A compendium of news, facts, questions and answers

School to parents: don’t fling that kid

What to do when you take your kid to school and find the gates are locked? At one elementary school in Avignon, France “parents arriving after the bell were literally throwing their kids” over the gate, according to the Trillade school’s principal, Sanaa Meziane. It got so bad that Meziane posted a warning at the gate with a cartoon showing a parent flinging a small child over the gate with the caption: “Don't throw late students over the closed gate.”

 

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Boy wonder

Kids can do the darndest things? Take the six-year-old in Ahmedabad, India who just officially became the world’s youngest computer programmer. The folks at Guinness, who keep track of world record holders, recently verified that Arham Om Talsania took the Microsoft certification exam for the Python programming language and passed the test. Talsania says that his father, who is a software engineer, taught him the basics of programming. The boy explained that he’s been using computers since he was two years old.

 

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Flying rats?

In New York City they call them “flying rats” because they are considered a nuisance but in Belgium they train pigeons to race and the best of the breed can fetch big bucks. Last year a Belgian pigeon, by the name of Armando, was sold at auction for more than $1.4 million. And now another Belgian pigeon, New Kim, has been auctioned off for the tidy sum of $1.89 million. They’ve been breeding pigeons for racing for more than 200 years in Belgium and they are, obviously, good at it.

 

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Working from home for the holidays: Tips to stay productive and employed

 

The holiday season brings families together, but it also means added distractions for the many people working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can remote workers keep their focus sharp and their productivity high while noise and interruptions surround them? And what can businesses do to ensure their employees aren’t slacking and projects are on track?

“Working from home creates a different psychological vibe from the all-business environment of a brick-and-mortar office setting, and that feeling is magnified during the holidays,” says Cynthia Spraggs (www.virtira.com), a veteran of working remotely, author of How To Work From Home And Actually Get SH*T Done, and CEO of Virtira, a completely virtual company that helps other businesses work virtually.

“The holidays bring new challenges to getting work done efficiently at home, and at the same time, employers have concerns about how the holidays can affect workers’ productivity in a home setting. It can cause tension between managers and employees.”

Spraggs offers tips to employees and employers about working from home productively during the holidays:

How WFH employees can overcome holiday distractions

Create a mental commute and brain warm-up. A morning routine can help clear the mind and prepare for the working mindset. “The drive to the office used to create a mental separation between home life and work life and give the worker space and time to prepare for the day,” Spraggs says. “A similar separation time is vital at home, especially in a holiday atmosphere, in order to focus on the work tasks ahead. Develop a routine, such as reading or exercise, that warms up your brain.”

Create must-do lists. The holidays are filled with gift lists, parties, family obligations, baking plans, and other tasks that aren't usually on the everyday agenda. “When these distractions make it difficult to focus,” Spraggs says, “it helps to start the day with a list of work tasks that must be completed that day. Prioritizing them makes it more likely they’ll get done, even if your mind does veer off into visions of sugar plums.”

Keep your office space a quiet place, and show everyone the door.

“Establishing a clear boundary is a must,” Spraggs says. “I strongly advise you to put a door between you and the rest of the household, and keep it shut. Otherwise, the home holiday cheer will break your concentration as people and pets stream in.”

How Employers Can Keep WFH Workers From Slacking During Holidays

Trust, don’t micromanage. Some businesses go so far as screen- or mouse-tracking software on company-provided devices to check in on their workforce. But Spraggs says that type of micromanaging can be counterproductive as employees feel distrusted and overly pressured. “Such a management practice during the holidays comes across worse,” she says. “Managers can find less intrusive ways to help employees stay on track. Set targets and measure results, preferably using online dashboards with status reports. This makes it easy for employees to earn your trust. The more you trust those who have earned it, and don’t hound them, the more they will produce.”

Have daily check-ins. Remote managers should establish either a daily one-on-one call or team call with their employees. In the holiday season, Spraggs says, extra efforts should be made in communication to compensate for people taking time off and getting projects completed. “A regular routine of calls provides a forum for the employees to consult with the manager and each other,” Spraggs says, “and the manager can track performance in real time.”

Set holiday goals and rewards. “Your quarterly goals can be augmented by special holiday goals and rewards for meeting them,” Spraggs says. “These dangled carrots incentivize working diligently at home during the holidays and give them a bonus. Making it fun and competitive, the productivity goes up.”

“It’s all about discipline and knowing how to protect the work side of your home from the fun side during the holidays,” Spraggs says.

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History Matters

A feature courtesy of

The Grateful American Book Prize

By John Grimaldi and David Bruce Smith

 

At precisely high noon, on November 18, 1883, the railroad system introduced America to its four new zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific; until then, villages, towns, and cities from coast to coast, counted on the sun to set their clocks, and based time on local estimates.  People started their day at sunrise, assembled for meals, pushed through chores, and retired at dusk.

But the railroads required a reliable standard to maintain uniform timetables; prior to the decree, arrivals and departures confused travelers, and created chaos for commerce.

The change was embraced enthusiastically, but it wasn’t until 1918 that Congress passed the Standard Time Act, which transferred oversight of the time zone boundaries to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). In 1966, the authority was re-assigned to the Department of Transportation.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America by Christian Wolmar.

On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War, but it took the British nearly three months to complete their retreat. The last of the troops departed New York on November 25th—which coincidentally--was Thanksgiving, giving the former colonists-turned-Americans, another reason to gloat.

American System Now, a history website, published an article that included an excerpt from “a woman who had witnessed” the celebrations that day--as a girl. She wrote: “We had been accustomed for a long time to military display in all the finish and finery of garrison life; the troops just leaving us were as if equipped for show, and with their scarlet uniforms and burnished arms, made a brilliant display; the troops that marched in, on the contrary, were ill-clad and weather beaten, and made a forlorn appearance; but then they were our troops, and as I looked at them and thought upon all they had done and suffered for us, my heart and my eyes were full, and I admired and gloried in them the more, because they were weather beaten and forlorn.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier.

President Lyndon Johnson renamed Cape Canaveral in honor of the late John F. Kennedy on November 28, 1963, five days after his assassination. Two years earlier, President Kennedy had dared America’s rocket scientists to put a man on the moon within a decade—and it was accomplished, triumphantly--on July 20, 1969, when Astronaut Neil Armstrong landed--and walked--on the moon.

The Cape’s role in America’s efforts to conquer space--or what Star Trek fans call “The Last Frontier,” was begun in 1947, when it became a missile testing range. The plan was to put a satellite in orbit to sync with the 1957-1958 International Geophysical Year celebrations. But according to Space.com, “the Army ended up sending the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, into space on Jan. 31, 1958, on a modified Jupiter-C rocket called Juno 1”.

Meanwhile, in 1971, Cape Kennedy reverted to its original name, Cape Canaveral, but the main attraction remained the “Kennedy Space Center”.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations by Charles D. Benson and William Faherty.

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Fall garden tasks to protect your landscape from winter wildlife damage

By MELINDA MYERS

As the seasons change, we adjust our gardening tasks and plantings to match. Animals also make changes this time of year, often changing their eating habits and dining locations. These adjustments can impact your gardens. Reduce the risk of damage by starting in fall to protect your landscape from hungry animals this winter.

Take a walk around your landscape to evaluate plants and plantings for their susceptibility to animal damage. Look for pathways that animals use to access your landscape and areas of potential damage. Note new plantings, animal favorites and those special plantings you would hate to lose. Make sure these are protected.

Check mulch around trees and shrubs. Deep layers of mulch and mulch piled around the trunk of trees and the base of shrubs provides shelter for mice and voles. These rodents like to gnaw on the bark of trees and shrubs in winter. Pull mulch off tree trunks and stems and spread out deep mulch so it is only two to four inches deep.

Protect young trees and shrubs with a four-feet-tall fence of hardware cloth sunk several inches into the ground to prevent vole damage at ground level and most rabbit damage. Mature trees are usually only bothered during years where the vole and rabbit populations are high and food is scarce.

Fencing around garden beds filled with animal favorites is another option. Make sure your fence is high enough, tight to the ground and gates are secure. You will need a four-feet-high fence for rabbits and at least five- to six-feet-high fence to keep deer out of small gardens. A fence of several strands of fishing line has proven to be successful for some gardeners.   

Repellents are another less obtrusive option. These use smell or taste to discourage animals from dining in your landscape. Check the label to see if the repellent works on the animals and rodents you are trying to manage. Apply repellents before animals start feeding for best results. Then reapply as recommended on the label. Look for one, like organic Plantskydd (plantskydd.com), that is rain and snow resistant, lasting up to six months on dormant plants over the winter so you will need to apply it less often.

Scare tactics may be effective depending on where you live. In urban and suburban areas animals are used to human scents and sounds. Gardeners often hang old CDs and shiny ribbons in tree branches to scare hungry animals. If you opt for scare tactics, be sure to employ a variety of options and change their location to increase your chance of success.

Constantly monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the methods used and check all plantings for damage. When animal populations are high and hungry, they will eat about anything. Be willing to change things up if one method is not working. Using multiple tactics will help increase your level of success.

Protect your landscape from hungry deer, rabbits, and voles this winter. Start preparing in fall before their winter dining habits begin. If you are vigilant and persistent, you can coexist with these creatures and still have a beautiful landscape.

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From employee to entrepreneur: Becoming your own boss in 2021

 

Maybe you’ve dreamed of launching your own business for years, but couldn’t summon the nerve – or the capital – to pull it off.

Perhaps 2020 proved disastrous to your career aspirations when the company you worked for downsized or shut down altogether – and out the door you went.

Either way, 2021 could be the time to ask yourself this question: Are you ready to go from employee to entrepreneur?

It’s an easy question to ask, but a more difficult one to answer, says Adam Witty, himself a successful entrepreneur and the ForbesBooks co-author of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant.

“Maybe for someone who lost their job this year, it’s an easier call because they aren’t giving up something to make the move,” says Witty, who also is the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com).

“For them, this might be the perfect opportunity to finally give in to any entrepreneurial urges. But leaving full-time employment with its relative security, regular paycheck, predictable infrastructure and perks is a different matter and requires a certain kind of courage.”

After all, success is not guaranteed. About 20 percent of small businesses fail in their first year, and half succumb by year five, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But for those considering taking the plunge, Witty has advice:

Look before you leap. Starting a business requires a certain amount of risk, but that doesn’t mean you should be foolhardy. “While I agree you have to commit to any endeavor for it to succeed, I’m also pragmatic enough to know that the risk must be balanced.” Witty says. “Have a comfortable safety-net before you jump. Chances are, debt will outweigh income at the beginning. So, for those currently employed, take advantage of the income from your full-time position before you cut ties.”

Consider doing what you already know. For many entrepreneurs, success can be attributed to the fact they started a business in a field they were familiar with because they worked in it or already had expertise in it. “They had seen their industry from the inside and acquired a keen understanding of both its potential and its constraints,” Witty says. “That’s not true for everyone, but in the cases where it is true it definitely can make for a more solid transition, and increase the likelihood of success.”

Be adaptable. Witty says one thing that separates successful businesses from ones that fail is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. “Being adaptable doesn’t mean just introducing a new product to your realm of offerings,” he says. “It requires constant attention to what’s going on in the world, analyzing your competitors, and most importantly, not getting too comfortable at the top of the pyramid. The business cycle is much like a StairMaster – once you get to the top, you have to keep climbing to stay up there.”

Ultimately, though, the only way to truly find out whether a person can succeed as an entrepreneur is to do it, no matter how unsettling that first step might be, Witty says.

“Making the shift from the steady life of a full-time employee to the unpredictable world of entrepreneurship takes smarts, guts and support,” he says. “But you’ll never know if it’s right unless you embrace the risk.”

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Social Security Matters

by AMAC Certified Social Security Adviser RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – Claim Now and Invest it, or Wait to Claim?

Dear Rusty: I’m 66 now and will be 67 in December and my question is this: Should I take Social Security now or wait? I’m still working full time and plan to work for a few more years, at least until I’m 70 but maybe longer. I was told by a friend that I should take my Social Security now and put the money into savings, invest it or use it. And, since I’m still working, I’m still contributing to Social Security, so that when I reach 70 I should get the full amount. I’m not sure if this is accurate so would like to hear your advice. Signed: Uncertain Lady

Dear Uncertain Lady: By taking your Social Security benefit now you will be locking into a benefit amount that is smaller than it would otherwise be if you wait longer to claim. You’ve already reached your Social Security full retirement age (FRA) of 66 and, since then, have been earning delayed retirement credits (DRCs) at the rate of .667% per month of delay past your FRA. You will continue to earn those DRCs – an 8% higher benefit for each year you delay - until age 70 when your benefit will be 32% more than it would have been at 66 and 24% more than at age 67. Can you do better than that by taking a smaller benefit now and investing it? That depends upon what type of investing you intend to do. I cannot answer that for you, but a guaranteed 8% increase in your benefit amount for each year you delay, resulting in a much higher benefit for the rest of your life, is pretty hard to beat.

It is true that continuing to work now may help increase your Social Security benefit, but that’s true regardless of when you claim. Your benefit will be based upon the 35 highest earning years over your lifetime (adjusted for inflation) at the time you claim. If, after your benefits start, your current earnings are higher than any of those used to originally compute your benefit, you will get credit for those higher earnings and your benefit will increase. Even after you claim benefits, Social Security examines your new earnings every year to see if you’re entitled to a higher benefit. And you will get credit for your current earnings even if you wait and continue to earn those DRCs for a much higher benefit later.

In the end, when to claim Social Security is a decision that should consider your current and future financial needs, and your health and estimated longevity. If you are working and don’t need the extra money right now, and like the idea of a higher benefit later, after you are done working, then waiting to claim makes sense, especially if you’re in good health and expect at least average longevity. Average life expectancy today for a woman your age is about 87, and if you attain at least the average, you’ll collect much more in cumulative lifetime benefits by waiting longer to claim. Conversely, if your longevity outlook is less than average and you need the money now, claiming earlier is a perfectly good strategy.

One last thing to consider: if you are married and your husband is collecting benefits, you are eligible to file a “restricted application for spousal benefits only” which would let you collect a spouse benefit equal to half of your husband’s FRA benefit amount, while allowing your own benefit to continue to grow until age 70. You can do this because you were born in 1953, before the cutoff date of January 2, 1954. The option was eliminated for anyone born after that date.

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How to balance a retirement plan in an unstable time

 

The upheaval of 2020 has upended many financial plans, causing people to reassess their retirement strategies.

More uncertainty lies ahead in 2021 with regard to COVID-19 and its effect on the economy. In this unstable setting, keeping a retirement plan balanced is essential, but many people are missing an important piece – a whole life insurance policy, says John Smallwood (www.johnlsmallwood.com), president of Smallwood Wealth Management and author of It’s Your Wealth – Keep It: The Definitive Guide to Growing, Protecting, Enjoying, and Passing On Your Wealth.

“The key to a successful retirement plan is having beautiful balance in it,” Smallwood says. “A whole life insurance policy is the lynchpin in a balanced plan. With 20 to 30 percent of your net worth in life insurance cash values with a death benefit, you will have substantial funds to cover taxes, healthcare costs, and other needs, and leave money for your family.

"Unfortunately, what often happens is that when people retire, they lose the policy because the premiums increase. The purpose of a sound financial strategy is to reduce taxes, risk, and fees, increase your retirement income and pass more money on to your family. But losing your life insurance in retirement defeats that whole strategy. With a strategy that has no insurance, you have to spend down your assets.”

Smallwood explains the benefits of a whole life insurance policy as part of a retirement strategy:

Waiver of premium. “This is one of the main benefits of a whole life policy,” Smallwood says. “If you were to become disabled at some point while the policy is in force, then the policy itself pays the premiums.”

Increasing death benefit. “This pays your beneficiaries when you pass, and since there is guaranteed cash value on a whole life policy, it has value even if you pass prematurely,” Smallwood says. “When you die, the death benefit is passed to your heirs income tax free, although some state taxes may need to be paid.”

Creditor proofing. “In many states,” he says, “the value of the policy is creditor-proof, meaning it is not subject to the claims of creditors.”

Dividends. A whole life policy has dividends, and those dividends have unique tax features. “You can take those dividends in cash, or you can reinvest them back into the contract,” Smallwood says. “If you have the dividend paid out to you in cash, you receive that tax-free until you receive your basis in the policy, which is figured as premiums paid multiplied by the number of years you’ve paid premiums. That tax-free dividend does not appear on your tax return, which can be a huge benefit.”

Guaranteed cash value. “The beauty of the cash value,” Smallwood says, “is that it is available at any time. And it is money you can use strategically, to take advantage of opportunities, or for emergencies.”

Loans. When someone borrows from their whole life policy, they’re actually borrowing from the premiums that they’ve paid in. These policy loans can be taken tax-free. However, “you must pay back the loan,” Smallwood says, “including interest, and failure to do so may make the loan taxable.”

 Volatility buffer. Portfolio withdrawals in a down market put pressure on the portfolio and increase the odds of running out of money. “Here’s where the life insurance cash value can help you at a critical time,” Smallwood says. “It offers a volatility buffer. When the market is down, you could pull some income from your policy to use while the stock market portion of your portfolio returns.”

“The whole life policy is the main tool at the foundation of your financial plan,” Smallwood says. “It allows you to do multiple things in retirement, and potentially can even increase your income.”

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Who’s the new boss? How to avoid succession planning mistakes

 

Many corporations have endured a rough 2020 that included the resignations of top executives at some major brands. Will their replacements be ready? It’s a fair question, especially if the new company leader is promoted from within. Studies show many senior leaders don’t think their companies properly educate and prepare future leaders for succession.

If an organization has no pipeline of leaders ready to take over senior leadership positions, then a lack of succession planning can be catastrophic for even the most enduring company, says Jennifer Mackin (www.jennifermackin.com), a leader of two consulting firms and the ForbesBook author of Leaders Deserve Better: A Leadership Development Revolution.

“Many companies don’t find the development of leaders significant until they are readying for succession planning, embarking on a new venture, or weathering storms that threaten their viability,” Mackin says. “This reactive approach is risky because development takes time.”

Mackin says it’s time for CEOs, senior leaders, and heads of HR to modernize their leadership development because of the ever-evolving business world, which is especially volatile now.

“Leaders often weren’t ready to assume higher roles before the pandemic, and now it’s a bigger problem in terms of succession,” Mackin says. “A rapidly-changing time, such as now, is a good reason to focus on succession to ensure the chances of a company’s long-term survival.”

Mackin says the common mistakes companies make in their succession plans are:

They start too late. Even when companies realize they will have a void in their leadership roles, they wait too long to get the succession process started, Mackin says. “They may know people are retiring in two years,” she says, “but they need to start their planning well before then. It takes three to five years to do it right.”

They only consider the CEO role in their succession conversation. Mackin says that when a company does a thorough evaluation of its people, looking not only at their present performance but gauging their future, they might discover they don’t have the right kinds of people in the right roles. “Companies that win think strategically and have a people plan to address those gaps,” she says. “I recommend an overall development plan for the organization’s leaders as a whole and for individuals, and a succession plan for all key roles, not just for the CEO or C-Suite.”

The succession plan and development plan aren’t shared with leaders. Many companies worry that if their plans are known by the individuals slotted for upcoming senior roles, other people, not chosen, will leave. “Having outlined all roles with expectations will help others aspire to gain the knowledge and skills they need, because then they know what is required at the next level,” Mackin says.

Decisions are made subjectively by the top leadership team. “It is tough to create a succession plan without objective data about the future open roles and the employees that could potentially fit those roles with the right development,” Mackin says.

“Prepared leaders who are stepping into higher roles have never been more important than they are now,” Mackin says. “They are more adept during unforeseen disruptions and are able to pull their teams together. They can recraft a new, realistic, strategic direction quickly.”

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 Mo-Mo Knows Snow: Getting Outside in Winter is Good for Us

Mutt Mulligan, a rescue dog and the spokesdog of the TurfMutt Foundation, says a key to health and well-being is getting outside this winter

Winter can be tough on people in the best of times, but it is particularly challenging during a global pandemic. Throughout the spring, summer and fall, the outdoors – including our yards, parks, and sports fields – were critical for buoying our mental well-being, physical health and enabling us to safely connect with others.

For a decade the TurfMutt environmental education and stewardship program has advocated the importance of managed landscapes and other green space as critical to human health and happiness. Mutt Mulligan (a.k.a. Mo-Mo), as the spokesdog for the TurfMutt Foundation, knows that nature escapes are just as important in the wintertime as they are when the weather is warmer.

“No one enjoys being outside as much as the family dog, though we all gained a new appreciation for our yards and community parks over the last year as we used the outdoors to get away from our screens and connect with one another and nature,” says Kris Kiser, President of the TurfMutt Foundation and The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). “Getting outside in the winter takes a little more preparation and planning, but there is no reason to abandon it. In fact, there are many reasons why it is a good idea to continue going outside throughout the winter.”

As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices. Here are seven reasons why Mo-Mo encourages you to bundle up in moisture-wicking layers and don your coat, hat, gloves and snow boots to get outside for your health and well-being.

Outdoor time elevates moods. Exposure to natural light – even in the shorter days of winter – raises levels of serotonin, the body’s “happy chemical.” Sunlight is also a good way to get a natural dose of vitamin D, which is good for your bones and immune system.

Memories Improve. Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a study that revealed walking in a natural setting versus an urban one improved recall ability by nearly 20 percent.

econnecting and recharging outdoor is safe. Unplugging from your computer, smartphone and television is important even when it’s cold out and can be accomplished by simply going outside. Epidemiologists agree outside is still the safest place to gather (socially distanced, of course). Add a patio heater or fire pit to your backyard to make it even cozier.

Activity boosts immunity. According to MedlinePlus, exercise helps decrease your risk for heart disease, maintains bone health and can help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways.

More calories are burned in the cold. Being outside in the wintertime requires your body to work harder to keep you warm. Consequently, you burn more calories. Engage in a friendly snowball fight with your kids or take a walk with Fido to the park to rev up your metabolism and have a little fun along the way.

It doesn’t take long to reap nature’s benefits. Here’s a bit of good news for cold days. A study from the University of Michigan concluded that spending just 20 minutes in a natural setting reduces the level of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Taking care of your yard in the wintertime is a good way to log some time outside and it helps prepare it for spring. Just remember if you’re using a snowthrower, chainsaw or other outdoor power equipment to do some of the heavy lifting this year, read the owner’s manual first and abide by all safety precautions.

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5 ways leaders can eliminate stress and reboot for change in 2021

 

 

As a challenging year winds down, companies are sifting through what worked and what didn’t as they prepare to reboot for 2021 after dealing with the many difficulties brought on by the pandemic.

And if a business is planning significant changes in its operations in the New Year, the leadership team’s empathy for the workforce is vital in the process, says Joel Patterson (www.JoelPatterson.com), a workplace culture expert, founder of The Vested Group and ForbesBooks author of The Big Commitment: Solving The Mysteries Of Your ERP Implementation.

“Leaders need to be empathetic to help their employees manage stress and stay productive, especially in these unprecedented times,” Patterson says. “The holidays always add stress, but company transitions heading into the New Year, magnified by the uncertainty we all face due to COVID-19, can send that stress off the charts.

“For example, when a company installs new software or makes other major changes in operations and processes, the end users and middle managers can really feel it as the company tries to ensure those transitions are smooth. Having the human touch from company leadership is critical, as is providing proper training and giving confidence to middle management as their teams implement those systems.”

Patterson offers tips on how leaders can lower stress and keep morale high while implementing changes:

Start with acknowledging the emotional side of change. “There are unexpected twists and turns to any big change in company operations,” Patterson says. “Employees have to adjust to new processes – sometimes after having done things the same way for many years. This learning curve can understandably cause panic. Employees can be resistant to learning how to make it work to their advantage. Leaders need to expect these reactions and develop a plan based on empathy in order to deal with it.”

Know how to listen. “True listening means listening with open ears, open eyes and an open heart,” Patterson says. “It means paying attention to body language, to tone of voice, to the hidden emotions behind what’s being said. You’ll always gain more from listening than from speaking.”

Know what empathy is. “For a leader, empathy is more than listening and nodding your understanding; it’s understanding that your employees have their own working and communicating styles and a life separate from work,” Patterson says. “In stressful, uncomfortable times like these when change is thrust upon them, you can stay connected with them by making them feel more comfortable. Leaders can begin to do that when they put themselves in their employees’ shoes to better understand things from their perspective.”

Build a culture of psychological safety. Allowing people to feel free to air their concerns and speak their truths during change and upheaval can do wonders for the work culture in the long run. “The foundation becomes stronger because of the trust factor,” Patterson says. “Leaders understand the challenges that exist through the organization, which helps them be more effective in leading their teams through change.”

Emphasize “change energy” over “change fatigue.” “The best organizations understand that there is no endpoint to change,” Patterson says. “Change is for the greater good of continual evolution collectively and individually. Therefore, there are no excuses like being fatigued by change. Instead, leaders need to sell change as a necessary energizer that benefits everyone. Show the workforce how the new systems can work in their favor, not against them.”

“Empathy gives you insight into what others are feeling and thinking,” Patterson says. “At its foundation, empathy informs your decision-making by sharpening your perceptions and intuition.”

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Gotcha!

The hardships of the COVID lockdown can lead some to do the strangest things to break the tedium of self-isolation. In the Czech Republic, which has imposed a 9 p.m. curfew as a result of the global pandemic, police are apparently quite serious about apprehending anyone who ignores the curfew. In one town, recently, a coronavirus patrol team stopped a man out for a walk after nine. He claimed he was walking his dog, which is allowed, and sure enough he was holding a leash at the end of which was his dog-- a stuffed toy dog. Caught red handed, the man explained it was just a joke. He was released on his own recognizance.

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This election went to the dogs

Nothing describes the competitive nature of an election as the term “dog eat dog,” but the town of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, apparently figured out some time ago how to keep things civil when election time comes around. The main qualification for mayoral candidates is that they must be dogs-- real dogs. This year Wilbur, a French bulldog, defeated the incumbent Mayor Brynneth Pawltro, a pit bull, who had held the office since her election in 2017. The practice of having dogs serve as mayors goes back to 1988 when the Rabbit Hash Historical Society, which owns the town, decided it would be a great way to raise funds. There are no restrictions on who can vote. You don’t even have to be a citizen. Anyone, anywhere in the world can cast a ballot, which must be accompanied by a dollar bill. This year the town raised $22,985, the biggest take since Goofy Borneman-Calhoun, a mixed-breed dog, won the town’s first mayoral race.  

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A whale tale

Jonah was swallowed by a whale, but Julie McSorley and Liz Cottriel managed to avoid a similar fate recently when they went kayaking off the coast of California at Avila Beach. They went whale watching and had a very close encounter with a humpback whale.  Video footage shows just how close they came to a not so happy ending to their outing. Their kayak actually wound up in the whale’s mouth but Julie and Liz were dumped in the water and surfaced safely.

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Select the right tool for the pruning task

By MELINDA MYERS

Deadheading, trimming, and pruning are part of growing and maintaining a beautiful and productive garden and landscape. Make sure you are outfitted with the right tool for the job. Matching the tool to the pruning task will help ensure a proper cut, reduce hand fatigue, and allow you to work longer.

Since most pruning cuts in the garden and landscape are between 1/4" and 3/4", a bypass hand pruner is a must.  These pruners have two sharp blades like scissors, making a clean cut that closes quickly. This helps reduce the risk of insects and disease moving in and harming your plants.

Avoid hand-held pruners that are too heavy or open too wide for your hand size. Those with a spring action return help reduce hand fatigue as long as the opening matches the size of your hand. Make sure the pruner does not open wider than your hand can easily grip. Select a tool that fits in your hand, is comfortable, has an ergonomic grip and is easy to control.

Matching your pruner to your hand size is as important as matching it to the cutting job. Opting for an oversized pruner to make larger cuts can lead to hand fatigue, frustration, and improper cuts. Measure the width across the palm of your hand at the base of your fingers. Next, measure the height from the middle of the base of your hand to the tip of your middle finger.

A pruner rated for ½” cuts is a good match for those with small hands less than 3 1/2” wide and 6 ¼” high. If your hands measure 3 ½ to 4” wide and 6 ½ to 8” high, you may want to purchase a ¾” pruner. Those with larger hands should do fine with a 1” hand-held pruner.

But size is just one factor to consider. Hand strength also influences the diameter of the stems you will be able to cut. Just because a tool is rated for ¾” doesn’t mean everyone will be able to apply the needed pressure to make such a large cut. Invest in tools with compound levers or ratchets when you need a mechanical advantage to make cutting easier.

When the job is too big for you or the tool, select one better suited to the task. Employ a bypass lopper like Corona Tool’s ComfortGel SL 3164D with tactile handles. Loppers have long handles that give you greater leverage and extend your reach. This extra reach makes it easier to prune all parts of small trees, shrubs, and roses.

Invest in a foldable pruning RazorTOOTH Saw (coronatoolsusa.com) with a pull stroke cutting action and ergonomic handle. You’ll be able to make cuts fast and easy and minimize hand fatigue. Foldable saws allow you to tuck the blade into the handle for safekeeping and reduce storage space.

Saws are useful tools for cutting larger branches on trees and shrubs that you can safely prune. Although I am a certified arborist, I only prune small trees and shrubs. I save big tree work for my colleagues that climb, have the equipment and training to do the job safely.

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Ready your outdoor living area for fall

Seasonal change is upon us and more homeowners are making their backyards purposeful for recreation, work and homeschooling while sheltering at home during the pandemic. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), reminds new (and not so new) outdoor power equipment users to be courteous when cleaning up the family yard with leaf blowers, chainsaws, mowers, chippers, shredders and other outdoor power equipment.

“Keeping a neat and safe yard is more important than ever,” says Kris Kiser, President and CEO of OPEI. “We’ve seen record sales of outdoor power equipment this year -- from mowers to leaf blowers -- as homeowners realize their family yard is a safe space for outdoor gatherings, even during cooler months.”

When using outdoor power equipment, it’s important to read your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s directions.

“If you are a first timer, learn all its safety features and be courteous of others when using it, especially a leaf blower,” adds Kiser. “With so many people working from home and schooling kids at home, timing your yard work so  disturb others is just being a good neighbor.”

The outdoor power equipment industry is constantly innovating and homeowners will find outdoor power equipment that is cleaner and more efficient than ever before. Various power sources are also available including battery/electric, gasoline, propane, solar and hybrids. Regardless of a homeowner’s choice, outdoor power equipment will make quick work of leaves and overgrown grass, trees and shrubs—which is key to keeping the family yard a place for family and friend gatherings and as an extension of their home.

“In the fall, in particular, it’s important to clean up leaves,” notes Kiser. “Wet leaves can often be slick on hard surfaces proving a safety hazard, and leaf piles are a home for ticks.”

If you have a lot of leaves on your property, scientists from the Entomological Society of America recently recommended you remove those leaves from your lawn and any areas you use regularly to prevent ticks from using them for habitat over the winter. “The best thing to do is move them from highly trafficked areas and then shred and mulch them into the grass with a mulching mower.”

He adds, “However, when you are using your leaf blower and other equipment, it’s important to act responsibly. Remember all safety guidelines, and be courteous as to when you use it.”

Here are a few reminders around using a leaf blower:

Pay attention when using a leaf blower. Focus on the task at hand.

Stay outside. Leaf blowers should not be used indoors or in poorly-ventilated areas.

Maintain space around you. Never point an operating leaf blower in the direction of people or pets. Make sure bystanders, including other people using leaf blowers, are at least 50 feet away before you turn on your leaf blower. Stop blowing if you are approached by someone.

Be polite to others. Don’t use your blower during neighborhood quiet hours, such as late at night or very early in the morning.

Dress for safety. Long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a good pair of gloves will help protect your body from debris. Ear and eye protection (safety goggles or glasses) should also be used.

Check your leaf blower. Inspect the blower before and during use to make sure controls, parts and safety devices are not damaged and are working properly. Review your safety manual if needed. Never modify a blower in a way not authorized by the manufacturer.

Blow with care. Do not use your blower on gravel driveways, mulch or bare dirt, which can stir up dust clouds.

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5 Signs that it’s time to sell the family business

Owning and operating a family business is a big part of the American dream. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 90% of all North American business enterprises are family-owned.

But along with realizing that dream comes a bittersweet reality for some family business owners – knowing when it’s time to sell. And that can be a challenge as they wrestle with deep emotional ties to the business and various selling options, says Terry Monroe (www.terrymonroe.com), founder and president of American Business Brokers & Advisors (ABBA) and author of Hidden Wealth: The Secret to Getting Top Dollar for Your Business.

“One of the most challenging parts of owning and operating a family business is succession planning,” Monroe says. “While many family business owners may dream of passing ownership of the business onto future generations, keeping the business within the family isn’t always a viable option.

“There are many other reasons owners come to the often hard, sometimes easy decision to sell – burnout, profitability, dramatic changes in their industry, a favorable tax climate, etc. But with the economy rapidly changing, it’s a reckoning for some, a fork in the road, and you need to read the signs.”

Monroe gives five signs that it’s time to sell the family business:

Your children are not interested in the business. “If you put your kids through college thanks mainly to a profitable small business, chances are they have their sights set on bigger goals when they graduate,” Monroe says. “This realization can be painful to a parent. There is nothing wrong with laying out the facts regarding the opportunity that the family business presents to them, but forcing the company on your children will only result in resentment or poor performance, or both.”

Your children are not capable. Not everyone has what it takes to run a business, Monroe says, and when unqualified children are allowed to take over, the results can be disastrous. “This is where the saying ‘Thunder, Blunder, Under’ came from,” Monroe says. “It means the first generation made the business successful, the second generation floundered and somehow kept the business together, and the third generation let the business go under.”

Ownership has become too diluted. “Unless the company is always growing, it is hard to support a growing number of owners,” Monroe says. “This is true whether they work in the business or not, because the company can’t keep paying salaries or dividends or bonuses to those not in the business or individuals who are not working full-time there. And having too many owners often disrupts the managing of the company.”

You receive an offer you can’t refuse. This is rare, Monroe says, but when it happens you should know it is a great offer and take it. “Markets go up and markets go down,” he says. “Regardless what kind of business you are in, you should always know what the market value of your business is in your industry.”

Members of the next generation don’t like working together. Perhaps all of your children are capable, but they can’t seem to get along. “If they are not getting along now,” Monroe says, “it will only be worse once they are in business together. Turning the business over to them will impact your retirement plans, affect their lives, and possibly destroy the relationships they have with each other.”

“Sometimes the difficult but smart decision is to sell the family business,” Monroe says. “It’s important to give yourself enough time to adequately plan, and you may want to consult with some specialists to ensure that you have as much information as possible prior to making a decision.”

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Stressing over your retirement plan? 5 ways to boost savings, reduce anxiety

Many Americans have long stressed over their finances, and the COVID-19 pandemic has increased that anxiety, a survey shows. Well over 80% said the crisis is causing them stress with their personal finances, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education.

One of the top stressors, many studies have shown, is having enough money saved for retirement. But people can lessen their worry by learning more of the basics – and it’s not as hard as some might think, says Bob Kaye (www.bobkaye.net), a personal wealth manager and the author of How to Avoid Not Having Enough Money to Live On After Retirement: Making Smarter and Simpler Decisions for Stress-free Retirement.

“Knowing the basics of a field of endeavor can lessen one’s confusion and stress when attempting to make progress in that field,” Kaye says. “Unfortunately, in the field of finance there are a very high number of theories and methods that are purported to be ‘basics’ but are not. They are in some cases true but not of high importance and in other cases outrightly false.

“I have found in working with clients, families, business owners and professionals that there is likely to be a reluctance to advertise one’s lack of knowledge in some financial and investment areas. There is a reluctance to admit that one would prefer a grade school approach rather than a graduate degree approach, when in fact such an approach is exactly what is needed.”

Kaye offers five tips for saving for retirement:

Take advantage of your employer-sponsored plan. “Use it to the fullest extent you can,” Kaye says. “Besides the automatic nature of the 401(k) plan and its pre-tax contribution, there is the bonus of many companies matching that employee contribution. Don’t miss out on such extra free money for your retirement.”

Differentiate “long-term” from “short-term.” Kaye says many people get these mixed up and sometimes put long-term savings into short-term investments. “Long-term is most likely a stock-market type of investment,” Kaye says, “which someone can afford to fluctuate over time but hopefully will have a higher return later. Short-term is a CD or bond fund; they have a lower earnings rate but there are fewer worries about losing original principal.”

Properly allocate long-term savings. “Sometimes accounts are invested in only one category, such as ‘large growth,’” Kaye says. “Leaving out proper allocation of funds can make for a bumpier ride in the future on account values. There can be on the order of about five different allocations likely, and being sure to choose accordingly can lead to better diversification, better efficiency in investing, and smoother growth of savings over the long term.”

Don’t get caught up with too much attention on fees. Kaye suggests looking  for the overall net return, not the lowest fee or expense. “With the same return expected, of course lower expense charges would be preferable to higher expense charges,” he says. “It is very important to understand, however, that one would be better off with a fund with a 12% return and a 2% expense charge netting 10% return than one would with a fund with a 10% return and a 1% expense charge netting 9% return.”

Cover for inflation by putting your long-term investments into equities. ”Putting long-term investments into bonds or fixed types of investments may not keep up with inflation for the long-term,” Kaye says. “If there was no such thing as inflation, then retirement planning would be much simpler.”

“You have only to review the many conflicting opinions, statements, and advice to recognize that much must be false, simply because there are so many whose opinions conflict with so many others in this area,” Kaye says. “The idea of basics cannot be accented enough.”

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Medal of Hono: Air Force Lt. Col. Gerald Young

Air Force Lt. Col. Gerald Young was not the first helicopter pilot to risk his life in combat, but he was the first of such men to receive the Medal of Honor. Young's heroics during a mission-gone-wrong over the jungles of Vietnam helped save several stranded comrades who were directly in the path of enemy fighters.

Young was born on May 19, 1930, in Chicago, just as the Great Depression was taking hold. He grew up during the World War II era, so by the time he was 17, he enlisted in the Navy to do his part to serve. Young was discharged in 1952 but, after a few years back in civilian life, he decided to reenlist in 1955. He served in the Navy for another year before being accepted into the Air Force aviation cadet training program, from which he earned his commission in 1958.

Over the next decade, Young served in several locations, including Japan and for missions that supported the atomic tests taking place in the Marshall Islands.

By 1967, the war in Vietnam was in full effect. Young deployed to the country as a rescue helicopter pilot with the 37th Air Rescue Service based at Da Nang Air Force Base. He was 37 and on his 60th combat mission as the pilot of an HH-3E Jolly Green Giant when he earned the Medal of Honor.

In the early-morning hours of Nov. 9, 1967, then-Capt. Young's helicopter was part of a five-aircraft team sent to rescue a U.S./South Vietnamese Army ground reconnaissance team that was surrounded in the jungle near Khe Sanh. Two other choppers that had tried to rescue them earlier were taken out by ground fire from the enemy.

The Army team was stuck on the side of a steep slope, which required some special maneuvering to reach them. Young's helicopter was backing up another chopper that managed to pick up three of the survivors before being heavily damaged by enemy fire. As that pilot pulled away, he advised Young to abandon the rescue of the last survivors because the gunfire was impossible to evade. Other helicopter gunships that were supporting them were also reportedly low on fuel and ordnance.

Instead of escorting the damaged helicopter to safety, Young and his crew decided to try to finish the mission. Young dropped his helicopter down to the survivors, hovering with only one wheel on the ground so the rotors wouldn't touch the hillside. The last of the survivors boarded the aircraft before enemy fighters on the ground closed in.

As Young prepared for takeoff, those insurgents raked the aircraft with gunfire and grenades at point-blank range. One of the helicopter's engines exploded. The chopper flipped, burst into flames and fell down the hill.

Young, who was suspended in the cockpit by his seat belt, managed to kick out a window of the burning fuselage and rolled down the hill. When he stopped, he frantically put out the fire still on his clothes and parachute.

Young was seriously burned, but he ignored his own injuries to tend to an unconscious man who had been thrown from the chopper. He hid that man in some underbrush. Young then tried to get back to the helicopter, but the heat and gunfire were too intense.

By dawn, Young had made his way to a clearing and had managed to use flares and radio signals to let searching aircraft know where he was. But he also knew hostile forces were using him as bait to draw in more helicopters, so he refused their rescue.

During a lull in enemy fire, rescue crews were able to collect a few more crash survivors. But as enemy forces returned and closed in on Young's crash scene to find him, he led them in the opposite direction to take the pressure off more rescue forces.

For the rest of the day, despite the intense pain from his burns, Young hid in dense foliage as the North Vietnamese pursued him. This gave other rescue crews time to land at the crash site and collect survivors and those who had died.

After 17 hours, Young had wandered 6 miles from the crash site and was finally able to evade his pursuers long enough to call another rescue helicopter. That chopper was finally able to extricate him from his precarious position.

When he returned to the United States, Young spent three months in a hospital to recover from the burns that blistered more than a quarter of his body.

A few months later, on May 14, 1968, he received the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson during a ceremony at the White House.

Young continued his career in the military and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland while he was stationed in Washington, D.C. He met his wife, Yadi, during a trip to Costa Rica. They were married in 1972 and had a daughter they named Melody.

Young retired in 1980 at the rank of lieutenant colonel. He and his wife moved to a 30-acre farm in Anacortes, Washington, where Young spent the next decade speaking about his military career to students, ROTC units and at public events.

Young died on June 6, 1990, of a brain tumor. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. The town of Anacortes dedicated a park in his honor.

This article is part of a weekly series called "Medal of Honor Monday," in which we highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military's highest medal for valor.

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VA, Prostate Cancer Foundation to expand genetic services to Veterans

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today a new nursing research and training collaboration with the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) focused on expanding the role of advanced practice registered (APRN) nurses in the genetic services workforce and the delivery of precision oncology patient care.

The expansion includes the creation of VA’s New Data Nurse of the Future program as part of the department’s joint effort with PCF’s Precision Oncology Program for Cancer of the Prostate network.

 This program leverages genetic data and other sources of “big data” from the electronic health record to improve translational prostate cancer care and research. It increases Veteran access molecular testing, targeted treatments and clinical trials of novel therapeutics.

VA Secretary's Center for Strategic Partnerships facilitated the Office of Nursing Services-PCF collaboration which brings together multi-disciplinary experts in nursing, clinical genetics and medical oncology to launch a curriculum of coursework and clinical research training that will culminate in the credentialing of APRNs who will serve Veterans in the VA-PCF network of Centers of Excellence and affiliated sites.

“As the largest segment of the nation’s health workforce, the “New Data Nurse of the Future” program will be critical in delivering VA’s innovative resources to our Veterans,” said VA secretary Robert Wilkie. “VA nurses are vital to all facets of precision oncology care, including educating and counseling Veterans about genetic testing, targeted treatments, and opportunities to participate in clinical trials. This opportunity will help us  expand genetic education and workforce  to optimize the clinical services for Veterans with prostate cancer.”

By the end of the course, participating VA nurses will be able to integrate cancer genetics and oncology knowledge into clinical practice, apply practitioner-level proficiency to cancer risk assessment and case management, and recommend risk-appropriate options for cancer screening and prevention, among other proficiencies.

“Advances in precision medicine have changed the way nurses think about cancer. It’s no longer about which organ is affected — rather much more important the genetic signatures that are common across different cancers,” said Jonathan W. Simons, M.D., president and CEO of PCF. “Empowering nursing leadership in precision oncology will help us bring exceptional treatment options to not only our nation’s Veterans, but potentially to all cancer patients around the globe.”

Grants totaling $600,000 grant from Independence Blue Cross of Pennsylvania and the Katz Foundation established the pilot. It will initially focus on serving Veterans in Philadelphia; Wilmington, Delaware; the Bronx, New York; and East Orange, New Jersey. The first cohort of two APRNs have begun their training with the national team of experts and are expected to complete the program within one year.  

Each year, VA treats an estimated 40,000 prostate cancer patients, of which an estimated 15,000 have metastatic disease that require genetic consults and services.

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Sports Heroes Who Served: Brooklyn Dodgers great also served in Navy

By David Vergun

Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

Harold Henry "Pee Wee" Reese, born July 23, 1918 at Ekron, Kentucky, was nicknamed Pee Wee because as a kid growing up, he earned the runner-up spot in a "Louisville Courier-Journal" newspaper-sponsored pee-wee marbles competition.

 Baseball player holding a bat appears on a trading card.

Although his nickname wasn't related to his stature, he was somewhat short, at 5 feet, 9 inches, a height that prevented him from earning a spot on the duPont Manual High School baseball team in Louisville, Kentucky.

Thinking that he didn't have a career in baseball, he worked as a cable splicer for the Louisville telephone company. For recreation, he played amateur baseball for the Louisville Colonels, a local church team. That's how he acquired his second nickname, "the little colonel."

A Boston Red Socks scout noticed Reese's performance, picked him up, but then traded him to the Brooklyn Dodgers on July 18, 1939. The trade is considered the best ever made in baseball, for a receiving team, in this case the Dodgers.

Reese's game debut with the Dodgers was April 23, 1940. He played until 1942. In 1943, he enlisted in the Navy.

In 1943, Reese was stationed at Norfolk Naval Air Station, Virginia, where he regularly played baseball. In 1944, he was sent to Hawaii and played for the Aiea Hospital team.

Then, he joined the Third Fleet team for the Navy's Pacific tour and was then assigned to Guam where he was shortstop and assistant coach for the 3rd Marine Division baseball team.

In 1946, following his honorable discharge from the Navy, Reese returned to the Dodgers, where he played until 1958. In his final baseball year of 1958, the Brooklyn Dodgers became the Los Angeles Dodgers.

As the team's shortstop, Reese led the National League in walks, 104 in 1947; runs 132 in 1949; and stolen bases, 30 in 1952. Defensively, he led the league four times in putouts, twice in double plays and once each in fielding percentage and assists.

His other statistics: batting average, .269; hits, 2,170; home runs, 126; runs batted in, 885. Reese was a 10-time All Star in 1942 and 1946 to 1954; and, he was a member of the World Series champion team in 1955 as a player and 1959, as team coach.

Although Reese is considered one of baseball's greats, he's probably more well known for his personal friendship of teammate Jackie Robinson.

In 2005, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg helped unveil a monument in Brooklyn, depicting Hall of Famers Reese and Robinson with Reese's arm around Robinson.

It was designed to commemorate a moment that was said to have occurred in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 13, 1947, during Robinson's inaugural season, which saw him break the color barrier to become the first African-American major leaguer.

Eye witnesses said Robinson was booed by Cincinnati fans because of his race. In a show of support, Reese temporarily left his position at shortstop and walked over to Robinson at first base and put his arm around the rookie, silencing the crowd.

In the 1960s, Reese became a baseball game announcer for CBS and then NBC.

In 1984, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Reese died on Aug. 14, 1999 at his Louisville home.

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3 Tips for Keeping Your Holiday Spirits Bright – Pandemic or No Pandemic

The annual stress of the holiday season could be even more intense than usual this year.

Thanks to COVID-19, families may need to reconsider those Thanksgiving trips to grandmother’s house – or at least social distance around the turkey. Nervous shoppers are wondering whether to do all their gift buying right away lest the supply chain once again run into trouble and stockings end up empty.

In short, the pandemic has the potential to take the usual holiday depression, loneliness and general angst to a whole new level, while also draining away much of the season’s merriment, goodwill and childlike wonder.

But it needn’t be that way, says Dr. Allen Lycka (www.drallenlycka.com). Previously acknowledged as one of the leading cosmetic dermatologists globally for three decades – he is now a transformational keynote speaker, thought leader, life-changing coach, workshop provider and mentor. He is the co-author of international bestseller, The Secrets to Living a Fantastic Life.

“As we approach the holidays – and all the expectations that come with them – it’s worth remembering that in life you can’t control everything,” Lycka says. “That’s true even in the best circumstances, but it’s been especially true this year. It is not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens.”

Doc Lycka offers a few ways to lessen the pain of what happens to us through positive actionable steps that include:

Practice the power of gratitude. With all the negative things that 2020 brought – a pandemic, social unrest, a divisive election – it’s easy to forget the many things you can be thankful for, Lycka says. “Giving thanks for what we have and for the people in our lives, and realizing that this is something that will bring us joy changes your perception,” he says. “It turns from having a 'me' focus to a focus on others. Even in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I can press pause, enter my own zone of silence and picture all I am grateful for, and this is my secret weapon to the daily stresses of the 21st century. We all need to press pause, reflect, and be grateful. Practice this regularly and experience a radical change in your life.”

Indulge in self-compassion. Showing compassion for others is wonderful, but it’s also important to show yourself compassion if you feel you failed to meet other people’s holiday expectations, or if world events cause you more worries than you can handle, Lycka says. “Self-compassion is the practice of noticing what you’re feeling and remembering that you’re human and therefore fallible, just like everyone else,” he says. “It’s about treating yourself with the same kindness you would give to a beloved friend. Unfortunately, few of us have been trained to respond to ourselves in this way. Much more often, our response is to beat ourselves up when we stumble. But research has shown – and your own experience may echo – that self-flagellation is counterproductive.”

Make an effort to forgive. Holidays are a time when grudges can become magnified. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to put any pain you still feel behind you and consider forgiveness, Lycka says. It won’t just make the holidays better, but your life as well. “When we refuse to forgive and instead indulge in thoughts or acts of revenge, retaliation, and hate, we keep the cycle going and going,” Lycka says. “I once read that forgiveness does not mean you have to break bread with the transgressor. What it does mean for you, in the most positive sense, is when you wish them well you also give yourself peace.”

“Finally, this holiday season would be a great time to begin practicing spontaneous acts of kindness,” Lycka says. “Have you ever noticed how good it feels to say or do something kind for someone else? Performing random, spontaneous acts of kindness has been shown to boost self-image, lead us to perceive others more compassionately, promote a greater sense of connection with others, and feel grateful for our good fortune. We could all use a little kindness as 2020 draws to a close.”

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Business success can begin at a surprising starting point: Philosophy

In an age when college students are urged to choose an area of study based on financial returns, philosophy has become a much-maligned major.

But those who dismiss philosophy as something with no practical use are overlooking how studying Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and others has real-world applications in business, says Cristina DiGiacomo (www.cristinadigiacomo.com), author of Wise Up! At Work and founder of MorAlchemy, a leadership consulting firm that helps CEOs and executives use philosophy to tackle challenges by teaching them to think differently and see new solutions to help their companies thrive.

“One thing philosophy encourages is critical thinking, which a number of well-respected thought leaders around the country have said we could use a lot more of,” DiGiacomo says. “Not only is critical thinking a desired skill set when it comes to employers, it’s an important skill in life in general.”

DiGiacomo recently read an article about what Apple CEO Tim Cook looks for in job candidates, and she was struck by how much a philosophical mindset plays into his approach to hiring.

“He’s interested in things like whether you are willing to trust your gut and how you want to change the world,” she says. “He wants to know that the people he hires can answer these big questions. The way to answer them is to have a good understanding of Philosophy 101.”

A few reasons why studying philosophy is worthwhile for anyone, she says, include:

It helps employees interact better with co-workers. Hiring managers are finding that many employees who are whizzes with technical skills or coding, for example, are completely lacking when it comes to the ability to interact or collaborate with those around them, DiGiacomo says. “They often have trouble understanding other people or listening to other points of view,” she says. “One of the benefits to philosophy is it helps with how we think and how we interact in the workplace. Some people have just been taught hard skills, which are important, but they don’t equate to a well-rounded employee. Wisdom is the ultimate soft skill.”

It can help with career advancement. Many CEOs and others in leadership roles have looked to the wisdom of ancient philosophers as they advanced in their careers, DiGiacomo says. Lucio Tan Jr., CEO of Tanduay Distillers Inc., says the teachings of Confucious have served as a guide for his approach to leadership and life. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has used ideas expressed  by Aristotle to grow his business. “The real opportunity and the real way to excel in your career is to be this well-rounded thinker,” DiGiacomo says.

It is well suited for the challenges colleges face. Higher education has been deeply disrupted by the pandemic, and college students could find that a philosophy class could give them the foundation for overcoming those disruptions. “Philosophy is perfectly suited for remote learning and also offers tools and ideas that enable students to study and progress,” DiGiacomo says. “It's like learning about something that directly addresses all the challenges they face as students to begin with.”

It comes with many role models. For young people pondering philosophy as a major, role models aren’t hard to find because plenty of successful people earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy. They include Peter Thiel, co-founder and former CEO of Paypal; Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard; Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia; and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, among many others.

The problem with philosophy’s reputation, DiGiacomo says, is that it conjures images of a lone figure thinking deep thoughts – but never taking action. That’s far from accurate.

“Philosophy is not meant to be taken out only when your yoga mat is unfolded or when your life is perfectly in tune with the universe,” she says. “It’s meant to be lived, used and applied.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – About “Registering” for Social Security & Medicare

Dear Rusty: I have a big 65th birthday coming up mid-March and would like your advice on registering for Social Security and Medicare. I am now unemployed, but I am seeking another gig to get me to age 67 before taking Social Security. Signed: Wondering Senior

Dear Wondering: You do not need to “register” with Social Security in advance. You don’t need to do anything with Social Security until you are ready to claim your benefits. Since you were born in 1956, your full retirement age (FRA) for Social Security purposes is 66 plus 4 months, and that is when you will be entitled to 100% of the benefit you’ve earned from a lifetime of working. But you can, if you wish, also wait beyond your FRA to get an even bigger benefit. For each month you delay after your FRA you’ll earn Delayed Retirement Credits of .667%, which is 8% additional benefit for each year you wait. That can continue up to age 70 when your maximum benefit will be reached. In your case that would mean an age 70 benefit 29% more than your FRA benefit amount. But whenever you’re ready, you can apply for Social Security online at www.ssa.gov/retire (you must first create your “My Social Security” account to apply online).

Medicare is an entirely separate program and, unless you have “creditable” employer healthcare coverage from a new job, you should enroll in Medicare a bit prior to your 65th birthday (“creditable” coverage is a group plan with at least 20 participants). This would be during your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which is a 7-month window starting 3 months before the month you turn 65 and ending 3 months after the month you turn 65. If you don’t enroll in Medicare during your IEP and enroll later, and if you didn’t have creditable employer healthcare coverage after age 65, you will be subject to a late enrollment penalty, which will permanently increase your Medicare Part B (and Part D) premiums.

Medicare Part B is coverage for doctors & outpatient services, and Part D is prescription drug coverage, both of which require a premium; Medicare Part A is hospitalization coverage which is free if you’re eligible for Social Security. If you have “creditable” employer coverage when you turn 65, you can simply delay enrolling in Medicare Part B until your employer coverage is about to end, or until after it ends during an 8 month Special Enrollment Period during which you can enroll in Medicare Part B without penalty. But for Part D prescription drug coverage, you must enroll in a private plan within 63 days of your 65th birthday, or the end of your employer drug coverage, or you will incur a Part D late enrollment penalty for enrolling later. And remember that Medicare late enrollment penalties never go away – they are recurring for the rest of your life.

The bottom line is this: you don’t need to pre-register for either Social Security or Medicare. You can simply enroll when you are ready for benefits to start (keeping in mind that for Medicare, you must have “creditable” alternative coverage after age 65 to avoid late enrollment penalties).

This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To submit a question, visit our website (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or email us at ssadvisor@amacfoundation.org.

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4 tips for ambitious young women at the dawn of their careers

The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a double whammy for young women eager to launch their careers.

Young people in general have had their job searches stymied by the recession. Meanwhile, women of all ages have seen their careers impacted negatively more than men by the events of 2020.

But despite the challenges, there is hope for ambitious young women just starting out who want to make a mark, even in male-centric industries, says Deborah Fairchild, president of Nashville-based VEVA Sound (www.vevasound.com), which verifies and archives projects for clients in the music industry.

“That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy,” she says. “But if you can avoid becoming discouraged, and can face the world with firm determination, the opportunities will be there.”

Fairchild, who started her career with VEVA Sound as an archival engineer in 2004 and rose to lead the company in all facets of the business, has succeeded in an industry in which women are still underrepresented.

Just as an example, a study released in 2019 by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative looked at 700 popular songs and found that women accounted for only 21.7% of artists, 12.5% of songwriters, and 2.7% of producers.

Fairchild understands the challenges today’s young women face, and she offers a few tips for those who are just now launching their careers and hope to move up in their organizations:

Be prepared to clean toilets. This could be viewed metaphorically, but in Fairchild’s case it was also literal. “When I started as an intern at a studio, I did everything they asked – even clean toilets,” she says. “To pursue a professional career in the music industry, you have to be prepared to pay your dues, starting at the bottom and working your way up. I imagine that’s true for a lot of other industries as well.”

Learn from everyone. Formal education is great, and it’s wonderful to have a college degree, but once you’re on the job you will discover how much more there is to learn from watching and listening to other people, Fairchild says. Just about anyone in an organization – from the lowest-paid employee to the CEO – has skills or knowledge they can share with you that will prove useful in your career journey. “Whenever you meet someone,” she says, “always assume they have something to teach you until they prove they don’t.”

Networking is a key, but not the key. Who you know is important. So is what you know. “A strong network will give you opportunities,” Fairchild says, “but your knowledge and capabilities will be what give you a long-lasting career.”

Know when to pivot. At every stage of your career, stay sensitive to when it’s time to pivot, Fairchild says. “The interesting thing about the music industry is that some things take generations to change, while others change on a dime,” she says. “The ability to discern when to move on or when to double down will set you apart.”

“The pandemic has made things tough for those just trying to launch a career, which means it’s more important than ever to stay positive and persevere,” Fairchild says. “Grab the opportunities that are there, and then make the most of them.”

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How giving back at the holidays fits into your retirement plan

When the holidays approach, Americans feel moved to open their wallets a little more to help the needy.

And for retirees, that seasonal urge can fit neatly into their overall retirement plan – if they’re intentional about how they go about it.

“Charitable giving is a frequently neglected area of financial planning, but it’s important for one’s financial health and spiritual and emotional well-being,” says Patrick Rush (www.patrickrushtfa.com), CEO of Triad Financial Advisors and the ForbesBooks author of Gain Big and Give Back: Financial Planning with Intention.

“I think it’s a valuable thing to do at any stage of life, and just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you have to cut back. You can combine your passion for a cause with smart tax and investment advice.”

Adding a charitable-giving component to someone’s financial plan isn’t always simple, though, and not just because everyone has different amounts of money they potentially could set aside for such largesse.

“Every person comes into my office with a unique set of experiences, values, wants, needs, fears, hopes, and desires,” Rush says. “Consequently, you could give five people $1 million each and they’re all going to respond to it in a myriad of different ways. Each financial plan must account for these emotional and personal nuances.”

That said, Rush has suggestions for those who want to satisfy their urge for charitable giving – and take advantage of deductions the tax laws allow before Dec. 31:

Donor-advised funds. These are personal charitable accounts opened in the name of one or more donors and held in custody by a nonprofit organization, such as a community foundation, university or other IRS-qualified charity. Here’s how it works: Let’s say someone has $50,000 in a stock. They can sell that stock and, instead of paying the capital gains tax, place the money in a donor-advised fund and claim the full $50,000 as a charitable deduction. But they don’t have to donate the money all at once. The money remains in the fund and can be donated bit-by-bit over a period of years. In the meantime, it draws interest. “You save money and benefit a worthy cause,” Rush says. “That’s a win-win for all parties.”

Qualified charitable distributions. This tax strategy is available to investors over the age of 70½, and can be especially helpful to those 72 and older who must take IRS-mandated required minimum distributions from their IRA or 401(k). “If you’ve accumulated a lot in these accounts, this often means you’re forced to withdraw way more than you actually need,” Rush says. “But an option is to write a check to a favorite charity from the retirement account. In that way, the distribution is not taxed, but still counts as your required withdrawal. The donation also lowers your taxable income.”

A coronavirus relief bill exception. Generally, if you take the standard deduction rather than itemize when you file your income taxes, you can’t deduct charitable giving. But an exception was created as part of the coronavirus relief bill passed in March, Rush says. For 2020, you can count up to $300 as a charitable deduction when you file your taxes in 2021, even if you take the standard deduction. That’s worth remembering as Dec. 31 nears and you’re feeling the holiday spirit. “Those charities and nonprofits certainly could use the money,” Rush says.

Even with the potential for tax savings, Rush says it’s important to remember that charitable giving and community volunteering have meaning beyond money.

“Each December, you can find our employees ringing bells for the Salvation Army,” he says. “Some of our clients get involved, too, and my family turns out as well. It’s important to me to inculcate these values in my children. It’s never too early to learn to be grateful for what you have and to express that gratitude by giving something back.”

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4 Things Savvy Investors Should Know About The Consumer-Loan Market

The rise of financial technology in everyone’s life, such as Affirm and Apple Card, has also created investment opportunities.

Stocks, bonds and mutual funds represent some of the usual suspects for the typical investors, but one possibility that is sometimes overlooked is the consumer-loan market.

In many of these scenarios, the investor is lending money to a specific borrower and earns interest when the borrower pays back the money, says Ron Oertell, Chief Financial Officer at LendingUSA, LLC (www.lendingusa.com). In other cases, the investment is in the stock for a company that makes consumer loans.

“For those people who believe the market is going to remain strong and want to take part, there are opportunities out there,” Oertell says.

There are a number of ways for an individual investor to become involved in the world of consumer loans – and potentially make a steady return – and each comes with variants, such as the life of the loan and the size of the investment, Oertell says. Just a few of the options, along with their pros and cons, include:

Direct exposure and access.  It’s possible to invest in consumer loans directly through Prosper and other such marketplace lenders, Oertell says. This approach gives the investor direct access to consumer loans. “Also, it’s easy to determine the risk level because the loans are graded by the lenders,” he says. The cons: The investment is concentrated in just a few loans and it is difficult to exit the investment prior to expiration. Further, investing in a small number of loans limits the benefits of diversification. Meaning, a single loan may or may not perform as well as an entire pool which has the benefit of large numbers.

Indirect exposure and access. Instead of investing directly in the loans themselves, another option is to invest in public companies that provide loans to individuals, Oertell says. Some of those companies include GreenSky (NASDAQ: GSKY), OneMain (NYSE: OMF) or credit card companies. “One of the pros for doing this is diversification because the investment would be in the stock of the company, not the loan itself,” he says. In addition, you are taking advantage of the management’s professional knowledge in making the decisions in which loans to invest. “But this, too, comes with cons,” Oertell says. “Your investment is subject to the operational risks of the company, you don’t have the ability to research and select the ‘best’ loans and, of course, you are subject to the risks of the general equity markets.”

Pooling your investment with others. Another option is private offerings for accredited investors. In this situation, investors can receive a fixed return or a percentage of the gains (depending on the exact transaction) and the money is then, in turn, pooled with other investors. “Such pooled money is used to purchase consumer loans,” Oertell says. Some pros: You have more diversification than if you bought individual loans, and you can rely on other investors to make the underwriting decision. Some cons: If you want to sell your investment, the secondary market is limited, and fixed returns limit upside potential.

Investing in private companies focused on consumer finance. In this case, once again you are investing in a company that makes loans rather than investing in the loans directly. Pros of this include the ability to do the most due diligence and there’s potential for a higher return. Among the cons: These can be hard to find and they are only for certain investors. This can also be very risky to an investor that is not familiar with the dynamics of consumer finance.    

Of course, all investments come with risk, Oertell says, so potential investors must complete their own due diligence carefully.

“Investing in consumer loans provides a good way for someone to broaden their portfolio,” Oertell says. “But you need to do your homework and understand what’s good and what’s potentially bad about the option you’re considering.”

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5 ways for companies to give back – and still make bucks

As the coronavirus pandemic turns much of the business world upside down, numerous companies have pivoted while reevaluating their purpose, products, and relationship with customers.

One area of emphasis that has gained traction is philanthropy. Many CEOs see helping those in need as an essential element of a business, especially in these unprecedented times, says Vince Thompson (www.meltatl.com), founder and CEO of the marketing agency MELT and author of Building Brand You: How To Use Your College Experience To Find And Win Your First Job.

“Good will is good business,” Thompson says. “To whom much has been given, much is expected. As we are all dealing with the many effects of COVID-19, working from home, and enduring the mental strain of these stressful, uncertain times, seeking to do good right now is one of the most important things a person or a company can do.

“Good will reinforces a company’s purpose, which reinforces esprit de corps. Externally, philanthropy is good PR for your business, especially for small businesses that depend on their communities to keep them afloat. People are watching how companies respond in tough times, and that good will is reciprocated by new customers and the continued loyalty of regulars. Philanthropic actions strengthen both a company’s internal bonds and its ties with the community.”

 Thompson suggests five ways companies can give back and help their own business at the same time.

Expand your reach. Thompson’s company welcomes college interns every summer. Part of the program includes engaging them with several national brands, through guest speakers and field trips. But last summer, due to the coronavirus outbreak, he evolved his business model into a remote platform, expanding into a year-round virtual series of classes and podcasts, and substantially increasing enrollment while staying connected with his business’ primary partners. “It was a way to share more career development advice with college students and give them some help they really need during these perilous times,” Thompson says.

Encourage employees to help. “A company can create positive change by leveraging its strong team culture,” Thompson says. “Allow employees company time to organize outreach activities. Find out what causes they’re passionate about. You’re then sending the importance of the philanthropic message to your workforce. Getting employee involvement from the strategic phase onward helps the philanthropic initiatives align with company goals.”

Launch a charity drive. Start a collection for a particular cause. Your company can collect non-perishable food items for distribution at food banks. Toy drives are popular around the holidays. “You can set up automatic donations through virtual giving platforms,” Thompson says. “You could even leave out a collection jar at your place of business and cash in the collected amount to send through an online portal.”

Provide selected pro bono work. Philanthropic planning must be precise, especially during a pandemic as companies strategize on what’s financially feasible and what is not. But Thompson says there’s usually room to do a few extra jobs for free, which could go a long way for someone without the means to hire you otherwise. “Research and reach out to people who can use your services but can’t afford them,” Thompson says. “Involve your team in the nominating process. These are win-win feel-good actions.”

Help other businesses. “Buying from local businesses is one of the best ways to give back, especially when so many are struggling,” Thompson says. “Leave nice reviews and link to your favorite local companies on your website. Look for beneficial cross-promotions that are good for your business and your partners.”

“More and more businesses are now realizing the importance of giving back,” Thompson says. “It simultaneously improves employee and customer engagement while making a great impact on people’s lives.”

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She was determined to vote

Karen Briceno Gonzalez works at the office of the Orange County [Florida] Supervisor of Elections and was taken by surprise when a man walked in and excitedly showed her his wife’s driver’s license. He said his pregnant wife was in labor in his car and that she was refusing to go to the hospital until she voted, according to the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC]. Ms. Gonzalez grabbed a vote by mail ballot and took it to the pregnant woman but the woman insisted that she wanted to cast her ballot “right now.”  So, she watched as the woman “filled out her ballot while doing a little controlled breathing" and then the husband drove her off to the hospital. "I understand the importance of this election to some people. I gave her an 'I Voted' sticker, and she was on her way to the hospital. She was very happy that she got to vote," Ms. Gonzalez told WESH-TV.

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How green is my dog

Trees are green, grass is green and so is Cristian Mallocci’s newborn puppy. And, that’s why he named the pup Pistachio, says the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC]. Mallocci is a farmer on the Italian island of Sardinia and his dog recently gave birth to a litter of five puppies all of which, except Pistachio, were born with white fur. There have been other reports of green dogs being born and the vets will tell you that it is not a threatening condition; it can happen when green bile pigment in the mother’s placenta combines with her amniotic fluid. The coloration is not permanent. It fades away in time and it does not impair the puppy in any way. In fact, Mallocci plans to give away Pistachio’s four siblings and train Pistachio to tend to his sheep.

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We’ll meet again

Bill Patrick Jr. was just five years old when his mother took him and his siblings and left town. That was nearly half a century ago and Bill Patrick Sr. of Northumberland County, PA has been looking for his kids ever since, reports the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC]. Junior lives in Utah and It was Patrick the elder’s sister who found him on Facebook. It’s the stuff that emotional reunions are made of and theirs took place recently at Harrisburg International Airport.

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Understanding and caring for runaway children

Children are not likely to run away because they think it is fun. Children who run away usually have a history of trauma, family conflict, abuse and possibly mental illness, according to Linda Inmon, Cooperative Extension Program associate-family and consumer sciences for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

“Many children we think of as runaways did not decide to leave home on their own. They were coerced or told to leave,” Inmon said. “The children who were asked to leave home face a greater risk of victimization and violence such as human sex trafficking, selling or the use of drugs and gang involvement.”  

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages health care workers to conduct a social history as well as a medical history on suspected runaways. The social history gives insight to their daily environment and activities, Inmon said. Support resources should be made readily available for children who are at risk of running away from home, especially those identifying as LGBTQ since this is the highest population of runaways.

“Children will explore the world and make decisions and mistakes with or without their parent’s permission,” she said. “Parents can do something as their children find out who they are and where they belong in the world. Parents can provide a positive atmosphere where their child feels safe and secure in their own home.”

Children need to know they can talk to their parents or another responsible adult without fear of being punished, Inmon said. Children should be taught how to face problems and reflect on the possible outcomes of various scenarios. This helps develop problem-solving skills and empowers them to work through hard situations.

Despite parents doing the right things, some children will decide to run away. If you think your child is considering running away, call the runaway hotline number at 1-800-RUNAWAY for help, she said. If your child has already left home, call the police immediately. According to the New Haven Healing Families, Empowering Girls website, there is no waiting period for reporting runaway children. When talking to the police ask them to enter your child’s information in the National Crime Inventory Center.

“Press pause when your child returns home after running away,” Inmon said. “Emotions are too high to begin a conversation about the incident. Once both of you get some rest, ask them why they chose to run away.”

It is imperative that you listen without becoming defensive, making excuses or justifying your actions, she said. This is a time to get an understanding of why your child made the decision to run away.

“Share with your child how it made you feel when they ran away and let them know that they are still your child and you love them,” Inmon said. “Seek counseling to help all parties involved cope with the past, present and future.”

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Sports Heroes Who Served: Golfer landed in Normandy during WWII

BY DAVID VERGUN, DOD News

Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

(Photo)

Robert Tyre (Bobby) Jones Jr. is said to have been the most successful amateur golfer ever to have competed at the national and international levels. The reason he competed as an amateur is because he worked full time as an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia.

He won the U.S. Open in 1923, 1926, 1929 and 1930; the Open Championship in 1926, 1927 and 1930; the U.S. Amateur in 1924, 1925, 1927, 1928 and 1930; and the British Amateur in 1930.

After retiring from competitive golf, he founded the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, in 1933; in 1934, he co-founded the Masters Tournament.

In May 1942, Jones volunteered and was accepted for military service in the Army officer corps, although at 40 years old he was considered borderline too old. In June 1942, he was assigned to the First Fighter Command at Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York.

By March 1943, he was promoted to major, and later that year, he was assigned as a military intelligence officer for the 84th Fighter Wing of the Ninth Air Force; he then deployed in England.

Just a day after the June 6, 1944, D-Day landings on the Normandy coast in France, Jones went ashore.

His unit eventually was assigned to the infantry, and he spent two months interrogating German prisoners of war before being discharged in August 1944 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

During the war, Jones had the honor of dining with Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe. In 1948, Eisenhower, an avid golfer, would become a member of Augusta National.

In August 1944, Jones, then a lieutenant colonel, was granted an honorable discharge from the Army.

In 1971, Jones died at age 69.

In 1974, Jones was posthumously inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

In 1981, the U.S. Postal Service issued an 18-cent stamp commemorating Jones.

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Social Security Matters

by AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – Younger Wife is the Higher Earner

Dear Rusty: I’ve seen examples of how to maximize Social Security, but I’ve never seen an analysis for our situation. I’m 61 and my wife is 57, but she has been the primary breadwinner, while I just barely made eligibility. Our plan is for me to start at age 62 ($500 a month) and then switch to my spousal benefit at age 74 when she starts her benefits at age 70 (her benefits should be $2,500 a month). Are we missing anything? We are both in good health with an average life expectancy but there is a very good chance my wife will exceed the “average.” Signed: Planning Ahead

Dear Planning: Well first, be aware that Social Security’s rules are “gender neutral” – that is, the rules are the same regardless of which of you is the higher earner. That said, you and your wife seem to have a good strategy, for with her as the higher earner with the highest benefit, maximizing her SS payment by waiting until age 70 is an excellent plan. Since her longevity outlook is very good, she should get the most in cumulative lifetime benefits by waiting. Your plan to claim at age 62 is also prudent if you will not be working full time. That’s because if you claim before your full retirement age (FRA), you’ll be subject to an earnings test, which limits how much you can earn before SS takes back some of your benefits.

If you exceed the earnings limit, Social Security will assess a penalty of $1 for every $2 you are over the limit and take back benefits equal to that amount. For example, if you were collecting SS this year the earnings limit is $18,240. If you earned $25,000, you’d be $6,760 over the limit and SS would take back benefits equal to $3,380. And at your $500 monthly benefit rate, they would withhold benefits for 7 months to recover what you owe. And that’s true until you reach your full retirement age when the earnings limit goes away (born in 1959, your FRA is 66 years and 10 months). At your FRA you would get time credit for any withheld months, but if you’re planning on that SS income starting at age 62, and you’re still working, the earnings limit could derail your benefit income plan. Of course, if you won’t be working after you claim early benefits, the earnings limit doesn’t apply. And for clarity, your wife’s earnings from working don’t count toward your personal earnings limit, and the limit goes up considerably in the year you reach your FRA. If you plan to continue working and the earnings limit is an issue, you might choose to wait until your FRA to claim your benefit. By doing so you would avoid the earnings limit, and you would also assure that you would receive the full 50% of your wife’s FRA benefit amount when she claims.

If you claim at age 62, your spousal benefit (when your wife claims) will be less than half of your wife’s FRA benefit amount because you claimed your own benefit early. Your spousal benefit will consist of both your own (reduced) benefit and a spousal boost to bring you up to your spouse benefit amount. When your wife claims at age 70, your spousal boost (the difference between your full FRA benefit amount and half of her FRA benefit amount) will be added to your own (reduced) early SS benefit, yielding a spousal benefit less than half of your wife’s FRA benefit amount. The only way you can get the full 50% spouse benefit is to wait until your own FRA to claim your own Social Security and later get the higher spouse benefit for the rest of your life.

In the end, your health, financial need and life expectancy should be the primary factors considered when deciding when to claim.

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Why all college students should major in building their personal brand

College students spend four years or more preparing for the so-called “real world” of work, and there’s never a guarantee that a degree will land them their desired job.

But now, given the profound impact of COVID-19, their employment challenges could be even greater.

That’s why, to separate themselves from the pack, students and recent graduates should know how to build their personal brand, says Vince Thompson (www.meltatl.com), founder and CEO of the marketing agency MELT and author of Building Brand You: How To Use Your College Experience To Find And Win Your First Job.

“If you’re in school right now or recently graduated, you’re facing the toughest job market in our lifetime,” Thompson says. “There are going to be more people in the pool – people with more experience – who are willing to work for less.

“With social media dominating the way we communicate, how you develop and control your personal brand can put you in that top 5 percent of applicants who rise above the rest.”

Thompson offers pointers college students should consider to start building their brand well before graduation:

Find opportunities through your passion. College campuses provide vast environments of opportunities, which can begin the personal branding process.  “Whatever your area of interest might be,” Thompson says, “your first goal should be to figure out where the opportunities are in that area. Whatever your passion is, put yourself in that environment. The key is to be a doer. The more you do while in college, the more your portfolio, of both tangible work and of life experience, grows.”

Get noticed. This is the first step toward building a network and a brand. “People you know in college could be helping shape your career for years to come,” Thompson says. “When your job or extra activity in college starts, be sure to interact with the people who are part of that opportunity. You want to form relationships, and in the process you’re forming positive perceptions. Strive for excellence in whatever you do and show gratitude to everyone involved.”

Create a brand board. Developing your brand, Thompson says, entails focusing on the qualities you want people to see. “A brand board is like a vision board,” he says, “where one puts images and words together to create a picture of what matters most to them. Search for words and images that resonate with your passion, values, ideas, goals, and experiences.”

Tell your brand story. “Whatever you’ve done with your time in school,” Thompson says, “the way it will be perceived is all packaging and positioning. Focus on the story of the specifics of what you did in your various activities. Detail how you developed relationships with regular customers, became a problem-solver, juggled tasks. It’s about the effort you made, the effects it had – that’s what future employers will want to know.”.

Manage your brand. College students should live by the values they chose to define their brand. That includes behaving on social media. “Your social media accounts are the first place potential employers are going to look for information about you,” Thompson says. “I see kids doing really stupid stuff on Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok. Whatever you post online, make sure it passes the ‘grandma test.’ If you wouldn’t feel comfortable showing it to your grandmother, don’t put it on social media.”

“Much of what you do in college can help shape your brand,” Thompson says. “From your interests to your relationships, be aware that you’re building a sense of who you are and how you want to be seen as you enter the working world.”

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How Gen Z can save the election by working the polls

By SHEALEIGH VOITL

The pandemic has introduced several unusual challenges — from remote learning and NBA “bubbles” to virtual graduations and socially distanced Real Housewives reunions.

More importantly, COVID-19 has highlighted our vulnerabilities as a nation and the many things we take for granted. Among them are election workers, 58% of whom were 61 years or older in 2018, an age group that is at greater risk of complications due to COVID-19, and most commonly women.

So it seems that Gen Z has been given a unique opportunity to save the (election) day. Although not invincible, young and otherwise healthy people typically fall into the low-risk category for COVID, making many of them ideal candidates for poll workers.

For Sebastian Leder Macek, 22, who graduated from the University of Michigan last spring, the timing was perfect.

“My job has been delayed, so I don’t have a ton I need to do at that time,” Leder Macek said. “But the broader, sort of ideal reasons why I want to do it is mainly because I do think this is going to be a very fraught election. I think there’s going to be a lot of logistical problems.”

Poll worker shortages lead to long lines, delays and closures, which can prevent people from casting their ballots. Voters shouldn’t be held up at their polling place due to technical difficulties, as seen in Georgia last June.

And when the early voting period began in Chicago, residents waited in line for hours as rain poured on the city’s streets. These aren’t inspiring stories of our democracy’s resilience.

This is blatant voter suppression.

Early voting is already underway in many states, but there’s still time to apply and become an election worker. Places like Philadelphia, who generally require approximately 8,500 election workers on election day, are navigating a critical shortage, which may soon result in polling place closures.

Milwaukee was also hit hard by the pandemic, nearly eliminating an unprecedented 175 polling places. However, after a surge of applicants, the city hopes to keep 173 polling places open—only seven shy of the norm. The state now estimates a shortage of about 180 election workers.

Specifications for election workers may vary by county and state, so it’s important to check websites like eac.gov to learn more information, like hours, compensation and other requirements.

In response to the poll worker shortage, some counties in Illinois chose to raise their wages ahead of Election Day. DuPage County poll workers will receive $260 for working on Election Day and $20 per hour during the early voting period, which began on Sept. 24.

Chicago and Cook County followed suit. The city raised their Election Day wage from $170 to $230 while the county agreed to pay election judges $200 for working the polls on Election Day and $150 daily during early voting.

In September, Old Navy agreed to pay their employees a full day’s wage for working the polls. Other companies like Target and Warby Parker offered similar incentives.

Poll worker shortages are nothing new, though. Even before the pandemic, election authorities had a hard time maintaining an adequate number of volunteers.

Lorie Martinez, a former teacher, began working the polls in McHenry County, Illinois in 2018

and was keenly aware of the poll worker shortage during the March primary, feeling the absence of fellow workers.

“We probably had less than a half of what we should have,” Martinez said. “People canceled because of COVID.”

Approximately 24 million Gen Zers are eligible to vote this upcoming election and even more are able to participate in other meaningful ways, like volunteering to work the polls.

This is a chaotic, frightening and frankly dystopian time we’re all living in together. We’re fighting to preserve and protect each other, our planet and our futures, and we wonder what comes next.

Many of us Gen Zers imagine the stories we’ll tell someday in vivid and broad detail. Perhaps one of them can be about the time we supported our community by becoming an election worker.

So if you’re willing and able, mask up, sign up and work those polls.

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The 2020 Election: 5 Predictions for Healthcare

By Chris Orestis

On November 3, 2020 Americans will cast their votes in what may be one of the most pivotal elections in American history. The outcome will determine the future of healthcare in this country for decades.

The Trump administration and Senate allies have made clear their intent to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) through a combination of Executive Orders, legislation, and legal challenges. Also, the Trump Administration announced it would permanently end the Payroll Tax if re-elected; but this is the tax that funds Social Security and Medicare. Ending it would essentially bring these critical entitlement programs for seniors to an end.

Alternatively, the Biden-Harris ticket and the Democratic party have made improving on the ACA and adding elements of the Medicare-for-All movement to increase coverage for Americans a central plank of their platform. They have also vowed they would protect Social Security and Medicare from cuts. The difference between the two parties and their approach to healthcare is what is on the ballot for healthcare in 2020-- will healthcare become a “right” or a “privilege” for Americans?

Five Predictions

Universal-Healthcare/Medicare-for-All will either establish its foundation in a hybrid ACA/Medicare/Medicaid model with a Biden victory, or it will continue to be under constant assault from all sides with a Trump victory. The outcome of the election will decide if we enter into a divisive period of history between the haves and have-not’s resembling “The Healthcare Hunger Games”.

America’s population of 65+ will grow to the point that it surpasses the population of 18 and under in less than fifteen years. A mass exodus of retiring workers will shrink the tax base to support them in retirement exerting even more stress on already beleaguered entitlement programs. Increasing demand on Medicare and Medicaid will fuel growth in private pay resources such as reverse mortgages and life settlements to cover the costs of senior care supports and services.

Despite attempts to scapegoat entitlements for ballooning budget deficits and the national debt, the reality of these programs’ importance to millions of Americans will trump political demagoguery. Meaningful reforms to shore up the fiscal solvency of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will continue.

Employer based health coverage only works when people are employed. 158 million people (more than half of all Americans under the age of 65) had employment based (group) health insurance at the beginning of 2020. But today, 40 million people suddenly found themselves unemployed due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Employer based health insurance has been the primary means to cover Americans, but re-defining what “employment” looks like going forward will have to take into account an overreliance on a stable and growing economy as the primary way for people to obtain affordable health insurance coverage.

Medical staff and supplies stretch thin quickly during a crisis, and the impact of the Coronavirus on healthcare will be long-lasting. The inequities of healthcare across economic and racial lines will need to be addressed, and the debate over how healthcare is paid for will only get more intense. The need for more medical professionals and also overall support staffing will become a problem as many will question if this is a field they want to be in. The shortages of supplies forcing hospitals to crowdsource for things such as homemade masks have shown how important preparedness is and the need to stockpile materials.

A nation’s healthcare system reflects its values, and the outcome of this election will be a lasting statement of this that will impact every single American.

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Women: Transform a dismal year into a happier personal journey

COVID-19 has played havoc with many people’s careers, but it may have been especially detrimental to women.

Research shows that working mothers are dropping out of the workforce much faster than working fathers, at least in part because many schools switched to remote learning and at least one adult needed to be in the home with the children. One study by McKinsey & Company and Lean In also found that one-fourth of women they surveyed at 317 companies are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce entirely.

As a result, the disruptions 2020 brought could have a long-term impact on women’s careers as well as their family’s finances.

But all might not be lost. These difficult times could be an opportunity for women to rethink their personal journeys and decide who and what they want to be going forward, says Andi Simon (www.andisimon.com), a corporate anthropologist, founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants, and author of the upcoming book Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business.

“I often say if you want to change, have a crisis or create one,” Simon says. “A crisis forces you to rethink what has always been in your life so you can create new opportunities for your future. As we navigate these uncertain times, women can use them to rethink their own stories and to smash any myths that are holding them back from becoming who they want to become.”

Simon suggests a few steps women can to get them started:

Tell a story about who you are today. Draw a picture or create a list to show what you love and don’t love; the joys and challenges of your life now; your interests; and your dreams. “Put that picture or list where you can see it for a while as a reminder of who you are now,” Simon says.

Visualize yourself in the future. Think about what will make you become who you believe you can be. “Know what would make you happy and realize how you might be personally fulfilled,” Simon says. “Understand how you can be professionally accomplished, build a happy family, and enjoy the support of your friends and community. Know what matters to you and how you want your story to develop.”

Keep a diary. Research shows that people who keep diaries achieve their goals and do so with extraordinary results, far better than those who don’t keep diaries, Simon says. “That might seem strange, but it is easy enough to try,” she says. “Whether you do it online or on paper, keep your story coming, write it, and re-reread it. Let it help you embrace your new focus and belief that ‘yes, you can.’ ”

Stop your brain from undermining you. Every time you say, “No, that won’t work,” convert it to a “Yes, that’s a great idea.” “You can manage negative thoughts by simply thinking that you can,” she says.

Build up your idea bank. Research also shows that  the more ideas you have, the more likely you will have “big” ones, Simon says. She recommends writing them down in an idea book. “Try to stay focused on the vision you have for yourself as you build your idea bank,” Simon says.

“Remember that you are writing a new story, so don’t let your brain delete great ideas because they don’t fit into your current story,” Simon says. “Keep saying to yourself, ‘Yes, that’s a great idea.’ Pretty soon, you will achieve the goals that you aspire to all through your life’s journey.”

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Career conservative says the Right should embrace renewable energy

America is divided on several issues heading into the presidential election, and climate change is certainly one of the most polarizing.

A Pew Research Center survey shows most Americans think the federal government isn’t doing enough to combat climate change, and that a vast majority of Democrats think the U.S. should prioritize alternative energy development over expanding fossil fuels. But about half of conservative Republicans, who represent that party’s majority, advocate increasing the production of fossil fuels oil, coal and natural gas.

Steve Melink (www.melinkcorp.com), ForbesBooks author of Fusion Capitalism: A Clean Energy Vision For Conservatives, is a lifelong conservative who says that the science and urgency of climate change calls for resistant Republicans to rethink their position.

“The reality is that climate change is not only happening and being caused by humans burning fossil fuels, but that it is a far greater existential threat than the coronavirus,” Melink says. “We are just seeing the early signs of it with the increased droughts and

wildfires on the West Coast and storms and hurricanes along the East Coast.

How much damage to our economy, security, health, and environment are we willing to

sustain before we decide to finally take out an insurance policy and invest in the

solution?

“The longer we wait, the worse it will get. The good news is a clean energy economy will mitigate these costs and risks and make us safer, healthier, and more prosperous.”

Melink suggests steps the U.S. can take toward clean energy solutions:

On a national level

Rejoin the Paris Agreement. “This would put the U.S. back in its rightful leadership role with the almost 200 nations still committed to this treaty for the

purpose of mitigating the effects of climate change,” Melink says. “The U.S. is the world’s biggest economy and one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Before withdrawing from the agreement, we set a good example by cutting our emissions while still growing the economy.”

Put a price on carbon. “The government should immediately eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and over five years eliminate subsidies to the clean energy industry,” Melink says. “Creating a level playing field will achieve most of the desired results, and it will put a price on carbon commensurate with its societal costs and make it tax-revenue neutral. Then let free markets do their magic.”

Set audacious clean energy goals. “By 2030, we should eliminate the use of oil and natural gas by electrifying the building and transportation sectors,” Melink says. “Existing technologies can get us there. We should also set a goal of achieving 80% renewable energy across our economy by 2040. This will require distributed and grid-level battery storage for critical infrastructure, and smart homes, buildings and grids so that we have reliable power.”

In homes and businesses

Subscribe to the green energy option with your electric utility.  “Do this if you are not in the position to install solar panels on your home or business rooftop,” Melink says. “This will require your utility to purchase clean energy from a solar or wind farm for you.”

Buy an electric vehicle. “Gain the benefits of a smoother ride, faster acceleration, lower energy costs, and less maintenance,” Melink says.

Phase out your natural gas usage. “This can be done with heat pump technology,” Melink says. “For example, the next time you need a water heater, buy a heat pump hot water heater. And the next time you need a furnace, buy a heat pump.”

“Embracing a clean energy future is completely aligned with American and conservative values and principles,” Melink says. “We are uniquely capable as a creative and innovative society to unleash new technologies and put free markets to work to solve the climate problem.”

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Medal of Honor: Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David D. Porter

BY KATIE LANGE , DOD NEWS

Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Dixon Porter rose to the top of the ranks throughout a lifetime of service. However, it took his entire career to receive the Medal of Honor for the courage he showed at the start of the Philippine Insurrection.

Dixon was born on April 29, 1877, in Washington, D.C., to a family with a history of military service. Dixon's father was a colonel in the Marine Corps. His grandfather was famed Civil War Navy Adm. David Dixon Porter, for whom he was named. Earlier descendants also served in the War of 1812 and during the Revolution.

Dixon was commissioned into the Marine Corps on May 26, 1898, to fight in the Spanish-American War, but the war ended soon afterward and he was discharged. In April 1899 he earned another commission and, within a few months, received orders to be part of a battalion forming in the Philippines. The U.S. had just annexed the islands thanks to the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American War and allowed the U.S. to take possession of the Philippines from Spain.

The Philippine Insurrection

As the Americans began their takeover of the islands, many of the natives weren't happy about the terms of the treaty. A revolutionary government declared war on the U.S. and started what became known as the Philippine Insurrection. The insurgents involved in the uprising resisted the U.S. presence. In response, U.S. Marines and soldiers worked to clear the area of those trying to impede their progress.

By June 1900, Porter, now a captain, was part of a Marine attachment sent to China to help quell the Boxer Rebellion. He was there for about four months before being shipped back to the Philippines. After a brief assignment on sea duty, in October 1901, he returned to a battalion tasked with clearing insurgents from coastal villages on the island of Samar.   

In early November, Porter was ordered to lead a group of Marines inland over a mountainous jungle to search for a rumored insurgent camp that harbored those responsible for the slaughter of two-thirds of a company of soldiers from the 9th U.S. Infantry.

Breaking the Stronghold

On Nov. 17, 1901, Porter's group met up with another group of Marines commanded by Capt. Hiram Bearss at the junction of the Sohoton and Cadacan rivers.

Porter took charge of the combined group, and they attacked the enemy along the river. They surprised and killed 30 insurgents and cleared their entrenchments before the enemy was able to trigger the deadly traps they had set.

Once the river was clear, Porter set his sights on the heart of the camp, which sat on top of a 200-foot, fortified volcanic cliff.

Despite the pumice-like stone and steep climb, Porter led the attacks up the bluff using the bamboo ladders and makeshift handrails abandoned by the insurgents. They dodged traps set up to kill or injure the Marines, including rocks that were suspended by vines and were dropped onto those scaling the cliff.

Once they got to the top, the Marines dodged poison-tipped spears, sporadic gunfire and hidden pits to eventually drive the insurgents from the camp. Porter then led his men back down the cliff, where they crossed the river and proceeded to do the same thing on the cliffs on the other side.

According to Porter's Medal of Honor citation, former prisoners said those camps had taken three years to set up and were held as a final rallying position. Porter's Marines did it under incredible odds and were able to capture and destroy a powder magazine and 40 small guns, as well as rice, food and enemy barracks.

The Fight for Recognition

Despite their courage and perseverance, the battle on Samar was controversial at home, with many seeing the Marines' actions as harsh and atrocious. Possibly because of that, the Board of Awards in 1902 turned down recommendations for Porter and others to get an award. A 1904 appeal also failed.

In the early 1900s, Marine Corps officers weren't entitled to receive the Medal of Honor, so that wouldn't have been on the table. But Porter had hoped for some other form of recognition.

His career moved forward anyway. In June 1902, Porter came home from the Philippines. He married Winifred Porter a few years later, and they had a daughter, Carrie, in 1918. Porter was a colonel by the time World War I ended. He then went on to work in recruiting for more than a decade.

By 1915, the law changed, allowing for Marine Corps officers to be considered for the Medal of Honor. Porter kept trying to overturn the Board of Awards' 1902 decision, but attempts in 1919 and 1928 also failed.

Finally, in 1934, the Marine Corps commandant helped Porter push the consideration petition through again, and this time, it was approved for him and Bearss to earn the recognition they had sought for so long.

On April 25, 1934, Porter and Bearss received Medals of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. That same year, Porter was promoted to brigadier general, and his services were transferred to the Adjutant and Inspector's Office, where he finished out his career.

Porter was medically retired on March 1, 1937. A few years later, he was raised in rank to major general because of his distinguished service.

Porter died on Feb. 25, 1944, in Philadelphia. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His Medal of Honor is now at the National Museum of the U.S. Marine Corps in Quantico.

Porter is one of several service members to eventually be recognized with the Medal of Honor for actions taken during the Philippine Insurrection.

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Gardening Gifts that Provide Years of Enjoyment

by Melinda Myers

The popularity of gardening is at an all-time high and people are discovering its many benefits. Some want to grow safe and nutritious food, others are boosting the beauty of their landscape, and many are turning to gardening to relieve stress. With the holidays right around the corner, it’s the perfect opportunity to support new and experienced gardeners with a thoughtful garden-related gift.

Help small space gardeners expand their growing space and reduce maintenance with self-watering elevated cedar planters.  Elevated gardens add garden space to a balcony, deck or patio while raising the garden bed to a comfortable and easily accessible height. The self-watering system makes gardening easy with proper, less frequent watering to ensure success.

Do the same for indoor plant enthusiasts with stylish terrariums, plant stands, and lighting features. Terrariums are still popular, creating a decorative means for providing the moisture and humidity tropical plants need. Copper and rot resistant mango wood terrariums (gardeners.com) add a new and decorative twist to this traditional growing system.

Plant stands allow your favorite indoor gardener to maximize any available space. Shelves filled with greenery help improve indoor air quality, reduce stress, and can elevate one’s mood. New modern metal plant stand designs add a modern vibe to the indoor garden display.

When space is at a premium, give the gift of vertical gardening accessories. Birdcage planters provide a unique way to display tropical or seasonal flowers.  Lower them to tabletop level to use as a centerpiece or decorative element in seasonal indoor displays.

Don’t overlook the cooks in your life that may be intrigued by moving their garden indoors. Keep them stocked with fresh herbs and vegetables. Increase their growing space and needed light with a gift of energy efficient LED grow lights in an attractive stand like the Oslo customizable LED Grow Lights. For those with very limited space, consider an organic kitchen caddy planter kit. A windowsill or countertop herb garden is a great way for anyone to add garden-fresh flavor to winter meals.

Make gardening a fun and accessible experience with the help of a deep seat kneeler that when flipped over, converts. Or add storage and mobility with a Deluxe Tractor Scoot with Bucket Basket.  The handle allows you to easily take your tools and garden scoot with you to every corner of your landscape.

And don’t forget the stocking stuffers. Who doesn’t need extra plant tags, ties and gloves?  Consider replacing the stocking with a colorful Tubtrug. These flexible lightweight tubs are perfect for harvesting garden produce, collecting weeds or transporting anything from one space to another.

The gift of gardening provides lifelong benefits. Supporting family and friends with useful tools and equipment can increase their gardening enjoyment and success. And don’t forget to add a few of your favorite garden related items to your gift list. You’ll eliminate the stress and guesswork for the giver and you both will appreciate a gift that provides years of function, beauty and memories.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – Will My Social Security Benefits Ever Stop?

Dear Rusty: Has someone who paid into Social Security for most of their life ever lost their benefits later in life? For example, if they start collecting benefits at age 62 and live to be 85 or longer, could they suddenly lose their benefits? Can Social Security ever come along later and say "Sorry, you've used up all your benefits?" I know there are many people, including me, who have no other income or savings, so if their SS suddenly stopped they would need assistance to survive. I started my benefits at age 62 because I had to. I've always been in reasonably good health, so I wonder - what if I live to be 85, 90 or 95 - will I still have enough in the system to get my Social Security check? Signed: Living on SS

Dear Living: Please put your fears about losing your Social Security aside – you will never stop receiving your benefits even if you live to be 110 years old. The system isn’t designed to compare what you’ve collected to how much you’ve contributed. If you meet the basic eligibility requirements, there is no danger of your payments ever stopping because you’ve “used up all your benefits.”

Here’s how the Social Security system works: Everyone who works pays a Social Security payroll tax (currently 6.2%; matched by their employer) up to the annual payroll tax cap. All those payroll taxes collected are used to pay benefits to all those who are already collecting Social Security – the payroll taxes you paid weren’t put into a separate account for you. Essentially, the system is “pay as you go,” where everyone who works and earns pays for those already receiving benefits. So, the benefits you are now receiving are not being deducted from a personal account in your name. Everyone currently working and contributing to Social Security helps pay for your benefits, as well as benefits for everyone else already collecting. Any money left over after all benefits are paid are invested in special issue government bonds, which are held in the Social Security Trust Funds, earning interest which accrues into the Trust Funds. Money from income taxes on Social Security also contributes to SS revenue to pay for benefits. As of the end of 2019, the Social Security Trust Funds held about $2.9 trillion in assets, reserved to cover any shortage of SS income received vs. benefits paid out.

You may have read about Social Security facing future financial difficulties. That is primarily a result of the declining ratio of workers to beneficiaries and increasing life expectancy (average longevity for SS recipients today is mid-80s). Starting this year, the reserves in the Trust Funds will be used to cover any income shortfall. The last official report from the Trustees of Social Security predicted that the SS Trust Funds assets are sufficient to pay full benefits until about 2035 (the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will surely worsen that prediction). But even if Congress fails to act to resolve the issue and the Trust Funds run dry in the future, your benefits will still continue. If the Trust Funds run dry, however, your benefit would be reduced (not eliminated).

If the Trust Funds are fully depleted, Social Security can only pay out as much as the income received, which would mean a benefit reduction of about 21%, according to current predictions. Sadly, Congress already knows how to fix Social Security’s financial issues - what’s lacking is the bipartisan cooperation needed to accomplish it. Personally, I do not believe that Congress will ever allow the Trust Funds to run dry, requiring a cut in benefits (it would be political suicide to do so). Given the vitriol permeating Congress today we’ll probably need to wait a while for a solution, but one will eventually come. In any case, please rest assured that your Social Security benefits will never stop, no matter how old you get. You can’t “use up all your benefits.”

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3 ways to maximize productivity in music production

Technology continues to change the face of music, affecting how it's created, produced and recorded.

But whether all musicians working in their studios are getting the most out of the opportunities technology affords them is another question altogether. In many cases, they may be missing out on technological tips – or at least technological shortcuts – that could help them increase their productivity.

“There are so many ways these days that musicians can increase the amount of quality work they are doing, but people sometimes miss basic shortcuts that can significantly improve their workflow,” says Deborah Fairchild, president of Nashville-based VEVA Sound (www.vevasound.com), which verifies and archives projects for clients in the music industry.

But with the right tools, instead of getting bogged down by minutiae, the musician (or producer) can concentrate on the more creative aspects of the work by taking advantage of methods for doing things more directly and more quickly than would be the ordinary procedure without the technological help.

Fairchild says the engineers at VEVA Sound have provided a few tips to increase productivity in creators' music workflow:

Create, and then work from, custom templates. Within a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), users have the option to create templates that can help speed up the workflow and eliminate repetitive tasks that can drain the creativity out of you. “By creating templates, you gain the ability to start each project from a familiar setup that best accommodates your individual workflow, while keeping best practices in mind,” Fairchild says. “This also fosters continuity between projects so that they will be easier to revisit in the future.”

Create custom keyboard shortcuts.  Most DAWs give musicians the ability to create custom keyboard shortcuts.These shortcuts can increase your efficiency exponentially, Fairchild says. “Because there is so much functionality in each of these platforms, creating custom shortcuts will give you quicker access to the functions you use most,” she says. “The result will be that you can produce your desired results with little or no wasted time and effort.”

Label everything accurately. Make sure that every track in your project is labeled correctly, Fairchild says. “Is that line an acoustic guitar? Note it,” she says. “The same goes for project files.” Instead of naming something "final mix final final edits 2," come up with a naming convention that accommodates each improved version of a project in your workflow, such as "My Song_Final Mix_Ready for Master." Correct labeling can be especially important when you are collaborating because you want everyone involved to know what a track contains without having to guess.

“Ultimately, the right workflow can give musicians a break from fretting over all the little details that slow them down, and allow them to put their imaginations and original ideas front and center in the production process,” Fairchild says. “The result is musicians can be more productive and more creative all at the same time.”

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House calls

Featuring Dr. Appathurai Balamurugan

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Q. Type 2 diabetes runs in my family. What are some of the warning signs?

A. In this type of diabetes, the cells cannot use sugar properly, resulting in increased sugar in the blood. Over time, the extra sugar raises the risk of heart disease, blindness, nerve and organ damage and other serious conditions. This risk of type 2 diabetes increases if a parent or sibling has the disease.  

The early symptoms of diabetes are mild and not always obvious. About one in three people with diabetes don’t realize they have it. In many cases, the disease is not detected until after it has taken a toll physically. Early symptoms include dry mouth and increases in thirst, urination and appetite.

As the disease progresses, other symptoms like headaches, blurred vision and fatigue may appear. Signs of advanced diabetes include frequent urinary tract or yeast infections, sores or cuts that are slow to heal, and itchy skin, often around the groin, and sometimes passing out due to poor diabetes control.

Diabetes is diagnosed through blood tests such as a random blood glucose test to determine your current level or one that shows your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months.

Q. How can I reduce my chances of developing type 2 diabetes?

A. Habits that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes include diet, exercise and weight. People who are overweight, especially with excessive weight around the waist, are at increased risk. Get regular exercise by being active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Eat a healthy diet without a lot of red or processed meat, high-fat dairy items and sweets. Smoking and high cholesterol levels also put you at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Other risk factors can’t be controlled. Those with a family history of the disease in a parent or sibling are at greater risk. People who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islanders and Alaska Natives are at increased risk. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome or who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at higher risk.

Those who are 45 and older and overweight or have symptoms of diabetes should ask their doctor about having a simple screening test. Those who have prediabetes, a milder form of the condition, are likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Diagnosing and controlling the disease early can lessen its impact on your health.

Q. Why is it especially important to get a flu shot this season?

A. There is concern about what will happen when the flu returns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Physicians and scientists believe the flu season, expected to peak in Arkansas in late December, will overlap with ongoing efforts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getting a flu shot will reduce the amount of flu-related respiratory illness circulating in the community and lessen the burden on health care providers as they try to treat both illnesses at once. The two viruses have similar symptoms, which could lead to more testing and a shortage of tests, supplies and workers.

Unless someone has a true allergy to the flu shot, physicians recommend everyone receive a vaccine as soon as it is available in their area. Individuals can also have both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

Handwashing, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing remain key for avoiding the coronavirus and may also help with flu season. U.S. physicians often monitor countries in the southern hemisphere, like Australia, where flu season runs March through August. COVID-19 precautions taken there appeared to have lessened both the coronavirus pandemic and the flu.

Q. What causes a stye and how is it treated?

A. Styes, small red bumps that look like a pimple and may be sore, can occur outside or inside of an eyelid when an oil gland or eyelash hair follicle becomes clogged and irritated. They will not affect your sight and usually are not serious.

Most go away or burst on their own after several days but cleaning the area may encourage it to drain. After washing your hands, apply a clean, wet, warm washcloth for 10 to 15 minutes three to five times daily. Do not ever squeeze a stye but gently massaging the area with a clean finger may help.

In the meantime, keep the face and eyes clean, take over-the-counter pain medicine for soreness, and do not wear eye makeup or contacts.

If the stye does not improve within a few days, grows rapidly, bleeds or affects your vision, see your doctor, who may drain it, or prescribe an antibiotic cream.

Thoroughly washing hands before touching contact lenses, removing eye makeup nightly, not sharing makeup with others and replacing makeup every six months may help prevent future styes.

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Winning The Future: What Businesses Must Do To Prepare For 2021

Businesses bolted into 2020 with firm plans and optimistic outlooks.

All that evaporated by mid-March as the focus turned from thriving to surviving for most companies. Now, as this turbulent year enters its final months, a new question lies just over the horizon.

What will 2021 bring and how can businesses be ready?

“The future still seems so uncertain and the end of the pandemic still feels a long way off, but despite that there is a lot businesses can do to prepare for success in 2021,” says Adam Witty, a successful entrepreneur and the ForbesBooks co-author of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought

Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant.

“I’m sure 2021 will come with its own unexpected twists and turns, but I am also confident there will be potential.”

All the unknowns make planning a challenge, but Witty says it’s possible to begin gathering hints about how the world will operate going forward.

“You just have to know where to look,” says Witty, who also is the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com).

He suggests business leaders should:

Review what you learned in 2020. Think about what you did this year to maneuver through the hazards that came your way, Witty says. What worked? What didn’t? What would you do differently? “Use what you’ve learned to get your ducks in order to manage your business in a manner that meets both your and your customers’ needs,” Witty says. “Then, ask yourself what the future may hold and how you would handle whatever comes up.”

Talk to your best customers. Find out what they want and need, and how they anticipate their lives – or businesses – will look in 2021, especially post-pandemic.  “Learn how your product or service will fit into the flow,” Witty says. “Do they want you to continue delivering your product line in some virtual way, or is it important for them to be able to come into your facility for a real sit-down to discuss what they need and view the options in person? Does your solution lie in providing the best of both worlds, offering virtual visits alongside opportunities for physical interaction? Or is the right option something you haven’t yet explored?”

Look at what your competitors are doing. Review how they are reaching customers and clients today – and whether you can glean any insights about what they may do tomorrow, Witty says.

Rethink how to use your marketing dollars. In-person events, such as speaking engagements, trade shows, or conferences where you could network with potential customers were put on hold because of the pandemic. They might not return all that soon in 2021, so Witty suggests exploring other options for getting the best use out of the dollars that would have been budgeted for those events. That might mean pitching the media more to land radio or TV interviews, or publishing a book that tells your personal or company story and can be given to current or potential clients.

“Can your business handle the unexpected if something you couldn’t possibly anticipate were to arise, as happened in 2020?” Witty asks. “If the answer is yes, chances are you’re ready to play in a post-pandemic world.”

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History Matters

A feature courtesy of

The Grateful American Book Prize

Americans assume that eligible voters have always participated in national elections, but--in a quirky 1801 act of congress--the residents of Washington, D.C. were barred from casting their ballots. The restriction was not revoked until the 23rd amendment was ratified in 1961; but the privilege to pick a president did not take effect until November 3, 1964.

In 1971, the District of Columbia was finally allowed to have one non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives. That status of neglect—comparable to a United States territory-- has not wavered.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Every Vote Matters: The Power of Your Voice, from Student Elections to the Supreme Court by Thomas A. Jacobs, J.D., and Natalie Jacobs.

...

History happened on November 4, 2008 when 47-year-old Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States, the first black American to ascend to the office. He defeated the war hero/senator, John McCain, from Arizona.

According to History.com, “During the general-election campaign, as in the primaries, Obama’s team worked to build a following at the grassroots level and used what his supporters viewed as the candidate’s natural charisma, unique life story and inspiring message of hope and change to draw large crowds to his public appearances, both in the United States and on a campaign trip abroad. His team also worked to bring new voters–many of them young or black, both demographics they believed favored Obama–to become involved in the election. Additionally, the campaign was notable for its unprecedented use of the Internet for organizing constituents and fundraising.”

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Obama: An Intimate Portrait by Pete Souza, with a forward by President Obama.

...

On January 2, 1892, Annie Moore, a 15-year-old girl from Ireland, became the first immigrant to be “processed” at Ellis Island, in New York. The “people demand” peaked in 1907, but by then, more than one million prospective Americans had passed through.

Eventually, the kinetic activity was curtailed by World War I, and draconian congressional legislation to limit the number of people permitted entry into the country.

By 1954, the facility –which had welcomed 12 million potential new citizens—closed--and was converted into a detention center. In 1990, it re-emerged—after a $160 million renovation--as the Ellis Island Immigration Museum; two million persons visit each year.

According to History.com “an estimated 40 percent of all Americans can trace their roots through Ellis Island.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Hope and Tears: Ellis Island Voices by Gwenyth Swain.

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News and trivia

Easy does it

Many a husband has been chastised by his spouse for dedicating precious space in their abodes to what you might call a “man cave.” But three New York City transit workers got suspended recently for taking over a storage room under the tracks of Grand Central Terminal and turning into their own mantuary. Their bosses acted on a tip, which upon investigation led them to the well-furnished converted supply locker with its TV, air conditioning, video streaming equipment and other trappings. The MTA posted photos of the repurposed space on Facebook as well as a statement rebuking the workers for having “the chutzpah to commandeer a secret room beneath Grand Central Terminal and make it their very own man-cave, sustained with MTA resources, and maintained at our riders' expense."

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Above and beyond

Prince Pinkney, an 83-year-old Vietnam war veteran, collapsed from heat exhaustion while doing yard work at his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home recently. Firefighters and paramedics wasted no time coming to the rescue. They not only treated Pinkney and his wife, Rebecca, they finished mowing their lawn for them. As Fire Rescue Captain Terry Maylor put it: “Their age, what they’ve gone through, his history as a veteran serving this country.  If that doesn’t move you to go ahead and do what you’re capable of, then nothing will.”

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Eatery takes social distancing to new heights

Restaurants have had to come up with ways to stay in business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dinner in the Sky, an international chain of eateries, offers diners a unique method of social distancing. The chain, which started up long before the outbreak of coronavirus in 2006, seats its patrons and straps them in on covered platforms that are then lifted “high in the sky.” A crane raises the platform to about 150 feet and a chef and waiters prepare and serve their somewhat pricey meals from the center. Dinner in the Sky has operations in 65 countries, including the U.S.

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What to do if your business is losing money

 

 By TERRY MONROE

The recent pandemic affected business owners in many different ways. For a few it was a boost to their business, while others saw their businesses go into a stall mode. Yet another group was forced to close because they could not survive without customers patronizing their businesses.

For a portion of the businesses that closed the pandemic was nothing more than the proverbial nail in the coffin, meaning they were barely hanging on and the pandemic put them under. But a large portion of businesses were doing just fine, and it was only because of a self-induced forced shut down by the government that they are no longer in business. They did nothing wrong. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I can write about what to do if your business is losing money because I have been there more than once. I  have had to shut down a business and let all of my employees go knowing they did nothing wrong and they were without a job to support their family, and I can tell you it sucks. It sucks a large portion of your life away when you worked on doing the right thing and you feel like a failure. However, it is even worse when you are losing money and you don’t know what to do.

Here is some advice on what to look out for and how to address the situation if your business is losing money.

First and foremost, be honest with yourself. Look back at the history of the business and see when it last made a profit. If it was more than 12 months ago, you probably have a losing business, and you should close it before outside issues force you to.

Is there debt against the business? If so, are you keeping the business open just to service the debt even though the business is not profitable? If so, go to talk to the holder of the debt and see if you can work something out, because the debt holder is your partner whether they want to admit it or not. And they would much rather help you be successful than deal with a closed business.

What is the situation with your vendors? Do you owe them money, too? Vendors are one of the best sources of financing and helping a business to work through the rough times.  Here again, by default, they are your partner, and they have a vested interest in you. I have done lots of vendor financing and it ended up being a win-win for both my business and the vendor.

Have competitors or technology passed the business by so that it can never be profitable due to the change in the marketplace? Like a video store would be to Netflix or a small hardware store would be to a Home Depot? The last thing you want to do is to be in denial, which most business owners are.  They keep saying to themselves that things will work out and instead they just keep digging the hole deeper.

Are partners involved in the business? Maybe the business can’t support all of the partners and someone needs to buy out some of the partners  for the business to be profitable. Many times  too many mouths try to feed from the same business and the only solution is either some of the partners sell out to the other partners, or they close the business and then everybody loses.

The worst-case scenario is you operated the business too long and either you closed the business or you were forced to close  and there is more outstanding debt than there are assets available to cover the debt. You are personally out of energy and out of money. If you find yourself in this situation you still have options. You can file bankruptcy for the business and sometimes the business is able to come out of bankruptcy and survive. Or you can file personal bankruptcy, which will allow you to put everything on hold until the bankruptcy court settles on your behalf with the creditors. All too often people are reluctant to use the systems that have been put in place for business owners so that if things go wrong they are able to pick themselves up and get back into the game.

Regardless of whether one is successful or not, if you are a business owner you need to be commended. Being a business owner is not easy. As a business owner, if you are not working at your place of business you are thinking about it. You are constantly concerned about your employees, their families, your vendors, and your customers. Whether you do good or bad you will always have my respect for being a business owner.

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The struggles of small business don’t bode well for the overall economy

The year 2020 can’t end quickly enough for most small business owners.

Across the country, the pandemic forced many of them to close their operations temporarily – or permanently – and the continued economic uncertainty threatens to kill the ambitions of entrepreneurs who planned to launch businesses but now must put their dreams on hold.

None of that bodes well for the overall American economy, says Andi Gray, president of Strategy Leaders (www.strategyleaders.com), a business consulting firm.

“Small businesses make up 50 percent of the gross-domestic product and also employ half the workforce,” she says. “What happens to them determines what happens to the overall economy. We as a country cannot afford to fail them.”

Gray points to the 2008-11 banking crisis as a disturbing example of how a national crisis can sabotage entrepreneurship. In 2008 , for the first time, the number of business starts fell below the number of business closures.

“In other words, more businesses were killed off than were launched,” she says, ”and it wasn’t a one-time event. The problem continued on for years.”

The ripple effects? By 2009 small business contributions to GDP fell rather than grew. By 2010 the economic contribution gap between large and small businesses widened four-fold as small businesses struggled to keep up with their large corporate competitors. People lost their jobs, exports dropped, taxes fell and economic opportunity disappeared as entrepreneurs fought to recover. It took over five years for the small business community to get back on track, Gray says. But the damage was already done. By 2015, the U.S. was ranked 12th among developed nations in terms of startup activity.

She worries such lingering effects could happen again – and be significantly worse this time.

“Today’s COVID crisis is far larger and deeper than the 2008 crisis,” she says. “I would not be surprised if it takes far longer than five years for the small business community to get back to producing GDP and employment numbers we took for granted at the beginning of the year.”

In the meantime, small business owners hit hard by this latest recession must find ways to weather the storm. Gray offers a few suggestions for how they can do that:

Stay energized and focused. The single biggest determinant for survival of any small business is the commitment, ambition, and drive of the owner, Gray says. “If you are feeling worn out, take time off to recharge,” she says. “Keep your eye focused down the road, on what’s way ahead, and don’t waste too much energy and sweat trying to control what’s happening right in front of you day-to-day.”

Take care of the finances. If money is in short supply, investigate sources of capital. Put together a bankable plan that justifies increased investment and provides guidance on how best to use funding to recover, expand and weather future challenges, Gray says. “Talk to your banker, the SBA, reputable SBA lending consultants, and private investors to find out what kinds of capital might be available,” she says.

Figure out how to play the hand they were dealt. Small business owners need to get creative and innovative, Gray says. “Rebuild as you protect cash flow,” Gray says. “Find suppliers to replace the ones struggling to perform. Rethink your business model and evaluate customer viability.” In addition, look for new markets to add size and profits, implement processes to cut out waste, and transition more and more customers to internet communication and ecommerce buying solutions. “Decide what size business will be right for you in the future and lay out a plan to get there,” Gray says.

Pay attention to employees. As scared as small business owners may be about what the future holds, many of their employees are even more frightened. “After all, you have the resources of your company to use to build solutions,” Gray says. “Employees who live paycheck to paycheck may be running out of options and wondering how long they can hold on – or how long you’ll be able to let them hold onto their much-needed jobs.”

“The good news is that small business owners are known for being nimble, flexible, and resourceful,” Gray says. “Many of them are finding new opportunities by solving problems that didn’t exist, or weren’t priorities, at the start of 2020.”

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Plant in fall for a colorful spring display

By MELINDA MYERS

It’s time to think spring. Fall is the time to plant tulips, daffodils, crocus and other spring flowering bulbs. Use these early bloomers to welcome spring to your landscape. You’ll appreciate the color and cheery blooms after another long winter passes.

Extend your enjoyment by including early blooming bulbs like snowdrops, squills, and winter aconites. Add early, mid, or late spring blooming tulips and early and mid-spring flowering daffodils for a continuous display of color. Check the package or catalog description for bloom times. Gardeners in milder climates should look for low chill varieties that need a minimal cold period to bloom or plant prechilled bulbs annually. In either case, wait until late fall or early winter to plant.

Create some winning combinations by planting white tulips with grape hyacinths or yellow daffodils with the equally assertive blue squills. Plant a fragrant garden bouquet by combining tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Select varieties that bloom at the same time in complementary colors or blends.

Include summer flowering hardy lilies. Many are fragrant and these stately beauties provide vertical accents in the garden. Cut a few stems to display in a vase or mix with other flowers in summer bouquets.

Don’t let hungry animals stop you from brightening your spring with these bulbs. Include animal resistant bulbs like hyacinths, grape hyacinths, daffodils, fritillarias, and alliums.

You can plant tulips, crocus, and lilies, just be sure to use physical barriers like chicken wire or animal repellents like rain resistant Plantskydd (plantskydd.com). It’s an organic repellent that comes in both liquid and granular formulations to protect bulbs animals prefer to eat.

Lay the bulbs out on newspaper, apply the liquid repellent, and allow them to dry before planting.  Add an extra layer of protection by sprinkling the granular repellent over the soil surface. In spring, begin protecting the plants before the animals begin feeding. Follow label directions for proper timing of additional repellent applications.

Prepare the soil before planting. Work compost, peatmoss, or other organic matter into the top twelve inches of soil to improve drainage, a key factor in growing success.

Wait until the soil is cool to plant your bulbs. This is usually after the first hard frost or when night temperatures average between 40 and 50 degrees. Plant the bulbs two to three times their vertical height deep and at least two to three times their diameter apart. Try grouping at least six to nine larger bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, and 15 to 20 smaller bulbs, like squills and crocus, together for greater impact.

Mix a low nitrogen, slow release fertilizer into the soil surface and water thoroughly after planting.  Continue watering thoroughly when the soil is dry throughout the fall, while the bulbs grow roots.

After you enjoy their blooms next spring, leave the leaves intact until they yellow. Leaves produce the energy needed for next year’s floral display. Mask the fading foliage by planting winter hardy pansies with your bulbs in fall, adding color to both fall and spring gardens. Or plant bulbs amongst perennials. Early spring flowering perennials double your pleasure, later bloomers extend the flowering season, and both help hide fading bulb foliage.

Break out your trowel and gloves and get busy planting. You’ll be glad you did when that first flower appears next spring.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – Why Isn’t My Wife Getting Half of My Benefit?

Dear Rusty: My wife isn’t getting half of my Social Security benefit amount. Shouldn’t she be? Signed: Feeling Cheated

Dear Feeling Cheated: A spouse does not always receive 50% of the husband's Social Security benefit, because it depends on the age at which both of you claimed Social Security, and whether your wife was entitled to benefits from her own lifetime work record.

If your wife is entitled to Social Security on her own work record and claimed that before she reached her full retirement age (FRA), she would never get half of your benefit amount as your spouse because she claimed her own benefit early. Your wife’s spousal benefit consists of both her own benefit and a “spousal boost,” so claiming her own reduced benefit early would also result in a lower spousal benefit. Her spousal boost, which was based upon her full retirement age (FRA) benefit amount compared to half of your FRA benefit amount, will also be reduced if she claimed the spouse benefit before her full retirement age.  

If your wife wasn't entitled to her own benefit (from her own lifetime work record), but instead claimed her spouse benefit from you before reaching her FRA, her spouse benefit would be permanently reduced, again because she claimed it before her full retirement age. A basic Social Security rule is that any time any Social Security benefit is claimed before full retirement age, that benefit is permanently reduced.

The spouse benefit is based upon each spouse's benefit amount at their full retirement age. So, for example, if you delayed beyond your FRA to get a higher personal benefit for yourself, your wife's spousal benefit would still be based upon your FRA benefit amount, not the increased amount you received by delaying past your FRA to claim. Which would again mean a spousal benefit which is less than 50% of your actual benefit.

So, as you can see, a spouse doesn't always get half of the higher earning spouse's Social Security benefit. Your wife’s benefit will be less than 50% of your FRA benefit if she took any SS benefit before reaching her full retirement age. And it will also be less than half of the benefit you are now receiving if you delayed past your own FRA to claim a higher benefit for yourself.

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Is a seasonal business a timely fit for you? 4 ways to make it work

An ever-changing economy creates new opportunities for entrepreneurs, even during these rocky times that COVID-19 has caused.

Whether people are looking for a better work-life balance, a new job after having lost one, or an extra source of income, opening a seasonal business is one strategy that fits those goals, says Chris Buitron, president of Mosquito Authority® (www.mosquito-authority.com).

“Many people are taking this route as a reliable way to generate income,” Buitron says, “because although the economy is changing dramatically in some ways, seasonal businesses still fulfill annual consumer needs.

“The benefits for a seasonal business owner are attractive: more freedom, both in running a business and having the ability to take a few months off; the satisfaction of providing a service or product to which customers stay loyal; lower overhead costs than a year-round business; a solid second income; or, if done right, a sufficient income by itself.”

Buitron offers these tips on how to run a seasonal business successfully:

Carefully construct your business model. Since you won’t be open year-round, it’s important to account for downtime in your cash flow. “If the seasonal business is your main or only source of income, you’ll need to put in extra work during the season in order to make it through your off-season,” Buitron says. “Make sure you have access to credit and plan your budget very specifically. It’s a bonus if you can find ways to diversify income streams for your seasonal business in the off-season. Determine the other needs of your customers and how you can fulfill them.”

Evaluate the past season and plan accordingly for the next season. “Analyze your successes and shortcomings from the previous season,” Buitron says. “Seek customer feedback to assist your evaluation. Overall, determine why some things worked and others didn’t. The analysis will help you build a solid plan for the next season. Look at areas such as staffing, inventory, and other expenses. Did you have enough employees and how did they perform? Which products or services weren’t successful? Should you introduce new ones? Would it be cheaper in the long run to buy your equipment rather than lease it?”

Connect with the public year-round to build your brand. Social media allows a seasonal business owner to build their business, their authority and strengthen their place in the community. “Your target audience is just as accessible in the offseason,” Buitron says. “You can reach out to them and offer exclusive pricing, or create a rewards program. Publish blogs and post updates on the sites your customers follow. Give them content that can educate them beyond the reach of your business’ services. Showing you care about their lives and the community helps them remember you.”

Attend networking events and workshops. The off-season is the time for self-improvement that leads to business improvement. “Learning and networking opportunities help you and your business grow,” Buitron says. “Local business events, trade shows and conferences are great ways to gain new partnerships and skills.”

“A seasonal business comes with an array of unique demands,” Buitron says. “But with the right combination of good business practices and the passion to make it a way to enhance others’ lives, it can be a profitable and enjoyable experience for the seasonal business owner.”

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Sports heroes who served: 2 athletes double down on valor during WWII

By DAVID VERGUN

DOD NEWS

Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

Aquilla James "Jimmie" Dyess and William Edwin "Ed" Dyess, distant cousins, had much in common. Both grew up in the South. Both played football in school. Both joined the military in the 1930s. Both served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Both attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. And, both performed acts of heroism.

Jimmie was born in Andersonville, Georgia, in 1909. In 1927, he enrolled in Clemson University, where he played on the Tigers football team for three years.

Jimmie's interest then shifted from football to shooting. He joined the ROTC rifle team during his junior and senior years at Clemson.

His marksmanship skills were so exceptional that he was selected to be on the ROTC rifle team representing 25 colleges throughout the South that competed in the 1930 National Team Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio.

In 1928, Jimmie earned national fame when he rescued two women from rough surf off the South Carolina coast. For his bravery, he was awarded the Carnegie Medal.

Upon graduating from college in 1931, Jimmie was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve. In 1936, he opted for an interservice transfer and was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve.

In 1937 and 1938 he was a member of the Marine Corps Reserve Rifle and Pistol Team Detachment at Camp Perry, distinguishing himself by earning many shooting awards.

In 1940, Jimmie went on active duty. By 1943, he had advanced to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1944, he joined the 4th Marine Division, during the Battle of Roi-Namur in the Marshall Islands, which began Feb. 1, 1944. Roi-Namur are two islands connected by a causeway.

On Feb. 1, 1944, six Marine snipers were on patrol on Namur Island where Japanese forces had taken up protected positions. The patrol unknowingly moved behind enemy lines, where they became pinned down on three sides by Japanese forces shooting at them from concealed positions.

One of the Marines was killed instantly, and four others sustained  injuries. Jimmie braved heavy enemy fire to rescue the five survivors.

The next day, Jimmie was killed by enemy machine gun fire while standing on the parapet of an anti-tank trench directing a group of infantrymen during a flanking attack against the last Japanese position in the northern part of Namur Island.

For his valor, Jimmie was awarded the Medal of Honor. He is the only Medal of Honor recipient to also be awarded the Carnegie Medal.

In 1945, the destroyer USS Dyess was named in his honor.

Ed was born in Albany, Texas, in 1916. He played football and was on the track and field team in high school.

After graduating from John Tarleton Agricultural College, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps in 1937 and completed flight training.

In November 1941, he took command of the 21st Pursuit Squadron, which deployed to Nichols Field, Manila, Philippines.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan attacked installations on Oahu, Hawaii, and shortly after that invaded the Philippines.

Ed's squadron ran out of ammunition during the Battle of Bataan, so he and his men transitioned to infantrymen.

On April 9, 1942, Ed was captured by the Japanese. On April 4, 1943, he and some other men escaped from their prisoner of war camp at the Davao Penal Colony,  Mindanao, Philippines.

Dyess and two others were rescued by the submarine USS Trout in July 1943 and were taken to Australia.

After being promoted to lieutenant colonel later that year, he was assigned to fly P-38 Lightning fighters in the U.S., in preparation for his return to combat.

However, on Dec. 22, 1943, his aircraft lost an engine due to a fire after taking off from Grand Central Airport in Los Angeles, California. He could have bailed out, but since he was flying over a densely populated area, he chose to remain in the aircraft. He was killed upon crashing in a vacant lot.

Ed's medals include the Distinguished Service Cross (twice), Silver Star, Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross (twice).

In 1957, Abilene Army Airfield, Texas, was renamed Dyess Air Force Base in his honor.

In 2015, Ed was posthumously awarded the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor.

It is not known whether or not Ed and Jimmie ever knew each other.

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How Giving Back At The Holidays Fits Into Your Retirement Plan

When the holidays approach, Americans feel moved to open their wallets a little more to help the needy.

And for retirees, that seasonal urge can fit neatly into their overall retirement plan – if they’re intentional about how they go about it.

“Charitable giving is a frequently neglected area of financial planning, but it’s important for one’s financial health and spiritual and emotional well-being,” says Patrick Rush (www.patrickrushtfa.com), CEO of Triad Financial Advisors and the ForbesBooks author of Gain Big and Give Back: Financial Planning with Intention.

“I think it’s a valuable thing to do at any stage of life, and just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you have to cut back. You can combine your passion for a cause with smart tax and investment advice.”

Adding a charitable-giving component to someone’s financial plan isn’t always simple, though, and not just because everyone has different amounts of money they potentially could set aside for such largesse.

“Every person comes into my office with a unique set of experiences, values, wants, needs, fears, hopes, and desires,” Rush says. “Consequently, you could give five people $1 million each and they’re all going to respond to it in a myriad of different ways. Each financial plan must account for these emotional and personal nuances.”

That said, Rush has suggestions for those who want to satisfy their urge for charitable giving – and take advantage of deductions the tax laws allow before Dec. 31:

Donor-advised funds. These are personal charitable accounts opened in the name of one or more donors and held in custody by a nonprofit organization, such as a community foundation, university or other IRS-qualified charity. Here’s how it works: Let’s say someone has $50,000 in a stock. They can sell that stock and, instead of paying the capital gains tax, place the money in a donor-advised fund and claim the full $50,000 as a charitable deduction. But they don’t have to donate the money all at once. The money remains in the fund and can be donated bit-by-bit over a period of years. In the meantime, it draws interest. “You save money and benefit a worthy cause,” Rush says. “That’s a win-win for all parties.”

Qualified charitable distributions. This tax strategy is available to investors over the age of 70½, and can be especially helpful to those 72 and older who must take IRS-mandated required minimum distributions from their IRA or 401(k). “If you’ve accumulated a lot in these accounts, this often means you’re forced to withdraw way more than you actually need,” Rush says. “But an option is to write a check to a favorite charity from the retirement account. In that way, the distribution is not taxed, but still counts as your required withdrawal. The donation also lowers your taxable income.”

A coronavirus relief bill exception. Generally, if you take the standard deduction rather than itemize when you file your income taxes, you can’t deduct charitable giving. But an exception was created as part of the coronavirus relief bill passed in March, Rush says. For 2020, you can count up to $300 as a charitable deduction when you file your taxes in 2021, even if you take the standard deduction. That’s worth remembering as Dec. 31 nears and you’re feeling the holiday spirit. “Those charities and nonprofits certainly could use the money,” Rush says.

Even with the potential for tax savings, Rush says it’s important to remember that charitable giving and community volunteering have meaning beyond money.

“Each December, you can find our employees ringing bells for the Salvation Army,” he says. “Some of our clients get involved, too, and my family turns out as well. It’s important to me to inculcate these values in my children. It’s never too early to learn to be grateful for what you have and to express that gratitude by giving something back.”

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Boy wonder

How many “tweens” are out there who can do the work of a nuclear scientist? There’s at least one we now know of. His name is Jackson Oswalt, he lives in Memphis, Tennessee and he built a nuclear reactor when he was 12 years old. But it took a while for the folks at Guinness to confirm that Jackson, who is 15 now, is indeed the world’s youngest person to achieve nuclear fusion. It was no easy task. As Jackson put it: "I was unable to achieve a strong enough vacuum to ‘ignite’ the fusion reaction, but with perseverance I achieved my goal."

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ESD

According to the Health.com Website, ESD or “election stress disorder” is a real condition and, as one therapist tells us, it makes your body tense when you listen to the news during an election year. ESD can make you feel like crawling under a rock. And, Hotels.com is offering an opportunity to do just that in time for this year’s Presidential Election by booking a stay in a man-made cave located in New Mexico. The Website says “After you’ve cast your ballot, you can check out of the newsfeed negativity and check in to a man-made cave built 50 feet below ground.” You can check in on Nov. 2, the day before the election, and stay for five nights at the bargain price of $5 a night.

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Foul fowls

Imagine the malodorous odor when 22 tons of chicken droppings caught fire recently in the village of Mendlesham in the English countryside, north of London. It took fire brigades from three nearby towns to put out the blaze. But, little could be done to quell the foul stench. Experts say that fowl manure when piled high is prone to go up in flames on its own due to spontaneous combustion.

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Authentic or artificial?: Follow these tips to see if cosmetic surgery fits you

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the saying goes. But when it comes to cosmetic surgery for enhancing appearance, industry experts say social media postings of attractive people can skew a patient’s perspective and expectations.

Cosmetic surgery is a personal decision that can permanently change one’s appearance, so patients need to learn beforehand what type of enhancement will complement their natural look – and what might be overdoing it, says Dr. Scott Miller (www.MillerCosmeticSurgery.com), a cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon.

“An ‘Instagram face’ is not authentic beauty,” Dr. Miller says. “Personalized balance and proportion are more important than stereotypical perfection standards. Patients should be asking what they should do, not what they could do. Not every wrinkle needs to be filled or flattened. Sometimes the take is not worth the give.”

Dr. Miller offers five tips as a guide to how much cosmetic surgery – if any – is right for you:

Do it for the right reasons. Men and women of all ages choose cosmetic surgery for various reasons, and in most cases, it’s a want, not a need. “If they’re considering doing it to please someone else, that’s a red flag,” Dr. Miller says. “If they’re doing it to address something about their face or body that’s bothered them for a long time, or has hindered their personal or professional life, those are good reasons. If cosmetic surgery will make them more self-confident, great, but it’s not healthy to expect that other issues in their life will suddenly fall into place. They need to have reasonable expectations.”

Less is sometimes more. “A cosmetic surgeon’s goal should be to optimize the patient’s natural beauty, a look that’s pleasing to the person and one that  transcends trends,” Dr. Miller says. “Sometimes patients and surgeons push the envelope and the results look disproportionate to the body. A good partnership between patient and surgeon respects the art of less is more. Surgery has its place, and it can produce fantastic results, but there are other tools and tricks as well.”

Don’t make it an experiment. “If you want to experiment, do it with your hair, clothes, makeup and nails,” Dr. Miller says. “But do not do it with your face. Trends in facial surgery come and go, but unlike other aspects of fashion and beauty, you usually can’t go back and change a surgery.”

Learn from what you see. Dr. Miller says it’s easy to spot some people who have had cosmetic surgery, and that’s not always a good look. “The best cosmetic surgery is cosmetic surgery you can’t see,” he says. “Some patients say they can tell on the street when someone has had filler or a facelift, and I tell them the only cosmetic surgery you can see is usually badly done surgery. It creates an artificial look that decreases the body image.”

Be on the same page with your surgeon. “Patients should feel heard, and they should choose a cosmetic surgeon whose philosophy of beauty they share,” Dr. Miller says. “True beauty is idiosyncratic and personal. When done right, the surgery respects one’s body while augmenting aspects of the body in a way that is complementary to their physique. There is no one perfect look. A cosmetic surgeon’s job is to help patients reveal their best self.”

“Cosmetic surgery should not be an impulsive decision, but one that is very carefully thought out,” Dr. Miller says. “It can enhance one’s unique beauty, but it’s not about making them look like a celebrity.”

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Confused by Medicare options? Here’s a tutorial as open enrollment arrives

Once a year, an important window of opportunity arrives for Medicare beneficiaries and those about to enroll in the government’s health insurance program for older Americans.

It’s the Medicare open enrollment period, which runs annually from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During those nearly two months, new enrollments are allowed and current recipients can make changes to their plans.

And it’s definitely not a period to be taken lightly because careful study is required to determine what Medicare plan is best for any individual, says Chris Orestis, the president of LifeCare Xchange who is known as the “Retirement Genius” (www.retirementgenius.com).

“Enrolling in Medicare can be complicated, and if you don’t pay attention you can end up missing needed coverage or paying more out-of-pocket expenses in premiums, co-pays and deductibles than you realize-- or can afford,” Orestis says.

About 68 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Here are a few important facts to know for anyone ready to enroll and join them, or who needs to change their plan:

Medicare coverage comes in two primary forms that participants can choose from, Orestis says. The original and traditional Medicare program is administered through the federal government and anyone 65 and older qualifies automatically. Meanwhile, there are Medicare Advantage plans that are sold by private insurance companies. Those have become increasingly popular, with more than one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in one.  Beyond the usual things covered by health insurance, the Advantage plans sometimes offer additional services, such as routine vision, hearing and dental care.

If things aren’t bewildering enough, it’s also important to understand what Medicare Parts A, B, C and D are and what each does, Orestis says. “Here’s how that alphabet soup of Medicare coverage breaks down,” he says.”Medicare Part A pays for hospital and skilled nursing facility care. Medicare Part B pays 80 percent of costs for doctors, outpatient services and medical equipment. Medicare Part C is a private Advantage Plan. Medicare Part D pays for prescriptions.”

Even with Medicare coverage, patients can still have deductibles and copays that can add up quickly. “That’s where Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) comes in,” Orestis says. “It’s a private insurance that pays the gaps in the varieties of Medicare coverage.”

Still confused? Not to worry. Assistance is available to help people understand and navigate enrollment, Orestis says. Insurance agents who specialize in Medigap and Medicare Advantage Plans can help with initial enrollment and open enrollment.

Free assistance can also be obtained through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and the Medicare Rights Center. Also, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) which is the government agency that administers both Medicare and Medicaid, provides a wealth of information and resources to review and assist enrollment on their website, Orestis says.

“When it comes to Medicare enrollment, don’t procrastinate,” he says. “Not being informed, missing deadlines, or making the wrong selections can cause delays and penalties that could have a negative impact on your coverage – and your wallet.”

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How to balance a retirement plan in an unstable time

The upheaval of 2020 has upended many financial plans, causing people to reassess their retirement strategies.

More uncertainty lies ahead in 2021 with regard to COVID-19 and its effect on the economy. In this unstable setting, keeping a retirement plan balanced is essential, but many people are missing an important piece – a whole life insurance policy, says John Smallwood (www.johnlsmallwood.com), president of Smallwood Wealth Management and author of It’s Your Wealth – Keep It: The Definitive Guide to Growing, Protecting, Enjoying, and Passing On Your Wealth.

“The key to a successful retirement plan is having beautiful balance in it,” Smallwood says. “A whole life insurance policy is the lynchpin in a balanced plan. With 20 to 30 percent of your net worth in life insurance cash values with a death benefit, you will have substantial funds to cover taxes, healthcare costs, and other needs, and leave money for your family.

“Unfortunately, what often happens is that when people retire, they lose the policy because the premiums increase. The purpose of a sound financial strategy is to reduce taxes, risk, and fees, increase your retirement income and pass more money on to your family. But losing your life insurance in retirement defeats that whole strategy. With a strategy that has no insurance, you have to spend down your assets.”

Smallwood explains the benefits of a whole life insurance policy as part of a retirement strategy:

Waiver of premium. “This is one of the main benefits of a whole life policy,” Smallwood says. “If you were to become disabled at some point while the policy is in force, then the policy itself pays the premiums.”

Increasing death benefit. “This pays your beneficiaries when you pass, and since there is guaranteed cash value on a whole life policy, it has value even if you pass prematurely,” Smallwood says. “When you die, the death benefit is passed to your heirs income tax free, although some state taxes may need to be paid.”

Creditor proofing. “In many states,” he says, “the value of the policy is creditor-proof, meaning it is not subject to the claims of creditors.”

Dividends. A whole life policy has dividends, and those dividends have unique tax features. “You can take those dividends in cash, or you can reinvest them back into the contract,” Smallwood says. “If you have the dividend paid out to you in cash, you receive that tax-free until you receive your basis in the policy, which is figured as premiums paid multiplied by the number of years you’ve paid premiums. That tax-free dividend does not appear on your tax return, which can be a huge benefit.”

Guaranteed cash value. “The beauty of the cash value,” Smallwood says, “is that it is available at any time. And it is money you can use strategically, to take advantage of opportunities, or for emergencies.”

Loans. When someone borrows from their whole life policy, they’re actually borrowing from the premiums that they’ve paid in. These policy loans can be taken tax-free. However, “you must pay back the loan,” Smallwood says, “including interest, and failure to do so may make the loan taxable.”

 Volatility buffer. Portfolio withdrawals in a down market put pressure on the portfolio and increase the odds of running out of money. “Here’s where the life insurance cash value can help you at a critical time,” Smallwood says. “It offers a volatility buffer. When the market is down, you could pull some income from your policy to use while the stock market portion of your portfolio returns.”

“The whole life policy is the main tool at the foundation of your financial plan,” Smallwood says. “It allows you to do multiple things in retirement, and potentially can even increase your income.”

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Is Your 401(k) plan adviser costing you retirement money?

With millions of American workers invested in 401(k) plans, they want to know that their retirement savings are in good hands.

But recent legal action against some large companies indicates that’s not always the case. LinkedIn is the subject of a class-action lawsuit for alleged mismanagement of a 401(k) plan that totals $818 million. Participants in the Costco 401(k) are suing their company for alleged mismanagement of its $15.5 billion defined contribution plan.

Many companies have committees responsible for overseeing their employees’ 401(k) plans. These committees often depend on plan advisers, and to do their best to help employees maximize their 401(k)s, it’s vital that committees vet those advisers and carefully judge their performance, says Brian Allen (www.pension-consultants.com), founder of Pension Consultants Inc. and author of Rewarding Retirement: How Fiduciary Committees Can Elevate Workers, Companies, And Communities.

“An effective plan adviser puts more money in the participants’ pockets,” Allen says. “An adviser’s most visible function is to take the lead in establishing the investment lineup and monitor those investments.

“But no one is tracking the adviser’s performance of fund selection. And it is costing participants money. In many cases, plan advisers add little or no value when selecting the investments for the plan menu. This is due to advisers’ lack of transparency and thereby avoiding accountability. Transparency is necessary both to evaluate advisers and, more importantly, to improve the number of American workers who are prepared for retirement.”

Allen says companies’ 401(k) committees should consider the following points when selecting a plan adviser:

Beware of conflicts of interest. These are common in the plan adviser industry, Allen says, harming participants’ 401(k) plans. “Be sure to select a plan adviser without any conflict of interest that could sway their recommendations – for example, a compensation arrangement with an outside fund company or investment manager,” Allen says. “This includes accepting upfront commissions or so-called ‘trailing commissions.’ The only compensation that plan advisers should receive is from the fees paid for services to the plan. A good plan adviser, free of conflict and experienced in the industry, can be a valuable resource. And they will share insights that you need when looking for the right qualities in a record-keeper, plan custodian, or other service provider.”

Select only a plan adviser who accepts fiduciary responsibility in writing. “Plan advisers can fall under one of two classes of fiduciary, based on the level of control over the investments,” Allen says. “One is a 3(21) adviser, who has a co-fiduciary role. The adviser provides the plan and gives advice on the investments offered and the overall lineup. But the employer’s investment committee retains discretion and makes the final decisions. A 3(38) adviser has full discretion to make and implement fund and investment lineup decisions. The committee offloads the fiduciary risk of asset class and fund selection to the adviser in this situation.”

Have advisers report their own performance with fund selection. “Often, there’s no transparency,” Allen says, “because the advisers are not reporting their own performance regarding the funds they selected. What advisers typically don’t account for is the performance of the funds they selected after the time those funds, at their direction, were added to the company’s 401(k) plan. What their reports show is the funds’ past track record before they were added to the plan. It doesn’t show the actual returns the participants are getting on those funds since they were added.”

“Plan advisers tend to find such transparency threatening,” Allen says. “Nonetheless, this information is not difficult to compile, and it is necessary given what’s at stake for all 401(k) participants.”

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Are your employees zoning out In Zoom meetings? Tips from a remote veteran

The coronavirus changed the world into a planet of remote workers, but several months into the pandemic some companies and individuals are still grappling with the challenges of working apart.

Employees have more distractions at home and some can find it harder to focus. Questions persist, such as: Can video conferencing be as effective as in-person communicating? Will workplace culture – and production – suffer from a lack of traditional human interaction?

“Many companies and employees weren’t prepared for this major life switch,” says Cynthia Spraggs (www.virtira.com), a veteran of working remotely, author of How To Work From Home And Actually Get SH*T Done, and CEO of Virtira, a completely virtual company that helps other businesses work virtually.

“Companies became obsessed with maintaining their brick-and-mortar culture despite the fact their offices were completely deserted. I heard several horror stories about companies mandating that employees eat lunch on camera or play bar games with cocktails on Zoom after an exhausting workday.

 “Not only were these extra obligations not necessary, they didn’t take into account the busier new lives of harried workers – many now with homeschooled kids and juggling schedules with spouses also working from home. Some remote workforces have transitioned smoothly, but a great many need to learn how to adjust.”

 Drawing from experiences she has had advising companies on how to work remotely and maintain performance, Spraggs offers some tips on getting the most out of online meetings:

 Flex your virtual meeting time. “From managing hundreds of regional and global online events, I can tell you the maximum anyone should be in an online meeting is four hours,” Spraggs says. “Two hours is much better for a maximum. When they run longer, your participants are going to experience significant muscle and eye fatigue, not to mention be tempted by the incredible distractions that come with working remotely.”

Template everything. When managers ran meetings in a conference room, they could ban phones and have everyone’s attention. With remote meetings, managers have lost that control. “They need to build virtual walls and a structure to keep things on track,” Spraggs says. “This is where templates for meeting agendas, action items, business reviews, etc., come into play. Make these available from the central dashboard and reinforce on calls where they are and how to find them.”

Protest pointless meetings. “Pointless includes inviting a whole host of people to a meeting who don’t need to be there,” Spraggs says. “Don’t take valuable chunks of work time away from team members for a call they don’t need to be on.”

Treat meetings like contract discussions. Spraggs notes that back in the day informal meetings in a physical office sometimes allowed employees to shine in front of their bosses. “But online loosey-goosey meetings without any real point don’t get anyone anywhere,” she says. “To accomplish anything of substance, set a strong agenda and stick to it. Get opinions from everyone. For the introverts not comfortable with sharing, consider implementing anonymous input forms. You’ll be amazed how engagement increases. Like a contract, you need to document what the team decided, and what the priorities are. Put those in the meeting minutes, distribute, and follow up on them.”

Don’t drive yourself to distraction. “Train yourself to cut down distractions to improve productivity,” Spraggs says. “Turn off your phone and notifications. Otherwise someone is going to ask you something and there will be that dead air as everyone waits for you to respond.”

 “Many companies are trying to replicate the in-person experience by wanting to get everyone in front of a screen for multiple hours over multiple days,” Spraggs says. “But they have the opportunity to rethink and re-engineer the experience in ways that make sense in a new world, when nobody is in the same room for a meeting.”

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Medal of Honor: Army Maj. Samuel Woodfill

BY KATIE LANGE , DOD NEWS

Army Maj. Samuel Woodfill was one of the most decorated soldiers of World War I. He was a modest man who was known for his excellent marksmanship, but it was his bravery in taking out several machine gun nests during a 1918 battle that earned him fame and the Medal of Honor.  

Woodfill was born Jan. 6, 1883, near Madison, Indiana. Growing up in a rural area, he watched his father — a Mexican-American and Civil War vet — and older brothers hunt. At first, he was too young to go with them, but by age 10, he started sneaking a gun out of the house to shoot small game. The Indiana Historical Bureau said Woodfill's father was impressed when he found out. Instead of punishing the boy, Woodfill's father let him hunt whenever he wanted.

Woodfill tried to join the military when he was 15 so he could fight in the Spanish-American War, but he was turned down. He waited a few more years and was finally accepted into the Army when he turned 18 in 1901. Woodfill was shipped to the Philippines to serve until about 1904 when he volunteered for duty in Alaska. That's where he honed his marksmanship skills, hunting large game in the untamed wilderness.

After Alaska, Woodfill served for about two years at Fort Thomas, Kentucky, before being sent to Texas to defend the Mexican border. He returned to Fort Thomas in 1917 and became an officer after being promoted to second lieutenant.

By then, the war in Europe had escalated, so it was pretty clear the U.S. would soon be joining the fight. As Woodfill prepared to deploy with the American Expeditionary Forces, he married his longtime girlfriend, Lorena Wiltshire.

In the fall of 1918, Woodfill and thousands of other American soldiers were sent to France, just as the six-week-long Meuse-Argonne battle was unfolding. Woodfill was quickly promoted to first lieutenant. He was just outside the town of Cunel with his unit, the 60th Infantry, when he went on a sharpshooting tear that is comparable to the exploits of his fellow war hero, the famed Army Sgt. Alvin York.

It was Oct. 12, 1918, and Woodfill was advancing with Company M when they came under heavy attack. Since he was in charge of the unit, Woodfill told most of the men to hang back. He and two other soldiers went ahead to find and knock out any enemy machine gun nests.

When they got near the village, Woodfill's keen eye noticed muzzle flashes coming from a church tower about 300 yards away. According to a curator at the Fort Polk Museum, he aimed his rifle toward where the gunner's head would be — he couldn’t actually see the person — and fired. The gunner dropped dead.

Woodfill repeated that process four more times as new gunners tried to take charge of the unmanned machine gun. He only had five shots in his rifle, and he took out all five gunners who tried. According to his Medal of Honor citation, another enemy soldier charged Woodfill, but Woodfill killed the man with his pistol after a hand-to-hand fight.

Turning his sights to a potential gun nest at a stable, Woodfill let off another shot. That machine gun never fired again.

A short distance later, Woodfill crawled into range of a third machine gun nest. At first he took cover in a shell hole, but he got hit with the remains of mustard gas that lingered there, so he made his way to a ditch about 40 yards from the enemy gun, according to the Fort Polk Museum curator. He took out another gunner and the four replacements with his rifle before using his pistol to kill two more men.

After shooting a German sniper out of a tree, Woodfill called on the two soldiers with him to rush a fourth machine gun nest. Woodfill killed five of its crew and injured three others, who were taken prisoner.

A few minutes later, a fifth machine gun nest came into view. Woodfill charged this one, too, killing five men on one machine gun before jumping into the pit for cover.

According to his citation, two other enemy soldiers turned their guns on him. When Woodfill wasn't able to shoot, he grabbed a nearby pickaxe and killed them.

Thanks to his actions, Company M was able to push on to their objective.

Woodfill was evacuated from the battlefield and spent 10 weeks in a hospital recovering from the debilitating effects of the mustard gas.

On Feb 9, 1919, famed Army Gen. John Pershing presented Woodfill with the Medal of Honor and promoted him to captain. Pershing praised Woodfill for fighting and not just occupying trenches for months on end.

Woodfill returned to Kentucky and left the Army in November 1919, but he found he wasn't quite prepared to reenter civilian life, so he rejoined three weeks later. He had to rejoin as a sergeant, meaning he lost the captain's rank he’d earned during the war. But according to the Indiana Historical Bureau, he didn't mind. However, when the public learned that the war hero had lost his rank, efforts to appeal the decision were made. They went nowhere.

On Nov. 11, 1921, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated in Arlington National Cemetery. Eight highly decorated WWI veterans handpicked by Pershing escorted the soldier to the burial grounds, and Woodfill was one of them.

Woodfill retired from the Army again in 1923, with a pension, but a few years into the Great Depression, he and his wife were struggling. A petition to get the pension increased was denied by Congress.

Woodfill's wife died in the early days of World War II, so when the Army recalled him to service in 1942, he went, the Indiana Historical Bureau said. He was given special clearance to serve and, at 59, was still an excellent marksman. But he hit the mandatory retirement age of 60 in 1943, so his third bout of service was short-lived.

When he again returned to civilian life, he settled back in his home state of Indiana, where he lived until he died on Aug. 10, 1951.

Woodfill was initially buried in a local cemetery, but his body was reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery in 1955. His final resting place is beside Pershing, who, according to the Indiana Historical Bureau, once referred to Woodfill as "the greatest single hero in the American Forces."

This article is part of a weekly series called "Medal of Honor Monday," in which we highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military's highest medal for valor.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – I Need Guidance on Social Security and Medicare

Dear Rusty: I am turning 67 in October and as of today am still employed full time. I really do not plan on retiring unless I am forced to. But how do I arrange my Social Security and Medical care stuff. It seems this subject is like a color, and everyone has a different color they like. Is there any way for me to figure this out with help or on my own? I could really use some guidance. Signed: Perplexed

Dear Perplexed: Okay, let’s look at your Social Security and your Medicare separately, because they’re two totally independent programs.

You do not need to do anything about Social Security until you are ready to start collecting your benefits. Since you have already reached your full retirement age (FRA) of 66, you are now earning Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs) at the rate of .667% per month. That means that your benefit in October, if you were to claim it then, would be 8% more than it would have been at age 66. If you continue to delay applying for SS benefits, you will continue to earn those DRCs up to age 70, when your benefit amount would be 32% more than it would have been at your FRA. The choice of when to claim your Social Security is yours to make, considering your need for the money, your health, and your expected longevity. The longer you wait (up to 70) the more your benefit will be, and if you expect at least average longevity (about 84 for a man your current age) then you’ll get both a higher benefit amount and more in cumulative lifetime benefits by waiting to claim your Social Security.

As for Medicare, if you are now covered by your employer’s “creditable” healthcare plan, you can delay enrolling in Medicare until your current employer coverage ends (when you stop working). “Creditable” is a group plan with more than 20 participants. If you now have “creditable” employer healthcare coverage (including drug coverage) you won’t be liable for a Late Enrollment Penalty for enrolling in Medicare (or a drug plan) later. If you are still working and know your creditable employer coverage will end soon, you can enroll for Medicare benefits to start coincident with the end of your employer coverage. Or, after you stop working, you can enroll in Medicare during a “Special Enrollment Period” (or “SEP” for those transitioning from employer coverage to Medicare coverage). Your SEP for Medicare will last for 8 months after you stop working, but you only have 63 days after the end of your employer drug coverage to enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan.

The bottom line is this – you don’t need to enroll in Medicare until your creditable employer healthcare coverage ends. And you don’t need to apply for Social Security until you wish to start receiving benefits (just don’t wait beyond 70).

One final point because you were born in 1953: if you are now married and your wife is already collecting her SS, you can file a “restricted application for spouse benefits only” and collect only a spouse benefit from your wife, while still allowing your own benefit to continue to grow until you are 70. But this option is only available to you because you were born before January 2, 1954.

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Extend your enjoyment of nutritious pumpkins

By MELINDA MYERS

Pumpkin is not just for dessert.  Consider using this low calorie, flavorful vegetable, botanically classified as a fruit, in any of the courses of your fall or holiday meals.

The beta carotene that gives pumpkin its orange color is an important antioxidant.  Increasing the beta carotenes in your diet can reduce the risk of developing some cancers and provide protection against heart disease.

And do not throw the seeds in the compost pile, roast them instead and enjoy the anti-inflammatory benefits of this snack. Remove the pulp by rinsing the seeds in cold water.  Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet treated with a non-stick cooking oil.  Lightly salt.  Bake at 325° for 25 minutes.  Stir the seeds after 10 minutes.  Allow to cool and store any leftovers, if there are any, in an airtight container.

Harvest pumpkins when the fruit is fully colored and the rind has lost its shine and is hard.  The curly tendrils near the pumpkin will turn brown and die when the fruit is fully ripe. Use a pruning shear to cut the stem and avoid damage to the plant and your harvest. Leaving several inches of the pumpkin’s stem intact increases their storage life.  And look for blemish-free fruit with intact stems when buying pumpkins from the grocery store or farmers’ market.

Always harvest pumpkins before the first frost. Or cover plantings with floating row covers, old sheets or blankets when frost is in the forecast.   Protecting plants from the first few frosty nights can keep them growing until the remaining frost-free days of the season are back in the forecast.

Only store pumpkins free of soft spots, cuts and other damage that can lead to decay. Cleaning them before storing can help extend their shelf life. Wipe them down with a dilute solution of one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water. Allow them to dry thoroughly before placing them in storage. Washing the fruit removes bacteria and fungal spores that can contribute to decay.

Store pumpkins in a dark, dry, cool location between 50 and 60 degrees for storage. Place them in a single layer on cardboard, crates or wooden shelves. Avoid storing them directly on a concrete floor that can lead to rot.

Check pumpkins regularly for rot and soft spots. Remove any that show signs of rot and add them to the compost pile. Pumpkins that are stored properly can last for several months.

Remember to take time this season to enjoy the harvest and flavor as you cook up some tasty, nutritious pumpkin dishes this fall.

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 As COVID continues, can hospitals create better bed management through math?

The COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on a significant healthcare problem: a sudden inundation of critically ill patients can take a hospital’s bed capacity to the limit – and beyond.

“COVID threw healthcare into an enormous temporary imbalance, especially early on as hospitals struggled to manage the influx of patients,” says Sanjeev Agrawal, co-author with Mohan Giridharadas of Better Healthcare Through Math (www.leantaas.com).

“Now there are concerns that another wave of the virus will once again put hospitals and their bed capacities to the test.”

Agrawal and Giridharadas, senior executives at LeanTaaS, a software company that focuses on improving healthcare operations, say that while the pandemic may have exacerbated the problem with hospital bed capacity, it didn’t create it.

Hospitals have confronted a lack of bed space for years, struggling to figure out how to match the never-ending admissions and discharges with the available capacity, often with mixed results.

“For patients, solving this problem is critical,” Giridharadas says. “If you’re in urgent need of care, you want that bed to be available. If you are already in the hospital, you don’t want to be discharged prematurely because the hospital failed to plan appropriately and needs to open up your bed for someone else. At the same time a lot can be done to facilitate smoother and quicker discharge both from a planning and process perspective.”

LeanTaaS is among those attacking the problem, in their case using technology and math to stabilize the mismatch between admissions and discharges. The company’s software monitors what hospital beds are in use, what beds are available, what the anticipated admissions are, and what the anticipated discharges are. The software even makes recommendations to the hospital staff for how to best maximize space.

“Dealing with hospital bed capacity can be much more complex than people realize,” Agrawal says. “All beds aren’t interchangeable. The hospital doesn’t want to place COVID patients with non-COVID patients. If someone just had hip surgery, they would prefer to put them on the orthopedic floor where nurses are trained to handle their specific needs. At the same time every unit has a ‘fingerprint’ – a unique pattern of patient discharges and demand patterns that can be predicted with some degree of accuracy to help make key decisions around bed placement. It’s like working a puzzle.”

But the rewards of solving that puzzle are great, both for the hospital and, especially, for the patients, Agrawal and Giridharadas say. Those rewards include:

Patient care is improved and wait times are reduced. Even when a hospital is able – eventually – to accommodate everyone who needs a bed, those patients may still have had to spend a significant amount of time waiting in the emergency department or in a post-surgery recovery room before a bed is freed up. “But if hospital staff can review the data and get a better understanding of all the options before the problems even arise, they can then make proactive, rather than reactive, decisions,” Giridharadas says.

Any backlog of elective surgeries can be dealt with more quickly. One way hospitals address bed shortages is to postpone elective surgeries. But such postponements lead to a backlog that eventually must be addressed. “All of the elective surgeries that were postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic still needs to be completed at some point in the near future,” Agrawal says. “Tracking the backlog can be a challenge. Here once again is a situation where using online tools with built-in math intelligence can be a huge help.”

Less chaos during the day. At the best of times, patient placement leaders and house supervisors have a hard time balancing the availability of beds with the need both actual and expected. Since discharges typically happen in the afternoons and bed demand starts earlier in the day, life can be quite chaotic in trying to find “the right bed for the right patient at the right time,” Agrawal says.

Hospital staff can focus on other issues. When the hospital staff is able to spend less time on the bed problem, they can move on to other issues. “That means they can do their overall jobs more effectively and more efficiently,” Giridharadas says. “That’s better for the patients as well.”

“A lot of people manage hospital capacity based on their personal backgrounds, experience and preferences,” Agrawal says. “But when you move to a data-driven way of decision making, people become more effective in their roles and hospitals are better organized, managed more tightly, and make better use of their physical resources.”

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Why women lose their hair and ways they can grow it back

While hair thinning and loss is well known as a distressing problem for many men, it’s also an issue for women. They comprise about 40% of American hair-loss sufferers.

And hair loss is even more worrisome for them, doctors say, because it’s less acceptable in society.

“Hair loss is especially devastating for younger women – it can make them feel less attractive,” says Dr. Patrick Angelos (drpatrickangelos.com), author of The Science and Art of Hair Restoration: A Patient’s Guide.

“Women who are losing hair typically are very distraught. Stereotypically, it’s somewhat normal and even accepted for men to lose some of their hair, but for women it can take an emotional toll. But as with men, there is hope for women, in a variety of ways, to grow their hair back.”

Dr. Angelos explains some of the causes for hair loss in women as well as some of the treatments to bring hair back.

Causes of hair loss in women

Anemia, or low iron. “When you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t produce the hemoglobin in your blood,” Dr. Angelos says. “Hemoglobin carries oxygen for the growth and repair of cells in your body, including the cells that stimulate hair growth.”

After pregnancy. “Estrogen levels decline, which shifts her hair cycle from the growing phase to the resting or telogen phase,” Dr. Angelos says. “Full recovery to a normal length of hair may take upward of a year.”

Autoimmune diseases. These diseases, in which the immune system attacks the body, are more common in women than men. “Some of them, because of their systemic nature, can cause hair loss,” Dr. Angelos says. “Autoimmune diseases also affect the gastrointestinal tract, leading to nutritional issues that can then cause hair loss.”

Menopause. “This type of hair loss can affect more than 50 percent of women,” Dr. Angelos says. “Menopause-based hair loss happens because of the significant drop in estrogen that happens as a woman ages. That can put the hairs in a prolonged resting phase.”

Treatments for hair loss in women

Minoxidil. This is also known as a vasodilator, meaning it helps increase blood flow to the scalp. “It helps some of the small hairs grow stronger and thicker,” Dr. Angelos says. “Minoxidil increases the duration of the growth phase of the hair cycle. It takes at least a couple of months to see results.”

Nutrafol. “This is a commercially available product that includes vitamin E, ashwagandha – an Indian ginseng known as a stress and anxiety reducer – curcumin, a powerful antioxidant, and other anti-inflammatories that have been shown to be effective,” Dr. Angelos says.

Hair transplantation. According to the American Hair Loss Association, only 2 to 5% of women are considered good candidates for hair transplantation. “Regardless of the cause or degree of hair loss, a stable donor area – hair along the back and sides of the scalp – is the key criterion,” Dr. Angelos says. And before women consider transplantation, he says they should try other treatments for at least a year in order for the doctor to rule out different causes, watch the hair progression, and determine if they are a viable transplant candidate.

Low Laser Light Therapy. “This can be an especially good option when a woman is not a good candidate for hair transplantation,” Dr. Angelos says. “The lasers target the hair follicles and stimulate circulation and oxygenation, causing them to shift into the growing phase.”

“Women don’t like to view hair loss as a natural part of aging and something they can do nothing about,” Dr. Angelos says. “The challenge is to first figure out the culprit, and the good news is, you can do something about it.”

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 How young professionals should save and invest – no matter the pandemic’s effects

By ALBERT LALONDE

When starting a retirement savings and investment plan, the rule of thumb is the earlier, the better.

For young professionals, that can be easier said than done. High rent, student loan payments, and modest junior-level salaries make saving a challenge. And now in this unprecedented year come the dynamics adding economic uncertainty – the coronavirus, a global recession, and the upcoming presidential election. Those young people whose 401(k) values were rising steadily before 2020 now are nervous and wondering how to plan for a retirement that’s a long way away.

But while the seas are stormy, there are proven principles they can use to navigate and stay on a steady course toward retirement – no matter how distant it appears on their map. As many of us know, it gets here soon enough.

These are some key points young savers should consider as they develop a financial plan for retirement:

Become a disciplined saver. The optimal savings rate toward retirement is at least 20% of gross income. That may be too high for young savers, given their other financial obligations, but the important thing is to make savings a priority. Save at a consistent rate and increase it as soon as possible.

The best way to stick with your savings plan is to develop automated savings strategies, such as to have contributions made directly to a 401(k). Another option that’s popular is splitting up direct deposits, with one going into a dedicated savings account.

Keep contributing to your 401(k) – even if your employer stopped matching. Due to the pandemic, many companies suspended or reduced their 401(k) matching contributions to save cash and avoid layoffs. While such a move  slows one’s accumulation of retirement funds, the bigger long-term damage is done when an employee stops contributing to the 401(k) at the same time that the employer stops matching. At minimum, maintain your current retirement contributions or, if you can afford to, increase them to compensate for the temporary loss of your employer’s 401(k) match.

Another alternative is redirecting a portion of your retirement contributions to a Roth Individual Retirement Account. Contributions to a Roth IRA are made with funds on which you’ve already paid income tax, and in many cases offer more flexibility when it comes to investment choices. But whatever you do, keep contributing. By staying the course, either in your 401(k) or Roth IRA, you can continue to grow your nest egg and take advantage of a market recovery when it arrives. And if you can afford to increase your contributions, you’ll keep your retirement plan on track.

​​​​​​​

Diversify savings and investment vehicles. 401(k) contributions accumulate on a tax-deferred basis, usually are withdrawn when investors are in a lower tax bracket, and often include some employer-matching funds to augment savings. While these are all positives, it’s important to save elsewhere. Remember, qualified retirement funds are functionally locked away until age 59 1/2, so they aren't available in the event that a cash need arises. Moreover, 401(k) savings are taxed at the time of withdrawal.

​​​​​​​Young investors should consider balancing traditional 401(k)s with a Roth IRA – or Roth 401(k) if it's offered – or a normal brokerage account. Roth contributions are made after tax, but they allow tax-free growth and withdrawals in retirement. They also typically allow penalty-free withdrawals up to the amount contributed. This provides some liquidity as well as an excellent tax benefit for accounts that appreciate substantially. Regular brokerage accounts provide no tax advantages, but they are liquid and still offer growth.

Having a growth mindset is central to building a good retirement plan while young. With many years until retirement, a young investor’s accounts should be weighted toward stocks, with enough diversification to protect against poor performing stocks or industries. Success in the stock market comes over the long haul, and young people have time to ride out cycles and downturns.

With a long time horizon and relatively low income relative to their later career earnings, young investors are in a unique position to realize the benefits of these vehicles. Using a mixture of these different account types will diversify tax exposure and balance savings and earnings with accessibility.

For young investors, it cannot be emphasized more: start saving early, be consistent, be diligent, be growth-minded. Start saving in a systematic way and diversify as you can. Whatever 2020 is throwing at you, it doesn’t have to stop you from having a good, disciplined plan that will pay off many years from now.

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History Matters

A feature courtesy of

The Grateful American Book Prize

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future

By John Grimaldi and David Bruce Smith

Texas was in the middle of its war for independence from Mexico—and--in alarming need of protection for its spread-out settlers from the outlaws roaming its endless frontier. Finally, on October 17, 1835, the government of the new republic stationed a police force -- the Texas Rangers -- to “range and guard the frontier between the Brazos and Trinity Rivers.”

At first, the Rangers were ordinary citizens who supplied their own horses, weapons, and had the authority to maintain law and order in the republic even after Texas joined the Union as the 28th state in 1845.  In the ensuing years, the Rangers garnered a legendary reputation for tracking down miscreants and, by 1935, they became the official police force of the state. The Rangers still wear the distinctive silver Cinco Peso badge, today.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Mike Cox’s The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900.

...

It took more than two years of plowing and digging to make the 425-mile Erie Canal connect middle America’s Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, by way of New York’s Hudson River. The prodigious project was started in August 1823 and completed—ready for commerce--on October 26, 1825. Although it was the pet project Governor DeWitt Clinton, from New York, the concept of a waterway with such scope was originated by the Founding Fathers to unify America’s frontier with the original 13 colonies.

The Erie Canal -- or Clinton’s Ditch, as it became known -- helped provide that relationship. As History.com describes it: “Settlers poured into western New York, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Goods were transported at one-tenth the previous fee in less than half the time. Barges of farm produce and raw materials traveled east, as manufactured goods and supplies flowed west.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Peter L. Bernstein’s Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation.

 ...

Nineteen Fifty was a breakthrough in the Civil Rights Movement; on October 31st, Earl Lloyd became the first African American to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Washington Capitols. Two other black players were also selected in the draft that year: Chuck Cooper was picked up by the Boston Celtics, and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton was chosen by the New York Knicks, but those teams did not start their seasons until November.

Suddenly, after seven games, the U.S. Army drafted Lloyd; by the time he was discharged, the Capitols were out of business, and so he signed with the Syracuse Nationals (later the Philadelphia 76ers), and later played for the Detroit Pistons.  He became their scout, assistant coach, and in 1970, Lloyd was elevated to head coach—the first African American in the league in that position.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Fredrick McKissack’s Black Hoops: The History of African Americans in Basketball.

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A senior moment

He did it again. Al Blaschke recently doubled down on showing just how feisty senior citizens can be. At the ripe old age of 100 he went skydiving for the first time and he obviously enjoyed the thrill of it. That was three years ago in celebration of his centennial. He did it again recently. This time, to celebrate the graduation from college of his twin grandsons. Al took his second 14,000 foot leap at the Skydive Spaceland San Marcos in Fentress, TX, aided by a tandem jump instructor and it earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. As he put it: "Skydiving is a very safe sport these days. Statistically, it's more dangerous to get snacks out of a vending machine."

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Trendy?

It’s just what all those not-so-serious fashionistas out there have been waiting for: a pair of dirty overalls. They are pricey, however. They’ll set you back $1,400, but the stylists at Gucci’s seem to think they just might be all the rage this fall and winter. According to the company’s Website, the “denim overall is crafted from organic cotton and specifically treated for a stained-like, distressed effect.” In other words they look like you’ve been rolling around in the grass and mud.

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A tempest in a teapot

Cleanliness is next to godliness and it can pay off, big time, when you are cleaning out a cluttered garage. Take the guy in the U.K. who was doing just that when he came across an old teapot that belonged to his mom. He was going to donate it to a local thrift shop but decided at the last moment to get it appraised. It turned out that it wasn’t a teapot after all; it was a small Chinese wine ewer dating back to the 18th century and it had quite a history. He put it up for auction sparking a global bidding war and fetching nearly half a million dollars. His grandfather had brought it back with him when he returned from the Far East, having served there during World War II.

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Federal executions show how issues can be weaponized in an election year

Polls have shown a downward trend in support of the death penalty by the American public since the mid-90s, and a majority of Americans now favor alternatives to capital punishment.

Yet the U.S. Supreme Court in June cleared the way for the resumption of federal executions for the first time since 2003, and three death row inmates were executed in July. Why now after 17 years without a federal execution?

The timing – shortly before a presidential election – illustrates how a political party in power exploits controversial issues to energize its supporters and attempt to distract the public from poor approval ratings, says David Dozier (www.DavidDozierBooks.com), a professor emeritus in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University and author of The California Killing Field.

“Resuming the executions after a long, informal moratorium was a less than subtle  example of how President Donald Trump often uses public relations,” Dozier says. “He and his advisers saw a way to take political advantage and appeal to their base while he’s being roundly criticized for his handling of the coronavirus and the protests against racial injustice.

“It’s fairly consistent with how he’s politicized major issues to try to better position himself with the electorate. From the outset of the pandemic, he’s treated it more as a public relations issue for himself than a national health crisis. His concern has been how it affects his re-election chances, so he’s come up with conspiracy theories, blamed the media, Democrats, and medical advisers, and had his team crunch the numbers to downplay the threat and try to restore hope in the economy.”

Dozier looks at how some major current events are influencing conservative campaign messaging heading into the election:

Drawing battle lines amid racial protests. Politicians can be divisive through public rhetoric, and Dozier says one example is the Trump Administration’s controversial considerations of deploying federal troops in cities where there are protests against racial injustice and police brutality. “Police killing unarmed black men is just one visible aspect of the systemic racism and corruption of our criminal justice system in the U.S.,” Dozier says. “But he deflects that huge issue with a big statement geared to his base on law and order. Not to mention the fact that the liberal mayors of these cities don’t want his federal troops there, but it’s his way of trying to make those leaders look weak at the expense of escalating the volatile situations.”

Ignoring data on the death penalty. Dozier’s own research on the death penalty found many Americans were abolitionists who would not endorse any method of execution. “Opinion polls have continued to show the death penalty is losing its popularity, but it’s popular with some conservative segments,” Dozier says. “And like police killings, the death penalty is targeted at the poor and persons of color. Black Americans make up 13% of the population but 34% of persons executed since 1976. The U.S. and Japan are the only democracies in the world still retaining the death penalty.”

Dealing with a polling problem exacerbated by COVID. With the president’s approval ratings low for his management of the coronavirus, Dozier says his recent actions indicate he’s aware of the polls and worried about them. “He finally endorsed wearing a mask and began holding briefings again, albeit without the medical experts,” Dozier says. “Yet at the same time he still pushes for the reopening of schools and the economy as most Republican governors did, trying to have it both ways. The White House’s constant mixed message goes against the fundamentals of public relations.”

“Every execution is a chance to talk about the death penalty,” Dozier says. “Right now, it can be part of a larger national conversation about the dangers of politicizing every major issue we face as a country.”

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Women: Transform a dismal year into a happier personal journey

COVID-19 has played havoc with many people’s careers, but it may have been especially detrimental to women.

Research shows that working mothers are dropping out of the workforce much faster than working fathers, at least in part because many schools switched to remote learning and at least one adult needed to be in the home with the children. One study by McKinsey & Company and Lean In also found that one-fourth of women they surveyed at 317 companies are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce entirely.

As a result, the disruptions 2020 brought could have a long-term impact on women’s careers as well as their family’s finances.

But all might not be lost. These difficult times could be an opportunity for women to rethink their personal journeys and decide who and what they want to be going forward, says Andi Simon (www.andisimon.com), a corporate anthropologist, founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants, and author of the upcoming book Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business.

“I often say if you want to change, have a crisis or create one,” Simon says. “A crisis forces you to rethink what has always been in your life so you can create new opportunities for your future. As we navigate these uncertain times, women can use them to rethink their own stories and to smash any myths that are holding them back from becoming who they want to become.”

Simon suggests a few steps women can to get them started:

Tell a story about who you are today. Draw a picture or create a list to show what you love and don’t love; the joys and challenges of your life now; your interests; and your dreams. “Put that picture or list where you can see it for a while as a reminder of who you are now,” Simon says.

Visualize yourself in the future. Think about what will make you become who you believe you can be. “Know what would make you happy and realize how you might be personally fulfilled,” Simon says. “Understand how you can be professionally accomplished, build a happy family, and enjoy the support of your friends and community. Know what matters to you and how you want your story to develop.”

Keep a diary. Research shows that people who keep diaries achieve their goals and do so with extraordinary results, far better than those who don’t keep diaries, Simon says. “That might seem strange, but it is easy enough to try,” she says. “Whether you do it online or on paper, keep your story coming, write it, and re-reread it. Let it help you embrace your new focus and belief that ‘yes, you can.’ ”

Stop your brain from undermining you. Every time you say, “No, that won’t work,” convert it to a “Yes, that’s a great idea.” “You can manage negative thoughts by simply thinking that you can,” she says.

Build up your idea bank. Research also shows that  the more ideas you have, the more likely you will have “big” ones, Simon says. She recommends writing them down in an idea book. “Try to stay focused on the vision you have for yourself as you build your idea bank,” Simon says.

“Remember that you are writing a new story, so don’t let your brain delete great ideas because they don’t fit into your current story,” Simon says. “Keep saying to yourself, ‘Yes, that’s a great idea.’ Pretty soon, you will achieve the goals that you aspire to all through your life’s journey.”

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Medal of Honor recipients story told

Most fighter-bomber missions meant to knock out enemy defense systems during the Vietnam War only involved one fly-by — the pilots knew there were few chances of escaping enemy aircraft if you executed more than one pass. Air Force Col. Merlyn Dethlefsen knew that when he took charge of a daring raid over a North Vietnamese steel plant in 1967, but he ignored the status quo to make sure the mission was a success. For that, he earned the Medal of Honor.

Dethlefsen was born in Greenville, Iowa, on June 29, 1934. As the son of a farmer and a schoolteacher, he did well at academics, graduating with honors from high school in 1951 when he was just 16.

Dethlefsen went to Iowa State University for about two years before deciding to join the Air Force in 1953. He started aviation cadet training the following year and was commissioned as an officer by the time he was 20.

During his first few years in the field, Dethlefsen served as a navigator on C-124 Globemaster transports before earning his pilot's wings in 1960. Next, he served as a fighter pilot in Germany for about five years before coming back to the U.S.

At some point, he met his wife, Jorja, and they had two children — a daughter and a son. Dethlefsen also returned to college to earn a business degree from the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

The Vietnam War

In October 1966, Dethlefsen was deployed to a combat squadron in Thailand to be part of the aerial fight in the Vietnam War. He was 33 and on his 78th combat mission when he earned the Medal of Honor.

On March 10, 1967, then-Capt. Dethlefsen was serving with the 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron based out of Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base. He and three other F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bomber pilots were tasked with what was known as a "wild weasel" — a pre-bombing mission of sorts to help a later, larger mission attain success.

Their target was the area around the Thai Nguyen Steel Plant, a heavily defended industrial complex about 50 miles north of Hanoi in North Vietnam. The plant was important to the North Vietnamese war effort and had just been approved as a U.S. target.

The goal of the four-plane team was to suppress the complex’s anti-aircraft defenses — surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery and automatic weapons — long enough for a second strike force to destroy the plant without coming under heavy fire.

Unfortunately, the enemy was ready for them. When the four two-seater aircraft got to the area, the North Vietnamese shot down the lead plane and knocked a second out of the fight. The only missile fired at their target missed.

Not Giving Up

Dethlefsen, piloting the third aircraft in line, assumed leadership of the mission. Only he, his navigator, Capt. Mike Gilroy, and one other F-105 were left to carry out the plan.

Later in life, Gilroy described Dethlefsen as "taciturn, a born-again Christian, and not at all the typical fighter pilot," saying he wasn't exactly a fun guy. But none of that mattered — his serious demeanor was critical to the cause.

On the duo's first pass at the target, they were hit with ground fire and then by a MiG-21, a Russian-designed fighter jet flown by the enemy. It was rare for pilots then to make more than one pass — if you wanted to live, you got out of the enemy's range quickly, but Dethlefsen knew the mission would fail if he didn't keep trying. So, he studied the pattern of the explosives, known as flak, launched by the enemy.

"It wasn't a matter of being able to avoid the flak, but of finding the least-intense areas," Dethlefsen later said.

At some point, another MiG hit Dethlefsen and Gilroy. It was common for pilots to drop all their ordnance when MiG's attacked, but Dethlefsen kept his, knowing he would need it.

He then led the two planes on a few more close-range passes that damaged two surface-to-air missile sites. The strikes helped to protect the fighter bombers that were to follow them, as well as another sortie scheduled for the next day. Thanks to Dethlefson's dedication, the mission succeeded in reducing the enemy's ability to provide essential war materials.

"All I did was the job I was sent to do," Dethlefsen later said. "It had been quite a while since we had been able to go into the Hanoi area, so while the weather held, we were able to do some pretty good work."

Dethlefsen's plane was so badly damaged that it couldn't make the 500-mile trip back to their home base. Instead, he landed at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, where the aircraft was patched up. Dethlefsen and Gilroy flew home the next day.

The Next Chapter

After his deployment, Dethlefsen returned to the U.S. and served as an instructor pilot at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. Within months, he learned that he had earned the Medal of Honor for his courage during the steel plant mission. On Feb. 1, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the medal to then-Maj. Dethlefsen during a ceremony at the White House.

Dethlefsen got his Master's degree in psychology from Troy State University, Alabama, in 1972, but remained in the Air Force, serving in various positions until July 1977 when he retired as a colonel. According to the Enid News and Eagle, a newspaper out of Enid, Oklahoma, his family settled in Fort Worth, Texas, where he ran a small medical equipment business.

Unfortunately, he only got to enjoy civilian life for about a decade. Dethlefsen died on Dec. 14, 1987, at the age of 53. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

This article is part of a weekly series called "Medal of Honor Monday," in which we highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military's highest medal for valor.

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How to have a profitable business in any economy

By TERRY MONROE

People start and buy businesses for many different reasons. Some people do it as an extension of their passion for a certain thing such as flowers, woodworking, machinery or serving people. Some people do it for the thrill of winning, but ultimately everyone who goes into business does it to make money.

There are thousands of books that have been written about business telling you what to do and what not to do, but ultimately making money in business is not that difficult. Listed below are five fundamentals of what it takes to have a profitable business.

Income – expenses = profit. Income is determined by how much money is generated by the business. Expenses are what is needed to operate the business. Profit is what is left over after deducting the expenses from the income. You can always increase your income, but you can only reduce your expenses so far before you don’t have enough of the basics to keep the business operating.

Sales. A lot of people don’t like to hear the word sales, because they don’t want to be in sales or affiliated with sales, but without sales there is no business. Sales is the business. The major goal of every business is to increase sales, because without sales there is no income.

Sales combined with income and expenses applies to all industries. It doesn’t matter if you are operating an exercise/yoga clinic or a computer chip manufacturer, the formula is the same. Even churches have a sales department to entice their congregation to give more. Sales is what makes the world go around.

The formula shapes your business model. Over time, with the practicing and perfecting of the sales aspect along with the income – expenses = profit formula, you will develop a business model that works. This is called a profitable business.

 Make the model scalable. To add more profits, hopefully the business model you have created is scalable and you can duplicate the business model either through franchising, dealers representing your business, or the opening of additional facilities using the same model you created and perfected.

What I have explained in five steps is very simplistic on how to have a profitable business anywhere. This formula is applicable in any geographic area and to any business. Anything else beyond the sales and income – expenses = profit model is called an excuse. I was taught early on in my business career that “You can make money or you can make excuses, but you can’t make both.”

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Homegrown garnishes add flavor, nutrition and eye appeal to meals

By MELINDA MYERS

Make your meals just a bit more special with homegrown garnishes.  You invest time and money growing, purchasing, and preparing quality ingredients. But do not stop there.  Add a nutritional and decorative flair as you plate your meal by adding a garnish of homegrown herbs.

Parsley is a traditional garnish that is usually left behind on the plate.  But the dark green leaves should not be ignored.  This herb is high in Vitamin C and A, has cancer and inflammatory disease fighting qualities, and promotes heart health.  A perfect fit for your healthful eating goals. Although the curly varieties add texture to your plantings and plate, you and your guests may find the milder flavor of the flat leafed variety more palatable.  All this and it helps freshen your breath too.

A sprig of mint looks good next to or on top of most desserts.  Its cool flavor will help settle your stomach – an asset when we overindulge.  Like parsley, it is high in Vitamin C and A and helps in the fight against cancer and inflammatory diseases.  In addition, it relieves breathing problems.

And the best part; both are easy to grow right in your kitchen window. Start by purchasing healthy plants from your local garden center or the produce section of your grocery store.

Plant them in separate containers or together with other herbs in a larger pot.  Either way, make sure the container has drainage holes and a saucer to protect the windowsill or furniture it sits upon.  Gently loosen any tangled or girdling roots before planting your herbs in a well-drained quality potting mix.  Plant them at the same depth they were growing in their original pots.

Grow these and other herbs in a sunny window.  Add a grow light to boost productivity or grow your garden in lower light locations. New LED plant lights are now more affordable and use less energy. Water the soil thoroughly after planting and whenever it is slightly dry.  Be sure to pour off any excess water that collects in the saucer to avoid root rot. Another option is to add pebbles to the saucer, elevating the container above any excess water that remains.

Use kitchen shears or pruners to harvest the herbs.  Cut mint just above a set of leaves and parsley at the base of the stem.  Trim the sprigs as needed to dress up your holiday meals.

Your guests will be thrilled and more likely to take a bite of these healthful garnishes when they discover you grew them yourself.

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Don't let your pandemic diet cost you hair loss

 

The home-isolation effects of the pandemic are putting extra pounds on Americans, giving rise to the term “The Quarantine 15.”

After months of disruption to daily routines, poor eating habits and less physical activity equate to more weight. Dieting is the next step for some people, but medical experts caution that if they’re not careful, certain fat- and calorie-cutting measures can cause another kind of loss besides pounds  – their hair.

“With some fad diets, you are missing out on some important nutrients, and that factor can have an impact on hair loss,” says Dr. Patrick Angelos (drpatrickangelos.com), author of The Science and Art of Hair Restoration: A Patient’s Guide.

“Your body requires adequate calories and protein to feed your hair follicles. Your hormones have a direct effect on your hair health. In order to balance your hormones it’s important to know what foods, nutrients and supplements you need on a regular basis, and what you don’t need.”

Dr. Angelos offers these nutritional tips to aid overall health and prevent hair loss:

Avoid sugar. Crash diets or cleanses can lead to too much sugar in the bloodstream, which promotes inflammation. “When people eat sugar or carbs, it causes a spike of insulin and androgens, which bind to hair follicles and cause the hair to fall out,” Dr. Angelos says. “Inflammation driven by high-glycemic diets affects the immune system, and high levels of insulin can lead to hair loss.”

Get plenty of protein. “Protein is critical for keeping your hair healthy, but many people don't get enough,” Dr. Angelos says. “Too little protein in your diet can damage healthy hair and inhibit your body's ability to build new hair follicles. Lean meats like fish and chicken, eggs, and soy products are good sources of protein.”

Seek fatty acids. Omega-3s play a key role in the health of hair and skin. Dr. Angelos suggests foods that are rich in these fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, walnuts and almonds.

Beware of low iron. Low iron can be a cause of hair loss. “A balanced diet should include iron-rich foods such as spinach, pork and salmon, peas, and dried fruit,” Dr. Angelos says. “Foods high in vitamin C – oranges, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes – allow your body to absorb iron in a more efficient manner.”

Consider supplements. Dr. Angelos says a number of supplements can help maintain a balance necessary for good health and healthy hair. “Those include fish oil, a multivitamin that includes vitamins A, B complex, C, D, and E, along with the minerals zinc, iodine, and iron,” he says. You may want to also take a supplemental B-complex vitamin, although most multivitamins have sufficient amounts of Bs. And, if not in the multivitamin, also supplement with biotin, a coenzyme that helps the function of B-complex vitamins.”

“Our habits have been disrupted during the pandemic, so it’s an opportune time to create new and healthy ones,” Dr. Angelos says. “Dieting doesn’t mean depriving  yourself of essentials your body needs. And a healthy diet can help your hair stay strong and shiny.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – About the Mystery of Spousal Benefits

Dear Rusty: From what I’ve researched, the formula for spousal benefits seems very complicated. I read somewhere that it was a good idea to start the lower earning spouse’s benefit at age 62 and have the higher earning spouse file at full retirement age, for the spouse to get maximum benefit. But that information does not seem correct from other things I’ve read. Please help me clear this up. My wife’s birth year is 1956 and she now gets $656/month in Social Security benefits after claiming at 62. I have not claimed my benefits yet and Social Security’s estimator says I qualify for about $2850/month when I reach full retirement age. My birth year was 1957. So, if I take my benefit now at 63 will my wife’s benefit go up? And if I wait until my full retirement age to claim, will she get half of my benefit? I’ve tried to research all of this, but it is still very unclear. Signed: Seeking Knowledge

Dear Seeking:  Yes, the spousal benefit formula is complicated, especially when both of you are entitled to your own Social Security benefits. And there’s never a simple answer to whether it is a good idea for the lower earning spouse to start benefits first at age 62. For one thing, it depends upon whether they are still working, but it also depends upon health, life expectancy, and need for the money early.

Nevertheless, if your wife’s current age 62 benefit is $656, then her benefit at her full retirement age (had she waited) would have been about $895. This is known as her Primary Insurance Amount, or “PIA.” Spouse benefits are computed using PIA amounts, so if your full retirement age (FRA) benefit will be $2850, here’s how your wife’s spousal benefit will be calculated if you claim your SS after your wife has already reached her FRA:

• 50% of your FRA benefit (PIA) is $1425. Because your wife’s PIA is $895, her spousal boost is $530 ($1425 - $895). Her spousal boost ($530) will be added to her actual early benefit ($656) and her new benefit amount as your spouse, at her FRA, will be about $1186. Obviously, less than half of your FRA benefit amount.

The computation changes if you claim your SS benefit now, before your wife has reached her full retirement age, because getting her spouse benefit before her FRA means her spousal boost will be reduced (she automatically gets her spousal benefit when you claim).

The reduction to the spousal boost is actuarial, according to the number of months before her FRA that it is taken. If you were to claim now when your wife is 64, her spousal benefit would be computed like this:

• The spousal boost amount of $530 would be reduced because your wife hasn’t yet reached her FRA. Instead of the full $530 spousal boost, it would be reduced to about $442. The reduced spousal boost is added to your wife’s early SS benefit of $656, for a total benefit of about $1098. Once again, less than 50% of your FRA benefit amount.

So, as you can see, because your wife took her own benefit at age 62, she cannot get a spousal benefit equal to 50% of your FRA benefit, regardless of when you claim. If you claim your Social Security before your wife reaches her FRA, your wife’s spousal boost amount will be reduced, further lowering the total benefit amount your wife is entitled to as your spouse. The basic rule is this: any time any Social Security benefit is taken before one reaches their full retirement age, that benefit is reduced. And a spouse who claims their own SS retirement benefit before FRA will never get a spouse benefit equal to 50% of the other spouse’s PIA.

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The patient experience; should you demand more from your doctor?

Experiencing any health problem – a fever, a toothache, blurry vision – is bad enough.

Then comes the potentially excruciating part – the visit to a healthcare provider and the scheduling difficulties, long waits, and doctors and staff in a hurry that often can be a part of that experience.

But maybe – just maybe – patients are asking and expecting too little of the medical profession.

“Patients need to up the ante,” says Dr. Jeff Kegarise, an eye doctor, clinical and business management expert, and co-author with his wife, Susan, of One Patient at a Time: The K2 Way Playbook for Healthcare & Business Success (www.theK2Way.com).

“They should expect not just good care, but good service. How good is healthcare, or any business for that matter, if it doesn’t meet your needs and wants?”

Here are a few questions that Kegarise says patients should ask themselves about their primary-care physicians, dentists, optometrists and other healthcare professionals:

Does the office provide a friendly and welcoming atmosphere? This may sound basic, but Kegarise insists that how phone calls are handled and how patients are greeted when they arrive is critical to a good patient experience. And, he says, not every office excels at this. “But patients should expect it,” Kegarise says. “Sometimes it seems that the bar has been lowered and patients simply have come to accept that the welcoming at a doctor’s office  is going to be unpleasant. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Do they treat you as a person – or as an ailment? Kergarise bemoans the fact that in some medical offices, staff members refer to patients by their illness or injury, rather than by their names. “Doctor, there’s a knee contusion in room 1 and a gastric distress in room 2.” Kegarise says that if they refer to patients in that manner, they likely think of them that way, and not as people. “We have never seen a diseased eye walk into our practice,” he says. “No glaucoma checks in at the front desk, and no conjunctivitis sits down in my exam chair.”

Do they make sure you understand what they are telling you? It’s critical that patients understand the diagnosis and the planned care, so education should be part of the visit, Kegarise says. “There is a disparity between what we want patients to know and what patients can likely absorb,” he says, “so we reinforce what we say.” At his office, this includes providing the patient customized handouts summarizing everything from testing to medication to diagnoses.

Are they upfront about what they can and can’t do? Kegarise promotes a can-do, positive approach to responding to patients’ needs. But at the same time, he says, it’s important that medical professionals don’t overcommit. “If they promise something, they should be able to deliver,” he says. “If they can’t accomplish something the patient requests or needs, they should admit that and explain why it can’t be done.” It is okay to say “we can’t,” as long as you say, “yet here is what we can do,” he says.

“The more that patients want, expect, and demand from their doctor visit, the better the level of standard care provided will be,” Kegarise says. “Most doctors want to provide better care, yet many feel too constrained by the ever-increasing administrative burdens and declining reimbursements – each of which cuts into the time available for patient care. Those business pressures do exist, but they are not an excuse for delivering a poor patient experience.”

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The team you will need to close a winning deal and sell your business

For many entrepreneurs, selling a business is a one-time event, so it’s important to do it right.

Getting the best price for the business can be a complex journey, involving many factors outside the seller’s range of knowledge. But it starts with hiring the right team of professionals – while keeping in mind that the wrong hires might be people with whom the seller has long done business, says Terry Monroe, (www.terrymonroe.com), founder and president of American Business Brokers & Advisors (ABBA) and author of Hidden Wealth: The Secret to Getting Top Dollar for Your Business.

“Almost all business owners have an attorney and an accountant they have worked with for years and with whom they feel comfortable working,” Monroe says. “But those people might lack experience in selling businesses, which could result in the seller leaving thousands of dollars on the table.”

Monroe specifies the right type of professionals a seller needs to finalize sale of a business:

The attorney. The attorney’s role in the selling transaction is to give the seller legal advice on what can hurt them in the sale, such as taxes. “There’s a big difference between attorneys who know how to prepare real estate deeds and divorces, and one who knows all that’s involved in the sale of a business,” Monroe says. “I would start by asking the attorney with whom you have a relationship to refer you to someone they think has the skills and time to devote to you. Be proactive when employing an attorney, and don’t settle on just getting by.”

The accountant. “Sometimes an accountant who has worked for the business owner for years is not in tune with the marketplace in which the owner operates,” Monroe says. “That accountant may throw out a valuation that is nowhere near the market value of the business. There have been times I’ve sent the business owner back to their accountant to ask them how knowledgeable they are about the industry.”

A business intermediary. Monroe points out that neither an accountant nor an attorney works with buyers every day, thus they often don’t have an understanding of what businesses are worth or how buyers are reacting to businesses. “This is why you want to be represented by an experienced intermediary who does work on the front lines every day,” Monroe says. “A business intermediary is a crucial part of the selling process of your business, keeping you focused on your goal to sell your business for the highest value.” A good place to begin a search for a business intermediary, Monroe says, is the International Business Brokers Association. Larger transactions, he adds, may require the services of an investment banker.

“Just as in sports, if a seller doesn’t have the right team of players in the game, they will either get defeated or become hurt in some way,” Monroe says. “Get the right players involved to help you through this difficult and complex process and alert you to situations so that you don’t get blind-sided along the way.”

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How leading from the heart can propel business executives to greatness

A healthy ego can be a good thing, allowing someone to take pride in who they are and what they do.

But when business leaders allow an unhealthy ego to drive them, enormous problems are certain to follow, says Kimberly Roush, founder of All-Star Executive Coaching (www.allstarexecutivecoaching.com) and co-author of Who Are You… When You Are Big?

“A big ego can be toxic,” Roush says. “Your ego should not feed on the thought, ‘I’m bigger and more important than you.’ Instead, your ego should thrive on the thought, ‘I’m big because I’ve made the best of myself and I know you can do the same.’ It’s the difference between the ego of a big head and the ego of a big heart. And frankly, we need more leaders who lead from the heart.”

She offers a few tips to help leaders get started on the road to accomplishing that:

Cultivate resourceful mindsets in yourself and others. There are no unresourceful people, but there are unresourceful states of mind, Roush says. “They include fear, doubt, and stress,” she says. “People are often unresourceful when they feel overwhelmed, or when they become judgmental. Resourceful states are the positive ones: You are confident, empathetic, playful, energetic, enthusiastic, curious, joyful, loving, engaged, and grateful.”

Play to strengths. People too often focus on weaknesses, Roush says. “We’re always trying to fix what’s wrong,” she says. “We feel deficient, so we try to close the gap, but when people focus on their weaknesses they end up acting defensively, pointing fingers and blaming others.” By contrast, she says, when someone focuses on strengths, they’re celebrating what is right. “We feel engaged, we collaborate, and we find job satisfaction,” Roush says. “We feel a sense of joy, flow, energy, and fulfillment. Each of us has strengths that are unique and enduring, and it is in our strengths that we have the greatest room for growth.”

Don’t let challenges overwhelm you. Roush says business leaders – and people in general – have a choice when difficulties emerge. “We can look at our challenges as insurmountable, and that’s what they will become,” she says. “Or we can assume there are solutions out there for us to find – and they will come to us. Yes, work takes effort, but it doesn’t have to be onerous. The effort can be so much fun that it seems to be no work at all.”

“Can we control everything? Absolutely not,” Roush says. “Life can happen at any moment, good, bad, or ugly. But do we want to go through life in a cautious, negative state, always looking out for something bad that’s going to happen and perhaps even bringing it on?

“Or do we rewire ourselves so that we see it all as part of the ride? What we can control is how we respond. We can choose the mindset and the mood that we wake up with every morning.”

Kids will do the darndest things

Young Rich Humpherys went water skiing recently on Lake Powell, Utah. No big deal, you say. Well the kid is just six months old and he just may have broken the record for the youngest child to go water skiing. He was six months and four days old when it happened, to be exact, six days younger than the previous “unofficial record holder.” 

 

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He’s one unabashed collector

Steve Jenne of Sullivan, Illinois, is a collector with an odd predilection. It all started 60 years ago when Steve was a mere lad attending a barbecue. Presidential candidate Richard Nixon was in attendance and Steve realized that Nixon had not finished his buffalo barbeque sandwich. So, he picked it up, but didn’t eat it; instead, he wrapped it up and put it into the family freezer for posterity. Mr. Jenne made headlines and in 1988 when he and his frozen Nixon sandwich made an appearance on the Johnny Carson Show. Carson, in fact, gave him a half-eaten sandwich that he munched during his appearance to add to his collection. Soon after, comedian Steve Martin sent Jenne’s a signed paper plate upon which he had eaten chicken salad. Not long after, Tiny Tim and comic Henny Youngman provided unfinished foods of their own and the rest is history.

 

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Atta girl!

In honor of active seniors, the Association of Mature American Citizens  pays tribute to Sara Lyons of McKees Rocks, PA, who is turning 97 years of age. Her achievement: bowling and proving that practice makes perfect. Sara has been bowling for 70 years and recently racked up a near-perfect game, scoring what is known as a “no tap 300.” In other words, she knocked down at least nine pins each time, not leaving an open frame and earning a score of score of 300. Quite an achievement for the youngest among us; a delightful display of elder power for us older athletes, says AMAC.

 

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History Matters

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future 

By John Grimaldi and David Bruce Smith

California’s Yosemite Valley, with its Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, was a pristine home for native Americans until the Gold Rush of 1849, but--then--thousands of prospectors trampled the environment. By 1864, conservationists were looking for a way to protect the valley’s fragile ecosystem; finally, they urged President Lincoln to come to the rescue, and he put the basin under the protection of a public trust. It wasn’t until October 1, 1890 that Congress, and President Benjamin Harrison--at the behest of concerned environmentalists shepherded by John Muir--officially created Yosemite National Park. 

 

Today, there are more than 400 parks, comprising approximately 84 million acres—diffused throughout the country.

 

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends America's National Parks by Ester Tome.

...

When Washington DC was founded in 1790, it usurped Philadelphia as the nation’s capital; the new location was more favorable. Two years later, the cornerstone of the White House was laid. Why the “White House?” Perhaps, as History.com put it, “because its white-gray Virginia freestone contrasted strikingly with the red brick of nearby buildings.” The British had set fire to it during the War of 1812, but when it was rebuilt, the structure was painted white.

 

The original White House was designed by the American architect James Hoban, an Irish immigrant, who also supervised its reconstruction, but the nickname did not become official, until President Theodore Roosevelt declared--in 1901--that it would, henceforth,be known as the White House. 

 

The Grateful American Book Prize suggests The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower. 

...

Today we live in the “the space age.”  But prior to October 14, 1947, supersonic flight--or even a trip to the moon--was unthinkable. But on that day, World War II ace, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager, became the first pilot to break the sound barrier, over the Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, in southern California. His Bell Aircraft Company experimental rocket plane, the X-1, was attached to the bomb bay of a B-29, rose to an altitude of 25,000 feet, and released with Yeager at the controls. 

 

He took the aircraft to 40,000 feet and achieved a speed of more than 662 miles per hour, well past the sound barrier at that altitude.

 

Yeager was what some might call “a methodical daredevil.” During World War II he flew 64 missions over Europe, shot down 13 Nazi planes and was, himself, shot down--over enemy territory. He escaped capture by making a four-month trek to neutral Spain.

 

Winning the future: What businesses must do to prepare for 2021

Businesses bolted into 2020 with firm plans and optimistic outlooks.

All that evaporated by mid-March as the focus turned from thriving to surviving for most companies. Now, as this turbulent year enters its final months, a new question lies just over the horizon.

What will 2021 bring and how can businesses be ready?

“The future still seems so uncertain and the end of the pandemic still feels a long way off, but despite that there is a lot businesses can do to prepare for success in 2021,” says Adam Witty, a successful entrepreneur and the ForbesBooks co-author of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant.

“I’m sure 2021 will come with its own unexpected twists and turns, but I am also confident there will be potential.”

All the unknowns make planning a challenge, but Witty says it’s possible to begin gathering hints about how the world will operate going forward.

 “You just have to know where to look,” says Witty, who also is the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com).

 He suggests business leaders should:

  • Review what you learned in 2020. Think about what you did this year to maneuver through the hazards that came your way, Witty says. What worked? What didn’t? What would you do differently? “Use what you’ve learned to get your ducks in order to manage your business in a manner that meets both your and your customers’ needs,” Witty says. “Then, ask yourself what the future may hold and how you would handle whatever comes up.”
  • Talk to your best customers. Find out what they want and need, and how they anticipate their lives – or businesses – will look in 2021, especially post-pandemic.  “Learn how your product or service will fit into the flow,” Witty says. “Do they want you to continue delivering your product line in some virtual way, or is it important for them to be able to come into your facility for a real sit-down to discuss what they need and view the options in person? Does your solution lie in providing the best of both worlds, offering virtual visits alongside opportunities for physical interaction? Or is the right option something you haven’t yet explored?”
  • Look at what your competitors are doing. Review how they are reaching customers and clients today – and whether you can glean any insights about what they may do tomorrow, Witty says.
  • Rethink how to use your marketing dollars. In-person events, such as speaking engagements, trade shows, or conferences where you could network with potential customers were put on hold because of the pandemic. They might not return all that soon in 2021, so Witty suggests exploring other options for getting the best use out of the dollars that would have been budgeted for those events. That might mean pitching the media more to land radio or TV interviews, or publishing a book that tells your personal or company story and can be given to current or potential clients.

“Can your business handle the unexpected if something you couldn’t possibly anticipate were to arise, as happened in 2020?” Witty asks. “If the answer is yes, chances are you’re ready to play in a post-pandemic world.”

Sports Heroes Who Served: From D-Day Vet to Baseball Legend

BY DAVID VERGUN , DOD NEWS

Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

Most baseball fans of the legendary Yogi Berra probably don't know that he also served in World War II.

Berra actually signed with the New York Yankees in 1943, but put his baseball career on hold to join the Navy.

He was a gunner's mate assigned to the attack transport USS Bayfield. As a gunner's mate, Berra was responsible for the operation and maintenance of weapons and other ordnance equipment, as well as small arms and magazines.

The ship's destination: Utah Beach, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. 

During the invasion, Berra manned a landing craft support vessel from which he said he "sprayed bullets and rockets across the heavily fortified beach fronts before the troops landed." 

Berra was wounded in the hand by incoming enemy fire; he was later awarded the Purple Heart Medal.

In the years following his Navy service, he continued to support the troops. In 1950, he participated in a campaign with the Treasury Department to promote the purchase of U.S. savings bonds. In 2009, he received the Lone Sailor Award. and, in 2010, he was honored with the Audie Murphy Award for his Navy service.

Berra the Baseball Legend

As a player, Berra was with the New York Yankees from 1946 to 1963 and the New York Mets in 1965.

He was an 18-time All-Star and won 10 World Series championships as a player — more than any other player in Major League Baseball history. He had a career batting average of .285, while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is also widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history.

Berra caught Don Larsen's perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. He also holds the all-time record for shutouts caught — 173.

As a manager, he was with the Yankees in 1964, the Mets from 1972 to 1975, and back with the Yankees from 1984 to 1985. He is one of only seven managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series. 

As a coach, he was with the Mets from 1965 to 1971, the Yankees from 1976 to 1983, and the Houston Astros from 1986 to 1989.

Berra appeared as a player, coach or manager in every one of the 13 World Series that New York baseball teams won from 1947 through 1981. Overall, he played or coached in 22 World Series, 13 on the winning side. 

In 1972, Berra was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. That year, the Yankees retired his uniform, number 8. Incidentally, Bill Dickey, the Yankees coach who taught Yogi Berra the finer points of catching, had previously worn number 8 as a catcher for the Yankees in the 1930s and 40s. Both catchers had that number retired by the Yankees. Both catchers served in the Navy in World War II.

Berra the Quotable

 Outside of baseball, Berra is widely known for some memorable quotes. Here are just a few of many:

  • When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
  • You can observe a lot just by watching.
  • It ain't over 'till it's over.
  • No one goes there nowadays; it's too crowded.
  • Pair up in threes.
  • He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.
  • The future ain't what it used to be.
  • 90% of the game is half mental.
  • It's déjà vu all over again.
  • A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore.
  • I never said most of the things I said.

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Grow Garlic this Fall for Flavorful Meals and Health Benefits

By MELINDA MYERS

 

Add a bit of flavor and health benefits to your main course with some homegrown garlic.  This vegetable has been used for thousands of years as both food and medicine.  Today it is credited with fighting heart disease, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and boosting the immune system while fighting cancer. 

 

Grow garlic in a well-drained soil and full sun.  Plant cloves in fall about six weeks before the ground freezes in cold climates and early winter in warmer regions.   Garlic needs 6 to 8 weeks of cool temperatures below 40 degrees for the shoot and bulb to develop.  The leaves will form during cool, short days then slows as bulb growth begins when the days are warmer and longer.

 

Plant individual cloves with the pointed side up and the base of the clove 2 to 3 inches below the soil surface.  Space cloves 6 inches apart in rows 12 to 14 inches apart or more depending on the variety. 

 

Mulch the soil with weed-free straw after the ground freezes in regions with cold winters. This provides added insulation and helps prevent frost heaving that occurs when temperatures fluctuate, causing soil to alternately freeze, thaw and shift throughout the winter.

 

Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil evenly moist during active growth.  Inconsistent moisture during the growing season results in misshapen bulbs.  Mulch the soil with shredded leaves, evergreen needles, or other organic matter to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and improve the soil as it decomposes.

 

Double your garlic harvest by using the curly Q stems, called scapes, in cooking and flower arrangements. Watch for these curled stems about a month after the spring leaves appear.

 

Remove the scape soon after the swollen part appears at the tip of the stem. Cut or break the scape off just below the swollen area. All parts are edible and can be used fresh or cooked just like garlic. You will not only enjoy the mild flavor but removing the scapes helps increase the size of the garlic bulbs.

 

Harvest garlic when about one third, but less than one half of the leaves turn brown.  Start by digging one plant and checking the garlic for maturity.  Cloves should be plump and fill the skin.  Immature garlic does not store well while over-mature bulbs are subject to disease. 

 

Cure garlic for 3 to 4 weeks in a warm, well-ventilated location.  Once dried, remove the tops and store in a cool, moderately humid location with good air circulation and out of direct sunlight.  Properly harvested and cured garlic will last for up to 8 months.

 

So, plant some garlic this fall and add flavor and health benefits to your meals.

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As Healthcare Faces Mounting Problems, Can Data Science Save It?

 

It’s no secret that COVID-19 threatened to overwhelm hospitals this year.

But even without the added strain of the pandemic, the American healthcare system already faced questions about whether it can meet the needs of an aging population that will put even greater demands on an inadequate supply of doctors and equipment.

 

Just recently, the Association of American Medical Colleges released a study that said by 2033 the nation could experience, at minimum, a shortage of 54,100 physicians if something is not done.

 

But boosting the number of doctors isn’t the only answer to the challenges healthcare faces. Instead, making more efficient use of personnel and equipment that already exist could be the true gamechanger, says Sanjeev Agrawal, co-author with Mohan Giridharadas of Better Healthcare Through Math (www.leantaas.com).

 

“At a time when digital tools that use predictive analytics could dramatically improve the system’s efficiency, appointments for doctor visits and use of equipment such as an MRI essentially are still done by people looking at a calendar,” he says.

 

Agrawal and Giridharadas, senior executives at LeanTaaS, a software company that focuses on improving healthcare operations, say healthcare can look to FedEx, Uber and other companies for examples of how the power of math can solve complex issues of scheduling, asset utilization, and supply-and-demand.

 

“FedEx guarantees delivery the next morning anywhere in the country, despite the fact that it has no way of knowing how many packages will be shipped from any origin to any destination on any given day,” Giridharadas says.

 

In comparison, a patient who needs an MRI might need to schedule two weeks in advance, and then still be forced to wait when they arrive, Agrawal says. Meanwhile, during that two weeks, there likely were 20 to 25-minute chunks of time when the MRI machine sat unused.

 

Both patients and healthcare providers would win if these old ways of doing things were put aside, Giridharadas and Agrawal say. Some advantages would include:

  • Increased access for patients. If you can move more patients through the system in the same amount of time, then healthcare becomes more accessible for more people.  “It’s also good for the bottom line,” Giridharadas says.
  • Lower operating costs. Greater productivity allows health systems to absorb a growing number of patients without a corresponding increase in labor or facility costs, Agrawal says. “Lower costs lead to greater revenue retention for the company,” Agrawal says. “And when fewer cost increases need to be passed on to patients, they benefit as well.”
  • Better patient experiences. Patient complaints often revolve around not their actual care, but difficulties scheduling appointments and long wait times after they arrive. “Increased productivity allows health systems to offer more appointment choices today, tomorrow, and this week, and to reduce patients’ wait times throughout the course of each encounter with the system,” Giridharadas says.
  • Improved use of equipment. When facilities can get more use out of specialized equipment, then they don’t need to spend more money to expand buildings or buy more equipment, Agrawal says. “In addition, when providers and patients have access to equipment in a timelier manner, the result can be better clinical outcomes as well as reduced patient anxiety,” he says.

Healthcare, until recently, didn’t feel much pressure to change its inefficient ways, Giridharadas says. That’s changing as economic forces such as reimbursement pressures and lack of capital bear down on healthcare.

 

“As with any other industry, the invisible hand of the market will eventually have its way,” he says. “This means healthcare must begin to think more competitively and innovatively. The market differentiators in healthcare will revolve around better patient access, lower cost, and superior quality of service.”

 

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Expecting parents should talk to the older child about the new baby

PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Preparing for a new baby brings joy and excitement, but it can also be a challenging time for a big brother or sister, Linda Inmon, Cooperative Extension Program associate-family and consumer sciences for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said. Many changes come with having a new baby, so it is important to involve the older child in the process.

“The change of bringing someone new into your child’s space is difficult for them,” Inmon said. “The space that was once theirs now must suddenly be shared, and it is common for them to become jealous.”

When parents inform the older child of a new baby and involve them in preparations early on, it makes the transition easier, she said. Parents should especially strive to make the older child feel they are involved in creating space for the new baby. Parents can also help ease the transition by talking to their child about what is happening to the baby throughout the pregnancy in terms the child will understand.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the older child's age and development will affect how he or she reacts to a new sibling. While older children are typically eager to meet a new sibling, younger children might be confused or upset. Parents can use the following tips from the Mayo Clinic to help their child adjust:

  • Children younger than age 2. Young children likely won't yet understand what it means to have a new sibling. Parents should talk to their child about the new addition to the family, taking time to look at picture books about babies and families together.
  • Children ages 2 to 4. Children at this age are still quite attached to their parents and might feel jealous sharing their attention with a newborn. Parents should read to their older child about babies, brothers and sisters. They can spend time looking at the older child’s baby pictures and discussing the story of his or her birth. Parents can also give the child a doll so that he or she can be a caregiver, too. They can encourage their older child's involvement in the event by taking him or her shopping for baby supplies.
  • School-age children. Older children might feel jealous of how much attention a new baby gets. Parents can point out the advantages of being older, such as going to bed later. They may also display the older child's artwork in the baby's room or ask the older child to help take care of the baby.

“Talk to your child about the events that will take place as you get closer to delivery,” Inmon said. “Explain where the new baby will be born. Let the older child know who will keep them while you are away and tell them when they can expect to meet their sister or brother.”

Parents should not lead their older child to believe the new baby will become someone they can play with as soon as they come home, she said. Instead, they should be honest and explain how babies are a lot of work and that they cry a lot. It is important for the older child to know that babies cannot do anything for themselves. Someone must feed, bath and clothe them and tend to them when they cry.

“Some children may want to help care for the baby in ways such as talking to the baby during diaper changes,” she said. “Other tasks can be given depending on the age and maturity of the child. These tasks may take longer to complete, but this involvement allows the siblings to bond together. And if an older child shows no interest in the baby at first, just give him or her time to adjust to having the baby around.”

Inmon reminds parents to keep regular family routines as much as possible during the transition period.

“Remember to spend time with the older sibling,” she said. “Ask family members and friends to give the older child some attention through regular visits, conversations and even small gifts. This will help remind them that they too are special and are an important part of the family unit.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC certified social security advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – Can I Get Social Security with My Municipal Pension?

Dear Rusty: I retired from a municipal Fire Department seven years ago at the age of 54. It is a private pension, and I was exempt from Social Security while I was working. I receive about $50,000 per year in pension benefits. I recently got a letter from Social Security saying I needed 8 more credits of work to qualify for Social Security benefits. I was wondering if I worked two more years, paying into Social Security, would I qualify for benefits, since I am on a municipal pension? Signed: Retired Fireman

Dear Retired Fireman: Although your municipal Fire Department pension would reduce your Social Security benefit, it will not eliminate it. So, if you work and earn those additional eight credits you will be entitled to a Social Security benefit. 

Because of your non-covered municipal pension your Social Security benefit will be affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), which affects anyone who has a pension from an employer which did not participate in Social Security (neither the employee nor the employer paid into Social Security). WEP uses a special benefit computation formula which will result in you getting a smaller benefit, but you will, nevertheless, get some benefit amount if you have accumulated at least 40 quarters of Social Security credit. Note that your SS benefit amount will be further reduced if you claim it at age 62, or any age prior to your full retirement age. 

You earn Social Security credits by working in a job where you pay FICA payroll taxes on your earnings, and you can earn a maximum of four SS credits per year. For 2020, you'll earn one credit for each $1410 of earnings, up to a maximum of four credits for the year, but you don't need to work the entire year to get the credits. For example, if you work yet in 2020 and earn $5640 (4 times $1410) you'll earn the maximum four credits for this year. 

You need a total of 40 quarter credits to become eligible for Social Security, and those credits never expire, so even old credits earned before your Fire Department career still count. And, even if small, this would be a benefit you have earned by contributing to Social Security, so there’s little reason not to pursue it by gaining the needed additional credits.

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How to prevent political discussions from polarizing your workplace

 

 

Much has been written about political polarization in the U.S. and how a heated political climate has drawn a line in the sand between voters.

 

But heading into the 2020 presidential election, self-censorship also is on the rise – including at the workplace, where some people fear sharing their political views. Nearly a third of employed Americans worry they could lose their jobs or be passed over for career advancements if their political opinions become known, according to a Cato Institute survey.

 

For business leaders trying to build a strong culture, knowing how to manage political expression and discussions in the workplace is critical, says Joel Patterson (www.JoelPatterson.com), a workplace culture expert, founder of The Vested Group and ForbesBooks author of The Big Commitment: Solving The Mysteries Of Your ERP Implementation.

 

“Unfortunately, things have gotten so divisive that even if somebody just wears a shirt or makes an innocuous comment, somebody is going to get upset,” Patterson says. “When people at work are afraid to say anything political, that fearfulness isn’t conducive to a cohesive work environment. Rather than ignore it or futilely try to shutter it, business owners and managers are better off having a plan to deal with the political dynamic so it won’t disrupt their business and drive their employees apart.”

 

Patterson offers tips to help business leaders manage political discussions and tensions, and keep politics in proper perspective, in the workplace:

  • Make company culture the first priority. Having an established set of company core values is highly beneficial in giving your team a framework for how they interact with peers, clients, and other professional contacts externally, Patterson says. “If you have a solid workplace culture, then core values like respect for others, including respect for others’ opinions, will carry the day and overcome political disagreements,” he says. “An emphasis on core values reminds everyone that they are all on the same team.”
  • Give flexibility – within reason. “Most people don’t want or expect a formal workplace policy related to politics in the workplace,” Patterson says. “The leadership team of your business needs to let employees know they are valued as individuals while emphasizing that leaving politics out of the workplace is the best practice for all involved. Let your employees know you are flexible with their comfort level, but they are also accountable for how they conduct themselves as a representative of your company.”
  • Keep political programs off the office TVs. “You don’t want to invite arguments,” Patterson says. “Making sure that office TVs, especially in the break room, are not tuned to political programs is an easy preventive measure. Sometimes the news and panel discussions get people wound up.
  • De-escalate, don’t instigate. As a manager or business owner, employees will be watching to see how you handle a heated political conversation between workers. “Try to cool things off and lead by example,” Patterson says. “If the employees persist, tell them that their loud conversation is distracting to a productive work environment. If someone you work with is expressing a viewpoint that doesn’t coincide with yours, a mental note to yourself to agree to disagree often does the trick.”

“Handling political talk isn’t something business owners and managers should be afraid of,” Patterson says. “It’s an opportunity to ease the tension their employees feel and remind them that no matter their differences, they can remain strong together.”

 

Father of invention

Necessity is the mother of invention and so Andrew Beattie of Cincinnati and his young daughter came up with a way to safely distribute treats during the COVID-19 crisis come Halloween. They invented what they call a “candy chute,” a decorative six-foot long tube that will be affixed to the handrail leading up to their home’s front door. The detailed post on his Facebook page explaining how he built it received some 20,000 “likes.”  As Beattie put it, “This will be a completely ‘touch-free’ experience for trick or treaters. There will be a sign at the bottom of the tube showing them where to hold their bags and buckets so the candy can drop right in.”

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Snake mask story

The long and lonely self-isolation induced by the coronavirus outbreak has motivated some people to find odd ways of dealing with the risks associated with the disease]. Take the fellow who was seen recently aboard a bus in Manchester, England wearing a snake around his neck and mouth instead of a mandatory face mask. Photos and videos of him taken by fellow passengers have gone viral around the world. Britain’s Daily Mail reported that it was a stunt on the man’s part that seemed to amuse some of the passengers with him on the bus, but the authorities were not amused, insisting “that snakes are not replacements for face coverings.”

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The longest walk

Doctors will tell you that, ideally, seniors should walk about one to one-and-a-half miles per week to stay healthy. But, Brad Hathaway’s doctor suggested that he walk at least three miles a day to deal with what was ailing him when he was in his mid-fifties and Brad took the advice “to heart,” as they say. He’s 88 years old now and in fine fettle. In fact, he’s been walking an average of three to 10 miles a day all this time. He’s been keeping track of his mileage and figures that he is in a few days he will have circumnavigated the earth, so to speak, having walked 24,901 since the day he started.

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How you can stop fake news from faking you out

The term “fake news” gained traction during the 2016 U.S. presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and it has since become a familiar phrase in the American political vernacular.

Could fake news factor into the current presidential election season? The QAnon movement has been seen by some media and political observers as an example of a politically-driven group promoting fake news. Despite a lack of evidence to support their beliefs, followers of the QAnon movement believe that President Trump is fighting a satanic deep state of global elites. Facebook booted accounts promoting QAnon.

David Dozier (www.DavidDozierBooks.com), a professor emeritus in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University and author of The California Killing Field, thinks QAnon’s origins and emergence into national news cycles symbolizes the intent of fake news: to influence voters.

“We live in a world where it’s hard to believe almost anything you see related to politics on social media, and sometimes in the mainstream media as well,” Dozier says. “Our democratic process for electing political leaders has suffered great harm due to these disinformation campaigns.

“Fake news is definitely an issue heading into this critical presidential election. QAnon is the latest example of how conspiracy theories on the internet can gain traction and build followings.”

Researchers have suggested that false information presented as news fuels public distrust of political leaders and the media, influences people’s attitudes, and damages democracy.

“We’ve never been more polarized as a country, and fake news is dividing us further,” Dozier says. “It’s become a phenomenon, but people still have the power to sort the true from the false.”

Dozier suggests these ways to spot fake news:

Don’t fall into the bias trap. People can fall prey to confirmation bias, a tendency to favor information that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. “Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum,” Dozier says, “people lend more credence to information that reinforces what they already believe. To counteract the confirmation bias trap, try changing your perspective by taking the other side of the argument. Overall, be skeptical and think critically.”

Pause before you share or retweet. “Some people have an emotional reaction to a piece of news and think they should share it,” Dozier says. “But it’s important to know that the people who create disinformation are designing it to do just that – trigger an emotional reaction. So wait and ask questions about the content. Who shared it or created it? Why was this shared? Do some investigating.”

Go straight to the source. “The algorithms used by social media and news aggregator sites are designed to make sure we see stories geared to our interests,” Dozier says. “This makes it harder to identify if a story is real or fake, and who created it. Instead of following a link from the outlet that shows up on your social media, go online and head straight to the source. Inspect the poster’s profile and their post history. See if the poster has affiliations that are in line with spreading a certain point of view.”

Inspect the content the account posted. Conducting a reverse image search can make it easier to authenticate an image by finding its source. “Fake news/disinformation often uses old images,” Dozier says. “With a reverse image search, you can search for previous instances of an image that appears online and to find if the image used is from a different story. You can also reverse image search the profile picture to see if that picture or similar photos are being used on other accounts. That’s a common practice to create fake personas online.

“Getting to the facts is getting more difficult,” Dozier says. “We have tons of information coming at us from all angles and platforms. It’s more important than ever to think for ourselves.”

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Disrupt the disruption: How businesses can meet COVID-forced changes head on

Businesses continue to navigate the changes that COVID-19 has wrought on the economy, rethinking how they serve customers, searching desperately for ways to cut spending, and trying to make long-term plans while ensuring short-term survival.

But it’s worth remembering that change that disrupts the economy is nothing new – with or without a pandemic, says Juan Riboldi (www.ascent-advisor.com), an international business advisor, author, and president of Ascent Advisor, a management consulting firm.

“The real issue businesses leaders must deal with is not change,” Riboldi says. “Instead the issue is what can we do so that we and our businesses can benefit from the change that COVID has brought.”

Anyone wondering where to begin should first look inward, he says.

“Since all change starts with individuals,” Riboldi says, “we must learn to recognize and correct negative tendencies in ourselves that keep us from successfully addressing change. A better understanding of these bad habits or tendencies will help us know how to effectively resolve them.”

To meet the changes caused by COVID-19 head on, Riboldi says business leaders should:

Keep the trust level in your company high. When a manager goes back on decisions, hides uncomfortable news, or plays office politics for personal convenience, others in the organization will begin to distrust that manager. “If you make promises, be sure to keep them,” Riboldi says. “Otherwise you will lose the trust of others as well as their respect, both of which are desperately needed as you manage change.”

Stay focused. “Lack of focus is a main cause for why smart people do dumb things,” Riboldi says. “Being busy does not mean accomplishing more. When we work at a frantic pace, we often make more mistakes.” For businesses, this problem is magnified by the kind of economic uncertainty the country is going through right now, he says. “Companies experiencing  tough times often respond to unpredictable situations by panicking,” Riboldi says. “They try to do more with less, rather than simplifying and becoming more focused.”

Keep employee training on track. Businesses already worry that entry-level employees are deficient in many of the skills needed to do the job, Riboldi says.  Many companies respond to economic downturns by cutting training and development budgets. “Doing away with training may provide temporary financial relief, but at a long-term cost on the capability of your workforce,” Riboldi says.

Inspire commitment in employees. The role of the immediate supervisor is essential for fostering commitment in workers, Riboldi says. When a supervisor fails to lead employees in a way that inspires teamwork and collaboration, commitment falters. “The most common problem affecting morale is when supervisors don’t provide employees with sincere recognition for their work,” he says. “Too often, supervisors fail to give heartfelt praise for a job well done. This simple action costs nothing and takes little time to do, and yet it is a crucial component in engaging a workforce.”

Understand the importance of short-term results. Riboldi says most major organizational change efforts fail to deliver the expected results. One of the main reasons for that is a lack of success early on. “Many promising change initiatives become prematurely aborted due to failure to show short-term gains,” he says. “Insufficient attention to short-term results kills even the best strategies and plans.” To be successful, Riboldi says, an organization must balance the short and the long term. “Achieving early wins builds support for pursuing longer term goals,” he says.

“Fortunately, the problems we encounter as we deal with change are both avoidable and curable,” Riboldi says. “We can identify their root causes and replace them with something better.”

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The struggles of small business don’t bode well for the overall economy

The year 2020 can’t end quickly enough for most small business owners.

Across the country, the pandemic forced many of them to close their operations temporarily – or permanently – and the continued economic uncertainty threatens to kill the ambitions of entrepreneurs who planned to launch businesses but now must put their dreams on hold.

None of that bodes well for the overall American economy, says Andi Gray, president of Strategy Leaders (www.strategyleaders.com), a business consulting firm.

“Small businesses make up 50 percent of the gross-domestic product and also employ half the workforce,” she says. “What happens to them determines what happens to the overall economy. We as a country cannot afford to fail them.”

Gray points to the 2008-11 banking crisis as a disturbing example of how a national crisis can sabotage entrepreneurship. In 2008 , for the first time, the number of business starts fell below the number of business closures.

“In other words, more businesses were killed off than were launched,” she says, ”and it wasn’t a one-time event. The problem continued on for years.”

The ripple effects? By 2009 small business contributions to GDP fell rather than grew. By 2010 the economic contribution gap between large and small businesses widened four-fold as small businesses struggled to keep up with their large corporate competitors. People lost their jobs, exports dropped, taxes fell and economic opportunity disappeared as entrepreneurs fought to recover. It took over five years for the small business community to get back on track, Gray says. But the damage was already done. By 2015, the U.S. was ranked 12th among developed nations in terms of startup activity.

She worries such lingering effects could happen again – and be significantly worse this time.

“Today’s COVID crisis is far larger and deeper than the 2008 crisis,” she says. “I would not be surprised if it takes far longer than five years for the small business community to get back to producing GDP and employment numbers we took for granted at the beginning of the year.”

In the meantime, small business owners hit hard by this latest recession must find ways to weather the storm. Gray offers a few suggestions for how they can do that:

Stay energized and focused. The single biggest determinant for survival of any small business is the commitment, ambition, and drive of the owner, Gray says. “If you are feeling worn out, take time off to recharge,” she says. “Keep your eye focused down the road, on what’s way ahead, and don’t waste too much energy and sweat trying to control what’s happening right in front of you day-to-day.”

Take care of the finances. If money is in short supply, investigate sources of capital. Put together a bankable plan that justifies increased investment and provides guidance on how best to use funding to recover, expand and weather future challenges, Gray says. “Talk to your banker, the SBA, reputable SBA lending consultants, and private investors to find out what kinds of capital might be available,” she says.

Figure out how to play the hand they were dealt. Small business owners need to get creative and innovative, Gray says. “Rebuild as you protect cash flow,” Gray says. “Find suppliers to replace the ones struggling to perform. Rethink your business model and evaluate customer viability.” In addition, look for new markets to add size and profits, implement processes to cut out waste, and transition more and more customers to internet communication and ecommerce buying solutions. “Decide what size business will be right for you in the future and lay out a plan to get there,” Gray says.

Pay attention to employees. As scared as small business owners may be about what the future holds, many of their employees are even more frightened. “After all, you have the resources of your company to use to build solutions,” Gray says. “Employees who live paycheck to paycheck may be running out of options and wondering how long they can hold on – or how long you’ll be able to let them hold onto their much-needed jobs.”

“The good news is that small business owners are known for being nimble, flexible, and resourceful,” Gray says. “Many of them are finding new opportunities by solving problems that didn’t exist, or weren’t priorities, at the start of 2020.”

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How leading from the heart can propel business executives to greatness

A healthy ego can be a good thing, allowing someone to take pride in who they are and what they do.

But when business leaders allow an unhealthy ego to drive them, enormous problems are certain to follow, says Kimberly Roush, founder of All-Star Executive Coaching (www.allstarexecutivecoaching.com) and co-author of Who Are You… When You Are Big?

“A big ego can be toxic,” Roush says. “Your ego should not feed on the thought, ‘I’m bigger and more important than you.’ Instead, your ego should thrive on the thought, ‘I’m big because I’ve made the best of myself and I know you can do the same.’ It’s the difference between the ego of a big head and the ego of a big heart. And frankly, we need more leaders who lead from the heart.”

She offers a few tips to help leaders get started on the road to accomplishing that:

Cultivate resourceful mindsets in yourself and others. There are no unresourceful people, but there are unresourceful states of mind, Roush says. “They include fear, doubt, and stress,” she says. “People are often unresourceful when they feel overwhelmed, or when they become judgmental. Resourceful states are the positive ones: You are confident, empathetic, playful, energetic, enthusiastic, curious, joyful, loving, engaged, and grateful.”

Play to strengths. People too often focus on weaknesses, Roush says. “We’re always trying to fix what’s wrong,” she says. “We feel deficient, so we try to close the gap, but when people focus on their weaknesses they end up acting defensively, pointing fingers and blaming others.” By contrast, she says, when someone focuses on strengths, they’re celebrating what is right. “We feel engaged, we collaborate, and we find job satisfaction,” Roush says. “We feel a sense of joy, flow, energy, and fulfillment. Each of us has strengths that are unique and enduring, and it is in our strengths that we have the greatest room for growth.”

Don’t let challenges overwhelm you. Roush says business leaders – and people in general – have a choice when difficulties emerge. “We can look at our challenges as insurmountable, and that’s what they will become,” she says. “Or we can assume there are solutions out there for us to find – and they will come to us. Yes, work takes effort, but it doesn’t have to be onerous. The effort can be so much fun that it seems to be no work at all.”

“Can we control everything? Absolutely not,” Roush says. “Life can happen at any moment, good, bad, or ugly. But do we want to go through life in a cautious, negative state, always looking out for something bad that’s going to happen and perhaps even bringing it on?

“Or do we rewire ourselves so that we see it all as part of the ride? What we can control is how we respond. We can choose the mindset and the mood that we wake up with every morning.”

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How businesses can avoid becoming irrelevant in a changing world

The business world has produced a veritable graveyard of once magnificently successful companies that came, conquered and thrived – but ultimately perished.

In many cases, those businesses share a common reason for their demise: Times changed. They didn’t.

“I’ve always been fond of the saying that if you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less,” says Adam Witty, a successful entrepreneur and the ForbesBooks co-author of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant.

“Over the years, many businesses discovered they didn’t change quickly enough, much to their chagrin. Others realized their old business model no longer applied, and they did adapt.”

In the last decade or so, media companies especially have had to navigate their way through an extraordinary disruption of their business models, says Witty, who also is the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com).

“Reading habits and advertising habits shifted,” he says. “This meant media companies needed to diversify and be innovative if they wanted to continue to thrive.”

Witty was involved in such a diversification recently when his company announced a partnership with American City Business Journals, the publisher of 44 weekly Business Journals in cities across the U.S. Through the partnership, American City Business Journals is branching out into the book-publishing field with the creation of Business Journals Books, an enterprise that will be operated jointly with Witty’s company.

“This is an exciting new way for them to be creative and create a new revenue stream for their business,” Witty says.

With COVID-19 and the 2020 recession forcing companies to navigate their way through even more changes, Witty says businesses that want to avoid tumbling into irrelevance need to:

Review and rank their products. A few years ago when Witty’s company did such a ranking, he realized one product line the business had offered for years didn’t measure up and needed to go. “It was hard to deliver, had low gross margins, was extremely people intensive, and had very limited scalability,” he says. “The time, energy, effort and capital we were investing in this product line were taking away our ability to invest in new products that would be more scalable and more profitable.”

Always be on the lookout for new ideas. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, so savvy business leaders are always open to new ideas for bringing in revenue, Witty says. “You should also encourage employees to suggest ideas,” he says. “Maybe a lot of those won’t work. But the more ideas that get tossed around, the better the odds something will prove a winner.”

Favor facts and data over opinions. No matter how much an entrepreneur loves the business plan they used originally to  launch their business, they need to make decisions about the future based on facts and data, Witty says. “You must deal with the way things are, rather than the way you want them to be,” he says. “Facts and data will tell you the way things are.”

“Because of COVID-19 and the recession, a willingness to adapt to changing consumer habits and ways of doing business is probably more important than ever,” Witty says. “The businesses most likely to thrive coming out of this are those that have a plan, but also remain flexible and are willing to change that plan as the circumstances around them change.”

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Social Security Matters

by AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – No Dumb Questions About Social Security

Dear Rusty: I have some questions about Social Security, but I’ve never been old before so these may be dumb questions.

1.   My 66th birthday is in October 2021; do I put in for Social Security in January 2022? Or when?

2.   I am a 30-year military retiree. Do I need to bring my DD-214 to the SSA Office when I apply?

3.   My wife has not held a job outside the home, but she has worked as hard if not harder than me running and taking care of our home and affairs when I was away a lot of the time. She turns 66 in September 2022. Can she apply for Social Security and, if so, does she get a percentage of what I get?

Thank you for any help you can give me. Signed: Retired Military

Dear Retired Military: There are no “dumb questions,” especially when it comes to Social Security which has over 2,700 different rules sure to perplex even the most learned among us. I’ll answer your questions in the order you posed them:

1. Your full retirement age (or “FRA”) is 66 years and 2 months. Your FRA is when you get 100% of the benefit you’ve earned from a lifetime of working. Claiming earlier will mean a reduced benefit; waiting longer can mean a larger benefit. If you wish to claim benefits at your full retirement age in December 2021, you should apply for those benefits in September 2021 (SS suggests you apply 3 months before you wish benefits to begin). Just be sure to specify your benefit start month as December to get your full benefit.

2. You do not need your DD-214 when you apply for Social Security. Your earnings during your military career are already known to Social Security and will, along with any non-military earnings, form the basis for your Social Security benefit. Your SS benefit will be based upon the highest-earning 35-years of your lifetime earnings career (adjusted for inflation). You do not need to go to the SS office to apply; you can apply over the phone (call to make an appointment first) or online at www.ssa.gov/retire. Applying online is by far the easiest way to claim your benefits.

3. Even though your wife is not eligible for SS benefits on her own work record, she can still collect a spousal benefit from you. If she waits until she reaches her FRA before she claims, she’ll get 50% of the benefit you are entitled to at your full retirement age. Your wife’s FRA is 66 years and 4 months and, although she can claim the spouse benefit before that, if she does it will be actuarially reduced according to the number of months before her FRA that she claims. FYI, your wife cannot collect her spousal benefit until you have started to collect your benefits.

Finally, thank you for your many years of service to our country. Your pay while serving will be part of the 35 highest-earning years over your lifetime used to compute your Social Security benefit.

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America is ruptured by social unrest; could Plato lead the way out?

Social unrest has disrupted the nation, brought on by such events as police shootings, mass protests, misinformation and deception in social media, and a backlash to COVID-19 shutdowns and mask mandates.

Not to mention, a divisive presidential race is promising to give 2020 an unsettling ending regardless of the results.

In short, the United States is ailing and could use some healing.

But instead of looking to today’s political leaders to help shepherd us through these turbulent times, perhaps it’s time to journey back through the centuries and summon the Greek philosopher Plato, who had a few things to say about the relationship between rulers and the people they rule.

“In his writings, Plato laid out how certain societies in ancient history were undone, and we might want to pay attention to what he had to say to make sure we aren’t undone as well,” says Cristina DiGiacomo (www.cristinadigiacomo.com), author of Wise Up! At Work and founder of MorAlchemy, a leadership consulting firm that helps CEOs and executives use philosophy to tackle challenges by teaching them to think differently and see new solutions to help their companies thrive.

“In Plato’s writings, we can find a blueprint for good leadership, accountability, and what leads to social unrest.”

What’s more, DiGiacomo says, those same ideas can apply to businesses dealing with recalcitrant employees.

“Plato had plenty of wisdom to go around,” she says.

Here are just a few of Plato’s ideas for addressing times of tumult:

It starts and ends at the top. This idea has been a part of leadership rhetoric for quite some time, DiGiacomo says. “Yet no one really takes it seriously,” she says. “Is it any wonder we are experiencing an increase in social unrest because of the failure of governmental leadership? Is it any wonder how companies that are thriving can be brought to ruin by a misguided or inexperienced CEO? So if we want to quell social unrest, or you want to be a good steward in your company with a restless or angry employee base, it’s simple. Get better leadership at the top.”

The ruler and the ruled must have an unspoken agreement. According to Plato, here’s how that unspoken agreement works. The ruler promises not to be oppressive. Those being ruled agree not to subvert the ruler’s power as long as that promise is kept. “What’s interesting is the power actually resides in those being ruled,” DiGiacomo says. ”It is they who keep watch over the ruler to ensure the ruler is not oppressive. The unrest we see now is because there is no agreement about what it means to be a ruler or ruled. Everything has been thrown off balance and the silent contract has been upended.”

Ignorance is not bliss. What does Plato say is the main cause of the undoing of society? That’s easy. Ignorance. “Plato considers wisdom the guiding force for a good and just society,” DiGiacomo says. “In his view, what leads to social unrest is when people or leaders give in to their individual, uninformed selfish ideas and refuse to use reason and wisdom.”  Plato believed leaders should instill as much wisdom as possible in citizens, and try to eradicate ignorance. But when leaders promote ignorance, oppress truth, and eschew reason, trouble is almost certain. “When a CEO acts this way, people leave the company,” DiGiacomo says. “When a government leader acts like this, people take to the streets..

“Plato lived more than 2,000 years ago, but his ideas apply just as well today as they did then,” DiGiacomo says. “When you see just how relevant they are, you realize maybe things don’t change that much after all, and the answers have been in front of us the whole time.”

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How to turn difficult times into a period of growth

FORT LAUDERDALE — If there is one thing that most people have in common during the last few months, it is that the pandemic has created more stress and made life more difficult. In fact, a study published in the September 2020 issue of the journal Science Advances found that acute stress and depressive symptoms increased significantly over time as COVID-19 news took center stage. Without a doubt, it has been a difficult time for most people, but one impact coach says this is the perfect time to grow from those challenging times.

“A crisis always offers opportunity for growth and meaning,” explains Katie Sandler, personal development and career coach. “Many people don’t realize the potential that difficult times bring in terms of helping them to further develop, both personally and in their career.”

That’s where Sandler comes in. She aims to help people have a different view about challenging times, so they can use them to their advantage. She specializes in helping people turn difficult times into periods of growth and reach new levels of success. She helps people in a variety of ways, including through one-on-one coaching, impact retreats, and corporate impact events. She has worked extensively with executive career coaching clients and in career development for women.

Her coaching and retreats have helped many people to make a better connection and be able to overcome situations that may otherwise have held them back. She has helped many people through one-on-one life and success coaching, including doing virtual retreats. She has also helped people reach their career goals, as well as personal achievement goals. Having spent over 15 years researching purpose, she has made it her mission to help people find their purpose in life.

Her clients routinely benefit from her helping them become unstuck, create more balanced and fulfilling life, overcome blocks, design a more meaningful career path, make transitions in their life, stay focused, cope with change, and integrate spirituality into their daily lives. Here are some of the things that she believes are crucial to thriving:

Stop and ask. We are now living in a daily situation where we have to be more mindful of our thoughts, actions, feelings, and behaviors. Disconnection breeds discontentment, and at some point we stop to ask: What is happening, why is this happening, and what can I do to make it better?

Test new ways. It’s during this time that it is important to start testing out new ways of thinking, feeling, and being - and this process inevitably brings growth. This is the time to get off of autopilot and become more cognizant of your personal wants and needs.

Become more resilient. Far too often today, there are people who are having difficulty being able to bounce back from even the smallest of setbacks. Yet people are being forced to face adversity in every way, shape or form. This has become an obstacle to overcome - one which we all share - making this the most globally collective experience. We must become more resilient to what the world throws our way.

Slow down and simplify. When we try to take on too much at once, it can become stressful and overwhelming. Taking things at a slower and more simple pace will help you get where you want to be in a more peaceful manner.

Confront challenges head-on. We have a tendency to want to hide under the covers when adversity comes our way, but that won’t stop it from coming. We can be more successful overcoming the challenges if we adopt an attitude that we will address it head-on and come out ahead.

“Clarity, attitude, and connection are going to make a major impact in one’s life when they are faced with difficult times,” added Sandler. “I’ve helped countless people be able to make the connection and essentially get out of their own way, so that they can go on to grow and succeed.”

Sandler works with individuals, groups, and corporations to help people become more impactful and successful. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in mental health counseling, has a strong foundation in mindfulness-based stress reduction, and has worked in hospitals and private practices. She has also spent time as a research assistant at Johns Hopkins. She offers a variety of one-on-one coaching and corporate opportunities, as well as wellness and impact retreats.

Impact retreats offer a low-key wellness opportunity for travelers looking for a unique experience. Upcoming retreats include Reignite in Tulum, Mindfulness in Mykonos, Rewire and Renew in The French Alps, Mindfulness & Mindset in The Hamptons. To learn more about Katie Sandler and her services, or to see the retreat schedule, visit the site: https://katiesandler.com/.

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How eco-friendly is organic farming and is there another way?

Grocery shoppers who care that their food is grown in a responsible and environmentally friendly fashion enjoy plenty of opportunities to buy organic fruits and vegetables – and increasingly they are taking advantage of those opportunities.

The proof: Organic food sales in the United States reached $50.1 billion in 2019, up 4.6% from the previous year, according to the 2020 Organic Industry Survey conducted by the Organic Trade Association. In comparison, the growth rate for total food sales was about 2 percent.

But consumers who feel that organic is the be-all and end-all for sustainability are missing a bigger picture, says Steve Groff (www.stevegroff.com) author of The Future-Proof Farm and founder of Cover Crop Coaching, which educates farmers and farm advisors about effective cover crop use.

“Any kind of growing method involves a degree of compromise, including organic agriculture,” Groff says. “Organic farmers use pesticides too. They are derived from natural sources, but that doesn’t necessarily make them safer. And most organic farmers still till the soil, which kills the life within it and subjects it to erosion. Organic farming generally is a good system, but it definitely is not the pinnacle of sustainability.”

Unfortunately, Groff says, the agriculture community isn't always good at educating consumers about other forms of sustainability, such as the use of cover crops that he advocates.

Cover crops are plants that are grown not to eat, but to improve the soil. They can suppress weeds, manage soil erosion, control pests and promote biodiversity. In short, they help keep the land in good condition so it can continue to produce cash crops.

Both the agriculture community and the general public have a lot to learn from each other, Groff says. Some important points worth knowing as farmers decide what to grow, and consumers decide what to eat, include:

The consumer is right – even when wrong. Anyone who makes their living from the land needs to listen to what consumers are saying. “Unfortunately, many farmers are only slowly beginning to understand the power of those discerning shoppers filling their carts at the market,” Groff says. “Shoppers looking for food they believe is responsibly grown can make or break farmers, and whether those shoppers are right or wrong in their choices isn’t the point. What matters is they think they are right.”

Perceptions can outweigh reality. Farmers likely would get nowhere if they tried to engage the typical supermarket shopper in a debate about, for example, whether genetically modified foods are good or bad, or whether a product labeled organic is all it’s cracked up to be, Groff says. Instead, farmers need to tell their stories and show those shoppers that they, too, care about responsible farming. “For example, if you explain cover crops to them,” he says, “people who care about the earth are not going to argue against something that protects and enriches the soil, that stops its nutrients from flushing away downriver, and that keeps pollution out of our waterways and nitrates out of their drinking water.”

Big agricultural companies also have a lot at stake. Major food corporations are aware that climate patterns, for whatever reasons, have shifted, and they see a potential for disruption of their supply chains and production, Groff says. “Those companies whose fortunes are tied to the land have been focusing on a range of progressive practices,” he says. “The soil, enriched with organic matter from cover crops and undisturbed by tillage, holds more water and releases no carbon into the atmosphere. In fact, cover crops take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and deposit it into the soil as carbon, a clear win for the farmer and the climate.”

“Food suppliers are already being mandated to source food from farms that operate with sustainable and environmentally safe practices,” Groff says. “But commercial agriculture today cannot survive on a philosophy of doing absolutely no harm.

“To produce food at a price that people can afford, farmers often must decide what will do the least harm as they await better innovations. The crops must be economically sustainable, too. And that begins with successful cover cropping.”

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How can a divided nation unify? 6 tips on learning how to compromise

Americans are sharply divided as the presidential election nears. While that’s not unusual in an election year, studies have indicated that the nation has never been more polarized, a trend that’s apparent everywhere from social media to the halls of Congress.

As the rift widens around critical issues, from the economy to civil rights, rediscovering the lost art of compromise could go a long way toward the healing that America needs, says Dr. Jim White (www.opportunityinvesting.com), author of Broken America: Ten Guiding Principles to Restore America.

“What if more Americans were to compromise?” White says. “What would be the downside? Absolutely nothing. At last, we would settle on common ground – love of country – and allow the most important points from each side to win the day.

“This is essential for us to reunify America. But today, people are out way too much to win and win big. Everything must be on their own terms. Compromise is an ability to listen to two sides of a disagreement and arrive at an amicable agreement that achieves a common goal. It means we can work together to find solutions to our differences. All we need is an open heart and an open mind.”

White, who has been through many negotiations in his career while buying, expanding, and selling 23 multinational companies, has these tips for learning how to compromise:

Never have your mind made up. “If you have an open mind as you practice active listening, you might find that you agree with one or two points made by the other party,” White says. “That is a good thing, providing you with areas you can concede to add balance against the places where you can’t. It takes a big person to see another person’s point of view enough to change their mind on the spot, and that will earn trust and respect.”

Search for common ground. “This is a useful starting point,” White says. “It demonstrates the parties aren’t so far apart and have the capability of reaching an agreement.”

Show the respect you expect. White says all input should be taken seriously and everyone’s voice should be heard. “No matter how you feel about someone else’s statement, do not discount or ridicule it,” White says. “It’s virtually impossible to walk a remark back once a person feels insulted.”

Cut out the blame. The foundational mindset of compromise is that there is no right or wrong point of view. “Instead of focusing on who might be at fault,” White says, “think in terms of shared responsibility. Accusations only serve to make people defensive.”

Broaden the basis of the negotiation. “A negotiation often flounders because it all hinges on one thing,” White says. “For example, a political disagreement on updating a zoning law may lean entirely on the geographical location of enforcement. But a politician could point out how the new law would benefit small businesses within the territory.”

Look for opportunities to trade. Identify the issues most important to the other party and see if you can find a way to address them. “Stripping away the smaller issues and boiling them down to one central ‘give’ enables compromise to take place,” White says.

“When it comes to politics,” White says, “we all have a distinct commonality: pride in our country. As long as we do not preach hate or violence, we are all American patriots and we are all part of the same cause.”

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House Call

By Dr. Daniel Knight i

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Q. Why is belly fat dangerous?

A. Some fat lies near the skin’s surface, while other types of fat collect deep inside the torso around organs like the stomach, liver, intestines and lining arteries.

Researchers believe that this type of deep fat around the waist can indicate you are at higher risk for developing serious health issues like breast cancer, pancreatitis, diabetes, fatty liver disease, heart disease and high cholesterol.

Waist measurements over 35 inches for women and over 40 inches for men are associated with such risks.

The good news is that in losing weight, the deep fat is the first go. The best way to avoid this type of fat is through healthy habits. Start moving more, eat sensible portions with more vegetables and reduce sugar. There is no scientific evidence that fish oil supplements or apple cider vinegar burns belly fat.

Doctors traditionally believed extra weight kept bones strong and protected against fractures, but research shows this is not always true with belly fat. Instead, men with more belly fat had weaker bones, while pre-menopausal women with more belly fat had lower bone density, possibly leading to osteoporosis.

Q. Is it safe to take melatonin to help me sleep?

A. Melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain, plays a major role in keeping our internal body clock on track. When the sun goes down, the body produces more melatonin and sleepiness sets in. In the morning, melatonin levels drop and alertness increases. Most people make enough naturally at the right time.

For those whose bodies do not, eating melatonin-rich foods like walnuts, tomatoes, olives, rice, barley, strawberries and cow’s milk can help. You can also try dimming the lights near bedtime to increase melatonin.

Research on whether melatonin supplements help for general insomnia is unclear, but they do work for those whose work schedules require them to sleep during the day, people with jet lag and those whose sleep-wake cycles are off.

Melatonin is an over-the-counter supplement, but check with your physician first as it can interfere with other medications or supplements. Possible side effects include nausea, drowsiness and headaches.

Most melatonin supplements on the market are lab-created synthetic ones. A virus may contaminate natural ones from animals. Melatonin is not addictive, but researchers do not know much about its long-term use, so consider it a temporary solution.

Q. What is causing my lymph nodes to swell?

A. This could be a symptom of at least a dozen different conditions, so you should consult with your doctor to determine the cause. One possibility is a tooth abscess. Dental work, cavities, or a mouth injury can lead to a tooth infection, causing swelling in the nodes in the neck or under the jaw. Swollen and painful lymph nodes in the neck can also signal an upper respiratory infection.

Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, head or groin can be an early symptom of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Lymphoma, a cancer that starts in the lymph nodes, and other types of cancer that have spread to nodes may cause them to swell. The lymph nodes closest to a tumor usually get bigger but not all nodes containing cancer will swell.

Swollen lymph nodes usually are not a symptom of lupus, an autoimmune disease, but they may enlarge during a flare. Scrofula, a type of tuberculosis that is an infection of the lymph nodes, can also cause them to swell. Other conditions that can lead to swollen lymph nodes include sexually transmitted diseases, viral or bacterial infections, and taking certain medicines.

Q. During these trying times, what can I do to feel better?

A. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed our lives but there are steps we can take to remain physically and mentally healthy. Take it outside. Sunshine can improve your mood and offers several health benefits. Walk at least 5,000 steps daily (even if it is around the house) to lower the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

Staying connected with others through calls or texts can reduce anxiety. Limit intake of news or social media and add relaxing activities like taking a long bath.

Research has proven hobbies are good for your health and keep your mind off worry. Consider keeping a gratitude journal or a diary to record events, thoughts and feelings.

Give help to others and ask for help when you need it. Setting goals can help maintain focus and provide a clearer purpose but do not demand too much of yourself right now.

Watch for unhealthy patterns, such as increased drinking or angry outbursts. For those in recovery, that may mean reconnecting with a support group. Remember that everyone is having similar experiences and give others grace if they are not their usual selves.

Dr. Daniel Knight is associate professor of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

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NFPA urges caution charging laptops at home

With many students returning to school remotely this fall, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) urges added caution when using and charging laptops and other digital devices at home. According to NFPA’s most recent electrical fires report, an estimated average of 900 computer or computer equipment fires occurred in U.S. homes each year between 2014 and 2018, resulting in 50 civilian injuries and $50 million in direct property damage.

“With students attending classes remotely and other family members continuing to work from home, many households may have more people using and charging electrical devices on a daily basis than usual,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA. “This additional use of equipment means more opportunity for misuse and misapplication, which can contribute to an increased fire risk.”

When it comes to using and charging laptops, smartphones and other digital devices, following simple precautions can help minimize the risk of electrical fires:

Only use the charging cord that came with the device, avoid cords with conductive jackets.

Discontinue use if device or charger becomes excessively hot or emits a burning smell.

Make sure electrical cords and wires are in good condition. Discard frayed or damaged cords.

Unplug devices when not in use to save energy and minimize the risk of shock and fire.

Ensure that the plug is fully inserted into the outlet and remains that way while in use

Even during this time of social distancing, electricians are still working and considered essential businesses. Call the utility company or a qualified electrician immediately when experiencing any of the following:

Frequent problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers

Discolored or warm wall outlets

Flickering or dimming lights

Sparks from an outlet

A plug no longer stays plugged into an outlet on its own

NFPA offers many resources to help people use electrical equipment at home safely, along with a safety tip sheet that provide guidelines and recommendations for safely using devices that require lithium ion batteries.

The mighty dollar

A dollar doesn’t buy much these days but collector Bruce Morelan owns a silver dollar that is worth at least $10,000,000. That’s the price he paid in 2013 for his very rare dollar coined in 1794. It set a record for the most ever paid for a rare coin. Morelan thinks it is worth more than what he paid for it and so he’s putting it up for auction once again. It’s called the "Flowing Hair" dollar and it was one of 1,785 that were struck in a single day not long after the dollar became the official currency of the U.S. and they were used as souvenirs for dignitaries. It’s estimated that only about 130 to 140 of those silver dollars exist today. But Douglas Mudd, the curator and director of the American Numismatic Association's Money Museum, says that there’s evidence Morelan’s coin was, indeed, the very first one that was struck.

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Gone fishin’

Ask a fisherman and he or she will tell you that, some days, as one angler put it, “There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” But, don’t dare to call professional fisherman Jeff Kolodzinski an idiot; last year he set the Guinness World Record for the most fish caught in one day when he landed 2,172 fish in 24 hours. In fact, he’s known as the Marathon Man. And, he lived up to that moniker recently when he broke his own record by catching no less than 2,645 fish in one day. He did it to raise money for the Fishing For Life Foundation.

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A chewing gum wish

Ninety-four year old Suttie Economy of Roanoke, Virginia, developed a hankering for Juicy Fruit chewing gum while serving in World War II.  He was recently admitted to the Virginia Veterans Care Clinic for a heart condition.  He’s recovering and, one can only guess what he was thinking when he decided that when he dies he wants to be buried in a casket painted to look like a pack of Juicy Fruit. In fact, the Mars Wrigley Company, which owns the Juicy Fruit brand, has given its okay to use its logo. They also sent him 250 packs of the gum.

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5 tips to focus your company’s transformation as COVID forces change

 While the recession caused by COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on businesses of all sizes and industries, some are finding new ways to run daily operations, reach customers, re-shape their business, and stay relevant.

But others are still trying to figure out how to transform, and an expert in the field says that launching a transformation begins with setting the right scope.

“Over the years, I have seen an ill-defined program scope cause serious problems,” says Edwin Bosso (www.myrtlegroup.com), founder and CEO of Myrtle Consulting Group and the ForbesBooks author of 6,000 Dreams: The Leader’s Guide To A Successful Business Transformation Journey.

“For example, the scope may drift from the originally defined target. The scope is the description of the transformation’s area of focus, and in most cases the scope is defined as a combination of categories. Examples are functional – sales, logistics, production, operations – and organizational – leadership, technology, processes, management systems. It’s most important that the scope is defined to address the challenges at hand and avoid distractions or wasted resources.”

Bosso has five tips for companies to set the right scope for their transformation:

Articulate the problem. Which problem are you trying to solve? Bosso says that question is at the heart of a company transformation. “Defining the specific problem may take numerous discussions and disagreements,” Bosso says. “The human brain has a natural tendency to drift. Blurry lines sometimes separate root causes and symptoms. This step is generally completed with a well-crafted statement of the problem that the organization is setting up to solve.”

List the ways. “When properly conducted,” Bosso says, “this step helps in visualizing the solution. Listing possible solutions is a way of testing the definition of the problem. This step calls for honest questions and thorough analysis to identify the solution options.”

Identify the means. “This is the stage where you test the capabilities of the organization against solution options by identifying necessary means,” Bosso says. “It comes down to understanding internal means, or levers that would need to be pulled to solve the problem. Potential means available might include people, office space, computer systems, or technical expertise in sales, R&D, inventory management and procurement. The process allows organizations to match the correct means to solutions.”

Capture the enablers. Examples of enablers key to the transformation process are those in program management and data science. “Enablers cannot operate on their own to make something happen,” Bosso says. “They are, however, necessary or simply useful for that same thing to happen. For example, change management cannot improve the performance of the sales organization without some level of sales expertise. Once enablers are defined, it is important to capture the various ways in which each enabler supports the transformation program.”

Explore synergies and interdependencies. This step focuses on understanding the overlaps, synergy opportunities, and constraints caused by ongoing initiatives. “Start with a list of all current initiatives that the organization is running,” Bosso says. “The finance department is typically a good source for the information. Meetings should be held with each team, and it’s important to understand that each may be protective of its objective, ways, and means. This could set up turf battles and heated discussions, so explicitly setting the objective of the meetings to understand synergies can help alleviate disagreements and fears.”

“Undergoing a major transformation is really the best hope for struggling businesses to survive in these difficult times,” Bosso says. “There is no time to waste. There are no resources to waste. To get your transformation on target, setting the right scope is critical from the outset.”

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History Matters

By the Grateful American Book Prize

“The U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world,” according to History.com. It was signed September 17, 1787, but ten months would pass before it was ratified by the required nine of the 13 original states. But, in time, the holdouts -- Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island – sanctioned the document, and on September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States convened, and adopted the Bill of Rights.

One hundred sixty-six years later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower designated September 17th as “Citizenship Day” to honor the signing of the Constitution. But in 1997, Louise Leigh, a devoted student, initiated a campaign to shift the focus from “Citizenship” to James Madison and “his” Constitution. Her persistence succeeded, and on September 17, 2004, “Constitution Day” was turned into an official holiday.

As Ms. Leigh put it during a 2005 interview with Education World: “I became acutely aware of the uniqueness, the greatness, and the miracle of our Constitution. Until the 1800s, every American child could recite all the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, which is not done today. We celebrate Independence Day on July 4 with gusto. The Revolutionary War gave us independence from England, but the Constitution is the document that gave us freedom, which has made us the greatest and mightiest nation in history.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends W. Cleon Skousen’s The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution.

"A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people."

-James Madison, fourth president of the United States.

Eighteen months after the start of the Civil War, 3,953,762 American slaves got a first glint of hope.

On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The final version—on January 1, 1863—declared that “that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free.”

But Lincoln’s presidential order did not become law until the 13th Amendment--ratified on December 6, 1865—ended slavery in America, eight months after his assassination.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Patricia C. & Frederick L. McKissick’s Days of Jubilee.

"The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty."

- James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights

According to Article 3 of the Constitution, “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” On September 24, 1789, President George Washington established the Inaugural Supreme Court of six justices.

Washington selected John Jay as his Chief Justice, along with five Associate Justices: John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, Robert Harrison, and James Wilson. On February 1, 1790, the coterie gathered for their first session in New York City’s Royal Exchange Building.

Congress set the number of Justices--at varying sizes--until nine became the agreed-on standard, in 1869.

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Key factors to know about the greatest disruptor of wealth

Paying taxes isn’t a favorite pastime of most Americans. And in retirement, paying higher taxes can be an unwelcome surprise when the financial plan did not account for them.

A survey by Nationwide revealed that over one-third of current retirees didn’t consider how taxes could impact their income when they were planning for retirement. Less than half said they know how to leverage their financial accounts to minimize their tax burden.

“One of the greatest disruptors of wealth and its potential is taxation,” says John Smallwood (www.johnlsmallwood.com), president of Smallwood Wealth Management and author of It’s Your Wealth – Keep It: The Definitive Guide to Growing, Protecting, Enjoying, and Passing On Your Wealth. “Most financial strategies are missing the fundamentals, leaving you to pay much more in taxes than you should over your lifetime.

“There are some fundamental concepts of taxes that apply to the financial planning process. The goal is to have multiple sources of retirement income that balance out taxes and fees. That way, if one or more of the sources dries up, or if tax law changes a source or two, then the impact on your portfolio will be minimal.”

Smallwood says the following items related to taxes are important to know when creating a retirement plan:

Tax deferrals. Tax deferral strategies are intended to defer paying taxes on certain assets, based on the concept of moving from a higher tax bracket to a lower tax bracket in the future. But Smallwood cautions, “The tax rate in the future may not be in your favor. If you defer and don’t end up in a lower tax bracket, you can lose. You might end up paying more than if you had not deferred.”

Qualified plans. Specific rules and potential penalties apply when you withdraw from tax-deferred retirement accounts, Smallwood says. Withdrawing before age 59½ brings a 10% penalty. At 70½, there are required minimum distributions (RMDs). “With RMDs, there is a 50% penalty for not withdrawing the right amount of money.” he says. “Plus, depending on the account, you have to pay taxes according to your bracket.”

Compound taxes. Tax strategy when you are saving for retirement is one of the most important parts of a wealth plan. “For example, a 45-year-old with a savings rate of 6% and putting away $51,000 per year could accumulate a healthy balance of $2.5 million by age 65,” Smallwood says. “But with compound taxation, money is eroding all the time. Each year that an account grows, the investor’s tax liability grows along with it. Interest earnings, along with dividends and capital gains, get larger over time as the investment gains in value. If the gains the first year include $30,000 worth of interest but at the 30% tax bracket, then you’ll have to pay $9,000 more in taxes.”

Systematic withdrawals. Systematic withdrawals, if done properly, can significantly reduce the tax impact on an investment portfolio. “Let’s say, late in 1989, you placed a lump sum of $100,000 in an S&P 500 index fund with a good

track record,” Smallwood says. “Instead of leaving the funds in the account, however, you took $6,000 from the account each year and repositioned those assets elsewhere. After 20 years, the fund balance would have reached $243,191, an annual gain of 7.92% that exceeds the return earned by leaving the funds in the account. Why? Because taking those withdrawals undercuts the impact of compounded taxes. Over time, the tax obligation would be $30,451, or $13,622 less than leaving the money in the account.”

“Good retirement planning includes all the possible tax implications and gives you options,” Smallwood says. “Organizing income sources so that they hit your tax return the right way should be a deliberate strategy every year.”

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Why today’s leaders are channeling ancient philosophers

Steve Jobs wished he had met Socrates.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Marcus Aurelius fan.

Elon Musk leans toward Aristotle.

Across the land – and the world – leaders in business, government and other areas look to the future by seeking wisdom from the past – the far past.

While that might sound surprising, perhaps it shouldn’t be – especially when it comes to entrepreneurs and CEOs.

“Philosophy is one of the most important things that can be introduced into the corporate world today because of its fundamental properties and practical benefits,” says Cristina DiGiacomo (www.cristinadigiacomo.com), author of Wise Up! At Work and founder of MorAlchemy, a leadership consulting firm that helps CEOs and executives use philosophy to tackle challenges by teaching them to think differently and see new solutions to help their companies thrive.

“In fact, most of the important and progressive management, communication, and organizational practices are based on principles firmly rooted in philosophy.”

Helping others and doing your work dutifully come from philosophies of service espoused by Romans such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, DiGiacomo says. Ideas of employee-centric cultures and employee-driven suggestions are a modern expression of Plato’s ideas. Reciprocity and meritocracy, mutually beneficial acts, and equitable work cultures can be traced to ideas from Confucius.

“Even the idea of work/life balance has philosophical moorings in Lao Tzu’s teaching on balance in life,” DiGiacomo says.

At some level, many top leaders understand this – either knowingly or unknowingly channeling ancient philosophers whose wisdom has remained constant and relevant for centuries.

Just a few examples of the phenomenon are:

Musk and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings have both used “first principles” thinking to grow their businesses. The term “first principles” was coined more than 2,000 years ago by Aristotle, who believed we learn more by understanding a subject’s fundamental principles, breaking down problems into their basic elements and then reassembling them.

Schwarzenegger, the actor, politician and businessman, cited the words of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius when he addressed 2020 graduates in a video commencement speech. The COVID-19 pandemic created plenty of obstacles in the final months of school for those students, inspiring Schwarzenegger to use the Aurelius quote: “What stands in the way becomes the way.” In other words, Schwarzenegger told the graduates, impediments that keep us from our goals can also  be the motivation to achieve our goals.

Robert Ceravolo, head of Tropic Ocean Airways, said in a Forbes interview that one way he manages the stress of running a business is by reading about stoicism, particularly Aurelius and Seneca. “What makes something good or bad is your perception of whether or not it’s good or bad,” Ceravolo says. “When [the worst] happens, it’s not a massive shock.”

Lucio Tan Jr., CEO of Tanduay Distillers Inc., has said that his father taught him Confucian values, such as doing to others as if you’re the other person. Tan has said the Chinese philosopher’s teachings “give you a deeper perspective of humanity, respect for others and for nature,” and have served as a guide for his approach to leadership and life.

“The reason ancient philosophers continue to have relevance in America’s corporate boardrooms is simple,” DiGiacomo says. “Their ideas stand the test of time and still have practical applications in the 21st century, just as they did hundreds or thousands of years ago.”

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Pandemics, Politics And The Impact Of Women In Leadership Roles

Despite enormous strides in business, government and other areas, women don’t always get the respect men do for their leadership abilities, even when they can boast greater accomplishments.

But the combination of a pandemic, a recession and an election that 2020 brought could be the impetus for changing the way people view women and their leadership styles, a development that many would argue is long overdue, says Andi Simon (www.andisimon.com), a corporate anthropologist, founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants, and author of the upcoming book Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business.

“It’s time we started seeing women leaders through a fresh lens,” Simon says. “When we do, we will all benefit from their styles and their successes.”

Because presidential candidate Joe Biden picked U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, the country potentially could have its first female vice president on Jan. 20, 2021.

Meanwhile, around the world, many countries led by women have fared better during the COVID-19 pandemic than those led by men, with New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-Wen among those being hailed for their strong leadership.

Simon says anyone surprised women have what it takes to emerge as great leaders may have fallen for myths that surround both men and women when it comes to taking charge.

“Men communicate a myth about women that emphasizes their soft sides, their kindness, and their weakness, not their decisiveness, strength and ingenuity,” she says. “Women might lead differently, but they can and are achieving remarkable results through collaboration, coordination, and creative communication, as opposed to the command-and-control methods men often employ.”

Simon offers a few observations about women, leadership and where things could be headed:

Research shows women score better on leadership qualities. Research published  last year in the Harvard Business Review showed that, over several surveys that asked the same questions, women ranked higher than men on almost all key factors measuring leadership capabilities. “Managers, even male managers, saw women as more effective than men in virtually every area, including areas typically viewed as male strongholds such as  IT, operations and legal,” Simon says. Women ranked high in taking initiative, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results, and showing high integrity and honesty.

More female mentors and role models will mean more female leaders. As more women gain leadership roles, the number of women in such roles will build on itself, Simon says. ““The script on women changing male-dominated workplace culture is still being written,” she says. “But one thing is for sure: The more women become leaders and assume positions of authority, the more they can help other women on their way up.”

An anthropological approach can help. Simon is both a business consultant and an anthropologist, and she believes mixing the two is beneficial. “My career advice for women in leadership roles is to be a little anthropological when you are trying to find your own way in your job or business,” she says. “Do some observational research. Experience your product or service from your customer's point of view, or your employees' point of view. You'll be amazed at what you discover, and the innovative ideas that come to you for solving unmet needs.”

“Our cultural biases lead us to believe that something created by a woman is not as good as something created by a man,” Simon says. “For us to see the work of women as at least equal to that of men, those biases must change. The question for all of us is: Can we change them?”

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Why Residential Real Estate Is Becoming More Attractive In the Suburbs

This year has culminated in a number of factors that are reshaping the landscape of U.S. real estate. A housing shift is occurring in some cities as some people are trading urban areas for the suburbs or rural places.

As more people work from home in the current climate, the  aspects of city living that are appealing to millennials and young professionals, such as theaters, bars, and restaurants, are either closed or restricted.

Real estate analysts say the outward-bound residential trend could continue as the pandemic persists. For anyone considering a move out of the city, there are some key factors to consider, says Jadon Newman, CEO of Noble Capital (www.noblecapital.com), a private lending and private equity firm.

“The demand to live in rural and suburban areas is increasing compared to urban demand, which marks a big change from where it’s been,” Newman says. “But the cost of city living was getting expensive before the pandemic, and now the exodus is being expedited.”

People are rethinking whether they want to live in high-rise rentals with common spaces as amenities, as opposed to being in a single-family house of their own with space and a backyard, Newman says.

“Sellers in the suburbs and rural areas are realizing the surge in new demand, and it may increase if there’s a second wave of the virus this fall,” he says.

Newman says those considering a new home or a second home should keep in mind these trends in the current economic climate:

Good values in suburbia. Depending on geography, some areas took a hit early in the pandemic, the housing market is surging back and median home prices have risen recently. Newman agrees with analysts who say suburban housing could be a better investment for homebuyers than an urban dwelling, given the uncertainty around the coronavirus and its multiple effects on dense population centers. “Much of the value of homes outside of the central city is in the structure and the fact that there is room to build more of them,” Newman says. “Home prices outside of densely populated urban areas tend to follow construction costs, so there shouldn’t be much movement in those prices.”

Falling urban home prices. As a result of more people leaving the city for the suburbs, economists say home prices in urban areas may fall as a result. “But it’s too early to count out urban areas altogether,” Newman says. “We’ve had other periods in history where cities survived societal and technological transformation. Meanwhile, relative bargains may be had in some markets if one wants to consider a city condo or property to rent out.”

Low interest rates. “Interest rates are the lowest in history,” Newman says, “if you're looking to own a home it’s a good time to buy. And it’s also a good time to sell. For sellers, with demand especially high to move to the suburbs, limited supply, and low interest rates are creating an incentive to buy. Homes in many regions aren’t staying on the market for long.”

Investing in small-town rental properties. Newman says because major cities have been disproportionately affected by the virus, smaller towns that have been far less impacted may be ideal for investing in a residential property that can be used as a vacation rental and additional source of income. “There could be a larger shift away from urbanization toward investment in remote locations,” Newman says. “For buyers of second homes, those well removed from urban centers can be reasonably priced and make more sense as people prioritize safety and more space.”

“Home ownership has traditionally been a way for families to build equity which is more difficult now in densely-populated areas where home prices are high,” Newman said, “This is one of the best times in our country’s history to build wealth with your home in the suburbs where prices are often more affordable.”

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Viral DIY dentistry hacks to ignore, and 3 to try

Can you imagine pulling your own tooth with a pair of pliers? Or trying to whiten your teeth at home with undiluted bleach?

These are examples of do-it-yourself dentistry being shown on social media sites such as TikTok and YouTube, and dental professionals are concerned that many people are following the amateurs’ advice.

“Why risk dental trauma by going the DIY route and following a tutorial made by a lay person?” says Dr. Nammy Patel, DDS (www.sfgreendentist.com), author of Age With Style: Your Guide To A Youthful Smile & Healthy Living.

“Even before the pandemic, some people were resorting to DIY measures while trying to be cost-effective, but many of these actions bring significant risk to the teeth and gums. People aren’t realizing that while it may be interesting and cheaper to try these dental actions on their own, it’s going to cost you more money, time, and pain before the mistakes are corrected by a professional.”

Dentists cite two pandemic-related reasons for the DIY influence on social media. Dental work can be expensive and many people lost their insurance when they lost their job. Also, virtual work meetings make people self-conscious about their appearance – including their teeth. Dr. Patel gives the downsides of do-it-yourself dental procedures, and also offers tips to stay on top of your oral hygiene at home:

Don’t Try These At Home

Pulling a tooth. “Don’t ever do this yourself,” Dr. Patel says. “This can cause cavitation, an infection inside a hole in the bone where the tooth used to reside. A dentist has the right instruments to get inside and clean this area properly. Without proper training, self-extraction can lead to snapping the root before it’s all out, infection, and the need for a surgical procedure to fix it.”

Bleaching. “This can cause severe gum damage, burning the gums and causing gum recession,” Dr. Patel says. “It can lead to tooth loss, damage the enamel and make the tooth very sensitive. Some of the people you see doing this on social media are using hydrogen peroxide purchased online that has many times the amount allowed in regulated online teeth-whitening products.”

Filing. People sometimes are compelled to do this when they’ve chipped a tooth, but Dr. Patel says trying to smooth rough edges yourself has consequences. “You can remove too much tooth, and it’s going to mess up your bite, which can cause TMJ issues,” she says.

Do These Things At Home

Make your own toothpaste.  Using dentist-suggested lists of ingredients, people can avoid the ingredients in conventional toothpaste that health experts consider damaging or toxic. “By making toothpaste yourself you can create a better product, one without dangerous chemicals, and it’s cost-effective, too,” Dr. Patel says. Her DIY toothpaste includes coconut oil, which whitens teeth and combats dry mouth, and other natural oils such as cinnamon and peppermint.

Make your own mouthwash. One advantage of homemade mouthwash, Dr. Patel says, is avoiding the alcohol compound found in over-the-counter brands, which “can dry the mouth and is bad for gums.”  Her mouthwash consists of peppermint oil, On Guard  (which includes a protective blend of essential oils), distilled water and salt.

Power up your daily oral care. Dr. Patel says a water flosser is a good tool to use to get in between the tight crevices that traditional floss can’t reach. “It’s easier to use than floss and provides a deeper clean with a pressurized stream of water, which pulsates to blast away food particles and built-up plaque.” She also suggests using a sonic toothbrush because it’s more powerful than an electric brush and more efficient at eliminating bacteria and reducing the chance of gum disease.

“Using this time when you’re home a lot is the perfect time to improve your dental hygiene, and it’s not complicated,” Dr. Patel says. “Doing dental procedures yourself that are better left to professionals can bring major complications.”

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She just loves the water

Shades of Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel at the age of 19. She did it in 1926 and it took her 14 hours and 34 minutes to complete her 21 mile swim and got the nickname, Queen of the Waves. Sixteen year old Vera Rivard, who hails from Springfield, New Hampshire, was hindered by the tides when she made her channel crossing recently. But, although her route was 33 miles, Rivard beat Ederle’s time, clocking in at 14 hours and 10 minutes. She already circumnavigated the island of Manhattan, a swim of 28.5 miles, and now has her mind set on swimming the 20 miles from the coast of California to the island of Santa Catalina, garnering what is known as the “Triple Crown” of long-distance swimming.

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A very, very expensive handbag

To add insult to injury, an Australian woman ordered a designer alligator handbag from a French boutique. When the bag arrived in Australia it was quickly seized by border police even though she had the proper Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species export permit. However, she apparently forgot to purchase a $50 import permit and so the authorities simply destroyed the $18,900 purse. C’est La Vie, big time.

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This brew is good for what’s ale-ing your dog

For that guy who has always has a hankering to share a beer with his best friend, Anheuser-Busch has a new offering -- a drink called “Dog Brew.” It didn’t take long for the product, which is available online at https://www.busch.com/busch-dog-brew.html, to sell out. But, fear not, they are brewing more so anxious canine tipplers can simply ask to have their names put on a waiting list. By the way, the company says Dog Brew is not “fur real.” They say it is actually a pretty healthy drink made from pork, corn, celery, mint, turmeric and ginger.

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No pandemic shutdown for scammers; they are still on the prowl

COVID-19 may have shut down portions of the economy and put restrictions on Americans’ daily lives, but cyber scams and other efforts to defraud people continue to thrive.

“Scammers are tapping into the uncertainty related to the global pandemic,” says Chris Orestis, the president of LifeCare Xchange who is known as the “Retirement Genius” (www.retirementgenius.com).

“They are using social engineering to target people with tactics that take advantage of today's technology. Seniors need to be especially mindful of the mechanisms that have been explicitly designed to target people in retirement.”

Some scams to be on the lookout for include:

Dishonest retailers. Many dishonest retailers and fake products are popping up, Orestis says. “The shortage of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap, and masks at the beginning of the quarantine resulted from people's panic,” he says. “The fear of scarcity created a gateway for scammers. Fraudulent online retailers are showcasing these items as bait, especially medical supplies.” But they don’t have any inventory, so stick with reputable stores, Orestis says. Scammers also try to sell products to prevent or cure COVID-19, even though they do not exist. “Anyone who receives a message from someone selling any of these items should not respond,” Orestis says.

Phony advertisements. Scammers also try to advertise hard-to-find products through social media, email or ads that pop up on certain sites. Avoid clicking on anything unfamiliar because cyber criminals may be trying to steal your personal information or infect your computer with a virus, Orestis says. “Be cautious of people who try to contact you under odd usernames and do not have a profile picture,” he says. “If anyone asks for your personal information or invites you to click on a link, block them immediately or report them as spam.”

Government or organization disguises. Is a government official or someone from the CDC or from the World Health Organization trying to contact you? Maybe, but probably not. Scammers often try to convince potential victims that they are with a legitimate agency or group, Oresitis says. “For example, an email might claim that there have been new COVID-19 cases in your area and ask for your personal information to see if you have been in contact with anyone infected,” he says. “Be suspicious of any COVID-19 related emails and use only official government websites to get information about the virus.”

Fake charities and crowdfunding. Criminals have also created counterfeit charities and crowdfunding sites. They ask for money in the form of cash, gift cards, and wire transfers. “Real charities will never use these resources,” Orestis says. “Be sure to use reputable sites and research the charities you want to donate to for coronavirus relief.”

Phone scams. Phones are still the No. 1 way scammers target seniors, both through calls and text messages. The Federal Communications Commission warns about these methods being used by people who claim to be the IRS or have coronavirus treatments, at-home testing kits, and vaccinations. “If you receive a robotic voice call, do not press any buttons or return any calls,” Orestis says. “Hang up immediately. If you receive text messages regarding this information, do not respond or click on any links.”

“It’s important to be wary of these and other scams, both off and online,” Orestis says. “The more conscious people are of how scammers are trying to trick them, the less likely they are to fall for one of those tricks.”

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Zooming In On Appearance: Why Cosmetic Surgery Is Popular During The Pandemic

Cosmetic surgery was on an upward trend for several years before the pandemic, and the outbreak of the coronavirus hasn’t hurt its popularity.

Since the lifting of lockdown and shelter-in-place orders across the country, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has reported an increased demand in patients considering cosmetic enhancements. One factor driving the interest: People have had extra time to dwell on their physical dissatisfactions and also to actually address them, says Dr. Scott Miller (www.MillerCosmeticSurgery.com), a cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon.

“Working from home, being seen a lot (and seeing themselves) via company video conferences, and having mask-wearing bring increased focus to certain facial features, I think a lot of people have had a tremendous amount of time to be super-critical of themselves,” Dr. Miller says. “They pick up on things they want to improve about their appearance.

“With people being cooped for a long time, across the country you are seeing pent-up demand. We have seen an increase in consultations and surgeries across the board. In particular, people seem to be noticing their necks and jowls. In many cases, they bring in screenshots from their Zoom calls.”

Dr. Miller says some of the more popular cosmetic procedures people are having done during the pandemic are:

Facial rejuvenation. With considerably more face time required as companies work remotely, facelifts, neck lifts, eyelid and brow lifts are keeping cosmetic surgeons busy. “On Zoom with your boss and co-workers, you can’t help but stare at your face, neck, and crow’s feet,” Dr. Miller says. “And with people wearing masks in public, there’s no better time to hide the neck and lower face during the healing process from cosmetic surgery. That’s probably why we’re doing more lower-face and neck lifts than ever before.”

Body contouring. Liposuction, in which excess fat is removed to contour the body, is annually one of the most frequent cosmetic procedures. It and abdominoplasty – better known as a “tummy tuck” – ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the recent ASPS survey. “Being overweight is an epidemic in our country,” Dr. Miller says, “and sitting around at home quite a bit now, people are more aware of it and tired of it. The body contouring aspect of cosmetic surgery has boomed due to dissatisfaction with diet- and exercise-resistant figure faults. Also, there is newfound time to address this situation definitively with safe, state-of-the-art procedures.”

Lip injections. Fillers like Juvéderm are as popular as ever, despite masks being pervasive and supposedly lessening one’s concern with how their lips look. “You’d think due to face coverings extending from the nose to the mouth that people would only be concerned about their eye areas,” Dr. Miller says. “While they are noticing (and seeking treatment for) their eyes more because of mask-wearing in public, many people are on Zoom, where they are mask-less and noticing their lips and jaw lines in full high definition! They definitely get passionate about filling and shaping them. And again, with masks, you can cover up any swelling and bruising from lip injections.”

Breast augmentation and reduction. The ASPS reports breast augmentations were the most common cosmetic surgery procedure in 2019, and while conducting telemedicine appointments during lockdown, surgeons received many requests for both breast augmentation and breast reduction. “Breast improvement consults – enlargement, reduction, and reshaping – can be easily initiated by taking all the measurements and photographs from the patient’s home,” Dr. Miller says. “During the video consultation, while looking at the photographs, doctors can explain how the procedures are done and what the post-up situation will be.”

“More people want to be the best version of themselves,” Dr. Miller says. “The pandemic has caused people to think more about what they want out of life and how they want to live it, and many are deciding now is the time to make changes they’ve long wanted.”

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As healthcare faces mounting problems, can data science save it?

It’s no secret that COVID-19 threatened to overwhelm hospitals this year.

But even without the added strain of the pandemic, the American healthcare system already faced questions about whether it can meet the needs of an aging population that will put even greater demands on an inadequate supply of doctors and equipment.

Just recently, the Association of American Medical Colleges released a study that said by 2033 the nation could experience, at minimum, a shortage of 54,100 physicians if something is not done.

But boosting the number of doctors isn’t the only answer to the challenges healthcare faces. Instead, making more efficient use of personnel and equipment that already exist could be the true gamechanger, says Sanjeev Agrawal, co-author with Mohan Giridharadas of Better Healthcare Through Math (www.leantaas.com).

“At a time when digital tools that use predictive analytics could dramatically improve the system’s efficiency, appointments for doctor visits and use of equipment such as an MRI essentially are still done by people looking at a calendar,” he says.

Agrawal and Giridharadas, senior executives at LeanTaaS, a software company that focuses on improving healthcare operations, say healthcare can look to FedEx, Uber and other companies for examples of how the power of math can solve complex issues of scheduling, asset utilization, and supply-and-demand.

“FedEx guarantees delivery the next morning anywhere in the country, despite the fact that it has no way of knowing how many packages will be shipped from any origin to any destination on any given day,” Giridharadas says.

In comparison, a patient who needs an MRI might need to schedule two weeks in advance, and then still be forced to wait when they arrive, Agrawal says. Meanwhile, during that two weeks, there likely were 20 to 25-minute chunks of time when the MRI machine sat unused.

Both patients and healthcare providers would win if these old ways of doing things were put aside, Giridharadas and Agrawal say. Some advantages would include:

Increased access for patients. If you can move more patients through the system in the same amount of time, then healthcare becomes more accessible for more people. “It’s also good for the bottom line,” Giridharadas says.

Lower operating costs. Greater productivity allows health systems to absorb a growing number of patients without a corresponding increase in labor or facility costs, Agrawal says. “Lower costs lead to greater revenue retention for the company,” Agrawal says. “And when fewer cost increases need to be passed on to patients, they benefit as well.”

Better patient experiences. Patient complaints often revolve around not their actual care, but difficulties scheduling appointments and long wait times after they arrive. “Increased productivity allows health systems to offer more appointment choices today, tomorrow, and this week, and to reduce patients’ wait times throughout the course of each encounter with the system,” Giridharadas says.

Improved use of equipment. When facilities can get more use out of specialized equipment, then they don’t need to spend more money to expand buildings or buy more equipment, Agrawal says. “In addition, when providers and patients have access to equipment in a timelier manner, the result can be better clinical outcomes as well as reduced patient anxiety,” he says.

Healthcare, until recently, didn’t feel much pressure to change its inefficient ways, Giridharadas says. That’s changing as economic forces such as reimbursement pressures and lack of capital bear down on healthcare.

“As with any other industry, the invisible hand of the market will eventually have its way,” he says. “This means healthcare must begin to think more competitively and innovatively. The market differentiators in healthcare will revolve around better patient access, lower cost, and superior quality of service.”

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How to learn a company’s unwritten office rules when there’s no office

Not every workplace rule, tradition or general way of doing things appears in the employee handbook.

Newly hired employees often must figure out on their own how a company’s culture really operates, and how to maneuver within “unwritten rules” to move up in the organization. Now, with remote work that COVID-19 forced on so many businesses, that daunting transition from rookie worker to savvy employee has become even more challenging.

“At many businesses, new employees probably are not in the office very often, if at all, and much of their interactions with their new co-workers come through virtual meetings or email exchanges,” says Bob Slater, co-author with his son, Nick Slater, of Look Out Above! The Young Professional’s Guide to Success (www.bobandnickslater.com).

“Those spontaneous, one-on-one ‘water cooler’ chats with your new colleagues, where they can clue you in on a lot of things about the business and the bosses, just aren’t happening.”

All is not lost, though, say the Slaters.

Even when starting a new job remotely, there are ways to figure out a company’s unwritten rules and give yourself a better chance to succeed as a result. The Slaters offer a few tips for learning those unwritten rules and also avoiding any missteps in your early weeks as a remote employee:

Observe. As each workday unfolds, pay attention to how things get done, to where the power lies, and to the behaviors that lead to personal success for other employees. “For example, you may notice that the organizational chart says one thing about who needs to approve or support something for it to get done, but the reality may be something else,” Nick Slater says. “You also can begin to notice who people listen to and respect, and what the company will and won’t spend money on.” Meanwhile, also try to be aware of who the rising stars in the organization are and what they seem to be doing to get ahead. “Ask yourself what you can learn from them,” he says, “and what behaviors of theirs you could start doing.”

Ask. When in doubt about anything pertaining to the unwritten rules where you work, find someone you trust and have a candid conversation with them, Bob Slater says. “This could be a manager, a mentor, or a peer,” he says. “Someone just above you in the organizational chart could be a good choice. But you’re the only one who knows who the best person might be for the questions you have, and how candid you should be.” Beyond getting the answers to your questions, those conversations also can help you strengthen your relationships with others in the organization, he says.

Stay in communication. “You want to be visible, so do not hide,” Nick Slater says. Some managers establish standing meetings with the people who report to them, but if yours doesn’t, you may need to ask for regular Zoom meetings to touch base or get progress reports on how you are doing, he says. “At first, if given the opportunity, it’s better to meet too often instead of too little because that will help you discover more about those unwritten rules,” he says.

Contribute in meetings. Even with virtual meetings, it’s critical that you be prepared and ready to contribute, Bob Slater says. Put away your phone or anything else that might distract you. The fact you are distracted and trying to multitask could become evident, even if you are just one of multiple faces on a screen. “Don’t speak just to draw attention to yourself,” he says, “but do recognize that if you rarely contribute it will be noticed.”

Experiment. Depending on your personality, risk tolerance, and the matter at hand, you could simply act and see what happens, Nick Slater says. “Doing so may give you insight as to whether you acted in furtherance of – or in contradiction to – the unwritten rules where you work,” he says. “As the maxim goes, better to ask forgiveness than permission. Don’t ask, just do it. But of course, pick your spots carefully.”

“It’s worth remembering that regardless of what your new company’s unwritten rules are, your success ultimately depends on maximizing your contribution to the organization,” Bob Slater says. “In all but dysfunctional companies, expect rationality to ultimately prevail in terms of the right people being promoted. There may be times when meritocracy seems to be out of whack, but ultimately exceptional performers will be recognized.”

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Report reveals two-thirds decline in wildlife since 1970, advocates for natural solutions to combat climate crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Global populations* of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have suffered an average two-thirds decline in less than half a century due in large part to climate change and also the very same environmental destruction which is contributing to the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020, released today.

The report’s Living Planet Index (LPI), provided by the Zoological Society of London, shows that factors believed to increase the planet’s vulnerability to pandemics — including land-use change and the use and trade of wildlife — were also some of the drivers behind the 68 percent average decline in global vertebrate species populations between 1970 and 2016. In addition to these threats, another major risk to wildlife populations highlighted in the report is the continuing threat of climate change.

Bruce Stein, chief scientist at the National Wildlife Federation and a report co-author noted that this is the first time the Living Planet Report has explored in detail the growing threat of climate change to global biodiversity. Stein said, “healthy ecosystems are not only good for sustaining wildlife, but can also protect people and communities from the worst effects of a changing climate.”

“Nature has an increasingly vital role to play in helping people adapt to intensifying climate impacts and natural disasters,” Stein said. “By absorbing and storing atmospheric carbon, natural ecosystems like forests and wetlands are also important in the fight against climate change. But for nature to provide these climate adaptation and mitigation functions, society will need to dramatically scale up its efforts to help nature itself cope with, and adjust to, the accelerating impacts of climate change.”

The Living Planet Report 2020 presents a comprehensive overview of the state of our natural world through the LPI, which tracks trends in global wildlife abundance, and contributions from more than 125 experts from around the world.

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How to stop toxic leadership from spreading a virus in your company

Toxic workplaces sometimes start at the top. Difficult, abrasive leaders can create a culture of tension, fear, and abusive behavior at every organizational level.

Those types of leaders may produce results, but their actions also lead to dysfunction and employee turnover.

Ending the pattern of toxicity starts with companies recognizing red flags, coming up with new principles of management behavior, and holding leaders accountable for their actions, says Dr. Katrina Burrus, author of Managing Brilliant Jerks: How Organizations and Coaches Can Transform Difficult Leaders into Powerful Visionaries (www.ExcellentExecutiveCoaching.com).

“Organizations often overlook abrasive behavior or see it as a necessary means to an end,” Burrus says. “This sends employees the message that such behavior is acceptable and to be imitated to skyrocket up the corporate ladder. Then it’s like a virus that continues to spread.

“All too often, companies are overly results-oriented. Leaders tend to be preoccupied with what needs to be done and what key performance indicators to monitor, but they rarely pay attention to how the work is to be done and whether employees are using acceptable behaviors to achieve those results. This focus on outcome over methods allows toxic behaviors to remain unchecked for years.”

Burrus suggests the following ways businesses can encourage leaders to engage in healthy behavior and detoxify the culture:

Establish specific codes of conduct. Burrus says correcting or preventing abusive behavior by leaders means first establishing a code of conduct – with management principles – as an essential part of the corporate culture. “Communicate to all employees, including supervisors, managers, and executives, that the organization will not tolerate bullying to any degree,” Burrus says. “Post these codes everywhere – in company manuals, in meeting rooms, on the website – and discuss them at kickoff meetings and conferences. The codes of conduct should explicitly state that employees who violate this principle will be disciplined and may be terminated. Organization heads should communicate to their brilliant jerks that they are valued for their brilliance, but that misbehavior has consequences, which will be applied.”

Expand evaluations. “Leaders should be evaluated not only on what results they are achieving, but also on how they are performing as overall leaders,” Burrus says. “Performance reviews should also consider the quality of interactions with employees. It’s important in this evaluation process that employees should have an opportunity to evaluate their manager’s leadership in annual or semi-annual reviews.”

Offer coaching and support. “If they are receptive,” Burrus says, “brilliant jerks should be offered the support of a customized coaching program to help them change their destructive behaviors and leverage their strengths. They need to be shown how their outstanding abilities that help the company are being undermined by a lack of interpersonal skills. All too often, leaders think an authoritative, demonstrative style is largely responsible for their success, when an argument can be made that it’s just as responsible for driving good people away, and for planting the seeds of their own future derailment.”

“Management needs to keep behavior principles in mind and reference them every day,” Burrus says. “Otherwise, the company’s values and leadership principles are just talk, and it risks creating cynics throughout the organization.”

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Practice makes perfect

“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated,” according to famed linksman Arnold Palmer. The legendary medalist earned the nickname, The King of Golf, for his prowess on the fairways and proof of his skill are the 21 holes-in-one with which he is credited. West Virginian Rocco Figaretti has only one hole-in-one under his belt, but he has plenty of time ahead of him to rack up his share of aces. The four-year-old amazed onlookers at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, WV recently with his skill and dedication; his dad, Mario, remarked that “to say I'm proud would be an understatement." The boy wonder has been playing since he was three and, obviously, spends a great deal of his time practicing.

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The price is right

What would you be willing to pay for a pair of 35-year-old used sneakers? The folks at Christie’s, the auction house, got $615,000 when the sneakers Michael Jordan wore in 1985 were put up for sale. After all, they were apparently only worn once during an exhibition game in Trieste, Italy. And, as Christie’s described the kicks, they are "a one-of-a-kind Michael Jordan artifact." What also made the shoes special is the shard of glass embedded in the sole as a result of Jordan’s shattering a glass backboard during the game.

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A happy ending

A three-year-old girl was swept up by the tail of a giant kite during a festival recently in Taiwan. The 30-second nightmare ended happily when control of the kite was regained and it was slowly pulled back down to earth. The toddler suffered only minor injuries but appeared shaken by the buffeting winds as she hung entangled at the end of the kite’s long orange streamer

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History Matters

A biweekly feature courtesy of

The Grateful American Book Prize

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future

By John Grimaldi and David Bruce Smith

On September 7th, Uncle Sam will be two-hundred and seven. The United States got its nickname when a Troy, NY newspaper ran a story about Samuel Wilson, a meatpacker who supplied beef to the American soldiers during the War of 1812. He loaded the portions into barrels marked “US”, which the troops started referring to as “Uncle Sam’s” rations; the moniker went viral, and—eventually— it became the personification of America.

Later in the 19th century, the cartoonist Thomas Nast designed an image to match the name: a white goateed man wearing a top hat, dressed in red, white, and blue.

In 1961 Congress passed a resolution acknowledging that Samuel Wilson was the ingenuity behind Uncle Sam.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For by David McCullough.

———

By the fall of 1776, the Declaration of Independence had already been signed, and delivered to the British. It unambiguously stated that the colonies were now an independent nation. On September 9, 1776, the Continental Congress officially replaced the designation, “United Colonies” with the “United States of America”.

Even though the American Revolution was in still going on, the Congressional resolution stated: “That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the stile be altered for the future to the “United States.”

Seven years later, The Treaty of Paris ended the War—officially--and America was free.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends its 2016 award winner, The Drum of Destiny, by Chris Stevenson.

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On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote a poem called The Defence of Fort McHenry. The War of 1812 had ramped up rage between the United States and Britain a second time. Baltimore’s Fort McHenry was on the defensive, and Key was imprisoned on an enemy warship.

According to History.com “Key watched the bombing campaign unfold from aboard a ship located about eight miles away. After a day, the British were unable to destroy the fort and gave up. Key was relieved to see the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry and quickly penned a few lines in tribute to what he had witnessed.”

His poem was printed in newspapers—and then--set to music. Its popularity soared; people started calling it “The Star-Spangled Banner”; and, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it should be played and sung at all official gatherings.

Fifteen years later, Key’s “poem” metamorphosed into the national anthem.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends 1812: The War That Forged a Nation by Walter R. Borneman.

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How to keep your medical staff encouraged and engaged in COVID times

Healthcare professionals don’t seek the public spotlight, but while serving others in the dangerous front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, their selflessness and courage have been part of the national narrative.

Labeled as heroes in this unprecedented fight, their daily battles can exact a mental toll that’s sometimes manifest in grief, depression and loneliness. So in addition to trying to protect the health of medical workers as much as possible, it’s vital for healthcare facility operators to keep their staff feeling engaged, connected and encouraged, says Dr. Kyle Bogan (www.drkylebogan.com), a medical office culture expert and general dentist.

“Healthcare workers have experienced immense physical and mental strain during this pandemic,” Bogan says. “You hear a lot in the news about the danger of the virus to frontline workers and whether they have enough protective gear, but the mental effects can’t be discounted.

“Working past the point of exhaustion, worrying they might bring the infection home and infect family members, feeling traumatized from the whole experience, it can be difficult for them to keep navigating this challenging time. Therefore, healthcare institutions and those who run facilities need to light the way for their staff and provide them with added support.”

Bogan suggests the following initiatives healthcare operators can implement to help their employees deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic:

Provide educational resources. “Even the most qualified healthcare professionals are still trying to grasp the nature of the disease.” Bogan says. “To ensure your staff is supported properly, make educational resources easily available to them. Whether you email them articles, send them news updates, include hard copy materials at your healthcare facility, or make important content available on your website, these resources will be much appreciated.”

Provide little extras. It can be easy for healthcare workers to skip a lunch break or extend a shift as they spend an increased amount of time providing support to patients. Bogan says, “Consider initiatives within your healthcare facility to help enhance the employee experience. Things like a rewards program, or providing them with a great meal, encouraging them to take breaks and call their loved ones, and making coffee and snacks readily available. Little things that show you care about them.”

Give them public recognition. While much of the general public is practicing social distancing, many healthcare practitioners are forced to take this safety measure to a more extreme level, such as having to quarantine from family members. “This isolation can have a huge mental toll on even the toughest workers as boundaries between work and home life are diminished,” Bogan says. “It’s important to recognize their hard work and sacrifices. Public recognition can go a long way toward helping their psyche. If your healthcare institution has a website or social media channels, consider showcasing the employees that have gone the extra mile during this crisis. Encouragement from community members can help lift their spirits.”

Let them bank vacation time. Many healthcare workers are finding that they can no longer take their planned vacation. Bogan suggests implementing a system that enables workers to bank their vacation time. “If workers can’t use their vacation time in 2020, for instance, allow them the flexibility to carry it into the following year,” he says. “If some employees have put in extra time during this pandemic, consider providing them with additional vacation time to show appreciation for their sacrifice and service.”

“Healthcare workers are experiencing this pandemic on a whole other level,” Bogan says. “As employers of these workers, implementing some of these strategies to support your employees will give them a boost and make your work culture even stronger.”

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How you can stop fake news from faking you out

The term “fake news” gained traction during the 2016 U.S. presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and it has since become a familiar phrase in the American political vernacular.

Could fake news factor into the current presidential election season? The QAnon movement has been seen by some media and political observers as an example of a politically-driven group promoting fake news. Despite a lack of evidence to support their beliefs, followers of the QAnon movement believe that President Trump is fighting a satanic deep state of global elites. Facebook booted accounts promoting QAnon.

David Dozier (www.DavidDozierBooks.com), a professor emeritus in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University and author of The California Killing Field, thinks QAnon’s origins and emergence into national news cycles symbolizes the intent of fake news: to influence voters.

“We live in a world where it’s hard to believe almost anything you see related to politics on social media, and sometimes in the mainstream media as well,” Dozier says. “Our democratic process for electing political leaders has suffered great harm due to these disinformation campaigns.

“Fake news is definitely an issue heading into this critical presidential election. QAnon is the latest example of how conspiracy theories on the internet can gain traction and build followings.”

Researchers have suggested that false information presented as news fuels public distrust of political leaders and the media, influences people’s attitudes, and damages democracy.

“We’ve never been more polarized as a country, and fake news is dividing us further,” Dozier says. “It’s become a phenomenon, but people still have the power to sort the true from the false.”

Dozier suggests these ways to spot fake news:

Don’t fall into the bias trap. People can fall prey to confirmation bias, a tendency to favor information that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. “Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum,” Dozier says, “people lend more credence to information that reinforces what they already believe. To counteract the confirmation bias trap, try changing your perspective by taking the other side of the argument. Overall, be skeptical and think critically.”

Pause before you share or retweet. “Some people have an emotional reaction to a piece of news and think they should share it,” Dozier says. “But it’s important to know that the people who create disinformation are designing it to do just that – trigger an emotional reaction. So wait and ask questions about the content. Who shared it or created it? Why was this shared? Do some investigating.”

Go straight to the source. “The algorithms used by social media and news aggregator sites are designed to make sure we see stories geared to our interests,” Dozier says. “This makes it harder to identify if a story is real or fake, and who created it. Instead of following a link from the outlet that shows up on your social media, go online and head straight to the source. Inspect the poster’s profile and their post history. See if the poster has affiliations that are in line with spreading a certain point of view.”

Inspect the content the account posted. Conducting a reverse image search can make it easier to authenticate an image by finding its source. “Fake news/disinformation often uses old images,” Dozier says. “With a reverse image search, you can search for previous instances of an image that appears online and to find if the image used is from a different story. You can also reverse image search the profile picture to see if that picture or similar photos are being used on other accounts. That’s a common practice to create fake personas online.

“Getting to the facts is getting more difficult,” Dozier says. “We have tons of information coming at us from all angles and platforms. It’s more important than ever to think for ourselves.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Should We Get Married or Just Live Together?

Dear Rusty: My question is about benefits and getting married. I am a retired man, 65-years-old, and collecting Social Security plus 2 pensions. My girlfriend will turn 62 in October of 2020 and plans to apply for Social Security benefits on her 62nd birthday. If we were to get married, would we be affected money wise? Or should we just live together? Signed: Contemplating Marriage

Dear Contemplating Marriage: Your own Social Security benefit will not be affected in any way if you get married, unless your potential new bride is a very high earner and her Social Security entitlement at her full retirement age (which is 66 years and 8 months) is more than twice the full benefit amount you were entitled to at your full retirement age (even though you claimed your SS earlier). In that case, you would become eligible for a spousal benefit from your new wife after you are married for one year.

If, however, your potential bride is the lower earner and claims at 62 but is entitled to a Social Security benefit at her full retirement age (FRA) that is less than 50% of your FRA benefit amount, your new wife may be entitled to a "spousal boost" from you after you are married for a year. I cannot tell you the answer to those questions without knowing your respective benefit amounts at each of your full retirement ages.

You may also wish to consider potential survivor benefits. If you are married and one spouse dies, the surviving spouse is entitled to 100% of the amount the deceased spouse was collecting at their death, if the surviving spouse has reached full retirement age (otherwise the survivor benefit is reduced for claiming it early). The surviving spouse gets the survivor benefit if that benefit is more than they are entitled to on their own.

In any case, neither of you would be eligible for a Social Security spousal benefit or survivor benefit from the other unless you are married (you must be married for at least one year to get a spousal benefit and at least 9 months for a survivor benefit).

Note that so-called "common law" marriage isn't recognized in most U.S. states, and Social Security goes by state law on that topic. The only states which currently recognize common law marriage are Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah (and the District of Columbia). So, unless you were to live in one of those states, or in D.C., cohabitating would not be considered a "marriage" for the purposes of Social Security benefits, and no spousal or survivor benefits would be available to either of you.

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Plant trees now for decades of shade and beauty

By MELINDA MYERS

Cooler temperatures and warm soil make fall a great time to add trees to your landscape. Make the most of this investment of money and time and give your tree its best chance at survival with proper planting and care.

Select a tree suited to the growing conditions, your landscape design and available space. Make sure it tolerates the sunlight, soil and temperature extremes. Check the tag for the mature height and spread. You’ll have a better-looking plant that always fits the space with minimal pruning.

Avoid planting near overhead utilities since trees and power lines make for a dangerous combination. Contact your underground utility locating service at least three business days before placing the first shovel in the ground. It’s free and all you need to do is call 811 or file an online request.

Once the area is marked, you can get busy planting. Ensure your tree thrives for many years to come with proper planting. Dig a saucer shaped hole three to five times wider than the root ball. It should only be as deep as the distance from the root flare to the bottom of the root ball. The root flare, where the roots bend away from the trunk, should always be at or slightly above the soil surface.

Set the tree in the hole, then peel back and cut away any burlap and wire cages. These can eventually constrict root growth. Roughen the sides of the hole and backfill with the existing soil. Water thoroughly to moisten the roots and surrounding soil.

Continue to water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and moist. Proper watering, especially during the first two years, is critical for establishing trees. Watering thoroughly as needed encourages deep roots and a more drought tolerant and pest resistant tree.

Monitor soil moisture near the trunk and beyond the rootball. Since many containerized trees are grown in soilless mix, the rootball dries out more quickly than the surrounding soil. Adjust your watering technique and schedule to accommodate this difference.

Mulch the soil surface with a two- to three-inch layer of woodchips or shredded bark to conserve water, suppress weeds and improve the soil as it decomposes. Pull the mulch back from the trunk of the tree to avoid disease problems.

Remove any tags that can eventually girdle the tree and prune out any broken or rubbing branches. Wait a year to fertilize and two years, once the tree is established, for additional pruning.

Continue providing tender loving care for at least the first two years. Make regular checkups, prune to create a strong structure, and keep grass, weeds and lawn care equipment away from the trunk throughout the lifetime of your tree. Your efforts will be rewarded with years of beauty and shade.

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Go figure

Identical twin sisters, Brittany and Briana Deane, met a pair of identical twin brothers, Joshua and Jeremy Salyers, at a Twins Day festival in 2017. The festival is an annual event that takes place in the town of Twinsburg, OH of course. A year later the foursome returned to Twinsburg where Briana married Jeremy and Brittany married Joshua and now, two years later, Brittany and Briana have announced that they are pregnant. They posted the news on their joint Instagram account, noting that “Our children will not only be cousins, but full genetic siblings and quaternary multiples!”

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How embarrassing

Northamptonshire, England Police Sgt. Scott Renwick apparently never explained how he accidentally handcuffed himself. Buthe did fess up to the fact that he had to call in the Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service to set him free. He posted a message on Twitter that read: "Well that wasn't a good start to the day. Thanks to @northantsfire for cutting me out of some broken cuffs. #NotFunny. I would have laughed too!!"

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Treasure chest or hoax?

Residents of the community of Barre, NY have a mystery on their hands. It seems that one day recently there suddenly appeared a very large safe in a field belonging to farmer Kirk Mathes. No one seems to know how it got there; nor does anyone know who put it there. But attached to it was a note that read, "If you can open this, you can have what's inside." It caused quite stir as trespassers swarmed the Mathes farm trying to open the 500 pound strongbox. The police were called and farmer Mathes relocated the safe to an unknown location, telling WHAM-TV: "If you open it, the show is over. In these times, with the virus and the politics, it might get people a chance to set their problems or troubles aside and have a lot of fun talking about it."

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4 tips for avoiding hair loss in COVID times

People go partially or fully bald for any number of reasons – hormones, genetics and aging, among others – but in the middle of a pandemic-fueled recession, one factor is taking center stage.

Stress.

“Stress certainly can contribute to hair loss because it can affect hormone levels,” says Dr. Patrick Angelos (drpatrickangelos.com) author of The Science and Art of Hair Restoration: A Patient’s Guide. “Any number of stressful events can lead to a sudden loss of hair, although in those cases the hair typically will grow back over time.”

For more permanent hair-loss concerns, Angelos, a plastic surgeon who specializes in hair restoration, uses robotic treatment to help patients regain their beloved locks. That process involves an advanced, minimally invasive hair transplant system that uses technology driven by artificial intelligence.

“Among the reasons patients consider hair restoration is that they want to get back some of their youthful look and feel better about themselves,” Angelos says. “Helping them accomplish that is one of the great satisfactions I get from being a plastic surgeon.”

But for those who want to keep their hair healthy and full now and who hope to avoid ever reaching the point where they need hair-loss intervention, Angelos offers a few tips:

Maintain good hair care and hygiene habits. The way you wash your hair could undermine your efforts to prevent hair loss, Angelos says. As you wash, avoid pulling back on your hair because that can put traction on the follicles. “The same goes for combing,” he says. “It’s less stressful on the follicles to wash and comb your hair forward, toward your face, instead of toward the back of your scalp and neck. Also, long hair weighs more, so on its own, it can put more traction on the follicles.” Brushing your hair regularly, however, is good because it massages the scalp and helps improve blood flow and circulation. The condition of your hair should also be in balance – not too oily, not too dry. “Finally, don’t overuse a hair dryer because that can make hair weak and brittle, which can lead to more hair loss,” Angelos says.

Treat health issues. Hormonal imbalances and other medical conditions such as low thyroid and iron or iodine deficiency can contribute to hair loss, Angelos says. “Avoid overuse of supplements and medications,” he says. “Since supplements such as testosterone, human growth hormone, whey, and DHEA can cause thinning and hair loss, especially avoid excessive use of these.”

Be aware of your nutritional needs. Some fad diets may have a nutritional impact on hair loss. “It’s really important to eat a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat,” Angelos says. He also recommends taking a multivitamin that includes vitamins A, B complex, C, D and E, along with the minerals zinc, iodine and iron, all of which help with hair health.

Avoid unhealthy environments. The negative health effects of smoking are well known, especially related to lung cancer. But one more reason to avoid smoking, Angelos says, is that it can affect hair loss. In addition to smoking, other environmental factors that can contribute to hair loss include environmental exposures like radiation and air pollution.

When efforts to prevent hair loss fall short, those who prefer to avoid baldness can explore the possibilities that modern science provides.

“Not every patient needs hair transplantation, though,” Angelos says. “Especially when it comes to younger patients, it may be best to start with other options. Since the reasons for hair loss vary from person to person and are unique to their circumstances, a good place to start is by determining the cause of hair loss in the first place, and then go from there.”

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Fall lawn care tips

By MELINDA MYERS

As summer transitions into fall, it is time to help lawns recover from summer stress. Let the weather and the condition of your lawn help you develop a plan suited to your landscape.

Continue mowing actively growing lawns. Mow high, leaving cool season grasses like bluegrass and fescues at least 2 ½ preferably 3 ½ inches tall after cutting. Warm season grasses like bermudagrass, carpetgrass, centipedegrass and zoysia should be grown at 1 to 2 inches tall, while St. Augustine should a bit higher at 2 to 3 inches for best results. Taller grass is better able to compete with weeds, is more drought tolerant and less susceptible to insects and disease.

Mow often, removing no more than one third the total height. Leave short clippings on the lawn. They will quickly break down, adding organic matter, moisture and nutrients to the soil. Run your mower over long clippings to reduce their size and speed decomposition.

As the tree leaves begin to fall just mow them into small pieces and leave them on the lawn. As long as you can see the grass blades through the shredded leaves your lawn will be fine. And just like the clippings, they add nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

Fertilize lawns in early September and high maintenance northern lawns again around Halloween, but always before the ground freezes. Make sure the last fertilizer application to warm season grasses is at least one month prior to the average first killing frost.

A healthy lawn is the best defense against weeds. Even with proper care these unwanted plants can bully their way into your lawn. Try digging, root and all, to remove small populations of weeds. Think of it as a workout or way to reduce stress.

If you decide to use a weed killer, try spot treating weeds or problem areas to minimize the amount of chemical used. Select the least toxic or an organic product whenever possible. Whether using traditional or environmentally friendly products read and follow label directions carefully. All these products are plant killers and can cause damage to other plants if not applied properly.

Fall, when the cool season grasses are actively growing, is also the best time to core aerate or dethatch lawns suffering from thatch build up or compacted soil. Overseed thin lawns after core aeration or dethatching. You’ll have better results once the thatch layer is removed or openings exist for the grass seeds to contact the soil and sprout.

Those growing warm season grasses should wait until the lawn greens up in spring or is actively growing in early summer. Avoid doing this when the weather is hot and dry.

Begin implementing some of these strategies and soon you’ll be on your way to a healthier, better looking lawn for the coming growing season.

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Why residential real estate is becoming more attractive in the suburbs

This year has culminated in a number of factors that are reshaping the landscape of U.S. real estate. A housing shift is occurring in some cities as some people are trading urban areas for the suburbs or rural places.

As more people work from home in the current climate, the aspects of city living that are appealing to millennials and young professionals, such as theaters, bars, and restaurants, are either closed or restricted.

Real estate analysts say the outward-bound residential trend could continue as the pandemic persists. For anyone considering a move out of the city, there are some key factors to consider, says Jadon Newman, CEO of Noble Capital (www.noblecapital.com), a private lending and private equity firm.

“The demand to live in rural and suburban areas is increasing compared to urban demand, which marks a big change from where it’s been,” Newman says. “But the cost of city living was getting expensive before the pandemic, and now the exodus is being expedited.”

People are rethinking whether they want to live in high-rise rentals with common spaces as amenities, as opposed to being in a single-family house of their own with space and a backyard, Newman says.

“Sellers in the suburbs and rural areas are realizing the surge in new demand, and it may increase if there’s a second wave of the virus this fall,” he says.

Newman says those considering a new home or a second home should keep in mind these trends in the current economic climate:

Good values in suburbia. Depending on geography, some areas took a hit early in the pandemic, the housing market is surging back and median home prices have risen recently. Newman agrees with analysts who say suburban housing could be a better investment for homebuyers than an urban dwelling, given the uncertainty around the coronavirus and its multiple effects on dense population centers. “Much of the value of homes outside of the central city is in the structure and the fact that there is room to build more of them,” Newman says. “Home prices outside of densely populated urban areas tend to follow construction costs, so there shouldn’t be much movement in those prices.”

Falling urban home prices. As a result of more people leaving the city for the suburbs, economists say home prices in urban areas may fall as a result. “But it’s too early to count out urban areas altogether,” Newman says. “We’ve had other periods in history where cities survived societal and technological transformation. Meanwhile, relative bargains may be had in some markets if one wants to consider a city condo or property to rent out.”

Low interest rates. “Interest rates are the lowest in history,” Newman says, “if you're looking to own a home it’s a good time to buy. And it’s also a good time to sell. For sellers, with demand especially high to move to the suburbs, limited supply, and low interest rates are creating an incentive to buy. Homes in many regions aren’t staying on the market for long.”

Investing in small-town rental properties. Newman says because major cities have been disproportionately affected by the virus, smaller towns that have been far less impacted may be ideal for investing in a residential property that can be used as a vacation rental and additional source of income. “There could be a larger shift away from urbanization toward investment in remote locations,” Newman says. “For buyers of second homes, those well removed from urban centers can be reasonably priced and make more sense as people prioritize safety and more space.”

“Home ownership has traditionally been a way for families to build equity which is more difficult now in densely-populated areas where home prices are high,” Newman said, “This is one of the best times in our country’s history to build wealth with your home in the suburbs where prices are often more affordable.”

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5 ways seniors can safeguard against cyber criminals stealing their identity

As the use of personal computers and cell phones has grown over the last two decades, identity theft has surged. One study found that over 14 million consumers were victims of identity fraud in 2018, and that their out-of-pocket costs totaled $1.7 billion.

Seniors have been particularly vulnerable in recent years to online scams and telemarketing tricks. Unfortunately, another negative effect of COVID-19 has been scammers targeting seniors and the elderly by developing coronavirus hoaxes that prey on fears of the virus.

The growing problem of identity theft for all age groups makes it vital for consumers to develop a strategy to protect their devices, and those of their loved ones, although no system is perfect, says Chris Orestis (www.retirementgenius.com), a senior care advocate known as the "Retirement Genius" and president of LifeCare Xchange.

At a minimum, no one should give out their Social Security number to a stranger and should never click a link in an email from an unknown source. But cyberthieves have many ways to steal your identity, invade your computer, or raid your bank account and credit cards.What should you do to protect yourself from these scam artists and criminals?

“First, it’s important to understand that identity-theft protection services don’t actually stop identity theft,” Orestis says. “There is no fool-proof way to stop identity theft from happening; there are just too many different types of valuable information and avenues for cyberthieves to hack them.

“The Federal Trade Commission actually prohibits identity-theft services from using the word ‘prevention,’ and if a company is promoting that as part of their service they should not be trusted. But regardless of any service you might use, no one can be disengaged from protecting their own identity. It’s important to take care of your identity and credit health with smart and regular maintenance, just like you do with your physical health.”

Orestis offers a five-step plan to help protect your identity:

Register for fraud alerts. “You want these alerts on credit cards and bank accounts so you can be notified quickly of any suspicious activity on your accounts,” Orestis says. “With fraud alerts, data security companies and financial services will text, email or phone you if there is a suspected security breach, or if they detect spending on a card or account that doesn’t align with your spending habits or your location.”

Review accounts regularly. Vigilance of your identity protection means you should go over your monthly bank and credit card statements and review online account activity weekly. “Immediately notify your bank or credit companies if you detect fraudulent activity,” Orestis says. “Either freeze your account or cancel your card. If you believe there could be a problem with your credit, you can place a credit freeze by phone with each credit agency’s customer service line.”

Monitor your credit reports. Orestis says monitoring credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion is another way to find discrepancies that may indicate fraud.

Don’t leave a paper trail. “It’s a good idea to get rid of physical private records and statements that include personal or financial data,” Orestis says. “Identity thieves get into mailboxes and trash. They can use receipts to piece together your personal data, so it’s smart to shred those and avoid any kind of paper trail.”

Create strong passwords. Orestis suggests mixing upper and lower-case letters with numbers and symbols, and to avoid using the same password for every account. “Not having a strong password on your smartphone or computer is like leaving your house with the front door wide open,” Orestis says. “Identity thieves are counting on people to use the same or similar passwords for their electronic devices and financial accounts. Mix up your passwords, and change them whenever you suspect an account has been compromised.”

“Identity theft and cyber security are a very real threat in today’s internet-connected world,” Orestis says. “We all live online and are exposed to a lot of risk if we don’t do the right things to protect ourselves.”

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5 leadership traits of the founding fathers that can unify America

With the COVID-19 pandemic worsening, the economy faltering, and protests against racial injustice continuing, millions of Americans face difficult times and worry about the nation’s future.

And with a presidential election around the corner, it’s a critical time for the country to take stock of what political leadership should mean by going back to the principles embodied by the framers of the Constitution, says Dr. Jim White (www.opportunityinvesting.com), author of THE BROKEN AMERICA: Ten Guiding Principles to Restore America.

“Mending the nation requires a return to the values of the Constitution and the civility and wisdom of our Founding Fathers,” says Dr. White, founder and president of JL White International. “Citizens must hold leadership accountable at the national, state and local levels.

“There is stupefying dishonesty and an alarming lack of accountability by politicians on both sides of the aisle. The global pandemic served not to unite us against a deadly common foe, the coronavirus, but instead further divided the public along party lines. Regardless of which party voters belong to, there are political criteria all patriotic Americans should be requiring, and these can easily be found in the texts and teachings of our Founding Fathers.”

Referencing the leadership of the Founding Fathers as a framework, Dr. White cites leadership attributes he believes today’s political leaders must have to guide the nation back on course:

A clear, unifying vision. Dr. White says a political leader’s vision must be inclusive. “Political candidates usually have a vision in tandem with their campaigns that appeal to their bases and convince others to hop on the bandwagon,” Dr. White says. “Once in office, however, the vision needs to be amended to include all Americans – not just one party or sector. The elected official must repeatedly convey the vision in a way that’s clear. People should understand why the vision is important, what it means to the average citizen, and how it will be rolled out.”

Recognizes potential in others. Just as in business, it’s crucial for political leaders to hire the best possible job candidates. The problem, Dr. White says, is the freedom these leaders have in hiring cronies, donors and family can lead to less effective governing and even scandal. “Political leaders should be able to identify stars and empower them,” Dr. White says. “The leader is only as good as the team, and at the same time, ‘yes’ men and women is not what any true leader should want.”

Develops trust. “To some people, the words ‘trust’ and ‘politics’ don’t belong in the same sentence,” Dr. White says. “The truth is, politicians often lie. We must always hold them accountable for telling the truth. Leaders must have a level of transparency or else public trust in government gets lost.”

Shows empathy. “Political leaders must wear many hats, but the most important one is serving the people,” Dr. White says. “That means being present and empathetic when unforeseen tragedy strikes. Leaders are looked upon to help provide immediate help in all facets, including emotional support and encouragement. Our leaders must represent all of the people and show that they care.”

Conveys passion. “The nation’s leaders need to have unbridled, unconditional love for our nation,” Dr. White says, “which translates to optimism and a bright future for everyone – not just the wealthy and privileged few. People want to follow a passionate leader who puts the country’s interest above themselves, their political party, and winning.”

“Do today’s political leaders have what it takes to drive our nation?” Dr. White asks. “Tragically, the answer is as plain as day: no. But at a minimum, we must expect that our leaders will excel at the attributes the Founding Fathers exemplified.”

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Sports heroes who served: From Coast Guardsman to golf legend

Although his claim to fame happened decades ago, ardent golfers of any age know the name Arnold Palmer. He is considered one of the greats. He won 62 PGA tour titles from 1955 to 1973, making him one of the top five golfers of all time.

Many, particularly the older generation, know about Palmer the golf legend, but here is some of the story about Palmer, the Coast Guardsman.

Palmer, born in 1929, attended Wake Forest College in North Carolina on a golf scholarship. In 1950, his close friend and roommate Bud Worsham was killed in an auto accident.

Worsham's death affected Palmer deeply, he told Richard A. Stephenson, a historian with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Feb. 28, 2013.

Palmer couldn't focus on his studies and decided he needed a change from the academic venue. So, in 1951, he joined the Coast Guard.

"I thought it was a great outfit that specialized in saving lives," he told Stephenson.

He served in the Coast Guard from 1951 to 1954.

After basic training at Cape May, New Jersey, which is still the basic training center for all enlisted Coast Guard recruits today, Palmer received nine-month orders to serve as a lifeguard for the center's recruits. While there, Palmer also taught the recruits physical education, including judo and how to use force when necessary.

His next duty station was at the 9th Coast Guard District Auxiliary, Cleveland, Ohio, working at the Cleveland East Pierhead Lighthouse, which looks out over Lake Erie. While there, he was assigned as a photographer taking military ID card photos for all the Coast Guardsmen in the district.

At the end of his enlistment, Palmer returned to Wake Forest to complete his studies. Regarding his golf course legacy, it is one for the history books.

Golfer pans the area

"I'm very proud of the fact that I was in the Coast Guard," Palmer told Stephenson, regarding his time in service. "I think it's a wonderful outfit. Young people need the kind of training in one of the military outfits."

"The knowledge that I gained, the maturity that I gained in the Coast Guard made me a better person," he continued. "The military isn't just about restrictions, it's a learning experience and it's very important that young people have that opportunity to learn and to know themselves a little better, and I think the military helps put that in the right perspective."

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Keeping your career goals on track, even in a remote world

Is remote work and a lack of face-to-face time with the boss derailing career advancement for ambitious employees?

Possibly, but even when working from home, savvy individuals can find ways to demonstrate they possess what it takes to move up in the organization, says Kimberly Roush, founder of All-Star Executive Coaching (www.allstarexecutivecoaching.com) and co-author of Who Are You… When You Are Big?

“We’re living in a world in which fear and doubt are on the rise, and while staying positive can be a challenge these days, it’s still the route to success,” Roush says. “When we are in a state of positive emotions, we are more creative and resourceful. Even when you are working remotely, there are ways to bring your creativity and resourcefulness into play.”

She offers a few tips on how to put your best foot forward despite the fact you, your colleagues, and your bosses are working miles apart:

Make the most of virtual meetings. Even when working remotely, employees will have interactions with their supervisors and co-workers through Zoom, email, phone calls or text messages. “Your attitude during those interactions can make a big difference in how your boss views you,” Roush says. “Do you come off as an upbeat problem solver? Are you someone who always comes up with the ideas, or are you someone who squelches them?”

Don’t let the stress show. The pandemic has taken its toll on nearly everyone, but be careful about letting others know how much the stress is getting to you, Roush says. “You want to be seen as someone who handles stress well, not someone who freaks out when times get tough,” she says. “COVID-19 isn’t going to be the last crisis your company faces, and career advancement is more likely to happen for those who can show they handle difficulties well.” Meanwhile, she says, one way to reduce your stress is to do things that make you happy, such as listening to a favorite song, playing with your dogs, or taking a walk around the neighborhood.

Be a leader even when you aren’t a leader. Anyone who wants to be promoted into a leadership position would do well to take time during this remote-working period to study how good leaders perform, Roush says. “People want to be around the best leaders because they release a positive energy that spreads to others,” she says. “They establish a company culture in which that energy thrives and where employees certainly feel comfortable to be themselves. People want to feel that they make things happen of their own volition, and powerful leaders have the gift of encouragement. They are servant leaders who are clear about what they stand for—they have led themselves first—and now they are interested in fostering the greatness in those whom they lead.”

Be aware of who influences you. As you keep in touch with friends and co-workers while you stay home, be careful about who you let into your remote inner circle, Roush says. “If you have naysayers around you telling you, ‘No, you can’t,’ then they can hamper that spirit of boldness, the voice of the champion who says, ‘Yes, you can,’ ” she says. “If you aspire to move into a leadership position, or move further up the leadership chain, you must pay attention to who influences you.”

“Even in today’s remote world,” Roush says, “the way you think about things greatly affects what you can accomplish and the opportunities you will encounter.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Can I Hide My Social Security in A Tax-Advantaged Account?

Dear Rusty: I will be 62 years of age at the end of this year. Can I start drawing my Social Security at age 62 and have it directly deposited into my IRA (arm’s length), not spend it and continue to work without affecting my tax position? I will defer actually using it until a later date Signed: Curious Investor

Dear Curious Investor: Regardless of where you have your Social Security benefits deposited, if you continue to work after claiming early benefits, you’ll be subject to Social Security’s earnings test. The earnings test applies to anyone who collects benefits before they reach their full retirement age (which for you is 66 years and 8 months).

It doesn’t matter if you spend your benefits, save them, or invest them; you’ll still be subject to Social Security’s earnings limit. And, since IRS rules say that only earned income (which excludes Social Security benefits) can be deposited into an individual retirement account (IRA), it is not possible for you to direct-deposit your Social Security benefits into an IRA. In any case, even if you otherwise save your benefits for later use; you will still be subject to Social Security’s earnings limit. For 2020 the annual earnings limit is $18,240 (the limit changes annually) and if that is exceeded, Social Security will take back benefits equal to $1 for every $2 you are over the limit. The earnings limit goes up by about 2.5 times in the year you reach your full retirement age (FRA) and goes away once your FRA is attained.

Social Security gets your earnings information from the IRS when you file your income taxes, and you cannot avoid the earnings test by having the money deposited for later use. The earnings test will still apply, and they will take back some of your benefits if you exceed the limit. For information, by “take back” benefits, I mean they will notify you that they have overpaid you (due to your earnings from working) and will give you the option of either paying them back in full with a lump sum payment, or they will withhold your future benefits until they recover what you owe because you exceeded the earnings limit.

As for your “tax position” on your benefits, that will depend upon your combined income from all other sources (investments, interest, pensions, earnings, etc.), plus 50% of the SS benefits you received during the tax year, plus any non-taxable interest you may have (combined this is known as your Modified Adjusted Gross Income, or “MAGI”). If you file your income taxes as a single and your MAGI is more than $25,000 (or if you file “married-jointly and your MAGI is more than $32,000) then 50% of your SS benefits will become part of your taxable income. And filing single with a MAGI of more than $34,000 (or $44,000 if married-filing jointly), up to 85% of your Social Security benefits will become part of your taxable income (by the IRS). Once again, it doesn’t matter how you dispose of your benefit payments; they will still be taxable if you exceed the clip levels mentioned above, and you will still be subject to Social Security’s earnings test until you reach your full retirement age.

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Bear in mind

Bears will be bears and it’s a good idea to keep clear of them when out for a stroll in your local forest this summer. That’s the advice the National Park Service is offering visitors to its Facebook page. For example, its post starts out with this bit of pithy advice: “Please don’t run from bears or push your slower friends down in attempts of saving yourself.” The post appropriately concludes with a contrite “PS: We apologize to any ‘friends’ who were brought on a hike as the ‘bait’ or were sacrificed to save the group. You will be missed.”

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You’re never too old

Growing old is what you make of it. Take, Dorothy Pollack who resides in a nursing home in Muskegon, MI. She decided to celebrate her 103rd birthday recently by getting her first tattoo. And then there is Bob Mettauer, of Santa Maria, CA. He’s 95-years-young and is better known by friends and neighbors as “Bicycle Bob.” He retired in the 1990s, took up cycling and recently logged his 100,000th mile of biking all these years. Let that be a lesson to you, says the senior advocacy organization: you’re never too old.

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She’s a regular ‘whiz kid”

Quick: spell “amazing” backwards. Pal Onnen of Hastings, MN can do it in little more than one second. In fact, she recently earned the new Guinness World Record for spelling 56 words backwards in just one minute. Oh yeah, she can also pronounce words from back to front and is a veritable speed demon when it comes to reciting the alphabet backwards. And, that is truly “gnizama,” as she would say. Want to see her do it? Check her out at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yhzu9lB0G8.

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History Matters

A feature courtesy of

The Grateful American Book Prize

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future

The official acknowledgement that gave women the right to vote came to a successful resolution 100 years ago this month. After the state of Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920, the two-thirds requirement to make it law was satisfied. Eight days later, the Constitution was formally modified to reflect the change.

Historical documentation shows that the suffrage movement started in 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized a meeting of 200 suffragists in Seneca Falls, NY, and adopted a resolution: “it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.”

However, there is strong evidence that the notion of voting rights for women might have begun even earlier, before America’s independence. In a March 31, 1776 letter written by Abigail Adams to her husband, John Adams, the nation’s future second president, she wrote “If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebelion and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends One Half the People: The Fight for Woman Suffrage by Anne Firor Scott and Andrew MacKay Scott.

On August 21, 1959, another star was added to the American flag. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation, which admitted Hawaii into the union as the 50th state.

According to The Washington Historical Quarterly, traders from Boston were probably the first Americans to visit the Islands in 1789; during the succeeding centuries, commerce between the American colonists, planters and missionaries proliferated, and throngs of people made the Islands their home; by 1894, the newly formed Republic of Hawaii was turned into an American protectorate.

For more information about the Aloha State, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Unsustainable Empire: Alternative Histories of Hawai‘i Statehood by Dean Itsuji Saranillio.

On August 28, 1963 America’s most prominent civil rights leader -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – delivered the words that have gone down in history—perhaps—as the most stirring call for the end of racial segregation and discrimination: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal’.”

The event took place in front of the Lincoln Memorial, surrounded by 250,000 persons--the largest audience in the history of the civil rights movement. Later, The New York Times said the speech played an important role in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Clayborne Carson.

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From the battlefield to the backyard: A franchisee’s story of fighting pests

By MIKE JEFFREY

I figured I had two choices: to take the bullets or a rocket-propelled grenade.

I got neither, but it was no bargain.

It was back in 2003 in Iraq, the early part of the Iraq War. I was a tank driver and cavalry scout for the U.S. Army as we fought the insurgents who had emerged to fight the occupying forces. The insurgents were enemies we often could not see – they embedded deeply in buildings, bunkers, and bushes – and we had to always be ready.

This time, we got ambushed from both sides in broad daylight.

I was sitting in the back of a Humvee, climbing over the hump between the back seats to get out the other side and take cover. I was thinking, “Which is worse, an RPG or the bullets?” I thought I’d prefer the bullets. But as I was about to jump to the other side, something went “boom” and I went flying.

Later, a guy who in our group said I was airborne and flipped. When I landed on my back, I knew something was wrong. But I didn’t have any bullet holes in me, so I kept moving and fighting with our guys. We won at the end of the day, and the medics took care of me on the hush-hush so I could stay in the fight.

That was August 2003 and we didn’t get home until March 2004. I was back in Iraq from November ‘05 through November ‘06, and in October of that stint I got injured in another explosion that further messed up my back. Eventually, the U.S. Army medically retired me in 2012.

I pushed through getting hurt until I couldn’t push any longer. I loved fighting for our country overseas. We were all so proud to serve the U.S. of A. I received the Purple Heart in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., with my little brother Joe – who now serves in the military – getting to pin it on my chest. But after the Army said my time was up – due to back injuries leading to numerous surgeries, including spinal fusions – I returned home with not much to do.

While fortunate to be able to still walk – I eventually got rid of the cane and walker – I was considered disabled and unemployable due to my back and head injuries. I wasn’t allowed to do physical work anymore. In my pre-army days I had been a bull rider, driven a forklift, and worked on semis as a mechanic. What would I do now? It was a dark time in my life.

But a life-changing experience was awaiting me. Franchise ownership – running your own shop as part of a proven, successful business model – can open a whole new promising chapter in your story. Now here I am at 42, and becoming a franchise partner for Mosquito Authority has brought sunshine back to my future.

In Iraq, we considered the enemy to be pests. Now I’m fighting a different kind of pest, which like those in Iraq are often hard to see. The satisfaction now is protecting families from disease-carrying mosquitoes and allowing them to enjoy the outdoors in the summertime.

I look at so many unemployed people now, hopeless and hurting due to the severe economic impact of the coronavirus, and I see operating a franchise as a great opportunity for people. It sure is for me. I remember being hopeless. After returning home from the Army, sitting around doing nothing took a toll.

Also, I had issues trusting people, but that changed when I got to know Daniel McCubbins, a franchise owner for Mosquito Authority, one of the nation’s leading pest control services with franchises all over the country. I was back home in Kentucky, and believing in Daniel and the company. I said yes when he asked me to join him as a partner in a south Louisville franchise.

Had I ever, years ago, thought I would own a business or get into a franchise? No. But Daniel was sold on the quality of the product, the guarantee and no-contract concept, both of which customers like, and the growth rate of the company. And so was I. Customers stay with us because they trust us to protect their yards and their families.

So much for my trust issues!

This great opportunity for me in franchising means, as an investment, I can have more than just my disability payments. I’m back in a leadership role, helping people, and helping a company grow. I feel energized. And I’m enjoying fighting a different kind of pest.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – What Will My Wife’s Benefit Be If I Die?

Dear Rusty: I am 76 years old and began collecting Social Security when I retired at the age of 62. My wife also began collecting SS when she turned 62 based on my benefits. She did not work enough to qualify on her own for Social Security benefits. My question is, how much will my wife receive after my death? Will she receive what I receive now, or will it be a percentage of the total that we both receive? Or will it be based on just my benefits alone or some other formula? Signed: An Inquisitive Senior

Dear Inquisitive: Your wife’s survivor benefit as your widow will be based upon your Social Security benefit alone. Usually a surviving spouse receives the same amount the deceased spouse was receiving at death, if that is more than the survivor is already receiving, and if the survivor has reached their full retirement age. However, in your case, if you should predecease your wife there’s a special rule which may benefit her because you claimed your benefit at age 62.

That rule says that because you claimed before your full retirement age (FRA), your wife’s benefit as your survivor should be at least 82.5% of the benefit you were entitled to at your full retirement age (66), even though you actually claimed at age 62. And because your benefit was reduced by 25% when you took it at age 62, your wife’s benefit as your widow may actually be more than you are receiving when you pass. This special rule is known as the “widow limit,” which stipulates that a surviving spouse is entitled to the greater of what the deceased was receiving while alive, or 82.5% of the deceased’s “primary insurance amount” or “PIA,” which is the amount due at full retirement age.

Here’s an example: If your FRA benefit amount was $1500/month, then your age 62 amount when you claimed was $1125. But due to the special rule, your wife would get $1238 (82.5% of $1500) instead of the reduced $1125 amount. Of course, this example doesn’t reflect the COLA (cost of living) increases which would have been applied to your benefit over the years, but as your widow and because you claimed before your full retirement age, your wife would be entitled to at least 82.5% of your PIA if that is more than the actual amount you were receiving when you passed.

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Job-hunting tips to restore your hope despite the pandemic

This can be an especially frustrating and worrisome time for job seekers. Massive unemployment resulting from the coronavirus pandemic reflects decline and uncertainty in many industries. With fewer companies hiring, some workers who were laid off or furloughed face a more competitive job search.

But while it’s easy to get discouraged, employment numbers are creeping back, and retooling the job search method can help them stand out in the crowd and find desirable employers, says Jack Whatley (www.humancodeofhiring.com), a recruiting strategist who specializes in creating employer-branding campaigns.

“Many companies still are actively recruiting and looking for people with the right skill set and mindset to fit these changing times,” Whatley says. “People seeking employment not only to pay the bills but also to find work that is meaningful to them can leverage this time to be strategic and nimble.

“While there are factors job seekers can’t control, they can choose to equip themselves with more information, skill, and overall preparation, and in the process conduct a successful job search.”

Whatley offers five tips to help job seekers navigate their job search during the pandemic:

Gather intel. Whatley says the pandemic can reveal the essence of a company’s culture, which is a priority for many job candidates today. In the process of searching companies, pay attention to their social media sites and websites, reviews by former employees, and how they are handling things now, Whatley says. “How are they treating employees during this continuing emergency? How have they adapted? Are they working from home? Did they lay off people, and if so, how quickly? Is there a community-mindedness to the business?”

Expand your skill set. With fewer positions or expanded roles in different positions, versatility is key. “This is an ideal time to take online courses to expand your professional toolkit,” Whatley says. “Acquiring new certifications will be helpful when applying for new roles. Use online learning modules for platforms such as Zoom and Skype, which help practice interview skills and remote work. Hiring managers want to know you have the capabilities to navigate the tools and platforms for remote work.”

Expand your network. Data shows that networking remains a frequent factor in getting hired. Whatley says this is the time to make new connections and re-establish existing ones. “First, paint a complete, updated picture with your profile on the job search site,” Whatley says. “Does your headline create a strong brand, and does your profile highlight your accomplishments and capabilities? Include keywords that might appear in job descriptions. Post content on your social media sites to show you’re engaged in meaningful conversation. And challenge yourself to reach out to new people by sending customized invitations.”

Be flexible in career paths. The kind of work one has been accustomed to may not be feasible given the current economic climate and the changes some industries are undergoing. “Research what industries are hiring, those in which you could apply your skills, and consider taking something that may not be on your Plan A list, but rather might be Plan B or C,” Whatley says. “Consider temporary opportunities. Search for opportunities in which you can leverage your transferable skills in a different capacity.”

Be prepared for the virtual interview. Virtual interviewing is the new normal. “Dress appropriately, as though you’re in the company’s office,” Whatley says. “Make your environment clean, appealing, and well-lit. Treat the video interview as though it were in-person. Be aware of making eye contact through the monitor, your tone, and your mannerisms.”

“Be proactive and persistent, but also be patient,” Whatley says. “Hiring processes may go slower for some companies, but there is a lot a job seeker can do to be ready when they call.”

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Give your landscape a late summer facelift

By MELINDA MYERS

Whether it is the hot weather, the age of your landscape or simply the need for change; a late summer makeover can help you increase your landscape’s beauty. Put the “wow” back into your garden with a few new plantings, garden art, or other simple improvements.

Many established landscapes have a few or many overgrown plants. Sometimes the plants you purchase perform better than expected or oftentimes we try to squeeze too many plants into a garden or too large of plants into small spaces.

Remove overcrowded plants that have outgrown the space or lost their ornamental appeal. Replace these and other unsightly plants with those more suited to the growing conditions, your landscape design, and available space. Now is a good time to plan and fall is a great time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. The soil is warm and air cool, making it less stressful on new plantings.

Phase in removals and replacements over time. This is easier on your budget, back, and will keep your landscape looking robust. And be sure to properly space plants to avoid overcrowding in the future. Check plant tags for the plant’s mature size and plant accordingly.

Fill in the voids between new plantings with annuals and perennials. As your shrubs increase in size, you will need fewer annuals each year. Move perennial flowers and grasses to a new garden as your shrubs reach full size. Perennials are much easier to move than an overgrown shrub.

A bit of pruning may be all that is needed to bring back the beauty and reduce the size of overgrown plants. Make a note on your calendar to do a bit of pruning at the right time. Prune spring flowering shrubs right after they bloom. They have already set their flower buds for next spring and pruning now will eliminate the spring floral display. You can prune summer flowering shrubs during their dormant season from fall through spring. Prune evergreens in colder climates in late winter or early spring once the worst winter weather has passed. Fall pruning where winters are brutal can lead to an increase in winter damage.

Replace tired annuals in the garden and containers with fresh plants suited to the upcoming fall season. Don’t be afraid to add dried materials to existing planters for added color and texture. Or create new container gardens to set by the front door and welcome guests. These also make great fillers in the garden. Just place the container in a spot where an existing plant has failed. You will benefit from the instant color and extra time you gain to plan for a permanent replacement.

Garden art is another option for filling those late summer voids in the garden. Or use it to create a focal point, drawing attention to areas that are looking their best.

Adding a few new cushions on your outdoor furniture can further enhance your landscape’s appeal. It is an easy way to change things up with minimal investment of time and money.

Big or small, a few changes can make a big difference. Tackle a few of the easier ones or those with the biggest impact first. Once you get started, you will not want to quit.

Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and her web site is www.MelindaMyers.com.

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Virtual school means extra screen time – And added eye strain for kids

This school year is beginning in much the way the last one ended, with many districts opting for virtual learning, which means children sit at home in front of computer screens rather than in a classroom in front of teachers.

But that extra screen time – mixed with the screen time many children and teenagers spend on their own – brings with it the potential for serious eye strain, says Dr. Jeff Kegarise, an optometrist, clinical management expert, and co-author with his wife, Susan, of One Patient at a Time: The K2 Way Playbook for Healthcare & Business Success (www.theK2Way.com).

“Spending too much time in front of screens on computers, phones and tablets can lead to headaches, blurry vision, dry eyes and more,” Kegarise says. “Gritty, scratchy, watery, or irritated eyes can be common because of all the digital devices people use these days.”

And if things aren’t bad enough, even without this added time staring at computers, about one-fourth of children in the U.S. have a vision problem significant enough to affect their performance in school, Kegarise says.

It’s not unusual for some children to spend hours staring at a video game screen, perhaps so caught up in the game’s action that they fail to notice or care about any eye discomfort that results.

Add several hours of online school, though, and eye strain becomes more difficult to ignore.

Kegarise says parents can help their children alleviate some of the eye strain by making sure they do the following:

Take breaks. To a certain extent, students won’t have control over this because teachers will decide when breaks happen during the school day. But ideally, they should take a break from the screen every 30 minutes, Kegarise says.

Choose the right lighting. The type of lighting used in the student’s work space can make a difference. Incandescent lights work better than fluorescent lights because they give off less glare, Kegarise says. “It’s also better if the light is placed over your shoulder than if it’s shining straight down on the screen because that will cause fewer reflections,” he says.

Adjust the position of the computer. The computer monitor and the keyboard should be positioned to conform with the child’s size. Make sure the screen isn’t too high in the child’s field of view. A report by the National Institutes of Health suggests an adjustable chair is the best option to get height just right.

Remind them to blink. Parents should remind children to blink when they spend a lot of time in front of a screen. That helps spread tears across the eyes, keeping the eyes lubricated and aiding in the prevention of dry eyes, Kegarise says.

Even without all this added screen time, children often develop vision issues that hurt their performance in school and sports, Kegarise says. Forty percent of children develop nearsightedness, he says, and it’s an even higher percentage for those who have a parent who is nearsighted.

“In addition, reading difficulties and attention problems are often the result of eye muscle, visual processing, and function problems.” Kegarise says. “Parents who feel that their child has a tougher time reading and comprehending than others should consider an eye exam for them. It’s possible through vision therapy to make life-changing and long-lasting improvements to their learning and confidence.”

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5 financial pressure points to evaluate during COVID times

Financial pressure is a part of life for most people, and now the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new financial pressure points or exacerbated existing ones for many individuals and families.

But to navigate those pressures and build a successful financial strategy, you must first identify where the pressures are coming from, says John Smallwood (www.johnlsmallwood.com), president of Smallwood Wealth Management and author of It’s Your Wealth – Keep It: The Definitive Guide to Growing, Protecting, Enjoying, and Passing On Your Wealth.

“Once you’ve identified financial pressures,” Smallwood says, “you can decide what steps you will take to mitigate or reduce that pressure now and in the future. But if you don’t take any steps, you may end up repeating the mistakes of the past and never reach your financial goals.

“Major lifetime events such as the pandemic and the financial crisis of 2007-2008 can result in big financial setbacks for people and their portfolios for years thereafter. But identifying financial pressure points allows you to capture unique dynamics and elements of your financial life and form the building blocks of a wealth plan.”

Smallwood says to identify specific financial pressures, focus on the following areas:

Family. “The key to a successful wealth plan is not just the numbers,” Smallwood says. “What matters is the family dynamics – spouse, ex-spouses, children, parents, siblings, and in-laws. And right now, changes within a home can be tremendous because of the virus.” There are business struggles and cash-flow issues. Meanwhile, children are at home more because schools are uncertain of when they will be in session. Smallwood says the ages, health, and financial situations of all the individual members of the family can have an impact on the overall finances.

Income. “The majority of people have less than $50,000 in the bank,” Smallwood says, “and they have more in qualified and nonqualified assets. Where most balance sheets fall down is by looking only at income. You also want to look at all of the liabilities and future liabilities, and how assets and interests will determine income and cover your obligations in the future.”

Taxes. Knowing the details of your taxes can lead to better planning around them and lessen that pressure point. “Most people do not know what they really pay in federal or state taxes,” Smallwood says. “If you look at the income and understand where the taxes are, you can begin to find strategies for reducing the amount of income that shows up on a tax return, but still get money back and grow the wealth.”

Savings. What percentage of income are you actually saving, and where is going? “If it’s going to a retirement plan, we want to know whether any available employer match is being maximized,” Smallwood says. “Is the savings being built up in life insurance cash values or annuities? But when it comes to saving, it’s all about the habit itself.”

Debt structure. Debt can include everything from credit cards to car loans, mortgages to student loans. “The key with debt is to look at how it is structured,” Smallwood says. “Is the cash flow optimal? Paying off debt is a form of savings, but if it’s done the wrong way, you won’t have enough liquidity.”

“It’s critical to view the whole financial picture and see where you are spending and saving money currently,” Smallwood says. “If you don’t know, you’re not going to get to where you want to go.”

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How to stop toxic leadership from spreading a virus in your company

Toxic workplaces sometimes start at the top. Difficult, abrasive leaders can create a culture of tension, fear, and abusive behavior at every organizational level.

Those types of leaders may produce results, but their actions also lead to dysfunction and employee turnover.

Ending the pattern of toxicity starts with companies recognizing red flags, coming up with new principles of management behavior, and holding leaders accountable for their actions, says Dr. Katrina Burrus, author of Managing Brilliant Jerks: How Organizations and Coaches Can Transform Difficult Leaders into Powerful Visionaries (www.ExcellentExecutiveCoaching.com).

“Organizations often overlook abrasive behavior or see it as a necessary means to an end,” Burrus says. “This sends employees the message that such behavior is acceptable and to be imitated to skyrocket up the corporate ladder. Then it’s like a virus that continues to spread.

“All too often, companies are overly results-oriented. Leaders tend to be preoccupied with what needs to be done and what key performance indicators to monitor, but they rarely pay attention to how the work is to be done and whether employees are using acceptable behaviors to achieve those results. This focus on outcome over methods allows toxic behaviors to remain unchecked for years.”

Burrus suggests the following ways businesses can encourage leaders to engage in healthy behavior and detoxify the culture:

Establish specific codes of conduct. Burrus says correcting or preventing abusive behavior by leaders means first establishing a code of conduct – with management principles – as an essential part of the corporate culture. “Communicate to all employees, including supervisors, managers, and executives, that the organization will not tolerate bullying to any degree,” Burrus says. “Post these codes everywhere – in company manuals, in meeting rooms, on the website – and discuss them at kickoff meetings and conferences. The codes of conduct should explicitly state that employees who violate this principle will be disciplined and may be terminated. Organization heads should communicate to their brilliant jerks that they are valued for their brilliance, but that misbehavior has consequences, which will be applied.”

Expand evaluations. “Leaders should be evaluated not only on what results they are achieving, but also on how they are performing as overall leaders,” Burrus says. “Performance reviews should also consider the quality of interactions with employees. It’s important in this evaluation process that employees should have an opportunity to evaluate their manager’s leadership in annual or semi-annual reviews.”

Offer coaching and support. “If they are receptive,” Burrus says, “brilliant jerks should be offered the support of a customized coaching program to help them change their destructive behaviors and leverage their strengths. They need to be shown how their outstanding abilities that help the company are being undermined by a lack of interpersonal skills. All too often, leaders think an authoritative, demonstrative style is largely responsible for their success, when an argument can be made that it’s just as responsible for driving good people away, and for planting the seeds of their own future derailment.”

“Management needs to keep behavior principles in mind and reference them every day,” Burrus says. “Otherwise, the company’s values and leadership principles are just talk, and it risks creating cynics throughout the organization.”

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Why you should know the ABCs of investing before you start

Financial literacy in America has long been lacking, spanning the generations. It’s well-documented the problem begins with a lack of education on personal finance in youth and extends to the autumn working years, when many people are ill-prepared for retirement.

Yet, it’s never too late to address this shortfall of important knowledge, and for those trying to formulate a retirement plan, it starts with grasping some basic investment terms that many people find slippery, says Bob Kaye (www.bobkaye.net), a personal wealth manager and the author of How to Avoid Not Having Enough Money To Live On After Retirement: Making Smarter and Simpler Decisions for Stress-free Retirement.

“In my work with investors who are planning for retirement, I have found there is generally a limited understanding of investment terminology,” Kaye says. “They don’t want to appear unsophisticated, so they will not ask the questions they should ask.

“The many types of retirement plans, tax statuses, etc., are complicated, and a simpler approach to learning them is needed. At the same time, there are conflicting theories, opinions and data in the investment field, and those factors can be detrimental to someone trying to plan for retirement.”

Kaye explains some key investment terms and how knowing them can help one avoid mistakes in retirement planning:

Risk. People sometimes think an investment is risky if its value can go down. But Kaye says that logic may get you in trouble. “The stock market, which goes up and down, might be less risky over the long term than a savings account, which never goes down,” Kaye says. The reason: Based on historical averages, the stock market can increase eight times its value in a 20-year period. “A savings account might increase only twice its value in the same period,” Kaye says. “That’s a big loss on the potential return for the person who chose the savings account. Often, the definition of risk to most people does not include short-term or long-term loss, which it should.”

Short-term investments vs. long-term investments. A failure to understand the distinction between short-term and long-term investments is responsible for a large portion of consumer unhappiness with investments, Kaye says. Examples of short-term investments are savings accounts, certificates of deposit, or fixed accounts. “Usually, any place to put money with a guaranteed rate is a short-term investment,” he says. “This is because you do not usually want money to fluctuate in value if you need it soon.” Kaye draws the line of demarcation between short term and long term at about five years, and he puts stocks in the latter investment bracket. “Due to the frequent ups and downs of stock investments, they are usually only a correct investment for the long term,” Kaye says. “Historically, after five years, the market may be up or even, but not significantly down.”

Mutual funds. “Some people get mutual funds and individual stocks mixed up,” Kaye says. “The risk can be significantly different. A mutual fund is usually a much safer way to invest than buying only one or two stocks. It is an arrangement in which someone invests in about 100 different stocks all at one time, requiring only one minimal investment. With such a diversified investment, even if one of the companies – and these are large companies – went completely under, you might barely notice the difference in your overall investment. Each company could be only 1 or 2% of your total investment.”

“Knowing the basics of investing cannot be accentuated enough,” Kaye says. “An understanding of them is needed to navigate a field fraught with conflicting opinions and advice, and to build a stronger foundation for financial success.”

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5 tips to focus your company’s transformation as COVID forces change

While the recession caused by COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on businesses of all sizes and industries, some are finding new ways to run daily operations, reach customers, re-shape their business, and stay relevant.

But others are still trying to figure out how to transform, and an expert in the field says that launching a transformation begins with setting the right scope.

“Over the years, I have seen an ill-defined program scope cause serious problems,” says Edwin Bosso (www.myrtlegroup.com), founder and CEO of Myrtle Consulting Group and the ForbesBooks author of 6,000 Dreams: The Leader’s Guide To A Successful Business Transformation Journey.

“For example, the scope may drift from the originally defined target. The scope is the description of the transformation’s area of focus, and in most cases the scope is defined as a combination of categories. Examples are functional – sales, logistics, production, operations – and organizational – leadership, technology, processes, management systems. It’s most important that the scope is defined to address the challenges at hand and avoid distractions or wasted resources.”

Bosso has five tips for companies to set the right scope for their transformation:

Articulate the problem. Which problem are you trying to solve? Bosso says that question is at the heart of a company transformation. “Defining the specific problem may take numerous discussions and disagreements,” Bosso says. “The human brain has a natural tendency to drift. Blurry lines sometimes separate root causes and symptoms. This step is generally completed with a well-crafted statement of the problem that the organization is setting up to solve.”

List the ways. “When properly conducted,” Bosso says, “this step helps in visualizing the solution. Listing possible solutions is a way of testing the definition of the problem. This step calls for honest questions and thorough analysis to identify the solution options.”

Identify the means. “This is the stage where you test the capabilities of the organization against solution options by identifying necessary means,” Bosso says. “It comes down to understanding internal means, or levers that would need to be pulled to solve the problem. Potential means available might include people, office space, computer systems, or technical expertise in sales, R&D, inventory management and procurement. The process allows organizations to match the correct means to solutions.”

Capture the enablers. Examples of enablers key to the transformation process are those in program management and data science. “Enablers cannot operate on their own to make something happen,” Bosso says. “They are, however, necessary or simply useful for that same thing to happen. For example, change management cannot improve the performance of the sales organization without some level of sales expertise. Once enablers are defined, it is important to capture the various ways in which each enabler supports the transformation program.”

Explore synergies and interdependencies. This step focuses on understanding the overlaps, synergy opportunities, and constraints caused by ongoing initiatives. “Start with a list of all current initiatives that the organization is running,” Bosso says. “The finance department is typically a good source for the information. Meetings should be held with each team, and it’s important to understand that each may be protective of its objective, ways, and means. This could set up turf battles and heated discussions, so explicitly setting the objective of the meetings to understand synergies can help alleviate disagreements and fears.”

“Undergoing a major transformation is really the best hope for struggling businesses to survive in these difficult times,” Bosso says. “There is no time to waste. There are no resources to waste. To get your transformation on target, setting the right scope is critical from the outset.”

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Why today’s leaders are channeling ancient philosophers

Steve Jobs wished he had met Socrates.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Marcus Aurelius fan.

Elon Musk leans toward Aristotle.

Across the land – and the world – leaders in business, government and other areas look to the future by seeking wisdom from the past – the far past.

While that might sound surprising, perhaps it shouldn’t be – especially when it comes to entrepreneurs and CEOs.

“Philosophy is one of the most important things that can be introduced into the corporate world today because of its fundamental properties and practical benefits,” says Cristina DiGiacomo (www.cristinadigiacomo.com), author of Wise Up! At Work and founder of MorAlchemy, a leadership consulting firm that helps CEOs and executives use philosophy to tackle challenges by teaching them to think differently and see new solutions to help their companies thrive.

“In fact, most of the important and progressive management, communication, and organizational practices are based on principles firmly rooted in philosophy.”

Helping others and doing your work dutifully come from philosophies of service espoused by Romans such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, DiGiacomo says. Ideas of employee-centric cultures and employee-driven suggestions are a modern expression of Plato’s ideas. Reciprocity and meritocracy, mutually beneficial acts, and equitable work cultures can be traced to ideas from Confucius.

“Even the idea of work/life balance has philosophical moorings in Lao Tzu’s teaching on balance in life,” DiGiacomo says.

At some level, many top leaders understand this – either knowingly or unknowingly channeling ancient philosophers whose wisdom has remained constant and relevant for centuries.

Just a few examples of the phenomenon are:

Musk and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings have both used “first principles” thinking to grow their businesses. The term “first principles” was coined more than 2,000 years ago by Aristotle, who believed we learn more by understanding a subject’s fundamental principles, breaking down problems into their basic elements and then reassembling them.

Schwarzenegger, the actor, politician and businessman, cited the words of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius when he addressed 2020 graduates in a video commencement speech. The COVID-19 pandemic created plenty of obstacles in the final months of school for those students, inspiring Schwarzenegger to use the Aurelius quote: “What stands in the way becomes the way.” In other words, Schwarzenegger told the graduates, impediments that keep us from our goals can also be the motivation to achieve our goals.

Robert Ceravolo, head of Tropic Ocean Airways, said in a Forbes interview that one way he manages the stress of running a business is by reading about stoicism, particularly Aurelius and Seneca. “What makes something good or bad is your perception of whether or not it’s good or bad,” Ceravolo says. “When [the worst] happens, it’s not a massive shock.”

Lucio Tan Jr., CEO of Tanduay Distillers Inc., has said that his father taught him Confucian values, such as doing to others as if you’re the other person. Tan has said the Chinese philosopher’s teachings “give you a deeper perspective of humanity, respect for others and for nature,” and have served as a guide for his approach to leadership and life.

“The reason ancient philosophers continue to have relevance in America’s corporate boardrooms is simple,” DiGiacomo says. “Their ideas stand the test of time and still have practical applications in the 21st century, just as they did hundreds or thousands of years ago.”

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Pandemics, politics and the impact of women in leadership roles

Despite enormous strides in business, government and other areas, women don’t always get the respect men do for their leadership abilities, even when they can boast greater accomplishments.

But the combination of a pandemic, a recession and an election that 2020 brought could be the impetus for changing the way people view women and their leadership styles, a development that many would argue is long overdue, says Andi Simon (www.andisimon.com), a corporate anthropologist, founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants, and author of the upcoming book Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business.

“It’s time we started seeing women leaders through a fresh lens,” Simon says. “When we do, we will all benefit from their styles and their successes.”

Because presidential candidate Joe Biden picked U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, the country potentially could have its first female vice president on Jan. 20, 2021.

Meanwhile, around the world, many countries led by women have fared better during the COVID-19 pandemic than those led by men, with New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-Wen among those being hailed for their strong leadership.

Simon says anyone surprised women have what it takes to emerge as great leaders may have fallen for myths that surround both men and women when it comes to taking charge.

“Men communicate a myth about women that emphasizes their soft sides, their kindness, and their weakness, not their decisiveness, strength and ingenuity,” she says. “Women might lead differently, but they can and are achieving remarkable results through collaboration, coordination, and creative communication, as opposed to the command-and-control methods men often employ.”

Simon offers a few observations about women, leadership and where things could be headed:

Research shows women score better on leadership qualities. Research published last year in the Harvard Business Review showed that, over several surveys that asked the same questions, women ranked higher than men on almost all key factors measuring leadership capabilities. “Managers, even male managers, saw women as more effective than men in virtually every area, including areas typically viewed as male strongholds such as IT, operations and legal,” Simon says. Women ranked high in taking initiative, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results, and showing high integrity and honesty.

More female mentors and role models will mean more female leaders. As more women gain leadership roles, the number of women in such roles will build on itself, Simon says. ““The script on women changing male-dominated workplace culture is still being written,” she says. “But one thing is for sure: The more women become leaders and assume positions of authority, the more they can help other women on their way up.”

An anthropological approach can help. Simon is both a business consultant and an anthropologist, and she believes mixing the two is beneficial. “My career advice for women in leadership roles is to be a little anthropological when you are trying to find your own way in your job or business,” she says. “Do some observational research. Experience your product or service from your customer's point of view, or your employees' point of view. You'll be amazed at what you discover, and the innovative ideas that come to you for solving unmet needs.”

“Our cultural biases lead us to believe that something created by a woman is not as good as something created by a man,” Simon says. “For us to see the work of women as at least equal to that of men, those biases must change. The question for all of us is: Can we change them?”

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He had a hunch

Some lottery players have a system they’ve devised to “beat the system” and some simply play the game on a “hunch.” But would you risk putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, and purchase 25 “pick 4” tickets using the same numbers? Raymond Harrington did just that while shopping at a Virginia Beach, VA supermarket recently. His gambit payed off, big time, when the four numbers he chose, 4640, paid off and each of the 25 tickets gave him a return on his dollar-a-ticket gamble of $5,000 for a total of $125,000. As he put it, "Something just told me to play 25 times."

Finders keepers

The British are fond of treasure hunting with the use of metal detectors. Those who engage in the pastime take it seriously. In fact, they are known as “detectorists” and there’s even an organization that many belong to known as the National Council for Metal Detecting. Some detectorists search beaches and parks in hope of finding a long lost item of value. But, Luke Mahoney, Dan Hunt and Matt Brown of Suffolk, England are team players and they recently got permission from the owners of a pub in the town of Lindsey to search the establishments 15-acre back yard. And, they are now potentially $130,000 richer for the effort. That’s the estimated value of their find of 1,061 silver coins dating as far back as the 15th century.

The write stuff

Czech playwrights Karel and Josef Capek wrote a play in 1921 called R.U.R. The initials stand for Rossum's Universal Robots and the play is credited with originating the word “robot.” And so, to celebrate the drama’s hundredth anniversary researchers at Charles University in Prague, at the behest of financier Tomas Studenik, hope they can get real, 21st century robots to write a play about men. To that end, an artificial intelligence team is hard at work developing what they call “a general tool for theater script generation.” If they can get the creative juices of their android playwrights flowing in time, they are planning to schedule a January 2021 opening night for their artful, artificial theatrical production.

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History Matters

A biweekly feature courtesy of

The Grateful American Book Prize

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future

By August 1782, the American Revolution was over, John Adams was in Paris toiling over a peace agreement, and George Washington was taking a respite from his duties as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. After contemplating the six years of valor, bravery, and privations he had gotten from his troops, the General decided to create the Badge of Military Merit.

According to the Military Order of the Purple Heart “In its shape and color, the Badge anticipated and inspired the modern Purple Heart. In the exceptional level of courage required to be considered for the Badge, however, it was the forerunner of the Medal of Honor.”

But it fell out of use, even after it was presented to three known recipients of the original Badge: Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell, Jr. In 1931 Generals Charles Summerall and Douglas MacArthur lobbied Congress to reauthorize a newly named “Order of the Purple Heart” in time for Washington’s 200th birthday celebration on February 22, 1932.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Military Medals of the United States by Frank Foster and Lawrence Borts.

Often, museums are named after their artifacts or collections; for example, it is easy to know what one will find in the Museum of Natural History. But, what about the Smithsonian Institution? In August 1846, James Smithson, a British benefactor, who had never been to America, bequeathed his $500,000 estate—$16,740,065 in today’s dollars—to “the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”

Since then, it has morphed into 18 museums, including the National Zoo. Learn more about it in The Smithsonian Experience: Science, History, the Arts ... the Treasures of the Nation by the Smithsonian Institution.

Music festivals are an American tradition, but the grandest was the fabled Woodstock; it opened August 15, 1969 on a 600-acre patch of farmland near the village of Bethel, NY. Its young promoters, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield, and Michael Lang were relatively inexperienced, but they were optimistic about attracting a sizeable audience--enough to help them finance a rock-and-roll recording studio.

Early estimates indicated 50,000 music enthusiasts would show for the three-day event, but nearly 500,000 came, because of the enticing lineup of performers, which included Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the Grateful Dead; Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix; Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Melanie; Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, and Joe Cocker.

America’s love of music started during Colonial times. The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Music: INVESTIGATE THE EVOLUTION OF AMERICAN SOUND by Donna Latham.

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4 factors to consider before buying an essential business in COVID times

The shutdowns and rollbacks of businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to play havoc with the U.S. economy. But the least-affected businesses during the crisis, for the most part, have been those deemed “essential” by state and local governments, allowing those companies to remain fully operational or close to it.

Meanwhile, with the idea that essential businesses can be recession-proof and even boom during a public crisis, buying one is becoming a more attractive prospect for some people, says Chris Buitron, president of Mosquito Authority® (www.mosquito-authority.com).

“Our current economic challenges as a nation are showing that owning an essential business can be a solid financial strategy for an individual,” Buitron says. “They are practical purchases. They are not often glamorous businesses, but they make sense largely because they offer services that are currently in demand, and as such they can weather economic downturns.

“Some essential businesses, such as ours, are busier than ever as people are trying to maintain social distance by staying home and not taking many vacations. People consider protection from mosquito bites and the diseases they carry as a high priority for their family’s health and outdoor enjoyment. Like other essential businesses, our franchisees provide measures of security and comfort, allowing people to enjoy being in their yards at a time so many are cooped up inside due to the pandemic.

“And at the same time, all kinds of essential businesses provide ownership opportunities while millions of unemployed people are looking for new opportunities or new career tracks. Perhaps they’re looking to be their own boss and to have more control over their financial future.”

Buitron suggests considering the following when weighing whether to buy an essential business:

Focus on successful types of essential businesses. Among the essential businesses that have the potential to succeed even during difficult economic times are: delivery services, grocery stores, convenience stores, e-commerce, gas stations, cleaning services, liquor stores, auto repair, lawn care, pest control, mailing/shipping services, and contracting. “The pandemic may be with us for a while,” Buitron says. “People will be home more often, and businesses that can service their needs while home will gain customers.”

Consider franchises as ownership opportunities. While some franchises are struggling during the pandemic, others are in a better position, Buitron says. “For franchises in general, much of the industry will be entering a buyer’s market, and those with the means will find some good opportunities,” he says. “People need jobs, and franchises annually employ 9 million people in the U.S. One benefit of buying a franchise is having an organizational and management team already in place to train you and help guide you. Reach out to other franchise owners to get a sense of the company’s commitment and support.”

Know a bargain vs. a bad investment. A relatively low sale price tempts some people into making a poor buying decision on a business. Buitron says it’s important to pore over the business’ financial numbers that it recorded before the pandemic and do all the research possible – especially of the market where the business is located – to determine if it was on a growth track and what the competition is like. “Two questions you need to ask yourself as a potential buyer of an essential business are: What can you bring new to the business to make it more successful, and why was or wasn’t it profitable?” he says.

Be sure you’re up to owning a business. “There are no guarantees with owning an essential business,” Buitron says. “The pandemic has put a spotlight on their importance, but they take lots of work and organizational skills to run. If you are someone who can’t deal well with uncertainty, buying a business any time, let alone during the most uncertain time in our history, isn’t the right choice. Buying a business and committing to it requires thorough research, a passion for the business, a solid financial foundation and a leap of faith.”

“Owning an essential business brings with it the satisfaction of providing necessary services for people,” Buitron says. “In these times especially, that’s a noble pursuit.”

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Zooming in on appearance: Why cosmetic surgery is popular during the pandemic

Cosmetic surgery was on an upward trend for several years before the pandemic, and the outbreak of the coronavirus hasn’t hurt its popularity.

Since the lifting of lockdown and shelter-in-place orders across the country, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has reported an increased demand in patients considering cosmetic enhancements. One factor driving the interest: People have had extra time to dwell on their physical dissatisfactions and also to actually address them, says Dr. Scott Miller (www.MillerCosmeticSurgery.com), a cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon.

“Working from home, being seen a lot (and seeing themselves) via company video conferences, and having mask-wearing bring increased focus to certain facial features, I think a lot of people have had a tremendous amount of time to be super-critical of themselves,” Dr. Miller says. “They pick up on things they want to improve about their appearance.

“With people being cooped for a long time, across the country you are seeing pent-up demand. We have seen an increase in consultations and surgeries across the board. In particular, people seem to be noticing their necks and jowls. In many cases, they bring in screenshots from their Zoom calls.”

Dr. Miller says some of the more popular cosmetic procedures people are having done during the pandemic are:

Facial rejuvenation. With considerably more face time required as companies work remotely, facelifts, neck lifts, eyelid and brow lifts are keeping cosmetic surgeons busy. “On Zoom with your boss and co-workers, you can’t help but stare at your face, neck, and crow’s feet,” Dr. Miller says. “And with people wearing masks in public, there’s no better time to hide the neck and lower face during the healing process from cosmetic surgery. That’s probably why we’re doing more lower-face and neck lifts than ever before.”

Body contouring. Liposuction, in which excess fat is removed to contour the body, is annually one of the most frequent cosmetic procedures. It and abdominoplasty – better known as a “tummy tuck” – ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the recent ASPS survey. “Being overweight is an epidemic in our country,” Dr. Miller says, “and sitting around at home quite a bit now, people are more aware of it and tired of it. The body contouring aspect of cosmetic surgery has boomed due to dissatisfaction with diet- and exercise-resistant figure faults. Also, there is newfound time to address this situation definitively with safe, state-of-the-art procedures.”

Lip injections. Fillers like Juvéderm are as popular as ever, despite masks being pervasive and supposedly lessening one’s concern with how their lips look. “You’d think due to face coverings extending from the nose to the mouth that people would only be concerned about their eye areas,” Dr. Miller says. “While they are noticing (and seeking treatment for) their eyes more because of mask-wearing in public, many people are on Zoom, where they are mask-less and noticing their lips and jaw lines in full high definition! They definitely get passionate about filling and shaping them. And again, with masks, you can cover up any swelling and bruising from lip injections.”

Breast augmentation and reduction. The ASPS reports breast augmentations were the most common cosmetic surgery procedure in 2019, and while conducting telemedicine appointments during lockdown, surgeons received many requests for both breast augmentation and breast reduction. “Breast improvement consults – enlargement, reduction, and reshaping – can be easily initiated by taking all the measurements and photographs from the patient’s home,” Dr. Miller says. “During the video consultation, while looking at the photographs, doctors can explain how the procedures are done and what the post-up situation will be.”

“More people want to be the best version of themselves,” Dr. Miller says. “The pandemic has caused people to think more about what they want out of life and how they want to live it, and many are deciding now is the time to make changes they’ve long wanted.”

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The 'musts’ to make meetings safer in the age of COVID-19

By DR. RICHARD ARRIVIELLO

Large corporate meetings and industry events, so much a part of the American business ecosystem, remain on hold, have been postponed, or have been cancelled altogether. When they will happen again is anybody’s guess.

COVID-19’s spikes in many states have prompted pauses and rollbacks to business re-openings and put large gatherings farther into the future. But at the same time, the uncertainty gives event planners and business leaders more time to learn how they can protect and monitor the health of large numbers of people when it is deemed safer to hold such events.

By nature, travel and mass gatherings at conference centers or hotels are high-risk for getting sick. The ultra-contagious coronavirus, resulting in a world-wide pandemic that now finds the U.S. as the epicenter, continually reminds us that there is no definitive playbook to combat it. And there is a palpable anxiety and outright fear people have now, and will continue to have, until an effective vaccine is approved.

So, whenever meetings finally resume, planners will need to have a plan in place for protecting their attendees, reducing the risk of infection spread, and providing every stakeholder with the resources they need without fearing for their health. Essentially, we need to re-establish health security in the meetings industry, and doing so means applying three main principles from which a sound plan can be formed.

Prevention. There are certain things you must do to prevent illness at a meeting. They include seating configurations that allow for social distancing, sending out communications about all the protocols, encouraging frequent breaks for hand washing, and disinfecting surfaces more frequently in heavy-traffic rooms. Hotel staff should guarantee the cleaning of each meeting room between each meeting, including the cleaning of all chair/table surfaces and spraying the room before the next group arrives. Also, you need the ability to provide PPE or work with a vendor to procure masks and gloves for those who will still be on edge about attending.

Detection. If you’re a forward-thinking company that’s going to hold meetings this fall or in the winter of 2021, you will have to deal with sick attendees. They may have the seasonal flu, a cold, or they may have COVID-19, and you need to plan accordingly. It starts with giving temperature checks at the beginning of each day, temperature checks at general sessions, and temperature checks when people are registering at the conference.

If there are people at the meeting showing flu-like symptoms, it’s a must to find out whether they have COVID-19, and providing access to rapid COVID-19 testing. The testing doesn’t necessarily have to be on site; if not, find a local resource to do the testing.

Response. If some attendees are sick, meeting organizers need to know how they will handle that. It’s advisable to come up with a strong sick-attendee policy that’s enforceable and that can be monitored. That means if one is sick, they don’t attend the meeting, or if at the meeting they must go back to their room. If testing is positive for COVID, they have to be quarantined. Who did they come into close contact with while at the meeting? Those people, too, will need to be tested.

Remember, communication is extraordinarily important at a large meeting – now more than ever. You may want to have somebody dedicated to that role, putting informative and honest content together. Attendees must be told the facts, such as what the COVID situation is at that time in the U.S. and in the city where the meeting is held. Give people the opportunity to ask questions and address them. Conference planners are not medical experts, so it’s helpful to guide attendees to appropriate websites that can update them on the virus and safety precautions.

What the meetings industry needs to start accepting is that pandemics now happen more frequently – we’ve had two in the first two decades of the 21st century. It’s an industry always vulnerable to illness. Therefore, the industry should adhere to the principles above and develop consistent strategies to reduce that vulnerability, and in future pandemics we won’t have such a decimation as we’ve seen with the industry in the past few months. It will take an industry-wide effort of getting leaders to work together and create standards.

About Dr. Richard Arriviello

Dr. Richard Arriviello (www.inhousephysicians.com) has been the CMO for InHouse Physicians for over 15 years, helping provide employee health services to some of the largest corporations in the world. Most recently he spearheaded IHP's COVID return-to- work program for employers. Dr. Arriviello graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his residency at Midwestern University in Chicago. He is board-certified in Emergency Medicine, licensed to practice medicine in over 20 states, and has worked for the past 25 years in a variety of medical settings, ranging from level-one trauma centers to regional community hospitals and multinational corporations.

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How businesses can avoid becoming irrelevant in a changing world

The business world has produced a veritable graveyard of once magnificently successful companies that came, conquered and thrived – but ultimately perished.

In many cases, those businesses share a common reason for their demise: Times changed. They didn’t.

“I’ve always been fond of the saying that if you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less,” says Adam Witty, a successful entrepreneur and the ForbesBooks co-author of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant.

“Over the years, many businesses discovered they didn’t change quickly enough, much to their chagrin. Others realized their old business model no longer applied, and they did adapt.”

In the last decade or so, media companies especially have had to navigate their way through an extraordinary disruption of their business models, says Witty, who also is the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com).

“Reading habits and advertising habits shifted,” he says. “This meant media companies needed to diversify and be innovative if they wanted to continue to thrive.”

Witty was involved in such a diversification recently when his company announced a partnership with American City Business Journals, the publisher of 44 weekly Business Journals in cities across the U.S. Through the partnership, American City Business Journals is branching out into the book-publishing field with the creation of Business Journals Books, an enterprise that will be operated jointly with Witty’s company.

“This is an exciting new way for them to be creative and create a new revenue stream for their business,” Witty says.

With COVID-19 and the 2020 recession forcing companies to navigate their way through even more changes, Witty says businesses that want to avoid tumbling into irrelevance need to:

Review and rank their products. A few years ago when Witty’s company did such a ranking, he realized one product line the business had offered for years didn’t measure up and needed to go. “It was hard to deliver, had low gross margins, was extremely people intensive, and had very limited scalability,” he says. “The time, energy, effort and capital we were investing in this product line were taking away our ability to invest in new products that would be more scalable and more profitable.”

Always be on the lookout for new ideas. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, so savvy business leaders are always open to new ideas for bringing in revenue, Witty says. “You should also encourage employees to suggest ideas,” he says. “Maybe a lot of those won’t work. But the more ideas that get tossed around, the better the odds something will prove a winner.”

Favor facts and data over opinions. No matter how much an entrepreneur loves the business plan they used originally to launch their business, they need to make decisions about the future based on facts and data, Witty says. “You must deal with the way things are, rather than the way you want them to be,” he says. “Facts and data will tell you the way things are.”

“Because of COVID-19 and the recession, a willingness to adapt to changing consumer habits and ways of doing business is probably more important than ever,” Witty says. “The businesses most likely to thrive coming out of this are those that have a plan, but also remain flexible and are willing to change that plan as the circumstances around them change.”

###

4 factors to consider before buying an essential business in COVID times

The shutdowns and rollbacks of businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to play havoc with the U.S. economy. But the least-affected businesses during the crisis, for the most part, have been those deemed “essential” by state and local governments, allowing those companies to remain fully operational or close to it.

Meanwhile, with the idea that essential businesses can be recession-proof and even boom during a public crisis, buying one is becoming a more attractive prospect for some people, says Chris Buitron, president of Mosquito Authority® (www.mosquito-authority.com).

“Our current economic challenges as a nation are showing that owning an essential business can be a solid financial strategy for an individual,” Buitron says. “They are practical purchases. They are not often glamorous businesses, but they make sense largely because they offer services that are currently in demand, and as such they can weather economic downturns.

“Some essential businesses, such as ours, are busier than ever as people are trying to maintain social distance by staying home and not taking many vacations. People consider protection from mosquito bites and the diseases they carry as a high priority for their family’s health and outdoor enjoyment. Like other essential businesses, our franchisees provide measures of security and comfort, allowing people to enjoy being in their yards at a time so many are cooped up inside due to the pandemic.

“And at the same time, all kinds of essential businesses provide ownership opportunities while millions of unemployed people are looking for new opportunities or new career tracks. Perhaps they’re looking to be their own boss and to have more control over their financial future.”

Buitron suggests considering the following when weighing whether to buy an essential business:

Focus on successful types of essential businesses. Among the essential businesses that have the potential to succeed even during difficult economic times are: delivery services, grocery stores, convenience stores, e-commerce, gas stations, cleaning services, liquor stores, auto repair, lawn care, pest control, mailing/shipping services, and contracting. “The pandemic may be with us for a while,” Buitron says. “People will be home more often, and businesses that can service their needs while home will gain customers.”

Consider franchises as ownership opportunities. While some franchises are struggling during the pandemic, others are in a better position, Buitron says. “For franchises in general, much of the industry will be entering a buyer’s market, and those with the means will find some good opportunities,” he says. “People need jobs, and franchises annually employ 9 million people in the U.S. One benefit of buying a franchise is having an organizational and management team already in place to train you and help guide you. Reach out to other franchise owners to get a sense of the company’s commitment and support.”

Know a bargain vs. a bad investment. A relatively low sale price tempts some people into making a poor buying decision on a business. Buitron says it’s important to pore over the business’ financial numbers that it recorded before the pandemic and do all the research possible – especially of the market where the business is located – to determine if it was on a growth track and what the competition is like. “Two questions you need to ask yourself as a potential buyer of an essential business are: What can you bring new to the business to make it more successful, and why was or wasn’t it profitable?” he says.

Be sure you’re up to owning a business. “There are no guarantees with owning an essential business,” Buitron says. “The pandemic has put a spotlight on their importance, but they take lots of work and organizational skills to run. If you are someone who can’t deal well with uncertainty, buying a business any time, let alone during the most uncertain time in our history, isn’t the right choice. Buying a business and committing to it requires thorough research, a passion for the business, a solid financial foundation and a leap of faith.”

“Owning an essential business brings with it the satisfaction of providing necessary services for people,” Buitron says. “In these times especially, that’s a noble pursuit.”

###

Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – About the Virtues of Claiming Benefits Early

Dear Rusty: It seems like we are always encouraged to wait until our full retirement age or age 70 to claim our Social Security. For me, benefits at age 62 were a good jump start to my retirement. How about listing the many benefits to early (age 62) retirement? And at what age does it become a liability, if ever? Signed: Happily Retired at age 78

Dear Happily Retired: You’re correct that most financial advisors and Social Security Advisors, including me, frequently encourage people to delay claiming Social Security until at least their full retirement age (FRA). And that’s because far too many claim their benefits as soon as they are available at age 62 “because it’s there,” without evaluating whether that’s a smart move for them personally. There are many reasons why it’s best to wait, but there are also some very good reasons for claiming benefits at age 62. Let’s explore those.

Claiming at age 62 is exactly the right move if you are in poor health and don’t expect to live a long life. Benefits taken age 62 are 25% less for those with a full retirement age (FRA) of 66, and 30% less if your FRA is 67. But those reductions become insignificant if you don’t expect to live a long, healthy life from that point forward. If you wait until your FRA, it takes about 12 years to collect the same amount in total benefits as if you had claimed at age 62.

Even if you are in decent health now, if your family history and your lifestyle suggest less than average longevity, claiming before your FRA, as early as 62, may be a prudent choice. By “lifestyle” I mean, for example, whether you exercise regularly, smoke or drink excessively or drive without a seatbelt. There are several life expectancy calculators available which can assist with predicting your life expectancy by evaluating your family history and lifestyle, including those available at this website: https://socialsecurityreport.org/tools/life-expectancy-calculator/. Just remember that no one can accurately forecast how long they will live but making an informed decision on when to claim should consider your estimated longevity, among other things.

If collecting your Social Security benefits early is needed to help pay for life’s necessities, such as food, housing, and out-of-pocket medical costs, then claiming as early as age 62, or any other time before your FRA, could be exactly the right choice. In other words, the need for the money now is a driving force in deciding when to claim.

Which brings me to your point that claiming at age 62 was a “jump start” to your retirement, allowing you to begin enjoying your golden years much earlier than you might have otherwise been able to. There’s a lot to be said for taking benefits early to fulfill your bucket list while you’re still young enough to enjoy it. And, from your signature, it looks like you’ve been putting that extra Social Security money to good use for many years now. Good for you! Now, at age 78, you’ve reached your “breakeven point” where, if you had waited until your FRA to claim, your cumulative lifetime benefits would hereafter be more than they will be because you claimed at 62. That may not, however, offset the many years of happy retirement you’ve been able to enjoy because you took your benefits early.

In the end, deciding when to claim Social Security should be done after carefully evaluating your personal situation. Anyone who claims benefits before their full retirement age must beware of Social Security’s “earnings test” which limits how much you can earn before your benefits are affected. But those who can afford to wait and who expect to live to a ripe old age would do well to consider delaying until their full retirement age, or even beyond, to claim their Social Security benefits. If their life expectancy is at least “average” they’ll collect much more in cumulative lifetime benefits by doing so.

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Tomato troubles

By MELINDA MYERS

You waited all season for that first red ripe tomato only to discover less-than-perfect fruit. Don't worry, you can still have a great harvest and improve things for next season.

Blossom end rot is a common problem on the first set of fruit. The bottom of the tomato turns black. This is not caused by a disease but is the result of a calcium deficiency in the developing fruit. This deficiency is usually caused by fluctuations in water uptake by the plant. Fluctuating soil moisture, damage to the roots, excessive nitrogen fertilizer and high humidity can all impact water and calcium uptake and result in blossom end rot.

The first set of fruit are most susceptible because young tomato plants are growing rapidly and require more water and calcium. As the plants mature, the problem is less common.

Avoid the problem by watering thoroughly to encourage deep roots. Mulch the soil to help conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Avoid excessive fertilization and be mindful when weeding near the plants. And consider growing more blossom end rot resistant tomatoes like the All-America Selections winner Early Resilience.

Don’t pitch blossom end rot tomatoes in the trash. Just cut off and compost the black portion and enjoy the rest.

Cracked fruit is another problem that worries gardeners. Fluctuating temperatures, moisture, high humidity and improper fertilization result in irregular development of the fruit and cracking.

These cracks often occur when heavy rains follow a dry spell. The rapid change in soil moisture causes the fruit to expand faster than the skin of the tomato. Vertical splits on the side of the tomato are called radial cracks. These are the most serious and commonly occur during hot and humid weather. Concentric cracking appears as rings of cracks around the stem of the fruit.

When cracks appear on green tomatoes the fruit usually rots before it ripens. Since this is not caused by a disease, the rotten fruit is safe to compost. Save affected fruit by harvesting cracked tomatoes immediately and finish ripening them inside. The flavor is not as good as tomatoes that ripened on the vine during sunny weather, but you’ll still be able to enjoy the harvest. If the tomatoes develop a sour smell or begin to ooze, toss them in the compost pile.

Catfacing is another disorder you may discover when harvesting your tomatoes. The blossom scar on the bottom of the fruit becomes enlarged or perforated. It is not clear what causes the problem, but it appears to be more common when cold temperatures occur during flowering, there are extreme fluctuations in day and night temperatures, excessive pruning has occurred or there’s been an overapplication of nitrogen fertilizer. As long as the fruit is otherwise undamaged, it is safe to eat.

When these problems occur make notes to correct your garden maintenance to avoid these problems in the future.

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Celebrating Women and the Vote

WASHINGTON, DC –After seventy-two years of campaigning, lobbying, hunger strikes, imprisonments, and appeals to rigid government officials—including President Woodrow Wilson—women—50% of the population--got the right to vote. The American Bar Association called it “the largest expansion of democracy in the history of our country.”

On August 26, 1920, Secretary of State, Bainbridge Colby, signed the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution into the law of the land: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

According to some historians, the women’s suffrage movement started in 1848 at a meeting attended by 200 suffragists, that was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. It concluded with a resolution: “it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.”

But, history advocate David Bruce Smith, believes the origins of the crusade might have begun with a letter Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John, the future second president of the United States:

“In the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebelion and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”

Smith is co-founder of the Grateful American Book Prize with the late Dr. Bruce Cole, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In an interview with the NEH magazine, Humanities, he described the role Mrs. Adams played in her husband’s presidency. Smith also revealed the reason he wrote Abigail & John, his book for young readers:

“If you go to Mount Vernon or Montpelier, the signage says, ‘George Washington’s Mount Vernon’ and ‘James Madison’s Montpelier,’ respectively. After a while, it occurred to me that little girls were being excluded from the narrative. If that changed, they would experience these places as something more than old houses that were once occupied by men who are now dead; with a modernized context, girls might feel more engaged, and—over time—historical literacy could rise.

“I gave Abigail top billing in Abigail & John because, without her, the prickly John Adams probably would not have made it to the White House. She was his confidante, savvy political adviser, beloved friend, and wife.”

 Swept away

A California couple took “the plunge” -- for real -- on their wedding day recently when they decided to memorialize the occasion with a seaside photo. There they were posing on a rocky outcrop at Laguna Beach when an enormous ocean wave literally swept them away. And, if the wedding photographer missed the moment, a bystander managed to capture it all on video. Neither the man nor the woman suffered injuries but the recording will likely be replayed frequently over the coming years for family and friends.

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The gift of speech

The speech impaired who rely on sign language to communicate now have a new way to “talk,” thanks to a team of UCLA researchers. They have developed an electronic glove that converts American Sign Language [ASL] into the spoken word. The journal, Nature Electronics, says the glove allows real-time translation and wireless transmission of ASL into speech via a smart phone app. Lead researcher, assistant professor of bioengineering, Jun Chen said: "Our hope is that this opens up an easy way for people who use sign language to communicate directly with non-signers without needing someone else to translate for them."

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All’s well that ends well

Christopher Town of Guilford, CT was helping his friend move furniture into a new home when the floor gave in and he fell some 25 feet into an abandoned 19th Century well. Firefighters came to the rescue and Town was hoisted from the cistern having suffered minor injuries. The house dates back to 1843 and, according local police, the well was originally located outside the house and when it was extended in 1981 the hole was simply covered with wood flooring. "It is important to note that some of these older, historical homes may have hazards that were not upgraded by current code," they said. 

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How to help employees thrive, even when their career goals are uncertain

These uncertain times filled with racial unrest, a global pandemic, massive unemployment and economic anxiety have caused some people to reevaluate their lives and their priorities. Within that introspection, there are a few potential outcomes, whether it’s reassessing career goals, losing sight of them, or coming to the realization that some workers are happy in their job and do not aspire to a higher position.

Whether a worker likes the road they are on or sees a fork in it approaching, company leaders who want to keep valued people should empower them to achieve the career paths of their choosing, says Ed Mitzen (www.edmitzen.com), founder of a health and wellness marketing agency and ForbesBook author of More Than a Number: The Power of Empathy and Philanthropy in Driving Ad Agency Performance.

“Don’t steer them down a path that you envision,” Mitzen says. “Some companies have rigid career progressions, and if someone does not want to follow that path, eventually they are shown the door. We’ve had great employees whom we wanted to promote but who wanted to stay in the jobs they had. Maybe they aren’t motivated by money, or it’s more important for them to spend time with their families than to get a promotion that may require more travel. At our company, that is not just accepted, but encouraged, because we know the value of a good employee no matter what their career trajectory looks like, and want to support them in that journey."

“Especially now, it’s important for companies to understand that and respect having valued performers who are happy and productive in their roles as opposed to saying, ‘These people don’t have what it takes to grow within the company; let’s cut them loose.' "

Mitzen offers the following ways to help employees who might be wobbly on their career paths or struggling in some ways, and let them know they’re worth keeping:

Approach performance with guidance and caring. Even the best employees sometimes fall short of performance goals and expectations. Mitzen says it’s incumbent on the company’s leaders – who have invested time in the person and often seen good results – to look for ways to help. “Asking employees how you can help when they are struggling is extremely powerful,” Mitzen says. “By looking for ways to help employees when they need it, you build a stronger relationship with them. Not only will this build loyalty to the company and a culture of caring for each other that positively affects everyone, but a stronger, supportive culture will benefit your clients as well.”

Strive to make people’s lives better. “Life is hard, so try to remember that work serves life, not the other way around,” Mitzen says. “Employers should do everything they can to help their people, including outside of work, and especially now, with change and anxiety fairly constant in our lives. If employees have a lot going on at home, understanding those stresses and accommodating for those situations goes a long way. Whatever you can do to ease concerns outside of work is the right thing to do and will drive focus to your employees’ projects in the workplace.”

Celebrate successes. “Most companies don’t celebrate enough,” Mitzen says. “Those that do find they will keep most of their best employees, who feel appreciated and assured that they’re at the right place in their career. Find reasons to acknowledge the great things your team does. It makes a big impact on your staff and incentivizes them further.”

“Goals can change, people can change, and circumstances can change,” Mitzen says. “But when you’ve taken time to know your people, you as a leader can help them through almost anything that’s throwing them off course. And in the process, you keep your company on track to meet its goals. You end up with great performers at all levels of the company who are happy to be in their roles, and your culture benefits greatly.”

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Does the drama and tension never stop? 5 signs that you work for a brilliant jerk

Some business leaders who are bright and hard-working also can be extremely demanding and difficult to work for. Such that a leader’s behavior and its negative impact on others may reach the point where the business becomes dysfunctional.

Dr. Katrina Burrus, author of Managing Brilliant Jerks: How Organizations and Coaches Can Transform Difficult Leaders into Powerful Visionaries (www.ExcellentExecutiveCoaching.com), says a boss who is both bright and abrasive has many characteristics, and the draining combination of them can lead to running more people off than running a long-term successful business. 

“A brilliant but abrasive leader is extremely talented but is driven to gain recognition above all else,” Dr. Burrus says. “They are exceptionally intelligent, but they use that intelligence for their own professional benefit rather than in the best interest of the company.

“Moreover, they are blinded to the costs their behavior has for individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole. They can destroy people’s self-confidence and inflict serious, lasting damage on their company. This toxic environment erodes

morale and causes turnover to spike.”

Dr. Burrus points out five characteristics of a bright but abrasive leader:

They lack empathy. “These leaders have a blind spot – their understanding of other people’s emotions,” Dr. Burrus says. “Leaders of this type are not naturally tuned in to what others are thinking and feeling. Their focus is on goals and outcomes rather than on people.”

They are volatile and manipulative. Nobody is comfortable with a leader who could explode at any second or sabotages them. “They are verbally abusive, flying into screaming rages and even physically threatening coworkers,” Dr. Burrus says. “Their underlying anxiety often translates into explosive and uncontrolled emotional outbursts. They micromanage an employee to an extent that makes work impossible. More subtly, abrasive leaders undermine employees by creating conflict, withholding critical resources, and waging a kind of psychological warfare against those they perceive as a threat.”

Many are perfectionists. While being a driven leader is an admirable quality, some go too far when rarely taking the foot off the accelerator and running over employees in the process. This often comes in the form of setting unrealistic standards and changing deadlines without much notice or reason.

“They’re never satisfied with their own work and continually push themselves to work harder,” Dr. Burrus says. “Abrasive leaders are intensely motivated to gain recognition through outstanding results, and they expect no less of the people around them. They can be very hard on their employees. They put constant pressure on their direct reports and offer little to no recognition.”

Struggle to maintain good relationships. “Not good at reading others’ emotions, abrasive leaders find it hard to maintain positive interpersonal relationships,” Dr. Burrus says. “They hurt people without intending to. Some abrasive leaders are good at identifying people’s weaknesses, but they use this skill to satisfy their drive toward perfectionism and, by doing so, harm people. They place enormous focus on results, but they fail to see that to increase results, they need to engage autonomous, thinking, creative people who are not submissive to their leader’s every request.”

Have a fear of failure. “Abrasive leaders are often defensive and on high alert for challenges to their leadership,” Dr. Burrus says. “They feel personally threatened by their direct reports’ failures. To protect themselves, they feel a strong need to control their environment. A perceived threat to their professional reputation or self-image will send brilliant but abrasive jerks into attack mode immediately.”

“Abrasive leaders can be incredibly charismatic, especially to clients,” Dr. Burrus says. “Due to their razor-sharp intelligence, they have strong powers of persuasion. But they also create a culture of fear that robs employees of their voice and deadens creativity.”

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With national crises harming mental health, technology provides hope

The constant stream of stressful news never seems to end. A confluence of earth-shattering events – the coronavirus pandemic and mass protests against racial injustice – causes millions of people to check on the latest developments via their social media feed. 

The habit has given rise to the term “doom scrolling” – continuing to scroll through bad news even though it’s disheartening or depressing. But while technology can keep people down in the dumps with reports of the latest dismal events, it also provides a way for them to improve their mental health.

And that’s important because the pandemic is pushing America into a mental health crisis, says Matt Marek, founder and CEO of Good Neighbor (www.goodneighbor.care), which provides mental health services and assistance with developmental disabilities.

“As COVID cases surged across many states, and now are doing so again, the mental health industry needs to act fast in order to help people who are falling into their own crisis,” Marek says. “But the good news is that the industry is better equipped to help people, thanks in large part to technology.”

Marek points to three key technological access points that make help for mental health troubles more readily available:

Smartphone apps. These can help people cope with anxiety, depression, addiction and other disorders. There are hundreds of available apps, and they allow users to share stories and cope with symptoms. “When you can’t afford therapy but are struggling to handle your illness alone, apps are a good alternative,” Marek says. “Most are free and others are reasonably priced, and they offer resources that make therapeutic techniques more accessible and cost-effective. Mental health apps also can provide useful data to therapists and physicians as well as benefit patients.”

Telehealth. With social distancing still a primary safety measure, telehealth allows the patient to video conference with the doctor, and the method is gaining momentum in mental health. “Telehealth offers many advantages for mental health treatment,” Marek says. “It improves access and comfort for patients who won’t see a doctor in person, and sometimes video conferencing is more beneficial than phone calls because a human connection happens faster via video. Many people in the wellness industry are still trying to figure out how to incorporate mental health into their practice, and telehealth offers that integration.”

Internet support groups. With some people not comfortable attending support groups near their homes, internet support groups provide an alternative. “People can be anonymous and feel comfortable revealing their struggles and engaging with other participants,” Marek says. “One of the best things about support groups always has been the sense of community and comfort in relating to others going through similar struggles as yourself. For a time, you forget that feeling of being alone. Also, support groups often provide resources for mental health information and professional help.”

The toll these life-changing times are taking on the general population’s mental health cannot be overstated. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found nearly half the people in the United States feel the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting their mental health.

Accessibility to mental health treatment has long been a problem, with people sometimes waiting three to six months to get an appointment, Marek says. The effects of the pandemic on people’s sense of isolation, anxiety, and the economy, coupled with the emotional impact of the social unrest, have made mental health options more important than ever. 

“Challenging times like this exacerbate mental health struggles,” Marek says. “Many suffer in silence, but they don’t have to. Technology has opened the door to more people to get the help and support they need.”

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Maintaining a healthy brain

By DEBBIE ARCHER

Extension associate-communications

UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

Our brains begin working while we are in our mother’s womb, and they continue to work throughout our lives to control body functions that help us to understand and interact within the environment around us. The blink of an eye, the twitch of a muscle and every thought originate in the brain. A healthy brain is key to maintaining a clear mind and to remaining active. 

Brain health is about reducing risk factors, keeping your mind active and getting the best out of your brain as we age, according to Linda Inmon, Cooperative Extension Program associate-family and consumer sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. As people get older, the brain tends to lose some of its elasticity. 

“The older brain does not make connections as it did during the teen, young and middle adult years,” Inmon said. “In older adults, remembering things and focusing becomes harder. Energy levels also begin to decrease.” 

The brain must be kept healthy to prevent it from decreasing in its cognitive abilities, she said. Maintaining a healthy brain will cause it to keep its elasticity and allow new things to be learned. Mental health is just as important as physical health at every age.

“Medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and family history have an impact on the functions of the brain,” Inmon said. “Family history cannot be changed, but we can change our lifestyle, such as eating and exercising habits, to reduce the risk of diseases that affect the brain and reduce the risk of developing dementia and cognitive decline.” 

There are some things that can be done to help slow the process of the aging brain. 

Dr. Donn Dexter, a neurologist in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, recommends exercising the body and brain, eating healthy and socializing to help maintain brain health. Getting plenty of sleep also plays a vital role in keeping the brain healthy.

“Exercise the body and mind regularly to help the brain grow new brain cells (neurons). Exercise is believed to increase blood flow to the brain that helps slow brain shrinkage that comes with age,” Dr. Dexter said. “Brain exercises such as crossword puzzles, reading, playing cards and other mind strengthening games slows mental decline that happens during the aging process.”

Eating healthy is also important in maintaining a healthy brain, he said. Eating more colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and healthy fats, especially plant-based, is recommended. Reducing red meat consumption is also beneficial. 

Staying socially active helps protect against depression and stress that can contribute to memory loss. According to Dr. Dexter an active social life helps reduce your risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. 

“Remember if do not use it, you lose it,” Inmon said. “Love each day, live life and laugh often.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Should My Wife Claim at 62? Will She Get Widow Benefit?

Dear Rusty: I am almost 64 and still working, and I plan to work until about 66 or 67. My wife is 62. Should she go ahead and file for her Social Security? Is it true that she can draw on my SS after I pass away? Signed: Inquiring Husband

Dear Inquiring Husband: The answer to your first question (should your wife claim at 62) isn’t simple, because it depends upon a number of things. 

Is your wife working? If so, and she claims before her full retirement age, she’ll be subject to Social Security’s earnings test, which limits how much she can earn before they take back some of her benefits. If your wife starts collecting at age 62 and exceeds the annual earnings limit ($18,240 for 2020) SS will take back benefits equal to half of what she exceeded the limit by. This is true until she reaches her full retirement age (66 ½ if she was born in 1957), although the earnings limit goes up by about 2.5 times and the penalty is less in the year she reaches her full retirement age (FRA). 

Will your wife be eligible for a spousal benefit from you when you start collecting? If so, and she claims at age 62, her eventual spousal benefit from you will be less than 50% of your full retirement age (FRA) benefit because she took her own benefit early. Whether your wife is eligible for a spousal benefit depends upon whether her own benefit (from her own work record) at her FRA (regardless of when she claims) is smaller than half of your benefit at your FRA (regardless of when you claim). If it’s not, she won’t get a spousal benefit. If it is, she’ll get a spousal boost on top of her own benefit but claiming at age 62 will mean a smaller spousal benefit.

Your wife’s age 62 benefit amount will be 27.5% less than her benefit would be at her full retirement age, and that reduction is permanent. And Social Security benefits are taxable if your combined income (married, filing jointly) is more than $32,000. If your combined income is between $32,000 and $44,000 then 50% of your wife’s SS benefits will become part of your taxable income, and if more than $44,000 then up to 85% of your wife’s SS benefits will become part of your taxable income. My point is, with you still working, your wife’s SS benefits will almost certainly add to your income tax obligation. 

I’m not trying to dissuade your wife from applying; rather only making you aware of the potential consequences of her claiming at age 62, or at any time prior to her full retirement age. If she needs the money now and the above points are not a concern, then applying at 62 could be the prudent choice. But you and your wife should consider the above before deciding if she should claim at age 62. 

Regarding your second question, if you should predecease your wife, and if the benefit you are receiving at your death is more than your wife is already receiving (or is entitled to receive) on her own, then she will get a survivor benefit from you. If she has already reached her full retirement age when that happens, she’ll get 100% of the benefit you were getting. If she hasn’t yet reached her FRA, she can still claim the survivor benefit, but it will be permanently reduced by a fraction of a percent for each month earlier than her FRA. However, if she hasn’t yet reached her FRA, she can also delay taking her survivor benefit until she reaches FRA to get 100% of your benefit (instead of her own). Remember, she gets her survivor benefit, or her own benefit, whichever is higher (she doesn’t get both).

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The stress impact of COVID-19: 5 ways to cope and protect your health

The millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought globally are creating stress over everything from personal health to employment, lifestyle, and finances.

Given these difficult circumstances, it’s more important than ever for people to know about coping mechanisms to better manage stress, protect their immune system, and increase their chances of staying healthy, says Dr. Nammy Patel, DDS (www.sfgreendentist.com), author of Age With Style: Your Guide To A Youthful Smile & Healthy Living.

“COVID is maximizing stress for so many people,” Dr. Patel says. “It has a far-reaching impact into every part of our lives, and if we don’t manage the stress, it severely affects our bodily systems – causing burned-out adrenals, high cortisol, and thyroid issues, to name a few consequences of high-stress levels. Thus, the immune system is lowered, and we are more vulnerable to illness.

“This era we are living in is very traumatic, and it’s very concerning. In dentistry, gum disease, sleep disturbances or apnea, and teeth breakage can all be evidence of stress. Poor oral health, as studies show, can be a gateway to medical issues. People often don’t identify how much stress they’re under, and how it’s affecting them physically, until they actually get sick.”

Dr. Patel has the following suggestions people can incorporate into their daily lives to better deal with stress:

Adhere to a healthy diet. While in quarantine or a new normal in which people are spending the vast majority of their time at home, having healthy foods at home and not over-snacking are vital considerations. “We must be more mindful of the foods we put in our bodies,” Dr. Patel says. “Eat as many greens and whole foods as possible. Avoid dairy products as they increase mucus production in the sinus and the chest, leading to lots of sneezing and congestion. The coronavirus enters the nose and makes a home in the sinus, and to increase immunity, it’s important that the sinus and chest are not inflamed. Food prep makes it easier to eat healthy while working from home. Prepare salads and other healthy meals in advance.”

Don’t over-indulge in drinking. “For some people, drinking is the only source of enjoyment during the pandemic,” Dr. Patel says. “And we see people who are isolating having Zoom calls with friends while drinking wine. The problem is that one glass turns into two or more, and with the sugar content of wine, you may wake up during the night. This disturbs sleep, and sleep is when the immune system regenerates. Restorative sleep is essential to our health.”

Take vitamin supplements. “Often, those with adrenal fatigue don’t take in enough essential nutrients as stress increases their body’s nutritional demands,” Dr. Patel says. “To address adrenal and cortisol burnout, take multivitamins in order to get trace minerals.”

Develop a morning ritual. “Deep breathing exercises can be calming and get you out of the hyper state,” Dr. Patel says. “You want to get rid of the ‘fight or flight’ mode and enter the ‘rest and digest’ state of mind.”

Find a stress management activity that works for you. Many people don’t like to exercise, but Dr. Patel notes exercise doesn’t have to be rigorous to be effective. “A type of exercise one enjoys doing at home like walking, running, or yoga goes a long way toward releasing stress hormones,” she says. “And for those who like intense workouts, it’s all good in terms of reducing stress. Another good stress management technique is using biofeedback mechanisms like alpha state meditations to increase immunity.”

“The disruption of daily life by COVID-19 has caused us to rethink many things that we do,” Dr. Patel says. “How we deal with stress needs to be a priority now, and it’s not overly difficult if you develop good daily habits.”

Westward Ho!

They don’t call Wyoming The Cowboy State for nothing; the state’s Wild West Heritage is well known and celebrated where you’d least expect it. In fact, they built a whole 900 acre town on New Zealand’s North Island that could easily fool a 19th Century Wyoming cowboy. It comes complete with a genuine frontier saloon, a sheriff’s office and ten realistic buildings, including a ranch house that doubles as a hotel able to accommodate 22 guests and that rents out at the rate of $5,000 a night. And, it’s all up for sale for just $7.5 million. International bidders have already expressed interest, according to the folks at Sotheby's International.

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The kid’s got it

He’s not a card sharp; he’s just an honest young wizard when it comes to the game of bridge. The American Contract Bridge League has bestowed on eight year old Andrew Chen of San Jose, CA the title of Life Master. He’s the youngest ever to receive the honor. The UPI News Agency reports that “The organization said it normally takes players decades to accumulate 500 masterpoints by playing at tournaments and accredited clubs, but Andrew was able to earn his points in just two years by participating in local games and playing online.”

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You’re never too old

Growing old is not what it used to be. Take, Gordon Precious of Ontario, Canada. He celebrated his 95th birthday recently by taking a helicopter ride to the summit of a snow-capped mountain in the Cariboo Mountains in British Columbia and skiing back down the slope. It was his way of letting the kid inside of him out for a day. To be fair, Precious says he has been skiing all of his life and it is not the first time he has gone heli-skiing. But, this time he set a record, according to the folks at Guinness.

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History Matters

A feature courtesy of

The Grateful American Book Prize

In a swipe against Jim Crow, the Supreme Court ruled in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education that segregation in American schools was illegal.

Eight years later, President Lyndon Johnson ratified the Civil Rights Act—landmark legislation that was powered—in part--by Dr. Martin Luther King, and his philosophy of passionate, passive, and peaceful resistance.

The fourth of July is not about barbecues, beaches, or even festive fireworks. It is intended to commemorate the 1776 founding of America, and ratification of the Declaration of Independence.

In the beginning, Colonial Americans intended to assert their rights as British citizens, but the Redcoats misread their message, perceived defiance, tightened their control over the colonists, and backed into the fiery freedom fighters. Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense, published in January of 1776, pushed perspective onto the people, and a mass of momentum for the revolution.

Tennessee made it a crime to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.”

John Thomas Scopes, a local high school science teacher, was accused of violating the law, and in July 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial began.

The inquiry lasted eleven days; thousands of spectators gathered around the Dayton, TN courthouse. The curious were mesmerized by the issue under consideration—and-- the reason why William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow’s--two of the most notable orators and legal experts of the times-- were siding with the defense.

When the overflow became unmanageable, Judge John Raulston moved the proceedings to the front lawn of the court.

On July 21, the jury delivered a “guilty” verdict in less than nine minutes, but two years later, the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court of Tennessee; in 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court, forever resolved the issue when it declared that the original verdict violated the Constitution.

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Medal of Honor: Army 1st Sgt. Frederick Fuger

BY KATIE LANGE

DOD NEWS

The Battle of Gettysburg is remembered as one of the most pivotal encounters of the Civil War, a conflict that led to more than 1,500 men earning the newly created Medal of Honor. One of those recipients, Army 1st Sgt. Frederick Fuger, wasn't even a U.S. citizen when he held the Union position during Confederate Maj. Gen. George Pickett's famous charge.

Fuger was born in Goppingen, Germany, on June 18, 1836. He was a teenager when he immigrated to the United States, boarding a ship in France and arriving in New York City on April 3, 1854. After acclimating to his new home, Fuger enlisted in the Union Army in August 1856. He was assigned to the 4th U.S. Artillery, Battery A, and served all over the country.

In 1861, his five years of service were about to end when civil war broke out. So, Fuger reenlisted and was promoted to first sergeant of Battery A, which was under the command of 1st Lt. Alonzo Cushing.

Fuger fought in many skirmishes leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg, and it was then that his dedication proved he was worthy of the Medal of Honor.

On July 3, 1863 — the third day of the famous battle — Battery A was positioned near some trees in an area called "The Angle" on Gettysburg's Cemetery Ridge. It was the precise point of the Union line where Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was determined to break through in what became known as Pickett's Charge.

First, the rebels launched artillery that tore apart Battery A. There were so many casualties that only Cushing, Fuger and a few other soldiers remained standing. Of those few, many of them were injured, including Cushing, who refused to disband the unit.

Next, about 15,000 Confederate soldiers charged, hoping to pierce through the Union line right where the 4th Artillery was positioned. Battery A continued to fire on them relentlessly, even as some rebels broke through some of the forward infantry lines.

Fuger, literally, propped up an injured Cushing so he could give orders as the rebels got closer. Unfortunately, the young commander was shot and killed just as the rebel's leader fell within feet of their guns.

Fuger took over command of the battery and ordered his cannoneers to fight as infantrymen while he continued to shoot the last of the six cannons that still worked. Finally, the Confederate soldiers began to retreat. Under Fuger's leadership, the battery held its position, and the Union line remained intact.

The outcome at Gettysburg was the straw that broke the camel's back for the South and proved to be the pivotal battle of the Civil War.

Fuger earned his commission as second lieutenant later that year and went on to command the battery for the rest of the war. He stayed in the Army for several more decades and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in February 1888.

In 1897, Fuger was awarded the Medal of Honor, which had been first authorized for soldiers during the war in which he'd earned it. Fuger retired from the Army in 1900 as a lieutenant colonel. He died Oct. 13, 1913.

Nearly 150 years after that fateful day in battle, Cushing, Fuger's fallen commander, was also awarded the Medal of Honor. Both men have been memorialized in a life-sized diorama at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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5 reasons company leaders resist needed change – even during this crisis

The thought of change can be scary, even more so during the type of crisis we’re experiencing now with the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there are business leaders who are already implementing change in response to the challenging economic and operational landscape, many others are not.

“Sometimes the writing is on the wall and organizations are triggered to change,” says Edwin Bosso, Founder and CEO of Myrtle Consulting Group and the ForbesBooks author of 6,000 Dreams: The Leader’s Guide To A Successful Business Transformation Journey. “In fact, members of the organization often are keenly aware that something needs to be done. However, despite that, management does not act, and the cost of inertia can be high.”

According to Bosso, there are five reasons why leaders resist change and, as a consequence, struggle to move their company forward:

They confuse important versus urgent. Leaders sometimes confuse the terms important and urgent. “Important issues are those that do not necessarily have an explicit deadline, like urgent issues, but can effectively have some impact, large or small, on a business,” Bosso says. “The confusion sets in when owners and managers spend too much time putting out fires rather than planning. For example, the company may know that it is important to upgrade its operations. But it doesn’t become urgent until later on when the company looks at the output of its competitors that have completed transformation projects and have become a lot more cost-competitive.”

They lack courage/leadership abilities. Successfully initiating and executing a change process involves numerous leadership skills. “It can be intimidating taking on such a challenge that, to some leaders, may seem like moving a mountain,” Bosso says. “Others are better prepared to take risks, confront reality, envision a better way, make plans, and then act on those plans to lead a change.”

They misalign the incentives. The incentive to change or transform organizations can be misaligned with the incentives of people who are in charge of leading those transformations. “Misalignment of personal incentives can cause us not to act, even when we know it’s the best thing for the company,” Bosso says. “When we are in line for a promotion and higher pay, we certainly don’t want to take on risks that can potentially work against us.”

They lack support and/or resources. Not being afforded the requisite tools or the consensus for necessary transformation can leave a leader feeling powerless. “This is a set of obstacles that many leaders run into,” Bosso says. “The powerlessness can come from the lack of company means, organizational backing, human capital and resources to support the cost of a transformation. After a while, they run out of energy, or time, to make the case.”

They lack a method. It’s not uncommon for leaders to know the difference between where their company is and where it could be, but they don’t know how to proceed. “In such situations, leaders often freeze up and put off the impending need to change, or they approach it through trial and error,” Bosso says. “Having a methodology is beneficial when taking on such an effort. Some leaders take the time and effort to learn what needs to be done, while others bring in experienced people to provide a method for leading a smooth and successful transformation.”

According to Bosso, leaders must understand that there will never be a perfect time for change, but also that often the right change only happens if they force the issue.

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All in or out? How business owners can deal with COVID’S cloudy future

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, small businesses have reopened across the nation but certainty and optimism are a long way from being restored.

Spikes in infections in many states, double-digit unemployment, consumer and lender concerns, and steep economic challenges in the wake of a long shutdown make it difficult to forecast if and when many companies will fully recover. Small business owners – many of them baby boomers and in the retirement age range – are in a difficult position trying to decide whether to risk staying in business or sell and cut their losses, says Michael Sipe, author of The AVADA Principle and founder of the consulting firm 10x Catalyst Groups (www.10xgroups.com).

“We are in the early stages of a depression that’s going to go on quite a while,” Sipe says. “Many small business owners are in their 60s and 70s, and they’re tired and beat up. Some recovered from the financial collapse of 2008, but now they’re getting hammered again.

“Customers and employees are scared or nervous. The supply chain is a big problem, and there’s this crazy situation where prices are going up because of the shortages, but meanwhile we have a depression because there aren’t enough transactions.”

Sipe offers the following suggestions to small business owners as they try to sort out their future amidst so much uncertainty:

Quit. “A lot of people are going to do that,” Sipe says. “And if that’s the decision, they should quit fast. Don’t drag this out. One of the things that happened in the recession of 2008 was people refused to face reality, and it cost them everything, their savings and retirement. If you’re 60 to 70 years old right now and don’t know if you can gut this out another 10 or 15 years, then cut your losses. You’ll have a little nest egg now as opposed to spending all of it trying to bail the business out.”

Reinvent. “If you’re not going to quit,” Sipe says, “then you’ve got to change. Just slugging it out and hoping it’s going to get better or that it will get back to normal – that kind of thinking is ridiculous. We have huge structural problems as a country. So if you’re going to reinvent, you have to come back to the fundamentals of business. The owner has to back up and say, ‘What are the fundamental concerns of customers we are actually trying to address here?’ And focus energy on those prime areas that are going to move people to pay a good margin for your product. Don’t ask why it’s not easier; ask how you can get better.”

Be flexible. Given the fluid state of our world, Sipe says changing some of your business model and processes may have to become a habit. “The next thing business owners have to do is realize what they changed today may need to change tomorrow,” he says. “The innovation has to happen every day. That has a lot to do with listening to customers and anticipating what they would respond to. Engagement with customers and engagement in the innovation process for owners is absolutely critical. If an owner is not willing to try and get that figured out with and for their customers, they’re going to fail.”

“The business has to be infused with a fresh energy and a fresh passion,” Sipe says. “If you’re not going to quit during these extremely difficult times, that means you’ve got to get back in the game. And you’ve got to play hard, because this is going to be tough.”

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10 considerations to help a person decide if military service is right for them

By CHAD STORLIE

There are a lot of big decisions in life: marriage, finances, buying a house, and others. Right up there is the decision to join the military. In today’s COVID-19 world and economy, many people are considering if the military might, or might not, be the correct choice for them. It is vitally important that before a young person rushes off to find a military recruiter that they understand and reflect on a decision towards military service.

Below are 10 considerations to provide guidance, support, understanding and just a bit of wisdom to help others decide of a military career is right for them.

1. Listen to A Young Person’s Goals in Their Words. Before even starting to describe the benefits of military service, what does a young person want to accomplish? Do they want to travel, live somewhere else, have new experiences, or just get out and see the world? These can be reasons to join the service, but they can also be gateways to other career decisions to personal travel, higher education, working in a new location, serving others in a different profession, or waiting for a decision to become more apparent.

2. Military Service Means Serving Others. When someone joins the military their time, their effort, and most of their day-to-day decisions no longer belong to themselves. The military decides your schedule, what you do with your day, and where you live. In an era of widespread personal freedom, this important aspect of military service still needs to be openly discussed. Service to others initially seems like a loss of personal freedom when acting in the service of others truly gives you freedom.

3. Talk About Other Forms of Public Service. Military service is only one form of service. Teachers, Nurses, Doctors, Medical Technicians, Community Activists, Emergency Personnel, and Civil Servants are other vital forms of public service that matter as much as military service. These other forms of service need to also be discussed as viable, rewarding, and vital forms of public service. The military is only one way to serve the community.

4. The Military Has Unique Standards That Must Be Met to Serve. The military has exacting standards of fitness, intelligence, pre-existing body art (tattoos), prior drug use, and prior criminal activity just to name a few of the tests military recruits must pass. If someone wants to join the military and they do not meet the various standards, then they cannot join. A young person that wants to join the military needs to be in shape, not obese, pass the military mental aptitude test, not violate the military’s tattoo policy, not have an extreme criminal record, and not use illegal drugs.

5. Understand Possible Military Occupations for Each Military Service. The military recruiting websites plus social media channels (especially YouTube) give a great deal of information about possible military occupations. Understanding the full range of occupations is an effective way to get excited (or not) about military service. Potential military members need to understand that if you chose the Army or the Marines, you will do your computer programming job pouring sweat in a tent (maybe) with a weapon by your side. Or, if you like to fix generators in the Navy, you will fix a generator on a pitching deck of a ship.

6. Discuss the National Guard and Reserve. For some young people, joining the military full time can be too much of an initial commitment. For those young people, the National Guard and the Reserve may be a perfect fit. The attraction of the National Guard and Reserve: staying local, serving the military, learning new skills, and the potential for Active Duty can be a great option.

7. Discuss the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is America’s “forgotten” military service that offers great options. Many young people are compelled by more altruistic goals of public service, helping others, and being on the “front lines” daily instead of just when they are deployed. In this case, the Coast Guard offers a poignant answer. The Coast Guard fills law enforcement roles combined with public service with a primary focus on rescuing others in need.

8. Military Recruiters Are a Salesperson & An Information Source. Websites are great for one-way information. Talking to a live military recruiter offers excellent options. A young person should have a trusted adult in the room when they talk to a military recruiter to help them ask questions and not be intimidated by the authority of the uniform and other “unknown” words. Meet with recruiters from multiple military branches and see what they have to offer and what sounds interesting to the young person.

9. Talk About the Four D’s: Disability, Death, Divorce, and Deployments. The four D’s of Disability, Death, Divorce and Deployments are where the “rubber meets the road” of military service. Every day in the military is and will be difficult. Military members are in arduous conditions, deployed for months away from loved ones, in physical danger, and you often cannot call even for a family member’s birthday. Disability, Death Divorce, and Deployments are the hard set of subjects that must be talked about because they will be the constant companions throughout military service.

10. Understand the Full Range of Benefits for Military. Looking and understanding the full range of pay, education, medical, and housing benefits is the last step in considering military service. Too often, interested young people jump to the “what do I get” before fully considering “why do I want to serve.” Military benefits are great if you want to serve. But, if you do not want to serve, then military benefits do nothing to build the desire to serve.

There is no correct answer for military service. The goal of young people should be to serve their community with military service being an equal of many forms of potential public service. Young people that want to help others but want to remain in their communities can be Nurses, Public Officials, Emergency Responders, Community Activists, Teachers, and other service-oriented professions that makes the entire community better. It is service to the public that matters, not which form of service. Listening to a young person’s goals and ambitions is the best way to discuss the potential of military service. Listen more than you talk, discuss the joys and sorrows of military service, and make a relaxed, informed, and confident decision if the military sounds like a good option.

Chad Storlie is a retired US Army Special Forces officer, an Iraq combat veteran, and has 15 years university teaching experience as an adjunct Professor of Marketing. He is a mid-level B2B marketing executive and a widely published author on leadership, logistics, business, data, decision making, military and technology topics.

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Social Security Matters

by AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens

Dear Rusty: I am looking for information on my Social Security survivor benefits from my husband. I just turned 65 and have been collecting my Social Security widow’s benefit since I was 60. Someone told me that I should take my own Social Security and half of my deceased husband’s. I am not sure if that’s what I should do. Should I stay as I am until age 70 and then look into this option? Is it even an option? I’m just not sure. I work part time because the widow’s benefit just isn’t enough to pay my bills. I know there must be others out there as unsure as I am. Signed: Unsure Widow

Dear Unsure Widow: It appears that you have been given some inconsistent information. If you are currently collecting a widow's benefit from your deceased husband and have been since you were 60 years old, you cannot "take my own Social Security and half of my husband's." You only have two options now - to continue your current surviving widow's benefit (which was reduced because you claimed it before your full retirement age), or to claim your own SS retirement benefit if that is more.

If you are now collecting your survivor benefit (only), your benefit from your own work record is still growing. The key question is whether your own benefit from your own work record will ever be more than you are now collecting from your deceased husband as his widow. If your own SS retirement benefit will be more, you can switch to it whenever it has grown to be more than your current widow's benefit. Your own benefit will reach maximum at age 70, so never wait beyond that to claim it. But if your current survivor benefit as a widow is more than your own benefit will be at any age, you should simply stay on that widow's benefit.

The easiest way to find this information out is to request a Statement of Estimated Benefits from Social Security. That statement will show you the amounts you are due on your own at your full retirement age and also at age 70 (if you were born in 1955 your FRA is 66 plus 2 months). If either or both of those amounts are more than your widow's benefit, you can continue to collect your widow's benefit until it makes financial sense to switch to your own. To request your Benefits Statement, contact Social Security directly at 1.800.772.1213, or your local office (find it at www.ssa.gov/locator). You can also get this online if you have a “my Social Security” account, and which you can create at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.

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3 ways to prevent the pandemic from spoiling your retirement – whenever it is

By ALBERT LALONDE

The pandemic has brought the possibility that some older workers will have to retire sooner than they planned.

One factor is that people 65 and above are considered to be among the highest-risk groups for severe illness from COVID-19. Thus, as the economy opens back up, baby boomers in particular are thinking twice about returning to office environments that could expose them to an increased risk of contracting the disease. And while in some cases retirement decisions will be voluntary, retirement may be essentially decided for some older workers due to jobs being eliminated as struggling companies restructure.

One report showed retirements of people from 50 to 65 and over have surged because of the pandemic. Medicare eligibility starting at age 65 and full Social Security benefits soon thereafter become economic incentives. But as we know, it takes a lot more than government aid to get us through the retirement years. And for older workers who planned to work long enough to collect full Social Security benefits but instead retire earlier, that could have permanent financial consequences. Filing at the earliest age of 62 will get the retiree only 75% of their annual full benefit. Whereas every year you delay filing for Social Security past full retirement age brings an additional 8% until you turn 70.

People often keep working as long as they can so they can continue to add to their retirement savings while also benefiting from employer-subsidized health insurance. Many older workers from the 40s on up think they will need to work longer because of the current economic crisis. But due to the pandemic, we seem to have less control over length-of-career considerations than ever before. And because of that, it ups the ante on taking care of your retirement funds in advance of retirement, and knowing ways to grow them and balance the risk to them.

When trying to figure out how to protect your retirement portfolio in the uncertain months ahead, remember that sometimes, trying to save yourself from future market volatility can result in major investing mistakes. Here are some examples to avoid during this recession:

Being too conservative. Finding a foothold for financial stability is on many people’s minds given these nervous times, but stability can be taken a bit too far. For example, focusing almost exclusively on fixed-income investments limits your growth potential. They won’t match the growth of equities when the economy rebounds. One rule of thumb: the majority of those not yet retired should put at least half of their portfolios in equities, and the younger one is, the higher the percentage of equities. You can reduce risk and achieve stability by improving the quality of your equities, such as those with well-regarded management and consistent customers, and those that have paid dividends over a long period.

Ceasing to invest. While some companies have paused matching employee 401(k) programs due to the pandemic, it’s not out of the question that they’ll one day resume when a recovery ensues. But no saving plus no investing equals putting yourself much further behind for retirement. If you can afford to contribute to an IRA or 401(k) during the recession, do it. Suspending your investing because of concerns that your positions will lose value is a back-sliding strategy that can bite you. As the economy climbs back, share prices increase, but if you sat on cash while waiting for a recovery, you won’t benefit from the upswing. And later on you’ll pay higher prices for those shares, when you could have gotten them for less.

Trying to time the market. Basing investment decisions on current market conditions is tricky. Some people are making those kinds of decisions, such as selling off or pausing contributions, to protect themselves from future market declines. But for example, when deciding to liquidate, you later may have to decide when to reinvest. Will that timing always be good? No. Even professional fund managers have difficulty timing the market. So it’s better to remember that you got into the stock market in the first place because, over long periods, history shows it often trends up. Don’t react to what’s happening today. Stick to a consistent schedule of investing. And remember: long-term growth helps fund your retirement.

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How seniors can protect their healthand finances during the pandemic

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, health officials have been clear and consistent in their message to seniors: While anyone can fall victim to COVID-19, those who are 65 and older are in an especially high-risk group.

That’s why older Americans need to be especially careful and – in the case of the very elderly – family members may need to step in to make sure they are taking the right precautions, says Chris Orestis, the president of LifeCare Xchange and a national senior care advocate.

“As with just about everyone, coronavirus is touching all areas of the lives of seniors, from health to finances to how they socialize,” Orestis says.x

He offers a few tips on things seniors and their families can do:

Prioritize healthy practices. Follow health guidelines. Wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and sanitize surfaces. “Social distancing and staying in place have become important new additions to our lifestyle because avoiding contact with infected people is the surest way to prevent contracting the virus,” Orestis says. “Grocery stores and retailers have set up senior-only shopping hours, and seniors should take advantage of those. In addition, food delivery services can bring take-out meals or groceries to your home.”

Trust nursing homes. “Despite the tragic deaths that occurred at Life Care Center's nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., the nursing home industry has been working around the clock in every community to protect their residents,” Orestis says. Nursing homes are always vigilant for influenza, pneumonia, and other viral outbreaks. “If you have a loved one in a nursing home, do not go visit,” Orestis says. “Stay in touch remotely through a cell phone, computer, or the staff to help the nursing home avoid contamination.”

Know what financial resources are available. “We’ve experienced a stock market drop, but It is important at times like this to not ‘panic sell’ and lock in your losses,” Orestis says. He points out there are still safety nets and even financial opportunities that can help seniors. For example, the passage of the CARES Act will pump $2 trillion into the economy. Social Security income, Medicare, and Medicaid payments remain unchanged. Income from annuities remains guaranteed.

For owners of permanent life insurance policies, Orestis says, there are a couple of options to get liquidity from this asset. If the owner wants to keep the policy in force, they can take out a policy loan for upwards of 90% of the cash surrender value. If the policy owner wants to stop paying premiums, they could use a life settlement to sell the policy under tax-favorable conditions to receive a percentage of their death benefit as a lump-sum today.

Beware of scams. Seniors often are prime targets of scams, and with their heightened level of distress, could be even more susceptible than usual, Orestis says. “Be on the lookout for such things as emails from imposters of the CDC asking you to open a link or download a list telling you where positive cases are in your area,” he says.

Vet your news sources. The coronavirus is getting round-the-clock news coverage. But mixed into the information coming from reliable sources is a flood of misinformation. “Fact-check information by reading statistics from the websites of reliable medical resources and verified news organizations,” Orestis says. “Don't fall for conflicting statistics or attempts to minimize the severity of the outbreak by comparing it to car accidents, the flu, or other outbreaks. The danger is people can be lulled into underestimating the danger and let their guard down.”

“No one is sure how long this crisis will last or what the outcome could be,” Orestis says. “But the most vulnerable members of our population can protect themselves by following smart health practices, avoiding unwise financial decisions, taking advantage of financial safety-nets, and being on the lookout for scams and bad information.”

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Keep your landscape looking good with less effort

By MELINDA MYERS

Keep your garden looking its best and reduce your workload by enlisting practices that provide multiple benefits. Your garden will flourish and you’ll have more time to enjoy its beauty.

Put your yard waste to work in your garden. You’ll save time hauling plant debris to the recycling center and money spent buying bagged material. Use shredded leaves, evergreen needles, herbicide-free grass clippings or other pest- and weed-free organic material as mulch. Spread a one to two-inch layer of these materials over the soil around annual and perennial flowers and vegetables.

Use woodchips and shredded bark to mulch pathways, trees, and shrubs. Consider joining forces with your neighbors, renting a chipper, and turning brush into mulch for your landscape. Maintain a two- to three-inch layer of mulch around these plants. And keep the mulch away from tree trunks and the crowns of the plants.

Organic mulch helps conserve moisture, reduce weeds, and improve the soil as it breaks down. So, you get multiple benefits from this one task while burning a few calories and strengthening your muscles.

Water plants thoroughly and less frequently whenever you irrigate the garden. This encourages deep roots, making your plants more drought tolerant and pest resistant. Water early in the day to reduce water lost to evaporation. And consider using drip irrigation or soaker hoses to deliver water right to the plant roots where it is needed.

Check container gardens daily. Water thoroughly until the excess water runs out the bottom. Or enlist the help of one of the many container irrigation systems. Consider using a slow release fertilizer when needed to keep plants thriving with less effort. These types of fertilizers provide a slow, steady release of nutrients for balanced growth without sacrificing flowers or burning drought stressed plants.

Don’t forget your trees and shrubs. Proper watering will also improve their health. Water new plantings and moisture lovers whenever the top few inches of soil are dry. Even established trees and shrubs need a helping hand during extended periods of drought. Always water thoroughly to encourage deep, drought-resistant roots.

Keep mowing your lawn as long as your grass is actively growing. Mow high since taller grass is better able to out compete the weeds and forms deeper roots, making it more drought tolerant. Minimize the stress by removing no more than a third of the total grass height each time you mow.

Always use a sharp mower blade. Sharp blades cut more efficiently, saving you time whenever you mow. You’ll consume 22% less fuel and the lawn will use up to 30% less water when using sharp blades. Plus, the clean cut will be less noticeable and the wound will close quickly, helping you grow a healthy, better-looking lawn.

Be sure to leave grass clippings on the lawn. They add nutrients, moisture, and organic matter to the soil. A season’s worth of clippings is equal to one fertilizer application. So every time you mow you are fertilizing the lawn and improving the soil.

Finish every garden chore with a bit of cleanup. Sweep clippings, plant debris and fertilizer off walks, drives and patios, so it won’t wash into storm sewers. Keeping plant debris out of our waterways is good for us and the environment.

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Smashing myths that gave birth to the glass ceiling

In 1986, a Wall Street Journal headline promised to explore a then puzzling problem: “The Glass Ceiling: Why Women Can't Seem to Break The Invisible Barrier That Blocks Them From the Top Jobs.”

More than three decades later, that headline still holds relevance. While women have made great strides, they still make up a small percentage of the top management at America’s largest corporations.

But while obstacles remain, there is also evidence that the tide can turn.

“As an anthropologist, I am watching women shatter these myths that have kept them from achieving the leadership needed in our society, today and into the future,” says Andi Simon (www.andisimon.com), a corporate anthropologist, founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants, and author of the upcoming book Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business.

“It is time for everyone to rethink what women can do and how we should enable them to do it. Our society needs it more than ever as we recover from this pandemic and restore the vitality of our economy and our cultures.”

One obstacle ripe for dismantling is that most corporate cultures are set up with a male leadership approach in mind, Simon says.

“Unfortunately, men communicate a myth about women that emphasizes their soft sides, not their decisiveness, strength, and ingenuity,” she says. “Women might lead differently than men, but they can achieve remarkable results.”

The latest statistics on female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies spark hope and disheartenment all at the same time. Women now hold 37 of those jobs, which is a record. But that’s a mere 7.4 percent of the total.

Why aren’t women already further along in breaking down barriers that were talked about decades ago? Simons suggests a few reasons:

The system often forces talented women to give up before they reach the top. “Regardless of what women achieve, business leadership and society deem them to be less worthy of leadership roles and success,” Simon says. “Women find that the way forward is blocked, and at times they jump off the proverbial ladder rather than continue to fight to get to the top in companies, in government, and in male-dominated cultures.” The good news is that in many cases they launch their own businesses.

The narrative society tells about women colors reality. Through most of human history, men have controlled societies around the globe, along with the myths and narratives surrounding those societies. But Simon says that organizations from the Women’s Business Collaborative to groups like Women TIES (Women Together Inspiring Entrepreneurial Success) are helping change the culture’s narrative about women.

More role models are needed. “Momentum in changing the culture is hard to sustain without strong role models, communities of women, and a media that changes the narrative,” Simon says. She does her part in her book by showcasing female role models “who will encourage younger women to push forward into dangerous territory where they can be the talented success stories they want to become.”

Here’s one more thing Simon has noticed when she applies an anthropological lens to the differing leadership approaches of men and women when solving problems.

“Men think they climbed the Empire State Building and saved the damsel in distress while saving their clients millions of dollars,” she says. “Women think they mobilized a group of talented people who never let the client fall into distress in the first place.”

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Kiss me quick

You can’t be too careful if you want to avoid exposure to the COVID virus, especially if you are an actor or actress and the scene calls for a bit of smooching. And so, Bradley Bell, head writer for the classic soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful, has announced that they’ll be using blow up dolls when rehearsing for some of the steamier romantic scenes in upcoming episodes. Bell told the New York Post that "we put our heads together trying to figure out a way to make these scenes work without breaking the eight-foot [distancing] rule... and we brought out a doll we used years ago as a corpse. We posed it and it was very convincing."

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The show must go on

Pandemic or no pandemic, the folks at Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest have announced that its annual competition will take place, as it has since 1916. To be sure, the organizers of the event are taking precautions. The contest will take place at a secret location with no audience in attendance. And, social distancing rules will apply, so there’ll be only five contestants in both the men’s and women’s competition instead of the usual 15. And they will all be tested for the coronavirus before participating. Workers will wear masks and gloves but it is assumed that the hungry contenders will forego the face masks, which would obviously limit the amount and speed of consumption.

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Affordable housing, and then some

What can you buy for a buck these days? How about your very own home in the picturesque Italian village of Cinquefrondi. The town is located between the Ionian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea in Calabria, a region in the extreme southern part of Italy that boasts one of the country’s lowest levels of COVID cases. In fact, Cinquefrondi calls itself “a COVID-free village” as it has reported not a single case of coronavirus since the pandemic started. Mayor Michele Conia tells CNN: "Finding new owners for the many abandoned houses we have is a key part of the Operation Beauty [mission] that I have launched." The mayor’s dollar deal comes with a catch: the buyers must agree to renovate their newly purchased properties within a period of three years or face a steep fine.

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How Aristotle can help you lead your business through tough times

Business leaders face plenty of questions as they try to get a handle on the new economic reality brought about by the COVID-19 shutdown and the resulting recession.

But the answers to those questions may not appear in their corporate handbooks. Instead, they could lie in ancient philosophies with lessons that apply just as much today as they did centuries ago, says Cristina DiGiacomo (www.cristinadigiacomo.com), author of Wise Up! At Work and founder of MorAlchemy, a philosophical consulting firm that helps CEOs and executives tackle their biggest challenges by teaching them how to think differently so they see new solutions and their companies thrive.

“We could all use a little wisdom these days because COVID-19 has caused a shift in the way people think, the way people work, the way they live and how they think of themselves,” DiGiacomo says. “Technology may change, culture may change, but acting wisely is no different in the 21st century than the 5th century.”

Too often, when people hear words like philosophy and wisdom, they conjure images of a bearded man on a mountain, with enlightenment seekers trekking to see him, DiGiacomo says.

“In reality, the philosophers whose teachings changed the world were the kind of people who rolled up their sleeves, got to work, dug deep, and spoke up despite hardship, resistance and even threat of death,” she says. “Their views aren’t some abstract idea, but have practical applications in today’s world.”

So, if Aristotle, Socrates, Voltaire and Immanuel Kant opened a corporate consulting business, here are a few things they would tell you about moving your business forward as the world tries to recover from COVID-19:

Don’t be rushed into rash decisions. Voltaire said “doubt is an unpleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” Sometimes CEOs feel the need to make quick decisions, perhaps to avoid seeming indecisive. That’s not always the best approach, DiGiacomo says. “Are you making critical decisions, with long-term consequences, on the fly without actually having developed your ability to deliberate?” she asks. “Our reactionary mind wants us to set it and forget it, so it can move onto the next thing.” Resist that temptation.

Avoid letting your “darkest moments” color reality. Immanuel Kant, among others, believed your mind shapes and structures your experience. “Your mind influences to a very large degree how you see the world and how you feel about it,” DiGiacomo says. “Those things you say to yourself, in those darkest moments, are shaping your reality. But it's entirely possible that those thoughts you have about what you think reality is might not always be true.” She says it helps to “hit the pause button” and make sure the situation is what you think it is.

Say “I don’t know” even if you think you know. The country faces uncertain times over the next several months, but that’s not unusual, DiGiacomo says. The future is always uncertain – coronavirus or no coronavirus. One of her favorite quotes from Socrates is: “I know that I know not, and that makes me a wise man.” DiGiacomo says being in “I don’t know” mode releases your mind to discover new solutions and ideas. “If you constantly believe you know everything,” she says, “then there’s no impetus for your mind to be creative or continue to look for new information.”

And finally, DiGiacomo says, Aristotle offers encouragement for business leaders who are afraid they aren’t up to the task of making wise decisions.

“Aristotle’s foundational idea of being human is that we are all wise, inherently,” she says. “It’s just a matter of tapping into that innate wisdom and building the skills that will help you to not only be wise, but to act wisely.”

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How dental offices are protecting patients and staff during the pandemic

It’s not exactly business as usual for the dental industry – or patients – as offices reopen for routine care amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The outbreak of the virus has brought several changes, some of which may be permanent, in how dental offices protect their employees and patients.

"Dentists have always prioritized safety, but now we’ve significantly ramped up our precautions and standard practices because we want both patients and workers to feel comfortable during a time of great uncertainty,” says Dr. Kyle Bogan (www.drkylebogan.com), a general dentist and speaker on workplace culture.

“After three months of being able to handle only emergency cases because of the pandemic, we understand the challenges as we reopen for elective and preventative care. The experience, knowledge and concern for patients that oral care workers bring to their positions is especially important at this time.”

Dr. Bogan points out some concerns of patients and dental staffs and new protocols being implemented as offices reopen:

Pre-screening patients. The asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 limits the effectiveness of pre-screening patients for the virus, but patients should be asked a range of relevant pre-visit questions on the phone. “It forces dental staff to treat every patient as if they have the virus,” Dr. Bogan says. “Before patients come in, they need to be asked if they’ve had COVID-19 symptoms and, if so, if they’ve been tested.”

Upon arrival, a new look. Dr. Bogan says that staff can allay patients’ fears by informing them of all the new safety procedures their office is taking. The visit will look and feel much different from the moment they arrive. “Patients can expect to wait outside upon arriving for their appointment until summoned by the staff,” he says. “This will greatly reduce the number of people in the waiting room and the time you’re close to other people. And patients should have their temperature taken upon arrival. The office should be devoid of the usual magazines and toys, and hand sanitizer should be available.”

Helping fearful employees. It’s understandable if oral care workers are hesitant to return, and Dr. Bogan says it’s important to engage them in dialogue about their concerns. “The person may be worried about contracting the virus from a patient or co-worker,” he says. “They may be high-risk or have someone at home who is. Ask them what you could do to alleviate concerns, and make sure your office is following the CDC and ADA recommendations and requirements.

Aerosols and protection. Most dental procedures create aerosols – sprays of saliva or blood from a patient’s mouth splashing into the air. Given the possibility of the virus being included in those particles, the attending staff around the patient should wear more personal protective equipment, and environmental upgrades also are advisable. “The ADA recommends face shields, N95 and KN95 masks, goggles and disposable gowns,” Dr. Bogan says. “Some practices are installing plexiglass in the front office area, air-purification systems and ultraviolet lights to reduce exposure to aerosols.”

Diligent hygiene and cleaning. “Dentists and hygienists should adhere strictly to hand hygiene measures,” Dr. Bogan says, “including before and after contact with patients, after contact with contaminated surfaces or equipment, and after removing PPE. Disposable gowns should be discarded in a dedicated waste container after use. Cloth isolation gowns should be laundered after each use. The staff will thoroughly clean patient treatment areas between appointments with disinfectants.”

“It’s important for people to get back to the dentist for routine treatment,” Dr. Bogan says. “The virus can give some people a reason to stay away, so it’s critical for dental practices to do all the right things to mitigate risk.”

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Bold, beautiful, and healthful cabbage

By MELINDA MYERS

Cleanse the toxins out of your body with the help of fresh vegetables. Cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts are a few of nature’s detoxifiers.

You can add variety to your garden and diet by including green, red or Savoy cabbage. It’s fun and easy to grow in the garden or a container and can be used in a variety of healthful dishes.

There is still time to add cabbage to your garden. Cabbage grows best in cooler temperatures. Those in the northern half of the country can plant seeds directly in the garden in early July for a fall harvest. Those in hotter regions should wait another month. Simply check the number of days from seed to harvest and count backwards from the average first fall frost. That will be the time to plant. Those in the far south should plant seeds or transplants in fall or early winter for a winter harvest.

Be sure to allow enough room for the plants to grow to mature size. Space plants at least 12 inches apart in the garden and grow in a sunny to lightly shaded location.

Protect cabbage plantings from pests with floating row covers. Made of polypropylene spun material, the covers allow air, light, and water through while preventing cabbage worms from laying their eggs on the plants. This means no green worms eating holes in the leaves or ending up on your dinner plate.

Loosely cover the planting with the fabric and anchor the edges with boards, pipes, stones, or wickets. Leave enough slack for the plants to grow. The plants support the fabric, so no frames or construction is needed.

Increase your garden’s productivity by interplanting the cabbage with quick maturing radishes, beets and heat tolerant greens. You’ll harvest these short season crops at about the time the cabbage needs the space.

Harvest cabbage when the heads are firm and full size. Use a sharp knife to remove just the cabbage head, leaving the lower leaves and roots intact. Four to six new heads will arise from buds around the stem. These smaller heads can reach four or five inches in diameter.

Remove any wilted or damaged leaves before storing cabbage in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. If using only half a head of cabbage, wrap the cut end in plastic wrap.

A medium head of cabbage weighs about one and a half pounds and yields about five to six and a half cups of shredded cabbage. A few heads of cabbage can turn into lots of slaw, stuffed cabbage rolls and other tasty cabbage dishes.

Preserve some of your harvest for winter meals. Freeze cabbage by cutting it into coarse shreds, thin wedges or by separating the leaves. It can also be dehydrated and used as a base for casseroles or added to soups and stews.

Consider turning it into sauerkraut with simple fermentation. Make large batches in crocks then can or freeze when fermentation is complete. Smaller batches can be processed in mason jars and stored in the refrigerator.

No matter how you prepare it, cabbage makes a great addition to the garden and your meals.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – About Special Extra Earnings for Military Service

Dear Rusty: How do I find out if I get any extra earnings for my military service of 28 years (Navy, 1982-2011), when I begin collecting my full Social Security retirement benefit next year (in July 2021)? Signed: Retired Veteran

Dear Retired Veteran: First, as a fellow veteran, I want to thank you for your 28 years of military service, but I need to clarify what those “special extra earnings” are. That’s not an additional amount which will be added to your monthly Social Security benefit as a bonus for serving. Rather it is an additional dollar amount which has already been added to your earnings record for the years you served in the military.

Those receiving active duty military pay have contributed to Social Security since 1957, and that record of your military pay is already on file with Social Security. But a long time ago Congress decided to bump up the recorded earnings of those with earlier military service to make it easier for them to qualify for Social Security, and to possibly provide a slightly higher benefit when the earnings from those years in the military are included in the computation of SS benefits.

To compute your benefit, Social Security uses the 35 highest earning years from your lifetime earnings record (adjusted for inflation). So, if your earnings during the years you were in the military are among the 35 years used to calculate your SS benefit, those military earnings were supplemented with an additional amount to make them up to $1200 per year higher than you were actually paid. And that higher earnings amount possibly means a higher Social Security benefit because it could make your lifetime Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) higher (a higher AIME translates to a higher benefit amount).

In your case, an extra $100 for every $300 in your actual military pay should have been added to your earnings record for each year you served between 1982 and 2001 (maximum of $1200 for each year).

For service years after 2001, no additional “special credits” are awarded. To verify this, you may wish to obtain a copy of your lifetime Earnings Statement from Social Security and verify that your recorded earnings for 1982 – 2001 are $1200 more than you were actually paid while serving. And if not, you should supply a copy of your DD-214 when applying for your Social Security benefits. You can obtain a copy of your lifetime Earnings Statement online if you have a personal “my Social Security” account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount; otherwise you’ll need to request a copy directly from Social Security.

For general information applicable to those who served prior to 1978, computation of their “special extra earnings” were computed a little differently. For those veterans, the maximum annual “special extra earnings” supplement was still $1,200, but the method for computing their extra earnings was to give an extra $300 for each calendar quarter of active duty military service. But in any case, the special extra earnings are an addition to your military pay record on file with Social Security, not an additional dollar amount added to your Social Security benefit.

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How COVID-19 is reshaping corporate culture

The outbreak of COVID-19 is radically changing how many U.S. companies operate.

Public safety measures have closed physical offices and made remote working the norm. Travel restrictions have heightened the importance of efficient technology, communication and collaboration. Executives have had to pivot quickly, reorganizing and rallying their workforce to push forward in an unprecedented time.

Some business leaders think COVID-19 marks a permanent turning point. And at the center of the seismic change is the reshaping of corporate culture – the beliefs and behaviors that influence how a company’s employees and management interact, says Chuck Crumpton (www.chuckcrumpton.com), author of The Jagged Journey: A Raw & Real Memoir about the Non-Perfect Path of Life & Business.

“The pandemic unquestionably will have lasting effects on corporate cultures,” Crumpton says. “There’s a growing sense it’s a fundamental shift, a new normal.

“It starts with empathy. Company leaders are seeing they need to listen more to their employees’ concerns, which are really everybody’s concerns right now. Many people have fear and uncertainty. It’s an opportunity to be more understanding and build relationships with the people you work with, and from there as a company, being better able to work in new and more collaborative ways.”

Crumpton explains the ways corporate culture will be reshaped in the wake of COVID-19 and how leaders can influence those positive changes:

Providing emotional support along with technical support. While technology is the key to keeping a remote workforce functioning at a high level, Crumpton says how leaders create a culture of mutual support will be a big factor in company culture and the employee experience. “You want to get people helping and looking out for each other,” Crumpton says. “Not every Google Chat, call or email has to be business-related.”

More, and better, communication. Working remotely, with managers and employees at different locations, places an emphasis on focused and more precise communication – even over-communication if necessary – to keep operations flowing, Crumpton says. “The use of video conferencing is very effective, keeping everyone connected and agendas targeted,” he says. “It increases responsiveness, attention span, and strengthens collaboration.”

More of a family feeling. “Working from home personalizes the workplace, partly because you are working from your personal space, and the imaginary line between family and work is basically gone,” Crumpton says. “People are out of their shell now, more relatable. Colleagues and clients are happy to share a screen with their kids or pets in the background. There’s a blending of the personal and professional, and it’s liberating.”

Better collaboration. “Your relationship with your teammates will improve,” Crumpton says. “Fighting a common enemy, the coronavirus, creates bonds in relationships. Everyone being in this together brings new levels of connection with colleagues and clients. You’re happy to see each other on screen during this period of physical isolation, and that feeling can be brought forward when things settle down. The bond strengthens with teammates also by having worked together to solve problems and be proactive during difficult times. That means better collaboration and more enthusiasm for teamwork and shared success.”

This crisis has challenged us in seemingly every way,” Crumpton says. “It’s been sudden, profound, and life-changing. Companies have been forced to make major changes, and in the process, they’re seeing the workplace and the world differently. It's a great opportunity for growth and positive, permanent change.”

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Keeping children safe as the country reopens

As the country begins to reopen, the question becomes, how do we keep our children safe, according to Linda Inmon, Extension associate-family and consumer sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

The first thing to do is ensure your child is in the best health possible, Dr. Stephanie Hanson, a pediatrician at Sanford Children’s Hospital in Fargo, North Dakota, said. She recommends sticking with scheduled well-child visits and immunization schedules to keep healthy children healthy and to protect them from infections.

Dr. Keshia Pollack Porter, professor of health policy and management and associate dean for faculty development at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, believes children should have outdoor time because it is critical for their physical, mental and emotional health.

Considering COVID-19, Dr. Porter recommends embracing solo play such as jumping rope, riding a bike or scooter, playing hopscotch, painting or drawing on the sidewalk. If they are playing around other children, she said parents should monitor the distance between them.

Other things parents can do to ensure the safety of children is teach them about proper handwashing, how to wear face coverings and how to social distance when they are not at home, Inmon said.

“Remind children they are to wash their hands after touching high traffic areas such as doorknobs, light switches and electronic devices,” Inmon said. “Hands should be washed before and after using the bathroom to eliminate the spread of germs and virus to other parts of the body and surfaces.”

Inmon suggests that parents should practice with their child on how to wear a face covering properly. She says the masks should cover both the nose and mouth.

“It is highly recommended that children under 2 years of age not wear a mask because a lack of oxygen could result in death,” Inmon said. “If older children voice a concern of not being able to breath with the mask, try a cloth mask.”

Children should only wear masks when entering places where others are present, she said. Children should always practice social distancing when they are in public places.

“As businesses and industries follow the recommended guidelines for reopening, we should also slowly come out of our safety nets (homes),” Inmon said. “Try to find a time when it is less crowded when taking your children out.

“Remind them it is not safe to pick up or touch things that have not been sanitized,” she said. “Use antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer often when away from home. A vaccine has not been discovered, so we are not out of the woods yet.”

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July 4th Safety Tips: Leave fireworks to the professionals, avoid large crowds

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the Fourth of July approaching and communities across the country still battling COVID-19, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) urges everyone to stay safe and take precautions with large gatherings and firework celebrations, but not to hesitate to go to the ER if you have an emergency.

There are more than 9,000 firework-related emergencies annually and more than a third (36 percent) of those involve children under the age of 15. It’s no surprise that about two-thirds of firework injuries happen around this time of year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“Each year, emergency physicians see an influx of people coming into the ER with avoidable fireworks injuries,” said William Jaquis, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “When it comes to using fireworks to cap off your Independence Celebration, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.”

If you are using your own fireworks, ACEP encourages you to follow these firework safety tips to limit your risk of serious burn or injury:

Make sure you buy fireworks, sparklers or other flammable items from reputable, legal sellers.

Keep a fire extinguisher and large bucket of water or hose nearby.

Light one at a time and keep everything flammable away from children. This includes sparklers, which can burn hot enough to melt metal and cause serious burns or injuries.

Never try to re-light or handle fireworks that malfunction or don’t go off.

Do not ignite fireworks in containers, that could create dangerous shrapnel.

Avoid horseplay with or near fireworks, torches, candles or any flammable items; don’t point fireworks at people or launch them toward anyone.

When lighting a firework do not stand directly over it. Back up immediately after it is lit.

After use, spray fireworks with water until soaked. Placing dry fireworks in a trash can creates a fire hazard.

The ongoing pandemic adds another layer of concern to this year’s celebrations. Given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still urges people to social distance with six feet or more between people, it’s prudent to choose outdoor activities with small groups rather than indoor gatherings with larger crowds. You may want to rethink typical summer activities like potlucks and cookouts to limit the number of people handling or serving food. You should also continue to wear a mask when in public space, and wash your hands frequently throughout the day.

“The pandemic continues to create a ‘new normal’ for all of us,” said Dr. Jaquis. “Your Fourth of July festivities might look a little different this year, but we can’t ignore the very real threat that the virus still poses.”

Whether you are concerned you have COVID-19 or are having another medical emergency, emergency physicians stand ready—any day, any time—to provide emergency care and treatment when you need it.

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Teach your children to avoid the mistakes you made with money

Numerous surveys show that many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, have little saved for retirement, and lack fundamental financial knowledge.

Part of the problem, experts say, is that financial literacy has not been emphasized in American education; only 21 states require high school students to take a personal finance-related class. If parents want their children to learn the value of money and how to avoid financial problems as adults, the education has to start at home, says Steve Kruman (www.brycewealth.com), a financial planner and investment advisor at Bryce Wealth Management.

“When they understand their parents’ financial situation and gain an understanding of financial literacy,” Kruman says, “they are more likely to appreciate the gifts they are given, or aren’t to be given, and why."

Summer is the ideal time to teach financial literacy to children because they can get real hands-on experience. Teaching a child to be financially literate will help them understand that they have to take personal responsibility to be financially secure when mom and dad aren’t there to put the food on the table for them.”

Kruman offers the following at-home teaching methods to help children learn financial literacy:

● Gardening and investing. The parent purchases seeds and other starting materials at a garden supply store and has the children keep track of the

spending by item on a notepad. “As you work together in the garden, keep a time log of each family member working,” Kruman says. “When it’s harvest time, teach them to count up the cost of production. Help them determine the value of their produce by comparing store prices of the same product, minus the cost of production. They will learn that you can start small as an investor, but putting in more effort along the way makes things grow.”

● Working and budgeting. Kruman says parents can undercut their teaching of financial literacy by handing out spending money whenever their child wants something. “To learn good financial skills,” Kruman says, “work needs to be taught. They learn they are rewarded for effort, not just for showing up. With their finite amount of money, they can be taught what they’ll have to do as adults – divide it up for bills, spending money, and savings – and that it doesn’t grow on trees every month.”

● Saving and staying out of debt. “A good lesson for your children to learn about debt would be to show them how a loan would work by you being the lender,” Kruman says. “Have them think of something that they would like to buy (such as a new bicycle or laptop) but that they don’t have enough money saved already. You could offer to help them make the purchase much earlier than continuing to save for it, but only in exchange for a loan payment that would be made by reducing their chore money. That way, they would learn how debt eats up their earning power. You have to instill in them that savings isn’t an option, but rather a necessity, so people don’t become slaves to debt.”

● Apple slices and taxes. “Chances are your kids have already heard you bemoaning taxes,” Kruman says. “Get one of those vertical apple slicers, and cut

an apple up in sections to represent the approximate portion of your personal tax hit – federal, state, city/township, Social Security, etc. Put those slices next to the remaining part of the apple, and that difference will stick with them.”

● Toys and depreciation. “Teach them to look at their toys and clothes,” Kruman says. “Toys wear out. Children’s toys and adults’ expensive items, such as cars, need to be purchased to replace old ones, and teaching an understanding of that principle of depreciation is essential to teaching your kids why people need savings. Help them understand depreciation by asking them to compare prices of toys being sold at a yard sale versus a similar toy being sold at a new price online or in a store.”

“Children have a lot of years to grow up,” Kruman says, “and you can give them years of age-appropriate financial lessons in their own home that will last a lifetime. Start now if you haven’t already.”

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House Call

By Dr. Appathurai Balamurugan

assistant professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Q: There are a lot of ticks this year. What should I look out for if I am bit?

A: While ticks are responsible for more human disease in Arkansas than any other insect, not all tick bites will make you sick. There are many different tick species in Arkansas and only a few can pass on illness to you.

In Arkansas, we have documented cases of the following tickborne diseases: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, anaplasmosis, Lyme disease, southern tick associated rash illness, alpha-gal and other

less-well understood diseases.

The good news is that these diseases have common signs to watch out for. If you’ve had a tick bite, pay attention to the next few weeks, and talk to your health care provider if you develop any of these symptoms: fever/chills, aches and pains and rash.

Be sure to tell your health care provider about your symptoms and the geographic region where you received the bite. Your provider may conduct diagnostic tests based on this information.

It’s important to spot tickborne diseases early, when they can quickly be treated with antibiotics. Waiting longer can increase the risk of serious complications and even hospitalization.

Q: What is Legionnaires’ disease?

A: We sometimes hear about Legionnaires’ cases in the news linked to a particular hotel,

spa, resort or hospital. The common element is stagnant water, where the Legionella bacteria thrives.

Legionnaires’ disease spreads to people when they breathe in the bacteria from a mist or accidentally swallow infected water and it gets into the lungs.

There were about 10,000 cases of Legionnaires’ in the United States in 2018. About one

in 10 people sick with Legionnaires’

die of the disease.

Legionnaires’ symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches and headaches, and can sometimes include diarrhea, nausea and confusion. Symptoms begin two to 10 days after exposure. Tell your doctor if you’ve been to a place with cases of Legionnaires’, used a hot tub, or stayed away from home in a hospital or hotel.

The main way to prevent Legionnaires’ disease is to keep legionella from growing in the water systems of buildings. With many businesses closed for COVID-19, there is a risk that the stagnant water in buildings’ pipes may have become a breeding ground for Legionnaires’. Business owners should refer to the CDC website for tips on how to ensure safe water systems.

Q: I’m considering traveling this summer. What should I consider?

A: The guidelines for travel during the COVID-19pandemic change frequently. Research the latest info from the Arkansas Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when planning trips. The “COVID-19 Guidance for Travelers” from the state Department of Health is a great place to start and links to national and international information from the CDC.

If you’re booking a trip well in advance, also know that the situation may change and be prepared to adjust your plans. Stay on top of the news and public health advisories.

When planning your trip, think about the health considerations for yourself and your family. Consider the infection rate where you plan to go and the relative risks of the mode of travel, be it by personal passenger car, plane or cruise ship.

As the pandemic continues, some returning travelers may be asked to practice voluntary self-quarantine at home or be requested to do so by the Department of Health. Depending on your job or other responsibilities, this might be burdensome, so it is wise to consider this possibility. If you do travel, the CDC has guidelines for a variety of locations and scenarios.

Q: I’m afraid of getting COVID-19. Should I put off primary care until the pandemic is over?

A: Taking care of your most basic health care needswith the help of your primary care physician is just as important as ever. Primary care is vital for managing ongoing issues or spotting problems before

they escalate. While the illness COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus, has created a lot of fear and uncertainty, it should not keep you from getting the help you need, especially if you have chronic medical

conditions. Call your primary care provider before your appointment and ask for advice about whether, given your personal medical history, an in-person visit or video conference would be best. If you are going

to the clinic, ask what special precautions the clinic is taking and be prepared to comply with any guidelines.

The clinic may ask that you wear a mask, come alone, practice social distancing in the clinic, and take other precautions. You might discover that your clinic is staggering visits or asking patients to wait in the car to prevent crowded waiting rooms. Being prepared will make the visit safer for you and others and may help ease any fears you might have.

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Why the new normal office culture can’t have the same old abrasive boss

The coronavirus pandemic has changed many workplaces temporarily and others permanently. Working remotely is more common, and for those returning to a physical office, the seating arrangements, meeting protocols, and other dynamics of the pre-pandemic work environment will be different.

But despite the new normal, some employees still will be confronted by the same old abrasive boss. With many workers feeling added stress because of the crisis, bosses who create more tension can make the work environment fragile and far less productive – an especially bad combination during an uncertain time in our economy, says Dr. Katrina Burrus, author of Managing Brilliant Jerks: How Organizations and Coaches Can Transform Difficult Leaders into Powerful Visionaries (www.ExcellentExecutiveCoaching.com).

“Abrasive leaders engage in a series of negative behaviors, from harsh criticism to intimidation and manipulation,” Dr. Burrus says. “They may get results but they usually run good employees off, and their effectiveness often has a short shelf-life.

“In these daunting times of major transition, company leaders need to consider the concerns and the value of their employees. Even the most approachable, well-liked leaders will need to make adjustments to best manage their people in a sensitive way while getting maximum performance. Whether leading in a fully virtual work environment, a reconfigured office or a combination of the two, leaders can’t rely solely on what used to work as effective leadership in face-to-face interactions.”

Dr. Burrus offers these tips for leaders of various types to keep in mind in the new work environment:

Be brilliant, not an abrasive jerk. “If a leader’s mindset is that his or her employees are inherently lazy and need to be flogged into action, that’s how he or she will treat them,” Dr. Burrus says. “That attitude will spread down the chain, poisoning the corporate culture. Organizations need to establish their management and leadership principles as a reference for desired behavior. If they are receptive, abrasive leaders should be offered the

support of a customized coaching program to help them change their destructive behaviors and leverage their strengths. Organization heads should communicate to their abrasive leaders that they are valued but that misbehavior has consequences, which will be applied.”

Reassure and refocus. “When leaders do not see what their employees are doing, as when they are working remotely, this creates anxiety and may trigger the abrasive leader to be even more authoritarian,” Dr. Burrus says. “However, leaders who have high emotional intelligence will likely adapt their leadership to reassure employees, which serves to refocus and motivate them in these uncertain times.”

Use a tracking system. A tracking system is recommended with more communication. “For example,” Dr. Burrus says, “have a good morning virtual check-in where employees communicate what they intend to achieve during the day/week and a good evening check-out, where they communicate what they have accomplished, what they struggled with and what resolutions they need to find.”

Prioritize adding value. “Remind employees to add value to clients and have more interactions with clients,” Dr. Burrus says. “Clients will remember which providers were present during these uncertain times to support them in getting over their struggles. Make sure employees have systems to stay in contact with their clients.”

Invite more feedback. “Employees and leaders are figuring out their virtual environments and altered office environments through trial and error,” Dr. Burrus says, “so learning what is working well for your employees and sharing that with others can help your organization to adapt more effectively. Likewise, finding out what isn't going well can help leaders adapt their expectations, leadership styles, and interactions with employees to promote effective working relationships and employee well-being.”

“New environments beg new leadership styles,” Dr. Burrus says, “and leaders who adapt to support their employees during these challenging times will experience enhanced employee productivity and well-being.”

A stylish solution

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes. And, what can be more necessary than a haircut to make you feel well-groomed and presentable during times like the COVID lockdown. And, voila, from the inventive mind of barber Edwin Ramirez in Union City, New Jersey, comes what may be a pretty inventive solution to the dilemma of how to get your hair cut and styled at a socially safe distance. His contraption may just fit the bill. It’s a portable Plexiglas shield that lets stylists get up close and personal so they can safely coif away by putting their combs and scissors through generous portals. Ramirez has faith in his patent-pending invention; he’s putting together 30 of his shields a day so he can supply salons far and wide.

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Even a five-year-old can do it

Social distancing is easy enough to maintain on a golf course; hitting the ball can be hard. But, William Kelly can make it look easy. The young novice is five years old and still taking lessons, but it didn’t stop him from achieving the holy grail of golf, a hole-in-one. It happened at The Bridges at Springtree Golf Club in Sunrise, FL as his coach, Mike Freglette, looked on in amazement. As Freglette put during an interview with WPLG-TV: "It was an unbelievable moment. Some people play golf their whole lives and never get a hole-in-one ... He's got some natural talent."

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What you don’t know?

Rip Van Winkle slept through the American Revolution; Daniel Thorson lost himself in meditation at a remote Buddhist retreat in the hinterlands of Vermont and missed the onset of the COVID pandemic. As he emerged from his two-and-a-half months of self-imposed seclusion in May he mused via a Twitter message that he broadcast for all to see, the words: “I'm back from 75 days in silence. Did I miss anything?” As he put it to reporters: “while I was on retreat, there was a collective traumatic emotional experience that I was not a part of.”

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History Matters

The Grateful American Book Prize

What could be a bigger treat than a summertime, roller coaster ride? That fistful of fun debuted June 16, 1884 on Coney Island--home of the amusement park—and some say-- the hot dog, too.

Twenty-first century entertainment festivals boast of blood-curdling, high-speed rides that challenge the imagination, and one’s facility to hold down food. But, when it was decided to update Coney Island’s 1927 Cyclone, the wooden structure was kept intact, and the speed was capped at 60 mph.

Adventuresome or risk adverse, the roller coaster is an integral part of American history. The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Scott Rutherford’s The American Roller Coaster.

On July 17, 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor. It was a gift from France, America’s staunch ally during the Revolutionary War. Even though more than a century had passed since the Colonies had become an independent nation, France still chose to honor the United States and its exemplary democracy.

Designed by sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, and engineer Gustave Eiffel [Tower], the colossus arrived in “erector set” pieces--packed in 200 crates--that took more than a year to re-assemble. Lady Liberty was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886 at a ceremony on Bedloe’s Island, now known as Liberty Island, in New York Harbor.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Yasmin Sabina Khan’s Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty.

Sally Ride took the journey of her life when she boarded the Challenger on June 18, 1983 and became the first American woman in space.

How did she get the job? Ride answered a newspaper ad that had been placed by NASA, who was on the hunt for a mission specialist.

With her Bachelor of Science degree in physics, Bachelor of Arts degree in English, a Master of Science and doctorate in physics, the Agency determined she would make the ideal rocket scientist. Ride quickly mastered the maneuvers to man the robotic arm. During her historic six-day mission, she and the crew used it to place new satellites into orbit, and--retrieve one that had done its time.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Sally Ride and Susan Okie’s To Space and Back.

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3 powerful ways women can help other women in the post pandemic world

As COVID-19 forces changes to the economy and American lifestyles, businesses that hope to survive and thrive will need creative ways to deal with these new challenges.

And that could mean path-breaking opportunities for women, who often bring a different approach to business leadership than their male counterparts, says Andi Simon (www.andisimon.com), a corporate anthropologist, founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants, and author of the upcoming book Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business.

Before the pandemic and economic downturn, over 50% of the U.S. workforce was women and women-owned 40% of the businesses.

But as the pandemic disrupted the economy, eliminated jobs, and forced social isolation and remote work, women found themselves scrambling to sustain their jobs, their livelihoods, and their business operations.

As a result, women in business and business owners were pivoting, Simon says.

“The post-pandemic recovery is going to require clever, opportunistic innovations,” she says. “We will see a great deal of rethinking going on about who is caring for children, how to balance the work/life load, and what work is going to be like in the future.”

Add to this the mental health impact of the social disruptions taking place, and “we can only imagine the pressures facing women, and men, as they rebuild lifestyles and restore economic vitality and growth,” Simon says.

She says she is seeing women “rising to the challenge, quickly developing new ways to help each other stabilize and regenerate their businesses and their families.”

Simon says some of the resilience comes through:

Networking. Both men and women use networking to make business connections but building a network may be even more important for women as they come out of isolation and the recession. Women are making connections with other women who can be supportive of their challenges, who can mentor them, and help them restore their livelihoods and their personal lives. “Women are often criticized for not being decisive or controlling,” Simon says. “Instead, they lead through their ability to build consensus, manage their network, and engage with others.”

Collaboration. There are many types of leaders and their styles shift to be situationally adaptive. “For the post-pandemic period, we expect to watch a lot of collaboration as people try to figure out how to restore their ‘new normal,’ ” Simon says. “It is more difficult for a command and control style of leadership to build trust when there is limited certainty about the right thing to do.” She says the research is compelling that women lead better than men. “Indeed, women are said to have far better social skills building teams than men,” she says, “but when they use those skills, they don’t always achieve the respect of men.” That is why in this emerging vacuum, women are rising to the occasion and leading others into creating the new realities.

Changing how people think. Culture becomes a definer of what we value, believe, and do, Simon says. “There is a cultural movement underway that might be hidden from view unless the media begins to build the new story for how women can create better organizations and businesses in the post-pandemic economy,” she says. “How can we refocus our society to see that what women do is as good as, if not better than what men accomplish? There is momentum, but it is hard to sustain without strong role models, communities of women, and a media that articulates and embraces a new narrative.”

“We are watching women smash the myths that have kept them from achieving the leadership needed in our society today and into the future,” Simon says. “It is time to ‘rethink’ what women can do and how we should enable them to do it. Our society needs it more than ever as we recover from this pandemic and restore the vitality of our economy and our cultures.”

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How business leaders can bring stability and hope in a time of uncertainty

Many business leaders face extreme challenges during their career, but the coronavirus pandemic is uncharted waters for all.

Most offices and stores are closed across the U.S. to combat the spread of COVID-19. Companies still operating are mostly working remotely, and many are doing business differently to adjust to the new normal. As uncertainty continues to reign, how should leaders respond to new fiscal challenges and what guidelines should they follow?

“Companies around the world are reevaluating how they do business in order to overcome the challenge that we all face in this moment,” says Jadon Newman, CEO of Noble Capital (www.noblecapital.com), a private investment and private equity firm. “Times of crisis are when the best leaders step up, calm their workforce, believe in their capabilities, and go beyond the norm to influence changes that make a company stronger for the long haul.

“While the health and well-being of team members has to be leadership’s primary concern, it’s never been more important to find new and creative ways to meet revenue goals. Challenging times is when innovation is often born, and that starts with leaders who won’t be paralyzed by problems, but rather see them as opportunities to grow.”

Newman offers five tips to help business leaders navigate this unprecedented time:

Turn to your core values. A company’s core values act as a compass in stormy seas, Newman says, bringing some stability and helping maintain direction even while waves of uncertainty approach. “Your unchanging core values provide clarity amid the turbulence,” Newman says. “They serve as a framework to inform your decision-making process, especially during periods of uncertainty.”

Be strong and honest. “Leaders who are best prepared to get through a crisis have a good level of resiliency,” Newman says. “They have mental discipline, accept life’s insecurities and don’t panic when the storm hits. The next step is committing to transparency with employees. Share your thoughts, concerns, and encouragement, and reinforce the company values.”

Learn, invite new ideas, and adjust. A crisis causes leaders to re-evaluate processes and consider improvements tailored to a changing business climate. “It’s imperative to learn from the current crisis,” Newman says, “and from your data determine what your company can do differently in order to adjust. Embrace it as an exciting opportunity to innovate and be better. Solicit ideas from your most trusted people. Look at new services and products you could create. Everything from what you sell to how you deliver it might be on the table for change.”

Be extra resourceful. “One thing we learned during the last recession is how to be resourceful,” Newman says. “Now is the time to reorganize and refocus to achieve lean and efficient business operations. Develop a plan to reduce costs without interrupting critical business functions. Reach out to your network and external partners to leverage any resources you may have outside of the company. Empower all team members and leaders at your company to exercise a new level of responsibility.”

Increase, improve communication. “Communication with team members, clients and external partners is paramount,” Newman says. “And there’s no reason you can’t improve communication despite the current circumstances. Increase the use of the technology to stay in front of clients, including video conferencing, emails and even text messages when appropriate. Work with your business leadership to develop the appropriate communication plan for your business.”

“How a company overcomes major challenges determines what type of company they are,” Newman says. “As leaders step up and guide a company through, they develop deeper leadership capabilities that will last long beyond the current crisis. Likewise, their company will be stronger for it.”

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How business leaders can push for change before a crisis demands it

The financial challenges and social disruption imposed by the pandemic have forced

many companies to change—often drastically. As with any change, there are new

opportunities that if seized can be turned into gains.

Leaders of some organizations are acting now to reposition their organizations for growth. But how many thought their business needed transformative change well before the economy was shut down? And did their inaction then make their struggles more pronounced now?

“Companies need to transform before financial performance has started to decline,”

says Juan Riboldi (www.ascent-advisor.com), an international business advisor, author, and president of Ascent Advisor, a management consulting firm.

“The world is changing fast. To remain relevant, we must adapt to the new conditions, but merely reacting to change is insufficient for success. We are required to reinvent ourselves, reimagine what we do and reposition our organization. We need to strategically transform.”

Riboldi presents some ideas for leaders to consider about strategically

transforming their companies:

Strategic transformation is about value creation. “Strategic transformation is how leaders create value in today’s economy,” Riboldi says. “Strategic transformation follows predictable patterns that if correctly applied will lead to value creation. Those who are able to implement the new direction with speed, clarity and precision gain an edge. To fuel economic growth and attain success, leaders need to reinvent their organizations around creating value.”

Reframe change as opportunity. Many people balk at change and feel threatened by it. “Anything that happens to us can be immediately framed as a threat,” Riboldi says. “But it’s important not to stay stuck in that frame of mind, which can make us limited and vulnerable. As we reframe the situation as an opportunity, we take charge and shape the future. It’s no longer what’s happening to us, but what we are doing about it that matters. Whether a change becomes an opportunity or a threat is up to each of us. Transformational leaders reframe change as opportunity.”

Create a shared vision. “We all have a vision,” Riboldi says. “It may be simple or grand, but that is not what makes the difference between ultimate success and failure. The decisive factor is the intent. Is the vision self-centered or is it for the greater good? As we focus on others’ needs and address broader interests, we overcome low trust and instead build on common purpose. Most visions fail to inspire others simply because they are self-centered. A powerful vision inspires others with a cause greater than themselves.”

Focus on execution. Riboldi says that while a leader’s bold, innovative ideas can push an organization in the right direction, many such plans fall short because the leaders can’t execute the transformation. “Transformational leaders focus people on delivering what matters most,” Riboldi says.

Gain confidence by delivering results. “The challenge for leaders is to inspire confidence in uncertain times,” Riboldi says. “How can you tell if the direction your organization is pursuing will succeed or fail? Not all change is for the

better. Progress is made as you test and learn quickly. The key is to deliver regular wins that can be leveraged into large gains. The best predictor of ultimate success is continuous improvement.”

“Whether you are launching an innovative startup, repositioning a striving business for growth, leading a large corporation through industry disruption, or navigating social and economic change in the public sector, you need to deliver what matters most—to you, to your team, to your organization, and to society at large.” Riboldi says, “At your work and in your personal life, how you respond to change determines your chances for success.”

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Tips for women running businesses and households in the age of remote work

The question of where worklife ends and homelife begins took on new meaning when COVID-19 forced many women to work from home while simultaneously caring for children whose schools and daycare centers shut down.

But as women struggle to balance work and home, they may find there are more similarities between the two than they realized, says Marsha Friedman, an entrepreneur, wife, mother of four, and founder and president of News & Experts (www.newsandexperts.com), a national PR firm.

“I’ve always felt that running a business and running a household have a lot in common,” says Friedman, who is also the ForbesBooks author of Gaining the Publicity Edge: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing Your Brand Through National Media Coverage.

“It’s become even more apparent now that we are running our businesses from our households. In both situations you have budgeting, planning, and one-on-one sessions to discuss challenges you are facing.”

Friedman says being willing to rethink roles is important for working couples raising families under the current situation where the home temporarily has become the office.

“Suddenly, women are managing both their work and their personal life in ways they did not have to before,” she says.

Friedman says one way for women to bring better balance to their lives is to apply some workplace strategies to the home, both during this crisis, and once it’s over. She suggests:

Consider your division of labor. In a business, people are assigned specific jobs and responsibilities based on the company’s needs. The same is true in the household, Friedman says. Jobs around the house need to be delegated, just as they are in a business. Prioritize what tasks must be done, she says, and decide who is most suited to take on each responsibility, whether it’s the mom, the dad or the children.

Be thoughtful about the way you delegate those jobs. “In business, my philosophy is matching up the interests and skills of the person to the needs of the company,” Friedman says. “You can do the same with household chores.” Consider whether one person is better skilled at a certain task or brings more passion to it.

Understand and appreciate each person’s role. In business, you interact with other employees and attend team meetings, which gives you insight into the scope of other people’s jobs and an appreciation for what they do. That can happen at home as well. “Even these days, in many families the spouse at work in an office doesn’t always see everything that’s involved in running a household,” Friedman says. “This stay-at-home period has allowed them to see what happens at home when they are away. This can add a lot to the quality of the relationship.”

Eventually, most women who suddenly became remote workers will ease back into some form of their old life, where once again there’s physical separation between work and home. When that happens, don’t forfeit the progress you made improving that worklife-homelife balance, Friedman says.

“If you made this work during the pandemic,” she says, “you don’t want to lose the ground you gained.”

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Safely manage insect pests in your gardens

By MELINDA MYERS

You plant and tend your garden hoping to enjoy a bountiful harvest and beautiful blooms. Despite proper planning and planting, insects can move in and wreak havoc on your garden. The good news is you can manage problem pests without harming the pollinators that are so important to your garden.

Start by reviewing the care your plants need to thrive. Make sure you are watering thoroughly and only when needed. Consider mulching the soil with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic material to conserve moisture, moderate soil temperature, suppress weeds and improve the soil as they decompose.

Only fertilize if needed. Over fertilization, especially with high nitrogen and fast release products, can stimulate lush, succulent growth that is more susceptible to insect damage. Let your plants, not the fertilizer label, be your guide. Pale plants and those not performing as expected may need a nutrient boost. Consider a low nitrogen, slow release fertilizer that won’t stimulate lush, succulent growth or damage the plants when the weather is hot and dry.

Tolerate a bit of damage and wait for the songbirds and beneficial insects, like lady beetles and green lacewings, manage these pests for you. If the damage is more than you can tolerate, consider using an eco-friendly control product.

One you may not be familiar with is lightweight horticulture oil, like the OMRI-certified Summit Year-Round® Spray Oil (YRSO). This can be applied to garden plants during the growing season to manage insects such as aphids, mites, adelgids, scale, leafhoppers and whiteflies. Horticultural oils have been used for many years because they are low risk and effective against a variety of pests.

Horticulture oils kill insects by blocking the air holes through which they breathe. This makes them effective against all stages of the insect’s development from egg through adult.

The oil must contact the insect to be effective. If a beneficial insect lands on a treated plant, it will not be injured. Avoid treating plants when bees and other beneficial insects are present, so you do not accidentally spray them with the oil.

YRSO horticulture oil (SummitResponsibleSolutions.com) can also help reduce the incidence and spread of aphid-transmitted viruses. It interferes with insect feeding which helps reduce the transmission of the virus by the insect.

Lightweight horticulture oils have a minimal waiting period between the last application and harvest. Always check the label before using any product whether organic, natural or synthetic. You will find valuable information on the label, including application rates and directions to help you attain the best results.

You may also find some added benefits when reviewing the label. Horticulture oils can help in managing powdery mildew on plants like beebalm, phlox, peonies and cucumbers. Some can be applied when plants are dormant to smother and kill overwintering mites and aphids as well as egg masses of pests like the gypsy moth.

Monitor your garden throughout the summer. You will enjoy watching your plants grow, make timely harvests and discover insect pests when the populations are small and much easier to manage.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – SSDI Denied; Will Claiming Early Hurt Spouse or Survivor Benefits?

Dear Rusty: I applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and was denied. So, because I turn 62 this month, I plan to file for my early SS retirement benefits. Since I've not worked a lot due to health issues I won't get much and I realize my benefit will be reduced by about 30% from my full retirement age amount, but we need the extra income to help with my medical bills. My husband is 57 and still works. Social Security will be our only retirement so he will be working for as long as he can. My question is, how will my early retirement affect any spousal benefits I might qualify for in the future? Or my widow's benefits if he should die before I do? Signed: Worried Spouse

Dear Worried: Claiming your own SS benefit at age 62 will cause your spousal benefit to be less when your spouse benefit starts (when your husband claims). That’s because your spousal benefit will be in the form of a “spousal boost” which will be added to the reduced SS benefit you will get by filing at age 62. The amount of your spousal boost will depend upon how old you are when your husband claims (which is when your spousal benefit kicks in). If you’ve reached your full retirement age (FRA) of 66 years and 8 months, your spousal boost will be the difference between 1) your SS retirement benefit amount at your FRA (regardless of when you claimed) and 2) half (50%) of the benefit your husband is entitled to at his FRA (regardless of when he claims). At your FRA you get the full amount of the spousal boost; but taken before your FRA the spousal boost will be actuarially reduced according to the number of months prior to FRA it is taken. Since the spousal boost is added to the benefit you are already receiving, you claiming your reduced benefits at age 62 means your spousal benefit will also be reduced. But your spousal benefit (while your husband is living) is entirely different from your survivor benefit if your husband dies before you.

As your husband’s widow, provided you have reached your FRA you will get 100% of the amount he was receiving (or entitled to receive) at his death, instead of your smaller benefit from claiming at age 62. In other words, that you claimed your own benefit at 62 doesn’t affect your survivor benefit. But if the survivor benefit is claimed before you reach your full retirement age it will be reduced due to claiming it early (the reduction is about 4.75% for each year early). Note that you do not have to claim the survivor benefit immediately; you may wait to claim until it reaches maximum at your FRA.

One final point: Statistically, about 2/3rds of all initial SSDI disability applications are denied. If you believe strongly that you’ve been unfairly denied, you can appeal that denial, even if you go ahead and claim your own SS benefit at age 62. To appeal the SSDI denial you should submit form SSA-561 – Request for Reconsideration, which you can find at this link: www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-561.html.

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Will consumers be in a better place by the end of 2020?

The pandemic unleashed a staggering one-two punch on the economy – double-digit unemployment and drastically reduced revenues for many businesses. As states reopen with varying restrictions, what the future holds in the next six to 12 months is anybody’s guess.

But while the economic downturn will continue to impact consumers and businesses indefinitely, it could have been even worse, says Ron Oertell, Chief Financial Officer at LendingUSA, LLC.

“Given the high unemployment rate, there was very strong concern out there as to what short-term effect the pandemic would have on the consumer,” Oertell says. “The surprise has been that consumers have been relatively stable in paying their bills. That has been driven in part by public policy decisions such as the stimulus payment plans and the government stepping up in a strong way.

“In past crises, the government has walked solutions into the crisis. This time they have run to fix the problem from many different aspects. From a consumer finance side, deferments and defaults are lower than some of the initial estimates. However, there is a strong concern that we’re not out of the woods yet. We still have a very high unemployment rate. And nobody knows how long it’s going to take for the true economy to recover and for the marketplace to drive strong consumer performance.”

Oertell gives his outlook on key issues facing consumers as the nation tries to get back to work during the pandemic:

Tightening lending. With unemployment remaining high, many people seeking loans or credit may find both harder to secure. “I do believe it will be a challenge for many people to obtain credit,” Oertell says. “There will be an undersupply of credit and bank-backed funding for individuals who are unemployed. When the economy was strong, credit was relatively easy to obtain, but now lenders are cutting credit limits on some current customers and making new credit more difficult to get. The country went from its lowest unemployment rate in many decades to its highest in 90 years, and banks are showing they are nervous.”

Government support. If more consumers are denied credit or loans, where will they turn? “Much will depend on the actions of federal and state governments,” Oertell says. “If governments and lenders continue to provide unprecedented support to individuals through payments and/or expense relief measures, such as mortgage payment moratoriums or the halting of eviction proceedings, then I do not see personal bankruptcies rising significantly. The speed of the recovery will be critical in determining the effect of the high unemployment rate on the number of bankruptcies. "A theme many have recently expressed is the confidence in the government to continue forms of consumer support through the election period. However, such governmental actions cannot continue indefinitely. When consumers are denied traditional lower cost credit, many will turn to higher APR lenders or non-traditional forms such as title loans to cover unexpected or emergency life events.”

Consumer debt. Recent reports have indicated consumer debt is down as a result of the pandemic and people drastically reducing their shopping. What impact could that have on people getting credit? “A reduction in shopping could reduce an individual’s request for credit as well as reduce outstanding balances on credit cards,” Oertell says. “Traditionally, both factors would increase availability based upon standard underwriting metrics. However, many lenders have placed hard cut-off rules based on employment status and other factors, which would more than offset any benefit from the reduction in shopping. Over the next few months, lenders will continue to deal with the uncertainty of future credit-worthiness when traditional indicators of payment behavior are distorted and capacity to pay in is highly uncertain.”

“Consumers are facing very challenging economic times, but the long-term impact of the pandemic on the credit markets isn’t close to clear,” Oertell says. “How many businesses are fully functioning, and whether the unemployment rate is substantially lowered, will be the key things to watch in the next few months.

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Rebuilding your team? Why recruiting a diverse workforce is just the beginning

As businesses reopen after the COVID-19 shutdown, some managers may have trouble reassembling the same team of employees.

People who were temporarily laid off may have found other jobs in the interim rather than wait for the boss to call them back to work.

If that’s the case, this could be an opportune time to think in terms of diversity and inclusion as the business creates and trains a new team, says Dr. Cathy Hung (www.drcathyhung.com), author of Pulling Wisdom: Filling Gaps of Cross-Cultural Communication for Healthcare Providers.

“Having a diverse team can give you fresh perspectives and ideas, and also help you better serve your customers and clients who in so many cases are also going to be diverse,” says Dr. Hung, an oral surgeon and Taiwanese native who came to the U.S. when she was 18.

Although her book’s message is aimed at healthcare providers, Dr. Hung says the lessons about diversity and inclusion apply to all businesses.

But she also says that creating an inclusive atmosphere in the workplace doesn’t end with the hiring process.

“Hiring a team with a diverse background is only the beginning,” Dr. Hung says. “Hiring team members of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds does not automatically equate to cultural competency.”

To make it all work, and improve the overall operation of your business, she recommends:

Incorporate cultural competency into new employee training. Regardless of their personal racial, ethnic or geographic backgrounds, all people need to be sensitive to differences, especially now in what is a sensitive time, Dr. Hung says. “People may worry about offending each other and stepping on each others’ toes,” she says. “So, when you have new employee orientation, how we all get along should be part of the discussion. Doing so will make for a better workplace, and a better business overall.”

Have an open-door policy to discuss conflicts. Be prepared that cultural differences could lead to occasional conflicts, Dr. Hung says. For example, some cultures that communicate in a very direct manner can be interpreted as being “pushy” or “rude,” while other cultures communicate in an indirect manner, where “maybe” or “yes” can mean a no, she says. Also, some team members may feel dismissed or made fun of because of accents or language proficiency, she says, so those issues should be dealt with. “In situations where conflict resolution is needed,” Dr Hung says, “it may not be a bad idea to approach individuals and speak to them privately.” Make certain you hear both sides, but also ensure that the value of a diverse workplace is reinforced. For an offending person, more training may be in order.

Celebrate the differences. Different cultures and religions celebrate different holidays, so a great way to build camaraderie and a feeling of inclusiveness in the workplace is to in some way recognize those holidays. “Also, another great way to bridge cultural differences is to talk about food,” Hung says. “It’s a low common denominator and makes for good small talk within the team. During celebrations people can even bring in dishes from different cultures.”

“By using the right strategies, you can make your team more cohesive and that’s good for everyone involved,” Hung says. “The more inclusive and positive you can be, the more welcome your employees will feel. They will get along better, work together better, and be more productive for you.” When employees are happy and satisfied, that’s reflected in their interactions with customers, leading to greater customer satisfaction.

Life according to COVID

Life is returning to normal in a somewhat comic way as the COVID lockdown eases in some parts of the country. Take South Carolina, for example. The state is allowing restaurants to open as long as they adhere to safe-distancing guidelines. Customers at eateries must be seated at least six feet apart, notwithstanding the fact that it can make the restaurant look kind of empty. So the owners of the Open Hearth restaurant in Greenville, S.C., Paula Starr Melehes and her husband, came up with a “fun” way to stick to the rules. "Instead of using scary, yellow tape or roping off the empty tables,” they have employed blow up dolls to fill the gaps. They’ve dressed them up and seated them at what you might call safe-distancing tables so the paying customers don’t feel so isolated.

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Go clone yourself

Working from home has become the new norm as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus. . Companies have initiated compliance procedures that can be boring, such as video staff meetings using computer based services that allow multiple remote users to attend. But, as the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way to have your meeting and your beer, too, using a “Clone Machine” app. It’s the brainchild of the makers of Coors Light and it is available for free at its Clone Machine Website: www.coorslight.com/clonemachine/. It lets you produce a 30-second video loop “of yourself nodding along politely, with the occasional smile, while your boss talks about the latest budget reports.” Of course, it’s real purpose is to give you “enough time to sneak in a trip to the fridge for a cold beer," the company admits.

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Isolation can have curious effects

Strange thoughts can infiltrate your brain when you are isolated as most of the nation is during the current COVID pandemic. For example, some people -- more than you might possibly imagine -- let their minds wonder and imagine they are members of an ant colony. Far-fetched, you might say. But the fact is that there is a group on Facebook whose members -- a massive 1.8 million of them, and counting -- actually do engage in role play as members of an ant colony. They diligently act out chores that serve the colony’s queen. As one aficionado of the game put it: "I think people are searching for something to do right now.” Ya think?

Irish, natives & COVID-19

Fundraisers for two Native American tribes heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic have received thousands of dollars from Irish donors, who cite tribal support during Ireland's Great Famine of the 19th century as the reason. “The Choctaw donating to Irish was not just philanthropic, but it was also a critique of imperialism in the United States,” Conor Donnan of the University of Pennsylvania said. “These were nations that were victims of the Anglo-Protestant imperial project.”

Educators & protests

Educators should not ignore the protests occurring across the country in their classrooms and instead treat the moment as a chance to further educate. “Ask students what they have heard about the protests, and where they heard it from,” said Sigal Ben-Porath of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. “If there are obvious factual errors, teachers should correct them, but this is about laying a foundation for the conversation."

Nursing facilities & Yelp

Research suggests that using Yelp reviews could help hospitals, patients, and payers assess the quality of individual skilled nursing facilities for post-acute care. “Comments often captured perceptions of experience with skilled nursing facilities that were not publicly reported in Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare or elsewhere, such as the quality of physical infrastructure and equipment, staff attitudes, and communication with caregivers,” said Janet Weiner of the University of Pennsylvania's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.

Tumor signals

Initial tumor spread is the reason most people with cancer die, so researchers have developed a therapy that successfully blocks metastasis and prolongs survival time in a mouse model. “In my opinion, this kind of therapy could be used in conjunction with surgery to remove the primary tumor or perhaps other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy,” Serge Fuchs of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine said.

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Social distancing for teens and young adults

Older adults are not the only ones experiencing stress from the COVID-19 pandemic. For teens and young adults practicing social distancing, stressors may be experienced because of the numerous disappointments they are facing, according to Linda Inmon, Extension associate-family and consumer sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

“They are missing such things as their high school and college graduations, weddings and other major milestones and life experiences,” Inmon said. “This has caused many of them to become disappointed, sad and even frustrated.”

It is important to not minimize their losses because many of them may not understand the importance of social distancing, she said.

“They do not have the ability to control their executive functions related to planning and future consequences, which causes them to act impulsively,” Inmon said. “The area of the brain that controls those functions is not fully developed until their mid to late 20s.”

According to Dr. Michelle Drouin, a professor of psychology at Purdue University Fort Wayne and senior research scientist at Parkview's Mirro Center for Research and Innovation, Gen Y and Zers defy the rules of social isolation and laugh at the older generations for being too cautious. Many teens and young adults believe COVID-19 will not affect them because they are invincible.

Parents can help them understand the need for social distancing by helping them find reliable sources of information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (www.cdc.gov), Inmon said. Sites such as this explain why it is important not only for them, but also for the protection of others.

“As parents, allow them to discuss their feelings about COVID-19, social distancing and the loss of special moments in their life,” she said. “Since teens and young adults are in the stage of finding out who they are and where they fit in the world, discuss how to give them private time while respecting the rights of others.”

Continue to help them establish routines, practice good nutrition, exercise and creatively connect with their peers, Inmon said.

“This is a time in their lives when they want you involved the least but need you the most,” she said. “Be there to listen and provide knowledge and wisdom when needed.”

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Early Social Security Disbursement: An FAQ

By Molly Bond, Advocacy & Public Policy Coordinator,

American Booksellers Association

As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the American Booksellers Association has heard from members all around the country who are struggling financially, including those who are near retirement age (between the ages of 62 and 70). If you are in this age group, you may be considering how early Social Security retirement benefits might play a role in easing your current financial uncertainty.

In response to member inquiries following a New York Times article on Social Security, ABA’s Advocacy team reached out to Russell Gloor at the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) Foundation, who has a wealth of knowledge in regards to Social Security. The following information pulls heavily from information provided by Gloor and the previously mentioned New York Times article.

Note: The decision to claim Social Security retirement benefits early is a personal decision. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Carefully review your financial situation and consider consulting with a financial advisor before making a decision, as a delay in claiming Social Security retirement benefits can substantially increase your retirement income.

When am I eligible for Social Security retirement benefits?

You become entitled to full (unreduced) Social Security retirement benefits at full retirement age. Your full retirement age varies depending on the year in which you were born. Find your full retirement age here. Regardless of your full retirement age, you may start receiving benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.

Will my benefits be reduced if I claim Social Security retirement benefits before my full retirement age?

Yes. If you start taking your Social Security retirement benefits before your full retirement age, your benefits are reduced for each month before your full retirement age. In other words, your annual benefit will be higher for every year you wait, until age 70. Filing before your full retirement age can decrease your benefits by as much as 6.7 percent annually. The maximum reduction at age 62 will be 25 percent for those who reached age 62 in 2013 and 30 percent for those born after 1959.

For example, if you were born 1957, your full retirement age is 66 and 6 months. An estimated monthly benefit of $1000 at full retirement age would be reduced to $725, by 27.50 percent. You can select your year of birth to find out how much your benefit will be reduced if you retire between age 62 and full retirement age.

Inversely, claiming Social Security retirement benefits after your full retirement age results in a larger benefit: an 8 percent increase for every 12 months of delay up to age 70.

If I choose to take Social Security retirement benefits before full retirement age, how can I maximize my lifetime benefits?

If you are considering claiming Social Security retirement benefits before full retirement age due to short-term COVID-19-induced financial hardship, you have the option to claim benefits now and then suspend them once you reach full retirement age. If you do this, you will accrue delayed retirement credits.

Keep in mind that claiming Social Security retirement benefits early, even if you then later suspend them, will still reduce your lifetime benefits. For example, if you claim early at age 62 with a full retirement age of 67, you will get a benefit 30 percent less than you would get at age 67; that reduction will stay in place even if you later suspend your benefits at full retirement age and subsequently earn delayed retirement credits until age 70. While your age 70 benefit will be more than your age 62 benefit, the increase will be considerably less than it would have been if you did not take your benefits early.

Additionally, if you are still working, you need to consider Social Security’s earnings test (see section below).

Are there other consequences to suspending Social Security retirement benefits?

Yes. Suspending Social Security retirement benefits at your full retirement age also means that the benefits anyone else (such as a spouse or dependent child) is collecting on that record would also be suspended. In other words, suspending your Social Security retirement benefit at full retirement age also suspends benefits for anyone else collecting benefits on your record. This could be the case if the Social Security retirement benefit taken early results in a spousal benefit being paid to a spouse, or a dependent child benefit to be paid, only to have those benefits cease when the Social Security retirement benefit is suspended.

Can I suspend spousal and survivor benefits as well as retirement benefits?

No. The option to suspend benefits applies only to Social Security retirement benefits that are based on your work record. It would not apply to either spousal or survivor benefits.

For example, a widow who is waiting until her full retirement age to claim 100 percent of her survivor benefit cannot, instead, claim a reduced survivor benefit earlier and then suspend benefits at her full retirement age and expect a larger survivor benefit later.

Can I claim Social Security retirement benefits before my full retirement age while I am still working?

Yes, but you will be subject to a Social Security earnings test. This earnings test sets a limit on how much you can earn before Social Security takes back some of your benefits.

If you are under full retirement age for the entire year, the Social Security Administration will deduct $1 from your benefit payments for every $2 you earn above the annual limit of $18,240 for 2020. If your benefits are withheld because you exceed the earnings limit, you will see a benefit increase when you reach full retirement age; however, it will take many years (up to 15) to recover any benefits withheld due to exceeding the earnings limit while collecting early benefits.

If you will reach full retirement age in 2020, the annual limit on your earnings for the months before full retirement age is $48,600 for 2020. In those months before you reach full retirement age, the Social Security Administration will deduct $1 from your benefit payments for every $3 you earn above the annual limit of $48,600. Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, your earnings no longer reduce your benefits, regardless of how much you earn.

In summary, there are a number of complications you must consider when deciding to claim Social Security retirement benefits before full retirement age. The right choice is dependent upon your individual circumstances.

If you have Social Security-related questions, you can contact the AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory Service at ssadvisor@amacfoundation.org, or 1-888-750-2622.

Reprinted with permission of the American Booksellers Association. Founded in 1900, the American Booksellers Association is a national not-for-profit trade organization that works to help independently owned bookstores grow and succeed.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – What will my wife’s survivor benefit be?

Dear Rusty: I am a 68-year-old retired male and had planned on waiting to collect Social Security benefits beginning at age 70. My wife is currently 53 years old. When I die, would my wife’s spousal benefit at her full retirement age be equal to what I would be receiving at age 70 or be reduced? Also, if I were to die before 70 and before collecting social security, what would be my wife’s survivor benefit at her full retirement age? Signed: Older Husband

Dear Older Husband: Your wife’s survivor benefit as your widow will depend upon two things – the amount you were receiving (or were eligible to receive) at your death, and the age at which she claims her survivor benefit as your widow.

If you were receiving an increased benefit because you waited until age 70, your wife’s benefit - if she has reached her full retirement age - will be 100% of the amount you were receiving at your death. If she hasn’t yet reached her full retirement age when she claims her survivor benefit (she could claim as early as age 60) the benefit will be actuarially reduced according to the number of months prior to her full retirement age (FRA) that she claims it. The amount of reduction for claiming her survivor benefit before her FRA is 0.396% for each full month earlier, which is 4.75% per year earlier than her FRA, to a maximum of 28.5%. And for clarity, your wife isn’t required to take the survivor benefit immediately upon your death; she can wait until the benefit reaches 100% at her full retirement age, if desired and if financially feasible.

If your wife is also eligible for a SS benefit on her own work record and you die before she reaches her FRA, she will have the choice to take either her own Social Security benefit or her survivor benefit from you. If her survivor benefit will be her highest possible benefit, she would have the option to take her own SS retirement benefit from her own work record first and delay taking the larger survivor benefit until it reaches maximum at her FRA. Or, if her own benefit at age 70 would be more than her survivor benefit from you, she could take the smaller survivor benefit first and delay taking her own SS benefit until it reaches maximum at age 70 and switch to her own benefit at that time. The goal is for her to get the highest possible benefit for the rest of her life.

Finally, if you were to die before you started collecting your increased Social Security benefit at age 70, your wife would still have the same options, but her survivor benefit amount would be based upon the amount you were eligible to receive at your death, even though you were not yet collecting. In other words, all those delayed retirement credits (DRCs) you are now earning (and will continue to earn until you are 70) will not be lost – the benefit you have earned up to the point you die will be what your wife’s survivor benefit is based upon.

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Ask Rusty – When should we claim our benefits?

Dear Rusty: We served overseas for several years, not earning many quarters for Social Security. However, we have made sure that we paid in over time so we can receive a benefit, but it will not amount to much. For the past several years now, we have been back in the US, earning some professional salaries. Now it looks like at full retirement age my husband will get $1147/month, and I will get $1026/ month. I was born in 1957 and my husband in 1956. Question #1: For the most financial benefit, when should we each start collecting SS (either now or at full retirement age)? And question #2: Will our amounts change because we are married and both collecting? Signed: Overseas Worker

Dear Overseas Worker: To answer your second question first, no, your benefit amounts will not change because you are married and both collecting. Based upon the numbers you provided, neither of you will be eligible for a “spousal boost” from the other because your benefit amounts at your FRA are too similar, so maximizing your individual benefits should be your goal.

As for your other question, when you should start collecting depends upon a number of factors, including your financial needs and, importantly, your expected longevity. Both of you can get the maximum benefit available to you by waiting until you are 70 years old to claim, but that only makes sense if you are in good health and expect at least average longevity (about 84 for a man and 87 for a woman).

If you claim benefits before you reach your full retirement age (66 ½ for you and 66 plus 4 months for your husband), those benefits will be cut. If you collect now, your benefit would be cut by about 27% and your husband’s by about 22% (based upon your respective years of birth). Further, if you claim before your full retirement ages and continue to work, you’ll be subject to Social Security’s earnings test, which limits the amount you can earn before they take back some of your benefits (the 2020 earnings limit is $18,240; if you exceed that they’ll take back half of anything you earn over the limit). The earnings limit changes annually but goes away at your FRA.

At your full retirement ages, you’ll be entitled to 100% of the benefits you’ve earned from your lifetime of working (approximately the amounts estimated now). If you can and do wait beyond your full retirement age (FRA), for each month you delay you’ll earn delayed retirement credits of 2/3 of 1% per month of delay (8% per year of delay), up to age 70 when your maximum benefit is reached. As a point of information, if you wait until your full retirement age to claim, you will have collected the same amount of money at age 78 as if you had claimed at age 62; and if you wait until age 70 to claim you’ll have collected the same amount of money at age 82 as if you had collected at your full retirement age. If you live at least until “average” longevity, you’ll collect more in cumulative Social Security benefits by waiting.

So, when should you claim? If you’re still working and earning “professional salaries”, then waiting at least until your full retirement age would be a wise choice. If you expect at least average longevity and don’t need the money right away, waiting until age 70 would be a prudent strategy. But if you don’t work and expect less than average longevity, then claiming at any time you need the money would be a reasonable decision. This is a choice only each of you can make.

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How brands can respond to a crisis with empathy

A public crisis often results in a call to action. The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest and perhaps largest case in point, hitting every aspect of American society and prompting the need for aid, whether it comes from federal and state government agencies, or from a small restaurant owner serving free meals to the unemployed and homeless.

Some well-known U.S. brands are helping, too, illuminating different ways businesses can show social responsibility at a time of great social strife. The uplifting theme throughout is that empathy is not in short supply, says Ed Mitzen (www.edmitzen.com), founder of a health and wellness marketing agency and ForbesBook author of More Than a Number: The Power of Empathy and Philanthropy in Driving Ad Agency Performance.

“Empathy is the cornerstone of a sustainable and continually successful business – empathy for and between your employees, and by extension empathy for others, especially in times of need,” Mitzen says.

“This value is part of the foundation that makes your people want to perform and want to do good for others. Now more than ever, people want to work for companies they feel are making a positive impact in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is showing that beyond how you look as a brand, it’s what you do that matters. Consumers want to see companies that through their actions show that they care.”

Mitzen suggests how brands can respond with empathy both to employees and consumers during a crisis.

Don’t slash philanthropy. Budgets often have to be trimmed in a crisis, but Mitzen says the giving category should remain a priority. “It’s very easy for someone making a budget to say, ‘We’re going to increase our margin by 3% by getting rid of philanthropy,’ ” Mitzen says. “But doing so further diminishes your culture, dehumanizes the company, and sends mixed signals about your values. Find a way to make that part of your budget work. If there’s an opportunity to shift your corporate giving strategy to focus less on finances and more on donated time or goods, try taking that route. It’s a great way to keep your philanthropy intact while still saving where you can.”

Manage layoffs with compassion. The difficult economic consequences of COVID-19 have forced many companies to release workers they would otherwise retain. A public health situation out of businesses’ control makes decisions about layoffs, and delivering the news to an employee, extra difficult compared to other situations. “Although the need to cut costs is understandable, a leader should think with empathy and creativity when deciding,” Mitzen says. “Consult your managerial team about how the company can save as many jobs as possible. What are the other options to reduce costs? If some layoffs are still necessary, take extra care to tell the employee with empathy and compassion and treat them with dignity and respect. Stress to them that it’s about a global pandemic and not about job performance. Offer to provide any support for them that you can and offer to serve as a reference.”

Be sensitive, don’t self-promote. Mitzen says the purest and most effective way to help during a crisis is to proactively provide solutions to help people cope with the emergency. While showing social responsibility can be good public relations for business, Mitzen emphasizes there’s a fine line at such a stressful time between a company being perceived as opportunistic or relevantly helpful. “Brands need to display sensitivity in tragedies and natural disasters,” Mitzen says. “You don’t want to appear that you’re trying to cash in. That will come back to bite you. This is the time for brands to show empathy and authenticity. That means, as a company, ask yourself questions about how you can help and be human in the process.”

“It’s inspiring to see the different ways brands are giving to those in need,” Mitzen says. “This pandemic will change some things about how companies do business, and I expect that social responsibility will rise on the priority list for many brands.”

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Protect your landscape from hungry critters

By MELINDA MYERS

While you’re busy filling your landscape with beautiful flowers and scrumptious vegetables, the deer, rabbits and other wildlife are watching and waiting to move in to dine. Don’t lose your beautiful investment to hungry animals. Be proactive in keeping wildlife at bay, so you can grow a beautiful landscape this season.

Protect plants as soon as they are set in the ground. It’s easier to prevent damage rather than break a habit. Once critters find delicious plants, they will be back for more and they’re likely to bring along a few additional family members.

A fence is an excellent defense against animals. A four-feet-high fence anchored tightly to the ground will keep out rabbits. Five-feet-high fences around small garden areas will usually keep out deer that tend to avoid smaller spaces.

Woodchucks are more difficult. They will dig under or climb over the fence. You must place the fence at least 12" below the soil surface with four to five feet above ground. Make sure gates are secured so animals can’t squeeze through or under these. The last thing you want is an animal happily living and dining inside your fenced in garden.

For gardeners who do not want to spend the money on fencing or view their flowers and other ornamental plantings through a fence, there are other options.

Scarecrows, rattling pans and other scare tactics have been widely used for decades. Unfortunately, urban animals are used to noise and human scent and not discouraged by these tactics. You must move and alternate the various scare tactics to increase your chance of success.

Repellents may be your best and most practical option. Always check the label for details on use, application rates and timing. Research has proven that odor-based repellents are more effective than other types of repellents. Wildlife will avoid plants rather than taking a bite before they discover they don’t like the taste.

Look for organic repellents labeled for use on food plants when treating edibles. Plantskydd (plantskydd.com) is the only OMRI certified organic repellent and is effective against rabbits, deer, voles, elk, moose, chipmunks and squirrels. It is rain resistant and each application lasts three to four months during the growing season.

Maximize results by treating new growth according to label directions. Most liquid repellents need time to dry while granule repellents may need to be watered to activate the smell. Always check the label for the product you are applying.

Protect new tree whips by dipping them in a long-lasting liquid repellent. Mature trees will benefit as well. Treat them prior to bud break or two to three weeks after leaves have developed.

Continue to monitor plantings throughout your landscape all season long. Watch for animal tracks, droppings and other signs wildlife have moved into your area. Protect new plantings and those favored by wildlife before they start dining on your plants. Always be as persistent as the hungry animals.

If you’re ever feeling discouraged, remember that gardeners have been battling animals in the garden long before us and there are lots of options to help protect your flowers and harvest.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Tree World Plant Care Products for her expertise to write this article. Her web site is www.MelindaMyers.com.

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2 alternatives for struggling retirees who don’t want to drain their savings

By CHRIS ORESTIS

Financial professionals often have this word of advice when the market takes a tumble and your 401(k) and other retirement accounts lose value:

Ride it out. If you make a move now, you are locking in your losses. The market will come back – if you’re patient.

That’s great advice for younger investors who have time on their side. It’s less so for retirees who need that money for weekly living expenses right now. With every withdrawal they make, they are lowering the account’s balance, which means when the recovery does happen, they won’t enjoy its full power.

Unfortunately, many older Americans may feel financially trapped in this scenario and assume they have no alternative other than to keep drawing money from those retirement accounts. But here are two options that don't require you to dip into your retirement savings and are immediately available. One is a reverse mortgage; the other involves cashing in on your life insurance through a life settlement.

Let’s explore how each works:

Reverse mortgage. A reverse mortgage is a mortgage loan or line of credit, usually secured by a residential property, that enables the borrower to access the unencumbered value of the property. The loans are designed for older homeowners and do not require monthly payments for as long as the homeowner is living in the home. Borrowers are still responsible for paying property taxes and homeowner's insurance. Reverse mortgages allow homeowners who are 62 or older to borrow against the home equity they have built up in their homes now, and defer payment of the loan until they die, sell, or move out of the home.

One downside, though, is that because there are no required mortgage payments on a reverse mortgage, the interest is added to the loan balance each month. The rising loan balance can eventually grow to exceed the value of the home, particularly in times of declining home values or if the borrower continues to live in the home for many years. However, the borrower (or the borrower's estate) is generally not required to repay any additional loan balance in excess of the value of the home at the time it is sold.

One example of a reverse mortgage is an FHA-insured HECM (home equity conversion mortgage), non-recourse loan. The cost of the FHA mortgage insurance is a one-time fee of 2% of the appraised value of the home, and then an annual fee of 0.5% of the outstanding loan balance.

Life settlements. Many people don’t know this, but life insurance policy owners have the legal right to sell off an unneeded or unwanted life insurance policy through what’s known as a “life settlement.”

For struggling seniors, this is an immediate financial solution they can access in times like these if they are having difficulties paying their bills. After all, the settlement is for a policy a senior already owns and has made premium payments on for years. There are no fees to do a life settlement and no out of pocket costs When a person settles their policy, the policy owner receives cash which can often be tax-free and they are no longer responsible for premium payments. The process can be completed from start to finish in 90 days or less. Another bonus in these social distancing times is that the entire life-settlement process is conducted remotely and there is no need for in person meetings at any time.

During the coronavirus pandemic, struggling seniors who own a life insurance policy, or who have paid off or nearly paid off their mortgages, should review these other options before they make any moves toward depleting their retirement savings.

The opportunity could be there to put yourself on much firmer financial footing.

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Going to great lengths

It turns out that necessity is not the mother of invention; it’s self-distancing in the era of the coronavirus pandemic. An automobile engineer in India, for example, wanted to make sure he and his daughter would be safe while riding on his electric motorcycle. But the seating arrangement on a standard cycle just would not do if he was to adhere to distancing requirements. So, he took matters into his own hands and turned his electric bike into a proper vehicle for the task by building an extra-long COVID bike that would ensure proper distancing. His new vehicle keeps the pair a safe five feet apart while on the road. He really wanted that car. He was dead set on buying a Lamborghini and so he took the family car and drove off, determined to make his big buy. But he didn’t get very far. A Highway Patrol trooper spotted him as he was making his way through Weber County, Utah to the interstate and pulled him over, thinking he might be “an impaired driver.” Turns out it was a five year old boy behind the wheel who explained that he had gotten into an argument with his mother who insisted that she was not going to buy him a Lamborghini. So, he took matters into his own hands, determined to drive to California to purchase the car himself. The trooper got him home safely, noting that the three dollars the boy had on him would hardly be enough for a down payment on the luxury auto, which can cost as much as $200,000.

For all the nation to see

Self-isolation during the COVID crisis can have the side effect of making you lazy when working from home. For example, you realize you don’t have to get dressed to go to work when you are working from home. But, be careful; embarrassing mistakes can happen. Take what happened to ABC-TV news reporter Will Reeve, son of the late film star Christopher Reeve. There was Will, delivering a live report from his home for Good Morning America neatly dressed from the waist up. He was operating the camera, himself, so he didn’t realize that viewers were seeing more of him than he thought. He claims that he was wearing work-out shorts, but what the heck. As he put it in a tweet after the show, "Hope everyone got a much needed laugh."

Working from home

As working from home becomes the new norm for many people during the pandemic, managers are now learning how to navigate thorny issues around productivity, according to Nancy Rothbard of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Those managers have a perennial concern that out-of-sight employees are also out of mind, taking a nap or doing laundry or watching TV during work-from-home hours because nobody is watching them. One solution, she said, is for managers to be crystal clear about expectations of employees who work remotely. What are the daily or weekly goals? What are the deadlines? How often should they check in via video, email or phone?

Tweets & substance abuse

When youths tweet about drugs, they rarely mention the negative consequences or effects of substance use, according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. The researchers looked at 23 million drug-related tweets and found that youths are more likely to express pride, confidence or boastfulness about drugs. “Youths’ tweets about using drugs to cope with stress, grief and trauma may contribute to distorted perceptions of normative behavior and may encourage other youths to adopt similar coping strategies in real life,” said Robin Stevens, director of Penn Nursing’s Health Equity and Media Lab.

Nursing homes in the news

Nursing homes are getting a bad rap from some news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Ashley Ritter, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and an associate fellow of Penn’s Leonard Davis Institute. "I think one of the biggest things we could do is stop calling nursing homes 'death pits,'" Ritter said. "Behind every sobering story are five other stories of frontline workers facing considerable personal risk as they treat very vulnerable individuals with dignity and skill. We must tell these stories."

Long-term care

The coronavirus pandemic is highlighting the fact that the long-term care system in the U.S. is fundamentally broken, according to Rachel Warner, an economist, physician and executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Leonard Davis Institute. “We have undervalued it and underpaid for it for decades." Werner also said, “If we want to save lives, we need to do widespread testing and contact tracing for people in nursing homes, the workforce and the community at large. A year from now we're going to look back and say, 'I'm really glad we did that,' because that is going to save lives."

Integrators & segmentors 

Many people who work from home fall into one of two categories: integrators and segmentors. According to management professor Nancy Rothbard of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, integrators don’t mind blurring the boundary between work and home. They are OK if someone else in the house walks into the room while they are working. But segmentors have a strong desire to separate business from personal life. They like to work in a dedicated space, preferably with a door.

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History Matters: A feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize, Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in 1927 to be the film industry’s official trade organization; two years later--on May 16, 1929—the first Academy Awards were presented, but it wasn’t until 1939 that the golden statuettes became known as the Oscars. According to Hollywood lore, Margaret Herrick, executive director of the Academy, apparently said they looked like her Uncle Oscar. The moniker stuck, and today, the annual event lures viewers from all over the world, who set aside an evening to observe televised glamor -- American style.The movie industry has told -- and re-told -- the story of America in films of adventure, comedy, and history, which have nabbed millions of imaginations, and transformed the country into a powerful, worldwide messenger of culture.For more information about Hollywood, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Gregory Paul William’s The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs Board of Education that racial segregation in the nation’s schools was unconstitutional. Civil Rights attorney, Thurgood Marshall, who would become the first African-American Associate Justice of the Supreme Court 13 years later, led the team that argued the case for Linda Brown, who was denied entry into a local Topeka, Kansas school because of the color of her skin. A year later, the Court issued new rules, ordering all public schools to integrate.For a better understanding of the case, the Grateful American Book Prize suggests Susan Goldman Rubin’s Brown vs Board of Education: A Fight for Simple Justice

On May 28, 1958 baseball fans in New York learned that their beloved Brooklyn Dodgers, and New York Giants, were leaving town. There was no joy in Mudville that day. “Dem bums,” as the Dodgers were affectionately nicknamed, were headed to a new hometown -- Los Angeles-- and Big Blue or “the jints” were about to become the San Francisco Giants.According to the New York Daily News, the Dodgers had played baseball in Brooklyn since 1871, and the Giants—originally known as “The Gothams” had formed their team in 1883 but were renamed in 1885. Legend has it that their manager, Jim Mutrie, entered the locker room after a particularly satisfying win over the Philadelphia Phillies, shouting to the players: “My big fellows! My giants!” The rest is history.

For more information about the intricate relationship between baseball and America, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Lawrence S. Ritter’s The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played it.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – About the “Earnings Test” and “Registering” with Social SecurityDear Rusty: Does tax filing status matter when calculating how much you can earn without a reduction in your monthly SS payout? My wife and I have filed a joint income tax return for years. My wife is working and I'm 62 and wondering - if I start drawing SS, does the earnings limit only relate to what I earn, or does it include what my wife earns as well? Is the earnings limit tied to our IRS filing status? I need to know if I should file my taxes as a single to be sure my wife's earnings are not combined with mine to affect my Social Security payment. Also, I've read that it's recommended to register online with SS if you're 62. As I understand it, this should be done even if one's not intending to start benefits yet. Is this true? What are the benefits for doing this? Does it make for a quicker start of payments once the election to start benefits is made? Would it help my wife should I die prior to starting my benefits? Signed: WonderingDear Wondering: Income tax filing status doesn’t matter when it comes to determining if your earnings from work exceed Social Security “earnings limit.” If you collect SS before you reach your full retirement age (FRA), your wife’s earnings from working will not be counted toward your personal SS earnings limit. The earnings test looks only at your personal earnings and, if you exceed the limit, SS will take back some of your benefits. But only your personal earnings – as reported on your W-2 or Self-Employment tax return – count. If you’re not working, then your Social Security benefits will not be affected by the earnings test, even if you file a joint return which has an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) which is more than the annual earnings limit because your wife works. As for your second question: it is not necessary, nor would it gain you any advantage, to “register” with Social Security before you are ready to claim your benefits. Indeed, Social Security does not even provide you with a way to do that. What they do provide is a way for you to create your own personal “My Social Security” online account, which gives you access to all of the online features provided by the Social Security Administration, including allowing you to apply for your benefits online (the fastest way to claim) whenever you’re ready to do that. Having an online SS account doesn’t provide you with any benefit advantage, but it allows you to monitor your lifetime earnings record, get a replacement SS card if needed, and get estimates of your current and future Social Security benefits to help you decide when to claim. You can create your personal “My Social Security” account by going to www.ssa.gov/myaccount. They use a “two-factor” security process, which means you’ll not only need to set up a password but also a second way to confirm your identity (usually via a code sent to a text-enabled cell phone or your email account). But, even if you have this online account pre-established, your wife will still need to contact Social Security directly to claim her survivor benefit if you predeceased her. Survivor benefits must be applied for by the surviving spouse directly contacting Social Security. 

Virus-sniffing dogs

A new research program is seeking to train dogs to detect the novel coronavirus in people. In the pilot program led by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, dogs will be exposed to COVID-19-positive saliva and urine samples in a laboratory setting. Once the dogs learn the odor, the investigators will assess whether the dogs can discriminate between COVID-19-positive and -negative samples. The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center will be providing expertise as well.

Teens & social distancing

Teens have a deep-seated need for their friends, and coronavirus stay-at-home directives can get in the way. “Inherently, adolescents want to be together,” said Catherine McDonald of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. “They’re at a developmental stage when peer relationships are really important. That’s why some of this is really hard for them. They can’t physically be with their peers and friends.” Parents can help by engaging in explicit conversations with teens about how strange the coronavirus situation is for everyone, said McDonald and Sara Jaffee, a Penn psychologist. Jaffee recommends facilitating as much access as possible to the peer group that doesn’t involve in-person get-togethers. “Maybe that means unrestricted screen time so that kids can be on FaceTime, texting or messaging with friends,” she said. “Parents should consider letting up on screen-time restrictions during this particular period.”

Elections and pandemics

Could the coronavirus pandemic interfere with the November presidential election? Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution says that Congress could set a different election day if it so chooses, said Rogers Smith, a constitutional scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. And, if Congress postpones the election so that there is no new president to take office when the current president’s term expires, Congress has authority to choose a president. “So, the power lies with Congress to choose the dates for a postponed election, or even to act itself if no election is held before next January,” Smith said. “The Constitution is very clear, both in Article 2 and in the 20th Amendment, that Congress has the responsibility for choosing the time of election and for establishing what should be done if any election could not be held.”

Politics & coronavirus information

People who relied on conservative or social media in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak were more likely to be misinformed about how to prevent the virus and to believe conspiracy theories about it, according to a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and published in the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review. Usage of conservative media correlated with higher levels of misinformation and belief in conspiracies about the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, including the belief that the Chinese government created the virus as a bioweapon and the belief that some people in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were exaggerating the danger in order to damage Donald Trump’s presidency.

Childhood Hunger

Three hundred million children around the world rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition. As the COVID-19 pandemic has limited access to many of these programs, new research suggests that hunger poses developmental risks for young children. Sharon Wolf from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and a team of researchers found that hunger slowed development of cognitive skills like short-term memory, literacy, and numeracy. Surprisingly, children who only went through brief periods of hunger--the type of conditions the pandemic could be creating for millions—had even more negative effects than children who were persistently hungry.

Here comes Spiderman

Fear not the coronavirus pandemic; your favorite superheroes -- and a few lovable villains -- may be able to come to your rescue. At least, that seems to be the thinking in Southeast Asia and its environs. Actors dressed as Spiderman and Superman showed up recently at the request of Indonesian authorities to urge residents and their kids to wash your hands, wear your masks and stay at home. Meanwhile, in the Philippines Darth Vader, himself, and a few of his Stormtroopers recently visited communities on the outskirts of Manila delivering similar instructive messages as well as supplies. As Spiderman was wont to say: “With great power, comes great responsibility.

A fry by another other name?

Did you know that Belgium is the world’s largest exporter of potato products -- including its famous Belgian Fries. The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has caused havoc for the industry in that country as potato exports have plummeted by as much as 40%. And with the precautionary closures of eateries throughout the country, local consumption of spuds is down by 80%. As a result, the Belgian potato industry’s trade group is now asking the nation’s citizenry to come to the rescue and start eating more Belgian Fries. Meanwhile, here’s an interesting footnote to this story. It seems that it was, indeed, the Belgians who came up with what is arguably the most popular side dish in the world -- especially when served with a hamburger. But, it seems that American soldiers stationed in Belgium during World War I took a liking to the tasty side dish cooked up by Belgian soldiers and because French was the official language of the Belgian army they came up with the moniker, French Fries.

W’eel meet again

It appears that humans aren’t the only ones who feel isolated during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Apparently the spotted garden eels in the Sumida Aquarium in Tokyo have become restless for the lack of human visitors. And so, the folks who run the aquarium are asking people to take the time to engage in video chats with the slithery sea creatures. A notice on the aquarium’s Website explains: "It seems like the spotted garden eels are getting used to a non-human environment and have forgotten about people. When the staff pass in front of them, they start hiding in the sand."

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Medal of Honor: Army 1st Lt. Francis Burke

By KATIE LANGE

DOD News

Extreme bouts of courage can take over a soldier thrust into the front lines of war. Army 1st Lt. Francis Burke is a shining example of one of those cases. In the waning days of World War II, he single-handedly took out a third of the German troops his unit faced in Nuremberg, Germany. For that, he earned the Medal of Honor.

Burke was born in New York City on Sept. 29, 1918. His family lived in the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen. Gangs were prevalent in the area at that time, so his parents moved the family across the Hudson River to Jersey City, New Jersey.

By the time Burke was 18, his interest in the military had peaked, so he joined the New Jersey Army National Guard. In 1941, he was called for active-duty as the U.S. entered World War II.

Burke was part of the Army's 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, which served in North Africa and fought in the Battle of Anzio, Italy, before pushing through France into Germany. He fought gallantly for years, but it was at the war's end that his most heroic moments unfolded.

On April 17, 1945, Burke's regiment had fought its way into Nuremburg, where Adolph Hitler often held Nazi party conventions in the early days of the war. Now, the Allies were working to root out the few defenders the dwindling party had left.

As his battalion's transportation officer, Burke had been in charge of selecting a motor pool site. But he wanted to help in the fight, so he moved in front of his unit's riflemen on the front line. In doing so, he found a group of about 10 Germans preparing to counterattack.

In response, Burke ran to a nearby American company, grabbed a light machine gun and ammunition, and then returned to open fire on those Germans, who blasted him back with machine pistols, rifles and rocket launchers.

An enemy machine gun from a different location tried to take Burke out, too, but they were unsuccessful. Instead, the lieutenant killed them and then drove off the survivors of the enemy unit he had originally attacked.

Next, Burke grabbed a rifle and ran more than 100 yards through intense fire to engage some Germans hiding behind an abandoned tank. On his way, a sniper tried to pick him off from a cellar about 20 yards away. Burke ran straight for the cellar's window, fired a full clip into it, and then jumped through the window to make sure he'd taken out the enemy.

Burke stopped for a minute after that to replace his jammed rifle and gather a few grenades before jumping right back into the fray.

When the shots he was firing weren't hitting his newest targets, Burke pulled the pins from two grenades and, holding one in each hand, rushed the building in which they were hiding. Burke threw his grenades just as the Germans launched one at him.

All three exploded.

As the smoke cleared, the Germans lay dead where they had fallen. Burke, however, emerged relatively unscathed. He picked up his rifle and moved forward to take down four more Germans.

A bit dazed from the grenade explosions, Burke retired to the American lines, but he didn't stop the fight. He jumped into a raging battle for another half-hour with a platoon that managed to fend off one group of Germans. Burke then joined another group of Allied soldiers, whose fierce firefighting skills took out a German unit armed with a .20 mm gun.

In four hours of action, Burke had taken the lead in the battle, single-handedly killing 11 enemy soldiers and wounded three more. He was responsible for 14 of the battle's 43 casualties.

Burke's extraordinary bravery inspired the men around him, and his actions helped hasten the fall of Nuremberg. Less than a month later, the Germans surrendered, and the war on the Western Front was over.

On Jan. 9, 1946, months after the war on both fronts ended, President Harry S. Truman presented Burke with the Medal of Honor. He remained in the National Guard for several more years, earning the rank of major before finally retiring from service.

While Burke marched in parades and occasionally spoke with high school students and on radio shows about what earned him the nation's highest honor, his family said he was a humble man who never sought the spotlight.

Burke and his wife, Catherine, had four children and ran their own insurance agency for decades. He was still involved in the business when he died on Sept. 6, 1988, at age 69.

Burke was buried at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Wrightstown, New Jersey, where his legacy lives on. An administrative building at the cemetery was dedicated in honor of Burke, who is the only Medal of Honor recipient buried there.

A housing complex for the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, on Kelley Hill at Fort Benning, Georgia, was also named Burke Barracks in his honor.

This article is part of a weekly series called "Medal of Honor Monday," in which we highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military's highest medal for valor.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Husband Confused About Spouse Benefits

Dear Rusty: I am 65 and still working and plan to work for some time to come. My birthdate is February 1955. My wife is 64 and not working. Her birthdate is January 1956. Half of my benefit is more than half of hers. I am confused on the spousal benefit rules. If she were to take her Social Security early before she reaches her full retirement age, what are the rules that affect her? Signed: Confused Husband

Dear Confused: First I must clarify that spousal benefits do not work as you have suggested, that “half of my benefit is more than half of hers.” Spousal benefits are always based upon the amount the individuals are due at their full retirement age, regardless of the age at which they claim. If half of your benefit at your full retirement age (FRA) is more than your wife’s full benefit at her full retirement age, then the difference between those two numbers is a “spousal boost” which is added to your wife’s own payment amount when her spouse benefit starts. If she has reached her FRA when you claim and her spouse benefit starts, your wife will get the entire spousal boost; if she has not, the spousal boost will be reduced. Your wife cannot collect a spousal benefit until you start collecting your Social Security, so if she claims benefits before you claim she will initially get only what she is entitled to on her own work record. Then when you claim, the “spousal boost” will be added to her benefit. If you claim at your FRA, your wife will not yet have reached her full retirement age, so her spousal boost amount will be reduced and added to her own reduced benefit amount, making her total benefit as your spouse less than 50% of your FRA benefit amount.

Your full retirement age is 66 years and 2 months, and you won’t be entitled to full benefits until you reach that age. For your awareness, you can wait beyond your FRA and earn delayed retirement credits, up to age 70 when your benefit would be about 31% more than it would be at your FRA, but your wife cannot get her spousal boost until you claim. And also for your awareness, if you claim benefits before you reach your FRA and continue to work, you’ll be subject to Social Security’s earnings limit ($18,240 for 2020) which, if exceeded, will cause SS to take back some of your benefits. The earnings limit goes up by about 2.5 times in the year you reach your FRA and goes away when you reach your full retirement age.

Your wife’s full retirement age is 66 years and 4 months and any benefits she claims on her own record prior to reaching that age will be reduced. At 64 she could claim her own benefit from her own work record (assuming she has at least 40 SS credits), but that benefit would be reduced to about 85% of what she would get at her FRA. And claiming at age 64 would also affect the amount of her spousal benefit when that starts. The only way your wife can get 100% of the amount she is due as your spouse is to wait until her FRA to claim any benefit. If she claims her own benefit at age 64 or any time before her FRA, not only will her own benefit be reduced, but her eventual benefit as your spouse will be less than 50% of your FRA benefit amount, even if you wait to claim until your wife reaches her FRA. That’s because her spousal boost, when it occurs, will be added to the reduced SS retirement amount she is getting because she claimed before her full retirement age.

You are certainly not alone to be confused about spousal benefits as this is one of the most confusing areas of Social Security’s rules. But I hope the above provides what you and your wife need to make an informed claiming decision.

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‘Remember the Ladies’... [we] ‘will not hold ourselves bound

by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”

…Abigail Adams, 1776

By DAVID BRUCE SMITH

co-founder of the Grateful American Book Prize

Universal suffrage came during a time of widespread heartache. The movement to win the vote for women, already in its vigor, was nearly toppled by a deadly Spanish Flu pandemic that walloped the country. It killed 675,000 Americans between January 1918 and December of 1920, according to historical accounts.

Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League of Women Voters, said “This new affliction is bringing sorrow into many suffrage homes and is presenting a serious new obstacle in our referendum campaigns and in the Congressional and Senatorial campaigns.”

Despite the unexpectedly fierce foe, a brave and resolute cadre of women secured the right to vote for their sisterhood. Congress passed the 19th amendment on March 27, 1920, ratified it five months later and ended “…almost a century of protest.”

Under ordinary circumstances the centennial of a major historical event is celebrated throughout the nation, but now--just as then--a pandemic—has put a pause on partying with pomp.

Meanwhile, it is important to remember that bickering over equal rights began during the Revolutionary War. While many colonists concentrated on relief from British subjugation in the 1770s and 1780s, future First Lady, Abigail Adams, was also pondering another goal: how to include women in the political life of a brand-new country.

In a letter dated March 31, 1776 to her husband, John Adams, the prospective second President of the United States, she wrote:

“In the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”

The Grateful American Book Prize is an award offered for excellence in writing for adolescent historical fiction, and non-fiction, based on the events and persons that have shaped the United States since the country’s founding. Judges for the 2020 Prize are now reviewing submissions. Works published between August 1, 2019 through July 31, 2020 are eligible.

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BBB tips for safe online Mother’s Day shopping during COVID-19 crisis

Because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, online shopping for Mother’s Day is likely to increase. As Mother’s Day is coming up fast, Better Business Bureau (BBB) has some tips to help consumers avoid disappointments, especially when ordering flowers online.

According to a National Retail Federation survey, consumers spent more than $2.6 billion last year on blooms for the mothers in their lives. Unfortunately, scammers may attempt to take advantage of consumers during the busy buying season. Michelle L. Corey, BBB St. Louis president and CEO, says not every online florist is reputable.

“Consumers need to be vigilant when ordering merchandise from online vendors,” Corey said. “While some people are happy with their online floral arrangements, others are disappointed when flowers don’t arrive on time, are dead or wilted on arrival, are not as advertised or don’t arrive at all.”

Last year, more than 150,000 consumers searched for trustworthy florists at bbb.org. Many major floral delivery services are BBB Accredited Businesses, as are about 415 local florists across the United States and Canada.

When shopping online, BBB recommends adhering to the following:

Allow time for shipping and delivery. Check with the retailer or website to be sure you have allowed enough time for delivery. Make sure that your preferred delivery date is specified clearly and guaranteed when you order. If you order ahead of time, delivery and other charges will be less than last-minute or overnight shipping. Some florists offer discounts for deliveries a couple of days before a major holiday, since that helps them deal with the rush.

Have a back-up plan. Make sure you understand a store's guarantee and other policies. Find out how customer complaints are handled and what options you have if the arrangement is not satisfactory. It’s best to use a credit card when ordering online, because you can dispute charges if the vendor doesn’t satisfy you. Charges made on a debit card are the same as cash, and you have no recourse through your bank if there is a problem.

Don’t click online coupons. If you see a post on social media or receive an email with an offer, don't click unless you're sure the source is real. The offer could take you to a malicious website. If you see an offer online, search for it independently. Go to the company's website and look for the offer there to verify the offer.

Make sure the business has your information. When it comes to flower delivery, there are times when delivery instructions need to be confirmed or a delivery driver needs additional directions. Make sure the florist has a way to contact you.

For assistance, go to bbb.org or calling 888-996-3887.

Dress for success

The coronavirus is causing all kinds of mischief due to lockdown provisions, including an outbreak of laziness among those who are working while sheltering in place. For example, a Florida judge recently had to reprimand improperly dressed attorneys who were attending video court hearings. It got to the point where Judge Dennis Bailey posted this message on a Bar Association Website regarding the need to, at least, get dressed while attending teleconference hearings: “these Zoom hearings are just that: hearings ... It is remarkable how many ATTORNEYS appear inappropriately on camera. We've seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc. One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers. And putting on a beach cover-up won't cover up you're poolside in a bathing suit. So, please, if you don't mind, let's treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not.”

En guarde

The Bluewater Recycling Association wants its users to be more picky when it comes to getting rid of unwanted, potentially lethal stuff. No, it had nothing to do with the coronavirus epidemic. It was all about swords. Specifically, the South Huron, Ontario, company, was complaining about a deadly-looking old sword that could have been used by a crusader of old. It seems one resident wanted to get rid of it and, instead of having it appraised to see if it was a valuable antique or taking it to a scrap metal dealer to find out its monetary value, he or she put it in a recycling bin. Luckily it was found before it could be put through the recycling machinery. That really could have gummed up the works. The company posted a warning message on its Facebook page noting that “it could have caused expensive damage to our machines and SERIOUS Health and Safety issues for our employees.”

Reporters in danger

With new coronavirus reports being written and distributed daily, journalists are risking their health and their lives to cover the pandemic from the front lines. “The primacy of physical and mental health risks is not going to get better and is not going to go away. So I think that we’re going to see lots more modification of conventions that are putting journalists at risk,” Barbie Zelizer of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication said.

'Chinese virus'

Repeated use of the phrase “Chinese virus” to describe COVID-19 has sparked discourse around the resurgence of racism against Asian-American. Josephine Park of the University of Pennsylvania attributed this surge to the tolerance of Asian-American racism, even among the educated classes. “You’ll find it’s very well-tolerated, in part because of this relative privilege of Asians in relation to other minorities in the U.S., so that’s always a kind of tricky thing to manage,” she said.

Impact on homelessness

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting countless people nationwide, researchers found that people experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable to the disease, as many of them are already in poor health. “Given that the public health recommendations emphasize isolation of suspected and confirmed cases, and social distancing for everyone else, a deliberate effort is urgently required to create a range of housing options to meet those needs,” Dennis Culhane of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice said.

Threat to supply chain

The supply chain to get consumer products on shelves is a complex process involving imports and exports, long-haul truckers and last-mile drivers, all threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic. “When this is over, people might say, ‘I miss going to a physical location to get all my stuff,’" said Steve Viscelli of the University of Pennsylvania, who has been studying the trucking industry for a decade. "Or they could say, ‘Why have I been wasting my time and gas driving to the store when I could get a good price and better selection of items delivered right to my door? The consumer changes could be huge.​"

Unemployment claims

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a record number of unemployment claims to be filed in the U.S., with some sectors of the economy more affected than others. But, according to professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, even though the numbers will go much higher than during the Great Recession, the recovery from that should be faster. “In this case, as soon as the health crisis is over or at a low level, where the government tells people they can resume normal activity, then we will quickly see a rise in people going back to work and a reduction in the unemployment rate,” Diane Lim said.

Different responses

From stocking up on household products to ignoring the warning signs, responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have differed depending on the individual. While it might be easy to panic, experts Jeremy Tyler and Thea Gallagher from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine suggest planning what you are able to and leaning into the uncertainty. “Try to settle in,” Tyler said. “If you catch yourself worrying too much about the future, try to bring it back to the present moment.”

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COVID-19 will change job recruiting; here’s how companies need to adapt

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the business world and put tens of millions out of work in the U.S. At the same time, it’s caused a seismic shift in the way many companies operate, the biggest change being that more business functions are done while working remotely.

But along with the work-from-home aspect, the fallout from the coronavirus will fundamentally change recruiting and hiring practices long after the pandemic has passed, says Jack Whatley (www.humancodeofhiring.com), a recruiting strategist who specializes in creating employer branding campaigns.

“Social distancing, shelter-in-place orders and the forced closing of businesses will change the way we look at employment,” Whatley says. “No longer will the promises of changing the world attract the modern workforce. Safety and job stability are at the top of the mind for the modern job seeker – and that changed what they want in a job.

“Businesses will have to become employee-centric as well as customer-centric. The companies that have the ability to capture that part of the employee message, put it into their employer branding, and reinforce it throughout recruitment marketing campaigns are going to be the companies moving ahead in a much different world.”

As states begin different stages of reopening for business, Whatley breaks down what companies should do when recruiting, hiring, and re-hiring:

Create a communication campaign. “If you’re a company that laid off employees with the hope of bringing them back, you have to reach out with genuine communication that goes the extra mile,” Whatley says. “It should let them know in detail what steps the company is taking. Those people who were let go unexpectedly and lived paycheck to paycheck, they’ll be emotionally drained and stressed. A company bringing them back needs to make them feel valued so the company doesn’t lose that relationship.”

Be careful in rehiring. Rehires won’t be a straightforward process for some companies. Circumstances won’t allow them to rehire or bring back from furlough all of their former employees. “Employers must be cautious in determining who to bring back to the workplace; they need to mitigate the risk of potential discrimination claims, which could be based on the decision not to bring back certain employees,” Whatley says. “Employers will need to have a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for choosing which employees to rehire. Those reasons include seniority, operational needs or documented past performance issues. Employers should document their decision-making process now, before deciding who will be invited back.”

Focus on expanded employee rights. Whatley thinks a new appreciation for workers may be emerging as state and local governments mandate paid sick leave and family leave during the outbreak. Some companies are shifting their focus to hourly workers as well for those perks. “This change could become permanent,” Whatley says, “as organizations work hard to hire new staff and increase retention rates.”

Streamline the process. “If the recruiting process gets backlogged,” Whatley says, “it causes problems for your current employees and an under-staffed company. It becomes frustrating for them, because they’re forced to work overtime, and the big workload kills morale and increases turnover.”

“Most companies look at hiring people as a transaction – they need to fill a seat,” Whatley says. “They place a job posting and fill the job. In the new world, that will no longer be the case. To get the best talent, companies will have to engage people sooner, more thoughtfully, and put a higher priority on what employees value most in a job.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Can My Husband Get A Spouse Benefit from Me?

Dear Rusty: I'm wondering if my husband can submit a "restricted application for spousal benefits only." He is 76 years old, has been receiving his benefit since 2005. His present benefit is $263.50. I am 74 years old, receiving my benefit since 2007. My present benefit is $931. Am I to understand that he could be receiving half of my amount rather than his smaller amount? Signed: Inquiring Wife

Dear Inquiring Wife: Your husband isn't eligible to file a "restricted application for spousal benefits only" because he is already collecting his own Social Security benefits and because he is past 70 years of age. But he should probably be receiving a spousal benefit from you because his benefit is so much lower than yours. From what you've written, you both claimed your Social Security benefits when you were 62 years of age. That means you both took a 25% cut in benefits from what you would have gotten at your full retirement age (FRA) of 66.

Spousal benefits are based upon FRA benefit amounts, even if you claimed benefits earlier. So, since your FRA benefit amount would have been about $1164 and your husband's FRA benefit would have been about $330, by my calculations he should now be receiving a spousal benefit of about $516 instead of his benefit of $263.50. The computation for that is: Take half of your FRA benefit amount ($582) minus your husband's FRA benefit amount ($330); the difference ($252) is added to his own current benefit ($264) to get $516 as his possible spousal benefit (note the actual numbers from SS may vary somewhat). This probably means that when you claimed your benefit two years after your husband claimed his, your husband didn't apply for his spousal benefit (and it wasn't awarded automatically by SS).

I suggest your husband contact Social Security as soon as possible and make an appointment to apply for his spousal benefits. Since he has been entitled to that benefit for some time now, he can also request 6 months of retroactive spousal benefits which they will pay in a lump-sum and adjust his monthly benefit to what he is entitled to as your spouse. There is also a possibility that, when you filed, SS failed to notify your husband he was eligible for a spouse benefit, in which case he may be able to collect his spouse benefit back to the date he became eligible. Your husband should contact Social Security directly at either 1.800.772-1213, or at your local office (find it at www.ssa.gov/locator) to make an appointment to apply for his spousal benefit from you. And, usually, this application can be accomplished over the phone.

Please note that all of the above assumes that your husband’s current benefit isn’t being reduced due to a non-covered pension which causes the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) to lower his benefit amount, and which would cause the Government Pension Offset (GPO) to severely alter, or even eliminate, his spousal benefit.

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Mother’s Day gifts sure to please

By MELINDA MYERS

Each year we set aside one day to honor mothers. And each year we struggle to find the perfect gift to show them we care.

Cut flowers are one of the most popular gifts. No dusting and maintenance required, and they are sure to generate a smile. Behavioral research at Rutgers University found the gift of flowers had immediate and long-term benefits no matter the age of the study participants.

Participants demonstrated true or excited smiles as well as delight and gratitude when they received flowers. They also reported feeling less depressed, anxious and agitated long after receiving the gift of flowers. Floral gifts also helped create connections between family and friends.

A hanging basket or container garden is another way to give mom a season of flowers and more. Gardening helps improve health and well-being by reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, strengthening muscles and increasing flexibility.

If mom likes to cook, a potted tomato, container of greens or window box of herbs may be the perfect gift with increased benefits. Mom can grow and further boost her health with fresh nutrient-rich vegetables.

A gift certificate to her favorite garden center, hobby store or retail location allows mom the freedom to select her own gift. She can enjoy time shopping for something special she wouldn’t normally buy for herself.

The gift of time is appreciated by many mothers. Helping mom in her garden, working around her home or assisting her with another hobby is a great way to spend time together doing something mom loves.

Update her garden tools if she is an avid gardener. Consider a tool caddy and fill it with her favorite hand tools such as a weed knife, hand pruner, sunscreen, and gloves.

Add elegance and function to your mother’s daily activities with durable and fashionable gloves. Their practical and fashionable nature makes them a popular add-on or stand-alone gift item.

Elbow length garden gloves, like Foxgloves (foxglovesinc.com), protect forearms and hands from sun, scratches, and plant oils. The ‘cottony soft’ feel of Supplex® nylon makes them comfortable but extremely durable and tough. They can be washed and dried quickly, so mom always has a pair of gloves ready to use. Add some fun to this functional gift by choosing one of the bright colors.

Add a hat to further protect mom from the heat and sun when working outdoors. If it’s comfortable and looks good, she is more likely to wear it.

Take the pressure off and make mom’s day extra special with one of these Mother’s Day gifts that provide immediate and long-term benefits. She’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness when she opens the package, unwraps the flowers or puts the tools and gloves to use all season long.

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Feathered dinosaur

Researchers have discovered the fossils of a feathered dinosaur in New Mexico, thought to be one of the last surviving raptors at the end of the age of dinosaurs. The dinosaur, Dineobellator notohesperus, is estimated to have been 3.5 feet tall and 6-7 feet long. “We hope that the more we search, the better chance we have of finding more of Dineobellator or the other dinosaurs it lived alongside,” Steven Jasinski of the University of Pennsylvania said.

Human rights & the pandemic

With emergency pandemic procedures being implemented around the world, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, former United Nations high commissioner for human rights, suggests remaining vigilant on how governments could be violating human rights. “The U.N. needs to be right in the middle of this, coordinating the response and not fearful of the major powers, which is what it seems to be suffering from at the moment, and I wish it were not the case,” said Hussein.

Primaries & the pandemic

With an upcoming presidential election looming, the COVID-19 pandemic could have serious effects on primaries, traditional campaigning and canvassing activities and voter turnout. “Digital campaigning will be more important as people consume more Facebook, Twitter, and Hulu during this time of social distancing,” Marc Meredith, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, said.

Disasters & politics

With the COVID-19 pandemic potentially causing an economic crisis, historian Brent Cebul of the University of Pennsylvania suggests revisiting policies implemented during the Great Depression. “When you have conservatives readily agreeing to a $2 trillion bailout package, now is not the time for anybody to be negotiating against themselves,” he said. “There is a window of opportunity here where politicians can make big asks.”

HIV study

While effective methods of treating HIV’s negative effects on the body have been developed, medical advances haven’t progressed as far in reducing the cognitive impacts. To move things forward, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have created a laboratory model system using three of the types of brain cells thought to be involved. “The power of this system is it allows us to look at the interaction between different cell types of human origin in a way that is more relevant to patients than other models,” Kelly Jordan-Sciutto of Penn's dental school said. (Additional information for news editors)

A sudsy plea

The coronavirus crisis has most of the nation housebound causing hardships as many of us as we begin to run out of necessities such as toilet paper. But Olive Veronesi wasn’t seeking toilet tissue when she went to a front window of her home and held up a sign for all to see that read: "I need more beer." The 93-year-old Seminole, PA nonagenarian was seeking the aid of her neighbors to help her replenish her dwindling stash of the beverage. A photo of her displaying her sign went viral on social media and more than 2.5 million people who viewed it. So, it looks like she’ll be well supplied as she shelters in place for the duration.

How sweet it is

And then there is the tale of the bakery in Finland that nearly had to shut down due to the pandemic. But, owner, Sanna Lampinen, saved the day when she baked a cake in the shape of a roll of toilet paper. The media found out about her clever spoof and published stories about it, resulting in so many orders for her naughty confection that she was able to not only keep all of her employees on the payroll but to create two new jobs as well.

The funny bunny

Celebrating a holiday such as Easter during the coronavirus pandemic can be a bummer, especially for kids. And so, Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, during a news briefing on the shutdown caused by COVID-19 she took a moment to spread a little cheer for the country’s youngsters. She declared that the Easter Bunnies had been classified as an essential workers. As she put it: "But as you can imagine at this time they're going to be potentially quite busy at home with their family as well and their own bunnies, and so I say to the children of New Zealand: If the Easter Bunny doesn't make it to your household, we have to understand it's a bit difficult at the moment for the bunny to get everywhere."

Staying sane at home

With many families being forced to stay home during the pandemic, tensions can start to rise and mental health might become a struggle. To help, Kehan "Anna" Bao, a student in the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, put together a list of tips for managing relationships at home during this time. Bao recommends giving everyone personal space to be alone and explore hobbies, scheduling intentional time together, maintaining household norms and personal schedules, dividing labor equitably, being open about feelings, showing appreciation, sharing memories and stories and including children in decision-making.

Ibuprofen & coronavirus

Ever since French health minister Olivier Véran tweeted that taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen “could be a factor in worsening” COVID-19, popular social media platforms have been circulating the claim. However, FactCheck.org, reports there is no solid evidence that ibuprofen exacerbates the disease and, instead, that that idea remains an untested hypothesis.

Telemedicine

To keep minor or chronic health concerns from escalating, health care staff in the University of Pennsylvania Health System are utilizing telemedicine tactics such as pre-screening calls and virtual visits to care for patients. “Tools that were being adopted much more slowly six months ago are now progressing much more rapidly,” William Hanson, chief medical information officer, said. Everything from checking on postpartum women to monitoring the glucose levels of patients with diabetes is being done through telemedicine.

Male infertility

The recent identification of an enzyme that plays an important role in maintaining chromosomal pairing in sperm could be key in overcoming challenges related to male infertility. “Reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization have made a huge difference for infertile patients, but the male needs to have at least some sperm,” biologist P. Jeremy Wang of the University of Pennsylvania said. “But if you can find these spermatogonia, the pre-meiotic germ cells, they could be induced to go through meiosis and make sperm.”

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How to prepare for your horse’s care in case you’re quarantined

Horse owners are ever aware of the potential for disease outbreaks in their herd and the possibility sick horses might need to be quarantined. But COVID-19 has flipped the equation in the equine world.

What happens when a horse owner has to self-quarantine? How can they make sure their horses are properly cared for?

“Everybody who owns horses should have a contingency plan in place,” says David Anderson (www.horsedrinker.com), president and CEO of Bar-Bar-A, a company that produces automatic livestock drinkers. “If owners have to self-quarantine or are sick from the virus and aren’t prepared for this scenario, it may be a scramble to make sure their horses are getting everything they need.

“To prepare, ask yourself what essentials your horses will need in the event of your extended absence. Assume you’re going to be unavailable for a while and your horses won’t miss you – because you made sure they were fully cared for.”

Anderson offers tips if you can't care for your horse due to being self-quarantined:

Have a friend in mind. It’s a good idea in that contingency plan to prepare a trusted friend who can be ready to care for your horse. “Write a comprehensive, up-to-date care plan for your horse, which should include the exercise schedule, turnout, feed chart, blanketing instructions, etc.,” Anderson says.

Remember: Clean water is always a must. If the owner is not feeling up to filling drinking troughs, keeping them topped off – and making sure the water is clean – is a key responsibility of the enlisted caretaker. “Stagnant drinking water in troughs attract mosquitoes, which carry viruses,” Anderson says. “Automatic waterers are convenient but those with standing water will need to be cleaned regularly. Don’t let the convenience of the waterer lead to negligence in checking the water regularly. Some horses have a habit of dirtying the water. Make sure whoever’s watching the horses checks the waterers daily and sees that the horses are drinking.”

Pack an emergency kit. If an owner can’t get a horse to the veterinarian, or the veterinarian is sick, having a fully-stocked emergency kit in advance is vital. “It should include essential prescription medications that can be administered at the vet’s direction,” Anderson says. “Make sure if there’s a person caring for the horse that they know what to do in case the horse has a health emergency and the owner isn’t reachable.”

Stock up. Most self-quarantines for COVID-19 last 14 days, but recovery times differ. So stocking up for a few weeks for your horses’ needs is important – horse feed, hay, and any other pertinent supplies. “Also remember,” Anderson says, “that horses can survive on quality hay in a paddock or pasture along with clean water. Money might be tight at this time for some, and if so, spend more on hay than feed. They’ll do fine with less feed as long as your designated helper gives them proper turnout and hay.”

“One thing we’re learning from COVID-19 is not to think it can’t happen to you,” Anderson said. “Horse owners need to plan in advance to ensure their horses stay healthy while the owner is not.”

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5 ways pitchers can stay sharp and in shape during the long interruption

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused either the indefinite suspension or cancellation of baseball seasons. Meanwhile, social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders have prevented players from working out in public facilities or participating in outdoor team activities like they normally would.

Considering those obstacles and the uncertainty of when, or if, Major League Baseball and other age levels in summer leagues will resume, how do pitchers keep their arms in shape? And if they don’t, are they more susceptible to injuries?

Ron Wolforth (www.TexasBaseballRanch.com), a long-time pitching trainer who is founder of Texas Baseball Ranch and author of Pitching with Confidence: A Parent’s Guide To Giving Your Elite Pitcher An Edge, says too much inactivity during the prolonged disruption can have physical consequences for pitchers when competition resumes – and there are plenty of ways to keep up their conditioning even when in isolation.

“A new threat to throwing athletes will emerge amidst the COVID-19 outbreak,” Wolforth says. “Soft tissue needs preparation for the stresses of high-intensity throwing, and now the normal ramp-up time has been interrupted, so the risk to soft tissue could increase.

“Pitchers need to take a work-while-you-wait approach. The old saying, ‘If you don’t use it, you will lose it’ is 100 percent true. To minimize the risk of injuries, purposeful throwing must be maintained, and a consistent overall conditioning program should be adhered to.”

Wolforth offers tips for pitchers to stay in shape and stay sharp during the wait:

Don’t take extended periods off. “Just playing catch on a regular basis is far better than a shutdown,” Wolforth says. “You can maintain social distance in a yard with one other person and keep your arm loose. Too much inactivity puts you in catchup mode. If you take a week off it will take you two weeks to get back to the conditioning level you were at before the time off. Take off a month and it will take you six weeks.”

Cycle workouts of varying intensity. “The pitching athlete cycles when he is in season, and he should in fact be cycling right now,” Wolforth says. “Have two intense days in a seven-day period, separated by a minimum of 48 hours between intense pitching sessions. Have two light days and three medium days within that seven-day frame.”

Use pitching tools. “Wrist weights, a throwing sock, or a hand-speed trainer can be used inside the home as a bridge to keeping your arm and shoulder healthy and durable,” Wolforth says. “Throwing to a training screen or pitchback in fairly closed quarters can help improve control.”

Use the extra time to focus on weak areas. “This time is a great opportunity to get better at certain things that you otherwise wouldn’t have the time to invest,” Wolforth says. “Mobility and flexibility, strength, balance, and stability, structural alignment, mechanical efficiency, and different pitches. Some of these are things you can work on in your house; others you can work on outside at a safe distance with a throwing partner.

Watch videos. “Studying replays or tutorials of elite pitchers in action will build you a library of knowledge,” Wolforth says. “Spending a lot of time inside currently gives you a great opportunity to learn from the best, then simulate it.”

“This is not a time to over-rest the arm and let the soft tissue atrophy,” Wolforth says. “The longer and more gradual the ramp-up to pitching competitively, all things being equal, is the safest approach to health and durability of the arm.”

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How staying safe by telehealth also means keeping cyber-secure

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted social distancing as a safety measure across the country. How this new normal affects general health care can be seen in the rise of telehealth services, as people are encouraged to use them to limit in-person interactions with medical staff and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But like any online activity, there are security risks involved for patients’ personal data and companies’ private information. How can patients and doctors ensure each parties’ information is protected?

“Telehealth was trending upward before the pandemic, and there were already privacy and security concerns,” says Stephen Hyduchak, CEO of Aver (www.goaver.com), an identity-verification service. “ But those are heightened now as people want the immediacy of care and are ready to accept the exchange of privacy to receive that.

“Medical data is some of the most sensitive information out there. HIPAA and other regulations have long been in place, well before more general privacy laws were instituted. Now, needing to share more of your medical history with the telehealth doctors makes the entire communication more vulnerable in a variety of ways. The application could get hacked. Also, IT infrastructure and cybersecurity often aren’t up to speed at hospitals.”

Hyduchak suggests using these security practices when using telehealth services:

Double-check before downloading the app. “Your healthcare provider may have a preferred app that you can download from its website,” Hyduchak says. “That’s the safest route. Your company may offer this service, and if so, check with human resources to make sure the information is correct before downloading. Otherwise, use a reputable online store to download the app.”

Consider online app reviews and recommendations from your network. “Reputable review sites can give you an objective look at apps and telemed services out there, but many reviews focus on capability, speed and convenience, so you may have to dig a little deeper regarding security,” Hyduchak says. “That’s where your personal network comes in. Query people you know who are using the app you’re considering. And if the app is relatively unknown, you don’t want to be one of the first to use it.”

Beware of phishing, social engineering of telemedicine. “The basic rule for most cybersecurity measures very much applies: Always verify a link or attachment before opening it,” Hyduchak says. “There are coronavirus-based phishing campaigns by hackers. Their aim is to get you to click onto a malicious telehealth link.”

Learn how the service uses your data. “Look for telemedicine providers that explain their use of data that you share, usually doing this in writing with a code of conduct,” Hyduchak says. “You have to make sure the telehealth service is reputable and that it’s following all HIPPA rules. Also, only disclose relevant information that is absolutely essential.”

“With telehealth services, a patient can see a doctor in isolation from their smart devices, so it’s a close to ideal platform during an outbreak like this,” Hyduchak says. “But having awareness of and using security measures is essential because the stakes are higher.”

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How COVID-19 is reshaping corporate culture

The outbreak of COVID-19 is radically changing how many U.S. companies operate.

Public safety measures have closed physical offices and made remote working the norm. Travel restrictions have heightened the importance of efficient technology, communication and collaboration. Executives have had to pivot quickly, reorganizing and rallying their workforce to push forward in an unprecedented time.

Some business leaders think COVID-19 marks a permanent turning point. And at the center of the seismic change is the reshaping of corporate culture – the beliefs and behaviors that influence how a company’s employees and management interact, says Chuck Crumpton (www.chuckcrumpton.com), author of The Jagged Journey: A Raw & Real Memoir about the Non-Perfect Path of Life & Business.

“The pandemic unquestionably will have lasting effects on corporate cultures,” Crumpton says. “There’s a growing sense it’s a fundamental shift, a new normal.

“It starts with empathy. Company leaders are seeing they need to listen more to their employees’ concerns, which are really everybody’s concerns right now. Many people have fear and uncertainty. It’s an opportunity to be more understanding and build relationships with the people you work with, and from there as a company, being better able to work in new and more collaborative ways.”

Crumpton explains the ways corporate culture will be reshaped in the wake of COVID-19 and how leaders can influence those positive changes:

Providing emotional support along with technical support. While technology is the key to keeping a remote workforce functioning at a high level, Crumpton says how leaders create a culture of mutual support will be a big factor in company culture and the employee experience. “You want to get people helping and looking out for each other,” Crumpton says. “Not every Google Chat, call or email has to be business-related.”

More, and better, communication. Working remotely, with managers and employees at different locations, places an emphasis on focused and more precise communication – even over-communication if necessary – to keep operations flowing, Crumpton says. “The use of video conferencing is very effective, keeping everyone connected and agendas targeted,” he says. “It increases responsiveness, attention span, and strengthens collaboration.”

More of a family feeling. “Working from home personalizes the workplace, partly because you are working from your personal space, and the imaginary line between family and work is basically gone,” Crumpton says. “People are out of their shell now, more relatable. Colleagues and clients are happy to share a screen with their kids or pets in the background. There’s a blending of the personal and professional, and it’s liberating.”

Better collaboration. “Your relationship with your teammates will improve,” Crumpton says. “Fighting a common enemy, the coronavirus, creates bonds in relationships. Everyone being in this together brings new levels of connection with colleagues and clients. You’re happy to see each other on screen during this period of physical isolation, and that feeling can be brought forward when things settle down. The bond strengthens with teammates also by having worked together to solve problems and be proactive during difficult times. That means better collaboration and more enthusiasm for teamwork and shared success.”

“This crisis has challenged us in seemingly every way,” Crumpton says. “It’s been sudden, profound, and life-changing. Companies have been forced to make major changes, and in the process, they’re seeing the workplace and the world differently. It's a great opportunity for growth and positive, permanent change.”

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Arousing admiration: The charm of hummingbirds

Well, actually, it’s both… the charm of hummingbirds is most certainly apropos and “a charm” of hummingbirds is actually factual! Yep, that’s right, the collective noun for these unique creatures – just like a gaggle of geese – or a flock of birds, is a charm of hummingbirds. Since the definition of the noun ‘charm’ is “the power of giving delight or arousing admiration” one doesn’t need to be a wordsmith to see how right that is.

Hummingbirds are charming. And there are over 330 varieties of the species, Trochilidae, is their biological family name and they’re found in the Western Hemisphere. When one sees a hummingbird it’s a stunning, stop-in-your-tracks sight. Their brilliant throat color is actually a result of the iridescence in the arrangement of their feathers, not color pigment. Light level, moisture, angle of viewing and other factors all influences just how bright and colorful their throats may appear. Perhaps you've heard them, too — the name hummingbird comes from the buzzing sound of their fast-flapping wings.

Hummers are migrant birds, so although many stay close to the Equator, lots of varieties travel this time of year, so there may be a ‘charm’ coming to your backyard soon. If you have the desire to see one up close or are curious about how to attract them to your yard, the folks at Cole’s Wild Bird Feed, Co have got you covered. First, they figured out the engineering of an elegant, deceptively simple, easy-to-use (and easy-to-clean!) feeder. The patented Hummer High Rise has a clever design that offers a stress-free position for your charming guests to get their fill, a fantastic 360 degree vista, all the while keeping other unwanted creatures at bay.

For example, there’s an ant moat, that stops the armies of industrious workers who’d love to get some sweet nectar, from beating a path to the liquid food. The genius is, it’s an actual moat, with nothing but H2O keeping the ants at bay, so while it does its job, it doesn’t do harm. Nice!

The second definition for the noun ‘charm’ is a small ornament worn on a necklace or bracelet. Hummingbirds weigh on average the same as a nickel, so while you’ll want to wear a replica from the jewelers, Hummers can be your own garden’s jewelry all season long.

And in return for their arousing your admiration, they’ll feed on those annoying garden insects and pests. For their small size, hummers eat a lot. They are voracious eaters, feeding on mosquitos, gnats, spiders, aphids and other six-legged creepy crawlers. But, besides pests for protein, their primary ‘food group’ is nectar, which they get in by flitting from flower to flower and using their long beaks and equally long tongues to get their fill. All that flitting is exhausting!

Since hummingbirds drink up to half their body weight a day of nectar, you can help them out by keeping your High Rise fully stocked, for a one-stop fill of their favorite nectar treat.

Let’s not leave out the definition of the verb, “charm”, which is to “delight greatly.” If you want these Disney-esque caricatures to delight you on a regular basis with their wonder – and bring their distinctive song to your yard - there is something you can buy: the crème-de la crème of what these charmers crave: Nature’s Garden from Cole’s.

By identifying and harnessing the nutrients of the hummer’s favorite wildflowers, and tapping their vast store of wild bird knowhow, Cole’s has created the next-best-thing to actual flower nectar – a proprietary formula that’s far and away a cut above your ‘garden-variety’ sugar water. Nature’s Garden is a healthy, all-natural alternative to homemade syrup, no mixing and no boiling required. It comes in an eco-friendly soft pouch; just shake and pour. You’ll be delighted with how easy it is to keep your hummer feeder filled and overjoyed at seeing hummers frequent your yard. Your neighborhood hummingbirds will love it, so they’ll keep coming back.

A brief postscript – a natural predator to the hummingbird is the praying mantis. Despite their equally small size, and saintly appearance, they feed on our fascinating feathered friends and are a real threat, (and a protected species), so if you find a mantis hanging around your High Rise, take care to evict it gently, to a lower piece of real estate and keep hummers safe.

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Tax time during coronavirus: What retirees need to know

By CHRIS ORESTIS

Retirement and the effects of aging come with a lot of changes, but at least one thing remains constant.

Every year, Uncle Sam wants to make sure you’re paying any taxes you might owe him, and that’s true whether you are retired or not. That said, though, there are tax rules that are specific to older Americans, so it’s important to be aware of the different ways you might be able to reduce your tax bill that weren’t available to you when you were younger.

Normally, of course, April 15 is the deadline to file your tax returns. But this year, because of the disruption caused by the coronavirus, the deadline has been extended to July 15. Remember also, if you currently receive Social Security and don’t file taxes anymore, you will receive a government stimulus check (or auto-deposit) of $1,200 automatically without filing any additional paperwork.

Meanwhile, that tax deadline extension means you’ve got extra time to explore some of those rules that seniors can take advantage of. A few to be mindful of include::

You may qualify for a larger standard deduction. For many Americans, including many seniors, there’s no reason to itemize your deductions anymore because the standard deduction is so high – $12,200 for a single person and $24,400 for a married couple filing jointly. But you can get an even higher standard deduction if either you or your spouse is 65 or older, and a still higher deduction if either of you is blind. If you aren’t itemizing, then you want to make sure you’re getting the maximum standard deduction that you are allowed because that’s going to impact how much of your income is taxed.

Yes, your Social Security benefit may be taxed. The rules for how much – if any – of your Social Security benefit is taxed can be tricky, so you want to be extra careful with that. According to the Social Security Administration, if you’re filing as an individual, and your Social Security benefit plus any other taxable income you have is between $25,000 and $34,000, you may be taxed up to 50 percent of your benefit. If your combined income is more than $34,000 then up to 85 percent of the benefit may be taxable. For married couples filing jointly, if the combined income is between $32,000 and $44,000, you may have to pay tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits. If your income is more than $44,000 then up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.

You may be able to deduct long-term care insurance premiums. Owners of long-term care insurance policies can take tax deductions on premiums they pay for qualified plans – as well as other reimbursed medical expenses such as Medicare premiums – as long as the premiums are greater than 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income.

Selling your life insurance policy has advantages. There can be significant tax benefits for people who sell their life insurance policy through what is called a “life settlement.” Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the proceeds from a life settlement are fully exempt from federal taxes if the policy owner is terminally or chronically ill. Those who are not terminally or chronically ill do pay capital-gain taxes on the proceeds from the sale, minus the amount in premiums the policyholder paid over the life of the policy.

You may want to increase contributions to your retirement accounts. Of course, many seniors aren’t adding anything to their IRAs or 401(k)s. Instead, they are regularly withdrawing money to pay for monthly living expenses. But if you’re still working, you can increase your contributions, which can both reduce your tax bill now and give you an even larger nest egg when you do retire. The IRS limits how much you can contribute each year, but that limit increases once you turn 50.

The important thing to remember is that you may have options at tax time that you hadn’t thought about. Knowing the tax rules and how they apply to your personal situation, and seeking professional advice, can make a huge difference.

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History Matters

A feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize

Who doesn’t love a story about the Old West? Particularly, a good, historical depiction about what it was like to domesticate the wild American frontier. Take buffalo hunter, army scout, gunfighter and lawman, Bartholomew “Bat” Masterson. His last shoot out was on the streets of Dodge City, Kansas, on April 16, 1881. Masterson was in Tombstone, Arizona, when he received word that his brother, Jim, who also lived in Dodge, was in trouble. Jim had had a falling out with a business partner; gunfire was exchanged, and although Jim was not hurt, he feared for his life, and sent for Bat. Masterson made the 900-mile trip, came to the aid of his brother, and confronted his assailants in a gunfight — that turned out to be his last.

Masterson wasn’t killed, nor were any of the other participants in the skirmish, but when it was over, he decided to give up his “wild bunch” existence and spend the rest of his life practicing less dangerous pursuits.

As the History Channel put it: “the Dodge City shootout and his other exploits ensured Masterson’s lasting fame as an icon of the Old West. He spent the next four decades of his life working as sheriff, operating saloons, and eventually trying his hand as a newspaperman in New York City. The old gunfighter finally died of a heart attack in October 1921 at his desk in New York City.”

The Patriots’ anger was blazing, and by April 19, 1775, the British knew it. The colonists wanted to be free and independent of them; at dawn, a detail of 700 British troops set out to capture--and detain--the leaders of the upstart American rebels in Lexington, Massachusetts. Awaiting them were 77 armed minutemen under the command of Captain John Parker.

The American Revolution was begun.

The Founding Fathers understood the importance of learning and understanding; education was critical to the success of the new nation. And so, on April 24, 1800, President John Adams signed a bill to provide $5,000 (the equivalent of $102,650 in 2020 dollars) to establish the Library of Congress, an institution which has experienced truly difficult times over the centuries. During the War of 1812, the British burned it — along with its 3,000 volumes, but three years later, Thomas Jefferson, owner of the largest book collection in the country, came to the rescue; for $23,950 he sold 6,487 of his books to the Library, and the institution was re-invigorated.

Another fire in 1851 caused the Library to lose two-thirds of its books; today, it is comprised of three large buildings in Washington, DC, and 110,000,000 books, documents, works of art, and electronic media.

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How a transformation mindset positions companies to succeed after the crisis

Many businesses are reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, and while some may return to business as usual once the crisis is over, others may need to alter the way they think and operate in order to survive.

Many global leaders think the pandemic will transform the world in significant ways, and companies with leaders who already have a transformation mindset will be better equipped to adapt and succeed at a high level, says Edwin Bosso, founder and CEO of Myrtle Consulting Group (www.myrtlegroup.com) and ForbesBooks author of 6,000 Dreams: The Leader’s Guide To A Successful Business Transformation Journey.

Bosso notes there are two types of companies who entered the crisis. “The first type are those who went through a level of transformation prior to the crisis and had the plans and structure in place to keep moving. For them, it will be a lot easier to see where the gaps exist and also where the opportunities are for growth,” Bosso says. “They’ll have better tools to react and analyze what happened and make decisions on what to change.

“The second type of companies are those who, before the pandemic, were contemplating changes that were necessary, but they didn’t follow through. Those companies will come out of this wounded and feeling the environment is more chaotic. Transformation management in this environment is vital. It’s about creating momentum to see results and growth, and the process must be geared at successfully moving hearts and minds toward the end that we seek.”

Bosso suggests three phases – prepare, initiate and implement – for managing transformation in these challenging times:

Prepare

Understand your soul as a company. “Understanding an organization’s soul becomes important because it is the only true representation of the impact that the organization has on the world,” Bosso says. “Knowing the company’s true north puts it in a position to build a higher purpose into the transformation program, and ensures the transformation is rooted in the essence that will make the company successful going forward. It really comes down to answering one question: ‘When people think about our company, whether we are still in business or whether we are gone, what will we want them to say?’ The answer to that legacy question should be a set of descriptors of your identity and capabilities.”

Conduct a post-crisis assessment. “Companies should take this opportunity to examine what they were dealing with before the crisis, how they handled the crisis, and to create plans for how to emerge stronger than before,” Bosso says. “This event gives leader