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Money in the Morning

Bank of America will launch a new mortgage campaign tomorrow to promote its No Fee Mortgage PLUS. The package eliminates application, appraisal, loan origination, title and other fees. It also will not require private mortgage insurance on loans with less than a 20 percent down payment. It will be interesting to see how other companies in the mortgage business respond to the BofA proposal. Obviously, the company is trying to position itself to benefit from a surge in buying activity in the housing market.

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Another financial institution, USA Federal Credit Union of San Diego, has announced a new loan program to help people that otherwise might be victims of predatory payday loans. The Department of Defense and other regulators have been fighting these abusive loans that target military families and often charge interest rates in excess of 400 percent. The Freedom Plan from USA offers up to $1,200 to pay off existing payday loans and fund a saver account. The loan rate is set at 18 percent. Counseling is also provided to help individuals and families avoid other financial mistakes and set a plan for the future.

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The Kentucky Derby was a big winner for Churchill Downs. Not only was the race exciting, it also brought out Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. And, the Run for the Rose also had fans in a tizzy. Total wagering from all sources on the race hit $118,317,714, just slightly below last year's take. Wasn't it great the way that jockey Calvin Borel celebrated the great stretch run by winner, Street Sense?

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Congratulations to Amanda Nunez of Rancho Bernardo High School. She was selected as the "Best Teen Chef 2007" by the Art Institute of Dallas. She edged out 22 other high school seniors from across North America who were assigned the task of preparing the same meal that included tortilla soup, grapefruit salad, pork medallions and Arroz a la Mexicana. The students were judged on cleanliness, taste and presentation. Amanda plans to earn a bachelor's degree at the Art Institute of California, San Diego.

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Speaking of restaurants, Cold Stone Creamery announced today it is entering into a co-branding effort with Soup Kitchen International, the company created by Al Yeganneh, the man who inspired the soup kitchen episodes on Seinfeld. The ice cream company will begin introducing soups at some of its Arizona stores this month. But the big thrust will be to open new stores in New York later this year that will combine the two brands. Somehow I'm not sure how you fold chicken noodle soup into a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

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