An Introduction To Birth Control

The dictionary defines birth control as “a regimen of one or more actions, devices, or medications followed in order to deliberately prevent or reduce the likelihood of a woman becoming pregnant.” Birth control has become imperative in today’s world, due to the global rise in population, need for family planning and also to safeguard oneself from unwanted pregnancy.

There are various methods of birth control that one can adopt, including the withdrawal method, or coitus interruptus; barrier methods like condom, diaphragm, cervical cap or contraceptive sponge; chemical methods like contraceptive pills, contraceptive patch, or the progesterone-only pill (POP); intrauterine methods; fertility awareness methods and more. Other than the preventive methods, one can also adopt abortion methods like surgical abortions, chemical abortions and herbal abortifacients to end unwanted pregnancies. Some permanent birth control solutions are surgical sterilization, which includes tubal ligation for women and vasectomy for men.

Although there are many alternate methods of birth control available in the market, the most commonly used methods are contraceptive pills and condoms. Contraceptive pills or oral contraceptives consist of a pill with doses of synthetic hormones like progestin or estrogen, taken orally by a woman to prevent pregnancy. The contraceptive pills are considered to be a reliable mode of preventing pregnancy, but can sometimes also result in certain side effects like obesity, headaches or depression in some women. Condoms were traditionally manufactured for men but now are available for female users. Condoms serve a dual function, as they not only help in avoiding pregnancy but also prevent sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS.

In Canada and the US, contraceptive patches are also fast gaining popularity. A woman applies contraceptive patches on her skin for a week, and they release synthetic hormones to prevent pregnancy. They act in the same manner as contraceptive pills. Contraceptive patches in Canada and US are sold under the brand name Ortho Evra, and are sold only by prescription.

With the advances in science and technology, we might witness new innovations in birth control methods; however, in order to choose the right mode of birth control one must consult one’s doctor.

Is Out-Of-State Real Estate Investing Right for You?

Have you made up your mind to start investing in real estate, but you’re torn in deciding where to invest?

Are you thinking about making a local investment, but wondering if an out-of-state investment might be better?

This is one of the first of many choices you’ll have to make when you decide to invest in real estate: the simple question of where you should invest your hard-earned dollars. While there are definite benefits to investing in your area, there are also some potentially profit-limiting downsides.

That’s not to say investing in outside areas doesn’t have its own pros and cons. Let’s take a look at both and see why out-of-state real estate investing might be a profitable option you have not yet explored.

Investing Locally

This is the most obvious choice for many real estate investors, but is it really right for you?

If you choose to buy a property local to you, you’ll rest easier about your investment since you know the market. First, you know your competition. You might know the names of professionals you can trust and you’ll have an intimate understanding of what the cost of living is for that area and how to make things more affordable.

Second, if you like to be hands-on, it will be much easier for you since you’re right there. If you want to see the property, it’s just a short drive away. If you want to talk to the property manager face-to-face, you just put it on your calendar for the end of the day.

Drawbacks to Local Investments

On the other hand, investing solely local can narrow your options. Not every market has the inventory of good investment opportunities that you can avail yourself of if you invest out-of-state. The local inventory of available properties may or may not be big enough or well-suited for investment opportunities.

You also run into the problem of whether your local market is the one you want. The recession made a huge impact on housing markets throughout the country and some areas have recovered at different paces than others. You might find yourself out-priced in your current market, but even if you aren’t, you might not be able to see a favorable future where you’re at.

Investing Out-of-State

If you decide to invest out-of-state, you can greatly increase your options. You can literally choose any location, any market and invest in properties there. Whether you want to invest in Florida vacation homes and coastal villas or homes in the suburbs of Detroit, the sky’s the limit. You can make your investment fit your price point and interests.

By investing out-of-state, you can put your money to work in markets with high ROI. You pick and choose which markets you’re interested in, and which ones are rising stars in the real estate investment scene, ignoring your own market’s changes.

Investing out-of-state also allows you to scale based on your needs. For many would-be investors, their local market is priced too extravagantly to make real estate investment prudent. The cost of living in a different state, just a few borders east or west, might be considerably lower. That means you can snatch up excellent properties at a much lower cost than you might in your own market.

Even better, you can snag those investment deals on excellent properties that would go for three to four times as much, if not more, in your own local market. Your purchasing power becomes much stronger in other markets, because everything’s relative.

Challenges of Out-of-State Investments

There are still some challenges to these remote investments. First of all, you have to learn who you can trust and maintain the peace of mind that comes from having easy local access to your investment. You also have to be able to trust that the property you’re investing in is what it’s advertised as.

The property is also more difficult to visit if you like to be hands on. You might have to fly out to visit the property, which some people enjoy but others are seriously bothered by. If you are the type of investor who prefers the more passive turn-key approach, this is an excellent opportunity.

Finally, the market won’t be what you’re used to. Nothing will be quite the same as being there and immersing yourself in the market, but you can learn and study. You just have to rely on someone else to have knowledge of the nuances of the market.

Doing Out-of-State Right

There is a solution to all of the challenges of real estate investing outside your state. When you find a reputable, proven company to handle your turn-key real estate transaction, you have someone you can count on to know the market you’re investing in. Here are the main reasons you should find a partner to work with you on your out-of-state investments.

  • They can keep a more educated eye on the market, since they know all of the nuances of that area.
  • They’ll serve as your presence near your investment, keeping everything on track, so you don’t have to make numerous trips to the property.
  • If the turn-key real estate investment firm is reputable, they want you to succeed. This means they’ll do anything they can to make sure you do succeed.

The question becomes, whom can you trust? You want to make sure you engage in a partnership with a firm who is reputable, knowledgeable and engaged in your market. Referrals from other investors are key, so be on the lookout for like-minded people who have been there and done that.

You should also investigate what the turn-key operation offers you, and what their fee or cut of your profit is. Ideally, you’ll want a partner who can help you throughout your investment lifecycle, from acquiring the property to managing it.

Getting Started

We’ve gone over the benefits and drawbacks of out-of-state investing, so now the decision is yours to make. Do you still want to invest locally or have you realized that the time is ripe to diversify your portfolio and invest in out-of-state properties? The benefits of out-of-state real estate investment are huge and the drawbacks can easily be mitigated by partnering with someone in the area in which you’re investing.

Developing a Plan: The Basis of Successful Investing

Warren E. Buffett offers the following advice on the qualities of a successful investor. Buffett essentially suggests that a successful investor does not need an extraordinarily high IQ, exceptional business acumen, or inside information. To enjoy a lifetime of successful investing, you need a solid decision-making framework and the ability to maintain your emotions.

A successful investment strategy requires a thoughtful plan. Developing a plan is not difficult, but staying with it during times of uncertainty and events that seem to counter you plan’s strategy is often difficult. This tutorial discusses the necessity of establishing a trading plan, what investment options best suit your needs, and the challenges you could encounter if you don’t have a plan.

The benefits of developing a trading plan

You can establish optimal circumstances for experiencing solid investment growth if you stick to your plan despite opposing popular opinion, current trends, or analysts’ forecasts. Develop your investment plan and focus on your long-term goals and objectives.

Maintain focus on your plan

All financial markets can be erratic. It has experienced significant fluctuations in business cycles, inflation, and interest rates, along with economical recessions throughout the past century. The 1990s experienced a surge of growth due to the bull market pushing the Dow Jones industrial average (DIJA) up 300 percent. This economic growth was accompanied by low interest rates and inflation. During this time, an extraordinary number of Internet-based technology firms were created due to the increased popularity of online commerce and other computer-reliant businesses. This growth was rapid and a downturn occurred just as fast. Between 2000 and 2002, the DIJA dropped 38 percent, triggering a massive sell-off of technology stocks which kept indexes in a depressed state well into the middle of 2001. Large-scale corporate accounting scandals contributed to the downturn. Then in the fall of 2001, the United States suffered a catastrophic terrorist attack that sent the nation into a high level of uncertainty and further weakened the strength of the market.

These are the kinds of events that can tax your emotions in terms of your investment strategies. It’s times like these that it is imperative that you have a plan and stick to it. This is when you establish a long-term focus on your objectives. Toward the end of 2002 through 2005, the DJIA rose 44 percent. Investors who let their emotions govern their trading strategies and sold off all their positions missed out on this upturn.

The three deadly sins and how to avoid them

The three emotions that accompany trading are fear, hope, and greed. When prices plunge, fear compels you to sell low without reviewing your position. Under these circumstances, you should revisit the original reasons for your investments and determine if they have changed. For example, you might focus on the short term and immediately sell when the price drops below its intrinsic value. In this case, you could miss out if the price recovers.

An investment strategy that is based on hope might compel you to buy certain stocks based on the hope that a company’s future performance will reflect on their past performance. This is what occurred during the surge of the Internet-based, dot-com companies during the late 1990s. This is where you need to devote your research into a company’s fundamentals and less on their past performance when determining the worth of their stock. Investing primarily on hope could have you ending up with an overvalued stock with more risk of a loss than a gain.

The greed emotion can distort your rationale for certain investments. It can compel you to hold onto a position for too long. If your plan is to hold out a little longer to gain a few percentage points, your position could backfire and result in a loss. Again, in the late 1990s, investors were enjoying double-digit gains on their Internet-company stocks. Instead of scaling back on their investments, many individuals held onto their positions with the hope that the prices would keep going up. Even when the prices were beginning to drop, investors held out hoping that their stocks would rally. Unfortunately, the rally never happened and investors experienced substantial losses.

An effective investment plan requires that you properly manage the three deadly sins of investing.

The key components of an investment plan

Determine your investment objectives

The first component in your investment plan is to determine your investment objectives. The three main categories involved in your objectives are income, growth, and safety.

If your plan is to establish a steady income stream, your objective focuses on the income category. Investors in this category tend to be low-risk and don’t require capital appreciation. They use their investments as an income source.

If your focus is on increasing your portfolio’s value over the long term, your objective is growth-based. In contrast to the income category, investors strive for capital appreciation. Investors in this category tend to be younger and have a longer investment time frame. If this is your preferred category, consider your age, investment expectations, and tolerance to risk.

The final category is safety. Investors who prefer to prevent loss of their principle investment. They want to maintain the current value of their portfolio and avoid risks that are common with stocks and other less secure investments.

Risk tolerance

While the main reason for growing your portfolio is to increase your wealth, you need to consider how much risk you are willing to take. If you struggle with the market’s volatility, your strategy should focus more on the safety or income categories. If you are more resilient to a fluctuating market and can accept some losses, you might favor the growth category. This category has the potential for higher gains. Nevertheless, you need to be honest with yourself and the level of risk you are willing to take as you set up your investment plan.

Asset Allocation

As discussed in the previous sections, part of your investment plan is to determine your risk tolerance and investment objectives. After you establish these components, you can begin to determine how you will allocate the assets in your portfolio and how they will match your goals and risk tolerance. For example, if you are interested in pursuing a growth-oriented category, you could allocate 60 percent in stocks, 15 percent in cash equivalents, and 25 percent in bonds.

Make sure your asset allocation reinforces your objectives and risk tolerance. If your focus is on safety, your objectives need to include safe, fixed-income assets such as money market securities, high-quality corporate securities (with high debt ratings), and government bonds.

If your strategy focuses on an income category, you should focus on fixed-income strategies. Your investments might include bonds with lower ratings that provide higher yields and dividend-paying stocks.

If your focus is on the growth category, your portfolio should focus on common stock, mutual funds, or exchange-traded funds (ETF). With this category, you need to vigilant in managing your portfolio by regularly reviewing your objectives and adjusting them according to your risk tolerance and objectives.

Effective asset allocation helps you establish a guideline for properly diversification of your portfolio. This enables you to work toward your objectives and manage a comfortable amount of risk.

Investment choices

Your trading strategy includes deciding what types of investments to buy and how you will allocate your assets.

Growth

If your strategy is based on growth, you might consider mutual funds or ETFs that have high market-performance potential.

Wealth protection/income generation

If you choose to pursue a wealth protection method, you might choose government bonds or professionally-managed bond funds.

Choosing your own stocks

If you prefer to select your own stocks, establish some rules for how you will enter and exit your positions. You objectives and investment strategies will determine these rules. Whatever approach you use, one trading rule you should establish is to use stop-loss orders as a form of protection against downward price movements. For example, if your investment drops 60 percent, it will need to increase 110 percent in order to break even. You choose the price that you will set the order, but a good rule to follow is to set a stop-loss order at 10 percent below the purchase price for long-term investments and a stop-loss order at 3-to-5 percent for short term trades.

Your strategy might also include investing in professionally-managed products such as mutual funds. These give you access to professional money managers. If you hope to use mutual funds to increase the value of your portfolio, choose growth funds that focus on capital appreciation. If your intent is to pursue an income-oriented approach, choose income-generating avenues such as dividend-paying stocks or bond funds. Make sure your allocation and risk structure align with your diversification and risk tolerance.

Index funds and ETFs

Index funds and ETFs are passively-managed products that have low fees and tax efficiencies (lower than actively-managed funds). These investments could be a good way to manage your asset allocation plan because they are low-cost and well diversified. Essentially, they are baskets of stocks that represent an index, a sector, or a country.

Summary

The most important component in reaching your investment goals is your plan. It helps you establish investment guidelines and a level of protection against loss. It’s important that you develop a plan based on an honest assessment of your investment style, level of risk tolerance, and objectives. You also must avoid letting your emotions influence your investment decisions even during the more discouraging times.
If you are still uncertain about your ability to effectively develop and follow a plan, consider employing the services of an investment advisor. This person’s expertise can help you adhere to a solid plan to meet your investment objectives.

Ease Into the World of Investing

The United Nations does it. Governments do it. Companies do it. Fund managers do it. Millions of ordinary working people – from business owners to factory workers – do it. Housewives do it. Even farmers and children do it.

‘It’ here is investing: the science and art of creating, protecting and enhancing your wealth in the financial markets. This article introduces some of the most important concerns in the world of investment.

Let’s start with your objectives. While clearly the goal is to make more money, there are 3 specific reasons institutions, professionals and retail investors (people like you and me) invest:

  • For Security, ie for protection against inflation or market crashes
  • For Income, ie to receive regular income from their investments
  • For Growth, ie for long-term growth in the value of their investments

Investments are generally structured to focus on one or other of these objectives, and investment professionals (such as fund managers) spend a lot of time balancing these competing objectives. With a little bit of education and time, you can do almost the same thing yourself.

One of the first questions to ask yourself is how much risk you’re comfortable with. To put it more plainly: how much money are you prepared to lose? Your risk tolerance level depends on your personality, experiences, number of dependents, age, level of financial knowledge and several other factors. Investment advisors measure your risk tolerance level so they can classify you by risk profile (eg, ‘Conservative’, ‘Moderate’, ‘Aggressive’) and recommend the appropriate investment portfolio (explained below).

However, understanding your personal risk tolerance level is necessary for you too, especially with something as important as your own money. Your investments should be a source of comfort, not pain. Nobody can guarantee you’ll make a profit; even the most sensible investment decisions can turn against you; there are always ‘good years’ and ‘bad years’. You may lose part or all of your investment so always invest only what you are prepared to lose.

At some point you’ll want to withdraw some or all of your investment funds. When is that point likely to be: in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years or 25 years? Clearly, you’ll want an investment that allows you to withdraw at least part of your funds at this point. Your investment timeframe – short-term, medium-term or long-term – will often determine what kinds of investments you can go for and what kinds of returns to expect.

All investments involve a degree of risk. One of the ‘golden rules’ of investing is that reward is related to risk: the higher the reward you want, the higher the risk you have to take. Different investments can come with very different levels of risk (and associated reward); it’s important that you appreciate the risks associated with any investment you’re planning to make. There’s no such thing as a risk-free investment, and your bank deposits are no exception. Firstly, while Singapore bank deposits are rightly considered very safe, banks in other countries have failed before and continue to fail. More importantly, in 2010 the highest interest rate on Singapore dollar deposits up to $10,000 was 0.375%, while the average inflation rate from Jan-Nov 2010 was 2.66%. You were losing money just by leaving your savings in the bank.

Today, there are many, many types of investments (‘asset classes’) available. Some – such as bank deposits, stocks (shares) and unit trusts – you’re already familiar with, but there are several others you should be aware of. Some of the most common ones:

  • Bank Deposits
  • Shares
  • Investment-Linked Product1
  • Unit Trusts2
  • ETFs3
  • Gold4

1 An Investment-Linked Product (ILP) is an insurance plan that combines protection and investment. ILPs main advantage is that they offer life insurance.

2 A Unit Trust is a pool of money professionally managed according to a specific, long-term management objective (eg, a unit trust may invest in well-known companies all over the world to try to provide a balance of high returns and diversification). The main advantage of unit trusts is that you don’t have to pay brokers’ commissions.

3 An ETF or Exchange-Traded Fund comes in many different forms: for example, there are equity ETFs that hold, or track the performance of, a basket of stocks (eg Singapore, emerging economies); commodity ETFs that hold, or track the price of, a single commodity or basket of commodities (eg Silver, metals); and currency ETFs that track a major currency or basket of currencies (eg Euro). ETFs offer two main advantages: they trade like shares (on stock exchanges such as the SGX) and typically come with very low management fees.

The main difference between ETFs and Unit Trusts is that ETFs are publicly-traded assets while Unit Trusts are privately-traded assets, meaning that you can buy and sell them yourself anytime during market hours.

4 ‘Gold’ here refers to gold bullion, certificates of ownership or gold savings accounts. However, note that you can invest in gold in many other ways, including gold ETFs, gold Unit Trusts; and shares in gold mining companies.

With the advent of the Internet and online brokers, there are so many investment alternatives available today that even a beginner investor with $5,000 to invest can find several investment options suited to her objectives, risk profile and timeframe.

Diversification basically means trying to reduce risk by making a variety of investments, ie investing your money in multiple companies, industries and countries (and as your financial knowledge and wealth grows, in different ‘asset classes’ – cash, stocks, ETFs, commodities such as gold and silver, etc). This collection of investments is termed your Investment Portfolio.

Some level of diversification is important because in times of crisis, similar investments tend to behave similarly. Two of the best examples in recent history are the Singapore stock market crashes of late-2008/early-2009, during the US ‘Subprime’ crisis, and 1997, during the ‘Asian Financial Crisis’, when the price of large numbers of stocks plunged. ‘Diversifying’ by investing in different stocks wouldn’t have helped you very much on these occasions.

The concept and power of compounding are best explained by example. Assume we have 3 investments: the first returns 0.25% a year; the second returns 5% a year; and the third returns 10% a year. For each investment, we compare 2 scenarios:

  • Without compounding, ie the annual interest is taken out of the account.
  • With compounding, ie the annual interest is left (re-invested) in the account.

Let’s look at the returns over 25 years for all 3 investments, assuming we start off with $10,000 in Year 0:

  • With 0.25% return a year, your investment will grow to $10,625 after 25 years without compounding; your investment becomes $10,644 after 25 years with compounding.
  • With 5% return a year, your investment will grow to $22,500 after 25 years without compounding; your investment becomes $33,864 after 25 years with compounding.
  • With 10% return a year, your investment will grow to $35,000 after 25 years without compounding; your investment becomes $108,347 after 25 years with compounding.

This shows the dramatic effects of both higher returns and compounding: 10% annual returns coupled with 25 years of compounding will return you more than 10 times your initial investment. And 10% returns are by no means unrealistic: educated investors who actively manage their portfolio themselves and practise diversification can achieve even higher returns, even with some losing years.

People of all ages and backgrounds need practical and customised guidance in developing their financial knowledge and skills in order to reach their financial goals. In this article we’ve tried to describe in simple terms some of the most important concepts and principles you need to understand on this journey.

Making Investment Plans

Steps In Investing

Step 1: Meeting Investment Prerequisites-Before one even thinks of investing, they should make sure they have adequately provided for the necessities, like housing, food, transportation, clothing, etc. Also, there should be an additional amount of money that could be used as emergency cash, and protection against other various risks. This protection could be through life, health, property, and liability insurance.

Step 2: Establishing Investing Goals-Once the prerequisites are taken care of, an investor will then want to establish their investing goals, which is laying out financial objectives they wish to achieve. The goals chosen will determine what types of investments they will make. The most common investing goals are accumulating retirement funds, increasing current income, saving for major expenditures, and sheltering income from taxes.

Step 3: Adopting an Investment Plan-Once someone has their general goals, they will need to adopt an investment plan. This will include specifying a target date for achieving a goal and the amount of tolerable risk involved.

Step 4: Evaluating Investment Vehicles-Next up is evaluating investment vehicles by looking at each vehicle’s potential return and risk.

Step 5: Selecting Suitable Investments-With all the information gathered so far, a person will use it to select the investment vehicles that will compliment their goals the most. One should take into consideration expected return, risk, and tax considerations. Careful selection is important.

Step 6: Constructing a Diversified Portfolio-In order to achieve their investment goals, investors will need to pull together an investment portfolio of suitable investments. Investors should diversify their portfolio by including a number of different investment vehicles to earn higher returns and/or to be exposed to less risk as opposed to just limiting themselves to one or two investments. Investing in mutual funds can help achieve diversification and also have the benefit of it being professionally managed.

Step 7: Managing the Portfolio-Once a portfolio is put together, an investor should measure the behavior in relation to expected performance, and make adjustments as needed.

Considering Personal Taxes

Knowing current tax laws can help an investor reduce the taxes and increase the amount of after-tax dollars available for investing.

Basic Sources of Taxation-There are two main types of taxes to know about which are those levied by the federal government, and those levied by state and local governments. The federal income tax is the main form of personal taxation, while state and local taxes can vary from area to area. In addition to the income taxes, the state and local governments also receive revenue from sales and property taxes. These income taxes have the greatest impact on security investments, which the returns are in the form of dividends, interest, and increases in value. Property taxes can also have a significant impact on real estate and other forms of property investment.

Types of Income-Income for individuals can be classified into three basic categories:

1. Active Income-This can be made up of wages, salaries, bonuses, tips, pension, and alimony. It is made up of income earned on the job as well as through other forms of noninvestment income.

2. Portfolio Income-This income is from earnings produced from various investments which could be made up of savings accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, options, and futures, and consists of interest, dividends, and capital gains.

3. Passive Income-Income gained through real estate, limited partnerships, and other forms of tax-advantaged investments.

Investments and Taxes-Taking into tax laws is an important part of the investment process. Tax planning involves examining both current and projected earnings, and developing strategies to help defer and minimize the level of taxes. Planning for these taxes will help assist investment activities over time so that an investor can achieve maximum after-tax returns.

Tax-Advantaged Retirement Vehicles-Over the years the federal government has established several types of retirement vehicles. Employer-sponsored plans can include 401(k) plans, savings plans, and profit-sharing plans. These plans are usually voluntary and allow employees to increase the amount of money for retirement and tax advantage of tax-deferral benefits. Individuals can also setup tax-sheltered retirement programs like Keogh plans and SEP-IRAs for the self-employed. IRAs and Roth IRAs can be setup by almost anyone, subject to certain qualifications. These plans generally allow people to defer taxes on both the contributions and earnings until retirement.

Investing Over the Life Cycle

As investors age, their investment strategies tend to change as well. They tend to be more aggressive when they’re young and transition to more conservative investments as they grow older. Younger investors usually go for growth-oriented investments that focus on capital gains as opposed to current income. This is because they don’t usually have much for investable funds, so capital gains are often viewed as the quickest way to build up capital. These investments are usually through high-risk common stocks, options, and futures.

As the investors become more middle-aged, other things like educational expenses and retirement become more important. As this happens, the typical investor moves towards more higher quality securities which are low-risk growth and income stocks, high-grade bonds, preferred stocks, and mutual funds.

As the investors get closer to retirement, their focus is usually on the preservation of capital and income. Their investment portfolio is now usually very conservative at this point. It would typically consist of low-risk income stocks and mutual funds, high-yield government bonds, quality corporate bonds, CDs, and other short-term investment vehicles.

Investing In Different Economic Conditions

Even though the government has different tools or strategies for moderating economic swings, investors will still endure numerous changes in the economy while investing. An investment program must allow the investor to recognize and react to changing conditions in the economy. It is important to know where to put your money and when to make your moves.

Knowing where to put your money is the easiest part to deal with. This involves matching the risk and return objectives of an investor’s plan with the investment vehicles. For example, if there is an experienced investor that can tolerate more risk, then speculative stocks may be right for them. A novice investor that wants a decent return on their capital may decide to invest in a growth-oriented mutual fund. Although stocks and growth funds may do well in an expanding economy, they can turn out to be failures at other times. Because of this, it is important to know when to make your moves.

Knowing when to invest is difficult because it deals with market timing. Even most professional money managers, economists, and investors can’t consistently predict the market and economic movements. It’s easier to understand the current state of the market or economy. That is, knowing whether the market/economy is expanding or declining is easier to understand than trying to predict upcoming changes.

The market or economy can have three different conditions: (1) recovery or expansion, (2) decline or recession, (3) a change in the general direction of its movement. It’s fairly easy to observe when the economy is in a state of expansion or recession. The difficult part is knowing whether the existing state of the economy will continue on the course it’s on, or change direction. How an investor responds to these market conditions will depend on the types of investment vehicles they hold. No matter what the state of the economy is, an investor’s willingness to enter the capital market depends on a basic trust in fair and accurate financial reporting.

Stocks and the Business Cycle

Conditions in the economy are highly influential on common stocks and other equity-related securities. Economic conditions is also referred to as the business cycle. The business cycle mirrors the current status of a variety of economic variables which includes GDP, industrial production, personal disposable income, the unemployment rate, and more.

An expanding business cycle will be reflected in a strong economy. When business is thriving and profits are up, stock prices react by increasing in value and returns. Speculative and growth-oriented stocks tend to do especially well in strong markets. On the flip side, when economic activity is diminishing, the values and returns on common stocks tend to follow the same pattern.

Bonds and Interest Rates

Bonds and other forms of fixed-income securities are highly sensitive to movements in interest rates. The single most important variable that determines bond price behavior and returns is the interest rate. Bond prices and interest rates move in opposite directions. Lower interest rates are favorable for bonds for an investor. However, high interest rates increase the attractiveness of new bonds because they must offer high returns to attract investors.

My Relationship with my Parents

I truly value my relationship with my parents. The role of my parents and my siblings in my life can hardly ever be overstated. To begin with, I should state that my parents have always provided me with support. Their opinion has always played a significant role in my decision making process. Whenever I had a problematic situation over the course of my life I would necessarily talk to my parents about an issue that generated a seemingly irresolvable dilemma. I could go talk to my father about almost anything. When I was in high school and actually all my way through college my parents used to give my valuable advices as to what kind of men I should choose for relationships, what classes I should take and what cloths I should put on. They always taught me something. I cannot say that I necessarily followed their advice. The ultimate source that I always refer to when I have to make an important decision is my own brain. I believe that I am smart enough as well as experienced enough to make my own decisions. However, it is always important to consult my parents simply because they might give me a different perspective that I would never think of on my own. Even though their opinion might not be exactly what I am looking for at a particular point in my life, their contribution is extremely valuable. It is hard to explain but sometimes when I get in a really complex position and I feel that I know the answer to a question that torments me I go talk to my parents anyway. Most of the time I am totally positive that I will not take their advice and that my own decision will the one that I will take eventually but it is just important for me to have my parents hear my story and contribute to my decision. In other words there are times when I need someone to talk to. My parents and my siblings are the only people that I will select for that role.

My parents and siblings provide a great deal of moral support at times of trouble. However, the role of those people in my life is not confined to comforting me when I cannot find a way out of a complex situation. My relationship with my brother and sister is somewhat different. Of course my brother and sister support me a lot in almost any situation and I am sure that they are the people that I can count on in case I have a dilemma to deal with. However, there has always been tremendous competition among us in the family. It was always vital for me to excel my siblings in almost every aspect of life. Back when I was a high school student I felt like I needed to pick better grades in all the classes that we took together. When it was time for me to pick a university to apply to I always had to know what schools my brother and sister applied to so that I could apply to a better one. That ultimate desire to be the best in the family has always dominated my personality. At this point I cannot say for sure whether it is a good or bad thing. Sometimes I happened to excel in something and that brought me enormous satisfaction. Other times I would sustain a considerable failure and that would just devastate me completely. Nevertheless, now that I can take a look back at my entire life and consciously evaluation everything I ever did I can confidently state that I would not have accomplished most of the things that I have ever done in my life had I not have my siblings. They were the source of my energy and my drive that motivated and inspired me to persevere and keep going even when a situation was bleak and hopeless. My brother and sister are that people that I have to thank for almost everything that I have achieved over the course of my life. I did not realize that when I was younger. Now I can clearly see their role in my life.

The Opposition of Emotionally Colored and Emotionally Neutral Vocabulary

A tendency to judge that speech is only an instrument for making statements is rather primitive. Some people forget that there are a lot of different possibilities. The way we speak also expresses our emotions, attitude to people interrelations between the audience and the speaker.

Sometimes it is necessary to guide people, to warn them or to show somebody’s disapproval or approval or to make your speech sound more enthusiastic or encouraging. We should take all these into consideration while investigating the lexical meaning of words. Using such terms as “emotive” or “expressive”; “affective” or “evaluative”, some people think they are synonyms, for example, that an emotive word is of necessity also a stylistically colored word, or considering all stylistically colored words as emotional. But that is not the case.

So, let us agree that so-called emotive speech is any utterance expressing different human emotions. It is easy to find in speech a great number of syntactical, lexical and intonational peculiarities. Thus, by lexical peculiarities I mean special, emotionally colored words. The emotional coloring of the word may be occasional or permanent. Let us focus on the second. Lexical units acquire their emotional coloring, in other words, their affective connotation, in emotional contexts of particular situations.

The most common type of emotional words, as it seems to me, are interjections. The fact is that they express a lot of emotions without naming them: Ouch! My! Boy! Heaven! Wow! Ah! etc. The interjections may be derived from other parts of speech or be primary interjections. For example, if you describe something as a “drag”, what do you mean? It is boring, too difficult or physically exhausting? Certainly, something that is annoying or boring. We can find a lot of emotional words in everyday small talks or in the literature: ” I love Sibyl Vane. I want to place her on a pedestal of gold, and to see the world worship the woman who is mine. What is marriage? An irrevocable vow. You mock at it for that. Ah! don’t mock.” ( Oscar Wild “The Picture of Dorian Gray” Moscow Progress Publishers 1979 Volume One, page 170)

To express irritation, mockery or any other emotions the speech should possess some special traits, that would show the audience that the speaker’s emotions are very strong. The traditional word order is not used in such cases, but one can obviously find the inversion. More to that, very interesting and vivid examples of echo-conversations can be found in everyday spoken speech. Sometimes it sounds really amusing: “Why should I… ?” – “Stop why-should-I-ing!” or “Oh, come on!”- “Don’t come-on-me!” These are examples of mockery back-chat. It is funny to find brand new words like “why-should-I-ing” invented by the speaker in the moment of utter irritation. This type of emotional speech is definitely increasing in the speech of young people today, as the native speakers assume.

The emotionally colored words are opposed to the emotionally neutral ones. These words actually express notions (It is the so-called nominating function) but they fail to express the speaker’s emotions or his attitude towards people or the speaker’s mood. However, sometimes it is very difficult to tell the sets as they are not very distinguishing, there are a lot of mixed cases. Some of them may possess traits that belong to both. Many words are definitely neutral in their primary, direct meaning but absolutely emotional in the certain conversation under the conditions of the context.

Another group of words may be called “evaluator-words” which contrasts in speech to the neutral words. These words, while we use them in the sentences, can not only show the presence of emotions but identify or specify them.

Just to sum up what have been mentioned I would like to underline that emphatic and emotional words do not show emotions by themselves but impact these to the whole utterance in the combination with syntactic and intonational means.

A Fragile Lifeline: Lessons I Learned Answering The Aids Hotline

Dial 1-800/AIDSNYC

Every Monday and Wednesday morning, promptly at 10 a.m., I leave behind

my daily life and turn to volunteering as an AIDS Hotline counselor at New York

City’s GMHC [Gay Men’s Health Crisis], the nation’s largest social service

agency for AIDS.

For the next four hours, my co-volunteers and I sit in front of a bank of

constantly-ringing telephones, talking to men, women, and teens who call in

from across the nation with urgent questions about AIDS, the ravaging disease

that has left 13.9 million people dead worldwide.

After almost 20 years, a whole generation, families are still facing the

heartache of tending the sick, while scientists continue to be confounded by

this stubborn, ravaging virus.

Although the federal government currently spends$4 billion per year on

AIDS research, and $15 billion worldwide, there is no cure in sight for the viral

infection and no vaccine available. Small wonder that the GMHC AIDS Hotline,

the nation’s first, is flooded with more than 40,000 calls each year.

Listening to callers 8 hours each week, I often think the Hotline is actually a

direct link to the soul of callers–an anonymous forum that allows each to

reveal secrets and fears that they might otherwise never discuss with anyone.

A Morning in May

This is the way it began: “Good morning, GMHC AIDS Hotline, can I help

you?”

“Yes…I have a question…[hesitantly] My son…he’s 21…and he just found

out…he’s HIV-positive [voice breaking] I’m…..alone, divorced. And I need some

help…someone to talk to…”

“Of course….happy to talk to you…it sounds like this has been devastating

for you….”

“It’s terrible. He told me two nights ago….he’s…he’s so young….I don’t

want him to die. He’s my only child….why did this have to happen?” [crying]

Her son, she explains, had sometimes neglected using condoms, convinced

he wouldn’t contract HIV infection from his female partners.

“How could he be so stupid?” she now asks angrily. “Why didn’t he know

how to protect himself? I don’t understand. What am I going to do?”

We talk for 35 minutes, and by the end of the conversation, I notice I’m

barely breathing. The distraught woman’s anguish is palpable. Her situation is

every mother’s worst nightmare.The life of her child is in jeopardy and she

feels helpless and afraid. I can’t imagine anything worse.

During the call, I do my best to employ the GMHC Hotline protocol of “active

listening,” which involves using silence, empathy and gentle probing with

open-ended questions. I’m also having my own emotional reaction to the panic

in her voice, and I’m worried about whether I’m doing enough.

Toward the end of the clal, when she exclaims: “I don’t want my baby to

die,” my heart plummets: “I know….I understand that, but there is hope,” I tell

her. I find myself on the verge of tears.

The Bad News

This mother’s story is too common. According to the Centers for Disease

Control in Atlanta, Ga., 40,000 Americans (half of them under 25) are newly

infected with the AIDS virus each year. Unprotected sex and intravenous drug

use remain the principal modes of   transmission .

“Teenagers,” notes AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor, “are being very hard hit.”

She refers to the three million adolescents who contract a sexually-transmitted

disease annually.

“Heterosexual teenage football players who are healthy and drink milk can

get it too!” says the 71-year-old actress, who has singlehandedly raised $150

million for AIDS research. “But teens are very ignorant and feel invincible. They

believe there’s an invisible shield protecting them from the virus, when it’s

actually aimed right at them.”

Taylor believes in addressing the problem head-on: “Tell your teenage son:

‘Maybe a condom doesn’t feel as good, but if it saves your life, it’s better than

being six feet under.’ Intelligence must replace random sex.”

Although a new generation of AIDS-fighting medications is prolonging the

lives of thousands, nearly half of the 900,000 people infected with HIV in the

U.S. cannot afford these drugs. Since the virus was discovered in l981, 410,800

Americans have died from AIDS-related complications, and the disease has left

13.9 million dead worldwide.

Who Calls a Hotline?

Not long ago I took a call from a 15-year-old boy living in a small town who

said he feels guilty about his sexual attraction to other boys and is scared to

discuss this with his parents. I ask him if there’s a school counselor or relative

he might talk to, but he says he’s too afraid to confide in anyone.

Being a teenager is hard enough, I thought, without the pressure of

keeping this kind of secret. I felt angry and saddened that this child can’t

comfortably discuss his feelings with his own parents.

I encourage him to call the Gay Community Center Youth Program in a

nearby city. In the meantime, I assured him that he could call our Hotline

anytime, that we’d be there for him.

This call was typical of the many we get from teenagers,whispering from

their parents’ homes, confiding their blossoming sexual feelings and concerns.

Our Hotline also receives calls from married men who phone from their offices,

worried about extramarital sexual encounters; gay men suffering side effects

from medications; mothers caring for a sick child or grieving for one lost to

AIDS; even health care professionals themselves confused and requiring

burnout support.

One particular morning, I’m struck by the number of single women who

turn to our hotline for help. At 10:15 a.m. a distraught young woman calls,

explaining that she had been dating someone “very charismatic,” after a two-

year period of sexual abstinence.

“At first we used condoms and I was taking the pill to avoid pregnancy,” she

says. But after her partner assured her he was HIV-negative, the couple began

having unprotected sex. A few months into the relationship, she recounts, his

behavior became “unpredictable,” until he finally admitted he was sleeping with

other women and was addicted to heroin. Now she has to withstand the

“terror” of waiting 3 months before getting an HIV antibody test. To help her

cope, I give her the names of three terapists in her area. The call lasts 43

minutes.

At 11:15 a.m. I take a call from a woman who is breathing heavily.

She says that four months earlier she’d had a brief affair with a limousine

driver, “not out of passion, but because I felt lonely. This was so totally unlike

me,” she continues. “I come from a traditional Orthodox Jewish family…”

Although they used condoms, and she has since tested negative for HIV, she

feels deeply ashamed, and has stopped seeing him. And because she has both

a persistent vaginal yeast infection and a rash on her neck, she’s convinced she

must be infected by HIV.

Although rashes, high fever, swollen lymph glands, heavy night sweats, sore

throat, or other flu-like symptoms may indicate HIV, they can just as easily

accompany the common cold or flu, or other type of infection. I encourage her

to seek medical help and counseling, but the calls ends on a down note. “I

must have it [AIDS],” she moans. I’m exasperated because it doesn’t sound

that way to me, yet I can’t get through to her. The call lasts 22 minutes.

It’s 11.38 a.m. when a well-spoken woman, who says she’s an attorney,

calls from her office, asking for the names of anonymous testing sites. At first

very businesslike, she calmly takes down all the information. I ask her why

she’s considering a test. Total silence. Then she begins to cry: “I….I can’t

talk….I’m sorry…you see, I have swollen lymph glands….[crying]….And my

doctor wants to rule out HIV…I feel overwhelmed…” Then, abruptly: “Where

can I send a donation?” She thanks me and hurries off the phone after just 3

minutes.

These were one-time callers, but, as in any epidemic, an element of panic

prevails, and our hotline also attracts an army of “chronic” or repeat callers

who are intensely fearful no matter how benign their risk, many revealing

continued misconceptions and paranoia about a disease that can be effectively

prevented. We do our best to help them, but often they’re impervious to

counseling.

Most poignant are calls we get from AIDS patients, phoning from their

hospital beds, attempting to navigate the exhausting labyrinth of insurance

and health care matters. One man, in hospice care, said he craved

companionship and missed the “good old days” when he was handsome and

healthy.

That call was a tough one for me as just the day before a close friend of

mine, Joe, who had battled HIV for 16 years, had finally succumbed. Although

at the end Joe was a mere skeleton, he was nonetheless at peace. “I’ve done

what I wanted to,” he told me on our last visit. An avid gardener, he insisted

on a final trip to his country house to see his garden one last time. For a

moment the caller’s reality and the memory of my deceased friend blurred in

my mind and I was overcome. Time for a break.

Face to Face

One of the most and unique services GMHC offers is called “A-Team

Counseling,” a one-time, in-person session that’s free and anonymous.

Recently, I was on an A-Team counselling a 26-year-old HIV-infected

mother from the Midwest. She had traveled to Manhattan by bus to find her

estranged boyfriend, who, she recounted tearfully, had kidnapped her 7-year-

old son. Disheveled, painfully thin, the woman was a disturbing sight. She’s

learned that the two had already returned home where the boyfriend was, and

the child put in his grandmother’s custory. custody of his grandmother.

Meanwhile she’d run out of money for the return trip, been refused a loan by

her family, lost her ID, gone hungry and spent two nights on the street.

Fortunately, this woman was registered at a local AIDS organization in her

town. I telephoned her caseworker and persuaded him to buy her a one-way

Greyhound bus ticket for $115.00. I also gave her subway tokens, a basket of

food, juice and coffee. Smiling shyly, she thanked me for caring.

Shaking hands good-bye with this woman was a bittersweet farewell. What

will happen to her? I wondered will her health deteriorate or improve? Will she

gain control of her life and be able to provide for her son? I’ll never know. One

thing I do know: She’d appeared with the sorrow of a difficult life in her eyes,

but when she left, she was elated at the thought of being reunited with her

child. It seems that with faith and a helping hand, almost anything is possible.

* * * * *

10 BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AIDS AND HIV

(This list would probably be most effective when presented in a vertical chart,

the misconception on the left, the correct answer on the right.)

1)The AIDS virus can be transmitted through saliva, sweat, tears, urine or feces;

also through deep kissing.

1) HIV can ONLY be transmitted through four bodily fluids: blood, semen,

vaginal secretions and breast milk–and can also be transmitted from a mother

to her child before birth, during birth, or while breast feeding. The exchange

of saliva through kissing is no-risk, unless the saliva has blood in it and both

you and your partner are bleeding in the mouth simultaneously.

2) HIV may also be transmitted through casual contact with an infected person.

2) You can’t get infected from toilet seats, phones or water fountains. The virus

can’t be transmitted in the air through sneezing or coughing. You can’t get

HIV from sharing utensils or food or from touching, or hugging. HIV dies after

being exposed to the air. Therefore, touching dried blood on a shaving blade, a

toothbrush or a bathroom counter top is no risk. In any case, unbroken skin is

impermeable, like a rubber raincoat, and cannot absorb the virus whether it’s

alive or dead.

Blood transfusions and medical procedures in the U.S. are safe. Giving blood is

completely risk-free. The chance of getting HIV from dentists or other health

care providers is too low even to measure.You can’t get it from mosquitoes or

other insect or animal bites.

3) Oral sex is just as risky as vaginal or anal intercourse.

3) Although not 100% risk-free, oral sex is considered a low-risk

activity,except if: you have bleeding gums, recent dental work, open sores such

as a herpes lesion, any cut, blister, or burn in the mouth, or if you’ve just

brushed or flossed your teeth. Also, oral sex with an infected woman is riskier

if she is having her period, since menstrual blood can contain HIV. Overall,

latex barriers, (such as condoms or dental dams) used during oral sex reduce

the  transmission  of not just HIV, but other sexual transmitted diseases.

4) Animal skin, latex and polyurethane condoms are all equally effective in

preventing HIV infection and you can use ANY lubrication on the condom

desired.

4)Only latex or polyurethane condoms may be used, as HIV can pass through

an animal skin condom. With latex condoms, only water-based lubricants–like

K-Y jelly or H-R jelly–may be used. No lubricants with oil, alcohol, or grease

are safe.Petroleum jelly,Vaseline, Crisco, mineral oil, baby oil, massage oil,

butter and most hand creams can weaken the condom and cause it to split.

However, with polyurethane condoms, petroleum-based lubricants can be

used.

5) Women have to rely on men using condoms during intercourse to protect

themselves against HIV.

5) Women may employ the “female condom,” a plastic sheath that can be

inserted in their vaginas and used for protection against HIV. It can be inserted

up to 8 hours before sex, has rings at both ends to hold it in place and can be

lubricated with oil-based lubricants that stay wet longer. In addition, women

can carry conventional condoms for their male partners’ use.

6) If a woman is HIV-positive, her offspring will automatically be born infected

with HIV.

6) With no medical treatment taken, about 25% of HIV-positive women will

give birth to infants who are also infected. However, the use of anti-HIV

medications has resulted in a significant decrease of mother-to-child

 transmission  of HIV in utero and during delivery to less than 5%. (NYT 10/19/

99].

7) AIDS is fundamentally a gay disease contracted by white males.

7) Recent data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

indicate that young gay Hispanic and African-American men and heterosexual

women are the fastest growing segment of the population being infected with

HIV. Women now account for 43% of all HIV infected people over age 15. [NYT

11/24/98] African-American and Hispanic women account for more than 76%

of AIDS cases among women in the U.S.

8) Heterosexual men are not really at risk for contracting HIV, even if they

don’t use condoms.

8) The inside opening of the penis is composed of highly-absorbent, sponge-

like mucous membrane tissues, which can provide a route for HIV-infected

vaginal secretions or blood to enter the bloodstream. Proper condom use

protects men from infection.

9) The AIDS epidemic is largely over because new AIDS medications like

protease inhibitors and others have turned AIDS into a chronic, not a terminal

disease.

9) In the U.S., AIDS is the fifth leading cause of death for people 25-44 years

old. Roughly half of all those infected with HIV in the U.S. are not receiving any

medications or medical care. AIDS now kills more people worldwide than any

other infection, including malaria and tuberculosis.[NYT 11/24/98] In 1998

alone, 2.5 million people died of AIDS worldwide. 13.9 million people have

died since the virus was discovered in 1981.

10) If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV through unprotected sex, you can

take an HIV antibody test 2 weeks later and get an accurate result.

10) The standard “window” or waiting period remains a full 3 months. However,

because the widely-used HIV antibody tests (The ELISA and Western Blot) have

become so sensitive, about 95% of people will procure an accurate result 4-6

weeks after a possible exposure to the virus.

* * * *

[Note:The information stated above was reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr.

Todd J. Yancey, an infectious disease specialist practicing in New York City and

affiliated with New York Presbyterian Hospital, NY, Cornell Campus.]

THE CHILD LIFE PROGRAM

“Mommy takes a lot of medicine and Mommy’s really tired sometimes and she

can’t take you to the park as much as she used to. It’s not that I don’t love

you…and that I don’t want to…but Uncle Jack’s going to take you to the park

today.” –A mother living with AIDS, a client at GMHC, talking to her 6-year-

old son.

In New York City alone, 28,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS since the

epidemic began [NYT 12/13/98]

GMHC’s unique Child Life Program serves HIV-infected parents and their

children–who may, or may not, be infected with the virus. “We help families

strengthen their ability to cope, relieve the pressure of parenting with support

services, and teach parents how to talk to their kids,” says Child Life Program

Coordinator Alison Ferst. “Unfortunately, should a parent or child be sick

enough to be facing death, we also help them walk through it with grace and

dignity—as opposed to feeling alone, isolated and frightened.

“We also encourage sick parents to make stable legal plans for their

children who may be left behind,” adds Ferst, “and to have disclosure

conversations with the children in advance, so you don’t have a child standing

at her mother’s funeral, not sure where she’s going next.”

When an HIV-infected Mom arrives at GMHC to have lunch, attend a support

group, consult with a lawyer, or access the acupuncture clinic, she can leave

her children in a spacious playroom, decorated with fanciful murals and a giant

tree hand-painted by the famed children’s story writer and illustrator, Maurice

Sendak, who donated his art. [see photos] The program provides: child-

sitting, nutrition services, a food pantry, art and magic classes, and

recreational trips–church picnics, seasonal apple-pumpkin picking,

amusement parks, zoos, museums, beaches. Also: homework help sessions,

holiday parties, hospital visits, summer sports and weekly support groups for

HIV- positive parents and their HIV-negative children.

This unique program also features: Cooking classes for kids who sometimes

prepare meals for sick parents; Pediatric Buddies, GMHC adult volunteers who

play with sick children and also assist with family chores; Fun With Feelings

Support Group, Friday Evening Family Time, Birthday parties, and a Holiday Gift

Drive.

“Children infected or affected by AIDS,” concludes Ferst, “want to be like

other kids: They want to play with their friends, want to know that someone

will always take care of them, want to know they’re not alone, and often

wonder if it’s their fault when Mom or Dad gets sick.” These children need a

helping hand and any of us can provide one.

Fax Machines Reviews

In the field of telecommunications, the word fax (facsimile) refers to the act of transmitting copies over a telephone network. This system enjoys a distinct advantage because the transfer is immediate. This machine consists of a modem and an image scanner. Sometimes, the equipment is equipped with printers and photo-copiers. Although these machines have existed since the last century, they began to gain popularity in the last two decades due to their economic affordability.

Digital fax machines gained popularity in Japan. In recent years, the internet has made inroads into the field of telecommunications but the machines have continued to remain a popular choice, even in the corporate world,for the transfer of documents. Fax servers have replaced the old fax machines. These can receive faxes and transmit the information over the internet to the user. There are two kinds of fax machines.

The analog machines used earlier, are no longer in vogue. Digital machines have replaced them. The digital machines have two groups, Group three and group four. The machines are classified on the basis of the time they take to transmit a document. There are also different classes of this machines and different transmission rates. These machines use a variety of modulation methods to transmit data. It use two different methods of compression to reduce the amount of data that needs to be transmitted between two machines. These methods are Modified Huffmann and Modified Read. In the Modified Huffmann method each word is scanned and compressed independently. The amount of white space is also reduced considerably. This helps in minimising the time taken for transmission. The Modified Read Method uses a slightly different method of compression.

The first line is scanned using the MH method. The second line is scanned and the differences are determined. These differences are transmitted after a process of encoding. This method pre-supposes that these differences are minimal. The Matsushita White Line Skip is another method of compression but it can be used only on Panasonic machines.

Most of the machines that are used currently belong to the Group Three. Documents are scanned in black and white. Thermal printers that were hitherto used have given way to a generation of this machines. Thermal transfer printers,laser printers and ink-jet printers are some of these machines. Thermal fax papers, however, do not possess legal validity as the ink used in these papers is not indelible.

Fax machines come now in compact sizes and are very portable. They are also all-in-one machines that lend themselves to official and personal use, that can print, scan and fax. These machines have become versatile and they are invaluable in any corporate setting or a business house.

Spyware, Viruses, Malware, Worms, Trojan Horses, and Adware: Symptoms, Solutions, and Prevention

Virus:

A Virus or Computer Virus is a self-replicating program or piece of script or code that make copies of itself and then either attaches itself to an existing file on the infected system or store copies of itself on the system with innocuous sounding names like ‘repair tool’.

The virus is limited to spread itself only by either being transmitted or sent by an unwitting user or carried on a portable storage medium from one system to another. However, if a virus gets embedded somewhere on a network drive then anyone who opens or clicks on the infected document or file can end up getting infected as well.

Spyware:

Spyware is software that gathers information about a users Internet habits, browsing patterns, email passwords, usernames and even credit card information, in essence, ‘spying’ on the hapless user. This type of software usually gets installed without the knowledge of the user and can transmit the collected data to a third party over the Internet secretly as well.

Malware:

Malware can refer to any number of malicious forms of software or code that has been intentionally designed to perform one or more of the following malicious acts:

> Infiltrate a users computer system without their consent.

> Gather sensitive personal information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, birth dates, or system passwords.

> Create back doors or remote entry points to allow hackers access to the system.

> The destruction of critical data and/or corruption of system files.

Malware is a general term and is commonly used to include, Viruses, Worms, Spyware, Trojan Horses, and some forms of Adware. The actual intention of malware can vary but by definition it is any software that is destructive by nature. Because the term Malware is so broad it is hard to cite one specific source for the most infections.

Worm:

A Worm or Computer Worm is a self-replicating piece of computer code that uses a computer network to spread copies of itself to the other nodes on the network. Unlike the Virus a Worm can accomplish this without any intervention or help from the user. Also unlike a Computer Virus the Worm does not have to attach itself to an existing computer program or file.

Many times a Worm will also be used to carry a ‘payload’. The ‘payload’ is code that is designed to perform some specific function. In some cases the payload allows the Worm to send documents through the email accounts of the infected system attaching itself and its payload to the email as an attachment. When the unsuspecting recipient of the email opens the attachment the process starts again.

Trojan Horse:

A Trojan or Trojan Horse Virus is a program that usually gets downloaded installed and executed on a computer system which then appears to be performing some useful function but is unknowingly allowing unauthorized access to the user’s computer system at the same time.

Hackers use Trojans to gain access to a user’s computer remotely and then perform any number of malicious activities. These nefarious activities can include but certainly are not limited to:

> Data Theft.

> Keystroke Logging.

> Downloading or Uploading Files.

> Viewing the Victims Screen.

> Crashing the Users System.

Adware:

Adware is advertiser supported software that displays, plays or downloads advertisements either onto the computer desktop or into the computers web browser as a condition of the software installation. Most Adware is free to use as long as you don’t mind annoying pop-up windows appearing at random intervals advertising some product or another. I have seen some Adware that opened a new window about every 1 to 2 minutes, making it nearly impossible to use the system at all until the software had to be removed.

Additionally, Adware will almost always be collecting data about your Internet habits and browsing behavior to tailor ads specifically to best match the data recovered. In that respect it is actually very similar to many types of Spyware. In most cases Adware is simply a way to place advertisements in the face of the user although it’s a fine line before you could also classify it as Spyware.

With Adware however, in some cases you may actually be given a chance to review and choose whether or not to accept the terms and conditions associated with the software before installing it.

IT WOULD BE ADVISABLE TO READ THESE TERMS VERY CAREFULLY BEFORE CHOOSING TO ACCEPT.

Symptoms of Infection:

> Very sluggish computer performance.

> Random system lockups or crashes.

> Browser redirection – you are taken to websites you were not searching for while browsing the Internet.

> Excessive number of popup windows appearing at random while surfing the Internet.

> You are informed that your system has ‘hundreds’ of active infections and you are redirected to a website that insists you pay for and download their specific software package to remove the infections.

Solution:

There are many good anti-virus / anti-spyware products on the market designed to detect and remove these types of infections. McAfee and Kapersky are good but AVG and Avast! have similar products and offer a free downloadable version. Be sure to complete a ‘Full’ system scan and quarantine and remove all active infections. Configure your anti-virus software to perform ‘active’ scanning or real-time system monitoring.

Prevention:

> Do not install software you have downloaded from the Internet unless it has come from a known, reliable source.

> Use caution if using file sharing platforms such as LimeWire or torrent sites to download files.

> Do not open any email attachments from unknown sources.

> Use a good anti-virus/anti-spyware application and scan your system at least weekly. Be sure your anti-virus software is totally up to date with the latest virus definitions.

> For Windows users: Be sure to visit the Microsoft update site and download all the latest Microsoft security patches.