Friday, November 30, 2012

Powerball profits don't all go where you think they do

10 hrs.

Ed Rodriguez, the father of two school-aged kids in Otisville, N.Y., had high hopes of? winning the $580 million Powerball jackpot last night. Either way, he figured at least some of?the money went to a good cause.

"Some of it goes to education," he said after buying a ticket Wednesday at a Citgo station on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. With many school budgets in his area facing tight budgets, "it helps a lot."

He'd be disappointed on both counts. He didn't win the largest Powerball drawing in history, which went to ticket holders in Arizona and Missouri. And the money doesn't do as much good for education?as he thinks.

About 72 cents of every state lottery dollar goes somewhere else. About 60 cents goes to the winner. Some goes to run the lottery. A piece of it goes to a private, Italian-based conglomerate that operates lotteries and slot machines in 50 countries around the world.

Depending on what state you live in, that leaves as little as 11 cents left to pay for the government services these games were created to help.

Critics argue that, aside from being an inefficient way to raise money, paying for government services with lottery sales?also?shifts a larger portion of?the overall tax burden to those who can least afford it.

?It?s a very regressive tax," said Lucy Dadayan, a senior policy analyst at the Rockefeller Institute of Government. ?And any time a government relies on a regressive tax it's not the best policy option.?But it?s easier for state officials to promote gambling rather than to increase income taxes or sales taxes.?

State-run lotteries have been around since the U.S. was founded, but the modern era of government games dates to the 1960s. Since then, they?ve spread to 44 states, which took in nearly $69 billion in sales in the 2012 fiscal year.

After paying the winners and covering?operating expenses, the roughly $19 billion in remaining?proceeds went to fund a long list of state and local programs and services, from education to social services,?according to ?David Gale, ?Executive Director, North American Association of State and Provincial?Lotteries.

?If lotteries were not in existence those programs and services would be cut or they would have to be funded through another source,? he said.

The bulk of the money collected from tickets ? about 60 cents of every dollar on average - goes back to the winners, said Gale. After expenses ? everything from advertising, fees paid to vendors selling tickets and salaries for lottery commission staff - ?the amount left over varies widely from state to state.

In Rhode Island, just 11 cents in net profits was returned to the 2012 state budget to support a variety of programs, from education to social services. Oregon?s lottery, the most profitable in the country, generated 50 cents in profits for each?dollar of ticket sales last year to help pay for education, economic development and natural resource programs.

Profits can vary for a number of reasons, said Pierce. Some states use some of the revenues to pay for gambling addiction counseling programs. Some states have?laws governing how much money can be spent on advertising.

To try to boost the take, a handful of states are considering turning over their lottery operations to private companies, like GTECH, which already provides a variety of services ? from computer systems to retail terminals ? to about half the states. ?Illinois and Indiana have signed on and New Jersey officials are considering the move, according to Robert Vincent, a company spokesman

"They?re saying, 'We think we can make more money for good causes if we put this in the hands of a private manager,'" he said. ?We think we can drive more sales over the course of the contract.?

With revenues of more than $1 billion last year, GTECH is owned by Lottomatica Group, an Italian-based global gaming giant with 8,000 employees in more than 50 countries worldwide. Vincent said many state-run lotteries simply have don?t have the expertise to maximize their profits and boost tickets sales.

?You?re competing with Altoids,? he said. ?You?re on the counter of a convenience store and it's an impulse purchase whether you?re going to buy a lottery ticket or buy something else that?s there competing for your attention. That?s a very different environment than other government agencies that are there to protect, collect and manage infrastructure.?

States' hard-pressed tight budgets can use all the tickets sales they can get, which has increased pressure on lottery commissions to raise more money.?

But critics of the reliance on lotteries to fund government argue that it shifts the funding burden unfairly onto the poor and working class.

The link between lottery sales and low-income purchasers has been fairly well established. In 2004, three Cornell economists reviewed 10 years of data from 39 states and found a strong correlation between lottery sales and poverty rates.

?State o?cials laud the bene?ts of lottery proceeds and promote the fun and excitement of participation,? the researchers wrote. ?This entertainment value is one explanation for lottery demand by the poor: individuals with lower incomes substitute lottery play for other entertainment.?

By contrast, the researchers found little correlation between poverty rates and sales of movie tickets.

In some cases, lottery revenues have been used to cut income and sales taxes, further shifiting the burden of paying for state services to the poor, according to Patrick?Pierce, a political scientist and author of "Gambling Politics: State Government and the Business of Betting."

Pierce found that in the early stages of initiating a lottery, spending on services like education went up for a few years, but then began to level off as the new lottery winnings eventually replaced taxes collected as general revenue.

?Governors could then take the political credit for no tax increases or tax cuts while they were governors,? he said. ?The only reason they were able to do it was because of the lottery. They didn?t make state government more efficient. They didn?t do anything other than benefit from this voluntary tax that state residents were paying.?

State officials have found another reason to rely more heavily on lottery revenues. While revenues from sales and income are slowly recovering from the 2007 recession and weak recovery, profits from state lotteries have bounced back sharply ? up 37 percent in the past two years.

Despite high unemployment and little or no wage growth, lottery ticket buyers are durable customers.

?When their situation becomes more desperate because of the economy, you get some folks playing the lottery precisely because their situation is more desperate,? said Pierce. ?And this is the only route they see to escaping the situation that they?re in.?


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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gatekeepers Workshop 1: Enhancing Our Community through Inclusion (Community)

In fall 2009, the Office of the Provost began to offer Gatekeepers Workshops in partnership with the Wake Forest Professional Development Center.? A ?gatekeeper? is any member of the Wake Forest community who represents the University through his or her interaction with students, faculty, staff, and other constituents.? These workshops are intended to engage ?gatekeepers? through training, networking, and skill building opportunities on a range of topics that are relevant to the Wake Forest community and it?s Strategic Plan.?

The first workshop, ?Enhancing Our Community through Inclusion,? supports Wake Forest?s strategic priority to, ?Create a richer sense of community throughout the University.?? As we become a more culturally diverse community with students, faculty, and staff representing different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, it is essential that members of our campus community engage in ongoing opportunities for training, development, and collaboration that will enable us to build and maintain more effective interpersonal and professional relationships both on and off campus.?

?The workshop will engage faculty and staff gatekeepers in dialogue and activities that will:?

  • Emphasize the definition and value of diversity and inclusion
  • Enhance participant?s knowledge and understanding of cultural similarities, differences, and perceptions
  • Provide tools for building and maintaining a more diverse and inclusive workplace.?



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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Video: Pilot whales use synchronized swimming when they sense danger

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An international team of scientists have observed the behaviour of various groups of cetaceans in the Strait of Gibraltar and Cape Breton in Canada belonging to the Globicephala melasspecies, which are also known as long-finned pilot whales. These results show that these whales use synchronised swimming when they identify the presence of an external threat.

There are 300 pilot whales inhabiting the Straight of Gibraltar. Here these cetaceans remain throughout the entire year in the water of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. But, little is known about their social structure.

Headed by the University of Aberdeen (United Kingdom) in collaboration with the Do?ana Biological Station (CSIC) and Conservation, Information and Study on Cetaceans (CIRCE) group, the study analysed the patterns of association between individuals within this whale community. The aim was to provide a long-term vision of their social system.

"The important point is that we compared two different populations: one inhabiting the Strait of Gibraltar which is exposed to predators (boats in this case) and another with an ecotype where there are not so many boats (Cape Breton in Canada). The pilot whales are social species and we were interested in seeing how mothers teach their young, for example. We observed that they use synchronised swimming when in danger," as explained by Renaud de Stephanis, researcher of the Biological Station of Do?ana and coauthor of the study published in the journal Behavioural Processes.

Between 1999 and 2006 the scientists gathered samples in an area of 23,004 km in the Strait of Gibraltar and took 4,887 images of the dorsal fins of whales to compare them with those in Canada.

Pilot whales use synchronized swimming when they sense danger. Credit: SINC

"They swim in complete synchrony both in the Strait of Gibraltar and Canada. When sea traffic or whale watching vessels are nearby, the whole group collectively reacts to such external stimuli. When we arrived at the watching area they were swimming at their normal rhythm but after 10 or 15 minutes near to them, the mothers and their young began to swim in a synchronised manner in alert position. This is a sign of affiliation to the group," adds the expert.

According to the researcher, these cetaceans also have a social structure formed by permanent partnerships. This means that they spend their life with the same whales and they do not interchange between different groups, as in the case of bottlenose dolphins.

Thanks to the study we now know that the presence of vessels also disturbs diving behaviour. "As such, when we began observing the whales up close, they tended to spend quite some time on the surface. However, the longer we spent nearby, the longer they stayed under water. This behavioural change could affect their energy levels, since they then have to make more of an effort to protect themselves and their young. In turn this limits hunting time, which means that they cannot feed their young properly," concludes the researcher.


Valeria Senigaglia, Renaud de Stephanis, Phillippe Verborgh, David Lusseau. "The role of synchronized swimming as affiliative and anti-predatory behavior in long-finned pilot whales" Behavioural Processes 91 (2012) 8-14.

FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology:

Thanks to FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology for this article.

This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.

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Fox interview ends after author criticizes network

NEW YORK (AP) ? A Fox News Channel interview ended abruptly Monday after an author accused the network of hyping the killing of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and "operating as a wing of the Republican Party."

The charges were made by Thomas Ricks, a veteran newspaper reporter and author of "The Generals," who was brought on for an interview with anchor Jon Scott about GOP criticism of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's comments about the attacks.

Ricks said he thought the story of the Benghazi attacks was "hyped, by this network especially."

Scott asked why Ricks would call it hype when four Americans were killed, including the first U.S. ambassador in more than 30 years.

Ricks responded that few people knew how many U.S. security contractors were killed in Iraq and compared that to the attention paid to "what was essentially a small firefight" in Libya.

"I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox was operating as a wing of the Republican Party," Ricks said.

With that, Scott thanked him and turned to a co-anchor, who introduced a commercial.

"When Mr. Ricks ignored the anchor's question, it became clear that his goal was to bring attention to himself and his book," Fox News executive Michael Clemente said.

Associated Press


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Monday, November 26, 2012

Qatar cashes in on remaining Barclays warrants

(Reuters) - Qatar Holding LLC has cashed in on its remaining warrants in Britain's Barclays Plc , a move that still leaves the sovereign wealth fund as the bank's top shareholder while their relationship faces legal scrutiny.

Qatar Holding said in a statement on Sunday it had monetized the remaining holding of 379 million units of Barclays warrants -- instruments that convert into shares -- as part of its active portfolio management, without affecting its 6.65 percent stake.

In a separate statement on Sunday, Deutsche Bank AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc said they would sell up to 303.3 million Barclays ordinary shares in relation to the monetization of the warrants by Qatar.

The conversion price for the warrants was not disclosed in the statements. At Friday's closing share price, the 303.3 million shares being sold would have a total market value of 771 million pounds ($1.24 billion).

"We remain a supportive strategic investor in Barclays, and maintain our confidence in the long-term prospects for the business," Qatar Holding CEO Ahmad Al-Sayed said in the statement.

Qatar had 813.96 million ordinary shares in Barclays as of October 31, making it the bank's largest single shareholder, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Barclays continues to be a long term strategic investment for Qatar Holding and an important commercial partner, the sovereign wealth fund said.

"Barclays welcomes Qatar Holding's message of confidence in its long term prospects and continues to appreciate the consistent support it has received since Qatar Holding became its largest shareholder," Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins said in one of the statements.

An accelerated bookbuild offering to institutional investors will commence immediately and will be managed by Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs International as joint bookrunners, the two banks said.


Barclays is facing a series of investigations into its business, including one by Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Financial Services Authority (FSA), which are scrutinizing payments made by Barclays to Qatar as part of a 2008 fundraising.

Barclays disclosed the FSA investigation when it released half-year results on July 27. It relates to fees paid to Qatar on deals in June and November 2008, when Barclays raised 11.5 billion pounds, avoiding selling shares to the British government.

The SFO is investigating "payments under certain commercial agreements" between Barclays and Qatar, the bank said on August 29.

Qatar Holding received Barclays warrants as part of the 2008 fundraising. Officials from Qatar Holding and Barclays could not immediately be reached to comment on whether the warrants referred to in Sunday's statement originated in that 2008 fundraising.

In October 2009, Qatar sold a 1.4 billion pound stake in Barclays after converting warrants it had obtained in the 2008 fundraising into shares. It sold 379.2 million shares after exercising warrants at a price of 197.775 pence.

Barclays at the time was to receive 750 million pounds from the conversion of the warrants.

The bank has recently come under scrutiny regarding manipulation of benchmark interest rate Libor and could face fines over an investigation into the manipulation of power prices the United States.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Richard Pullin and Muralikumar Anantharaman)


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A Real Land Steal in Coastal Damour | Al Akhbar English

Damour is the latest Lebanese town to be sold off to real estate developers with a little help from the country?s politicians. The story of the town?s Mtill Project shows just what political connections can buy in this coastal town.

Some people in the city of Damour think the story of their town should be made into a movie.

It would entail a mix of political corruption, waste of public funds, and abuse of power. The starring roles would be given to mayor Charles Ghafri and Lebanese MP for the Chouf district Elie Aoun.

The plot would center around how the Real Estate Investment and Development Co. managed to acquire land in Damour and begin constructing the Mtill Project, a massive, 77 building residential development on plots 1571 and 3392.

As the plot unfolds, we?d learn about the figures behind the company: Aoun himself, who owns 49 percent of the company?s shares; his son Jean, who owns 2 percent; and Saudi national Tareq bin-Abdul Aziz al-Rasan with the other 49 percent.

A possible sequel would feature a second residential development called the Imadeddin al-Dimasi Project on plot 2339.

The great mystery surrounding the projects would be one that Damour residents are eager to solve: How, locals want to know, was Rasan and Aoun?s company able to build on land that had been zoned as a no-construction area?

If you want to buy a villa in the Mtill Project, it will set you back $2 million. Easily. They just devised a new zoning plan for Damour. This was implemented through resolution 71/2006 issued by Ghafri?s municipality, and then decision 1165 issued by the council of ministers on 18 March 2008, bearing the signature of the then-acting director of urban districting, Berj Hatijian. This reclassified several plots in Damour as residential ? including the two for the Mtill development ? and accorded them the highest investment ratio, meaning the portion of the land that can be built on, in the governorate of Mount Lebanon.

The History of Plots 1571 and 3392

Land registry records show that plots 1571 and 3392 were bought in 2006 by a Hassan Khalil Hashem for $1.5 million. They were then sold to a Rami Hares Halawi in early 2010 for a modest LL250,000 ($166).

Property prices in Lebanon were much lower when Hashem bought the land prior to the 2006 war than when he sold it. Given that its zoning classification had been changed in the interim, property experts say that in 2010 the land should have been worth at least ten times its 2006 price, and the pretense that it was sold for LL250,000 was obviously a tax dodge.

This evidently escaped the attention of the land registry secretary, who agreed to record a sale contract of that value. Maybe he did not notice that in the process he was losing the state treasury hundreds of millions of pounds.

Rami Halawi, for his part, was no chance buyer.

Under Lebanese law, foreign individuals or entities can only buy land in the country with a license that is contingent on a recommendation from the ministry of finance. Therefore Rasan, as a Saudi national, or the Aoun-Rasan company, could not buy the properties in question. So Halawi bought them, and then proceeded to give Rasan full legal control over them by means of a ?Comprehensive and Absolute Power-of-Attorney? registered with Beirut notary Salim Yousef Khalil on 31 May 2011. Halawi is thus a frontman for Rasan.

MP Aoun, it should be remembered, is a member of parliament?s administration and justice committee, which has a subcommittee that is discussing a proposed law to restrict land ownership by foreigners. Aoun famously said after one session that the opponents of the law on property ownership by foreigners were a handful of MPs concerned about the inheritance of their children, and that the administration and justice committee could not prevent it from being put to cabinet.

After Aoun helped get some of his hometown?s land sold to his partner Rasan, we move to the next scene: the construction and sale of the buildings.

The Mtill Project

If you want to buy a villa in the Mtill Project, it will set you back $2 million. However, after local people objected to the scheme, they were told by Aoun that ?original? Damouris would be offered a 30 percent discount.

This discount is no comparison to the bargains offered to Saudi nationals like Abdullah Bin-Said al-Shahrani, Abdul-Rahman Bin-Saleh al-Faqih, and Raafat Abdul-Aziz al-Rasan (Rasan?s brother) who were offered two villas for the price of one at the exceptional price of only $130,000. Ahmad Bin-Zaned Asiri, another Saudi national, got an even better deal of $120,000. A price tag of $60,000 for a single villa is quite a bargain given the insane skyrocketing of property prices in Mount Lebanon.

These villas were sold on 18 September 2012, using powers-of-attorney granted by the aforementioned purchasers to a Khaled Mohammad al-Ghosh, and registered at the Lebanese Embassy in Saudi Arabia.

The mayor thus acts as an agent for contractors on whose behalf he alters zoning regulations. Perhaps he has not heard of the term ?conflict of interest.?These sales also failed to catch the attention of the land registry secretary, the same one who was taken in by the LL250,000 resale of the land that had cost $1.5 million four years prior, despite its upgraded investment ratio.

The Mtill story wouldn?t be complete without reference to another mayoral ploy. On 8 December 2012, Ghafri declared ? by means of two affidavits issued by the municipality ? that the two plots concerned were vacant and contained no buildings. The affidavits were issued at the request of the Mechref Company.

But what does the Mechref Company have to do with Mtill Project? Nothing at all, other than Ghafri being the company?s agent. He paid the fee to be registered as such at the Lawyers Union, as recorded in receipt 23334.

This does not mean that the Mechref Company ? whose board of directors is chaired by Saudi national Hassan Bin-Salem al-Maamari ? has nothing to do with Damour. Ghafri has brought it into town in a big way. After getting the Mtill Project?s plots reclassified, he did the same for several other parcels, and proceeded to buy most of them on behalf of the company for which he is the agent.

The mayor thus acts as an agent for contractors on whose behalf he alters zoning regulations. Perhaps he has not heard of the term ?conflict of interest.?

Meanwhile, Damour is furious. This is apparent from the Facebook walls of two local activist groups, one of which has at least 1,500 members. The Emergency Committee to Save Damour was set up in early October to try to halt the project. One of its members, lawyer Jihad Fadhel, managed to obtain hundreds of legal documents and connect them to make a case to put to the fiscal prosecutor in Beirut, representing a group of townspeople.

Earlier this month, the Lebanese Forces website ran a story about the Mtill Project in which it furiously denounced the sale of land to ?aliens.? A few hours later the item was pulled, and replaced with a statement titled ?An Apology to Charles Ghafri.? This wasn?t the decision of the website?s editors, but just some strings being pulled on Ghafri?s behalf by a fellow Chouf native, MP Georges Adwan.

Residents of this town ? only 7 percent of whose displaced pre-civil war population remain ? want someone to stand up for them, and prevent a new Solidere or a new Mtill being inflicted on it.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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Beautiful Cats and Kittens in local foster homes | North Versailles ...

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hamilton wins pole position for Brazilian GP

SAO PAULO (AP) ? Lewis Hamilton won the pole position for the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix on Saturday, while Formula One leader Sebastian Vettel will start fourth and title challenger Fernando Alonso eighth.

Hamilton set a lap of 1 minute, 12.458 seconds with his McLaren at Interlagos, just .055 in front of teammate Jenson Button.

Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber will start third after a lap of 1:12.581, with Vettel behind him following a run of 1:12.760.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa was fifth after clocking 1:12.987, while teammate Alonso only managed a lap of 1:13.253, hurting his chances of overtaking Vettel for the championship.

Vettel needs to finish fourth or better on Sunday to become F1's youngest three-time champion at age 25. Alonso, also seeking his third title, needs at least a podium finish to have any chance of overcoming a 13-point deficit in the standings.

Vettel said a mistake at the end of the qualifying session cost him a chance to start closer to the front, but he didn't think the result was "a disaster."

"Maybe it's not the best position that we could've gotten, but still we can be quite happy" he said. "I think there are more people behind us than in front of us. If we were 24th, than that would be disappointing, but I'm happy with fourth and there's plenty of opportunities for tomorrow in terms of tactics."

Hamilton, who won the 2008 championship at Interlagos, will be driving his last race with McLaren before joining Mercedes next season. He is coming off a victory at the United States GP last week.

"I think we put ourselves in a really good position and we are just going to do the best that we can from here, working together as a team," Hamilton said.

McLaren has been strong all weekend and seems set to play a role at the title showdown between Vettel and Alonso. Hamilton led the practice times on Friday and Button did the same earlier on Saturday. Vettel was always close behind the McLarens, while Alonso was well behind the pace.

Drivers had faced very warm temperatures during practice but it dropped significantly for qualifying. It started raining about half an hour before the timed session but it stopped by the time the cars hit the track. The top teams waited several minutes to avoid the slippery conditions at the tricky 2.8-mile track in South America's biggest city.

Michael Schumacher, preparing for his final race before retiring for a second time, couldn't do much with his Mercedes and will start 14th.

Mexican Sergio Perez, taking over Hamilton's seat at McLaren, will start 13th with his Sauber.

Lotus driver Romain Grosjean didn't make it past the first qualifying session after running into the back of Pedro de la Rosa while trying to make a pass at the front straight. He got off the throttle to avoid running into the slower HRT but it was not enough, forcing him to return to the pits for a new front wing.

Vettel enters the deciding race in a comfortable position to win his third title. He has been dominant recently, finishing on the podium in the last six races and winning four of them.

A fourth-place finish will be enough on Sunday even if Alonso wins the race. And if the Ferrari driver is second, Vettel can clinch the title by crossing the line seventh or better. The German driver holds the tiebreaker because he has more wins than Alonso ? five to three.

Vettel has a chance to become the first driver to win three titles in a row since Schumacher won five straight from 2000-04. The only other driver to win at least three consecutive titles was Juan Manuel Fangio from 1954-57.

Alonso hasn't won a race since the German GP in July, but he finished on the podium in six of the final seven races, including the last four.

It will be the sixth time since 2005 that the F1 season will be decided at the Brazilian GP. Alonso won both of his titles at Interlagos in 2005 and '06.

Red Bull has won the last three races at the track, with Vettel second to teammate Webber last year.

Schumacher, F1's most successful driver, retired for the first time in 2006 after winning seven world titles. He returned in 2010 with Mercedes, but struggled and managed only one podium finish, at the European GP in July.


Follow Tales Azzoni at


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Arafat's remains to be exhumed Tuesday: official

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) ? A Palestinian official says the remains of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will be exhumed on Tuesday to enable foreign experts to take samples as part of a probe into his death.

Arafat died in November 2004, a month after suddenly falling ill, and Palestinian officials have insisted he was poisoned by Israel. Israel has denied such allegations. The detection of traces of a lethal radioactive substance in biological stains on Arafat's clothing earlier this year sparked a new investigation.

Former Palestinian intelligence chief Tawfik Tirawi, who heads the committee investigating Arafat's death, said Saturday that Swiss, French and Russian experts would take samples from Arafat's remains on Tuesday. Tirawi says Arafat would be reburied the same day with military honors.


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Saturday, November 24, 2012

10 IRS Tax Rules Every Real Estate Agent Should Know | The Niche ...


Real estate can be a tricky business, especially when it comes to taxes and following tax law.


Of course, those problems can be avoided if you have a basic understanding of the tax code and how it relates to real estate. Issues can especially arise for people contemplating to sell their home. The gains from that sale, because it?s a primary residence, may be fully or partially excluded from your income.


Real estate professionals need to be aware of the following 10 important tips.


1) If, during any five year period, an individual has owned and used their home as a main residence for a period of at least two years, any gain from the sale can be excluded from income. If it has only been a partial residence, it won?t qualify.


2) If a main residence is sold, $250,000 of the individual gain, or $500,000 of the joint gain, may be excluded from income. This of course depends on the other factors covered in this article.


3) If an individual has sold another home during the two-year period prior to the date of the current home, they will not be eligible for the full tax exclusion. You will be eligible for a partial return, however. One simple rule of thumb: Only sell one home per year if at all possible.


4) If all of the gain can be legally excluded, it is not necessary to report the sale of the home on a tax return. This is good because it won?t raise any red flags with the IRS if you sold it for a lucrative price.


5) If a gain cannot be excluded, however, it does need to be reported on Form 1040, Schedule D, and taxes will apply to that gain. It?s not the best situation, but it?s the law. If you ignore it, you?re risking being audited by the IRS.


6) Obviously, a loss from the sale of a main home cannot be used as a deduction. This has been more prevalent of a problem since the 2008 recession, when the housing market crashed.


7) If you?re having a tough time calculating your taxes, there is plenty of tax software and worksheets out there that can help you once your taxes are due. IRS Publication 523 ? Selling Your Home, makes these all readily available.


8) Individuals or couples with two homes can only exclude gains from only one of the residences. Even if both homes are occupied a portion of the year, one must be designated as the main home. Only a gain on the sale of the main home can be excluded from taxes on gains. If the other home is sold and a gain results, then no deductions are allowed. Again, this is the ?one house per year? rule of thumb.


9) If a first-time homebuyer credit has been received, there are special rules concerning the tax implications of gains. Again, IRS Publication 523 addresses these concerns. These credits help young, first-time homebuyers buy a house and were put into place to help stimulate the real estate market.


10) Anyone who moves must be sure to update their address with the IRS. They should use Form 8822 to do this. If the IRS doesn?t have your new address, you might be sent a letter of notice. If you can?t receive that letter, you could be in trouble.


Although all information about taxable real estate gains is readily available from the IRS, real estate professionals should frequently update their knowledge about this subject to ensure they are following everything according to the books.


About the Author: Jana Olson, founder of Olson Tax Consulting, LLC, is an experienced attorney in Denver, Colorado who helps businesses and individuals resolve IRS tax problems.

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Don't be fooled! Great camera deals are harder to spot on Black Friday


4 days

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We?ve scoured the major retailers? Black Friday deals and found the most outstanding values for every member of the family. A 32-inch scree... Read more

22 hrs.

While there are plenty of deals and discounts to be had on TVs, phones,?laptops and other tech products, camera-wise, there aren't a lot of reasons to wait in line until midnight?after Thanksgiving dinner. That's because the year's best cameras ? many of which are?rounded up here?? simply?aren't subject to fire-sale pricing. The cameras you'll most likely?find in sales circulars?are cheapies to begin with, or are?nicer but older cameras that have to move because they're just taking up space.

Sure, you can get a Nikon D3200 for $600 at Best Buy on Friday, and that's a good deal on a relatively new camera. But this is the same good deal that's been going at B&H and other retailers for a while now. Same thing?goes for the unremarkable $649.99 Black Friday?price tag on the remarkable Sony NEX-5R with kit lens.?

The camera you'll see everywhere?with the biggest price cut is the?Canon T3.?Though it'll take decent pictures, it's a year old, was downmarket to begin with, and has long since been replaced by shinier hardware.?

What about the dozen or so point-and-shoots that cost less than a steak dinner? Many of them, particularly the?off-brands, will?perform worse than your phone's camera.

Only a few noteworthy point-and-shoots appeared as we combed Black Friday ads from top retailers. Canon's ELPH 110 HS and Samsung's?WB150F are both modest but decent little cameras?that usually go?for around $180, but will be selling for $130 at Best Buy?and Adorama respectively. Neither would be a bad camera to keep as a back-up, or to give to a photo-enthusiastic kid.

Another recommended?Canon, the SX260, lists for $299.99, so the fact that Best Buy and others are selling it for $199 is pretty great. It's definitely a deal ? especially with free case and memory card ??but the camera already sells on Amazon for $229.99, and we spotted one other?retailer selling it for $209.99.

Whether the motivation lies with?the retailers or the suppliers (or both), the price flexibility in the camera world?shows a desire to offload old inventory, not to?shed light on hot new cameras. Perhaps the assumption is that shoppers,?in the heat of the Black Friday or Cyber Monday?moment, won't have time to check the specs. Meanwhile, camera buffs will likely?pay more for hot devices like the Olympus?E-M5 or Sony RX100, so why offer them deep?price cuts?

But if you're a photographer ??or just shopping for one ? don't despair. Prices may not be plummeting on the best stuff, but?accessories are on sale, and camera bundles offer a new kind of value proposition. Who couldn't use an extra 16-gigabyte SD card? At under?$10 each in multiple sales they're a solid deal. And every photographer needs a couple external hard drives ? and you can get multi-terabyte ones for under $100 at Staples, Best Buy or Office Depot.

If you do decide to pick up a camera, even at fairly regular prices, keep an eye out for bundles. Sometimes in order to get around manufacturer ?pricing rules, shops sell a camera for an ordinary price but include a bunch of goodies to make up for the lack of savings.

For instance, here's that D3200 at Adorama for just under $600. But if you scroll a little further, here's the same camera with the same lens for the same price ? except you get a bag, a 16-gigabyte card, and some filters as well. Why is this? It's a mystery, but not the bad kind of mystery. Get the bundle. Even if there are things in there you don't think you'll use, it can't hurt to take it all and sort out what you'll keep once you get home.

And if you do?want to pick up a sweet new DSLR or fancy point-and-shoot, just remember that prices will?never go up, and tend to go down. Generally, the worst time to buy any camera is the month or so after it launches, but soon enough, the pricing does?start to ease downward, even if it doesn't drop like a rock. Just because the camera of your dreams isn't a doorbuster doesn't mean it's not delivering value. And in the Black Friday frenzy, when every slash of a price tag triggers a visceral reaction,?it's worth remembering that you sometimes have to pay more to get more.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC?News Digital. His personal website is?


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Friday, November 23, 2012

Puerto Rico a backdoor into US mainland for drug cartels

A vicious drug war has come to the island home of 4 million Americans, which is being used as a transshipment point to the East Coast. NBC's Gabe Gutierrez reports.

By Gabe Gutierrez, NBC News

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The raids begin before dawn. Fierce knocks followed by shouts of ?Polic?a!? rattle neighborhoods while a helicopter hovers overhead.

On this day in late September, heavily armed agents swarm otherwise peaceful-looking homes throughout the island.

In Toa Alta, outside of San Juan, one suspected drug trafficker surrenders without incident. Amazingly, no neighbors wander outside to see what?s going on. They must already know -- or would prefer not to.

By 8 a.m., 16 people are in handcuffs, facing charges that include drug trafficking and money laundering.

The arrests are part of ?Operation Overtime.?? U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations special agents, working with officers from the Puerto Rico Police Department and San Juan Police Department, launched the initiative to combat drug trafficking in the Caribbean.

This is a war on American soil.

The murder rate in Puerto Rico is higher than in any U.S. state -- and it?s roughly six times the national average. The island -- best known for its stunning beaches and rich history -- is home to roughly 4 million American citizens.

The island?s police superintendent, Hector Pesquera, told NBC News that more than two-thirds of the homicides are tied to the drug trade.

Luis Romero Font, 60, and his wife Marie Jane Rodriguez, 57, know the pain that comes with the incessant violence. Their son, Julian, was murdered during a robbery in April 2011.

He had just celebrated his 20th birthday.

Luis Romero Font and Marie Jane Rodriguez remember their son, who was killed last year in San Juan. Puerto Rico's murder rate is now roughly six times the U.S. national average.

"I try to focus my thoughts away from the negative, away from what I don?t have, and I try to remember what I did have,? his mother told NBC News. ?That?s what sustains me.?

Julian was stabbed to death as he walked down the street with his girlfriend. The robber cut him three times as Julian lunged to protect her.

"A hero had died,? his father said, choking back tears. ?I am very proud of him. I am very saddened ? [by] this huge weight I have to continue bearing."

The teenager who killed Julian made off with his cell phone ? a valuable tool that is often stolen for drug traffickers to communicate with each other.

In memory of his son, Romero Font, a telecommunications company CEO, has become an activist, starting his own group called ??Basta Ya!? meaning, ?Enough is Enough!?

"Puerto Rico cannot survive with this horrendous crime wave,? he said.

Violent crime has been a part of life on the island for decades -- ever since the 1980s when Colombian cartels began to thrive here.

But the last several years have seen a dramatic spike.

According to the Puerto Rico Police Department, there were 1,016 murders in 2010. That number rose to 1,136 in 2011.

Outgoing Gov. Luis Fortuno credits a police crackdown for reducing homicides in certain parts of the island by 22 percent so far this year. But he stresses it?s not enough.

He told NBC News that he feels ignored by the federal government and that he?s ?banging on Washington?s door? for more help.

Federal agents and local police are cracking down on drug trafficking in Puerto Rico. NBC News speaks with an ICE agent and the island's recently appointed police superintendent, and tags along on a raid.

?We are American citizens,? Fortuno said. ?And we deserve to be protected.?

Puerto Rico?s governor-elect, Alejandro Javier Garcia Padilla, was not immediately available for comment.

Earlier this summer, federal agents arrested dozens of workers at Puerto Rico?s main airport who had allegedly helped smugglers move cocaine to the mainland.

According to ICE, agents have seized 22,000 pounds of illegal drugs so far this year. That?s up from 13,961 pounds in 2011 and 9,275 in 2010.

The street value of the recovered cocaine alone totals $250 million, ICE said.

Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, once illegal drugs reach the island, they?re unlikely to face further U.S. customs inspections on their way to the mainland.

?I think the cartels are smart,? said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas. ?They realize we're putting all of our efforts on the Southwest border (with Mexico) and we're not paying attention to the 'third border' -- the Caribbean -- so now they're exploiting that.?

In June, McCaul chaired a hearing on Capitol Hill that focused on the increased drug smuggling in Puerto Rico.

?We have no strategy for the Caribbean,? McCaul told NBC News. ?There is no comprehensive plan.?

He said that hopefully would change quickly as Washington learns more about the problem. In July, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited the island and promised to study the issue, adding that an increase in aid to Mexico did not come at the expense of the Caribbean.

A senior homeland security official told NBC News that since then, the department had conducted a comprehensive review of the situation in Puerto Rico and planned to focus on ?quality over quantity.?

The official, who asked not to be identified, said any future manpower surge would likely be ?modest? and the department?s priority would be to increase efficiency among the officers already on the ground as well as resources outside the island -- instead of simply pouring more money into the operations. The increased cooperation would help prevent the flow of illegal weapons to the island as well as illegal drugs from the island, the official said.

The drug trafficking crackdown comes as Puerto Rican police fight to reclaim the trust of residents.

The 17,000-member force is the second largest in the United States. In a report last year, the Justice Department accused officers of engaging ?in a pattern and practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law.? According to the DOJ?s findings, the department was ?broken in a number of critical ways,? including repeated instances of civil rights violations and illegal searches and seizures.

In 2010, the FBI arrested dozens of law enforcement officers on the island for allegedly providing protection to drug dealers.

Earlier this year, Hector Pesquera, the former head of the FBI's Miami division, was named superintendent of the Puerto Rico police. He told NBC News that weeding out corruption within his department has been a priority -- and he?s seen progress.

?We have streamlined our procedures to work on the internal affairs cases,? Pesquera said. ?We're getting rid of the backlog that existed. The word out there is clear: 'If you commit a transgression, you're going to be terminated.'?

For now, Pesquera said he and other Puerto Rican leaders are simply asking for a shift in federal resources. He said he realizes the difficult fiscal position the U.S. is in, but ?we should not be begging for assistance.?

Luis Romero Font, the activist who lost his son, agrees. He?s pushing the U.S. government to help stop the violence.

?When you lose a son, it?s like losing a huge part of yourself,? he said. ?Either [the U.S.] stops this now, or this crime wave will become something that infects Florida and the rest of the U.S. down the line.?

So away from the tourists, the raids continue. America?s ?third border? ? the place known as the ?island of enchantment? -- remains at war.

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Ocean currents play a role in predicting extent of Arctic sea ice

ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2012) ? Each winter, wide swaths of the Arctic Ocean freeze to form sheets of sea ice that spread over millions of square miles. This ice acts as a massive sun visor for Earth, reflecting solar radiation and shielding the planet from excessive warming.

The Arctic ice cover reaches its peak each year in mid-March, before shrinking with warmer spring temperatures. But over the last three decades, this winter ice cap has shrunk: Its annual maximum reached record lows, according to satellite observations, in 2007 and again in 2011.

Understanding the processes that drive sea-ice formation and advancement can help scientists predict the future extent of Arctic ice coverage -- an essential factor in detecting climate fluctuations and change. But existing models vary in their predictions for how sea ice will evolve.

Now researchers at MIT have developed a new method for optimally combining models and observations to accurately simulate the seasonal extent of Arctic sea ice and the ocean circulation beneath. The team applied its synthesis method to produce a simulation of the Labrador Sea, off the southern coast of Greenland, that matched actual satellite and ship-based observations in the area.

Through their model, the researchers identified an interaction between sea ice and ocean currents that is important for determining what's called "sea ice extent" -- where, in winter, winds and ocean currents push newly formed ice into warmer waters, growing the ice sheet. Furthermore, springtime ice melt may form a "bath" of fresh seawater more conducive for ice to survive the following winter.

Accounting for this feedback phenomenon is an important piece in the puzzle to precisely predict sea-ice extent, says Patrick Heimbach, a principal research scientist in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

"Until a few years ago, people thought we might have a seasonal ice-free Arctic by 2050," Heimbach says. "But recent observations of sustained ice loss make scientists wonder whether this ice-free Arctic might occur much sooner than any models predict ? and people want to understand what physical processes are implicated in sea-ice growth and decline."

Heimbach and former MIT graduate student Ian Fenty, now a postdoc at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will publish a paper, "Hydrographic Preconditioning for Seasonal Sea Ice Anomalies in the Labrador Sea," in the Journal of Physical Oceanography.

An icy forecast

As Arctic temperatures drop each winter, seawater turns to ice -- starting as thin, snowflake-like crystals on the ocean surface that gradually accumulate to form larger, pancake-shaped sheets. These ice sheets eventually collide and fuse to create massive ice floes that can span hundreds of miles.

When seawater freezes, it leaches salt, which mixes with deeper waters to create a dense, briny ocean layer. The overlying ice is fresh and light in comparison, with very little salt in its composition. As ice melts in the spring, it creates a freshwater layer on the ocean surface, setting up ideal conditions for sea ice to form the following winter.

Heimbach and Fenty constructed a model to simulate ice cover, thickness and transport in response to atmospheric and ocean circulation. In a novel approach, they developed a method known in computational science and engineering as "optimal state and parameter estimation" to plug in a variety of observations to improve the simulations.

A tight fit

The researchers tested their approach on data originally taken in 1996 and 1997 in the Labrador Sea, an arm of the North Atlantic Ocean that lies between Greenland and Canada. They included satellite observations of ice cover, as well as local readings of wind speed, water and air temperature, and water salinity. The approach produced a tight fit between simulated and observed sea-ice and ocean conditions in the Labrador Sea -- a large improvement over existing models.

The optimal synthesis of model and observations revealed not just where ice forms, but also how ocean currents transport ice floes within and between seasons. From its simulations, the team found that, as new ice forms in northern regions of the Arctic, ocean currents push this ice to the south in a process called advection. The ice migrates further south, into unfrozen waters, where it melts, creating a fresh layer of ocean water that eventually insulates more incoming ice from warmer subsurface waters of subtropical Atlantic origin.

Knowing that this model fits with observations suggests to Heimbach that researchers may use the method of model-data synthesis to predict sea-ice growth and transport in the future -- a valuable tool for climate scientists, as well as oil and shipping industries.

"The Northwest Passage has for centuries been considered a shortcut shipping route between Asia and North America -- if it was navigable," Heimbach says. "But it's very difficult to predict. You can just change the wind pattern a bit and push ice, and suddenly it's closed. So it's a tricky business, and needs to be better understood."

Martin Losch, a research scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, says the feedback mechanism identified by the MIT group is important for predicting sea-ice extent on a regional scale.

"The dynamics of climate are complicated and nonlinear, and are due to many different feedback processes," says Losch, who was not involved with the research. "Identifying these feedbacks and their impact on the system is at the heart of climate research."

As part of the "Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean" (ECCO) project, Heimbach and his colleagues are now applying their model to larger regions in the Arctic.

This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The original article was written by Jennifer Chu.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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UPDATED: Environmental Group seeks to appeal OMB decision ...

An artist?s rendering of the proposed Canadian Motor Speedway complex. Graphic: Special to Bullet News


FORT ERIE ? The Canadian Motor Speedway project has hit a bump in the road.

A Niagara-based environmental group is appealing a decision by the Ontario Municipal Board earlier this month in favour of the proposed $400-million development.

The Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS) is seeking to appeal the OMB decision, which was handed down Nov. 2.

PALS was one of several groups and individuals who appealed town council?s decision to grant zoning and official plan changes paving the way for the speedway project.

The hearing into the matter was heard by the OMB this past summer.

There is a 30-day window for appeals of the OMB decision to be launched.

Fort Erie town planner Rick Brady said his office was notified Tuesday of the appeal by John Bacher on behalf of PALS.

Brady said the group is asking for the chairman of the OMB to review the decision of the hearing officer.

?It?s not an appeal to the courts,? said Brady, noting an appeal of an OMB decision must be confined to arguments based on issues of fact and/or law.

?It?s extremely rare that these appeals are successful,? Brady said.

The proposed Canadian Motor Speedway project complex includes:

- 1.0 mile paved motor speedway oval and spectator grandstand (65,000 seating capacity) with support facilities in the infield such as truck and RV parking, garages, first aid stations, fuel handling area, media centre, fan walk, maintenance and emergency command centre;

- 2.5 mile paved motor speedway road course with support facilities;

- a motocross/BMX /snow mobile/rental kart centre speedway course located within the road course area;

- 75,000 square feet ancillary commercial component supporting the Speedway;

- 185 acres for a parking and camping area along the southwest corner of Gilmore and Laur Road and along the lands south of Bowen Road, west of Laur Road;

- 31.1 acre ?Innovation and Centre of Excellence?- post secondary educational and professional facilities related to the research and development of automotive technology and manufacturing and assembly of prototype products associated with the Centre;

- 170 acres of natural features;

- 51.3 acres for storm water management facilities.

?The decision emphasizes the importance of the Speedway in supporting economic diversity and promoting increased opportunities for economic development,? Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin said after the OMB decision was handed down earlier this month.

?The town prides itself on its ?open for business? attitude and is more than ready to roll up its sleeves and get those shovels in the ground.?

The OMB decision was generally greeted as welcome news by many in a town looking for some good news after a seemingly endless streak of bad news.

Earlier this year, Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation permanently shuttered the Slots at Fort Erie Race Track, a move that cost more than 200 people their jobs. At the same time, the province announced its decision to end its slots-at-racetracks program, which, since the late 1990s, had provided a source of funding for horse race tracks across Ontario. That decision put the future of the Fort Erie Race Track in jeopardy.

This summer, DMI Industrial announced the permanent closure of its wind-turbine tower manufacturing plant in Stevensville. At its peak, the plant employed some 300 people.

Kim Craitor

Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor says the Canadian Motor Speedway project shows major investors are willing to build in Fort Erie, which ?sends a strong message that the town is open for business.?

?I?m ecstatic,? Craitor said at the time of the decision. ?This is going to be a great catalyst for Fort Erie.?

Craitor said the project proponents have not sought any direct financial aid for the project to date, however, he said he expects CMS may come looking for the province to support off-site infrastructure upgrades, such as improvements to roads and highway ramps.

Craitor also suggested the company might consider applying to the recently approved Southwestern Ontario Economic Development Fund, if the proponents feel there are some project costs that fit the program criteria.

Originally, the fund was not going to be open to Niagara businesses, but Craitor and a group of Niagara Mayors successfully lobbied Queen?s Park to extend the territory the fund encompasses to include this region.

?That shows the government wants to invest down here in the Niagara region.?

(This story is in development. Please check back later for updates.)


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Monday, November 19, 2012

2013 Tournament of Roses Parade to include six Cobb students

COBB COUNTY, Ga. -- Music for All recently selected six Cobb County high school musicians to be a part of the Bands of America Honor Band in the 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade.

According to Cobb County schools, hundreds of students across the nation applied. The parade has become a New Years Day tradition in Southern California. This year will be the 124th run. Upon travelling to California, the students from three Cobb schools will spend a week participating in rehearsals, listening to performances in Disneyland and marching in the parade.

The selected students include Samantha Stammen from Allatoona High, Lena Paradiso, Ethan Thompson, Rachel Thompson and David Boughter of Harrison High, and Walker Cook from Walton High.


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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Common List Building Mistakes | ?? ????? - Everything

Building a mailing list is one of the most important activities you can undertake as an internet marketer. Having a permission-based list of people who have opted-in to receive emails from you is a very valuable asset. However, many new internet marketers make a crucial mistake and think that list building is all about the size of the list, the number of subscribers. That???s just plain wrong. Please do not make that mistake yourself. Here???s why and how you can avoid it.

Firstly, forget the number of subscribers. That???s not overly important. Sure, it is a great feeling to have a massive list with thousands and thousands of subscribers though what use is that to you if when you send out an email you get very little response or interaction from your subscribers. Forget quantity, go for quality of subscriber.

For example if you are building a list from one of your web site say that???s about organic gardening - that???s great. Visitors who come to your site may be generally interested in the subject and quite possibly subscribe to your email list if you give them sufficient incentive to do so. That incentive may be a short report you give to them for subscribing which contains a number of high quality tips on how to get started with their own organic gardening projects. By doing this you are starting to build a targeted list of interested people which is what you need. You are starting to avoid the very common mistake of going for numbers and instead are going for quality of subscriber - those who are in your target market.

Resist the temptation to acquire subscribers or build your list from other sources such as buying leads from sources you do not know or not related to your market. This can be risky as you cannot be certain about the source, if the email addresses on the list are from people who have given permission for their details to be passed on and sold and you could be opening yourself to problems.

Steer clear of buying ???guaranteed??? visitors to your web site and hope that some of them will join your list. You are not necessarily buying targeted visitors or traffic from people who are interested in the topic of your web site and it will not help to grow your targeted mailing list. As already stated here, many new internet marketers think that building a list is simply a numbers game. Get as many people on to their list as quickly as possible from as many sources as possible. I hope you can glean from what you have read so far how wrong that is and that you will not make the same mistake yourself.

It is all about targeting the people who have an interest in what you have to offer and getting them to opt-in then you can build a relationship with them and they in turn will be responsive to updates you send and products you recommend via the occasional affiliate promotion.

Another common mistake people make in list building is sending out far too many emails to their list about all sorts of crazy things and trying too hard to sell. Do this and your list will go stone cold very fast. Email them occasionally about really good stuff. Make most of your emails of an update-style nature, for example to let them know about a new blog post or a great new tip about (back to the organic gardening example) making their own organic fertiliser. They???ll thank you for that more than a series of emails every day saying ???buy this???.

So in summary, you can avoid common list building mistakes by concentrating on quality of subscribers over quantity, building a relationship with your list through giving them quality content and not bombarding them offers and overt selling. Your lists will become one of your most valuable business assets so be sure to treat your subscribers accordingly.



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