February 05, 2010

Take UID, get bank account

A bank account free with unique identification number - is how the government plans to sell its plan for creating a database of all residents. To ensure that every Indian has a unique identification number (UID) within five years of the rollout - launch is expected in December - the government will open a savings account in a nationalised bank with a deposit of Rs 100.

The Unique Identification Authority of India has sought Rs 25,000 crore for the incentive. An announcement is likely in the Budget to be presented on February 26. "I cannot confirm or deny the proposal," director general of the authority R.S. Sharma told HT. "It is being felt that half of Indian population will not opt for the UID, if there is no financial incentive," said a senior government official, who didn't wish to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

A UID is not mandatory. "Through UID we aim to bring all residents into formal banking network. It'll eventually help in tracking black money in a better way," the official said. According to government estimates half of the country's population is unbanked.

There could be some grant for the incentive in the Budget, a Plan panel official said on condition of anonymity. "The finance ministry has to take the final call."

January 17, 2010

Stop Using Internet Explorer.

Internet users have been warned off Internet Explorer by the German government to protect security.

The BBC reports the warning from Germany's Federal Office for Information Security, or BSI, comes after Microsoft admitted IE was the weak link in attacks on Google's systems.

Germans have been told to stop using all versions of IE.

Thomas Baumgaertner, a spokesman for Microsoft in Germany, told the BBC the attacks on Google were by "highly motivated people with a very specific agenda".

"These were not attacks against general users or consumers," Mr Baumgaertner said.

"There is no threat to the general user, consequently we do not support this warning."

Microsoft says the security hole can be shut by setting the browser's security zone to "high", although this limits functionality and blocks various websites.

German authorities say that even with this modification, IE would not be fully safe.

A spokesman for anti-virus firm Sophos told the BBC the warning released by BSI applies to versions 6, 7 and 8 of IE and that instructions on how to exploit the browser's weakness had been posted on the internet.

"This is a vulnerability that was announced in the last couple of days. Microsoft have no patch yet and the implication is that this is the same one that exploited on the attacks on Google earlier this week," he was quoted as saying.

"The way to exploit this flaw has now appeared on the internet, so it is quite possible that everyone is now going to have a go."

January 10, 2010

Hidden charges on credit card bills!

WHEN dealing with money transactions, a sudden change can catch you unaware. Take for instance your credit card. You may suddenly find that the due date on your credit card has changed without any intimation and you are late in making your payment. Take the following case.

Rita's credit card statement is generated on the 15th of every month and the payment has to be made by the 6th of the next month. She made the payment in the same cycle but was shocked to find that in the next statement she was charged Rs 350 as late payment fee plus Rs 450 as interest. So, she called up the bank for clarification and reversal of charges.

What exactly happened with Rita?
To avoid late payment charges, you have to make the credit card payment on the date specified on the credit card statement. The time between the statement generated till the payment date is the time that is credit free. This means you can make purchases on your credit care without bearing any charges. Generally, the credit free days range between 15 or 20 days.

However, the bank holds the right to change the cycle of the payment anytime. That's exactly what happened with Rita. Her bank changed the repayment time for the credit card by seven days. This means that the 21-day period came down to 14 days, reducing the time available for making the payment.

Why the sudden change?
This usually happens when a bank wants to decrease or increase the credit period. In most cases, it is usually the former as the funds of the bank are utilised by its customers for less time period.

Should a bank intimate about the change?
A bank has to inform the credit card holder about any change in the payment date and billing cycle. The exact manner of the intimation will be specified in the code of conduct of the bank and every credit card holder has to check for the details. In some cases, even though there might not be a clear mention about the reduction in the time period, the change in the due date is intimated in some way or the other. In many cases, the bank changes the payment date after changing the conditions related to the credit card and you many not even know the connection between the two.

Rita's last card statement had the details about the conditions of the card where the change was made, i.e., her 21-day interest-free grace period was reduced to 14 days. But she ignored it and did not even look at the latest statement for the exact payment date.

Can the charges be avoided?
The bank's argument would be that the change in the date was informed through the changed conditions and again through the credit card statement. But if Rita wants, she can still complain to the bank and ask them for reversal of charges.

Depending on Rita's relationship with the bank, the charges could be rolled back. But if the bank insists that adequate procedure was followed to intimate the customer then the charges will have to be paid.

December 30, 2009

Who wants to be a millionaire?

We have all heard the stories about one bright idea that made someone a millionaire but even if you are devoid of inspiration it is possible to have a seven-figure bank balance.

The key is the sooner you start the better.

Editor of Smart Investor magazine, Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon, said anyone earning an average wage can retire with a comfortable cushion of cash beyond their superannuation account.

"When you're young you have time on your side so you only have to put aside small amounts to amass a huge amount in retirement," she said.

"If you put away just $190 a month into an 8 per cent bank account you'll have $1 million by retirement."

If you leave it until your forties to think about saving for your retirement it is harder but still within your grasp.

Nicole said a property may cost $350,000 now but when you are 65 it is worth well over $1 million.

Jenni Eason retired at age 50 with $2 million in the bank. She had the advantage of a background in accounting but she did not start investing seriously until age 30.

"Anyone can do it, it's just a matter of setting down working out what you can and can't do and making sure that you get in to a habit of saving and the earlier you do that the better," she said.

"If you haven't got the money you don't miss it."

Jenni took full advantage of the tax breaks of super contributions and has always followed the mantra of spending less than she earns.

"I like the lifestyle I want and I'm happy with. There's nothing that I want to do that I can't do."

Even though Jenni managed to retire at 50 she could have started her serious savings then and still had a million by retirement.

So what is the most common mistake?

Last year Australians lost $1 billion to scams so make sure you are protected and do not be a sucker.

"My number one tip to earning $1 million is developing a healthy sense of scepticism," Nicole said.

December 17, 2009

Super Earth

Scientists discover Earth-like, water-rich planet.

Astronomers have discovered a new Earth-like planet that is larger than our own and may be more than half covered with water, according to a study published Wednesday in the science journal Nature. Skip related content

The so-called "super Earth" is about 42 light years away in another solar system and has a radius nearly 2.7 times larger than that of our planet, according to the study by the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.

The discovery of the planet, called GJ 1214b, represents a "major step forward" in the search for worlds similar to the Earth, added the University of California's Geoffrey Marcy in a commentary also in Nature.

The "newfound world" is too hot to sustain life as we know it, said the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in a statement.

Its density suggests however it "is composed of about three-fourths water and other ices and one fourth-rock," it said. "There are also tantalising hints that the planet has a gaseous atmosphere."

Its temperature is estimated at between 280 and 120 degrees Celsius (536 and 248 degrees Fahrenheit) with its host star about one-fifth the size of the Sun, according to the scientists.

"Despite its hot temperature, this appears to be a waterworld," says Zachory Berta, a graduate student who first spotted hints of the planet's presence.

"It is much smaller, cooler and more Earthlike than any other known exoplanet," he said in the statement.

An exoplanet is one outside of our solar system.

Berta said some of the water would likely be in crystalline form that exists at pressures greater than 20,000 times Earth's sea-level atmosphere.

Its temperature is much lower than that on the only similar discovery, called CoRoT-7b, which revolves around a star that is much hotter, the scientists say.

The CoRoT-7b has a density close to that of the Earth (5.5 grammes per cubic centimetre) and seems to be rocky, while the new discovery appears to be much less dense (1.9 g/cm3).

"To keep the planet's density that low requires that it contains large amounts of water," said Marcy. "It must contain a huge amount of water, roughly 50 percent by mass."

The "wild card" is the make-up of the gases on the planet, he said.

The planet orbits every 38 hours around a small, faint star that was first spotted by eight ground-based telescopes no larger than those used by amateur astronomers, the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre said.

Its relative closeness makes its possible to study it to determine its atmosphere.

"That will make it the first super Earth with a confirmed atmosphere -- even though that atmosphere probably won't be hospitable to life as we know it," said David Charbonneau who heads the research team.

November 15, 2009

10 Ways to Prevent Cancer.

Only a few everyday choices about diet, exercise and tobacco use can dramatically reduce a person's risk of cancer, according to a Special Report on Cancer Prevention.

The Special Report examines the science and latest findings on 10 approaches that can make a real difference in preventing cancer.

Here are some highlights from the list:

1. Don't smoke: Quitting smoking reduces the risk of lung and other cancers, regardless of the number of years of smoking.

2. Eat fruits and vegetables: The American Cancer Society recommends eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily because they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other substances that lower the risk of cancer.

3. Limit fat in the diet: Current guidelines recommend keeping fat intake between 20 and 30 percent of total daily calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.

4. Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer as well as cancers of the colon, endometrium, esophagus and kidney. There's evidence that obesity increases the risk of cancers of the prostate, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, stomach, ovary and cervix.

5. Be physically active: From 45 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day, on most days of the week, is considered optimal to reduce the risk of breast and colorectal cancers.

6. Curb alcohol consumption: Women should limit themselves to no more than one alcoholic beverage a day. Men should have no more than two.

7. Limit exposure to radiation: Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which comes from the sun, sunlamps or commercial tanning beds, is the primary cause of skin cancer, the most common of all cancers.

8. Protect against infection: Infections caused by viruses are recognized as risk factors for several types of cancer.

9. Consider chemoprevention: Chemoprevention is the use of natural or synthetic compounds to reduce the risk of cancer or its recurrence. Tamoxifen, prescribed to prevent breast cancer in high-risk women, is the best known chemoprevention agent.

10. Get recommended screening exams: Pap tests, mammograms, colonoscopies and other routine screenings cannot prevent cancer. But screenings can help find cancers early, when treatment is most likely to be successful.

The study has been published in the November issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource. (ANI)

May 26, 2009

Banana = Beer

The next time you feel a little low or jaded, don't hit a pub to drown your sorrows. Just visit a nearby grocer and buy some bananas or help yourself to a bar of dark chocolate.

The reason you are feeling low may be due to depleted levels of serotonin, the 'happiness hormone'. The intake of certain kinds of foods can help increase its levels.

"Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates many of our feelings, including pain, sleep, mood and hunger. In simple words, it helps different parts of your brain to talk to each other, and inadequate amount of serotonin can lead to mood swings, sleep disorder and depression," says Ishi Khosla, clinical nutritionist and director of Whole Foods.

The solution, she says, can be found in certain foods. "A number of food items act as mood boosters.

For example, honey coated nuts, oatmeal porridge, muesli or granola in milk, yogurt and fruit are handy things that can make you feel better," she says. Monika Sharma, an MSc.

student, says, "I don't know about other things that can lift one's mood, but yes, chocolate definitely works for me. Whenever I feel low, I munch on a bar of chocolate.

" Chocolate may lift your mood but not without leaving you feeling guilty about the extra calories. Deepika Malik, a wellness expert, says, "If you are worried about putting on weight, you can substitute strawberries for chocolates and nuts.

Cold milk with a hint of saffron in it also acts as a mood booster.".