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May 31, 2011


Dodd-Frank is so sprawling -- the legislation runs to more than 2,000 pages -- that the law firm Morrison & Foerster (MoFo) dubbed the tracker it created to monitor the implementation process "FrankNDodd."

Congress set aggressive deadlines for regulators to make rules to enforce the law, and, unsurprisingly, they are failing to meet them. The agencies missed each of the 26 deadlines they were supposed to meet for April. So far, regulators have finalized 24 rules and missed deadlines on 28, according to the law firm Davis Polk.

-- Propublica

May 30, 2011

Risk-reward ratio that applies to everyone else

In one recent study, researchers led by Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University primed participants to feel powerful by having them write about an incident in which they had control over others and then distribute lottery tickets to themselves and another study subject. These "high-powered" people were significantly less accurate in reading emotions from facial photographs than a comparison group of participants who were not primed in the same way. This and other experiments suggest that power can blind people to the emotions of those around them and lead to "objectifying others in a self-interested way," the authors concluded.

"If the person has this sense of superiority, and they've gotten away with these kinds of things before, they begin to think that the risk-reward ratio that applies to everyone else doesn't apply to them because they're so special," said Samuel Barondes, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of the forthcoming, "Making Sense of People." "It's hard for people who don't think that way about themselves to believe that anyone else really does. But they do."

The exception may be the sort of man who is so consumed with advancement that certain personality traits go unexamined or unexpressed along the way. Feelings of inadequacy, a longing for paths not taken, or a sense of gratification too long delayed can prompt the taking of one small risk, one awkward advance, and then another, therapists say. It's easy to ridicule such motives, and they do not justify the harm done to others when the chairman reaches for the cookie jar, or the thigh of a Congressional page. But they are motives nonetheless -- for sexual transgressions, if only rarely sexual deviance.

And once the cheating or the groping starts, "there's really no telling where it ends, if the person has real power and begins to believe they can continue to get away with it," said William B. Helmreich, a sociologist at City College of New York and author of "What Was I Thinking: The Dumb Things We Do and How to Avoid Them."

That is, if it starts at all. In a survey of young men, Dr. Levant found that attitudes toward sex were far less defined by locker-room culture than commonly assumed. Responses varied widely but on average the participants agreed that a man "should love his sex partner," that he should "have to worry about birth control," and that he shouldn't "always have to take the initiative when it comes to sex."

These and other, similar findings seem only mildly surprising, until placed in a larger context. For most of human history, men have treated women much as they pleased, and powerful men routinely collected wives and lovers, feeling free to maim or kill those who offended. The social norms, criminal laws and progressive culture of the West evolved in part to check such abuses, and most men not only observe those rules but also, as the attitude surveys show, internalize them.

A Sexist Pig Myth
Published: May 21, 2011
The scandals of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Arnold Schwarzenegger raise the question: Does power turn regular guys into sexual predators?

May 28, 2011

Discounted realtor commissions for discount service

Keith Burkhardt, the president of the Burkhardt Group, charged the Pohls a flat rate of $1,000 to submit their listing to real estate databases. The couple handled all the open houses, showings and deal negotiation themselves. He offers buyers a rebate of up to two-thirds of his commission, based on a similar self-service model. Clients search for apartments and visit open houses on their own, putting Mr. Burkhardt's name down as their broker, and he helps out by booking other appointments and offering advice during negotiations.

These days, Mr. Burkhardt considers himself mostly a buyer's broker, describing his niche as that subset of real estate enthusiasts who are glued to sites like StreetEasy and don't need a lot of hand-holding while visiting Sunday open houses, a task that can take up a lot of a broker's time.

"They're doing, let's say 60 percent of the research themselves," he said, "and they want to be compensated for that."

He acknowledged, however, that setups like his had yet to catch on in a big way.

"People like to complain about broker commissions," he said, "but they're afraid to break ranks with the status quo and go with a firm or a model that is different than what everybody accepts."

Another company offering a hybrid service is RealDirect, which charges sellers $395 per month, or a 1 percent commission, to distribute a listing to major real estate databases; owners handle open houses and showings themselves. Sellers can pay a 2 percent commission for what RealDirect calls "broker-managed service," including pricing and staging advice, and the handling of negotiations.

Doug Perlson, the chief executive of RealDirect, said 3 of the 13 apartments listed through the company, which started last summer, had sold or were in contract.

One of those properties is a one-bedroom Greenwich Village apartment owned by Colleen Gray, which is scheduled to close in mid-February. The listing price was $920,000.

Ms. Gray said she listed her apartment with RealDirect in late October after having tried to sell it herself for about a month. She went with RealDirect because she did not feel her previous real estate agents had earned their commissions.

You Don't Have to Pay It
Published: January 28, 2011
Agencies offering to do less for less are springing up, and in a do-it-yourself age, some sellers are drawn to the no-frills approach

May 27, 2011

Limited to close friends

Path, which limits friend groups to 50, is among a new crop of Web services that allow people to connect with a handful of friends in a private group. Users get the benefits of sharing without the strangeness that can result when social worlds collide on Facebook. Other start-ups in this anti-oversharing crowd include GroupMe, Frenzy, Rally Up, Shizzlr, Huddl and Bubbla.

Even Facebook recognizes that people don't want to share everything with every "friend." It has privacy settings that control who can see what, but many people find these challenging to set up. So last fall, Facebook introduced Groups, for sharing with subsets of Facebook friends. And in March, it acquired Beluga, a start-up that allows sharing photos and messages with small groups privately.

Last month, Facebook said its users had created 50 million groups with a median of just eight members. It also introduced the Send button, which Web sites can use to let people share things with Facebook groups.

"We realized there wasn't a way to share with these groups of people that were already established in your real life -- family, book club members, a sports team," said Peter Deng, director of product for Facebook Groups. "It's one of the fastest-growing products within Facebook. Usage has been pretty phenomenal."

Social Networks Offer a Way to Narrow the Field of Friends
Published: May 9, 2011
When Facebook is too public, smaller sites let a user share news with a streamlined group of people.

May 25, 2011

Middle Class on Campus

A Georgetown University study of the class of 2010 at the country's 193 most selective colleges. As entering freshmen,

Only 15 percent of students came from the bottom half of the income distribution.
Sixty-seven percent came from the highest-earning fourth of the distribution.

These statistics mean that on many campuses affluent students outnumber middle-class students.

"We claim to be part of the American dream and of a system based on merit and opportunity and talent," Mr. Marx says. "Yet if at the top places, two-thirds of the students come from the top quartile and only 5 percent come from the bottom quartile, then we are actually part of the problem of the growing economic divide rather than part of the solution."

-- Anthony Marx, a 44-year-old political scientist, and outgoing president of Amherst College, in western Massachusetts,

Top Colleges, Largely for the Elite
Published: May 24, 2011
The admissions policies of elite colleges don't matter just to high school seniors; they're a matter of national interest.

May 23, 2011

Two ways to cut back on the government health care spending like it's an objective

There are basically two ways to cut back on the government health care spending.

(a) From the top, a body of experts can be empowered to make rationing decisions. This is the approach favored by President Obama and in use in many countries around the world.

(b) at the bottom, costs can be shifted to beneficiaries with premium supports to help them handle the burden. Different versions of this approach are embodied in the Dutch system, the prescription drug benefit and Representative Paul Ryan's budget.

We'll probably need a mixture of these approaches to figure out what works. Instead, Republicans decry the technocratic rationing model as "death panels." Democrats have gone into demagogic overdrive calling premium support ideas "privatization" or "the end of Medicare."

Let's be clear about the effect of this mendacity: We're locking in the nation's wealth into the Medicare program and closing off any possibility that we might do something significant to reinvigorate the missing fifth. Next time you see a politician demagoguing Medicare, ask this: Should we be using our resources in the manner of a nation in decline or one still committed to stoking the energy of its people and continuing its rise?

The Missing Fifth
Published: May 9, 2011
Is the United States becoming less vital and industrious? Here's a warning sign: 20 percent of American men aren't working.

May 21, 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown, fit at 73

Brown's stamina and fitness are noted by adversaries and allies alike. "I hope I'm in that good health when I'm 72," Dutton, the 60-year-old Senate Republican leader, said a few weeks before Brown turned 73. Still, Brown acknowledges he has lost a beat. He is bald, which has the effect of sharpening his already hawklike visage, with bushy white eyebrows and a slight stoop that sometimes makes him look like just another state bureaucrat as he wanders the halls of the Capitol. He has a huskiness of voice and a slight stiffness as he gets in and out of a car. "Oh, yeah, I feel the effects of age," he told me as we sat in his office in March. "You're not as acute as you were when you were younger. There's an aging process that I certainly have experienced. I'm in pretty good shape. And I do know more; there's an accumulation. But there's a big difference between 56 and 72. You do age. There are limits to our lives. They come to an end."

He is compulsive about daily workouts: a three-mile jog along the Sacramento River with Anne or lifting weights in a gym. In an otherwise loosely structured existence, exercise is the one constant on his daily schedule. When the governor ran into Anne at the lunch he attended with Beatty in Oakland, the couple could be overheard engaged in this bit of bantering:


"You look great," Brown said to his wife.

"You look great," Anne responded. "Did you work out today?"

"Yes, I did," Brown said. "Did you work out today?"

"Yes I did," Anne said. At that point, Beatty, who is 74, turned in astonishment to Brown. "You did?" he said. "For how long?"

Brown does push-ups, and he has a chin-up bar in his suite of offices. "I am the one who got him to do pull-ups," Anne said. He lost a belly of weight before his most recent campaign, and Anne is always on him to watch his diet. When a waitress asked Brown during our dinner if he wanted more wine, Anne intervened. "He'll have some water first," she said. Brown, who was picking at bread and French fries, was not on the program. "No, I'll have more wine," he said.

Eighth decade or not, Brown's mental acuity can be imposing. Sharing a turkey sandwich with me and Maureen Dowd, the New York Times Op-Ed columnist, at a hotel meeting room in Anaheim not long ago, Brown started reminiscing about his 1992 campaign for president. "In 1992, I gave a speech in Philadelphia -- which you didn't cover, I remember you were not there," he said, looking at me pointedly. He turned back to Dowd. "Neither were you," he said. Brown not only remembered the year of the first New York Times Magazine profile of him (1975), he remembered who wrote it (Richard Reeves) and the theme of the piece, or at least the way Brown read it (Brown was smart but unlikable).

In some ways, Brown lives as much in his storied past as in the present: in the foyer of his office in March, he pulled out a letter Marshall McLuhan wrote him in 1979, praising one of his speeches. When, more recently, he spoke to the Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, the music rose to signal the end of his speech, and Brown started to walk away. But he returned to the microphone to extemporize on the technological trappings before him. "I have to say one more thing: I don't use these teleprompters because I don't believe in them," he said, gesturing at the glass sheets in front of him. He seemed just as put off by the clear plastic lectern. "I also don't like these glass . . . this is kind of like the Academy Awards," he said, before walking off, more Bemused Visitor From Mars than Grumpy Old Man.


What seems to fascinate him most is how much his state has changed, a polarization that is as geographic and anthropological as it is political. "The mountain people, the desert people and the farming people have a different view on family, on spending, on social fashions and religion even, when you compare them with the coastal people -- San Francisco and Los Angeles," he said, in a discussion on the differences between Republicans and Democrats. "There are these divergent positions, and when we have to get agreement, that agreement is difficult." He mentioned that his father won many more counties in his re-election campaign of 1962 (against Richard Nixon) than Brown himself just did, even though Brown won a higher percentage of the vote than his father. Brown won 22 counties last November. His father had won 38.

Jerry Brown's Last Stand
Published: May 4, 2011
The new/old governor is trying to teach Californians a very hard lesson -- that they need government more than they think they do.

May 20, 2011

Home safe

D IVERSION safes, of course, are not fire resistant and do not even have locks. Their strength is pretense. They cost $5 to $100, and are designed to look like various household objects: a head of iceberg lettuce, a can of soda and a can of shaving cream. Cans, jars and aerosol containers found in pantries and bathroom cabinets are typical. These stealth safes also come disguised as other kinds of things, like surge protectors and clocks.

"They are great for hiding stuff like money and jewelry," said Annie Blanco, marketing coordinator for homesecuritystore.com, an online retailer of home security systems, based in Riverside, Calif.

But Paul Cromwell, a professor of criminology at the University of South Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland, who has interviewed scores of professional burglars in his research, said he is skeptical about their value. "Burglars are looking online at these kinds of safes, too," he said. "So they know what to look for."

Hiding valuables in coat pockets or shoeboxes, in the freezer or buried in the dirt of potted plants, he added, isn't any better. "You may think you're being clever, but these are the first places burglars look."

Criminologists and law enforcement officials also advise against putting things inside toilet tanks and cereal boxes (where addicts tend to hide illegal drugs) and inside medicine cabinets (where thieves look for prescription drugs with resale value). So the last place you want to hide your diamond necklace or a roll of bills is inside an empty bottle of Oxycontin or Adderall.

Apart from a steel-clad safe, he said, the best place to store valuables is one that would take a thief considerable time and effort to find.

"Burglars want to spend as little time as possible in your home," he said. "The average time a professional burglar will spend there is five minutes."

Good options might include putting what you want to protect in a nondescript box surrounded by a pile of junk in the attic, or tucking it into the stuffing of one of a group of stuffed animals.

Sales of Home Safes Surge, Driven by the Recession and Recent Disasters
Published: May 4, 2011
Makers of residential safes say recent events like the mortgage crisis, the tornadoes in the South and the earthquake in Japan are prompting more people to keep their valuables at home.

May 19, 2011

Credit repair vor VIPs ?

David Szwak, a consumer lawyer in Shreveport, La., who has handled dozens of credit cases, said that the V.I.P. designation and preferential treatment did exist at Experian, and he provided sworn testimony from former Experian employees that the category existed.

Estimates of credit reports with serious errors vary widely, anywhere from 3 to 25 percent. A recent study, paid for by the Consumer Data Industry Association, the trade group for the bureaus, found potential errors in 19.2 percent of reports, but said that less than 1 percent of them had disputes that, when settled, resulted in a meaningful increase in scores. Even 1 percent translates into millions of consumers, since there are at least 200 million files at each of the bureaus.

The F.T.C. is expected to deliver a nationwide study on credit report accuracy next year that could provide more clarity. It could also include recommendations for legislative action.

Credit Error? It Pays to Be On V.I.P. List
Published: May 14, 2011
The major credit bureaus keep a V.I.P. list of boldface names, consumer lawyers say, and those people get special help in fixing mistakes on their credit reports.

May 18, 2011

Middle class ? Nothing special about $250k

In the debate over how to close the budget deficit, President Obama talks often about raising taxes on "millionaires and billionaires," but his policy prescription is a bit different. He says that federal income taxes should be increased on families making more than $250,000. That seems to be the threshold. Under $250,000, you're middle class; over it and you're wealthy.

On a Yahoo message board, a poster named Mason, who lives in Manhattan with two young children, said his household income was $262,000. "I understand the need to raise taxes," he wrote, "but I don't understand why people like us are lumped in with millionaires and billionaires."

On one level, Mason is feeling the effects of inflation; $250,000 isn't what it used to be. If Mr. Obama were really trying to return to Mr. Clinton's 1993 levels, he would have to adjust the bracket for inflation, moving it up to about $386,075. In fact, in Mr. Clinton's last year in office, the top bracket had risen to $288,350 from $250,000.

Rich and Sort of Rich
Published: May 14, 2011
How $250,000 a year become the dividing line between the haves and have-nots.

Do you believe that people making $250,000 should be taxed at the same rate as millionaires and billionaires?
We live in NYC on the lower East side of Manhattan. My wife and I have two small children, 6 months and 2 years old. Last year we earned $262,000, combined.

4 years ago we paid $480,000 for our 2 bedroom, 960sq ft co op. Our mortgage payment with taxes and insurance is $4200 per month. We pay an additional co op fee of $640 per month and another $515 for our parking space.

Our child care expenses are $2400 per month. Car payment, insurances, health insurance, utilities and other expenses add up to another $3000 per month or so. We put aside another $800 per month for our girls education and spend around $1000. per month for food. Our school loans (with a balance of around $140,000) are another $900 per month on an accelerated payment schedule. Since our marriage 6 years ago we have been able to save around $210,000 between saving and 401K plans.

This year, between city, state and federal taxes we paid over $87,000, not counting our contributions to Fica. We both work very hard for our earnings, and we don't live lavishly. I understand the need to raise taxes, but I don't understand why people like us are lumped in with millionaires and billionaires.

We don't have offshore accounts and there are no loopholes for people like us. We only want to provide what is best for our children, and have a decent living when we retire one day. As crazy as it may sound to some of you, if they continue to raise our taxes and take away the mortgage deduction and all other deductions for people at our income level as they they have proposed, I don't know what we will do. We will be hit very hard.

Do you agree with the tax rates that are being proposed for people earning $250,000 per year?

May 17, 2011

Clients are off limits ?

For obvious reasons, doctors are not allowed to sleep with their patients. In Ontario, where the rules are strictest, even a consensual affair will trigger an automatic five-year suspension. The guidelines for lawyers are not quite so specific, but considering that every attorney is duty bound to avoid "conflicts of interest," it's hard to imagine a sex-with-client scenario that isn't out of bounds. Even soldiers have rules to obey when it comes to romance. They are free to fraternize with fellow troops--as long as they're not deployed together. (Apparently, sex in battle is bad for discipline.)

But what about investment advisers? Should brokers be allowed to pursue more than a client's portfolio?

RBC mitigating view: "such encounters were infrequent and occasional, and were not part of a long-term relationship."

Posted to The Life, via McLeans.

Back in 2009, Above the Law asked, Should Lawyers Be Banned From Having Sex With Their Clients?

May 16, 2011

Blekko /update

Google keeps making its search engine faster and easier -- I had to type only the letters "kidn" to get information on kidney stone treatments -- and the company notes that the billions of searches each day and its 66 percent market share prove that consumers find it useful. A long list of challengers who have fallen seem to prove that point -- Alta Vista, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, Cuil, Kosmix, SearchMe and Wikisearch, to name only a few.

Still, Mr. Skrenta, who sold his first company to Netscape and then was a co-founder of Topix, which aggregates local news, is staking his reputation and his investors' money on a search engine called Blekko.com. Mr. Skrenta pitched his investors with the notion that there is still money to be made in search because of the high price that the two big competitors get for search terms and advertising. If Blekko could get even a small part of that revenue, the investors would reap a healthy return on their money.

His idea is to concentrate the search. Only a relatively small number of the Web's total pages are visited -- in the tens of millions rather than in the hundreds of billions. In his view, it should be possible to simplify a search engine so it could satisfy a vast majority of searchers.

Blekko uses a search algorithm like Google's or Bing's but also gets humans, mostly volunteers, to identify the sites they know, trust and visit most often and to put those at the top of the search results.

"The best site may not have the best S.E.O.," Mr. Skrenta says.

It is a Wikipedia model -- or Huffington Post model -- applied to search. Some people apparently will work for no pay if they are convinced that their efforts will help or influence others. Experts who care enough about a topic edit the results. For instance, editors trawling the health results may give a higher ranking to the Web pages written by medical experts at the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic than those generated for eHow by writers getting paid a few dollars per piece.

Using Blekko takes a little more effort. It works the way Google or Bing does, but if you want cleaner search results you must type in a slash mark and a category. The company calls them slashtags. Typing "/conservative" after "taxes," for instance, would give you sites written from the right; "/liberal" gives you the other side.

Blekko also sorts results for financial advice or sports. And it has some rather esoteric experts who have edited results for "gluten free" and "material safety data sheets," a category containing information on the properties of myriad substances. If someone tries to game the results, an expert presumably would block the efforts.

May 15, 2011

Nanny rooms, servant's rooms

The Laureate, a new 20-story building at the corner of Broadway and 76th Street, NY has four such apartments -- each has four or more bedrooms and is priced at about $11 million. The maid's room is listed simply as another bedroom, but it is away from the others, closer to the front door and living areas. Two of the building's penthouse units even have separate entrances that lead directly to the servant's rooms.

Demand for family-sized apartments with separate quarters for live-in help has been so marked at the Laureate that the Stahl Organization, the developer, has decided to combine some smaller apartments to create more units that fit the bill, Mr. Reuveni said. Many of the interested buyers are coming from abroad, but others, he said, already live on the Upper West Side and are looking for homes that mirror the classic apartments in nearby prewar buildings. While the rooms could also be used as guest rooms or offices, most prospective buyers have said they will use theirs either for a live-in nanny or a housekeeper.

The apartments, listed for about $7.5 million each, are designed to feel like "a single-family home in the sky," Ms. Urgo said. "More and more parents are choosing to raise their children in Manhattan, and we have seen a need for these very large spaces." Many potential buyers have live-in nannies, "because people have full lifestyles and maybe you have two working parents," she added. "This type of apartment does fit a need."

Maid's rooms built in the 1910s and 1920s tended to be barely six to seven feet wide. Apartments that came equipped with them have three or more family bedrooms and might originally have had more than one maid's room. At 905 West End, the developer Samson Management took a Classic 8 -- which had three bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen and two maid's rooms off of the kitchen -- and shifted and expanded the bathroom that had been shared by the maid's rooms, combining the remaining space to create one larger room.

May 14, 2011

China real estate: leveraged speculation

Until recently, local governments would sell this land to developers for very little upfront. A firm could buy land worth 5 billion yuan with just 500m yuan ($75.9m) in working capital, says Jinsong Du of Credit Suisse. Even better, the developer could then offer that land as collateral for a loan of, say, 2.5 billion yuan from a bank. And instead of ploughing those borrowed billions into developing the site, they could use it to buy more land. Developers of real estate were not too worried about generating cash flow, because in a pinch they assumed they could always sell the land at a profit or flog as-yet-unbuilt flats to eager buyers on the back of blueprints alone.

The viability of this model depends on ever-growing demand, which often comes from speculative investors looking for a chance of quick capital gains. Some are wealthy private individuals; many are enterprises that have been diverting money from capital investment, hoping for juicier returns from property.

[ Via Economist; Posted in: Asia. ]

May 13, 2011

Het Zuid, Antwerp, Belgium,

The center is also the place from which both of the city's main shopping thoroughfares extend. The Meir, heading east, is a wide pedestrian boulevard lined with grand patrician mansions out of which global brands like Esprit and Diesel sell their wares. Heading to the south is Nationalestraat. It, and the streets around it, which include the trendy Het Zuid neighborhood, are Antwerp's answer to SoHo.


The center is also the place from which both of the city's main shopping thoroughfares extend. The Meir, heading east, is a wide pedestrian boulevard lined with grand patrician mansions out of which global brands like Esprit and Diesel sell their wares. Heading to the south is Nationalestraat. It, and the streets around it, which include the trendy Het Zuid neighborhood, are Antwerp's answer to SoHo.

To the south we went. As we made our way down the street (which at some point turns into Volkstraat), Mr. Ottomer offered up colorful bits of local history and asides about this and that shop. At some point I realized what was so different about Antwerp: It can look and feel like one of those towns riding along on its picturesque and historic past, but it is actually a place of energized and creative enterprise. And unlike a city like, say, Berlin, where one usually has to brave garbage-can-filled alleyways, unmarked graffiti-covered doors and major attitude in order to find the interesting bars and galleries, Antwerp's edgy shops and cafes reside behind Old World facades, with very little hipster posing.

(If you're looking for grit, you might head to the city's old port area, where the Het Eilandje neighborhood is home to a growing number of new bars and restaurants. It is also the site of the soon-to-be opened Museum aan de Strom, or MAS, an already iconic piece of contemporary architecture that looks like brick Tetris shapes that have fallen from the sky.)

May 10, 2011

Law school cost benefit disclosure: missing merit scholarship

The algorithm used by U.S. News puts a heavy emphasis on college grade-point averages and Law School Admission Test scores. Together, those two numbers determine about 22 percent of a school's ranking. The bar passage rate, which correlates strongly with undergraduate G.P.A.'s and LSAT scores, is worth an additional two points in the algorithm. In short, students' academic credentials determine close to a quarter of a school's rank -- the largest factor that schools can directly control.

So the point of most merit scholarship programs, Professor Organ said, isn't merely to tempt prospective students who might otherwise not attend, though that clearly is one result.

"What law schools are buying is higher G.P.A.'s and LSATs," Professor Organ said. In other words, the schools are buying smarter students to enhance their cachet and rise in the rankings.

Each does it a little differently.

The University of Florida's law school requires students to maintain a 3.2 G.P.A. to keep their scholarships; at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan, it's a 2.95. The Chicago-Kent College of Law has a number of grant offerings, one of which sounds like the refueling options for a rental car: students can get a $9,000 annual scholarship guaranteed for all three years, no matter what their G.P.A., or $15,000 a year on the condition that they earn a 3.25 or above. If they get between a 3.0 and 3.25, they keep half the scholarship. Below a 3.0, it's gone.

Some elite schools don't give any merit scholarships, and some give them conditioned only on maintaining good academic standing -- which translates to "don't flunk out." But merit stipulations -- or stips, as they are known by students -- are used by 80 percent of law schools for which information is publicly available, Professor Organ found.

And it's not just institutions in the bottom half of the U.S. News rankings. If your school is ranked 35th, perhaps you're gunning for No. 30 and you can see No. 40 creeping up in the rear-view mirror.

it's often mathematically impossible for everyone to keep their grants. This year at Golden Gate, for instance, 57 percent of first-year students -- more than 150 in a class of 268 -- have merit scholarships. But in recent years, only the top third of students at Golden Gate wound up with a 3.0 or better, according to Ms. Ramey, the dean.

Consider what happens at Chicago-Kent, the school that offers students less scholarship money ($9,000) if they want it guaranteed, and more ($15,000) if they can clear the 3.25 G.P.A. hurdle. Ninety percent opt for the larger and riskier sum, according to school officials. A "significant" number later lose their scholarships, says the school's dean, Harold J. Krent.

Law Students Lose the Grant Game as Schools Win
Published: April 30, 2011
Merit scholarships help law schools enhance their cachet, but grading curves often make it impossible for students to keep the grants.

May 9, 2011

Wait for the setup before you trade

One of the reasons so many traders get killed in this business is their inability to sit on their hands. Deep inside they crave the action. When the markets are not conducive to trading aggressively or do not warrant having more than average exposure you absolutely have to respect that and stay on the sidelines. If you trade although your trading skills do not match the current trading environment, or put another way, if you have no edge in a certain market environment or your strength requires specific set-ups that aren't there, odds are not in your favour. If odds are not in your favour the smart thing to do is to wait for these external factors to set up again.

-- Tischendorf Letter / Olivier

May 8, 2011

Tax free owners no longer tax free

n 2003, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations looked into such transactions and found that in some cases, they were an elaborate way of using a charity's tax-exempt status to erase tax liabilities for the other shareholders of the company involved.

A charity involved in such a tax strategy would receive income from the company in proportion to the size of its holdings of nonvoting stock. But while that income was taxable, it was not distributed to the charity and stayed at the company to be reinvested.

The charity did not owe taxes on the income, anyway, because it was tax-exempt.

Later, the charity would sell the nonvoting shares back to the company at fair market value, and the company would distribute the income, tax-free, that had been associated with those shares among its other shareholders.

In other, similar cases, charities that received nonvoting stakes in privately held companies through gifts of stock used large losses they had incurred on unrelated businesses to offset taxes for other shareholders. Mr. Dryburgh wrote a paper on that type of tax shelter.

In 2004, the I.R.S. listed as "restricted" such transactions and denied deductions associated with them.

Gift to M.I.T. from Bose Founder Raises Tax Questions
Published: April 29, 2011
Amar G. Bose has donated the majority of his high-end audio products company to his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

May 7, 2011

Dropping science

Amazing corrections. How could the original have slipped past a science editor ?

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 20, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of microbes relative to the number of cells in the human body. Each person shelters about 100 trillion microbes, not 10 trillion, and is made up of about 10 trillion cells, not one million.

Correction: April 23, 2011

A headline on Thursday with an article about the discovery by a group of scientists that people can be classified by the bacteria in their digestive systems misstated the conclusions of the researchers. They reported finding three ecosystems, each involving a multitude of bacteria species, in the human gut -- not just three types of bacteria.

Bacterial Ecosystems Divide People Into 3 Groups, Scientists Say
Published: April 20, 2011
Scientists report that the three "enterotypes" may have discrete effects on people's health.

May 6, 2011

Force placed insurance

QBE's sale of unregulated insurance in Florida is something of an oddity. State laws generally give preferential status to admitted carriers with regulated rates, and Florida statutes mandate that surplus coverage should only be purchased when coverage is "not procurable from authorized insurers." Insurance agents must document multiple "diligent efforts" to find a regulated carrier before venturing into the surplus-line market.

To someone outside the Florida industry, finding an admitted force-placed insurer wouldn't seem like a problem. Two large insurers, Assurant Specialty Property and Balboa Insurance Co., sell such coverage. Balboa, formerly owned by Bank of America Corp., is in the process of being purchased by QBE, a unit of QBE Insurance Group Ltd. of Australia, and declined to comment. But while Assurant is the largest operator in the Florida market, agents doing business with QBE aren't seeking Assurant out before placing new coverage by mortgage companies, the company said.

New Questions about Banks' Force-Placed Insurance Deals

QBE, carrier used by Wells Fargo and SunTrust, avoids oversight through 'surplus lines' structure
American Banker | Tuesday, April 12, 2011

By Jeff Horwitz


May 5, 2011

Gender imbalance ? Counting athletes

Universities must demonstrate compliance with Title IX in at least one of three ways: by showing that the number of female athletes is in proportion to overall female enrollment, by demonstrating a history of expanding opportunities for women, or by proving that they are meeting the athletic interests and abilities of their female students.

After South Florida added more than 100 football players, it was out of balance under the first test. Lamar Daniel, a gender-equity consultant, told the university in 2002 that it failed the other two as well. He recommended adding a women's swimming team and warned that trying to comply with the proportionality option would be difficult because South Florida's female participation numbers were too low.

But university officials tried anyway. A primary strategy was to expand the women's running teams. Female runners can be a bonanza because a single athlete can be counted up to three times, as a member of the cross-country and the indoor and outdoor track teams.

In 2002, 21 South Florida women competed in cross-country. By 2008, the number had grown to 75 -- more than quadruple the size of an average Division I cross-country team.

When told of the team's size, Mr. Daniel, a former investigator for the Office for Civil Rights, said: "Good gracious. That would certainly justify further examination."

In 2009-10, South Florida reported 71 women on its cross-country team, but race results show only 28 competed in at least one race.

At a recent track meet at South Florida, three female long jumpers who are listed on the cross-country roster said they were not members of that team.

-- Karen Crouse, Griffin Palmer and Marjorie Connelly

College Teams, Relying on Deception, Undermine Gender Equity
Published: April 25, 2011
To produce an appearance of gender equity, colleges have given roster spots to unqualified players, counted male practice players as women and trimmed men's rosters.

May 4, 2011

Summers: likely to be useful: all the ones that used the words leverage, liquidity, and deflation.

Larry summers talked about all the research papers that he got sent while he was in Washington. He had a fairly clear categorisation for which ones were likely to be useful: read virtually all the ones that used the words leverage, liquidity, and deflation, he said, and virtually none that used the words optimising, choice-theoretic or neoclassical (presumably in the titles or abstracts). His broader point--reinforced by his mentions of the knowledge contained in the writings of Bagehot, Minsky, Kindleberger, and Eichengreen--was, I think, that while it would be wrong to say economics or economists had nothing useful to say about the crisis, much of what was the most useful was not necessarily the most recent, or even the most mainstream. Economists knew a great deal, he said, but they had also forgotten a great deal and been distracted by a lot.

Even more scathing, perhaps, was his comment that as a policymaker he had found essentially no use for the vast literature devoted to providing sound micro-foundations to macroeconomics. (So that would be most macroeconomics since the original Keynesian revolution?) On the other hand, he pointed out that while there was clearly a need to be prudent while applying research to the real world, it would also be unwise to attack it wholesale. He surmised that it might be possible that some things that seem useless or of limited applicability now would turn out to be useful in years to come (microfoundations for macroeconomics, perhaps?).

He was sceptical, too, of those who put too much faith in regulation, while conceding that it was clear regulation was needed. It was refreshing to hear someone who had been in the thick of policymaking acknowledge a problem others have pointed to: that when it came to stuff like financial regulation, there was "basically no one" who is both knowledgeable enough about what is sought to be regulated and is not, in some way, co-opted. Which made his touching faith in Dodd-Frank, which he defended stoutly, a bit less than convincing.

May 3, 2011

Writer, promoter, and horse, Susannah Breslin: now at @Forbes (!)

I was also tasked with increasing site traffic. I used a variety of means to drive traffic to the site. The site had very, very ambitious traffic goals. We met those goals in a variety of ways, from social media to relationships with blogger influencers to partner sites.

That means I am familiar with how to drive traffic to a blog or site. This is what it means to be an online writer today. If you think that is sad, corrupting, or indicates the demise of journalism, I suppose you are a more moral person than I am.

These days, it's not enough to be a good writer online. You have to be a smart marketer, your own content factory, your own publicist. If you can do it all, you are golden. If you cannot, you are screwed.

In this situation, the blogger is a horse. The horse has a rider. The rider is Forbes. The rider is holding a stick with a string attached to the end of it. At the end of the string, there is a carrot. The carrot is money. The carrot is dangled in front of the horse, and the horse keeps stepping forward in order to get the carrot.

Blogging for Forbes requires being what is commonly referred to as a "self-starter." If you are the kind of person who needs a lot of hand-holding, editing, and encouragement, I am sure there is a place at BlogHer for you.

-- Susannah Breslin

May 1, 2011

Whited sepulchers

The influence of the King James Bible is so great that the list of idioms from it that have slipped into everyday speech, taking such deep root that we use them all the time without any awareness of their biblical origin, is practically endless: sour grapes; fatted calf; salt of the earth; drop in a bucket; skin of one's teeth; apple of one's eye; girded loins; feet of clay; whited sepulchers; filthy lucre; pearls before swine; fly in the ointment; fight the good fight; eat, drink and be merry.

In his very useful guide, "God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible", Adam Nicolson points out that when the Victorians came to revise the King James Bible in 1885, they embraced this principle wholeheartedly, and like those people who whack and scratch old furniture to make it look even more ancient, they threw in a lot of extra Jacobeanisms, like "howbeit," "peradventure, "holden" and "behooved."

Why the King James Bible Endures
Published: April 23, 2011
The King James Bible turns 400 next month. But it still speaks to current debates over how best to translate sacred texts.