Thursday, October 23, 2008

Limited Imagination

Interesting article until you get almost to the end.

You might've expected someone who is lamenting on out-of-control spending to suggest we either pay off the Federal debt or cut taxes after cutting grandma's benefits, but no, she suggests we shift those saved funds to pre-school programs.

Makes sense coming from someone at the Brookings Institute.

Great 'economic' take on pre-school ... ' It's like any investment that has a rate of return.'

But a good question from an interviewer should be ... 'Is it the Federal government's responsibility to pay for education, pre-school or otherwise?' ... and 'Where in the constitution does it say the Federal Gov't has this responsibility?' .

Why we need to cut seniors' benefits

Economist Isabel Sawhill says America's elderly are getting too big a slice of the taxpayers' money.

Interview by George Mannes, Money Magazine senior writer

(Money Magazine) -- Whether or not Congress or the Federal Reserve manages to solve the financial crisis, there will be an equally scary situation that has not yet made newspaper headlines.

The big three of entitlement programs - Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid - will wreak havoc on the country's finances (and yours) unless we scale them back, says Isabel Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution and member of a bipartisan think tank trying to sound the alarm.

Question: You talk about fixing the unwritten agreement between younger and older generations - the "intergenerational contract." What's broken?

Answer: The existing contract assumes that the working-age population is going to be able to support the older population - the retired population - out into the future and should do so. And that's not a sustainable assumption.

Q. Why not?

A. Forty-two percent of federal spending now goes to three programs, with the major share to the elderly.

Two or three decades from now, those three programs will be as large as the federal government is today.

Let's say someone is now paying 25% of their income in taxes. To maintain the commitments we've made to the elderly, they would have to pay 50%.

Q. What's the solution?

A. We need those who can afford it to contribute more to their own retirement costs.

Take Social Security: Right now the benefit formula provides a pretty good retirement income to those who make more than $100,000 a year.

I don't think that the working-age population should continue to fund benefits for seniors who are so well off.

Q. And you want to spend this money instead on the younger generation?

A. Yes. We would reap enormous economic benefits from spending more on early childhood education. It's like any investment that has a rate of return.

If you do it when people are young, it's going to help make them more productive and enable them to earn a reasonable living.

Q. Wouldn't the AARP crowd scream bloody murder about benefit reductions?

A. I don't think all older Americans are opposed to investing in their children and grandchildren.

Q. So how do you sell this idea of spending less on the elderly and more on the young?

A. We have to change the debate, which has been focused on the idea that there's going to be generational warfare.

I'm trying to get away from that concept by talking about the fact that every individual, every generation, should expect more from their government when they're young and less from their government when they're old.

That's not generational warfare. That's common sense.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Misleading headlines

From the very long headline you would think that U.S. firms owed Mexican laborers back pay.

That idea wouldn't be clarified in the article until you got to the 7th paragraph, if you persisted in reading that far into the article.

At that point it states that the Mexican gov't was at fault and had withheld the money from it's own citizens when they returned to Mexico.

The Mexican gov't mistreating it's own citizens? The same gov't that assists them in their quest to go to the U.S. illegally to work and send money back ? The gov't that fights for these worker's rights to live and work in the U.S. ?

Nah... couldn't be .

October 16, 2008

Settlement Will Allow Thousands of Mexican Laborers in U.S. to Collect Back Pay

Tens of thousands of Mexicans who labored in the United States under a World War II-era guest worker program will be eligible to collect back pay under a settlement to a long-fought lawsuit.

From 200,000 to 300,000 laborers, called braceros, worked as farmhands or railroad workers from 1942 to 1946, and under the program, a portion of their pay was deducted and transferred to the Mexican government to be given to the workers when they returned to Mexico.

But many laborers said they never received the pay, and many never even knew that 10 percent of their salaries was deducted. In 2001, lawyers filed a class action lawsuit in California.

The lawsuit was dismissed twice, as courts considered whether too much time had passed and whether a lawsuit against the Mexican government could have standing in the United States. The American government and Wells Fargo Bank, initially named as defendants, were dismissed from the case.

Scores of elderly ex-braceros staged protests in Mexico, demanding compensation.

On Wednesday, lawyers for the braceros and the Mexican government said the Federal District Court in San Francisco had given preliminary approval to a settlement in the case.

Under the settlement, scheduled for a hearing on final approval in a few months, Mexico would give each bracero, or a surviving heir, $3,500.

“It’s an overdue redress for a very historic grievance,” said Joshua Karsh, a lawyer representing the braceros.

Joel Hernandez, the legal adviser for the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “We are happy that we were able to reach a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs. We think it’s very important to reach that stage in order to make it possible that any potential applicant may file an application for social support.”

Ramon Ibarra, now 86, said he did two stints as a bracero, laying track for railroads in Arizona and layering ice into trains carrying fruits and vegetables in Bakersfield, Calif. A widower who has lived in Chicago for 40 years, Mr. Ibarra said he would like to use the money “for my final rites and for my death that is very near” and called it “a victory of principles that allows me to be positive about continuing to live a little longer.”

The braceros, a name coined for people who worked with their arms (brazos), earned about 50 cents an hour, and advocates say many were unable to read their contracts to learn about payroll deductions or were too daunted to try to collect their money in Mexico. The Mexican government collected at least $32 million in deductions, but claims about how much was reimbursed vary.

In 2005, the Mexican government, without admitting liability, agreed to pay about $3,500 in compensation for braceros living in Mexico, but only 49,000 of the 212,000 applications received could provide documentation.

“It is very important to note that X number of people may claim” to be braceros, Mr. Hernandez said. But “many years have passed and they really have to prove that they belong to the braceros program.”

Since many braceros immigrated to the United States after returning to Mexico, an untold number of braceros and their descendants live in states like California, Illinois and Texas.

Mr. Karsh said that the plaintiffs lost their request for “much less stringent documentation requirements,” and that some braceros or their families may lack the paperwork or proof needed to collect in the settlement. Mr. Ibarra, for example, said he had no record of his employment.

But the family of Juan Castaneda Davila, who died in 1972, has documentation that he worked in farm fields and railroads in Kansas and Texas, said his daughter, Lourdes Ramos.

“I feel so-so” about the settlement, Ms. Ramos said. “They deserve more because they tried to help this country.”

Economic 'laws'

If only the 'laws' of economics were more like the laws of physics or the axioms of math we wouldn't have boom and bust cycles.

Thank goodness the experts at Wharton help explain these 'laws' to us laymen:

“The No. 1 thing that drives housing values is incomes,” said Todd Sinai, an associate professor of real estate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “When incomes fall, demand for housing falls.”

How come this doesn't work in reverse, that housing prices cannot rise faster than income ?

How come this doesn't work with colleges, where costs have outpaced inflation AND income for over 25 years?

How come economic 'laws' don't work like the law of gravity ?

And how come economic 'experts' can be wrong so often but still have jobs along with rising incomes ?

October 16, 2008

Home Prices Seem Far From Bottom

The American housing market, where the global economic crisis began, is far from hitting bottom.

Home prices across much of the country are likely to fall through late 2009, economists say, and in some markets the trend could last even longer depending on the severity of the anticipated recession.

In hard-hit areas like California, Florida and Arizona, the grim calculus is the same: More and more homes are going up for sale, but fewer and fewer people are willing or able to buy them.

Adding to the worries nationwide are rising unemployment, falling wages and escalating mortgage rates — all of which will reduce the already diminished pool of would-be buyers.

“The No. 1 thing that drives housing values is incomes,” said Todd Sinai, an associate professor of real estate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “When incomes fall, demand for housing falls.”

Despite the government’s move to bolster the banking industry, home loan rates rose again on Tuesday, reflecting concern that the Treasury will borrow heavily to finance the rescue.

On Wednesday, the average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages was 6.75 percent, up from 6.06 percent last week. While banks are moving aggressively to sell foreclosed properties, the number of empty homes is hovering near its highest level in more than half a century.

As of June, 2.8 percent of homes previously occupied by an owner were vacant. Nearly 1 in 10 rentals was without a tenant. Both numbers are near their highest levels since 1956, the earliest year for which the Census Bureau has such data.

At the same time, the number of people who are losing jobs or seeing their incomes decline is rising. The unemployment rate has climbed to 6.1 percent, from 4.4 percent at the end of 2007, and wages for those who still have a job have barely kept up with inflation.

In New York and other cities that rely heavily on the financial sector, economists expect that job losses will increase and that pay heavily tied to year-end bonuses will decline significantly.

One reliable proxy of housing values — the ratio of home prices to rents — indicates that in many cities prices are still too high relative to historical norms.

In Miami, for instance, home prices are about 22 times annual rents, according to analysis by Moody’s The average figure for the last 20 years is just 15 times annual rents. The difference between those two numbers suggests that a home valued at $500,000 today might be worth only $341,000 based on the long-term relationship between prices and rents.

The price-to-rent ratio, which provides one measure of how much of a premium home buyers place on owning rather than renting, spiked across the country earlier this decade.

It increased the most on the coasts and somewhat less in the middle of the country.’s calculations show that while it remains elevated in many places, the ratio has fallen sharply to more normal levels in places like Sacramento, Dallas and Riverside, Calif.

The current housing downturn is much more national in scope and severe than any other in the postwar period, partly because of the proliferation of risky lending practices. Today, foreclosures are running ahead of the downturn in the economy, a reversal of previous housing slumps.

“We are in uncharted waters,” said Brian A. Bethune, an economist at Global Insight, a research firm.

Colleen Pestana, a real estate agent in Orange County in California, said many people losing their homes in Southern California used to work at mortgage and real estate companies. Many of them bet heavily on real estate by upgrading to bigger houses every few years. Now, many are losing their homes.

At the same time, Ms. Pestana said, her clients who are looking to buy are having a harder time lining up financing. One of her clients recently had to give up on a home after the lender that had offered a pre-approved loan changed its mind — a frequent occurrence, according to real estate agents and mortgage brokers.

“I am working harder than I have ever had to work to get a deal together and keep it together,” said Ms. Pestana, who has been a real estate agent for seven years.

To cushion themselves from potential losses if homes lose value, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance companies that the government took over in September, have increased fees on loans made to borrowers who have good but not excellent credit records, even those who are making down payments as big as 30 percent.

Those higher fees are generally invisible to borrowers because banks factor them into mortgage interest rates. While the national average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is now 6.75 percent, according to HSH Associates, mortgage brokers say the rates for many borrowers in the Southwest or Florida can be as high as 8 percent, especially for so-called jumbo loans that are too big to be sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Those loan limits vary by area from $417,000 to roughly $650,000.)

Higher interest rates result in bigger monthly payments, pricing some potential buyers out of the market. For example, monthly payments are $2,700 on a 6 percent 30-year, fixed-rate loan of $450,000. If the interest rate rises to 7 percent, those monthly payments jump to $3,000. All things being equal, when rates rise prices generally fall.

This month, Fannie and Freddie canceled a fee increase that would have applied to markets where home prices are falling, but the companies still have many other fees in place. In an effort to help drive down rates, the Treasury Department has announced plans to buy mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie and Freddie. The government also recently increased the amount of loans the companies can buy and hold.

Still, those efforts will take time to have an impact and it is not clear whether they will be sufficient to get banks to lend more freely, especially in areas where jumbo loans make up a bigger percentage of lending, like New York and parts of California and Florida. Economists say that prices in those places will probably fall further.

In some of those places, price declines are being driven by a sharp increase in sales of foreclosed homes.

Hudson & Marshall, a Dallas-based auctioneer that holds sales for lenders, reports that banks are accepting prices that they refused to consider just 12 months earlier. In a recent auction of 110 foreclosed homes in the Las Vegas area, for instance, the auctioneer’s clients accepted 90 percent of the bids submitted by buyers, up from 60 percent a year earlier, said David T. Webb, a co-owner of the company.

Single-family home prices in Las Vegas have already fallen 34 percent from their peak in the summer of 2006, according to the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home price index. Prices in San Diego have fallen 31 percent since late 2005.

While those declines have been painful to homeowners in those cities, economists said the quick decline might help the markets reach bottom faster than in previous housing cycles, said Edward E. Leamer, an economist at the University of California, Los Angeles. In a previous boom, home prices peaked in the Los Angeles area in 1990 but did not hit bottom until 1996. Prices remained near that low for more than a year before starting to climb again.

“In some areas of California, we are really at appropriate levels,” Mr. Leamer said of current home prices. But he added: “The risk is that we are going to get some overshooting, meaning that prices will be lower than they ought to be.”

In Florida, Jack McCabe, a real estate consultant, said that while some cities, like Fort Myers, are showing tentative signs of a rebound, others like Miami and Fort Lauderdale are still under pressure. Two homes on his street in Fort Lauderdale that sold for about $730,000 apiece in 2005 recently sold for $400,000 — a 44 percent decline.

“The rocket has run out of fuel, and now it’s plunged back down to earth,” he said.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Some corporate-speak

Corporations make up words and terms to try to sound more serious and significant. College students are taught to do this also, come to think of it.

Take these sentences from the following article. Can we express this more succintly and simpler?

“We were adversely impacted by continued weakness in the U.S. liquid refreshment beverage category, which resulted in disappointing performance in our domestic beverage business. We are taking important steps to revitalize our beverage portfolio.”

How about .. " We sold less soda than we expected, but we hope to sell more soda next quarter".

And isn't there some redundancy in the term 'liquid refreshment beverage category' . Aren't liquid refreshments also beverages, and vice versa?

But would the board of directors pay this woman multi-millions to be the CEO if she spoke like this ?

October 14, 2008, 7:32 am

Pepsi cutting back

Pepsico (PEP) is cutting back. The Purchase, N.Y., drinks-and-snacks conglomerate posted softer-than-expected third-quarter earnings Tuesday and set plans to cut 3,300 jobs as the economic slowdown and changing consumer tastes hit soda sales. Pepsi made $1.56 billion, or 99 cents a share, for the quarter ended Sept. 30, down from the year-ago $1.74 billion, or $1.06 a share. Excluding certain costs, earnings were $1.06 a share in the latest quarter, 2 cents shy of the Thomson Financial analyst consensus estimate.

“In the third quarter, our worldwide snacks and international beverage businesses performed well once again,” said CEO Indra Nooyi. “We were adversely impacted by continued weakness in the U.S. liquid refreshment beverage category, which resulted in disappointing performance in our domestic beverage business. We are taking important steps to revitalize our beverage portfolio.”

Pepsi will close six plants and cut 2% of jobs worldwide in a plan that aims to produce pretax savings of $1.2 billion. The company said it expects to make $3.67 or $3.68 a share for 2008, 6 cents below the Thomson Financial target, due in part to the recent surge in the value of the dollar, which reduces the company’s overseas profits. But Pepsi said it wouldn’t offer any guidance for next year till it posts fourth-quarter numbers in January, citing “macro economic turbulence and volatility in the currency markets.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bad mortgage - whose fault?

Sounds like she was mortgage-free in '97, when she was 78 years old. At this time she had lived in the same house for 26 years.

Then, for some reason she took out a mortgage . Who gives a 30 year mortgage to a 78 year old??? Obviously she was not working. Was she going to pay it back with her social security?

Why would she take it out in the first place? Was she hoodwinked into taking it by an unscrupulous mortgage broker? This might be the real story. What bank or mortgage company gave the loan?

Why would she refinance 'several times' since then ? Again, perhaps a high pressure mortgage salesperson was involved?

And what did she do with the tens of thousands of dollars she received?

She may be worthy of sympathy if she was badgered into these loans by unscrupulous salespeople. Then again perhaps she was a somewhat willing participant in the scam.

Widow puts face on home crisis

Shoots herself in foreclosure

Monday, October 13, 2008

Buzz up!

AKRON, Ohio | By the time deputies came to escort Addie Polk out of her home of 38 years, the 90-year-old had taken out her life insurance policy and placed it next to her pocketbook and keys in the neatly kept house.

She shot herself in the chest Oct. 1 before she could be taken away from the foreclosed house, which was worth less than its mortgage from the day she took out the loan.

A congressman called her the face of a national tragedy, the housing crisis that has affected millions of Americans. Neighbors were stunned and said they had no idea the widow had been about to lose her two-story home.

As she recovered, Mrs. Polk sounded a bit regretful. "She said that was a crazy thing to do," said neighbor Robert Dillon, 62, who visited her at the hospital.

Mrs. Polk's cause was taken up by Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, a Democrat, and fueled blogs on reckless lending practices rampant during the housing boom. Mortgage finance company Fannie Mae dropped the foreclosure, forgave her mortgage and said she could remain in the home.

"You have to shoot yourself to get help," said a neighbor, Hannah Garrett, 76.

The Summit County Sheriff's Department concluded that Mrs. Polk shot herself over the foreclosure, Lt. Kandy Fatheree said. A revolver was inches from her, and the house was locked.

Mr. Dillon heard the gunfire Oct. 1, climbed through Mrs. Polk's upstairs bathroom window and found her lying in bed bleeding.

Mrs. Polk was recovering at Akron General Medical Center, and did not respond to a mailed Associated Press request for an interview. The hospital would not release information about her condition.

Mr. Dillon hadn't been aware of Mrs. Polk's financial situation but said she had indicated she couldn't afford roof or porch repairs.

Mrs. Polk's blue-collar neighborhood, overlooking a duck pond and a noisy highway near Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s world headquarters, is a mix of renovated and worn-out houses. Unlike some hard-hit areas, no for-sale signs were dotted along the brick street on a recent day.

Neighbors said Mrs. Polk, who has no children, drives herself to church services and goes out to dinner with friends on Sundays.

"She didn't act like she was under stress," Mrs. Garrett said.

Mrs. Polk took out a mortgage in 1997 and refinanced several times after that, court and property records showed. She took out a 30-year, 6.375 percent mortgage for $45,620 four years ago when the house was appraised at $31,230. That move put her in a position that, according to Deutsche Bank, up to 40 percent of borrowers, or 20 million households nationwide, could face within 12 to 18 months: Suddenly Mrs. Polk owed more on her house than it was worth.

While many households ran into that problem when once-soaring house prices declined, there was no bubble on LaCroix Avenue, located in a city whose population dropped 4 percent since 2000 amid declining manufacturing.

Fannie Mae, which had assumed the Countrywide Home Loan mortgage on Mrs. Polk's home, thinks a reversal of the foreclosure was appropriate given the circumstances, a Fannie Mae spokesman said. Fannie Mae filed the foreclosure on Sept. 6, 2007.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Offshoring Airline maintnenance

Look like there may be melamine in the jet fuel?

FAA Faulted for Lax Tracking of Airline Maintenance, Too Much Outsourcing

Saturday , October 04, 2008



Nine U.S. airlines outsourced more than 70 percent of their major aircraft maintenance last year, and federal aviation officials' oversight of repair facilities is lagging, according to a government report.

One-fourth of the outsourced maintenance is being handled by contractors overseas.

The Transportation Department's inspector general said the outsourcing, which has more than doubled in four years, was of concern because the Federal Aviation Administration has failed to closely track how much maintenance is farmed out and where it is performed.

Although the FAA has taken steps to improve, "the agency still faces challenges in determining where the most critical maintenance occurs and ensuring sufficient oversight," investigators said in the report issued this week.

In their effort to lower costs, the report said, airlines continue to shift their heavy airframe maintenance from their own in-house mechanics and engineers to hundreds of repair companies in the United States, Canada, Mexico and countries in Central America and Asia.

Nine major airlines examined by the inspector general outsourced 71 percent of their heavy air frame maintenance — repairs and servicing to an aircraft's body, wings and tail — in 2007, up from 34 percent in 2003. More than a quarter of that maintenance — 27 percent — was performed at foreign repair facilities.

The airlines examined in the report were AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, America West Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Northwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines. American Airlines, the nation's largest domestic carrier, was not included, the inspector general said, because it handles most maintenance in-house.

The FAA relies heavily on the airlines — and the repair facilities themselves — to make sure outsourced repairs meet the air safety standards and requirements of the individual airlines.

FAA requires each repair station to undergo a government inspection at least once a year, FAA spokesman Les Dorr said. The report says those inspections often are not being conducted by agency inspectors most familiar with standards and requirements of the airline whose planes are being repaired.

As much as five years lapsed between visits to some major maintenance facilities by inspectors assigned to individual airlines. Inspectors not assigned to a specific airline may not be familiar with the special maintenance requirements of that airline's planes, which are often customized.

The report cited a foreign facility, which repairs engines for an unidentified airline, that had not been inspected by an FAA inspector assigned to that airline in five years, a period in which the facility had repaired 39 of the air carrier's engines.

The report recommends FAA require airlines to provide more complete information on the extent and location of outsourced repairs, ensure air carriers and repair stations are better able to spot and correct problems, and improve the documentation of inspection results.

The FAA agreed it needs to do more. "We actually concur with all the inspector general's recommendations," Dorr said. "We have procedures in place that already address some of the recommendations, and we have some projects in progress that address others."

One safety expert, however, said the report underscores that FAA still has a long way to go toward resolving the outsourcing issue, which has been source of controversy for the agency for several years.

"What this report tells me is there is still a big problem with oversight — the FAA is not verifying that the oversight being provided by the air carriers is doing the job it's supposed to," said John Goglia, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Doctor - another job Americans won't do

OK... some questions any journalist can ask, but none seem to do, when such articles are put together :

  • Why are so many foreign doctors interning in the U.S. ?
  • Do U.S. Med schools produce too few graduates to meet the yearly needs for interns/residents in U.S. hospitals?
  • Are a lot less U.S. students applying to Med school? How easy is it to get into a U.S. Med School?
  • Why are there too few doctors in the country ? If there are too many in desired areas such as NYC then it stands to reason that costs may go down or many would not be able to make a living.
  • If there are too few home-grown doctors why don't existing Med schools ramp up enrollment?
  • If there are too few home-grown doctors why don't States create more public Med Schools to fill the need?
  • How about creating Med schools in rural areas, drawing from local people who would be interested in working either locally or in other rural areas?

October 1, 2008
Towns Need Doctors, and the Doctors Need Visas
Glossy chamber of commerce brochures from small towns and rural areas along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and in the Adirondack Mountains beckoned on tables in the Sheraton New York Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. But it was not the allure of hiking, fishing or wineries — or even the free cookies and coffee — that attracted scores of novice doctors to a job fair on Sunday.

It was the possibility of a green card.

Many of the doctors, residents at New York City hospitals, had come from abroad on visas, including the restrictive J-1 “exchange visa,” which requires them to return home for two years once they finish their studies unless they can get a waiver to work in a medically underserved area. New York State recommends about 30 doctors for J-1 visa waivers annually; typically half of the visas go to doctors working in neighborhoods like Washington Heights or the South Bronx and half to upstate communities that do not have enough physicians.

Getting such a waiver is akin to winning the lottery, and to apply for a ticket, doctors must have a signed employment contract, said Caleb C. Wistar, a State Health Department planner who was at the job fair to give advice. “This is the shining prize of working in underserved areas for people who are not citizens,” he said.

Visa politics helped turn the job fair into a matchmaking exercise. The 30 upstate hospitals that sent representatives, whose expenses were covered by the Greater New York Hospital Association, promoted their towns’ friendly neighbors and good schools. The immigrant doctors, willing to relocate for economic and professional opportunities, listened politely, then worked up the courage to ask what for many of them was the most pressing question: “Do you sponsor visas?”

Dr. Ranka Bulajic, a Serb, analyzed the job market by ethnicity: Eastern Europeans, she explained, were willing to work in colder climates like northern New York State or Oregon, while those from Africa or the Caribbean tended to prefer Alabama or Virginia. Dr. Jiwu Sun, who graduated from China’s prestigious Third Military Medical University, said that, at the age of 40 — and with a wife, two children and limited English — he was in no position to make demands of potential employers. Dr. Nadia Ferder, 34, who was born in the United States but grew up in Buenos Aires, said she did not want to return to Argentina because the economy was so bad that “lawyers, economists, doctors, architects, they are all driving cabs.”

Many studies show that newly trained American doctors, burdened with student loans and seeking status and challenges, gravitate toward urban centers. A 2007 study of physician recruitment by the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the State University of New York at Albany found that physicians practicing upstate were more likely to have come from outside New York than their downstate counterparts.

The study said that when doctors had trouble finding jobs, the main reason was their reluctance to look outside the most desirable locations, like New York City. While many American doctors aspire to work on Park Avenue, experts say, foreign-born doctors are willing to take more modest jobs as a way of establishing a toehold in the United States.

Dr. Romina Tollerutti, 31, who graduated from medical school at the University of Buenos Aires, said she learned English six years ago when she decided to come to the United States for her residency, and had struggled with the unfamiliar multiple-choice format of the medical-licensing exam. She and her husband, also a doctor, hope that fluency of Spanish will help make them more attractive to employers.

Dr. Tollerutti said that even as a third-year pediatric resident at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, she was doing better financially than she would as a fully trained doctor in Argentina. “We are not saving money,” Dr. Tollerutti said. “But we have a cellphone, we have cable, I pay rent, and we have money to go out.”

Like other foreign-born physicians, Dr. Tollerutti said that having gone to a government-run medical school, where her tuition was free, made her more flexible in her job possibilities than many of her American colleagues who had to pay off staggering student loans.

Dr. Bulajic, 35, who earned her medical degree from the University of Kragujevac in Serbia and has Canadian citizenship, is doing her residency at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway.

She said New York City hospitals have their pick among residents and would rather hire a doctor with a green card than sponsor someone for a visa waiver. To work in Canada, she said, she would need another year of training. Her husband is an electrician, and they would prefer to live in an area where construction jobs are plentiful. But Dr. Bulajic is pregnant and her mother lives in Toronto, so a job in upstate New York sounded appealing, she said.

One of her competitors for a waiver was Dr. André Phillips, 27, from Barbados, who said he had earned his medical degree at the University of the West Indies campus in Jamaica, tuition-free, before landing a residency in internal medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. Dr. Phillips is scheduled to finish his residency in 2010, on a J-1 visa.

Dr. Phillips said he had been solicited by hospitals in the Dakotas, but would rather stay on the East Coast, closer to his family in Barbados. His goal, he said, was not to be rich but to be comfortable. “Money is not the reason I went into medicine,” he said, adding that he would be satisfied with “a nice three-bedroom house and a sedan.”

A recruiter from the Finger Lakes region said her hospital could sponsor visas.

“How about the lawyer’s fee?” Dr. Phillips asked.

“We reimburse that,” the recruiter replied.

Nearby, Rich Duvall, a human resources administrator for Carthage Area Hospital in Carthage, N.Y., gave the hard sell to a doctor from India and his family. Carthage, a medically underserved area that calls itself “the gateway to the Adirondacks,” had it all, he said: snow sports, river sports, hiking and, thanks to the soldiers at nearby Fort Drum, diversity.

When is a cartel legal?

Looks like the EU can fine companies headquarted outside Europe for cartel activities.

What about OPEC then ?

EU Fines Wax Producers EUR676 Million For Price Fixing

BRUSSELS -(Dow Jones)- The European Commission Wednesday fined nine wax producers a total of EUR676 million for participating in a paraffin wax cartel.

The nine producers are Sasol Ltd. (SOL.JO), ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM), ENI S.P.A (ENI.MI), Hansen & Rosenthal, Tudapetrol, MOL, Repsol, RWE and Total S.A. ( 12027.FR).

Sasol, a South African energy company, was the leader of the cartel and will have to pay EUR318 million, the commission said. Total will have to pay the second largest part of the fine at EUR128 million.

"There is probably not a household or company in Europe that hasn't bought products affected by this 'paraffin mafia' cartel," said Neelie Kroes, the commission's antitrust chief, in a statement.