Even as regulators crack down on abusive mortgage and credit card practices, another type of lending threatens to mire consumers in a credit trap.
It’s called “courtesy overdraft” and has long been used by banks to automatically pay transactions that account holders don’t have the money to cover — and then charge them a steep fee. For years, banks have made it easier for customers to overdraw their checking accounts, aided by a cottage industry of consultants who make big money by helping to wring fees out of consumers, a USA TODAY analysis finds.
Wachovia, for instance, is discouraging employees from refunding overdraft fees. A 2007 bank memo obtained by USA TODAY tells employees that the fees “make up a big percentage of our revenue and is (sic) a HOT button among leadership.” Wells Fargo, which owns Wachovia, says it educates customers but also has a “responsibility to shareholders” to collect overdraft fees.
Banks are lobbying heavily against restrictions. Why? “Overdraft fees are the mother lode of (deposit) fees,” says Michael Moebs of Moebs Services, an economic research firm. “If it weren’t for overdraft fees, 45% of banks and credit unions wouldn’t have made money in 2008.”
Any industry that depends on penalty fees to remain viable should be burned to the ground.
Billions of dollars in federal aid delivered directly to the local level to help revive the economy have gone overwhelmingly to places that supported President Obama in last year’s presidential election.
Sounds ominous, right? Well, do something most people reading newspapers today won’t bother to do, and go read the last paragraph as well.
American International Group is preparing to pay millions of dollars more in bonuses to several dozen top corporate executives after an earlier round of payments four months ago set off a national furor.
The troubled insurance giant has been pressing the federal government to bless the payments in hopes of shielding itself from renewed public outrage.
First Morgan repackaging downgraded CDO’s again, now this.
These fuckers won’t stop their destructive work until we put them against the wall.
A recent mathematical analysis says that life as we know it is written into the laws of reality. DNA is built from a set of twenty amino acids – the first ten of those can create simple prebiotic life, and now it seems that those ten are thermodynamically destined to occur wherever they can.
For those unfamiliar with thermodynamics, it’s the Big Brother of all energy equations and science itself. You can apply quantum mechanics at certain scales, and Newtonian mechanics work at the right speeds, but if Thermodynamics says something then everyone listens. An energy analysis by Professors Pudritz and Higgs of McMaster University shows that the first ten amino acids are likely to form at relatively low temperatures and pressures, and the calculated odds of formation match the concentrations of these life-chemicals found in meteorite samples.
They also match those in simulations of early Earth, and most critically, those simulations were performed by other people. The implications are staggering: good news for anyone worried about how we’re alone, and bad news for anyone who demands some kind of “Designer” to put life together – it seems that physics can assemble the organic jigsaw all by itself, thank you very much, and has probably done so throughout space since the beginning of everything.
I have to warn you though. If you’re a developer, your software engineering fire will die a little when you read the true cause and from then on you will have to fight off thoughts of giving up development altogether and apply for a job in marketing or HR. So what was it, what’s the cause of this slowness? It’s NSS. What? The Network Security System. It turns out that NSS needs to do all kinds of encryption and other security related tasks (which seems kind of logical), and for that it needs random numbers. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, it kind of does.
True random numbers are hard to produce, because in a computer system, nothing is really random, it all is a result of some action which was a result of some action etc. etc. The clever boys and girls of the NSS team had to crack this problem: how to get ‘true’ random numbers which are as random as possible? Instead of using the randomization functionality of the underlying operating system (which has this feature build-in as every TCP stack for example needs it), they did what Mozilla in general always does: they re-invented the wheel. Nothing against re-inventing stuff, don’t get me wrong, not every wheel is as equal as the other one, and you can never have enough good, re-invented, shiny wheels. Though, the downside of re-inventing wheels is that along the way you can’t make mistakes, it has to be better than the previous invented wheels. No-one wants to use your square new wheel for example.
To solve the problem of the randomization, the NSS team came up with something clever, something so great, that no-one else had ever thought of that before: they decided to read the files in all possible temp folders on disk with multiple threads so these files can be used as seeds for the randomization. Brilliant. Temp folders! Why hasn’t anyone else thought of using a disk-based resource for random number generation! I mean, these folders change every couple of milliseconds, have immediate access, no latency to read their contents and are never filled to the brim with useless cruft!
That is, if you’re on the NSS team. In the outside world, things are a tad different. You see, Firefox v3.5 reads the Internet Explorer Cache and the central Windows temp folder in your user profile, through its NSS subsystem. Not only is it, in my humble opinion, not done to read another application’s caches or temp folders, it’s also amazingly ignorant towards the real bottlenecks of our modern computers: hard-drives. If you’re using a virus-scanner which is set to paranoia mode, this whole temp folder traversal by NSS will be even slower because every file accessed will be scanned by the virus scanner. Over and over and over again. And what happens if the user doesn’t do anything else but browse with Firefox, so these temp folders will not change (or are empty)? Isn’t using file reading the worst way to obtain a seed for randomization?