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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Help victims of Typhoon Haiyan the best way we can

Thousands of people are suffering in the Philippines due to the one of the world’s worst disaster in the modern history. There are some alleged estimates that the number of deaths reached as high as 10,000 but as of the last count 2,000 are feared dead.

The devastating news lead every casual news consumer to contribute to any sort of financial aid. New technology and social media have made sending $1 or $10 to “charitable” organizations easier than ever.

“One of the problems is that we’ve entered into the digital age with a high level of trust,” Angie Barnett, president of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland, said.

Scam artists that meant to get money out of donations often get convincing photographs, or videos from the websites of reputable organizations to appear legitimate.

“Some have similar sounding names to big organizations… that’s a red flag,” Raymund Flandez, a staff writer covering the intersection of technology and charity for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, said.

THURSDAY @ 11 | Undeniable facts about an unregistered charity organization (click)

The “Red Cross of the United States” is not the same as the American Red Cross, for example.

The number of website addresses containing the words “Haiyan,” “typhoon,” “disaster aid,” “Philippines,” and “relief” has soared, Barnett said.

The aid delays for up to 2 million people in remote locations of the Philippines are melting the hearts and wallets across the country.

Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland released a list of the top five mistakes people make when donating to charity after a natural disaster.

• Do not make a donation decision only basing on the charity’s name and send donations to inexperienced relief efforts.

Stand by with one standard rule; don’t go with a charity in which the domain name contains the name of the disaster itself. So don’t give to “HaiyanRelief.com” or “HelpTheVictimsofHaiyan.com.”

“It could be a start-up group with little experience or a questionable effort seeking to gain confidence through its title,” Barnett said. “If in doubt, ask for the organization’s Form 990, a tax return charities file annually with the IRS. This form provides transparency in the dollars raised – and where they are directed.”

• Gather clothing and goods without verifying that items can be used.

Relief organizations often prefer to purchase goods near the location of the disaster to help speed the rate of delivery, according to the Better Business Bureau. Consider the cost of shipping extensive cargo long distances. Cash is king.


Facebook inserted a direct link to send $10 to the American Red Cross to provide aid for Haiyan relief as of November 13.The American Red Cross is among the most trusted organizations globally so it better to donate to them directly.

While this may not apply to Facebook, “Common tactics used by scam artists include phishing email with alleged links to disaster video which if clicked, releases malware into your personal computer,” according to the BBB. “Social media mentions of bogus donation websites which collect money and shut down without a trace.”

Barnett said scammers are in the business of “throwing up websites” and “collecting credit card numbers.”

• Do not donate without doing your homework

To make the vetting process easier, Flandez suggested the following three charity rating websites, which perform regular due diligence:

“More than that, do a Google search to see if they’ve made any strides in what they do. … That’s basic due diligence,” Flandez said

Readers can report possible charity scams here .

Guidestar spokeswoman Lindsay Nichols said, “We all give with our heart, but unless we give with our head too, we’re essentially wasting our hard-earned money.”

Guidestar’s tips for giving with your heart and your head can be found here .

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The end of McDonald’s Dollar Menu as we know it

McDonald’s is changing its legendary Dollar Menu to try and rise out of its sales slump.

McDonald’s (MCD, Fortune 500) gave a new name to the menu Dollar Menu & More. Some of the items will still cost a dollar, but other items will cost more.

October 24, Wednesday, it sent this tweet from its official account: “Dollar Menu fans, don’t worry…our new Dollar Menu & More will offer many options that are still $1 and some new choices too!”

According to a McDonald’s spokeswoman, who said it will include some new items, which she declined to identify, the new menu will officially roll out on Nov. 4

McDonald’s could use a revenue enhance. Sometime this October, the fast food giant reported disappointing same-store sales, up less than 1% worldwide for the quarter as compared to the previous year.

The company fared for the most part badly outside of the U.S., with same-store sales falling 1.4% in the Middle East, Africa and the Asia/Pacific region. Operating income fell 12% in China, Japan and Australia because of an “ongoing challenging environment.”

In test markets like New York City, a similar menu called the Extra Value Menu & More is already available. A worker at a Manhattan restaurant featuring an Extra Value Menu & More said it’s been on offer since at least February, when he started working there.

At that restaurant, the following items are still available for $1: two slices of apple pie, two bags of apple slices, and a “cone” (presumably with ice cream in it, but the menu didn’t specify.)

Most of the other items cost a dollar and change, with the list as follows, the McDouble and McChicken, which each go for $1.69, and the four-piece McNugget, which costs $1.59.

The prices climb higher from there; the double cheeseburger costs $2.19 and the McFlurry is priced at $2.89. The most expensive item on the Extra Value Menu & More was the 20-piece McNugget for $4.99.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

City must shrink if era of ‘too big to fail’ doesn’t end says Mark Carney

The Governor of the Bank of England has said Britain will have to give up its leading position in financial services unless the UK’s “too big to fail” banks can go bust without putting the taxpayer at risk.

The City would have to shrink if the Government were to come to the rescue of banks in a future crisis, Mark Carney has warned.

“If we don’t end ‘too big to fail’, we can’t support a financial sector of this size,” he said.

Despite the fact that the financial services industry accounts for 10pc of national output, UK banks have assets equivalent to about four times the size of the economy, employing around 1m people.

By 2050, banks assets could be nine times the size of UK GDP if “UK-owned banks’ share of global banking activity remains the same”, Mr Carney said.

“Some would react to this prospect with horror… but, if organised properly, a vibrant financial sector brings substantial benefits. The UK’s financial sector can be both a global good and a national asset – if it is resilient.”

To get there, he called for greater co-operation between national supervisors to prevent “regulatory Balkanisation” caused as countries put their own interests first. Failure to strike an international accord on financial regulation would threaten London’s competitiveness as a global financial centre, he warned.

The Bank had overhauled its liquidity rules to ensure the real economy was never again starved of lending in a financial crisis, the Governor also revealed. He assured that banks and building societies would have low-priced and abundant access to liquidity even if markets seized up, as they did during the 2008 credit crunch.

“Five simple words describe our approach – we are open for business,” he said. The Bank has reformed Britain’s “sterling monetary framework” to prevent banks from hoarding unproductive cash and gilts that could otherwise be released for lending to households and businesses.

“We are changing how we backstop private firms’ liquidity management,” Mr Carney said, after giving a speech in London. “These efforts will help set the stage to improve further the supply of credit within the UK.”

In 2008, a scarcity of liquidity forced banks into emergency asset sales that degenerate the crisis by setting off a downward spiral in prices. Since then, regulators have brought in tough liquidity rules but banks have built up even larger buffers – tying up funds.

The Bank relaxed its regulations in June to release as much as £70bn of liquidity to help boost lending and drive economic growth. The most recent change will guarantee lenders can be confident that they will always be able to access cash and gilts.

To build the fresh arrangements striking to lenders, the Bank has removed the “stigma” of liquidity assistance by cutting the fees and approving to accept lower quality loans as collateral.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Durable-goods orders rise 3.7% in September

Surge in aircraft contracts leads way, but business investment softens

A snapback in contracts for Boeing jets increased U.S. orders for durable goods in September, however business investment softened again and underscored the failure of the U.S. economy to leap onto a faster-growth plane.

Orders for durable goods advanced 3.7% in September, led by a 57.5% increase in aircraft bookings, the Commerce Department said Friday. Compared with just 16 in August, Boeing BA -0.43%signed contracts last month for 127 jetliners, rmirroring a usually irregular pattern of orders in the airline industry.

Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a seasonally adjusted 3.0% increase in new orders.

In U.S. markets, stocks went up a little as investors paid attention mainly on strong corporate earnings reports.

The other major component of transportation are Autos, these things did not fare as well. In August, bookings for autos and auto parts fell 0.3% after a strong increase.

Revealing the unstable transportation sector, new orders dipped 0.1% in September to mark the third straight turn down, possibly a sign that manufacturers grew watchful in expectation of the government shutdown. Demand went down for heavy machinery declined 1.8%.

“Everything else remained lackluster as it has for months,” said Michael Montgomery, U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

In addition, in September, orders for capital goods exclusive of military wares and commercial aircraft slipped 1.1%. That’s the second go down in three months for a category viewed by economists as a proxy for business investment.

The mild pace of business investment is a troubling sign, some economists and industry experts say. Many companies must improve investment just to trade equipment that’s tiring out and the ultralow level of interest rates would propose that they should act now.

“Business equipment spending should be driving U.S. economic growth,” said Daniel Meckstroth, chief economist of the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation. “Interest rates are the lowest in more than a half-century and banks are showing a willingness to expand lending to business. What is missing is the confidence that economic growth will accelerate and that there will be profitable business opportunities in this country.”

The government shutdown in October may have compounded the problem and the trouble-plagued rollout of the new health care law commonly known as Obamacare could also be undermining confidence, economists say.

Shipments of core capital goods, edged down 0.2% in September a number used to help determine how fast the economy grows. Shipments cut down in two of the three months of the third quarter.

Durable-goods orders in August, in the meantime, were revised a little to show a 0.2% boost.

Orders for durable goods have risen 3% compared the same period a year earlier In the first nine months of 2013. Core orders are up mild 4.3% in the same span.