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NEW YORK — The biggest and brightest full moon of the year arrives Saturday night as our celestial neighbor passes closer to Earth than usual.

But don’t expect any

“must-have-been-a-full-moon” spike in crime or crazy behavior. That’s just folklore.

Saturday’s event is a “supermoon,” the closest and therefore the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. At 11:34 p.m., the moon will be about 221,802 miles from Earth. That’s about 15,300 miles closer than average.

That proximity will make the moon appear about 14 percent bigger than it would if the moon were at its farthest distance, said Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory. The difference in appearance is so small that “you’d be very hard-pressed to detect that with the unaided eye,” he said.

The moon’s distance from Earth varies because it follows an elliptical orbit rather than a circular one.

Like any full moon, the supermoon will look bigger when it’s on or near the horizon rather than higher in the sky, thanks to an optical illusion, Chester noted. The full moon appears on the horizon at sunset. On the East coast, for example, that will be a bit before 8 p.m. Saturday.

The supermoon will bring unusually high tides because of its closeness and its alignment with the sun and Earth, but the effect will be modest, Chester said.

The last supermoon, on March 19, 2011, was about 240 miles closer than this year’s will be. Next year’s will be a bit farther away than this year’s.

But no matter how far away a full moon is, it’s not going to make people kill themselves or others, commit other crimes, get admitted to a psychiatric hospital or do anything else that popular belief suggests, a psychologist says.

Studies that have tried to document such connections have found “pretty much a big mound of nothing, as far as I can tell,” said Scott Lilienfeld of Emory University.

Lilienfeld, an author of “50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology,” said the notion of full moons causing bizarre behavior ranks among the top 10 myths because “it’s so widely held and it’s held with such conviction.”

Why do people cling to the idea?

Lilienfeld said a key reason could be the way people pay attention to things. If something unusual happens to occur during a full moon, people who believe the myth take note and remember, even telling other people because it confirms their ideas. But when another full moon appears and nothing out of the ordinary occurs, “they’re not very likely to remember” or point it out to others.

So in the end, he said, all they remember are the coincidences. (original story is on

Why You Should go for a Roth IRA

One of the smartest money moves a young person can make is to invest in a Roth IRA — and setting one up is easy.

Follow the rules and any money you put into one of these retirement-savings accounts grows absolutely tax free: You won’t owe Uncle Sam a dime as you let your savings accumulate, or when you cash out in retirement. Plus, an IRA is more flexible than a 401(k) and other retirement plans because you can invest it in almost whatever you want, from stocks and mutual funds to bonds and real estate.

If you haven’t yet opened this gift from Uncle Sam, do it now. You have until your tax return deadline to set up and make contributions for the previous tax year. The government sets a limit on how much you can contribute to a Roth. That limit was $5,000 for 2011 and also for 2012. That means if you act before April 17, you can invest $5,000 now to count for last year, giving you a solid start to your savings. And you have until next year’s tax deadline to kick in your $5,000 for 2012.

Don’t let the 2007-09 stock market meltdown scare you. Stocks historically do well over the long run, so a good place to start is with a well diversified mutual fund (see Start Investing in Three Simple Steps). But if you really don’t like risk, the Roth lets you save in less-volatile investments, too, such as bonds or money-market accounts. The key is to find your comfort level and get started soon.

The tax advantage

The idea of saving on your taxes may seem a tad obscure, but it really can pay off big. If a 25-year-old contributes $5,000 each year until she retires and makes an average annual return of 8% on her investment, she’ll have $1.4 million saved by the time she retires at age 65. And the money is all hers — she won’t have to give the IRS a cent of it if she waits until retirement to withdraw the money. (Use this calculator to see how far your savings can take you. Enter “0″ in the tax rate boxes to simulate the tax-exempt status of a Roth IRA.)

If that same 25-year-old invested that same $5,000 a year in a taxable account earning the same 8% return, she’d only have about $1 million after 40 years if her earnings were taxed at 15% federal. That’s more than one-fourth less money than if she’d gone with the Roth. If she owed state taxes on the money, too, she’d be down even more.

Roth rules

As with any government gift, the Roth IRA comes with a few strings attached. First, you can contribute to a Roth only if you have earned income from a job. Say you’re in school, you’re not working and you have a little extra money left over from your student loan or your parents gave you money. You cannot put it in a Roth. Also, you cannot save more than you made. So if you worked a summer job and made only $3,000, the most you could contribute to a Roth would be $3,000.

It’s also possible to make too much. You can contribute the full $5,000 in 2012 as long as your income falls below $110,000 if you’re single, and $173,000 if you’re married filing a joint tax return. The contribution limit is then phased out incrementally if you make between $110,000 and $125,000 (single) or $173,000 and $183,000 (married-joint). (See IRS Publication 590 for more on calculating your contribution.) Make more than those upper limits, and you don’t have to cash out the account — you simply cannot contribute any more money to a Roth IRA.

If you expect to exceed the Roth income limits at some point during your career, you should open a Roth now while you’re young and your salary is low enough to qualify. If a 25-year-old saved $5,000 a year for only five years, then didn’t contribute another dime for the next 35 years because his income was too high, that money would continue to grow — to nearly $481,000 by the time he turned 65. That alone certainly won’t be enough to retire on, but it’ll be a nice tax-free bonus to his other retirement savings.


If the savings power, flexibility and tax-free status aren’t enough to persuade you of the Roth’s virtues, Uncle Sam throws in a few extra perks, making the Roth an indispensable tool in a young adult’s financial life.

You can take money out in a pinch. Although the purpose of a Roth is to save for retirement, and your money can grow only if you leave it in the account, you can withdraw your contributions at any time, tax free and without penalty — and you don’t have to pay it back, like you do with a 401(k). Of course, it’s best to leave your money in the account so you can earn more money, and you really should have a separate emergency savings account on standby, but it’s nice to know the Roth is there for you if you need it.

Notice we said you can take out your contributions at any time — not your earnings. If you withdraw any of your earnings before age 59½, you’ll trigger a tax bill on the money, plus you’ll have to pay a 10% penalty. Ouch.

You can tap your Roth to buy your first home. The IRS lets you withdraw up to $10,000 from your Roth IRA tax- and penalty-free — which can include earnings — to help you achieve the American dream. However, the account must have been opened for five years. That means if you make a contribution now and count it toward 2012, you could use tax-free money from your IRA to buy a house starting in January 2017. That $10,000 limit is per person, so couples could withdraw up to $20,000.

If you don’t meet the five-year test, you still can take out your earnings for your home purchase, but you’ll have to pay taxes on the amount you withdraw. You won’t have to pay the 10% early-withdrawal penalty, though.

You can use it to save for Junior’s education. Many new parents don’t know whether to save for retirement or the baby’s college tuition. Hands down, retirement wins. There are loans to pay for college, but none to help fund your retirement. But starting a Roth is a great way to cover both bases, just in case. Focus on your retirement now, saving as much into a Roth as you can. And as your finances allow, consider opening a specific college-savings account for the new baby — say, a Coverdell or 529 plan. Then, when the day comes for Junior to head off to school, you can assess whether you can afford to — or need to — sacrifice some of your retirement dollars to make it happen.

You can, of course, take out your contributions at any time to help pay the bill. If you dip into earnings, you’ll owe taxes — but you don’t have to pay the 10% early-withdrawal penalty if you use the money for college. The Roth shouldn’t be used as the sole savings vehicle for higher education, but it’s nice to know you can use it if you need it.

How to open a Roth IRA

When you’re just starting to invest, the Roth should be your first stop — even before you open a regular, taxable account, or contribute to a workplace retirement-savings plan. The only exception is if your employer offers a match on your 401(k) contributions. That’s free money you don’t want to pass up. In that case, contribute enough to win the match, then send any extra money into a Roth IRA. (Yes, you can invest in both a Roth and a workplace retirement plan.)

You can invest your Roth IRA in almost anything — stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs or even real estate. It’s easy to open an account. If you want to invest in stocks, go with a discount broker. For mutual funds, go with a fund company. For CDs or money-market accounts, you can go through your bank.

Because you’re young and have a long way to retirement, you’ll want to invest in the stock market to get the highest returns over time. Rookie investors should stick to mutual funds that invest in stocks. They’re easy to understand, you leave the stock-picking to the pros, and they make it easy to spread your risk around several stocks or bonds without putting all your eggs in one basket.

Most mutual fund companies even lower their minimum investment requirements when you open an IRA. T. Rowe Price, for example, requires $2,500 to invest in a taxable account, but IRA investors need only $1,000 to get started — or as little as $100 a month if you sign up with its automatic investing program.

Use Fund Finder to search for funds that have low investment minimums and that meet your other criteria. Stick to no-load funds with low expense ratios (the average expense ratio for stock funds is about 1.5%).

Many fund companies will let you open an account and make contributions online. Make sure you designate what year the contributions are for.

Not sure where to find the money to fund your account? Consider investing your tax refund. For the 2011 tax-filing season, the average check totaled nearly $3,000. That cash would make a great start to your Roth.

Another way to fund your account is to put it on autopilot. Most banks and brokers will allow you to set up an automatic investment plan taking the money directly out of your bank account and putting it into your Roth. It’s much easier to find the cash when it’s considered already gone than if you have to make a physical effort to write the check each month. Read original story here

By: NewsCore

MINNEAPOLIS – Older women who take dietary supplements, including multivitamins, may be at an increased risk of death, according to a joint US and Finnish study.

A 19-year analysis of almost 39,000 women found that those who took dietary supplements including multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper were at a higher risk of death than women who did not.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, was undertaken by researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Eastern Finland.

“Based on existing evidence, we see little justification for the general and widespread use of dietary supplements,” the authors wrote. “We recommend that they be used with strong medically-based cause, such as symptomatic nutrient deficiency disease.”

They found that only the women who took calcium supplements displayed a reduced risk of dying.

The reasons for the link between taking multivitamins and an increased risk of dying were not clear, the researchers said.

Doctors Goran Bjelakovic of the University of Nis in Serbia and Christian Gluud of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark wrote in an accompanying commentary that the findings “add to the growing evidence demonstrating that certain antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin E, vitamin A, and beta-carotene, can be harmful.”

They added, “We cannot recommend the use of vitamin and mineral supplements as a preventive measure, at least not in a well-nourished population.”

However, Bjelakovic and Gluud said that vitamin D3 may be beneficial to older women, and possibly older men, if they do not already get enough through their diet or from sun exposure.

Read original story here

Older Women Who Take Vitamin D3 May Live Longer

Elderly women who take vitamin D3 supplements may have a small survival advantage over those who don’t, a new research review concludes, although they also raise their risk of kidney stones.

The review of 50 clinical trials involving more than 94,000 elderly adults found that those randomly assigned to take vitamin D3 were six percent less likely to die during study periods averaging two years than participants given inactive pills or no treatment.

That reduced risk of death, researchers say, translates into 200 elderly adults having to take vitamin D3 for about two years in order to save one additional life.

Many questions remain, however. For one, the trials included mostly women, so it’s not clear if men would stand to gain the same benefit.

Moreover, it’s not clear why women given vitamin D3 had better survival odds — or what form or dose of the vitamin might be best.

Many of the studies focused on elderly adults living in nursing homes, who are likely to be deficient in vitamin D, frail and at risk of falls.

Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones, and a number of studies have suggested that supplements may lower elderly adults’ risk of falls and fractures — which can prove fatal.

“These preventive effects could likely explain some or all of the mortality reduction we observed,” Dr. Christian Gluud, the senior researcher on the new study, told Reuters Health in an email.

However, he said, more research is needed to understand why women who took vitamin D3 had a lower death rate.

Although Gluud’s team looked at studies involving four different forms of vitamin D, they found that better survival was specifically linked to vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is more potent and readily absorbed than vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), the form often found in multivitamins.

But it’s not clear whether that’s because only vitamin D3 is effective, or because too few trials have tested D2 or other forms of the vitamin, according to Gluud, who works with the Cochrane

Collaboration, an international research organization that evaluates medical evidence and published the current findings.

As for the optimal dose of vitamin D for elderly people’s health, that too remains to be seen, Gluud said.

In their review, he and his colleagues saw a reduced risk of death with vitamin D3 doses of 800 international units (IU) or less. But, Gluud noted, few trials have tested higher doses.

The benefit his team found is, however, in line with current recommendations.

Last year, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a scientific advisory panel to the U.S. government, said that most people need 600 IU of vitamin D per day, while adults older than 70 should strive for 800 IU.

Older people are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency because their bodies are less efficient at producing the vitamin after exposure to the sun, and because their kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form.

But in its recommendations, the IOM also sought to temper some of the enthusiasm over vitamin D in recent years.

A flurry of studies has linked higher vitamin D intake to lower risks of everything from diabetes, to severe asthma, heart disease, certain cancers and depression.

The problem with those studies is that they were observational — which means that researchers looked at people’s vitamin D intake, or their blood levels of the vitamin, and whether they developed a given health condition. Those studies cannot prove cause-and-effect.

And the IOM said that, other than benefits for bone health, there is insufficient evidence that vitamin D thwarts any specific health condition.

So what should older adults do about vitamin D? They can follow the IOM recommendations on intake levels, and choose food sources of the vitamin — including fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, and fortified dairy products and cereals.

As for vitamin pills, Gluud said that older adults can talk with their own doctors about whether that’s a good idea.

He added that vitamin supplements should be seen as medications that could potentially affect your life expectancy in a positive or negative way.

“Always discuss any medication with your physician,” Gluud advised.

The IOM set an upper limit for vitamin D intake, at 4,000 IU per day. Taking too much can lead to vitamin D toxicity, which causes symptoms like nausea, vomiting, constipation and poor appetite. It can also lead to kidney stones and, by raising calcium levels in the blood, heart rhythm disturbances.

In this study, Gluud’s team found that vitamin D3 taken along with calcium raised elderly adults’ risk of kidney stones by 17 percent.

Gluud said that more clinical trials are needed to compare the effects of different doses of vitamin D, and to study the health effects in elderly men and younger people.

There’s also little known about whether the cost of widespread vitamin D use would be worth the benefit. But the vitamin is cheap — at about $10 for a two-month supply

Read the original story is

WASHINGTON – Five months after launching citywide, Parkmobile still has its flaws in D.C.

Some motorists are getting slapped with tickets even though they still had time on the meters after paying by phone.

It happened to Lisa Washington twice last month, and she has the receipts to prove it. On December 14, she paid to park from 8:20 a.m. to 10:19 a.m. She got a $25 ticket at 8:40 a.m. It was even worse on December 30. She was ticketed 13 minutes after paying to park for an hour.

“Obviously, they’re not coding in the license plate numbers to see if Parkmobile was used,” Washington says.

She is fighting her tickets, which were both issued by the same DDOT employee.

More than 180,000 people have registered to use Parkmobile apps to pay for meters, and DDOT officials say it has been used more than a million times, with less than one percent reporting any problem.

DDOT Communications Director John Lisle says the system clearly still has growing pains.

“It could be a case of human error, and it will require more training to correct,” Lisle says. “Parkmobile customers can print a receipt from their accounts to submit as evidence.”

DMV officials say when you contest a ticket, it is marked in the system as pending review until your hearing, so your vehicle should not get booted.

Washington is not taking any chances.

“I’m not parking on the street for now,” she says.

DMV Parking adjudication:

Read the original story is on

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