Help Stop This Deadly Disease

BATAVIA, Ill.-(Business Wire)-April 2, 2009 – According to a recent study conducted by The American Heartworm Society (AHS), heartworm disease continues to be a major health concern throughout the United States. The study indicates the need to continue to raise awareness among the more than 82 million pet owners about this potentially deadly disease and correct some of the misconceptions about its transmission, prevention and treatment.

The results of the study show that heartworm incidence in dogs is on the rise in the US and there is a continued increase in the geographical spread of the disease. The extended occurrences were found particularly in the northwest region and around the Rocky Mountain States. The Delta, South-central and Southeast regions also saw an increase in reported cases, with prevalence being the highest in the Delta region.

Heartworm disease is found in all 50 states. All dogs, regardless of breed, size, general health – and whether they are considered indoor or outdoor pets – are vulnerable to it. Once a dog tests positive for heartworms, treatment for the disease is complicated. It’s lengthy, traumatic to the pet and its owner, expensive, and can be risky. Cats can get infected too, and while heartworms are easy to prevent, there is no approved treatment if they get infected.

Heartworms are transmitted by an infected mosquito biting your dog and depositing tiny larvae on the skin which migrate through the tissues and mature until they reach the heart and lungs. There, they cause debilitating damage that can rob the animal of its energy, its quality of life and, eventually, of life itself.

“Fortunately, there is an easy, reliable way to prevent pets from contracting heartworm disease in the first place,” said Dr. Sheldon Rubin, president of AHS. “Heartworm Preventives are highly effective, convenient to administer, and available at a small fraction of the cost of treatment,” he added. They must be dispensed by a licensed veterinarian.

Pet owners are urged to consult their veterinarians about heartworm disease, and to follow his or her recommendations carefully in order to protect their pets. “The American Heartworm Society (AHS) hopes to raise pet-owner awareness of heartworm disease and has designated “April is Heartworm Awareness Month,” said Dr. Sheldon Rubin, president of AHS.

About the American Heartworm Society

The American Heartworm Society, headquartered in Batavia, Illinois, is the global resource for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heartworm disease and was formed during the Heartworm Symposium of 1974. The American Heartworm Society stimulates and financially supports research, which furthers knowledge and understanding of the disease.

“Should I Lease or Should I Buy, That is The Question”?

by Brad Beck

Vice President, Banc of American Practice Solutions

Are you still writing rent checks? Have you ever asked yourself; “would I be better off purchasing a location instead of leasing?” In order to answer these questions you need to carefully review the advantages and disadvantages of leasing or purchasing property for your practice.

Buying real estate certainly has its rewards. Developing equity in real estate can be a sensible way to grow your business and personal wealth portfolio. What are the advantages and disadvantages of leasing property though?

One of the advantages of leasing is that your credit rating is not as crucial and normally requires little or no down payment. Another benefit is that you don’t have to worry about selling the building when you want to move to a new location. And, of course, your monthly rent may be considered a tax deduction that you can deduct as a business expense.

The disadvantage of leasing is fairly obvious – you never build any equity in the property and your rental rates could increase based on market conditions.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing? Crunching the numbers is important when doing any comparison. One advantage is when you own the property you eliminate dealing with a landlord. Additionally your interest on the mortgage loan should be tax deductible. Also, by making improvements to your property you could increase its value and, by holding the property long term, you should gain equity that can be used for retirement. With a fixed mortgage, you never have to worry about your payments going up annually like a rent payment, unless your interest rate is variable. Also, there is normally a depreciation tax write off available to the owners of a property and this could save you significant tax dollars. In fact many accountants recommend that a property be bought in the doctor’s name and then leased back to the doctor’s corporation (if he has one) to get the maximum tax benefit for the doctor.

One should also be aware that there could be some downside to owning real estate. Owning real estate could require you to invest time and energy in tasks that are not related to the day to day running of your office. Costs such as unexpected repairs, routine maintenance, trash pick-up, landscaping, and possibly snow removal should be considered in your cash flow analysis. Being a property owner could require you to be subject to legal and regulatory laws not associated with leasing property as well. Also, selling the property to get your money back out of it can take time and be subject to the economic whims of the real estate market.

Have you taken a look at your business plan? Have you asked yourself; “how much space will I need ten years from now? Will I be able to grow my practice and expand with the possible restrictions of the size of property I buy and/or will I be able to expand my rental space, as needed, in a leased property?”

All of these matters should be looked at when making the decision to purchase or lease. Answering all of these questions will help you make the decision as to whether leasing or purchasing is really best for your business future.

For a new practice, Banc of America Practice Solutions offers a Conventional Commercial Real Estate loan product that can provide you with an option of up to twelve months of interest-only payments that will give you lower payments at the beginning of the loan while you are building your client base. Banc of America Practice Solutions also offers fixed rate Conventional Commercial Real Estate loans of up to 25 years. Most banks usually don’t offer a long term commercial real estate loan, which is important to keep your payments low and affordable. Along with the longer term, Banc of America can lock in your rate in for 12 months, so you know today what your rate will be tomorrow.

Whether you are an established doctor buying the building where you are currently located, relocating your clinic to an existing building or condo unit, refinancing the existing debt on the building, or even starting an additional practice, contact Brad Beck Vice President Banc of America Practice Solutions @ 800-214-6087 brad.beck@bankofamerica.com and he will be glad to help you with your Conventional Real Estate needs.*

* Banc of America Practice Solutions is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America, NA. Banc of America Practice Solutions and Bank of America, NA are registered trademarks of Bank of America Corporation. The suggestions set forth above are not intended to express, imply or infer any guaranty of success or promised result, and are intended as guidelines only.

The Financial Crisis: A Look Behind The Wizard’s Curtain

By Bruce Wiseman

I’m tired of hearing about sub-prime mortgages.

It’s as if these things were living entities that had spawned an epidemic of economic pornography.

Sub-prime mortgages are as much a cause of the current financial chaos as bullets were for the death of JFK.

Someone planned the assassination and someone pulled the trigger.

The media, J. Edgar Hoover and the Warren Commission tried to push Lee Harvey Oswald off on the American public. They didn’t buy it.

They shouldn’t buy sub-prime mortgages either.

Someone planned the assassination and someone pulled the trigger.

Only this time the target is the international financial structure and the bullets are still being fired.

Oh yes, people took out adjustable rate mortgages they could ill afford, that were then sold to Wall Street bankers. The bankers bundled them up like gift wrappers at Nordstrom’s during the Holidays and sold them to other banks after raking off billions in fees. The fees? They were for…well…they were for wrapping the mortgages in the haute couture of Wall Street.

But it didn’t start there. No, no, not by a long shot.

And as the late, great Paul Harvey would say, “And now you’re going to hear the Rest of the Story.”

Are sub-prime mortgages part of some larger agenda?

And if so, what is it?

Stay with me here, because Alice is about to slide down the rabbit hole into the looking glass world of international finance.

EASY MONEY ALAN

There are various places we could start this story, but we will begin with the 1987 ascendency of Rockefeller / Rothschild home-boy, Alan Greenspan, from the Board of Directors of J.P. Morgan to the throne of Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank (a position he was to hold for twenty years).

From the beginning of his term, Greenspan was a strong advocate for deregulating the financial services industry: letting the cowboys of Wall Street sow their wild financial oats, so to speak.

He also kept interest rates artificially low as if he had sprayed the boardroom of the Federal Reserve Bank with some kind of fiscal aspartame.

While aspartame (an artificial sweetener branded as “Equal” and “NutraSweet”) keeps the calories down, it has this itty bitty side effect of converting to formaldehyde in the human body and creating brain lesions.

As we are dealing here with a gruesomely tortured metaphor, let me explain: I am not suggesting that Chairman Greenspan put Equal in his morning coffee, but rather that by his direct influence, interest rates were forced artificially low resulting in an orgy of borrowing and toxic side effects for the entire economy.

THE COMMUNITY REINVESTMENT ACT

Greenspan had been the Fed Chairman for seven years when, in 1994, a bill called the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was rewritten by Congress. The new version had the purpose of providing loans to help deserving minorities afford homes. Nice thought, but the new legislation opened the door to loans that set aside certain lending criteria: little things like, a down payment, enough income to service the mortgage and a good credit record.

With CRA’s facelift, we have in place two of the five elements of the perfect financial storm: Alan (Easy Money) Greenspan at the helm of the Fed and a piece of legislation that turned mortgage lenders into a division of the Salvation Army.

Perhaps you can see the pot beginning to boil here. But the real fuel to the fire was yet to come.

GLASS STEGALL

To understand the third element of the storm, we travel back in time to the Great Depression and the 1933 passage of a federal law called the Glass Stegall Act. As excess speculation by banks was one of the key factors of the banking collapse of 1929, this law forbade commercial banks from underwriting (promoting and selling) stocks and bonds.

That activity was left to the purview of “Investment Banks” (names of major investment banks you might recognize include Goldman Saks, Morgan Stanley and the recently diseased Lehman Brothers).

Commercial banks could take deposits and make loans to people.

Investment banks underwrote (facilitated the issuing of) stocks and bonds.

To repeat, this law was put in place to prevent the banking speculation that caused the Great Depression. Among other regulations, Glass Stegall kept commercial banks out of the securities.

Greenspan’s role in our not-so-little drama, is made clear in one of his first speeches before Congress in 1987 in which he calls for the repeal of the Glass Stegall Act. In other words, he’s trying to get rid of the legislation that kept a lid on banks speculating in financial markets with securities.

He continued to push for the repeal until 1999 when New York banks successfully lobbied Congress to repeal the Glass Stegall Act. Easy-Money Alan hailed the repeal as a revolution in finance.

Yeah Baby!

A revolution was coming.

With Glass Stegall gone, and the permissible mergers of commercial banks with investment banks, there was nothing to prevent these combined financial institutions from packaging up the sub-prime CRA mortgages with normal prime loans and selling them off as mortgage-backed securities through a different arm of the same financial institution. No external due diligence required.

You now have three of the five Horsemen of the Fiscal Apocalypse: Greenspan, CRA mortgages and repeal of Glass Stegall.

WAIVER OF CAPITAL REQUIREMENTS

Enter Hammering Hank Paulson.

In April of 2004, a group of five investment banks met with the regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and convinced them to waive a rule that required the banks to maintain a certain level of reserves.

This freed up an enormous reservoir of capital, which the investment banks were able to use to purchase oceans of Mortgage Backed Securities (cleverly spiked with the sub-prime CRA loans like a martini in a Bond movie). The banks kept some of these packages for their own portfolios but also sold them by the bucketload to willing buyers from every corner of the globe.

The investment bank that took the lead in getting the SEC to waive the regulation was Goldman Sachs. The person responsible for securing the waiver was Goldman’s Chairman, a man named Henry Paulson.

With the reserve rule now removed, Paulson became Wall Street’s most aggressive player, leveraging the relaxed regulatory environment into a sales and marketing jihad of mortgage backed securities and similar instruments.

Goldman made billions. And Hammering Hank? According to Forbes Magazine, his partnership interest in Goldman in 2006 was worth $632 million. This on top of his $15 million per year in annual compensation. Despite his glistening dome, let’s say Hank was having a good hair day.

In case this isn’t clear, it was Paulson who, more than anyone else on Wall Street, was responsible for the boom in selling the toxic mortgage backed securities to anyone who could write a check.

Many of you may recognize the name Hank Paulson. It was Paulson who left the Goldman Sachs’ chairmanship and came to Washington in mid 2006 as George Bush’s Secretary of the Treasury.

And it was Paulson who bludgeoned Congress out of $700 billion of so called stimulus money with threats of public riots and financial Armageddon if they did not cough up the dough. He then used $300 billion to “bailout” his Wall Street home boys to whom he had sold the toxic paper in the first place. All at taxpayer expense.

Makes you feel warm all over, doesn’t it?

Congress has their own responsibility for this fiscal madness, but that’s another story.

This one still has one more piece – the Pièce de résistance.

BASEL II

Greenspan, the Community Reinvestment Act, the repeal of Glass Stegall and Paulson getting the SEC to waive the capital rule for investment banks have all set the stage: the economy is screaming along, real estate is in a decade long boom and the stock market is reaching new highs. Paychecks are fat.

But by the first quarter of 2007, the first nigglings that all was not well in the land of the mortgage back securities began to filter into the press. And like a chilled whisper rustling through the forest, mentions of rising delinquencies and foreclosures began to be heard.

Still, the stock market continued to rise with the Dow Jones reaching a high of 14,164 on October 9th 2007. It stayed in the 13,000 range through the month, but in November, a major stock market crash commenced from which we have yet to recover.

It’s not just the U.S. stock market that has crashed, however. Stock exchanges around the world have fallen like a rock off a tall building. Most have lost have half their value, wiping out countless trillions.

If it was just stock markets, that would be bad enough, but, let’s be frank, the entire financial structure of the planet has gone into a tail spin and it has yet to hit ground zero.

While there surely would have been losses, truth be told, the U.S. banking system would likely have gotten through this, as would have the rest of the world, had it not been for an accounting rule called Basel II promulgated by the Bank of International Settlements.

Who? What?

That’s right, I said an accounting rule.

The final nail in the coffin, and this was really the wooden spike through the heart of the financial markets, was delivered in Basel, Switzerland at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS).

Never heard of it? Neither of have most people so, let me pull back the wizard’s curtain.

Central banks are privately owned financial institutions that govern a country’s monetary policy and create the country’s money.

The Bank of International Settlements (BIS), located in Basel, Switzerland is the central banker’s bank. There are 55 central banks around the planet which are members, but the bank is controlled by a Board of Directors, which is comprised of the elite central bankers of 11 different countries (U.S., UK, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Sweden).

Created in 1930, the BIS is owned by its member central banks, which, again, are private entities. The buildings and surroundings which are used for the purpose of the bank are inviolable. No agent of the Swiss public authorities may enter the premises without the express consent of the Bank. The Bank exercises supervision and police power over its premises. The Bank enjoys immunity from criminal and administrative jurisdiction.

In short, they are above the law.

This is the ultra secret world of the planet’s central bankers and the top of the food chain in international finance. The Board members fly into Switzerland for once-a-month meetings, which they hold in secret.

In 1988 the BIS issued a set of recommendations on how much capital commercial banks should have. This standard, referred to as Basel I, was adopted worldwide.

In January of 2004 our boys got together again and issued new rules about the capitalization of banks (for those that are not fluent in bank-speak, this is essentially what the bank has in reserves to protect itself and its depositors).

This was called Basel II.

Within Basel II was an accounting rule that required banks to adjust the value of their marketable securities (such as mortgage backed securities) to the “market price” of the security. This is called Mark to the Market. There can be some rationality to this in certain circumstances, but here’s what happened.

THE MEDIA AND MARK TO THE MARKET

As news and rumors began to circulate about some of the sub-prime, CRA loans in the packages of mortgage backed securities, the press, always at the ready to forward the most salacious and destructive information available, started promoting these problems.

As a result, the value of these securities fell. And when one particular bank did seek to sell some of these securities, they got bargain basement prices.

Instantly, per Basel II, that meant that the hundreds of billions of dollars of these securities being held by banks around the world had to be marked down – Marked to the Market.

It didn’t matter that the vast majority of the loans (90% +) in these portfolios were paying on time. If, say Lehman Brothers had gotten fire sale prices for their mortgage backed securities, the other banks, which held these assets on their books, now had to mark to the market, driving their financial statements into the toilet.

Again, it didn’t matter that the banks were receiving payments (cash flow) from their loan portfolios, the value of the package of loans had to be written down.

A rough example would be if the houses on your street were all worth about $400,000. You owe $300,000 on your place and so have $100,000 in equity. Your neighbor, Bill, in selling his house, uncovered a massive invasion of termites. He had to sell the house in a hurry and wound up with $200,000, half the real value.

Shortly thereafter, you get a demand letter from your bank for $100,000 because your house is only worth $200,000 according to “the market.” Your house doesn’t have termites, or perhaps just a few. Doesn’t matter.

Of course, if the value of your home goes below the loan value, banks can’t make you cough up the difference.

But if you are a bank, Basel II says, you must adjust the value of your mortgage backed securities if another bank sold for less — termites or no.

When the value of their assets were marked down, it dramatically reduced their capital (reserves) and this – their capital – determined the amount of loans they could make.

The result? Banks couldn’t lend. The credit markets froze.

Someone recently said that credit was the life blood of the economy.

This happens to be a lie. Hard work, production, and the creation of products that are needed and wanted by others; this is the true life blood of an economy.

But, let’s be honest, credit does drive much of the current U.S. economy: home mortgages, auto loans and Visas in more flavors than a Baskin Robbins store.

That is, until the banks had to mark to the market and turn the IV off.

THE CRISIS

Mortgage lending slammed to a halt as if it had run head long into a cement wall, credit lines were cancelled and credit card limits were reduced and in some cases eliminated all together. In short, with their balance sheets butchered by Basel II, banks were themselves going under and those that weren’t simply stopped lending. The results were like something from a financial horror film – if there were such a thing.

Prof. Peter Spencer, one of Britain’s leading economists, makes it very clear that the Basel II regulations “…are at the root cause of the crunch…” and that “…if the authorities retain the strict Basel regulations, the full scale of the eventual credit crunch and economic slump could be disastrous.”

“The consequences for the macro-economy,” he says “of not relaxing (the Basel regulations) are unthinkable.”

Spencer isn’t the only one who sees this. There have been calls in both the U.S. and abroad to, at least, relax Basel II until the crisis is over. But the Boys from Basel haven’t budged an inch. The U.S did modify these rules somewhat a year after the devastation had taken place here, but the rules are still fully in place in the rest of the world and the results are appalling.

The credit crisis that started in the U.S. has spread around the globe with the speed that only the digital universe could make possible. You’d think Mr. Freeze from the 2004 Batman movie was at work.

We have already noted that stock markets around the world have lost half of their value erasing trillions. Some selected planet-wide stats make it clear that it is not just stock values that have crashed.

China’s industrial production fell 12% last year, while Japan’s exports to China fell 45% and Taiwan’s were off 55%. South Korea’s overseas shipments decreased 17%, while their economy shrank 5.6%.

Singapore’s exports were off the most in 33 years and Hong Kong’s exports plunged the most in 50 years.

Germany had a 7.3% decline in exports in the 4th quarter of last year while Great Britain’s real estate market declined 18% in the last quarter compared to a year earlier.

Australia’s manufacturing contracted at a record pace last month bringing the index to the lowest level on record.

There’s much more, but I think it is obvious that credit pipe can no longer be smoked.

Welcome to planetary cold turkey.

ODDITIES

It is fascinating to look at the date coincidence of the crash in the U.S. Earlier I noted that the stock market continued to rise throughout 2007, peaking in October of 2007. The dip in October turned to a route in November.

The Basel II standards were implemented here by the U.S Financial Accounting Standards on November 15th 2007.

There are more oddities.

Despite the fact that Hammering Hank dished out hundreds of billions to his banker buddies to “stimulate” the economy and defrost the credit markets, the recipients of these taxpayer bailout billions have made it clear that they will be reducing the amount of money they will be lending over the next 18 months by as much as $2 trillion to conform to Basel II.

What do you think…Hank, with his Harvard MBA, didn’t know? The former Chairman of the most successful investment bank in the world didn’t know that the Basel II regulations would inhibit his homies from turning the lending back on?

Maybe it slipped his mind.

Like the provision he put into his magnum opus, the $700 billion bailout called TARP. It carried a provision for the Federal Reserve to start paying interest on money banks deposited with it.

Think this through for a minute. The apparent problem is that the credit markets are frozen. Banks aren’t lending. They can’t use the money from TARP to lend because Basel II says they can’t. On top of this, Paulson’s bailout lets the Fed pay interest on funds it deposits there.

If I am the president of a bank, and let’s say that I’m not Basel II impaired, why in the world am I going to lend to customers in the midst of the worst financial crisis in human history when I can click a mouse and deposit my funds with the Fed and sit back and earn interest from them until the chaos subsides?

But, hey, maybe Hank’s been putting Aspartame in his coffee.

No, this stuff is as obvious as the neon signs on Broadway to the folks who play this game. This is banking 101.

So, given, the provisions of Basel II and the refusal of the BIS to lift or suspend the regulations when they are clearly the driving force behind the planet wide credit crisis, and considering the lack of provisions in Paulson’s bailout bill to mandate that taxpayer funds given to banks must actually be lent, and given the added incentive in the bill for banks to deposit their bread with the Fed, one gets the idea that maybe, just maybe, these programs weren’t designed to cure this crisis; maybe they were designed to create it.

Indeed, my friends, this is crisis by design.

Someone planned the assassination and someone pulled the trigger.

THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD

All of which begs the question…How Come?

Why drive the planet into the throws of fiscal withdraw – of job losses, vaporized home equity, and pillaged 401ks and IRAs?

Because when the pain is bad enough, when the stock markets are in shambles, when the cities are teaming with the unemployed, when the streets are awash with riots, when governments are drenched in the sweat of eviction and overthrow, then the doctor will come with the needle of International Financial Control.

This string of ineffective solutions put forth by people who know better are convincing bankers, investors, corporations and governments of one thing: the system failed and even the U.S. government – the anchor of international finance (which is blamed for causing the disaster) – has lost its credibility.

The purpose of this financial crisis is to take down the United States and the U.S. dollar as the stable datum of planetary finance and in the midst of the resulting confusion, put in its place a Global Monetary Authority – A planetary financial control organization to “ensure this never happens again.”

Sound Orwellian? Sound conspiratorial? Sound too evil or too vast to be real?

This entity is being moved forward by world leaders “as we speak.” It is coming and the pace is quickening.

A year ago, I saw an article in which the President of the New York Federal Reserve bank was calling for a “Global Monetary Authority” or GMA to deal with the world’s financial crisis. While I have been following international banking institutions for some time, this was the clue that they were making their move. I wrote an article on it at the time.

By the way, as some may recall, the President of the New York Fed last year was a man named Timothy Geithner. Geithner was very involved in structuring the booby-trapped TARP bailout with Paulson and Bernanke.

Of course now, he is the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.

Change we can believe in.

Once Geithner started to push a global financial authority as the solution to the world’s financial troubles, other world leaders and opinion leading voices in international finance began to forward this message. It has been a PR campaign of growing intensity. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the international bankers are keeping their hands on the throat of the credit markets choking off lending while the planet’s financial markets asphyxiate and become more and more desperate for a solution.

British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who has taken the point on this, has said that the world needs a “new Bretton Woods.” This is the positioning. (Bretton Woods, New Hampshire was the location where world leaders met after the second World War and established the international financial organizations called the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to help provide lending to countries in need after the war).

Sir Evelyn de Rothschild called for improved (international) regulations while the Managing Director of the IMF suggested a “high level of ministers capable of reaching agreements and implementing them.”

The former director of the IMF, Michael Camdessus, called on “the global village” to “urgently and radically” implement international regulations.

As the crisis has intensified, so too have calls for a global financial policeman, and of late, the PR has been directed in favor of…surprise, the Bank of International Settlements.

The person at the BIS who was primarily responsible for the creation of Basle II is Jaime Caruana. The BIS Board has now appointed him as the General Manager, the bank’s chief executive position, where he will be in charge of dealing with the current financial crisis which he had no small part in creating.

A few well chosen sound bites tell the story.

Following a recent IMF function, discussion centered on the fact that the BIS could provide effective market regulation while the Global Investor Magazine opined that “…perhaps the Bank of International Settlements in Basel…” could undertake the task of best dealing with the crisis in the financial markets.

The UK Telegraph is right out front with it.

“A new global solution is needed because the machinery of global economic governance barely exists…it’s time for a Bretton Woods for this century.

“ The big question is whether it is time to establish a global economic ‘policeman’ to ensure the crash of 2008 can never be repeated.’

….

“The answer might be staring us in the face in the form of the Bank of International Settlements (BIS). The BIS has been spot on throughout this.”

And so you see, this was a drill. This was a strategy: bring in Easy Money Alan to loosen the credit screws; open the flood gates to mortgage loans to the seriously unqualified with the CRA, bundle these as securities, repeal Glass Stegall and waive capital requirements for investment banks so the mortgage backed securities could be sold far and wide, wait until the loans matured a bit and some became delinquent and ensure the media spread this news as if Heidi Fleiss had a sex change operation, then slam in an international accounting rule that was guaranteed choke off all credit and crash the leading economies of the world.

Ensure the right people were in the key places at the right time – Greenspan, Paulson, Geithner, and Caruana.

When the economic pain was bad enough promote the theory that the existing financial structures did not work and that a Global Monetary Authority – a Bretton Woods for the 21st Century – was needed to solve the crisis and ensure this does not happen again.

Which is exactly where we are right now.

WHAT DO YOU DO?

Let me preface this section by saying that this is advice designed to help you orient your assets, i.e. your reserves, your retirement plans, etc. to the Brave New World of international finance. It is not meant as advice about what you do with your business or your job, your personal life.

Those things are all senior to this subject, which has a very narrow focus. There is an embarrassment of riches of materials that you can use to stay ahead of and on top of this crisis. Use them to flourish and prosper. This article is not an call to cut back or contract. It is to provide you information so you know what is going on and can plan.

Enough said.

First of all, while not likely, but just in case Timothy Geithner is shocked into some New Age epiphany and Ben Bernanke grows some real wisdom in his polished dome, what the government should do is:

1- Cancel any aspects of Basel II that are causing banks to mis-evaluate their assets.

2- Remove the provision of TARP that permits the Fed to pay interest on deposits.

3-Mandate that any funds given under the TARP bailout or that are to be given to banks in the future must be used to lend to deserving borrowers.

4- Repeal The Community Reinvestment Act.

5- Reinstate Glass Stegall.

6- Restore mandated capital requirements to investment banks.

7- And in case Congress decides to cease being a flock of frightened sheep and take responsibility for the country’s monetary policy, they should get rid of the privately owned Federal Reserve Bank and establish a monetary system based on production and property.

8- But if a global monetary authority is put in place, it should not be controlled by central bankers. It should be fully controlled directly by governments with real oversight over it and with a system of checks and balances. This you can communicate when this matter hits Congress or the White House or both (which it almost certainly will).

And what do you with your reserves in this Brave New World of international finance?

Modesty aside, please do what I have been recommending for a few years now: get liquid (out of the stock and bond markets) and put some of your assets into precious metals, gold and silver, but more heavily to silver.

Keep the rest in cash (CDs and T-bills) and perhaps a small bit in some stronger foreign currencies like the Swiss Francs or Chinese Yuan (also referred to as the RMB, which is short for Reminbi)

If you want more personal or specific advice on your investments – for example, what form of gold and silver and where to buy and what to pay, etc. – you can call or email me for an appointment, which we can probably do by phone. I charge $200 for the first half hour, which is the minimum and $325 for a full hour, which is usually sufficient for most folks.

And remember that my recommendations are based on my 30 years of experience in banking, finance and investments but I have no crystal ball and make no guarantees regarding my recommendations.

We are living in the most challenging economic times this planet has ever seen. I hope this article has helped shed some light on what currently happening on the international financial scene. I didn’t cover everything as I don’t have time to write another book right now. Nor did I cover everyone involved but these are the broad strokes.

If you want to follow these shenanigans, log on to The Road to London Summit (http://www.londonsummit.gov.uk/en/). It will all look and sound very reasonable – all about saving jobs and homes – but you have seen behind the wizard’s curtain and the above is what is really going on.

Bruce Wiseman

Wiseman Management Services

4312 Talofa Ave

Toluca Lake, Ca 91602

bdwiseman@earthlink.net

Mistakes I Have Made Part II

Lee Shuwarger, O.D.

Note: Please see Issue 12 of The Practice Solution Magazine for Part 1 of this story.

So, picking up where I left off, I was now unemployed, paying a mortgage on a large house, no patients and a baby on the way.

Real estate agents like to say that three things are important: location, location, and location. Keeping this in mind, I leased a space in a new strip mall center in a growing area of town. Looking back, I now know that I leased the space for way too much. (It was several years later that I learned that commercial real estate agents would have been able to help me find a location and negotiate the lease– with no cost to me!) But at that time, I was without a job, I had a large house, no patients and a baby on the way, I had to do something to get the ball rolling.

I was without work for over a month while my office was being built. I spent way too much because I was desperate and uninformed. I needed to move fast in order to generate a cash flow. To create some business for the new practice, I sent out 2400 postcards to previous patients informing them of my new location. Still unemployed and no office or staff yet, I resorted to setting up appointments using my personal cell phone. In November of 2002, we opened our doors.

Our first month was wonderful! Everyone seemed to love the new office. The next month (and thereafter) was not so great. I learned that the “excitement” of a new office was fleeting– and one better have a strategy to deal with this very normal phenomenon.

My daughter, Sarah, was born on September 1, 2003. As a new father, I was scared to death.

At that time, my practice was only growing about 2 or 3% per month and was barely producing what I needed to stay afloat. I was finally getting the ball slightly rolling with my own practice and doing “ok” by my own standards. A couple years later, I was faced with another pseudo-tragedy; my wife of five years wanted a divorce. I say “pseudo-tragedy” because a lot of good came out of it. My daughter and I became much closer and I was able to refocus my attention away from my ex-wife and onto my practice.

I kept the practice going for a few years, still growing 2-3% per month and then in 2006, a consultant group from Nebraska contacted me to offer me some help with my practice. After talking to them for a bit, I decided that I really did need some help. They sent me a list of references to call to get some feedback on what their group did for them and what they might be able to do for me. Three of those references that I was expected to call were in my area. Of the three, one of them was no longer in business, the other was not doing so well, and the third would not return my calls. Based on that, I decided not to hire that consultant, I still believed I needed help from a business professional, but I did not actively look for another consultant.

A couple of weeks later, I got a call from a consulting group in Oregon. After an interview and reviewing my practice over the phone, the Silkin group offered to send someone to my practice for free to do a full evaluation of my practice. Free is always good. I’ve spent a lot more money on stupider things, so why not. After my evaluation, I made the smartest move I have ever made; I hired a consultant. One of the things that sold me on this group is when I when I was told, “We have been in business for 26 years. There isn’t a situation that we haven’t seen before and we always know the right thing to do to improve it.” Wow, did that ring true. After signing up with them I had 19 straight months of growth: most of it double digit growth and some of it during this recession!

One of the many things I learned from my consultant was to magnify my strengths. I love being a Dad and my daughter and I have an amazing father/daughter relationship. My consultant told me that I could actually use that strength, my passion, and my love of my daughter to grow my practice.

Since the time that Sarah learned to put crayon to paper, I have saved her drawings. They make me happy and I truly cherish every one of them. I have them all over my exam room– from the floor to the top of my 10-foot ceiling. When parents come in for an exam, they are immediately at ease and feel certain camaraderie with me as a parent. For the last 3 years, I have not had even one patient comment negatively on my art gallery or question my love of my daughter. My patients tell their friends about my practice, and that word of mouth has resulted in many referrals for me. (As a note here, there has only been one person who did not like my daughters drawings displayed in my exam room. He told me that it was “unprofessional”. That comment came from my own father!)

After working with my consultant for a couple months to further my practice goals, my consultant notified me that one of my employees was not only turning away patients, but also stealing about $600 per month from me for years. He was able to show me what to do to handle this situation and taught me many other tools to handle any other business situation.

Looking back, I would have liked to have found a consultant earlier to provide me with much needed guidance in creating my own practice. After my experience, I knew that I could not go back to work for someone else or another chain store. I needed to have my own practice and the ability to create a future for my daughter. I would liken my experience of starting my own practice to having a person with failing eyesight try to find a pair of reading glasses at a drug store instead of getting a professional exam and a correct prescription. The consultant from Silkin identified my specific needs and provided me with solutions to address my practice. Today I am happy and I am very confident about my practice and the direction in which it is headed.

I wrote this article to encourage anyone newly in practice to seek good, professional help early on so as to avoid the many pitfalls I experienced.

And yes, my daughter is happy too. As I end this story, I am off to find room in my exam room for her next masterpiece.

Are Online Pet Drug Companies Stealing Your Business?

How to effectively compete with the internet drug companies

There are many companies online that are severely undercutting the profits of veterinarians who would normally be filling the prescriptions. This may or may not be currently affecting your practice but, in the long run, this will probably affect every veterinary practice.

Recently a doctor posted a question on the The Practice Solution Magazine message forums regarding “combating the internet drug companies”. He asked for suggestions on how to deal with this serious issue. I have interviewed hundreds of doctors around the country about this subject over the past 3 years and I’ve put together some suggestions to effectively address this. My suggestions are based upon the feedback of doctors who have dealt with this successfully.

Things you can do when you get a request for a prescription to be filled:

  • Check the client’s chart and make sure that the patient has been in for an exam in the past year and is up to date. If not, call the client and let them know that in order for you to fill a prescription, you need to do an exam on the animal before you are able to prescribe anything by law.
  • Call your client and talk to them one-on-one to find out what they are trying to achieve from ordering online or by mail order. See if it is because of price or convenience. Be prepared to handle either eventuality.
  • Have your client tell you the price they were quoted and check it against your own retail price. MANY times doctors find that their prices are VERY competitive with the online drug company prices. Many clients simply take the media ads’ claim of lower prices at face value and don’t check it out. Many times you’ll find that your prices are comparable or possibly even better. Take the time to investigate this and know where you stand. You can’t deal with any competition effectively unless you know exactly where you stand in comparison.
  • Many doctors are offering to match price and even ship the product to the client. As long as this is fairly cost effective it will make a very positive impression on the client. This type of service can easily result in clients referring more clients to you based on your great service to them.

Other proactive things you can do:

  • Proactively educate your clients. Let them know that there are mail-order/online drug companies out there that DO NOT guarantee their products. Let them know that if the animal has a reaction to a drug (even heartworm or flea/tick medications) that the online company can do nothing for them and that YOU can. You stand behind the medication you prescribe and if their animal has a problem, you can help them.
  • Call your drug distributors and ask them if they have any programs that will match online drug company prices. Some drug company representatives have worked out rebates to compete with online drug companies.
  • Make sure that whoever is doing the drug ordering for your clinic really stays on top of stock and current prices, and shops prices from different distributors to ensure you are getting the best price.
  • Start a drug co-op. If you have a good relationship with other veterinarians in your area, look at the possibility of doing a group order to take advantage of volume pricing.

I hope these suggestions help you. Please feel free to post in our forums any other questions and I’ll do my best to answer them for you. Also, if you have found your own solutions to this problem, please pass them on to help other doctors.

Ken DeRouchie

Staff Writer

The Practice Solution Magazine

From the Editor

In this issue of The Practice Solution Magazine you will find several follow up articles from past contributors. One of my favorites is the conclusion of a story of “What I Did Wrong” by Dr Lee Shuwarger of Amarillo, Texas. I hope you enjoy the conclusion of this story as much as I did. If you haven’t already, please visit our last issue (issue 12) for the first part of this entertaining article.

I have also done my best to include articles from other contributors to offer additional advise and thoughts on the current financial climate and what you can do to be more prepared to ride out the storm. One article that is long but fascinating is called “The Financial Crisis: A Look Behind the Wizard’s Curtain”. If you have been wondering how this whole financial debacle came about, take the time to read this article and you will be educated in a way that you may not have expected.

Further, you will find specific articles designed for one of the more important employees in your practice, your receptionist. This often over-looked and under-trained employee holds a very important position in your practice. The receptionist does so much more than just answering the phone. Often, it is the receptionist that will determine if your practice is going to have a productive day or an empty schedule. Invest some time in reading these articles and I am sure you will find some useful tips to pass on to your staff.

As always, you will find articles taken from the World Wide Web that are practice specific and news worthy that help to keep our readers attuned to what is going on in their profession.

Finally a big “Thank you!” goes out to all of the doctors across the U.S. and Canada that have taken time out of their day to discuss their practice issues with our research staff. Your answers are very valuable when determining what is on the minds of the health care field and compiling issues of some interest to our readers.

Cory D. Radosevich

Managing Editor

The Practice Solution Magazine

 

Veterinary Cardiologist Discovers Gene for Heart Disease

WSU veterinary cardiologist Kathryn M. Meurs discovered a mutant gene in the Boxer breed that causes a type of heart disease that can be fatal in animals and humans. The disease is called Boxer cardiomyopathy. The more formal term is arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy or ARVC.

© 2009 Newswise — Washington State University veterinary cardiologist Kathryn M. Meurs has discovered a mutant gene in the Boxer breed that causes a type of heart disease that can be fatal in animals and humans.

Well known in the Boxer breed community, the disease is called Boxer cardiomyopathy. The more formal term is arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy or ARVC.

This is same type of heart disease that caused the sudden death of 1950s college and pro football great Joe Campanella at age 36, as he played handball with the new head coach of the Baltimore Colts, Don Shula.

In Boxers, the disease can be fatal and frequently occurs when the animals exercise or become excited. Occasionally, they perish from the disease while at rest, too.

“Dr. Meurs’ discovery of both the gene and its location is a tremendous achievement in the cardiology of humans and animals,” said Bryan Slinker, dean of WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and a recognized cardiac disease researcher. “This achievement not only helps Boxer breeders avoid this disease but it also provides an extraordinary advancement to the study of human heart diseases resulting from electrical conduction defects and the resulting heart muscle changes that occur.”

The disease is well known in Boxers because the breed has the highest incidence of this form of heart disease. ARVC is also known to be an inherited disease and breeders sometimes avoided breeding to certain lines of Boxers yet were never completely sure if those lines had an increased risk of disease. Additionally, the disease tends to vary in severity between different dogs; key indications that the disease had a dominant genetic origin.

Meurs began looking at the disease as an extension of her work with inherited heart disease in cats and dogs. This work is somewhat similar to her work with breeds of cats that also suffer heart disease and for which she has also discovered mutant genes. Her lab developed a molecular probe for these mutations so that cat owners now have a mechanism for screening for the disease and breeding away from it.

Using an extremely powerful gene screening mechanism based on a massive computer chip at the Broad Institute at MIT with investigators Kerstin Lindblad-Toh and Evan Mauceli, Meurs looked at thousands of regions of boxer dogs’ DNA simultaneously. The samples were collected with participation by members of the American Boxer Club and the American Boxer Charitable Foundation and were segregated into groups of dogs with the disease and those with no evidence for the disease.

Once computer analysis identified a specific region of interest, Meurs’ lab evaluated thousands of DNA sequences in affected and unaffected dogs and identified a gene mutation in a gene that normally codes for the production of a key cellular adhesive protein. Subsequent studies done by WSU veterinary cardiologist, Sunshine Lahmers, demonstrated that the cellular adhesive proteins were located at the junction between cells in the heart.

Theoretically, the conduction defect is in some way responsible for a rapid, irregular heart beat that does not pump blood efficiently. When blood is not pumped efficiently, there may not be enough circulation maintained in the brain and other organs. This can lead to fainting episodes or even sudden cardiac death.

Over time, the right, lower chamber of the heart, called the right ventricle, begins to be infiltrated by a fibrous fatty tissue and often has decreased contractile ability. This change in the heart’s tissues can spread to the wall between the heart chambers and even the left ventricle.

The structural changes that result in functional impairment is the hallmark sign seen when a post mortem examination is performed on the animal’s heart. Under the microscope, the normal muscle appears solid and dense. The affected heart muscle tissue is riddled with holes where the fibrous fatty tissue has infiltrated stretching it like unorganized lace.

Meurs’ laboratory is now near obtaining a patent on her discovery and is perfecting a genetic testing probe for the gene mutation that will be used as a clinical screening device. Shortly, Boxer owners will have the ability to take a simple cheek swab of their dog and know whether or not it carries the mutant gene. Cost of the screening is expected to be about $70 and available within the next 1-2 months.

“In many cases, after the disease is diagnosed it can be managed with medication for a long enough period of time in a dog’s life that other diseases such as cancer will be the cause of death,” said Meurs. “The medications are not very expensive and there are generic forms available, too. Average monthly costs are probably less than $100.”

Meurs said that, with her lab’s service, Boxer owners and breeders will be able to identify dogs with the mutant gene and are likely to breed away from the disease.

– See more at: http://magazine.thepracticesolution.net/tag/veterinary/#sthash.kaDfC56X.dpuf

42% of Eyeglass, Contact Lens Buyers Research Using Online, Traditional Media Before Purchase

WESTERVILLE, Ohio- (Business Wire)-April 7, 2009 – Forty-two percent of recent eyeglass and contact lens buyers report influence from online media, the same percentage as traditional media, revealing the increasing power of the Internet on purchase decisions, according to the Spring 2009 Ad-ology Media Influence on Consumer Choice survey.

Among 45-54 year olds, 23.5% were influenced by manufacturer Web sites and 13.2% by search results. In addition to price and quality, the most important factors to this age group were knowledgeable staff (77.7%), product availability (71.9%), and store/optometrists’ variety/selection (71.7%).

Fashion/style-related Web sites influenced 35% of 18-to-24-year old purchasers and 30.5% of 25 to 34 year olds. These two groups were also more influenced by search results or sponsored links than older purchasers, and were more likely to buy online.

Consumers surveyed were almost equally split in regards to where they prefer to purchase eyeglasses and contact lenses. Approximately 49% prefer purchasing from their eye doctor/optometrist’s office, and 46% prefer to buy from an optical store.

“Although just over five percent of U.S. adults said they prefer to buy online, that translates to a market of more than 11 million potential customers,” said C. Lee Smith, president and CEO of Ad-ology Research. “Even those buying from optical stores and opticians are influenced by online information, making store Web sites and online marketing critical,” Smith said.

Other key findings from the survey:

* Approximately 40.8 million Americans adults researched eyeglass styles and contacts online recently

* 18 to 24 year olds were most influenced by social media, with positive reviews “significantly” influencing 14%

* Fashion/style-related Web sites influenced 35% of 18-to-24-year old purchasers

* Of traditional media, television, direct mail, newspapers, and yellow pages had the most influence on U.S. buyers

The Media Influence on Consumer Choice survey is conducted throughout the year by Ad-ology Research to study online, traditional, and social media influence on buying decisions.

The 64-page downloadable report, Media Influence on Consumer Choice: Eye Care and Vision Correction, is available for purchase through Ad-ology.net, and includes 27 data charts, consumer-spending estimates by market, and additional marketing insights.

About Ad-ology Research

Ad-ology Research analyzes key marketing and advertising trends in over 400 industries and what motivates end-customers. The company’s research is used by over 2,000 advertising agencies, media properties and product marketing departments across the United States. Ad-ology Research is a division of Sales Development Services (SDS), Inc. – a Westerville, Ohio firm founded in 1989.

Methodology

Ad-ology Research surveyed an online consumer panel of 1,213 adults in a manner that is 98% representative of the adult population of the United States from January 5-8, 2009. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 2.2 percentage points.

Employers Pay High Price for Vision Disorders

Uncorrected Vision Problems Contribute to Decreased Employee Performance

Vision disorders carry a hefty price tag for employers and result in a marked decrease in productivity costing businesses an estimated $8 billion annually, according to a new report released by the Vision Council of America (VCA). The Vision in Business report shows the staggering financial impact of vision problems on the economy, individual states and the workplace.

“Uncorrected vision problems are costing employers billions of dollars,” said Ed Greene, CEO of VCA. “Direct medical costs associated with vision disorders exceed similar medical expenditures for breast cancer, lung cancer and HIV, yet few Americans get regular eye exams or have vision coverage in their health plans.”

Both the private and public sectors of the economy are affected. VCA’s state-by-state analysis of the economic burden associated with vision disorders finds:

1. In 17 states the annual financial burden of vision disorders exceeds $1 billion, and in 15 additional states, that burden exceeds $500 million;

2. States representing the largest cost burden are: California ($5.5 billion), Florida ($3.9 billion), New York ($3.6 billion), Texas ($3.1 billion), Pennsylvania ($2.7 billion), Illinois ($2.2 billion), Ohio ($2.1 billion), Michigan ($1.8 billion), New Jersey ($1.6 billion) and North Carolina ($1.4 billion).

Vision in Business examines the prevalence and cost of vision problems as well as the role of preventive vision care in improving the productivity and efficiency of the American workplace. It also shows that job-related eye injuries, computer eyestrain and other vision problems are costly for employers and employees in a wide range of industries and occupations. Employees in professions ranging from engineers, construction workers, stockbrokers, software developers, to accountants and administrative assistants are among those most at risk for developing vision problems that affect their work performance.

Specific findings from the report include:

1. Vision problems are the second most prevalent health problem in the country, affecting more than 120 million people.

2. An estimated 11 million Americans have uncorrected vision problems, ranging from refractive errors (near- or far-sightedness) to sight-threatening diseases such as glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration.

3. There are nearly 800,000 work-related eye injuries each year, 90 percent of which are preventable.

4. Nearly 90 percent of those who use a computer at least three hours a day suffer vision problems associated with computer related eye strain.

5. Employers gain as much as $7 for every $1 spent on vision coverage.

“I see patients everyday with vision problems that could impact their work performance if not corrected,” said ophthalmologist Elaine G. Hathaway, M.D. “In addition to refractive errors, eye injuries and computer eye strain, eye diseases such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy can impair vision if not detected and treated early.”

VCA’s report also highlights recent research that finds the annual financial burden of major adult vision disorders exceeds $50 billion. Specifically, there is a $35.4 billion drain on the U.S. economy with an additional $15.9 billion borne by individuals with vision problems and their caregivers.

“The good news is that because of these high costs, healthy vision is increasingly being recognized as an important health issue in the workplace,” said Greene. In fact, the federal government has set a precedent by adding vision coverage to its new health plan that launched in November 2006.

“Regular eye exams are the best way to maintain employee vision health,” continued Greene. “Increased productivity and accuracy as well as higher job satisfaction are just a few of the payoffs one receives from healthy vision. Therefore, it is crucial that both employers and employees make healthy vision a priority through preventive vision care and offering effective vision benefits in the workplace.”

Tips for Employers:

1. Offer vision coverage as part of a health care package.

2. Ensure a safe working environment with mandatory eye protection as needed.

3. Encourage regular eye exams for employees.

Tips for Employees:

1. When working on a computer take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look at something at least 20 feet away.

2. Those who wear glasses should talk to their eyecare professional about anti-reflective lenses to reduce glare, eye strain and fatigue.

3. Wear protective eyewear that meets the approval of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which will be clearly marked “ANSI Z87.”

VCA urges employees to take an active part in maintaining healthy vision by scheduling regular eye exams. Permanent vision loss is not a normal part of aging, and many vision threatening conditions have no early warning signs. Eye exams can also detect other serious health problems including diabetes and glaucoma.

SOURCE: Vision Council of America

Cracking the Root of Tooth Strength

After years of biting and chewing, how are human teeth able to remain intact and functional? A team of researchers from The George Washington University and other international scholars have discovered several features in enamel—the outermost tooth tissue—that contribute to the resiliency of human teeth.

Newswise April 2009— Human enamel is brittle. Like glass, it cracks easily; but unlike glass, enamel is able to contain cracks and remain intact for most individuals’ lifetimes. The research team discovered that the major reason why teeth do not break apart is due to the presence of tufts—small, crack-like defects found deep in the enamel. Tufts arise during tooth development, and all human teeth contain multiple tufts before the tooth has even erupted into the mouth. Many cracks in teeth do not start at the outer surface of the tooth, as has always been assumed. Instead cracks arise from tufts located deep inside the enamel. From here, cracks can grow towards the outer tooth surface. Once reaching the surface, these cracks can potentially act as sites for dental decay. Acting together like a forest of small flaws, tufts suppress the growth of these cracks by distributing the stress amongst themselves.

“This is the first time that enigmatic developmental features, such as enamel tufts, have been shown to have any significance in tooth function” said GW researcher Paul Constantino. “Crack growth is also hampered by the “basket weave” microstructure of enamel, and by a ‘self-healing’ process whereby organic material fills cracks extended from the tufts, which themselves also become closed by organic matter. This type of infilling bonds the opposing crack walls, which increases the amount of force required to extend the crack later on.”

This research evolved as part of an interdisciplinary collaboration between anthropologists from The George Washington University and physical scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. The team studied tooth enamel in humans and also sea otters, mammals with teeth showing remarkable resemblances to those of humans.

The article, “Remarkable resilience of teeth” appears in the April 2009 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Located four blocks from the White House, The George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the nation’s capital. The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and more than 130 countries.