Housing Advocate Praises Bank of America

Photo Courtesy - Bank of America(NEW YORK) -- Even as Bank of America prepares to move forward with more than 100,000 foreclosure filings, the head of the country's leading housing counseling agency praised the bank, calling it the best among its peers in working with the agency to keep people in their homes.

The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, or NACA, holds events across the country that bring banks, housing counselors and homeowners together to restructure unaffordable mortgages.

In a tough economy, some economists say banks would rather make less money on a mortgage than force people out of their homes, and then be stuck trying to sell them.  Others say major lenders have been geared for maximum profit, and aren't changing now.

"The best bank that we work with during the events that is getting it done is Bank of America, by far," NACA CEO Bruce Marks said in an interview.  "They are much more responsive to addressing the issues."

Marks said that of the thousands of Bank of America customers who attend the events, 60 percent receive approvals for loan modifications within a day.  Wells Fargo comes second, offering "same day solutions" to about 40 percent of its customers at NACA events, he said.  The 12 to 15 mortgage lenders present at most events, including Citigroup and the mortgage lending arms of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, average about a 30 percent same-day approval rate.

The reason banks are able to offer speedy approvals at the NACA events, Marks said, is that NACA counselors work with homeowners to determine how much they can afford to pay each month.  They then bring this information, along with necessary documentation like income statements, to bank staffers, who approve interest rate reductions and, in some cases, principal reductions.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Become a Serial Lottery Winner, Author Claims

Photo Courtesy - AuthorHouse/ Amazon(NEW YORK) -- How does one person win the lottery again and again?  Richard Lustig says he knows.  In Learn How to Increase Your Chances of Winning the Lottery, Lustig, who has won the grand prize seven times, shares the strategy he calls "the winning lottery method."  It's a formula that he says has earned him more than $1 million.

"[Playing the lotto is] like any investment.  You have to invest money to get something out of it," says Lustig, 59, a former singer and drummer from Florida.

"Most people buy a $1 ticket and win $10 and they put the $10 in their pocket," says Lustig.  Those people are playing the game wrong.  Instead, he says, if you win $10, then you should buy $11 worth of tickets because "if you lose, you only lost a $1."

The process earned him $98,000 after he played the Fantasy 5 game in Florida.  "I use lottery money all the time to buy more tickets," says Lustig.

It's also the method that won him his biggest prize, more than $842,000 in 2002.  The first prize he took home was in 1992, for $10,000.

"I don't guarantee or make promises to anybody that by following my method you're going to win the lottery," says Lustig.  "I'm not a scam artist.  I'm telling people exactly the truth -- that they will definitely increase their chances of winning" using his lottery method.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Unemployed Law School Student Pens Letter to Dean Asking for His Tuition Money Back

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BOSTON) -- A Boston College law student unhappy with his job prospects has made the university an offer: return his money and he'll forfeit his degree.

The proposition was made in an open letter written anonymously by the student, who's identified only as a third-year law school student. The letter was posted last week on the law school's independent student-run website, Eagleionline.

The letter, addressed to the school's Interim Dean George Brown, explains how the student is unable to support his wife and the baby they're expecting and is in "an enormous amount of debt" from his time at Boston College.

"With fatherhood impending, I go to bed every night terrified of the thought of trying to provide for my child AND paying off my J.D., and resentful at the thought that I was convinced to go to law school by empty promises of a fulfilling and remunerative career," the student, who says he's set to graduate in 2011, writes.

In the letter, the student criticizes the university's career services department, saying he and his peers have received "little help" to cope with their "financial disasters."

One year at Boston College Law School, including tuition and housing, costs about $60,000, according to the school's website.

"I'd like to propose a solution to this problem:  I am willing to leave law school, without a degree, at the end of this semester," writes the student.  "In return, I would like a full refund of the tuition I've paid over the last two and a half years."

Repeated requests by ABC News to interview the student were declined.  Brown was also not made available for an interview, but a spokesman for the law school issued a written statement.

"As a Jesuit law school, we are deeply concerned about the job prospects and general well-being of our students and our recent graduates," said Nate Kenyon, the director of communications at Boston College.  "The job market in the legal profession and beyond has been severely affected by the current economic downturn, which has resulted in one of the most difficult employment climates in the past 70 years, not only for BC Law, but for all schools across the nation."

Kenyon also added "no institution of higher education can make a guarantee of a job after graduation."  Kenyon further disputes the student's claim that the school's career services are inadequate, writing in the statement the office is committed to working with each student "for as long as necessary to help them find employment."

It is not yet known whether the university is willing to compromise with the student on any of his requests, but in a section on the school's website addressing tuition refunds, the policy reads, "No tuition will be refunded after the fifth week of classes."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Fannie and Freddie Bailout Could Cost Hundreds of Billions More

Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The federal regulator overseeing mortgage finance giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae released a report Thursday showing a potential taxpayer bailout that could cost up to $363 billion in a worst-case scenario where home values continue to fall.

The two mortgage giants have been under government conservatorship since September 2008, when the housing collapse threatened to bankrupt the firms with billions in losses as people stopped paying their mortgages. To date, the treasury has loaned Fannie and Freddie $148 billion to keep the afloat.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency says it modeled three scenarios to find out how much more the treasury might be expected to pay.

Under the best case scenario -- where home prices stabilize and start to go up in the next few quarters -- Fannie and Freddie would need an additional $73 billion. Under the worst case -- where a second dip into recession pushes home prices down another 25% -- the government would need to provide an additional $215 billion.

“These projections are intended to give policymakers and the public useful snapshots of potential outcomes for the taxpayer support of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said Edward DeMarco, acting director of FHFA. “These are not predictions; the results reflect the potential effects of a limited set of hypothetical changes in house prices, a key variable driving credit losses for the Enterprises.”

One interesting note -- these “loans” from the treasury in the form of preferred shares come with a steep price. They have a 10% dividend payment which make up, in the worst case scenario more than $100 billion of the costs.

The administration is set to present a plan for resolving the Fannie and Freddie conservatorship early next year.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Man Made Stylish: Service for Men Who Hate to Shop

Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- A new Chicago-based service called Trunk Club that's part Fifth Avenue, part Silicon Valley, aims to take the guesswork, the legwork and the aggravation out of shopping for professional men.

The Web-based service, which calls itself a "designer clothing outfitter," takes a man's measurements over the Internet, sends him skads of clothes via FedEx and offers guys the complimentary two cents of a personal stylist, over Skype.

"Walking into a large and overwhelming shopping environment just is not that fun for guys," said Brian Spaly, CEO of Trunk Club.  "Women are more programmed to browse and enjoy sort of that aspect of sort of walking around and the art of shopping, and they're better at it than we are."

When Dan Spradling a 25-year-old who works in finance, moved from a small town in Michigan to New York City for a new job, he quickly realized he'd have to up his sartorial game.  Spradling, who regularly rocked cargo shorts when he wasn't at work and considered himself well-dressed if his shorts were hole-free, signed up for the service.

"They don't let you into clubs in sweatpants and flip flops,'' said Spradling.  "So unfortunately, I did have to get some clothes and real shoes." 

Trunk Club members join on the Internet and explain their needs. Then FedEx delivers a box of hand-picked items.

While Trunk Club Lead Stylist Michael Barkin watched via Skype, Spradling recently modeled his first batch of clothes.

As Spradling tried on a green plaid Ben Sherman shirt, Barkin told him, "I'm basically going to walk you through each different piece and how to wear it and what it'll coordinate with."

No driving.  No lines.  No endless on-line browsing.

Consultations and shipping are free, and customers can return what they don't want without paying for shipping.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Toyota Voluntarily Recalling Over 1.5 Million Vehicles

Photo Courtesy - Toyota USA(TORRANCE, Calif.) -- Toyota announced a voluntary safety recall of over 1.5 million vehicles Thursday due to a possible leakage of brake fluid from the brake master cylinder.  The recall affects Avalon, non-Hybrid Highlander, and Lexus RX, GS, and IS models sold in the U.S. and Japan.

The Japanese automaker claims that if a leakage occurs, the brake warning lamp will light up.  If a driver continues driving the vehicle without refilling the master cylinder brake fluid reservoir, the brake pedal might feel spongy or soft, and braking performance could decline.

Beginning in November, Toyota will notify owners of the affected models by mail.  Vehicle owners can then go to their local dealer to have the brake master cylinder cup replaced with a newer version free of charge.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Bankruptcy Docs Reveal Extravagent Expenses at Crystal Cathedral

Photo Courtesy - John T. Barr/Getty Images(GARDEN GROVE, Calif.) -- The California megachurch founded by television evangelist Robert H. Schuller used to spend the fall preparing for its lavish "Glory of Christmas" spectacular.  But the Crystal Cathedral, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week, will likely spend the coming weeks trying to restructure its staggering debt.

"Budgets could not be cut fast enough to keep up with the unprecedented rapid decline in revenue due to the recession," Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman said in a statement.  Services and programs at the landmark church will continue, including the Hour of Power TV program, she said.

Still, the beleaguered glass cathedral canceled its "Glory of Easter" for the first time this year and could be forced to cancel its popular Christmas spectacular next month.  The pageants, which charged up to $45 for admission, drew thousands of people.

"It was a very big production," said Juliet Noriega, the wardrobe manager for the pageants, who claims she is owed more than $11,000.  Other long-time vendors for the "Glory of Christmas" pageant still waiting to get paid are Kristina Oliver, who supplied camels, horses and sheep; dry cleaner Bruce Johnson, who cleaned the actors' costumes; props manager Sharon Crabtree, and Carin Galletta, whose public relations firm handled the publicity.

In a statement on Monday, Schuller Coleman said the bankruptcy filing was necessary because a small number of creditors chose to file lawsuits and obtained court-ordered writs to attach the church's bank accounts and assets in an attempt to get paid immediately. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Apple Unveils New Mac Products

Photo Courtesy - Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(CUPERTINO, Calif.) -- Apple is bringing some of the magic from the iPhone and iPad to its Mac computers.  On Wednesday, CEO Steve Jobs unveiled a new operating system and app store for Macs.

The new software will bring a similar look and many of the same multi-touch features from Apple's popular portable devices to its laptops and desktops.  The new operating system won't be available until next summer, but the app store opens in about 90 days.

Apple also unveiled two new models of its ultra-thin MacBook Air laptop.  They both weigh less than 3 pounds and are faster than the previous model, with a longer battery life.  The price runs from $999 to $1,599.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Study: Women Make More Charitable Donations Than Men

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Women at nearly every income level are more likely to make charitable donations than men, according to a study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Debra J. Mesch, Ph.D., the director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute, says, “Looking at giving across five different income groups, which range roughly from $23,000 to $100,000 a year, it is clear that it is not only wealthy women who give.”  She adds, “Women across nearly every income category give significantly more than their male counterparts -- in many cases, nearly twice as much.”

The study analyzed donations made by single-headed households, controlling factors that may affect giving, such as income, age, race, education and number of children.  Researchers found women who were never married or divorced were more likely to give than men who shared the same marital status.  Widowed men, however, made more charitable contributions than widowed women.

Analyzing income brackets, the study also found that women across every income level except one donated significantly more than men.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


White House Reports on Recession's Impact on Women

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a report heavy with statistics, the National Economic Council at the White House maps out administration actions the council claims have helped American women during the recession and recovery.

The report, released Thursday, claims 74 million women benefited from the Making Work Pay Tax Credit, and that most recent Small Business Administration loans have gone to women owned enterprises.

“Economic issues are women’s issues,”  Valerie Jarrett, presidential advisor and head of the White House Council on Women and Girls, told reporters on a conference call.  “Women and girls have been a focus of this administration from the very start.”

The report  is released in time for President Obama to discuss it in Seattle, Washington, when he attends another of his “backyard  townhall” events, this one called a conversation “on women and the economy."  He is in Seattle to campaign for Senator Patty Murray, a female Democrat in a very tight race for re-election.

Jarrett denied to reporters the timing is political.  “We’re not going to let the fact that there’s an election coming up get in the way  of announcing something that will be very important to women,“ she said.   “This is one step of a series of steps we have taken to put the spotlight on women in the workplace.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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