Friday, February 16, 2007

Hot & Used Gowns for the Oscars, Public School Rip-off: Midday News Wrap

An inside look at the Costco "treasure hunt," a public school rip-off on Wall Street and a few items about falling home prices. Those are a few of the stories in my daily news wrap. My personal favorite is a Vanity Fair piece about the hot market for used gowns at the Oscars. Old has become the new black.

Here's the roundup:

Deal or No Deal? Is Costco really a bargain?
Small businesses are big customers at Costco, but the company also has managed to make discount shopping fashionable for affluent Americans by offering fine wines, books and big-screen televisions at low prices, and staples such as paper towels and razor blades in bulk.

2. Real Estate: More weakness in the home sector.

Many economists are worried that the housing bust, which followed a five-year boom, could be a prolonged one as sellers struggle to reduce record levels of unsold homes.

3. New York Times report: Falling homes prices:
The biggest price declines were concentrated primarily in two kinds of cities: the formerly booming markets along the coasts and in the Southwest, and in Midwest and Northeast cities hurting from the loss of manufacturing jobs. The biggest declines, for instance, were in Florida — Sarasota-Bradenton (down 18 percent), Palm Bay-Melbourne (17 percent) and Cape Coral-Fort Myers (11.7 percent). The declines in prices were especially steep for condominiums.

4. Our aging brains:
Bonus points for getting older

An emerging body of research shows that a surprising array of mental functions hold up well into old age, while others actually get better. Vocabulary improves, as do other verbal abilities such as facility with synonyms and antonyms. Older brains are packed with more so-called expert knowledge -- information relevant to your occupation or hobby. (Older bridge enthusiasts have at their mental beck-and-call many more bids and responses.) They also store more "cognitive templates," or mental outlines of generic problems and solutions that can be tapped when confronting new problems.

5. Broken Vows: How Public Schools Were Ripped by Wall Street.
Wall Street created $7 billion in bonds for housing and schools. The tax-exempt deals were a ruse; banks and advisers collected millions in fees and investment gains. The public got nothing.

6. Fashionistas & The Oscars: The Bullish Market for Used Gowns from Vanity Fair (at

With so many beautiful, new gowns available, why would actresses continually opt for something, well, old? “It’s a surefire way of protecting your individuality, and it lends mystery and allure to an actress," says Cosgrave. “You can’t just look at her and say, ‘Oh, that’s an Armani, that’s a Valentino.’”



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