Saturday, December 3, 2011

Proposed Law Will Exempt More IT Employees from Overtime Pay

A bill introduced to congress would define more IT job descriptions that are exempt from overtime pay. 

[Ars Technica]

A bill recently introduced in Congress would greatly expand the exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act for IT employees, ending overtime benefits for many more types of workers, including network, database and security specialists.
Among other things, the FLSA mandates that employees get time-and-a-half overtime pay for working more than 40 hours in a week, unless they are executives or specifically exempted from the law's protection. There are already many exemptions, and the current text related to IT workers exempts "any employee who is a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer, or other similarly skilled worker," whose primary duties fall under categories including "systems analysis techniques and procedures," and "design, documentation, testing, creation, or modification of computer programs."
But a bill sponsored by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), titled the "Computer Professionals Update Act," takes the exemption's 131-word text and bumps it up to 205, adding job classes such as database and network specialists and security professionals along the way. The proposed text exempts "any employee working in a computer or information technology occupation (including, but not limited to, work related to computers, information systems, components, networks, software, hardware, databases, security, internet, intranet, or websites) as an analyst, programmer, engineer, designer, developer, administrator, or other similarly skilled worker," with primary duties including "the application of systems, network or database analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine or modify hardware, software, network, database, or system functional specifications."
The bill would also label all employees listed in the exemption as part of the "bona fide executive, administrative, or professional" class exempt from overtime and minimum wage laws. However, the proposed modification keeps the exemption's current text limiting affected employees to those who are on salary or make at least $27.63 an hour.
An IT administrator who blogged about the bill notes that "I think that I may have originally underestimated the importance of this bill to us SysAdmins in the United States…see, I was under the impression that we were almost all salaried and exempt—in other words, that overtime wasn’t an option anyway. I’ve been informed by a couple of friends of mine that this isn’t the case at all, and that there are a lot of hourly SysAdmins who get overtime."
According to, Hagan's bill was referred to the Committee on Health Education, Labor, and Pensions, on Oct. 20, helpfully noting that "the majority of bills and resolutions never make it out of committee." But if you want to tell Sen. Kagan what you think about limiting overtime pay for IT pros, a contact form is on the senator's website.

OMG: 33 Years Old!

I am wondering why google hasn’t changed its logo as it is my birthday today...  :) lol :)

For my birthday, I would love it if my friends shared a memory of me or of us. I know that this is asking for it, but this should be fun.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

FDA Examines Level Of Arsenic In Apple Juice

The Food and Drug Administration is considering tightening restrictions for the levels of arsenic allowed in apple juice after consumer groups pushed the agency to crack down on the contaminant.
Studies show that apple juice has generally low levels of arsenic, and the government says it is safe to drink. But consumer advocates say the FDA is allowing too much of the chemical — which is sometimes natural, sometimes man made — into apple juices favored by thirsty kids.
There is little consensus on whether these low levels could eventually be harmful, especially to children. Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, said Wednesday the agency has already stepped up testing and research on arsenic in apple and other juices and is seriously considering lowering the FDA's so-called "level of concern" for the contaminant.
"We continue to think that apple juice is generally safe based on the fact that the vast majority of samples are very low," Taylor said. "But we want to minimize these exposures as much as we possibly can."
Arsenic is naturally present in water, air, food and soil in the two forms — organic and inorganic. According to the FDA, organic arsenic passes through the body quickly and is essentially harmless. Inorganic arsenic — the type found in pesticides — can be toxic and may pose a cancer risk if consumed at high levels or over a long period.
The FDA uses 23 parts per billion as a guide to judge whether apple juice is contaminated. The agency has the authority to seize apple juice that exceeds those levels, though it has never done so.
Consumer groups say the FDA's level is too high and isn't enforced with enough urgency. Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, released a study on Wednesday calling for the levels to be as low as 3 parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency has set levels for drinking water — it's consumed at much greater quantities than apple juice — at 10 parts per billion.
Urvashi Rangan of the Consumers Union says the group has been in talks with the FDA on the issue and is encouraged by the discussion. Another advocacy group, Food and Water Watch, has lobbied the agency on the issue, and Dr. Mehmet Oz has highlighted the issue on his nationally syndicated daytime show.
"We look at apple and grape juice as a poster child for arsenic in the food supply in general," Rangan said. "Chronic low-level exposure of carcinogen is something we should be concerned about."
Molly Kile, a professor at Oregon State University who has studied arsenic for a decade, says more research is needed to determine whether arsenic levels in juice are a problem.
"It is unclear at this point whether or not the arsenic found in apple juice is safe or unsafe," she said. "And really the question is what do these low levels exposure of arsenic mean in terms of health and children's health?"
So what is the parent of a juice-drinking toddler to do?
All of the experts — including the government and the consumer advocates — agree that drinking small amounts of apple juice isn't harmful. The concern is over the effects of drinking large amounts of juice over long periods of time. Parents with a real concern about arsenic should try to diversify the brands of juice they buy in case one brand tends to have more chemical exposure, Consumers Union says.
Another point of agreement is that children under 6 shouldn't be drinking much juice anyway because it's high in calories. Health experts say children under 6 shouldn't drink any more than 6 ounces of juice a day — about the size of a juice box. Infants under 6 months shouldn't drink any juice at all.
Gail Charnley of the Juice Products Association says the industry regularly tests arsenic levels and will follow the FDA's lead.
"Of course parents have concerns but they should know that the juice producers are committed to safety," she said. "Producers have children who drink juice too."
Oz has said he would still serve juice to his own children, though he strongly believes the government isn't doing enough.
"The absolute safest level for arsenic in your food is zero," he said Wednesday while acknowledging "that is impossible to achieve."

LOL! - Have a very Merry Tampax :)

TAMPAX announced today that they will be taking the string off their tampons and replacing it with tinsel. This is for the Christmas period only! You have your choice of pine scent, merry mint, or cinnamon bun.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Earn FREE $10 Amazon Gift Cards *Super Easy

Here’s how (it’s super easy)

Go here and sign up for StumbleUpon… it’s FREE! (NOW Stay Logged In)

* After signing up, go here to start sharing this offer with at least 5 friends. You can share via  Facebook, Twitter or by sending emails to friends and family
* Once a friend signs up (under your link) you will receive an email confirmation that states “Congratulations, one of your friends has signed up for StumbleUpon” . And once you receive 5 of these emails, you will have earned your gift card!
It’s that easy!!!
Referrer shall receive one Reward valued at $10 in for each five Qualified Referrals generated by Referrer. For every 5 referrals who register for the StumbleUpon Share Program, you will receive one $10.00 Amazon gift card. Sorry, no partial credit. You will only receive a gift card for every 5 Qualified Referrals. Delivery of gift card will be made within 6 weeks. Self-referrals not allowed. Gift Cards subject to terms of card. Gift cards may be delivered digitally to recipient. StumbleUpon is not responsible for gift cards delivered to spam folders and will resend original link, but not replace link.

Family Dollar Coupon: $5.00 off $25!

Are you heading to Family Dollar?? Take along this new Family Dollar Coupon for $5.00 off your $25 purchase! {valid 11/20 – 11/22}

Thursday, November 17, 2011

3 Common Car Dealer Tactics Hitting Consumers Hard

A car often can be one of the biggest purchases a person will ever make, and consumer groups say buyers are easily taken advantage of by unscrupulous car dealers.
PHOTO: Chrysler minivans are lined up for sale on the lot of South Bay Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership in Torrance, Calif., Jan. 31, 2011.
That's why they are pushing for more regulations, and the Federal Trade Commission is hosting an all-day meeting on the topic on Thursday.
A car dealer's tactics can start the moment a driver pulls up at the dealership, according to Ray Lopez, who was a car salesman for 35 years.
"It's all a matter of the psychological games that we play," he said.
1. Yo-Yo Financing
One of the biggest games is "yo-yo financing," which occurs when a dealer is so eager to close the sale that he sends a buyer home with the car before the financing is secured.
"The person's already been driving the car, has already fallen in love with the car," Lopez told ABC News. "But when the financing falls through, the dealer calls back with bad news: Pay more money or return the car."
Lakeeta Johnson, a single mom from St. Louis, said it happened to her. Three weeks after a dealer handed her the keys to a Jeep Liberty, he called and demanded it back.
The dealer kept the car Johnson traded in and her deposit.
"I walked through the door with $2,500 and a truck to trade-in," she said. "I ended up with nothing."
Johnson is now suing the dealership to get back her old truck and the $2,500 deposit.

Cases like Johnson's may not be uncommon. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, one in eight buyers making less than $40,000 a year has been a victim of yo-yo financing. For people making less than $25,000, it's one in four.

"It's outrageous and shouldn't be done," said Jack Fitzgerald, a long-time auto dealer. He told ABC News that buyers should never leave with a car unless the deal is final.

"Don't take delivery of a car if you don't have a signed contract," said Fitzgerald.

2. Interest Rate Markups
Another one of the car dealer tactics is what critics call a hidden markup. That's when a dealer jacks up the interest rate on a car loan, without telling the buyer they have raised the rate quoted by the lender.

It's perfectly legal, and dealers argue that's markup covers their costs related to security and servicing the loan.

But the Center for Responsible Lending says interest-rate markups cost consumers nearly 26 billion dollars a year in "unneeded, excessive charges."

Consumers are advised to shop around for a loan, they may be able to get a better deal from a bank or credit union.

3. Add-Ons
Another trick car salesman use is selling expensive add-ons such as line paint sealant or fabric protection.

"All new cars come from the factory with paint sealant and fabric protection," Lopez said. "So, if you hear that, walk away."

The bottom line is that consumers need to do their homework before they walk into a dealership. They also need to be prepared to walk out and never look back.

"The moment you turn around, ca-ching, they know they've got you now," Lopez said.
Tips from the National Automobile Dealers Association:
Top 4 things to do before going to the dealership:
      1. Based on your needs and budget, determine a realistic price range for the vehicle you are considering to buy.
      2. Know the difference between financing and leasing.
      3. Know your credit record.
      4. Compare annual percentage rates (APR) from other lending sources such as banks, finance companies and credit unions.
Top 4 things to do while visiting the dealership:
      1. Stay within the price range you can afford.
      2. Negotiate your finance arrangements and terms.
      3. Understand the value and cost of optional products such as extended service contracts, credit insurance or guaranteed auto protection. If you don't want these products, don't sign for them.
      4. Read the sales contract carefully before you sign it.

Tax Deductions to Remember When Buying a Home

Tax Deductions For a Home Loan
When you are getting a mortgage to purchase a home, there are certain deductions that the IRS allows that are well worth remembering come tax time in April. The following is a list of  some of the deductions that many people forget about when buying a home:
Points on a home loan are tax deductible if they are used to bring down the mortgage interest rate. For those that don’t know a point is 1% of the loan amount. On a $300,000 mortgage a point would equal $3000.00. You would only want to pay points on a loan if you knew your were going to be in the home for a while and the cost of such points would be less than taking a higher interest rate.
In order to understand if paying points makes sense you need to calculate the mortgage payment amount with and without points. By looking at the spread between those amounts you can determine how long you would need to be in the house before it would pay off for you. For a complete explanation see when to pay points on a mortgage.
Points or origination fees paid when you purchase a home are generally tax deductible in full in the year that you pay them. It should be noted that origination charges from the lender that constitute a “service fee” are not tax deductible.
Another alternative you could choose is to amortize the points over the term of your mortgage. This choice is usually made only when your itemized deductions are less than the standard deduction for the year you bought the home.
As a side note  when you refinance a mortgage the points must be deducted over the term of the loan. If you deduct points over the term of the loan and sell the home or refinance it again before the loan expires, you can deduct in the year of the sale or refinancing any points that you didn’t previously deduct. Keep in mind that you will be able to get the best mortgage interest rates when you have a great FICO Credit Score.
When you are buying a home, depending on when in the month the home sale closes, the buyers pay either a small or large amount of pro-rated mortgage interest for the particular month they close. Whether the amount is large or small, a home buyer can write that amount off. The Final Closing/Settlement Statement will show just how much the buyer is due.
Often times a seller will send the local tax collector’s office a check for Real Estate taxes prior to the closing. In many circumstances, however, the buyer will pay a pro-rated portion of the taxes for the year at closing. This tax deduction is one that is forgotten quite often.
As long as the construction period doesn’t last more than two years before you make the new home your “principal residence,” you can write off the interest for that new construction loan.                                                                                                                                                                                                             Tax deductions home loan
Although it is rare that a home loan today will have a pre-payment penalties on a few rare occasions you will still find one. If your mortgage does include a pre-payment penalty and you pay off the loan early, these penalties are tax deductible.
If you got a mortgage in either 2007, 2008, 0r 2009 and got the loan through the Federal Housing Agency (FHA), Veterans Administration (VA) or the Rural Housing Agency (USDA loan) you may be able to deduct private mortgage insurance (as defined in section 2 of the Home Protection Act of 1998 as in effect Dec. 20, 2006). Prepaid mortgage insurance premiums usually must be deducted over the period to which they apply.
One of the beauties of owning a home is the fact you can deduct the mortgage loan interest every year on your tax return. This is one of the best tax breaks afforded to homeowners.
Mortgage interest is tax deductible on mortgages  of up to 1 million dollars ($500,000 if married and you are filing separately) as long as you use the money to buy, build or improve on your property and the mortgage is secured by your home.
In addition, the interest you pay on loans secured by your home and used for a purpose other than to buy, build or improve your home is tax deductible for loans up to $100,000 ($50,000 Married Filing Separately). In other words if you used a home equity line of credit to purchase a car the interest on this 2nd mortgage would be tax deductible.
About the author: The above Real Estate information on Tax deductions when buying a home was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.
Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Upton, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

Which Kardashian Are You?

Facebook wants to know: Which Kardashian are you?

I don't care what people think or have to say about my divorce (mainly my ex's family). I will tell you which one I am not. I am not the girl that spent a ridiculous amount of money on a lavished televised wedding only months after meeting and then calls it quits two and a half months later. I am the girl that stuck it out and tried to make it work for 13 years so unless you lived my daily life and endured what I had to, don't judge me.

Which Kardashian Are You?
Like · 361 people like this.

Comtel Plane Passengers Pony Up For Fuel As Airline Goes Broke

Passengers on a Comtel Air charter flight from Amritsar, India to Birmingham, England had to pony up roughly $31,500 for fuel during a stopover in Vienna on Tuesday after the Austrian airline went broke as the plane made the first leg of its flight.
Comtel Air had only recently begun to offer flights between India and the U.K. The Birmingham Mailreports that as many as 600 people may have been stranded by the company suddenly going bust, though most of those customers were not in the middle of their trip.
According to the Birmingham Mail, the 180 furious passengers stuck in Vienna sat on the runway for six hours before agreeing with the crew's pleas to disembark. Once on the ground, they were escorted to ATMs, where they withdrew enough money to get the flight back in the air.
Some of the 180 passengers told the Mail they had been "held to ransom," even though they had paid almost $800 on average for tickets. The passengers were apparently so angry with Comtel that Austrian police had to be called to the aircraft.
An English passenger, who had been in India for three weeks, told The Telegraph: "Nobody has told us anything. They wanted all the money in cash. Everyone was furious, that is why we had the sit-in. We spent more than six hours in Vienna."
Comtel has not commented on the incident yet, though the airline's website offers passengers "Austrian charm."
Though it is not clear what happened to the company's finances, it is quite clear that those passengers stranded in the Punjab are going to have a hard time getting home.
"They did not get the information as to what's happening with the airline," a stranded passenger's daughter told the BBC.