Are Cholesterol Lowering Drugs Safe for Healthy People?

March 31, 2010

statinsA giant drug company is about to expand the market for its blockbuster cholesterol drug, Crestor, all with the government’s blessing.

Astra Zeneca will soon market Crestor to healthy customers as a way to prevent cholesterol problems.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the new criteria last month for Crestor, which is  the nation’s second best-selling statin, behind Pfizer’s Lipitor.  But is that such a good idea.  A recent report in the New York Times says some medical experts question whether that’s a healthy move.

They point to mounting concern that cholesterol medications – known as statins– and already the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States – may not be as safe a preventive medicine as previously believed for people who are at low risk of heart attacks or strokes.

Among the risks raising new concerns, recently published evidence indicates that statins could raise a person’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 9 percent.

Click here to read the full story.

Student Loan Identity Theft

March 31, 2010

By Nicole Mayer:

More than three million students, already dealing with student loan debt, now have to worry about their identities being stolen due to a major security breach.

Sometime between March 20th and March 21st, a safe believed to have contained 3.3 million student loan borrowers’ personal data was stolen from the Minnesota office of Educational Credit Management Corporation, also known as “ECMC.”

ECMC’s web-site states that the theft involved portable media with personally identifiable information for the student loan borrowers. The data stolen consisted of social security numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth. Just enough information for someone to steal an identity.

Students at Risk of Identity Theft

In an attempt to rectify the situation, ECMC states in a letter sent to affected borrowers on March 31st, that it is offering its customers free credit protection services from Experian for 12 months.

One borrower whose information was stolen, Jackie Zaifert of Tampa, Florida, thinks ECMC should be doing more to protect her.  Zaifert said, “Credit monitoring for 12 months frankly just doesn’t cut it. It is very likely that someone could use my information two or three years from now, and I think I should be protected against that.”

On March 31, 2010, ECMC sent a letter to the affected borrowers, suggesting that they consider placing a security freeze on their credit file. This would prevent anyone from accessing your credit file.

Despite this recommendation, ECMC is not paying for the security freeze. Zaifert’s take on this is “if they think it’s a good idea that we have a security freeze, and that we are safer with it, then they should pay for it. It’s the least they can do while all of us are worried sick about our private data being misused.”

Getting More Information

ECMC is not commenting publicly on whether the stolen data was encrypted.

Zaifert spoke with ECMC employee John Gargaro in an attempt to get some piece of mind. According to Zaifert, “when I asked whether the information was encrypted they said they could not give me that information. When I asked for the name of an investigator in charge of this they just said, ‘the FBI.'”

The Oakdale, Minnesota police report on the theft indicates that someone broke into the ECMC building betwen 5:00 p.m. on Saturday March 20th and 3:40 p.m on Sunday March 21st. The police report describes the stolen property as a “safe” believed to “contain computer back-up disc(s) containing clients’ personal information.”

A third degree felony of this nature is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000 in Minnesota.

Was Your Information Stolen?

ECMC guarantees student loans in a number of states.  A spokesperson from ECMC told the Washington Post that the number of borrowers affected is 628,038 in Virginia; 76,939 628,038 in Maryland and 17,553 in the District.

ECMC is also the designated guarantee agency for the loans of borrowers who have filed for bankruptcy. Chances are, if you filed bankruptcy after recieving a federal student loan, your loan is guaranteed by ECMC.

If your information was among that stolen from ECMC, you should receive notification in the mail soon. You can also call ECMC at 1-877-449-3568 or register on ECMC’s website.

Trillions In Federal Deficits – Who’s To Blame?

March 30, 2010

By John Newcomer:

Approval ratings for Congress is at an all time low. With our staggering federal deficits, owing debts our grand-kids will still be trying to pay off, it seems like everyone is blaming our elected officials for this fiscal mess. Well, guest columnist LeRoy Goldman has a different point of view. If you have the courage read on:

By Guest Columnist LeRoy Goldman:

moneyBack in the mid-seventies, when I worked in the Senate, there was growing concern about the increasing size of the federal deficit and the extent to which it was adding to the national debt. That concern led to the enactment of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. At that time the Federal deficit was about $50 billion and the national debt was about $500 billion. Although the Budget Act has been in operation for 36 years, there is no doubt that it has been a colossal failure.

The projected Federal deficit this year is $2.9 trillion and the national debt will grow to $14.1 trillion. Even when one adjusts these numbers for inflation, it remains obvious that, as a nation, we are inexorably headed into fiscal and economic Armageddon – and soon.

If one digs into the Federal Budget, it doesn’t take long to determine that the main problem is what Washington calls MANDATORY SPENDING. At the present time MANDATORY SPENDING consumes about 60% of the entire Federal Budget. The four largest components of such spending are Social Security ($730 billion), Medicare ($500 billion), Medicaid ($300 billion), and interest payments on the national debt ($200 billion). According to the projections of the Obama Administration, debt payments will increase to about $840 billion a year by 2020. Medicare is projected to be in bankruptcy by 2017. Social Security is projected to be bankrupt not too long thereafter.

While most Americans have no detailed insight into the looming catastrophe, Washington has known about it for decades. Every President, every Treasury Secretary, and every member of Congress, all the way back to the Ford Administration in the seventies, has been clear about the magnitude and the inevitability of the coming crisis. Let’s give it the name that it deserves–a bipartisan conspiracy of denial.

All these politicians that we have elected to serve us have failed, and willfully so. It’s no wonder that today there is such a deep and growing sense of outrage and fury in the nation directed at the incumbents of both parties. There is a very real chance that the election this fall will be a bloodbath for incumbents of both parties. Readers of this space know that I think that will be a welcome outcome.

But, not so fast kemosabe. Such a bloodletting, while necessary, will deal only with a symptom of this problem–not the problem itself. Let’s pause and ask ourselves why it has been the case that all these politicians have refused to deal with a growing national calamity that they knew was coming? What were they all afraid of? The answer is obvious–us.

The hard fact of the matter is that the root of this problem is not the government. It’s you and me. We have allowed ourselves to become addicted to the ultimate free lunch, while we blame the politicians for not fixing it. Would you reelect a member of Congress who called for cuts in your, or your parent’s, Medicare and Social Security? No, you would not. And that’s why the politicians have kicked the can down the road for 35 years.

Well folks, we’re about out of road. Just ahead is the cliff. And we can’t blame Toyota for this stuck accelerator.

As Cassius said in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves”

LeRoy Goldman worked for the federal government from 1964-2001.

Fight Foreclosure: Make ‘Em Produce the Note

March 30, 2010

By Angie Moreschi:

Using the “produce the note” strategy is something all homeowners facing foreclosure can do. If you believe you’ve been treated unfairly, fight back. We have created templates for a legal request, a letter to your lender and a motion to compel to help you through the process.  Read the step by step “how to” under the videos.

Special note:  In some states, a lender can foreclose on your home without going to court.  These are called non-judicial foreclosure states.  You can still use the “Produce the Note” strategy in these states, but it takes a few more steps on your part.

Produce the Note – Steps To Follow:

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Really Want To Reduce the Federal Debt? Step One – The Defense Budget

March 26, 2010

D.Eisenhower

By Terry Smiljanich:

We are all concerned about the $12.6 trillion federal debt, the IOU’s for which will be flooding in on us, our children and our grandchildren. When we and our elected representatives decide to stop wringing our collective hands about the problem and actually start doing something about it, what do we need to do?

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Winners & Losers of Health Care Reform

March 23, 2010

Who wins and who loses with the new health care reform bill just signed into law by President Obama?  Low income people who don’t have health insurance are the biggest winners.  Young people and couples making more than $200,000 a year are among the losers.  CBS MoneyWatch takes a look at five groups that will bear the greatest cost of change.  Here’s a sampling:

Loser:

Generation Y

In many ways, the health care legislation – like insurance in general – transfers wealth from the haves to the have-nots. The rich pay more to subsidize the poor, and the young and healthy pay more to offset the costs of the old and sick. On balance, most of the 19 million uninsured Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 will be forced to buy coverage – and those policies will be more expensive than the major-medical coverage they might have chosen otherwise.

For some young people – if you are a struggling playwright, for instance – there could be good news here: Because young people tend to work in entry-level jobs with low wages, many will fall within 400 percent of the poverty line and qualify for some government subsidies. However, the subsidies are unlikely to take the full sting out of the higher premiums: The most generous grants will be reserved for poor families, not single adults, and those who opt not to buy coverage will face penalties of $695 a year under the bill.

Proponents of the bill argue that young people can console themselves by thinking of the lower costs they will pay when they get older. “It is important to keep perspective,” says Volsky. “They will pay less 10, 20, 30 years down the road when they really become sick.”

Winner:

Cancer Patients and Others with Chronic Conditions

A tragedy of our current health care system is that those who need coverage most are denied it most often, says Linda Blumberg, a health economist and senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a policy think tank. Insurance companies can refuse to pay for care related to pre-existing conditions and hike coverage for certain illnesses, so if you have chronic, ongoing conditions or diseases you are forced to either pay out of pocket or shoulder ever-increasing premiums. The new law would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage or raising rates based on illness.

There is hope that helping the sick will eventually have an upside for healthy taxpayers as well, says Igor Volsky, a health care researcher and blogger for the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund. Affordable insurance coverage should encourage the chronically ill to receive treatment earlier, when it is less expensive, rather than wait until high-priced emergency room care is required. A reduction in such emergency care should pay broader dividends, since its cost is typically passed on to the insured, in the form of higher hospital bills, and to taxpayers, in the form of federal subsidies for unreimbursed care.

Click here to read more from CBS MoneyWatch.com

How the New Health Care Reform Bill Affects You

March 22, 2010

Millions of Americans are faced with confusion and uncertainty about the effects of health care reform. The medical well being of your family is in the hands of lawmakers with political agendas and health insurance companies seeing dollar signs, with the influx of an additional 30 million customers.  Click here for more information on how this massive new law breaks down .

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Job Opportunities That Ruin You

March 16, 2010

For the unemployed, for-profit colleges or trade schools, as they’re sometimes called, may seem like a way out, but look hard before you leap. These schools often make big promises for a bright future, but many students are finding they end up with just the opposite. High priced tuition and low graduation rates often leave them deep in debt and still unable to find a job.

CBS MoneyWatch business columnist Kathy Kristof has been following this issue for some time.  She provides more of her helpful insight with her latest blog post “Job Opportunities That Ruin You.” The New York Times also recently did a piece shedding light on the how these schools lure students in to get their financial aid dollars, but often don’t deliver on the results they promise.

Walk Away Foreclosures – When is fighting for your home not worth it?

March 16, 2010

One in four U.S. homeowners owes more on their house than their mortgage is worth. That’s left many wondering whether they should just walk away and allow a foreclosure. It used to be that homeowners had an emotional attachment to their homes and would fight to keep them.  But now, many lenders have made the process of avoiding foreclosure so difficult, that a growing number of Americans are starting to wonder if it’s worth it. Click here to see more on this trend.

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What’s the Most Serious Crime Problem Facing the Nation? Wrong!

March 16, 2010

By Terry Smiljanich:

Given the fact that the economic crisis of 2008 is costing this country trillions of dollars.  And given that it was brought on in part by the criminal conduct of some financial institutions, not to mention all those who helped them, it stands to reason that federal prosecutions from October, 2008 to September 2009 (Fiscal Year 2008) would reflect that.  Right?

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