Monday, September 8, 2008

Help, Kay Jewelers Destroyed My Wedding Ring During A Routine Cleaning!

Kay Jewelers deformed Lisa's wedding ring during a routine cleaning and refuses to provide a replacement ring. Lisa first noticed that a tiny diamond was missing, which Kay Jewelers found stuck in their cleaning equipment. In the process of reseating the diamond, Kay again deformed the ring, scratching out the ring's beaded edges. Kay decided they couldn't repair the destroyed ring, but rather than ordering a new one from the manufacturer, Kay decided to remake the ring using a low-resolution picture of the original as their guide. Shockingly, that ring didn't work out either. It's now been three months and Lisa wants her wedding ring back.

Lisa writes:

My name is Lisa. My husband is a USMC Sgt. who recently left for his third deployment. He has been stationed at Camp Pendleton (I live in Oceanside) but was most recently stationed in Jacksonville, NC. Before he left I took his wedding ring to be re-dipped in gold to make it look nice before he left. It takes about a week and is about $40 (any store can do it). I picked the Kay Jewelry store in the local Jacksonville mall because it is a well known chain. While I was there the salesperson asked if she could clean my rings for me. I let her. The next evening we were out of town when I noticed my wedding band had a (tiny) diamond missing. I had no clue where I lost it.

A week later I picked up my husband’s ring from Kay Jewelers. While I was there I half-jokingly asked the salesperson if they found a diamond in their cleaner. Crazy enough – they had it. It was scotch taped to an index card with no name or notes, by the register. They happily took my wedding ring and agreed to repair it. We were again out of town when it was ready so the day we returned I sent my husband to the mall to get it before they closed. When he came home I opened it up and put it on. My first impulse was that it wasn’t my ring. Upon closer inspection it seemed to be my ring only it had been made nearly unrecognizable. Among other things, there is a tiny beaded edge on the top and bottom edges of the ring that was completely gone in some spots, but still there to just barely be made out in others. And instead of being one width and thickness it now tapered off where the diamonds stopped and looked, for lack of a better word, "smooshed" at the ends. It no longer sat flush against my engagement ring.

I returned first thing the next morning and gave my ring to the manager, explaining it had somehow been damaged. She was skeptical that it could have happened at their (offsite) repair shop but she took it back. I was upset (in tears) and wrote out a detailed explanation of what was wrong with the ring. When I got home I contacted the store where I bought the ring and they emailed me a photo from the manufacturer. I printed this email and brought it back to the mall the next day so the manager could also send that to the repair manager. It was originally purchased on 7/20/07 (our wedding day) at another jewelry store and I do have all the original receipts.

I was supposed to have the ring back from the second repair in about 10 days. When 14 days had gone by I was calling daily, waiting for it to come back. I was finally told they couldn’t repair my ring but that they would “remake” it, using the same diamonds (as if I could see that they are the same). They wanted to use the email photo to send to a ‘laser shop’ to have the ring cut. At this point I contacted the corporate customer service office by phone. I told both the store manager and the corporate customer relations person it is very upsetting to have lost my (actual) ring now just because I agreed to have it cleaned. Even having it recreated, it still wouldn't be "my" ring. I'd of course rather have mine repaired to its original state but if that really wasn't possible I'd at least prefer to have the same ring from the same vendor instead of trying to remake it from a tiny email photo. I asked why they couldn’t just get a replacement from the manufacturer. Neither one could tell me if they could do so or not. They just took the information and said I could expect the ring in about a month.

My husband is now gone on his third deployment and every day I am without my wedding ring. It is traumatic enough to have him gone, to be without my wedding ring is even worse. Because I returned to Oceanside after my husband deployed, the repair shop shipped my ‘remake’ to the Kay store at the Westfield shopping center, Plaza Camino Real. I got a call to come pick it up today. I was optimistic that this whole mess was about to be over and I would have my ring back. However, the ring that was sent was not a good replica of my wedding ring. It was wider and thicker than my ring and while 'close' in style, it simply was not the same style as the ring it was meant to replace. My ring was very delicate looking and this was like a brick in comparison. It did not look like a 'set' when worn with my engagement ring. I was devastated again to give the ring back to the manager and tell him I could not wear it. The store manager was very sympathetic but didn't know anything of how the ring came to be in his store. He promised to make some calls tomorrow to the NC store and to the corporate office but I knew there was nothing he could do tonight and I was upset and in tears so I left the store and came home.

The information on the ring (manufacturer and style number) was available but it's clear no one at the repair shop contacted the maker to get the dimensions of the ring. I was concerned that this ring was going to be remade from a photo in an email (not a decent size photo or even one of high resolution) which is why I gave them the information on the vendor. I have been patient with this process but I have had enough. I told them I don't want a remake or something 'close' again. If my ring is beyond repair I want the same ring, from the same manufacturer. Close may be good enough for a costume piece someone wears occasionally. It isn't good enough for a wedding ring and certainly not my wedding ring. It has now been several months since this began. My ring was damaged in their repair shop. I don't believe it was intentional but this failure to replace it now feels malicious and cruel.

Short of hiring a lawyer and suing them I was looking for any advice or assistance you might be able to give me. I don’t want to drag this out. I don’t want anything but my ring back. Any suggestions?

Lisa adds:

I have been told time and again that Kay doesn't deal with Master Craft (the maker of my ring, style #R9018-026) so I won't be able to get the same style. I contacted Master Craft myself yesterday and found out from them that they DO in fact, do business with Kay. I am INFURIATED that I have been put through this, lied to and caused so much emotional distress for THREE MONTHS when my ring could have been IMMEDIATELY replaced. I have spent multiple nights sobbing because my ring is gone. And now that my husband is deployed to Iraq, it is even more painful not to have it.

No one at the corporate office or the NC store where this happened has even said "we're sorry this happened to you". Instead the store manager and the first customer relations person I've dealt with (Carol) have acted like I was trying to scam them. It has been beyond frustrating. I did nothing but let the sales person clean my ring and now its ruined.

Lisa already wrote to Kay's executive office asking for help. If they don't respond, you don't need a lawyer to sue them in small claims court. North Carolina's small claims courts hear any cases involving items worth less than $5,000. Read our guide to small claims court to help prepare your case.

Original here

Could Florida Survive the Big One?

Tropical Storm Hanna passes the edge of the Bahamas as Hurricane Ike, a still-more-dangerous Category 4 storm, advances from the east.
Tropical Storm Hanna passes the edge of the Bahamas as Hurricane Ike, a still-more-dangerous Category 4 storm, advances from the east.

As Hurricane Ike barrels toward South Florida, Americans can be sure they won't have to endure another catastrophic failure of a hurricane protection system. That's because South Florida doesn't have a hurricane protection system. As South Floridians like to say: Ay dios mio! Ike is now scheduled to pass just south of Miami as a Category 4 storm; National Hurricane Center researchers recently concluded that a Cat 4 hitting Miami could cause $70 billion in damage. To use another South Florida-ism: Oy vey!

Dangling into the Gulf like a continental afterthought, Florida has always been Mother Nature's favorite American target, absorbing eight named storms in 2004 and 2005 alone. The state has gotten better at preparing for hurricanes, with stricter building codes and well-rehearsed evacuation plans. But it's still dangerously exposed — not only to the elements, but to financial ruin. It's got the nation's most dysfunctional property insurance market, a byproduct of life in harm's way. Fitch's ratings agency concluded in March that if a big storm hits Florida, "the fragile market could effectively collapse."

Ike could well be a Gustav-like bust rather than a Katrina-like disaster (See photos of Hurricane Gustav here). But eventually, disaster will visit the peninsula, and it's still not clear who's going to pay the tab. "It's going to be a financial nightmare," says Cecil Pearce of the American Insurance Association. "Florida is the nation's basket case."

It's not that Florida's vulnerability is a secret. Florida homeowners pay some of the nation's highest insurance premiums; in a recent poll, despite a housing crisis, an economic crisis, a water crisis and an environmental crisis, Floridians named those premiums their number-two concern about the state's future, behind property taxes but ahead of jobs, education, health care and the dying Everglades.

Since Hurricane Andrew put most Florida insurers out of business and scared several national insurers out of the state, the state government has helped to hedge the risk of hurricanes. It provides subsidized insurance to 1.3 million high-risk homeowners who can't get private policies, an increase of more than 50% in just three years. It also has a Hurricane Catastrophe Fund that provides subsidized reinsurance to the state's private firms.

But a series of studies have made it clear that if the Big One or even a Pretty Big One strikes, Florida is going to have very serious problems. The state-run insurance firm and the Catastrophe Fund have just a few billion dollars on hand, so a major storm would force both entities to float massive bond issues in an unfavorable market, and to make up their shortfalls through gigantic assessments on policyholders. A House committee recently warned that the state would have "extreme difficulty paying its obligations" after a 100-year storm, and that premiums on nearly every property, car and business could skyrocket. A report for the state Office of Insurance Regulation found that even a 50-year storm would cause extreme financial stress, especially given the current credit crunch.

Industry actuaries say the problem is simple: Florida's insurance rates, high as they may be, are not high enough for a state with an estimated 25% of America's high-risk property. Reinsurance rates are soaring, and private insurers like State Farm and Allstate have scaled back in Florida, forcing an additional 500,000 customers into the state pool. "For some areas in Florida, insurance companies could not obtain reinsurance at any price," Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty recently told Congress. And last year, Republican Governor Charlie Crist pushed through reforms to decrease premiums, a politically popular move that will create even more pressure if disaster strikes. "I get the concerns," Crist recently told me. "But we're not going to stand for gouging."

The gouging fears are understandable; McCarty told Congress that some insurers have insisted on 25% profit margins, while using computer models that overstate risk. But no one denies that the risk is real: it's been 80 years since a major storm hit a major Florida city, but hurricane researchers have calculated that the next one could cause as much as $150 billion worth of damage. And Crist's reforms, while reducing premiums, included other changes that increased the risk that taxpayers and policyholders will have to bail out the Cat Fund. "The risk was removed from the insurers' portfolio and is now being supported by the people of Florida," McCarty explained.

That's why Crist and just about every other Florida politician is pushing for a national catastrophe insurance fund, which would shift some of that risk to federal taxpayers. But the idea is not so popular with other states, for the obvious reason that other states don't have as much risk. Florida has spent the last 80 years ignoring its vulnerability, developing its floodplains and shorelines, selling the dream of the Sunshine State to northerners and foreigners. But the day of reckoning will come.

Original here

Why American Savers Have Drawn the Short Straw

by Roben Farzad

American savers, take a bow. This is your moment of vindication. Your hour of glory. And you earned it (in a manner of speaking).

You resisted the siren call of plastic teaser APRs, dutifully living within your means to store money for a rainy day. You never took out an interest-only mortgage. Never had to pawn the copper pipes from your exurban McMansion to pay the reset on your liar loan. Your credit score would have gotten you into Harvard at age 12.

Good for you! Your reward: injurious savings yields, inflationary rot, and election-season neglect, all served up with a dollop of institutional insecurity.

Even with a current account deficit that, starved of domestic savings, requires $2 billion a day in foreign financing, economic policymakers are fixated on propping up credit and giving the participants in the housing bubble second chances. In order to do so, they are stripping the hides off of net savers.

Since August of last year, the Federal Reserve has slashed interest rates from 5.25% to 2.00%—wielding a blunt instrument that was swung enough to bend the yield curve in favor of suffering banks. You know, the institutions that screwed up but were too big and important to be deprived of an inalienable right to cheap deposits that they can loan out at several points higher.

Indeed, a year ago, a six-month certificate of deposit earned, on average, 3.53%, according to (RATE). Today, that's down to 2.03%. A one-year CD that earned 3.75% at this point in 2007 was offered for as little as 1.92% in April, before inching up to its present 2.38%. It's hardly a secret that banks are only able to pay out such pittances thanks to depositors' knee-jerk desire for security: "Hey, I might be earning crumbs on my cash, but at least I'm not losing money."

Sure you are. Wholesale inflation has soared 9.8% in the past 12 months, the highest clip since 1981. The more widely cited consumer price index jumped to 5.6%. In other words, while your saved buck was adding 2 cents or so on one end (and even less after taxes), three times as much was getting singed off the other end of that dollar bill. "Inflation is just deadly to savings," says David Gitlitz, chief economist at TrendMacrolytics, an investment adviser. Gitlitz observes that, taking into account the hit from inflation, rates haven't been this negative since the dreary 1970s. (That, in turn, gave way to an early '80s that saw the worst inflation in U.S. history since the Civil War.) "It steals your purchasing power and sets less and less of an incentive to keep money in the bank."

You're telling me. My trusty Manhattan pizza guy recently hiked the cost of a slice for the second time in the past year, from $2 to $2.50 to $3. "Why you mad?" he blurted, pounding a ball of dough. "Prices are nuts; you can't even buy a glass of milk no more." ("We're paying 128% more for a bag of flour," added his grandson-apprentice, with startling accuracy.) Even my barber justified taking up the cost of a standard trim and buzz by 20%. "Fuel surcharge," he deadpanned in his Uzbeki accent. (As it turns out, he rides the subway.)

In a perfect world, the Fed's rate-cutting campaign would have shored up real estate and the stock market. Instead, investors have been running for inflationary cover in hard assets like crude oil, gold, and even fertilizer. Oil, we all know, went from $70 to more than $140 in one year flat, sending gasoline and utility costs soaring and counteracting the lift from monetary and fiscal stimulus. Still comforted by that 2% savings yield? (Your mattress and piggy bank are in stitches.)

Commodity inflation has also been exacerbated by concurrent weakness in the dollar, which is stuck between a Europe that is loath to cut interest rates and a Washington that is too scared to hike them. Even with its recent rally, the greenback is only worth two-thirds of a euro. You practically have to wheelbarrow dollars to places like Madrid and Berlin.

All of which might be tolerable to the lonely and beleaguered saver if he weren't taunted daily by lopsidedly pro-spending, pro-creditor news stories. Forget about moral hazard. Forget about rewarding profligacy. Washington is hell bent on putting a floor beneath the housing market. And subtlety got vetoed out of the process. Consider some recent news reports:

"President Bush Signs $300 Billion Housing Rescue Bill" (AP)—increasing to $625,500 from $417,000 the size of home loans in high-cost areas that Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) are allowed to buy.

The number of Chapter 7 filings—designed to give individual debtors a "fresh start" by discharging many of their debts—recently rose by 36% (

"The FDIC may lower mortgage rates for delinquent IndyMac borrowers after suspending foreclosures..." (Bloomberg).

Maybe savers' ultimate vindication will arrive when and if every asset is so deflated, credit is so choked off, and misery is so prevalent that only those with cold hard cash can lob in lowball offers for homes, cars, and everything else. Assuming, of course, they didn't stash all their money in one of the many banks that is about to go under; the feds are closely watching 117 of them—and counting. The phone lines have never been so jammed with nervous clients.

Oh, the joys of saving.

Original here

'£30m' to destroy cluster devices

By Angus Crawford, BBC News

MoD headquarters in Whitehall, London
The MoD says it is addressing humanitarian concerns

The Ministry of Defence is storing more than 28 million explosives from cluster bombs, the BBC has learned.

They have been withdrawn from service and are to be destroyed. Some were only mothballed this year after the UK signed a treaty banning the weapons.

It is thought disposing of them will cost more than £30m. The UK government says it shows how concerned it is about the weapons.

But campaigners want countries like the US to ban them as well.


Cluster weapons can be fired by artillery or dropped from the air, and can take the form of rockets or shells. The UK used them in Kosovo and in Iraq in 2003.

Within the body of the weapon they contain small "bomblets" or sub-munitions which are spread over a large area.

As many as one in 10 do not explode when they land and remain dangerous to local people. Evidence from around the world suggests civilians make up 98% of the victims of cluster bombs.

In May this year the UK government agreed to sign up to a convention banning them. More than 100 other countries have said they would stop use, production and stockpiling of cluster munitions.

The final convention will be signed in Oslo in December this year.

Shells and rockets

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced it will withdraw its last remaining cluster weapons; 56,000 artillery shells each containing 49 bomblets, and 4270 air-launched rockets with 9 bomblets in each.

That makes a total of more than 2,700,00 individual explosives.

Last year the MoD withdrew cluster weapons which were coming to the end of their life, containing about 28m bomblets.

However, it is thought to have destroyed fewer than 10% of those.

Officials say the disposal of the entire stock could cost between £30m and £40m. The treaty gives the UK eight years to complete the task.

'Full role'

The MoD says the disposal is "a sign of its commitment to addressing humanitarian concerns about the weapons".

A spokesman said the destruction of the cluster munitions "would not affect operational capability".

He added: "We are satisfied that we will be able to continue to play a full role in crisis management operations."

The move will also ensure "the necessary legal protection for our service men and women".

Campaigners have welcomed the move. Richard Moyes of Landmine Action said: "It sends a very clear signal that the UK government is committed on this issue."

'Ongoing support'

However Mr Moyes points out the majority of UK cluster weapons went out of service before the convention on cluster bombs earlier this year in Dublin.

Despite the success of the treaty he says more needs to be done to lobby countries which did not sign the convention.

"We'd like to see the UK government putting pressure on the US to give up the use of these weapons," he said.

He believes there must also be "ongoing support" to clear areas where munitions were used but did not explode.

Original here

Russian navy to visit Venezuela

Peter the Great heavy cruiser
Peter the Great is one of Russia's most prestigious warships

The Russian navy has announced that some of its ships will visit Venezuela in November and may hold joint exercises in its territorial waters.

A senior Venezuelan naval official said earlier there were plans to hold exercises involving four Russian warships and 1,000 Russian troops.

Confirming a visit would be made, Russia said its ships would include the heavy cruiser Peter the Great.

Anti-submarine planes would also be sent to Venezuela temporarily, it said.

Correspondents say the move is likely to raise concern in the US, whose relations with Russia have been soured by Moscow's recent conflict in Georgia.

Washington already has rocky relations with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

Mr Chavez welcomed news of the Russian naval visit in his weekly broadcast. Referring to possible US concerns, he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: "Go ahead and squeal, Yankees."

In July, he called for a strategic alliance with Russia to protect Venezuela from the US.

Caracas and Moscow agreed to extend bilateral co-operation on energy, with three Russian energy companies to be allowed to operate in Venezuela.

'Great importance'

Confirming plans for the visit in November, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said it was not aimed against any third country.

Nor, he added, had it any connection to events in Georgia.

As well as the nuclear-powered Peter the Great, the Russian ships will include the anti-submarine ship Admiral Chabanenko.

On Saturday, Venezuelan Rear Admiral Salbatore Cammarata Bastidas said Venezuelan aircraft and submarines would be involved in exercises with the Russians.

"This is of great importance because it is the first time it is being done [in the Americas]," he said in a statement quoted by the AFP news agency and local media.

President Chavez supported Russia's intervention in Georgia last month and has accused Washington of being scared of Moscow's "new world potential".

In his weekly broadcast, Mr Chavez said: "Russia's naval fleet is welcome here. If it's possible, we'll stage an exercise in our Caribbean waters."

Original here

Canada's Parliament is Dissolved


(TORONTO) — Canada's prime minister dissolved Parliament on Sunday and called an early election next month in hopes of strengthening his Conservative minority government's hold on power.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's party must win an additional 28 seats in the Oct. 14 election to gain a majority in Parliament.

Analysts believe the Conservatives will have a better shot of winning than if they waited until being forced into an election by the opposition with a confidence vote when the Canadian economy might be worse off.

On Sunday, Harper visited Governor General Michaelle Jean and asked her to dissolve Parliament. The governor general is the representative of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who is Canada's head of state, but the position is purely ceremonial and obeys the wishes of the prime minister.

"Between now and Oct. 14, Canadians will choose a government to look out for their interests at a time of global economic trouble," Harper said after the meeting.

Harper has said he is running on economic issues and an energy tax proposed by the Liberal opposition, but Robert Bothwell, director of the international relations program at the University of Toronto argued the move was political.

"Harper is going for a majority government. That's really the only issue," he said.

The Conservatives unseated the Liberal Party in 2006 after nearly 13 years in power, but as a minority government the Conservatives have had a tenuous hold on power, forced to rely on opposition lawmakers to pass legislation and adopt budgets.

It will be Canada's third national ballot in four years. Electoral legislation that Harper helped enact after he came to power in 2006 fixed the date for the next election in October 2009, but a loophole allows the prime minister to ask the governor general to dissolve Parliament.

The Conservatives now fill 127 of the 308 seats in Parliament. The Liberals have 95, Bloc Quebecois 48, the New Democrats 30 and the Greens have one seat. Three seats are held by independents, and four are vacant.

Since becoming prime minister, Harper has extended Canada's military mission in Afghanistan. Canada has lost 96 soldiers and as the death toll approaches 100 the mission could become an issue in the campaign.

Harper also pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol, which commits industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion, a former environment minister who named his dog Kyoto, wants to increase taxes on greenhouse gas emitters.

Original here

CIA, FBI push 'Facebook for spies'

By Larry Shaughnessy

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- When you see people at the office using such Internet sites as Facebook and MySpace, you might suspect those workers are slacking off.

A social-networking site for the world of spying officially launches for the U.S. intelligence community this month.

A social-networking site for the world of spying officially launches for the U.S. intelligence community this month.

But that's not the case at the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency, where bosses are encouraging their staff members to use a new social-networking site designed for the super-secret world of spying.

"It's every bit Facebook and YouTube for spies, but it's much, much more," said Michael Wertheimer, assistant deputy director of national intelligence for analysis.

The program is called A-Space, and it's a social-networking site for analysts within the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.

Instead of posting thoughts about the new Avenged Sevenfold album or Jessica Alba movie, CIA analysts could use A-Space to share information and opinion about al Qaeda movements in the Middle East or Russian naval maneuvers in the Black Sea.

The new A-Space site has been undergoing testing for months and launches officially for the nation's entire intelligence community September 22.

"It's a place where not only spies can meet but share data they've never been able to share before," Wertheimer said. "This is going to give them for the first time a chance to think out loud, think in public amongst their peers, under the protection of an A-Space umbrella."

Wertheimer demonstrated the program to CNN to show how analysts will use it to collaborate.

"One perfect example is if Osama bin Laden comes out with a new video. How is that video obtained? Where are the very sensitive secret sources we may have to put into a context that's not apparent to the rest of the world?" Wertheimer asked.

"In the past, whoever captured that video or captured information about the video kept it in-house. It's highly classified, because it has so very short a shelf life. That information is considered critical to our understanding."

The goal of A-Space, like intelligence analysis in general, is to protect the United States by assessing all the information available to the spy agencies. Missing crucial data can have enormous implications, such as an FBI agent who sent an e-mail before September 11, 2001, warning of people learning to fly airplanes but not learning to land them.

"There was the question, 'Was that a dot that failed to connect?' Well, that person did this via e-mail," Wertheimer said. "A-Space is the kind of place where you can log that observation and know that your fellow analysts can see that."

Even though Facebook, MySpace and other social-networking sites that inspired A-Space are predominantly the domain of young people, there apparently is no such generational divide on A-Space.

"We have found that participation in A-Space crosses every conceivable age line and experience line. People are excited, no matter what age group," Wertheimer said.

Of course, the material on A-Space is highly classified, so it won't be available for the public. Only intelligence personnel with the proper security clearance, and a reason to be examining particular information, can access the site. The creators of A-Space do not want it to be used by some future double agent such as Jonathan Pollard or Robert Hanssen to steal America's 21st-century secrets.

"We're building [a] mechanism to alert that behavior. We call that, for lack of a better term, the MasterCard, where someone is using their credit card in a way they've never used it before, and it alerts so that maybe that credit card has been stolen," Wertheimer said. "Same thing here. We're going to actually do patterns on the way people use A-Space."

Yes, analysts can collect friends on A-Space the way people can on Facebook. But nobody outside the intelligence community will ever know -- because they're secret.

Original here