heeter said. “Agility is very popular in competitions, but it’s not seen very much in demonstrations. So they’ll be able to see some fun demonstrations.”

The healthy theme started last year with the addition of Greenville Hospital Systems as presenting sponsor will continue and expand this year, with healthy food and active events throughout the weekend.

Local and national food and merchandise vendors will set up shop throughout the park, along with amusement rides and the Family Fun Zone, featuring comedy, magic, music and activities throughout the weekend.

Label:

Memorial Day: Holiday Travel Tips

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Lon Anderson, director of Public and Government Relations at AAA Mid-Atlantic, was online Friday, May 22, at Noon ET to answer your travel-related questions on the eve of the Memorial Day weekend.

____________________

Lon Anderson: Thanks so much for joining me today, as we prepare for the big getaway for our Memorial Day holiday. With gas prices down $1.50 per gallon from last year, and travel bargains everywhere, AAA is predicting a big getway--some 730,000 area residents, up 4%. It's not a record, but it will mean all ways out of town--and back in on Mondaqy are likely going to be crowded. Remember to think safety for your holiday travel--with so many more traveling, crashes and fatlaties will be up. So. let's get started!

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: I've seen a brief report that Mid-Atlantic AAA has called D.C. the most car-unfriendly city in the U.S. I'm inclined to agree -- right now we're run by "smart development" planners who want to discourage owning and operating cars by making it so inconvenient and expensive to drive and, especially, to park, that everybody will be forced into mass transit. But what factors went into AAA's announcement. Can you provide a link to a press release, study, or report that gives more information?

Lon Anderson: Hey, DC--thanks for the question. Our position is based upon DC's actions. They already have the most aggressive ticketing program in the nation and, with a revenue shortage, they are ratcheting it up. Cameras on Streetweepers, more ticket writers. And that's before you get into their automated enforcement program that has probably brought in over $200 million at this point. they say it's about safety, but plenty of evidence points towards money. They wanted a commuter tax, but were denied it by congress, and have implemented one anyway. Front page story of today's Post gives much more detail. We do have some press releases on this on our website--aaa.com. then go to outreach. thanks for the question!

_______________________

Silver Spring, Md.: Driving to Boston on Saturday morning. Will I hit Cape traffic?

Lon Anderson: Hey Silver Spring--I don't think you can avoid it. Plenty of other folks from up and down the east coast will also be headed to the Cape. If you leave early, you will miss much of the very heavy I-95 traffic, but we can't help you avoid the Boston crowd heading to the beach later tomorrow. Good luck and be safe!

Label:

Memorial Day marks weekend of events

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Prior to Memorial Day, veterans, students and volunteers place flags on gravesites throughout the cemeteries in Fitchburg. On Monday morning, prior to the Memorial Day program, veteran organizations go to cemeteries to perform a small ceremony and place wreaths on monuments. This showing of respect to deceased veterans started after the Civil War when widows walked cemeteries honoring the deceased veterans.

On Sunday, May 24 at 10:30 a.m., the annual Memorial Mass for deceased veterans will be at St. Anthony di Padua Church, 84 Salem Street, followed by a dedication and wreath placing at the World War II monument. Refreshments to follow.

Later that day, at 6 p.m., the annual White Cross Service will be held at Monument Park. Put on by the AMVETS Post 29, this service is for all veterans whose bodies have not been returned for burial in the City of Fitchburg cemeteries.

A Memorial Day parade will be held on Monday, May 25, at 10 a.m. Veterans should line up at the Fitchburg M.E. Federal Credit Union, 65 North St. Parade will proceed up Main Street, to the Upper Common. A Memorial Day program will take place at 10:30 a.m. in the Upper Common gazebo, featuring the FHS band, and many guest speakers, including veterans and city and state leaders.

Label:

Professional employer organization

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A professional employer organization (PEO) provides outsourcing of payroll, workers' compensation, human resources and employee benefits administration.

As of 2007, there were more than 700 PEOs operating in the United States, covering 2-3 million workers.[1] PEOs operate in all fifty U.S. states, Sweden, [2] Germany,[3] the UK,[4] and Russia.[5]

Business model

In a co-employment contract, the PEO becomes the employer of record for tax and insurance purposes, filing paperwork under its own identification numbers. The client company continues to direct the employees’ day-to-day activities. PEOs charge a service fee for taking over the human resources and payroll functions of the client company: typically, this is from 3 to 15% of total payroll.[6] This fee is in addition to the normal employee overhead costs, such as the employer's share of Medicare and unemployment insurance withholding. In addition, PEOs benefit from aggregation of employee headcount: by combining the employees from multiple clients, they qualify for lower premiums on health insurance plans.

A PEO generally generates some of its income through various methods of insurance, wage and tax arbitrage. In insurance products, a PEO will purchase workers' compensation, employment practices liability and employee benefits insurance at a given price. The PEO then adds a markup to the premium costs and bills that rate to the client company, which is still less than the company would pay on its own.

The value proposition to client companies is that the use of a PEO saves time and staff that would be used to prepare payroll and administer benefits plans, and may reduce legal liabilities or obligations to employees that it would otherwise have. The client company may also be able to offer a better overall package of benefits, and thus attract more skilled employees. The PEO model is therefore attractive to small and mid-sized businesses and associations, and PEO marketing is typically directed toward this segment.[6]

Several variations on the PEO model exist, differing in the nature of the relationship formed between PEO and client company.

  • Administrative services organizations (ASO) are PEOs that provide outsourcing of human resources tasks but do not create a co-employment relationship. Employees remain solely under the control of the client company. Tax and insurance filings are done by the PEO, but under the client company’s Employer Identification Number.[7]
  • Umbrella companies, found primarily in the UK, act as employer of record for independent contractors instead of permanent employees. The contractors become employees of the umbrella company, but do not also become employees of the client. The growth in umbrella companies in the UK is attributed to legislation targeting "disguised income" by contractors performing the same duties as employees but hired via intermediaries.[8] The press release announcing the legislation, IR35, is often used to refer to the legislation itself.
  • Pass-through agencies are staffing firms that act as the employer of record for independent contractors, but do not obtain work for them. Like umbrella companies in the UK, the contractors do not become employees of the client.[9]
  • Financial intermediaries, also called fiscal intermediaries, act as an employer of record for home healthcare workers who serve disabled persons. This streamlines the process of hiring such workers, because neither the household hiring them nor government units that provide funding need to take on the duties of an employer.[10] They are part of the self-determination movement in disability care.

Early History

Employee leasing in the United States began as early as the 1940's. In the early 1970's, the concept was popularized by a consultant named Martin Selter, who leased the employees of a doctor's office in Southern California.[11] The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) contained an exemption for multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWA), which provided a loophole for employers with leased employees to claim they were exempt from the ERISA requirements. Passage of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA) further encouraged employee leasing by providing a tax shelter for employers who contributed a minimum amount to employee plans. More stringent guidelines in the Tax Reform Act of 1986 later eliminated most of the TEFRA incentive, however.

By 1985, there were approximately 275 staff leasing companies in the United States.[12]

Abuses

PEOs have been associated with various types of fraud and evasion of laws designed to protect workers. In 1991 the Texas State Board of Insurance estimated that only 40 of the over 200 staff leasing firms operating in the state were legitimate.[12]

  • Fraudulent staff leasing firms are set up by con artists who charge client companies for employee taxes and insurance payments, but divert the money instead of remitting it to the taxing authorities.
  • Labor Law evasion is a frequent goal of client companies who seek PEO services. An employer who leases employees, particularly when facing unionization, may be able to avoid many liabilities and legal obligations an employer may otherwise face.
  • Workers compensation fraud occurs when high-risk companies with many prior claims transfer staff to new PEOs with no claims history. When rising claims raise rates for the PEO as well, the PEO shuts down and the cycle repeats.(ref)
  • PEOs have also been used to evade minimum participation rules for pension and health care plans, which state that a minimum percent of employees must participate for the plan to be offered. Employers that do not want to offer such plans to its lower-paid employees outsource those employees to a PEO so they are not counted. This leaves the remaining highly-paid employees with a qualifying level of participation.
  • SUTA arbitrage, commonly referred to as "SUTA dumping," occurs when an employer with a high unemployment insurance rate transfers or "dumps" employees to purchased subsidiaries with lower unemployment insurance rates.

At least 15 PEO companies were the subject of criminal prosecution during 2006, despite regulation attempts.[13]

Regulation

Each state in the U.S. has differing regulations for workers’ compensation insurance and state unemployment insurance, so PEOs are typically regulated at the state level.[14]

In 2004, President George W. Bush signed into law the SUTA Dumping Protection Act of 2004, which requires that all 50 states enact anti-SUTA-dumping legislation by 2007.[15] Most states have now done so;[16] however, federal law does not prohibit companies from using a PEO to obtain more favorable SUTA rates.[17]

The staff leasing industry itself has also taken steps to address abuses. It formed its first trade association, the National Staff Leasing Association (NSLA), in 1985. The association changed its name to the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) in 1994 to reflect the term in current usage.

An independent accreditation body, Employer Services Assurance Corporation, was formed in 1995. Its purpose is to assure clients of PEO solvency via surety bonds, and to certify PEO compliance with "ethical, financial, and operational standards". [18] Currently there are 43 ESAC-accredited PEOs.

Label:

Laser hair removal

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Epilation by laser was performed experimentally for about 20 years before it became commercially available in the mid 1990s. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) epilators, though technically not a laser, use xenon flash lamps that emit full spectrum light. Laser and light-based methods, sometimes called phototricholysis or photoepilation, are now most commonly referred to collectively as "laser hair removal". One of the first published articles describing laser hair removal was authored by the group at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1998.[1][2]

The efficacy of laser hair removal is now generally accepted in the dermatology community, and laser hair removal is widely practiced. Many reviews of laser hair removal methods, safety, and efficacy have been published in the dermatology literature.

Mechanism of action

The primary principle behind laser hair removal is selective photothermolysis (SPTL).[4] Lasers can cause localized damage by selectively heating dark target matter, (melanin), in the area that causes hair growth, (the follicle), while not heating the rest of the skin. Light is absorbed by dark objects, so laser energy can be absorbed by dark material in the skin (but with much more speed and intensity). This dark target matter, or chromophore, can be naturally-occurring or artificially introduced.

Hair removal lasers selectively target melanin:

  • Melanin is considered the primary chromophore for all hair removal lasers currently on the market. Melanin occurs naturally in the skin (it gives skin and hair its color). There are two types of melanin in hair: eumelanin (which gives hair brown or black color) and pheomelanin (which gives hair blonde or red color). Because of the selective absorption of photons of laser light, only black or brown hair can be removed.

Both men and women seek laser hair removal services to have superfluous or unwanted hair removed. Hair removal is commonly done on lip, chin, ear lobe, shoulders, back, underarm, abdomen, buttocks, pubic area, bikini lines, thighs, face, neck, cleavage, chest, arms, legs, hands, and toes.

Laser works best with dark coarse hair. Light skin and dark hair are an ideal combination, but new lasers are now able to target dark black hair even in patients with dark skin.[citations needed]

Hair removal lasers have been in use since 1997 and the Food and Drug Administration approved it for “permanent hair reduction.” Laser hair removal has become extremely popular because of its speed and efficacy, although some of the efficacy is dependent upon the skill and experience of the laser operator, and the choice and availability of different laser technology at the clinic which is performing the procedure. Some will need touch-up treatments, especially on large areas, after the initial set of 3-8 treatments. It has also been observed that some people seem to be non-responders – this is not confirmed and reasons are not known, and may in fact be due to lack of skill on the part of many laser operators and/or the type of machine and settings they are using.[citations needed]

Electrolysis is another hair removal method that has been used for over 135 years.[5] At this time, it is the only permanent option for very fine and light-colored hair. The FDA currently allows the term "Permanent Hair Removal" for electrolysis only. Unlike laser epilation, electrolysis is effective on all hair colors.

Laser parameters that affect results

Several wavelengths of laser energy have been used for hair removal, from visible light to near-infrared radiation. These lasers are usually defined by the lasing medium used to create the wavelength (measured in nanometers (nm)):

  • Argon: 488 or 514.5 nm (no longer used for hair removal)
  • Ruby: 694 nm (no longer used for hair removal; not safe on most skin types as it frequently produces side effects such as pigmentary changes (lightening or darkening of the skin) or worse for patients of all but white skin.[citation needed]
  • Alexandrite: 755 nm (most effective, but safest on light skin)
  • Pulsed diode array: 810 nm (for light to medium type skin)
  • Nd:YAG: 1064 nm (for darker skin; Yag is capable of treating all six skin colors. However, there is not sufficient evidence that this laser can produce effective long-term hair removal)

Pulsewidth is an important consideration. It has been observed in some published studies that longer pulse widths may be safer for darker skin. However, shorter wavelengths may be more effective in removing hair.

Spot size, or the width of the laser beam, affects treatment. Theoretically, the width of the ideal beam is about four times as wide as the target is deep. Hair removal lasers have a round spot about the size of your finger (8-18 mm). Larger spot sizes help make treatments faster and more effective.

Fluence or energy level is another important consideration. Fluence is measured in joules per square centimeter (J/cm²). It's important to get treated at high enough settings to cause permanent damage to the hair follicles.

Repetition rate is believed to have a cumulative effect, based on the concept of thermal relaxation time. Shooting two or three pulses at the same target with a specific delay between pulses can cause a slight improvement in the heating of an area. This may increase the "kill rate" for each treatment slightly.

Epidermal cooling has been determined to allow higher fluences and reduce pain and side effects, especially in darker skin. Four types of cooling have been developed:

  • Clear gel: usually chilled
  • Contact cooling: through a window cooled by circulating water or internal cryogen.
  • Cryogen spray: immediately before/after the laser pulse
  • Air cooling: forced cold air at -34 degrees C (Zimmer Cryo 5 unit)
  • Number of sessions

    Multiple treatments, usually 5-7, but as many as 12, depending on the type of hair and skin color have been shown in practice to provide long-term reduction of hair. Current parameters suggest a series of treatments spaced at 4–6 weeks apart for most areas, although the timing of treatments has still not been standardized.[6]

    The number of sessions depends on various parameters, including the area of the body treated, skin color, coarseness of hair, and sex. Coarse dark hair on light skin is easiest to treat. Finer hair and hair on darker skin is harder to treat and may require more treatments. Certain areas (notably men's and women's faces) may require considerably more treatments to achieve desired results. In addition, since hair grows in several phases, (anagen, telogen, catagen), and laser can only affect the currently active growing follicles, (anagen), several sessions are needed to kill hair in all phases of growth.[citations needed]

    It's important to note that laser does not work on light hair and very fine and vellus hair ("peachfuzz"). Laser hair removal is NOT permanent but it is long term and can be patchy. Electrolysis is the only permanent solution for those types of hair but has shortcomings such as possible scarring, expense, and discomfort, as noted above.


Label:

Mesothelioma Symptomps

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Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. In this disease, malignant cells develop in the mesothelium, a protective lining that covers most of the body's internal organs. Its most common site is the pleura (outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall), but it may also occur in the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity), the heart,[1] the pericardium (a sac that surrounds the heart) or tunica vaginalis.

Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles, or they have been exposed to asbestos dust and fiber in other ways. Washing the clothes of a family member who worked with asbestos can also put a person at risk for developing mesothelioma.[2] Unlike lung cancer, there is no association between mesothelioma and smoking, but smoking greatly increases risk of other asbestos-induced cancer.[3] Compensation via asbestos funds or lawsuits is an important issue in mesothelioma (see asbestos and the law).

The symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath due to pleural effusion (fluid between the lung and the chest wall) or chest wall pain, and general symptoms such as weight loss. The diagnosis may be suspected with chest X-ray and CT scan, and is confirmed with a biopsy (tissue sample) and microscopic examination. A thoracoscopy (inserting a tube with a camera into the chest) can be used to take biopsies. It allows the introduction of substances such as talc to obliterate the pleural space (called pleurodesis), which prevents more fluid from accumulating and pressing on the lung. Despite treatment with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or sometimes surgery, the disease carries a poor prognosis. Research about screening tests for the early detection of mesothelioma is ongoing.
Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Shortness of breath, cough, and pain in the chest due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleural space are often symptoms of pleural mesothelioma.

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include weight loss and cachexia, abdominal swelling and pain due to ascites (a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity). Other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include bowel obstruction, blood clotting abnormalities, anemia, and fever. If the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face.

These symptoms may be caused by mesothelioma or by other, less serious conditions.

Mesothelioma that affects the pleura can cause these signs and symptoms:

* chest wall pain
* pleural effusion, or fluid surrounding the lung
* shortness of breath
* fatigue or anemia
* wheezing, hoarseness, or cough
* blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up (hemoptysis)

In severe cases, the person may have many tumor masses. The individual may develop a pneumothorax, or collapse of the lung. The disease may metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body.

Tumors that affect the abdominal cavity often do not cause symptoms until they are at a late stage. Symptoms include:

* abdominal pain
* ascites, or an abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen
* a mass in the abdomen
* problems with bowel function
* weight loss

In severe cases of the disease, the following signs and symptoms may be present:

* blood clots in the veins, which may cause thrombophlebitis
* disseminated intravascular coagulation, a disorder causing severe bleeding in many body organs
* jaundice, or yellowing of the eyes and skin
* low blood sugar level
* pleural effusion
* pulmonary emboli, or blood clots in the arteries of the lungs
* severe ascites

A mesothelioma does not usually spread to the bone, brain, or adrenal glands. Pleural tumors are usually found only on one side of the lungs.
Diagnosis
CT scan of a patient with mesothelioma, coronal section (the section follows the plane that divides the body in a front and a back half). The mesothelioma is indicated by yellow arrows, the central pleural effusion (fluid collection) is marked with a yellow star. Red numbers: (1) right lung, (2) spine, (3) left lung, (4) ribs, (5) descending part of the aorta, (6) spleen, (7) left kidney, (8) right kidney, (9) liver.

Diagnosing mesothelioma is often difficult, because the symptoms are similar to those of a number of other conditions. Diagnosis begins with a review of the patient's medical history. A history of exposure to asbestos may increase clinical suspicion for mesothelioma. A physical examination is performed, followed by chest X-ray and often lung function tests. The X-ray may reveal pleural thickening commonly seen after asbestos exposure and increases suspicion of mesothelioma. A CT (or CAT) scan or an MRI is usually performed. If a large amount of fluid is present, abnormal cells may be detected by cytology if this fluid is aspirated with a syringe. For pleural fluid this is done by a pleural tap or chest drain, in ascites with an paracentesis or ascitic drain and in a pericardial effusion with pericardiocentesis. While absence of malignant cells on cytology does not completely exclude mesothelioma, it makes it much more unlikely, especially if an alternative diagnosis can be made (e.g. tuberculosis, heart failure).

If cytology is positive or a plaque is regarded as suspicious, a biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma. A doctor removes a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. A biopsy may be done in different ways, depending on where the abnormal area is located. If the cancer is in the chest, the doctor may perform a thoracoscopy. In this procedure, the doctor makes a small cut through the chest wall and puts a thin, lighted tube called a thoracoscope into the chest between two ribs. Thoracoscopy allows the doctor to look inside the chest and obtain tissue samples.

If the cancer is in the abdomen, the doctor may perform a laparoscopy. To obtain tissue for examination, the doctor makes a small incision in the abdomen and inserts a special instrument into the abdominal cavity. If these procedures do not yield enough tissue, more extensive diagnostic surgery may be necessary.
Typical immunohistochemistry results Positive Negative
EMA (epithelial membrane antigen) in a membranous distribution CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen)
WT1 (Wilms' tumour 1) B72.3
Calretinin MOC-3 1
Mesothelin-1 CD15
Cytokeratin 5/6 Ber-EP4
HBME-1 (human mesothelial cell 1) TTF-1 (thyroid transcription factor-1)

Pathophysiology

The mesothelium consists of a single layer of flattened to cuboidal cells forming the epithelial lining of the serous cavities of the body including the peritoneal, pericardial and pleural cavities. Deposition of asbestos fibres in the parenchyma of the lung may result in the penetration of the visceral pleura from where the fibre can then be carried to the pleural surface, thus leading to the development of malignant mesothelial plaques. The processes leading to the development of peritoneal mesothelioma remain unresolved, although it has been proposed that asbestos fibres from the lung are transported to the abdomen and associated organs via the lymphatic system. Additionally, asbestos fibres may be deposited in the gut after ingestion of sputum contaminated with asbestos fibres.

Pleural contamination with asbestos or other mineral fibres has been shown to cause cancer. Long thin asbestos fibers (blue asbestos, amphibole fibers) are more potent carcinogens than "feathery fibers" (chrysotile or white asbestos fibers).[6] However, there is now evidence that smaller particles may be more dangerous than the larger fibers. They remain suspended in the air where they can be inhaled, and may penetrate more easily and deeper into the lungs. "We probably will find out a lot more about the health aspects of asbestos from [the World Trade Center attack], unfortunately," said Dr. Alan Fein, chief of pulmonary and critical-care medicine at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. Dr. Fein has treated several patients for "World Trade Center syndrome" or respiratory ailments from brief exposures of only a day or two near the collapsed buildings.[7]

Mesothelioma development in rats has been demonstrated following intra-pleural inoculation of phosphorylated chrysotile fibres. It has been suggested that in humans, transport of fibres to the pleura is critical to the pathogenesis of mesothelioma. This is supported by the observed recruitment of significant numbers of macrophages and other cells of the immune system to localised lesions of accumulated asbestos fibres in the pleural and peritoneal cavities of rats. These lesions continued to attract and accumulate macrophages as the disease progressed, and cellular changes within the lesion culminated in a morphologically malignant tumour.

Experimental evidence suggests that asbestos acts as a complete carcinogen with the development of mesothelioma occurring in sequential stages of initiation and promotion. The molecular mechanisms underlying the malignant transformation of normal mesothelial cells by asbestos fibres remain unclear despite the demonstration of its oncogenic capabilities. However, complete in vitro transformation of normal human mesothelial cells to malignant phenotype following exposure to asbestos fibres has not yet been achieved. In general, asbestos fibres are thought to act through direct physical interactions with the cells of the mesothelium in conjunction with indirect effects following interaction with inflammatory cells such as macrophages.

Analysis of the interactions between asbestos fibres and DNA has shown that phagocytosed fibres are able to make contact with chromosomes, often adhering to the chromatin fibres or becoming entangled within the chromosome. This contact between the asbestos fibre and the chromosomes or structural proteins of the spindle apparatus can induce complex abnormalities. The most common abnormality is monosomy of chromosome 22. Other frequent abnormalities include structural rearrangement of 1p, 3p, 9p and 6q chromosome arms.

Common gene abnormalities in mesothelioma cell lines include deletion of the tumor suppressor genes:

Asbestos has also been shown to mediate the entry of foreign DNA into target cells. Incorporation of this foreign DNA may lead to mutations and oncogenesis by several possible mechanisms:

  • Inactivation of tumor suppressor genes
  • Activation of oncogenes
  • Activation of proto-oncogenes due to incorporation of foreign DNA containing a promoter region
  • Activation of DNA repair enzymes, which may be prone to error
  • Activation of telomerase
  • Prevention of apoptosis

Asbestos fibers have been shown to alter the function and secretory properties of macrophages, ultimately creating conditions which favour the development of mesothelioma. Following asbestos phagocytosis, macrophages generate increased amounts of hydroxyl radicals, which are normal by-products of cellular anaerobic metabolism. However, these free radicals are also known clastogenic and membrane-active agents thought to promote asbestos carcinogenicity. These oxidants can participate in the oncogenic process by directly and indirectly interacting with DNA, modifying membrane-associated cellular events, including oncogene activation and perturbation of cellular antioxidant defences.

Asbestos also may possess immunosuppressive properties. For example, chrysotile fibres have been shown to depress the in vitro proliferation of phytohemagglutinin-stimulated peripheral blood lymphocytes, suppress natural killer cell lysis and significantly reduce lymphokine-activated killer cell viability and recovery. Furthermore, genetic alterations in asbestos-activated macrophages may result in the release of potent mesothelial cell mitogens such as platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) which in turn, may induce the chronic stimulation and proliferation of mesothelial cells after injury by asbestos fibres.

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Aircraft Accidents Occur Again in Indonesia : Hercules C130 Crashes Plane

12.15 / Diposkan oleh metallic sucker and moslem militan / komentar (0)

"Earlier there are great thundering voice from the west, and when i went out, in fact, my neighbour's house is destroyed. Then, i saw a plane that has been in the field sink" That is one of the expression of the villagers near the location of the accident occurance of death C130 Hercules, in Magetan, East Java. The aircraft itself carry 96 passenger and 14 crew people. Until this news stated that 15 people survived. Victims killed reached 98, including the victims of the villagers, who took her home destroyed by C130 Aircraft.
C130 Hercules aircraft itself has aged 50 years. And the government says are still eligible to fly. While the aircraft should be pension. Moreover, the added cost of care less. Many parties who regrets it. While previously,there have been similiar accident in Indonesia. For the fall of Hercules C130 that purchased from USA, until now still unknown. C130 Hercules plane accident this happened when the aircraft toward the airport in Madiun. As long time, the level of type of C130 Hercules are very high. The numbered reached 150 cases. However, it seems to get less attention from the government of Indonesia itself. Where, the person in government take more busy other problems. Presidential election for example. Or fight in the sense of the power.
If u're here,who have the blame. Of course, our own that can be said.

Label:

Mary Louise More interesting Than Akon

13.41 / Diposkan oleh metallic sucker and moslem militan / komentar (0)

American is Super Power country, that we often hear. But, if America is Super Controvercy, rarely in the new study. At google hot trends, tend to contain things that are controvercial. For example, "Rap star, Akon death." Akon's death as a public figure would made the USA residents want to know about it. What?How?Where?When?Who?Why?. I'm not too interested about Akon killed. But when there is news about "Mary Louise Bathtup", then i will be directly interested. As a man, i want to know what is with the Mary Louise and the Bathtup.
Because of what?Because the sentence "Mary Louis Parker" is the women name, and "Bathtup" connected,so my mind tends to lead to pornography. Where Pornography is interesting for every man. Try to compare "Mary Louise Bathtup" with " Rapper dollar bill killed". Of the more i turned to mary shows bathtup. But i would prefer the lottery or other topics, when the topics turns "Mary Louise"that isn't appropriciate expectations. That an initial article title, surely interesting, whether its good or not. Topics about women is to attract for men. For example if the title is "Susan Levreve shows her . . ." or " Carla Sosenko naked at . . ." but the contents do not necessary fit our expectations. But we clearly we are certainly interested directly. That's just my personal opinion.
For the reader please, leave ur comment.

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How to Set Up A Custom 404 File Not Found Page

10.48 / Diposkan oleh metallic sucker and moslem militan / komentar (0)

Let's do a quick survey: what do you usually do when you click a URL and encounter a "404 File Not Found" error? Do you:

  1. Click on the BACK button of your browser and go somewhere else?
  2. Try to back up one directory in the URL and try again?
  3. Write to the webmaster of the site and the referring site to inform them of the situation?

If you are like most people, you'll simply click on the BACK button and try another place. The majority of people don't even know that there are any other alternatives.

You thus need to do something so that you do not lose this group of people who come to your site by following an old link or by typing your URL incorrectly.

Requirements for Customizing the 404 File Not Found Page

It is not possible to customize your 404 error page if your web host has not enabled this facility for your website. For example, at the time of this writing, if you host at Geocities or Tripod, you would not be able to customize your 404 Error Page.

If your web host has this facility, you will usually find mention of this somewhere in their documentation. In fact, if they mention somewhere that you can customize a file named ".htaccess", it probably means that you can also customize your 404 File Not Found error page.

The .htaccess file is what Apache web servers use to allow you to fine-tune your web server configurations at a directory level. Other types of web servers handle the customization of 404 error pages differently.

Step One: Creating/Modifying the .htaccess File

This step may not be necessary in all situations. Some web hosts already configure their web server so that it will look for a specific file in your web directory when a certain document cannot be found. If so, simply skip this step.

If your web server is not an Apache web server, you will have to find out from your web host what you need to do to enable the server to serve your customized file when a file cannot be found.

Otherwise, the first thing you need to do is to add the following line to a file named ".htaccess" (without the enclosing quotes and with the preceding period). In most instances, no such file will exist, and you can simply create one with a text editor (such as Notepad on Windows).

ErrorDocument 404 /notfound.html

You will of course need to put a notfound.html file in the main web directory for the above directive to work.

The "ErrorDocument 404" directive essentially tells the Apache web server that whenever it cannot find the file it needs in that directory and its subdirectories, it is to use the document specified in the URL that follows.

One .htaccess file in your main directory will do the trick for that directory and its subdirectories. However, if you want a certain subdirectory to show a different 404 File Not Found message, you can always place a .htaccess file into that directory. This will override any .htaccess files you have in the parent directories.

Step Two: Creating Your Error Document File

What should go into your custom 404 File Not Found page?

It is insufficient to simply let the visitor know that the file could not be found. In order not to lose that visitor, you will have to provide him some way to locate the document he wanted, or you would have lost him.

Your page should have one or more of the following things:

  1. A link to your main page, with a suggestion that the visitor can find what he wants there.
  2. If you have a search engine for your website, you should definitely put a search box on that page. Many people prefer to simply type a query than to scan through your site map.
  3. A link to your site map, which lists all the pages on your website.
  4. If you know of frequently mistyped URLs on your site, you can even put links to the correct location directly on the page, so that visitors who arrive there from outside can quickly get to the correct page. Remember, you don't want to lose that visitor, so do all you can to help him.
  5. Any other navigational aids that you may have - for example, if you have a drop down navigation menu on your normal pages, you should probably put one here as well.

If you like, you can even put a simple form on the page to allow your visitors to inform you of the broken link. However, the primary aim of this page is not to help you track bad links, but to make sure your visitor does not leave your site if what he wants can be found there.

Incidentally, you should make your 404 page larger than 512 bytes, even when you are testing. Otherwise Internet Explorer (IE) will load what it calls its built-in "friendly HTTP error message" instead of your 404 page.

Step Three: Testing the Error Document

When you're satisfied with your page, upload it together with your .htaccess file to your website. Then test it by typing a URL that you know does not exist.

Your error page should load up. From this error page, test to see that the links here lead to the pages you intended it to lead.

Common Errors with a 404 Custom Error Page

  1. The most common error people have with their custom error page is making a mistake in the URL they put in their .htaccess file. This leads the web server into a loop when a visitor tries to access a missing file. When a file cannot be found the server tries to load the file specified in your ErrorDocument directive. But that file does not exist too, so it tries to load the file specified in that directive. You get the idea.

    Make sure you test your error file by typing in a non-existent URL. Do not test it by typing its real URL - that will of course work but it will prove nothing.

  2. Another common error is to forget that your 404 Error Page may be loaded either from the main directory or from a subdirectory or even your CGI-BIN directory. When you put links on your 404 Document Not Found page, such as hyperlinks leading to other pages on your site or links to images (such as your logo), be sure that you use the full URL and not a relative link. That is, use things like

  3. instead of

    The first will work even if the 404 page appears for a missing file in a subdirectory, but the second will not.

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How credit cards work

10.39 / Diposkan oleh metallic sucker and moslem militan / komentar (0)

Credit cards are issued after an account has been approved by the credit provider, after which cardholders can use it to make purchases at merchants accepting that card.

When a purchase is made, the credit card user agrees to pay the card issuer. The cardholder indicates consent to pay by signing a receipt with a record of the card details and indicating the amount to be paid or by entering a personal identification number (PIN). Also, many merchants now accept verbal authorizations via telephone and electronic authorization using the Internet, known as a 'Card/Cardholder Not Present' (CNP) transaction.

Electronic verification systems allow merchants to verify that the card is valid and the credit card customer has sufficient credit to cover the purchase in a few seconds, allowing the verification to happen at time of purchase. The verification is performed using a credit card payment terminal or Point of Sale (POS) system with a communications link to the merchant's acquiring bank. Data from the card is obtained from a magnetic stripe or chip on the card; the latter system is in the United Kingdom and Ireland commonly known as Chip and PIN, but is more technically an EMV card.

Other variations of verification systems are used by eCommerce merchants to determine if the user's account is valid and able to accept the charge. These will typically involve the cardholder providing additional information, such as the security code printed on the back of the card, or the address of the cardholder.

Each month, the credit card user is sent a statement indicating the purchases undertaken with the card, any outstanding fees, and the total amount owed. After receiving the statement, the cardholder may dispute any charges that he or she thinks are incorrect (see Fair Credit Billing Act for details of the US regulations). Otherwise, the cardholder must pay a defined minimum proportion of the bill by a due date, or may choose to pay a higher amount up to the entire amount owed. The credit provider charges interest on the amount owed if the balance is not paid in full (typically at a much higher rate than most other forms of debt). Some financial institutions can arrange for automatic payments to be deducted from the user's bank accounts, thus avoiding late payment altogether as long as the cardholder has sufficient funds.


[edit] Advertising, solicitation, application and approval

Credit card advertising regulations include Schumer's box disclosure requirements. A large fraction of junk mail consists of credit card offers. The three major US credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) have chosen to allow consumers to opt out from receiving virtually all credit card solicitation offers by mail. It can be done temporarily (via 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) or OptOutPreScreen.com and can be made permanent via appropriate reply to a confirmation letter sent by postal mail in response.[2]

Interest charges

Credit card issuers usually waive interest charges if the balance is paid in full each month, but typically will charge full interest on the entire outstanding balance from the date of each purchase if the total balance is not paid.

For example, if a user had a $1,000 transaction and repaid it in full within this grace period, there would be no interest charged. If, however, even $1.00 of the total amount remained unpaid, interest would be charged on the $1,000 from the date of purchase until the payment is received. The precise manner in which interest is charged is usually detailed in a cardholder agreement which may be summarized on the back of the monthly statement. The general calculation formula most financial institutions use to determine the amount of interest to be charged is APR/100 x ADB/365 x number of days revolved. Take the Annual percentage rate (APR) and divide by 100 then multiply to the amount of the average daily balance (ADB) divided by 365 and then take this total and multiply by the total number of days the amount revolved before payment was made on the account. Financial institutions refer to interest charged back to the original time of the transaction and up to the time a payment was made, if not in full, as RRFC or residual retail finance charge. Thus after an amount has revolved and a payment has been made, the user of the card will still receive interest charges on their statement after paying the next statement in full (in fact the statement may only have a charge for interest that collected up until the date the full balance was paid...i.e. when the balance stopped revolving).[3]

The credit card may simply serve as a form of revolving credit, or it may become a complicated financial instrument with multiple balance segments each at a different interest rate, possibly with a single umbrella credit limit, or with separate credit limits applicable to the various balance segments. Usually this compartmentalization is the result of special incentive offers from the issuing bank, to encourage balance transfers from cards of other issuers. In the event that several interest rates apply to various balance segments, payment allocation is generally at the discretion of the issuing bank, and payments will therefore usually be allocated towards the lowest rate balances until paid in full before any money is paid towards higher rate balances. Interest rates can vary considerably from card to card, and the interest rate on a particular card may jump dramatically if the card user is late with a payment on that card or any other credit instrument, or even if the issuing bank decides to raise its revenue.

[edit] Benefits to customers

Because of intense competition in the credit card industry, credit card providers often offer incentives such as frequent flyer points, gift certificates, or cash back (typically up to 1 percent based on total purchases) to try to attract customers to their programs. However it should be noted that the incentive is insignificant to the interest charged for carrying a balance.

Low interest credit cards or even 0% interest credit cards are available. However, services are available which alert credit card holders when their low interest period is due to expire. Most such services charge a monthly or annual fee.

Detriments to customers

Credit cards with low introductory rates are limited to a fixed term, usually between 6 and 12 months after which a higher rate is charged. As all credit cards assess fees and interest, some customers become so encumbered with their credit debt service that they are driven to bankruptcy. Credit cards will often stipulate a default rate of 20 to 30 percent in the event a payment is missed. That is, if a consumer misses a payment, the rate will automatically increase to a very burdensome level. This can lead to a snowball effect in which the consumer is drowned by unexpectedly high interest rates. Further most card holder agreements enable the issuer to arbitrarily raise the interest rate for any reason they see fit.

[edit] Grace period

A credit card's grace period is the time the customer has to pay the balance before interest is charged to the balance. Grace periods vary, but usually range from 20 to 40 days depending on the type of credit card and the issuing bank. Some policies allow for reinstatement after certain conditions are met.

Usually, if a customer is late paying the balance, finance charges will be calculated and the grace period does not apply. Finance charges incurred depend on the grace period and balance; with most credit cards there is no grace period if there is any outstanding balance from the previous billing cycle or statement (i.e. interest is applied on both the previous balance and new transactions). However, there are some credit cards that will only apply finance charge on the previous or old balance, excluding new transactions.

Benefits to merchants

An example of street markets accepting credit cards. Most simply display the logos (shown in the upper-left corner of the sign) of all the cards they accept.

For merchants, a credit card transaction is often more secure than other forms of payment, such as checks, because the issuing bank commits to pay the merchant the moment the transaction is authorized, regardless of whether the consumer defaults on the credit card payment (except for legitimate disputes, which are discussed below, and can result in charges back to the merchant). In most cases, cards are even more secure than cash, because they discourage theft by the merchant's employees and reduce the amount of cash on the premises. Prior to credit cards, each merchant had to evaluate each customer's credit history before extending credit. That task is now performed by the banks which assume the credit risk. Credit cards can also aid in securing a sale, especially if the customer does not have enough cash on his or her person or checking account.

For each purchase, the bank charges the merchant a commission (discount fee) for this service and there may be a certain delay before the agreed payment is received by the merchant. The commission is often a percentage of the transaction amount, plus a fixed fee. In addition, a merchant may be penalized or have their ability to receive payment using that credit card restricted if there are too many cancellations or reversals of charges as a result of disputes. Some small merchants require credit purchases to have a minimum amount (usually between $5 and $10) to compensate for the transaction costs, though this is strictly prohibited by credit card companies and credit card companies attempt to get consumers to report such merchants.[4]

In some countries, for example the Nordic countries, banks guarantee payment on stolen cards only if an ID card is checked and the ID card number/civic registration number is written down on the receipt together with the signature. In these countries merchants therefore usually ask for ID. Non-Nordic citizens, who are unlikely to possess a Nordic ID card or driving license, will instead have to show their passport, and the passport number will be written down on the receipt, sometimes together with other information. Some shops use the card's PIN for identification, and in that case showing an ID card is not necessary.

Costs to merchants

Merchants are charged many fees for the privilege of accepting credit cards. The merchant may be charged a discount rate of 1%-3%+ of each transaction obtained through a credit card. Usually, the merchant will also pay a flat per-item charge of $0.05 - $0.50 for each transaction. Thus in some instances of very low value transactions, use of credit cards may actually cause the merchant to lose money on the transaction. Merchants choose to pay these costs in exchange for the increased profitable sales they can create. Thus, they are considering part of the overall cost of marketing. Merchants with very low average transaction prices or very high average transaction prices are more averse to accepting credit cards. But rates are often reduced in an attempt to include more of these types of merchants.

Parties involved

  • Cardholder: The holder of the card used to make a purchase; the consumer.
  • Card-issuing bank: The financial institution or other organization that issued the credit card to the cardholder. This bank bills the consumer for repayment and bears the risk that the card is used fraudulently. American Express and Discover were previously the only card-issuing banks for their respective brands, but as of 2007, this is no longer the case. Cards issued by banks to cardholders in a different country are known as offshore credit cards.
  • Merchant: The individual or business accepting credit card payments for products or services sold to the cardholder
  • Acquiring bank: The financial institution accepting payment for the products or services on behalf of the merchant.
  • Independent sales organization: Resellers (to merchants) of the services of the acquiring bank.
  • Merchant account: This could refer to the acquiring bank or the independent sales organization, but in general is the organization that the merchant deals with.
  • Credit Card association: An association of card-issuing banks such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, etc. that set transaction terms for merchants, card-issuing banks, and acquiring banks.
  • Transaction network: The system that implements the mechanics of the electronic transactions. May be operated by an independent company, and one company may operate multiple networks. Transaction processing networks include: Cardnet, Nabanco, Omaha, Paymentech, NDC Atlanta, Nova, TSYS, Concord EFSnet, and VisaNet.[5]
  • Affinity partner: Some institutions lend their names to an issuer to attract customers that have a strong relationship with that institution, and get paid a fee or a percentage of the balance for each card issued using their name. Examples of typical affinity partners are sports teams, universities, charities, professional organizations, and major retailers.

The flow of information and money between these parties — always through the card associations — is known as the interchange, and it consists of a few steps.

[edit] Transaction steps

  • Authorization: The cardholder pays for the purchase and the merchant submits the transaction to the acquirer (acquiring bank). The acquirer verifies the credit card number, the transaction type and the amount with the issuer (Card-issuing bank) and reserves that amount of the cardholder's credit limit for the merchant. An authorization will generate an approval code, which the merchant stores with the transaction.
  • Batching: Authorized transactions are stored in "batches", which are sent to the acquirer. Batches are typically submitted once per day at the end of the business day. If a transaction is not submitted in the batch, the authorization will stay valid for a period determined by the issuer, after which the held amount will be returned back to the cardholder's available credit (see authorization hold). Some transactions may be submitted in the batch without prior authorizations; these are either transactions falling under the merchant's floor limit or ones where the authorization was unsuccessful but the merchant still attempts to force the transaction through. (Such may be the case when the cardholder is not present but owes the merchant additional money, such as extending a hotel stay or car rental.)
  • Clearing and Settlement: The acquirer sends the batch transactions through the credit card association, which debits the issuers for payment and credits the acquirer. Essentially, the issuer pays the acquirer for the transaction.
  • Funding: Once the acquirer has been paid, the acquirer pays the merchant. The merchant receives the amount totaling the funds in the batch minus the "discount rate," which is the fee the merchant pays the acquirer for processing the transactions.
  • Chargebacks: A chargeback is an event in which money in a merchant account is held due to a dispute relating to the transaction. Chargebacks are typically initiated by the cardholder. In the event of a chargeback, the issuer returns the transaction to the acquirer for resolution. The acquirer then forwards the chargeback to the merchant, who must either accept the chargeback or contest it.

Secured credit cards

A secured credit card is a type of credit card secured by a deposit account owned by the cardholder. Typically, the cardholder must deposit between 100% and 200% of the total amount of credit desired. Thus if the cardholder puts down $1000, they will be given credit in the range of $500–$1000. In some cases, credit card issuers will offer incentives even on their secured card portfolios. In these cases, the deposit required may be significantly less than the required credit limit, and can be as low as 10% of the desired credit limit. This deposit is held in a special savings account. Credit card issuers offer this because they have noticed that delinquencies were notably reduced when the customer perceives something to lose if the balance is not repaid.

The cardholder of a secured credit card is still expected to make regular payments, as with a regular credit card, but should they default on a payment, the card issuer has the option of recovering the cost of the purchases paid to the merchants out of the deposit. The advantage of the secured card for an individual with negative or no credit history is that most companies report regularly to the major credit bureaus. This allows for building of positive credit history.

Although the deposit is in the hands of the credit card issuer as security in the event of default by the consumer, the deposit will not be debited simply for missing one or two payments. Usually the deposit is only used as an offset when the account is closed, either at the request of the customer or due to severe delinquency (150 to 180 days). This means that an account which is less than 150 days delinquent will continue to accrue interest and fees, and could result in a balance which is much higher than the actual credit limit on the card. In these cases the total debt may far exceed the original deposit and the cardholder not only forfeits their deposit but is left with an additional debt.

Most of these conditions are usually described in a cardholder agreement which the cardholder signs when their account is opened.

Secured credit cards are an option to allow a person with a poor credit history or no credit history to have a credit card which might not otherwise be available. They are often offered as a means of rebuilding one's credit. Secured credit cards are available with both Visa and MasterCard logos on them. Fees and service charges for secured credit cards often exceed those charged for ordinary non-secured credit cards, however, for people in certain situations, (for example, after charging off on other credit cards, or people with a long history of delinquency on various forms of debt), secured cards can often be less expensive in total cost than unsecured credit cards, even including the security deposit.

Sometimes a credit card will be secured by the equity in the borrower's home.[6][7] This is called a home equity line of credit (HELOC).

Prepaid "credit" cards

A prepaid credit card is not a credit card,[8] since no credit is offered by the card issuer: the card-holder spends money which has been "stored" via a prior deposit by the card-holder or someone else, such as a parent or employer. However, it carries a credit-card brand (Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover) and can be used in similar ways just as though it were a regular credit card.[8][9]

After purchasing the card, the cardholder loads the account with any amount of money, up to the predetermined card limit [10] and then uses the card to make purchases the same way as a typical credit card. Prepaid cards can be issued to minors (above 13) since there is no credit line involved. The main advantage over secured credit cards (see above section) is that you are not required to come up with $500 or more to open an account. [11] With prepaid credit cards you are not charged any interest but you are often charged a purchasing fee plus monthly fees after an arbitrary time period. Many other fees also usually apply to a prepaid card.[8]

Prepaid credit cards are sometimes marketed to teenagers[8] for shopping online without having their parents complete the transaction.[12][13][14][15]

Because of the many fees that apply to obtaining and using credit-card-branded prepaid cards, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada describes them as "an expensive way to spend your own money".[16] The agency publishes a booklet, "Pre-paid cards",[17] which explains the advantages and disadvantages of this type of prepaid card.

Features

As well as convenient, accessible credit, credit cards offer consumers an easy way to track expenses, which is necessary for both monitoring personal expenditures and the tracking of work-related expenses for taxation and reimbursement purposes. Credit cards are accepted worldwide, and are available with a large variety of credit limits, repayment arrangement, and other perks (such as rewards schemes in which points earned by purchasing goods with the card can be redeemed for further goods and services or credit card cashback).

Some countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, limit the amount for which a consumer can be held liable due to fraudulent transactions as a result of a consumer's credit card being lost or stolen.

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Mortgage loan

10.33 / Diposkan oleh metallic sucker and moslem militan / komentar (0)

A mortgage loan is a loan secured by real property through the use of a note which evidences the existence of the loan and the encumbrance of that realty through the granting of a mortgage which secures the loan. However, the word mortgage alone, in everyday usage, is most often used to mean mortgage loan.

A home buyer or builder can obtain financing (a loan) either to purchase or secure against the property from a financial institution, such as a bank, either directly or indirectly through intermediaries. Features of mortgage loans such as the size of the loan, maturity of the loan, interest rate, method of paying off the loan, and other characteristics can vary considerably.

Mortgage loan basics

Basic concepts and legal regulation

According to Anglo-American property law, a mortgage occurs when an owner (usually of a fee simple interest in realty) pledges his interest as security or collateral for a loan. Therefore, a mortgage is an encumbrance on property just as an easement would be, but because most mortgages occur as a condition for new loan money, the word mortgage has become the generic term for a loan secured by such real property.[clarification needed]

As with other types of loans, mortgages have an interest rate and are scheduled to amortize over a set period of time; typically 30 years. All types of real property can, and usually are, secured with a mortgage and bear an interest rate that is supposed to reflect the lender's risk.

Mortgage lending is the primary mechanism used in many countries to finance private ownership of residential property. For commercial mortgages see the separate article. Although the terminology and precise forms will differ from country to country, the basic components tend to be similar:

  • Property: the physical residence being financed. The exact form of ownership will vary from country to country, and may restrict the types of lending that are possible.
  • Mortgage: the security created on the property by the lender, which will usually include certain restrictions on the use or disposal of the property (such as paying any outstanding debt before selling the property).
  • Borrower: the person borrowing who either has or is creating an ownership interest in the property.
  • Lender: any lender, but usually a bank or other financial institution.
  • Principal: the original size of the loan, which may or may not include certain other costs; as any principal is repaid, the principal will go down in size.
  • Interest: a financial charge for use of the lender's money.
  • Foreclosure or repossession: the possibility that the lender has to foreclose, repossess or seize the property under certain circumstances is essential to a mortgage loan; without this aspect, the loan is arguably no different from any other type of loan.

Many other specific characteristics are common to many markets, but the above are the essential features. Governments usually regulate many aspects of mortgage lending, either directly (through legal requirements, for example) or indirectly (through regulation of the participants or the financial markets, such as the banking industry), and often through state intervention (direct lending by the government, by state-owned banks, or sponsorship of various entities). Other aspects that define a specific mortgage market may be regional, historical, or driven by specific characteristics of the legal or financial system.

Mortgage loans are generally structured as long-term loans, the periodic payments for which are similar to an annuity and calculated according to the time value of money formulae. The most basic arrangement would require a fixed monthly payment over a period of ten to thirty years, depending on local conditions. Over this period the principal component of the loan (the original loan) would be slowly paid down through amortization. In practice, many variants are possible and common worldwide and within each country.

Lenders provide funds against property to earn interest income, and generally borrow these funds themselves (for example, by taking deposits or issuing bonds). The price at which the lenders borrow money therefore affects the cost of borrowing. Lenders may also, in many countries, sell the mortgage loan to other parties who are interested in receiving the stream of cash payments from the borrower, often in the form of a security (by means of a securitization). In the United States, the largest firms securitizing loans are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are government sponsored enterprises.

Mortgage lending will also take into account the (perceived) riskiness of the mortgage loan, that is, the likelihood that the funds will be repaid (usually considered a function of the creditworthiness of the borrower); that if they are not repaid, the lender will be able to foreclose and recoup some or all of its original capital; and the financial, interest rate risk and time delays that may be involved in certain circumstances.

Mortgage loan types

There are many types of mortgages used worldwide, but several factors broadly define the characteristics of the mortgage. All of these may be subject to local regulation and legal requirements.

  • Interest: interest may be fixed for the life of the loan or variable, and change at certain pre-defined periods; the interest rate can also, of course, be higher or lower.
  • Term: mortgage loans generally have a maximum term, that is, the number of years after which an amortizing loan will be repaid. Some mortgage loans may have no amortization, or require full repayment of any remaining balance at a certain date, or even negative amortization.
  • Payment amount and frequency: the amount paid per period and the frequency of payments; in some cases, the amount paid per period may change or the borrower may have the option to increase or decrease the amount paid.
  • Prepayment: some types of mortgages may limit or restrict prepayment of all or a portion of the loan, or require payment of a penalty to the lender for prepayment.

The two basic types of amortized loans are the fixed rate mortgage (FRM) and adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) (also known as a floating rate or variable rate mortgage). In many countries, floating rate mortgages are the norm and will simply be referred to as mortgages; in the United States, fixed rate mortgages are typically considered "standard." Combinations of fixed and floating rate are also common, whereby a mortgage loan will have a fixed rate for some period, and vary after the end of that period.

Historical U.S. Prime Rates

In a fixed rate mortgage, the interest rate, and hence periodic payment, remains fixed for the life (or term) of the loan. In the U.S., the term is usually up to 30 years (15 and 30 being the most common), although longer terms may be offered in certain circumstances. For a fixed rate mortgage, payments for principal and interest should not change over the life of the loan, although ancillary costs (such as property taxes and insurance) can and do change.

In an adjustable rate mortgage, the interest rate is generally fixed for a period of time, after which it will periodically (for example, annually or monthly) adjust up or down to some market index. Common indices in the U.S. include the Prime rate, the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), and the Treasury Index ("T-Bill"); other indices are in use but are less popular.

Adjustable rates transfer part of the interest rate risk from the lender to the borrower, and thus are widely used where fixed rate funding is difficult to obtain or prohibitively expensive. Since the risk is transferred to the borrower, the initial interest rate may be from 0.5% to 2% lower than the average 30-year fixed rate; the size of the price differential will be related to debt market conditions, including the yield curve.

Additionally, lenders in many markets rely on credit reports and credit scores derived from them. The higher the score, the more creditworthy the borrower is assumed to be. Favorable interest rates are offered to buyers with high scores. Lower scores indicate higher risk for the lender, and higher rates will generally be charged to reflect the (expected) higher default rates.

A partial amortization or balloon loan is one where the amount of monthly payments due are calculated (amortized) over a certain term, but the outstanding principal balance is due at some point short of that term. This payment is sometimes referred to as a "balloon payment" or bullet payment. The interest rate for a balloon loan can be either fixed or floating. The most common way of describing a balloon loan uses the terminology X due in Y, where X is the number of years over which the loan is amortized, and Y is the year in which the principal balance is due.

Loan to value and downpayments

Upon making a mortgage loan for purchase of a property, lenders usually require that the borrower make a downpayment, that is, contribute a portion of the cost of the property. This downpayment may be expressed as a portion of the value of the property (see below for a definition of this term). The loan to value ratio (or LTV) is the size of the loan against the value of the property. Therefore, a mortgage loan where the purchaser has made a downpayment of 20% has a loan to value ratio of 80%. For loans made against properties that the borrower already owns, the loan to value ratio will be imputed against the estimated value of the property.

The loan to value ratio is considered an important indicator of the riskiness of a mortgage loan: the higher the LTV, the higher the risk that the value of the property (in case of foreclosure) will be insufficient to cover the remaining principal of the loan.

Value: appraised, estimated, and actual

Since the value of the property is an important factor in understanding the risk of the loan, determining the value is a key factor in mortgage lending. The value may be determined in various ways, but the most common are:

  1. Actual or transaction value: this is usually taken to be the purchase price of the property. If the property is not being purchased at the time of borrowing, this information may not be available.
  2. Appraised or surveyed value: in most jurisdictions, some form of appraisal of the value by a licensed professional is common. There is often a requirement for the lender to obtain an official appraisal.
  3. Estimated value: lenders or other parties may use their own internal estimates, particularly in jurisdictions where no official appraisal procedure exists, but also in some other circumstances.

Equity or homeowner's equity

The concept of equity in a property refers to the value of the property minus the outstanding debt, subject to the definition of the value of the property. Therefore, a borrower who owns a property whose estimated value is $400,000 but with outstanding mortgage loans of $300,000 is said to have homeowner's equity of $100,000.

Payment and debt ratios

In most countries, a number of more or less standard measures of creditworthiness may be used. Common measures include payment to income (mortgage payments as a percentage of gross or net income); debt to income (all debt payments, including mortgage payments, as a percentage of income); and various net worth measures. In many countries, credit scores are used in lieu of or to supplement these measures. There will also be requirements for documentation of the creditworthiness, such as income tax returns, pay stubs, etc; the specifics will vary from location to location.

Some lenders may also require a potential borrower have one or more months of "reserve assets" available. In other words, the borrower may be required to show the availability of enough assets to pay for the housing costs (including mortgage, taxes, etc.) for a period of time in the event of the job loss or other loss of income.

Many countries have lower requirements for certain borrowers, or "no-doc" / "low-doc" lending standards that may be acceptable in certain circumstances.

Standard or conforming mortgages

Many countries have a notion of standard or conforming mortgages that define a perceived acceptable level of risk, which may be formal or informal, and may be reinforced by laws, government intervention, or market practice. For example, a standard mortgage may be considered to be one with no more than 70-80% LTV and no more than one-third of gross income going to mortgage debt.

A standard or conforming mortgage is a key concept as it often defines whether or not the mortgage can be easily sold or securitized, or, if non-standard, may affect the price at which it may be sold. In the United States, a conforming mortgage is one which meets the established rules and procedures of the two major government-sponsored entities in the housing finance market (including some legal requirements). In contrast, lenders who decide to make nonconforming loans are exercising a higher risk tolerance and do so knowing that they face more challenge in reselling the loan. Many countries have similar concepts or agencies that define what are "standard" mortgages. Regulated lenders (such as banks) may be subject to limits or higher risk weightings for non-standard mortgages. For example, banks in Canada face restrictions on lending more than 75% of the property value; beyond this level, mortgage insurance is generally required (as of April 2007, there is a proposal to raise this limit to 80%).

Repaying the capital

There are various ways to repay a mortgage loan; repayment depends on locality, tax laws and prevailing culture.

Capital and interest

The most common way to repay a loan is to make regular payments of the capital (also called principal) and interest over a set term. This is commonly referred to as (self) amortization in the U.S. and as a repayment mortgage in the UK. A mortgage is a form of annuity (from the perspective of the lender), and the calculation of the periodic payments is based on the time value of money formulas. Certain details may be specific to different locations: interest may be calculated on the basis of a 360-day year, for example; interest may be compounded daily, yearly, or semi-annually; prepayment penalties may apply; and other factors. There may be legal restrictions on certain matters, and consumer protection laws may specify or prohibit certain practices.

Depending on the size of the loan and the prevailing practice in the country the term may be short (10 years) or long (50 years plus). In the UK and U.S., 25 to 30 years is the usual maximum term (although shorter periods, such as 15-year mortgage loans, are common). Mortgage payments, which are typically made monthly, contain a capital (repayment of the principal) and an interest element. The amount of capital included in each payment varies throughout the term of the mortgage. In the early years the repayments are largely interest and a small part capital. Towards the end of the mortgage the payments are mostly capital and a smaller portion interest. In this way the payment amount determined at outset is calculated to ensure the loan is repaid at a specified date in the future. This gives borrowers assurance that by maintaining repayment the loan will be cleared at a specified date, if the interest rate does not change.

Interest only

The main alternative to capital and interest mortgage is an interest only mortgage, where the capital is not repaid throughout the term. This type of mortgage is common in the UK, especially when associated with a regular investment plan. With this arrangement regular contributions are made to a separate investment plan designed to build up a lump sum to repay the mortgage at maturity. This type of arrangement is called an investment-backed mortgage or is often related to the type of plan used: endowment mortgage if an endowment policy is used, similarly a Personal Equity Plan (PEP) mortgage, Individual Savings Account (ISA) mortgage or pension mortgage. Historically, investment-backed mortgages offered various tax advantages over repayment mortgages, although this is no longer the case in the UK. Investment-backed mortgages are seen as higher risk as they are dependent on the investment making sufficient return to clear the debt.

Until recently it was not uncommon for interest only mortgages to be arranged without a repayment vehicle, with the borrower gambling that the property market will rise sufficiently for the loan to be repaid by trading down at retirement (or when rent on the property and inflation combine to surpass the interest rate).

No capital or interest

For older borrowers (typically in retirement), it may be possible to arrange a mortgage where neither the capital nor interest is repaid. The interest is rolled up with the capital, increasing the debt each year.

These arrangements are variously called reverse mortgages, lifetime mortgages or equity release mortgages, depending on the country. The loans are typically not repaid until the borrowers die, hence the age restriction. For further details, see equity release.

Interest and partial capital

In the U.S. a partial amortization or balloon loan is one where the amount of monthly payments due are calculated (amortized) over a certain term, but the outstanding capital balance is due at some point short of that term. In the UK, a part repayment mortgage is quite common, especially where the original mortgage was investment-backed and on moving house further borrowing is arranged on a capital and interest (repayment) basis.

Foreclosure and non-recourse lending

In most jurisdictions, a lender may foreclose the mortgaged property if certain conditions - principally, non-payment of the mortgage loan - obtain. Subject to local legal requirements, the property may then be sold. Any amounts received from the sale (net of costs) are applied to the original debt. In some jurisdictions, mortgage loans are non-recourse loans: if the funds recouped from sale of the mortgaged property are insufficient to cover the outstanding debt, the lender may not have recourse to the borrower after foreclosure. In other jurisdictions, the borrower remains responsible for any remaining debt. In virtually all jurisdictions, specific procedures for foreclosure and sale of the mortgaged property apply, and may be tightly regulated by the relevant government; in some jurisdictions, foreclosure and sale can occur quite rapidly, while in others, foreclosure may take many months or even years. In many countries, the ability of lenders to foreclose is extremely limited, and mortgage market development has been notably slower.

Mortgage lending: United States

United States mortgage process

In the U.S., the process by which a mortgage is secured by a borrower is called origination. This involves the borrower submitting an application and documentation related to his/her financial history and/or credit history to the underwriter. Many banks now offer "no-doc" or "low-doc" loans in which the borrower is required to submit only minimal financial information. These loans carry a higher interest rate and are available only to borrowers with excellent credit. Sometimes, a third party is involved, such as a mortgage broker. This entity takes the borrower's information and reviews a number of lenders, selecting the ones that will best meet the needs of the consumer.

Loans are often sold on the open market to larger investors by the originating mortgage company. Many of the guidelines that they follow are suited to satisfy investors. Some companies, called correspondent lenders, sell all or most of their closed loans to these investors, accepting some risks for issuing them. They often offer niche loans at higher prices that the investor does not wish to originate.

If the underwriter is not satisfied with the documentation provided by the borrower, additional documentation and conditions may be imposed, called stipulations. The meeting of such conditions can be a daunting experience for the consumer, but it is crucial for the lending institution to ensure the information being submitted is accurate and meets specific guidelines. This is done to give the lender a reasonable guarantee that the borrower can and will repay the loan. If a third party is involved in the loan, it will help the borrower to clear such conditions.

The following documents are typically required for traditional underwriter review. Over the past several years, use of "automated underwriting" statistical models has reduced the amount of documentation required from many borrowers. Such automated underwriting engines include Freddie Mac's "Loan Prospector" and Fannie Mae's "Desktop Underwriter". For borrowers who have excellent credit and very acceptable debt positions, there may be virtually no documentation of income or assets required at all. Many of these documents are also not required for no-doc and low-doc loans.

  • Credit Report
  • 1003 — Uniform Residential Loan Application
  • 1004 — Uniform Residential Appraisal Report
  • 1005 — Verification Of Employment (VOE)
  • 1006 — Verification Of Deposit (VOD)
  • 1007 — Single Family Comparable Rent Schedule
  • 1008 — Transmittal Summary
  • Copy of deed of current home
  • Federal income tax records for last two years
  • Verification of Mortgage (VOM) or Verification of Payment (VOP)
  • Borrower's Authorization
  • Purchase Sales Agreement
  • 1084A and 1084B (Self-Employed Income Analysis) and 1088 (Comparative Income Analysis) - used if borrower is self-employed

[edit] Predatory mortgage lending

There is concern in the U.S. that consumers are often victims of predatory mortgage lending [2]. The main concern is that mortgage brokers and lenders, operating legally, are finding loopholes in the law to obtain additional profit. The typical scenario is that terms of the loan are beyond the means of the borrower. The borrower makes a number of interest and principal payments, and then defaults. The lender then takes the property and recovers the amount of the loan, and also keeps the interest and principal payments, as well as loan origination fees.

Option ARM

An option ARM provides the option to pay as little as the equivalent of an amortized payment based on a 1% interest rate, (please note this is not the actual interest rate). As a result, the difference between the monthly payment and the interest on the loan is added to the loan principal; the loan at this point has negative amortization. In this respect, an option ARM provides a form of equity withdrawal (as in a cash-out refinancing) but over a period of time.

The option ARM gives a number of payment choices each month (for example, the equivalent of an amortized payment where the interest rate 1%, interest only based on actual interest rate, actual 30 year amortized payment, actual 15 year amortized payment). The interest rate may adjust every month in accordance with the index to which the loan is tied and the terms of the specific loan. These loans may be useful for people who have a lot of equity in their home and want to lower monthly costs; for investors, allowing them the flexibility to choose which payment to make every month; or for those with irregular incomes (such as those working on commission or for whom bonuses comprise a large portion of income).

One of the important features of this type of loan is that the minimum payments are often fixed for each year for an initial term of up to 5 years. The minimum payment may rise each year a little (payment size increases of 7.5% are common) but remain the same for another year. For example, a minimum payment for year 1 may be $1,000 per month each month all year long. In year 2 the minimum payment for each month is $1,075 each month. This is a gradual increase in the minimum payment. The interest rate may fluctuate each month, which means that the extent of any negative amortization cannot be predicted beyond worst-case scenario as dictated by the terms of the loan.

Option ARM mortgages have been criticized on the basis that some borrowers are not aware of the implications of negative amortization; that eventually option ARMs reset to higher payment levels (an event called "recast" to amortize the loan), and borrowers may not be capable of making the higher monthly payments; and that option ARMs have been used to qualify mortgages for individuals whose incomes cannot support payments higher than the minimum level.

[edit] Costs

Lenders may charge various fees when giving a mortgage to a mortgagor. These include entry fees, exit fees, administration fees and lenders mortgage insurance. There are also settlement fees (closing costs) the settlement company will charge. In addition, if a third party handles the loan, it may charge other fees as well.

The United States mortgage finance industry

Mortgage lending is a major category of the business of finance in the United States. Mortgages are commercial paper and can be conveyed and assigned freely to other holders. In the U.S., the Federal government created several programs, or government sponsored entities, to foster mortgage lending, construction and encourage home ownership. These programs include the Government National Mortgage Association (known as Ginnie Mae), the Federal National Mortgage Association (known as Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (known as Freddie Mac). These programs work by buying a large number of mortgages from banks and issuing (at a slightly lower interest rate) "mortgage-backed bonds" to investors, which are known as mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

This allows the banks to quickly relend the money to other borrowers (including in the form of mortgages) and thereby to create more mortgages than the banks could with the amount they have on deposit. This in turn allows the public to use these mortgages to purchase homes, something the government wishes to encourage. The investors, meanwhile, gain low-risk income at a higher interest rate (essentially the mortgage rate, minus the cuts of the bank and GSE) than they could gain from most other bonds.

Securitization is a momentous change in the way that mortgage bond markets function, and has grown rapidly in the last 10 years as a result of the wider dissemination of technology in the mortgage lending world. For borrowers with superior credit, government loans and ideal profiles, this securitization keeps rates almost artificially low, since the pools of funds used to create new loans can be refreshed more quickly than in years past, allowing for more rapid outflow of capital from investors to borrowers without as many personal business ties as the past.

The greatly increased rate of lending led (among other factors) to the United States housing bubble of 2000-2006. The growth of lightly regulated derivative instruments based on mortgage-backed securities, such as collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps, is widely reported as a major causative factor behind the 2007 subprime mortgage financial crisis.

Second-layer lenders in the US

A group called second-layer lenders became an important force in the residential mortgage market in the latter half of the 1960s. These federal credit agencies, which include the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., the Federal National Mortgage Association, and the Government National Mortgage Association, conduct secondary market activities in the buying and selling of loans and provide credit to primary lenders in the form of borrowed money. They do not have direct contact with the individual consumer.

[edit] Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation

The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, sometimes known as Freddie Mac, was established in 1970. This corporation is designed to promote the flow of capital into the housing market by establishing an active secondary market in mortgages[1]. It may by law deal only with government-supervised lenders such as savings and loan associations, savings banks, and commercial banks; its programs cover conventional whole mortgage loans, participations in conventional loans, and FHA and VA loans.

Federal National Mortgage Association

The Federal National Mortgage Association, known in financial circles as Fannie Mae, was chartered as a government corporation in 1938, rechartered as a federal agency in 1954, and became a government-sponsored, stockholder-owned corporation in 1968[1]. Fannie Mae, which has been described as "a private corporation with a public purpose", basically provides a secondary market for residential loans. It fulfills this function by buying, servicing, and selling loans that, since 1970, have included FHA-insured, VA-guaranteed, and conventional loans. However, purchases outrun sales by such a wide margin that some observers view this association as a lender with a permanent loan portfolio rather than a powerful secondary market corporation.

[edit] Government National Mortgage Association

The Government National Mortgage Association, which is often referred to as Ginnie Mae, operates within the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition to performing the special assistance, management, and liquidation functions that once belonged to Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae has an important additional function — that of issuing guarantees of securities backed by government-insured or guaranteed mortgages. Such mortgage-backed securities are fully guaranteed by the U.S. government as to timely payment of both principal and interest[1].

Competition among US lenders for loanable funds

To be able to provide homebuyers and builders with the funds needed, financial institutions must compete for deposits. Consumer lending institutions compete for loanable funds not only among themselves but also with the federal government and private corporations. Called disintermediation, this process involves the movement of dollars from savings accounts into direct market instruments: U.S. Treasury obligations, agency securities, and corporate debt. One of the greatest factors in recent years in the movement of deposits was the tremendous growth of money market funds whose higher interest rates attracted consumer deposits.[2]

To compete for deposits, US savings institutions offer many different types of plans[2]:

  • Passbook or ordinary accounts — permit any amount to be added to or withdrawn from the account at any time.
  • NOW and Super NOW accounts — function like checking accounts but earn interest. A minimum balance may be required on Super NOW accounts.
  • Money market accounts — carry a monthly limit of preauthorized transfers to other accounts or persons and may require a minimum or average balance.
  • Certificate accounts — subject to loss of some or all interest on withdrawals before maturity.
  • Notice accounts — the equivalent of certificate accounts with an indefinite term. Savers agree to notify the institution a specified time before withdrawal.
  • Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and Keogh accounts—a form of retirement savings in which the funds deposited and interest earned are exempt from income tax until after withdrawal.
  • Checking accounts — offered by some institutions under definite restrictions.
  • Club accounts and other savings accounts—designed to help people save regularly to meet certain goals.

[edit] Mortgages in the UK

The mortgage loans industry and market

There are currently over 200 significant separate financial organizations supplying mortgage loans to house buyers in Britain. The major lenders include building societies, banks, specialized mortgage corporations, insurance companies, and pension funds. Over the years, the share of the new mortgage loans market held by building societies has declined. Between 1977 and 1987, it fell drastically from 96% to 66% while that of banks and other institutions rose from 3% to 36%. The banks and other institutions that made major inroads into the mortgage market during this period were helped by such factors as:

  • relative managerial efficiency;
  • advanced technology, organizational capabilities, and expertise in marketing;
  • extensive branch networks; and
  • capacities to tap cheaper international sources of funds for lending.[3]

By the early 1990s, UK building societies had succeeded in greatly slowing if not reversing the decline in their market share. In 1990, the societies held over 60% of all mortgage loans but took over 75% of the new mortgage market – mainly at the expense of specialized mortgage loans corporations. Building societies also increased their share of the personal savings deposits market in the early 1990s at the expense of the banks – attracting 51% of this market in 1990 compared with 42% in 1989.[4] One study found that in the five years 1987-1992, the building societies collectively outperformed the UK clearing banks on practically all the major growth and performance measures. The societies' share of the new mortgage loans market of 75% in 1990-91 was similar to the share level achieved in 1985. Profitability as measured by return on capital was 17.8% for the top 20 societies in 1991, compared with only 8.5% for the big four banks. Finally, bad debt provisions relative to advances were only 0.4% for the top 20 societies compared with 2.8% for the four banks.[5]

Though the building societies did subsequently recover a significant amount of the mortgage lending business lost to the banks, they still only had about two-thirds of the total market at the end of the 1980s. However, banks and building societies were by now becoming increasingly similar in terms of their structures and functions. When the Abbey National building society converted into a bank in 1989, this could be regarded either as a major diversification of a building society into retail banking – or as significantly increasing the presence of banks in the residential mortgage loans market. Research organization Industrial Systems Research has observed that trends towards the increased integration of the financial services sector have made comparison and analysis of the market shares of different types of institution increasingly problematical. It identifies as major factors making for consistently higher levels of growth and performance on the part of some mortgage lenders in the UK over the years:

  • the introduction of new technologies, mergers, structural reorganization and the realization of economies of scale, and generally increased efficiency in production and marketing operations – insofar as these things enable lenders to reduce their costs and offer more price-competitive and innovative loans and savings products;
  • buoyant retail savings receipts, and reduced reliance on relatively expensive wholesale markets for funds (especially when interest rates generally are being maintained at high levels internationally);
  • lower levels of arrears, possessions, bad debts, and provisioning than competitors;
  • increased flexibility and earnings from secondary sources and activities as a result of political-legal deregulation; and
  • being specialized or concentrating on traditional core, relatively profitable mortgage lending and savings deposit operations.[6]

[edit] Mortgage types

The UK mortgage market is one of the most innovative and competitive in the world. Unlike some other countries, there is little intervention in the market by the state or state funded entities and virtually all borrowing is funded by either mutual organisations (building societies and credit unions) or proprietary lenders (typically banks). Since 1982, when the market was substantially deregulated, there has been substantial innovation and diversification of strategies employed by lenders to attract borrowers. This has led to a wide range of mortgage types.

As lenders derive their funds either from the money markets or from deposits, most mortgages revert to a variable rate, either the lender's standard variable rate or a tracker rate, which will tend to be linked to the underlying Bank of England (BoE) repo rate (or sometimes LIBOR). Initially they will tend to offer an incentive deal to attract new borrowers. This may be:

  • A fixed rate; where the interest rate remains constant for a set period; typically for 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 years. Longer term fixed rates (over 5 years) whilst available, tend to be more expensive and/or have more onerous early repayment charges and are therefore less popular than shorter term fixed rates.
  • A capped rate; where similar to a fixed rate, the interest rate cannot rise above the cap but can vary beneath the cap. Sometimes there is a collar associated with this type of rate which imposes a minimum rate. Capped rate are often offered over periods similar to fixed rates, e.g. 2, 3, 4 or 5 years.
  • A discount rate; where there is set margin reduction in the standard variable rate (e.g. a 2% discount) for a set period; typically 1 to 5 years. Sometimes the discount is expressed as a margin over the base rate (e.g. BoE base rate plus 0.5% for 2 years) and sometimes the rate is stepped (e.g. 3% in year 1, 2% in year 2, 1% in year three).
  • A cashback mortgage; where a lump sum is provided (typically) as a percentage of the advance e.g. 5% of the loan.

To make matters more confusing these rates are often combined: For example, 4.5% 2 year fixed then a 3 year tracker at BoE rate plus 0.89%.

With each incentive the lender may be offering a rate at less than the market cost of the borrowing. Therefore, they typically impose a penalty if the borrower repays the loan within the incentive period or a longer period (referred to as an extended tie-in). These penalties used to be called a redemption penalty or tie-in, however since the onset of Financial Services Authority regulation they are referred to as an early repayment charge.

"Self Cert" mortgage

Mortgage lenders usually use salaries declared on wage slips to work out a borrower's annual income and will usually lend up to a fixed multiple of the borrower's annual income. Self Certification Mortgages, informally known as "self cert" mortgages, are available to employed and self employed people who have a deposit to buy a house but lack the sufficient documentation to prove their income.

This type of mortgage can be beneficial to people whose income comes from multiple sources, whose salary consists largely or exclusively of commissions or bonuses, or whose accounts may not show a true reflection of their earnings. Self cert mortgages have two disadvantages: the interest rates charged are usually higher than for normal mortgages and the loan to value ratio is usually lower.

100% mortgages

Normally when a bank lends a customer money they want to protect their money as much as possible; they do this by asking the borrower to fund a certain percentage of the property purchase in the form of a deposit.

100% mortgages are mortgages that require no deposit (100% loan to value). These are sometimes offered to first time buyers, but almost always carry a higher interest rate on the loan.

Together/Plus mortgages

A development of the theme of 100% mortgages is represented by Together/Plus type mortgages, which have been launched by a number of lenders in recent years.

Together/Plus Mortgages represent loans of 100% or more of the property value - typically up to a maximum of 125%. Such loans are normally (but not universally) structured as a package of a 95% mortgage and an unsecured loan of up to 30% of the property value. This structure is mandated by lenders' capital requirements which require additional capital for loans of 100% or more of the property value.

UK mortgage process

UK lenders usually charge a valuation fee, which pays for a chartered surveyor to visit the property and ensure it is worth enough to cover the mortgage amount. This is not a full survey so it may not identify all the defects that a house buyer needs to know about. Also, it does not usually form a contract between the surveyor and the buyer, so the buyer has no right to sue if the survey fails to detect a major problem. For an extra fee, the surveyor can usually carry out a building survey or a (cheaper) "homebuyers survey" at the same time.[7]

Mortgage lending in Continental Europe

Within the European Union, the Covered bonds market volume (covered bonds outstanding) amounted to about EUR 2 billion at year-end 2007 with Germany, Denmark, Spain, and France each having outstandings above 200.000 EUR million[8]. In German language, Pfandbriefe is the term applied. Pfandbrief-like securities have been introduced in more than 25 European countries – and in recent years also in the U.S. and other countries outside Europe – each with their own unique law and regulations. However, the diffusion of the concept differ: In 2000, the US institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac together reached one per cent of the national population. Furthermore, 87 per cent of their purchased mortgages were granted to borrowers in metropolitan areas with higher income levels. In Europe, a wider market has been achieved: In Denmark, mortgage banks reached 35 per cent of the population in 2002, while the German Bausparkassen achieved widespread regional distribution and more than 30 per cent of the German population concluded a Bauspar contract (as of 2001)[9].

Costs

A study issued by the UN Economic Commission for Europe compared German, US, and Danish mortgage systems. The German Bausparkassen have reported nominal interest rates of approximately 6 per cent per annum in the last 40 years (as of 2004). In addition, they charge administration and service fees (about 1.5 per cent of the loan amount). In the United States, the average interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages in the housing market started in high double figures in the 1980s and have (as of 2004) reached about 6 per cent per annum. However, gross borrowing costs are substantially higher than the nominal interest rate and amounted for the last 30 years to 10.46 per cent. In Denmark, similar to the United States capital market, interest rates have fallen to 6 per cent per annum. A risk and administration fee amounts to 0.5 per cent of the outstanding debt. In addition, an acquisition fee is charged which amounts to one per cent of the principal[9].

[edit] Recent trends

July 28, 2008, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced that, along with four large US banks, the Treasury would attempt to kick-start a market for these securities in the U.S., primarily to provide an alternative form of mortgage-backed securities[10]. Similarly, in the UK "the Government is inviting views on options for a UK framework to deliver more affordable long-term fixed-rate mortgages, including the lessons to be learned from international markets and institutions"[11]. More specifically, Mr. George Soros issued a Wall Street Journal Opinion: Denmark Offers a Model Mortgage Market[12]. - A survey of European Pfandbrief-like products was issued in 2005 by the Bank for International Settlements[13]; the International Monetary Fund in 2007 issued a study of the covered bond markets in Germany and Spain[14], while the European Central Bank in 2003 issued a study of housing markets, addressing also mortgage markets and providing a two page overview of current mortgage systems in the EU countries[15].

[edit] History

While the idea originated in Prussia in 1769[16], a Danish act on mortgage credit associations of 1850 enabled the issuing of bonds (Danish: Realkreditobligationer) as a means to refinance mortgage loans [17]. With the German mortgage banks law of 1900, the whole German Empire was given a standardized legal foundation for the emission of Pfandbriefe. An account from the perspective of development economics is available.[18]

Mortgage insurance

Mortgage insurance is an insurance policy designed to protect the mortgagee (lender) from any default by the mortgagor (borrower). It is used commonly in loans with a loan-to-value ratio over 80%, and employed in the event of foreclosure and repossession.

This policy is typically paid for by the borrower as a component to final nominal (note) rate, or in one lump sum up front, or as a separate and itemized component of monthly mortgage payment. In the last case, mortgage insurance can be dropped when the lender informs the borrower, or its subsequent assigns, that the property has appreciated, the loan has been paid down, or any combination of both to relegate the loan-to-value under 80%.

In the event of repossession, banks, investors, etc. must resort to selling the property to recoup their original investment (the money lent), and are able to dispose of hard assets (such as real estate) more quickly by reductions in price. Therefore, the mortgage insurance acts as a hedge should the repossessing authority recover less than full and fair market value for any hard asset.

Islamic mortgages

The Sharia law of Islam prohibits the payment or receipt of interest, which means that practising Muslims cannot use conventional mortgages. However, real estate is far too expensive for most people to buy outright using cash: Islamic mortgages solve this problem by having the property change hands twice. In one variation, the bank will buy the house outright and then act as a landlord. The homebuyer, in addition to paying rent, will pay a contribution towards the purchase of the property. When the last payment is made, the property changes hands.[citation needed]

Typically, this may lead to a higher final price for the buyers. This is because in some countries (such as the United Kingdom and India) there is a Stamp Duty which is a tax charged by the government on a change of ownership. Because ownership changes twice in an Islamic mortgage, a stamp tax may be charged twice. Many other jurisdictions have similar transaction taxes on change of ownership which may be levied. In the United Kingdom, the dual application of Stamp Duty in such transactions was removed in the Finance Act 2003 in order to facilitate Islamic mortgages.[19]

An alternative scheme involves the bank reselling the property according to an installment plan, at a price higher than the original price.

Both of these methods compensate the lender as if they were charging interest, but the loans are structured in a way that in name they are not, and the lender shares the financial risks involved in the transaction with the homebuyer

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