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The Takeaway: New Refinancing Help For 'Underwater' Homeowners; Stretching Helps Chronic Back Pain

Helping Homeowners Tread Water: Meeting yesterday with distressed homeowners in Las Vegas-the 'foreclosure capital of the nation'- President Obama unveiled a plan to allow homeowners who owe more than their properties are worth to refinance mortgages at today's low rates, which are hovering near 4 percent.

If you think this has shades of 2009 all over it-well, you're right: The new plan is a revised version of the previous Home Affordable Refinance Program-which didn't have as much effect as the administration would have liked. Experts say the housing market has been the slowest to recover since the peak of the recession, and in fact may be what's holding back economic recovery (and perhaps, uh, the 9 percent unemployment rate?). Home values are hovering at eight-year lows, and more than 10 million people are 'underwater,' or owe more than their homes are worth, according to the Associated Press. But only about 1 million of these underwater homeowners might be eligible for Obama's plan. In addition,

... while estimates cited by the administration suggest the average homeowner might save $2,500 per year, other projections from housing regulators were in the range of $312 per year, depending on upfront fees the borrower pays, which may include several thousand dollars in closing costs.

Okay, so it may not be the great housing salvation; Obama says he is trying to do what he can despite "an increasingly dysfunctional Congress." The plan is part of what the Obama administration is calling a 'We Can't Wait' campaign, which relies on the existing tools of the executive branch to boost the economy how it can while Congress deliberates on legislation.

"Where [Congress] won't act, I will," Obama said.

Put Down the Aleve: Both regular yoga classes and regular stretching help ease chronic lower back pain, a new study has found. The study looked at more than 200 adults with  lower back pain, finding those participating in yoga or stretching classes for three months saw more improvement than those who did neither.

"Almost anyone with back pain can benefit from stretching exercises," said Timothy Carey, a researcher from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who wrote a commentary published with the study.

The fact that yoga or stretching worked in equal measure probably means it is the stretching component of yoga-not the breathing exercises, relaxation or other parts of the practice-that resulted in reduced lower back pain, researchers said.

Tuesday Quick Hits:

  • Geriatric Psychiatrist Marc E. Agronin, author of the book How We Age: A Doctor's Journey Into the Heart of Growing Old, asks: Should doctors ever lie to patients with dementia?
  • And the chicken-and-egg question of aging: Do we become less active as we get older because our bodies start to break down, or do our bodies start to break down because we become less active?

See  "In the News"  for more on current events, entertainment and how it all relates to you.

(Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

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