Sunday, February 28, 2010

How U.S. Olympians pay the rent

Good read from cnn

NEW YORK ( -- Even Olympians have to pay the rent.

These world-class athletes are in the spotlight for two weeks every couple of years. But for the most part, they're just regular people who have to make a living as teachers, fitness instructors or market researchers, all while putting in hours of grueling sports training.

For every Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn, two gold medalists who have scored multi-million dollar endorsement deals, there is a Tyler Jewell.

Jewell, a two-time Olympic snowboarder who finished 13th in Saturday's men's parallel giant slalom at the Winter Games in Vancouver, supports himself with a patchwork of odd jobs.

"I sold sausages at a state fair in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a bunch of years," he said. He's also worked at a golf course and as a concrete crew man, among other things.

"It's hard to hold down a full-time job," said the 33 year-old Boston College graduate. "I have 5 hours a day of training."

Jewell has also worked on and off at the Home Depot (HD, Fortune 500) since 2004 as a part of the Olympic Job Opportunities Program (OJOP), a partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee that paid athletes full-time salaries and benefits for working part-time hours. But the retailer folded OJOP in 2009, after four years as the exclusive sponsor.

USOC spokesman, Keith Bryant, says the organization is hoping to revive the 33 year-old program, which in the past has partnered with hundreds of companies including Anheuser-Busch and J.C. Penney (JCP, Fortune 500).

"It's a shame that it's gone, but to have had it at all was an amazing thing," said Jewell. Without the Home Depot job to fall back on, he wonders: "how am I going to make it?"
Curling isn't cheap

Of course Jewell and most other Olympic athletes do receive some funding from the USOC, which relies on corporate sponsors and private donations. But that generally isn't enough to cover their travel, tournament, and equipment costs.

Those expenses pile up fast. Nicole Joraanstad, an Olympic curler, says a single season competing just to qualify for the Olympics costs as much as $150,000.

Joraanstad, 29, works full-time as a human resources recruiter at TDS Telecommunications in Madison, Wis., but she does have to take a lot of time to compete. She took almost four weeks off just to make her first Olympic appearance in Vancouver this year. In 2009 she used up all of her vacation time traveling to tournaments, and had to take a few weeks unpaid.

Balancing the day-to-day demands of both work and curling is tough too. During the height of her training, Joraanstad worked eight hour days, and trained another four hours a day. "I'm proud of myself. I think I handled it well," said Joraanstad.

Joraanstad was lucky enough to score her job independently, but the USOC also partners with staffing firms to help athletes secure flexible positions. The Adecco Group, a Zurich, Switzerland-based global staffing firm, renewed its contract with the U.S.O.C. through 2012. Since 2005, its Athletes Career Program has helped over 5,000 athletes worldwide.

In February, Adecco and Hilton Worldwide announced a partnership to provide U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes with career training and jobs in Hilton's more than 3,150 hotels and 30 corporate offices in the United States.
A tough sell

Strong work ethics and time management skills make athletes attractive to employers, says Patricia Wilson, brand director for Adecco Group North America. "Athletes know how to succeed independently, but they [also] know the importance of being a team player," she said.

Still, athlete workers, who often travel for two to three months at a time, are a hard sell in an economy with 9.7% unemployment.

Winter athletes have the hardest schedules, since their sports are more popular outside of the United States. The women's curling team, for example, had nine curling tournaments between September and January, eight of which were in Europe and Canada.

"It's definitely more challenging, especially in an economy in which companies are asking less people to do more," said the USOC's Keith Bryant.

"We're asking companies to take athletes with great transferable skills, but that need flexibility [in their schedules]. It takes a special organization to help athletes to get these assignments."

What's worse is that the United States won't host an Olympic winter or summer event for some time, pushing U.S. athletes further out of the spotlight.

"Athletes fade from attention in off-Olympic years," said Bob Dorfman, an endorsement expert and executive creative director at Baker Street advertising and marketing agency. "But they still have to support themselves."

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Former Teen Cheerleader Dinged $27,750 for File Sharing 37 Songs

Interesting Read:

A federal appeals court is ordering a university student to pay the Recording Industry Association of America $27,750 — $750 a track — for file sharing 37 songs when she was a high school cheerleader.

The decision Thursday by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a Texas federal judge who had ordered defendant Whitney Harper to pay $7,400, or $200 per song. The lower court had granted her an “innocent infringer’s” exemption to the Copyright Act’s minimum of $750 per track because she said she didn’t know she was violating copyrights and thought file sharing was akin to internet radio streaming.

The appeals court, however, said the woman was not eligible for such a defense — even if it was true she was between 14 and 16 years old when the infringing activity occurred on Limewire. The reason, the court concluded, is that the Copyright Act precludes such a defense if the legitimate CDs of the music in question provide copyright notices.

“Harper cannot rely on her purported legal naivety [sic] to defeat the … bar to her innocent infringer defense,” the New Orleans-based appeals court ruled unanimously, 3-0.

Harper, now 22 and a Texas Tech senior, said in 2008 interview that she didn’t know what she did was wrong when she file shared Eminem, the Police, Mariah Carey and others as a teen.

“I knew I was listening to music. I didn’t have an understanding of file sharing,” she said.

Scott Mackenzie, the woman’s attorney, said Friday that “She’s going to graduate with a federal judgment against her.” The RIAA, which has sued thousands of people for infringement, labeled Harper as “vexatious” when she refused to settle the case.

Harper’s case moved up the judicial ladder without a trial. Mackenzie said he was mulling whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Only two RIAA cases against individuals have gone to trial, both of which earned the RIAA whopping verdicts.

Most of the thousands of RIAA file sharing cases have settled out of court for a few thousand dollars. The RIAA is winding down its 6-year-old litigation campaign targeting individual file sharers and instead is working with internet service providers to adopt rules that could cut off or hinder internet access to copyright scofflaws.

The first RIAA case to go to trial against an individual concerned Jammie Thomas. A Minnesota jury ordered the woman to pay $1.92 million for file sharing 24 songs. The judge in the case reduced the award to $54,000 — $2,250 a track.

The second case concerns Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston University grad student who a jury ordered to pay $675,000 for file sharing 30 tracks last year. Tenenbaum has asked the judge in the case to lower the award. A decision is pending.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dog cup cake

Crazy-Eyes Cupcake Trance

Your Rights as a Taxpayer

Good Read:

9 Things You Need to Know Now

After years of complaints from taxpayers about abuse of power and poor treatment from the IRS, Congress passed two taxpayer bill of rights in the 1990’s. They cover the basic rules, such as spousal protection and putting the burden of proof in tax disputes on the IRS (not the taxpayer).
That’s all well and good, but it’s not the full story.
Today, personal finance experts Ken and Daria Dolan of reveal what you really need to know about your rights as a taxpayer ... the rights that will help you actually deal with the IRS should you get that dreaded letter or phone call from the IRS about a tax matter.
Should the need arise, knowing these taxpayers' rights can help keep you from becoming another tax collection statistic.

No. 1: The Right to Challenge a Tax Auditor's Findings
Don’t hold your breath waiting for the IRS to tell you this, but your rights go way beyond just "the right to remain silent!"
The idea of saying "no" to an IRS auditor’s findings may terrify you, but it shouldn’t. Why? Because the auditor never has any final authority over you or how much you owe. As much as they may huff and puff, you have the right to challenge his or her decision.
Here’s the best part: If you do challenge, the IRS’ own statistics reveal you will win your case about 64% of the time. We’ll take those odds any day!

No. 2: The Right to Eliminate Penalties
A common issue taxpayers tangle over with the IRS is penalties -- probably because the IRS has a penalty for every day of the week. In fact, there are over 150 different penalties contained in the tax law, and the IRS can find one to hit you with at every turn.
On the plus side, each penalty is subject to cancellation … though the IRS generally “forgets” to tell you this (surprise, surprise). That means that all penalties can be canceled when you can show you acted in good faith and not out of an effort to deceive the IRS. In most cases, a simple letter of explanation setting out all the appropriate facts will do the job.

No. 3: The Right NOT to Meet With the IRS
Do you dread the thought of facing the IRS in an audit? Our advice is simple then: Don’t! We’re not telling you to hop the first plane to the Bahamas, but we are saying you have the right to conduct a correspondence audit through the mail. Think of the benefits: You avoid the stress of a face-to-face meeting, the hassle and expense of taking time off work, and the possibility you will say something that can be misconstrued by the agent.
Simply ask for a “correspondence” audit and take some of the pressure off.

No. 4: The Right to an “Installment” Agreement
If you do end up owing the IRS money, things can get ugly … and fast. Their notices make it clear they want the money now -- all of it. What they don’t make clear is your right to an installment agreement.
To negotiate a reasonable payment, get a copy of IRS Form 433-A, the Financial Statement. This lists your income, expenses, assets and liabilities, and will accurately present how much you’re able to handle paying.

Unfortunately, the IRS charges a $52 user fee on installment plans that use direct debit (where payments are automatically deducted from your bank account) and $105 for other installment agreements.

No. 5: The Right to Challenge IRS Notices
The IRS mails tens of millions of notices each year, most of which are demands for more money. But don’t automatically reach for your checkbook! According to the Government Accounting Office, 48% of these notices are “incorrect or incomplete.” So why does the IRS keep sending them? Because research has shown that, rather than fight the IRS, most taxpayers would rather just cough up the money.
Don’t let Uncle Sam pull one over on you. You can challenge and cancel those notices if you disagree and act promptly.

No. 6: The Right to Use the Problems Resolution Office
The IRS is a huge bureaucracy, which can make it incredibly frustrating to deal with, even to get the most obvious errors corrected. If you are ever backed into a corner by the IRS and no one seems willing or able to help, your best bet is to contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service (also known as the Problems Resolution Office).
The TAS was created to assist citizens whose problems seem to fall through the gaping cracks in the floor of the IRS’ “We Care” Department. The service is free and confidential. You can find your local advocate in the phone book and on the IRS web site at Contact Your Advocate, or you can call 877-777-4778 to speak with an advocate.

No. 7: The Right to Make Audio Recordings of Any Meeting With the IRS
If you’re audited by the IRS or are subject to a tax collection procedure, you are allowed to tape record the meeting. However, you have to notify the IRS 10 days in advance of your meeting.
Taking advantage of this right prevents the IRS from changing the rules midway through the audit. It also helps control the meeting -- it limits discussions of irrelevant and unnecessary issues as far as the topic at hand (your potential tax liability) goes.

No. 8: The Right to Appeal Any Decision Made by the IRS
This is one of your most important rights, so don’t forget it. Whether you’re faced with an audit, lien or some other judgment by the IRS, you have the right to appeal.
If you do get audited and you’re not satisfied with the results, you can appeal to the IRS appeals office. You’ll then have 30 days to exercise your appeal rights, though it could be a year or more before your IRS appeals audit is heard.
Save yourself a few headaches, though, and don’t even come close to getting audited -- we’ll show you how by making sure your deductions are airtight.

No. 9: The Right to Represent Yourself Before the IRS
This is one right you may NOT want to exercise. You can act as your own advisor when faced with an audit or with having to go to United States Tax Court, but tread carefully here.
The only way you should consider representing yourself is if you’re audited for something fairly simple, confident in your tax knowledge, familiar with all of the most current IRS tax laws and be prepared for any items of dispute that the IRS may question you on.
As far as standing up in U.S. Tax court, however, be mindful you’re walking on very thin ice. Tax laws can be very complex (and the judgment outcomes can be harsh), but that goes especially for matters brought before the U.S. Tax Court.
Don’t Lose Another Nickel to the Bank of Uncle Sam
The next time the IRS comes knocking on your door, remember these rights before automatically forking over any of your money. You have a voice, and you shouldn’t let the IRS intimidate you into thinking any differently.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Banks Focus on People Who Can Pay More for Credit Cards


Rewards cardholders take note: the price of perks is about to go up.
After years of profiting from debt-ridden credit cardholders, lenders are turning their attention to a potentially lucrative new source of fee income, the moneyed users of rewards programs who spend big and pay their bills on time.
Banks are scrambling to find revenue as new credit card protections that take effect on Monday make it harder to raise rates and reap billions in penalty fees from consumers, especially people at the margin. Lenders are betting they can cover some of the difference by luring rewards programs users to pay more for perks once subsidized by weaker borrowers.
“There is a much greater focus on the heavy spender,” said Jack Forestell, senior vice president of marketing and analytics at Capital One Financial [COF 37.79 0.46 (+1.23%) ], one of the biggest card issuers. “It will be a focal point of the competitive battleground.”
The emphasis on spending over lending is rewriting the rules of the business. Card lenders have absorbed close to $150 billion in losses since the financial crisis began. Many had courted cardholders with poor credit records whose delinquencies made up the bulk of some $23 billion in penalty income. Now, banks are spurning the risky and shutting down inactive accounts. All told, more than $1.3 trillion of unused credit lines was pulled in over the last three years, or nearly one-third of the total amount of credit available, according to Foresight Analytics research.
Many of the biggest card issuers see an untapped source of revenue in the affluent. American Express [AXP 39.06 -0.09 (-0.23%) ] and JPMorgan Chase [JPM 40.03 -0.38 (-0.94%) ] have embarked on aggressive campaigns to attract wealthier customers and get them to pay higher annual fees for a new menu of premium rewards. Even Barclays [BCS 19.33 -0.03 (-0.15%) ] is pitching a $495-a-year Visa [V 86.81 -0.15 (-0.17%) ] Black card with a concierge service that will reserve a tee time or arrange for a dog groomer.
While most major card lenders sharply cut back on direct mail last year, almost nine out of 10 new card offers were attached to a rewards program that appeals to big spenders, according to Synovate, a global marketing research firm. Only six in 10 applications were for a rewards card program in 2007, before the financial crisis struck.
Typically, basic credit-card perks like frequent-flier miles and cash-back bonuses can be had for no annual fee to around $75. Chase Card Services, for example, long promoted a United Mileage Plus Signature Visa card with a $60 annual fee that offered customers one mile for every $1 spent. In August, it started a new blitz to convince people that it would be worth paying annual fees of up to $315 more for a host of glittering perks.
For a $130 annual fee, United Select cardholders can receive double or triple miles on ticket purchases. For a $375 annual fee, United Club cardholders can get added bonuses, like access to airport flight lounges.
American Express has been testing a new Zync charge card since December modeled after the way iPhone [AAPL 201.67 -1.258 (-0.62%) ] users customize the device. For a $25 annual fee, cardholders will be enrolled in a basic rewards program. Then, for around $20 each, they can choose from a number of different “packs” carrying additional benefits, like one offering double points on travel-related purchases or another offering discounts on mobile phone accessories and bonus points on paying their monthly bill. More packs are coming.
Some liken the changes to the marketing sleight-of-hand of the airlines, which have kept their base fares low while tacking on new fees for pillows, peanuts and baggage. The risk is that banks will alienate customers who notice that they are paying more for the total cost of the flight.
“That is the tightrope that banks are walking right now, and it is a real high-wire act,” said Robert K. Hammer, a longtime investment banker who specializes in the credit card industry.
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Along with other measures, he estimated that the renewed focus on annual fee income —which totaled $6 billion in 2009 and is likely to climb higher — might help lenders recoup about one-third of their projected shortfall.
Other card lenders are cutting costs by making it harder to earn rewards points for airline tickets, big-screen TVs and other prized items. Banks have also ratcheted up the use of blackout periods, redemption fees and other restrictions that frustrated customers whose loyalty they wanted. The average rewards point, once worth as much as 1 or 2 cents, was effectively devalued to less than a penny by 2008, industry experts estimate.
Chase, for example, has overhauled its once generous Freedom rewards card no fewer than three times in the last three years.
In 2006, cardholders were offered a 1 percent rebate in cash or points on all purchases, and 3 percent on items bought at grocery stores, gas stations and fast-food restaurants. By last year, Chase’s Freedom program was far more restrictive. Cardholders had to register online to be eligible to receive the 3 percent rebates — and they were available only in three categories that rotated each quarter.
“If Chase doesn’t want to give out as many rewards, fine — but goodbye,” said Scott Friend, a 30-year-old from New York who recently dropped his Chase Freedom credit card for a Capital One card offering cash back.
Chase officials say that they changed the Freedom program to reflect new consumer insights and are planning yet another round of changes. Next month, all Chase Freedom cardholders will give up their existing benefits and be moved into a new cash-back rewards program offering a 5 percent rebate in three categories that change each quarter. (The catch is that cardholders will have to sign up to receive the benefits and will no longer qualify for a coveted $50 bonus.) Meanwhile, Chase is aggressively marketing a more upscale and less lucrative rewards card known as the Chase Sapphire, which offers one rewards point for every $1 of spending.
To further compensate for declining fee revenue, some lenders are simply adding annual charges to cards that did not have them —even if no rewards are attached. Citigroup [C 3.42 -0.01 (-0.29%) ], for example, will begin charging many cardholders a $60 annual fee in April unless they cancel their account by next month. (The fee will be credited back if they spend more than $2,400 over the next year.) Bank of America [BAC 15.88 --- UNCH (0) ] similarly notified tens thousands of customers that they would start seeing an annual fee of $29 to $99 on their February statements.
Credit card companies also reap a big portion of their income from the transaction fees that merchants pay each time a customer swipes a credit card. And the more upscale rewards credit cards in use, the more money they can make.
Retailers pay about 2.1 percent of the transaction value on a purchase made by a high-end rewards cardholder, compared to around 1.47 percent for an ordinary customer, according to Visa data. For a typical $40 purchase with a rewards card, for example, a retailer would pay about 94 cents, compared with a 67- to 70-cent fee if an ordinary card is swiped. The retailers also may increasingly finance extra card benefits themselves, instead of splitting the cost with the banks.
But merchants warn that the shift to more rewards will raise the cost of goods as they pass along the fees. “It’s like this huge, secret annual fee for credit,” said Mallory Duncan, the chief lawyer for the National Retail Federation. “It’s not good for us, and it is not good for our customers.”

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods set to make public apology

This is why i'm glad i'm not famous, if i cheat on my wife it will be between me,her and our lawyers, not any news media or any fears of loosing our jobs( in his case endorsements)


Watch Tiger Woods' statement LIVE on, CNN TV or HLN. You can also watch on your iPhone, starting at 11 a.m. ET, 4 p.m. (GMT)

(CNN) -- Golfer Tiger Woods will break his silence Friday, more than 80 days after his infamous car crash that spiraled into a sex scandal.

Woods will apologize for his behavior at a news conference at 11 a.m. (ET) in front of a small hand-picked crowd that will not be allowed to ask questions, according to his agent Mark Steinberg.

The Golf Writers Association of America has confirmed it will boycott the event even though the group was supposed to have three members there, said Jim Gray, a correspondent for the Golf Channel. The group was upset about the ban on reporters' questions, Gray added.

Despite the controlled atmosphere, Gray said many have been waiting to hear from Woods directly.

"I think it's good that he's finally having something to say instead of releasing another statement on his Web site," he said.

Former sportscaster Pat O'Brien criticized the way Woods seemed to be controlling the news conference.

"He might as well have done this on YouTube," O'Brien said Thursday on CNN's Larry King Live. "But I do think that he's got to subject himself to some sort of question and answer at some point, otherwise people are just going to -- it's already a disaster."

"If you listened to sports talk radio, he's just getting ripped to shreds," O'Brien added.

Panelists weigh in on Woods' expected apology Video

Steinberg said the golfer feels many of the issues he is dealing with are private, but he still owes his fans an explanation.

"While Tiger feels that what happened is fundamentally a matter between him and his wife, he also recognizes that he has hurt and let down a lot of other people who were close to him. He also let down his fans. He wants to begin the process of making amends, and that's what he's going to discuss," Steinberg said.

The news conference is scheduled as many of the world's top golfers are competing at the WGC Match Play in Arizona -- a competition sponsored by Accenture, one of the companies that ended their relationship with Woods following allegations of infidelity.

"He [Woods] has got to come out at some point and I suppose he might want to get something back against the sponsors that dropped him," British player and world number eight Rory McIlroy said in a press conference at the Arizona course.

Fellow European Sergio Garcia added: "To tell you the truth I'm not really interested because I think it is in the past already -- I'm looking forward to seeing him back on tour and see him playing. We all love watching the best player in the world play golf."

Tim Finchem, the commissioner of the PGA Tour, told reporters: "I don't know what he is going to say or do after his rehabilitation ... [Everyone] will have to make up their own minds."

On November 27, Woods crashed his black Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant and a tree just a few days after the National Enquirer reported he was having an affair with New York nightclub hostess Rachel Uchitel. Uchitel has denied having an affair with Woods.

A day after he paid his $164 traffic ticket, Woods' seemingly perfect world began to crumble under what would eventually become an avalanche of allegations of infidelity threatening his 5-year marriage to Elin Nordegren.

The couple have two children, 2-year-old Sam and 1-year-old Charlie.

Woods issued an apology for "transgressions" that had let his family down, as several women reported they had affairs with the golfer. One woman, Jaimee Grubbs, allegedly had Woods on a voicemail asking her to take his name off her cell phone because "my wife went through my phone and may be calling you."

Several of Woods' major sponsors, including AT&T and Accenture, ended their business relationships with Woods following the crash and the exposure of his marriage troubles.

But other companies, including Nike and Gatorade, continue to sponsor Woods, who has taken a break from professional golf. Procter & Gamble's Gillette said it would stop airing commercials featuring the golfer for a while.

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Trove of 68,000 stolen logons in hands of 'amateur' hackers

Interesting read from

A band of hackers who were recently discovered hoarding a trove of account logons pilfered from thousands of companies worldwide are garden-variety cyberthieves, security experts say.

The gang most likely began by hiring spam specialists to send out e-mail and social-networking posts to lure recipients into clicking on a tainted Web link, says Don Jackson, senior researcher at SecureWorks.

They then used a dated free version of a hacking tool called ZeuS and did nothing to hide their tracks, indicating that "they're probably amateurs," Jackson says.

That disclosure underscores how deeply cybercriminals — from novices to elite gangs — have now saturated the Internet with infections that allow them to take full control of Windows PCs. Cybergangs slot newly infected PCs, called bots, into networks called botnets. On any given day, 12% to 15% of the 1.6 billion computers connected to the Internet are bots, according to security firm Damballa.

Botnets are the engines that drive cybercrime, ranging from petty scams to espionage. "We've become desensitized to botnet infestation," says Tim Belcher, NetWitness chief technology officer.

In late January, NetWitness began tracking data exchanges between a bot in one of its client's networks and a remote server. Investigators accessed the server and found some 68,000 user name and password pairs for an array of online accounts. The data were stolen from 75,000 botted PCs in 2,411 organizations from 196 countries.

These included government agencies and schools, as well as drug, health, energy, tech, financial and media companies.

Gunter Ollmann, Damballa's vice president of research, has tracked this particular gang since late 2008. He says the hackers, now being referred to as the Kneber gang, are responsible for infecting at least 97,100 PCs in corporate networks in North America, in what's considered a "small" botnet. There are some 2,000 botnet gangs that together control 5% to 7% of PCs in corporate settings in North America. "Large enterprises have multiple layers of security defenses," Ollmann says. "Yet the criminal botnet operators are uniformly successful in breaching these well-defended networks."

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thailand: Not just LadyBoys

I’ve been hearing a lot lately that foreigners only go to Thailand for ladyboys, not true,

I know theres a lot of people that think Thailand is for men who are looking for men that dress up as ladies( ladboys) and there are some of that out there.. but Thailand has a lot more going for them than just that, besides the beautiful ladies that seem to luv foreigners (farangs) there lots of bars some with pool tables to play with the girls and enjoy a drink, restaurants and temples to see..

But back to probably the main way guys go there (Asian woman) there everywhere, in Bangkok there in places like Sio Cowboy and NaNa, in Pattaya there just about everywhere, from Beach Road to Walking Street to Soi 8 to Soi 6..

One of the main places I like to visit is Pattaya, Bangkok is ok but depending on why your going to Thailand Pattaya ( for single guys looking for fun with girls is the place, but if your new I would suggest you spend a week in Bangkok and then head over to pattaya, below I will post some links of “new guy “ friendly hotels and boards you should check out before you go

Now for the ones that want to go with family Thailand has some nice beaches the best one I been to has to be ( in my opinion ) is Ko Samet – they have rooms ( Bungalows ) close to the breach at night the restaurants on the beach move there lounge chairs on the beach and you have dinner by the water followed by a Hawaiian style fire show with very clean water unlike the beaches in Pattaya and Jothien with plenty of tours and sailing to do.

From what I noticed a lot of frequent visitors have there own condo they purchased and spend there winters there in Thailand since its cold here in the USA and UK around this time. Not sure if foreigners are still buying now there since the dollar is a lot lower than it use to be compared to a year ago.

Overall I consider Thailand a nice get a way spot with a lot to do, so please do not be dismayed about it because of all the mess you hear about foreigners going to Thailand for boys.. I personally am not into that sort of thing but to each is own, for the guys into that sort of stuff sorry I do not have any info on it but maybe one of the forums I posted below can hope you on where to find what your looking for.

The links below are in MY opinion the best ones to do research and plan your trip: ß-- I always fly Evaair there seats are better you might be able to find a cheaper fare with Chinaair but I like to pick my own seating and China doesn’t do that ( last I checked) with there special cheap fares ß-- If your planning on staying in Bangkok and this is your first time in town, I would strongly suggest staying here, nice staff and rooms with a bar and restaurant (good food here too) downstairs, and there manager ( Mr G) will be glad to come and talk to you and answer your questions and tell you about the cool spots in Bangkok, Hes likes red wine so buy him a glass. Info about bars/ agogo in Bangkok -- The company I used to book some temple and boat tours in Bangkok - Pattaya fun things to do -- Nice club to check out while your in Bangklok ß- If your staying in Pattaya heres a cool place to stay try

to get one of there Penthouse suites you’ll luv it if you bring some girls back to the room, and the man in charge (Mike) will be glad to have a chat or two with you about the places to be at in Pattaya. ß My second choice to stay while I’m in Pattaya ß- I ate here a number of times there food is great, and a nice place to pick up girls or just chill with a beer by the water in Pattaya. ß I can’t recall the name of the bungalow I stayed at but I found it along wuth other info about Ko samet on this site. ß- You want to know it all about Pattaya? Then this is the forum to go too, if its not there post a question and it will get answered, the cool thing about this forum is that they have weekly Friday night bar crawls , a must for newbies to join one Friday as members walk from bar 2 bar drinking and chatting it up, I strongly suggest you register and ask your newbie questions or surf the post already on there. For those only interested in Bangkok they have a section for that too. ß Again this is my opinion and I feel this is the best agogo in Pattaya -- Got a fantasy? ß Best agogo in Bangkok ß A nice disco to pick up woman

There are a PLENTY of beer bars in Pattaya where you can sit have a drink with a pretty lady one that sticks out the most is on front Walking ( the Pier complex where the Beer Garden is at) called “High Tide” pretty ladies and no pressure to buy lady drinks from the girls like a number of places do.

That pretty me sums it up for me, I’m not an expert but just felt the need to post to show there more to Thailand than ladyboys….

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tax audits: Uncle Sam wants you!

Read up tax cheats: from CNN

NEW YORK ( -- Worried about a tax audit? Maybe you should be. More Americans than ever may be subject to unwanted attention from the Internal Revenue Service this season as the government pumps billions of dollars into tax collection.

More than 1.4 million Americans were audited last year, the most in a decade. Even more audits are expected as the Obama administration plans to spend $8.2 billion in tax enforcement initiatives in 2011, a nearly 10% increase over last year.

Being meticulous with your tax return may seem obvious, but many people aren't careful enough. And with the IRS seeking to collect every penny it can this year, you could end up paying for even the smallest mistakes.

While the IRS doesn't reveal its secret formula for flagging returns, here are some tips to avoid popping up on the auditor's radar.

Self-employed? Prove it's legit

With a record-high jobless rate, many Americans have turned to self employment, making the IRS increasingly skeptical of the legitimacy of home-based businesses, said Robert Willens, a professor of taxation at Columbia Business School and president of Robert Willens LLC, a tax consulting firm.

More people are trying to turn hobbies into businesses in order to bring in a little extra money, but this won't fool the IRS. In order to prove that your business is legit, you need to keep consistent and accurate records of income and expenses, maintain a separate bank account for the business, register the business with the proper authorities and hire an attorney and a good tax accountant.

An activity is considered a for-profit business if the gross income for any three of the most recent five years exceeds the deductions taken for the activity. If the IRS determines that a business is not engaged in for-profit, you won't be allowed to take deductions of more than the gross income from that activity, said Willens.

High expenses of self-employed individuals will also provoke suspicion from the auditor, who will look closely at travel, entertainment and automobile expenses relative to an individual's income.

Overseas bank accounts? 'Fess up

As the government cracks down on offshore bank accounts, deposits abroad are likely to catch an auditor's eye this year.

While the IRS will spend most of its resources going after people with the largest deposits, all taxpayers with foreign accounts should take precaution and comply with the rules in order to avoid huge penalties, said Maureen McGetrick, a tax partner with BDO Seidman.

"Foreign bank accounts have been all over the press lately -- it's definitely a big thing this year," said McGetrick.

"People need to make sure they indicate on their tax returns if they have one, and make sure they include any interest income from that bank account on their returns," McGetrick says. If you're required to file a U.S. tax return, you must report foreign bank deposits that exceed $10,000 at any point during the year on form 90-22.1.

Selling stocks? Careful with your cost basis

Remember those stocks your grandmother gave you in 1987? If you sell them, you will need to track down the original purchase price, no matter how far back the transaction was. Reporting an unreasonable stock value on your return can easily trigger a double-take from the IRS.

Knowing the date a stock was purchased is crucial since it determines the cost basis -- the cost of the original purchase including commissions and adjustments like stock splits -- and ultimately tells the IRS how much profit you made when you sold it.

"A lot of people, when they sell a stock, particularly if they aren't regular traders or active investors, won't know the basis of the stock," said Willens. "Maybe it was received as a gift or they bought it a long time ago, so they'll make it up."

But think twice before guessing the original value. It's important to determine the actual purchase price, whether it means verifying with your broker, hiring an accountant or calling up your Aunt Sally.

Making a donation? Get a receipt

Declaring unusually large charitable donations as deductions on your tax returns is another danger zone -- especially if the amount donated is high relative to your income.

The IRS seems to be stepping up its investigations of both cash and non-cash donations this year, according to David Sands, a tax partner at Buchbinder, Tunick and Co.

But determining the value of non-cash items such as artwork, cars, clothing and furniture can be difficult. For smaller items, you'll need to assess the value yourself, usually based on resale value at the time of donation. For most items valued over $500, the IRS will require a qualified appraisal.

Make sure you have the receipt when taking a charitable deduction, and for any donation of more than $250, be sure to get a letter from that charitable organization.

High earner? Hire a pro

Because high earners have more income and more deductions on their returns, such as businesses, second homes, stock transactions and charitable contributions, the chances of miscalculation or inflation are much greater. The more money a person makes, the more valuable those errors becomes to the IRS.

"The IRS looks more closely at high earners because their financial lives are more complicated than those of lower earners," said Willens. And such complications can often lead to mistakes -- some intentional -- that the IRS will take as an invitation to dig deeper.

Willens estimates that those making more than $200,000 a year are 50% more likely to be audited than those making less.

And those chances increase with income. The IRS reported that audits of individuals earning more than $200,000 jumped 11% in 2009, and audits of those making more than $1 million surged nearly 30% last year from 2008.

Wealthy taxpayers should triple-check everything and be mindful of careless omissions and inaccurate numbers, especially when reporting items that the IRS receives copies of as well, such as dividends. Hiring an accountant can be a smart move. The more complicated a tax return, the more cost-effective hiring professional help becomes, said Willens.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Issuer of 79.9% Interest Rate Credit Card Defends Its Product

If you have bad credit in the new era of credit card regulation, be prepared to pay -- dearly -- for the privilege of using credit. That's the message underlying recent credit card offers that feature jaw-dropping interest rates of up to 79.9 percent.

The sky-high rates may be a sign of things to come in the market for so-called subprime credit cards as issuers who lend to the riskiest of borrowers try to figure out how to stay in business and comply with the new credit card reform law.

"We need to price our product based on the risk associated with this market and allow the customer to make the decision whether they want the product or not," according to a statement issued by Miles Beacom, CEO of Premier Bankcard, the South Dakota credit card marketer that mailed test offers in September and October featuring 79.9 percent and 59.9 percent annual percentage rates (APRs) on cards with $300 credit limits. Premier markets credit cards issued by First Premier Bank.

Yes, It's Legal

A national bank charging 79.9 percent interest on a credit card is legal -- as long as the issuer fully discloses the terms as required by the federal Truth in Lending Act. Still, the high rate has been met with shock across the country because it is so much higher than prevailing APRs and penatly interest rates. The Weekly Rate report national average for bad credit credit cards was 14.15 percent on Feb. 12.

The high interest rate offers may add urgency to an ongoing debate on Capitol Hill over reinstituting nationwide usury rates that cap credit card interest rates. On Dec. 11, a lawmaker introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to cap credit card rates at 16 percent -- the latest attempt among several in recent years to limit rates. The powerful and well-financed banking lobby has successfully quashed those efforts.

Credit counselors warn consumers to be sure they read the fine print of these new offers and seek advice about other options before signing up for the cards.

"Anyone who feels they have no choice but to get one of these should get help from a credit counselor," advises Sandy Shore, a counselor with Novadebt, a New Jersey-based consumer credit counseling agency. "There are other alternatives, like a debit card or even a secured card. The counselor can give the consumer other ways to reestablish their credit, depending on their circumstances."

Law Limits Upfront Fees

New restrictions in the Credit CARD Act of 2009 limit the upfront fees credit card issuers can charge on subprime accounts. The low-credit, high-cost cards, known as fee harvesting credit cards, are issued to people with bad credit or no credit history and feature credit limits of $500 or less. Issuers typically charge a slew of fees at the outset to compensate for the risk of lending to people with poor repayment histories. Starting Feb. 22, 2010, the law will limit upfront fees to no more than 25 percent of the available credit on the account.

As a result, subprime credit card marketers are testing the waters with offers that essentially shift the pricing on their products from upfront fees to high interest rates.

The First Premier card's test offer featured a $75 upfront fee -- exactly 25 percent of the card's credit limit, as the new law mandates. "Because of the new regulations that limit the fees on a credit card to 25 percent of a credit card's line, we will need to shift the premium from upfront fees on risk to the interest rate," Beacom says. "We have to be able to price the product to offset the risk."

In December, the bank's regular Gold card, as advertised on its Web site, include a 9.9 percent APR and the following upfront fees: $29 account setup fee, $95 one-time program fee, $48 annual fee and a $7 monthly servicing fee.

"There's 70 million people out there who have been identified with problem credit," says Beacom, adding those are people with FICO scores lower than 640. "These are people who have had problems with their credit in the past."

He likened people with bad credit to bad automobile drivers who must pay higher auto insurance premiums if they want to continue driving. "These are people who have had those same accidents or speeding tickets with their credit."

He adds: "It's going to be very difficult for these individuals to obtain credit after February."

Prior to the credit crunch, a subprime borrower might take eight to 16 months to build a good enough credit record to qualify for lower interest rates on prime cards. Today, however, because the prime lenders have dramatically tightenend their credit standards, it could take 16 to 24 months or longer to build their credit.

Competitive Market Changes

In addition to Premier, the Nevada-based Credit One Bank has also mailed out offers featuring different fee structures, according to Andrew Davidson, senior vice president of Mintel Comperemedia, a Chicago direct-mail research consulting firm. Mintel is tracking how credit card offers are changing in light of the credit card law restrictions. "The indication here is that the subprime issuers are looking at ways to work within the new law," Davidson says. "Some suggest they will stop operating in that space, but the reality is there are always going to be people who need to establish credit and rebuild their credit."

He notes that while many credit card issuers scaled back direct mail card offers during the recession, "First Premier has consistently been mailing during the downturn." The reason: Demand is high among people with bad credit. "If they can work around these laws so that they can have a business model that works, they can continue to have a successful operation," Davidson adds.

One of First Premier's competitors in the subprime credit card market, CompuCredit, apparently could not find a model that worked for them while complying with the new law. Under fire from consumer advocates, facing lawsuits and mounting losses, CompuCredit decided to stop marketing the high-fee cards to bad-credit consumers.

Credit One's Platinum Visa card offer mailed in August 2009 featured a 23.9 percent APR and a range of annual fees that were card law compliant, that is, no more than 25 percent of the credit limit on the card, according to Mintel.

An spokeswoman for HSBC, another marketer of subprime cards, said it has no plans for testing. Premier's Beacom says the new regulations may make it impossible for subprime issuers to continue to make money in that high-risk niche market.

"The cost of funding for these products is very difficult these days," he says, noting that his competitors are also testing different product offerings. "One, many or maybe all" of the subprime issuers could go out of business, he says.

Beacom says it's too early to tell if the 79.9 percent card offers will last. It normally takes them nine to 12 months to analyze the results of a test product.

Customers who sign up for the high-interest card and want to back out can get full refunds and close the accounts, Beacom says.

"From our initial research we know that 83 percent of the people who accepted the offer are fully aware of the interest rate they are receiving and the purpose of the credit card to help re-establish credit. If anyone accepts the offer and didn't fully understand it or no longer wants it they can take advantage of our full refund of fees policy."

Response to 79.9% Offer 'Phenomenal'

Has First Premier gotten any takers on the 79.9 percent cards? Beacom called the response "phenomenal," adding 2 percent of people receiving the offers have applied for the cards. Their normal response rates is 1 percent to 1.2 percent, he says. "It's double what our normal product was."

Shore, the New Jersey credit counselor, urged consumers not to jump at the first high-interest offer they receive. "I would caution anyone who is considering a card like this to wait. Other credit card issuers will be adjusting their products and there may be better alternatives coming out," Shore says.

"No one should be shocked at the interest rate on [the First Premier] card," Shore notes. "These cards are being marketed to consumers with very poor credit. The APR is actually much lower than the old subprime cards because the fees are much less."

In other words, when you added up all the fees on the old cards, they're the dollar equivalent of a huge interest rate on the amount borrowed. (For example, $250 in fees on a $300 credit limit would amount to an 83 percent interest rate.)

"If someone wants to take a chance on a card like this, they should use it only as a convenience and pay the whole thing off when the bill comes," Shore adds. "Many consumers who have credit that poor do not have good credit habits and are likely to carry balances."

Beacom from Premier says the astronomic interest rate will only affect revolvers -- people who do not pay their entire balances off each month. "People pay it off every month, they pay no interest," he adds.

Those getting the offer have a choice, Beacom says.

"If everything is fully disclosed, if they want it fine, if they don't want it fine," he adds."People should be able to make that decision rather than the government cutting off access and saying they know best."

"Our goal is really to keep these lines controlled because these are people who have had problems in the past," Beacom says. "It's really to help build up the discipline without them getting into credit trouble again."

"Whether it works or not, time will tell," he adds.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

How To Uninstall / Remove Internet Security 2010 Virus

Good read here, fixed a friends PC with this spyware problem so you might want to bookmark it:

Internet Security 2010 is yet another rogue anti-spyware that surfaced online. The Internet Security 2010 rogue is also a bit of a virus, if you follow the standard definition. But the thing you need to know is that Internet Security 2010 will try to trick you into believing that your computer has serious security problems so that you buy the program. If you detect any of the symptoms we will talk about further, you should remove Internet Security 2010 as instructed below.

Before we skip ahead to removing the Internet Security 2010 virus, let’s talk a little about what Internet Security 2010 does in and with your computer. First of all, Internet Security 2010 gets installed on your computer via malware and will be immediately set to start each time Windows loads. Along with the program, a number of Trojans will also get on your computer.

After you computer got infected with the Internet Security 2010 virus (or series of Trojans), the next time Windows loads, you will get an error message stating that “Worm.Win32.NetSky” was detected on your computer. This is a fake message and you should not pay any attention to it, it will go away once you remove Internet Security 2010 from your computer. Then the Internet Security 2010 rogue will start and perform a fake scan of your computer. The scan report will list a number of infections but when you try to remove them, you’ll “conveniently” find out that you need to buy Internet Security first. Do not buy Internet Security 2010. If it got on your computer, you should use the instructions below to remove it from your computer.

The thing that makes Internet Security 2010 one of the worst of its kind is that one Trojan that comes with it blocks out certain applications. When this happens, you will get a “File is infected” warning and a recommendation to activate your antivirus software (by that, the warning means that you should buy Internet Security 2010. Don’t do that… just remove it using the removal guide below). Another Trojan that comes with Internet Security 2010 will instruct you to purchase a codec, called VSCoded Pro. This also a fake warning (and a scam) that will go away once you remove Internet Security 2010 from your computer.

With the risk of becoming annoying, we will tell you again not to buy Internet Security 2010. If you did purchase it however, you should contact your credit card company as soon as possible.

Ok, now that we’ve told you what this virus and the Trojans that come with it do, it’s time to remove Internet Security 2010 from your computer. Before that, you should know that following closely each step is crucial. In addition, because you will be asked to close all applications and windows, it’s a good idea to print out the removal guide first.

Step 1: Go here and download Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware for free. Save the file to your desktop. If Internet Security 2010 does not allow you to download anything, you should download the setup on another computer and use an USB stick or a CD/DVD to transfer the files needed. Remember to place the setup file on the desktop.

Step 2: Click here to download the file. Once the download is complete, run it. The file will make sure the Internet Security 2010 will be closed for good so it does not interfere with the removal process.

Step 3: Close all open applications and windows. You now should be on the desktop.

Step 4: Run the Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware setup from the desktop.

Step 5: Go with the default settings during the install. CRUCIAL: Make sure you tell the software to automatically update itself (there’s a box you need to check during the install to make that happen). In addition, make sure you tell MBAM to automatically launch itself once the install and update processes are complete.

Step 6: When Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware loads, go to the Scanner screen, select “Perform Quick Scan” and then click the “Scan” button.

Step 7: When the scan is complete, press the Show Results button under the main “Scanner” tab.

Step 8: Check all the detected infections (so you remove both Internet Security 2010 and all related Trojans, as well as any other malware detected).

Step 9: When the removal process is complete, a log of the scan will be displayed in a Notepad window. You now have successfully removed Internet Security 2010, all related Trojans and any other infections detected by Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware.

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$2.5 Million Hoosier Jackpot Goes Unclaimed

INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 12) - Hoosier lottery players have been digging through their trash, scouring their cars and bringing fistfuls of old tickets, some in shoeboxes, to an Indianapolis store, hoping they would find the winning - but unclaimed - $2.5 million jackpot ticket.

But time ran out Friday as the 5 p.m. deadline for cashing in the winning Hoosier Lotto ticket came and went with no one coming forward.

"Pretty sad for somebody if they happen to have it out there," said Hoosier Lottery spokeswoman Lucia Anderson.

The winning ticket had been all the buzz among customers this week at the Meijer convenience store where it was sold.

"I looked around. I looked in every trash can for it," Mike Tinder, a 33-year-old life coach from Indianapolis, said Friday.

One woman asked a store clerk to check the surveillance video, saying she believed she had bought the winning ticket for the Aug. 19 drawing.

Another customer said a friend had spent part of the day rummaging through her truck because she remembered buying a ticket at the store last summer.

Indianapolis utility worker Tom Newton looked through old tickets Thursday but came up empty. He worried that he might have had the winner but lost the ticket somehow.

"I hope it wasn't me that forgot the damn ticket and lost $2.5 million," said Newton, 31.

Some wondered why anyone would leave a million-dollar bonanza untouched in a time of high unemployment and economic need. Had they forgotten? Had they lost it? Had they died?

"It's probably one of those things where they put it in a drawer and forgot they had it," said Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi.

Lottery players have left money on the table before. Hoosier Lottery spokesman Andrew Reed said a $5 million Hoosier Lotto jackpot went unclaimed in March 2004, and no winner stepped forward in September 2002 to claim their $50 million Powerball jackpot. In 2007, a $19 million New Jersey Lottery prize wasn't claimed. Florida's largest unclaimed payout was a $50 million Lotto ticket sold in 2003, and no one produced a winning $7 million Lotto Texas ticket last year.

Reed said no Indiana winner has ever stepped forward so late to claim a large prize.

Lottery officials had received a phone call earlier Friday from a man who thought he had the winning ticket and was concerned he might not be able to get to the downtown office in time to redeem it, said Anderson. But they couldn't stay open indefinitely, she said.

The remainder of the jackpot will go back to the unclaimed prize fund, which is used for future games and promotions, Reed said. Meijer will still get its 1 percent share of the jackpot, he said.

Back at the store, customers didn't stop dreaming about what they would do with the money - even though none had the winning ticket.

Tinder said he would help his parents pay off their mortgage and then hand out cash to the people he meets.

"I'd give it all away to everyone around me and we'd all go have a big party," he said after a moment's thought.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Avoid an Audit: 6 'Red Flags' You Should Know

If history is any indicator, less than 1% of Americans will be audited by the Internal Revenue Service in the coming year. And while some of these audits are totally random, and there's nothing that the individual taxpayer can do about them, many audits are actually instigated by the taxpayers themselves.

To that end, below is a list of "red flags" that can cause your return to be cherry picked by the IRS for review. Pay particular attention, as knowing what the flags are can keep you out of trouble.

1. Overestimating Donated Amounts
The IRS encourages individuals to donate things like clothes, food and even old automobiles to charities. It does this by offering a deduction in return for a donation. However, the problem with this system is that it is up to the taxpayer to determine the value of goods that are donated.

As a general rule, the IRS likes to see individuals value the items they donate at anywhere between 1% and 30% of the original purchase price (unless special circumstances exist). Unfortunately many, if not most, taxpayers either aren't aware of this, or simply choose to ignore this fact.
There are several other tips that the taxpayer can use to ensure that he or she is valuing donated goods at a "fair" price. Aside from the 30% and under rule mentioned above, consider having an appraiser write a letter. (In fact, for individual items valued at $5,000 or more, an appraisal is required.). Another benchmark the IRS uses that could come in handy is the willing-buyer-willing-seller test.
This means that taxpayers should value their goods at a point or price where a willing seller (who is under no duress) would be able to sell his property to a willing buyer (who also is under no duress to purchase the item). Using such a benchmark will keep you out of trouble and prevent you from placing an excessive value on your dad's old Frank Sinatra albums.

2. Math Errors
While this may sound simple, many returns are selected for audit due to basic math errors. So when filling out your tax return (or checking it after your accountant has completed the form) make sure that the columns add up. Also make sure that the total dollar value of capital gains and/or losses are properly calculated. Even a small error can raise eyebrows.

3. Failure to Sign the Return
A large percentage of folks simply forget to sign their tax returns. Don't be a part of that number! Failure to sign the return will almost guarantee that it will receive additional scrutiny. The IRS will wonder what else you might have forgotten to include in the return.

4. Under-Reporting Income
Tempting as it might be to exclude income from your tax return, it is vital that you report all money that you received throughout the year from work and/or from the sale of an asset (such as a home) to the IRS. If you fail to report income and you are caught, you will be forced to pay back-taxes plus penalties and interest.
How can the IRS tell if you've reported everything? In some situations it can't. After all, the system isn't perfect. However, a common way some individuals get caught is that they accept cash for a service they've performed. If the customer or individual who paid that individual the cash gets audited, the IRS will see a large cash disbursement from his or her bank account. The IRS agent will then follow that lead and ask the individual what that cash layout was for. Inevitably, the trail leads right back to the individual who failed to report that money as income.
In short, it's better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you report all of your income.

5. Home Office Deductions
Be careful with home office deductions. Excessive or unwarranted deductions can raise red flags. In addition, large deductions in proportion to your income can raise the ire of the IRS as well.
For example, if you earned $50,000 as an accountant (operating from home), home-office related deductions totaling $30,000 will raise more than a few eyebrows. Trying to write off the value of a new bedroom set as office equipment could also draw unwanted attention.
Deduct only items that were used in the course of your business.

6. Income Thresholds
There is nothing the individual taxpayer can do about this one, but if you earn more than $100,000 each year, your odds of being audited increase exponentially. In fact, some accountants put the odds of being audited at one in 72, compared to the one in 154 odds for people with lower incomes.
Other Sensitive Tax Areas
Partnership/Trust/Tax Shelter Risk
If you own shares in a limited partnership, control a trust or partake in any other tax shelter investments, you are more apt to be audited. While there may be no way to avoid such an audit, individuals that have a stake in such an entity should be aware that they have a target on their backs. They should also take even greater care to document deductions, donations and income.
Small Business Ownership
Small business owners are an easy target - particularly those with cash businesses. Bars, restaurants, car washes and hair salons are exceptionally big targets, not only because they deal in so much cash, but also because there is so much temptation to under-report income and tips earned.
Incidentally, other actions that go part and parcel with business ownership may draw unwanted IRS interest too, including putting family members on the payroll and over-estimating expenses.
In short, business owners must know that they can't "push the envelope". If they want to stay in business and avoid the scrutiny of an audit, it's best to remain on the straight and narrow.
So why does the IRS seem to be cracking down more and more on individuals and small business owners these days? It's simple. According to the IRS there is roughly an annual $300 billion gap between what Americans pay in taxes versus what they owe. That equates to about $2,680 per household. The Congress knows this too, and given the deficits the United States government has run up over the past 20 years, there is enormous pressure on legislators and the IRS to collect all tax funds.
Being Audited
What should you do if you are audited? Be honest with the auditor and respond to all inquiries as quickly as possible. Don't be afraid to show all of your documentation. If possible, have a qualified accountant and/or tax attorney represent you.
Bottom Line
Audits have and will remain a part of the tax collection process for a long time to come, but that doesn't mean that you have to be among the "lucky" few to be chosen. The key to avoiding an audit is to be honest, document your deductions, donations and income.

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Microsoft plans antipiracy update for Windows 7

Microsoft said on Thursday that it is planning an update to Windows 7 that will close a number of loopholes that counterfeiters had used to thwart the operating system's built-in antipiracy measures.

The Windows Activation Technologies Update for Windows 7, which will be released later this month, closes more than 70 "activation hacks," according to Joe Williams, general manager of Microsoft's Genuine Windows unit, responsible for anti-counterfeiting measures. The update will also check with a server periodically to see if there are further hacks that need to be addressed, though Williams said no personally identifiable information about the user will be sent to the server.

In an interview, Williams cautioned about the dangers that come with using nongenuine versions of the operating system, citing a German study that looked at several hundred copies of Windows 7 that were posted online and found that nearly a third had some type of malware.

"We do see malicious code--everything from easily discoverable malware to keyboard recording," he said. "There's all sorts of things we've seen that puts our customers at risk and their data at risk."

The update will be available for manual download from Microsoft's genuine Web site on Feb. 16 and from the Microsoft Download center the following day. Later this month, the update will also be offered through Windows Update as an "important" (but optional) update.

Williams said the new update will remain optional and that those who choose not to install it will still be able to get other Windows updates, a position that marks a fairly sharp contrast to the once hard line Microsoft was taking against piracy.

With the first release of Windows Vista, Microsoft took an aggressive stance, shifting users it determined to have nongenuine versions of the operating system into a severely limited "reduced functionality" mode. In that mode, all users could do was access the Internet for an hour a day.

However, Williams said that Microsoft heard from customers, businesses, and governments that the restrictions were to draconian and decided to try a different approach.

In the first update to Vista, Microsoft relaxed things considerably, choosing instead to just prominently notify users that their version was not genuine.

Starting with Vista Service Pack 1, users saw their background changed to black and a message that their version was nongenuine, as well as getting a dialog box encouraging them to activate a genuine copy. One could choose to do so immediately, or, after 15 seconds, could click an option to activate later.

With Windows 7, Microsoft eased things even more, allowing users to immediately choose to deal with the issue later, although those that choose that option are notified of some of the benefits of genuine software.

Williams declined to say whether Microsoft will close any of the activation hacks with the first service pack to Windows 7, noting that the company has not yet confirmed any plans for that update. Microsoft did close a number of activation holes in Vista with the service pack to that product.

Williams said Microsoft has put much of its focused on informing customers that may have been duped into buying a PC with non-genuine software.

"We are pretty realistic," Williams said. "People who are actively pirating will try to find ways to continue to pirate."

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iPhone Credit Card Reader Lets You Accept Plastic Anywhere

Interesting read:

iPhone Credit Card Reader Lets You Accept Plastic Anywhere

Did your Girl Scout cookie sales drive flop because nobody carries cash anymore? If so, you may need to get Square, the new mobile payment solution from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey that allows anyone with an iPhone to take plastic.

Physically, the Square is a small, plastic cube about the size of two Chiclets. From its bottom side an audio connector plugs into the headphone port on your phone. A slot in the cube lets you pass a credit card through. When you do, a reader converts the data from the magnetic strip into an audio signal and passes it on to software on the phone.

Square is still in early beta mode. But Wired got its hands on a test unit and put it through the paces. While pricing, software and the sign-up process are not yet final, Square looks like a great option to let anyone with something to sell accept credit cards as payment.

And it will accept just about any type of general credit card, including Visa, Master Card and American Express. They're also working on Discover and even Diner's Club in the event you need to conduct business in the 1970s.

Currently, the hardware and required account are both free. While most point of sale systems charge merchants variable fees based on the card used, Square will charge a flat rate for all cards. While that has changed during the currently 3 percent for swipes and 3.5 for keyed in entries. (At an earlier point in the beta, however, it was charging an additional 50 cents per transaction.) Takeaway? Pricing is in flux, so expect it to change before the product emerges from beta.

Square's software is quite well-designed. You must have an internet connection to run it, but the good news (especially for AT&T customers) is that it will work using Wi-Fi.

As soon as you've entered the card number, the transaction is authorized, and a new screen lets the purchaser "sign" their name using the iPhone's touchscreen. Finally, the app gives the purchaser an option to have the transaction receipt e-mailed, and it e-mails the vendor as well. The process is all very smooth and takes less than a minute, including e-mail entry. Money shows up in your bank account one to two days after the transaction.

But just as nice as the user interface is the backend for vendors, which shows the amount of the transaction, the associated fees and the net amount to be deposited into checking accounts. There's also a button to completely refund the transaction, including all fees. However, during the beta at least, these refunds must be manually processed by Square. The company notes it plans to have this system automated when it emerges from beta.

One option we did not get to test, although it should be forthcoming, is payer verification. Square will let payers create accounts tied to a credit card, and upload a head shot. When a merchant swipes a card that's associated with a Square payer's account, the app will display the payer's head shot and ask for verification that it's the person making the transaction. The demo we saw of this was exceptionally slick.

Currently, Square only has an app for the iPhone (and iPod Touch or iPad, of course), but an Android version of its software is in the works, and Dorsey envisions a time when Square could work with just about any device with an audio port that can run software, including laptops.

Overall, we were highly impressed with Square. It was actually fun to use, enough so that it made us want to run up thousands of dollars in credit card bills just to try it out.

WIRED Turns any monkey with an iPhone into a 21st-century seller. Tiny cube fits easily into coin pocket of jeans. Durable: We were able to apply most of our body weight in pressure (don't ask) without snapping off the jack. Slick software with excellent UI gives good data. Ability to map purchases helps mobile merchants find sweet spots. Eliminates need for high-dollar merchant accounts.

TIRED Somewhat difficult to seat properly in headphone jack. Payment refunds currently require manual support from Square. No way currently to add payer profiles to system. We are all mere cogs in Visa's great machine of revolving debt, spinning endlessly yet going nowhere.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Omaha Steaks

I have been getting there emails a lot always thought the prices where high so i didnt order until i received an email for this offer below:

The Happy Family Combo 45600JTD
4 (5 oz.) Top Sirloins
4 (4 oz.) Boneless Pork Chops
2 (4 ½ oz.) Stuffed Sole with Scallops and Crabmeat
4 (4 oz. approx.) Boneless Chicken Breasts
4 (4 oz.) Omaha Steaks Burgers
8 (3 oz.) Gourmet Franks
10 Potatoes au Gratin
4 Caramel Apple Tartlets
Reg. $198.00 | Now Only $59.99

After i did a quick BBB rating which was an A+ I decided to give them a try this offer came with free shipping so the total with tax was $61.01. the package came in 2 days in a cooler with big ice packs to keep the meat frozen. long story short the meat was very good so where the apple tarlets, All the meats the steak,porkchops and burgers where good and fresh these are the same meats you probably get in most restaurants you just have to get cook it yourself.. would i buy them again only if there is a sale like above they have some very high regular prices and if i'm in the mood for it, I don't usually be in the mood for certain meats so they could sit in my freezer for weeks then i have to thaw them out, I rather go to the supermarket when i'm in the mood fir it and aviod all the thawing, but thats just me.