Sunday, September 29, 2013

Miss World 2013 Winner: Megan Young, Miss Philippine

Miss Philippines, Megan Young, was crowned the winner of Saturday night's 2013 Miss World pageant at the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Centre in Indonesia.

"I promise to be the best Miss World ever," the 23-year-old said as she was crowned by last year's winner, Wenxia Yu.
Young, who was born in the United States, beat out 126 other women vying for the crown in the 63rd annual pageant. The brunette beauty moved to the Philippines when she was 10 years old and has been living there since, working as an actress and television host.
Miss France, Marine Lorphelin, 20, placed second and 22-year-old Miss Ghana, Carranzar Naa Okailey Shooter, came in third.
The 2013 Miss World pageant was initially slated to be held in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, but was moved to the resort island of Bali amid security concerns.
Police said there were no demonstrations or protests during the pageant, where security was heightened in fear of an attack.
Leading up the pageant, the Islamic Defenders' Front staged protests over the revealing (in their opinion) clothing worn during Miss World pageants. Islamic protesters denounced the pageant, calling it insulting to have women wearing bikinis and form-fitting evening attire in Indonesia, the most populous mostly Muslim nation in the world.
The Jakarta Post said groups were calling for the government to completely shut down the competition, but instead, moved it to Bali three weeks ago.

Watch: President’s Al-jazeera interview: “We are being bullied”

President Mahinda Rajapaksa sat for an exclusive interview with Al-Jazeera where he discussed a range of issues including related to international allegations against his government.  The president said that there is a propeganda campaign against the country and certain big countries like to “bully” small nations like Sri Lanka. The president emphasized that there is very real democracy in Sri Lanka as demonstrated by the recently concluded Northern Provincial council elections, where the government lost to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). The president said he knew his alliance is going to loose, but held the elections anyway.  ”Now let them deliver” said the president in reference to the TNA.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ways to Waste Your Money

Nearly everyone has holes in their budgets. And as with other kinds of leaks, you may have hardly noticed some of them. But those small drips can quickly add up to big bucks. The trick is to find the holes and plug them so you can keep more money in your pocket. That extra cash could be the ticket to finally being able to save, invest or break your cycle of living from paycheck to paycheck.
We've updated our popular list of money-wasters with even more tips and resources to help you cut unnecessary expenses from your budget. Consider these 28 common ways people waste money. If any of them sound familiar, start plugging your budget holes right away.

Carrying a Balance
Debt is a shackle that holds you back. For instance, if you have a $1,000 balance on a credit card that charges an 18% rate, you blow $180 every year on interest. Carrying a balance can also cost you down the line in the form of a lower credit score that will trigger higher interest rates on your loans.
Get in the habit of paying off your balance in full each month - or at least limiting your balance to 25% or less of your available credit.

Buying Brand-Name Instead of Generic
From groceries to clothing to prescription drugs, you can save money by choosing an off-brand over a fancy label. And in many cases, you won't sacrifice much in quality. Clever advertising and fancy packaging don't make brand-name products better than lesser-known brands. For example, a 30-day supply of cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor costs about $154, but a generic version costs half as much, according to DestinationRx, which creates drug-comparison tools for insurers and consumers.
QUIZ: Are You Saving Enough for Retirement?

Paying Late Fees and Missing Deadlines
istockphotoIf you pay a stack of bills every month, it's easy to overlook one or two every now and then. But if you miss a credit card payment by even one day, you will pay a late fee of $25 ($35 if it's the second time in six months). Your credit score could also take a hit if you pay your bill late. Your history of on-time payments accounts for 35% of your FICO credit score -- more weight than any other factor. If you pay the bill within 30 days of the due date, the lender might not report the delay to the credit bureaus. But if you let the bill go longer than that, the card issuer is more likely to inform the credit agencies and turn over your case to its collections department.
If you have a good payment record -- especially if you have paid on time for an entire year -- call your card issuer and ask that the late fee be waived. To avoid missing deadlines, set up payment alerts to be delivered by e-mail or a text message from your credit card company.

Buying Insurance You Don't Need
You only need life insurance if someone, such as a child, is financially dependent upon you. That means most singles, seniors and kids don't need a policy.
Other policies you can probably do without include credit-card insurance (better to use the premium to pay down your debt in the first place), rental-car insurance (most auto policies and credit cards carry some coverage) and mortgage life insurance (a regular term-life insurance policy is more comprehensive). See 5 Insurance Policies You Don't Need for coverage that isn't worth buying.

Overspending on Gas and Oil
There's no need to spring for premium fuel if the auto manufacturer says regular is just fine. You should also check to make sure your tires are optimally inflated to get the best gas mileage. And are you still paying for an oil change every 3,000 miles? Many models nowadays can last 5,000 to 7,000 miles between changes, and some even have built-in sensors to tell you when it's time to change the oil. Check your owner's manual to find the best time for your car's routine maintenance.
To lower your gas costs even more, consider one of our picks for the 15 Most Fuel-Efficient Cars, 2013.

Keeping Unhealthy Habits
Smoking costs a lot more than what you pay for a pack of cigarettes. The average price per pack of cigarettes in the U.S. is $6.03, but the health-related costs per pack are $35, according to the American Cancer Society. Over a year, those added costs can amount to $12,775 for a pack-a-day smoker.
Another habit to quit: indoor tanning. There is now a 10% tax on indoor tanning services. As with cigarettes, the true cost of tanning -- one of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation -- is higher than the price you pay each time you go to the tanning salon.
Once you kick your bad habits, you'll save even more if you institute these six healthy habits.
QUIZ: Test Your Financial Fluency

Paying Too Much for a Mutual Fund
ThinkstockMutual fund fees can weigh down performance. The average diversified U.S. stock fund charges about 1.3% a year in expenses. If your fund isn't beating its benchmark, you're better off buying a low-cost index fund or exchange-traded fund that matches the benchmark. For example, you'll pay an annual expense ratio of just 0.05% to invest in the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI), which tracks the CRSP US Total Market Index. On a $50,000 investment, that's a savings of $625 per year over the average managed fund.
It is possible to outperform a benchmark with a well-managed fund (although it's not guaranteed). Stick with no-load funds, which can save you more than 5% in sales charges. See our favorite no-load mutual funds in the Kiplinger 25. And watch out for other nickel-and-diming, including low-balance fees or charges for paper statements.

Passing up Tax Breaks
There's a good chance you're among the millions of taxpayers who overpay taxes each year by overlooking deductions to which you're entitled. Failing to maintain a file of tax receipts throughout the year, rushing to file your taxes at the last minute, and fearing an IRS audit are all reasons that may keep you from claiming perfectly valid deductions. See if you've missed one of these commonly overlooked tax breaks. If you have, by all means, claim it! That money is yours. Just be sure you have the documentation to prove it.

Opting for a Low Insurance Deductible
ThinkstockA low deductible may seem appealing as you ponder a costly claim down the line, but you'll pay a lot more in higher premiums. Boosting your deductible from $200 to $500 can reduce your collision and comprehensive auto insurance premiums by 15% to 30%; raising it to $1,000 can save you 40% or more. If your homeowners insurance deductible is $500, increasing it to $1,000 can lower your premiums by up to 20%. Besides, when you have a low deductible, you might be tempted to file claims more frequently for small amounts. Insurers don't like frequent claims on your record and can punish you with higher rates.
Before raising your deductible, however, make sure you have enough cash in your emergency savings account to cover it if you ever file a claim. You won't have to rely on costly credit cards to bail you out.

Leaving Your Money in a Low-Interest Account
If you're stashing your cash in a traditional savings account earning next to nothing, you're wasting it. Make sure you're getting the best return on your money. Search for the highest yields on CDs and money market savings accounts. And consider using a free online checking account that pays interest, such as ones offered by Ally Bank and EverBank.

Coupons for the Sake of Couponing
ThinkstockIt's tempting to go hog-wild clipping coupons. But remember that coupons only save you money if you use them for items you were going to buy anyway. If you buy something you didn't need, you didn't save money -- you bought something extra. Most coupons are for brand-name items, so be sure to compare prices with the generic brand. Learn how to save money on groceries without coupons.

Paying ATM Fees
Expect to throw away nearly $4 every time you use an ATM that isn't in your bank's network. That's because you'll pay an ATM surcharge, and your own bank will hit you with a non-network fee. Consider switching to a bank, such as Ally Bank, that doesn't charge ATM fees and reimburses you for fees other banks charge. Another way to avoid fees if there's not an ATM in your bank's network nearby is to get cash back when you make a purchase at the grocery store or drugstore.
QUIZ: The Personal Finance Quiz

Not Pulling the Plug on Electronics
iStockphotoU.S. households waste $100 a year, on average, to power devices while they are off or on standby mode, according to Energy Star. Electronics that have a clock or operate by remote are typical culprits. The obvious way to pull the plug on your energy vampires is to do just that -- pull the plug. Or buy a device to do it for you, such as a Smart Strip Power Strip ($25.75 at, which will stop drawing electricity when the gadgets are turned off and pay for itself within a few months.

Paying for Things You Don't Use
Do you watch all those cable channels? Do you need those extra features on your phone? Are you getting your money's worth out of your gym membership? Are you taking full advantage of your Netflix, TiVo and magazine subscriptions? Take a look at what your family actually uses, then trim accordingly. You can get help tracking your expenses to identify where you're regularly spending on things you don't use with our Household Budget Worksheet or these 7 budgeting sites.

Not Reading the Fine Print
iStockphotoThought you were being smart by transferring the balance on a high-rate credit card to a low-rate one? Did you read the fine print? Some credit-card companies now charge up to 5% for balance transfers. Also watch out for free checking accounts that aren't so free anymore. Some banks now charge fees unless you meet certain criteria, such as maintaining a minimum balance. Your bank might also charge you as much as $10 a month to download information into Quicken, the personal finance program, or tack on a fee every time you use a teller for deposits or withdrawals. Cell-phone contracts also are full of fine print about fees for various services and early termination of a contract.
For more pesky charges you might not be aware of if you don't read the fine print, see How to Wipe Out 33 Pesky Fees.

Mismanaging Your FSA
For some people, that means failing to sign up for their workplace flexible spending account. Contributions to an FSA come out of your paycheck before taxes -- so you don't have to pay taxes on that portion of your income. Then you can use the money tax-free to pay for such things as health care deductibles, co-payments, dental work and child care. You can set aside up to $2,500 in a health care FSA and up to $5,000 in a dependent-care FSA to cover child-care costs for kids under age 13.
Other people contribute to an FSA but fail to use all the funds in their account. FSA funds can't be carried over from year to year. As a result, employees leave an average of $86 behind in their use-it-or-lose-it FSA each year, according to WageWorks, an employee-benefits provider. See these 7 Smart Uses For Your Flex-Account Money so you don't leave any funds behind.

Paying Full Retail Price
iStockphotoConsidering that most consumer goods go on sale at various times of the year, there's little reason to pay the full retail price for something. For example, apparel is dramatically marked down at the end of each season and during sales events over long holiday weekends, such as Labor Day. Furniture is discounted as much as 60% during clearance sales in January and July before new styles are released in the following months. Prices on TVs and computers are slashed on Black Friday -- and the list goes on.
Plus, you can always use sites such as and to find coupon codes to score a discount at the checkout when you shop online. You can buy discounted gift cards for your favorite retailers at Gift Card Granny to get instant savings (a $100 gift card for just $90, for example). And you can try your hand at haggling to get a lower price. See Secrets to Successful Haggling for tips.

Sticking With the Same Service Provider
Hey, we're all for loyalty to trusted service providers, such as your bank, insurer, credit-card company, mutual fund, phone plan or cable plan. But over time, as prices and your circumstances change, the status quo may not be the best deal anymore. Smart consumers are always on the lookout for bargains.
See our tips for reshopping your auto insurance, determining whether your checking account is still right for you, saving money by switching cell-phone plans and getting a better deal on cable TV.

Buying New Instead of Used
iStockphotoMany pre-owned items can cost up to 50% to 75% less than the price you'd pay if you purchased them new. Often you can find "used" goods that have hardly even been used. And with some items -- such as tablets and smart phones -- retailers or manufacturers refurbish and repackage them so they're practically new again. Of course, there are some things you're better off buying new, including mattresses, linens, shoes and safety equipment, such as car seats and bike helmets. But here are 11 things that you should consider buying usedbecause you often can find them in good or almost-new condition at a fraction of the price you would pay to buy them new.
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Buying When You Can Borrow
Be honest: How many times have you bought something you've used only once or twice? In an age of social networking, collaborative consumption is the next big thing. At, you invite contacts to join your network of borrowers, then post an ad to share or borrow just about anything, from a circular saw to a photo scanner to a Vespa scooter. It's a great way to audition a product before buying, if you must. (It's available in about 100 cities.) You can also trade baby, kids' and teen items, and books and DVDs for all ages, at

Paying Credit Card Annual Fees
ThinkstockA great rewards-card offer may strike you as worth the annual fee of $50 or more. However, there are plenty of rewards cards without an annual fee. See our picks for the best cash-backtravelgas and retail, and airline rewards cards -- many of which don't have an annual fee (or the fee is waived during the first year).

Saying Yes to Rental Car Add-ons
When you rent a car, the fees can add up quickly. One of the heftiest fees can be rental car insurance, or collision damage waiver, which can cost $20 to $30 a day. Rental car agents are trained to make this insurance sound nonnegotiable, but you probably don't need it. If the car is for personal use and you have collision coverage on your auto policy, you're covered. (Your credit card may pick up the deductible -- or become your primary coverage if you don't have any other insurance.)
There are plenty of other charges for add-ons, such as a GPS, which typically costs $13 a day. Bring your own. And think twice about paying for a full tank of gas ahead of time. You can fill up cheaper yourself, and you may not use a full tank anyway. See How to Avoid Unnecessary Rental Car Fees to learn more about the extras that companies want to charge you for and whether you really need them.

Paying for Credit-Monitoring Services
ThinkstockA credit-monitoring service can charge $15 a month or more to track your credit files. But you can get a report from each of the three bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- free every year Stagger your visits to the site so you get a report from one of the bureaus about every four months. You'll keep up with any changes without paying the fees.
Plus, a couple of services will send you updates from the credit bureaus free. Credit Sesame tracks data on your Experian report daily and will send you an e-mail alert if anything suspicious appears. (You need to sign up for alerts; notifications also appear on your account page on the site.) Credit Karma has a similar tool, which provides free daily monitoring of your TransUnion report.
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Paying for Warranties
Appliance and electronics salespeople will sell you on a product's merits and, after you commit, badmouth it so you'll also buy a service contract. Don't bite. Thirty-one percent of consumers buy extended warranties each year, according to a study by the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. Typically, you'll pay 10% to 20% more for an item to extend a one-year manufacturer's warranty through the fifth year of ownership, according to the Service Contract Industry Council.
Odds are you won't need the extra coverage because most major appliances don't break down during the extended-warranty period. Or you might already be covered. The four major credit card networks -- Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express -- provide up to a year of extended warranty protection for some cardholders, according to credit card comparison site See What You Need to Know About Warranties and How Credit Cards' Extended Warranty Coverage Stacks Up to learn more.

Not Planning Weekly Meals
ThinkstockIt's hard to make money-smart meal choices when you're rushing at work or at home -- or both. Without a weeklong plan, you risk wasting money at the grocery store or on fast food. By developing a menu of easy-to-prepare meals, you won't overspend at the grocery store by buying things that you don't need or that will just go bad in your refrigerator.
And if you have food at home that can be quickly turned into meals, you'll be less tempted to stop at a fast-food joint, which isn't nearly as cheap as it seems. A family of four can easily spend more than $20 on a fast-food meal, but they can prepare a meal at home for significantly less.

Paying Too Much for Shipping
If you do your shopping online, you often can avoid paying for shipping by having your purchases shipped to a retailer's brick-and-mortar store or by taking advantage of free shipping promotions. You can find free shipping codes at, or you can take advantage of Free Shipping Day in December, when more than 1,000 merchants will offer free shipping with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve. See 6 Things to Know About Free Shipping to learn more ways to score free delivery.
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Going Overboard on Parties
BigstockphotoWhatever happened to inviting the neighborhood kids over to your house for birthday cake, ice cream and a few games? Now families are spending hundreds - even thousands -- of dollars on over-the-top birthday party venues, catered meals and elaborate gift bags for each guest. The truth is that most kids just want to spend time with friends playing games, opening a few gifts and indulging in a little junk food. So resist the urge to spend more than necessary. See How to Save Money on Kids' Birthday Parties for tips.
And then there are weddings. Don't get us wrong: We love weddings. We just don't like the $28,000 average bill that accompanies couples down the aisle. Starting your newlywed life under a crushing debt load is a bad idea. Rein in your wedding costs and do your marriage a favor. (And don't foist that outrageous price tag on your parents, who are trying to save for retirement and may have just helped you pay for your education.) See Wedding Bells on a Budget for advice.

Being Disorganized
Lost bills and receipts, forgotten tax deductions and clueless spending can cost you hundreds of dollars each year. Set up automatic bill payment online for your monthly bills to eliminate late fees and postage costs. Then get a handful of files to organize important receipts, insurance policies, tax documents and other statements. Or, better yet, banish the clutter entirely by converting your paper files to digital (learn how). Finally, consider going online to get your budget and finances in order. Here are our picks for four online tools that can help you track your spending, cut the clutter, save for goals and build a financial plan.

Uncovering the Largest Food Fraud in U.S. History

Magnus von Buddenbrock and Stefanie Giesselbach arrived in Chicago in 2006 full of hope. He was 30, she was 28, and they had both won their first overseas assignments at ALW Food Group, a family-owned food-trading company based in Hamburg. Von Buddenbrock had joined ALW—the initials stand for its founder, Alfred L. Wolff—four years earlier after earning a degree in marketing and international business, and he was expert in the buying and selling of gum arabic, a key ingredient in candy and soft drinks. Giesselbach had started at ALW as a 19-year-old apprentice. She worked hard, learned quickly, spoke five languages, and within three years had become the company’s first female product manager. Her specialty was honey. When the two colleagues began their new jobs in a small fourth-floor office a few blocks from Millennium Park in downtown Chicago, ALW’s business was growing, and all they saw was opportunity.

On March 24, 2008, von Buddenbrock came to the office around 8:30 a.m., as usual. He was expecting a quiet day: It was a holiday in Germany, and his bosses there had the day off. Giesselbach was on holiday, too; she had returned to Germany to visit her family and boyfriend. Sometime around 10 a.m., von Buddenbrock heard a commotion in the reception area and went to have a look. A half-dozen armed federal agents, all wearing bulletproof vests, had stormed in. “They made a good show, coming in with full force,” he recalls. “It was pretty scary.”

The agents asked if anybody was hiding anywhere, then separated von Buddenbrock and his assistant, the only two employees there. Agents brought von Buddenbrock into a conference room, where they questioned him about ALW’s honey business. After a couple of hours they left, taking with them stacks of paper files, copies of computer hard drives, and samples of honey.

Giesselbach returned from Germany three days later. Her flight was about to land at O’Hare when the crew announced that everyone would have to show their passports at the gate. As Giesselbach walked off the plane, federal agents pulled her aside. She, too, answered their questions about ALW’s honey shipments. After an hour, they let her leave. The agents, from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security, had begun to uncover a plot by ALW to import millions of pounds of cheap honey from China by disguising its origins.

Americans consume more honey than anyone else in the world, nearly 400 million pounds every year. About half of that is used by food companies in cereals, bread, cookies, and all sorts of other processed food. Some 60 percent of the honey is imported from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and other trading partners. Almost none comes from China. After U.S. beekeepers accused Chinese companies of selling their honey at artificially low prices, the government imposed import duties in 2001 that as much as tripled the price of Chinese honey. Since then, little enters from China legally.

Von Buddenbrock and Giesselbach continued to cooperate with the investigators, according to court documents. In September 2010, though, the junior executives were formally accused of helping ALW perpetuate a sprawling $80 million food fraud, the largest in U.S. history. Andrew Boutros, assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, had put together the case: Eight other ALW executives, including Alexander Wolff, the chief executive officer, and a Chinese honey broker, were indicted on charges alleging a global conspiracy to illegally import Chinese honey going back to 2002. Most of the accused executives live in Germany and, for now, remain beyond the reach of the U.S. justice system. They are on Interpol’s list of wanted people. U.S. lawyers for ALW declined to comment.

In the spring of 2006, as Giesselbach, who declined requests for an interview, was preparing for her job in Chicago, she started receiving e-mail updates about various shipments of honey moving through ports around the world. According to court documents, one on May 3 was titled “Loesungmoeglichkeiten,” or “Solution possibilities.” During a rare inspection, U.S. customs agents had become suspicious about six shipping containers of honey headed for ALW’s customers. The honey came from China but had been labeled Korean White Honey.

The broker, a small-time businessman from Taiwan named Michael Fan, had already received advice from ALW about how to get Chinese honey into the U.S. ALW executives had told him to ship his honey in black drums since the Chinese usually used green ones. And they had reminded him that the “taste should be better than regular mainland material.” Chinese honey was often harvested early and dried by machine rather than bees. This allowed the bees to produce more honey, but the honey often had an odor and taste similar to sauerkraut. Fan was told to mix sugar and syrup into the honey in Taiwan to dull the pungent flavor.

After Fan’s honey shipment was confiscated, an ALW executive wrote to Giesselbach and her colleagues: “I request that all recipients not to write e-mail about this topic. Please OVER THE TELEPHONE and in German! Thank you!”

Nonetheless, Giesselbach and executives in Hamburg, Hong Kong, and Beijing continued to use e-mail for sensitive discussions about the mislabeled honey. When Yan Yong Xiang, an established honey broker from China they called the “famous Mr. Non Stop Smoker,” was due to visit Chicago, Giesselbach received an e-mail. “Topic: we do not say he is shipping the fake stuff. But we can tell him that he should be careful on this topic + antibiotics.” E-mails mention falsifying reports from a German lab, creating fake documents for U.S. customs agents, finding new ways to pass Chinese honey through other countries, and setting up a Chinese company that would be eligible to apply for lower tariffs. Giesselbach comes across as accommodating, unquestioning, and adept.

ALW relied on a network of brokers from China and Taiwan, who shipped honey from China to India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, South Korea, Mongolia, Thailand, Taiwan, and the Philippines. The 50-gallon drums would be relabeled in these countries and sent on to the U.S. Often the honey was filtered to remove the pollen, which could help identify its origin. Some of the honey was adulterated with rice sugar, molasses, or fructose syrup.

In a few cases the honey was contaminated with the residue of antibiotics banned in the U.S. In late 2006 an ALW customer rejected part of Order 995, three container loads of “Polish Light Amber,” valued at $85,000. Testing revealed one container was contaminated with chloramphenicol, an antibiotic the U.S. bans from food. Chinese beekeepers use chloramphenicol to prevent Foulbrood disease, which is widespread and destructive. A deal was made to sell the contaminated honey at a big discount to another customer in Texas, a processor that sold honey to food companies. According to court documents, ALW executives called Honey Holding the “garbage can” for the company’s willingness to buy what others would not. Giesselbach followed up with Honey Holding, noting “quality as discussed.” The contaminated container was delivered on Dec. 14, 2006.

Von Buddenbrock’s introduction to the honey-laundering scheme came months after he’d settled into Chicago. In the spring of 2007 he was getting ready to take over the U.S. operation from a university friend, Thomas Marten. They talked about the business every other week for a couple of hours over dinner. One night at an Italian restaurant near their office, Marten told von Buddenbrock about ALW’s mislabeling Chinese honey to avoid the high tariffs. “The conversation started normally,” says von Buddenbrock. “Then he started talking about honey. I always took notes in all our meetings, and I tried to take notes then. He told me I shouldn’t. I was surprised and a bit shocked about what I was hearing. We were talking about something criminal, and some people imagine meeting undercover, in a shady garage.” They were out in the open, eating pasta. Marten could not be reached for comment.

Von Buddenbrock took over from Marten in August 2007. The raid on the ALW office on North Wabash Avenue occurred seven months later, after U.S. honey producers had warned Commerce and Homeland Security that companies might be smuggling in cheap Chinese honey. Low prices made them suspicious. So did the large amount of honey suddenly coming from Indonesia, Malaysia, and India—more, in total, than those countries historically produced.

Although the illicit honey never posed a public health threat, the ease with which the German company maneuvered suggests how vulnerable the food supply chain is to potential danger. “People don’t know what they’re eating,” says Karen Everstine, a research associate at the National Center for Food Protection and Defense. The honey business is only one example of an uncontrolled market. “We don’t know how it works, and we have to know how it works if we want to be able to identify hazards.”

After they were questioned in March 2008, von Buddenbrock and Giesselbach continued to work for ALW. “We didn’t know what direction this was going to go,” says von Buddenbrock. “I was considering leaving, but I thought this might actually be a good opportunity for me.” If ALW got out of the honey business, he could focus on selling the products he knew more about. The ALW executives in Hamburg, he notes, kept in touch by e-mail but for obvious reasons no longer traveled to the U.S. Giesselbach, meanwhile, arranged to return to ALW’s Hamburg office; it’s not clear if she was being sent home by the company. Her flight to Germany was on Friday, May 23.

Von Buddenbrock drove her to O’Hare, hugged her goodbye beside the curb, and got back in his car. It was late afternoon, the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, and he called his assistant to see if he needed to return to the office. While he was on the phone, an unmarked Chevy Impala drove up behind him. Officials shouted for him to pull over, arrested him, and drove him to a downtown Chicago courthouse where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, federal prosecutors, and his lawyer were waiting. About 20 minutes later, Giesselbach was brought in. She had been arrested before she checked in for her flight. “We were not allowed to talk, but I could see on her face that she was shocked,” says von Buddenbrock. “We were both in complete disbelief.”

Von Buddenbrock had also booked a flight to Germany for the following week; he planned to attend a friend’s wedding and return to Chicago. “I think that made the agents nervous,” he says. “At that point they didn’t know the complexity of the scheme. They probably thought No. 1 and No. 2 are leaving the country.”

He and Giesselbach were charged with conspiring to import honey from China that was mislabeled and adulterated. They were taken next door to the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where they turned over their belongings, put on orange jumpsuits, and waited. “I was tense and nervous,” says von Buddenbrock. “But I managed to get along. I speak Spanish. I like soccer.” He played Monopoly with someone’s contraband dice. He got to know Joey Lombardo, the mafia boss. “He gave me a recommendation for an Italian restaurant.”

Back in Hamburg, Wolff told local newspaper Abendblatt: “The accusations against us are unfounded, and we will fight them with every legal means.”

On Monday, June 2, agents seized thousands more files from ALW’s office. Later that month, Giesselbach and von Buddenbrock were released after posting bond and continued to cooperate. “At first we didn’t have any clue how big it was,” says Gary Hartwig, the ICE special agent in Chicago in charge of the investigation.

“They were extremely sophisticated and intelligent in some ways, but so sloppy in other ways. What do they think—no one can translate German?”
ALW soon closed its U.S. operations and cut off contact with Giesselbach and von Buddenbrock. “ALW had such a nice scheme that functioned so well for a while,” says T. Markus Funk, an internal investigations and white-collar defense partner at Perkins Coie who was a federal prosecutor in Chicago when the ALW investigation began. “They were extremely sophisticated and intelligent in some ways, but so sloppy in other ways. What do they think—no one can translate German?”

In Germany, Giesselbach’s parents pleaded with ALW to help their daughter, but “the company cowardly abandoned their young employee without any help when she was in dire straits,” her father, Frank, says in an e-mail. One ICE agent called Giesselbach a marionette; the puppet master was Wolff. “I feel that Stefanie and Magnus got the rough end of the pineapple,” says Funk.

Giesselbach and von Buddenbrock each pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in the spring of 2012. According to Giesselbach’s plea agreement, between November 2006, when she arrived in Chicago, and May 2008, when she was arrested, as much as 90 percent of all honey imported into the U.S. by ALW was “falsely declared as to its country of origin.”

In February 2010, Wolff & Olsen, the century-old conglomerate that owned ALW, sold it to a Hamburg company called Norevo. According to an affidavit by one of the ICE agents, the sale was a sham; a former ALW executive assured customers in the U.S. by e-mail that after the sale was complete it would be “business as usual.” The transaction price was not disclosed. Norevo replied to a request for comment with a statement that had been posted on its website in March 2010. It concludes: “Within the frame of this acquisition, as legally required, the whole staff [of ALW] was taken over by Norevo, allowing for the business continuity of the company.”

Giesselbach went to jail. For one year and one day, she was Prisoner 22604-424 at Hazelton, a federal penitentiary in Bruceton Mills, W. Va. In a sentencing memo, Giesselbach’s lawyer wrote of his client: “She was living her youthful dream of international travel and business; under those circumstances she ignored her good judgment and went along with her predecessor’s scheme knowing it was wrong.” Giesselbach was released on Sept. 8 and is being deported. Von Buddenbrock was put under home confinement in Chicago for six months. His last day in an ankle bracelet was Friday, March 8. On the Monday after that, he self-deported. “I was relieved and happy, but I wasn’t sure what’s going to come,” he says. He’s settling back into life in Germany. “At the beginning it was a bad, lone wolf, so to speak,” he says. “Later, digging deeper the government found it was more than just ALW. A lot of people were doing it. It was an open secret.”

A second phase of the investigation began in 2011, when Homeland Security agents approached Honey Holding, ALW’s “garbage can,” and one of the biggest suppliers of honey to U.S. food companies. In “Project Honeygate,” as agents called it, Homeland Security had an agent work undercover for a full year as a director of procurement at Honey Holding.

In February 2013, the Department of Justice accused Honey Holding, as well as a company called Groeb Farms and several honey brokers, of evading $180 million in tariffs. Five people pleaded guilty to fraud, including one executive at Honey Holding, who was given a six-month sentence. Honey Holding and Groeb Farms entered into deferred prosecution agreements, which require them to follow a strict code of conduct and to continue cooperating with the investigation.

When it announced the deferred prosecution agreement, Groeb Farms, which is based in Onsted, Mich., said it dismissed two executives who created fake documents and lied to the board of directors even as the company’s own audits raised concerns that honey was being illegally imported. “Everything we are doing at Groeb Farms this year has been to ensure the integrity of our supply chain,” Rolf Richter, the company’s new CEO, said via e-mail. Groeb Farms paid a $2 million fine.

In a statement on its website, Honey Holding says it accepted full responsibility and that in its settlement “there will be neither admission of guilt nor finding of guilt.” The company, now called Honey Solutions, is paying its $1 million fine in installments.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kris Humphries Auctioning Off Kim Kardashian's Giant Engagement Ring

You can't buy love, but you can buy the material possessions that are left behind when that love disappears. Three months after finalizing their divorce -- and almost two years after their initial split -- Kim Kardashian's ex-husband Kris Humphries is auctioning off one of the last remnants of the couple's 72-day marriage: her 20-carat diamond engagement ring.

PHOTOS: Kim and Kris' wedding album

The NBA player has apparently listed the ring for an Oct. 15 sale at Christie's auction house in New York City. Humphries is not named explicitly as the seller, but according to RumorFix, which first reported the news, the ring in question is identical to the one Kardashian wore during her brief engagement and marriage to the athlete.

PHOTOS: Kim and Kris' sexy honeymoon

A rep for Christie's confirmed to the site that the bauble up for auction is a Lorraine Schwartz creation with a 16.21-carat center diamond and two 1.80-carat side diamonds -- the exact dimensions of Kardashian's ring. The auction house could not disclose the seller's name but said it was "a gentleman."

"It is 100 percent the same ring," a source close to the reality star and new mom, 32, tells Us Weekly. "Kim has been waiting for the day he would auction it. Everyone always asked what Kim did with the ring -- she silently gave it back over a year ago! And Kris waited until the divorce was final to sell it."

PHOTOS: The best celeb engagement rings of all time

The ring is expected to fetch between $300,000 and $500,000 at auction, RumorFix notes -- significantly less than the $2 million it was reported to be worth when Humphries popped the question in May 2011.

PHOTOS: Kim's pregnancy style

"The ring is definitely not worth $2 million, not even half of that," the source tells Us, noting that Kardashian paid for the gem herself.

In any case, the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star now has something she values much more -- a daughter, North, with boyfriend Kanye West. She and the rapper welcomed their first child in June.

This article originally appeared on Kris Humphries Auctioning Off Kim Kardashian's Giant Engagement Ring

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Nokia's handset business bought by Microsoft for €5.44bn

January 2011: Nokia chief Stephen Elop, left, and Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer announce that the Finnish firm will use the Windows mobile system in its handsets. Photograph: Luke Macgregor/Reuters
Microsoft has swooped in to buy the handset business of Finland'sNokia, an audacious move that confirms the Redmond software company's intention to compete with Apple and Google head-on as a "devices and services" business.
The deal, for €5.44bn (£4.6bn), gives Microsoft a company which used to dominate the mobile and smartphone market in 2006 but has been overshadowed by the rise of Apple and, latterly, Samsung and companies using Google's Android software.
For Nokia, it means that a decades-long heritage as one of the world's leading mobile phone makers - which had been a source of huge pride in Finland - is over.
As part of the deal Stephen Elop, now Nokia's chief executive, will rejoin Microsoft, which he left in September 2010 to take over the then-struggling Finnish company. Elop, 49, has been tipped as a leading contender to become the next chief executive of Microsoft, after the announcement at the end of August by Steve Ballmer that he would depart within 12 months. A total of 32,000 Nokia staff will join Microsoft, including 4,700 based in Finland.
Microsoft is also providing €1.5bn of "immediate financing" to Nokia, implying that the Finnish company has hit a cash crunch. Its debt has already been reduced to "junk" status. If used, the loan will be repayable when the deal closes.
"For Nokia, this is an important moment of reinvention and from a position of financial strength, we can build our next chapter," said Risto Siilasmaa, chairman of the Nokia Board of Directors, who now takes over as the interim chief executive of the remaining parts of Nokia. Those are Nokia Siemens Networks, which builds mobile phone infrastructure and its HERE mapping platform. The NSN and mapping business are now just over 50% of revenues, and barely profitable. Elop recently completed the acquisition of 50% of NSN that was owned by Siemens.
But even inside cash-rich Microsoft, Nokia's phone business faces serious challenges. Its handset business has slumped in size from a peak in the third quarter of 2010, with revenues of €7.2bn, to just €2.72 in the second quarter of this year, its smallest size in more than a decade. It has also been lossmaking for five of the past six quarters.
While it is strong in the "feature phone" business in the developing world, it has struggled in the all-important smartphone business. Apple's iPhone and handsets running Google's Android together make up over 95% of sales in the US and China, the world's two largest smartphone markets,according to Kantar Worldpanel's latest figures. Windows Phone only has shares above 10% in Mexico and France, according to the company's figures.
Under the deal, Microsoft is buying the "Lumia" and "Asha" brand names that Nokia has used for its smart and intermediate phones. It has licensed the use of the Nokia brand on handsets for ten years, but the Finnish business will retain ownership of the brand. That will probably mean that the Nokia brand disappearing from handsets in the next decade, ending over 30 years' history in the business.
Having started in 1865 with a pulp mill in the Finnish town of Tampere, Nokia reinvented itself repeatedly, shifting to rubber boot production early in the 20th century, and then making its first telephone exchange in the 1970s. Its first mobile phone appeared in 1981.
Rumours that Microsoft intended to buy Nokia had been floated since Elop joined the company. When he chose to dump its home-grown Symbian and Meego smartphone software in favour of Microsoft's newer Windows Phone software in February 2011, a number of Finnish observers accused him of being a "Trojan horse" for Microsoft.
Ballmer said in a statement: "It's a bold step into the future – a win-win for employees, shareholders and consumers of both companies. Bringing these great teams together will accelerate Microsoft's share and profits in phones, and strengthen the overall opportunities for both Microsoft and our partners across our entire family of devices and services."
But the deal could also mean that BlackBerry's best chance of being acquired, by Microsoft, is over. The Canadian handset maker, which has seen its revenues and handset sales plummet, has formed a committee seeking alternatives including a sale. But Carolina Milanesi, smartphone analyst at research group Gartner, commented: "In case there was still hope out there for BlackBerry, this [purchase by Microsoft] is pretty much it. Microsoft will be more aggressive than Nokia in pursuing enterprises."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

SLC president reacts to Sangakkara's comment

Sri Lanka Cricket president Jayantha Dharmadasa has said that the board had not questioned Kumar Sangakkara's loyalty to his country. In an email exchange with Sangakkara, published in the Daily Mirror, Dharmadasa said the board had not misrepresented any facts or misled the media.
Earlier this week, Sangakkara confirmed that he would represent Kandurata Maroons in the Champions League T20 tournament, instead of his IPL franchise, Sunrisers Hyderabad. He also criticized SLC, saying he was perturbed by the manner in which the board had publicly framed his situation.
"We totally deny that SLC has misrepresented facts to the media nor mislead the media in any manner whatsoever and we have not stated anything to question your loyalty to play for the local team nor have we tarnished your image for that matter," Dharmadasa wrote to Sangakkara. "In so far as SLC is concerned, we took a pragmatic view of the issues faced by us with regard to this matter and accordingly communicated to you our position."
In a reply to Dharmadasa's email, Sangakkara explained why he had communicated with the media: "The damage to my reputation had already been done in the days preceding my meeting with you and I was left with little choice but to address the media."
In his reply, Sangakkara also told Dharmadasa that an earlier email he had sent to SLC secretary, Nishantha Ranatunga, encompassed his experiences over the last year and a half. In the email to Ranatunga, Sangakkara had written: "You have made me seem disloyal to Sunrisers Hyderebad and also disloyal to my country. In the process, you have quite possibly jeopardised my future in the IPL. It ultimately leaves me to question whether your interest in this matter is more in line with a personal agenda against me rather than a national interest.
"I sincerely hope that your comments in the public are your own and are not in any way representative of the collective view of SLC and the current Ex Co. Since you have now set the precedent of demanding and insisting upon local players representing their home franchise over their IPL teams in the Champions League, I will be very interested to see if in the future when the same situation arises that you demand the same of other players."
Dharmadasa defended Ranatunga, stating the latter "commands the respect of the entire membership at Sri Lanka Cricket".
"It is indeed unfortunate and disappointing that you have singled out Nishantha and stated that his conduct in this matter has been reprehensible and not at all befitting the position he holds as secretary of SLC," Dharmadasa wrote. "As you are fully aware Nishantha was unanimously elected as the secretary of SLC at the last AGM held in March this year and commands the respect of the entire membership at Sri Lanka Cricket. You additionally state that 'it ultimately leaves me to question whether your interest in this matter is more in line with a personal agenda against me rather than a national interest', this is an allegation of a serious nature which is unacceptable to SLC.
"Nishantha as secretary communicates on behalf of the board in all administrative and cricketing matters which come within the purview of the executive committee. This is one such matter. As president, I need to inform you that all communications sent by Nishantha have been dispatched with the knowledge of the executive committee members who have been copied on such issues in order to resolve these matters in the best interest of SLC. He therefore communicates on behalf of SLC and not in an individual capacity. Your comment in relation to Nishantha is therefore regretted."