A storm poised to dump up to 2 feet of snow from New York City to Boston and beyond beginning Friday could be one for the record books, forecasters warned. Residents scurried to stock up on food and water and road crews readied salt and sand.
Most people aren't born knowing how to be smart with money. That's something you learn, often just a little too late. So how do you teach young people financial literacy before they run up their credit card bills, or take out too many student loans? One way is to get them where they live -- on their phones. Mindblown Life is a new mobile phone app. It's designed to help high school and college kids learn how to manage money by playing a game. You can create your own avatar and have it go through life making financial decisions about spending and saving, choices we've all had to make. Jason Young is one of the creators of the app.
"I would say that Midblown Life is really the next step in a journey that began during my sophomore year, winter break. I had gone home for Christmas as usual, but that Christmas was a little bit different from your typical Christmas. The day after Christmas my family was evicted," says Young. "My mom had purchased her house using a variable rate mortgage. And when the interest rates began to rise, she could no longer afford to make the payments. But beyond that, in trying to actually keep our home, she accumulated tens of thousands of dollars of credit debt. I always knew we had money troubles, but I had no idea it had gotten to that point."
Young says he helped create the app because financial literacy is a skill that has to be practiced. He says games are good at getting people to practice skills over and over again.
"The beauty of games is you have accelerated time. So you get to, first of all, see the consequence of your actions. Instead of having to wait, say, 30 years, you get to see it in a few hours. So you know that not saving, not establishing an emergency fund, resulted in you getting evicted when you had an emergency come up and you couldn't pay your rent," says Young.
Some of the emergency situations that players face using the app include getting robbed, having your car break down, and having your house catch fire. Young says the app helps players understand the importance of financial literacy and learn that money is only a contributing factor to overall happiness.
Most of us panic or try to remember how much canned food we have when we hear words like these: "We're going to have basically two storms coming together, merging into one much larger storm."
That's meteorologist Stephen Strum, with Frontier Weather. But the bad storm is good for some businesses, says Evan Gold with Planalytics, which studies the economic impact of weather.
"This is great news for The Weather Channel," he says. Gold describes The Weather Channel as reality TV, and big storms like these are the products it sells. This year the channel is even branding blizzards.
"The Weather Channel has started to name the storms." Gold says.
Meet Nemo, that's what The Weather Channel is calling this one. Gold says the bigger the storm, the bigger the audience and the ad revenue.
"They are definitely about trying to help people understand and manage the impact of weather, but they are a media company first -- they are in business to make money," he says.
The Weather Channel didn't respond to requests for comment, but during Hurricane Sandy, it got more primetime viewers than any cable news show.
Later this morning we get new trade numbers. We know it’ll be a deficit, but how much? Lately, it’s been going up -- the previous monthly numbers showed the U.S. trade deficit hit a seven-month high. Imports outran exports by more than $48 billion.
Now, monthly numbers wobble around, but the general trend the last three years is up. International investment strategist Paul Christopher at Wells Fargo says customers abroad, especially in weak Europe, are buying less of our stuff.
“It’s just a lot of agricultural products, a lot of chemical products, and a lot of very sophisticated electronics,” Christopher says. “Those are the things the world demands when the world is growing.”
Conversely, things are picking up at home. Americans lately have shelled out for foreign cars and foreign consumer goods -- cellphones, medicines, clothes.
“As long as consumers and businesses are buying more and those import numbers are looking healthy,” Christopher says, “that’s also sign the U.S. economy is also going to be growing a bit.”
Of course the trade deficit is a bit of an ink blot test -- different people see different things. But in the short term, rising imports reflect a rejuvenated American consumer.
When immigrants marry American citizens, they don’t automatically become citizens too. If the immigrant is here illegally, that person generally has to return to their home country before applying for residency. But the Obama administration is changing the rules for a select few.
It’s potentially good news for people like 43-year-old Johnny Gomez. His wife, Margarita, is from Mexico, and she came here without documentation. They may benefit from changes regarding waivers for undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens.
“I’m a U.S. citizen. I’m applying for my wife’s waiver so she doesn’t have to be deported,” says Gomez. “If this doesn’t happen, she will be deported anywhere from six months to 10 years.”
The waiver would allow Johnny to start the paperwork here in the U.S. Margarita would still have to return to Mexico before getting resident status, but the wait would be reduced to days or weeks. To complicate matters, Gomez is in a tough economic situation.
“I used to have a business for about five years that I closed down due to the economy,” says Gomez. Now he works for the public health department in Ventura, California, where he makes half as much as he did with his computer graphics business. But financial difficulties alone are not enough to qualify for the waiver.
“He has to get a waiver approved, based on hardship. Unusual, extreme hardship,” says Ally Bolour, the immigration lawyer representing Gomezes. “Mere separation is not hardship. So, in Johnny’s case, they have a special-needs child. So the situation is severe.”
Gomez’s son is autistic. The child requires the constant attention of his mother, Margarita. She cries when she imagines life without her family. Without his wife, Gomez says he’d have to hire someone to take care of his autistic son. It’s an expense he can’t afford.
“If she is gone, I might have to seek government help and get on governmental assistance programs. Which is something I don’t want to do," he says. "I want to be able to fend for my own family, with my own job.”
Attorney Bolour says the waivers could help thousands of families. “Imagine you’re the sole breadwinner, and your spouse all of a sudden has to go across the world and perhaps [you're] separated for years and years and years. It destroys families,” says Bolour.
The fees for the waiver can add up to around $1,000; money that’s hard to come by for families living paycheck to paycheck. "Johnny is fortunate enough to have legal representation, but that’s not the norm. A lot of people don’t because they can’t afford it,” says Bolour.
The government begins accepting hardship waiver applications on March 4.
At its closest approach, the office building-sized asteroid will be only about 17,200 miles above the surface of our planet. That's far nearer to us than the moon, and even closer than some weather and communications satellites. Some people think this near miss should serve as a wake-up call.
Congress likes to say it doesn't do earmarks anymore. And while that may be true, it's also a fact that targeted provisions are still useful in moving legislation — even critical legislation like the bill that pulled Washington back from the fiscal cliff last month.
Houses of worship are still trying to recover from the damage done by the superstorm last fall. The government has encouraged them to apply for aid, but it's not clear whether they'll qualify. For some, even disaster relief would break down the boundary between "church and state."
The legendary rapper is responsible for some of Latin hip-hop's most danceable music. His lyrics also advocate for the Puerto Rican independence movement.
Robert Kennedy's 50-mile hike in freezing weather — prompted by a joke his brother President John F. Kennedy made — kicked off the nation's walking and hiking craze. To honor the anniversary of the walk, a group of people plan to follow in his footsteps.
A gang rape case in India's capital has attracted international attention. But sexual assaults are a nationwide problem, and authorities are often dismissive of victims, particularly in rural areas. One woman tells her story.