Monthly Archives: February 2013

FORECLOSURES: CoreLogic Reports 61,000 Completed Foreclosures in January; The Foreclosure Inventory Has Fallen Year Over Year for 15 Consecutive Months

  • By David M. Kinchen 
 FORECLOSURES: CoreLogic  Reports 61,000 Completed Foreclosures in January;  The Foreclosure Inventory Has Fallen Year Over Year for 15 Consecutive Months

CoreLogic® (NYSE: CLGX), Irvine, CA., a leading residential property information, analytics and services provider, on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 released its National Foreclosure Report, which provides data on completed U.S. foreclosures and the overall foreclosure inventory. According to CoreLogic, there were 61,000 completed foreclosures in the U.S. in January 2013, down from 75,000 in January 2012, a year-over-year decrease of 17.8 percent.

 
On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures rose from 56,000  in December 2012 to the January level of 61,000, an increase of 10.5 percent. As a basis of comparison, prior to the decline in the housing market in 2007, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month between 2000 and 2006. Completed foreclosures are an indication of the total number of homes actually lost to foreclosure. Since the financial crisis began in September 2008, there have been approximately 4.2 million completed foreclosures across the country. 
Approximately 1.2 million homes were in some stage of foreclosure in the U.S., known as the foreclosure inventory, as of January 2013 compared to 1.5 million in January 2012, a 21 percent year-over-year decrease. This was the 15th consecutive month with a year-over-year decline. Month over month, the foreclosure inventory was down 3.3 percent from December 2012   to January 2013. The foreclosure inventory as of January 2013 represented 2.9 percent of all homes with a mortgage compared to 3.5 percent in January 2012. 
“The backlog of distressed assets continues to fade as the foreclosure inventory has fallen to a level not seen since mid-2009, with less than 3 percent of all mortgages in foreclosure,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “The improvement is widespread as only six states and 13 of the largest 100 metro areas had an increase in the foreclosure rate year over year.” 
“We still have over a million homes in some stage of foreclosure which is too high, but the continuing downward trend in completed foreclosures is a very positive signal that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “We expect this trend will continue in 2013 as the housing market stabilizes and purchase activity picks up.” 

Highlights as of January 2013:

> The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in January 2013 were: California (96,000), Florida (95,000), Michigan (74,000), Texas (59,000) and Georgia (50,000).These five states account for almost half of all completed foreclosures nationally. 

> The five states with the lowest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in January 2013 were: District of Columbia (96), Hawaii (458), North Dakota (508), Maine (538) and West Virginia (602).

 

> The five states with the highest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes were: Florida (10.0 percent), New Jersey (7.2 percent), New York (5.1 percent), Nevada (4.7 percent) and Illinois (4.6 percent).

 

> The five states with the lowest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes were: Wyoming (0.4 percent), Alaska (0.6 percent), North Dakota (0.7 percent), Nebraska (0.8 percent) and Colorado (0.9 percent).

Foreclosure Data for Select Large Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) (Sorted by Completed Foreclosures):

CBSAJanuary-2013
Foreclosure InventoryForeclosure Inventory Pct. Point Change from a Year Ago Completed Foreclosures (12 months ending January 2013) Number of Mortgages per Completed Foreclosures (12 month sum ending January 2013)
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 1.9%-0.9%32,34429
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ 1.3%-1.6%26,99126
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL 5.5%-1.1%20,77859
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 1.9%-1.7%20,00633
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 1.1%-0.6%15,99649
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA 1.5%-1.1%15,85874
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 10.5%-2.1%13,52932
Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI 1.1%-0.9%12,33434
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 1.2%-0.8%12,13749
Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX 1.1%-0.5%11,47554
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 10.1%-2.6%10,67633
St. Louis, MO-IL 1.2%-0.6%10,08143
Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA 1.4%-1.4%9,10541
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO 0.9%-0.6%7,79761
Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA 1.2%-1.1%6,16970
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 1.1%-1.0%5,97476
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA 2.4%0.9%5,33392
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 2.0%-0.4%4,865168
Philadelphia, PA 2.7%0.0%4,256129
Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, CA 1.1%-1.0%4,186106
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 2.4%-0.2%3,702104
Baltimore-Towson, MD 3.2%0.1%1,651268
New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ 5.6%0.0%970961
Nassau-Suffolk, NY 6.7%0.1%695623
Edison-New Brunswick, NJ 6.0%0.4%645555

Source: CoreLogic January 2013

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Last Best Cure’: Science Journalist Expands Treatment Horizons for Her Debilitating Autoimmune Disorders

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
BOOK REVIEW: 'The Last Best Cure': Science Journalist Expands Treatment Horizons for Her Debilitating Autoimmune Disorders


But what you really need to translate for people — those for whom Western medicine has done all it can — is this: all the science is pointing to the fact that your brain is your last best cure.” –

– Anastasia Rowland-Seymour, MD, Assistant Professor Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins, quoted on the website of Donna Jackson Nakazawa, www.donnajacksonnakazawa.com

  I wouldn’t wish the cluster of autoimmune disorders that afflicted science  reporter and author Donna Jackson Nakazawa on anyone, but something good came out of her affliction: a wonderful book entitled “The Last Best Cure” (Hudson Street Press, 320 pages, appendix, notes, index) that should bring  hope to millions with similar problems.  One out of two adult Americans — 133 million people — suffer from at least one chronic condition: back pain, arthritic conditions, migraines, thyroid disease, cancer, Lyme’s disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel and digestive disorders and chronic pain. Experts predict that these numbers, which have been rising steadily by more than one percent a year, will rise 37 percent by 2030.  One day Donna Jackson Nakazawa found herself lying on the floor to recover from climbing the stairs. That’s when it hit her. She was managing the symptoms of the autoimmune disorders that had plagued her for a decade, but she had lost her joy. As a science journalist, she was curious to know what mind-body strategies might help her. As a wife and mother she was determined to get her life back.
Over the course of one year, Nakazawa researches and tests a variety of therapies including meditation, yoga, and acupuncture to find out what works. But the discovery of a little-known branch of research into Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) causes her to have an epiphany about her illness that not only stuns her—it turns her life around.
Nakazawa shares her unexpected discoveries, amazing improvements, and shows readers how they too can find their own last best cure.  The breakthrough, she writes, came when she stumbles on little known research into Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), showing that the imprint left on the mind by childhood trauma and adversity plays a significant role in how well our immune system functions when we become adults — and how healthy we can be later in life.  After a year of mostly nontraditional treatment in Baltimore, where she and her family decided to live to eliminate the long drives from their home in Annapolis, MD, Nakazawa’s improvement floors even her own doctors. She has not only recaptured her joy, she has gained more energy and has even saved money.
Yes, this is a book on medical issues that dares raise the question about paying for treatment and saving money where it can be saved. Using her science journalist’s background to research every strategy that she tests in her own life, she shares her discoveries with readers who may experience similar issues.
I was particularly drawn to her critique of sitting (Pages 203-4): She writes “Sleeping is restorative. Sitting is the opposite. A woman who sits just six hours a day is 40 percent more likely to die within fifteen years compared to a woman who sits less than three hours a day. People who site for must of the day are 54 percent more likely to die of a heart attack.” She goes into considerable detail on the scientific reasons that make sitting so harmful, making me feel guilty that — so soon after my recent cardiac incident that resulted in two more stents — I’m sitting at my Macintosh writing this review.
That — and an overnight sleep study just concluded — grabbed me and I put on my own reporter’s porkpie hat and found that excessive sitting — something computers have created anew — has generated a great deal of study. A brand new report — http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/Diabetes/37585 — shows the deleterious effect of sitting on people with diabetes or signs of onset of diabetes.   From the above referenced story:
Just getting out of the chair and moving a little may help ward off type 2 diabetes among individuals at risk even more than engaging in strenuous physical activity, British researchers found.

 


After adjustment for potential confounders such as body mass index (BMI), time spent sedentary was significantly correlated with negative metabolic factors including 2-hour glucose level (β = 0.220, P<0.001), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (β = −0.123, P=0.029), and triglycerides (β = 0.206, P=0.001), according to Joseph Henson, PhD, of the University of Leicester, and colleagues.

 


Time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity also was associated with those metabolic factors and with BMI and waist circumference, but after adjustment for sedentary time, the association with glucose, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides was no longer significant, the researchers reported online in Diabetologia.

 

 

This weaker association with moderate-to-vigorous activity suggested that individuals at risk for diabetes should be “encouraged to simply sit less and move more, regardless of the intensity level,” they wrote.

 

 

During the past 10 years there has been an increased focus on sedentary behavior as a risk factor for chronic disease independent of vigorous physical activity, with the realization that different physiometabolic pathways are involved, such as lipoprotein lipase metabolism.

 

Maybe Ernest Hemingway, a very productive writer who put his typewriter on top of a chest of drawers and wrote standing up, was on to something. Then again, don’t keep your favorite shotgun too close to that typewriter or laptop crowned  chest of drawers!

(For a fascinating look at various positions assumed by writers — Hemingway wasn’t the only vertical writer — see this piece: http://cabinetmagazine.org/issues/32/pendle.php. His contemporary, six-foot-six inch Thomas Wolfe, 1900-1938 “Look Homeward, Angel,” “Of Time and the River,”  “You Can’t Go Home Again”   placed  his typewriter on top of his refrigerator.)  Summing up, Nakazawa’s journey through non traditional medicine will open up possibilities for many sufferers who’ve exhausted the limitations of Western medicine.

About the author

 

Donna Jackson Nakazawa is an acclaimed journalist, public speaker, and author of the award-winning book “The Autoimmune Epidemic”. An alumna of the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, Nakazawa is a graduate of Duke University.   //

U.S.: New Home Sales Surge 15.6 Percent in January

  • By David M. Kinchen 
U.S.: New Home Sales Surge 15.6 Percent in January
   Sales of newly built, single-family homes rose 15.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 437,000 units in January, according to  data released Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 by the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Thanks to this quickened sales pace – the fastest since July of 2008 – the months’ supply of new homes for sale fell to its lowest level in nearly eight years: The inventory of new homes for sale held unchanged at a relatively meager 150,000 units in January. This amounts to a 4.1 months’ supply at the current sales pace –- the smallest months’ supply since March 2005.

The median sales price of new houses sold in January 2013 was $226,400; the average sales price was $286,300.

“The surge in demand for new homes this January is an excellent sign that the housing recovery is gaining steam and helping put more people back to work,” said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “While we can’t expect to see double-digit sales growth every month, consumers are definitely coming off the fence as prices start to rise, and builders in some cases are having a tough time keeping up. Challenges related to credit availability, poor appraisals, dwindling lot supplies, spot shortages of skilled labor and rising materials costs are all weighing on the recovery process.”

“Today’s report shows a strong revival in new-home sales across all regions of the country and bodes well for the upcoming spring buying season,” noted NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “That said, the razor-thin supply of new homes for sale is very concerning at a time when we are only about half-way back to what could be considered a ‘normal’ level of activity. Builders need to be able to refresh their inventories to keep the momentum going.”

New home sales posted solid gains across every region in January, including a 27.6 percent increase in the Northeast, an 11.1 percent gain in the Midwest, a 3.2 percent gain in the South and a 45.3 percent gain in the West.

REALTORS: Commercial Real Estate Sectors Steadily Improve

  • By David M. Kinchen 

 

 

  •  Major commercial real estate sectors continue to improve, albeit slowly, with gradual economic improvement and job creation driving absorption of space, according to the National Association of Realtors® quarterly commercial real estate forecast.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said rental housing demand has been exceptionally strong. “Rent increases have been higher in multifamily housing where supply is not matching strong demand, thereby allowing landlords to raise rents at faster rates,” he said. “Overall commercial real estate leasing activity continued to grow in most markets during the closing months of 2012, which is modestly lowering vacancy rates in all of the commercial sectors early this year.”

National vacancy rates over the coming year are expected to decline 0.4 percentage point in the office market, 0.4 point in industrial, 0.3 point for retail and 0.1 point in multifamily, with that sector experiencing the tightest availability.

“Business spending is expected to rise faster in 2013 because of record high corporate profits. Low interest rates also are permitting companies to improve their balance sheets,” Yun said.

NAR’s latest Commercial Real Estate Outlook 1  offers projections for four major commercial sectors and analyzes quarterly data in the office, industrial, retail and multifamily markets. Historic data for metro areas were provided by REIS, Inc.,2 a source of commercial real estate performance information.

Office Markets

Vacancy rates in the office sector are forecast to fall from a projected 16.0 percent in the first quarter to 15.6 percent in the first quarter of 2014.

The markets with the lowest office vacancy rates presently (in the first quarter) are Washington, D.C., with a vacancy rate of 9.4 percent; New York City, at 9.6 percent; and Little Rock, Ark., 12.1 percent.

Office rents should increase 2.6 percent in 2013 and 2.8 percent next year, following a 2.0 percent gain in 2012. Net absorption of office space in the U.S., which includes the leasing of new space coming on the market as well as space in existing properties, is expected to total 34.0 million square feet this year and 42.3 million in 2014.

Industrial Markets

Industrial vacancy rates are likely to decline from 9.6 percent in the first quarter of this year to 9.2 percent in the first quarter of 2014.

The areas with the lowest industrial vacancy rates currently are Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif., each with a vacancy rate of 3.6 percent; Miami, 5.6 percent; and Seattle at 6.0 percent.

Annual industrial rents are projected to rise 2.3 percent this year and 2.6 percent in 2014, after increasing 1.7 percent last year. Net absorption of industrial space nationally is likely to total 121.8 million square feet in 2013 and 103.5 million next year.

Retail Markets

Retail vacancy rates are forecast to slide from 10.7 percent in the first quarter of the year to 10.4 percent in the first quarter of 2014.

Presently, markets with the lowest retail vacancy rates include San Francisco, 3.5 percent; Fairfield County, Conn., at 4.2 percent; and Orange County, Calif., 5.2 percent.

Average retail rents will probably rise 1.5 percent in 2013 and 2.1 percent next year, following a 0.8 percent gain in 2012. Net absorption of retail space is seen at 11.9 million square feet in 2013 and 16.4 million next year.

Multifamily Markets

The apartment rental market – multifamily housing – should see vacancy rates ease from 4.0 percent in the first quarter to 3.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014; vacancy rates below 5 percent generally are considered a landlord’s market with demand justifying higher rents.

Areas with the lowest multifamily vacancy rates currently are New Haven, Conn., at 2.0 percent; New York City, 2.1 percent; and Minneapolis and Syracuse, N.Y., each at 2.5 percent.

Average apartment rents are expected to increase 4.6 percent this year and 4.7 percent in 2014, after rising 4.1 percent in 2012. Multifamily net absorption is projected at 270,600 units in 2013 and 253,200 next year.

The Commercial Real Estate Outlook is published by the NAR Research Division. NAR’s Commercial Division, formed in 1990, provides targeted products and services to meet the needs of the commercial market and constituency within NAR.

The NAR commercial community includes commercial members; commercial real estate boards; commercial committees, subcommittees and forums; and the NAR commercial affiliate organizations – CCIM Institute, Institute of Real Estate Management, Realtors® Land Institute, Society of Industrial and Office Realtors®, and Counselors of Real Estate.

Approximately 78,000 NAR and institute affiliate members specialize in commercial brokerage and related services, and an additional 232,000 members offer commercial real estate services as a secondary business. 
 Notes

1 Additional analyses will be posted under Economists’ Outlook in the Research blog section of Realtor.org in coming days at:http://economistsoutlook.blogs.realtor.org/.

2 Beginning in the third quarter of 2011, NAR commercial forecasts have been generated based on historical data provided by REIS, Inc., and do not correspond with prior historical information from previous forecasts. This source permits coverage of more metro areas than were previously covered.

BOOK REVIEW: Now in Paperback: ‘An Unquenchable Thirst’: American Nun Writes About Leaving Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Order After Two Decades of Doubts, Questions

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: Now in Paperback: 'An Unquenchable Thirst': American Nun Writes About Leaving Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity Order After Two Decades of Doubts, Questions


As I noted in my review of the hardback edition of Mary Johnson’s “An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life”, on November 30, 2011, I have problems with memoirs, as readers of my past reviews of them no doubt remember.
The book is now available in a quality paperback (Spiegel & Grau Trade Paperbacks, 560 pages, $16.00) and, as I said in the hardback  review,  I can recommend Mary Johnson’s memoir with no reservations. Johnson spares few members of her Missionaries of Charity (MC)  order, founded by Mother Teresa in 1946, as well as the church’s hierarchy — and herself in telling her story.

The paperback edition coincidentally comes out the week that Pope Benedict XVI leaves office, following his surprise resignation on Dec. 17, 2012  — the first papal resignation in centuries, and at a time when most of the news of the 1.2 billion strong Roman Catholic Church deals with its ongoing crisis in the wake of priests molesting young boys and having their superiors at the highest levels covering up these horrific crimes.

  One of those who covered up the scandals in Southern California, Cardinal Roger Mahony, will decide with other cardinals who the next pope will be. This via a report in my old newspaper, the Los Angeles Times (link: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/02/gomez-pray-for-cardinal-mahony-has-be-goes-to-rome.html)  that Archbishop Jose H. Gomez on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013  sent out a letter urging the faithful to pray for Cardinal Roger Mahony to help select a new pope and reiterated his message that Mahony remains a priest “in good standing” despite new details emerging about clergy abuse cases. It’s a controversial decision by Gomez, but everything he says or does is controversial these days.

“Having been promoted to the dignity of Cardinal, Cardinal Mahony has all of the prerogatives and privileges of his standing as a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church,” Gomez wrote.

Gomez announced last month that he had removed Mahony from all public duties amid revelations that he plotted to conceal child molestation by priests from law enforcement.

According to the L.A. Times blog: “Gomez wrote in a letter to parishioners last month that newly released priest files were “brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children.”

Gomez wrote that Mahony, his predecessor as leader of the archdiocese, “has expressed his sorrow for his failure to fully protect young people entrusted to his care. Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties.”

A church spokesman later clarified that Mahony remained a priest “in good standing” and maintained all his powers as a cardinal.”

Scandal upon scandal roils the church, with  mainstream media reports, such as The Guardian (link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/21/pope-retired-amid-gay-bishop-blackmail-inquiry)  writing of blackmailed gay priests. The secrets of the Roman Catholic church and its scandals are fodder for movies as diverse as the Da Vinci code ones and Francis Ford Coppolla’s “Godfather III”.

New material in the Spiegel and Grau paperback include two reading group guides — for groups that wish to take different approaches to the book; a conversation between Mary Johnson and Mira Bartok, author of “The Memory Palace;” and Mary Johnson’s recommended reading list.

Here’s the text of my November 2011 review:

Like Johnson, who left the MC in 1997 at the age of 39, I have issues with Mother Teresa (1910-1997) and her Missionaries of Charity  order — issues that are summed up quite well in Mother Teresa’s Wikipedia entry (Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Teresa).

The entry notes that “Towards the end of her life, Mother Teresa attracted some negative attention in the Western media. The journalist Christopher Hitchens has been one of her most active critics. He was commissioned to co-write and narrate the documentary “Hell’s Angel” about her for the British Channel 4 after Aroup Chatterjee encouraged the making of such a program, although Chatterjee was unhappy with the “sensationalist approach” of the final product. Hitchens expanded his criticism in a 1995 book, ‘The Missionary Position.'”

In its section on criticisms of a woman considered by many to be a living saint during her long life — and who was beatified by Pope John Paul II after her death —  “Colette Livermore, a former Missionary of Charity, describes her reasons for leaving the order in her book ‘Hope Endures: Leaving Mother Teresa, Losing Faith, and Searching for Meaning’. Livermore found what she called Mother Teresa’s ‘theology of suffering’ to be flawed, despite being a good and courageous person.”

Many of the points raised by Mary Johnson in her memoir were raised  by Livermore and others and are contained in the Wikipedia entry: “Though Mother Teresa instructed her followers on the importance of spreading the Gospel through actions rather than theological lessons, Livermore could not reconcile this with some of the practices of the organization. Examples she gives include unnecessarily refusing to help the needy when they approached the nuns at the wrong time according to the prescribed schedule, discouraging nuns from seeking medical training to deal with the illnesses they encountered (with the justification that God empowers the weak and ignorant), and imposition of ‘unjust’ punishments, such as being transferred away from friends. Livermore says that the Missionaries of Charity ‘infantilized’ its nuns by prohibiting the reading of secular books and newspapers, and emphasizing obedience over independent thinking and problem-solving.”

All this comes through in Johnson’s memoirs, but I wonder why a practicing Roman Catholic — which Johnson was when at the age of 17 she saw Mother Teresa’s picture on the cover of Time magazine and decided to become a nun — would be so ignorant of her own faith’s negative views toward secular education — dare I call it anti-intellectualism —  not to mention its misogynistic policies that kept women religious in subordinate positions and that demanded celibacy from people who are biologically oriented toward love — including intimate, sexual love. Johnson deals with this in the sections about her intimate interaction with Sister Niobe, a member of the Missionaries of Charity whom Johnson — then known as Sister Donata — met while she was in Rome. Johnson also describes her “inappropriate” behavior with a priest who she calls “Father Tom.”

I approach religion with an agnostic’s, even an atheist’s, point of view, so I have difficulty understanding what I consider to be a backward religion — on a par with Islam — for not ordaining women as priests, as most Protestant sects have done and even some branches of Judaism. Catholic theologians argue in favor of a male only priesthood by stating that all of Christ’s disciples were men — but they were all Jews, too! (I hereby give into my temptation to quote Nietzsche’s notorious quip about women: “You are going to women? Do not forget the whip!” and apply it to religion).

The whip aspect isn’t far from what Johnson calls her “discipline” punishing her body with a chain. It took her twenty years to come to her senses, when she was 39 years old in Rome and seriously questioned the policies of the MC, as well as her Roman Catholic faith.

In an interview Johnson was asked why she wrote the book. Here is her response:

“I decided to write “An Unquenchable Thirst”…the day my youngest sister phoned to say she was about to marry a man she’d met twice; their guru had decided the two ‘could contain each other.’ “We human beings sometimes do odd things, especially where religion is involved….But it seems to me that what happens when we surrender our wills to religious figures — or deny our sexual natures or believe the Creator of the Universe speaks to us — are things that need to be discussed.”

Johnson concludes by saying that her book “provides an intimate, inside view of a closed society and of a woman still admired throughout the world, a woman I knew personally, Mother Teresa. The book doesn’t preach or whine; it simply tells my story….”

That it does! And a reader seeking to understand how really closed a society the Roman Catholic Church is, will find the answers to many questions in “An Unquenchable Thirst.” Look for the reference to Cardinal Ratzinger as you read the book; unfortunately, there is no index, so you’ll have to read the entire book to find the reference to the German who is the current pope.

About the author  

Mary Johnson was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and moved with her family at age 12 to Beaumont, Texas. She joined the Missionaries of Charity, the group commonly known as the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, at age 19. Mother Teresa trusted her and she quickly rose in the ranks. Johnson, known as Sister Donata, studied theology at Regina Mundi, a pontifical institute connected to the Gregorian University in Rome, where she received a diploma in religious studies, summa cum laude. For 15 of her 20 years as a sister, she was stationed in Rome and often lived with Mother Teresa for weeks at a time. After leaving the order in 1997, she completed her BA, earned an MFA in creative writing — and married. She lives in New Hampshire. Her website: http://www.MaryJohnson.co.   //

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Foods that Heal, Revised and Updated: The Best and Worst Choices to Treat your Ailments Naturally’: Revised Edition of Best-Selling Food Encyclopedia

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
   BOOK REVIEW: 'Foods that Heal, Revised and Updated: The Best and Worst Choices to Treat your Ailments Naturally': Revised Edition of Best-Selling Food Encyclopedia

The first edition of “Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal”, published in 2004 by Readers Digest Association, must have struck a welcoming chord with the book buying public because more than 7 million copies were sold worldwide. Now comes a revised and redesigned edition “Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal:

The Best and Worst Choices to Treat your Ailments Naturally” (Readers Digest Association, 400 pages, index, hundreds of color photos,  $19.99) that correlates more than than 90 health   entries from arthritis to insomnia to heart disease with almost  150 food entries from apples to zucchini — including fast food, additives, and more — that can affect the health conditions for good or ill.

In other words, this book is an evolutionary version of the revolutionary first edition. It features:

> Simple ways to eat, cook, and store each food

> Food-medicine interactions to be aware of

> Sidebars on everything from the new USDA Food Plate to the many benefits of vitamin D, probiotics and super foods like goji berries and acai.

Innterest in food as medicine has only grown as researchers have continued to discover the crucial connections between diet and chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other serious illnesses, as well as the impact of food on stress, insomnia, and other common complaints.

I’m particularly interested foods that affect my heart, since earlier this month I made another visit to the hospital where two more stents were placed in my arteries, bringing the total to four. I’m not the bionic man, yet, but I’m working on it! (One artery was 90 percent blocked, according to my cardiologist.)

I feel great and have eliminated most of the bad foods from my diet. I don’t smoke anymore and I’ve never been a big consumer of alcoholic beverages, but I realize that diet alone won’t keep me off that gurney going into the OR.   Do I personally recommend this book? A big YES, with the caveat that you pay attention to your other bad habits. Yes, you have bad habits! Root them out, rid yourself of them, keep exercising and see your family doctor. A heart attack doesn’t always involve chest pain. Mine didn’t!

About the Author

RDA is a global media and direct marketing company that educates, entertains and connects more than 130 million consumers around the world with products and services from trusted brands. With offices in 43 countries, the company reaches customers in 78 countries, publishes 91 magazines, including 50 editions of Reader’s Digest, the world’s largest-circulation magazine, operates 78 branded websites and sells 40 million books, music and video products across the world each year. Further information about the company can be found at www.rda.com.

About the Consultants

Joe Schwarcz, PhD, the Director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, is dedicated to demystifying science for the public, the media, and students. Dr. Schwarcz is well-known for his informative and entertaining lectures on nutrition and alternative medicine. He has written several best-selling books, received numerous awards, appears regularly on the Discovery Channel, and was the host of “Science To Go” a show that focused on common foods, as well as special appearances on various other TV and radio shows. He lives in Montreal.

Fran Berkoff, RD, is a registered dietitian at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and the nutrition columnist for the Toronto Sun and Canadian Living magazine. Berkoff lives in Toronto.    //

OP-ED: We Could All End Up Like Bradley Manning – Marking 1000 Days in Detention

  • By Erin E. Niemela 
Erin Niemela

Erin Niemela

 “I wouldn’t want to end up like Bradley Manning.” 

 

Those words were the beginning of an outpouring this week by an associate of mine who claimed to have experienced government and corporate corruption that many only read about in alternative media reports.  I sat for hours listening to stories of unbridled corruption on the taxpayer’s dime, conspiratorial advances of arms industries into consumer markets,  sexually predatory behaviors deemed an acceptable part of institutional culture, and a resulting pessimistic world perspective that would make a seasoned peace activist cringe.

 

Having ostensibly had higher security access than common America, yet not nearly as open access as either our high-ranking politicians, our official military personnel, or some war-contracting corporate executives, my associate’s proclaimed experiences were tame in comparison to what’s likely happening at the very top, he explained. Although he felt morally inclined to report the abuses, he insisted he didn’t want to “end up like Bradley Manning.”

 

Among notable whistleblowers, Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, on suspicion of leaking diplomatic cables, war logs and video footage of civilian murders by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to Wikileaks, remains a steadfast example of what happens when one blows the whistle on the American government.  So, how did Bradley Manning end up? What would my associate so desperately wish to avoid?

 

Today marks the 1,000th day Manning has been locked in detention without trial. One thousand days without due process, 1000 days without having his voice heard―arguably a fundamental human need―1000 days without the comfort of his friends and family. Birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases, New Year celebrations missed because his government, and fellow countrymen, declared him an enemy of the state―and, for what? For doing exactly what our foreign and domestic security policy demands: See something? Say something.

 

How did Bradley Manning end up? Enmified. He’s been called a traitor, treasonous. He’s dehumanized; as my associate says, “Bradley Manning is a rat.” How did he end up? Betrayed. His own country threw him into a deep dark cellar along with his supposedly God-given constitutional rights. Likely, it’s the same deep dark cavern where we place our collective guilt and shame for compliance in the very crimes he helped expose: the state-sanctioned murder of unarmed civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

No, I don’t believe I’d like to end up like Bradley Manning, either.  Then again, I have no whistles to blow.  I am not suffering under the weight of my conscience every time I witness an abuse of power, war crime or illegal act that my acknowledgement of would lead to certain vilification.   For those Americans who continue to witness the corruption and abuses our government officials commit on a daily basis, where do they turn? Supposedly, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 provides a buffer from reprisal, despite the blatant weakening of a later “enhancement” in 2009. And yet, in the gutters of our hearts we all know this and other protections are as thin as the veil of propaganda that suggests our country is simultaneously and constantly in imminent danger and altogether safe.

 

We are living in an America where front-page headlines squawk of FBI sexting and CIA prostitution scandals, secret drone kill lists and indefinite detention bills. Completely ending government abuse and corruption is, of course, incredibly important. Until that dream is realized, we can at least take care of those fellow citizens who, feeling just as betrayed by those “in charge” as we are, have the integrity to identify wrongdoing and the courage to speak out. We can at least, in addition to upholding whistleblower protections and our constitutional rights, make certain that we care for such people and their families.  Heroes and hero-enablers, respectively. We must yearn for an America where citizens are not afraid to report abuse for fear of “ending up” betrayed, enmified and isolated for 1,000 days―with the possibility of decades in a military prison cell, something we would rightly scorn and label tyrannical if done by North Korea or Cuba.

 

We could all end up like Bradley Manning.  We don’t know what transgressions may arise in our presence. We don’t know if or when our “clearance” will offer us a glimpse into worlds, normally veiled in secrecy, that benefit few and harm many. But, should that day come, wouldn’t we like to know that our fellow citizens, leaders, and families supported and protected us?

 

Give Bradley Manning his due process – that’s the least of what he deserves. Better yet, free him. Show the world that America stands for accountability, integrity, and human rights.  Unlike depriving a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, whistleblowing is not, and should not be, a crime.

 

* * *

Erin Niemela is a graduate student in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University and a PeaceVoice syndicated journalist.

This commentary was submitted by

Tom H. Hastings, Ed.D.,  Director, PeaceVoice Program, Oregon Peace Institutehttp://www.peacevoice.info/

CORELOGIC: Report: Default Risk Among Renters Decreased Year Over Year

  • By David M. Kinchen 
 The risk of default among renters nationwide decreased year over year in the fourth quarter of 2012 with an index value of 103 compared to the fourth quarter of 2011 with an index value of 101, according to a report released Wed. Feb. 20, 2013 by CoreLogic, a leading residential property information provider base.
On a quarter-over-quarter basis, the risk of default increased in the fourth quarter 2012 compared to the third quarter of 2012 when the index value was 106. The increased risk from the third quarter to the fourth quarter of 2012 reflects a riskier applicant pool that is typical in seasonally slower periods of applicant traffic.
The  fourth quarter 2012 CoreLogic SafeRent® Renter Applicant Risk (RAR) Index Report, formerly known as the Multifamily Applicant Risk (MAR) Index Report, is published quarterly by the Irvine, CA-based firm, and  provides market-based benchmarks for evaluating credit quality and risk of default for renters applying for apartment homes in multifamily housing units. The index also includes data from single-family rentals. Using a mean of 100, an index value above 100 indicates decreased risk, and a value below 100 indicates increased risk.

Renter Trends

Lower-priced rentals see more significant decreases in rent amounts: Average rent amounts for Class A properties, defined as those with rents greater than $1100, increased 0.3 percent year over year. At the same time, rent amounts for Class B properties, defined as those between $750 and $1100, remained unchanged from one year ago, while rent amounts for Class C properties, defined as less than $750, decreased 0.9 percent year over year.

Dual applicants increase: In the fourth quarter of 2012, the number of transactions with two applicants increased across property class. On a year-over-year basis, dual-applicant transactions increased 3.9 percent for Class A properties, increased 2.8 percent for Class B properties and increased 0.3 percent for Class C properties.
Applicant income rises: Applicant income in the fourth quarter of 2012 increased an average of 1.7 percent among all property classes year over year and also increased over the previous quarter by 0.5 percent.
Fewer applicants declined: Compared to a year ago, property managers denied fewer applicants in the fourth quarter of 2012. Class A property managers denied 5 percent fewer applicants, Class B managers denied 1.3 percent fewer and Class C managers denied 0.6 percent fewer applicants.

Regional Renter Applicant Risk Index Data

Regionally, the Northeast and West had the highest RAR index value in the fourth quarter of 2012, both at 110, reflecting decreased default risk (see Figure 2). The Midwest had the lowest RAR index value at 98, reflecting increased risk, with a five-point decline from the previous quarter when the value was 103. The increased risk in the Midwest is reflective of increased risk seen in two Midwest Core Based Statistical Areas* (CBSAs) (see Figure 3).

The three CBSAs with the largest year-over-year increases in applicant risk were Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill.-Ind.-Wis. (three-point value decline); Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio (two-point value decline); and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (one-point value decline). The CBSAs with the largest year-over-year declines in applicant risk were Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, Colo.; New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa.; and San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif., all with a four-point value increase (see Figure 3).

* The CBSAs referred to within the Renter Applicant Risk Index Report may differ from the CBSAs referenced in other CoreLogic data reports. CBSAs are defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and CoreLogic may provide data either for the overall CBSA or a Metropolitan Division of a CBSA, depending upon the report. The particular CBSA used is identified in the report.

About CoreLogic
CoreLogic (NYSE: CLGX) is a leading property information, analytics and services provider in the United States and Australia. The company’s combined data from public, contributory, and proprietary sources includes over 3.3 billion records spanning more than 40 years, providing detailed coverage of property, mortgages and other encumbrances, consumer credit, tenancy, location, hazard risk and related performance information. The markets CoreLogic serves include real estate and mortgage finance, insurance, capital markets, transportation and government. CoreLogic delivers value to clients through unique data, analytics, workflow technology, advisory and managed services. Clients rely on CoreLogic to help identify and manage growth opportunities, improve performance and mitigate risk. Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., CoreLogic operates in seven countries. For more information, please visitwww.corelogic.com.   //

OP-ED: An IMF Lead in Jamaica: Will Other Caribbean Countries Have to Follow?

  • By Sir Ronald Sanders 
Sir Ronald Sanders

Sir Ronald Sanders

 Jamaica’s harsh experience with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)  to get a new $750 million loan  signals equally harsh conditions for many Caribbean countries in the not too distant future.

The burden of the tough conditions placed on Jamaica by the IMF falls entirely on the Jamaican people and Jamaican businesses. 

Under a National Debt Exchange Offer (NDEX), Jamaican holders of Government debt instruments are expected to exchange such instruments for new ones that, in some cases, will have a lesser value and in all cases will mature over a longer period at reduced rates of interest.

The NDEX was launched on February 12 with a closing date of February 21.  By the time  this commentary is read the results of the offer will be known.

There are several important aspects of the NDEX that should cause other Caribbean countries to be troubled.

 

First, the IMF has made it clear that if there is not an NDEX, there would be no loan. Second, while Jamaican creditors are categorically required to join the debt exchange, foreign creditors are not.  Third, the length of time from the launch of the NDEX to its closing was a mere 9 days.  It had the feel of a gun to your head -– do or die.

 

The IMF justifies the requirement for the NDEX on the basis that Jamaica’s debt is “unsustainable” – the official debt to GDP ratio is over 140 per cent.  It rationalizes not applying the same requirements to foreign holders of Jamaica’s debt instruments to join in the NDEX, by arguing that Jamaica must repay its foreign debt to give confidence to foreign capital markets in the future.  In as much as the latter point may be arguable, it is clear that the IMF insisted upon it as a pre-requisite of its loan, and the Jamaica government had no choice but to accept it.

 

There are now several Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) countries that are in programmes with the IMF as lender of last resort.  They are there, in part, because their debt to GDP ratios are more than a hundred per cent or very close to it. After debt servicing, they have little money left to provide goods and services to their populations.

 

Now that the precedent of a National Debt Exchange Offer (the world “offer” in this context is a misnomer if ever there was one) has been established in Jamaica, every Caribbean country that seeks an IMF loan, or an extension of it, can expect a similar requirement.  This will have consequences for those governments that have borrowed heavily from local statutory bodies such as social security and national health organisations.  If those bodies are compelled to exchange existing debt instruments for ones that are less favourable, they will be depleting monies contributed by the public for pensions and health care.

 

The unfairness of the NDEX is that the entire burden falls on the local population; the foreign creditors are assured of being repaid even though they too took the risk of lending and should be open to the same requirements that apply to local lenders.

 

If the NDEX was the only condition applied to Jamaica it would be bad enough. But, there is more. The government also has to increase taxes and introduce a raft of new ones. Spending must also be reduced. This means public service retrenchment and a cut back on infrastructural projects.

 

Whether this bitter medicine will cure the needy Jamaica economy, or worsen it, is left to be

seen.  What is certain is that Jamaicans are now in for a tougher time. The IMF Executive Board will meet in March to judge whether the government has met the pre-conditions for the loan of $750 million spread over four years.

 

The Jamaican government does not have much of an option.  There are no “white knights” on the IMF Executive Board championing the cause of Jamaica or any other developing country in similar circumstances, and arguing for less harsh conditions.  And, with 55% of government earnings going toward paying back debt and 25% being spent on wages, only 20% is left for everything else — including education, security and health.

 

A few other Caribbean governments are at the same point as Jamaica or pretty close. Their fate will not be much different, unless they implement policies that reduce their borrowing significantly particularly within their own domestic economies; find creative ways of increasing export revenues including in tourism and the creation and sale of new services; reduce government spending on unnecessary projects; and encourage the private sector – both local and foreign – to take on more of the capital risk and to increase employment.  In other words, governments have to re-think their roles – focussing on facilitation and regulation rather than competing with the private sector. Further, governments have to build genuine partnerships with the private sector and trade unions.

 

Caribbean governments also have to stop treating the opportunities that regional economic integration offers as though they do not exist or are not worth pursuing.  The integration of the factors of production – natural resources, capital, management know-how and labour – can increase production and export earnings.  Perfecting the Caribbean Single Market remains a vital step in this process.  And, of course, that won’t happen if governments persist in the decision made two years ago to ‘pause’ integration.

 

A joint Caribbean approach to external debt negotiation, including with the IMF, would also give the region more bargaining strength.  It is not beyond the creativity of regional technicians to work out how.

 

CARICOM countries should be swimming together; right now many of them are sinking alone.

 

Sanders is a Consultant, former Caribbean Diplomat and Visiting Fellow at London University.

Responses and previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders.com 
  //

A Dad’s Point-of-View: Men vs. Women: Looking and Flirting

  • By Bruce Sallan 
Bruce Sallan

Bruce Sallan

I  had a discussion the other day with a young woman friend who said she preferred dating older men because the guys her age were only interested in one thing. Ironically it was the guys that either were not interested or feigned disinterest that attracted her the most. I was struck by the irony of her statement, though I was sure it was true for her and many other of her contemporaries. Like the song said, “Love is strange.”

 

 

There are so many things about men and women that are generally and inherently different as I hope this blog series has demonstrated. I’ve chosen to tell the truth rather than adhere to any gender politics or higher education belief systems. Sometimes that has generated some raised eyebrows, but not nearly as much as I expected. I still want some Women’s Studies and/or Gender Studies professors or students to weigh in.

 

So, let’s look at “looking” and flirting. Again, I will represent several generalities that I assert to be largely true. Again, I acknowledge that there will be exceptions to every one of these generalities. And, again I say, “So what, they’re generally true for a reason – they’re generally true!”

 

First, I want to admit that I have that looking disease that afflicts many men. It’s almost chemical that when a woman enters the room, I will take notice. When I’m with my wife or when I was with any other women prior to my marriages, I did everything I could to try and be subtle about it, but I usually failed miserably. I took to sitting facing the wall whenever we’d go out to a restaurant. At least that would inhibit my insulting and useless looking behavior.

 

What struck me most about this pattern that I and many other men suffer from is the reality of what we could possibly think might happen with our gazing at an attractive woman across the room. Did we think – or hope – that said woman would cross the room, come directly up to us, give a cursory and dismissive glance to our female companion, and insist we leave the restaurant immediately because she hand to tear our clothes off right now. Really, what could we men possibly think might happen, especially if we are with a date or permanent partner?

 

It’s laughable, really. It’s even more pathetic when you do the lookie-loo thing while driving. We men see a woman running and do an exorcist-like turn of the head — expecting what?

 

For this series of columns, I’ve usually done lists in which I’d alternate men and women’s differences on a topic. This time, I will just carry on in the style I’ve already begun – list-less.

 

Let’s face it; women are just more classy and subtle around these issues. Perhaps, it’s changed among the younger generation, but I suspect not much. Part of the reason is that women are generally less “turned on” by looks and much more attracted to a man’s mind and wallet contents, neither of which are that readily apparent at a glance.

 

Okay, if that is the case, maybe women are as superficial as men, just in other areas. Women generally care about a man’s ability to provide and to engage their attention intellectually and humorously. Both are, I suspect, to some degree built into a woman’s DNA and both, especially the provide part, relate to historical needs of our species.

 

Taking my generalities even further, I will really go out a limb by stating another generality. Men can and will be promiscuous and would always be promiscuous if they were allowed, could get away with it, and not risk bringing home any diseases. It’s societal pressure and their partners that help domesticate the wild rover in most men.

 

On the other hand, women are generally more interested and comfortable in a monogamous relationship. I’ve never known a woman – granted this statement is an unscientific sample of women – that has ever had anything beyond a brief period of promiscuity, and usually in reaction to a breakup and an attitude of “if they can do it, so can I.” But inevitably, women will wake up at some point during this promiscuous period and recognize they plain don’t like it.

 

I believe women flirt simply by being a woman, the way they dress, the way they display a smile, and a look they choose to give a man that may interest them. Again, it’s subtler and I would assert classier than many of the guy’s come-on lines, the lameness of most being laughable and fodder for comedy routines.

 

Where does all this leave us? Ahhh, that is God’s handiwork. We will never fully understand the opposite sex but, if we are wise, we will learn from each other and grow as a result. Rather than try to be like our counterpart, let’s express wonder at our differences, celebrate them, learn from them, and perhaps actually enjoy one another simply because we are so different, yet fit together so very well when it works.

 

* * *

 

Bruce Sallan’s second book is an e-book only –  HYPERLINK “http://www.brucesallan.com/the-empty-nest-road-trip-blues/” “The Empty-Nest Road Trip Blues: An Interactive Journal from A Dad’s Point-of-View” – and costs a whopping $2.79 for PDF and $2.99 on  HYPERLINK “http://www.amazon.com/Empty-Nest-Blues-Point—View-ebook/dp/B00AB0XRCW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1353605281&sr=1-1” Amazon/Kindle. It’s a travelogue, an emotional father-son story, and it contains 100 photos and 7 original videos. Bruce is also the author of HYPERLINK “http://brucesallan.com/index.php/store”“A Dad’s Point-of-View: We ARE Half the Equation” and radio host of HYPERLINK “http://www.brucesallan.com/index.php/radio”“The Bruce Sallan Show – A Dad’s Point-of-View.” He gave up a long-term showbiz career to become a stay-at-home-dad. He has dedicated his new career to becoming THE Dad advocate. He carries out his mission with not only his book and radio show, but also his column HYPERLINK “http://www.brucesallan.com/index.php/mycolumn”“A Dad’s Point-of-View”, syndicated in over 100 newspapers and websites worldwide, his “I’m NOT That Dad” vlogs, the “Because I Said So” comic strip, and his dedication to his community on HYPERLINKhttp://www.facebook.com/aDadsPointOfView”Facebook and HYPERLINK “http://twitter.com/BruceSallan”Twitter. Join Bruce and his extensive community each Thursday for  HYPERLINK “http://www.brucesallan.com/index.php/other/353-all-about-dadchat” #DadChat, from 6-7pm PST, the Tweet Chat that Bruce hosts.