Saturday, August 29, 2009

Four simple tips for decluttering your home

kitchen counter
(Photo: Paperstone)

"Clutter." The word itself seems too full of letters.

If the word makes you cringe, it's probably because your home is full of it: Piles of paper on tables. Books so thick on the nightstand you can't see the time on the clock. Closets so overstuffed with clothes that you can never find what you're looking for, and whatever you do find is full of wrinkles. Kitchen cabinets so full of flat soda and half-empty chip bags you wonder if there's anything other than a stale chip.

Sound familiar?

Then consider these simple tips to help declutter your home. Clear up a little space around the house -- and breathe a little easier, even when confronted with evil, vile words like "clutter."

mail box

Say no to junk mail

The average American household receives an estimated 850 pieces of junk mail every year -- enough, as we all know, to cover our kitchen tables several times over.

Even if you spend just 10 seconds with each piece of junk mail, deciding whether to open it or toss it in the recycle bin, you will have wasted nearly 2 1/2 hours of time every year -- not to mention the time, effort and grief it takes to haul that pile of paper to the curb or transfer station.

(It's no coincidence that paper makes up one-quarter of all landfill waste, or that the junk mail industry's environmental footprint is large, equivalent to the tailpipe pollution from 9 million cars.)

You can reclaim the calm of a clean kitchen table, and 2 1/2 hours to reflect on your clutter-free ways, with a few keystrokes. Just register for the Mail Preference Service on the Direct Marketing Association website. For $1, your name and address will be removed from prospective mailing lists, ending 75% of junk mail within about 90 days.

organized closet

Empty your closets

Never in history have we had so much stuff -- but never in history have we had so many ways to get rid of the stuff we no longer want.

Start with your closet and all those clothes you think you might wear one day. (I mean, gosh, that Empire Strikes Back T-shirt was a real hit in college, but the way your belly makes Yoda bulge now is a tad unseemly.)

Take a tip from Good Housekeeping and have an annual fashion show. Be ruthlessly honest about what the mirror tells you, and get rid of anything that doesn't make you look good.

In years past, the options for getting rid of old clothes were limited: Junk it, donate it, give it to a friend, or turn it into a rag. Thanks to Internet innovations, we now have money-making options like eBay and Craigslist (someone might pay for that retro T-shirt), and far easier ways to network with friends who might need your old clothes. (We hesitate to recommend only because you might end up filling your closet up with your friends' discards.)

There! Doesn't that feel good? Now move on to the hall closets, the kitchen cabinets, the attic, the basement, the...

grocery shopping

Simplify your grocery shopping

Whether grocery shopping is a joy or a royal pain, no one loves the kitchen mess that results in unloading all those bags. Here are three good ways to cut down on the grocery clutter:

Get a few sturdy, reusable shopping bags -- and use them!
The average American uses about 500 plastic shopping bags every year. If you're a hoarder or at all concerned about the old "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra, you've probably been stuffing these under the sink or in some closet for years, in case you need them. Stop!

Get a couple of good reusable bags, and make a habit of storing them in the car so they don't clutter your kitchen and they're on hand when you need them.

Drink in bulk
Sick of lugging 2-liter bottles of soda and seltzer and case after case of bottled water from the grocery store, only to watch them clog up your counters, cabinets, and closets? So stop.

For water, a reusable bottle and a good filter will pay for themselves -- in psychic well-being -- in no time. And even soda and seltzer can be made at home with simple home carbonation systems.

Snack on fruit
Even the most well-organized kitchens tend to overflow onto counter tops. One way to keep that overflow from looking like clutter is to turn it into decoration: Get a simple decorative fruit bowl, then substitute your junk food snack purchases for fruit.

One nice side benefit: You'll cut down on the number of times you have to take trash to the curb, since the majority of American household waste is made up of packaging. An even nicer side benefit: You're more likely to choose a healthy snack if it's right in front of you, so fill up the fruit bowl and enjoy!


Go to the library

The Internet hasn't killed print -- not yet. If you're a bibliophile whose library overfloweth or a magazine or newspaper subscriber who watches unread issues pile up on the nightstand, it may be time to reintroduce yourself to the local library.

Borrowing one book at a time not only saves you money, but will cut down on clutter and keep your conscious clear of that nagging feeling about not reading enough. Let someone else worry about re-stacking your books neatly when you're done with them.

Ask yourself: Do you really think you will re-read A Prayer for Owen Meany? And just who do you think you'll impress with that set of Proust novels you've never read? If you must catalog your intellectual journey, keep track of your reading list on a site like -- and then go to the library. (You'll save a lot of paper by making the habit, too.)

Most libraries also have pretty good newspaper and periodical collections and comfy chairs, making the library a nice place to escape your cluttered house for an hour respite with your favorite rag.

What do you do to declutter? Tell us by commenting below.

Underwear that saved the world (or at least some of its inhabitants)

(Photo: Danny Smythe / iStockPhoto)

What do you do with old underwear? Some have suggested everything from a slingshot or an "emergency eye patch" to ... floss for a large mammal.

How about a tool to fight The Man? That's how a group of environmental and social justice advocates used their old underwear, in an innovative campaign that may just have worked.

For years, advocates have tried to convince multinational chemical company Bayer to cancel production of endosulfan, a pesticide banned in 62 countries but still used around the world, particularly on cotton and tomato crops (though its residue has been found on dozens of foods sold in the U.S.).

According to Beyond Pesticides, endosulfan is a persistent pesticide that has been linked to "autism, birth defects and male reproductive harm, as well as deaths and acute injuries to farmers through direct contact." (According to the World Health Organization, as many as three in every 100 farm workers worldwide suffers from pesticide poisoning.) It has also been implicated in health issues (little things like sprouting a second head) in wildlife, including fish, frogs, and polar bears.

Pants to Poverty, a London organic and fair-trade cotton underwear-maker with a mission that includes fighting world poverty, just handed out free organic undies to anyone who promised to send their old undies to Bayer's headquarters in Germany. A coalition of anti-pesticide and pro-fair-trade groups helped.

After receiving a mountain (one can imagine) of briefs, boxers, panties, and boy shorts from 16 countries, Bayer sent a letter to the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers (mission: self-evident). The letter reads in part: "We plan to stop the sale of the substance endosulfan by the end of 2010 in all the countries where it is still legally available" in favor of pesticides "with a significantly better risk profile."

That still leaves generic pesticide manufacturers and the government of India, which advocates say has stood in the way of international regulation of endosulfan. Still, Bayer is the world's first and largest maker of endosulfan, and this marks perhaps the greatest social action involving underwear since the 1968 Miss America beauty pageant.

Digital music can save the planet

Not to go against Elvis Costello, but it turns out that digital music, not radio, is a sound salvation, at least when it comes to fighting climate change.

A new study conducted by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University confirms what we already assumed: Downloading music cuts energy consumption and CO2 emissions compared to shopping at your local record store. Digitizing wins again.


The study found that buying digital music results in a 40 to 80 percent reduction in energy use and carbon emissions compared to distributing CDs, and that factors in the energy used to download the files over the Internet. The study compared four different ways of obtaining and listening to music, listed from most energy intensive to the least: Buying a CD in-person at a record store, buying a CD online, downloading an album and then burning it to a CD (both with and without a jewel case), and downloading an album and listening to it digitally.

There were some situations that blurred the lines. If you walked to the music store instead of driving, that would equal the energy and emissions of downloading and then burning an album to disc, meaning the driving to the store is the worst part of buying music in person. Also, if the album size is 260MB (compared to the standard 60MB to 100MB) or more, then that would equal the energy and emissions of buying a CD online because of the extra energy needed to download it.

So, the moral of the story is: Download your music and keep it on your computer or iPod. Luckily, that's what most of us are already doing.

Digital music can save the planet

Not to go against Elvis Costello, but it turns out that digital music, not radio, is a sound salvation, at least when it comes to fighting climate change.

A new study conducted by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University confirms what we already assumed: Downloading music cuts energy consumption and CO2 emissions compared to shopping at your local record store. Digitizing wins again.


The study found that buying digital music results in a 40 to 80 percent reduction in energy use and carbon emissions compared to distributing CDs, and that factors in the energy used to download the files over the Internet. The study compared four different ways of obtaining and listening to music, listed from most energy intensive to the least: Buying a CD in-person at a record store, buying a CD online, downloading an album and then burning it to a CD (both with and without a jewel case), and downloading an album and listening to it digitally.

There were some situations that blurred the lines. If you walked to the music store instead of driving, that would equal the energy and emissions of downloading and then burning an album to disc, meaning the driving to the store is the worst part of buying music in person. Also, if the album size is 260MB (compared to the standard 60MB to 100MB) or more, then that would equal the energy and emissions of buying a CD online because of the extra energy needed to download it.

So, the moral of the story is: Download your music and keep it on your computer or iPod. Luckily, that's what most of us are already doing.

Lithium supply fears are total B.S.

For some reason, with everyone jumping on the electric vehicle bandwagon, it's becoming really interesting to start comparing lithium to oil. Jerry Flint, in Forbes Magazine, just stated his fear that countries with lots of lithium would create their own OPEC, and thus keep the cost of electric vehicles artificially high.


Others fear that the world's lithium supplies will be quickly depleted and we will find ourselves in a whole new mess.

None of this makes any sense. So here are some reasons why we don't need to create a "strategic lithium reserve," and why, actually, the costs of lithium won't be driving up battery prices.

  1. Lithium is a trivial part of the cost of a lithium-ion battery. The expensive bits par are the mind-bendingly complicated cathodes and anodes that have to be created with extremely complicated chemistry, even nanotechnology. And this is not to mention the active cooling systems that have sent the price of the Volt and the Tesla higher than expected. Every Chevy Volt contains about $180 of lithium. The battery is estimated to cost more than $10,000.
  2. Lithium is not scarce. Currently Bolivia produces about half of the world's lithium but only because their supply is particularly easy to extract, and thus very cheap. But if Bolivia decided to start using their power to drive up prices, economically viable sources of lithium would be found in nearly every country in the world. At 5x the current price, it would be economically viable to extract lithium from seawater. Hopefully we won't have to worry about running out of seawater.
  3. Lithium is not used up inside of batteries. While oil is burned by cars, lithium just sits there and, unless the battery is destroyed in a crash, it will be recycled. It won't however, be recycled for economic reasons, because lithium is too cheap to justify the costs. It will be recycled for environmental reasons, but that doesn't mean the recycling companies (see our story on Toxco) won't be feeding the lithium back into the market.
  4. Once the battery is built, commodity costs cease to matter. With oil, we're all at the mercy of wildly fluctuating pump prices. With lithium, on the other hand, you've already got your battery and fluctuating costs of lithium won't affect you until you need a new car (or battery.)
  5. Advanced batteries use less lithium. The better these batteries get, the less lithium is needed per mile of travel. And as technologies get better and more batteries are made, battery prices will drop much faster than increasing lithium costs ever could.

Lithium is literally nothing like oil. I'd say it's apples to oranges, but at least they're both fruits. It's more like comparing apples to underwear. Lithium prices will go up, but battery prices will drop much faster (and likely use less lithium) due to economies of scale and technological advancements.

In short, lithium supplies are the last thing we should be worrying about.

Australia out for Ashes revenge

Joe Denly opened on ODI debut, Ireland v England, only ODI,  Stormont, August 27, 2009
Kent's Joe Denly impressed on his ODI debut, and could make his first Twenty20 appearance against Australia on Sunday © Getty Images

Big Picture

The last time Dirk Nannes played a Twenty20 international, it was for Netherlands in their remarkable win over England in the World Twenty20. Now, however, he has switched alliance to his birth-country Australia, who have their first opportunity for Ashes revenge when they take on England in the first of two Twenty20s at Old Trafford tomorrow, ahead of seven one-dayers.

Both sides dispatched their Associate opponents in recent days - Australia beating Scotland and England just about avoiding a howler against Ireland - but neither team has yet to master the shortest of formats. Australia failed to reach the group stages of the World Twenty20 while England were beaten to the semi-finals post by West Indies. Also, Australia have lost their last five matches in a row; their last win came in February.

Yet both teams have key one-day players of whom much is expected. For England, a lot was desired of Ravi Bopara in the World Twenty20; he gave encouraging performances of 46, 5, 2, 37 and 55. Now, though, he finds himself in a horrible rut which forced the selectors to opt for the debutant Jonathan Trott in the final Ashes Test, and though he bounced back with a double-hundred for Essex while England's Ashes heroes were drowning in champagne, he fell for a duck in Belfast.

Meanwhile Australia will have to do without Ricky Ponting, who flew home with the Test specialists, and he's not expected to be back until the latter stages of the subsequent seven-match ODI series. And with England's key player, Kevin Pietersen, also absent, these two Twenty20 internationals are an opportunity for someone else in both teams to stake their name.

Form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)

England - LWLWL

Australia - LLLLL

Watch out for…

David Hussey hasn't quite hit it big internationally as well as he has for Victoria, but his powerful first ODI hundred against Scotland has at least put him in good shape for the Twenty20s, and for Victoria in the impending Champions Twenty20 League in India. England stifled his brother until the final Ashes Test. Their Twenty20 bowlers will need to produce a similarly nagging approach against the other Hussey.

Ravi Bopara: A double hundred for Essex confirmed, were it needed, that a big score was just around the corner for Bopara. After his summer horibilis in the Ashes, there is enough pride at stake for him to bounce back strongly and prove to the doubters that he can cope with, and fight back from, a terrible slump in form.

Team news

All change from the Tests, Australia pack a punch at the top of the order with Shane Watson, Dave Warner, Michael Clarke and David Hussey occupying the top four. Brett Lee managed two wickets against Scotland in his first proper international outing of his tour, and must be hell bent on proving both his fitness and class after a frustrating summer on the sidelines. Tim Paine will take the gloves to replace the injured Brad Haddin, and he got had an encouraging debut with the bat in the Scotland ODI with 29 from 38.

Australia squad Shane Watson, David Warner, Michael Clarke (capt), David Hussey, Callum Ferguson, Adam Voges, James Hopes, Cameron White, Tim Paine (wk), Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Bracken, Dirk Nannes.

Joe Denly might have booked himself in for these Twenty20s following a mature, cornerstone knock 67 against Ireland, an innings without which England's Ashes bubble might have exploded fantastically. Paul Collingwood, the captain, continues to bat without conviction, and much rests on the shoulders of England's latest pin-up megastar, Stuart Broad. How often are we going to be saying that about him in the next few years?

England (possible) 1 Ravi Bopara, 2 Joe Denly, 3 Owais Shah, 4 Jonathan Trott, 5 Paul Collingwood (capt), 6 Matt Prior (wk), 7 Luke Wright, 8 Adil Rashid, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Tim Bresnan, 11 Ryan Sidebottom.

Pitch and conditions

Well, it'll be warmer than Edinburgh. That much is certain, though only a touch warmer: the BBC predict a chilly 17°c for Manchester on Sunday with showery "light rain" forecast throughout the day, which could force the involvement of the rain gods themselves, Duckworth and Lewis.

Stats and trivia

  • This is only the second Twenty20 international staged at Old Trafford. The last match was in 2008 against New Zealand, which England won by nine wickets.
  • And this is the fourth Twenty20 between the two countries. Australia have won the last two - played in January and September of 2007 - by 77 runs and eight wickets respectively.
  • England have won eight out of 20 Twenty20s, all of which involved Kevin Pietersen, who is absent in this series through injury.
  • Australia have a better record, winning 11 out of 23, and they score quicker, too: 8.48 runs-per-over to England's 8.10.
  • Michael Clarke has twice led Australia, in December 2007 and February 2008, winning them both.
  • August is traditionally the wettest month for Manchester, averaging 79mm of rain and fighting off strong competition from November and December (78mm). It is also the warmest, with a mean temperature (in every respect) of 20c.


"I'm just glad it's out of the way."
Paul Collingwood breathes a sigh of relief after sneaking past Ireland in Belfast.

"The Holland one was a World Cup so that was a pretty big full house at Lord's. This one here, playing in Edinburgh, a beautiful spot, it's my first game playing for Australia, where I've been brought up. It's a pretty big deal."
Career-journeyman Dirk Nannes, formerly of Netherlands, is delighted to be donning the green and gold of Australia.

How to open clamshell packaging

clamshell packaging
(Photo: Aprille Clarke / Flickr)

Dealing with "clamshell" or "oyster" packaging (the rigid, sealed plastic that lots of electronics come in) can be a real nightmare. In fact, the term "wrap rage" was coined to describe the anger and frustration that inevitably arises when trying to pry the ubiquitous packaging open.

Thousands of people end up in emergency rooms each year with lacerations and puncture wounds from battling with the nearly impossible-to-open packaging. Many more get minor wounds from using sharp objects to open packages, according to American Medical News.

It's not the best choice for the planet either. Clamshell packaging is typically made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is considered the most environmentally damaging plastic around. Its production releases toxic chemicals that make their way into our food supply and it's difficult to recycle.

Companies use the universally despised packaging because it secures items during shipping and helps prevent shoplifting. It's also easy to display in stores and allows consumers to see what they are buying.

Some businesses are finally getting the message that consumers have had enough. Amazon launched its Frustration-Free Packaging initiative to help reduce packing waste and wrap rage. An added bonus is that is saves consumers time as this video demonstrates. Sony, Microsoft, and Best Buy are also making efforts to phase out the aggravating packaging.

In the meantime, there's a surprisingly simple tool that can tackle clamshell packaging quickly, efficiently, and without injury -- a rotary can opener. The best part is you probably already have one sitting in a kitchen drawer. The video below shows how it's done.

Here are a few other tips you might want to keep in mind:

  • Buy products without clamshell or any excessive packaging when you have a choice.
  • Before you break out your can opener, check to see if the packaging has any tiny tabs or perforations (an addition some companies have made in response to consumer complaints).
  • Finally, if you like gadgets and you're not up for the can opener idea, there are a whole bunch of products on the market that are designed specifically to open clamshell packaging. Here's Consumer Reports' round-up of "Tools you can use to crack the case."

Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green's users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Yahoo! Shopping and

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India shot down Test championship - WICB chief

Julian Hunte, the West Indies board chairman, at the ICC executive  meeting, Dubai, April 18, 2009
Julian Hunte also claimed that some ICC full members remain suspicious of the motives

Julian Hunte, the West Indies board president, has said that the Indian cricket board shot down a proposal mooted by the ICC to organise Test cricket around the four-year Test championship cycle.

Hunte's revelation - the first official disclosure by an ICC board member following reports that the Test championship plan had faded - came in his report at the annual general meeting of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) this month.

"Initially, the ICC attempted to change the structure of the FTP beginning from 2012 in which international cricket would have more content and would play more as a Super League with a 4-year structure resulting in a World Cricket Championship [but this] failed when the BCCI rejected that proposal," Hunte said. "This meant a return to the old practice of full members agreeing to a schedule of tours, which in effect places the power in the hands of the four biggest commercially valued members."

Hunte does not mention who those four are, but it is common knowledge that the boards of India, England, Australia and South Africa enjoy a dominating presence in the ICC boardroom. India earns a bulk of its revenue from TV rights and hence is not keen on a championship model that would lead to the setting up of a common broadcast cash pot. It has, consequently, successfully pushed for the existing model, where members arrive at bilateral agreements with the danger of those at the bottom of the table being marginalised.

The post-2012 FTP is currently being finalised by the ICC, and Hunte said that the WICB "will seek to ensure that it is not disadvantaged" in the new schedule.

Hunte also claimed, in a section of the report that deals with IPL, that some ICC full members remain suspicious of the motives of private promoters in the game, and concluded by saying that world cricket is at the crossroads and much depends on decisions that will be taken by the ICC.

Hunte's report deals extensively with the WICB's dispute with its players that forced West Indies to name a second-string squad for the series against Bangladesh and the forthcoming Champions Trophy. But those comments are on expected and previously stated lines and Hunte blames the players for choosing not to represent the team and showing the "highest form of disregard and disdain for West Indies cricket". What is surprising, though, is that the document, which is essentially a report on West Indies cricket, contains significant comments on the FTP and IPL.

He lists a set of concerns related to the rise of Twenty20 cricket while also admitting that players have "embraced" the BCCI's IPL with its auctions and high-profile owners.

"The emergence of private promoters in cricket has been much debated and some Full Member countries retain their inherent suspicion of the real objectives of such promoters. The ICC has drawn the line in relation to other leagues such the as ICL, which are not recognised by their home boards. Conversely, decision-making at the ICC affecting the IPL is often seemingly under the influence of some Full Members. The WICB remains convinced that Full Members should in some way benefit financially from the IPL and expect to see a general tightening up with respect to the issuance of Non-Objection Certificates. With many challenges to be faced and overcome, the future of world cricket is now at the crossroads and much depends on the decisions which will have to be taken by ICC in the near future."

Hunte's concerns about the IPL are not surprising given that one of the roadblocks in the dispute between the West Indies board and players is the question of participation in the IPL. Many of the West Indies players, including Chris Gayle, had wanted to be part of this year's IPL but were forced to fly to England midway to take part in a Test series that they claimed was arranged without obtaining prior consent from their association.

The IPL - which comes under the BCCI - has since clarified that players who have retired and even those not on central contracts with their national boards need to get a two-year NOC from their boards to be eligible for the IPL. The Champions League Twenty20, of which the BCCI is a founding partner, has also invited Trinidad and Tobago, the West Indies' domestic toppers in the format, to participate in the tournament starting October 8 with total prize money of $6 million and a guaranteed fee of $500,000, apart from an unspecified payment for the respective national boards.

7 Expenses That Are Keeping You in Debt

In the United States, 43% of families are spending more than they earn each year, according to MSNMoney. At the end of 2008, the average American household that had a credit card was holding nearly $11,000 worth of credit card debt.

More from

In Pictures: Digging Out of Debt in 8 Steps

In Pictures: 9 Ways to Go Bankrupt

How Do Your Finances Stack Up?

With numbers like these, living with debt seems unavoidable and paying it off seems like an uphill battle you are destined to lose. However, if you are interested in living debt-free, here are seven expenses to watch for that may be holding you back from being in the black.

1. Not Knowing Your Limits

The Financial Times recently reported that U.S. banks are set to earn $38.5 billion this year from overdraft fees alone, more than double the number from 1994. If you don't know how much is in your bank account, you could easily withdraw or spend beyond your limit or have a check clear that takes your balance below zero. When that happens, banks charge anywhere from $5-$10 in overdraft fees. And that's not all. If you fail to pay back the amount you've overdrawn, you could be hit with even more fees after a set number of days in the form of a large sum (as high as $35) or a daily tariff (often between $5-$10). According to the National Consumer Law Center, the average overdraft fee is $34.65, and considering a purchase as small as your morning latte could put your account in the red, that's a hefty price tag.

Credit cards fare no better, with late payment fees increasing as well as charges for going over your limit. According to a survey done by the Pew Safe Credit Cards Project in March 2009, 92% of credit cards had a fee for exceeding the credit limit, including 100% of student cards. The over-the-limit fee and the late payment fee were both $39 for most accounts. Also, these infringements can result in your interest rate skyrocketing up to 30% or higher. In fact, that same survey found that 93% of cards allow the issuer to raise any interest rate at any time. And once that rate goes up, it is unlikely to come down.

More from Yahoo! Finance:

How You Can Benefit From New Credit Card Rules

10 Ways Banks Siphon Money From You

5 Things to Know About Your Bank

Visit the Banking and Budgeting Center

2. Fees, Fees, Fees

Banking and fees go hand in hand. But there are ways to reduce the charges you pay on a regular basis. First, make sure all of the accounts you have open are absolutely necessary. Consolidating multiple checking or savings account could add up to monthly savings of $20 or more.

Also, make sure you understand what and how you are being charged. Some accounts advertise as being free, but in order to have the monthly charges waived, you may need to fulfill some conditions including but not limited to a minimum balance, not exceeding a set number of transactions per month and/or having a set number of direct deposits or automated bills associated with that account.

Transaction fees can also add up quickly. Remember, if you withdraw money from an ATM instead of your bank, the average $1.50 fee is charged both by the cash machine AND by your bank. Likewise, most banks include a surcharge on email money transfers. Keep an eye on your account and make sure you know how much these conveniences are costing you.

3. Paying the Minimum

Approximately one in six families with credit cards pays only the minimum due each month, according to an Experian national score index study. You've probably read everywhere that this is financial suicide, but let's take a look at what the actual damage would be.

The average interest rate on a credit card in the U.S. is 11.2% according to However, with this kind of payment history, and one-third of credit card holders paying between 20-41%, let's guess conservatively that this family's interest is around 20%. The minimum payment is usually around 2% of the total balance, so in this case that would be about $220 per month. If only that minimum is paid, the debt would be paid off in nearly 77 years, with a total of more than $52,000 paid in interest. Push that interest rate up to 30% and the minimum payment is insufficient to ever pay down the debt.

4. Credit Card Cash Advances

You know that getting a cash advance from your credit card is a bad idea, but we'll all been in an unforeseen situation where you need cash fast. So what does this convenience end up costing you? According to, the fees ten years ago were on average 2% of the amount advanced with a $2 minimum and a $10 maximum fee. Unfortunately, today that number has gone up to 3% with a minimum ranging from $5-$15 with no maximum fees. Add these fees to the transactions fees you might be paying and you'll be shocked to see the total amount that disappears from your wallet each month on convenience fees alone.

5. Payday Loans

This expense may be the most dangerous of the all for your pocket book. These highly unregulated lenders do provide a valuable service – if you need cash now, you can get it for a fee and a promise to repay the amount once payday comes around. However, the industry standard in annualized interest is between 200 and 500%.

These lenders are able to avoid usury laws by calling their interest charges “service fees” which are not regulated the same way in many places. In fact, payday services have been outlawed or severely restricted in 13 states according to (Hold too tightly to this rescue line and you'll soon be drowning in debt.

6. Not Negotiating

This step can be tricky, but it could also save you enormous amounts of money interest. If you are having trouble paying down your debt, call your creditor and ask to have your interest rate reduced. These companies want your business, so often you will be able to negotiate a repayment schedule that can help you pay down your debt faster. Make sure you ask for the lowest fixed rate – an introductory rate that will shoot right back up in a few months will have you back at square one.

Don't be afraid to bring up competitors' rates; your credit card company may be more willing to offer a comparable rate if you can get it somewhere else .If the company will only offer you a lowered rate for a set amount of time (usually six months to a year), that is better than nothing. The best part about this step is that there is no harm in asking, only the potential for big savings. (Reducing the rate charged on your credit card balance is the first step to getting out of debt.

7. Ignorance Is NOT Bliss

The worst culprit for keeping you in debt is not knowing where your money is going. Make it a priority to keep records of where and how you spend your hard-earned cash. Make a repayment plan and have set goal-dates for paying off debts. Without these tools, it's far too easy to stay in debt. You can purchase accounting software, make a simple (and free) spreadsheet on your computer or even work it out with a pen and paper; just make sure you make a long-term plan for regaining control of your finances.

Debt may seem like a life sentence, but it doesn't have to be. The number one tip for maintaining financial health is awareness. Be aware of your money and where it goes each month, and be aware of the options available to you. There are easy ways to help alleviate the stress on your finances and move from red to black, and the rewards are more than just monetary.

Time Brings the Debate Over Food Reform to the Living Room

The most remarkable thing about Time’s recent cover story, “Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food”, isn’t the information in the story itself. The figures about overuse of antibiotics in livestock, environmental damage from chemical fertilizers, the subsidizing of corporate agriculture and the ultimate health costs to the country of our current agriculture system are nothing new. The most remarkable thing about the story is the reaction it’s getting.
Time Magazine Aug. 31, 2009
In case you haven’t read it (and I have only just finished it, intending to get around to it all week but being distracted by too many other things I have to read in the meanwhile), the story is – essentially – a reduction of all the books, essays, and documentaries critical of American food production over the past decade or so. The gist of the story is that American agriculture is in trouble, and that current large-scale farm practices will result, eventually, in collapse. As I said, in that sense the story offers nothing new. What it does offer, however, is a new voice in the call for food reform and that voice is arguably the most mainstream of American media, Time magazine.

The story, written by Bryan Walsh (who has written a number of controversial pieces about environmental and food issues), is being talked about in a wide number of web sites and publications, garnering excitement from those who support overhauling American agribusiness, and scorn from those who have a great deal at stake financially. A typical example from critics comes from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which Walsh had contacted as he was writing his story. The organization, which supports lobbying efforts and public outreach on behalf of the beef industry, gave him several names to contact.

"Unfortunately Mr. Walsh chose to completely ignore every word, every fact offered to him by these experts and actual producers on the front lines," laments Daren Wiliams, NCBA’s executive director of communications.

“And better yet, Walsh doesn’t fall back on that tired journalistic trope of the ‘third party fact,’” countered, a self-described “beacon in the smog”. “‘Experts’ don’t ‘claim’ nor do ‘critics’ ‘observe’ nor even does ‘Michael Pollan’ ‘relate’ this or that fact of industrial ag’s excesses: they are instead plainly stated as established, if awful, truth. How refreshing.”

If Walsh’s story has accomplished anything, it’s moved the debate about the need for agricultural reform to an entirely new level, from the backrooms of the legislatures and lobbyists’ offices and environmentalists’ web sites, to the coffee table, right between the recliner and Monday Night Football.

It’s about time. Ahem.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is it OK to talk smack about your ex?

Anne Heche went on "The Late Show with David Letterman" to promote her new show, HBO's "Hung," but you never would have known it. She spent the majority of her interview time explaining how much she hates marriage and putting down her ex-husband, Coley Laffoon.

"Can you say 'lazy ass' on TV?" said Heche. Letterman enquired what Laffoon does for a living and Heche said, "He goes out to the mailbox and he opens up the little mailbox door and goes, 'Oh! I got a check from Anne! Oh! I got a check from Anne! Yay!'" What she failed to mention is that the checks are monthly child support payments for their 7-year-old son. Heche also mocked her ex for his new career as a soccer coach.

"He wants me to come and watch him run around in his little white shorts playing soccer," she told Letterman. "Honestly, I don't want to come to rehearsal and watch you run around in your tight shorts like trying to pretend you know how to play soccer. I divorced you! I don't want to hang around with you Thursdays and Saturdays and maybe on Sunday."

Does Heche not realize how publicly trashing her ex--the father of their child--makes her look? She now lives with her boyfriend, former "Men in Trees" costar James Tupper, and their baby boy. We wonder if Tupper is alright with Heche dissing her ex on national television. If she's so comfortable saying hateful things about the man she loved and was married to for five years, what's to stop her from doing the same to her current partner if things fell apart?

Do you think it's OK to talk smack about your ex, or do you make it a rule to keep quiet?

Why I Sleep With Your Husband

Mistresses confess why they do it, how they do it and more
-Julie Ryan Evans,

From Jenny Sanford to Elizabeth Edwards to Jennifer Aniston, women scorned are in the headlines regularly. It's for them that we ache and empathize; we become outraged on their behalf and at the men they once considered their "better" halves.

But behind every one of these marital meanderings that happen every day in every city is a mistress, and it's about them we wonder - how could they?

So we asked them, and they very candidly told us.

Managing Life as a Mistress

Trisha*, 35, is having an affair with a married man with whom she works. It's been going on for a little more than a year now. She no longer wears her favorite perfume, and she dyes her hair in a shade similar to that of her lover's wife so that telltale hairs won't be so telling.

"There will be no trace of me on his person," she says.

They go to great and creative lengths to make sure their communications aren't discovered - no text messages, no IM conversations, no credit cards. They use a blogging platform to transmit messages to one another - the same platform both for their personal blogs, so as not to arise suspicion, should his wife see him on the site. They never publish the posts, just save them as drafts for the other one to delete as soon as he or she reads.

What makes her want a "taken" man so badly to perform such an orchestrated affair?

"I love being the mistress," says Trisha. "It grants me all the benefits of a relationship, a confidant and sexual partner, without bogging my own growth with the more mundane aspects of a relationship or taking up an excessive amount of time."

As for the man's wife, Trisha feels she's actually helping her.

"I respect his wife and what they have together," Trisha explains. "I see my affair with her husband as a sort of service. She is no longer responsible for his sexual pleasure. As a result of having found a suitable outlet, he is better able to focus on his duties and responsibilities as her mate."

But will he leave his wife her? Isn't that what all mistresses really want?

"I hope he doesn't leave her for me," she says. "That would be absurd. Affairs should never become monogamous relationships. How can you ever trust someone who has so clearly demonstrated such a lack of conscience, such a talent with lying and stealing? It's not a trick question: you can't. A foundation of lies - even if they belong to both of you - is no foundation at all."


Lisa*, 38, has been a mistress twice - once in her early 20s and once in her early 30s, both times while she was married as well. One affair lasted almost two years, the other just a few months. Both times she says that while she had to sneak out on occasion, the hardest thing was not letting her husband know where her "brain was".

"I loved being around my husband, but the thrill of someone new who thought I was mysterious and interesting just trumped that commitment I made to my husband," Lisa says. "I was really happy and inspired being around M, and so it was tough to not be able to share that with my husband. That might sound weird ..."

She says her husband never suspected the affair.

"I think my husband had become more of a roommate than a husband. I don't think my husband ever realized what was going on - he probably just thought I was eating better or had joined a gym or something."

Why a married man?

"I think if I would have gone and had an affair with a single guy, it would have felt more empty," she explained. "I think because of our shared experience, it still seemed scandalous, but it didn't seem as bad."

Lisa says she's not certain that she wouldn't do it again. "I would like to say that I wouldn't do it again, but I really can't say that. I think once something like this is acted upon, it's just easier to revisit."

What she wants you to know about the married man: "He's no different than the single man - you just don't get as much contact as you would if you were just dating a single guy. At least in my experience, it really was about sex, in both cases. So if this is something you might be seeing on your horizon, please know that, chances are, it's about sex, it's about an experience, it's about getting out of their reality. If you're looking for long-term, this is probably not the road you want to go down."

Rachel*, 43, met a man online and immediately connected with him on their first date over lunch. After that they spent nearly every day together for months - including weekends- but "we always parted ways in the evening because he had a sick dog at home."

She had her first inkling that something may be amiss during a romantic birthday weekend when he received a series of phone calls that seemed be of the "yes dear" variety. A few days later he broke the news.

"I noticed he seemed nervous and emotional. On the verge of tears emotional. I asked him what was going on with him. He said, ‘What's the worst thing I could tell you.'"

"You're married," she replied.

He nodded and started bawling.

"Why he was bawling I have no idea why. He was doing exactly what he wanted to do and getting exactly what he wanted. What the hell did he have to cry about?"

Our thoughts exactly as we watch the politicians and others apologize over and over and over again.

*All names have been changed

What's for Dinner?

This week's quick and delicious recipe picks from Shine...


Peanut Noodles with Shredded Chicken & Vegetables
Find a bagged vegetable medley for this easy noodle bowl or choose 12 ounces of cut vegetables from your market's salad bar and create your own mix.

To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To serve, stir in 2 tablespoons warm water per portion; serve cold or reheat in microwave.

Five-Spice Chicken Wings

Shrimp Banh Mi


Skirt Steak with Cilantro Garlic Sauce


Frittata with Sausage and Pecorino

Oven-Poached Salmon Filets

Chicken Stuffed With Cheese, Tomato and Basil

For more cooking tips check out The Best Steaks to Grill.

Sick Of So-Called "Celebrity Designers"? Then Check Out Julia Stiles' Styles!

I think we can all agree here that the whole celebrity-turned-designer thing has gotten a little out of control. Apparently, Julia Stiles agrees, because she filmed this spoof on the practice using some very hot male models, green styles and some "shants" you’ll never forget. [Julia Stiles Styles]--Erin Flaherty for The Frisky

The Weather Might Be Standing Between You And Nice Nails

Buh bye, sunshine. Tropical Storm Danny will probably mean dark clouds for those of us in the Northeast for the next few days, but here's one reason to look on the bright side: According to scientists quoted in the Daily Mail today, slightly dreary weather promotes longer, stronger nails.

Researchers at Manchester University have discovered that nails thrive at 55-percent humidity, which makes usually-mild, often-overcast London an example of an ideal, healthy climate for nails. In sun-drenched and drier climates, nails are more likely to become brittle and breakable. In very humid climates, they get more bendable.

Keep your nails healthy in every climate with these 11 do-it-yourself treats.

Interesting. It makes sense that the weather would have a big effect on nails, when you think about what it does to our hair and skin. I'm curious: Where do you guys currently live, and what's the climate like there? Does the local climate impact your appearance in any noticeable way? Have you ever lived in a place that made your hair, skin and nails look and feel really different?

Related: Rainy-day hair tips from a celeb stylist.

ICC and PCB resolve 2011 World Cup dispute

David Morgan and Ijaz Butt (background) at a meeting between the ICC and PCB, Dubai, August 27, 2009
David Morgan, the ICC president, and Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, arrived at an agreement during a meeting in Dubai © Associated Press

The ICC and the PCB have resolved their dispute over the staging of the 2011 World Cup. The PCB, which was stripped of its rights to host the tournament in the aftermath of the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, will retain its host fees of US$10.5 million and also receive a payment, still undisclosed, as additional compensation for the loss of hosting rights. The two parties reached an agreement during a meeting between the ICC president David Morgan and the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt in Dubai. It is expected that the settlement will be signed later today, at which point the PCB will withdraw its legal proceedings against the ICC.

However, Butt told AFP that the PCB was aiming to include a clause in the agreement which would allow Pakistan to host some of the World Cup matches depending on the teams' approval. "We have also demanded to include a clause in (Thursday's) agreement that if the security situation improves in Pakistan, some of the World Cup matches be played in Pakistan subject to teams' acceptance," he said.

It was also agreed that the PCB would be free of its liabilities and obligations associated with hosting matches during the tournament, including the location of the tournament secretariat which had originally been set for Lahore.

"This resolution is good for world cricket and provides an improved platform for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 as we now have a degree of certainty surrounding the event that was not there while the dispute was ongoing, " Morgan said after the agreement was reached. "I am glad we were able to come to an amicable agreement and I believe this is a fair resolution for the PCB and the ICC."

He added that international cricket would return to Pakistan once the ICC deemed the security situation in the country was fit for teams to tour. "When the position in Pakistan, from a safety and security point of view, becomes satisfactory to the ICC and its specialist security advisors as well as to visiting teams, then international cricket will return to Pakistan," he said.

Butt, who had strongly opposed the ICC's decision to move matches out of Pakistan, welcomed the breakthrough. "The PCB is content with the settlement that has been reached," he said. "We are able to see this dispute from the other side. We realise also the logistical and administrative difficulties that would be associated with organising our matches in the other three co-host countries.

"Our number-one priority is that cricket in Pakistan must not be allowed to suffer unduly and I believe this agreement is the best possible outcome for the game," he said.

The PCB had reacted sternly over its loss of hosting rights for the tournament and had issued a legal notice to the ICC in May, calling the decision "discriminatory" and "legally flawed".

Six Sri Lankan cricketers were hurt in the attack on their team in March when they were touring for a two-Test series; other countries, prior to the tour, had refused to visit citing concerns over the volatile security situation in Pakistan. The PCB had also filed a case in the Lahore court against the ICC's decision to move the headquarters of the 2011 World Cup (the World Cup secretariat) from Lahore to Mumbai.

In June, the ICC ruled out the possibility of Pakistan's matches being hosted at neutral venues, including the UAE. It confirmed the decision to allocate Pakistan's share of the matches to the three other co-hosts, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The row showed signs of abating when, earlier this month, the PCB said it was looking for an out-of-court settlement to resolve the matter and added it was entitled to a substantial compensation for its share of matches being taken away.

Style And The Real Woman: Runway Trends Made Affordable

Joy Gryson has been steadily making a name for herself in the fashion industry as the go-to girl for handbags. She is well known for her namesake line, Gryson, which makes great everyday carryalls-- just the kind that all the girls in your office would be jealous of.

From there, she created a diffusion line called Olivia Harris, which focuses on many of the same great silhouettes at a lower price point.

Joy Gryson has teamed up with the German luxury brand MCM for a collection called MCM New York. The line will feature sleeker shapes than Gryson is used to plus a lot of chain detailing, pleating, and angular silhouettes in python and snakeskin. The collection will be available at Saks Fifth Avenue and the MCM Plaza boutique in New York, priced from $695 and $2,800.

In honor of Gryson's three separate collections, we've picked pieces that help you get the same look at a lower price.

Gryson black foldover bag

Forever 21 buckle trim patent tote, $20.80, at

The buckles on this Forever 21 version mimic the zippers on Gryson's chain-handle bag.

Olivia Harris black drawstring pouch

Topshop leather barrel cross body bag, $110, at

Jane Gryson isn't afraid of color, so go wild with this turquoise bucket bag. The round shape is similar to her Olivia Harris drawstring pouch.

MCM Vintage Croco

Kimchi Blue Ostrich Lady Bag, $68, at

MCM is all about structure and luxury materials. Get that same feel with this ostrich frame bag from Urban Outfitters.

See Where the Magic Happens : Get an Exclusive Peek Into a Handbag Designers Studio

D&G Turn to the Stars For Guidance : See The Fragrances Inspired by Astrology

Do Celebs Have Bad Fashion Days Too? : See what bag Hilary Duff is toting on the set of Gossip Girl

See All of What Gryson has to offer!

Shop this look from Olivia Harris

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook! Add the StyleCaster Daily Looks Widget!

Pietersen makes all-time England XI

Kevin Pietersen drives, England v Australia, 1st Test, Cardiff, 1st day, July 8, 2009

Kevin Pietersen is the only player from almost the past two decades to make it into the all-time England XI chosen by Cricinfo, with Ian Botham the next most-recent star to make the cut.

Pietersen's selection, by a panel of renowned cricket writers, journalists and commentators, confirms the impact he has had on the game since he made his Test debut in 2005, but there are no places for anyone else who contributed to England's Ashes victories in 2005 and 2009.

The opening positions are taken by Jack Hobbs and Len Hutton, two of the true legends of the game, and they are followed by Walter Hammond at No. 3 and Ken Barrington at No. 4. Pietersen, who is still in the early part of his career but is already recognised as a match-changing batsman, only just made it to final XI, beating off strong competition from Denis Compton, who captured the hearts and the minds of English fans in the post-war years.

Andrew Flintoff and Tony Greig both made it to the shortlist for allrounders, but Botham won that contest hands down. "A proven century-maker, unlike Andrew Flintoff, and capable of bowling either fast like Harold Larwood, or outswing like Fred Trueman," Scyld Berry, the editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, wrote about Botham. "Hammond at first slip and Botham at second would make a formidable cordon beside Alan Knott."

Knott was the unanimous choice as the wicketkeeper. Sydney Barnes and Harold Larwood won the premier fast bowler's positions by an overwhelming majority, but it was a closer contest for Fred Trueman who had stiff competition from Frank Tyson. Bob Willis was the only modern fast bowler who came close to selection.

The sole spinner's position went to Derek Underwood, who beat Jim Laker by a single vote.

Last month Cricinfo produced a definitive all-time great Australia team, which didn't include any members of the current Australian line-up. Over the coming year, the website will turn its eye to all of the top Test-playing nations and round off the deliberations with an all-time World XI.

Cricinfo also asked readers to select their all-time XIs and the only two differences were that David Gower was voted into the middle order ahead of Barrington and Laker took the spin position from Underwood.

For more details click here.

The nominees

Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton, Herbert Sutcliffe, Mike Brearley, Geoff Boycott, Graham Gooch, Mike Atherton, Michael Vaughan

Middle order
Wally Hammond, Ken Barrington, Kevin Pietersen, Colin Cowdrey, Peter May, David Gower, Stanley Jackson, Frank Woolley, Ted Dexter, Denis Compton

Ian Botham, Tony Greig, Andrew Flintoff

Alan Knott, Bob Taylor, Les Ames, Jack Russell, Alec Stewart

Fast bowlers
Sydney Barnes, Harold Larwood, Fred Trueman, Bob Willis, Alec Bedser, Frank Tyson, John Snow, Darren Gough, Brian Statham

Hedley Verity, Wilfred Rhodes, Jim Laker, Derek Underwood

Madonna booed in Bucharest for defending Gypsies

BUCHAREST, Romania - At first, fans politely applauded the Roma performers sharing a stage with Madonna. Then the pop star condemned widespread discrimination against Roma, or Gypsies — and the cheers gave way to jeers.

Story photo: Madonna booed in Bucharest for defending Gypsies

The sharp mood change that swept the crowd of 60,000, who had packed a park for Wednesday night's concert, underscores how prejudice against Gypsies remains deeply entrenched across Eastern Europe.

Despite long-standing efforts to stamp out rampant bias, human rights advocates say Roma probably suffer more humiliation and endure more discrimination than any other people group on the continent.

Sometimes, it can be deadly: In neighboring Hungary, six Roma have been killed and several wounded in a recent series of apparently racially motivated attacks targeting small countryside villages predominantly settled by Gypsies.

"There is generally widespread resentment against Gypsies in Eastern Europe. They have historically been the underdog," Radu Motoc, an official with the Soros Foundation Romania, said Thursday.

Roma, or Gypsies, are a nomadic ethnic group believed to have their roots in the Indian subcontinent. They live mostly in southern and eastern Europe, but hundreds of thousands have migrated west over the past few decades in search of jobs and better living conditions.

Romania has the largest number of Roma in the region. Some say the population could be as high as 2 million, although official data put it at 500,000.

Until the 19th century, Romanian Gypsies were slaves, and they've gotten a mixed response ever since: While discrimination is widespread, many East Europeans are enthusiastic about Gypsy music and dance, which they embrace as part of the region's cultural heritage.

That explains why the Roma musicians and a dancer who had briefly joined Madonna onstage got enthusiastic applause. And it also may explain why some in the crowd turned on Madonna when she paused during the two-hour show — a stop on her worldwide "Sticky and Sweet" tour — to touch on their plight.

"It has been brought to my attention ... that there is a lot of discrimination against Romanies and Gypsies in general in Eastern Europe," she said. "It made me feel very sad."

Thousands booed and jeered her.

A few cheered when she added: "We don't believe in discrimination ... we believe in freedom and equal rights for everyone." But she got more boos when she mentioned discrimination against homosexuals and others.

"I jeered her because it seemed false what she was telling us. What business does she have telling us these things?" said Ionut Dinu, 23.

Madonna did not react and carried on with her concert, held near the hulking palace of the late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

Her publicist, Liz Rosenberg, said Madonna and other had told her there were cheers as well as jeers.

"Madonna has been touring with a phenomenal troupe of Roma musicians who made her aware of the discrimination toward them in several countries so she felt compelled to make a brief statement," Rosenberg said in an e-mail. "She will not be issuing a further statement."

One Roma musician said the attitude toward Gypsies is contradictory.

"Romanians watch Gypsy soap operas, they like Gypsy music and go to Gypsy concerts," said Damian Draghici, a Grammy Award-winner who has performed with James Brown and Joe Cocker.

"But there has been a wave of aggression against Roma people in Italy, Hungary and Romania, which shows me something is not OK," he told the AP in an interview. "The politicians have to do something about it. People have to be educated not to be prejudiced. All people are equal, and that is the message politicians must give."

Nearly one in two of Europe's estimated 12 million Roma claimed to have suffered an act of discrimination over the past 12 months, according to a recent report by the Vienna-based EU Fundamental Rights Agency. The group says Roma face "overt discrimination" in housing, health care and education.

Many do not have official identification, which means they cannot get social benefits, are undereducated and struggle to find decent jobs.

Roma children are more likely to drop out of school than their peers from other ethnic groups. Many Romanians label Gypsies as thieves, and many are outraged by those who beg or commit petty crimes in Western Europe, believing they spoil Romania's image abroad.

In May 2007, Romanian President Traian Basescu was heard to call a Romanian journalist a "stinky Gypsy" during a conversation with his wife. Romania's anti-discrimination board criticized Basescu, who later apologized.

Human rights activists say the attacks in Hungary, which began in July 2008, may be tied to that country's economic crisis and the rising popularity of far-right vigilantes angered by a rash of petty thefts and other so-called "Gypsy crime." Last week, police arrested four suspects in a nightclub in the eastern city of Debrecen.

Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia also have been criticized for widespread bias against Roma.

Madonna's outrage touched a nerve in Romania, but it seems doubtful it will change anything, said the Soros Foundation's Motoc.

"Madonna is a pop star. She is not an expert on interethnic relations," he said.

Ryan Moore, the golfer who left $300,000 on the table

What would it take for you to wear top-tier golf clothing and play with top-of-the-line equipment? Would you don somebody's logo if they gave you a few free shirts? How about if they offered you, oh, three hundred grand?

If it was me, I'd've sold out at the free shirts. But Ryan Moore, winner of this past weekend's Wyndham Championship? He goes logoless to every match, preferring to wear his own gear. It's a mix-and-match collection of various brands, all of which Moore bought himself. As notes, here's what he's leaving on the table each year, broken down by equipment:

Hat: $200,000
Chest logo: $50,000
Golf bag: $50,000

Ouch. That's a lot to stand on principle, but that's exactly what Moore is doing. As he said in January, this isn't about some anti-sponsorship tilt, it's about focusing on golf itself: "I pick a club because I want to play, not because I have to make it work. To me, there is a lot of comfort and a lot of confidence in that," Moore said. "Everything you see me wearing, I paid for."

Well, maybe it's a little anti-sponsorship: "He doesn't want to be a billboard," Moore's brother/manager Jeremy told MSNBC's Darren Rovell. "He doesn't want to look like a NASCAR driver with logos everywhere. Ryan is a unique person and he wants to do his own thing."

Rovell summed up a lot of people's confusion: "The sports marketing world is not used to this -- someone who is seemingly untouchable because they are almost not part of the capitalistic society. The only parallel I can think of in the golf world is the Masters, where Augusta National doesn't care about making the most money they can make."

Somebody who's into golf rather than the money. First question: will wonders never cease? Second question: would you do it?

How would Usain Bolt fare in the long jump?

As a world and Olympic champion in both the 100m and 200m, Usain Bolt has drawn frequent comparison to other double-sprint stars like Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis. Now, Bolt is trying to become even more like those legendary track and field performers.

Before a meet in Zurich, Switzerland, Bolt told reporters that he would like to try the long jump, an event at which both Owens and Lewis won Olympic golds.

"I think I would be a really good long jumper.

I've messed around with the long jump since I've been at school and I'm definitely going to give it a try."

Like a great comedic actor trying his hand at drama, going to the long jump is the next logical step for Bolt. He's already ascended to the peak of sprinting at age 23. With no true rivals in either the 100m or 200m and no higher honors than world and Olympic golds, the only thing to keep Bolt motivated is the thought of lowering his own world records. That's far from mundane, but the dream of going 9.51 in the 100m isn't exactly the stuff from which training montages are made.

Bolt needs a new challenge and the long jump is a lot better idea than the NFL. By taking on a new event, Bolt could add to his legend while maintaining his status as the world's fastest man. Going to play football would mean having to leave sprinting. Training in the long jump keeps Bolt where he belongs, on the track.

But how would he do in a new event? No less an authority than world record holder Mike Powell thinks Bolt could jump nine meters. Powell's mark, set at the 1991 world championships, is 8.95 meters.

That's tremendous praise. But even though I'm through doubting Usain Bolt, two factors make me hesitate to proclaim him the second-coming of Bob Beamon. First, I'm no physics major, but is Bolt possibly too big to be great at the long jump? His speed would get him to the board faster than anyone in history, but once in the air Bolt's stature could work against him. He's three inches taller than Carl Lewis and at least 30 pounds heavier than both Beamon and Powell were when they made their jumps.

More importantly, all of those men had competed in the long jumpyears before becoming world-class in the event. Bolt is just a beginner. His raw talent is undeniable, but the learning curve would be long.

The London Olympics start in 1,065 days. That should be long enough.

Savers Should Manage Accounts Diligently

News Thursday that the federal fund protecting bank deposits has shrunk shouldn't scare bank customers, but it's a reminder to manage accounts diligently.

The balance in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s deposit-insurance fund has fallen to $10.4 billion as of June, down from more than $45 billion a year ago. The agency now has 416 banks on its "problem" list, up from 305 at the end of March. Already this year, the FDIC has closed more than 80 banks.

Even with the FDIC deposit-insurance fund at relatively low levels, "there are no concerns about the safety of depositors' principal" under the FDIC insurance limit, says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at The FDIC may ultimately impose special fees on banks to get more cash into the fund; that could hamper bank lending and leave them stinger on deposit rates. But, Mr. McBride says, depositors shouldn't worry about the safety of their funds.

Though consumers often worry that bank failures will tie up their deposits, bank accounts generally remain liquid even after the FDIC steps into an ailing institution. That's true whether the FDIC arranges for a troubled bank to be bought quickly, as it did when pairing failed Colonial Bank with BB&T Corp. recently; or whether a bank goes into receivership, as did the recently failed Community Bank of Nevada.

"From a depositor perspective, it's all seamless, more like a bank merger than a failure," says Mr. McBride.

The key question is whether your balances exceed deposit-insurance limits.

Congress last fall authorized the FDIC to temporarily increase deposit insurance to $250,000 per person, per account, up from the long-standing $100,000. Lawmakers recently extended the higher coverage to 2013. To many banking-industry observers, that's the first step toward a permanent change. When consumers are accustomed to a higher level of government protection, "it will be tough to roll it back," says Mary Dunn, deputy general counsel for the Credit Union National Association.

To ensure complete liquidity, stay below the $250,000 cap at any one bank. Any money above that is at risk. When a bank fails, the FDIC sells whatever assets exist, and then splits the funds among the bank's creditors, including account holders whose deposits topped the FDIC limit. Historically, those account holders have recovered about 72 cents on the dollar, says David Barr, an FDIC spokesman, though that has dipped to as low as about 40 cents.

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Visit the Banking and Budgeting Center

Structure bank accounts properly for the most coverage possible. A joint savings account, for instance, provides protection up to $500,000, since two people share the account. By sharing some accounts jointly and titling others individually, a couple could protect up to $1 million in checking and savings accounts and certificate of deposit funds.

But beware: FDIC considers "joint" to mean equal access by any person listed on the account. If you share an account with a minor child who requires your signature to access the money, that, to the FDIC, "is not equal access," Mr. Barr says.

That account's entire balance would fall under the parent's total insurance coverage, potentially pushing the cumulative amount above FDIC limits. Check out for an estimator that helps determine whether your deposits, as currently structured, exceed FDIC limits.

Pay attention, as well, to brokered CDs -- higher-yielding, large-denomination CDs banks sell to brokerage firms, which turn around and sell them to clients in smaller pieces. These broker-sold CDs are generally FDIC-insured, but you might unknowingly own a CD from a bank where you already have accounts, putting you above your limit. Ask your broker which bank your CD is coming from.

Note also that if you own a CD that's paying rates well above the market, the FDIC or the acquiring bank has the right to cancel that contract or revise the rates downward -- though in its purchase of troubled Washington Mutual, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. honored well-above market rates of 5% for one-year CDs.

Of course, the price of liquidity is generally low yields. So to make your cash work hardest, shop online banks as well as local credit unions. Though you must be a member of a credit union to open an account, membership guidelines are often broad. Credit unions are backed by their own version of federal government-backed insurance from the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, which effectively mimics FDIC rules. Many credit unions these days offer relatively chunky annual interest rates on standard checking accounts, so long as depositors meet certain criteria.

Louisiana's Pelican State Credit Union, for instance, pays 5.25% on its eXtra Bonus Checking if account holders receive electronic statements, access the account online at least once a month, sign up for direct-deposit and use a debit card at least 15 times a month.