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A proposed tax break on yachts and planes may get even better. At Monday's House Finance & Tax Council meeting, there will likely be an attempt to insert into a sprawling PCB a lower sales tax cap for the luxury items. The lower cap, from the already proposed $25,000 to $12,500, would kick in after roughly $208,400 of value. So the buyer of a $2 million plane would pay the same sales tax as the buyer of a $210,000 boat. Rep. Tom Grady, the Naples Republican pushing the break, has suppor

Filed under: Journeys

Could a former oil rig become a luxury hotel? Houston-based architecture firm, Morris Architects, has conceived a new purpose for old rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, turn them into hotels with beautiful views. The hotel which won a design competition earlier this year, would have a glass lobby floor, rooftop white sand beach and infinity pool and pre-fabricated guest-room modules which would close up during the Gulf's hurricanes.The spaces are organized around a core of water that stabilizes the rig and could also serve as a venue for aquatic shows. The hotel would be
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powered with wind turbines and solar power. The design also shows a helipad and a docking area for boats.[via WSJ Environmental Capital]

Oil Rigs Could Have A Second Life As Luxury Hotels originally appeared on Luxist on Sat, 18 Apr 2009 20:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


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by Garrison Galbraithe

So now that you have graduated you find yourself in the same boat as many other recent grads You have a number of student loans, the terms of which require you to start repayment upon graduation, and you have no job. Or you may have a job, but the prospect of managing so many different bills with different variable interest rates which adjust at different times is just too overwhelming to handle. Student loan consolidation may be just the answer for you.

What does it mean to consolidate a student loan? It means that you have arranged, with a financ

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ial institution, a different repayment schedule for your outstanding debt. Typically they will either buy your outstanding notes or arrange to make payment to the originator of the loan on your behalf. In turn, you pay them monthly. Debt consolidation results in a lower overall monthly payout by you, the borrower. However, the repayment schedule for the loan is often longer, meaning you will wind up paying more in interest over the life of the loan. Many people seek out debt consolidation loans because they cannot make their monthly payments and need to try to lower these. If you are in a situation like this, a student loan consolidation can be the answer to your problems.

Another reason to reconsider consolidating your student loan is that you may be able to get a better rate now than when you originally obtained your loan. If your credit score is better today than it was when you signed your loan documents, you can expect to get a better interest rate and more favorable terms at the time of consolidation.

If your student loan has a grace period (most student loans do) you may not have to start repaying your loan for a few months after graduation. Typically your interest rate is lower during the grace period than it is after the grace period has expired. Since the interest rate on a consolidated loan is based on the rates of the outstanding loans being consolidated, it may be a good idea to consolidate your loan during this period. Bear in mind however, that consolidated student loans usually require immediate monthly payments, which means you will have to start paying on your new loan immediately instead of a few months down the road.

If you decide that you need or want to consolidate your student loans, it is important to carefully research the loan agencies you are considering. You school will be able to assist you through their financial aid office. They may even be able to suggest a number of different lenders for you to consider. Just make sure to do your due diligence. Check the lending agencies out via the Better Business Bureau, your state Attorney Generals Office and do an online search. If there are consumer complaints, you will easily turn them up via these avenues.

You may also be able to consolidate your loans through your original lender. If they are willing or able to help it is still a good idea to check out your option through other lenders. You may be able to find better loan terms by shopping around.

Another thing to consider are the fees associated with consolidating your loan; interest rates and monthly payments are not the only expenses you will incur. In addition to any loan origination fees you should understand if there are any pre-payment penalties or other hidden fees. These can make your loan considerably more expensive over the long run.

Consolidated student loans are the answer for many students. A consolidated student loan can be a good way to keep your monthly expenses more manageable. But before signing on the bottom line, do your homework. Research your lender beforehand and make sure you understand the terms of your loan.

About the Author:
Garrison Galbraithe, who has been writing about loans and financial issues for almost three decades, has created a guide to obtainingstudent signature loans. He offers all sorts of information about obtaining a signature loan and other financial matters at his site.

Yes, but.

The good news is that I can answer “yes” to the question of whether stocks have put in a bottom in this bear market. And I can answer “yes” to the question of whether the financial sector is out of crisis. 

The bad news is: There's a “but.”
Have stocks bottomed? Yes, but it's nothing to get excited about. Sure, it's better than if there were still new lows ahead. I suppose considering the alternative, it's downright terrific that the S&P 500 doesn't have

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to go any lower than the Biblically ominous 666 level where it traded on March 6 (yes! March 6! — how's that for ominous?).
But let's not get too proud of this idea that the downside is now limited. The amount stocks have fallen since their prior highs is greater than the hit they took from the highs in the Great Depression, the same number of days into the two bear markets.
I could make my case for a durable bottom just based on the idea that, using the Depression bear market as a benchmark, this year stocks clearly got way, way oversold. But I can make a more principled fundamentals-based argument, too.
I believe that in early March the market was in free-fall because the political process was like a runaway train. It looked then like a very ambitious agenda of antibusiness economic policy was about to get enacted, all at once. The momentum of a popular new president and a strong one-party grip on Congress seemed irresistible. As I wrote at the time , it was too much “change,” too fast. The already-destabilized economy just couldn't take it.
Since then, I think the political class realized what was going on — it realized that it was pushing the economy over the edge, and it wisely decided to stop pushing. Issues like the cap-and-trade carbon tax, mortgage “cramdown,” unionization “card-check,” and the cap on the tax deduction for charitable contributions have all started to be questioned, even by Democrats.
It's a great relief for the stock market to learn that there are limits to the damage that Washington will do to promote its agenda. What's more, as time goes by, and the economic crisis eases, Washington can less and less claim that all the policies they've wanted to implement for years anyway must be implemented now in the name of “emergency.”
With the runaway train of “change” slowed down, and a demonstration that the political class knows it's playing with dynamite and intends to be cautious about it, a gigantic risk factor is moved to the sidelines. I think that draws a line under stocks for this bear market.
But the train is only slowed down. It's not stopped. As soon as the politicians feel safe again, they'll start pushing the same agenda. That's going to keep a lid on stocks for the foreseeable future. In a nutshell, yes the bottom is in, but the upside doesn't look so great.
Is the financial sector out of crisis? With the S&P 500 financial sector up 80% since early March, yes. As I wrote last week , with a great earnings report from Wells Fargo (WFC) — and since then, great news from Goldman Sachs (GS) and JPMorgan (JPM), too — we can clearly see that the whole U.S. banking system is no longer in danger of implosion.
But that doesn't mean that some big banks aren't still in big trouble. Sure, we know the government isn't going to let one of them fail and drag all the others down with it. It's now a new world, where we can think of banks one at a time, winners and losers, not a single leaky lifeboat where everyone on board is destined to drown together. Still, the problems of a few big banks that are still in trouble can't help but make life harder even for the winners.
For example, right now Congress is considering legislation that would allow judges to use their discretion to reduce principle and interest on mortgage debt owed by people in bankruptcy. In the political parlance, it's called mortgage cramdown. Trillions of dollars of mortgages exist today, and every one of them was created under the established law that mortgage debt could not be adjusted in bankruptcy. Now Congress wants to change the rules of the game, after the game has already been played.
It's not fair, and it sends a message to businesses of all kinds that commitments they make in the marketplace are subject to sudden and arbitrary revision by politicians. More immediately, the new risk of cramdown means the mortgage interest rates will simply have to be higher than they otherwise would be, because if the new law is enacted, mortgage lenders will be at more risk.
Here's the issue. Citibank, the big bank that's still most in trouble, and the one that is most beholden to the government because of the multiple rounds of aid it has had to accept, has come out publically in favor of cramdown -- even though the banking industry, in general, of course opposes it. What happens if a couple other weak banks take Citi's position on the issue? Without the whole industry taking a unified position against it, some version of cramdown is likely to be enacted. It will happen because the weak banks couldn't say no — but it will punish all banks, including the strong ones like Wells Fargo.
And the same thing will play out over and over again with other issues of financial regulation that are certain to be on the agenda over the coming years. So just like the broad market, the bottom is in for bank stocks. And just like the broad market, the upside is limited.
If you're like most investors, your perceptions and expectations for the stock market were formed by your experience of the 1980s and the 1990s. Unless you've been around as long as I have in this game, that's all you know. Anything else just comes from history books.
But the stock market isn't always like it was in those two wonderful decades. In those years it made sense to “buy and hold” and invest in “stocks for the long run” and all that jazz. It was so easy to believe in the religion of equities when stocks pretty much always went up, and when they went down, recovered to new highs before long.
Yes, but. Those days are gone. It's back the 1960s and 1970s where stocks were stuck in an endless trading range, with value relentlessly eaten up by inflation. You can make money by trading. But you might as well forget about the idea of investing.

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Stores that sell used stuff -- second-hand clothes, old records, antiques, and other vintage items -- did $9 billion in business in 2007. That's according to numbers released today by the Economic Census. The space grew by almost 20% ($1.5 billion) in the five years since the previous Economic Census in 2002. (The figures exclude used vehicle sales.)

Think about that for a second -- that's $9 billion of value created on the secondary market, much of it out of stuff that many people would just throw out. That's also measuring only retail businesses with employees, so add in

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self-employed eBay sellers and I'm sure the number gets much bigger. How many entrepreneurs have built thriving businesses from second-hand stuff, salvaging their supplies from garage and estate sales, hunting curbs on trash night for vintage furniture, buying collections of records and books? There were 17,779 employer businesses in this space in 2007, actually down slightly from 2002. They employed 131,000 people and had payrolls over $2 billion.

I'm guessing we'll see more growth in the second-hand market for a few reasons:

1) The Internet makes it easier for resellers to connect with their suppliers, i.e., people getting rid of old stuff.
2) More people are shopping at thrift store and the like because of the recession -- to the point where some stores are running low on inventory.
3) The mainstreaming of the conservation movement is also encouraging more people to shop for used (as well as hand-made, local, etc.) clothes and other household items.

This is one of the earliest releases from the 2007 Economic Census, so we can't compare growth in this space to the broader retail sector yet. It's a tiny piece to be sure, but it looks like second-hand retail businesses are, at least right now, positioned pretty well compared to other stores. Here's a link to the Census data, and below is the official Census definition of this industry:

This industry group comprises establishments primarily engaged in retailing used merchandise, antiques, and secondhand goods (except motor vehicles, such as automobiles, RVs, motorcycles, and boats; motor vehicle parts; tires; and mobile homes).

One more detail from the Census release: Women's and kids' clothes made up more than 15 percent of this market (didn't say what percent was men's clothing), and antiques accounted for 13 percent.

Tips When Selecting Your Charter Yacht Luxury yacht charters may come with a full crew consisting of a captain, a skipper, cleaning personnel, an activities planner and a chef. You needn’t sail away with hundreds of other passengers; if you have the money or the inclination, you and your spouse, friends or family members can traverse on your own private boat. Or, if you are particularly adventurous and knowledgeable, you and a few friends can hop aboard a bareboat charter, pioneering through
It looks like Washington is finally giving up on the silly idea that all banks are in the same boat. It's about time.

Filed under: Water

Luxury Austrian boatbuilder Frauscher has come out with one of the most beautiful speedboats we've ever laid eyes on, a stunning combination of classic good looks and modern design. The Cantiere Nautico Feltrinelli (above) is being produced in honor of Italian boatracing legend Dino Feltrinelli, who won several titles in the 1930s and '40s. Frauscher, founded in 1927, commissioned designer Annette Hintwirth to create the special edition of their sporty and elegant 686 Lido model. Hintwirth dressed the craft in a black hull with teak decking and white waterproof leather
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upholstery. Only nine examples will be built and each one will be delivered to the new owners at Lake Garda, Italy along with a lesson in piloting the boat. Features of the chic craft, which is powered by a Volvo Penta V8 engine, include a rotating, retractable height-adjustable table, driver's seats that can turn 360° degrees, and an automatic wind protection shield that deploys at the proper speed.

Frauscher Cantiere Nautico Feltrinelli Speedboat originally appeared on Luxist on Fri, 10 Apr 2009 16:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


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Four Somali pirates in a lifeboat continued to face down a US navy warship on Friday having recaptured the American captain they are holding hostage after he reportedly tried to escape by jumping overboard
Somali pirates hijacked an Italian ship as the dramatic standoff between the US Navy and four other sea bandits holding an American hostage in a lifeboat drifted into its fourth day