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Expat wanderer

One in Four American Mortgages ‘Underwater’

From 24/7 Wall Street on AOL

Underwater Mortgages Hit 11.3 Million

Posted: February 23, 2010 at 7:25 pm

There is a reason that 702 American banks, nearly one in ten, were on the FDIC “problem list” as of the end of 2009. A large number of small and mid-sized banks are burdened with home and commercial mortgages that are in default and may even go into foreclosure.

New data from First American CoreLogic shows why the solution to the problem banks face is so difficult to find. Eleven million, three hundreds thousand homes had underwater mortgages as of the fourth quarter of last year. That number represent 24% of all residential homes loans in America.The mortgage numbers are much worse when homes with equity of less than 5% are included. First American reports that ”an additional 2.3 million mortgages were approaching negative equity at the end of last year, meaning they had less than five percent equity.” That means that three out of ten homes have virtually no financial value to their owners.

The pressure that the home value trouble puts on banks is clear. The aggregate dollar value of negative equity was $801 billion at the end of last year, up $55 billion from $746 billion in Q3 2009. People who believe there is no hope of their homes ever having any economic value are more likely to default on mortgages, especially in an environment where unemployed and under-employed people make up 17% of the total available workforce nationwide. Many homeowners are as concerned about their employment future as they are about the value of their houses.

Problem home loans are concentrated in the regions where real estate values have fallen the most–Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Michigan, and California. First American says that “among the top five states, the average negative equity share was 42 percent, compared to 15 percent for the remaining 45 states.” In other words, the odds are relatively high that some of the home owners in those states will never sell their houses for more than the amount of their mortgages. That creates a vicious cycle in which high numbers of people with underwater loans default in the states where real estate values have dropped the most. There is no easy way to create a foundation under home prices.

The FDIC has closed 20 banks this year, Five of those were in the five states where mortgage equity problems are at their worst. The agency closed 15 banks in December. Of those, five were in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Michigan, or California. The bank failure and mortgage failure problems area inextricably linked.

The First American numbers do not leave much hope for a home price rebound this year. It is too hard to sell a house with an underwater mortgage because the bank has to be paid the balance of the loan in cash at closing. Many people do not even try make home payments or cannot afford to under those circumstances. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that a record 15% of American mortgage holders are either in foreclosure or at least one payment behind.

The difficulties that face small and mid-sized banks, which ultimately are a problem for the FDIC, are to a large extent still a fallout of the deteriorating real estate sector. The underwater mortgage problem is still growing and that almost certainly means bank closings will be high again this year as well.

Douglas A. McIntyre

February 24, 2010 Posted by | Building, Community, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Social Issues | Leave a comment

Warrior Woman Does Not Buy a New Car

It’s a beautiful day in Pensacola, I had baby duty all morning, but the afternoon is mine. I’ve been wanting to buy a new car; I could buy it and have it waiting for me when I come back. I know the car I want, the model, the color, everything I want – and do not want. The only thing that holds me back is that I hate the whole car buying process. I remember Saturn – nice car, pretty colors, drove well and you walk in and there is one price, and that is the price for everyone. I don’t know what happened. They stopped making Saturns.

So first, I just decided to see if I could find the place. I found it. Then I decided to drive around the lot and see what they had. I did that. Then I decided just to walk into the lobby and see if they had anything like price sheets there, although I had already done my research online. There was a nice young man waiting outside just for me, and he took me on a test drive. Here is what is really cool. Have you ever driven a car so new that it had one mile on the odometer?

I love the car. I had one like it before. This particular car had some features I didn’t care about and don’t want to pay for.

I know what I want. I know what I want to pay. He showed me figures. I told him what I wanted and what I was willing to pay. He printed out a bunch of stuff so he could explain to me why the car he wanted to sell me was going to cost more. I told him what I wanted and what I was willing to pay for it. He had to go talk to his manager. He came back with more figures. I told him what I wanted and what I was willing to pay for it. He went to get his manager.

I told him what I wanted and what I was willing to pay for it. He said he couldn’t sell me the car at that price, so I smiled and shook everybody’s hands and thanked them for their time and I left, after more discussion. I think they were shocked I walked out. I was shocked too.

And delighted.

“But you still don’t have the car!” my son reminded me.

I know I don’t have the car. It’s OK. I have time. I don’t know if this makes sense to you, but I just feel so good! I didn’t buy a car I didn’t want! I stuck by my guns! I know what I want (and what I don’t want and don’t want to pay for) and what I am willing to pay, and I believe with all my heart I am going to find my car at my price (it’s a reasonable price.) I am so proud of myself for not being talked into buying the car I didn’t want at the price I didn’t want to pay!

February 24, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Communication, Customer Service, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Florida, Humor, Living Conditions, Marketing, Shopping | 6 Comments

Happiness Wards Off Heart Disease

From a new study found on BBC News comes information that making yourself happy and staying happy can also make you healthier . . .

Happiness wards off heart disease, study suggests

Being happy and staying positive may help ward off heart disease, a study suggests.
US researchers monitored the health of 1,700 people over 10 years, finding the most anxious and depressed were at the highest risk of the disease.

They could not categorically prove happiness was protective, but said people should try to enjoy themselves.

But experts suggested the findings may be of limited use as an individual’s approach to life was often ingrained.

At the start of the study, which was published in the European Heart Journal, participants were assessed for emotions ranging from hostility and anxiousness to joy, enthusiasm and contentment.

They were given a rating on a five-point scale to score their level of positive emotions.
By the end of the analysis, some 145 had developed heart disease – fewer than one in 10.
But for each rise in the happiness scale there was a 22% lower risk of developing heart disease.

The team believes happier people may have better sleeping patterns, be less liable to suffer stress and be more able to move on from upsetting experiences – all of which can put physical strain on the body.

Lead researcher Dr Karina Davidson admitted more research was needed into the link, but said she would still recommend that people try to develop a more positive outlook.
She said all too often people just waited for their “two weeks of vacation to have fun” when instead they should seek enjoyment each day.

“If you enjoy reading novels, but never get around to it, commit to getting 15 minutes or so of reading in.

“If walking or listening to music improves you mood, get those activities in your schedule.
“Essentially spending a few minutes each day truly relaxed and enjoying yourself is certainly good for your mental health and may improve your physical health as well.”

It is not the first study to suggest there is a link between happiness and health.

But Ellen Mason, of the British Heart Foundation, suggested such an association may be of limited value anyway.

“We know that improving your mood isn’t always easy – so we don’t know if it’s possible to change our natural levels of positivity.”

Cardiologist Iain Simpson, of the British Cardiovascular Society, added: “Things like reducing cholesterol and diabetes are more important when it comes to reducing heart disease.

“But at the end of the day it heart disease is still the biggest killer in the UK so anything you can do to help should not be ignored.”

February 23, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Health Issues, Living Conditions | Leave a comment

New Cat in Town

“It’s like bringing a new cat into the house,” I tell people when they ask about how I move so often, and how I have learned to survive, “You keep a new cat in a separate room while the other cat(s) get used to their smell, then you allow a little interaction, then a little more and it all works out. One cat may never warm up to a new cat, another cat will welcome it immediately.”

I’ve been that new cat. You walk carefully. You try to figure out how things work. You sort of walk around the edges of things. Occasionally, there will be a cat that doesn’t like me. I try to stay out of her way.

So on my way to church on Sunday, I was thinking about this move, and about how people and communities have rules they don’t even know they have. Like in Kuwait, I learned, when you make a condolence call, you are supposed to dress very simply and wear no make up. You keep your voice low, you stay only a certain amount of time. These rules aren’t written anywhere because, well, everyone who matters pretty much knows what they are . . .

You don’t think about going through cross-cultural experiences in your own country, but every community has its own uniqueness, its own differences.

I think about my home town of Edmonds, WA, where you never NEVER cross the street if the light is red, even if there are no cars visible for miles. It just isn’t done.

Even going to church can be a mine field. You would think that it would be a safe place, all these people of God, people of good will, gathered together. You would think that until you happened to sit by mistake in someone else’s place, a place they have sat every Sunday for forty years. Some people might handle it with grace, another might handle it with spite and malice.

There might be local customs I don’t know, like you don’t wear earrings during Lent (I made that up; it isn’t a rule, it is just an example of the kinds of things that can become custom) or you don’t park in this spot because Old Miss Rickety needs to park there. Every church passes the peace differently; even the liturgy, done in every church, has its quirks from congregation to congregation. Like the new cat, I kind of creep in to church quietly, look for an inconspicuous place, do my worship thing and leave quietly.

They need to get used to my smell, LLLOOLLLL. 🙂

February 23, 2010 Posted by | Biography, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Relationships | Leave a comment

Warming Up in Pensacola

This guy hurts my eyes. I remember reading a book called Almost French, an Australian woman married a French guy, and one morning as she was about to run down to the boulangerie in her sweats, her French boyfriend had a very pained expression on his face and said “Please! Please put on something else! You don’t want to hurt people’s eyes!”

Pensacola is warming. No matter how much Pensacola warms, I think a shirt would be a good idea.

February 23, 2010 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Florida, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Weather | 8 Comments

From Kuwait MOI

One reader was asking about where to go online to pay his Kuwait traffic violations. While looking it up (Google “Kuwait Government Traffic Violations Website”) I found this essay on Equality Before the Law in Kuwait:

Lt. Gen. Al-Rejaib: His Highness the Amir stresses on applying the law on everyone

The Interior Undersecretary Lt. Gen. Ahmad Abdullatif Al-Rejaib affirmed on embedding the principle of reward and punish with applying it, where is no place in the Interior Ministry for slackers or neglegants or lacker individuals.

He stressed importance on respecting the authority of the security man after it had been affected for some reasons, affirming on the need of restoring mutual respect between the security man and citizens as well as residents.

Lt. Gen. Al-Rejaib cleared out thoughout his meeting which was featured with honesty and transparency on Wednesday morning 3/2/2010 attended by the Interior Assistant Undersecretary for General Security Affairs, Maj. Gen. KHalil Al-Shamali, leaders and officers of the General Security sector, that the supreme directives of His Highness the Amir, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, is to apply law on everyone and no one is above it no matter how high this person is.

Lt. Gen. Al-Rejaib urged the leaders and officers of the General Security sector to follow up on all the works that are assigned to them as well as the tasks entrusted on them with honesty and transparency so justice prevails among everyone and for homeland residents to live in comfort, secure and safety. He demanded to honor the hardworker as soon as he accomplished any such achievements so it would be a motivation and an incentive for others to do work accurately.

At the beginning of the meeting in where it was took place at First Lt. Gen. Yousef Al-Khurafi Hall, Lt. Gen. Al-Rejaib welcomed his brothers and sons leaders and officers of the General Security sector, and conveyed to them the greetings of H.E. the Interior Minister Staff Lt. Gen. (ret.) Sheikh Jaber Al-Khaled Al-Sabah and his good wishes for them for success and to exert to give more efforts.

This meeting comes for the sake of discussing many of the issues concerning about security direcotorates and police stations, emphysizing the importance of police station as it is the first point for citizen and resident to turn to and the first security venue known by the Kuwaiti society, he added.

He affirmed that police station was a safeguard for every citizen and resident and a source of fear for any such violators or outlaws; pointed out that the Ministry of Interior has restored the authority of police stations two years ago.
There are bright sides represented by outstanding distinguished efforts done by area leaders, police stations chiefs as well as their officers but in the other hand, there are few who don’t perform their duty in full, and this is not allowed for any case, he added.

Lt. Gen. Al-Rejaib warned on the sluggard individuals who will receive a proper punishment, whereas the sincere and hard work individuals will receive the most appreciable rewards. He stressed importance to reject any such favoritism or mediation or a compliment, and such matters should be dealt with strictness and be terminated.

The Lt. Gen. called on good work organization in police stations, mentioning that the Ministry of Interior is putting all possible support and resources from officers, constables and police patrols, and to such reasons police stations officers should be present in their posting duties.

The leaders of the General Security sector, on top of them Maj. Gen. Khalil Al-Shamali have to be in presence in their places day and night; therefore, it is not exceptable at all that high leaders are in presence at their posts and no police stations officers existed at their assigned locations, he pointed out.

He stressed out that evaluating leaders and officers work stemmed from their performing their duties on combating crime and running after outlaws and out system, and there are not such other way around.

Lt. Gen. Al-Rejaib requested leaders and officers of the General Security sector to work as always do and promised for the sake of Kuwait and its people who deserved to be given all such exerted efforts.

He called on police stations chiefs and their officers to identify the area nature where they work at in terms of its demographic structure, its foremost economical activities and its existent educational and banking facilities, affirming that such information are essential to be awared about by the police station officers.

The security work is an honorable task and an obligatory on us to hold responsibilities, working as a one team and any such achievements accomplished are due to fruitful cooperation and continuous coordination, and self-denial is a trait we should characterized by for the sake of homeland security, he noted out.

The Interior Undersecretary Lt. Gen. Ahmad Abdullatif Al-Rejaib concluded by expressing his hope that the leaders and officers of the General Security sector to be as always as they promised us of being discipline, committed with high duty performance; pointed out that this meeting is a beginning of a series of upcoming meetings with different security sectors.

In Pensacola, people ask me if I wasn’t scared living in Kuwait and Qatar. Safe? I feel safer in Qatar and Kuwait than in Pensacola! And that is what I tell them!

February 20, 2010 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Charity, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Middle East, Social Issues | 2 Comments

Doha: 10 “eateries” closed for Health Violations

This is from today’s Peninsula. Don’t you wish they would publish the names of the eateries? As a person who frequents ‘eateries’, as a person the health inspectors are protecting, I would very much like to know names of violaters. I would also like to see the standards by which they are judged, and the scores of ALL the restaurants/eateries they examine. In many countries, that is considered in the public interest.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know whose score was so low that they barely passed??

Eateries shut for violating health rules
Web posted at: 2/20/2010 5:46:46
DOHA: At least 10 eateries across the city were closed down temporarily by Doha Municipality last month as punishment for violating health and safety rules.

Civic inspectors conducted routine checks on more than 2,800 eateries, among them restaurants, cafes and juice stalls in the city last month, to check their compliance with health and safety guidelines.

As many as 160 violations of various types were detected and 10 eateries found to be involved in serious violations, were ordered to be closed down.

Municipal inspectors discovered large foodstuff stocks with retail outlets that had outlived their expiry dates. Some 343 types of food items which were found to be unfit for consumption were recovered and destroyed.

They included more than 2,800 boxes of fresh eggs. Each box contains 30 eggs, so the stale eggs that were seized from various outlets and destroyed by the civic body totaled 84,000.

At least 53 samples of food items that were suspected to be unfit for consumption were taken by the municipal inspectors and sent over to the laboratory to run quality tests. It was found that six of them were unfit for consumption and did not meet Qatari standards and specifications.

The public cleaning department of Doha Municipality, on the other hand, referred 115 violations to law-enforcement agencies for action while issued 100 warnings to violators last month.

Some 423 entities found to be violating public cleaning regulations were fined on the spot.

As for beauty salons, raids were conducted last month on 63 of them and 21 violations were detected. At least five of them with serious violations were referred to the police for legal action.

The municipality also acted on a number of public complaints regarding stale foodstuff on sale, public hygiene and building permits, among other things, and referred several violators for action.

Some of these complaints had appeared in newspapers while others the municipality received telephonically, while still others in writing.

February 20, 2010 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Communication, Community, Eating Out, Health Issues, Hygiene, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Qatar, Random Musings, Statistics, Technical Issue | 5 Comments

Scientist Proves it: “We are all boring”

LLOOLL, this scientist studied a large variety of human behavior and discovered that what we do, we are likely to do over and over. Where we go, we are likely to go multiple times.

BOSTON (Feb. 18) — Physicist Albert-László Barabási can guess where you will be tomorrow at 3 p.m. And where you’ll be Saturday night at 8. In fact, given enough data, he can predict your location at any time, with an average 93 percent accuracy. But don’t worry. He’s not watching you. In fact, his work shouldn’t be cause for alarm so much as existential distress.

In a new paper published in the Feb. 19 issue of Science, the Northeastern University physicist and his colleagues describe how they used data from 50,000 anonymous cell phone users to study human mobility, or where we are and when. Their work reveals that our movements follow a pattern, whether we are homebodies or frequent fliers.

Chaoming Song

These diagrams represent the movements of two mobile phone users. The one on the left shows that the person moved between 22 different cell towers during a three-month period, and placed 52 percent of his calls from one area; the other subject hit 76 spots, and was much less rooted.

“The surprise was that we couldn’t find unpredictable people,” Barabási says. “We are all boring.”

You can read the entire article here, on AOL News.

February 20, 2010 Posted by | Communication, Experiment, Living Conditions, Statistics, Technical Issue | Leave a comment

Kisses From Katie

There are so many blogs out there, it’s hard to keep up even with very good ones, blogs which really stand out, blogs which are extraordinary.

My nephew, Earthling’s wife wrote to me about a blog, Kisses from Katie, and urged me to take a look.

This blog is so unusual, so unforgettable for any person who tries to follow God’s purpose for his or her life. This woman walked away from EVERYTHING to serve God’s will, and ended up with 12 children and a grandmother, in Africa.

It’s not like she is a saint. She struggles. She hurts. She works hard with children who are dying, abandoned women, the poorest of the poor. She faces the challenge of raising 12 daughters and all their needs, and special needs. She celebrates their triumphs. She walks her life in utter faith.

I challenge you to read her blog. I challenge you to try to tell me you are not moved. This woman is an inspiration.

Katie works for a group called Amazina and you can learn more about them and their work with orphans and God’s love by clicking on the blue type above.

Thank you, Silver!

February 20, 2010 Posted by | Africa, Beauty, Biography, Blogging, Character, Charity, Community, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Spiritual, Work Related Issues | 1 Comment

Who Will be my Friends?

This will be my 31st move.

When I moved back to Doha, as I sighed and packed boxes, I took a few minutes to sit down and count them up. 31 moves. A lifetime of changing houses . . .

Until I get to the new location, I am caught up in the crushing details of moving – decisions on what to take, what to leave and to whom, closing accounts, opening accounts, blah blah blah. It can be overwhelming. I always think about that old joke about “how do you eat an elephant?” and the answer is “one bite at a time.” It’s the same with moving. Don’t look at the big picture, just keep moving, one detail at a time, and it all works out.

But when I get there, I wonder who will be my friends? It can be a lonely 6 months to a year while waiting for the right friends to come along. I make friends easily, but the ones who are going to stick, those tried and true friends – it takes a while to figure out who those are going to be.

We are lucky this time, we have family waiting for us. Our son is already educating us on how to pronounce local streets and areas (No, Mom, not “Sehr-vahn’-teys” as the Spanish would say it, but “Sir-van’tees”, not “Tex’-are” but “Te-har”, LOL) and what attitudes and perceptions we might best keep to ourselves if we want to get along.

We want to get along. Ironically, moving back to our own country is more daunting than moving to another expat community. The expat communities are relatively open and fluid, people coming and going all the time, willing to accept new members and welcome them in. This move is going to be to a very different life and a very different community from that in which we have lived the last thirty something years . . . God always sends me good friends. I just wonder who those friends will be?

February 19, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Humor, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Random Musings | 8 Comments