the world as we write it

smiley status'

    eat my Twitter?

    The Black Rider

    authentic since 1981 'welcome to my bomboclot mind'

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - Surviving a layoff

    Sent from's mobile device from

    Surviving a layoff

    Last fall Carl and Brenda Clay thought they had their financial life under control. After years of struggling to support themselves while Carl got a Ph.D. in molecular medicine, they were finally earning enough to start paying down student loans and credit card debt and saving in earnest for retirement.

    Carl, 36, made $135,000 a year, plus bonuses, as medical director for a pharmaceutical communications firm. Brenda, 37, chipped in another $14,000 as a teacher's aide. And the couple had more than they'd hoped for: three beautiful kids; a lovely split-level home in Wilmington, Del., with a recently renovated kitchen; two new cars; and three cats, a dog, and a turtle named Snickers.

    But a few days after Christmas, Carl was called in by human resources: His company was downsizing. He was being laid off. "I was stunned," he says. Despite the economy, the firm had seemed to be doing well.

    When he told Brenda, she tried to be optimistic. And when he gathered Eric, 11, Hannah, 9, and Mark, 8, the next morning to explain why he was still home in his slippers, Mark hugged him. "It's okay, Daddy," he said. "You'll find another job."

    Two months later, however, Carl had few leads and no offers. The pharmaceutical industry was suffering - and so was he. With no emergency savings, the Clays had burned through Carl's two weeks of severance. His unemployment benefits and Brenda's salary were hardly enough to get by on; they were buying groceries on credit.

    Just as Carl felt at his personal nadir, the phone rang. It was a temp firm calling about a résumé he'd sent to pharmaceutical giant Astra-Zeneca: Would Carl be interested in a 10-month contract job directing clinical trial publications for close to his old salary of $135,000 a year?

    "I was thrilled," he says.

    Then he read the fine print: He'd technically be an employee of a temp firm, Yoh Staffing, which offers no 401(k) plan, no bonuses, and no vacation (besides six paid holidays). He'd have to pay for his own health insurance. And, of course, if his contract wasn't renewed, he'd be back in the same boat in 10 months.

    Still, Carl felt he had no other choice. He took the job.

    In this economy he's probably not the only one who's been forced into temporary work: The number of un employed people who've accepted short-term assignments is up 73% over the past year, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Trading full-time staff for freelancers and contractors lets businesses cut the cost of benefits and payroll taxes. It also gives companies the flexibility to adjust headcount according to economic demands, says James Ziegler of Solo W-2, which provides services for independent professionals.

    A few months into his new job, Carl likes the work he's doing. But he can't help feeling unsettled. He's full of questions: How can I get hired? How do I budget knowing my salary might again disappear? What about saving for retirement? The following answers should help him - and you, if you end up in the same predicament.

    Network on the job

    Carl has long wanted to work for AstraZeneca; now he has a golden opportunity to make an impression from the inside. He'll need to show his bosses he's not just a gun for hire focused on a single project but someone who can advance the mission of the company, says New York career coach Win Sheffield. He should offer to take on tough projects, pipe up at meetings with smart ideas, suggest solutions, and get friendly with office "influencers."

    Sheffield also recommends networking in the office to find out if hiring temps is an experiment or the norm. If it's the former, full-time positions may come back when the economy does. He should ask for a quarterly review to make sure he's on track and let those in a position to hire know he's interested. If it's the norm, he should find out which jobs in which divisions are salaried, then make contacts in those areas who can notify him of open spots.

    One thing Carl should be aware of as he pursues a permanent post: Per his contract, he can't come on staff at AstraZeneca for 90 days after his completion date without written consent from Yoh. (Staffing firms use such breaks to renew contracts year after year and protect themselves from losing talent to client companies.) This clause means that if Carl were lucky enough to get a real job with AstraZeneca, he could lose a paycheck for three months. That's a possibility he'll need to plan for.

    Budget for a new reality

    On paper, the Clays' income will be roughly the same as it was before Carl was laid off. But that doesn't mean they can just resume their old lifestyle. That paycheck comes with an expiration date, after which there may not be another equally well-paying job to be found.

    Also, they now have new expenses, such as Carl's health insurance. Fortunately taxes are taken out of Carl's check; some contractors, known as 1099 employees (for the tax form), need to save for Uncle Sam as well.

    "Temporary employees really need to scrub their budgets to find places to save," says McLean, Va., financial planner Everette Orr. The Clays might use a free budgeting site such as or to see where their money is going and how they can reduce expenses.

    A top priority will be finding ways to build emergency savings. Contract workers need 12 months of living expenses banked, says Orr. Even if Carl gets a job with AstraZeneca, he'd need three months' expenses by January to cover that 90-day furlough.

    The Clays' $4,000-a-month debt obligations - from their mortgage, kitchen reno, school loans, cars, and credit cards - eat up half their take-home pay, so they won't be able to build that kind of safety net quickly. But refinancing (see "Three Fast Fixes") may free up a chunk of cash.

    Replace lost benefits

    As a salaried worker, Carl had a lot of perks he'll miss out on as a contractor. Chief among them: subsidized health insurance and a 401(k) with employer match.

    Brenda and the kids currently get insurance via her teaching job, but Carl can't join the plan, as he's been offered group coverage by the staffing agency. Luckily, those plans are a decent option: Though the firm doesn't help pay, the rates are good - $100 to $450 a month.

    As for retirement, the options depend on how your income is reported to the IRS. W-2 workers such as Carl are technically considered employees. Thus, for tax-advantaged savings, they have merely the choice of a Roth IRA (which phases out at $166,000 in modified adjusted gross income for couples) or a traditional IRA (no income limit if neither you nor your spouse has a retirement plan at work). In either, you can save only $5,000 yearly, or $6,000 if you're 50 or older.

    Because he has to focus on his emergency fund, it's unlikely that Carl will be able to save for retirement this year. But if he renews his contract next year and has sufficient emergency savings by then, he should open a Roth at that time, says Reston, Va., financial planner Frank Boucher. "He can take the payout tax-free when he retires, and since he's only 36, the money has a long time to grow."

    Workers receiving 1099 income are considered self-employed and can therefore stash away a lot more. They can choose between an individual 401(k), with a $49,000 yearly contribution limit, and a SEPIRA, which allows contributions up to 18.6% of net profits, also maxing out at $49,000.

    Keep up the hunt

    Carl has called off his job search to focus on his new gig. But since his contract allows either side to terminate for any reason, he should keep looking for a position that pays as well but includes benefits, says Sheffield.

    Benefits are worth a lot in terms of compensation - plus his family may need them, since Brenda isn't guaranteed a teaching job in the fall. And since Carl isn't guaranteed work at AstraZeneca either, he needs an all-fronts attack.

    In the meantime, however, Carl is starting to appreciate the advantages of contract work. No more late nights at the office, for example. For now, that means extra time with his kids, but he may begin looking for freelance medical writing to help build that emergency fund.

    "I'm still ambitious - I'd like to be president of a company someday," he says. "But right now it feels pretty great to go bike riding with my daughter and play Guitar Hero with my son." Many families are changing the way they spend money with regard to their kids in light of the financial crisis. Are you? Tell us how, at For the Comment Policy, click here. - Geithner grilled by watchdogs

    Sent from's mobile device from

    Geithner grilled by watchdogs

    A bailout oversight committee on Tuesday asked Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to explain the agency's handling of the controversial $700 billion bailout program.

    Congressional Oversight Panel Chairwoman Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard University law professor, stressed the need for more transparency and accountability.

    "People want to see action described in terms that make sense to them and that seem fair," she said. "They want to see that taxpayer funds aren't being used to shield financial institutions from the consequences of their own actions."

    The hearing marked the first time Geithner has publicly appeared before the panel, which was established as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program passed by Congress last October at the height of the global financial panic.

    Geithner mounted his strongest defense of Treasury's actions over the past few months, as the agency has become the target of several critical oversight reports.

    "We are not a private investment firm, we are the government of the United States. When we act, we don't do it for the benefit of those banks," he said. "You can't look at ... the narrow prism of the transaction itself. You have to look at the broader benefit it takes."

    Warren has been particularly critical of Treasury in the past few months on behalf of the five-member oversight panel.

    Her often biting criticism of the government's handling of the bailout hasn't always been shared by other members. The last report the group issued was approved 3-2. One panelist, former Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire, a Republican, accused the panel of veering off its mission.

    Several panelists asked Geithner to explain how the bailout program changed course so much over the past six months, and whether it was effective.

    "It is now being used to aid the automakers, which leads to the question of 'who's next?' The airline industry? The trucking industry? At what point does Starbucks get in line for a bailout?" asked Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas.

    When Warren asked why regulators appear to have treated financial firms with a lighter touch than the auto industry, referring to the replacement of General Motors Chief Executive Rick Waggoner, Geithner disagreed. He pointed out that Treasury also replaced management at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the government sponsored enterprises.

    In addition, Geithner hinted that the administration was willing to consider such actions in the financial sector as well. Geithner said that, in the future, regulators intend to make sure those firms that need an "exceptional level" of bailout help "emerge stronger than weaker."

    The panel has had impact in one respect. Last month, Warren complained to Congress that Treasury had been ignoring the panel's requests for more detailed information. On Tuesday, Warren complimented the department and suggested it was providing far more information.

    Treasury is now briefing the Congressional Oversight Panel weekly, and on Monday turned over 10,000 documents to the panel in response to a March 24 request.

    "This progress is certainly encouraging, and I hope it is indicative of a change in the way your department plans to handle future requests," said Damon Silvers, an attorney for the AFL-CIO.

    In a written statement, Geithner pledged to work with TARP overseers.

    "Transparency will not only give the American people comfort in our stewardship of these funds, it will give the markets confidence that we are stabilizing and strengthening the financial system," Geithner said.

    For real-time mobile news, go to -

    This story has been sent from the mobile device of For real-time mobile news, go to .

    Mystery surrounds Somali teen pirate

    At home in central Somalia, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse frequented a dusty, outdoor cinema after school, watched Bollywood films dubbed into his native Somali and, his mother says, "was wise beyond his years."

    Now Muse the sole surviving Somali pirate from the hostage-taking of an American ship captain is a world away in New York City to face what are believed to be the first piracy charges in the United States in more than a century. He smiled but said nothing Tuesday as he was led into a federal building under heavy guard.

    "The last time I saw him he was in his school uniform," the teen's mother, Adar Abdirahman Hassan, 40, told The Associated Press by telephone Tuesday from her home in the central Somali town of Galkayo. "He was brainwashed. People who are older than him outwitted him, people who are older than him duped him."

    PIRATE SUSPECT IN USA: Teen to appear in court today

    She said he was "wise beyond his years" a child who ignored other boys his age who tried to tease him and got lost in books instead.

    "He took all his books the day he disappeared, except one, I think, and did not come back," she said, adding that she did not know which book he was reading Hassan is illiterate.

    Muse's personal details are murky, with his parents in Somalia insisting he was tricked into getting involved in piracy. His age also remained unclear. His parents said he is only 16, but U.S. law enforcement said he is at least 18, meaning prosecutors will not have to take extra legal steps to try him in a U.S. court.

    Muse's mother said she has no records to prove his age, but she and the teen's father say he is 16. "I never delivered my babies in a hospital," she said. "A traditional midwife helped me deliver."

    A schoolmate, however, said he believed Muse could be older.

    "I think he was one or two years older than me, and I am 16," said Abdisalan Muse, reached by telephone in Galkayo. "We did not know him to be a pirate, but he was always with older boys, who are likely to be the ones who corrupted him."

    It is rare for Somalis to have formal birth records, and U.S. officials did not say on what basis they believe him to be 18 or older.

    The teenager was flown from Africa to New York, where he was being charged under two obscure federal laws that deal with piracy and hostage-taking, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the case. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the charges had not been announced.

    Muse grew up poor in a one-room home, the eldest child of a divorced mother, in one of the most impoverished, violent countries in the world. A nation of around 8 million people, Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991. A quarter of Somali children die before age 5 and nearly every public institution has collapsed.

    Muse's mother sells milk at a small market every day, saving around $6 every month for school fees for her oldest son.

    "I cried when I saw the picture of him," Hassan said, referring to the photo of her son being led in handcuffs in New York. "Relatives brought a copy of the picture to me. Surely he is telling himself now, 'My mother's heart is broken."'

    She said the last time she saw her son in person, she was pushing him out the door so he would not be late for school.

    Since that day weeks ago, he simply disappeared. Asked why she believed he left, Hassan was at a loss.

    "A young man, at his age, could say he needed money, perhaps," she said. "I used to give him his school fee because I could not afford more than that. But of course he needed money."

    The boy's father, Abdiqadir Muse, said the pirates lied to his son, telling him they were going to get money. The family is penniless, he said.

    "He just went with them without knowing what he was getting into," Muse said in a separate telephone interview with the AP through an interpreter.

    He also said it was his son's first outing with the pirates after having been taken from his home about a week and a half before he surrendered at sea to U.S. officials.

    Reuters - Music Web site MUZU signs Universal deal

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    Music Web site MUZU signs Universal deal

    Tuesday, Apr 21, 2009 12:59PM UTC

    LONDON (Reuters) - MUZU.TV, an Irish-based video Web site which has won plaudits from the music industry for the way it pays artists when their music is played online, has signed a deal with the world's largest label Universal.

    MUZU.TV, which has also signed deals with EMI, Sony BMG, the Ministry of Sound and Cooking Vinyl, says it is purpose-built to pay artists through advertising when their music is played.

    Users can either watch music videos on the MUZU site, on artist sites or embed them into social networks.

    On Tuesday MUZU announced it had signed a video license to show videos in Britain and Ireland for Universal's global artist repertoire, including the likes of Amy Winehouse and U2. Universal is owned by Vivendi.

    It also said on Tuesday it was powering video for all Sony Music artists on the popular Bebo social network and it is the official partner on the Michael Jackson site for Britain and Ireland.

    MUZU has been welcomed by the music industry which had previously criticized other sites such as YouTube for failing to properly compensate artists. The industry is also keen to develop their digital businesses as physical sales of CDs fall.

    (Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by David Cowell)

    Reuters - Cisco offers security for "cloud" computing

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    Cisco offers security for "cloud" computing

    Tuesday, Apr 21, 2009 12:45PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cisco Systems Inc on Tuesday introduced new network security products to help protect companies' Web-based software and services from attacks on their networks.

    Large companies are moving more of their software and services online, trends often called "cloud computing" and "software as a service," to help users communicate and share information.

    Such services, delivered through data centers, help companies use less space and computing power. But worries about viruses and external attacks on corporate data and computer systems, due to the open nature of such services, has been an obstacle to greater adoption.

    Cisco, known for making routers and switches, has been expanding into a wider range of products including software. It has identified collaborative software and cloud computing as key areas of growth.

    The new security products will include software that filters through online traffic as well as services that help companies assess their overall technology security, it said.

    Cisco also said on Tuesday that it was upgrading its WebEx online meeting software by introducing more advanced routing systems that help handle the increase in online traffic.

    Cisco bought WebEx, a company specializing in web-conferencing software that incorporates features like instant messaging and document sharing, in 2007.

    (Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Derek Caney)

    CNN - 'Silent' heart attacks more common than thought, study says

    Sent from's mobile device from

    'Silent' heart attacks more common than thought, study says

    Although many people think of a heart attack as a painful, sometimes fatal event, there are some heart attacks that go entirely unnoticed.

    Undiagnosed, or "silent," heart attacks affect nearly 200,000 people in the United States annually. As many as 40 to 60 percent all of heart attacks are unrecognized, studies show.

    By definition, a heart attack usually happens when a clot gets in the way of blood flow from a coronary artery to the heart. This may cause symptoms such as severe chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting and nausea. Anyone who believes that he or she is having a heart attack should seek emergency medical attention.

    But sometimes a heart attack is not painful, or the person experiencing it does not recognize the symptoms as heart-related, so he or she does not go to a hospital for treatment.

    Cardiologists have only recently become attuned to the prevalence of these silent heart attacks, and research on treatment is limited. The risk factors for silent heart attacks are the same as for regular heart attacks, experts say, and include smoking, diabetes, stress and family history.

    A new study from Duke University Medical Center shows that these silent heart attacks may occur more frequently than physicians thought.

    Even if a heart attack occurred in the distant past, it may still leave a signature called a Q-wave on an electrocardiogram. But there are silent heart attacks that do not have associated Q-waves.

    Researchers used a relatively new technique called delayed-enhancement cardiovascular magnetic resonance and then followed up with patients after about two years. The study was done on 185 patients who had never had a diagnosed heart attack but were suspected of having coronary artery disease.

    The researchers found that 35 percent of patients had evidence of a heart attack and that silent heart attacks without Q-waves were three times more common than those that had Q-waves.

    Patients with non-Q-wave silent heart attacks also had 11 times higher risk of death from any cause and a 17-fold risk of death from heart problems compared with patients without any heart damage.

    But experts do not recommend that people generally be screened for silent heart attacks unless they have other heart-related problems.

    "Currently, there has not been a study that has demonstrated that early identification and therapy changes how patients with unrecognized heart attacks do in the future," said Dr. Han Kim, a cardiologist at Duke University and lead author of the study. "If you don't know when an actual event occurred, it becomes difficult to prescribe therapy."

    Although the study was done on a relatively small sample of people at risk of coronary artery disease, meaning the results may not apply to the general population, other cardiologists say the study has merit in adding to the knowledge of silent heart attacks.

    "Ultimately, we're going to need trials to really establish what treatment works and what doesn't," said Dr. Eric Schelbert, a cardiologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

    Treatment for someone who has had a silent heart attack is usually the same for someone who came to the hospital immediately after a heart attack, Kim said.

    This may include beta blockers, statin drugs, aspirin or other medications, Schelbert said.

    Schelbert said he has seen plenty of patients who have had silent heart attacks; in fact, he has treated some of his own colleagues who have experienced them.

    "It's an incredibly important thing that the physician scientist community needs to explore further," he said.

    Researchers noted that patients with non-Q-wave silent heart attacks were also generally older and were more likely to have diabetes. There needs to be more of a focus on prevention among these risk groups, said Dr. David Wiener, a cardiologist at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the study.

    Reuters - Cyberspies hack into U.S. fighter project: report

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    Cyberspies hack into U.S. fighter project: report

    Tuesday, Apr 21, 2009 3:15PM UTC

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Computer spies have repeatedly breached the Pentagon's costliest weapons program, the $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

    The newspaper quoted current and former government officials familiar with the matter as saying the intruders were able to copy and siphon data related to design and electronics systems, making it potentially easier to defend against the plane.

    The spies could not access the most sensitive material, which is kept on computers that are not connected to the Internet, the paper added.

    Citing people briefed on the matter, it said the intruders entered through vulnerabilities in the networks of two or three of the contractors involved in building the fighter jet.

    Lockheed Martin Corp is the lead contractor. Northrop Grumman Corp and BAE Systems PLC also have major roles in the project. Lockheed Martin and BAE declined comment and Northrop referred questions to Lockheed, the paper said.

    The Journal said Pentagon officials declined to comment directly on the matter, but the paper said the Air Force had begun an investigation.

    The identity of the attackers and the amount of damage to the project could not be established, the paper said.

    The Journal quoted former U.S. officials as saying the attacks seemed to have originated in China, although it noted it was difficult to determine the origin because of the ease of hiding identities online.

    The Chinese Embassy said China "opposes and forbids all forms of cyber crimes," the Journal said.

    The officials added there had also been breaches of the U.S. Air Force's air traffic control system in recent months.

    (Writing by Peter Cooney; Editing by John Stonestreet)

    About Me

    My photo
    If you know me then you know my name. I am The Black Rider and the world is my Flame. The rider writes, observes, creates, produces, and learns the world around him. Ride on. Ride on!

    The Remnants