Money Matters - Simplified


Americans sticking close to home

Washington -- A growing number of American vacationers are eschewing exotic destination for stay-at-home time, a report said Sunday.

Deborah Johnson, for instance, is planning a restful vacation at her Michigan house, The Washington Times reported.

"Traveling is just so exhausting. The lines are long at the airport; the security takes forever; and I'm sick of schlepping and rushing, all for the chance to relax," Johnson said. "I'd rather spend my money doing something quiet and low-key."

Her stay-at-home vacation is called a "staycation," according to ad agency JWT's director of trend-spotting, Ann Mack.

She said high gasoline prices and a sluggish national economy are contributing to the new trend.

"People are rediscovering the delights of their own backyard," Mack was quoted as saying.

British princes planning lavish fundraiser

London -- British Princes Harry and William are planning a fundraiser for their country's elite to raise money for British soldiers injured overseas.

The Mail on Sunday reported the two princes have invited the richest people in Britain to the May 7 Help for Heroes fundraising campaign.

The charity is raising nearly $14 million to renovate the Military Rehabilitation Center in the county of Surrey. British soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are among the troops who use the facility.

A source close to the royal pair told the Mail that helping injured soldiers has become a personal goal for both men, particularly since Harry returned from Afghanistan this year.

"The cause -- helping injured soldiers -- is of huge importance to both of them, in particular Harry who has now seen first-hand what goes on in Afghanistan," the unidentified source said.

Quincy primed for 'John Adams' boost

Quincy, Mass. -- The city of Quincy, Mass., has made preparations for an expected boost in tourism prompted by last week's debut of the HBO series "John Adams."

Quincy Mayor Tom Koch said the mini-series would likely trigger greater tourist interest in one of the city's famed sons and officials are making every preparation to ensure the city is prepared to capitalize on the increased business, The Boston Globe reported Sunday.

Toward that end, Koch said his city is sprucing itself up to impress tourists.

"It's a Quincy story," Koch said. "The city should look good. It should be clean."

Among the tourist locales "Adams" fans are expected to flock to in coming months is the Adams National Historic Park, which will offer increased tourism services.

Prince Harry upset by wedding invite

London -- Britain's Prince Harry reportedly was upset when he received a royal wedding invitation that pointedly ignored his girlfriend, Chelsy Davy.

While the prince was invited to the wedding of Princess Anne's only son Peter Phillips, Davy was not placed on the official guest list and the snub has upset the couple, The Mail on Sunday reported.

A source told the British newspaper the fact that Prince William's girlfriend, Kate Middleton, was invited to the May wedding was particularly insulting to Davy.

"The explanation being offered is that, at the time, Harry and Chelsy were going through a wobble. But Chelsy sees it as a direct snub and is pretty miffed at not having been invited, especially as Kate plans to
go," the unidentified source said.

Psychopharmacology premier Frank Ayd dies at 87

Dr. Frank J. Ayd Jr., a psychiatrist who brought a revolution in the field of psychopharmacology died of complications of coronary artery disease at age 87.

Greenspan defends interest rate policy

Washington -- Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan defended his interest rate policy, but said he should have monitored banks more closely.

"I don't know a of a single example of when interest rate policy has been successful in suppressing gains in asset prices," he said.

Greenspan said low interest rates during his years as chairman were due to global economic forces.

The current economic crisis came after a period of "disinflationary forces" and a long period of "underpricing of risk," Greenspan told The Washington Post Thursday.

Other economists say the Fed's long period of low interest rates -- set at 1 percent for more than a year -- set the stage for increased popularity of adjustable rate mortgages and spurred the illusion of cheap money.

Novelist Jon Hassler dead at 74

Minneapolis -- Minnesota novelist Jon Hassler has died of Parkinson's disease at 74.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune said Hassler, the author of more than 15 novels for adults and young adults, died Thursday morning.

Among his works are "Staggerford," "Grand Opening" and "The Love Hunter."
"Staggerford" was named Novel of the Year in 1978 by the Friends of American Writers. "Grand Opening" was chosen Best Fiction of 1987 by the Society of Midland Authors. His novel, "A Green Journey," was adapted for TV as "The Love She Sought," starring Angela Lansbury.

Hassler, a former high school English teacher, also held the positions of Regents Professor Emeritus and Writer-in-Residence at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn.

Woman sells chip on eBay to help ferret

Tinley Park, Ill -- A woman in Tinley Park, Ill., is selling an Illinois-shaped potato chip on eBay after she read about two Virginia sisters doing the same with a cornflake.

Erin Morris is auctioning off an Illinois-shaped Lay's Classic potato chip in an effort to raise money for treatment her pet ferret's adrenal disease, the Chicago Daily Southtown reported Thursday.

She reportedly noticed her unusual chip Tuesday while eating a sandwich and reading about Melissa and Emily McIntire, who auctioned their Illinois-shaped cornflake.

"I noticed one of the chips in my hand looked familiar," Morris said. "I flipped, flipped, flipped (through the newspaper pages). I thought, 'Hey, my chip looks like Illinois, too!' "

The chip's highest bid is $6.50 on eBay and the auction will end March 29.

Starbucks to go 'back to the future'

Seattle -- Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz promised innovation and a return to the company's roots in an interview with USA Today.

The world's largest coffee seller with 7,100 company owned stores in the United States and 8,588 franchises worldwide, mostly plans to return to grinding coffee beans, Schultz told USA Today on Tuesday.

The company boasts 45 million weekly returning customers, the paper said. But its sales dropped 3 percent in the first quarter of 2008 and its stock has lost 54 percent of its value since May 2006.

Key to its recovery, Schultz said, is a "back to the future" approach of returning to grinding beans in the store and letting the smell of coffee reach its customers.

The chain moved to pre-ground, packaged beans 10 years ago. "That turned out to be our Achilles' heel," Schultz told the paper.

Accused trader freed in France

Paris -- A French court agreed Tuesday to release Societe Generale trader Jerome Kerviel, who is accused of losing $7.2 billion in unauthorized trading.

Kerviel was arrested shortly after the bank revealed on Jan. 24 that it had lost enormous sums.

A list of possible accomplices have been questioned but no others have been accused. Kerviel has insisted he acted alone, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Kerviel's attorney has said his client didn't profit from the trading.

Kerviel was held as a flight risk and his passport has been confiscated. Prosecutors also said they feared he might tamper with evidence or contact accomplices while he was free, the report said.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International.