CHEAP SKYPE

Alex: ‘While the DUALPhone that you mentioned in your Skype discussion will set you back a cool 135 euros, you can get this device for $50. It will let you use any phone in your house (even cordless) to send/receive Skype calls.’

☞ Remember, if you – and the people you call – have broadband, your calls anywhere in the world are free. Even calling someone on a regular phone, they can be under 3 cents a minute. Ah, brave new world.

EVERBANK

Jon R: ‘I heard about EverBank‘s foreign currency CDs about a year ago, and have a few which I’ve been rolling over. So I was feeling like a bit of a fool for not doing more due diligence when I read about the 0.75% ‘vig’ in your column. Especially because – due to the flat ‘yield curve’ their CDs have for the various durations available (3-month, 6-month and 1-year rates always seem to be virtually identical) – I have been sticking with 3-month CDs.

‘I called EverBank yesterday and told them that I had read that they were charging a 75 basis point fee on each rollover, and they responded that it wasn’t a ‘fee’ but it was a ‘spread’ and that the rates on their CDs had that spread already baked in.

‘Their rationale for this spread was basically a ‘little guy investing 10K versus big guys investing N millions’ argument, i.e. it’s the price we pay to allow EverBank to offer these CDs in such relatively small amounts.

‘This sort of makes sense to me, but my real objection concerns whether this situation is adequately conveyed to the customer on the web site. I told them that I did not see any of this in their fee schedule which has generic text like:

WorldCurrency Conversion Fee: EverBank World Markets does not charge any fees for your WorldCurrency™ deposit; the full U.S. dollar amount deposited funds your chosen investment. It is EverBank’s pledge that the exchange rate you receive when converting your U.S. dollars to foreign currency will be among the best in the nation.

“I then asked them if this ‘spread’ information is available anywhere else on their web site.  After a bit of internal consultation, they came back with the response that it is found in the ‘Guide to Currency Investing.’  I foolishly did not ask for a specific URL, and then spent a few minutes using their site map, their search page, etc. to try and find such a guide on their site.  Bottom line is: if you can find it, then you are a better man than I am (which may well be the case even if you can’t find it).  Therefore, my own anecdotal conclusion is that EverBank should do a much better job of describing these details to potential customers.  If the explanation is as innocuous as they would have you believe on the phone, then surely it can withstand the light of day.

“I am going to keep the CDs I have and continue rolling them over for now, but probably settle on a 6-month duration as a compromise between tying up funds and excessive fee accumulation.”

IRAQ

Here’s to the Iraqis who had the courage to go to the polls. And here’s to the courage and skill and sacrifice of the American and British troops that made it possible.

BBC DOCUMENTARY ON TERROR

According to the LA Times:

“The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear,” a three-hour historical film by Adam Curtis recently aired by the British Broadcasting Corp., argues coherently that much of what we have been told about the threat of international terrorism “is a fantasy that has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It is a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services and the international media.”

I have no idea whether that assessment is fair. I wonder if we’ll get to see this documentary on U.S. television.

 

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