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13 Ways Consumers Can Be More Self-Sufficient | My Money

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The coronavirus pandemic has forced many shops and businesses to stay closed in order to help keep citizens safe. While people are practicing social distancing, they should consider the areas in their life where they can skip a trip to a repair shop or store – even if it’s open for business – to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Check out these different areas where you can try to be more self-sufficient and save money in the process.

  • Grow your own food.
  • Upcycle furniture.
  • Learn to sew.
  • Cut your own hair.
  • Perform salon services at home.
  • Embrace nature’s call.
  • Play phone games.
  • Create window art.
  • Host a virtual happy hour.
  • Write letters.
  • Do at-home workouts.
  • Make your own spa treatments.
  • Get creative.

Read on for more information about how to adopt these new skills.

Grow Your Own Food

You don’t have to quit grocery stores altogether, but there are some staples you can quit buying by producing them at home. Grow easy vegetables such as lettuce or tomatoes. Rather than buying bread, stock up on yeast and flour (if you can find it) and start baking. Not only do you become less dependent on grocers, you might save money and enjoy a new hobby.

Upcycle Furniture

If you enjoy watching do-it-yourself TV shows, consider skipping the next trip to the furniture warehouse by upgrading your furniture on your own. It might not take much to take an older piece from your home and turn it into something new. Give a bookshelf a fresh coat of paint or stain your dining room table. Check out Pinterest for inspiration.

Learn to Sew

Update your wardrobe by testing out your fashion design skills. Making your own clothes or fixing details such as buttons and hems can help you rely less on clothing retailers or tailors.

Cut Your Own Hair

Your hairdresser may shudder at the suggestion, but at the end of the day, most hair grows back. If your toddler keeps ripping at your locks, or you just can’t stand the extra weight on your head, and you are unable to visit the salon, cut your own hair. There are plenty of videos online to teach you how to do a simple trim. And if you mess up, have confidence knowing it will grow back.

Perform Salon Services at Home

Take advantage of at-home kits you can buy to perform your favorite salon services at home. Wax kits can help you stay groomed. Nail kits can keep your fingers pretty. Hair dye kits can touch up your roots. Of course, proceed with caution both in regards to your appearance and safety. Read all instructions carefully, and consult professional help if you’re not sure a product is best for you.

Embrace Nature’s Call

The silver lining to this pandemic is that it is all-encompassing. You’re not the only person who hasn’t seen the barber in a few weeks. Staying home and keeping each other safe and healthy is certainly more important than any beauty routine. Let that unibrow grow in, embrace your natural color or try a different look you haven’t in some time. After all, you’re seeing people much less anyway.

Play Phone Games

Though games such as “Words With Friends” might not be as popular as they once were, now is a great time to play again. There are countless apps available for iPhone and Android users, many of which allow you to virtually play against friends. Tell your friends to download “Houseparty,” a free app that allows you to host group video chats and play games together. Instead of hitting the bowling alley or pool hall, challenge your buddies online.

Create Window Art

Families across the country have enjoyed communicating with their neighbors through window art. Some communities encouraged residents to post rainbows for folks to count with their children when they take walks around the neighborhood. Take it up a notch by creating more elaborate window designs or introducing games like hangman by setting up the game in your window and seeing if your neighbors respond.

Host a Virtual Happy Hour

If you’re not tired of using web-based meeting apps for work or school, consider gathering your friends in a virtual room for a socially distanced happy hour. Share quarantine stories or just socialize as you would at a regular bar.

Write Letters

In times like these, be grateful for all the technology that keeps you connected when you’re physically distant. But before phones and webcams, people still maintained relationships using media such as letters. Take some time away from screens and write a good old-fashioned letter to a friend or loved one. This can be extra special if you send a letter to someone who might not have as much access to the tech many take for granted. Consider those especially distant right now such as people imprisoned or in nursing homes or other care facilities.

Do At-Home Workouts

Who says you need a ton of equipment to feel the burn. Apps such as Nike Training Club provide dozens of free workouts you can do at home – many with basic or no equipment needed. Stay in shape with online bodyweight workouts or safely run or walk outside. Keeping your body active can help keep you healthy and relaxed.

Make Your Own Spa Treatments

You can make your own spa day with ingredients in your kitchen. Create an oatmeal mask with oats, baking soda and water to calm and soothe your skin. Soak your feet in some Epsom salts or treat your whole body to a soak with a nice bath bomb. If you close your eyes and turn on some nice music, you can imagine you’re back at the spa.

Get Creative

Bust out the crayons, paints, colored pencils and paper. Let your mind wander while you create a work of art or just doodle aimlessly. Or pick an instrument and have a little jam session. Throw on some music and dance all your worries out. However you like to express yourself creatively, take some time to do that. It can help release tension, clear your thoughts and make you feel better. You don’t have to share it with anybody and it doesn’t have to be good. But you might find that such strange and taxing times inspire something beautiful.

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Police: Second Victim in Deadly Wichita Shooting Dies | Kansas News

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A second victim in a deadly shooting in Wichita last week has died of his injuries, police said.

Jahbreel Rounds, 19, of Wichita, died in a hospital Monday from injuries he received in a shooting Thursday that also killed 21-year-old Earnest Jefferson, police said in a news release Tuesday. Both Rounds and Jefferson, who died at the scene, had been shot multiple times, police said.

Police have said the shooting at a Wichita apartment complex stemmed from a botched drug deal. Two people — Missy Barber, 20, of Wichita, and Preston Reynolds, 18, of Wichita — have been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery in the shooting deaths.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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America Ignores the Gun War at Home | World Report

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Roughly 13,000 Americans are killed by a gun in a homicide every year (this does not include the more than 20,000 Americans who commit suicide using a gun every year).

Let’s put that in perspective.

During the deadliest year for Americans of the Vietnam War in 1968, 16,899 Americans died.

During the Korean War, roughly 12,000 Americans died each year.

Those foreign wars consumed the U.S. government and the country. Today, the war Americans are fighting at home against gun violence is being ignored by our leaders, who seem to believe they can get by with doing nothing.

The massacre of children in Parkland, Florida, was but the latest horrific battle in this war, which claims an average of 96 Americans every day (combining gun homicides and suicides).

I am not an expert on gun violence, but I have spent my career working on national security. When America is losing its people to violent deaths at these rates abroad, it is always a war.

When Americans are being killed violently in this manner, the entire U.S. national security apparatus – National Security Council, State Department, Defense Department, intelligence agencies and more – is consumed at the highest levels with a comprehensive effort to stop the deaths. Principals Committee meetings (meetings of the national security agency cabinet heads) and the National Security Council (Principals Committee meetings plus the president) are convened regularly. Supplemental budget requests are made to Congress to urgently fund efforts to hasten the end of the conflict.

Gun Control and Gun Rights Cartoons

And yet, faced with the gun war here at home, the U.S. government repeatedly fails to even pay attention. Congressional Republicans cannot make time to debate the issue, and congressional leadership ignores pleas from colleagues to act. The Trump administration acts as though there is nothing it can do. Save for a minority, those who were elected and appointed to first and foremost protect the American people offer prayers and excuses as to why now is somehow not the time to discuss the policy implications of the latest massacre. The result is that the national consciousness forgets the war at home.

The media fails us on this issue too. During foreign wars, if an average of 96 Americans were dying violent deaths daily, it would be the number one news story in every major media outlet on a daily basis. One would not be able to escape the gruesome images and discussions of the violence on TV, on the internet or in newspapers. It would be pervasive, as it was during the height of the Vietnam War and the Iraq War.

But apparently, like our supposed leaders, the media has become numb to the war at home as well. It does not take long these days for the media to move on from the latest school massacre, and to rush past news of the regular local homicides by gun.

When America fights wars overseas, one of the obviously major challenges is that the governments of the countries in which the United States is fighting are not in control – America attempts to gain control with its allies by force. If in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or any other war zone the United States government controlled the use of force – as it does in the United States – it would immediately impose stricter gun laws. It’s a no brainer.

A 2016 study by the Center for American Progress (where I work) found that, “Despite the many factors that may contribute to rates of gun violence in a particular community, there is a robust and growing body of research that demonstrates an undeniable correlation between certain strong gun laws and lower rates of gun violence.” For example, “Two studies led by Daniel Webster at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health demonstrated the impact of state laws requiring a permit – and background check – before an individual can purchase a handgun. When Connecticut implemented this requirement, gun-related homicides in the state fell 40 percent; when Missouri eliminated this requirement, gun homicides increased 26 percent.”

Looking at America’s epidemic of gun violence through a national security lens, there is no question that we are at war. And there is clearly a simple set of solutions available to drastically reduce deaths by guns. This is why America’s gun violence is so perplexing – why has the United States not imposed stricter gun laws to stop the violence?

America’s leaders who do not act to strengthen gun laws are guilty of a dereliction of duty. Those officials are actively undermining U.S. national security and perpetuating a war at home. They are allowing their own citizens to be slaughtered daily at rates only seen in some of America’s bloodiest wars.

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12 Top Gulf Coast Beaches to Visit | Travel

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South of Naples and northwest of Everglades National Park sits Marco Island, a small haven popular among retirees and families. Tigertail Beach Park is a top choice for families thanks to its playground, boardwalks, concessions and restrooms, while South Marco Beach is a convenient option for those staying at Marco Island’s top hotels. Vacationers can ride the waves on Jet Skis, search for manatees swimming past mangroves or take a boat tour with the survey crew of the Dolphin Explorer to identify and catalogue area dolphins. Reserve a room at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, a large property with eateries, pools, a spa and even an adults-only area called Paradise by Sirene. The resort’s 10K Alley gaming center and restaurant offers bourbon, craft beer, bowling and virtual reality games. Vacation rentals in a range of prices are also available.

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Half of Nation’s Hospitals Fail Again to Escape Medicare’s Readmission Penalties | Healthcare of Tomorrow

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Once again, the majority of the nation’s hospitals are being penalized by Medicare for having patients frequently return within a month of discharge – this time losing a combined $420 million, government records show.

In the fourth year of federal readmission penalties, 2,592 hospitals will receive lower payments for every Medicare patient that stays in the hospital – readmitted or not – starting in October. The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, created by the Affordable Care Act, was designed to make hospitals pay closer attention to what happens to their patients after they get discharged.

Since the fines began, national readmission rates have dropped, but roughly one of every five Medicare patients sent to the hospital ends up returning within a month.

Some hospitals view the punishments as unfair because they can lose money even if they had fewer readmissions than they did in previous years. All but 209 of the hospitals penalized in this round were also punished last year, a Kaiser Health News analysis of the records found.

The fines are based on readmissions between July 2011 and June 2014 and include Medicare patients who were originally hospitalized for one of five conditions: heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, chronic lung problems or elective hip or knee replacements. For each hospital, Medicare determined what it thought the appropriate number of readmissions should be based on the mix of patients and how the hospital industry performed overall. If the number of readmissions was above that projection, Medicare fined the hospital.

The fines will be applied to Medicare payments when the federal fiscal year begins in October. In this round, the average Medicare payment reduction is 0.61 percent per patient stay, but 38 hospitals will receive the maximum cut of 3 percent, the KHN analysis shows. A total of 506 hospitals, including those facing the maximum penalty, will lose 1 percent of their Medicare payments or more.

These lower payments will affect three-quarters of hospitals or more in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia. KHN found that fewer than a quarter of hospitals face punishments in Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Most of the 2,232 hospitals spared penalties this year were excused not because Medicare found readmissions to be sufficiently infrequent, but because they were automatically exempted from being evaluated – either because they specialized in certain types of patients, such as veterans or children, because they were specially designated “critical access” hospitals, or because they had too few cases for Medicare to accurately assess.

The readmission penalties are not the only fines hospitals face this year. As it did last year, Medicare is also giving out bonuses and penalties based on a variety of quality measures. The government has not yet announced those, but they also begin in October. Those financial incentives will total about $1.5 billion. Medicare will also punish hospitals with high rates of infections and other avoidable occurrences of patient harm.

The KHN analysis found that four hospitals have received the maximum readmission penalty every year. Two are in Kentucky: Harlan ARH Hospital, which is in the heart of the Appalachian coalfields, and Monroe County Medical Center in Tompkinsville. The other hospitals are the Livingston, Tennessee, Regional Hospital – also in Appalachia – and Franklin Medical Center in Winnsboro, Louisiana None of the hospitals immediately returned phone calls Monday.

Hospitals have been lobbying both Medicare and Congress to take into account the socio-economic background of patients when assessing readmission penalties. They argue that some factors for readmissions – such as whether patients can afford medications or healthy food – are beyond their control.

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which advises Congress, has recommended altering the readmission penalties. The National Quality Forum, a nonprofit that Medicare looks to when creating quality metrics, is examining whether socio-economic factors should be included when calculating readmission measurements as well as other barometers of hospital quality. But that experiment will take two years to complete.

“Hospitals should not be penalized simply because of the demographic characteristics of their patients,” Sens. Joseph Manchin III, D-W.Va., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., wrote recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The senators have introduced a bill to consider socio-economic factors when calculating the penalties.

Their essay, co-written by Dr. Andrew Boozary, a health policy analyst, pointed to a study that found safety-net hospitals were nearly 60 percent more likely than other hospitals to have been penalized in all of the first three years of the penalties. Hospitals with the lowest profit margins were 36 percent more likely to be penalized than those in better financial shape, the essay said.

In regulations released July 31, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reiterated that it would not unilaterally make such changes in the program, noting that some safety-net hospitals have been able to keep their readmission rates low.

“While we appreciate these comments and the importance of the role that sociodemographic status plays in the care of patients,” the agency wrote in the rule, “we continue to have concerns about holding hospitals to different standards for the outcomes of their patients of low sociodemographic status because we do not want to mask potential disparities or minimize incentives to improve the outcomes of disadvantaged populations.”

KHN’s coverage of aging and long term care issues is supported in part by a grant from The SCAN Foundation.

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Best Connecticut Mortgage Lenders | Find the Best Loan for You

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If you’re interested in buying a home in the Constitution State, you’re not alone. There are 1.5 million housing units and a homeownership rate of 66% in Connecticut, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey.

Connecticut’s median housing value is $277,400, which is well above the national median of $229,700. Home values can vary by region, however, with some counties’ median home prices climbing as high as $422,300.

What Are the Mortgage Rates in Connecticut?

The average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate conforming mortgage in Connecticut is 3.57%.

Home interest rates range from 3.00% to 4.75% in Connecticut.

What Are Today’s Mortgage Rates?

Locking in a low mortgage rate today can save you thousands over the life of your loan. Compare your mortgage rate offers with national average trends.







Loan Types

This Week’s Rate

Last Week’s Rate

30-Year Fixed Rate 3.52% 3.57%
15-Year Fixed Rate 2.92% 3.03%
30-Year Fixed Jumbo Rate 3.63% 3.68%
5/1 ARM Rate 3.31% 3.31%
5/1 ARM Jumbo Rate 3.06% 3.08%

Rates as of May 19th, 2020

Methodology: U.S. News conducted an in-depth review of leading direct mortgage lenders. Research was based on program availability, customer satisfaction ratings and qualification requirements. Because each consumer has different needs, the top finishers in several key areas were chosen.

  • Bank of America: Best feature: loans for up to 100% of the appraised value of your home.

  • Caliber Home Loans: Best feature: first-time homebuyer program.

  • Chase: Best feature: up to $3,000 at closing with the Chase Homebuyer grant and completion of a homebuyer education course.

  • Guild Mortgage Co.: Best feature: loans for up to $3 million.

  • loanDepot: Best lender for fair credit

  • PrimeLending: Best feature: closing cost assistance program.

  • Quicken Loans: Best feature: loan approval with a debt-to-income ratio of up to 60%.

  • Veterans United Home Loans: Best feature: focused service for veterans and service members.

Best feature: loans for up to 100% of the appraised value of your home.

A major financial institution serving homeowners nationwide, Bank of America has good customer satisfaction ratings. The bank has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating and a J.D. Power rating of four, which is better than most.

Highlights:

  • Mortgage types offered: Conventional, VA, FHA, refinance, home equity
  • Minimum FICO score: 620
  • Maximum loan-to-value ratio: 100%
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 55%
  • Loan amounts: Up to $5,000,000
  • Total closing costs: Varies
  • J.D. Power overall satisfaction rating: Four out of five

Best Features

  • Bank of America has a wide variety of mortgage products.

  • The lender offers annual percentage rate or closing cost discounts for qualifying Bank of America and Merrill Lynch clients.

  • Home equity lines of credit have no annual, balance transfer or cash advance fees or closing costs.

See full profile

Best feature: first-time homebuyer program.

After several years in business as two separate entities – Caliber Funding and Vericrest Financial – Caliber Home Loans premiered in 2013. As of 2018, Caliber Home Loans serving portfolio is at $150 billion.

Highlights
Mortgage types offered: Conventional, FHA, VA, USDA, ARM, Refinancing (conventional), Refinancing (FHA), Refinancing (VA), First-time homebuyer program
• Minimum FICO score: 580
• Max DTI: 50%
• Origination fee: Not disclosed
• J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Three out of five

Best feature: loans for up to $3 million.

Guild Mortgage serves homebuyers nationwide with multiple mortgage options. Mortgage shoppers can choose from conventional or agency loans with this lender, which has an A+ BBB rating and a four out of five J.D. Power satisfaction rating.

Highlights:

  • Mortgage types offered: Conventional, FHA, VA, USDA, ARM, Home equity loans, Refinancing (conventional), Refinancing (FHA), Refinancing (VA), Refinancing (USDA), First-time homebuyer program, Jumbo, renovation, expanded (non-qm)
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 620
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 50%
  • J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Four out of five

Best Features

  • Good customer service ratings.

  • A broad range of mortgage products.

  • Special mortgage programs including ones for first-time homebuyers and buyers of manufactured homes.

See full profile

Best lender for fair credit

LoanDepot was established in 2010 and since then has financed more than $70 billion in mortgages. It offers FHA, conventional and other mortgage options. Borrowers may qualify for a loan with a FICO credit score as low as 580.

Highlights:

  • Mortgage types offered: Conventional, FHA, VA, ARM, Refinancing (conventional), Refinancing (FHA), Refinancing (VA), Home equity loans
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 500 with conditions
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 43% for FHA
  • Maximum combined loan-to-value ratio: 90%
  • J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Four out of five

Best Features

  • LoanDepot mortgages have a lifetime guarantee, which means if you ever decide to refinance an existing loanDepot loan, the company will waive the lender fees and reimburse appraisal fees.

See full profile

Best feature: closing cost assistance program.

PrimeLending is a Dallas-based mortgage lender with several mortgage loan options, including conventional loans, jumbo loans, government-backed loans and refinance loans. The lender is a subsidiary of PlainsCapital Bank.

Highlights:

  • Loan types: conventional, FHA, VA, USDA, ARM, refinancing
  • Minimum FICO Score: 600
  • Maximum loan-to-value ratio: not disclosed
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 43%
  • Total closing costs: 2% to 6% of loan amount
  • Equity required: not disclosed
  • J.D. Power Satisfaction rating: not rated

Best Features

  • Offers a wide variety of mortgage loans.

  • Provides mortgage loans nationwide.

  • Helps with closing costs.

See full profile

Best feature: loan approval with a debt-to-income ratio of up to 60%.

Quicken Loans is a nationwide mortgage lender with several mortgage options. Known for customer service, the lender has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating and received a rating of five (among the best) in the 2018 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study.

Highlights:

  • Mortgage types offered: ARM, FHA, VA, Refinancing (FHA), USDA, Conventional, Refinancing (conventional)
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 580 (FHA), other loans vary
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 60%
  • J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Five out of five

Best Features

  • Complete loan process available online.

  • Wide variety of mortgage products.

  • Good customer service ratings.

See full profile

Best feature: focused service for veterans and service members.

Veterans United Home Loans is a full-service mortgage lender. Veterans United Home Loans specializes in VA loans and is the largest VA home purchase lender.

Highlights:

  • Mortgage types offered: Conventional, ARM, VA, FHA, USDA, refinance
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 620
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Varies
  • J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Not rated

Best Features

  • Military membership not required.

See full profile

Mortgage Calculator

Is your dream home within reach? U.S. News’ mortgage calculator will show you how much house you can afford.

What Are Some Connecticut Homebuyer Programs?

Connecticut homebuyers can get favorable mortgage interest rates and help with down payments and closing costs from these programs.

  • Available to: Low- and moderate-income buyers who are buying their first home, haven’t owned a home in the past three years or are purchasing a home in a targeted area.
  • Income limits: Vary by county (see income limits).
  • First-time homebuyers only?: No.
  • Benefit: Below-market interest rate.
  • Down payment and closing cost assistance: A low-interest supplementary second mortgage loan of at least $3,000 to cover the down payment. Borrowers must show enough monthly income to pay both loans, but not enough savings to pay the down payment.

  • Available to: First-time homebuyers or buyers who haven’t owned a home in the past three years.
  • Income limits: Vary by county (see income limits).
  • First-time homebuyers only?: No.
  • Benefit: No upfront mortgage insurance costs and lower monthly mortgage insurance costs.
  • Down payment and closing cost assistance: Borrowers may automatically qualify for a low-interest supplementary second mortgage of at least $3,000 to cover the down payment.

  • Available to: Those who qualify for a CHFA mortgage who have the monthly income to make mortgage payments, but not enough money to pay the upfront costs.
  • Income limits: Vary by county (see income limits).
  • First-time homebuyers only?: No.
  • Down payment and closing cost assistance: The DAP loan must be at least $3,000, but no more than the minimum down payment required for the home, usually between 3% and 3.5%.

  • Available to: Veterans and military service members as well as unmarried, surviving spouses or civil union partners of a veteran who died as a result of military service or service-connected disabilities. Borrowers must also be first-time homeowners, have not owned a home in the past three years or purchase in an area of the state targeted for revitalization.
  • Income limits: Vary by county (see income limits).
  • First-time homebuyers only?: No.
  • Benefit: An additional 0.125% off already below-market interest rates for veterans or military service member loans.
  • Down payment and closing cost assistance: The DAP loan must be at least $3,000, but no more than the minimum down payment required for your home, usually between 3% and 3.5%.

  • Available to: Teachers with a valid Connecticut certificate currently employed in the state and who meet employment or other eligibility requirements. Borrowers must also be first-time homeowners, have not owned a home in the past three years or purchase in an area of the state targeted for revitalization.
  • Income limits: Vary by county (see income limits).
  • First-time homebuyers only?: No.
  • Benefit: Teachers get an additional 0.125% off already below-market interest rates.
  • Down payment and closing cost assistance: The DAP loan must be at least $3,000, but no more than the minimum down payment required for your home, usually between 3% and 3.5%.

  • Available to: Municipal police officers buying a home in the participating city or town where they work, or state police officers buying in any participating town. Borrowers must also be first-time homeowners, have not owned a home in the past three years or purchase in an area of the state targeted for revitalization.
  • Income limits: Vary by county (see income limits).
  • First-time homebuyers only?: No.
  • Benefit: Police officers get an additional 0.125% off already below-market interest rates.
  • Down payment and closing cost assistance: The DAP loan must be at least $3,000, but no more than the minimum down payment required for your home, usually between 3% and 3.5%.

  • Available to: Borrowers with disabilities or those who will have someone with a documented disability living in their home. Borrowers must also be first-time homeowners, have not owned a home in the past three years or purchase in an area of the state targeted for revitalization.
  • Income limits: Vary by county (see income limits).
  • First-time homebuyers only?: No.
  • Benefit: Lower interest rate.
  • Down payment and closing cost assistance: The DAP loan must be at least $3,000, with interest rates as low as 1%.

  • Available to: Tenants of public housing or those who receive rental assistance. Residents of properties managed or financed by CHFA, subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or managed by a local housing authority also qualify.
  • Income limits: Vary by county (see income limits).
  • First-time homebuyers only?: No.
  • Benefit: Lower interest rate.
  • Down payment and closing cost assistance: The DAP loan must be at least $3,000, with interest rates as low as 1%.

Find the Best Mortgage Lenders by State

Advertising Disclosure: Some of the loan offers on this site are from companies
who are advertising clients of U.S. News. Advertising considerations may impact
where offers appear on the site but do not affect any editorial decisions,
such as which loan products we write about and how we evaluate them. This site
does not include all loan companies or all loan offers available in the marketplace.

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U.S. Chamber Urges China to Preserve Hong Kong’s Autonomy | World News

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said on Tuesday it was deeply concerned that China’s proposed national security legislation on Hong Kong could undermine its autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework, and urged Beijing to de-escalate the situation.

In a statement, the largest U.S. business group said it would be “a serious mistake” to jeopardize Hong Kong’s special status, which was fundamental to its role as an attractive investment destination and financial hub.

It urged the U.S. government to maintain constructive ties with Hong Kong, and said far-reaching changes to Hong Kong’s status as a separate territory under U.S. law would have serious implications for U.S. businesses that operate there.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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More Money Is Never Enough for the Pentagon | Economic Intelligence

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To be filed under the heading of things you won’t hear anyone in the Pentagon say: “Less is more.” Because when it comes to spending on Department of Defense priorities, more is always more but somehow never quite enough.

The recently enacted Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 established how badly lawmakers and the White House were going to bust the budget caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 – $300 billion it turns out. Much of it went to the Pentagon, which sounds like too much.

The biggest slice of the Pentagon budget pie goes to operations and maintenance. If you cast your mind back to the president’s budget request for Pentagon operations and maintenance spending in fiscal year 2018, you find a total request of $223.5 billion. In the grand compromise passed a few weeks ago, this line item jumped to nearly $282 billion – a more than 25 percent increase. And, astonishingly, the secretary of the Army is now floating a trial balloon asking Congress for additional time to spend the Army’s portion of the operations and maintenance slice of the pie ($67.6 billion). Because Congress abdicated its responsibility to fund the government in a timely manner, Secretary Mark Esper is saying he might not have enough time to spend all the additional largesse. The original request for Army operations account for fiscal year 2018 was just over $49 billion.

Why would the Army secretary ask for extra time to spend just this particular money? Well, not all dollars are treated the same at the Pentagon. Because of the immediacy of spending on items in the operations and maintenance budget, Congress requires the Pentagon to spend all that money in the same fiscal year for which it was appropriated. On the other hand, the Pentagon has two years to spend research and development funds, three years to spend procurement dollars (except shipbuilding), and five years to spend the cash appropriated for military construction and shipbuilding.

So Esper would like to have more time to spend his additional approximately $18 billion. I agree that haste makes waste and more time may lead to more thoughtful decisions, but the real question is: Why didn’t the Pentagon have a plan for spending this additional money? The answer seems to be that Congress is shoveling money across the river to the Pentagon with no real plan on how to spend it. And that’s not a fiscally sound way to make spending decisions. The topline budget numbers set in the Bipartisan Budget Act were apparently based on politics and not based on need, priorities or the requests of the agencies receiving the funds.

But here’s the kicker. The budget deal didn’t write the dozen spending bills that fund the government. It just set top line funding levels. The country is operating under its fifth continuing resolution to keep government funded at fiscal year 2017 levels since the new fiscal year started on Oct. 1. The appropriations committees in the House and Senate are scrambling to write the bills before the March 23 expiration of the current extension. That also means that they can adjust the Army operations and maintenance funds to the amount they can reasonably spend in fiscal year 2018, because in a few short months, Congress will have to turn to fiscal year 2019, where the Army’s operational budget needs can be appropriately funded.

Congress has a few options of how to respond to Esper’s request. First, Congress could ask the secretary just how much the Army does need to spend on operations in the remainder of fiscal year 2018 and adjust appropriated funds downward based on that response. That would certainly be the most logical and fiscally responsible thing to do. Or Congress could grant his request to convert the funds into multi-year money.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect Congress to take the most logical and fiscally responsible route. If Esper receives a warm reception to this request, watch for the other service secretaries to make the same request. And one more element of fiscal discipline flies out the window.

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The 11 Best Hollywood Tours | Travel

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The 11 Best Hollywood Tours | Travel

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Hollywood’s glitz, glamour and celebrities have always held a fascination for travelers. Tourists journey to Los Angeles from all over the world to catch a glimpse of the city’s famous residents or scope out iconic filming locations. For a behind-the-scenes peek at Hollywood’s unknown tales and secrets, enlist the help of a local by signing up for a guided tour. Researching both expert opinion and traveler sentiment, U.S. News selected the 11 best Hollywood tours.

Starline Tours – Celebrity Homes & Rodeo Drive Shopping Tour

This two-part tour begins with a cruise through Hollywood’s exclusive neighborhoods to see more than 40 celebrity homes. The open-air minibus seats just 13 tourgoers and features guides with insider information about Hollywood’s famous residents. Afterward, enjoy free time strolling along Rodeo Drive where you can peruse upscale boutiques, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Harry Winston. The two-hour tour concludes with a hop-on, hop-off bus ride from Rodeo Drive back to the meeting point aboard the double-decker City Sightseeing bus. Most tour-takers enjoy the experience and the entertaining guides. Several others say the commentary is boring and inaccurate. The tour operates daily with many departure times. Tickets cost approximately $55 for adults and $45 for children. Starline Tours also offers additional excursions, which include theme park and studio visits.

TOURific Escapes – Hollywood Sites & Bites Food Tour

A delicious combo tour that merges Hollywood’s major attractions with five of the best culinary tastings in town, this four-hour outing is a hit with reviewers. Tourgoers will visit the TCL Chinese Theatre, Dolby Theatre (host to the Academy Awards) and see the famous Hollywood Sign. Other sights during the driving portion include Paramount Pictures Studios and Capitol Records. In between sights, you’ll visit local restaurants, including a deli and chocolate shop, for tasty samples. Visitors are complimentary of the tour and enjoy the well-versed guides and delectable food stops. The tour departs at 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, though specific days may vary. The maximum size for the group is seven people. Tickets start at $109 for participants 6 and older and $79 for children 5 and younger. For an in-depth look at famous filming locations, consider the company’s Celebrity Insider Movie Locations Tour.

TMZ, known for its celebrity news-fueled television show and website, operates this bus tour that takes travelers through Hollywood in the hopes of seeing their favorite celebrities. During the two-hour trip, TMZ guides will take you to celebrity hangouts in West Hollywood, the Sunset Strip and more. The guides even bring video cameras in case a passing celebrity is willing to give an interview. Many patrons say the tour is fun, even without seeing any stars. Others say the guides give incorrect information or that they didn’t feel the high ticket price justified the limited scope of the tour. Tours run multiple times daily. Tickets start at $52 for ages 13 and older and $32 ages 2 to 12. Children younger than 2 are not permitted.

Ultimate Hollywood Tours – Celebrity Home Tour

Keep your eyes peeled for celebrity sightings on this two-hour van tour, which promises to drive by more than 50 star residences. The van will also cruise down Rodeo Drive and pass by the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Beverly Hills Hotel, among other celebrity haunts. Visitors appreciate the guides’ sense of humor and knowledge. They also say this is an excellent way to see the major attractions in Hollywood. The tours depart multiple times daily from 9:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tickets cost approximately $40 for adults and $30 for children. The company also offers tours that visit film studios and famous filming locations in Hollywood.

The Real Los Angeles Tours – The Real Hollywood Tour

During this historic walking tour, travelers will learn why Hollywood, once a farming town, was selected by movie industry pioneers in the early 20th century. The two-hour tour also stops at unique sights, such as the oldest house in Hollywood. But major attractions aren’t forgotten either: You can expect to see the Capitol Records Building, the Dolby Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, among other sights. Reviewers enjoy the informative guides, and even locals say they discover things they never knew about the city. Tours are offered daily at 10 a.m. and cost approximately $30 for adults; children 11 and younger tour for free. You can also opt to combine this tour with the company’s Central Downtown LA tour for a comprehensive, six-hour historical overview of the city.

Taking a bus tour to pass by the homes of the rich and famous is a popular activity for Hollywood tourists.(Getty Images)

Open Bus Tours – Star Homes Tour

Admire the mansions of Hollywood’s rich and famous as you wind through LA’s posh neighborhoods on this two-hour, open-air Mercedes bus tour. Then, pass by iconic sights, such as the Hollywood Sign and Mulholland Drive, before cruising along Rodeo Drive, the Sunset Strip and other well-known Hollywood locales. Most reviewers give the tour high marks, applauding the amusing and informative guides. Ticket prices start at $35 for adults, $29 for kids ages 2 to 11 and $20 for infants. Tours depart up to four times daily. Longer three- and four-hour tours of LA are also available.

Dearly Departed Tours – Hollywood’s History & Haunts Walking Tour

Learn about Hollywood’s spooky haunts and notorious crime scenes from a Hollywood historian during this 90-minute walking tour. The mile-long walk passes by theaters, hotels, storefronts, bars and alleyways with an eerie past. Each tour-taker will also receive a personal headset so that they can hear the tour guides’ stories. Patrons say the tour is fun and informative, but most don’t think it as chilling as advertised. Tours are offered on Friday evenings at 5 p.m. Ticket prices start at $25. Visitors in search of an experience focused on some of Hollywood’s worst tragedies should book Dearly Departed’s Helter Skelter or Homicide True Crime tour.

Red Line Tours – Hollywood Behind-the-Scenes Tour

Visit famous filming locations, well-known movie theaters, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and more on this 75-minute walking tour. You’ll also learn the history of the TCL Chinese Theatre and how Hollywood got its name, among other behind-the-scenes tidbits. Tour-takers applaud the guides for their delivery of interesting facts and trivia. Reviewers also praise the use of personal headsets, which makes it easy to hear the guide’s commentary. Tours run four times a day. Tickets cost approximately $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors and $15 for children ages 9 to 15. Children younger than 9 tour for free. The company offers several other tours, including the Hollywood Movie Experience, which takes visitors to legendary filming locations in downtown LA.

Legends of Hollywood Tours

This multimedia tour takes visitors on a four-hour drive through Beverly Hills, Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. The narrated ride in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is coordinated with movie and video clips that play on a 32-inch flat-screen monitor. Learn about legendary celebrities while driving past their homes and other Hollywood landmarks. Reviewers, who describe the tour as “incredible,” appreciate the engaging guides and insight. Travelers also appreciate guides’ recommendations. Tours are limited to 13 participants. Ticket prices start at $79 for adults, $69 for seniors and $59 for students (ages 5 to 17).

Bikes and Hikes Experience LA: Hollywood Sign Hike

For a unique and sunshine-filled Hollywood tour, opt for this 2 1/2-hour hike to the Hollywood Sign. Highlights include a visit to Griffith Observatory, panoramic views from Mount Hollywood and local guides who also double as actors and comedians. Along the 3 1/2-mile round-trip hike, you might even see local celebrities walking their dogs. Tour-takers love the views, informative guides and the overall experience. The company offers both morning and sunset guided hikes. The starting times vary, depending on the time of the year. Bikes and Hikes LA recommends wearing sunscreen, sunglasses and sneakers, and bringing a camera or smartphone for all those Instagrammable views. Tickets start at $35 per person. The company also offers three different bike tours around Hollywood and LA.

Bike Tours Hollywood – Hollywood Bike Tour

Get your heart pumping while seeing the sights during this roughly 2 1/2-hour, 8-mile bike ride. The tour departs from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and travels through lesser-known Hollywood neighborhoods before visiting major attractions, such as Griffith Park. Along the way, you’ll have time to stop for photos and take a break from the bike with a short nature walk. Reviewers like the active nature of the tour and praise the guides for their knowledge of the area and entertaining delivery. Tours cost approximately $65 per person and include the use of a geared bike, a helmet and water. Bike rides are offered twice daily. The company also offers a combo bike tour of Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

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