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مدیر انجمن: شوراي نظارت

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Crazy Housing Prices

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[align=left]Crazy Housing Prices

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Homebuyers nationwide are watching housing prices go up, up, and up. “How high can they go?” is the question on everyone’s lips. “As long as interest rates stay around 5 percent, there’s no telling,” remarked one realtor in Santa Monica, California.

“It’s crazy,” said Tim, who is looking for a house near the beach. “In 1993, I bought my first place, a two-bedroom condominium in Venice, for $70,000. My friends thought then that I was overpaying. Five years later, I had to move. I sold it for $230,000, which was a nice profit. Last year, while visiting friends here, I saw in the local paper that the exact same condo was for sale for $510,000!”

It is a seller’s market. Homebuyers feel like they have to offer at least 10 percent more than the asking price. Donna, a new owner of a one-bedroom condo in Venice Beach, said, “That’s what I did. I told the owner that whatever anyone offers you, I’ll give you $20,000 more, under the table, so you don’t have to pay your realtor any of it. I was tired of looking.”

Tim says he hopes he doesn’t get that desperate. “Whether you decide to buy or decide not to buy, you still feel like you made the wrong decision. If you buy, you feel like you overpaid. If you don’t buy, you want to kick yourself for passing up a great opportunity.”

Everyone says the bubble has to burst sometime, but everyone hopes it will burst the day after they sell their house. Even government officials have no idea what the future will bring. “All we can say is that, inevitably, these things go in cycles,” said the state director of housing. “What goes up must come down. But, as we all know, housing prices always stay up a little higher than they go down. So you can’t lose over the long run. Twenty years down the road, your house is always worth more than you paid for it.” 
No time like the present


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Happy and Unhappy Renters

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[align=left]Happy and Unhappy Renters

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Samantha, like many renters, is tired of renting. One reason is that her annual rent goes up like clockwork. Every year her landlord raises the rent five percent. Another reason is her neighbors. “New neighbors always seem to be more inconsiderate than the ones who moved out,” she said. “My first neighbor was a door-slammer; I always knew when he came home or left home. After he moved out, a saxophonist moved in. A saxophonist! He practiced two hours a day. On Saturday his friends would come over and I’d get to listen to a whole band. I called the police, but they said saxophone playing is permitted in apartments for up to four hours a day, because saxophone playing is job-related. They told me I was lucky that the guy was only playing two hours a day!”

There are many unhappy renters, but there are also happy renters. “I’ve been lucky my whole life,” said Howard, a middle-aged man. “My neighbors couldn’t have been any better if I had picked them myself. One neighbor was a chef. He’d bring me the best leftovers in the world. Another neighbor was a pianist. She played the most delightful music. Another neighbor was a mechanic who did my tune-ups and changed the oil in my car. My latest neighbor is a birder; we go birding every weekend with our binoculars.”

Different persons have different attitudes. Samantha saw the saxophone player as irritating, yet Howard saw the piano player as delightful. Millions of people would be happy just to have a roof over their head. Yet there are millions who would complain that their roof is the wrong color. 
No time like the present


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Pulling Out Nine Tons of Trash

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[align=left]Pulling Out Nine Tons of Trash

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A work crew consisting of 150 volunteers worked for eight hours in a light drizzle on Saturday to clean Carson Creek of almost nine tons of debris. “A job well done,” smiled Alan Specter, the director of the event. “We’re scheduled to come back here one more time, three years from now. Of course, we hope that there won’t be nine tons of garbage next time.”

The garbage came in all shapes, sizes, and colors: cans, bottles, bicycles, car tires, auto batteries, sofas, furniture, clothing, shopping carts, bowling balls, plastic bags, dolls, baby carriages, TV antennas, and portable radios. There was even a golf bag with a full set of golf clubs.

Much of the backbreaking work was done by two community groups—the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and two environmental groups—Save the Bay and Watch the Whales. Concerned retirees and volunteers from police and fire departments assisted. Everyone was issued boots, gloves, and rain gear. The work occurred along a two-mile stretch of streambed. The debris was hauled roadside, where trucks lined up to take the trash to the landfill. More than 500 big yellow trash bags were filled.

No one found anything of great value, although a five-year-old boy found an earring that he thought might be worth a million dollars because it was so shiny. He said he would sell it. Then he would donate half of the proceeds to Watch the Whales, and use the other half to buy a triple-scoop ice cream cone every day for the rest of his life. 
No time like the present


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Cloning Pets

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[align=left]Cloning Pets

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A company in Phoenix, Arizona, says that it can now clone your cat. “Actually,” said Felix Lee, President of Twice Is Nice, Inc., “you don’t even have to wait until your beloved cat dies. We already have clients whose clone lives with its donor.”

The price is steep. A clone of your cat will cost $50,000. First, your veterinarian must do a biopsy of your cat. This is sent to TwIN, Inc., where it is cultured to grow fresh new cells. These new cells are stored in liquid nitrogen until you notify TwIN, Inc., that you are ready for the clone. At this time, you pay half the amount ($25,000). A cultured cell is implanted into a female cat that is in estrus, and if all goes well, a kitten is born about 60 days later. The new kitten is weaned in about eight weeks. TwIN, Inc. delivers the kitten to you after it receives the remaining $25,000.

“We are a growing company,” said Lee. “Our facility can handle about a dozen births a year now, but our goal is to produce about 50 kittens and 50 puppies a year.” The company is currently experimenting with stray dogs. Some canine clones seem to be perfect, but some have been bizarre. Nevertheless, Lee believes that they will be successfully cloning dogs in about a year. 
No time like the present


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Rentals at the Oceanside Community

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[align=left]Rentals at the Oceanside Community

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The oceanside community of Lozano Beach is debating whether to allow homeowners to rent out their homes on a weekly basis during the summer. Such rentals produce high incomes for the owners and the city, which gets part of this income through a 15-percent surcharge to the owner. “This can be a boon to our coffers,” said Rick Brown, city manager. “In the summer, homeowners can bring in $2,000 a week or more.”

However, these rentals can also be a can of worms. The city stopped allowing weekly rentals 10 years ago because of the problems they were generating. Two, three, or even four families would pile into a two- or three-bedroom house. Then they would park their cars on the lawn and produce huge amounts of trash. Sometimes they would toss this trash on the streets and sidewalks.

Noise would be another problem. Some people would party late and loud every night. This abuse created a lot of friction with neighbors and resulted in extra work for city maintenance crews and for police, who had to respond almost hourly to residents’ complaints about noise, music, trash, and parking problems. But now, the city’s budget problems are making it reconsider its ban.

City officials will hold a community meeting next week to listen to the pros and cons. One official has already suggested a proposal. He thinks that a fine might work. If the city has to respond to complaints, the homeowner will be charged $200 per response. Such a fine might cause the homeowner to be careful to rent only to people that he is sure will be considerate of the neighbors. The city would still get 15 percent of the rental fee, even if the homeowner’s rent were totally offset by fines. The city would post inconsiderate renters’ names on the city website so that other homeowners would know about them.

Some officials think the ban should be continued because these visitors to the community have already proven that they have no consideration for others. Their money isn’t worth the headaches they cause.
 
No time like the present


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Trees Are a Threat

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[align=left]Trees Are a Threat

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The mountain town of Canton is at an elevation of 6,000 feet. It is surrounded by thick underbrush and pine trees. Because of six years of drought, these plants are a major fire hazard. Thousands of trees and tons of underbrush are going to be removed over the next five years at a minimum cost of $3 million. The brush will be removed first, then the trees will be toppled and removed. A cleared nonflammable area will then safely surround the town of 4,000.

Residents look forward to the work, because it will help their town survive a future inferno. “But there are two problems,” said one resident. “All the extra trucks are going to make traffic pretty bad. Once the area is cleared, we have to make sure dirt bikers don’t try to make the cleared area their personal playground.”

A recent fire burned 4,000 acres and destroyed 11 homes in nearby Hamilton. The fire was raging toward Canton, but a sudden rainstorm put it out. Residents know that they won’t get lucky twice, so they are looking forward to this massive clearing operation.

Ninety percent of the cutting and clearing will be paid with federal funds. Unfortunately, if the trees are on private property, they must be paid for by the residents themselves. Prices can range as high as $1,000 to cut and remove one tree. Officials say that residents can apply for state and federal loans if necessary.

“Well, what good does that do me?” asked Thelma, a 65-year-old widow. “I’m living on social security. I’ve got four trees on my property. The government’s not going to loan me money when they know there’s no way I can pay it back. So what am I supposed to do? These planners with all their big ideas ought to think of the little people.”
 
No time like the present


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Gets Booked, Writes a Book

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[align=left]Gets Booked, Writes a Book

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A man convicted of writing bad checks to casinos has written a book that he predicts will become a national bestseller. Entitled A Casino Is Born Every Minute, the 250-page book details James Duncan’s successful and unsuccessful attempts to beat casinos. Duncan is serving a five-year sentence for grand larceny in the Las Vegas city jail. He wrote 18 bogus checks, ranging in value from $3,000 to $10,000, at 17 different casinos. “My only mistake was cashing that last check at the same casino I had cashed the first check at,” said Duncan. “They were waiting for me.”

Duncan only has a few months left before he is released from the jail. During his incarceration, he used the library facilities and computers to write his book. He completed the book two months ago and is now shopping it around to various publishers.

Books about gambling and casinos are very popular. People like to read about gangsters, beautiful women, flashy cars, posh hotels, and the exciting possibilities of winning it all and losing it all. Duncan says he was the first card-counter in Las Vegas. He claims that he made almost $1 million at blackjack. Then, other card sharks started copying his technique.

“They abused the system,” said Duncan. “They got greedy. If they’d been like me, and just won some here and there, different places, and different nights, the casinos wouldn’t have gotten suspicious so fast.” When the casinos realized what was going on, they started using two or more decks at the blackjack tables to thwart the counters. They escorted out anyone they suspected of counting cards. 
No time like the present


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Popular Park Reopens

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[align=left]Popular Park Reopens

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The Silas Lake Park reopens today after being closed for six months. The park was closed because mud and rock slides destroyed part of Cambridge Road, the only access into the park. “We had to remove tons of boulders and rocks,” said Hugh Foster of the Parks and Recreation Department. “Then we had to rebuild a bridge and reconstruct almost a mile of highway. I’m really surprised we got it done so soon.”

The park is three miles north of Colfax on Highway 28. Cambridge Road is a two-lane highway that winds upward through Pearl Canyon before it descends to Silas Lake, which has about 20 miles of shoreline. The largest lake in the county, it is also famous for bass. In fact, the record largemouth bass catch in California occurred here in 1975. A 14-year-old boy caught a 19-pound bass.

The lake has two ramps for boaters, a full-service restaurant, a snack bar, a small tackle store, and a boat rental facility. As with all county parks, no alcohol is sold or permitted. More than 100 picnic tables have protective roofs and big barbecue pits. There are public restrooms with free shower facilities, lots of trash cans, and hiking trails for nature lovers. The west side of the park includes a softball field, a soccer field, and two volleyball courts. Horseshoes and kite-flying are two other popular activities. In the summer, a designated swimming area has a lifeguard on duty seven days a week.

The entry fee is $10 per vehicle and $10 per boat. Reservations are not accepted. The parking lot holds about 500 vehicles; if it is full, no additional vehicles are allowed to enter. Latecomers either leave or wait in line for someone to leave the parking lot. Some weekends there are three dozen vehicles waiting in line outside the gate. Because of many requests, park officials soon might start permitting campers to stay overnight on weekends.

The park is open from dawn to 10 p.m. during the summer. “We probably average 2,000 people here every day during the summer,” said Foster. “They come here to fish, swim, water-ski, jet-ski, picnic, commune with Mother Nature, you name it. People love this place.” 
No time like the present


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Swim Classes Begin Soon

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[align=left]Swim Classes Begin Soon

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Summer is almost here, which means it is time to sign your kids up for swim classes again at the Community Pool. Classes begin on Monday, May 1, and will continue throughout the summer. Fifteen swim classes are being offered. Each class lasts ten hours. A new class starts each week of the summer. Each class costs $20. The pool is big enough for six students per class.

Classes will increase in difficulty each week. The first week is for children up to six years old. The last week is for advanced swimmers who want to improve their race and endurance skills.

Students can sign up for as many classes as they like, but they must pass the skills level test. For example, students who sign up for Level 4 (Stroke Readiness) must show their certificate for completing Level 3 or must demonstrate the front crawl and backstroke. Children cannot sign up for a level they are not ready for. Children who have never attended Community Pool classes must show up April 29 or 30 for a swim skills evaluation. Instructors will rate the students and assign them to a particular skill level.

Swim classes are fun for all. Children learn new skills and make new friends. Parents get to meet other parents in the community. Swimming, like bicycling, is a healthy and valuable skill that, once learned, is never forgotten.

“It's a joy to teach young children,” said Ginger, the lead instructor for swimming programs. “More than half of them are terrified when we put them into the water the first time. Two months later, they're begging their parents to go to the pool every day.” 
No time like the present


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Getting Older But Not Sitting Around

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[align=left]Getting Older But Not Sitting Around

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All seniors 55 and older are invited to a special meeting next Tuesday in the Senior Center. The meeting will begin with cookies and lemonade. The speaker will be James Carter, the director of a nonprofit organization dedicated to making the golden years fun and interesting.

“We have too many seniors who act old because they think they’re old,” said Carter. “Our goal is to help seniors realize that they’re as young and active as they want to be. Getting older does not mean sitting around waiting to die. It means getting out and doing all the things you never had time to do while you were working and raising a family.”

Carter will identify the services and activities that are available to seniors locally and statewide. Included are legal aid, tax advice, discounts for bus and taxi travel in the city, and free blood pressure testing on the first Monday of each month. Testing for diabetes and for cataracts is offered four times a year for a nominal fee. The city also provides inexpensive dinners called Meals on Wheels. Volunteers deliver these meals to seniors who are homebound because of illness or injury.

An Internet class begins this month for seniors who want to visit the World Wide Web. “Many seniors still use typewriters,” said Carter. “They see no need for a computer. But after they take this course, some of them may decide to buy their own laptops.”

New activities at the Senior Center include Bingo on Friday and Saturday nights, with a grand prize of $50 each night. The center is also offering Strength Training classes. “As you get older,” said Carter, “you need to keep both your mind and your body active. An active mind helps prevent Alzheimer’s, and an active body helps prevent osteoporosis.” 
No time like the present


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Agencies Get Millions for Homeless

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[align=left]Agencies Get Millions for Homeless

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The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $5 million to three different local nonprofit organizations. The money will be distributed over a four-year period and is aimed at helping approximately 1,000 homeless people in the county of Arvada.

One agency, with headquarters in Woodbridge, is slated to receive $1.5 million. The agency director says that they will focus their resources on educating the homeless. “We will probably build another school-home with this money,” he said. “A school-home is exactly what it sounds like. It is a school and a home. We have already built four school-homes throughout the county. We get the homeless off the street, and we educate them so they don't have to return to the street. We teach them how to be auto mechanics, plumbers, landscapers, painters, carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, and air-conditioning repairmen.

“You wouldn't believe the success that we have had. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, our office air-conditioning went out. My secretary called a repairman. The repairman was one of our first homeless students. He now owns his own air-conditioning business, plus two houses, two cars and a boat! He has a dozen employees. Holy cow! He's doing better than I am. He fixed our air-conditioning for free. I think I might sign up for the air-conditioning class myself.” 
No time like the present


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Tenants Watch Building Burn

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[align=left]Tenants Watch Building Burn

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A 20-unit apartment building burned for about an hour before firemen were able to extinguish it. The fire started in the attic at about 10:30 p.m. yesterday evening. The damage was estimated at $1.5 million. A fire department spokesman said the fire might have been set deliberately.

The tenant who first saw the blaze banged loudly on the door of every unit in the building. Occupants of 15 units were already in bed or preparing for bed. No one responded in the other five units because the tenants were not home. Those tenants who were home escaped with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, their pets, their cell phones, and their laptops.

Many tenants went across the street to watch the fire from a safe distance. They were all hoping that their units would be spared. Some of the pets were so disturbed by the noise, crowds, flames, and smoke that their owners could not hold on to them. They clawed their way out of their owners’ arms and dashed away. The younger children were similarly frightened. They cried in their parents’ arms.

Two fire engines arrived at 10:45 p.m., but the entire roof was ablaze by then. Smoke and flames were visible in most of the units on the top floor.

At about 11:35 p.m. the flames were extinguished. Most of the roof had disappeared. The top floor of the two-story building was about 80 percent gone. Water was seeping into the ground-floor units, ruining most of them. The tenants were crying or speechless. They were happy to be alive, but now they had no home. Where were they going to live?

Firemen discovered a charred gasoline can in the attic. This was the second suspicious apartment fire in a month. 
No time like the present


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