Wednesday, March 31, 2010

50,000 New Lawsuits Against Movie Downloaders

If your one of those movie downloaders read up:

According to The Hollywood Reporter, a group known as the "U.S. Copyright Group" has quietly targeted 20,000 Bit Torrent users for legal action in federal court in Washington, DC. The targets are accused of having downloaded independent films, including "Steam Experiment," "Far Cry," "Uncross the Stars," "Gray Man" and "Call of the Wild 3D," without authorization. The group plans to target 30,000 more individuals for legal action in the coming months.

This time, the lawyers involved are being explicit about their motivations: it's all about the money. "We're creating a revenue stream and monetizing the equivalent of an alternative distribution channel," said one of the attorneys involved. The cases are taken on a contingency basis, designed so that quick settlements will prove lucrative for both the firm and the copyright owners involved.

The attorneys involved are reportedly relying on technology provided by Guardaley IT that claims to enable real-time monitoring of movie downloads on torrents. The IP addresses and information gathered using this technology are then used to file "John Doe" lawsuits and issue subpoenas to ISPs seeking the names and addresses of subscribers associated with those IP addresses. Settlement demands are then sent.

This is not the first time we've seen mass litigation (a.k.a. "spam-igation") used as a profit-center—DirecTV pioneered that tactic by sending demand letters to more than 170,000 Americans accused of satellite piracy. And the major record labels followed up by targeting more than 30,000 people for legal actions between 2003-08.

If this story is correct, it's the latest evidence that copyright law has become unmoored from its foundations. Copyright should help creators get adequately compensated for their efforts. Copyright should not line the pockets of copyright trolls intent on shaking down individuals for fast settlements a thousand at a time.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tips for finding a cheap flight

I personally like to go to Yahoo travel and input my destinations and dates, they usually come back with the lowest fares and airlines, then I go directly to that airline and its usually $50.00-$100.00 cheaper than the other travel site ( Expedia,Travelzoo, etc) below are some more tips.

Here are five tips on shopping for fares.

1. The sweet spot: Buy early in the week.

According to Rick Seaney of, airlines are doing more short-lived sales, with three-day sales becoming the norm. These deals are typically put in the system on Monday nights, so you need to shop from Tuesday through Thursday to get the cheapest prices, he said.

2. Do the comparisons.

You'd love a weekend at the beach and decide you want to go to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on April 9 and return on April 11, in time for work the next day.

On Wednesday, AirTran Airways and Delta Air Lines were offering sale fares on their Web sites for as little as $44 one-way from Atlanta. But that low fare was good for only one destination — Charlotte, N.C., not exactly a tropical location.

Both airlines offered a $74 one-way sale fare to Ft. Lauderdale. But your weekend jaunt wouldn't qualify because Friday and Sunday travel is excluded for the best fares.

For the April 9-11 trip, AirTran was cheaper on Tuesday — $309 was its lowest price, while Delta's was $408.

So, travelers should read the fine print and be aware that terms and fares can change from one day to the next. Example: In Delta's sale, the lowest fare to select U.S. cities was $59 on Tuesday. It was lowered to $44 on Wednesday for the route to Charlotte to match AirTran. Also, the terms of Delta's sale as of Tuesday stated the fares were for travel starting April 12. That was moved up to April 6 on Wednesday for Florida travel, again matching AirTran.

And here's another reason to buy on Tuesdays. On Wednesday, the cheapest AirTran roundtrip ticket for the Ft. Lauderdale itinerary had spiked to $428. Delta's cheapest ticket on Wednesday was still $408. If you could wait a week, you could fly Delta for $209 roundtrip, if you bought the ticket Wednesday. But you wouldn't get brunch because you'd have to leave for home at 5:40 a.m. on Sunday, April 18, to get that rate. Had you bought that Delta ticket on Tuesday, it would have only cost $149.

3. Be mindful of your location.

Airlines may more frequently hawk fare sales from their hub cities. For instance, Chicago is a hub for United Airlines, while Miami is a hub for American Airlines. More flights into and out of those cities means more seats to fill. This can lead to more chances for discounts, depending on season and other factors.

Veteran Minneapolis travel industry expert Terry Trippler advises people in a non-hub city to be ready to buy just about anytime a sale is offered.

A good example: On Wednesday, Continental Airlines was offering fares as low as $218 roundtrip between Tampa, Fla., and Las Vegas. That was a good deal considering the distance, the popularity of travel to Vegas and the fact that neither city is a hub for Continental.

Those in hub cities can be more patient.
"If I were in a hub city I might wait awhile — especially a hub where a low-fare airline has a decent percentage of the business," Trippler said.

Atlanta is a good example. It is a hub for discount carrier AirTran. Baltimore, where both Southwest and AirTran have a significant presence, is another example.

4. Pay your fees up front.

Some of the good feeling generated from scoring a great deal can dissipate if you get hit with more than $50 in bag fees. So, pack light and use all that space in your carry-on bags.

When you do check bags, be aware that some airlines charge more if you pay the fee at the airport. You can pay up front on your airline's Web site and save some money.

US Airways, for instance, charges $23 to check your first bag online, but $25 at the airport. For a second checked bag, US Airways gets $32 online or $35 at the airport.

5. Wait, but not too long.

You don't have to book months in advance to get the best deals. Many airlines are recycling similar sales over and over again as they seek to fill planes amid a turnaround in demand for air travel.

But, FareCompare's Seaney warns that procrastinators may not find the same deals they did just six months ago. That's because since the end of the third quarter of 2009 seats have become more scarce and prices more firm so airlines have no incentive to release cheap seats to those who procrastinate, Seaney said.

Also, book your ticket sooner for the busier summer season than you would if you plan to fly in the fall or winter.

While some airlines offer last-minute deals to certain points on certain days, in general for leisure travel it is a good idea to give yourself a cushion of at least a month from the time you buy your ticket to the time you plan to travel.

Note: Another good site I use for places like Vegas or Jamaica is Usair ways travel site(, I use that for Air and Hotel packages and they seem to be the cheapest from my past researches. For those thinking of NYC for the first time might want to check that out there package deals.

Friday, March 26, 2010

9 Of The Weirdest Alien Landscapes On Earth

Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Antelope Canyon is located on the Navajo Reservation near Page, Arizona. The unique erosion of the Navajo Sandstone is formed mostly from flash floods, giving the canyon its stunning appearance.

At Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, you can witness the unusual pattern of around 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns, formed from ancient volcanic activity. The natural wonder is Northern Ireland’s number one attraction.

Reaching 9,000 feet in elevation, southwestern Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park is a spectacular marvel to witness. Abundant in this area are curious geological formations known as “hoodoos”, totem-like spires of red sedimentary rock, some exceeding the height of a 10-story building.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia is the world’s largest salt flat at over 4,000 square miles. It is a major breeding ground for pink flamingos, and has multiple hotels built of salt bricks.

The Wave is located in the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness of Arizona, near the Utah border. Like Antelope Canyon, the hypnotizing formation is made of Navajo Sandstone. Because of the delicacy of the environment, the Bureau of Land Management limits access to only twenty permits per day.

Socotra is a small group of islands in the Indian Ocean. Visiting the main island really is like a journey to another planet, as 1/3 of its plant life isn’t found anywhere else on Earth. The Dragon’s Blood tree pictured here is just one of the many extraordinary species inhabiting Socotra, valued for its red medicinal sap.

The Black Rock Desert is a dry lakebed in northwestern Nevada. The flat and barren location has been ideal for attempting records in land speed and rocketry. It is also the annual home of the Burning Man Festival. Among its strange looking features is Fly Geyser. Although on private land, the geyser can be viewed from the nearby road.

North of Farafara, Egypt, the White Desert is littered with strange chalk formations, carved over long expanses of time from sandstorms and high winds.

Racetrack Playa is a seasonally dry lake in Death Valley National Park, California. The hot and arid landscape is home to a truly otherworldly phenomenon: the sailing stones. Ranging from small rocks to large boulders, these stones mysteriously move across the landscape, leaving straight, curved, and even zigzagged trails in their wake. Though many reasonable hypotheses have been offered, the action has never been witnessed in person, and there is still no absolute and verified explanation for these odd traveling stones.

Another place i wouldnt mind migrating to is Lauterbrunnen valley in Switzerland. The areas are surrounding the settlements/villages of Lauterbrunnen, Murren, Grutschalp, and Gimmelwald (not to be confused with Grindelwald).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

7 Things Every Apartment Renter Should Know

1. Protect Your Stuff with Renter’s Insurance

Nearly two in three college-age adults have no insurance protection, despite almost half reporting belongings worth more than $10,000, according to a recent study from Allstate Insurance. The reason? Misperception of cost.

The truth is renter’s insurance is perfectly affordable; the national average is just $16 per month, according to Allstate. And the insurance protects your stuff against fire, theft and vandalism. Think of it this way: If a fire sweeps across your apartment destroying everything in it, is the ability to replace all of your stuff worth just four fancy cups o’joe a month?

2. Lease Your Apartment during Low-Season

Just like there’s a purchase season for homes, there’s a high- and low-season for renting. These seasons vary depending on your location, but typically follow demand. For example, in northern states, high season is often in the summer or when college kids are scooping up apartments. Low season, on the other hand, ordinarily occurs during the winter.

With apartment leasing, inventory dictates price, so your best bet is to lease your place during the low-season. Not only will you have a greater variety of apartments available to choose from, but you’ll be in a better position to negotiate price.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate

You’re likely stuck with your rent payment for at least a year, so get the best deal you can! Before you start negotiations, make sure you have all the information your landlord has about you, including your credit report and score. To take a peek at your credit report and score for free, no strings attached, swing by

To be a smart negotiator, you don’t have to be a seasoned salesman. Here are five tips to help you get the best deal:

* Know Your Neighborhood: Find out what comparable apartments are going for in your area, including any specials that are running.
* Know Your Apartment Complex: Is your complex completely occupied or are there a lot of units available? The more empty apartments your landlord has, the more willing he may be to negotiate.
* Time It Right: Make sure to give yourself enough time to negotiate so if dealings fall through, you can find another place.
* Promote Yourself: Tell your landlord why you make a good tenant and give him reasons to keep you around.
* Think beyond Money: Your landlord might not be able to budge on rent, but may be willing to give you other perks like free storage, flexible move-in/out dates, premium parking or new carpet.

4. When Money’s Short, Talk to Your Landlord

This tactic doesn’t count if you spent your rent at the mall, bar or casino. But if you’re truly strapped for cash, talk to your landlord. There’s no guarantee a landlord can or will help, but if you don’t ask, you’re never giving him or her a chance. If you’ve experienced a hardship, your landlord may be willing to work out a payment plan with you, cut you some slack on your rent payment due date or help you get into an apartment that’s better suited for your situation.

5. Know Your Lease Terms and Termination Fees

Many landlords offer a variety of lease terms: six months, one year, two years, etc. Make sure you choose the lease term that fits your situation. Typically, the longer the lease term, the sweeter the deal. But, if life happens and you need to bail, breaking your lease could cost you. Before signing anything, take a look at your lease-break fee. Can you negotiate it? Is the potential cost worth it?

6. Know Your Rights

Just because you don’t own your home, doesn’t mean you don’t have rights. For example, if you rent a home from a landlord who then lets the house go into foreclosure, you may remain in your home through the end of your lease unless a home buyer purchases the home to live in, in which case you have 90 days to find a new place to live. You may get scary letters from the bank, lender and everyone who has financial interest in the house telling you to get out, but you signed a binding contract that protects you from being kicked out of your home without notice.

Different states have different protections for renters, so do your homework. If your landlord does something that feels unfair, you may have a legal recourse. There are numerous free law resources online for renters, as well as tenants’ rights organizations that you can contact for help.

7. Uncle Sam Likes Renters Too!

Many states offer a “Renter’s Credit” or “Homestead Property Tax Credit” when you do your income taxes. The credit is typically based on the difference between your household income and property taxes. As a renter, you may not directly pay property taxes, but your landlord does, and those taxes are figured into your monthly rent payment. Make sure you hang onto any receipts showing you paid your rent so you can provide the IRS with documentation should they request it.

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7 Things Your Boss Should Never Say to You

So, bosses, are you listening? Here are seven things you, as a boss, should never say to your employees:

1. "I pay your salary. You have to do what I say." Have you not heard? It's the 21st century. Threats and power plays just do not cut it anymore (and they were always a terrible way to manage). Yes, you pay people's salaries but that doesn't mean you're their lord and master. You are their leader, however. Leaders lead by inspiring, teaching, encouraging, and, yes, serving their employees. Good leaders never need to threaten. So keep your word, set a good example, praise in public, criticize in private, respect your employees' capabilities, give credit where credit is due, learn to delegate, and when you ask for feedback don't forget to respond to it. (Another sentence to be avoided: "Do what I say, not what I do.")

2. "I don't want to listen to your complaints." Hey, boss, you have this backwards. You do want to listen to employees' complaints. That's part of your job. You should be actively seeking feedback, even negative feedback. It may be annoying, even painful, but that's why you get the big bucks. Complaints point to where your processes and practices need improvement. And even if a problem absolutely can't be helped, allowing your employees to vent can go a long way toward restoring morale and building loyalty.

3. "I was here on Saturday afternoon. Where were you?" This kind of "subtle" pressure to work 24/7 is a good way to burn out your employees. You won't get that much more productivity out of them, and you will destroy morale. You may choose to work seven days a week. That's your call. But your employees shouldn't have to. If you observe that they are working way more than their job descriptions call for, consider that maybe it's because you're overloading them. Look for ways to fix this problem.

4. "Isn't your performance review coming up soon?" Maybe you're trying to motivate an employee to do a better job. Maybe this is just a ham-handed way to remind underlings of who has the power. Who knows. Either way, a statement like this is not only tacky and passive-aggressive, it's ineffective. If you really want to motivate people, consider giving them a stake in the success of your enterprise. Show employees you value them. Let them know what they have to gain by doing a good job. The results may surprise you.

5. "We've always done it this way." Want to crush your employees' initiative? This is a good way. News flash: Your employees may actually have a pretty good idea of how to do their jobs. Maybe they know even more than you. Your job as boss is to encourage them to have the energy and motivation to be innovative. In fact, employees who come up with better ways to do things should be celebrated and rewarded. (Hint: Cash is nice.)

6. "We need to cut costs" (at the same time you are, say, redecorating your office). Nothing breeds resentment more than asking employees to tighten their belts while you, to their eyes, are living it up. Even if the office redecoration can be totally justified in business terms, or the budget for it was a gift from your uncle, it still looks hypocritical and is demoralizing. Being sensitive to other people's feelings is good karma. Leading by example is the best way to lead.

7. "You should work better." Managers need to communication expectations clearly, to give employees the tools they need to do a good job, to set reasonable deadlines, and to offer help if needed. When giving instructions, ask if they understand your instructions. Don't assume. You may not be the stellar communicator you think you are. If your employees are making mistakes, or not performing up to par, consider that maybe it's because you're giving them vague instructions like "you should work better."

The bottom line is that in the workplace respect, a little tact, and a good attitude go both ways.

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7 Air Travel Perks That Used to Be Free

In recent years, struggling airlines have been squeezing revenue out of passengers wherever they can. Here we look at (and long for) airline perks that used to be free.

1. Luggage

A mere two years ago, passengers could fly on any U.S. airline and check two bags at no cost. Today, most carriers charge around $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second - that's a total of $120 dollars more for a round trip! If you have overweight baggage (for most airlines this is more than 50 pounds), expect an additional charge of between $75 and several hundred dollars, depending on weight.

The luggage charges have also introduced a new level of discomfort for coach passengers; on full flights, cabins are reportedly nearly bursting at the seams with carry-on luggage.

2. Food

Maybe it wasn't always great, but at least it was free. There are still a few domestic flights and classes of service where you can indulge in airplane food without reaching for your wallet, but for the most part, the days of free in-flight meals are gone.

For example, the Transportation Library archival collections at Northwestern University lists scores of old airline menus. United Airlines' coach class meals included salads, desserts, sandwiches and beverages, with menu items such as "Pineapple Tartelette" (1962, San Francisco - Denver) and "Breast of Chicken Virginienne" (1963, Washington to Denver). Customers still enjoy free meals on most international flights, but for economy class flights within in the U.S., if you fly United today, you'll have to settle for a cold salads or sandwiches for $9.

Continental Airlines was one of the last bastions of free meal service until it announced it would begin selling meals to coach passengers on most domestic flights this year.

Most airlines still offer a free snack or two, but they run along the lines of a fraction of an ounce of pretzels or crackers. And some airlines have even eliminated free snacks altogether.

3. Creature Comforts

Whether you're only on a short flight or are flying clear across the country, comfort is optional. In other words, you'll have to pay for it. In earlier days of airline travel, passengers were given pillows and blankets - and even playing cards, pens and magazines - free of charge to make their flights comfortable. Not anymore.

American Airlines announced in February that it would follow the lead of competitors like JetBlue and U.S. Airways and begin charging $8 for pillows and blankets on domestic trips. The good news is, you can keep your plastic inflatable neck pillow and fleece blanket for future trips.

4. Headphones

You have probably tried out a pair of spindly, coach-class headphones before. They're junk - and you get to keep them! Yup, those cheap, uncomfortable headphones used on airplanes now come at a price of $1-$5 on most airlines. And, while some airlines are introducing new entertainment options such as WiFi and Pay-per-View, these may also come at a price.

5. Leg Room

In March, Continental Airlines announced that it would begin charging coach passengers extra if they wanted more leg room. It joins United and JetBlue in charging for seats that could once be requested upon checking in, or were just handed out arbitrarily. And this extra seven inches or so comes at fairly hefty price - more than $50 for a domestic flight depending on the length of the flight and the popularity of the route.

6. Booking

Since you're already buying a service, you wouldn't think that the airlines would have to charge you to sell it - but they do. Many major U.S. airlines charge a fee to book a flight over the phone or in person. Online travel agents such as Orbitz and Expedia removed their booking fees in 2009, but many airlines still charge them depending on how you book.

7. Changing Your Plans

If something comes up and you can't make your flight, changing your ticket - even to an equal or less-expensive flight - will cost you between $75 and $300 depending on the airline. Of course, you could buy what's called a "refundable ticket," or "refundable fare," which allows you to get (most of) your money back if you have to cancel your flight, and to avoid additional penalties for making changes. But guess what? These tickets cost considerably more than non-refundable ones.

How Far Will It Go?

The recent rash of new airline fees has left many pondering what could be next. In 2009, U.K. flyers were outraged at Irish budget carrier Ryanair's announcement that it was considering charging passengers to use the restroom. So far, this particular fee has not been put in place, but only time will tell how far airlines will go - or how much more nickel-and-diming passengers will tolerate.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

5 Low-Profile Careers With High Potential

Here's a look at five low-profile careers that pay well for interesting work, and are poised for growth in tomorrow's economy.

1. Occupational Therapist

As more and more Americans enter their golden years, occupational therapists are experiencing a surge in demand for their services. Occupational therapists play an important supporting role in the treatment of illness and disability. They help patients with disabilities regain their independence through adaptive technology and life skills training.

A master's degree is the minimum requirement to become licensed as an occupational therapist. As of 2007, 124 programs offered occupational therapy graduate degrees, and an additional 66 offered combined bachelor's-master's degree programs.

Salary: $67,920 (mean annual wages from 2008 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unless otherwise specified)

2. Video Game Designer

Who knew that a video gaming habit could pay off in a lucrative career? Video game designers make a comfortable living creating concepts, story lines, and animated effects for computer games. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the video game industry earned $11.7 billion last year in the U.S. alone.

A game design career requires top-notch programming and artistic skills. An associate's or bachelor's degree in game design helps you develop the technical background. You may choose to specialize in interactive programming (using C or C++ language), script writing and character development, or computer-generated special effects.

Salary: $62,380 for all multimedia artists and animators

3. Cybercrime Investigator

Cybercrime investigators are unlikely to inspire a "CSI"-style television drama, but their forensics work is no less heroic. These behind-the-scenes digital detectives use their computer skills to make the Web a safer place to surf and do business. They apply advanced forensics techniques to pursue and help prosecute the hackers, and identify thieves and financial scam artists lurking online.

Cybercrime investigators may kick off their careers with an associate's degree in computer science, programming, or a specialized computer crime, economic crime investigation, or digital forensics degree. For the best opportunities, continue on to a bachelor's degree in the field.

Salary: $46,370 for all computer support specialists (mean annual wage, BLS, 2008); $51,164 for credit card fraud investigators (

4. User Experience Designer

As personal electronics reach a peak in technical development, the high-tech industry is looking to usability to differentiate their products. Apple, for example, has come to dominate the market for computers and communication devices on the strength of its intuitive interface and compelling designs. As a user experience designer, you'll make sure that products are easy to use and pleasing to look at. The job brings together creative and technical skills, making it a lucrative niche for artistic types.

A bachelor's degree in computer science or graphic design can lead to a career as a usability specialist. For best results, supplement your degree with courses in cognitive psychology and marketing. Some colleges offer a specialized master's degree in usability.

Salary: $87,900 for computer applications engineers, $46,750 for graphic designers

5. Curriculum Designer

Curriculum designers are tackling the challenge of education reform head-on. These specialists select textbooks, develop new curriculum materials, and train teachers. They incorporate new educational technology into the classroom. And they review educational programs to make sure learning outcomes meet standards set by government agencies.

A master's degree in education is the standard requirement for a career in curriculum design. You'll learn about educational technology, program review techniques, and current research in learning and child development. Most states also require a teaching or administrative license.

Salary: $59,780

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Entry-Level Jobs With Big Earning Potential

Here are eight of our top picks for those who are just starting out, and their median annual salaries, according to

Environmental engineer
Have a bachelor's degree in engineering? You're in luck! According to the U.S. Department of Labor, environmental engineers make among the highest starting salaries of all college graduates. Entry-level positions in the field are similar to "an apprentice situation," says workplace expert Alexandra Levit, whose latest book is "New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career." "As you get more senior, you receive more independence to work on your own, eventually supervising your own staff."
Median annual salary: $68,628.

Network systems/data communications analyst
Not a computer science major? Not to worry. In information technology, getting field certification is often more valuable than a formal education, Levit says. Once you cultivate an area of expertise, such as network security or enterprise software, "You can very quickly become the go-to person in the organization and eventually the head of IT," she says. "And you can make a very, very good living."
Median annual salary: $61,949.

Marketing research analyst
From high-tech and biotech to retail and hospitality, consumer-driven industries rely on market data to make smart business decisions. If you have a business marketing or statistical background, you may be able to analyze data from the get-go in this field rather than starting as "a [low-paid] telemarketer," says Laurence Shatkin, author of more than 20 books for job hunters, including "200 Best Jobs for College Graduates," which he co-wrote with Michael Farr.
Median annual salary: $58,423.

Fancy yourself the next Don Draper or Peggy Olson from "Mad Men"? Why not try your hand at writing ad copy? "Here's something for the English major to be doing, now that journalism doesn't seem to be such a prospect," Shatkin says. Although you might start by contributing text to lower-profile agency projects, in time "you can be involved to the point where you're developing entire ad campaigns," Shatkin says.
Median annual salary: $53,288.

Sales associate
The beauty of sales is that you can enter the field even if you majored in art history, Shatkin says. "With a lot of products, you can learn what you need to know from a short training program," he explains. "And sometimes you'll work with a more experienced salesperson your first few days out." To boost your income, he says, you can transition into selling bigger-ticket items, or you can move into management.
Median annual salary: $45,656.

"There are all sorts of places where lobbyists exist: lobbying firms, public interest groups, trade organizations," Levit says. "You can start with an unpaid internship and move within a couple years to making six figures." To get your feet wet, Levit suggests volunteering for a political campaign or interning on Capitol Hill for a few months to see what causes interest you.
Median annual salary: $66,929.

Public relations assistant
"PR and digital marketing are hot hot hot," Levit says. "Everyone is switching their traditional marketing to online, and they can't fill positions fast enough." Expect to work your hide off at a PR agency, a field with a high burnout rate, Levit warns. On the plus side, she says, annual promotions are the norm, with the path from peon to supervisor fairly short.
Median annual salary: $42,810.

Financial analyst
Yes, the financial sector took a beating during the past year, but finance jobs are starting to bounce back, Shatkin says. So if you're looking to put that business, finance, or statistics education to use, consider analyzing financial data for a living. "Analysts contribute to the decisions that financial managers make," Shatkin explains. Specifically, financial analysts make investment recommendations to the banks, insurance companies, securities firms, and other businesses employing them. From this starting point, Shatkin says, the sky's the limit -- all the way up to company controller, CFO, or CEO.
Median annual salary: $60,952.

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4 Tips for Getting an Increase for 2010

As the economy begins to recover, salary increases should do the same.

In the past few years, employers have raised workers' salaries by about 4 percent per year -- except for 2009, when the figure dropped to a historically low 2.1 percent, according to a survey of employers by global human resources association WorldatWork. About one-third of companies froze raises altogether.

For 2010, WorldatWork's survey projects an average salary increase budget of 2.7 percent, a figure that shows how the situation has improved but also that the job market is still weak. Between 10 percent and 15 percent of companies said they would freeze raises -- far fewer than in 2009, but still more than in most years.

New Approach for Raises

"Jobs don't typically recover quite like the economy," said Alison Avalos, research manager for WorldatWork. "We still see a lot of conservative approaches for 2010."

Underlying these figures is a change in the way employers give raises. Employers have started "using increases as a tool to motivate and retain talent rather than something that everybody gets," Avalos said. "Employers have realized that they can get a lot more bang for their buck if they tailor their rewards based on performance."

This means that even with the low average increase, some employees are getting larger raises -- and some are getting none at all.

Position Yourself Well

How can you be one of the employees to get a raise? Avalos and others offer the following tips:

* Do your job well. This means producing high-quality work, of course, but also keeping the big picture in mind.

"It really comes down to positioning yourself as a high performer, somebody who is aware of business goals and helps the company meet their goals as an organization," Avalos said.

* Be visible. When times are tough, some workers think, "I'm going to hunker down and hope that nobody notices me, because I don't want to be on a layoff list," said Richard Phillips, owner of Advantage Career Solutions. This is a mistake, because you're unlikely to get a raise if no one knows what you have accomplished. "If anything, what you want to do is be more visible."

* Make your boss's life easier. This means everything from having a good attitude to taking on extra tasks. If you don't know how you can help your boss, ask.

* Ask for a raise. Talk to your boss and present your case: Here's what I've done, here's how it fits with the company's goals, here's why I think it's worth a salary increase. In some cases, even if your company has an official raise freeze, you can get a raise if you make a good case.

If the answer is no -- or if you're not ready to ask directly -- Phillips suggests asking, "What would you like to see from me that would put me in line for a raise?"

A question like this can improve your standing. "Just asking the question says to the boss, 'I'm thinking about where I fit in here, what I can do,'" Phillips said. "That in and of itself has value."

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Traveling across Europe

Traveling across Europe

For those thinking about a tour of Europe the best way to do that is by train.

Here’s a list of train operators so you can check prices, do not get train prices from RailEurope as this is an agency that charges substantial fees in addition to the ticket prices.,
Paris-London-Brussels: . Tickets go on sale 120 days before travel.

France: but say you are from Great Britain. If you say you are from North America, you may get transferred to RailEurope with its higher prices. Tickets go on sale 90 days before travel.

Italy: but it is highly unlikely you will be able to book through this site, as it hardly ever accepts cards issued outside Europe. If you have problems, just buy the train tickets in Italy.
You will not get "screwed over" if you buy your tickets in Europe: the tickets will be at the published prices. However, many of the operators offer substantial discounts for advanced purchases over the net. The cheap tickets can sell out quickly, so get in early if you can.

I also recommend checking out the website of Rick Steves,, and his travel books.

Friday, March 19, 2010

How to break a laptop

This is how you break a laptop

Upset Man Breaks Laptop In HP Computer Store!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dubai Culture

Interesting read On Dubai

London, England (CNN) -- The locals wear long, all-covering robes. They pray five times a day in one of the city's many mosques. Each year, they celebrate Ramadan, fasting from dawn to dusk.

Many expatriates, instead, love to hang out at the beach, often in skimpy bathing suits making the most of the year-round sunshine. They go to beach-side cafes to drink and eat with friends, enjoying the tax-free lifestyle of the sunny sheikdom-by-the-sea.

Only rub is expatriates overwhelmingly outnumber locals -- by more than eight to one.

Welcome to Dubai, the tiny, sun-drenched, desert sheikdom where a whopping 85 percent of the population hail from somewhere else, demographics unheard of anywhere else in the world.

And although the unusual co-existence is largely peaceful, friction can bubble up, like in the recent case of a British couple facing up to a month in jail for kissing in public.

he couple, a British man living and working in Dubai, and a British female tourist visiting the Persian Gulf city-state, were arrested in November accused of kissing and touching each other intimately in public -- violations of law against public indecency -- and consuming alcohol. The couple have been granted bail pending appeal. A hearing is scheduled for April 4.

Dubai's foreign population has soared in recent years as expatriates, courted by the country, flocked to the booming emirate to work.

"It's one of the countries in the world which has had the most rapid structural transformation we've ever seen for an economy," said Nasser Saidi, chief economist of the Dubai International Financial Centre Authority. "If you look at it like that, you start to understand the dynamics of the economy, why you need to attract a vast population from across the world."

The population changes have challenged the now vastly outnumbered Emiratis, though, raising concerns among the local population that the breakneck modernization of the sheikdom threatens their deeply conservative social and religious identity.

The case is the third of its kind involving Britons in under two years. Expats who live in the emirate say authorities seem to be increasingly sensitive to such culture clashes.

"Expats need to know that no matter how modern and open-minded this country is, it's an Islamic country," said Heike Moeckel, a cultural consultant at Embrace Arabia, an Abu Dhabi-based, Emirati-owned company providing cultural training to expats and Emiratis alike.

Moeckel said "the amount of ignorance" by expats to Islamic traditions was the "biggest obstacle" in her work. She said there were beaches in Dubai where a local Emirati woman would not dare bring her children because of the dress code and behavior there, considered "completely inappropriate" by local people.

The British couple at the center of the current case were dining with friends at Bob's Easy Diner, one of a stretch of cafes on a popular strip behind the city's Jumeirah Beach, when an Emirati woman with her family reported their behavior to police.

"It's very easy to make an economy out of different kinds of people with different religious backgrounds and nationalities," Shahidul Haque, regional representative for the Middle East for the International Organization for Migration, told CNN. "But it's often very difficult to develop a social fabric with the same populations."

"That's a huge challenge for any country," Haque said, adding that incidents like the couple kissing "happen for social and economic reasons," rather because of religious differences.

The economy of Dubai, a once tiny pearling village with limited natural resources, was built by expatriate labor. And the high number of expats needs to be maintained to ensure growth, experts say.

Oil sales account for less than five percent of Dubai's economy now. The majority of its income comes from service industries, retail, trade and tourism.

Asked if the Dubai economy could continue to grow without its large expat population, chief economist Saidi replied no.

"It's clear they need them," he said. Saidi said that although the population of the emirate is very young and growing fast, it will take "a couple of generations to build up the skills needed."

Until such point, Dubai continues to need -- and court -- its foreign workers, despite culture clashes like the one with the British couple.

"The local labor market cannot provide" what is needed, Haque said. "You either have to depend on foreign labor, or reduce the economy."

"And no country wants to shrink their economy."

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fish Spa Pattaya

Pattaya Thailand - Fish Spa with Mai at The Avenue.

- Vid REMOVED - !

No I have not tried it, not my thing to have little fish biting (nibbling) on my feet. But it seems to be the rave in Thailand since I seen many of these spots around. I kind of feel sorry for the fish for those with bad feet :):):):)

For those that care heres what there literature says.... Visit and try fish spa, the first fish therapy in Thailand. Letting up to a thousand fish nibble at your feet or hand may initially sound like a crazy idea, but fish therapy, a novel spa treatment that originate with the Garra Rufa or Doctor fish in Turkey and has since gained acceptance in many countries. Fishmania Spa, the unique and fun therapy is now available in Pattaya/Nakula area.

Keen’s Commuter Bag

Keen Commuter Bag

Got it at, Ebags offered free shipping so it only cost me $85.00
Bought this mostly for my business laptop, The company gives you a backpack but like to switch it up every now and then and this bag is rugged enough to keep my laptop and safe from my rough lifestyle
I love the organization of the bag; it has the perfect amount of pockets. There are three pockets sewn into the bag's interior that keep my computer cables and mouse secure, and a padded laptop sleeve that sits suspended safely above the bag's bottom. A zippered pocket on the outside of the main compartment has pockets for my pens and iPod, plus a mesh pocket for tiny accessories.

Keen Commuter Bag

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What’s in a Chicken McNugget?

Interesting Read:

What’s Really in Your Food?
Learn the truth about these four fast-food favorites.
By David Zinczenko & Matt Goulding, Men's Health

Ever wonder what’s actually in a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget? Turns out, the “chicken” alone contains seven ingredients. And that’s before you even get to the breading. Sadly, many of our favorite foods (especially fast foods) weren’t merely crafted in kitchens, they were also designed and perfected in labs. We uncovered the ugly truth when doing research for Eat This, Not That! Restaurant Survival Guide. What we found wasn’t pretty—or appetizing. Before you mindlessly chew your way through another value meal, take these mini-mysteries (conveniently solved below) into account. Sometimes the truth is tough to swallow.

What’s in a Chicken McNugget?

You’d think that a breaded lump of chicken would be pretty simple. Mostly, it would contain bread and chicken. But the McNugget and its peers at other fast-food restaurants are much more complicated creatures than that. The “meat” in the McNugget alone contains seven ingredients, some of which are made up of yet more ingredients. (Nope, it’s not just chicken. It’s also such nonchicken-related stuff as water, wheat starch, dextrose, safflower oil, and sodium phosphates.) The “meat” also contains something called “autolyzed yeast extract.” Then add another 20 ingredients that make up the breading, and you have the industrial chemical—we mean, fast-food meal—called the McNugget. Still, McDonald’s is practically all-natural compared to Wendy’s Chicken Nuggets, with 30 ingredients, and Burger King Chicken Fries, with a whopping 35 ingredients.

What’s in a Wendy’s Frosty?

Wendy’s Frosty requires 14 ingredients to create what traditional shakes achieve with only milk and ice cream. So what accounts for the double-digit ingredient list? Mostly a barrage of thickening agents that includes guar gum, cellulose gum, and carrageenan. And while that’s enough to disqualify it as a milk shake in our book, it’s nothing compared to the chemist’s list of ingredients in the restaurant’s new line of bulked-up Frankenfrosties

Check out the Coffee Toffee Twisted Frosty, for instance. It seems harmless enough; the only additions, after all, are “coffee syrup” and “coffee toffee pieces.” The problem is that those two additions collectively contain 25 extra ingredients, seven of which are sugars and three of which are oils. And get this: Rather than a classic syrup, the “coffee syrup” would more accurately be described as a blend of water, high-fructose corn syrup, and propylene glycol, a laxative chemical that’s used as an emulsifier in food and a filler in electronic cigarettes. Of all 10 ingredients it takes to make the syrup, coffee doesn’t show up until near the end, eight items down the list.

For more examples of over-the-top, sugar-packed cups like this, feast your eyes on our astonishing list of the 20 Worst Drinks in America.

What’s in a Filet-O-Fish?

The world’s most famous fish sandwich begins as one of the ocean’s ugliest creatures. Filet-O-Fish, like many of the fish patties used by fast-food chains, is made predominantly from hoki, a gnarly, crazy-eyed fish found in the cold waters off the coast of New Zealand. In the past, McDonald’s has purchased up to 15 million pounds of hoki a year, each flaky fillet destined for a coat of batter, a bath of oil, a squirt of tartar, and a final resting place in a warm, squishy bun. But it seems the world’s appetite for this and other fried-fish sandwiches has proved too voracious, as New Zealand has been forced to cut the allowable catch over the years in order to keep the hoki population from collapsing. Don’t expect McDonald’s to scale down Filet-O-Fish output anytime soon, though; other whitefish like Alaskan pollock will likely fill in the gaps left by the hoki downturn. After all, once it’s battered and fried, do you really think you’ll know the difference?

Ready for dessert? See which frozen treats made our popular list of The 39 Best Healthy Foods in America.

What’s in my salami sandwich?

Salami, the mystery meat: Is it cow? Is it pig? Well, if you’re talking Genoa salami, like you’d get at Subway, then it’s both. Most salami is made from slaughterhouse leftovers that are gathered using “advanced meat recovery,” which sounds like a rehab center for vegans but is actually a mechanical process that strips the last remaining bits of muscle off the bone so nothing is wasted. It’s then processed using lactic acid, the waste product produced by bacteria in the meat. It both gives the salami its tangy flavor and cures it as well, making it an inhospitable place for other bacteria to grow. Add in a bunch of salt and spices—for a total of 15 ingredients in all—and you’ve got salami. But now that you know what’s in there, you might need to check yourself into an advanced meat recovery center.

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African King

Fort Portal, Uganda (CNN) -- At first glance, he looks like any other 17-year-old.

He bobs his head to rapper Jay-Z, plays video games and reads the "Twilight" vampire books. When he's not doing homework, he kicks a soccer ball in his backyard.

Yet looks can be deceiving.

People in this corner of western Uganda know the young man as King Oyo, one of the world's youngest ruling monarchs. The teen king rules over more than 2 million people in the Tooro kingdom, one of four kingdoms in Uganda that conjure images of pre-colonial Africa.

King Oyo lives for part of the year in a palace perched on a hill in Fort Portal, a place where bicycles stacked with bananas race past ramshackle huts in the shadow of a snow-capped mountain. He also has a palace in the bustling Ugandan capital, Kampala, where he studies at a private school while soldiers stand guard.

Friends at school greet him with hugs and handshakes, but back home, subjects kiss his feet while sprawled before him on the ground, as if they were doing push ups.

"I still find it a little uncomfortable when people bow, especially the older ones," says the king, whose full name is Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV. "My friends at school (could not) care less that I'm a king. They like me for who I am, not for what I am."

King Oyo has worn the crown for as long as he can remember.

He ascended to the throne aged three, after his father died in 1995. For his coronation, the toddler sat on a miniature throne and played with toys after a mock battle with a grown-up "rebel" prince. At one point, his majesty dashed from the throne to climb onto his mother's lap. He also yanked off a lion-skin crown that was too heavy for his little head.

The next day, King Oyo attended a meeting with Cabinet members who were old enough to be his grandparents.

Now he stands nearly six feet tall and looks much more regal. He sits on a throne draped with leopard skin and wears a royal robe of blue and gold, his cropped hair covered by a crown with a fluffy white tail.

"The first few years, I did not know what was going on," he says. "I think I realized when I was about 6 that I really was king, and my life was going to be different. I was going to have responsibilities toward a lot of people."

King Oyo oversees a Cabinet that includes a prime minister, board of regents and councilmen. The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, advises him. So does Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

In addition to serving as the figurehead for members of the Batooro tribe -- the group that makes up most of the Tooro kingdom -- the king oversees efforts to raise money for projects involving such things as health and education. He implements programs to boost cultural pride. He also helps oversee how his kingdom spends tax money that it gets from the Ugandan government.

The king makes major decisions with the help of regents and advisers. His mother, Queen Best Kemigisa, lives in the palace and works closely with him, though King Oyo will become the sole decision-maker when he turns 18 in a few weeks.

"It's a huge responsibility," the king says, "but I have a lot of support from my mother, my sister and others, so I know I can do it."

The job has its perks.

Fawning subjects give him livestock and spears. He travels to meet world leaders. And teenage girls and young women flock to his palace for public events, though the king changes subjects like a veteran politician when asked whether he's dating.

"I can't wait to see the new "Twilight" movie, he says with a sly smile.

There are downsides.

King Oyo travels with a security detail of military guards who also hover around his school. That makes it hard to blend into a crowd.

"At times, I'll have things I want to do, but I can't just get up and do them like ordinary teenagers do," he says. "I can't always do what I want because I have obligations."

Kingdoms in Africa date at least to the Egyptian civilization, though their numbers have declined in the last few hundred years.

The monarchies are based on ethnicities, sparking concerns of a setback in national integration efforts, said Ndebesa Mwambutsya, a history professor at Makerere University in Kampala.

"Ugandans identify themselves first with their tribes and kingdoms, then as citizens," he says. "This works in most African cultures because people have lost faith in the government, and tribes and kingdoms provide a nucleus around which an identity can be forged."

Finding a balance between national unity and tradition can be a challenge, according to the professor.

"It's a paradox in itself. It is important that African culture is preserved because a people without culture is like groping in the darkness," he says.

"At the same time, there's globalization, there's consumerism, there's national integration. Making all those fit in with traditionalism is a tall order -- it needs perspective to ensure kingdoms are not counterproductive."

Many Africans, like the people in King Oyo's realm, identify themselves as a member of a tribe or ethnic group first and as citizen of a nation second. That is partly a legacy of colonialism, when European powers drew boundaries for countries and territories that lumped together people of various tribes and ethnic groups, including many who had a history of poor relations.

Tension between ethnic groups within the same country often has flared into violence around the continent. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which killed nearly 800,000 people, for example, was a result of inter-ethnic violence. So was the post-election violence in neighboring Kenya that left more than 1,000 dead in 2008.

In Uganda, the central government outlawed kingdoms in 1967, but the president reinstated four of them in the '90s on the condition that their leaders focus more on culture and less on national politics.

Other African countries, such as Lesotho and Swaziland, also have kings. The king of Swaziland is famous for festivals at which scores of virgins dance for him, but King Oyo is sedate by contrast. He presides over a kingdom where time seems to have stopped.

Snow-capped Mount Rwenzori peeks through the mist and glints under moonlight, a hulking backdrop to the shacks and banana plantations that dot rolling landscapes. The lush, green vegetation does not translate into wealth, though: Most people in the kingdom -- like people in the rest of Uganda -- live in poverty.

Even so, some people have pinned their hopes on the young king.

"His age brings a lot of financial support from leaders who want to mentor him and see him succeed," says Ruhweza Remigious, 34, a carpenter who lives in a mud hut across from the palace in Fort Portal.

"Most Africans are led by older people who don't do anything," Remigious says. "He is young and eager, and we hope he will give us a better life and modernize our infrastructures."

That's a heavy burden for anyone to shoulder. It puts particularly strong pressure on a teenager who likes to hang out with his buddies from school and root for his favorite soccer team -- Arsenal, of the Premier League in England.

So would he have chosen to be king?

He pauses.

"I'm not really sure if I can answer that question," he says. "Being a king is not easy. Sometimes I wish I could just be ordinary."

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Networking in Every Day Life

Recently, New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission launched an official cab-share program to take commuters from their uptown residences to midtown offices. Riders meet at specified group pick-up points and for a $3-4 flat rate, a fraction of what they'd pay as a single rider, they can avoid jockeying for a hard-to-find morning ride in the middle of Columbus Avenue. The program has turned out to be a great networking tool; already both friendships and business relationships have been struck.

This development in more civilized urban commuting reminds us that you never know when you might be sitting next to someone in a cab, on an airplane, or at Starbucks who can turn out to be instrumental in your career. Will you know how to take advantage of the opportunity when it comes?

Here's are some key tools for impromptu public networking:

1. Approachability.

A friendly smile, a polite greeting and relaxed body language all show that you're open to interacting.

2. Awareness.

Watch for cues that signal whether a person is open to a casual conversation. If she pulls out an iPod or seems way too engrossed in a newspaper or book, she's giving you the signal that she's not interested in conversing. Don't take it personally; perhaps they're preoccupied or just need a quiet moment before they start their day. Respect their space and don't try to force things.

3. A curious mind.

If and when the conversation does get beyond the initial pleasantries, it's easiest to draw people out by asking questions and getting them to talk about themselves. But be careful that you don't come across like an FBI interrogator. Absorb what they're saying and let them finish their thoughts before you ask the next question.

4. Elevator pitch.

You want to be responsive to their questions as well. In particular, be ready for that basic question that can also be the most tricky: "What do you do?" If you're unemployed, focus on the future without going into a long explanation of your past. Say something like, "I have a background as a systems analyst and am looking for my next position at a technology firm."

5. Business cards.

If you had a pleasant conversation with someone, exchange business cards as an invitation to keep the door open for future contact.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

AT&T risks falling behind yet again in the cell phone technology race

AT&T risks falling behind yet again in the cell phone technology race

Metered internet pricing is a controversial suggestion. Basically, most iterations of the plan boil down to low-usage users' costs remaining similar to current costs, but high usage users having to pay much more than their current rates. Customers by and large hate the idea since they feel they already pay too much for their internet (major service providers in the U.S., like Comcast and Embarq, have fought to outlaw municipal Wi-Fi services that would offer cheaper internet to citizens). Internet service providers, though, simply see dollar signs when they dream of metered pricing.

In the U.S. two companies have tried meter pricing trials -- AT&T and Time Warner. Time Warner dropped its plans after backlash, but AT&T is still soldiering ahead with plans to increase the fees of its busier users. AT&T Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson on Tuesday said that he is still planning an eventual rollout of a metered billing plan.

He delivered the announcement at a multi-topic presentation at a Morgan Stanley conference in San Francisco. His stance on metered pricing is not unique -- Verizon Wireless recently indicated that it was eyeing trial deployments of tiered pricing as well.

Among the other interesting topics he hit on was the company's relationship with Apple. Despite complaints from iPhone owners, Mr. Stephenson is convinced that iPhone will be a "key product" (hinting at exclusivity) for "quite some time".

He also alluded to the public mockery that Apple's long-awaited iPad tablet brought. He indicated that AT&T isn't overly excited in the 3G version of the iPad, which will be released in April, likely on AT&T's network. He icily stated, "[It's] interesting to see the customer reaction to the iPad. We think it's going to be a largely WiFi-driven product."

Mr. Stephenson and other AT&T executives said that the company is working to correct the highly publicized shortcomings of their network in New York City and San Francisco. They are beefing up infrastructure in these regions that were swamped by the growing legion of iPhones.

On the advanced technologies front AT&T appears to be yet again letting itself slip behind in infrastructure, though. Even as T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint have announced ambitious plans to deploy faster 4G networks, AT&T says it's in no hurry to deploy its own championed brand of 4G, LTE (Long Term Evolution). It says it may start deploying LTE in 2011 (all the other carriers are deploying 4G this year) and that deployment won't "accelerate" until 2012. (Previously announced plans to deploy LTE in 2010 appear shelved.)

AT&T slashed its infrastructure investment in 2009, but this year hopes to invest slightly more to prepare for the iPad and iPhone demand.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rat out a tax cheat, collect a reward

NEW YORK ( -- If you knew coworkers, former bosses or exes who cheated on their taxes, would you turn them in? The Internal Revenue Service can make it worth your while.

As tax season nears, we all want to get as much money back from the IRS as possible. And while taking advantage of this year's new tax breaks will put some extra money in your pocket, snitching on a tax cheat could make you rich.

In a recent poll from the IRS Oversight Board, 13% of those surveyed think cheating is acceptable, up from 9% in 2008. As the recession puts the squeeze on household finances, the lure of fudging on a tax return is even greater.

"In a down economy, the temptation to cheat on taxes is much stronger because people are in more desperate situations more often," said Bill Raabe, a tax expert at Ohio State University's business school.

More people may be just as desperate to turn in a business, rat out an ex-spouse or report a colleague to collect a reward.

Small-time crooks: The IRS's informant program has been around for more than 140 years. If you suspect a person is committing tax fraud and report it, you could receive up to 15% of the amount that has been underpaid, with a maximum award of $10 million.

Informants are required to complete a claim, which is available on the IRS Web site, and mail it to the agency or call the IRS tip line at 1-800-829-0433. While you must reveal your identity to the IRS, your name will not be made public.

Because there is no minimum requirement for the amount in question, anyone can file a report in hopes of making an extra buck off of a cheating boyfriend or obnoxious neighbor.

"You probably get a mix of people with the informant program. You'll have spouses -- or ex-spouses probably -- as well as ex-employees turning in their employers," said Raabe. "But you really have to think, 'is it worth my time to report that guy?'"

To weed out the bogus reports from bitter ex-husbands and disgruntled employees, the IRS requires informants to fill out a detailed form and provide intimate information about the tax evader, including the person's social security number, address and date of birth.

"That's a lot of information that I'm not sure the average person has available," said Gagnon. "They're kind of asking the person to be a detective or work for them and go hunt all this information down, and I don't know how comfortable people would feel trying to do that."

Big cheaters: In 2006, the IRS really started cracking down on big time cheaters and introduced a new whistle-blower program, in which informants are paid a minimum of 15% and a maximum of 30% of the amount owed.

But there's a catch: In order to collect a reward, the taxes, penalties and interest in dispute must add up to at least $2 million. And if the suspected tax evader is an individual, his or her annual gross income must exceed $200,000.

So far, the new incentives have been effective. The IRS has received tips from about 476 informants identifying 1,246 taxpayers in fiscal year 2008, the first full year the program was implemented.

"The program is already attracting an enormous number of quality tips," said Paul Scott, a former Department of Justice trial attorney and current owner of law firm Paul D. Scott, where he represents whistle-blowers. "The volume of claims and/or tips they have been receiving with really substantial documentation or support has increased dramatically since the inception of this program."

Scott said that since the new program began, his firm has received claims from whistle-blowers involving billions of dollars in taxes, penalties and interest.

Who snitches?: In this program, the most common informants tend to be dissatisfied middle-ranking employees in big companies, said Tim Gagnon, an academic specialist of accounting at Northeastern University.

"I think it happens more in middle management than upper management," he said. "They're workers in the middle ranks who feel frustrated about what's going on and are not advancing or don't think they have a shot of moving up, because otherwise, it's hard to break loyalty."

Stephen Whitlock, director of the IRS Whistleblower Office, said that informants have had some connection to the taxpayer but they are not always close acquaintances. They have typically been employees, investors or business associates.

He also said many claims are for substantially more than the $2 million threshold and involve businesses or very wealthy individuals.

While the names of informants aren't made public, Gagnon said that a person's identity often becomes obvious based on the proof provided.

"Certain records show up and they can figure out where they're coming from," he said. "It's gotten a lot more anonymous and there's a lot more hiding in the shadows, but can you really stay in the shadows when you come forward to claim your rewards?"

Despite the program's success and generous rewards, the exhaustive information required and fear of retaliation are still huge deterrents in recruiting IRS informants.

"Once you blow the whistle on your employer, yeah, they can't fire you for retaliation, but I'm not sure how many people are going to hire you after that," said Gagnon.

But it's not always just a hefty reward that motivates people, said Scott of his whistle-blowing clients, and not all of them are jilted employees. Some feel angry about other people being above the law and getting away with it. "They want to stop the fat cats from getting rich at the taxpayer's expense," he said.

Others simply feel morally obligated to let someone know what's going on, said Scott. "They really feel like they're doing the right thing," he said. "When they look back on their lives, they will know they made the right move." To top of page

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