A compendium of news, facts, questions and answers

A masked ID

It was a case of COVID confusion that caused the Department of Motor Vehicles in California to send a driver a new license using a picture of her wearing a face-mask. Lesley Pilgrim told CBS news that she was wearing her mask when the DMV photographer snapped her picture, apparently by mistake. He took another shot of her mask-less but, somehow, the wrong ID photo was used. The DMV said it was “an oversight.” Ms. Pilgrim said, “we all make mistakes.”

 

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The inheritance

Eight-year-old Lulu of Nashville, TN was 88-year-old Bill Dorris’ beneficiary when he passed away, leaving her $5 million. The lucky dog – that’s right, Lulu is a border collie – was, indeed, Dorris’ best friend, says Martha Burton. Dorris did a lot of traveling during his lifetime and Burton looked after the pup when he was away and so he designated her in his will to be the dog’s care giver. A conservator, who is managing Dorris’ estate reimburses her for the costs of Lulu’s care. It is very unlikely that those costs could possibly use up the dog’s inheritance although Ms. Burton jokingly told a reporter that she’d like to try.

 

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Sleepy time gal [or boy]

The Sleep Standards Website claims to provide visitors with all there is to know about getting a good night’s rest and now it’s offering one lucky visitor a “dreamy” way to earn a bit of cash-- $2,000, to be precise. The job is pretty easy; all you need to do is snooze away for five nights in a row. Each night you’ll find yourself in the sack in a different location, including one night in a 5-star hotel room. The aim is to identify ways of improving “sleep quality,” so when you awake each morning you will simply jot down a description of how well you slept and rate the experience on a scale of one to ten.

 

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Medal of Honor: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Lester Weber

By KATIE LANGE

DoD News

Courage under fire is something we would all hope to have, but you never actually know until you're tested. When 22-year-old Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Lester W. Weber was tested in Vietnam, he proved his courage — and then some — by taking out several enemy soldiers to keep his fellow Marines safe. Weber never got to come home, but his valor during the hardest of times earned him the Medal of Honor.

Weber was born July 30, 1948, in Aurora, Illinois, to George and Elsie Weber. He had two brothers, including George Jr., who also became a Marine.

Weber attended Hinsdale Central High School for two years before he dropped out to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve in September 1966. By then, the war in Vietnam was escalating. So, about four months later, on Jan. 23, 1967, Weber enlisted in the regular Marine Corps.

He finished his training by June 1967 and deployed to Southeast Asia about a month later. Then a private first class, Weber was assigned as an ammunition carrier and squad leader with Headquarters and Service Company of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marines Division.

In November 1967, Weber was promoted to lance corporal. He had completed his normal tour of duty abroad, but he decided to extend it by six months, which is why he remained in Vietnam into 1969. That January, he assumed the role of squad leader with 2nd Platoon, Company M in the 3rd Battalion.

On Feb. 23, 1969, Weber was leading his Marines during a search and clear operation in the Bo Ban area of the Hieu Duc district in Quang Nam Province. They were sent to help a squad from another platoon, which was in the middle of a fierce firefight with a well-entrenched enemy battalion.

As Weber's platoon moved through a rice paddy, they were suddenly attacked by enemy soldiers hiding in the paddy's tall grass. Weber quickly dove into one patch of grass and took down an enemy soldier before forcing 11 others to break their contact with his fellow Marines. He then overwhelmed another North Vietnamese Army soldier in hand-to-hand combat.

Once that man was no longer a threat, Weber noticed two other enemy soldiers firing on some of the Marines from behind a dike. He ignored the intense gunfire and ran through it, diving into the area where those enemy soldiers were. He wrestled the weapons out of their hands and took them out, too.

At this point, Weber's heroics had caught the attention of many of the enemy fighters, so they began concentrating their fire on him. However, he continued to stay exposed, yelling encouragement to his fellow Marines. As he moved forward to again attack an enemy soldier, he was shot and killed.

Without Weber's motivation, courage and fighting spirit, his comrades may not have had the will to fight as hard as they did. For giving his life to the cause, Weber earned the Medal of Honor. His family received it from President Richard M. Nixon during a White House ceremony on Feb. 16, 1971. Three other Marines and a few soldiers who had also earned the high honor received their medals during the same ceremony.

Weber is buried in Clarendon Hills Cemetery in Darien, Illinois, not far from where he grew up. He continues to be remembered in that area today. In 2003, a memorial stone honoring him was set into the ground near the flagpole of the St. Isaac Jogues Grammar School, where he spent his formative years.

Weber Hall, a Marine barracks at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, also stands in his honor.

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Social Security Matters

By National Social Security Advisor at the AMAC Foundation,

the non-profit arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Should I Claim Social Security Now or Wait Until I’m 70?

Dear Rusty: I'm currently 67 years old and still working full time. I took a big financial hit in 2008, which is why I'm still working, and I expect to continue working until I'm 70. My question is: should I take Social Security now, bank it until I’m 70, and then pay it out to myself upon retirement? Or would it be better to hold off until I’m 70 to claim. Longevity of about 85 seems to run in my family. Signed: Working Senior

Dear Working Senior: I’m afraid there’s no simple answer to your question, but I’ll give you some points to ponder.

If you don’t need the money right now, and you expect to enjoy at least average longevity (about 85 for a man your current age), then waiting until you’re 70 will give you the maximum monthly benefit and the most in cumulative lifetime Social Security benefits if you meet average longevity. And if you live beyond the average, your cumulative lifetime benefits will be correspondingly more. Since you’ve already delayed past your full retirement age (66) you are already earning delayed retirement credits (DRCs) at the rate of 8% for each full year you delay (the maximum Social Security benefit is reached at age 70).

Can you do better than an 8% annual increase by claiming now and saving or investing the money? That would be the main point to evaluate, and only you know your investment options. But you should also consider that - if you should die before your wife and she has reached her full retirement age – your wife will get 100% of the benefit you are receiving at your death. If you claim earlier (e.g., now), your wife will get that earlier smaller amount as your widow. Compare that to what she’ll get by you waiting until age 70 to claim, when your benefit will be about 24% more than it is now. Again, something for you to consider.

If you claim at age 70 you will have collected about the same amount of money at age 82 as if you had claimed now. That is your “breakeven” point, which is where your expected longevity comes into play. If you think you will beat the average and you do, you’ll collect much more in total lifetime Social Security benefits by waiting until you are 70 to claim. Of course, no one knows how long they will live, but if your family history suggests a long life and you’re in good health now, delaying is usually a prudent choice. That is, however, a decision only you can make.

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House call

By Dr. Bala Simon, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Q. What are the signs of a blood clot?

A. A clot is a clump of cells and protein that slows bleeding when you are injured and dissolves as you heal. When it does not dissolve or forms when not needed, it can clog or completely block a blood vessel.

Anyone can get a blood clot, especially those who have broken a bone or severely strained a muscle. The risk is higher for those who sat for extended hours or recently underwent surgery. Other risk factors include high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and being 60 or older.

An unexpected clot can lead to serious problems or death. When it enters an artery, it can cause a stroke or heart attack and in a vein, can cause swelling and pain. A clot deep inside the body, known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or one inside your lungs, called a pulmonary embolism, are both medical emergencies.

Symptoms of a blood clot can vary depending on its location but may include swelling in arms, legs, or belly, discolored skin, sudden and intense pain and trouble breathing. If you suspect you have a clot, get immediate medical attention.

Q. My heart occasionally flutters, pounds or skips a beat. Should I be concerned?

A. While heart irregularities may be frightening, most palpitations are not serious and usually do not require treatment.

Anxiety and stress can lead to the body releasing hormones that increase the heartbeat. Panic attacks can feel like a heart attack so when in doubt, seek medical help.

Having low blood sugar, a fever of 100.4 or higher, an overactive thyroid gland or taking too much medicine to treat an underactive thyroid gland can also cause heart palpitations. Changes in a woman’s hormone levels can also cause the heart to race.

Some external causes include some prescription and over-the-counter medicines, nicotine, caffeine, alcohol and illegal drugs like cocaine and Ecstasy. Exercise, especially for those who have not done so in a while and are out of condition, can cause an irregular heartbeat. Irregular heart rhythms, known as arrhythmia, can also be the culprit.

Those with healthy hearts who only experience occasional palpitations lasting for a few seconds probably do not need to worry about it but those who have them more often or also have chest pressure or pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fainting, should visit their doctor to determine the problem.

Q. I often eat when I am stressed. How can I break this habit?

A. The best way to combat straying from a healthy diet is to be aware of what you are eating and why you are doing so. Keeping a daily food journal can offer insight.

If you are craving a snack following a big meal, try having a glass of water instead. You may be thirsty instead of hungry. Surround yourself with others who can offer a strong support network to keep you focused and positive during stressful times. Also consider discussing your eating habits with your doctor or a mental health professional.

Focus on your goals and reward yourself with healthy treats when you obtain key ones. When the urge to eat strikes, choose to exercise or do yoga instead. The physical activity will release endorphins that can help relax and calm you. Mindful meditation can also help.

Do not tempt yourself. Keep unhealthy foods out of your home, replacing them with healthy, ready-to-eat snacks. When cravings strike, instead of denying yourself, select healthier substitutions for that pizza, taco or candy bar. Stick to your grocery list and avoid shopping when you are hungry or stressed.

Q. What are the signs of lupus?

A. This is a lifelong autoimmune disease that causes rashes, joint pain and fatigue. In severe cases, it can also damage kidneys, heart and other vital organs. Lupus can be difficult to diagnose and there is no cure but there are treatments that can lessen the damage.

Women are 10 times more likely than men to get lupus and African-Americans, Asians and Latinos are at higher risk. Others at risk include those who have a relative with lupus and those between the ages of 20-40.

One of the first signs of lupus is muscle and joint pain in knees, wrists, hands or fingers, occurring on both sides of the body at the same time. Another unique symptom is a butterfly-shaped rash across the face on the checks and upper nose. Many people with lupus are unusually sensitive to the sun and develop a scaly, purple rash or flaky, red spots on their arms, neck or face.

Other symptoms during flare-ups may include an occasional low-grade fever, temporary loss of scalp hair, and damaged fingernails.

Lupus can initially appear to be rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia but the combination of skin rashes, fatigue and joint pain sets it apart.

Long lost twins

The state of Indiana unsealed adoption records a few years ago, allowing 51-year-old Karen Warner to identify her birth mother. She also made the surprising discovery that she had a twin brother. With very little information at her disposal, she embarked on a hunt for her sibling. It was a long and tedious undertaking, but Karen never gave up and finally found her twin by checking voting records for birthdays. Not only did they share a birthday, but it turned out that she and her twin, Mike Jackman, knew each other way back when they were high school classmates. Since they found each other Karen and Mike apparently can’t get enough of each other; they get together several times a week. As Mike put it:  "It's filled a void in my life I didn't know was there."

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A couple of glitches

The importance of computers as a means of keeping in touch with each other has come to the fore during the COVID pandemic.  Online services such as Zoom allow you to engage with multiple individuals at the same time via “virtual” get togethers, for example. But it can take practice to learn the ins and outs of these applications. Just ask Rod Ponton, an attorney in Texas, and Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn. Ponton was participating in a virtual District Court hearing via Zoom, recently, and instead of appearing on screen as himself, he showed up on the video as a cat due to a technical malfunction. Meanwhile, a similar glitch occurred when Congressman Emmer logged on for a House Committee meeting via Zoom, causing him to show up on screen upside down. Emmer took it in stride, posting his upturned screenshot on Twitter with the caption, “I am not a cat.”

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A tight fit

A 1,034 square foot townhouse that’s up for sale in the Shepherds Bush section of London with an asking price of 950,000 pounds [$1.3 million]. But this is no sprawling five-story pied-à-terre; in fact, it’s just six-feet wide. The real estate agency that’s listing the property says it is "quite probably the thinnest house in London." It does have three bedrooms, including a third-floor master bedroom that is six feet, two inches wide and almost 21 feet long. Two additional bedrooms are located on the first floor; one is a not so spacious eight feet by six feet and the other is about 16 and a half feet by five feet, ten inches. The lone bathroom takes up the entire second floor.    

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For sale: world’s first “robo-home”

Not only can you surf the Web on your computer these days, but you can also use a computer to build physical objects using a 3D printer. Take, for example, the SQ4D company, which is using what it calls an "autonomous robotic construction system" on its computers, a giant 3D printer and concrete to build houses, reports the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC]. The company claims its process can be used to “drastically” reduce the cost of new home construction. They built the first of its kind robo-home in Riverhead, NY, which is up for sale for a dollar short of $300,000.

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It’s never too late to make amends

Sixty years of guilt finally got the better of him and so an unidentified grandfather confessed that he stole handcuffs belonging to one of Los Angeles’ finest three decades ago, says the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC]. The LAPD says it received a package recently containing the cuffs, a $100 donation and a letter of apology from a 74-year-old man who admitted that he witnessed an altercation at a local diner 60 years ago. The police were called, one of the officers dropped his handcuffs and the man picked them up but didn’t return them. He kept them, for whatever reason, and when his grandsons asked him where he got the cuffs, he decided it was time to return them. As he told it in his letter: "They were aghast and asked me why I stole the handcuffs from a policeman. I, of course, had no good explanation and I told them it was the wrong thing to do and I wasn't proud of it." And so, he decided to “make amends.”

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Fishy fisticuffs

Some octopuses get a kick out of punching fish that pass them by, according to the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC]. Researcher Eduardo Sampaio broke up when, while scuba diving, he saw an octopus take a swing at a passing fish for no apparent reason. He told NPR recently that he laughed so hard that he almost choked on his underwater breathing apparatus. Sampaio was part of a team studying how octopuses and fish sometimes hunt for food together. So, why the fishy fisticuffs? Sampaio says in some cases they may be throwing punches so that they can keep the food they find for themselves. But he also says that he noticed that sometimes they’ll throw a punch for no good reason.

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Social Security Matters

By National Social Security Adviser at the AMAC Foundation,

the non-profit arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – How Will My Wife’s Benefits Be Affected by My State Pension?

Dear Rusty: I am 73 and receive a pension from my state’s Police and Fire Pension Fund. I took a full pension, so my wife only gets a widow’s pension when I die, and this is only a fraction of what my full pension is. I also get a small Social Security benefit, about $95 a month, and that amount is pro-rated because of the amount of my state pension. My wife is 71 and receives a Social Security benefit of about $600 a month. When I die, can she get a portion of my Social Security benefit? And will it increase since she will not be getting my full state pension? Signed: Retired Public Servant

Dear Retired: The state you live in is one of 26 which have opted for many state employees to not participate in the Federal Social Security program. As a result, your Social Security benefit, earned from work outside of your state employment, is reduced by your state pension. The details of your state pension and what portion of that pension your wife will receive as your widow isn’t what affects your, or your wife’s Social Security benefit amount. Rather, the base amount of your current state pension is what affects your benefit, due to a rule known as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

WEP is why your Social Security (SS) benefit is only $95/month. WEP applies to your personal Social Security retirement benefit (earned from working outside of your state employment) and reduces your Social Security benefit due to your state pension, because neither you nor your state employer paid SS FICA taxes on your earnings. And since your personal SS retirement benefit is reduced by WEP, your wife’s spousal benefit (not her widow’s benefit) from you would also be reduced, although from the numbers you shared your wife isn’t entitled to a spousal benefit.

Your wife’s own SS retirement benefit from her own work record is not affected by WEP because WEP applies to your benefits only. And neither will your wife’s SS survivor benefit as your widow be affected by your state pension, should you predecease her. If you die first, your wife will be eligible to collect, as her survivor benefit, 100% of the amount you were entitled to before your WEP reduction, if that amount is greater than the SS benefit she is entitled to on her own work record. And that would, again, be totally independent of whatever she receives from your State pension. In other words, your wife’s Social Security benefit - her own SS benefit or her survivor benefit - will not be at all affected by your state pension.

Dear Rusty: I am a retired Texas teacher receiving my State pension. I retired in February 2009, before the end of a “loophole” which affected my future Social Security. I had earned enough credits to receive Social Security benefits in addition to my Teachers Retirement System (TRS) pension. At 62 I began getting my SS benefit (reduced by my TRS pension).

My husband didn't start his SS until last year, at which time I contacted Social Security so my benefits would "no longer be reduced" as per the TRS loophole. I have spoken with the local SS office three times and sent them the documents requested, but my SS payment remains the same! How do I bypass the local office to get my benefit increased to the amount I was told when I retired under this Texas loophole? Signed: Wanting My Increase

Dear Wanting: Your question requires some explanation of two SS rules known as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). These rules affect anyone, like you, with a pension from an employer which did not participate in Social Security, and who is also eligible for Social Security benefits. WEP applies to your personal SS retirement benefit; GPO applies to any spousal (or survivor) benefit you might become entitled to.

There are 27 States (including Texas) which, to varying degrees, have exempted some State employees from paying into Social Security. But for employees who, nevertheless, also become entitled to SS benefits, either from other SS-covered employment or a spouse, WEP and GPO will affect their SS benefits. Both rules apply to you because you did not contribute to Social Security while you earned most of your TRS pension. Your SS retirement benefit was reduced by WEP and, since your husband is now collecting SS, you might be entitled to an additional amount as his spouse, depending on whether the GPO will apply. The GPO did originally contain a “loophole,” but the loophole didn’t work as you think it did.

When the GPO was first enacted in 1977, it included a rule known as the “last day exemption.” That rule stipulated that if, on your last day of employment prior to retirement, you contributed to both your non-covered pension and to Social Security under the same plan the GPO would not apply. State retirees in many of the 27 affected States took advantage of that loophole. That is, until Congress changed the GPO rule to eliminate the loophole.

A change in 2004 eliminated the “last day exemption” and replaced it with a rule saying that a GPO exemption would occur only if the employee contributed to both the non-covered pension and Social Security under the same plan every day for the last 5 years prior to retirement. A “transition” rule sometimes applied which allowed less than 5 years of contributions to both programs immediately prior to retirement. Each State decided if they would permit employees to take advantage of this option, which Texas did until just after you retired in 2009.

Your own WEP-reduced SS retirement benefit is not affected by, nor will it change because of any “loophole.” Based upon the dates you shared, the “last day exemption” for GPO doesn’t apply to you, but the changed rule may. The current rule permits a GPO exemption if you also contributed to Social Security under your TRS pension plan every day during the last five years of your TRS employment, or if the special “transition rule” applies to you. If that is the case, then you are, indeed, eligible for an exemption from the Government Pension Offset and your SS benefit will increase. But if not, the normal GPO spouse benefit reduction of 2/3rds of your TRS pension will be prorated and based only on the months you didn’t pay into Social Security.

Since you’ve already contacted Social Security several times and sent them the requested documentation, I know of no way to “bypass” your local SS office. But it might help to ask your Congressional Representative to intervene by contacting the SSA and request that your case be expedited.

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History Matters

Afeature 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

Twenty years after the United States was freed of Britain, America went to war, again--this time against the populous pirate population in the Mediterranean. Pocketed throughout Africa--in Morocco, Algeria, Tunis and Tripolitania [Libya], they ambushed U.S. merchant ships, seized cargoes, commandeered crews, and collected large ransoms. Hostilities got so heated that President Jefferson dispatched the Navy in 1801.

In October 1803, the Philadelphia, a part of an expeditionary force, ran aground off the coast of Tripoli, and was captured, causing concern that America’s proprietary know-how would be re-constituted in enemy warships.

On February 16, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur and 74 of his men--including nine marines--disguised themselves as Maltese sailors, crept into Tripolitan waters, boarded the Philadelphia, overpowered the crew, and torched the vessel.

The daring nature of their perfectly executed mission—without a single American casualty—was heralded around the world. Even British Admiral Horatio Nelson, arguably the most famous seafaring hero of the time, called it the “most daring act of the age.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger.

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On February 23, 1954, the students at Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh, PA, were the first to receive a vaccine--developed by Dr. Jonas Salk--to repel the polio pandemic that was panicking the population.

Now, sixty-seven years later, scientists are hustling to disseminate various COVID-19 inoculations to control--or collapse-- another ungovernable disease.

According to History.com, “Salk found that polio had as many as 125 strains of three basic types, and that an effective vaccine needed to combat all three. By growing samples of the polio virus and then deactivating, or ‘killing’ them by adding a chemical called formalin, Salk developed his vaccine, which was able to immunize without infecting the patient.”

It was eradicated in 1979.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Polio (Deadly Diseases & Epidemics) by Alan Hecht.

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On February 25, 1964, a 22-year-old newcomer to boxing, by the name of Cassius Clay, catapulted to the world heavyweight champion. He snatched the title from Sonny Liston in the seventh round of a “David and Goliath” match in Miami Beach, FL. The odds were against Clay; Liston was the 8 to 1 favorite, but that didn’t faze the cocky challenger who predicted his victory in the eighth round, bragging that he would “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

It took him six rounds to win the title in the seventh--when Liston conceded defeat.

Young people might not “recognize” Cassius Clay; that’s because he became “Muhammed Ali”, after he joined the African American Muslim group, the Nation of Islam.

The Website Quora calls Ali “the greatest boxer ever,” having won 56 out of his 61 bouts during his 20-year career that ended abruptly in 1984 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He has been called one of the most significant and celebrated figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest boxers of all time. Indeed, as President George W. Bush put it when he presented Ali with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November of 2005, “Only a few athletes are ever known as the greatest in their sport, or in their time. But when you say, ‘The Greatest of All Time’ is in the room, everyone knows who you mean."

Muhammad Ali, boxer, activist, entertainer and philanthropist, passed away on June 3, 2016.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Greatest: Muhammad Ali by Walter Dean Myers.

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Sports Heroes Who Served: President Ford was a football star, WWII veteran

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.

Gerald Ford, 38th president of the United States, World War II Navy veteran and collegiate football star, is also the president who, in 1975, signed Public Law 94-106 admitting women to the all-male military colleges — West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy.

Ford attended the University of Michigan, where he played center, linebacker and long snapper for the Wolverines football team. The Big 10 team had two undefeated seasons and won national titles in 1932 and 1933.

However, even though the team won only one game In 1934,  Ford was considered the team's star player.

He was a star player off the field, as well. That year, the Wolverines were scheduled to play Georgia Tech, which said it would not play Michigan if a Black player named Willis Ward took the field, and University officials kept Ward out of the game.

Ford was Ward's best friend on the team, and they roomed together during road trips. Ford threatened to quit the team in response to the university's decision. He eventually agreed to play against Georgia Tech, but it was only after Ward personally asked him to play.

On April 13, 1942, shortly after the start of World War II, Ford received a commission as an ensign in the Navy Reserve. He attended flight school in Annapolis, Maryland, and became an instructor at Navy Preflight School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he taught navigation skills, ordnance, gunnery, first aid and military drill. He also coached swimming, boxing and football.

After Ford was promoted to lieutenant, in March 1943, he was assigned to the new aircraft carrier USS Monterey, at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey.

From the ship's commissioning on June 17, 1943, until the end of December 1944, Ford served as the assistant navigator, athletic officer and anti aircraft battery officer on the Monterey.

In 1943, the Monterey saw combat action in the Pacific Theater, including at Makin Island in the Gilberts, and New Ireland. During the spring of 1944, the Monterey supported landings at Kwajalein and Eniwetok and participated in carrier strikes in the Marianas, Western Carolines, and northern New Guinea, as well as in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

In November and December 1944, the Monterey's aircraft launched strikes against Wake Island and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan, and supported the landings at Leyte and Mindoro in the Philippines.

The Monterey was one of several ships damaged by Typhoon Cobra that hit Navy Adm. William Halsey's Third Fleet on December 18-19, 1944. The Monterey was damaged by a fire, which was ignited by several of the ship's aircraft tearing loose from their cables and colliding on the hangar deck.

As the general quarters officer of the deck, it was Ford's job to assess the damage and help contain the fire. The ship got underway again but was declared unfit for service due to the extensive damage that occurred.

In 1945, Ford was stationed at the Navy Pre-Flight School at Saint Mary's College of California, where he was assigned to the athletic department until April 1945. From the end of April 1945 to January 1946, he was on the staff of the Naval Reserve Training Command, Naval Air Station, Glenview, Illinois, with a rank of lieutenant commander. He received an honorable discharge in February 1946.

Interesting Ford Facts

Ford once said that his experiences on the gridiron helped prepare him for the "rough-and-tumble world of politics."

In honor of his athletic accomplishments, the University of Michigan retired Ford's No. 48 jersey in 1994. With the permission of the Ford family, it was placed back into circulation in 2012.

When he became president, Ford often had the Navy band play the University of Michigan fight song, "The Victors," instead of "Hail to the Chief."

Ford graduated from Michigan in 1935 and received offers to play football with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. Instead, he took a job in September 1935 as the boxing coach and assistant varsity football coach at Yale University, where he also attended and graduated from law school.

Gerald Ford's name at birth, July 14, 1913, was Leslie Lynch King Jr. Ford's parents later divorced and on Dec. 3, 1935, Ford legally changed his name to Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., in honor of his stepfather, who had that name except for the junior.

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EEEK!

A woman in Sydney, Australia walked into her daughter’s room recently and was horrified to find dozens of Huntsman spiders, also known as giant crab spiders, crawling on the walls and ceiling. Her plight was posted on Twitter and it has gone viral but not all of the thousands of people who saw the post believed it to be real. At least one person tagged the story, which was accompanied with photos, posting a message that read: "Do huntsmen that big appear in those numbers? I smell a rat. A big, Photoshopping rat." A subsequent video proved the “horrific” sight was for real.

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Friendship

Dan Volcko is a veteran Phoenix, AZ fireman who came down with the COVID-19 virus and had to be hospitalized. Visitors were not allowed but Volcko’s coworkers were determined to see him and give him a lift. And so, they boarded their fire truck, backed up as close as they could to the hospital and climbed their ladder to pay their friend a window visit. It got pretty “emotional,” according to one the fellow firemen on the scene. Volcko, who is in recovery, told reporters: "I never expected to find myself in that situation needing the help, and I've never been in that position where they've had to come comfort and be supportive in that way, so that was an unbelievable experience."

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Airbag jeans give bikers a safer, new look

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that tens of thousands of lives are saved each year by airbags in their cars. But, what about the hapless motorcyclist who gets into an accident? Swedish inventor Moses Shahrivar has a patent pending for what he calls, airbag jeans; he already has airbag equipped vests that deploy and help prevent injuries to a cyclist's chest, back and neck in a crash. The jeans are hitched to the motorcycle and when that tether is pulled, should the bike be in an accident, airbags lining the jeans are triggered and cushion the impact.

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Planning and designing a productive vegetable garden

By MELINDA MYERS

Whether planning your first, second or tenth vegetable garden it can be overwhelming. There are so many tasty vegetables and never enough space and time to grow them all.

Start with a plan. Locate your garden in a sunny location with moist, well-drained soil. Save those partially sunny areas for greens like lettuce, chard and kale as well as root crops like radishes and beets. These prefer full sun but will tolerate more shade than tomatoes, peppers, squash, broccoli and other plants we eat the flowers and fruit.

Review your favorite recipes and make a list of family favorites and those vegetables most often used. Then check the list to see which vegetables are suited to your climate and growing conditions and those that make the most economic sense to include in your garden.

Tomatoes and peppers produce lots of fruit from one plant and are common ingredients in many recipes. Sweet corn is fun to grow but needs lots of space for a relatively small harvest. If space is limited, consider buying your sweet corn at the farmers’ market and use that space to grow other edibles.

Every gardener struggles with determining how many of each type of vegetable to grow. This depends upon the productivity of the variety selected, your family’s eating habits and of course the impact of weather on the harvest. It is always better to start small, build on your successes and expand the garden in the future. Track your planting and harvesting results to help when planning future gardens.

You will need to plant more if you plan to preserve or donate a portion of your harvest. Purchasing vegetables from your local farmers’ market is a way to ensure you have sufficient fresh produce when you are ready to can, freeze and ferment.

Sound overwhelming? Consider enlisting help from Gardener’s Supply by using one of their vegetable garden plans (gardeners.com). You’ll find customized plans for those who like to cook, want to grow ingredients for a garden-fresh salad, salsa or cocktails, or are following a Mediterranean diet. Many come with seed packets for all the featured plants.

Maximize the available space by growing vertically. Train pole beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers and even squash and melons up trellises. Growing vertically not only saves space, but also increases disease resistance by increasing light and airflow through the plants. And picking beans at waist height is much easier than harvesting from low-growing, bushy plants.

Increase space with containers.  Consider growing some of your frequently used herbs and vegetables in pots on the patio, balcony, or deck for convenience.  You can quickly grab what you need when creating your favorite meal.

Grow multiple plantings in each row. Start the season with cool season veggies like lettuce, peas and radishes. Once the temperatures climb and these plants are harvested and enjoyed, replace them with warm weather vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, squash and melons.  Finish off the season by filling any vacant rows with fall crops like greens, beets and radishes.

Take some time to plan a garden that will provide you and your family with fresh produce you can enjoy all season long. Involving everyone in the planning process just might get them to show up and help weed.

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Technology gives remote workers a way to communicate, but something is missing

Ready for that first one-on-one chat with your boss in 2021?

If you’re like many employees across the country, you may have begun the new year the same way you ended the old one – communicating via Zoom, Google Chat, email, text messages or some other venue where you and the other person were physically apart.

That might work all right for a quick exchange of basic information. But it’s not the best way to handle more complicated information or to build esprit de corps within a team, says Clint Padgett (www.clintonmpadgett.com), president and CEO of Project Success Inc. and the ForbesBooks author of How Teams Triumph: Managing By Commitment.

“One of the fundamental components to successful teamwork is communication,” Padgett says. “If you can’t talk to your team, you can’t be successful. And the key to developing communication is face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball conversation. That’s how you pass along complex information and build relationships.”

But what’s ideal and what’s reality don’t always match up. In 2020, many office workers saw less and less of each other in person as the pandemic forced them to work remotely, and that trend could pick up steam rather than fizzle out even when the pandemic is over, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Pew surveyed people whose work responsibilities could be done from home. Prior to the pandemic, just 20 percent had worked remotely all or part of the time. Now, 71 percent of those workers are doing their job from home all or most of the time. And more than half – 54 percent – say that if given a choice they would want to keep working from home even after the pandemic.

Padgett winces at the idea of remote work as a long-term solution, but says it's incumbent on managers and employees to find ways to make it work. One way is to understand the communication limitations that must be overcome.

“The way we communicate remotely – with email, text messages, Zoom calls – doesn’t replace face-to-face meetings and the relationships you develop with people when you can sit down in the same room and have a conversation,” he says. “Communication and conversation are not the same thing.”

Email and text messages are a series of one-way communications, not dialogue, he says. Yes, there can be back and forth, but not in the same way as an in-person conversation. And remote work doesn’t allow those breakroom chats where team members build their relationships and their rapport.

At least for now, though, remote work is a reality, so Padgett offers a few tips and some cautionary advice:

Work to overcome technology’s communications limits. Technology is great for a lot of things, but when you communicate with emojis or by using the fewest words possible, your message can be unclear, Padgett says. “If I ask you a question by email or text, and your response is a smiley-face emoji, that could mean any number of things,” he says. “Be honest, how many times have you misinterpreted the tone of an email or a static document?” Skip the emojis in workplace communications and strive to make your communications as clear as possible. Put yourself in the other person’s place. If you received this text or email, would you understand the context without more explanation?

Set up clear, two-way communications. The only way to manage a project effectively is to develop the project around clear two-way conversations, Padgett says. “One-way communications should only be used for simple, clear questions that have yes/no answers or are used to piggyback on conversations,” he says. “In other words, it’s okay to text or email questions before a conversation takes place or for follow-up responses afterward. Conversations need not be the only form of communication, but they are the most important by far.” While video chats have their own limitations, at least they provide an opportunity to engage in that needed dialogue.

Appreciate technology; value people. Many managers (and others in an organization) may approach communication from a technical standpoint because they want software to be the answer, Padgett says. “But it isn’t the answer, it’s a tool,” he says. “Technically, communications on a project could happen electronically, but if you choose technology over people, your project won’t be successful. While your communications will be fast, you’ll sacrifice quality, clarity, accountability, and, ultimately, success.”

“Conversations force clarity that you don’t get with other forms of communication,” Padgett says. “For nearly a year, businesses have tried to duplicate those face-to-face conversations through Zoom or Google Chat, and that will continue for the foreseeable future. We all need to devote serious effort to making it work. But at the same time, the question we will continue to grapple with is this: Is a conversation conducted on a screen as meaningful and productive as an in-person conversation?

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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

According to the United States Postal Service, the people of note--who are under consideration for commemoration on new stamps--is the task of The Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC). On February 1, 1978--sixty-five years after the death of abolitionist-activist Harriet Tubman--she became the first African American woman bestowed with the honor.

Tubman, who died in 1913 at the age of 93, was born a slave, but she escaped from bondage in 1849. Rather than hide to avoid recapture, she committed more than a decade to freeing others, by providing them with safe passage on the “Underground Railroad,” a Northern route to liberty in the years prior to the Civil War.

Some historians say she escorted up to 700 slaves to freedom during the War.

History.com notes that her talents were not limited to her role as an abolitionist. “She was also a nurse, a Union spy and a women’s suffrage supporter. Tubman is one of the most recognized icons in American history and her legacy has inspired countless people from every race and background.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Ann Petry’s Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad.

...

Lewis and Adeleine Dalton raised ten sons during the violent era of Reconstruction. Frank Dalton, a deputy U.S. Marshall, was shot, but brothers Grat, Bob, and Emmet replaced him.

With that gaggle of siblings, the saga of one of the most infamous gangs of the Wild West was begun.

As History.com put it: “the three Dalton boys showed little respect for the law and began rustling cattle and horses to supplement their income. The brothers soon began to use their official law enforcement powers for their own ends.”

Train robberies evolved into the family’s specialty, even though their first attempt in Alila, California was a disaster. On February 6, 1891, while Grat and his brother, Bill, got arrested, Bob and Emmet escaped with a $3,600 reward on their heads—the equivalent of about $100,000 in 2021 currency.

After a few more jabs at it, the Dalton’s perfected pillaging trains, and swindling Indian Territory out of approximately $17,000.

The Daltons widened their wreckage in October of 1892 in the town of Coffeyville, Kansas; three gang members robbed the C.M. Condon & Co. Bank, while another two ransacked the First National Bank across the street.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Harold Preece’s The Dalton Gang.

...

The University of Virginia has said Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, was “the first modern President” and “the most popular.” But—his following has been compromised by his “namesake”—a stuffed animal known as the “Teddy Bear,” ---which debuted February 15, 1903.

 Toymaker Morris Michtom’s teddies turned into an overnight, national sensation—that went worldwide.

So, how did Mr. Michtom come up with the idea? One of Teddy Roosevelt’s avocations was hunting. In 1902, while he was in Mississippi--according to History.com-- “Roosevelt came upon an old injured black bear … While some reports claim Roosevelt shot the bear out of pity for his suffering, others insist he set the bear free. Political cartoonists later portrayed the bear as a cub, implying that under the tough, outdoorsy and macho image of Roosevelt lay a much softer, more sensitive interior.”

Michtom saw the cartoon in the Washington Post, which he and his wife decided to bring to “life”, by converting the image of the bear cub into a stuffed toy. It was so popular, Michtom used it as the basis for founding the Ideal Toy Company—which in 1971 had a value of $71 million, according to The New York Stock Exchange.

For more information about Teddy Roosevelt, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Heather E. Schwartz’s Theodore Roosevelt's Presidency.

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When cash is devalued, where should investors look for salvation?

With a difficult 2020 receding into the past, investors are left to wonder what lies ahead for them, the economy, and their portfolios in 2021.

Unfortunately, they may find that some investing decisions are still tied to the events of last year.

Because of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the economy, the Federal Reserve saw to it that enormous amounts of money were printed in 2020. That effort to shore up the economy also set off debates about inflation.

Reports show that in excess of 23% of the U.S. dollars now in circulation were created in just the last year, says Toby Mathis, a tax attorney, founding partner of Anderson Law Group (www.andersonadvisors.com) and current manager of Anderson’s Las Vegas office.

“This bodes well for gold and cryptocurrency as hedges, but really means investors need to be in dividend-paying stocks and real estate to avoid the hard blow of the effect of the U.S. monetary policy,” he says.  “Essentially, your cash is being devalued, so you need to buy assets that pay you.”

Mathis’ tips for investors in these tenuous times include:

When investing in real estate, target low-priced rental properties. For inexperienced investors, real estate shouldn’t be the first option, Mathis says. But for those with some investing savvy, it’s a good addition to their overall investing strategy – if they are careful about making the right moves. “You want to save up for your first property, and buy with cash,” he says. “This is the best bet for this investment actually making you money. You should pull that extra cash from stocks, or savings, and purchase a rental property between $70,000 to $120,000. Yes, properties at that price do in fact exist. You’ll find them outside of the big cities with increasing populations.”

Realize that stocks are more liquid than real estate. While Mathis praises real estate as an investment, he acknowledges it has its drawbacks if you suddenly need cash. Stocks can be bought and sold much more quickly. “I can buy a share of a stock and I could sell it tomorrow and get access to that cash within two days,” he says. “If I buy real estate, I could buy it today but I’m probably not going to be able to close tomorrow. Even if I buy with cash, it’s still going to be a week or two. And usually, your closing is going to take 30 to 60 days.” The same is true when selling real estate. “If you have an unexpected life event — your car breaks down, you lose a job, you have a medical emergency — stocks are much more liquid,” Mathis says. “You can turn them into cash much easier than you can real estate.”

Look for stocks that pay dividends. Mathis says investing in stocks is a smart move for both experienced and inexperienced investors, but he also cautions that not all stocks are equal. Some pay dividends, some don’t. He recommends avoiding the latter. “If you’re investing in stocks that don’t pay dividends you’re leaving close to half of the benefits by the wayside,” he says. “And you’re not going to do as well. You have to invest in dividend-producing companies to see true growth.”

“When people ask me whether to invest in real estate or the stock market, my answer is always ‘yes,’ “Mathis says. “Either one can be great. I still say stocks are best for investors who are just starting out and need to gain some knowledge and experience, but ultimately you would like to have both.”

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With live shows on hold, musicians find success in licensing agreements

Musicians faced a test of their resolve and commitment when the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to most live performances, placing limitations on how they could make money in an already difficult and competitive industry.

But as they explored new ways to sustain themselves, many artists found success in a well-established alternative – the decades-long practice of licensing their music for television, film, and video games.

“These licensing agreements provide many creatives a great way to continue working despite tours being put on hold and stages left vacant,” says Casey Taylor, vice president of Nashville-based VEVA Sound (www.vevasound.com), which verifies and archives projects for clients in the music industry.

One example is country music artist Shelly Fairchild, whose work is featured on productions by Netflix, ABC, CBS, and USA Network, among others. Shows that have used her songs include “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Riverdale,” and “Love Island.”

“Though the entertainment industry as a whole was hit hard in this pandemic, the need for music content never went away,” Fairchild says. “There has been a continuous need for songs to fit into the continuous outpouring of television content, and that alone has kept me working.”

The practice of licensing songs for a video format is known as synchronization, or sync, licensing.

Sometimes a well-known song gets incorporated into a TV show or video game, such as when “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones was used in the “Call of Duty: Black Ops” video game, or when Joe Cocker’s version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” became the TV theme for “The Wonder Years.”

But In some cases, artists write and record music specifically for television with no intention of releasing it otherwise, says Taylor of VEVA Sound.

“This music spans genre, style, and expression, giving artists a creative outlet, and revenue stream, outside of the norm,” he says. “A few artists have broken through the noise and found incredible success with sync-licensing placements.”

Among those is Fairchild, with about two dozen TV placements.

“Most musicians and artists who I know are extremely adaptable creatures,” Fairchild says. “We have to be to survive the ever-changing music business. If you are a songwriter, which I am, you are a storyteller and what better stories to capture than that of the human struggle, our fight for survival, and the love that we need and have to give. This past year brought all of that.”

When stay-at-home orders went into effect, Taylor and Fairchild say, some musicians adapted by learning to record themselves in their home studios.

“I am so grateful that I was one of those people because I was able to continue to write and record songs when all of my live shows were cancelled,” Fairchild says. “Music licensing companies have definitely taken a hit during this pandemic year, but have continued to be a major avenue for music creators to actually make money.”

As a result, many determined musicians were able to persevere through these challenging times, says Wendy Duffy, president of Resin8, which works with musicians to get their work placed in advertising initiatives such as TV promos and film trailers.

“Thankfully, music licensing has stayed fairly healthy and consistent, as people continue to write and produce from home,” Duffy says.

Film and TV productions have also been ramping up, with extensive COVID-19 protocol, as people are desperate for content to view, just as much as the multi-million dollar industry is to create and profit from it, she says.

“We are seeing a lot of resilience in the creative community, which is truly inspiring,” Duffy says. “We can use this time to focus on what we can control vs. what we can’t, so that when this all ends, which it eventually will, we have a huge harvest from the seeds we planted during this difficult season.”

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Medal of Honor: Marine Corps Lt. Col. Aquilla James "Jimmie" Dyess

By KATIE LANGE

DoD News

A graphic says "Medal of Honor Monday" shows an Army Medal of Honor.

Many great military commanders lead by example, and Marine Corps Lt. Col. James Dyess was no different. During a battle for control of the Marshall Islands in World War II, he continuously put himself in front of enemy fire to direct his troops to success. He didn't survive to see the fruits of his labor, but his valor and leadership earned him the Medal of Honor.

Dyess, who was known as Jimmie, was born Jan. 11, 1909 in Andersonville, Georgia. His parents and three siblings eventually moved to Augusta, where Dyess was active in the Boy Scouts. He attained the rank of Eagle Scout in his teens, going on to represent the Augusta area in 1926 during a Boy Scouts National Council event in Washington, D.C.

After high school, Dyess went to Clemson University, where he played football until an injury his junior year kept him from  playing. He then switched his focus to the school's ROTC rifle team, where he earned a reputation for being an excellent marksman. Dyess graduated from Clemson in 1931 with a bachelor's degree in architecture and was commissioned into the Army Reserve. In 1936, he transferred to the Marine Corps Reserve, where he continued to hone his competitive marksmanship skills.

According to a 1944 Augusta Constitution article, Dyess operated the Augusta Lumber Company before going active-duty with the Marines in 1940, around the time when the U.S. began to build its troop levels up as war loomed in Europe.

Nicknamed "Big Red," Dyess had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel by 1944 and was in command of the 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, 4th Marines Division, during the fight for the Marshall Islands.

On Feb. 1, 1944, he and his troops were involved in the Battle of Kwajalein, which took place from Kwajalein atoll in the south to Roi-Namur island in the north. They had finished their first day of combat when Dyess realized there were Marines caught behind enemy lines and were in danger of being overrun. Despite the looming darkness, Dyess gathered a small group of men to break through the enemy lines and rescue the stranded Marines.

The following day, Dyess and company were on Roi-Namur closing in on the last Japanese position. Facing heavy fire from the enemy, Dyess launched an aggressive attack, maneuvering troops and tanks inland. Dyess posted himself between his troops and the enemy so he could personally lead the attack by pointing out objectives and routes to get to them.

According to his citation, he was "constantly at the head of advance units, inspiring his men to push forward until the Japanese had been driven back to a small center of resistance and victory assured."

Sadly, Dyess was standing along the edge of an anti tank trench, directing troops while attacking the few enemies who were left, when he was shot in the head by a burst of enemy machine gunfire. He died instantly.

His leadership and fighting spirit greatly helped rid the island chain of Japanese forces. Those attributes also earned him the Medal of Honor, which was officially announced on July 18, 1944. The medal was presented to his widow, Mrs. Connor Dyess, and their 8-year-old daughter at their Augusta home.  

Two sailors stand at attention in front of a gravesite.

Dyess is the only man to have earned both the Medal of Honor and the Carnegie Medal, which he received in 1928 after rescuing two women off the South Carolina coast. The medals represent the highest honor for military and civilian heroism, respectively. Dyess is one of only a handful of Medal of Honor recipients to have also been an Eagle Scout.

In March 1944, shortly after Dyess' death, the airfield on Roi-Namur was renamed Dyess Field in his honor. A year later, the USS Dyess was launched, with his widow sponsoring the ceremony.

In year's past, the Boy Scouts of America and the Georgia Carolina Council held an annual Jimmie Dyess Days at Fort Gordon, just outside of Augusta. It was a chance for Boy Scouts to camp out on the installation and learn about the event's namesake.

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Social Security Matters

By National Social Security Adviser at the AMAC Foundation,

the non-profit arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – About Social Security’s “First Year” Rule

Dear Rusty: I am 63. My birthday is 10/23/1957. I currently draw a small pension of $14K and a salary of $75K. I'm contemplating retirement at the end of April this year and I'd like to start drawing Social Security beginning June 1st. I've been told by friends that I won't be able to start drawing it this year because I will already have exceeded the maximum Social Security allows me to earn in a year. Is this true? Should I postpone my retirement until the end of the year? Please advise. Signed: Confused by Friends

Dear Confused:  Yours is a perfect example of why you should always check with a reputable source when receiving Social Security advice from friends.

Whenever Social Security (SS) benefits are claimed before reaching full retirement age (FRA), the so-called “earnings test” applies. This sets an earnings limit, which for 2021 is $18,960 annually - an amount you will have exceeded by the time you start your SS benefits in June. However, Social Security also has a special “first year” rule which applies to anyone who claims early Social Security benefits mid-year.

The first-year rule essentially waives using the annual earnings limit in your first year and, instead, applies a monthly earnings limit for the remainder of the year after your benefits start. The monthly limit is 1/12th the amount of the annual limit, so in 2021 the monthly limit is $1,580. Provided you don’t exceed the monthly limit after your benefits start and during the period from June 2021 through December 2021 (and if you’re fully retiring from work you won’t), you’ll not exceed the earnings limit during your first year collecting benefits. Note, your pension and other “passive” income doesn’t count toward the earnings limit; only earnings from working count. So essentially, using the “first year” rule means your earnings before you claim benefits won’t count, including any final pay you receive in the month you begin your benefits.

Starting in 2022, should you decide to return to work, you’ll be subject to the annual limit, which will be a bit more than the 2021 limit because the limit changes annually with changes to the National Average Wage Index. The earnings limit applies until you reach your full retirement age, after which you can earn as much as you like without jeopardizing your Social Security benefits. In the year you reach your full retirement age of 66 ½, your annual earnings limit will increase by about 2.6 times, further mitigating risk of exceeding the earnings limit in the year you attain FRA.

For awareness, if you were to return to work in any year between 2022 and the year prior to the year you attain FRA, and you exceed the annual earnings limit, Social Security will take back benefits equal to $1 for every $2 you are over the limit. In the year you reach FRA, if you were to work and exceed the increased limit, SS will take back benefits equal to $1 for every $3 you exceed the limit by. However, at your FRA you’ll receive time-credit for any months your benefits were withheld because you exceeded the earnings limit, which will result in your benefit amount being increased slightly at your full retirement age. In this way, you may, over time, recover any benefits which were withheld because you exceeded the earnings limit.

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The good thief

A Beaverton, OR mom left her car running as she stepped into a local store and, sure enough, a car thief drove off with her vehicle. Unbeknownst to him, there was a four-year-old child in the back seat. But, apparently, he was a good thief, so he turned around, drove back to the scene of the crime, found the kid’s mother, returned her child and proceeded to give her a tongue lashing for being so careless before stealing her automobile for a second time. The police found the car some 18 miles away in Portland, but not the culprit.

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Bigfoot hunting licenses?

Just about every state requires hunters to purchase licenses before they can stalk their prey; they have seasons, as well. And now, the state of Oklahoma may become the first to establish a season for licensed hunters out on the hunt for Bigfoot. If State Representative Justin Humphrey has his way. The legislation he introduced in the Oklahoma House of Representatives calls on the state’s Wildlife Conservation Commission to “promulgate rules establishing a Bigfoot hunting season. The Commission shall set annual season dates and create any necessary specific hunting licenses and fees." Humphrey says his Bigfoot license would only allow hunters to trap the creature. There have been numerous sightings of Bigfoot in Oklahoma, so many that the state sponsors an annual Bigfoot Festival.

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The dog faked it

Russell Jones who lives in London was concerned when he noticed his dog was walking with one of its front paws raised so he took his pet to the vet for a checkup. It cost him the equivalent of $400 but the dog doctor could find nothing wrong with the pooch’s leg. It turned out that Jones, himself, had a broken ankle and that his dog was actually mimicking his limp.  

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Low Light, Low Maintenance Houseplants

By Melinda Myers

Don’t let a lack of brightly lit windows stop you from gardening indoors.  Include some low maintenance, low light houseplants and maintenance strategies to boost your success.

Low maintenance gardening starts with proper plant selection.  Match the plant to the growing conditions and your gardening style.

ZZ plant is a favorite low light, low maintenance plant.  You will see it in hotels and shopping malls where light and care are often limited. Avoid overwatering that can lead to root rot and death of this plant.

You will need to do a bit of searching to find a few of the newer ZZ plant varieties. Zenzi is compact with curled leaves while Raven has dark purple black foliage that contrasts nicely with green and chartreuse leaves of nearby plants.

Peace lily is another popular low light plant found in a variety of public places. It requires moist soil to thrive, making it the perfect plant for those that tend to overwater. Increase your success by mixing organic Wild Valley Farms’ wool pellets (wildvalleyfarms.com) into the potting mix. This sustainable soil additive retains moisture, reducing watering by up to 25 percent. It also adds air space, improving the growing conditions for all indoor plants and helps reduce the risk of overwatering.

Pothos and philodendron are traditional low light favorites. New cultivars provide a fresh look to these indoor beauties.

Neon pothos has vibrant neon green foliage sure to brighten any spot in your home. Pearls and Jade has smaller cream and green variegated leaves. It is slower growing but just as tough as other pothos. Show off their trailing habit in a hanging basket, container displayed on a shelf, or set upon a pedestal.

You’ll find a variety of philodendrons for your indoor garden. Brasil has dark green heart-shaped leaves with a golden stripe down the middle. Brandi, another trailing philodendron, has olive green heart-shaped leaves with silver splashing. These can be allowed to trail or trained up onto a trellis.

Golden Goddess has larger chartreuse leaves that make a dramatic statement in a home or office. When small, it is great for desks and tabletops, but you will need to transition it to a floor plant as it climbs its support, growing up to six feet tall.  Or add a subtle touch of orange with Prince of Orange. The new leaves of this shrubby philodendron emerge a coppery orange and eventually age to green. It grows 24 or more inches tall.

The name says it all. Cast iron plant is tough and tolerant of low light and benign neglect.  Individual long strappy leaves sprout from the ground to create a mass of greenery. This growth habit has made it a popular groundcover in milder climates. Variegated varieties with splashed or striping can be difficult to find but add to its beauty.

New varieties of Chinese evergreen have found their way into many garden centers. Their green leaves may have silver highlights like those of Calypso. Cecila and Golden Bay. Or add a bit of red to your indoor garden with be Red Gold and Ruby Ray Chinese evergreen.

Low light indoor plants allow you to add greenery where you once thought it was not possible.  Their added beauty will help lift your spirits, reduce stress, and increase focus while improving your indoor air quality.

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Sports Heroes Who Served: Legendary coach 'Bum' Phillips was a Marine in 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.

Oail Andrew "Bum" Phillips, best known by his nickname, served as head coach in the National Football League for the Houston Oilers from 1975 to 1980 and as NFL head coach for the New Orleans Saints from 1981 to 1985.

As Oilers coach, he had the most wins in franchise history with a 59-38 record. The Oilers reached American Football Conference game, losing to the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers back-to-back in 1978 and 1979.

When Phillips resigned as Saints coach in November 1985, his son Wade took his place as interim head coach.

While Phillips is famous for being a football coach, what's less well known is that he served in the military during World War II.

Phillips was a freshman at Lamar Junior College in Beaumont, Texas, when he turned 19 on Sept. 30, 1942. The next day he enlisted in the Marine Corps in San Antonio and was soon deployed to the South Pacific as a Marine Raider after training at Camp Pendleton, California.

The Raiders were special operations forces established during the war to conduct amphibious light infantry warfare.

On June 30, 1943, Phillips was with the 4th Marine Raider Battalion of the 1st Marine Raider Regiment that landed on Vangunu, an island in the Solomon Islands.

The Japanese defenders outnumbered the Marines 10 to one, according to Phillips' 2010 autobiography, ''Bum Phillips: Coach, Cowboy, Christian.''

Spotlight: Commemorating World War II

In a four-hour firefight, two-thirds of the battalion were killed or wounded, he said. At one point the men ran out of ammunition and attacked the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

''When men fell to the ground wounded, we created makeshift stretchers by tying shirts to bamboo poles. We hauled 360 Marines out. Soon, though, we lacked enough standing soldiers to carry every wounded man to safety,'' he wrote.

Phillips said he was lucky to have survived the battle, but the experience of so many fellow Marines getting killed deeply affected him.

He also served on Guadalcanal, the largest of the Solomon Islands, and elsewhere and was honorably discharged in 1945.

Phillips had a number of high school and college football coaching jobs throughout Texas beginning in 1951, until his NFL debut in 1967 as defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers. He was with the Chargers until 1971.

''I was blessed to have him as a father and coach,'' Wade Phillips told Houston Chronicle sports writer John McClain, shortly after his father passed away on Oct. 18, 2013 at age 90. ''I got to coach with him for 11 years. He taught me everything I know about coaching. He taught me right and wrong. He taught me to enjoy life.''

Phillips is known for his colorful quotes, including:

There are two kinds of coaches, them that's fired and them that's gonna be fired.

Dallas Cowboys may be America's team, but the Houston Oilers are Texas' team.

The harder we played, the behinder we got.

I never scrimmage Oilers against Oilers. What for? Houston isn't on our schedule.

In 2014, the Marine Special Operations Regiment, serving under the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, was renamed the Marine Raider Regiment. The change was implemented as homage to the World War II Raiders.

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During the days of virtual learning, children need balance with screen time

PINE BLUFF — As COVID-19 continues to spread, social distancing remains a reality for Americans, Linda Inmon, Cooperative Extension Program associate-family and consumer sciences for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said. Because of this, everyone’s screen time has greatly increased.

“Children are spending an average of six hours a day in front of their computer screen as they attend virtual classes,” she said. “Teens spend additional time staring at their cell phones and scrolling through TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram, as they try to make sense of life during the pandemic and stay connected with friends.”

Younger children are given the privilege of watching their favorite shows on YouTube and Netflix. Meanwhile parents have to juggle a number of tasks as they try to keep everything running as smoothly as they did before the pandemic.

“Some parents are understandably anxious about the amount of time their children are spending in front of the computer screen,” Inmon said. “They wonder how much screen time is too much. They also want to find ways to better manage their children’s habits when it comes to computers and telephones.”

First and foremost, parents should not stress too much as they figure out how to solve the problem. They can sort out issues related to household screen time by following these tips:

It is unhealthy for younger children to sit in front of a computer screen all day. Set limits that best suit your children based on what types of programs they can watch and how long they can watch them. This rule can also be used for the amount of time they play video games.

Realize the difference between academic and recreational screen time. When setting screen time limits, do not count academic screen time spent in virtual or e-learning sessions against them when they want to relax and watch TV or play video games.

Allow teens to have more say in their screen time. Their lives have been turned upside down in many ways, and they miss face-to-face social interaction with their peers. Since they cannot participate in activities that are important in their social development (sporting events, school dances and graduation), they have to resort to online communication to fill the void and discover who they are and how they belong. Work together to set screen time rules that everyone can agree to.

Put into practice one general rule: there should be no screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Children and teens should not go to bed with their phones to ensure a better night’s sleep.

Find time to enjoy activities to help everyone remain healthy mentally, physically and nutritionally. Exercising and cooking together are great ways for family members to bond.

Most importantly, keep open lines of communication with your children. They should be able to talk with you and ask for advice, even if it is uncomfortable at first.

“As we wrestle with how best to use mobile devices in our lives during the pandemic, the answers will not come easy,” Inmon said. “We can all try to do our best to feel confident and calm as we weather the storm. Families should work together to find a balance as technology becomes more intertwined in our everyday lives.”

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Who’s the best person for the job? 5 tips to find ‘culture fit’ in a candidate

Many factors go into a company’s decision to hire someone: the candidate’s experience, talent, skills, and ability to communicate, for starters.

But while a sparkling resume and impressive job interview are still important considerations, a job prospect’s ability to fit the company’s culture has never been more critical in the hiring 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.

“Companies head into a new year full of uncertainty and are coming off a year of so much change and disruption,” Patterson says. “These challenges test the strength of a work culture, and as companies seek stability, adaptability, and growth, finding the right culture fit is the most crucial factor in choosing a new hire.

“An aligned team will work far better together, be more productive individually, and feel more satisfied in their roles overall. And with more people working remotely, keeping your culture strong and your workflow cohesive is imperative. Adding new people should only serve to enhance it.”

Patterson offers five tips on how to hire for culture fit:

Define and document core values. “First of all, ensure that your company has a set of values, which are the foundation of the culture,” Patterson says. “Company values show what the founder and management hold as important and the behaviors they expect employees to uphold. Spend time analyzing and fine-tuning your company values and document them into clear, specific words.”

Display company culture on the website and social media. “When researching the company, job candidates should get a glimpse of the work culture before the interview and decide if it fits them,” Patterson says. “The company needs to be clear about its core values and promote its environment so it can appeal to the best candidates. Value statements conveyed in content, slides and videos should appear in the company’s careers section, corporate blogs, and social media posts.”

Ask culture-focused questions during the interview. It’s vital for those interviewing candidates to have a firm grasp of the work culture and to ask questions that relate directly to it. “The interviewer should build a picture of who this candidate is both inside and outside the office,” Patterson says. “Ask them things like, what’s their most positive personality trait and their worst, and why for both. What type of team do they thrive in? Have they read our values? Which one resonates the most with them? What have their past relationships with co-workers, managers, and clients been like?”

Let candidates interact with staff. A prospect can say all the right things during an interview, but how they interact with employees can be more telling about whether they’re a culture fit. “Those who do well in interviews and make the short list should be brought back for extensive interaction with staff members,” Patterson says. “You can determine a lot by how engaged they are, what questions they ask, and how employees react to them generally in normal conversation.”

Research your process. Between hirings, Patterson says it’s a good idea to ask around and see if your process reflected your company culture. “Ask recent hires what worked and what didn’t,” he says. “If possible, track down candidates to whom you offered jobs but they turned them down. Find out why. You can always improve your hiring practices so they better align with the company culture.”

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Medal of Honor: Army PFC Jose Valdez

By KATIE LANGE

DoD News

Army Pfc. Jose F. Valdez knew the odds were stacked against him when he volunteered to hold off 200 Germans so his fellow soldiers could escape an onslaught during World War II. The role cost him his life, but his bravery, tenacity and devotion to duty earned him a posthumous Medal of Honor.

Valdez was born on Jan. 3, 1925, in the small, northern New Mexico town of Gobernador. He was Mexican-American and came from a large family. According to the National Infantry Museum, his family moved in the early 1940s to Pleasant Grove, Utah, to help build the new Geneva Steel mill, which produced products to support World War II's shipbuilding industry.

An old photograph shows a young man dressed in a military uniform smiling at the camera.

In June 1944, Valdez decided he wanted to do more for the effort, so he joined the Army. He was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, which had already fought its way through North Africa and was working its way through Italy. By January 1945, Valdez had joined the division as it pushed its way into France and prepared to take back the Alsace region from German control.

On Jan. 25, the 20-year-old Valdez and five other soldiers from Company B, 7th Infantry Regiment, were on patrol duty near Rosenkrantz, France. They were about 500 yards beyond American lines when the Germans launched a counterattack.

As an enemy tank came into view about 75 yards away from them, Valdez raked it with automatic rifle fire until it backed off. Soon after, three enemy soldiers slowly started toward them through the woods and opened fire about 30 yards out. Valdez fired back at the Germans until he'd killed all three.

That was only the beginning, though. The Germans then launched two full companies of infantrymen in their direction, blasting the patrol with heavy gunfire. When it appeared that the Germans were planning to surround the patrol, their leader ordered the team to withdraw.

Sticking around was almost certainly a death sentence, but Valdez volunteered anyway so he could provide cover fire as his teammates fled, one by one, through a hail of enemy gunfire back toward American lines. Three of the soldiers were injured, but all of them made it back to safety.

Valdez was hit, too. The bullet went through his stomach and came out his back, paralyzing him from the waist down, according to an article in The Salt Lake Tribune.  

He didn't quit, though.

A historic photo shows a tank parked on the road and sidewalk of a deserted town.

Despite the intense pain, Valdez got himself together enough to continue firing from his position until all of the other members of the patrol were back behind friendly lines. While trying to stay conscious, he then used a field telephone to call for artillery and mortar fire to be dropped on the enemy. He corrected the firing range until shells were falling within 50 yards of his position.

Thanks to those actions, Valdez was able to hold off about 200 enemy soldiers for 15 minutes until they finally gave up and withdrew. The injured soldier then dragged himself back to American lines.

Valdez's wounds were too severe to survive. He died three weeks later, on Feb. 17, 1945 — less than three months before the end of the war in Europe.

His actions, however, made it possible for the rest of his comrades to escape, and they were directly responsible for pushing back a force that could have easily overwhelmed them. For that, he posthumously earned the Medal of Honor in February 1946. His mother accepted it on his behalf.

Valdez was buried with full military honors in New Mexico's Santa Fe National Cemetery, since he'd spent most of his life in the state. However, he's also considered the first Hispanic Utah resident to earn the Medal of Honor.

In the decades since his death, Valdez's sacrifice continues to be remembered. In 1947, a Navy ship was renamed the USNS Private Jose F. Valdez. In 1998, the National Guard building in Pleasant Grove, Utah, was renamed for him, while a highway in New Mexico was named in his honor in 2004. The National Infantry Museum's Hall of Valor also hosts a tribute to the fallen soldier.

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Tips to prevent your kids from squandering their inheritance

Wealth is wonderful for families to have, but it can be lost quickly if those handling the money aren’t prudent. It’s estimated that 70% of wealthy families will lose their wealth by the second generation, and 90% will squander it by the third, according to a study by the Williams Group wealth consultancy..

Fortunes collapse because of family squabbles and other mistakes that could have been avoided with proper planning, 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.

“Enduring wealth, the kind that transcends generations, boils down to teaching family members at an early age the principles of saving and hard work,” Smallwood says. “When these principles are emphasized, preparing the next generation for responsible financial management has a decent chance of being successful.

“But strategically optimizing family wealth for generations also comes down to communication between the generations, and there seems to be a real disconnect between the generations when it comes to talking about wealth. And there is a fundamental misunderstanding of how to pass money well. Saving and protecting multigenerational wealth requires alignment among all family members.”

Smallwood offers these three tips to help families protect and grow their wealth across generations:

Open conversation between generations. Money is often a subject that families avoid, and as a result family members don’t understand how to protect and grow the wealth that has been worked for. “It requires open communication with family members, addressing topics that are personal in nature,” Smallwood says. “The successful families I’ve worked with over the years have had a willingness to be open with each other about the wealth that they’ve created. The more open the conversation, the better future generations will be able to avoid pitfalls and traps that place wealth under attack.”

Learn wealth-sustaining/growing financial strategies. Smallwood emphasizes that preserving wealth from generation to generation is about education and the protection pieces that are put in place. That may require a financial planner, but with each generation having different financial philosophies and priorities, it’s first up to the parents to emphasize the importance for the next generation to sustain financial growth. “The baby boomer generation, much of which is now retiring, usually had steady jobs and an abundance of material niceties,” Smallwood says. “Since then, there’s a generation that has seen tremendous growth in incomes and lifestyles. Kids born into that lifestyle have become accustomed to it. But when those kids try to leave the nest, they’re shocked to find out just how much money it takes to run a household.”

Pay special attention to tax ramifications. “Historically, estate taxes have been known to devastate wealth,” Smallwood says. “It’s impossible to know what the trends will be in the future. And maybe you’ve accumulated a lot of your own personal wealth, then inherit money on top of that. Then you could end up in a higher tax bracket. With poor planning, you could be looking at 40 to 50% drains of wealth over multiple generations. Financial planners can help you be strategic and set up layers of asset protection – wills, revocable trusts, spousal lifetime access trusts, life insurance – in order to protect inherited money for you and following generations.”

“Protecting wealth from all financial pressures should be the foundation of any wealth plan,” Smallwood says. “It requires consistency to stay up to date on new information, a family commitment, and work with a team of professionals. If the money is going to come to you, it must be managed properly so that it can be passed from one generation to the next.”

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Warning to remote workers: Out of sight could mean out of job

Although debate continues about whether the business world will return to normal even after most people have the COVID-19 vaccine, the expectation is that many companies will soon call employees back to the office.

Some workers may still get to work part-time from home, and some businesses will make remote work permanent. But tension between owners and workers is building as it becomes evident many employees are resistant to giving up working from home. In a survey, 65% said they want to work remotely full-time after the pandemic. And in a poll conducted by LiveCareer, 29% of working professionals said they would quit if they couldn’t continue working remotely.

But those who push back against ownership’s preference to return to the office might paint themselves into a corner, especially if they aren’t in a position to quit, says Rod Robertson, Managing Partner of Briggs Capital (www.briggscapital.com), international entrepreneur, and author of Winning at Entrepreneurship: Insider’s Tips on Buying, Building, and Selling Your Own Business.

“The expected stimulus money will dissipate by the third quarter and as companies continue to struggle, the cuts will begin,” Robertson says. “Once we reach herd immunity, companies will be deciding whether it makes sense to keep expensive office space.

“Corporate gravity will begin to pull key workers back to the office, and there will be resistance from employees. And those companies that do choose to go remote at least part of the time may still downsize. The bottom line for workers is, if they want to work remotely, they would be wise to take the extra steps to ensure they stand out.”

Robertson says employees who continue to work mostly from home should do these things to keep their performance and communication levels high:

Show up. Even if a company allows employees to work from home permanently, Robertson says they would be wise to go to the office at least one day each week. “Out of sight might also mean out of mind, or out of job, when it’s time to trim the roster,” he says. “Working from a distance all the time is going to lower your skill level, your engagement, and your productivity. Employees need to make the time to have facetime in the office and stay in the groove with ownership and management. You can’t do that as well at home relying on technology.”

Show the human touch. “When we achieve herd immunity, face-to-face meetings with co-workers, managers and clients should be 20 to 25% of someone’s portfolio of time,” Robertson says. “Zoom meetings are a pain because you have to set them up. Remote employees should prioritize live voice communication with colleagues, managers, and clients in order to stay in the game. Picking up the phone to talk with someone keeps the relationship alive and brings more clarity than constantly texting or emailing.”

Push your boss to measure you quantitatively. “Woe to the remote employees who believe they are not under increasing scrutiny – downsizing is on the way,” Robertson says. “The good employees working at home will have more reporting mechanisms in place. Show your boss your genuine enthusiasm by being proactive and coming up with more measurables for your performance.”

Do extracurricular work. “The question is, how can you be front-and-center with the boss?” Robertson says. “One way is to do extracurricular work by bringing relevant and helpful articles to ownership. Develop a thesis for those articles to show that you’re a thought leader. Executives and managers are flooded with emails, so the smart employees send a synthesis of an article that’s to the point.

“Businesses can’t afford slippage,” Robertson says. “Once there is herd immunity, the remote work issue shouldn’t be just about where employees feel they are most comfortable, but how they can be the most valuable and effective.”

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Social Security Matters

By National Social Security Adviser at the AMAC Foundation,

the non-profit arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Delayed claiming; am i now getting the right amount?

Dear Rusty: I am having problems getting answers from the national Social Security office or the local agent who I first spoke with to apply for my benefits. I am 70 in January 2021 and applied for benefits at the end of August 2020. I asked to have benefits start in October 2020 with my first payment received in November. I was told that the benefit for applying at age 69 & 9 months would not be received until January of 2021. Until then I would receive the 69 years and 0 months payment, which I received in November and December of 2020. In January 2021 however, I received the same 2020 payment plus the COLA increase. I've asked what's up at the local office and have been waiting for a return phone call. My first question: is the amount I received in November and December last year correct, i.e., it is only the age 69 amount, not the 69 and 9 months benefit for the age I was at the time? And second, if that's true, when in 2021 should I get my full amount? Signed: Confused

Dear Confused: I’ll try to clear this up for you. Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs) of 0.667% are earned monthly for each full month you delay claiming after your full retirement age (which for you is 66). But although you earn delayed retirement credits monthly, Social Security only applies them in January of each year. You don’t lose them; they just don’t do the benefit adjustment until January of each year. That’s why you got only the age 69 benefit when you started your benefits in October and why your payment in November and December didn’t include those DRCs.

The SS payment you received in January was actually for your December benefits, and included the 2021 COLA increase (which is computed using your December benefit). And just as an FYI, they do apply DRCs immediately for anyone who claims at age 70, regardless of the month they claim. What happened to you was because you claimed before you were 70.

The additional 6% DRCs you earned between January and September last year should be applied in January of this year and should be included in your next benefit check, which you will receive in February (SS pays benefits in the monthly following they are earned). When they do that computation, they’ll automatically adjust your COLA using your new benefit amount. So, what you were told by the Social Security agent is essentially correct – your benefit payment won’t reflect those additional DRCs for 2020 until your January 2021 payment, which you will receive in February.

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Easy come, easy go

There are fortunes to be made online via cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. One Bitcoin, which is the brand name of an anonymous computer-generated form of real money, is said to be worth about $35,000; it’s worth fluctuates just like a stock decreases and increases in value, allowing “investors” to buy and sell it in a worldwide virtual marketplace. It’s been around since 2009 and investors such as Stefan Thomas of San Francisco have made millions of dollars over the years. To be precise, Thomas is worth some $220 million in Bitcoin currency. The problem is that he can’t remember his Bitcoin password and after ten tries his fortune will be forever lost in cyberspace, so he stopped trying after his eighth attempt. He says he has gone public with his dilemma in order to show the world how important it is in this day and age to keep your passwords in a safe and accessible place, Bitcoin or no Bitcoin.   

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A real who dunnit?

Lizzie Borden was found not guilty of murdering her mom and dad in 1892. But it didn’t stop her being pegged for the crime by the public at large. They even created a grim, poetic way of accusing her of the devilish deed to this day: “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” The infamous hatchet murders took place in the Borden family’s Fall River, Massachusetts, home—a property that is now the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum and which is up for sale. It can be yours for a mere $2 million and, according to the realtor handling the sale, Suzanne St. John, the Lizzie Borden legend is still as popular as ever, judging from the interest in the property.

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Breaking up is hard to do, as they say

It appears that the European Union is more than upset over Great Britain’s exit. As of the new year English tourists arriving in Holland by ferry have had their lunches confiscated. The British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs warns travelers headed for the Netherlands that "From 1 January 2021 you will not be able to bring POAO (products of an animal origin) such as those containing meat or dairy (for example, a ham and cheese sandwich) into the EU."

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Medal of Honor: Marine Corps PFC Robert Jenkins Jr.

By KATIE LANGE

DoD News

Many of the service members who gave their lives in service to our country barely had a chance to begin their own. Marine Corps Private 1st Class Robert Jenkins Jr. falls into that category. What he lacked in age, he more than made up for in courage, commitment and dedication. For that, he earned the Medal of Honor.

Jenkins was born June 1, 1948, in Interlachen, Florida, just east of Gainesville. He had a brother and three sisters and graduated from Palatka Central Academy, an all-Black high school, in 1967.

 A man in fatigues poses with bands of ammunition as two helicopters and other service members mill around in the background.

Jenkins' family and friends said he was a nice teen who got good grades, had a lot of friends and worked hard for his family, according to the Florida Department of Military Affairs. He had a talent for masonry and woodworking, but he was also looking forward to a career in the Marine Corps. His mother said during a 1996 Tampa Tribune interview that he wanted to volunteer instead of being drafted.

Jenkins enlisted on Feb. 2, 1968, as the war in Vietnam was raging. Within five months, he was deployed to the Southeast Asian country. Attached to the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, Jenkins initially served as a scout and driver.

During the several months that he was in Vietnam, a lot of defensive battles broke out for control of U.S. Marine fire control support bases on or near the demilitarized zone, which split the north from the south. So, he was eventually assigned as a machine gunner with the battalion's Company C.

Early on the morning of March 5, 1969, Jenkins' 12-man reconnaissance team was prepared to defend Fire Support Base Argonne, just south of the DMZ, from an impending attack. When it came, a North Vietnamese Army platoon started bombarding them with fire from automatic weapons, mortars and grenades.

Jenkins and another private first class, Fred Ostrom, were fighting off the enemy together in a ditch when a North Vietnamese soldier threw a hand grenade at them. Jenkins immediately pushed Ostrom to the ground and jumped on top of him to shield him from the blast.

Ostrom survived. Jenkins did not. He was a few months shy of his 21st birthday.

"He saved more than my life — I have two kids," Ostrom said in a November 1996 interview with the Tampa Tribune.

U.S. helicopters eventually arrived at the scene to keep the North Vietnamese at bay long enough for the Marines to be airlifted out. Two other men in Jenkins' units were killed in the firefight. Six were wounded, including Ostrom.

Ostrom said that, while he only knew Jenkins for a few months, the young Marine left an indelible mark on his life.

"He was someone I could trust, someone I could count on," Ostrom told the Tampa Tribune. "What happened was in Robert's character. If it hadn't been me, it would have been someone else [he saved]. I am proud of him and I miss him."

The valor, courage and selflessness it requires to give your life for another was not overlooked the day of his death. Jenkins received a posthumous recommendation for the Medal of Honor. On April 20, 1970, his family accepted it on his behalf from Vice President Spiro Agnew during a White House ceremony.

When Jenkins' body was returned home, his family decided that he would be buried in Sister Spring Baptist Cemetery in his hometown.

In the decades since Jenkins' death, Interlachen has made a concerted effort to remember his sacrifices. Jenkins' high school was integrated in the 1970s and has since been renamed Robert Jenkins Middle School. The Robert H. Jenkins Jr. Memorial Park was built during the same decade, and a post office was eventually named in his honor.  

But the biggest tribute may have been from Ostrom, the man Jenkins saved. When Ostrom first visited Jenkins' grave in 1995, he told the Tampa Bay Times that the plot was in disarray and not befitting a hero. So, he spent a year working with veterans organizations and Jenkins' family to get it cleaned up. By Veterans Day of 1996, a rededication ceremony was held for Jenkins, complete with a Medal of Honor headstone and a footstone donated by several veterans' groups.

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Grow quick, easy and nutritious microgreens

By MELINDA MYERS

Add fresh flavor to your meals year-round with microgreens. These easy-to-grow greens need minimal space and no special equipment for a flavorful and nutritious harvest in little more than a week.

Use microgreens on salads, soups, pizzas, omelets, in stir fries or as a snack. These tiny seedlings are packed with more nutrition than their mature counterparts.

Add a bit of spice to soups and sandwiches with radish and mustard microgreens. Try red cabbage, chard, beets and amaranth for some added color. Sunflower’s somewhat nutty flavor makes it perfect for snacking.  Let some of your pea microgreens grow a bit taller to use in stir fries.

Fill a shallow container with a two-inch layer of moist potting or seed starting mix. Sprinkle seeds over the soil surface and lightly cover with potting or seed starting mix. Water gently to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.

Continue to water often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Reduce your workload and keep the planting mix consistently moist by covering freshly planted containers with plastic. Once the greens break through the soil, remove the cover and move the container to a sunny location or under artificial lights.

Increase the fun and success with a microgreen growing kit like the Organic Herb and Microgreens Grow Kit from Gardener’s Supply (www.gardeners.com). This set up is the perfect size for your countertop or other small space. The full spectrum light is adjustable so you can raise or lower it as needed whether growing short microgreens or taller herbs.

Or skip the growing mix and mess with a Jute Microgreens Starter Kit. Set the jute mat in the shallow tray, add seeds, and water. Then compost the jute mat after harvesting your greens.

Follow the planting directions on the seed packet. You typically need two to three tablespoons of seeds for an 11” x 21” tray. Buy enough seeds to make additional plantings every week or two to ensure a constant supply. Microgreens like most vegetables taste best and are most nutritious when eaten fresh. And these tasty bundles do not last long in storage.

The microgreens are ready to harvest once the plant forms the first set of true leaves. These are the leaves that resemble those of the mature plant. This takes anywhere from 7 to 14 days, depending on the room temperature and type of microgreens you are growing.

Use scissors to clip the greens off at ground level. If you prefer to use the whole seedling, roots and all, you will need to wash off any of the seed starting mix clinging to the roots.

Once you harvest all the greens, it is time to replant. Save money and be kind to the environment by composting the used planting mix and reusing containers. Convert shallow fast-food containers into planting trays.  Disinfect these or other planting trays before using them for subsequent plantings.  Just soak the containers in a 10% bleach and water solution for ten minutes. Then rinse in clear water before planting.

Gardening doesn’t get much easier than this. You will enjoy the fresh flavor all winter long as you wait for the outdoor growing season to begin.

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Social Security Matters

By National Social Security Adviser at the AMAC Foundation,

the non-profit arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens

Dear Rusty: I have read your answers to the commonly asked question of "When should I claim social security benefits." You always say one should wait as long as possible (up to age 70) to get the maximum monthly benefit. But I have not seen you address the matter of all the money you could have collected if you start drawing sooner and how many years it will take, if you wait, to recoup all that money.

I am now 64. I have always planned to wait until at least 66 and possibly to 70 to start collecting. I have no health issues and expect to live well into my 90's. When I tell people this, they question why I am leaving so much money on the table by waiting. At age 66 I'd get $1671 per month and, at 70, $2161. Between those two ages I could collect $73,524. It will take me many years to recoup all that money if I wait until 70 to begin, right? When I consider this, I question why I am waiting! Please help clear up my confusion and tell me whether I am doing the right thing by waiting to claim. Signed: Confused Senior

Dear Confused: You are correct that I always try to make people aware of their option to get a bigger Social Security benefit by waiting longer to claim. But I also always stress that the decision to do that should consider several things - most notably, current need for the money, health, and anticipated longevity. Said another way, delaying until age 70 doesn’t make much sense if you won’t live long enough to at least “break even.” Nevertheless, your point is very well taken – not a lot is written about benefits not taken when you wait until a later age to claim. I actually have written about that before, but I’m happy to evaluate your specific personal situation.

Using the numbers you provided, if you were to claim your $1671 benefit starting at your full retirement age (FRA) you would collect $73,524 over the 44-month period to age 70, when you could get the $2161 benefit. So how long would it take to break even if you wait until age 70 to claim? Well, the difference between your age 70 benefit and your FRA benefit is $490. So, if you wait and get the higher benefit at age 70, it will take you about 12.5 years to recover that $73,524 ($73,524 divided by $490 = 150 months = 12.5 years). So, here’s where longevity comes in. According to Social Security, average longevity for a man your age today is about 84, so if you meet or exceed average longevity, you’ll collect more in cumulative lifetime benefits by waiting until age 70 to claim. And you’ll be getting that higher monthly benefit amount throughout your later years, a good way to offset inflation. Indeed, that higher benefit lasts for the rest of your life, and it also means a larger survivor benefit for your wife if you predecease her. As your widow, your wife will get 100% of the amount you are receiving when you pass, if she has reached her full retirement age and if her widow’s benefit is more than her own. And 100% of your age 70 benefit is quite a bit more than 100% of your earlier benefits.

I hope this helps clarify your confusion about whether to claim now, or at your FRA, or to wait even longer to age 70. Here is a link to an article I previously published on this topic: www.socialsecurityreport.org/ask-rusty-doing-a-breakeven-analysis/. But from what you’ve shared with me, I don’t see anything wrong with your plan to continue waiting until at least your FRA - and possibly until age 70 - to claim, especially since you expect to live well into your 90s.

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Sports Heroes Who Served: From lacrosse captain to army leader

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.

Like many veterans, Edward C. Meyer was inspired to serve by a family member, an uncle who was in the Navy.

In 1948, Meyer entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York. He played lacrosse all four years at the academy and excelled. As captain, he led his team to take the Wingate Trophy, winning the national championship in 1951. He was also a two time all-American.

But Meyer loved the Army even more than lacrosse and decided to make it a career. During the Korean War, he earned the Bronze Star and Silver Star medals for valorous actions, 1952 to 1953. During the war he served with the 224th Infantry Regiment, where he moved up from platoon leader to company commander and then battalion staff officer.

In 1965, he deployed to Vietnam as deputy commander of 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and later as commander of 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment in 1966.

He served a second tour in South Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 and was commander of the 2d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and later division chief of staff.

During his Vietnam War tours, he was awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.

In the 1970s following the Vietnam War, the service was often referred to as the "hollow Army" because it suffered from shortages of personnel and equipment, deficiencies in maintenance and disciplinary issues.

At the time Meyer became the Army chief of staff in June 1979, he said just six of the 10 Army divisions were combat ready. He quickly set about making improvements, such as improving unit cohesion and introducing lighter and more mobile vehicles to make the Army more expeditionary. He retired in June 1983 with Army readiness levels greatly heightened.

Some interesting facts about Meyer include:

His nickname was "Shy" — unusual because he was talkative and outgoing.

Despite leaving a promising lacrosse career behind, Meyer continued to be a physical fitness advocate. While serving as Army chief of staff, he was the Pentagon handball champion.

Unlike almost all of today's military leaders, Meyer lamented the end of the draft in 1973. In 1983, he said, "I have great concern about the future of a nation in which there is no responsibility for service placed upon the people."

Among his most famous quotes are:

"The community of Army people — the soldiers, their families and our civilian workforce — constitute a mosaic of individual talents, concerns and capabilities united by a shared sense of purpose."

"Close bonds and a special relationship must endure between the military and society if we're to be an effective instrument of national power."

"Invariably, when a soldier has a problem, it's his first-line supervisor or first-line leaders who determine whether the soldier thinks the Army cares."

Meyer died at his home in Arlington, Virginia, on Oct. 13. He was 91.

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5 questions to ask yourself before taking the leap to entrepreneurship

As COVID-19 causes layoffs and extends uncertainty about employment in 2021, many people are considering new options, reinventing themselves, or trying to decide whether working for themselves is more desirable than finding another 9-to-5 job that might not last.

Entrepreneurship brings a lot of freedom, responsibility, and risks, and before people commit to taking that big step there are several important questions they should ask themselves, says Tim Mercer (www.timtmercer.com), ForbesBooks author of Bootstrapped Millionaire: Defying the Odds of Business.

“Entrepreneurship is a career that offers a kind of freedom and personal satisfaction you simply cannot get from traditional 9-to-5 employment,” Mercer says. “You will never know if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur unless you take the leap of faith and experience it yourself.

“It’s a big decision, though, involving many factors and inherent risks. There is a lot to navigate and endure en route to reaching your dream destination of professional and financial freedom, and many don’t make it because they simply weren’t cut out for the challenge to begin with.”

Mercer thinks people who are considering entrepreneurship should first ask themselves these five questions:

Why do you want to do this? “Let’s be honest,” Mercer says. “If the business endeavor is just about us, we will want to give up on ourselves when things get hard. Your why, which is your purpose, has to be much bigger than yourself. You must believe in a vision of why you want to be an entrepreneur and develop a plan for how you will involve others in your vision. Sustainable entrepreneurship requires the efforts of other people.” Mercer thinks it’s imperative to write down your ‘why’ and keep it in front of you as a reminder when tough times come.

Are you being realistic? One can get swept up in the emotion of starting a business, but Mercer says it’s vital for every potential entrepreneur to be realistic in their business projections for the first two years of the startup. “Answering this question before you open can prevent some unpleasant surprises as you try to build your company,” Mercer says.

Do you have daily discipline? “You are the boss, and only you can hold yourself accountable,” Mercer says. “If it’s hard for you to stay on task or stay motivated, and you think being an entrepreneur is a fast ticket to easy street, entrepreneurship definitely is not for you.”

Can your relationships survive the sacrifices? The time commitment, Mercer notes, to starting one’s own business and getting it running efficiently goes well beyond a typical 9-to-5 job. Relationships can suffer. “All entrepreneurs have to understand that they are going to be forced to make sacrifices on a personal level with their family and friends,” Mercer says. “You have to stay focused without letting your dedication to your entrepreneurial pursuit harm your relationships with those you are closest. Communicate with them and mutually come up with adjusted expectations as you build the business.”

Can you withstand the struggles? Rejection and failure, Mercer says, are realities that new entrepreneurs have to get accustomed to and learn to overcome. “You need to understand how many times you’ll fail before you’ll succeed,” he says. “You’ll get turned down by prospective customers constantly and your self-value will be tested on a daily basis. Is your why strong enough to keep you going?”

“Overall, deciding whether you are an entrepreneur or not boils down to how comfortable you are being uncomfortable,” Mercer says. “Only time will tell if you have the people skills and business skills to be a successful entrepreneur, but rest assured that you will have to endure periods of real discomfort.”

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It’s never too late

Tommy Cook’s 1969 Camaro was stolen seventeen years ago but he never gave up hope of getting it back. Amazingly, Cook, who lives in Spottsville, VA, was helping a friend check out a Camaro that was for sale at a repair shop in Maryland when he spotted his own long-lost vehicle in a corner of the shop. The car had been repainted, but its VIN number proved that it was indeed his car. And it was in better condition than when it was stolen in 2003. Apparently, the Camaro had four owners, including the car thief, in the interim who took pretty good care of the car.

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Incentive

More people died in South Korea than were born in 2020. And so, faced with a declining population one municipality, the town of Changwon, is providing a cash incentive for married couples to have babies. The city has announced that it will give married couples “loans” of $100,000 each. Those who have an only child would have the interest on their loan waived. Couples who bear two children would have the principal reduced by 30%. And those who have three children would have their loans completely forgiven.

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Show off

Some people have taken a devil-may-care attitude when it comes to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic; they’ll take public transportation and risk infection. But most of us are taking the coronavirus seriously. And then there are those who are "super paranoid." Take, for example, Richard Muljadi and his wife, Shalvynne Chang, a very wealthy couple who reside in Jakarta, Indonesia. They recently took a Batik Airline flight to the island of Bali, purchasing each and every seat – a total of 162 business class and economy class seats – in order to eliminate the risk of exposure. Apparently, they were so proud that they took such an expensive precaution, they took pictures during the flight to show that they were the only passengers on the plane and posted them on social media.

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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

Benjamin Franklin, the paternal polymath of Revolutionary America, was born January 17, 1706, and died eighty-four years later. His formal education ended at 10, but Franklin taught himself to read and write; subsequently, he matured into an expert, adolescent essayist, producing pieces, pseudonymously, as “Silence Dogood.”

Eventually, he authored the bestselling Poor Richard’s Almanack—a compendium of poems, calendar, and recipes; trivia, humor, practical advice; weather predictions, astrological information, and pithy proverbs.

And his later achievements as a printer, publisher, author, inventor, scientist, and diplomat, mutated the world.

Franklin’s triumphs were variegated, and the scope of his nimble masterminding of the Franklin Stove, bifocals, electricity, and swim fins was unprecedented. He was also America’s first Postmaster General, and founder of the University of Pennsylvania.

Most important: Franklin was a Founding Father. According to History.com, he was the only Founding Father “to have signed all four of the key documents establishing the U.S.: The Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris establishing peace with Great Britain (1783) and the U.S. Constitution (1787).”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

...

Apparently, it was a “practical joke” when the all-male student body at Geneva Medical College--now State University of New York - voted to accept Elizabeth Blackwell as a student in 1847. Two years later--on January 23, 1849 - she graduated at the top of her class; at commencement, the school’s dean acknowledged her achievement in a rather cynical manner and concluded his remarks by declaring his hope that Dr. Blackwell would be the last woman to be admitted to the college.

The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal - now The New England Journal of Medicine-- called her achievement “a farce.”

Blackwell completed her graduate studies in London; in 1851, she returned to the U.S., but she was shunned - and barred  - from practicing in hospitals. Undaunted, she opened an office in New York City’s tenement district; six years later, she set up The New York Infirmary for Women and Children, with her sister Emily - also doctor - and a third female physician.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Elizabeth Blackwell: First Woman M.D. by Nancy Kline.

...

Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, was published in 1872, but it is still popular. His hero, Phileas T. Fogg, managed to accomplish the feat.

Because the book was a best seller in America and abroad, the editors of the New York World decided to challenge their paper’s star reporter, Nellie Bly, to circumnavigate the globe in under 80 days. The intrepid newspaperwoman did not hesitate. She departed New York City, heading east, and returned 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 14 seconds later-- on January 25, 1890.

Nellie Bly was not her real name; she was born Elizabeth Cochrane, but in those days, it was considered improper for a woman to write under her own moniker. She changed it to “Nellie Bly” when she became a journalist.

According to the Library of Congress, “No stranger to fame, the daring Miss Bly had already made a name for herself by exposing the deplorable conditions of an insane asylum on New York’s Blackwell’s Island. Bly researched the story by feigning insanity and having herself committed for ten days. Her exposé on the asylum and later reports on slum life brought about needed reforms and helped pave the way for women in journalism.”

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Flowers, candy, and a mask; Will the vaccine be your valentine?

For all its woes, 2020 did at least give the United States a normal Valentine’s Day.

It’s 2021 that may cause troubles for Cupid and his quiver of arrows.

Slowly but surely, Americans are being vaccinated for COVID-19, but the vaccination’s timeline doesn’t look that good for Feb. 14, when intimate dinners at fancy restaurants are usually the norm.

“We've been social distancing and staying at home so much that this Valentine's Day may feel more like any other day than it ever has before,” says Acamea Deadwiler (www.Acameadeadwiler.com), author of Single That: Dispelling the Top 10 Myths of the Single Woman.

At this time a year ago, the pandemic’s impact on the United States was still relatively muted, so donning masks and avoiding crowds wasn’t yet de rigueur. Valentine’s Day played out under normal circumstances, with couples making dinner reservations, exchanging cards, and enjoying romantic time together.

Singles, too, had a normal Valentine’s Day in 2020, which for some meant feeling left out as the holiday played out all around them, Deadwiler says.

“Although Valentine’s Day could feel like any other day this year, singles still may wish they had someone for a more intimate celebration, like candlelit dinner at home or a local hotel staycation,” Deadwiler says.

“Feeling forced to spend the day alone is different from choosing to be alone. Sometimes you at least want the option to go out and meet someone new or enjoy a Valentine’s Day event that’s especially for singles.”

Deadwiler has a few tips for those singles as Valentine’s Day approaches:

Treat yourself to something. Buy chocolates and a teddy bear for yourself. Or you could go bigger and buy a pair of shoes you've been eyeing. “Even better, spend the day getting pampered at a spa if there's one open near you, masked up, of course,” Deadwiler says. “Be your own Valentine and engage in an abundance of self-love.”

Know that you may not be missing out on all that much. Being single may feel less noticeable this Valentine’s Day because there wouldn't be much to do even if you were coupled up, Deadwiler says. “Love fests will be more intimate and contained,” she says. “So, you won't be missing out on any big celebrations or events commemorating the occasion. Plus, most restaurants aren't able to operate at full capacity. Even the basic Valentine's Day outings like dinner may be limited.”

Be aware of the potential effects of “lockdown loneliness.” After nearly a year of limited social activities, plenty of singles may be inclined to throw caution (and discretion) about relationships to the winds, Deadwiler says. “If you’re already tempted to get serious with someone just to have a partner around, Valentine’s Day will likely magnify that feeling,” she says. “It will increase the self-imposed pressure to lock someone down because now you have a deadline. To beat the clock, you may be tempted to rush things or even reach out to an ex just to have someone occupying that space.” Deadwiler says that could prove to be a bad idea because once Valentine’s Day passes – and certainly once the post-pandemic world opens up – you may have trouble remembering why you felt the need to be with that person.

“Couples and singles both may need to make alternative plans this Valentine’s Day,” Deadwiler says. “But that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad day. Just a different one.”

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Ways to achieve a positive mindset and how it will help you succeed

Katie Sandler, career development and impact coach, offers advice on how to become more positive and successful

FORT LAUDERDALE — A positive mindset helps people make the best choices and decisions for themselves, their jobs, and those around them. Learning to practice having a positive mindset also fosters a strong relationship with yourself and others as it relies on engaging in and maturing your internal dialogue. It helps in building resilience, creating a positive and optimistic attitude and ultimately leads to greater success and well-being.  The good news is that there are things people can do to have a more positive mindset.

“There are so many benefits of cultivating a positive mindset,” explains Katie Sandler, personal development and career coach. “The goal is to learn how to do it and then continue practicing it until utilizing a positive mindset becomes a way of life. It can be done, and when it is, you will be far more successful and content as a result.”

A positive mindset is a mental and emotional attitude - it's about making the choice to think positively. If we think positively then typically beneficial behaviors and actions follow. Sandler has helped many people to shift their mindset and use the power of it to achieve goals and become more successful in multiple areas of their life. Some of the ways she has helped her clients to achieve a positive mindset include:

Practice mindfulness. When you are living in the moment and are aware of what is going on in the present moment with a kind and open attitude, you are being mindful. Many people worry about the past or the future, which tends to lead to symptoms of stress, depression or anxiety. But, when you attune to the here and now without judgement, you are better able to remain positive and achieve your goals. As your mind wanders, which it’s trained to do, simply acknowledge it and gently bring it back to the present moment by focusing on your breath.

Have an attitude of gratitude. Being grateful means noticing even the small things in your life that you appreciate. It’s a way to savor the moment, be positive and look for the possibilities in whatever life throws your way. When you do this on a regular basis, it helps to flex your mindset muscles - train yourself to be grateful and express gratitude and notice the good things that happen all around you.

Keep it real. Life is not easy or peachy keen. As a matter of fact, it is actually more difficult than it is easy, but no one wants to admit this. So let's face the facts - we have to work at having a positive mindset, period, and anything worth having doesn't come easy because life is hard.

Engage your internal dialogue. You know that voice you hear in your head? Well you're not alone, because we all have an inner voice we hear. The thing is, a lot of people don't realize that you can in fact engage with that part of yourself, and with a loving and kind attitude, you can work with yourself to mature your mindset.

Commit to it and keep practicing. People tend to think that knowing what to do is half the battle, but that’s not true. If you don’t put it into practice then it doesn’t do you much good to know it. You have to learn new habits and ways of being, implement them, test them out, and continually work at getting better at them.

Define what success means to you. At the end of the day, how we define success varies for us all, but this definition is for sure: To achieve well-being, a state of fulfillment and contentment, and a positive mindset is the type of success we should all hope for - the type of success we all need and deserve.

“One of the most important things you can do in life is to shift your mindset so that you can truly enjoy the life you’re living,” added Sandler. “It will be beneficial in nearly all areas of your life, helping you to become healthier, happier, and more successful. Make this the year that you put positivity front and center.”

A positive mindset can help people experience greater levels of happiness, and being happier helps people to become more positive – it’s a cycle. In an issue of the journal called Canadian Family Physician, a doctor wrote what he called a prescription for happiness. The three things he prescribed to help people be happier are spending time outdoors in a natural environment daily, starting every morning by thinking of three things to be grateful for, and surrounding yourself with supportive people.

Sandler has provided professional support to many people to help them achieve their personal and professional goals. She routinely works with people to help them identify areas to focus on, paths for personal achievement, how to reach their life goals, and more. She also works with companies providing impact trainings and workshops, developing and promoting purposeful and inclusive organizational cultures. Through her efforts, companies have been able to reduce absenteeism rates, motivate their team, reduce stress levels, engage their employees, and create a workplace in which to thrive.

In addition to one-on-one coaching services, Sandler offers impact retreats and corporate impact events. 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. Upcoming retreats include Rest and Renew in Asheville, NC, Mindfulness in Mykonos, Rewire and Renew in The French Alps, and 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 business leaders can leverage tenacity in 2021

It was a year of hard knocks, for individuals and certainly for businesses, which struggled to survive as the COVID-19 pandemic spawned a weak economy that wreaked havoc on sales goals, performance goals, and profits.

But 2020 is now history, 2021 has arrived, and individuals and businesses both need to approach this New Year with a new attitude if they hope to succeed, says Dr. Allen Lycka (www.drallenlycka.com), co-author of the international bestseller The Secrets to Living a Fantastic Life.

“If there is one attribute that determines success, it’s tenacity,” says Lycka, who for three decades was a cosmetic dermatologist, but today is a transformational keynote speaker, thought leader, and life-changing coach.

“While intelligence, hard work, and skill are important, it is tenacity and perseverance that ultimately make the difference in achieving success. Businesses that show those traits are the ones that will do well in 2021.”

In the process, though, those businesses and the people who lead them may need to shove aside any lingering pessimism brought about by 2020, and dig deep inside themselves for the optimism that dwells there, Lycka says.

Lycka is convinced tenacity resides in everyone and it’s just a matter of bringing it out. He suggests a few ways to do so:

Fix your belief system. Lycka says the No. 1 reason people give up – whether in business or other endeavors – is that they harbor false beliefs. They are certain that they can’t succeed because something – genetics, bad luck, some other factor beyond their control – is keeping them down. Businesses aren’t going to flourish with that type of fatalistic thinking, he says. He points out that in the bestselling book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell wrote that becoming expert at something takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. In other words, tenacity. Of course, “deliberate practice” is a specifically defined term that involves goal setting, quick feedback, and constant efforts at improving. “Integral to this is to have a written plan and goals,” Lycka says. “Goals are dreams with a deadline.”

Be wary of naysayers. In business planning, as in life planning, it’s important to brush off the negative criticism from others. For example, someone determined to launch a new business in 2021 might hear from naysayers that this is the wrong time or that the basic idea for the business is a bad one. “If you truly believe that your plan is a good one and that it’s what you want to do, then you should listen to yourself rather than others,” Lycka says.

Look for role models. One way to summon your inner tenacity is to choose role models who exhibit the traits you admire. “If you have role models who are tenacious, you can pattern yourself after them,” Lycka says. For individuals, that can mean looking to successful people who overcame odds or persevered despite encountering failure along the way. For businesses, it can mean studying how their best competitors thrived despite 2020’s difficulties, or how the entrepreneurs they admire shrugged off setbacks to accomplish success.

“Thankfully, we all have what it takes to be tenacious,” Lycka says. “You can always build up your resolve by using some of these tips, but don't forget that it’s been there all along. Everything you need, you already have. Just have to recognize it and work at it.”

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How younger workers can mentor older ones and move companies forward

Mentoring usually refers to a manager, executive, or experienced employee guiding a younger person in the workplace, helping them acquire knowledge and new skills that foster professional growth.

But with the expanding role of technology in today’s rapidly evolving business climate, a role reversal sometimes takes place – reverse mentorship. That is, older employees are paired with younger ones who teach them about technology – a strong suit for millennials and Gen Z workers, generations who grew up with technology.

Reverse mentoring can be a plus for businesses in bridging generation gaps and knowledge gaps, and also a lifeline for older workers who otherwise might get phased out, says Rod Robertson, Managing Partner of Briggs Capital (www.briggscapital.com), international entrepreneur, and author of Winning at Entrepreneurship: Insider’s Tips on Buying, Building, and Selling Your Own Business.

“The older people better pay attention to these young people and find a mentor so they can teach them about technology,” Robertson says. “Recent studies have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated the shift to e-commerce and e-learning.

“The people who don’t climb aboard the tech train will be left behind in the post-pandemic shakeout. A lack of tech knowledge is an excuse for organizations to cut the more expensive, older people and bring in the younger talent. These young tech execs should latch onto a floundering management exec and lead them to the new world order before they become obsolete. In return, the young people get access to years of wisdom, and companies can become more cohesive and efficient in the whole reverse mentorship process.”

Robertson offers these tips on how to implement reverse mentoring successfully:

Focus on a business need. What is the mentee learning the technology for? “Reverse mentorships are more successful when they focus on a broader business need,” Robertson says. “For example, a tech-savvy employee could mentor on how to use social media to generate more sales leads. The company doesn’t benefit unless the mentee learns how to develop and use new skills in concert with business strategy.”

Find partners who are a sensible fit. “An ideal mentor has knowledge or skills that you need and is willing to build a relationship with you,” Robertson says. “But can that person teach it in a way that’s fairly easy to understand? Do they listen or talk over you? You need substantive engagement and a lot of question-and-answer time without added tension.”

Be open-minded and respectful. Reverse mentoring empowers young leaders, but at the same time they can learn from and value the older group’s decades of experience. “Without mutual respect and openness it won’t work,” Robertson says. “The mentee has to be willing to go outside their comfort zone. And the mentor should respect that. Both should be tactful and patient.”

Set clear goals and expectations. “Discuss expectations upfront,” Robertson says. “Make sure you’re both committed to the process and goals are aligned. Neither of you should be too busy to meet at least once weekly. Otherwise a real teaching-learning relationship isn’t formed and too much falls through the cracks.”

Track progress. Robertson says organizations should formalize these reverse mentorship relationships and make them quantifiable. “A mentorship relationship falls short if progress isn’t tangibly measured in different stages,” Robertson says. “If progress isn’t where it needs to be, discuss new ways to achieve goals. Both the mentor and the mentee can determine where the gaps are and how to close them.

“Technology has blown the roof off the traditional corporate thinking of top-down learning,” Robertson says. “Reverse mentoring removes barriers in today’s multi-generational workforce, enhances careers, and in some cases of the oldest workers, it can extend them.”

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Retirement brings with it extra time; How to make the best of it

Singer Jim Croce longed to put time in a bottle.

Retirees aren’t always certain what it is they long to do with time, but one day they stop working and find they have a barrelful of it.

“People often are so focused on making sure they are financially ready to retire that they forget to plan for what they want to do in retirement,” says Patti Hart, co-author with her husband, Milledge, of The Resolutionist: Welcome to the Anti-Retirement Movement.

“And they may have more time to fill than they realize. Life expectancy has grown, and retirements that last 20 years, 30 years, or longer aren’t that unusual. So you have to start thinking, what will you do with your time? How do you envision your days playing out?”

For the Harts, the answers to those questions involve the “anti-retirement movement,” where retirement is more than a rocking chair on a front porch or endless hours of golf.

“We did leave our careers, but we would never call ourselves retired,” Milledge Hart says. “We are busier now than we’ve ever been. The difference is that we are busy doing what brings us joy rather than what advances our careers.”

But the transition isn’t always easy, which is why the Harts recommend finding efficient ways to manage that extra time the post-career years bring.

Patti Hart cautions that time management does not have to mean blocking out every minute.

“For most people, it is just setting goals and priorities, then making sure you plan for how you are going to accomplish them,” she says. “It is being productive with your time.”

To do that, the Harts suggest putting yourself into the mindset you had in your working years, such as:

Use a calendar. People in a corporate setting rely on calendars to manage their obligations and retirees can as well. “Too often people just think they will remember that they have yoga on Tuesday and Thursday, and volunteer at the animal shelter on Wednesday,” Patti Hart says. “But then they add a lunch here or a board meeting there and pretty soon find themselves scurrying from activity to activity.” Checking a calendar each day also let’s people know they may need to pull back if they are overcommitted, or they may need to find activities to add if too many empty hours are going to waste.

Make a to-do list. A to-do list helps ensure nothing gets forgotten. Just be flexible, Milledge Hart says, because the list is a tool to keep you on track, not a ball and chain to imprison you. “If you’d rather do something else today, feel free to move items to another time or just skip them altogether,” he says. “It’s your list so it’s your call.”

Treat everything like a business appointment. The calendar and the to-do list can be filled with things that would never have made a business person’s schedule – but may now be high priority for you. “You can pencil in 30 minutes for meditation or an hour to begin reading a James Patterson novel,” Patti Hart says. “Maybe you want to block out Friday afternoon to experiment with a new recipe. These are your preferred ‘appointments’ now and are equal in importance to board meetings or conference calls.”

Adapt your system as your needs change. Some people begin retirement doing all the things they had been putting off, such as traveling or fishing more. “But that first burst of activity usually begins to wear, and you realize you want more from this stage of life,” Milledge Hart says. “At that point it makes sense to reevaluate your resources and goals. Be aware of how you feel about certain activities and be ready to drop some and pick up others as your time and interests change.”

“In the same way that making good financial investments provides you with additional capital, investing your time wisely provides you with more time to do things you really want to do,” Patti Hart says. “ And that will make your life so much better.”

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Sports Heroes Who Served: Navy enlistment helped spark football legend's career

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.

Daniel Eugene "Rudy" Ruettiger became a famous college football athlete, but he got his big start by joining the Navy in 1968 and serving two years at sea as a yeoman.

Using his Vietnam GI Bill benefits, he enrolled in Indiana's Holy Cross College in 1972 and then at the University of Notre Dame in 1974, playing in the Orange Bowl in 1975 and the Gator Bowl in 1976 — the year he graduated.

Despite being undersized for a football player — 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 165 pounds—Ruettiger was accepted as a defensive end on Notre Dame's Fighting Irish football team due to his drive and determination.

His claim to fame was brief, but spectacular. On Nov. 8, 1975, he was put in the game against Georgia Institute of Technology. During the final play of the game, he sacked Georgia Tech quarterback Rudy Allen.

Ruettiger's teammates were ecstatic, and they carried him off the field; at the time, he was the only player ever to receive such an honor.

The story of the undersized young man being allowed to play and sacking the opposition's quarterback led to the 1993 movie "Rudy" based on Ruettiger's short football career. Ruettiger was played by actor Sean Astin.

Ruettiger actually appeared in the movie as a fan in the final scene. Although Hollywood often takes liberties to make events more dramatic when making films based on true stories, Ruettiger said the film was 92% accurate.

These days, Ruettiger likes to visit service members and give motivational speeches.

During one such visit to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, on Oct. 7, 2010, he told the soldiers that "the Navy actually changed my thinking around, my attitude around, and who I was."

Ruettiger said members of the armed forces are great Americans. "This is an honor for me to come here. I'm real humbled and real privileged," he said.

During his motivational speech he talked about how everyone has the potential to be whatever they want to be.

"It's not your age, it's your attitude," he said, adding that people who work hard deserve a shot.

Ruettiger also told the soldiers all it takes to succeed is what he called the four Cs: character, courage, commitment and contribution. "The little things make a big difference," he said.

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Social Security Matters

By National Social Security Advisor at the AMAC Foundation,

the non-profit arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Do COVID-19 Bonuses Count Toward the Earnings Limit?

Dear Rusty: I'm 63 and still working, and I receive Social Security benefits. Because of COVID-19 my employer has been giving us a $300 bonus, every 3 months. This will be $1,200 for the year and it will put me over the $18,240 earnings limit for this year. My question is, since these bonuses are COVID-19 related are they still considered earned income? My second question is, if I go over the limit does Social Security stop my check, even if it might be a portion of the check? Signed: Working During COVID-19

Dear Working: Whether your 2020 earnings (and those bonuses) put you over the annual earnings limit will depend upon how the bonuses are reported on your Federal income tax return (or your W-2 if you aren’t required to file). Your employer will send your W-2 earnings to the IRS which will, in turn, inform Social Security of your earnings. Social Security compares your 2020 W-2 earnings to the earnings limit to see if you exceeded the allowable limit. In other words, how your employer defines those COVID-19 bonuses and reports it to the IRS determines whether SS will count them toward the earnings limit. You should check with your employer’s Human Resources department to see if your COVID-19 bonuses will be considered as taxable earnings reportable on your W-2.

If you exceed the limit, and you don’t inform Social Security in advance that you did, they won’t know about it until they receive your W-2 information from the IRS (sometime next year, after you file your income taxes). They will then send you a notification that you exceeded the limit and tell you how much you owe them, and they will want to recover $1 for every $2 you are over the limit (half of what you exceed the limit by). They’ll give you the option to repay what they consider to be an overpayment in one lump sum, request a repayment plan or to have your SS benefits withheld for as many months as it takes for them to recover what you owe. Note they only withhold full months of benefits, not partial, so you could go several months without collecting any SS benefits until they recover what is owed.

The money they withhold because you exceeded the limit is not lost forever, because when you reach your full retirement age (66 ½ if you turned 63 in 2020) they will give you time credit for any months they withheld benefits. That means they will move your effective claim date forward by the number of months benefits were withheld, which will result in a small increase in your benefit amount. But you’ll get that higher benefit for the rest of your life, enabling you to eventually recover the money they withheld because you exceeded the limit. And for information, during the year you reach your full retirement age (FRA) the limit goes up and the penalty is less, and once you reach your FRA there is no longer a limit to how much you can earn while collecting benefits.

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4 reasons it’s time for your household  or business to go green in 2021

A Gallup survey shows high enthusiasm among Americans for renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and a growing number who think the U.S. should put less emphasis on fossil fuels like oil and coal.

But amid the growing concerns about climate change and experts’ beliefs that fossil fuels are largely responsible, Americans wonder whether transforming to green energy  would benefit their budget and the U.S. economy as well as the environment. Steve Melink (www.melinkcorp.com), ForbesBooks author of Fusion Capitalism: A Clean Energy Vision For Conservatives, says yes.

“People make the argument that the fossil-fuel energy economy we have has been good to this country,” Melink says. “They like driving the car they have, and they don’t want to change their way of life.

“But there are some serious, well-documented problems with our fossil-fuel-centered economy that we all pay for, and the cost to our health and environment is one we can simply no longer afford to pay. ‘Business as usual’ has run out of time as a plausible option. The time to upgrade to green is now, for consumers and businesses. And along with saving our planet, it would be great business for this country, because we have all the tools necessary to make it a win-win.”

Melink lays out some economic benefits for U.S. consumers and businesses in transitioning from fossil fuels to green energy:

Reduced costs compared to fossil fuels. “The cost of renewable energy has plummeted to the point where almost every source of green energy is competitive with oil, coal, and gas-fired power plants,” Melink says. “Data trends show that it soon will be no contest, with clean energy easily outdistancing fossil fuels on a simple cost basis.”

Long-term savings with solar panels. While the initial cost of solar panels can be $10,000 or more depending on the size of the house, their main appeal is the ability to save homeowners money on electric bills in the long run. Some estimates list savings of more than $1,000 per year over a 30-year period.  “Photovoltaic cells are the main component that makes up a solar panel, and their best feature is they have no moving parts, thus requiring virtually no maintenance,” Melink says. “Utility rate inflation is an incentive for solar. When you generate your own energy with a rooftop PV system, you’re locking in energy costs at a constant rate. The future of solar, however, will be combined with storage solutions that can provide dependable solar power even when the sun doesn’t shine.”

Geothermal system efficiency. “A geothermal system doesn’t have to work as hard heating and cooling the home because it uses the constant temperature below the earth’s surface,” Melink says. “It requires some electricity to run, but it returns three to five times as much energy as it requires.” Numbers from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that homeowners using geothermal systems may realize savings of 30-70% on heating costs and 20-50% on cooling costs.

High production potential. Melink thinks the U.S. has the capability of becoming a world leader in green energy production – if more of the business community gets on board. “American companies that invest in renewable energy for themselves will also be investing in what could be a major growth industry for the nation,” he says. “But if American businesses wait to embrace renewable energy as consumers, then we lose the chance to make our country a leader on the production side. Other countries will be eager to take over that role.”

“America is behind in the global picture of renewable energy development,” Melink says. “But the fact is that opportunities to lead this energy boom are, as Rockefeller discovered at the outset of the oil century, particularly grand for Americans.”

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Is COVID changing your college plan? How students can rethink their dream job

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the uncertainty and worry college students annually feel about focusing on the right career and finding their dream job. The job market for young people is down, many schools have switched to remote learning, and many school resources aren’t available.

As a result, some students are concerned that their majors won’t lead to a job in their field, and they’re wondering whether they should change majors or their definition of a dream job. But on the bright side, a changing world gives college students the opportunity to fully explore exciting new options, their potential, and end up on a path better than they previously planned, 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.

“Sometimes the path we planned takes a turn, but rather than leading to a dead end, it opens a whole new world to us,” Thompson says. “While this is a challenging time, it is also an exciting time if young people approach it the right way.

“The best opportunities can come out of times rife with great change, disruption, and uncertainty. Take the time to consider all options that interest you. With a will, there’s always a way to get there.”

Thompson offers college students these steps to take when rethinking their dream job:

Switch your major. “Students who want to change their career path should look at the curriculum of those majors they have interest in and decide whether it has what they’re looking for,” Thompson says. “Meet with an academic advisor before making any changes, and if necessary, reach out to the financial aid office to see how a change in major could affect your aid.”

Launch a startup – while in college. A global crisis has made some college students and recent grads realize that perhaps the best path to job stability and career fulfillment is starting their own business. “Sometimes the best fit with your passion is starting your own business, even if it’s on a shoestring and part-time,” Thompson says. “You could take entrepreneurship classes to augment your business, gaining classroom education and making connections at the same time.”

Do your homework. “It may be one of the toughest job markets in decades, but you can find opportunities faster than ever before because of the internet,” Thompson says. “If you’re thinking of changing career paths, Google everything you can on that career. Then go after it like someone has assigned you to write a thesis on this new career. And it’s also a big help to look up people in that field on LinkedIn.”

Stay motivated, show flexibility. Your dream job might be out of reach right now, but Thompson says it’s vital to shift from the disappointment and discouragement you feel to focus on the opportunities available for working – especially remote working. “Building a new narrative,” Thompson says, “and producing a brand story about how you turned this time of great challenge into a great opportunity will speak volumes to future employers.”

Develop new skills. “Developing a diverse skill set can expand your appeal to a larger number of employers,” Thompson says. “Nowadays, you’ve got lots of opportunities to learn online at your own pace, either taking individual courses or enrolling in certificate programs for different trades.”

“The most important thing to remember is that your career is your own,” Thompson says. “It will be a big part of your life, and ideally, it will embody your passion, your best skills, and define your professional success. The path you take isn’t as important as it is to keep moving down the road toward your preferred destination.”

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The kid’s a born angler

Tyler Grimshaw was 10 years old back in June when he landed a trophy trout that weighed in at 41 pounds. He’s 11 years old now and he recently went back to the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah where he made his first catch and he did it again, this time reeling in a 48-pound trout. In both cases, Tyler released his catch. Perhaps he hopes the trout will grow bigger, giving him a chance to eventually break the state record for lake trout, which stands at nearly 54 pounds.

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Another man’s trash, etc.

A struggling college student, Conrad Duran in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and his girlfriend had been furnishing their home with what stray furniture they could find on curbsides. Just before Christmas they found a pair of dining room chairs. They left them out front and to their dismay that evening they disappeared. They thought the chairs had been stolen. They went off to be with family for the holiday weekend and on their return there they were on the porch, completely refurbished and reupholstered. It turns out the “thieves” were actually good Samaritans. "I thought they had been stolen and lo and behold, they had just taken them, redid them, and returned them as a Christmas gift or something like that.  Now they just look absolutely beautiful," Duran told reporters.

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Trick or treat

Robert Galinsky of Yonkers, NY was upset when he found out that the folks who make King's Hawaiian sweet rolls “tricked” him into thinking they were made in Hawaii. He was so upset that he’s suing the company. Galinsky’s class action lawsuit points out that the front of front of the package states, “King’s Hawaiian” below which are the words “Hilo, Hawaii.” But when you look at the back label it states that the rolls are made in Torrance, California. As one wag put it, self-isolation during the COVID-19 crisis has given people a lot of spare time to come up with strange notions.

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8 common mistakes business sellers make

 All business owners think about selling their business at one time or another. However, for the ones who decide to go forward and sell, there are certain points that need to be addressed if they want to have a successful transaction and get the most money for their business.

After selling over 800 businesses, I decided to list eight common mistakes owners make when selling their business:

1. Trying to sell it yourself. Business owners usually are not objective about their business. Even if you have the financial skills, you’ll have a tendency to overestimate the value. And you are not expected to have the financial skills to be objective in the valuing of your own business. Instead, you are a successful business owner, which is an art in itself. The selling of a business is the combination of both an art and a science, and it is performed by individuals who do this full-time as their profession. You do what you do best, and let a professional intermediary do what they do best.

There is a reason pro athletes and actors have agents – because they get more money and better terms when they hire someone to negotiate for them. Likewise, you simply won’t get as much value for your business trying to sell it yourself and learn on the job. Attempting to sell your own business will devour your time. You know how to run your business, but this is no time to learn how to be an investment banker or business broker.

2. You are too sensitive about your business. You will take comments made by a buyer personally and perhaps kill the deal. Nobody likes to hear they have an ugly baby, and the same is true when you are selling your business. Any negative comments about your business to you will be taken personally regardless of how hardened you may think you are. The solution is to get an intermediary to soften the blow and translate the buyer’s comments into requests that will not be taken personally.

3. You don’t know how to arrive at fair market value. Owners who are unrealistic about the value of their business are the biggest reason why deals fall through. Get the facts and the reality of what businesses like yours are selling for in the current market, and never believe anything you read in the trade magazines as the gospel regarding valuations.

4. You don’t know how to recognize a qualified buyer. Different businesses require different kinds of buyers, and different buyers will pay different amounts for a business. You need to know which buyers are paying the most in today’s market, because buyers change with the market.

5. You probably don’t know where to look for the right buyer. Finding the right buyer for your business who will pay top dollar isn’t as easy as running an ad in a trade magazine or newspaper and seeing who contacts you. As a seller you want to know who really has the money and whether they are serious. Are they cherry pickers or making low-ball offers? Or do they try to  claw back on an offer and use the old bait-and-switch technique? Remember, time is money, and buyers are generally working on your time and your money.

6. You fail to realize that selling a business is a process, not an event. Selling a business involves a structured process that takes time – generally between six to 12 months from conception to closing. It is a very detailed process that not all sellers are up to accomplishing without the guidance from a trained professional who has performed this process many times before.

7. You have to assemble the right team to get the job done. Just as in sports, if a seller doesn’t have the right team of players in the game, he will either get defeated or hurt in some way. What is the right team? An attorney who has experience in business transactions and understands the sale of a business to a buyer and not to one’s lifelong golfing buddy. An accountant who understands the tax system and is not afraid to give good tax advice, knowing there is a possibility they will lose your account and is looking out for your best interest. And an experienced intermediary who has working knowledge of your industry.

8. You aren’t committed to selling. Selling a business is a lot of hard work. People don’t realize how much work it is to assemble all of the data that is needed by a buyer to get a business sold. A lot of transactions will fall apart because the seller is either not committed to the process or does not have the mental stamina to continue. The solution is to get help with a seasoned intermediary who will coach from the beginning to the end and help you to reap the rewards for all of your many hard years of work.

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How lifelong learning is becoming a new version of the MBA

When higher education looks back on 2020 in decades to come, the year of the pandemic could be viewed as a turning point for MBAs and other advanced degrees.

COVID-19 forced a nationwide experiment in online learning, and one lesson stemming from that experiment may be that furthering your education doesn’t necessarily need to mean paying high tuition to earn a formal post-graduate degree.

“We all need to be lifelong learners if we hope to achieve our goals and lead a fulfilling life,” says Kimberly Roush, founder of All-Star Executive Coaching (www.allstarexecutivecoaching.com) and co-author of Who Are You… When You Are Big?

“But that can mean many things, and because of the pandemic I think it’s become even more clear that the ways we approach educating ourselves don’t need to be stuck in the notions from the past of how learning takes place.”

Harvard’s and Columbia’s business schools are already adding certificates and lifelong learning to their programs. Instead of immersing themselves into a degree program for a compact period of time, students have the option to stretch their learning out over years, latching on to what meets their current needs.

That kind of approach fits well with the goals and lifestyles of many business leaders, says Roush. She offers a three-month group-coaching program for executives in transition called “Back In the Game,” which provides business leaders with a chance to continue learning and honing skills to help reignite careers thrown off track by the pandemic.

Roush has advice for those who want to keep adding to their knowledge base throughout their careers, whether that’s done through a certificate program, a one-time online class, coaching sessions, or a more formal degree:

Think deeply about yourself and your goals. Allow yourself the time and space to reflect and get off autopilot so you can be deliberate and intentional as you move forward, Roush says. “We tend to be all about drive and action,” she says. “Reflecting about ourselves is something that often gets overlooked. In some cases, people don’t have the tools to do it effectively.”

Strive to be a learner, not a knower. Some people are “knowers” and others are “learners,“ Roush says. “Knowers feel compelled to know the answer, a sign of an insecure ego,” she says. “In today’s world, of course, it’s impossible for any one person, or any one leader, to know it all. Knowers operate more out of control than out of curiosity. They do not really lead so much as they manage.” Lifelong learners, on the other hand, have a predisposition to be curious. “They have a healthy ego,” she says, “so they have no problem saying, ‘I don’t know the answer, but let’s figure it out.’ ”

Recognize that your joy for learning can impact others. When business leaders are learners, this creates more of a partnership approach with employees, who feel empowered as a result. “The focus is on working together,” Roush says. “It all stems from that natural curiosity. By asking ‘what’ and ‘how,’ leaders encourage more conversation—and more learning by everyone.”

Understand that self improvement doesn’t always involve major change. Roush has worked with many executives who made adjustments in their careers, but those adjustments need not be dramatic.  “Often, people have been deliberate about their career choice and love their field; they just have gotten caught up in a part of it that they don’t like,” she says. “Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting back to their roots and remembering what they love about their job and allowing themselves to focus far more on that. You don’t necessarily have to make the big right turn and completely change what you’re doing. You’re not necessarily on the wrong path; you may just have hit a rough stretch or don’t know exactly where you are.”

“Great coaches are always still learning too,” Roush says. “I’m constantly looking for new opportunities to learn and grow and I get to learn from every person I coach – we learn together.  One thing I always want to do is spread the word about the power that resides within each of us if we reach for our potential.”

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Will your kids squander their inheritance? Tips to prevent squabbles and sprees

Wealth is wonderful for families to have, but it can be lost quickly if those handling the money aren’t prudent. It’s estimated that 70% of wealthy families will lose their wealth by the second generation, and 90% will squander it by the third, according to a study by the Williams Group wealth consultancy..

Fortunes collapse because of family squabbles and other mistakes that could have been avoided with proper planning, 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.

“Enduring wealth, the kind that transcends generations, boils down to teaching family members at an early age the principles of saving and hard work,” Smallwood says. “When these principles are emphasized, preparing the next generation for responsible financial management has a decent chance of being successful.

“But strategically optimizing family wealth for generations also comes down to communication between the generations, and there seems to be a real disconnect between the generations when it comes to talking about wealth. And there is a fundamental misunderstanding of how to pass money well. Saving and protecting multigenerational wealth requires alignment among all family members.”

Smallwood offers these three tips to help families protect and grow their wealth across generations:

Open conversation between generations. Money is often a subject that families avoid, and as a result family members don’t understand how to protect and grow the wealth that has been worked for. “It requires open communication with family members, addressing topics that are personal in nature,” Smallwood says. “The successful families I’ve worked with over the years have had a willingness to be open with each other about the wealth that they’ve created. The more open the conversation, the better future generations will be able to avoid pitfalls and traps that place wealth under attack.”

Learn wealth-sustaining/growing financial strategies. Smallwood emphasizes that preserving wealth from generation to generation is about education and the protection pieces that are put in place. That may require a financial planner, but with each generation having different financial philosophies and priorities, it’s first up to the parents to emphasize the importance for the next generation to sustain financial growth. “The baby boomer generation, much of which is now retiring, usually had steady jobs and an abundance of material niceties,” Smallwood says. “Since then, there’s a generation that has seen tremendous growth in incomes and lifestyles. Kids born into that lifestyle have become accustomed to it. But when those kids try to leave the nest, they’re shocked to find out just how much money it takes to run a household.”

Pay special attention to tax ramifications. “Historically, estate taxes have been known to devastate wealth,” Smallwood says. “It’s impossible to know what the trends will be in the future. And maybe you’ve accumulated a lot of your own personal wealth, then inherit money on top of that. Then you could end up in a higher tax bracket. With poor planning, you could be looking at 40 to 50% drains of wealth over multiple generations. Financial planners can help you be strategic and set up layers of asset protection – wills, revocable trusts, spousal lifetime access trusts, life insurance – in order to protect inherited money for you and following generations.”

“Protecting wealth from all financial pressures should be the foundation of any wealth plan,” Smallwood says. “It requires consistency to stay up to date on new information, a family commitment, and work with a team of professionals. If the money is going to come to you, it must be managed properly so that it can be passed from one generation to the next.”

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Want to work remotely forever? 5 key factors to consider

Working from home is the new normal for millions of Americans, and many companies are planning to make the move permanent even if vaccines bring an end to the pandemic.

Whether that’s the case at your company, your bosses are giving you an option, or if you want to make a case to them to work remotely, there are important matters to consider, says Cynthia Spraggs (www.virtira.com), a veteran of working remotely and author of How To Work From Home And Actually Get SH*T Done.

“The pandemic may result in something I’ve advocated for years – more people working remotely,” says Spraggs, also the CEO of Virtira, a completely virtual company that helps other businesses work virtually. “But making this kind of transition permanently, whether full-time or part-time, can have a major impact on both your career, finances, and your personal life.

“It’s more than just the dynamics of getting your home workspace set up properly for the long haul and having the right mindset to perform even better than you would in the office. Will your work relationships suffer? Your family and personal relationships? Your career trajectory? Is relocating a good idea financially?”

Spraggs offers these key points to consider about working remotely on a permanent basis:

Consider possible salary changes and tax implications if relocating. “You need to ask this question if you’re considering relocating to work remotely,” Spraggs says. “Some employers will base compensation on location, and that means employees moving from a high cost-of-living area to a less expensive one could see their salaries reduced. Also, employees need to do their homework and see how their take-home pay will be impacted by taxes in their new location.”

Determine your home-or-office comfort level. Is your life better in the long run working from home? “That question should include whether you miss your work colleagues and team synergy enough that Zoom doesn’t cut it,” Spraggs says. “Maybe social isolation is catching up with you and you need a hybrid-type balance, or you realize you want to be back in the office after all. The bigger question is how well can you manage your time working from home, or do family dynamics interfere?”

Plan your pitch thoroughly. “If you have to sell your leadership team on working remotely full-time,” Spraggs says, “have specific examples of your work performance since you started working from home during the pandemic. And if you want to relocate, you can inform leadership about what advantages that might have for the company, like giving them a new presence in a certain region.”

Keep an eye out for other job prospects. If you relocate, Spraggs says it’s important to consider what the job opportunities are in your new market, because layoffs are always a possibility. “And wherever you are,” Spraggs says, “remember that your next employer might not be on board with remote work.”

Beware it could hurt your career prospects. If most of your company will be returning to the office, those who work from home either part-time or full-time might be at a disadvantage in terms of promotions or performance evaluation. “It’s important to be proactive about communicating with your manager and having a plan to keep them informed of your progress,” Spraggs says. “It’s a good idea to come to the office occasionally. You have to have some in-person time to build relationships with teams.”

“Now is a good time to reevaluate your current work environment and how it could be if you continue working remotely,” Spraggs says. “A lot of people have enjoyed the freedom of it, but there’s much to consider if you want to make the new normal a permanent reality.”

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Change is just beginning: How leaders can focus on meeting 2021’s challenges

Business leaders dealt with massive and rapid change in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but many small businesses and chain stores didn’t survive.

As a new year begins amid much economic uncertainty, companies that successfully navigated 2020’s turbulence can’t rest, and they need engaged, forward-thinking leaders who can keep adjusting and focusing on the right factors in a volatile business environment, says Doug Meyer-Cuno, ForbesBooks author of The Recipe For Empowered Leadership: 25 Ingredients For Creating Value & Empowering Others.

“We live in a VUCA world,” says Meyer-Cuno, referring to the acronym standing for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. “We need to adjust to how fast things are changing. It means companies adjusting to AI technology, electric cars, and hub-to-hub freight liners that are driver-free. Every company needs to think out of the box.

“Leaders, therefore, need to be fast at making decisions to compete in tomorrow’s world. They’ll have to challenge themselves to look into the future and find ways for their company to not only keep pace but stay ahead of the curve.”

Meyer-Cuno offers the following ways for company leaders to meet the frequent challenges of change in 2021 and beyond:

Align change decisions with the company vision. Meyer-Cuno says many entrepreneurs and CEOs forget the importance of setting a vision for their organization, and that makes decisions in the midst of massive change more difficult or less thought out. “Reaffirming the vision must be a priority every day until it becomes part of the DNA of the company culture,” Meyer-Cuno says. “Everyone in the company must ask themselves why the organization exists. They must ask themselves this question so often that the answer is ingrained in every decision they make. Once they do, it’s possible to navigate the uncertainties of change as a unified group.”

Be more intentional with your vision, mission and core values. “Some financially successful companies lose their compass,” Meyer-Cuno says, “which shows why it’s vital for your company to be always intentional with its vision, mission and core values. They are the standard-bearers for the organization’s reputation as well as performance. The companies that will make it in the future are the ones who can push data, processes, products, and services through the pipeline the quickest. Alignment around your vision, mission, and core values are crucial in developing a company capable of great speed and agility.”

Empower your employees. Though it’s important for leaders to often come up with the ideas and planning to chart direction, Meyer-Cuno says the most effective leaders tap into the talented and smart people around them, pick their brains in their areas of expertise, and implement their ideas. “You must empower employees not to be yes men,” he says. “Ideally, you want a group that thinks, not groupthink. Encourage debate and participation from everyone. The really talented people out there want great leaders capable of empowering them.”

Don’t put up with attitude problems. High performers who set their own rules and don’t adhere to core values aren’t worth keeping around, Meyer-Cuno says, due to the damage they can inflict on the culture. “When you’re in a leadership position,” he says, “it’s vital to the success of your team that you live what you preach. If you don’t, nobody else will either. Demonstrate boundaries and what it means to do the right thing by showing you won’t accept noncompliance from your mavericks or high performers. Taking that action will serve to further empower your teams.”

“At this critical crossroads time for many businesses,” Meyer-Cuno says, “leaders need to reevaluate how strong or fragile their company foundation is and whether it is well- equipped to handle the battering winds of change.”

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5 tips to make this the year to lose weight (and how to do it)

SEATTLE, Wash. – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 pounds of your total body weight is likely to produce health benefits. The benefits can be found in blood pressure readings, blood cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels. That’s not a lot of weight, yet most people are not successful at losing it, and if they are they can’t seem to keep it off. Going into 2021, now is the time to make this the year to lose the weight and to keep it off for good.

“Choose right now to get your weight under control,” explains Dr. Michael Stern, founder of the Seattle Weight Loss Center. “Many people gained weight throughout the pandemic, and each new year brings with it the motivation to make changes. Don’t let this year pass by without tackling and beating the weight problem.”

Those who make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight are far more successful than those who do not, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Their study compared those who make resolutions to those who don’t over a six month period. Within the top three resolutions was to lose weight and adhere to an exercise program. They found that at the six month period, 46% of those who made a New Year’s resolution were successful, compared to only 4% of those who didn’t make a resolution.

Here are 5 tips to make this year the one to lose weight (and how to do it):

Understand yo-yo dieting. Millions of people diet, successfully lose weight, only to gain it back, and then start the process over again. This is referred to as yo-yo dieting. Some people believe it actually makes you fatter, because many gain back even more than they lost. Understand how it works so you can avoid this type of lifestyle, and instead focus on creating a long lasting healthy lifestyle. When you make small changes that stick around for the long term, they become your new norm and will lead to success.

Know why people fail at dieting. This varies from person to person. What can sabotage one person isn’t necessarily what does it to another. Many people fail with their dieting goals because they follow a short term program, making changes just for the duration of the diet. Once they are done dieting they fall back into their old habits, and then the weight creeps back on. Lasting weight loss needs to come from making long term changes. By seeing changes as a new lifestyle you will be in a better position to keep the weight off.

See the connections beyond the fork. Many people who diet only look at what they are eating. Yet there are things that may be eating them, leading them to eat more due to being stressed out. When we get upset, anxious, or bored, we may have habits that lead us to eat more, or to eat unhealthy foods. Becoming more mindful about eating and lifestyle habits can help give you long term success. Mindfulness and meditation can go a long way toward helping to create a healthier lifestyle.

Find what works for you. Not everything works for every person. We are all unique and have different needs. We can’t all consume and burn the same number of calories per day, just as we don’t all need the same amount of protein each day. You have to understand that your unique needs must be determined and followed, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss.

Get support for your journey. People are more successful at losing weight when they have support. The support can keep you motivated and on track. Many people have found the support they need through the Seattle Weight Loss Center, which offers free consultations to help people with their weight loss goals.

“I’ve helped many people to overcome their weight loss challenges and yo-yo dieting,” added Dr. Stern. “I know the hold that it can have on people and I have made it my mission to help as many of them as I can. Nobody has to suffer through being overweight, they just need to know where to turn for the help they need.”

A retired urologist, Dr. Stern has made it his mission to study every aspect of weight loss. In doing so, he has become a weight loss specialist, and has founded the Seattle Weight Loss Center. Through the nonprofit organization, he provides free support to help people take control of their weight, successfully shed the extra pounds, and improve their overall health and well-being.

A former marathon runner, Dr. Stern was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1995, and today is a quadriplegic. He conducts all weight loss consultations via Zoom. His weight loss program is shared in a book available on Amazon, called “Dr. Stern’s Rotation Diet.” The diet offers a weight loss program that focuses on four main components, which are motivation, disciplined endurance, diet, and exercise. With Dr. Stern’s rotation diet, people pick two or three diets that work for them, and rotate them to increase success rates. One of the other key aspects of the plan is to know the “why” so you know what motivates you to lose the weight.

His program goes beyond just what one eats and how many calories they burn. He explores the psychological aspects of weight, including teaching people to incorporate mindfulness, meditation, and more. He helps people gain an understanding of the keys to success, how to stay the course, and hacks to help people achieve long-lasting weight loss. His program shares the secrets of how he lost 70 pounds in seven months, without exercising at all.

Dr. Stern has attended weight loss conferences, as well as worked with a variety of professionals in the field to gain a better understanding about weight issues, including nutritionists, physical therapists, and psychologists. As part of his program, he will also be recommending ongoing treatment to board-certified physicians and surgeons in obesity medicine in each patient’s local area. After spending 60 years yo-yo dieting, he has successfully applied all he has learned about losing weight and maintaining the loss. While his weight loss consultations are free, the organization does accept donations to help cover costs.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Adviser RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty - Did My Wife Get A “Notch Baby” Benefit Increase?

Dear Rusty: I was born in May of 1930, and my wife was born in April 1931. My wife claims she received an increase in her Social Security benefit due to the “Notch Baby” provision. Is she correct about this? Signed: Inquisitive Husband

Dear Inquisitive: Allow me to clarify for you what your wife is referring to, and you can use your own judgement on how to present the information to her.

So-called “notch babies” are those Social Security recipients who were born between the years 1917 and 1921.  Folks born in those years were affected by a Social Security issue which had to do with how Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) were computed. Here’s what happened:

In 1972, when the Social Security Administration switched to automatic COLA increases based on the Consumer Price Index, they made an error in the automatic COLA computation formula which wasn’t discovered for several years. During those several years they awarded COLA increases using the incorrect formula which paid COLA at a higher level than appropriate. After discovering the error, and in an attempt to fix the issue, in the mid-1970s, Congress decided that those born before 1917 would be allowed to stay on the incorrect (more generous) formula, but COLA for those born after 1917 would use a corrected formula. However, that didn’t sit well with SS beneficiaries born after 1917 because they were receiving less COLA than their counterparts born before 1917. So, in an attempt to mollify those Social Security beneficiaries born after 1917, Congress created a special “notch” formula for those born between 1917 and 1921. And those who were born between those dates were called “notch babies.”

The new “notch baby” formula was not quite as generous as the incorrect formula being enjoyed by those born before 1917, but yet a bit more generous than the corrected COLA formula which applied to anyone born after 1921 (and still exists today). Thus, “notch babies” do enjoy a slightly better COLA formula than other Social Security beneficiaries born after 1921.

Over the years, various attempts have been made to extend the notch baby end-year definition from 1921 to, for example, those born before 1927. And even as recently as 2019, a Congressional bill called the “Notch Fairness Act” attempted to provide restitution by extending the end date of the “notch” to 1926. But none of those attempts in Congress have ever succeeded in changing the definition of “notch babies” beyond the original 1970s Congressional definition to apply only to those born between 1917 and 1921. So, anyone born after 1921, including your wife, has COLA computed using the corrected formula, not the “notch baby” formula.

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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How technology can steer you through the fast lane of the post-COVID world

Technology’s impact on the work environment was profound well before the pandemic – streamlining processes, increasing productivity, and making remote work seamless.

Now, given the rapid changes in an uncertain economy affected by the virus, knowing how to utilize and navigate technology in the post-COVID world will be even more crucial for entrepreneurs, college graduates, other job seekers, and upwardly mobile professionals, says Tim Mercer (www.timtmercer.com), ForbesBooks author of Bootstrapped Millionaire: Defying the Odds of Business.

“Corporate America is undergoing a major transformation,” says Mercer, who also is founder of IBOX Global (IBOXG), which provides technology services to government agencies and Fortune 500 corporations.

“Technology is at the center of this seachange. The virus will have a tremendous long-term impact on the workplace, and the influence of technology will loom larger as a result of the lessons we’ve learned during this unprecedented time.

“Company structures are appearing more tailored to the entrepreneurial mind. The evolving trend is working from home, smaller workplaces, and niche-focused businesses. The work is moving faster, and whether a business owner or freelancer, you must be agile and nimble to compete. All these changes can be good, but only if you are ready.”

Mercer says the key to success in the post-COVID world is understanding these business-related benefits of technology:

The internet is the great equalizer for knowledge and opportunity. “The internet is the driving force behind the access to today’s opportunities,” Mercer says. “With the global economy, and technology connecting so many of us to it simultaneously, success has more to do with your ability to identify the right opportunities and your desire to go after them.” While the internet enables someone to gain knowledge quickly, Mercer says it’s also important to be vigilant in discerning the quality of online sources.

Leveraging technology correctly helps businesses run efficiently. You don’t need to earn a degree in information technology or become a computer whiz to leverage the benefits of technology, Mercer says. “What’s most important is that you know how to use technology to achieve your business goals,” he says. “For example, through the power of tools like QuickBooks, I was able to manage the financial aspect of several of my businesses without having to hire a full-time finance team. Leverage the strength of technology to carry more of your workload while increasing your profitability.”

Tech certifications can be more powerful than four-year degrees. Many college graduates aren’t working in fields related to their majors, and today’s employers are increasingly shifting toward skills-based hiring for technology jobs. “With the demand in tech, that means certification programs are on the uptick, often providing a quicker and more cost-effective way of getting hired than does a four-year college degree,” Mercer says. “A person’s overall earning powers in tech can more than double. Our general educational system often doesn’t meet the demands of today’s business environment. Typical college grads and most students lack the skills required for today’s tech positions.”

Freelancing and independent consulting are on the rise. Gigging – taking on multiple freelance jobs – is growing in popularity, largely due to the growth in digital platforms and social media. “This has given rise to a freelancer and consulting boom that has opened the door to a more flexible and creative workforce of contractors to accommodate the heavy workflow of today’s companies,” Mercer says. “The power of social media and online platforms is making it easier for entrepreneurs to engage a more diverse and global market. You can use your individual skills to bring more value to your business simply by selling those skills and services to others.”

“Technology has a hugely important role in enabling us to meet the many economic and business challenges presented by the pandemic,” Mercer says, “and to be better prepared for whatever comes next.”

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Aged whiskey

Nick Drummond and Patrick Bakker had just purchased a 105-year-old house in the town of Ames, N.Y. And when they started do-it-yourself repairs on their fixer-upper they made a cheerful discovery. As they began removing some rotted wooden skirting from the home’s mudroom out fell a bottle of booze. It was not just an ordinary bottle of whiskey; it was a hundred-year-old bottle of prohibition-era hootch. It prompted them to do a more thorough search that turned up a total of about 100 bottles, their labels declaring that it was the real thing: blended scotch whiskey distilled in Scotland. It seems the original owner of the house was a “rum-runner.” Their plan is to put them up for auction, hopefully after they’ve had a sip or two.

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Who was Tom Ford?

A resident of the Back Bay section of Boston made a puzzling discovery in his 126-year-old home recently. Hidden in a wall next to the fireplace was a rye whiskey bottle that contained not the beverage but a cryptic note. It has the City of Boston Archaeology Program busy seeking an explanation. They’ve posted photos of the bottle and the note with its enigmatic message apparently written on September 23, 1894, which bears the name, Tom Ford, and the phrase “6 on Shea.” The label on the bottle, itself, reads: N. Simons, Importer and Wholesale Liquor Dealer, 31 & 33 Castle St., Boston. The folks at the Archaeology Program are scratching their heads and asking via social media, does anyone out there know what it could mean?

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Poop pirates

Porch pirates come out of the woodwork during the holidays. They search for packages left on doorsteps, hoping to find valuables inside. So, a resident in one particularly hard-hit neighborhood in Hamilton, Ontario do come up with a way to get back at the brazen thief or thieves. He filled a box with cat poop, dressed it up as a delivery and set it up on her front porch. It was stolen within 45 minutes and the whole thing was caught on his front door video camera.

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A working world altered by COVID-19 beckons; Is the Class of 2021 ready?

Forgive the college class of 2021 for feeling a twinge of anxiety as they prepare for their final semester of studies.

They have arrived at their future, and it’s a hollow image of what they envisioned when they so carefully and excitedly chose colleges and majors just a few short years ago.

With an economy that’s unsettled, many of these young people are left to wonder whether all their preparation will be rewarded when they soon begin a potentially challenging hunt for a job in their chosen field.

Add to that a pandemic that altered the rules and realities of the workplace, and it’s a strange new world indeed.

But rather than despair, these soon-to-be graduates should focus on those things they can control, and try not to worry about those they can’t, says Bob Slater, co-author with his son, Nick Slater, of Look Out Above! The Young Professional’s Guide to Success (www.bobandnickslater.com).

“We often can’t control whether we achieve the outcomes we seek,” he says. “But we always can control the effort and attitude we bring to an opportunity or problem.”

With that said, the Slaters offer a few tips to help the class of 2021 navigate these unusual job-hunting times:

Accept that you may not work in a trendy office – or any office. Admit it. In the best of all possible worlds you expected – or at least hoped – to work in an office with gym equipment, ping-pong tables, a coffee bar, and eccentric co-workers who would keep you entertained and motivated.  “You may need to reset your expectations since so much of the workforce has gone remote, and some businesses plan to keep it that way,” Bob Slater says. “You may only on rare occasions see your co-workers in person.”

Expect more autonomy. The good news about jobs without offices is you could have more autonomy than you ever dreamt about. Certainly, supervisors will expect production and will check in to nudge – or shove – you along. But with remote work, no one is a mere cubicle away, ready to peer over your shoulder. Of course, with great autonomy comes great responsibility, to tweak a Spider-Man phrase. Make it easy for your manager, Nick Slater says, by monitoring your email, text, and phone messages frequently so a short-tempered boss doesn’t have to wait hours for you to respond to questions or instructions. Also, routinely keep your boss informed. Send an “FYI – No Reply Needed” email saying what you worked on – or will work on – today.

Be prepared to get vaccinated. Here’s something your older sisters and brothers didn’t worry about when they graduated – pandemic-prompted inoculations. Perhaps you’re debating whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine. “If so, know that your personal views on needles and vaccines are just part of the equation,” Nick Slater says. “Your employer could require proof of vaccination, especially if you have to go into a physical workplace.” Can employers do that? The short answer is yes, although there are caveats. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently updated its COVID-19 guidelines to include vaccination information, and those guidelines do allow for employer-required vaccinations.

Finally, the Slaters caution that it’s not unusual for fresh college graduates to experience some initial workplace disappointment.

You studied for anywhere from four to eight years anticipating the day you would become a doctor, accountant, TV journalist, business professional, graphic artist, teacher, or whatever career you had your sights on.

Suddenly, reality doesn’t mesh with your expectations. Mundane daily tasks no one mentioned in all your classwork become a drain on your energy. The profession seemed a perfect fit for you in theory, but in actuality that fit seems a bit off-kilter. Do you ditch everything or ride it out?

Bob Slater recommends giving your chosen vocation a fair shot. After all, you made quite an investment in getting there.

“No job is likely to be the nirvana you imagined or hoped for,” he says. “Plus, it may be that, as a young professional, you just haven’t yet found your true niche within your chosen career. To find your niche you may have to move laterally, or even downward for a time. Think of your path not as a corporate ladder that only goes up or down, but as a jungle gym where lots of paths lead to your desired destination.”

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4 reasons it’s time for your household  or business to go green In 2021

A Gallup survey shows high enthusiasm among Americans for renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and a growing number who think the U.S. should put less emphasis on fossil fuels like oil and coal.

But amid the growing concerns about climate change and experts’ beliefs that fossil fuels are largely responsible, Americans wonder whether transforming to green energy  would benefit their budget and the U.S. economy as well as the environment. Steve Melink (www.melinkcorp.com), ForbesBooks author of Fusion Capitalism: A Clean Energy Vision For Conservatives, says yes.

“People make the argument that the fossil-fuel energy economy we have has been good to this country,” Melink says. “They like driving the car they have, and they don’t want to change their way of life.

“But there are some serious, well-documented problems with our fossil-fuel-centered economy that we all pay for, and the cost to our health and environment is one we can simply no longer afford to pay. ‘Business as usual’ has run out of time as a plausible option. The time to upgrade to green is now, for consumers and businesses. And along with saving our planet, it would be great business for this country, because we have all the tools necessary to make it a win-win.”

Melink lays out some economic benefits for U.S. consumers and businesses in transitioning from fossil fuels to green energy:

Reduced costs compared to fossil fuels. “The cost of renewable energy has plummeted to the point where almost every source of green energy is competitive with oil, coal, and gas-fired power plants,” Melink says. “Data trends show that it soon will be no contest, with clean energy easily outdistancing fossil fuels on a simple cost basis.”

Long-term savings with solar panels. While the initial cost of solar panels can be $10,000 or more depending on the size of the house, their main appeal is the ability to save homeowners money on electric bills in the long run. Some estimates list savings of more than $1,000 per year over a 30-year period.  “Photovoltaic cells are the main component that makes up a solar panel, and their best feature is they have no moving parts, thus requiring virtually no maintenance,” Melink says. “Utility rate inflation is an incentive for solar. When you generate your own energy with a rooftop PV system, you’re locking in energy costs at a constant rate. The future of solar, however, will be combined with storage solutions that can provide dependable solar power even when the sun doesn’t shine.”

Geothermal system efficiency. “A geothermal system doesn’t have to work as hard heating and cooling the home because it uses the constant temperature below the earth’s surface,” Melink says. “It requires some electricity to run, but it returns three to five times as much energy as it requires.” Numbers from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that homeowners using geothermal systems may realize savings of 30-70% on heating costs and 20-50% on cooling costs.

High production potential. Melink thinks the U.S. has the capability of becoming a world leader in green energy production – if more of the business community gets on board. “American companies that invest in renewable energy for themselves will also be investing in what could be a major growth industry for the nation,” he says. “But if American businesses wait to embrace renewable energy as consumers, then we lose the chance to make our country a leader on the production side. Other countries will be eager to take over that role.”

“America is behind in the global picture of renewable energy development,” Melink says. “But the fact is that opportunities to lead this energy boom are, as Rockefeller discovered at the outset of the oil century, particularly grand for Americans.”

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Medal of Honor: Army Capt. Eli Whiteley

By KATIE LANGE

DOD News

Army Capt. Eli Whiteley was an academic interested in agriculture when World War II consumed the world, but he volunteered for the Army to do his part. In 1944, he led his platoon through a fierce battle in France that killed several Germans and captured dozens more. His leadership and courage despite intense wounds led him to earn the Medal of Honor.

Whiteley was born Dec. 10, 1913, and grew up on his family's farm near Georgetown, Texas. After high school, Whiteley applied to the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University). But, according to the Texas State Historical Association, he was told he needed better grades and more coursework.

Instead, Whiteley took odd jobs to earn money for school and eventually landed a position with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, a new federal agency.

After six years of work, Whiteley reapplied for college at AMCT and was accepted. Majoring in agriculture, Whiteley took as many courses as he could year-round while working two jobs and participating in ROTC. He graduated in 1941 — in three years — with a Bachelor of Science degree in agronomy. However, since he graduated early, he failed to finish the required courses that would have led to a military commission.

Whiteley then moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, to start his master's degree at North Carolina State College (now North Carolina State University). But then Pearl Harbor happened, and, according to the Texas State Historical Association, Whiteley volunteered his name to the draft board to be chosen during the next call-up. So, in April 1942, the 28-year-old joined the Army.

After basic training, Whiteley went to Infantry Officers Candidate School to earn his commission. He worked stateside training other recruits and soldiers until November 1944 when he was shipped to Europe as a rifle platoon leader assigned to Company L, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. The unit was in France, where it had begun its push toward Germany.

There was bitter fighting along the way. During a fierce battle in Bennwihr, France, on Dec. 23, 1944, Whiteley's company lost more than half of its men. As devastating as that was, it was about to get worse.

Victory At All Costs

On Dec. 27, 1944, then-1st Lt. Whiteley was leading his platoon in a brutal campaign that required the men to fight from house to house in the fortress town of Sigolsheim, France.

As he charged alone into a house off a fire-laden street, he suffered serious wounds to his left arm and shoulder, but he still managed to take out the two Germans occupants. Using grenades, he then charged into the next house, killing two more while helping his platoon capture 11 enemy soldiers.

House by house, Whiteley led his platoon as it cleared hostile troops from buildings along the street. By the time they reached a Nazi stronghold, Whiteley's left arm was completely useless. But he pushed forward anyway, blasting out a wall with a bazooka before charging through a hail of gunfire that followed. He had to wedge his submachine gun under his uninjured arm as he ran into the house through the blast hole, killing five enemy soldiers and forcing the remaining 12 to surrender.

Whiteley continued his attack and was again critically wounded when one of his eyes was pierced by a shell fragment. Despite the intense pain, he yelled for his men to follow him into the next house.

He stayed in the fight as the head of his platoon until medical personnel forced him to evacuate.

All in all, Whiteley's courage under intense fire led to the death of nine Germans and the capture of 23 more. His leadership during the battle led to an Allied victory that shattered any remaining enemy resistance in the area.

Recovery and Honors

Whitely was evacuated to get medical help. After three months, he was sent back to the U.S. for treatment, which took 18 months and included plastic surgeries and an artificial eye. While he was still in recovery, he was flown to Washington, D.C.

On Aug. 23, 1945, he received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman during a White House ceremony. His mother and one brother were able to attend; he was also promoted to captain.

Afterward, he returned to the hospital for treatment. It took 18 months for Whiteley to recover. In May 1946, he was discharged from the Army.

Back to Academics

A distinguished war hero, Whiteley returned to North Carolina and finished his master's degree in 1949. That same year, he married a woman named Anna. The pair had two sons and three daughters.

After earning his degree, Whiteley accepted a job teaching agronomy at his alma mater, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. He worked there for 30 years as a teacher. He also researched plants and soil management, which helped him earn him a doctorate in soil physics in 1959. Whiteley retired in 1979 and was named a professor emeritus in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences.

Whiteley remained active in the military community. He was once a post commander at his local American Legion, and he served for a while as the president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Whiteley died of a heart attack on Dec. 2, 1986. He was buried with full military honors at College Station City Cemetery.

Whiteley's name lives on at Texas A&M. The Eli Whiteley Memorial Medal of Honor Park was named in his honor. A dormitory was also dedicated in his name. Whiteley's Medal of Honor is also on loan to the Sam Houston Sanders Corps of Cadets Center on the university's campus, where it’s currently on display.

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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

Whatever you call it: “Continental Colors”; “Congress Flag”; “Cambridge Flag”, or “Grand Union Flag” -- it was the first national flag of the United States. According to historical lore, George Washington unveiled it January 1, 1776 –during the American Revolution—but the stars and stripes motif encompassed a replica of the British flag in the upper left-hand corner.

“It was sort of a compromise between the radicals who wanted to see a separate nation, and the people who were more conciliatory, and wanted to see some accommodation with the crown,” according to historian and flag expert David Martucci.

The History Channel noted in June of 1777 that “the Continental Congress adopted a resolution stating, ‘the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white’ and that ‘the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation’.”

To learn more, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Kevin Keim’s and Peter Keim’s A Grand Old Flag: A History of the United States Through its Flags.

...

It is difficult for the iPhone generation to fathom the complexities of communication throughout history. For decades, telephones used hard-wired landlines to commence a call. And before that: the telegraph – an invention by Samuel Finley Breese Morse, who demonstrated its “efficiency” via an electrical impulse on January 6, 1838. It came with a code that Morse created using dots and dashes--instead of the alphabet--to move a message from point A to point B.

He formulated the idea in 1832; by 1838-- with the assistance of his two partners, Leonard Gale and Alfred Vail, he had a working model. Morse requested funding from Congress to make the prototype--it included construction of overhead wires between Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland— but the legislators demurred.

Five years later, he garnered the approval--and the money--to proceed; on May 24,1844 Morse sent his first telegraphic message: “What hath God wrought.”

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Lewis Coe’s The Telegraph: A History of Morse's Invention and Its Predecessors in the United States.

...

The U.S. Constitution was signed into law by the delegates of the Constitutional Convention in September of 1787. It structured the Federal government; explained the essential laws of the country and guaranteed basic rights for every citizen.

But it was not the first American Constitution. That inaugural document was written and adopted on January 14, 1639 by the settlers from the original Massachusetts Bay Colony, who had migrated to the Connecticut River Valley. It was known as the Fundamental Orders.

According to History.com, “Roger Ludlow, a lawyer, wrote much of the Fundamental Orders, and presented a binding and compact frame of government that put the welfare of the community above that of individuals. It was also the first written constitution in the world to declare the modern idea that ‘the foundation of authority is in the free consent of the people.’ In 1662, the Charter of Connecticut superseded the Fundamental Orders, though the majority of the original document’s laws and statutes remained in force until 1818.”

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends A. Chamberlain’s The First Constitution Of Connecticut: The Fundamental Orders.

...

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – About Repaying Social Security Money Taken by Politicians

Dear Rusty: It is common knowledge that over the decades politicians have taken billions if not trillions of dollars out of the Social Security fund to finance other government programs. This information is never published or addressed and having the government repay this money back to SS is never discussed, as it seems to be the most logical solution. When the SS program is financially viable again, future changes to the program can be discussed in a more meaningful way. Signed: Informed Senior

Dear Informed: I’m afraid that what you refer to as “common knowledge” is actually a common myth, pervasive on social media but nevertheless not accurate. Here at the AMAC Foundation we have thoroughly researched this charge and reality is that every dollar ever contributed to Social Security since the program’s beginning has been used only to pay benefits to beneficiaries, or to pay for the cost of running the Social Security Administration (administrative costs are about 1%). Any surplus revenue exceeding program cost was deposited into the Social Security Trust Fund as “special issue government bonds” which pay interest (at 2.2% for 2019). As of the end of 2019 there were nearly $2.9 trillion in assets held in Social Security’s Trust Funds, and none of those assets have ever been used for any purpose other than Social Security.

Some of the myths you may have heard include:

• That President Kennedy used SS funds to pay for the Peace Corp.

• That President Reagan used SS funds to pay for his Strategic Defense Initiative

• That President Johnson used SS funds to pay for the war in Viet Nam

 None of these are true, but the one which gains the most visibility is the last one. And that comes from an accounting gimmick that President Johnson used back in the 1960s to make the Federal debt look less than it was. When Johnson realized the Federal balance sheet didn’t reflect assets held in the Social Security Trust Funds, he arranged for that balance sheet to reflect SS reserves as a Federal asset, which masked the size of Federal debt. But no Social Security money was ever taken out of the Trust Funds and, indeed, this accounting “gimmick” was reversed in the 1980s so that Social Security’s reserves no longer partially offset the Federal debt in the Government’s financial reporting.

I know how pervasive these allegations are, and I also know that some Americans will never be convinced that politicians have not accessed, and cannot access, Social Security’s money. But by law, Social Security’s assets can be used only for Social Security, and nothing else.

Some say that the assets in the Trust Funds are merely IOUs and that the actual money has been used by politicians. The Trust Funds assets are interest-bearing investment instruments which can be redeemed on demand by the Social Security Administration, as needed to pay SS program costs. Those “special issue government bonds” are backed by the “full faith and credit” of the United States Government which, in investment circles, is viewed as primarily risk-free. If they are “IOUs,” it is in the same sense that the assets in a stock and bond portfolio are IOUs.

Social Security’s current financial issue stems from steadily increasing life expectancies and the declining ratio of workers to beneficiaries. People are now collecting Social Security benefits for decades instead of a few years, and the number of beneficiaries is steadily increasing (about 64 million today). Simultaneously, there are now only 2.8 workers per SS beneficiary compared to, for example, 1960 when there were 5.1 workers for every beneficiary. Both these realities have resulted in the need to withdraw assets from the Trust Funds to fully pay benefit obligations. And, according to the Social Security Trustees, those Trust Fund reserves will be depleted in the early 2030s, resulting in an across the board cut in benefits – unless Congress acts soon to restore Social Security to financial solvency.

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Medal of Honor: Marine Corps Cpl. Larry Smedley

By KATIE LANGE

DOD News

On the 106th anniversary of Congress authorizing the Medal of Honor for sailors and Marines, young Marine Corps Cpl. Larry Smedley earned it by giving his life to protect his comrades in Vietnam.

Smedley was born on March 4, 1949, in Front Royal, Virginia. When he was young, his family moved him and his two siblings to Georgia before settling in Union Park, Florida, just outside of Orlando. Smedley's family said he was really interested in the military, so, in 1966, the 17-year-old dropped out of high school and joined the Marine Corps.

Smedley first served as a rifleman and fire team leader with the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. By July 1967, he was in Vietnam. Two months into his deployment, Smedley was promoted to corporal and served as a rifleman and squad radioman with Company D, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division.

On the evening of Dec. 21, 1967, Smedley led a six-man squad to an ambush site at the mouth of an area known as Happy Valley near Phuoc Ninh, west of the vital Da Nang military complex. During the night, they noticed about 100 enemy fighters carrying 122-mm rocket launchers and mortars toward a hill that was within range of the complex.

Realizing the enemy was about to launch an attack on Da Nang, Smedley immediately radioed for a reaction force; he then maneuvered his men to a better position so they could attack the enemy – even though they were outnumbered 15 to 1.

The squad quickly drew heavy machine gun fire, wounding several of the men. At the same time, an enemy grenade exploded, knocking Smedley to the ground and seriously hurting his right foot. He ignored the injuries and struggled to his feet while shouting encouragement to his men.

Smedley then led a charge toward the enemy machine gun emplacement, firing his rifle and throwing grenades until he was again knocked to the ground by enemy fire.

By this point, Smedley was gravely wounded. He was losing a lot of blood and getting weak, but he refused to give up. He stood up and proceeded to single-handedly attack the machine gun nest, which he managed to destroy. Unfortunately, he was struck a third time by enemy fire and died on the spot.

Smedley's body was returned home, and he was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Although he was only 18 at the time, Smedley managed to inspire his injured comrades into action to thwart the enemy, despite certain death. Those actions earned him the Medal of Honor on June 20, 1969. His family received the medal from President Richard Nixon during a White House ceremony.

Smedley's home state of Florida has not forgotten him. The Cpl. Larry E. Smedley National Vietnam War Museum (formerly the National Vietnam Veterans War Museum) in Central Florida was renamed in his honor in 2000. In 2004, a nearby section of highway was also named for him.

Various other roads and facilities throughout the country have been named in Smedley's honor. Perhaps the biggest honor, however, came in 2008 when Orange County Public Schools awarded him an honorary diploma.

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Snow and ice tips to protect our yards this winter

With the pandemic keeping people sheltering at home, more people are extending their outdoor time in the winter by adding fire pits, outdoor heaters and other features. Even in the wintertime, it’s important to take care of your yard. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, an international trade association representing power equipment, small engine, portable generator, utility vehicle, golf car and personal transport vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, offers tips to keep your yard in top shape for winter use.

Stop trimming your lawn once it freezes. Trim your grass to the height recommended for your lawn variety before it freezes. Cutting your grass too short can leave it dry and exposes it to the elements, not to mention insects and disease.

Add a thin layer of mulch to your lawn before it’s too cold. A thin layer of mulch can protect your grass roots from snow and frost. It can even prevent deeper layers of soil from freezing, making it easier for your lawn to bounce back in the spring.

Check your trees for dead or damaged limbs. Removing dead or damaged limbs before inclement weather arrives, is one way to protect your shrubs and yard from damage (not to mention people and pets!).Snow and ice can weigh heavily on dead branches and make them snap and fall. Remove any dead branches carefully with clippers, a chainsaw or pole pruner, following safety precautions. Consult an arborist for problematic trees.

Mark pathways to clear and beds to avoid. Mark the areas that you will need to clear of snow and ice, as well as areas you want to avoid, like flower beds. Stakes or sticks can help. When it’s time to run your snow thrower, you won’t accidentally cut a path through the lawn and can stick to your walkways. Always follow manufacturer’s safety procedures and never put your hand inside the snow thrower. Always use a clean out tool or stick to clear a clog. Be sure that children and pets are safely inside and not near outdoor power equipment while it’s being operated.

Keep new (and old) plantings well-hydrated. Many people have added trees and shrubs to their yards during the pandemic, and caring for them in the winter is still important. Plants and trees that are well-hydrated are more likely to survive a hard freeze so water well before the cold snap sticks. Newly planted trees can only survive about two weeks in the winter without water, so be sure to water any new trees you’ve added to your landscape if they aren’t getting water naturally from rain or snow. If your outside hose is already shut off for the winter, then use a bucket and add 5 gallons to the area around the tree.

Continue watering plants and trees even after the leaves drop. Older plants and trees should enter winter well-hydrated, so continue watering even after the leaves have dropped. Even in the wintertime, hardy evergreen plants continue to lose moisture through their needles and if it’s a dry winter they need supplemental water too.

Don’t shake heavy snow and ice off branches. It may be tempting for children (or adults) to wiggle those branches and watch the snow come off, but snow or ice can damage a branch. Shaking them can cause the branches to snap. It’s better to wait until the snow melts to assess the damage.

Remove damaged branches as soon as the weather allows you to do it safely. If snow or ice have snapped a limb, look at the cut and assess the damage. Try to get a clean cut on an already broken branch or limb, as this will make it more difficult for insects or disease to enter the stressed area on your tree or shrub. Follow all manufacturer’s safety precautions if using a chainsaw or pole pruner.

Be careful about salt. Salt can melt snow and ice, but it can also damage plants and trees by drawing water away from their roots. Keep salt applications away from your trees and shrubs. Salt should also be cleaned off pet paws following a romp outside in the snow.

Remember to get outside, even when it’s chilly. It’s good for our mental and physical well-being to spend time in our family yards and breathe in the fresh air – and it also helps us connect to each other and with nature.

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Winter care for houseplants

By MELINDA MYERS

Holidays are filled with new plants and decorations that often find our houseplants relegated to any out of the way available space. Be sure to keep your houseplants looking their best with proper winter care.

Make sure houseplants receive sufficient light now and throughout the winter. The shorter, often gray days of winter mean less light reaches our plants. Start by moving plants to the sunniest available window. A south-facing window is usually best, but if it is obstructed by trees, awnings or shears it may be no better than an unobstructed window facing another direction.

If brightly lit locations are limited in your home, try rotating plants between high and low light areas. Switching plants every few weeks usually keeps them growing healthy. Give the pots a turn every few weeks to ensure each side of the plant has time facing the light. This encourages even growth and discourages stems stretching toward the light.

Consider supplementing natural light with artificial light when light is limited. Newer styles that clip onto pots, are mounted on the wall, or tucked into furniture grade stands make them attractive and easier to use. And now LED plant lights are more affordable, longer lasting and use less energy.

Humidity is the other winter stress. Many of our houseplants are tropical and require higher humidity than our homes provide. As we turn up the heat, the humidity declines.

Boost the humidity around your plants by displaying them together.  As one plant loses moisture, the others will benefit.  Add a gravel tray for additional humidity.  Fill a tray or saucer with pebbles and water. Then set the plant on the pebbles elevated above the water.  As the water evaporates, it increases humidity around the plant.

Adjust your watering schedule to fit the conditions in your home.  Always water thoroughly but only as needed.  Use your finger to check the soil moisture below the soil surface.  Water moisture-loving plants, like Moon Valley Pilea, when the top few inches are barely moist. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry for cacti and succulents. And always pour off excess water that collects in the saucer. Or use gravel trays to capture the excess water, eliminating this task.

Most houseplants do fine in the same temperatures we prefer. They do not tolerate drafts of hot air from heat vents or cold air from windows and doors. Move plants as needed to avoid drafty locations.

Never trap houseplants between the curtain or blinds and the window.  The temperature can be significantly colder, resulting in injury and even death of some plants. Place plants on a table near the window or windowsill extension, leaving room to close the window coverings at night.

Wait until spring to fertilize. Plants do not need as many nutrients when their growth is limited by less-than-ideal winter conditions. As the outdoor growing conditions improve with longer days and brighter light, so do those indoors.

You will be rewarded with healthier, more attractive plants when giving them the care they need this winter.  And as you tend your indoor garden, you will help fight the winter blues.

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Last-minute money tips for seniors as 2021 approaches

As the New Year beckons, older Americans may want to take an extra moment to reflect on money matters and make certain they are well-positioned for any unexpected jolts 2021 could send their way.

That could be more important than ever after all the uncertainties and setbacks of 2020, says Chris Orestis, the president of LifeCare Xchange who is known as the “Retirement Genius” (www.retirementgenius.com).

“Despite another round of coronavirus relief stimulus checks coming to qualified Americans soon, many baby boomers and seniors have seen their retirement savings dwindle to less than a month’s income with many having little to no retirement strategy at all,” Orestis says. “Meanwhile, the rising costs of healthcare and long-term care can put a stress on financial stability for an entire family.”

Orestis offers a few money tips for those in or near their retirement years:

Make sure you’re getting the most out of Social Security. There is growing concern that Social Security will be unable to fund the retirement needs of seniors and baby boomers beyond 2034 without government intervention into alternative models of funding, Orestis says. “In the meantime,” he says, “it’s important to understand the rules of Social Security so you can maximize your benefits and minimize tax liabilities.” Decisions such as what age you will start collecting to lock in the highest monthly benefit for life can get complicated, he says, so doing your homework and even seeking professional advice might be in order.

Investigate how to pay for long-term care. One unfortunate reality of aging is that many older Americans at some point need expensive long-term care. Long-term care insurance can help, but you need to find out if it’s the right or an available option for you. But Orestis asks, “Can you pay for the premiums without stretching your monthly budget too thin?” Generally, he says, you will need to pay premiums for many years before ever using the insurance. The best time to buy long-term-care insurance is when you’re in your early- to mid-50s and in good health. About 25 percent of people in their 60s are turned down for the insurance.

Explore the pros and cons of a reverse mortgage or a life settlement. Struggling seniors who want to avoid drawing too much out of their retirement accounts and risk running out of money could consider a reverse mortgage or a life settlement, Orestis says. 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.

A life settlement is the sale of an existing life insurance policy by the owner to an investor for a percentage of the death benefit paid out as a tax advantaged lump-sum of cash. Life settlements are the only financial option for seniors that will pay them more money the older or sicker they get.  “Life insurance policies are one of the most stable and valuable assets people own,” Orestis says, “but millions of seniors every year will abandon a policy without realizing the value they could receive through a settlement.” Reverse mortgages and life settlements are well regulated and mainstream transactions that people have become more aware of over the last three decades, at least in part from seeing TV commercials about both on a daily basis.

Take advantage of senior discounts and membership organizations. Many businesses give older Americans a break on prices for everything from a haircut to a fast-food meal to a seat on an airplane. Joining groups such as AARP or AAA are also a great resource for services and member-only discounts. “Unfortunately, many people don’t take advantage of these opportunities and discounts as often as they should,” Orestis says. “In many cases that could be because it just doesn’t occur to them, or it may be because they have a hard time thinking of themselves as seniors.”

“Aging is an inevitability for all of us, and there is no need to fear what could be some of the best and rewarding years of your life,” Orestis says. “The key to arriving financially and physically fit is in the investments you make in yourself today. Regardless of how old you are, it’s never too late to make a positive step forward into those senior years.”

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How younger workers can mentor older ones and move companies forward

Mentoring usually refers to a manager, executive, or experienced employee guiding a younger person in the workplace, helping them acquire knowledge and new skills that foster professional growth.

But with the expanding role of technology in today’s rapidly evolving business climate, a role reversal sometimes takes place – reverse mentorship. That is, older employees are paired with younger ones who teach them about technology – a strong suit for millennials and Gen Z workers, generations who grew up with technology.

Reverse mentoring can be a plus for businesses in bridging generation gaps and knowledge gaps, and also a lifeline for older workers who otherwise might get phased out, says Rod Robertson, Managing Partner of Briggs Capital (www.briggscapital.com), international entrepreneur, and author of Winning at Entrepreneurship: Insider’s Tips on Buying, Building, and Selling Your Own Business.

“The older people better pay attention to these young people and find a mentor so they can teach them about technology,” Robertson says. “Recent studies have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated the shift to e-commerce and e-learning.

“The people who don’t climb aboard the tech train will be left behind in the post-pandemic shakeout. A lack of tech knowledge is an excuse for organizations to cut the more expensive, older people and bring in the younger talent. These young tech execs should latch onto a floundering management exec and lead them to the new world order before they become obsolete. In return, the young people get access to years of wisdom, and companies can become more cohesive and efficient in the whole reverse mentorship process.”

Robertson offers these tips on how to implement reverse mentoring successfully:

Focus on a business need. What is the mentee learning the technology for? “Reverse mentorships are more successful when they focus on a broader business need,” Robertson says. “For example, a tech-savvy employee could mentor on how to use social media to generate more sales leads. The company doesn’t benefit unless the mentee learns how to develop and use new skills in concert with business strategy.”

Find partners who are a sensible fit. “An ideal mentor has knowledge or skills that you need and is willing to build a relationship with you,” Robertson says. “But can that person teach it in a way that’s fairly easy to understand? Do they listen or talk over you? You need substantive engagement and a lot of question-and-answer time without added tension.”

Be open-minded and respectful. Reverse mentoring empowers young leaders, but at the same time they can learn from and value the older group’s decades of experience. “Without mutual respect and openness it won’t work,” Robertson says. “The mentee has to be willing to go outside their comfort zone. And the mentor should respect that. Both should be tactful and patient.”

Set clear goals and expectations. “Discuss expectations upfront,” Robertson says. “Make sure you’re both committed to the process and goals are aligned. Neither of you should be too busy to meet at least once weekly. Otherwise a real teaching-learning relationship isn’t formed and too much falls through the cracks.”

Track progress. Robertson says organizations should formalize these reverse mentorship relationships and make them quantifiable. “A mentorship relationship falls short if progress isn’t tangibly measured in different stages,” Robertson says. “If progress isn’t where it needs to be, discuss new ways to achieve goals. Both the mentor and the mentee can determine where the gaps are and how to close them.

“Technology has blown the roof off the traditional corporate thinking of top-down learning,” Robertson says. “Reverse mentoring removes barriers in today’s multi-generational workforce, enhances careers, and in some cases of the oldest workers, it can extend them.”

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4 tips for your retirement planning as a new year brings new hope

By Albert Lalonde

COVID-19 took a heavy toll on the U.S. economy in 2020, causing millions of job losses and forcing many businesses to close. It also affected lots of retirement plans in the process.

A survey by the Pew Research Center found that 36% of Americans who save regularly are saving less because of the pandemic, and one-third said they’ve had to dip into their retirement savings to pay bills.

This is unsettling news, but as we gratefully flip the calendar to 2021, there is good news. Vaccines for COVID-19 bring hope for a return to a more stable world. The economy has shown signs of recovering. While much economic uncertainty remains in the months ahead, there are some important things you can do in the new year to help your retirement savings:

Customize your budget for life

Adjust your budget and remember to pay yourself first. At a minimum, be sure to have three things within your budget: how much you’re taking in after taxes, how much you’re spending, and how much you’re saving.

If you’re not sure where your money is going, track spending using a spreadsheet or an online budgeting app for 60 days. Determine how much money you need to cover your fixed monthly expenses and how much you’d like to put away for other goals such as retirement. The rule of thumb is to save 10–15% of pre-tax income, including any match from an employer, starting in your 20s for retirement. If you delay, add about 10% for every decade you delay saving for retirement. Remember to re-evaluate your emergency funds and make sure to have four to six months’ worth of essential living expenses set aside in a savings vehicle.

Manage your debt

For most people, some level of debt is a practical necessity; however, problems arise when debt becomes the master, not the other way around. To stay in charge, keep your total debt load manageable. Don’t confuse what you can borrow with what you should borrow.

Keep the monthly costs of owning a home (principal, interest, taxes and insurance) below 28% of your pre-tax income and your total monthly debt below 36% of your pre-tax income. Eliminate high-cost, non-deductible consumer debt and avoid borrowing to purchase depreciating assets. Try to pay off credit card debt and consider consolidating your debt in a low-rate home equity loan or line of credit (HELOC).

Optimize your portfolio

We all share the goal of achieving better investment results. Research, however, shows timing of markets is difficult and can be counter-productive. Create a written plan that will help you stay disciplined in all kinds of markets. Focus first and foremost on your overall investment mix.

After committing to a savings plan, how you invest is your next important decision. Have a targeted asset allocation — that is, the overall mix of stocks, bonds and cash in your portfolio — that you’re comfortable with, even in a down market. Make sure it’s still in sync with your long-term objectives, risk tolerance and time horizon.

Diversification can help reduce risk and can be a critical factor in helping you reach your goals, but make sure to consider taxes. Place relatively tax-efficient investments, like ETFs and municipal bonds, in taxable accounts, and put relatively tax-inefficient investments, like mutual funds and real estate investment trusts (REITs), in tax-advantaged accounts. Tax-advantaged accounts include retirement accounts, such as a traditional or Roth individual retirement account (IRA). If you trade frequently, do so in tax-advantaged accounts to help reduce your tax bill.

Protect your estate

An estate plan may seem like something only for the wealthy, but there are simple steps everyone should take, especially after a year we just went through. Without proper beneficiary designations, a will and other basic steps, the fate of your estate or minor children may be decided by attorneys, probate courts and tax agencies. Make sure to review your beneficiaries, especially for retirement accounts, annuities and life insurance.

The beneficiary designation is your first line of defense. Therefore, keep information on beneficiaries up-to-date to ensure the proceeds of life insurance policies and retirement accounts are consistent with your wishes, your will and other documents. Update or prepare your will, and remember that a will isn’t just about transferring assets. It can provide for your dependents’ support and care, and help you avoid the costs and delays associated with dying without one (intestate). When writing a will, we recommend working with an experienced lawyer or estate planning attorney. Keep in mind, your beneficiary designation trumps what’s written in a will so be sure all your wishes are aligned.

If your estate is large and complex and you want to spell out how your estate should be used in detail, consider a revocable living trust. The cost for a revocable living trust is typically more expensive. Therefore, it is highly recommended to talk with a qualified estate planning attorney to see which estate plan makes the most sense for you.

Next, have in place durable powers of attorney for health care or patient advocate assignments. In these documents, appoint trusted and competent individuals to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Make sure they understand your medical wishes. Lastly, take care of important estate documents. Make sure a trusted and competent family member or close friend knows the location of your important estate documents. You may even want to consider uploading your estate documents in a digital format for easier access.

Remember you don’t have to do everything at once. There’s a lot you can do to improve your financial health. Take one step at a time and constantly make small improvements throughout 2021.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Adviser RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – I’m 66. When Should I Claim Social Security?

Dear Rusty: I'd like to get advice on when I should begin taking my Social Security benefit. I turned 66 in October of 2020. Signed: Pondering Retirement

Dear Pondering: Deciding when to claim your Social Security benefit is a personal choice which should consider several factors, most importantly:

• Your need for the money at this time

• Your current health and expected longevity

• Your marital status

Since you have already reached your full retirement age (FRA) for Social Security purposes, you are no longer subject to the “earnings test” which limits how much you can earn. So, working won’t affect your monthly SS benefit amount in any way. But it could influence your decision on when to claim, because if working enables you to delay claiming Social Security until after your FRA, your benefit amount when you eventually claim will be higher.

In October 2020 you started earning Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs) at the rate of .67% for each full month you delay past your FRA. That means that for each full year you delay claiming, your benefit will be 8% more. You can earn DRCs until you are 70, at which point your Social Security benefit would reach maximum and be 32% more than it would be at your FRA. But delaying only makes sense if you don’t urgently need the money now, and if you expect to enjoy at least average longevity (which is about 84 for a man your age today). If you delay until age 70 to claim, your “breakeven age” (the age at which you will have collected the same amount of SS money as if you claim now) will be about 83. And if you live longer than that, you’ll continue to enjoy that higher SS benefit for the rest of your life, and you’ll collect more in cumulative lifetime benefits.

A higher benefit at an older age can be quite beneficial to offset inflation and is especially helpful if you’re married and your wife outlives you. If you are married and you predecease your wife, she will get 100% of the benefit you are receiving at your death, if that is more than her own benefit from her own lifetime work record and if she has reached her own FRA when she claims her widow’s benefit. So, for example, if you claim now at your FRA, your widow later will get your FRA amount when you pass. But if you delay past your FRA to claim, when you pass your widow will get the higher benefit amount you are receiving because you delayed claiming. In other words, when you claim your Social Security benefits can, if you are married, affect the benefit your widow will get if you die first.

So, the bottom line is this: In deciding when to claim your Social Security you should consider your current financial needs, your health and expected longevity, and your marital status. Carefully evaluating the above factors will help you to decide the best age at which to claim your Social Security benefits.

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Come fly with me

From the folks who gave us the coronavirus comes a suggestion on how commercial flight crews can avoid getting infected while on the job. The Chinese civil aviation authorities have issued this precautionary directive: "It is recommended that cabin crew members wear disposable diapers and avoid using the lavatories barring special circumstances to avoid infection risks."

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A goldfish story

The Website largest.com, which reports on “the Largest Things in the World,” will need to update its goldfish page that lists a 5-pound 4-ounce goldfish caught in the U.K. in 2017 by a 10-year-old girl as the world’s largest. The one found recently in Greenville, S.C. by researchers surveying the fish population in Oak Grove Lake weighed in at a whopping nine pounds.

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The ‘hug bubble’

COVID-19 is particularly frustrating for those whose loved ones are in care facilities; safe distancing while wearing facemasks when visiting them is not the same as a good cuddle. Leave it to the French to find a way overcome such an emotional challenge. At least one patient care facility there is using what it calls the “hug bubble” to allow visitors to hug and even kiss their confined family member. They walk into an inflatable plastic tunnel where the resident is behind a hermetically sealed plastic sheet, put their arms through built in plastic sleeves and embrace. They are even able to safely give each other kisses.

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Can you rid yourself of 2020’s financial stress as we head into 2021?

By ALAN BECKER

2020 has been a tough year for nearly everyone, and that may be especially true for retirees and those nearing retirement who suddenly are worried about whether their careful planning and years of saving could be upended by events beyond their control.

After all, retirement is supposed to be a pleasurable and satisfying time when you kick back and enjoy the fruits of all those decades of labor. That’s difficult to do if you’re jittery about a volatile stock market, or you fret over every expenditure because you aren’t sure whether your savings can go the distance in a lengthy retirement.

As this year draws to a close, and we look toward 2021, plenty of people still have worries. For them – and maybe for you – the future is uncertain. But frankly, the future is always uncertain, and worrying about your finances without taking charge of your situation does no one any good.

So, if you’re already in retirement or plan to be there soon, how can you reduce some of that financial stress that’s weighing you down in these tumultuous times? Let me offer a few ideas:

Take control. Just stewing and letting the emotional strain rule your days and nights does no good. Instead, focus on actions you can take to help reduce some of that stress. Often, just doing something – anything – can help you feel better. Review your financial assets so you truly know where you stand. Those assets might include savings accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, real property or other items. You can’t create a plan unless you know exactly where you stand, so taking stock of things should be the first step. That way you aren’t operating in the dark. And what about the “T” word? Taxes! Have you imparted tax-efficiency as a part of your retirement plan? Do you know your options when it comes to this certainty?

Reconsider the timing of your retirement. Whenever the economy is shaky, it’s best to consider your options ahead of time so you can be prepared before problems arise. If you’re still working, for example, and you suddenly lose your job, one option may be to retire earlier than you originally planned and take Social Security. That can come with downsides, though. If you begin drawing Social Security before your full retirement age (between 66 and 67 for most people) you receive a reduced monthly check. That could cost you tens of thousands of dollars over a long retirement. Conversely, if your job situation is stable but you're worried your nest egg is inadequate, consider postponing retirement. That will allow you to save more, potentially increase your Social Security benefits, and can potentially give your investments time to recover from temporary market declines.

Review your budget and clean up bad habits. Many of us have less-than-stellar financial habits that we developed over the years. Those patterns of behavior don’t magically disappear as you approach retirement. You need to be intentional about changing bad habits so you aren’t spending more money than you need to – or should. To help you determine the difference between necessary and discretionary spending, review the past six months to a year of expenditures. As you review your spending, think beyond all those momentary, one-time splurges. Include your regular household bills, such as utilities, cable and cell phone service. You might be able to save money through a family plan, by bundling services, or by cutting the cord altogether.

Evaluate the risk in your portfolio. Perhaps you have had an aggressive investment strategy, and that’s how you accumulated a big nest egg that (you hope) was designed to carry you through decades of retirement. But, in an uncertain market and with retirement already here or close at hand, it may be wise to re-evaluate how much risk you’re holding in your portfolio. Now would be a good time to diversify and consider other investment options so you can help protect what you already have.

Remember, though, that if your unsteady financial situation is getting the better of you, you don’t have to go it alone. Find an experienced financial professional who can help you develop a plan that can potentially ease at least some of your worries.

It’s possible to get back on track financially – and, hopefully, set aside those concerns that could mar your enjoyment of life in retirement.

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Medal of Honory: Army Maj. Charles L. Thomas

By KATIE LANGE

DOD News

During World War II, more than a million Black men served in the U.S. military; however, not one of them received the Medal of Honor during the war or directly afterward. Decades later, when a review called that discrepancy into question, Army Maj. Charles L. Thomas posthumously became one of the first Black men from that era to receive the nation's highest medal for valor.

Thomas was born on April 17, 1920, in Birmingham, Alabama, and he grew up in Detroit. He graduated from high school in 1938 and went to work with his father as a molder at a Ford Motor Company plant. He'd also enrolled in Wayne State University to study mechanical engineering, but then the war began, and he was drafted into the Army on Jan. 20, 1942.

Thomas started his military career in the infantry, but he was quickly chosen to attend officer training school. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on March 11, 1943, then assigned to Company C of the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion.

His unit arrived in England in September 1944 and eventually joined Gen. George Patton's 3rd Army in France, first seeing combat toward the end of November 1944. The battalion was attached to the 103rd Infantry Division when a 24-year-old Thomas performed the heroics that would put him in the history books.

On Dec. 14, 1944, then-1st Lt. Thomas was the commanding officer of Company C. The company's 3rd platoon was chosen to be the lead element of a task force that had been formed to storm and capture the village of Climbach, France.

Drawing Out the Enemy

There had been no reconnaissance of the area, so little was known about the enemy at that position. Thomas knew it would be an extremely dangerous mission, so he volunteered to command the platoon and ride in the column's lead vehicle, an M-20 scout car. According to his Medal of Honor citation, Thomas assumed the village had a concentration of enemy armored vehicles, and he wanted to draw the enemy's first strike toward him instead of the rest of the task force.

As Thomas' scout car reached high ground southeast of the village, the enemy attacked. Artillery and other gunfire from about 700 yards away slammed into the vehicle, disabling the car and severely wounding Thomas, who immediately signaled for the column behind him to stop.

As he tried to help his comrades get to safety, Thomas was exposed to enemy machine gun fire, which hit him multiple times in the chest, legs and left arm. Despite the intense pain, Thomas was still able to order the column's first two M-5 anti-tank guns into place and direct their fire back at the enemy within a few minutes.

Thomas knew his injuries were so bad that he wouldn't be able to stay in command, so he signaled for the platoon commander to join him. Thomas proceeded to get that man up to speed on the enemy's gun positions, the platoon's ammunition status and the general situation. He refused to be evacuated until he felt sure the junior officer would be able to take command successfully.

Thomas' personal courage and grasp of the situation led the 3rd platoon to triumph over the enemy that day, despite losing more than half of its men to injury or death. The platoon helped the task force capture Climbach and push enemy troops back to the Siegfried Line.

Thomas was taken off the front lines. After recuperating from his many wounds, he returned home and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He was promoted to captain in February 1945. The 3rd platoon was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation, making it the first unit attached to the 103rd Division — and the first black combat unit — to earn that honor.

Thomas stayed in the Army for about two more years before leaving in August 1947 to return to civilian life. He married and had two children. His family returned to Michigan, where Thomas worked as a missile technician at Selfridge Air Force Base (now Selfridge Air National Guard Base) before joining the IRS as a computer programmer.

Thomas died of cancer on Feb. 15, 1980, in Wayne, Michigan. He is buried there in Westlawn Cemetery.

A Belated Honor

In the 1990s, the Army ordered a study on racial disparities during World War II. It found there were Black service members whose actions were worthy of the Medal of Honor. Recommendations were made to the Pentagon's Board of Generals to upgrade the medals of seven soldiers from that era. Congress had to authorize a statute of limitations waiver so the men, including Thomas, could be recognized.

On Jan. 13, 1997 — more than 50 years after the battle in Climbach — Sarah Johnson, Thomas' niece, accepted the Medal of Honor on his behalf from President Bill Clinton during a White House ceremony.

Five other soldiers posthumously received the same upgrade during that ceremony: Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter Jr., 1st Lt. John R. Fox, Pfc. Willy James Jr., Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers and Pvt. George Watson. First Lt. Vernon Baker was the only man to receive the honor in person.

Today, we thank these brave men for their sacrifices and are grateful their actions were finally met with the honor they deserved.

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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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Do-it-yourself holiday centerpiece

By MELINDA MYERS

Dress up your holiday meals with a centerpiece crafted from greens, colorful stems and seed heads collected from your Barden. Or purchase fresh materials you need from your favorite garden center or florist.

Most gardeners spend some time gathering a few blossoms and creating a bouquet or arrangement for their summer gatherings.  Don’t let winter stop you from crafting a festive centerpiece from materials collected from your gardens this time of year.

Start by gathering some greens.  The fan-like sprays of arborvitae, blue-green sprigs of juniper as well as branches of yews, boxwood, pines and spruces can provide all the greenery you need.

Now look for items with interesting color or shape. Red and yellow twig dogwoods and paper bark birch add festive color to any arrangement. The interesting shapes of curly willow, contorted filbert and fantail willow provide intriguing form.

Next gather cones, berries, and fruits. Look for orange and red rose hips, blue berry-like cones of junipers, sweet gum seedpods, and alder’s cone-like fruit. Gather a few evergreen cones to include in or around your arrangement.

Look for potential adornments that are lingering in the perennial garden. Coneflower, rudbeckia, and allium seed heads can add a bit of structure to your arrangement. Gather a few milkweed, balloon plant and lotus pods. And don’t worry, your milkweed plants will return for next year’s visiting monarchs. Honor their natural color or add a bit of bling with some gold, silver, or red paint.

Include a few shiny ornaments as needed. Glittered stems, ribbons and candles can add festive color to nature’s beauty in your centerpiece.

Visit your favorite florist or craft store for needed supplies.  Pick up some floral foam to secure the stems.  Cut it to shape to fit the size and shape of the container.

Moisten the foam before inserting fresh greens and cut flowers. Set the block of foam on top of a basin of water and let it sink. This allows all the air spaces to fill with water, ensuring your flowers and greens have the water they need. Use high density foam when working with evergreen boughs and branches.

No need to moisten the foam when using dried and artificial material. This material makes it easier to create your arrangement.

Consider purchasing a few seasonal flowers for added color for your special event.  These can be placed directly in the floral foam or water filled florist tubes set in the arrangement. Simply remove faded flowers and replace as needed.

Or use miniature poinsettias, kalanchoes and cyclamen for longer lasting living color. Tuck them in the bed of greens or use them to decorate each place setting. Check the soil moisture frequently as the small pots dry out quickly.

The possibilities are endless, and the results are sure to brighten your spirits no matter how you are safely celebrating this holiday season.

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History Matters

A feature courtesy of

The Grateful American Book Prize

By JOHN GRIMALDI AND DAVID BRUCE SMITH

Orville and Wilbur Wright had an astute sense about how things worked, and--an enormous aptitude to build things, and monetize their businesses.

Early on, they set up a newspaper, and constructed printing presses; later, they operated a prosperous bicycle store, and designed bestselling bicycles with Charlie Taylor, an ingenious mechanic, and machinist. The profits generated from the variegated ventures--begun in 1892—financed their future flying machines.

In 1900, Orville and Wilbur constructed their first glider; two years later, it was fitted with a steering system, and a 12-cylinder internal combustion engine that was put in their new airplane. They took it to Kitty Hawk, NC, to run more tests. Then, on December 17, 1903, they launched the Wright Flyer with Orville at the controls. That inaugural flight of their gasoline-powered, propeller-driven biplane lasted 12 seconds, and flew 120 feet, but it made history, and opened the Age of Aviation.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.

...

In 1812, the bullying British commandeered thousands of American seamen to serve in the Royal Navy; they ordered an economic blockade on France—the nation’s most loyal ally—and inflamed the Indian tribes in the Great Lakes.

In June of the same year, America’s “War Hawks” demanded retaliation, and—finally-- got their way. President James Madison declared war. During the two years of combat, the world got a glimpse of America’s mighty military prowess.

The Treaty of Ghent—ratified on December 24, 1814, ended the enmities, but word did not reach the United States until the following year. The public was elated by the news, and President Madison left office a hero.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends 1812: The War That Forged a Nation by Walter R. Borneman.

 ...

America has a proud history of diversity—a “melting pot” that is especially conspicuous during the winter holidays. Jewish communities celebrate Hannukah; Christians observe Christmas, and African Americans relish Kwanzaa, a feast which honors family, community, and culture; it was begun December 26,1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, chairman of Black Studies at California State University. The turmoil of the Civil Rights movement had not yet climaxed, and Professor Karenga “was deeply disturbed by the devastation and searched for a way to overcome the despair he felt had gripped the African American community,” according to History.com.

His intention was to “empower and unite the nation’s African American community” by creating a “nonreligious holiday that would stress the importance of family and community while giving African Americans an opportunity to explore their African identities.”

Kwanzaa is a seven-day festival—from December 26 through January 1. Each night grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren gather to remember one of the seven Kwanzaa principles: unity, self-determination, collective work; responsibility, economic cooperation; purpose, creativity, and faith.

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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.”

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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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Social Security Matters

By AMAC certified social security adviser RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Dear Rusty: My husband died 13 years ago at age 50. I am now 64, never remarried, and work full time making a healthy income. I have never claimed any of his benefits. What are my best options? Signed: Working Widow

Dear Working Widow: You have several options available as both a widow and a worker entitled to your own Social Security benefit.

1.   You could collect a reduced survivor benefit (only) from your deceased husband and allow your own SS benefit to grow to a larger amount. At age 70, your own benefit will be about 29% more than it will be at your full retirement age, or FRA, which is 66 years and 4 months (your own benefit stops growing at age 70). If you take your survivor benefit now, since you are claiming it before you reach your FRA it will be reduced by about 11% from the amount your husband was eligible to receive at his death. But at your FRA your survivor benefit would reach the maximum of 100% of what your husband was eligible for at his death.

2.   If your survivor benefit from your husband at your FRA will be more than your own benefit will be at age 70, you should strive to maximize your survivor benefit by waiting until your FRA to claim it. You can find out what your survivor benefit will be by contacting Social Security. They can also tell you what your age 70 benefit will be, but you can get that too by creating your “My Social Security” account, which is easy to do at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.

3.   If your own benefit at age 70 will be your highest benefit, you should strive to maximize your personal benefit by claiming your survivor benefit (only) first, as described in 1. above, and delaying the claim for your own benefits until age 70.

But here’s a big red flag: since you still work full time at a “healthy income,” be aware that if you claim any SS benefit before you have reached your full retirement age, you’ll be subject to Social Security’s “earnings test” which limits how much you can earn before they take away some of your benefits. The earnings limit for 2021 will be $18,960 (changes annually) and if you are collecting early SS benefits of any type and exceed that limit, they will take back benefits equal to $1 for every $2 you are over the limit (half of what you exceed the limit by). The earnings test is in effect until you reach your full retirement age, after which there is no longer a limit to how much you can earn while collecting benefits.

So, what is your best option, considering the above? Well, if your earnings from work are substantially more than the annual earnings limit, you may find that you will not receive any benefits, even if you were to claim. That’s because they will “take back” benefits by withholding your future Social Security payments until they recover what you owe. For example, if your annual earnings are $60,000, you would exceed the limit by about $41,000, which would mean you would need to repay them $20,500. If your monthly SS benefit was about $1500 (about average), they would withhold benefits for about 14 months to recover what you owe, meaning you wouldn’t be getting any SS benefits while you were earning that much money. Thus, you may find your best option right now is to wait until your FRA to claim any Social Security benefits.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are some nuances related to the earnings limit. The limit is higher, and the penalty less punitive, in the year you reach your FRA (during the months before you reach your FRA). And while you may gradually recover withheld SS retirement benefits starting at your FRA, survivor benefits withheld before your FRA may not be fully recovered, depending upon how long after your FRA you collect them.

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How the economic ‘reset’ can work in your favor

While news of vaccines on the horizon signal hope, some analysts think a sizable chunk of the U.S. economy has been damaged permanently by COVID-19, with more layoffs and business closures still to come in 2021.

But to others, the future of a “new economy” in the post-COVID world is bright, opening doors for entrepreneurs, working professionals and small-to-medium business owners, says Rod Robertson, Managing Partner of Briggs Capital (www.briggscapital.com), international entrepreneur, and author of Winning at Entrepreneurship: Insider’s Tips on Buying, Building, and Selling Your Own Business.

“While about 40 percent of the American economy has been turned into debris, the playing field has been cleared, and the whole business environment has gone through a reset,” Robertson says.

“At the same time, people who upgrade their skill-sets and broaden their thinking won’t be left behind. So instead of people saying, ‘How lost I am, how crushed I am, woe is me,’ this is an exciting time, especially for young people, who don’t have to wait 10, 20 or 30 years for their turn to be a business leader. They can make a generational jump by stepping up and embracing technology, and by understanding in the rubble and chaos what kernels of business are sprouting up.”

Robertson says these points are worth considering when planning for success in a changing U.S. economy:

Don’t buy the theory that COVID will destroy entrepreneurship. “It’s a great time to invest in or buy a business because the playing field has been reset,” Robertson says. “There is going to be a whole new generation of fortunes made in the next three to five years. These are small businesses, companies that are nimble and can shift easily.”

Investment in tech is trending. Robertson notes that over $50B has been spent by private equity on tech deals in 2020. “This fact dwarfs the issues that have swamped legacy or regular businesses that have seen a huge retraction in investments,” Robertson says. “The pivot to tech has accelerated, and beware those firms that cling to their old ways of doing business.”

Make the necessary cuts and stay streamlined. “Seismic shifts are coming in 2021 as companies prepare for the new world economy,” Robertson says. “Some businesses must make drastic cuts and changes in directions. Pivot quickly and don’t be among the last firms to embrace change; it could be your demise. It is more important than ever to streamline operations and create an implicit trust with employees to ensure your business thrives in the post-pandemic world.”

Remote workers can’t afford to coast. A report on remote work productivity during the pandemic found that global productivity among employees working from home due to COVID-19 has dropped. “U.S. employees are leading the pack both in terms of the amount still working remotely, and productivity declines,” Robertson says. “Salespeople without direct supervision aren’t producing like they used to. Remote workers who are coasting need to get in tune with their organizations to keep their jobs.”

Going solo isn’t a bad thing for boomers. Robertson says older workers who may get displaced can make the most of opportunities to fly solo. “The people over 50 and 60 are not grasping technology,” Robertson says, “and a lot of them are going to be pushed off the playing field. How do they switch to being an independent contractor, and stretch out their working years to 70-72? It’s time to reinvent and reinvigorate themselves.”

“Businesses and their best workers must shift with the times or invite extinction,” Robertson says. “The good news is, the reset opens great new opportunities, and people can take the blessing coming from all this chaos and turn it into business success.”

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House calls

By DR. APPATHURAI BALAMURUGAN

UA for Medical Sciences

Q. What vaccines do adults need?

A. In addition to an annual flu shot, adults need a Tdap vaccine every 10 years against tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria (a bacterial infection), and pertussis (whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory tract infection).

A chickenpox vaccine is recommended for those who haven’t had chickenpox. Chickenpox puts older adults at risk for shingles, a virus infection that causes a painful rash. Those 50 or older should get the Shingrix vaccine to prevent that. People over 64 should get a vaccine to protect against pneumonia.

The HPV vaccine, given between age 9 and 26, guards against some strains that cause most cervical cancers and some throat cancers in men. A meningococcal vaccination should be given to people who live physically close to others, like those in the military housing or on college campuses, have weakened immune systems or who travel to certain areas outside the United States.

Ask your doctor whether you need vaccines for hepatitis A or hepatitis B. If you are planning foreign travel, ask about vaccines required to enter other countries or recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and get them four to six weeks before leaving.

Q. What can I do to prevent developing osteoporosis?

A.  We constantly are rebuilding new bone as bone loss is a natural part of aging. As we grow older, we lose bone faster than we rebuild it, especially women five to seven years after menopause.

Significant bone loss increases the chances of fractures. Fractures occur in more than 10 million Americans, and because women’s bones are thinner than men’s bones, 80% of them are women. Half the women 50 and older will experience a fracture due to osteoporosis, but 25% of all men 50 and older also will develop an osteoporosis-related fracture. Whites and Asians are at greater risk, especially those who are thin or small framed, but Blacks and Hispanics may also develop osteoporosis. Those with type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hormonal disorders or inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to develop osteoporosis.

There are some ways to lessen your chances of developing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises like walking or running can help build and maintain bone. Avoid smoking, excessive drinking and limit salt and coffee. Get enough vitamin D and calcium through a healthy diet or supplements. Consuming excessive amounts of vitamin D can lead to kidney stones, so check with your doctor about what might be a healthy amount for you.

Q. What are the warning signs of thyroid cancer?

A. The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland in the neck releases hormones into the blood to provide energy, help warm the body and support muscles, including the heart, brain and other organs.

There are four types of thyroid cancer, and their seriousness and the types of treatment for them vary. Unfortunately, few or no symptoms may appear in the early stages. The first sign is often a small bump on the thyroid gland, usually discovered by your doctor during a physical exam or found on an X-ray or CT-scan while being treated for something else. About 10% of the time, these nodules will be cancerous.

Later symptoms can include a swelling or fast-growing lump in your neck, pain in the front of the neck traveling to the ears, persistent hoarseness or cough, and trouble swallowing or breathing.

It is not known what causes thyroid cancer, but risk factors include receiving radiation therapy around your head or neck as a child, eating a diet lacking in iodine, having a family history of thyroid disease or cancer, or a goiter and certain genetic conditions. Women, Asians and those ages 25 to 65 seem to be at higher risk.

Q. I am tired all the time. Could something besides the stress and anxiety about the current pandemic be causing this?

A. If you are not getting seven to eight hours of sleep nightly, the problem could be that straightforward. However, other conditions, like sleep apnea, can also cause fatigue. The sleep disorder briefly stops your breathing throughout the night and awakens you for a moment during each episode When these sleep interruptions are frequent, you can wake up exhausted. People who work nights or rotating shifts may struggle to sleep during the day and feel tired when they need to be awake.

Diet also can be a factor. Eating too little or the wrong foods can cause your blood sugar to drop and lead to sluggishness. Too much caffeine, found in coffee, soft drinks, tea, chocolate and some medications, may lead to restless sleep later.

Anemia, which is caused by an iron deficiency, can result in fatigue among women. Depression can bring with it physical symptoms, including fatigue. An underactive thyroid gland can lower your energy level, too.

Fatigue can be a sign of a urinary tract infection, diabetes, dehydration, or heart disease. Visit with your doctor for any fatigue that lasts more than a week.

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The first Christmas card

If you’re looking for a special Christmas card this year, you might want to consider purchasing a copy of the very first Christmas card, a gem of a holiday greeting designed by Henry Cole, John Calcott Horsley and Joseph Cundall in 1843. Copies of the original are available from online vendors for as little as six and a half bucks. But if you are fussy about such things and want one of the original cards to send to a special friend or relation, it is said that there were about 1,000 of the first card printed and some 30 of them are still around. In fact, one of those originals is up for sale by Marvin Getman, a Boston book dealer. But it will cost you a bit more than $6.50 -- his price tag for an original is $25,000.

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Curiouser and curiouser

A third mysterious monolith has been spotted in California and, like the first two to be sighted, it quickly disappeared. The first sighting was in a remote location in Utah, the second showed up on a hilltop in Romania and the latest appearance took place high atop Pine Mountain in Atascadero, CA. All three of them disappeared within days. No one seems to know how, why and who is behind the now global traveling art show featuring vertical 10 to 12 feet tall slabs of metal that look like some kind of alien artifact. We do know that they may have been removed by local conservationists, fearing an influx of littering tourists. But that raises questions, who are those hefty, weight-lifting do-gooders and where did they “hide” those monoliths.

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An easy win

Why strain your brain trying to win the lottery by coming up with a set of random numbers? The South African Lottery Commission says that a very lucky winner of a recent PowerBall drawing took home a prize equal to about 370,000 U.S. dollars with a numbers pick of the not-so-random sequence 5-6-7-8-9-10. The Commission says it uses a random number generator, but that sometimes it can come up with a simple sequence, though it’s rare.

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How technology can steer you through the fast lane of the post-COVID world

Technology’s impact on the work environment was profound well before the pandemic – streamlining processes, increasing productivity, and making remote work seamless.

Now, given the rapid changes in an uncertain economy affected by the virus, knowing how to utilize and navigate technology in the post-COVID world will be even more crucial for entrepreneurs, college graduates, other job seekers, and upwardly mobile professionals, says Tim Mercer (www.timtmercer.com), ForbesBooks author of Bootstrapped Millionaire: Defying the Odds of Business.

“Corporate America is undergoing a major transformation,” says Mercer, who also is founder of IBOX Global (IBOXG), which provides technology services to government agencies and Fortune 500 corporations.

“Technology is at the center of this seachange. The virus will have a tremendous long-term impact on the workplace, and the influence of technology will loom larger as a result of the lessons we’ve learned during this unprecedented time.

“Company structures are appearing more tailored to the entrepreneurial mind. The evolving trend is working from home, smaller workplaces, and niche-focused businesses. The work is moving faster, and whether a business owner or freelancer, you must be agile and nimble to compete. All these changes can be good, but only if you are ready.”

Mercer says the key to success in the post-COVID world is understanding these business-related benefits of technology:

The internet is the great equalizer for knowledge and opportunity. “The internet is the driving force behind the access to today’s opportunities,” Mercer says. “With the global economy, and technology connecting so many of us to it simultaneously, success has more to do with your ability to identify the right opportunities and your desire to go after them.” While the internet enables someone to gain knowledge quickly, Mercer says it’s also important to be vigilant in discerning the quality of online sources.

Leveraging technology correctly helps businesses run efficiently. You don’t need to earn a degree in information technology or become a computer whiz to leverage the benefits of technology, Mercer says. “What’s most important is that you know how to use technology to achieve your business goals,” he says. “For example, through the power of tools like QuickBooks, I was able to manage the financial aspect of several of my businesses without having to hire a full-time finance team. Leverage the strength of technology to carry more of your workload while increasing your profitability.”

Tech certifications can be more powerful than four-year degrees. Many college graduates aren’t working in fields related to their majors, and today’s employers are increasingly shifting toward skills-based hiring for technology jobs. “With the demand in tech, that means certification programs are on the uptick, often providing a quicker and more cost-effective way of getting hired than does a four-year college degree,” Mercer says. “A person’s overall earning powers in tech can more than double. Our general educational system often doesn’t meet the demands of today’s business environment. Typical college grads and most students lack the skills required for today’s tech positions.”

Freelancing and independent consulting are on the rise. Gigging – taking on multiple freelance jobs – is growing in popularity, largely due to the growth in digital platforms and social media. “This has given rise to a freelancer and consulting boom that has opened the door to a more flexible and creative workforce of contractors to accommodate the heavy workflow of today’s companies,” Mercer says. “The power of social media and online platforms is making it easier for entrepreneurs to engage a more diverse and global market. You can use your individual skills to bring more value to your business simply by selling those skills and services to others.”

“Technology has a hugely important role in enabling us to meet the many economic and business challenges presented by the pandemic,” Mercer says, “and to be better prepared for whatever comes next.”

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Ideas for creating new holiday traditions and memorable moments during a pandemic

Even with social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols in place, it is still possible to create a memorable holiday season with traditions and memories that will extend beyond 2020, says Kaci Daniel from Virginia Cooperative Extension, which brings the resources of Virginia's land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth.

Daniels shares the following family-friendly ideas for making holiday traditions special this year.

Make your own wrapping paper. Buy plain white freezer paper and decorate with markers and crayons, or stamps, fruits and veggie stamps, etc.

Get outdoors, especially at night. Cozy up in blankets, study the stars, play flashlight tag, and roast marshmallows around a firepit if your outdoor space allows.

Research customs of various cultures and practice those traditions. Explore different countries, religions, and don't forget the rich Appalachian culture in Virginia.

Start a fitness routine together--yoga, walking, aerobics, hiking. Everyone waits until the new year, but get a one-month head start. It also is great for your mental health.

"Gift" what you already have. For young children, the anticipation of a wrapped package is gift enough. Collect children's books from around the house, wrap them, and then unwrap one each night and read it as a family.

Have fun with "white elephant" gift exchanges. Pick something from your house and exchange with neighbors or family. Go for funny, absurd, or just regifting something that you're not using and think someone else might.

Create a paper chain countdown to a special day. It could be a religious holiday, the new year, or something different. Break off one link of the chain each day and build excitement.

A lot of families have an Elf on the Shelf, but you don't need that toy to enjoy mischief and merriment. Play a "what's different?" game by moving or changing one thing in the house each day and let family members try to guess. See how observant they can be. All ages can play, even families that don't have children.

Focus on healthy eating habits, such as following the “My Plate” guidelines each day. Can you consume enough fruits and vegetables? Or try to "eat a rainbow" every day and see how many different colors you can include in your diet.

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Financial new year’s resolutions in the time of COVID-19

PHOENIX –  Although many are eager to put 2020 behind them, the usual new year optimism may be subdued because of the pandemic. Even so, the start of 2021 is a perfect opportunity to refocus personal finances after an unprecedented year.

“While additional government aid may come at some point in the new year, it remains uncertain,” said Michael Sullivan, a personal financial consultant with Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit and student loan counseling agency. “That’s why, as with all new year’s resolutions, it’s important to establish realistic, actionable financial goals that will set you up for success.”

Sullivan shares five steps to meet financial goals in 2021:

Reassess budget: Start the new year by reevaluating your income, expenses and general spending habits. Is it time to reallocate funds to new line items? Can you save by canceling subscriptions or renegotiating bills? Reassess your budget to ensure your money is working for you rather than against you.

Find side income: Despite pandemic challenges, there are numerous ways to earn extra cash including part-time or gig work, though you’ll have to gauge any pandemic-related risks with any in-person options. Gig options include TaskRabbit, where you get paid to perform any number of tasks or chores, as well as other well-known services like Lyft or DoorDash. For contactless options try selling gently used items on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay or Etsy.

(Finally) overcome credit card debt: Taking a new look at your budget and income opportunities can free up more money to allocate toward credit card balances. You can also call your creditors directly to see if you qualify for hardship plans, which may offer relief with fees or interest rates. For an action plan and personalized guidance, you can try a free credit counseling session with a nonprofit organization.

Reevaluate student loans: Payments on federal student loans will resume in February after forbearance was extended to Jan. 31. If you’re unable to afford your payments, contact your servicer to discuss options. You also can visit Studentaid.gov to apply for an Income-Driven Repayment plan. Nonprofit student loan counseling agencies also can provide assistance.

Rebuild emergency fund: In 2021, aim to rebuild your emergency fund, which likely took a hit in 2020. Start by making small cuts in monthly spending and divert those funds to your savings. Throughout the year, set aside any extra cash you receive, like holiday or birthday gifts. Set up any gig work or part-time job earnings to be automatically deposited into your emergency fund. Use the same approach if you’re entitled to a tax refund to give a boost to your savings. Aim to save three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund.

For more financial tips and guidance, check out Take Charge America’s Financial Education Center.

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Reach for the stars: How young pros can build their brand like celebrities

In today’s entertainment world, numerous celebrities are capitalizing off more than their main craft. Singers, athletes, actors, actresses, and other high-profile personalities are using their platforms to launch their own product lines or start their own businesses.

But developing a personal brand isn’t something reserved only for the famous. Young people, whether in college or just starting out in the working world, can learn from these brand icons and apply branding principles to propel their careers, 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.

“What the stars are doing with their brands should inspire young adults and get them thinking about how their own interests and talents can help them stand out from the crowd,” Thompson says.

“Ask yourself these questions: What are your personal attributes? What are your passions? How do you combine those into producing branded products and other things that you love?”

The ways celebrities have branched out their branding reflect their interests and creativity. Lady Gaga partnered with Oreo to release a line of cookies. Drake is selling a line of scented candles. Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson, Nick Jonas, and other stars have launched tequila brands. Rihanna has been among the most impactful of celebrities developing their own beauty products.

“The idea is to show yourself in the best possible light,” Thompson says. “Learning about personal branding early in one’s career can make all the difference.”

Thompson offers these tips to help young professionals and college students create their personal brand and jump-start their career:

Organize your brand. There are many pieces to one’s brand story. Ideally, Thompson says, the story starts evolving in college. “Everything you do while you’re in college contributes to your brand, whether you know it or not,” Thompson says. “So it’s important that along with your classes, you do some things that show your passions and interests. Potential employers need to see who you are, reflected in part by the different things you’ve done both inside and outside the classroom. The more you do, the more your portfolio grows.”

Maximize social media. “With social media dominating the way we communicate, the younger generations see themselves as potential brands, just as Coca-Cola and Nike did back in the day,” Thompson says. “Young people need to know how to leverage their abilities, activities and interests on social media platforms. Take advantage of the opportunities on various platforms to post your writing, art, videos, whatever it is that adds value for the viewer and gives them a glimpse of who you are. Be authentic and true to your values. Never try to fake it; employers can spot a con a mile away.”

Don’t go “off brand.” The branding process means putting one’s self out there and often auditioning, so decorum is crucial. “Staying true to one’s brand requires defining your values and living by them,” Thompson says. “In other words, staying on top of your brand management. Don’t be a goof on social media or push the envelope in your behavior anywhere. People who went to college before the internet could get away with some things, but no more. Everything’s out there for all the world to see. Just remember how you want to be perceived. Choose your friends and activities carefully.”

 “It’s all about how you position and present yourself,” Thompson says. “That’s the essence of branding. The young generations have great opportunities to position themselves, opportunities that didn’t exist 30 years ago. And the sooner they start, the better.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – Will My U.K. Pension Affect My Social Security?

Dear Rusty: I lived and worked in the United Kingdom prior to coming to the US at age 45, which qualified me for a UK State Pension worth the equivalent of about $740 US dollars per month. Since moving to the US I have contributed to the US Social Security system for 14 years and my estimated US Social Security benefit is $1,643 per month. I have heard about something called “WEP” and must be honest and say I don’t fully understand. Can you provide some advice or references so I can understand what happens to these sums when I retire? I don’t have any other pension income, so understanding these numbers is important. FYI, I hold both US and UK passports and will retire in the USA. Signed: Blessed from the UK

Dear Blessed: The “WEP” provision you refer to is known as the “Windfall Elimination Provision.” It affects anyone who is eligible to collect Social Security benefits, but who also has a pension from another entity (corporation, public agency, or foreign country) which did not participate in the U.S. Social Security program (meaning that SS FICA payroll taxes weren’t paid during that employment). WEP will reduce your US Social Security benefit by using a special formula to compute your benefit amount. Generally, the WEP reduction is determined either by the number of years of substantial SS-covered earnings that you have, or the WEP maximums (one of which is that your U.S. Social Security can’t be reduced by more than half of your non-covered pension). With less than 20 years paying into the US system, you will incur one of the maximum WEP reductions.

Something else important to understand is that the current estimate you have from Social Security doesn’t include the WEP reduction. That estimate assumes that you will continue to earn at your current level until you reach your full retirement age. You haven’t shared your birthdate, but from your email I assume you are now about 60 years old. If you were born in 1959, your full retirement age (FRA) for U.S. Social Security purposes is 66 years and 10 months (if you were born after that your FRA is 67, and if you were born before that subtract 2 months for each year prior to 1959). Your FRA is when you will get your “full” SS benefit. If you claim before that (age 62 is the earliest you can claim) your benefit will be reduced (even before WEP), and if you wait beyond your FRA you’ll earn Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs) which will increase your benefit amount. DRCs stop at age 70.

Based upon what you’ve told me, I believe that your WEP reduction will probably be limited to one of the maximums, either half of your monthly U.K. pension, or the maximum for your “eligibility year” (2022?). We don’t yet know what the standard maximum WEP reduction for 2022 will be, but for 2020 it is $480. That is the most that your Social Security benefit could normally be reduced. But if your U.K. pension is about $740 USD then your maximum reduction should be about $370, because the WEP reduction can’t be more than half of your non-covered (U.K.) pension. So, your US Social Security benefit of $1643 will most likely be reduced by about $370 to about $1303.You will need to contact the UK pension system to see if any of your UK pension will be offset by your US Social Security benefits.

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Keep your pets safe this holiday season

The Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Medical Center of Mid-America shares important safety tips to keep pets healthy and happy this holiday season.

While the holidays certainly look a bit different this year, local veterinarians at the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Medical Center of Mid-America (AMCMA) want to ensure all celebrations are fun and safe for four-legged friends. Here are a few tips:

Be Careful with Festive Foods

Food and drinks are a highlight of the holiday season, but they can pose dangers to your pet.

Avoid feeding your pet anything they are not used to eating. Otherwise they could end up with an upset stomach.

Fatty and spicy foods, chocolate, and other sweets, which can cause severe stomach issues, should be off-limits to pets.

Don’t give turkey, chicken, or ham bones to your pet. Bones can easily break and splinter, causing mouth injuries and intestinal blockage.

Move cocktails out of your pet’s reach. Even though the impact of alcohol is often mild, call your veterinarian if your pet gets a hold of an alcoholic beverage. Be on the lookout for warning signs such as lethargy, drooling, vomiting, or collapse.

Keep Seasonal Plants and Decorations Out of Reach

Ingesting any plant or decoration has the potential to cause vomiting, diarrhea, or gastrointestinal irritation. But some can be toxic to pets, so it is important to keep pets away from all decorations.

Plants such as mistletoe, rosemary, and holly berries can result in severe gastrointestinal upset if eaten.

Christmas trees and other festive decorations can be dangerous to pets. If your pet chews on the lights or cords, they could be electrocuted. If ingested, decorations and tinsel could cause gastrointestinal problems or obstruction. Glass ornaments could pose an additional danger if your pet knocks them off the tree and the ornaments shatter.

Live Christmas trees come with even more concerns. The oils from trees and tree needles can cause gastrointestinal trouble, and if pets eat the needles, those needles could puncture their intestinal lining. But the most dangerous part of the live tree is the water in the tree’s base. The pine sap, preservatives, and fire retardant in the water are harmful to dogs and cats.

Travel Safely and Secure Your Pet

If your holiday plans include driving, whether across the country or just across town to visit the dog park, your pet should be properly secured in the vehicle at all times. If there were to be an accident and your pet isn’t secure, they could suffer severe or life-threatening injuries.

Small pets should be placed in a pet carrier during car rides, and the carrier needs to be securely fastened.

Dogs should use a pet travel safety harness that attaches to your car’s seat belt.

Make sure your pet is always wearing their collar and identification tags, and if your pet is microchipped, verify that your contact information is current with the microchip company before you leave.

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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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Dress up your landscape with winter-inspired container gardens

By MELINDA MYERS

Clear out your fall containers and make room for some winter greenery.  These planters are sure to brighten those dreary winter days and add life to your landscape.

Transform weatherproof summer and fall containers for winter. Fiberglass, plastic, cement and wood will hold up to the cold, ice and snow.  Don’t subject terra cotta and glazed pots to the harsh elements that can cause them to crack.  Remove faded fall flowers and add a bit of potting mix to fill the container within two inches of the top.  Or select a new weatherproof container and fill it with potting mix.

Consider your overall landscape design and other outdoor winter decorations when creating or purchasing a holiday planter. Place a couple of winter planters on your front steps or dress up your patio, deck or balcony and enjoy the view from the comfort of your home.  Don’t overlook those hanging baskets. Fill them with winter greenery to elevate your winter containers to a fun new level.

Fresh-cut needled evergreens like spruce, white pine, fir and broadleaf evergreen boxwood and holly combine nicely to form the backbone of your container design. Make it easy by using spruce tips to create vertical interest in a container. You only need to set a few in the center of the pot to look like a pro.  Surround these with graceful white pine boughs to anchor the arrangement to the container.

Add sprigs of other evergreens for additional texture and shades of green. Next, it’s time to put your creativity to work.  For those that prefer a natural look, consider white birch branches and stems of red twig dogwood, corkscrew willow or contorted hazelnut. Add a bit more color with berry laden winter holly branches and dried seed rudbeckias, allium, and coneflower seed heads or hydrangea flowers. Finish off your arrangement with a few evergreen cones and a bow.

Or add a bit of glitz with painted and glittered cones, twigs, ornaments, or other holiday adornments.  You can purchase these or create your own with a bit of paint and glitter. Just make sure your materials will hold up to the winter weather.

Once your arrangement is complete, water thoroughly. The moist soil helps keep greenery fresh and in place. Once the soil is frozen you can stop watering. The cold weather will help keep your greens looking good throughout the holidays and beyond.

Extend the life of your greenery with an organic biodegradable antitranspirant. These materials help seal in the moisture, delaying the browning of cut greens. Always read and follow label directions carefully. Most need to be applied to evergreen boughs outdoors and allowed to dry before bringing it indoors or beginning your arrangement.

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Prioritize safety during holiday activities which increase fire risk during this season

Traveling for the holidays might not be on the menu due to COVID-19, but comfort food, festive decorations, and cozy nights in are sure to lift everyone’s spirits. Unfortunately, these activities can often lead to fire, with Christmas Day and Christmas Eve as two of the top days each year for home fires caused by cooking and candles.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) encourages everyone to keep safety in mind in order to lessen the chance that a fire will disrupt their holiday celebrations.

“For a lot of people, December tops the list for the most heartwarming time of year, but it’s also a leading month for home fires in the U.S.,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA. “Carefully decorating your home and mindfully cooking your meals can help make your holidays safer.”

Following are NFPA statistics highlighting the increased risk of fire during the holidays:

Decorations

More than half (51 percent) of the home decoration fires in December are started by candles, compared to one-third (32 percent) in January to November.

From 2014-2018, an estimated average of 770 home structure fires per year began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of two civilian deaths, 30 civilian injuries, and $11.1 million in direct property damage per year.

More than two of every five (44 percent) decoration fires occurred because the decoration was too close to a heat source, such as a candle or hot equipment.

One-fifth (21 percent) of the home decoration fires occurred in December, while 10 percent happened in January.

Christmas trees

Fires caused by Christmas trees are uncommon, but they are more likely to be serious when they do occur.

Between 2014-2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an annual average of two civilian deaths, 14 civilian injuries, and $10.3 million in direct property damage.

Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 45 percent of home Christmas tree fires.

In more than one-fifth (22 percent) of the Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.

Cooking

Cooking is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries and the second leading cause of home fire deaths.

An average of 470 home cooking fires were reported per day in 2018.

Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires.

Candles

Between 2014-2018 U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 7,610 home structure fires caused by candles. These fires caused an average 81 civilian fire deaths, 677 civilian fire injuries, and $278 million in direct property damage annually.

On average, 21 home candle fires were reported each day.

Three of every five (60 percent) candle fires started when something that could burn, such as furniture, mattresses or bedding, curtains, or decorations, was too close to the candle.

Candle fires peak in December. January ranked second.

Nearly three times as many fires started by candles were reported on Christmas (an average of 58 Christmas fires) as the daily average.

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Want to work remotely forever? 5 key factors to consider

Working from home is the new normal for millions of Americans, and many companies are planning to make the move permanent even if vaccines bring an end to the pandemic.

Whether that’s the case at your company, your bosses are giving you an option, or if you want to make a case to them to work remotely, there are important matters to consider, says Cynthia Spraggs (www.virtira.com), a veteran of working remotely and author of How To Work From Home And Actually Get SH*T Done.

“The pandemic may result in something I’ve advocated for years – more people working remotely,” says Spraggs, also the CEO of Virtira, a completely virtual company that helps other businesses work virtually. “But making this kind of transition permanently, whether full-time or part-time, can have a major impact on both your career, finances, and your personal life.

“It’s more than just the dynamics of getting your home workspace set up properly for the long haul and having the right mindset to perform even better than you would in the office. Will your work relationships suffer? Your family and personal relationships? Your career trajectory? Is relocating a good idea financially?”

Spraggs offers these key points to consider about working remotely on a permanent basis:

Consider possible salary changes and tax implications if relocating. “You need to ask this question if you’re considering relocating to work remotely,” Spraggs says. “Some employers will base compensation on location, and that means employees moving from a high cost-of-living area to a less expensive one could see their salaries reduced. Also, employees need to do their homework and see how their take-home pay will be impacted by taxes in their new location.”

Determine your home-or-office comfort level. Is your life better in the long run working from home? “That question should include whether you miss your work colleagues and team synergy enough that Zoom doesn’t cut it,” Spraggs says. “Maybe social isolation is catching up with you and you need a hybrid-type balance, or you realize you want to be back in the office after all. The bigger question is how well can you manage your time working from home, or do family dynamics interfere?”

Plan your pitch thoroughly. “If you have to sell your leadership team on working remotely full-time,” Spraggs says, “have specific examples of your work performance since you started working from home during the pandemic. And if you want to relocate, you can inform leadership about what advantages that might have for the company, like giving them a new presence in a certain region.”

Keep an eye out for other job prospects. If you relocate, Spraggs says it’s important to consider what the job opportunities are in your new market, because layoffs are always a possibility. “And wherever you are,” Spraggs says, “remember that your next employer might not be on board with remote work.”

Beware it could hurt your career prospects. If most of your company will be returning to the office, those who work from home either part-time or full-time might be at a disadvantage in terms of promotions or performance evaluation. “It’s important to be proactive about communicating with your manager and having a plan to keep them informed of your progress,” Spraggs says. “It’s a good idea to come to the office occasionally. You have to have some in-person time to build relationships with teams.”

“Now is a good time to reevaluate your current work environment and how it could be if you continue working remotely,” Spraggs says. “A lot of people have enjoyed the freedom of it, but there’s much to consider if you want to make the new normal a permanent reality.”

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How lifelong learning is becoming a new version of the MBA

When higher education looks back on 2020 in decades to come, the year of the pandemic could be viewed as a turning point for MBAs and other advanced degrees.

COVID-19 forced a nationwide experiment in online learning, and one lesson stemming from that experiment may be that furthering your education doesn’t necessarily need to mean paying high tuition to earn a formal post-graduate degree.

“We all need to be lifelong learners if we hope to achieve our goals and lead a fulfilling life,” says Kimberly Roush, founder of All-Star Executive Coaching (www.allstarexecutivecoaching.com) and co-author of Who Are You… When You Are Big?

“But that can mean many things, and because of the pandemic I think it’s become even more clear that the ways we approach educating ourselves don’t need to be stuck in the notions from the past of how learning takes place.”

Harvard’s and Columbia’s business schools are already adding certificates and lifelong learning to their programs. Instead of immersing themselves into a degree program for a compact period of time, students have the option to stretch their learning out over years, latching on to what meets their current needs.

That kind of approach fits well with the goals and lifestyles of many business leaders, says Roush. She offers a three-month group-coaching program for executives in transition called “Back In the Game,” which provides business leaders with a chance to continue learning and honing skills to help reignite careers thrown off track by the pandemic.

Roush has advice for those who want to keep adding to their knowledge base throughout their careers, whether that’s done through a certificate program, a one-time online class, coaching sessions, or a more formal degree:

Think deeply about yourself and your goals. Allow yourself the time and space to reflect and get off autopilot so you can be deliberate and intentional as you move forward, Roush says. “We tend to be all about drive and action,” she says. “Reflecting about ourselves is something that often gets overlooked. In some cases, people don’t have the tools to do it effectively.”

Strive to be a learner, not a knower. Some people are “knowers” and others are “learners,“ Roush says. “Knowers feel compelled to know the answer, a sign of an insecure ego,” she says. “In today’s world, of course, it’s impossible for any one person, or any one leader, to know it all. Knowers operate more out of control than out of curiosity. They do not really lead so much as they manage.” Lifelong learners, on the other hand, have a predisposition to be curious. “They have a healthy ego,” she says, “so they have no problem saying, ‘I don’t know the answer, but let’s figure it out.’ ”

Recognize that your joy for learning can impact others. When business leaders are learners, this creates more of a partnership approach with employees, who feel empowered as a result. “The focus is on working together,” Roush says. “It all stems from that natural curiosity. By asking ‘what’ and ‘how,’ leaders encourage more conversation—and more learning by everyone.”

Understand that self improvement doesn’t always involve major change. Roush has worked with many executives who made adjustments in their careers, but those adjustments need not be dramatic.  “Often, people have been deliberate about their career choice and love their field; they just have gotten caught up in a part of it that they don’t like,” she says. “Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting back to their roots and remembering what they love about their job and allowing themselves to focus far more on that. You don’t necessarily have to make the big right turn and completely change what you’re doing. You’re not necessarily on the wrong path; you may just have hit a rough stretch or don’t know exactly where you are.”

“Great coaches are always still learning too,” Roush says. “I’m constantly looking for new opportunities to learn and grow and I get to learn from every person I coach – we learn together.  One thing I always want to do is spread the word about the power that resides within each of us if we reach for our potential.”

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Now you see it, now you don’t

The authorities were focused on how and why an eerie monolith that looked like something you might see in a science-fiction movie should suddenly appear in a remote Utah desert recently. Now they are trying to figure out who is responsible for the abrupt disappearance of the three-sided, shiny silver, metallic pilar. Were alien forces trying to send us a message or was it an artist seeking attention? Perhaps we will never know. One thing is certain: the mysterious appearance of the monolith and its sudden, enigmatic disappearance has captured the imaginations of people around the world. Nevertheless, the Utah Department of Public Safety is intent on finding the perpetrator, whoever he or she or it is. As a spokesman put it: "It is illegal to install structures or art without authorization on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you're from."

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Beware the moose

Officials in Alberta, Canada are warning drivers to watch out for salt-seeking moose, warning them not to let the moose “lick your car.” The moose population is on the rise in Alberta and more and more of them are heading to the roads in and around Jasper National Park where traffic can be heavy and slow, giving the critters an easy opportunity to lick road salt off of cars. It seems that moose have an affinity for salt. They usually head for salt lakes to get their saline rations, but it’s easier for them to lick cars, which in winter are likely to be covered in anti-skid road salt.  The authorities are concerned that drivers might think it’s “cute” to let moose lick the salt off their cars; they can get used to it and make driving extra hazardous. As a spokesman for a Park spokesman put it: "Moose and cars are not a good mix. If you hit the moose with your car, you take the legs out from under it and it's going through your windshield."

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A COVID Christmas story

The resurgence of the COVID pandemic is, once again, shutting down eateries across the land. The Nighttown Club in Cleveland Heights, OH is no exception. On the day before the restaurant was set to shut down this time around something of a miracle happened that brought smiles to its owner, Brendan Ring, and his employees. In walked a customer, ordered a beer at the bar, presented his credit card and signed the receipt, adding a $3,000 tip to his $7.00 tab. The unidentified patron, took one sip of his beer, got up and headed for the door, nodding to Ring and saying “share it with your employees.”

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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

The 12th Amendment to the Constitution grants the House of Representatives with the authority to determine the winner of a presidential election if neither candidate receives a majority of the total electoral votes.

In November 1824, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, and John Quincy Adams, the son of former president, John Adams, were grappling for the presidency. Secretary of State William H. Crawford and Representative Henry Clay of Kentucky were also on the ballot, but to win, one of the candidates had to receive at least 131 of the 261 electoral votes; nobody had managed it; so the House was scheduled to deliberate and decide on December 1, 1824.

Amendment 12 also requires the House to choose the winner based on the three candidates with the most electoral votes. Jackson had 99 electoral and 153,544 popular votes; John Quincy Adams had 84 electoral and 108,740 popular; William H. Crawford had 41, and Henry Clay, with 35 electoral votes, was the “odd man out.”  But he and John Quincy Adams were friends; so Clay decided to transfer his support to him, and Adams was elected by the House to be the sixth President on February 9, 1825.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The First Presidential Contest: 1796 and the Founding of American Democracy by Jeffrey L. Pasley.

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Governor William Phips of Britain’s Massachusetts Bay Colony issued the first paper money on December 10, 1690. His decision was based on a loss to the French forces for control of Quebec City. The British and the French angled to dominate the North American colonies, by attacking and looting each other’s outposts. Purloined treasures paid their soldiers, but Phips returned from the Battle of Quebec City empty handed; to avoid a mutiny, he petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts to issue a limited amount of official paper currency, the first paper money in the Western Hemisphere. After a few months, the privilege was rolled back -- out of necessity.

Paper currency was not popular with the citizens of the colony; they wanted to return to the coin of the realm. But within a few years, it was back in circulation. To assuage people, it was eventually tied to the price of gold. And so, it would remain--until 1973-- when gold backed currency was discontinued and replaced with government backed Federal Reserve Notes.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Everyday Life in Early America by David Freeman Hawke.

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American colonists fought the Revolutionary War to gain independence from Great Britain--and then relied, in part-- on the English Bill of Rights of 1689 to draft the first 12 Amendments to the Constitution. They were to become the American Bill of Rights. But according to National Constitution Center, “the 12 amendments didn’t all make it through the state ratification process. And in fact, the original First and Second Amendments fell short of approval by enough states to make it into the Constitution.”

That left the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which became the Bill of Rights--ratified by the states on December 15, 1791.

Those Rights protect the freedoms of speech; the press; religion and assembly; the right to bear arms and petition the government. They shield against housing soldiers in civilian homes against unreasonable search and seizure; the issuing of warrants without probable cause; unreasonable search and seizure; the issuing of warrants without probable cause; trial without indictment; double jeopardy; self-incrimination; property seizure excessive bail; excessive fines; cruel and unusual punishment.

 The Bill of Rights declares that the rights granted in the Constitution shall not infringe on other rights, and that the Power not granted to the Federal Government in the Constitution belongs to the states or the people.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Origins of the Bill of Rights by Leonard W. Levy.

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House Calls

By DR. DANIEL KNIGHT

Associate Professor

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Q. My elderly father developed thrush. How can he prevent having it again?

A. Thrush is a fungal or yeast infection that develops in the mouth, throat and other parts of the body. Its white raised lesions on the tongue or inside the cheeks may look like a white rash or cottage cheese. It can cause irritation, pain and redness and may include a fever and pain when swallowing.

Most people have small amounts of the fungus in their mouths, skin, and digestive tracts but other healthy bacteria and microorganisms in the body usually keep it under control. Thrush occurs when the fungus overdevelops due to an illness like uncontrolled diabetes, medications or stress.

The elderly, infants and toddlers experience it the most. Thrush can be contagious and those who are taking antibiotics or have weakened immune systems are more likely to develop it. Yeast infections can signal other medical problems, so be sure to consult with your doctor. Treatments usually consist of taking an anti-fungal medicine for two weeks.

To reduce the chances of developing thrush, practice good oral hygiene, see your dentist regularly, limit sugar and foods with yeast, and if you smoke, quit.

Q. What causes cerebral palsy?

A. Cerebral palsy occurs when there is injury to the motor areas of the brain while the baby is still in the womb or after birth. Sometimes, the condition is not apparent during the first year of life. Proper prenatal care can prevent some cases, while others are unpreventable.

Cerebral palsy describes several chronic disorders that impair a person’s ability to control posture and body movement. Some cerebral palsy patients are unable to relax their muscles, while others have trouble with uncontrolled movements. Cerebral palsy is the most common disability among children in the United States, occurring in two to six out of every 1,000 births.

Some causes of cerebral palsy are still unknown but infections like German measles or meningitis can cause or contribute to brain damage before or following birth. Other causes include drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy, blood type differences between mother and baby, anemia during pregnancy, premature birth with internal bleeding in the baby’s head, lack of oxygen to the baby during its development or delivery, damage to the umbilical cord, early separation of the placenta and a severe head injury or convulsions in the baby.

Q. What is an enlarged prostate and does it lead to prostate cancer?

A. An enlarged prostate does not raise your risk for prostate cancer. It simply means the prostate gland has grown larger. This happens to most men as they age. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland just below the bladder. When enlarged it can block the flow of urine from the bladder, causing discomfort as well as lead to urinary tract infections and bladder and kidney damage.

Early symptoms include frequent need to urinate, a urine stream that is weak or slow, and the feeling you still have to go after just urinating. With any urinary problems, it’s best to see your doctor. Depending on how severe the symptoms are, your doctor may recommend watchful waiting, medications to relax the muscles so urine can flow more easily, or procedures that can be done in the office before resorting to surgery.

Some of the signs of an enlarged prostate can be warning signs of prostate cancer, such as frequent urination, particularly at night. Your doctor can perform several tests to diagnose prostate cancer, including a digital rectal exam to feel for lumps or unusual growths, a biopsy or ultrasound.

Q. What are some warning signs I am missing key nutrients?

A. Making bad food choices for a short time will not cause a lot of damage, but a diet consistently lacking in nutrition can. You can reverse most deficiencies by adding the missing nutrient, a supplement or both after checking with your doctor.

Some of the signs your diet may be lacking include hair loss, which may signal a lack of iron. Your doctor can determine this with a blood test. Foods that can help include spinach, poultry, lean beef, beans and cashews.

When you are unusually fatigued, it may be due to a lack of vitamin D. The body produces the nutrient after exposure to the sun but it only occurs naturally in a few foods like tuna and salmon. Milk, orange juice and cereal are sometimes fortified with added vitamin D. Ask your doctor about taking a supplement.

Unexplained bruises could signal a lack of vitamin C, crucial for collagen. Dry skin may be a sign that you need more vitamin A, which is found in leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach, as well as cantaloupe, apricots, carrots and sweet potatoes.

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In tough times for the unemployed, franchising might be their answer

By CHRIS BUITRON

With millions unemployed and numerous industries struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic, some people who are out of work are considering a new career.

As positions dwindle in the fields they are familiar with, people are finding themselves forced to go outside their area of experience. And for some, that Plan B could be a blessing in disguise.

Owning a franchise has gained popularity in recent years, even in times of economic prosperity, as individuals have looked for a “second act” in their professional life. Franchise sales often do well in a down economy because unemployed people are tired of the lack of control they have in a corporate setting and are ready to become their own boss. Of course, there are also the additional dangled carrots of potentially more income and freedom.

In my world of franchising, pest control, we are seeing some people who have been furloughed in other industries becoming interested in being franchisees. The restaurant, hotel, oil and gas, and airlines industries have been hit particularly hard in this COVID-19-caused recession. Some jobs in these and other fields may not be coming back.

But the good news is that many of the people whose jobs have been eliminated or reduced have the skills associated with running a franchise successfully. Those skills span the spectrum from leadership to business experience, discipline, technology knowledge, and communications. For many of these displaced professionals, franchise ownership may be a natural fit.

Becoming a successful franchisee takes hard work and some up-front money. Getting business loans can be tough in today’s economy. Franchise ownership is more attractive to those with a nest egg or a nice severance package that affords them the flexibility to purchase a franchise. It’s also important to note that “freedom” is a relative word when owning a franchise; in addition to long hours while getting the business established, remember that it was somebody else’s business idea, and you have to follow the script of operating the franchise.

But more and more, franchising is something out-of-work individuals with money to risk and a desire to run their own business want to consider. It  requires a lot of research and intense due diligence before signing on the franchisee line. Facing life after layoff and looking for your next move, it’s vital to do your due diligence when investigating a franchise opportunity and to clearly understand what your role will be as a franchisee.

Some of the top benefits of owning a franchise:

Experience is optional. How many times have you seen a job posting that interested you, but the experience required didn’t match up with your work history? You don’t have to worry about that as a franchisee. The franchisor provides the training to help you gain the skills to operate the franchise. A major part of what makes a franchise successful is an easily replicable system.

Minimal startup work. One of the most difficult parts of owning a business comes in the startup stage, which involves, among other tasks, writing a business plan and doing market research. But buying a franchise allows you to skip this often painful stage and hit the ground running. The template is in place, the market research for the region has been done, and the business model is well established.

Risk reduction. When someone decides to buy a franchise, rather than start a business from scratch, they have reduced their risk of failure. For one thing, consumers are already aware of the brand name, and that awareness puts the franchisee ahead of the game. The product and the system have been tested and shown to work, and the franchisee’s access to corporate guidance is a big asset in growing their franchise.

Additional support. Along with training and ongoing advice received from the franchisor, franchisees can get support from other franchisees in the company’s network. Additionally, the company itself does marketing and advertising on a wide scale that by association helps promote the franchisees’ locations.

Help in negotiating operating costs. Typically, someone starting a new business as an independent owner is out there alone trying to negotiate prices for items to get their business off the ground. But as a franchisee, often the franchisor already has relationships with vendors, giving franchisees the ability to purchase goods at discounted prices.

If you’re a displaced worker or executive, the franchise industry may be the opportunity you’ve been looking for. It could make life after the layoff better than you imagined.

 

Chris Buitron is CEO and president of Mosquito Authority® (www.mosquito-authority.com), a nationwide leader in mosquito control with franchises serving communities across the U.S. and Canada. Buitron has an extensive background in franchise industries. He was chief marketing officer for Senior Helpers, vice president of marketing for Direct Energy (home services division), and director of marketing for Sunoco Inc., where he supported the company’s 4,700 franchised and company-owned rental facilities across 23 states (over $15B in annual revenues).

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Grow your own herbal centerpiece for the holidays

By MELINDA MYERS

Dress up the table and your holiday meals with a centerpiece of fresh herbs. You and your family will enjoy snipping a few fresh sprigs to season your meal to your own taste.

Purchase plants so they will be ready to harvest for the holidays. Many garden centers now carry herb plants year-round and some grocery stores sell herb plants in their produce department.

Include herbs your family likes and those that complement your menu.  Grow plants in individual containers or plant several in one larger decorative pot.  Select a container with drainage holes and one that complements your table setting.

Double pot plants when using a decorative container that lacks drainage holes. Plant herbs in a smaller pot with drainage holes. You can set several individual pots in a larger container. Place pebbles in the bottom of the decorative pot. Theses elevate the inner pots above any excess water that collects in the bottom of the decorative pot. Better for the plants and less work for you.

Use a quality, well-drained potting mix when moving herbs into another container. Be sure to place a saucer or tray under the pot to protect your furniture. Set on a decorative placemat for added protection and add a few seasonal items to complete your display.

Include some basil to dress up a pizza, salad, or soup with just a few leaves.    Add some oregano for seasoning any tomato-based dishes such as pizza and pasta. Use fresh thyme to add flavor to cheeses, eggs, tomatoes, and lentil. Lemon thyme makes a nice tea.

Chives’ mild onion flavor is great on potatoes, but consider adding it to soups, dips, seafood dishes, and omelets. Just snip a few leaves and cut them into smaller pieces before adding them to your dish.

Parsley is high in vitamin C and often added to soups, pasta, salads, and dressings. Harvest a sprig at the end of the meal to freshen your breath.

Always water plants thoroughly when the top inch of soil is starting to dry. Basil likes slightly moist soil but not soggy wet. Pour off excess water that collects in the saucer or elevate the pot on pebbles above any water that lingers in the saucer or tray.

And don’t forget the snips. Let everyone add their own favorite herbal seasonings to their meal.   Encourage everyone to make the cut above a set of leaves. This keeps the plant looking good and the wound will close quickly. And don’t be timid; regular harvesting encourages new growth for future harvests.

When the herbal centerpiece is not dressing up the table, move the plants to a sunny window or under artificial lights. Avoid drafts of hot and cold air. Continue watering it thoroughly as needed.

Everyone will appreciate the fresh flavor and fun of flavoring their own meals right at the table during your holiday meal.

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Don’t let a stressful holiday season get to your head; 4 tips to avoid hair loss

The holidays often bring stress, but as 2020 winds down, it has more than doubled down on stressful events that affect our lives.

COVID-19 cases are again spiking across much of the country. People are worried about their health, their loved ones, their jobs, the economy, and the uncertainties ahead in 2021. Parents are trying to work from home while their kids are schooling from home. And many people are experiencing stress and anxiety in the aftermath of the presidential election.

Amid all these sources of worry and apprehension, hair loss in the U.S. has been on an uptick. Dr. Patrick Angelos (drpatrickangelos.com), author of The Science and Art of Hair Restoration: A Patient’s Guide, says that in such highly stressful times, how people approach their health can determine whether they maintain a healthy head of hair.

“Stress is certainly a factor in hair loss, and stress levels have been at an all-time high in 2020 with the global pandemic affecting every area of our lives,” says Angelos, a plastic surgeon who specializes in hair restoration. “The body senses a very stressful event and it needs to divert its attention from growing hair.

“In some cases the hair will grow back over time. But when the hair loss is persistent, the person should see their doctor. Managing stress can be extra difficult in these unprecedented times, but managing one’s health, from diet to hygiene, can go a long way toward preventing or reducing hair loss.”

Angelos offers a few tips to maintain healthy hair during these stressful times:

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 nutrient-rich diet with 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. 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.

“A well-rounded wellness approach can combat stress,” Angelos says. “Keeping your hair strong means taking good care of it and of your overall health daily.”

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Sports Heroes Who Served: Heisman Trophy winners served during WWII

By DAVID VERGUN

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

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Sports stories generally lend themselves to superlatives. A story about back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners from West Point who served in World War II and who starred as themselves in a post-war movie almost writes itself. Felix Anthony "Doc" Blanchard and Glenn Davis couldn't have made this up.

Despite his nickname, Felix Anthony "Doc" Blanchard was never a doctor. He got the moniker because his father was a physician.

But Blanchard and his father shared a love of football and the talent and physical prowess needed to succeed at the game. Blanchard's father, who was also named Felix, had played college football at Tulane University and Wake Forest University.

The younger Blanchard was snapped up by the Tar Heels in 1942, and after playing just one season, he was drafted into the Army in 1943. He was stationed in a chemical warfare unit in New Mexico, but he soon got noticed by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, which enrolled him in 1944.

During his three years (1944 to 1946) playing football as offensive fullback at the academy, the Black Knights compiled an amazing 27-0-1 record; the team was undefeated, except for a tied game against Notre Dame.

Besides playing fullback, Blanchard also filled in as a placekicker, punter and linebacker on defense.

During his time with the Black Knights, Blanchard teamed up with halfback Glenn Davis to form one of the most lethal rushing combinations in football history. As a result of their partnership, Blanchard acquired the nickname "Mr. Inside," and Davis became known as "Mr. Outside."

In 1945, Blanchard was bestowed with college football's most prestigious honor, the Heisman Trophy. The following year, Davis earned that trophy, as well.

In 1946, Blanchard was selected third overall in the 1946 National Football League Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, receiving a lucrative offer of $130,000.

Instead, he chose to make a career in the Air Force beginning in 1947, where he trained to become a fighter pilot.

During a routine mission in 1959, Blanchard's F-100 Super Sabre developed a fuel leak and caught on fire. Rather than bailing out and risking that his jet would fly into a village, he remained with the stricken aircraft and landed safely at Royal Air Force Station Wethersfield near London, England.

He flew fighter aircraft during the Korean and Vietnam wars. During the Vietnam War, from 1968 to 1969, he flew 84 missions over North Vietnam.

In 1971, Blanchard retired from the Air Force as a colonel.

Davis, Blanchard's Black Knight's teammate, went on to play for the Los Angeles Rams in 1950 and 1951.

Beyond service to their country, beyond college football's most prestigious award, both Blanchard and Davis racked up another lifetime achievement: Each played himself in the 1947 movie "The Spirit of West Point."

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty – Should I Claim Social Security at 62?

Dear Rusty: I'm looking for information about retiring and starting my Social Security very soon at age 62. I'm not sure if I want to do it because I'm not sure if I can. Can you help me figure this out? Signed: Hesitant

Dear Hesitant: I know it can be daunting trying to figure out whether and when to claim your Social Security benefits. I’ll give you some of the basics:

First, you should know that if you claim your benefits at age 62, your benefit amount will be considerably reduced from what it would be if you waited longer to claim. At 62, your benefit will be about 28% less than it would be at your full retirement age (FRA) which, for you is 66 years and 8 months. Your benefit will continue to grow by a fraction of a percentage point each month you wait, until it reaches 100% at your FRA. You can choose to delay even longer than your FRA, and your benefit will continue to grow up to age 70 when you reach your maximum benefit amount. For you, that maximum at age 70 would be about 28% more than you would get at your FRA and about 75% more than you would get at age 62. There is a considerable financial advantage to waiting to claim.

If you continue working, and you claim at age 62 (or at any age before your FRA), you’ll be subject to Social Security’s “earnings test,” which limits how much you can earn before they take back some of your benefits. Starting at age 62 and continuing until the year you attain FRA, there will be an annual limit to your earnings (the 2021 limit is $18,960) and, if you exceed that, SS will take back benefits equal to $1 for every $2 you are over the limit. That could mean you will go some number of months without receiving benefits until Social Security recovers what you owe because you exceeded the earnings limit. Of course, if you fully retire from work now that is not a concern, but it may influence a future decision to return to work. Social Security’s earnings limit no longer applies after you reach your full retirement age.

Your marital status also comes into play. If you are married, and your benefit as a spouse will be more than your personal benefit will be, then there are some special considerations which might affect your claiming decision. Generally, if your spousal benefit will be more than your own benefit (from your lifetime work record), and your husband isn’t yet collecting benefits, it’s often wise to claim your own earlier and take the larger spouse benefit later. Of course, if you’re not married you need only be concerned about your personal benefit from your own lifetime earnings record and waiting for a larger life-long benefit, if possible, is often the most prudent choice.

Those are the basic things you should consider when trying to decide when to claim your benefits. But your need for the money now, plus your health and life expectancy are also key to your decision. If you need the money earlier to make ends meet, and you won’t be severely affected by the earnings limit, then claiming early can be your most prudent choice. Or, if you are not enjoying good health and have reason to believe that you won’t live at least until today’s average age for a woman (about 87), then that also suggests claiming early. But, if you are working and don’t really need the money, and you are in good health and expect to live to a ripe old age, then waiting longer to claim a higher benefit is usually a better strategy.

The reality is that everyone’s personal situation is different and there is no single answer to the question of when to claim Social Security. I hope the above gives you at least a starting point for your decision.

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What happens to the home and economy when women leave the workforce?

The pandemic-induced recession forced many women to drop out of the workforce, with research showing they were much more likely than men to give up jobs so they could take care of children when schools went online.

The consequences of these decisions may go beyond each individual, though.

“They could have large repercussions for the economy, the home, and society as a whole, 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.

Some ramifications of this 2020 exodus from the workforce for women could include:

A drop in consumer spending. When one spouse loses a job, whatever the reason might be, it means an immediate and sudden drop in income for that household. “The impact on household earnings will lead to reduced spending,” Simon says. “That will have ripple effects throughout the economy.”

An impact on women’s careers and advancement. Eventually, many of these women will no doubt go back to work, but how well they will be able to just pick up their careers where they left off could be another matter, Simon says. “Will they have lost ground in the line for promotions to men who didn’t take any time away from work?” she asks. “Also, depending on how slow the recovery is, rejoining the workforce might not be that quick and easy.”

A reduction in demand for family-related industries. When both spouses work outside the home, couples often need to make use of services that developed or grew because one adult – usually the woman – wasn’t around to take care of certain household duties. For households where a mother is now back in the home, that has changed. “They no longer need to pay someone for childcare services,” Simon says. “In addition, the need for house-cleaning services is likely to drop.”

Changes to retail markets. A woman who stays home with the kids has different needs than a woman who commutes to an office each day, and those differences could be reflected in the world of retail, Simon says. Just as an example, there could be a drop in demand for makeup. Sales of business attire for women may plummet – or at least take a hit as more casual, comfortable clothes become more important wardrobe necessities. Restaurants could continue to struggle as people eat out less and cook at home more.

Entrepreneurial urges could shift to home businesses. Some women could still keep their career mindsets and try to establish their own businesses run from their homes, Simons says. But she cautions that there are questions about just what those businesses might be since some potential areas – such as marketing, consulting, and business coaching – have seen a downshift in demand for their services. “That leaves you to wonder just how viable setting up a home business might be,” Simon says.

Despite all those concerns, some good can come out of this period as well for women who want a better life both personally and professionally, Simon says.

“If you’ve not been satisfied with your career and your life, this could be an opportunity to rethink and rewrite your personal story,” she says. “You need to imagine what you want to become, focus on how to make that possible, and then begin to take steps to make it happen.”

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Is buying a second home on your 2021 to-do list? What to consider

Owning a second home can provide retirees – or even younger families – a mountain retreat or a house at the beach for those family vacations or quick weekend getaways.

But if buying a second home is on your list of New Year’s resolutions for 2021, be sure to consider all the upsides and downsides before committing, 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.

“Many retirees end up regretting it,” Rush says. “They feel they are forced to go to that second home every weekend just because they spent so much on it. A vacation property or second home can certainly provide a lot of joy, but it rarely works out financially.”

That doesn’t stop people from buying them, though.

The National Association of Home Builders estimates that Americans own about 7.4 million second homes, which is about 5.6 percent of the total housing stock.

“People tend to purchase a second home either as a rental property or a vacation home, which they might also rent for part of the year,” Rush says. “But unless you’re in a hot real estate market, the return on investment usually isn’t worth the hassle. There are better ways of growing your money.”

Rush says a few things to know about investing in a second home include:

Real estate doesn’t automatically mean easy money. People mistakenly believe real estate provides a guaranteed return, but that’s not always true. Rush recalls one client who, over Rush’s vehement objections, withdrew all of his retirement money to build an expensive second home. The client was certain the house would pay off, but he eventually was forced to sell it for half his investment.

Consider the overall impact on your life. Most people don’t have endless streams of money, even if they have done well for themselves financially. So, a splurge in one area often requires a sacrifice in another. “If you want the second home, then perhaps an Alaskan cruise won’t be in the budget,” Rush says. “It comes down to what your priorities are.”

Upkeep can become overwhelming. People tend to overlook the ancillary costs that make owning a second home expensive, Rush says. Take those into consideration as you make your decision. “Property taxes, homeowners association dues, insurance, and maintenance start to add up,” he says. “Renting the house out when you aren’t using it does provide an income stream, but managing the property and dealing with tenants is a hassle. You can hire a property manager, but that has its own disadvantages.”

Renting can work just as well. While it might feel exhilarating to own a mountain home in North Carolina or a Pacific Ocean beach house, Rush says another option is simply to rent a place for a week or a weekend whenever you’re in need of a getaway.

None of this means a second home is always a mistake, Rush says.

One client whose parents died and left her a generous inheritance wanted to invest the money in a beach home. Rush warned her of the potential pitfalls.

She teared up. She agreed it might not be the best financial decision, but when she and her sister were growing up, their parents took them every summer to Sunset Beach on the North Carolina coast. She wanted to continue that tradition for her children, her sister, and her sister’s children.

“It was a reminder that it’s not always about the numbers,” Rush says. “You have to weigh the return on investment against the emotional benefit. Financially, it wasn’t the best choice, but to her, it meant so much more. It was about keeping her parents’ memories alive. Some things truly matter more than money.”

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Why getting help for your mental health is so important

By STANLEY POPOVICH

Getting professional help for dealing with your persistent fears and anxieties is the single most important step in your recovery. Many people are reluctant to get the help they need for various reasons. Making excuses for not getting treatment for your anxiety issues will not solve anything.

With this in mind, here are a few reasons why getting help for your mental health problems is important.

1. You will get tips on handling your mental health issues: A professional counselor can give you many ideas on how you can manage your fears and anxieties. Once you get the much needed advice, the next step is to apply what you have learned to your own life.

2. A counselor will know how to get rid of your fears: A counselor can recommend certain treatments that will make you feel a lot better. The only way you will get access to these treatments is if you talk to a counselor. Ask your primary care physician if he or she knows anyone that can help you.

3. You can’t manage your anxieties all by yourself: Your anxieties and fears can be extremely difficult to manage and more than likely you will need some help. Do not be embarrassed that you are getting help. We all learn new things from others on a daily basis and getting help will get your life back on track.

4. You will improve: As you work with a professional, you will improve on your skill sets in managing your mental health. You will become better able to manage your anxieties over time which will benefit you later on in your life.

5. You will get better a lot faster: Getting help from a counselor will save you a lot of suffering in the long run. You will get the answers you are looking for which will help manage your fears and anxieties. You will get better a lot faster by talking to a mental health professional.

6. You will not be alone: You will have people in your corner who will be able to help you overcome your mental health issues. You won’t feel as alone when attempting to get rid of your fears.  It is best to have people who are helping you to get better. Do not deal with your mental health problems by yourself.

BIOGRAPHY

Stan Popovich is the author of the popular managing fear book, “A Layman’s Guide To Managing Fear”. For more information about Stan’s book and to get some free mental health advice, please visit Stan’s website at http://www.managingfear.com

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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.”

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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A COVID opportunity

The Northwest Arkansas Council is investing a million dollars through a Life Works Here Initiative to attract new residents to the region. They see the COVID-19 pandemic as a chance to give the region an economic boost. Council president Nelson Peacock says the agency is seeking to attract new residents to their community by offering them $10,000 to relocate. He told Forbes magazine recently that “Northwest Arkansas has one of the fastest growing economies in the country.”  Peacock said there are more than 10,000 job openings in Northwest Arkansas and a shortage of people to fill those openings. He’s hoping to attract people looking to relocate from big cities as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

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Who is that masked man?

Having to wear a mask during the COVID pandemic can not only be uncomfortable, it can also hide your identity. That might appeal to some people but can be unsettling for others, giving them a feeling that they are losing their identities. So, when Jorge Roriz, an artist in Rio de Janeiro, began to feel that way he came up with a solution: a face mask on which he painted his lower face. So lifelike is his work that it attracted attention and now he’s painting masks for others who want to be recognized while staying safe when in public. 

What would you do?

When James and Clarrisa Munford took possession of their new home in Columbia, South Carolina they found a collection of very valuable rare coins dating back to the 19th century hidden away inside a closet. The 46 gold Liberty $5 coins and 18 Morgan silver dollars are said to be worth about $25,000. Did they keep the treasure? The Mumfords say they didn’t even think that to be an option. Instead, without hesitation, they contacted the home’s former owner, who is a coin collector, and informed him of their find. He said he normally puts the coins he collects in a safe and had completely forgotten that, for some reason, he’d stashed these coins in the closet. Honesty is the best policy.   

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3 tips for single people navigating holidays in a pandemic

There’s nothing like the holidays to remind single people that they are – well – single.

Throw in a pandemic and the holiday angst some single people suffer from can shoot from mildly unpleasant to seriously painful as large family gatherings are scaled back and holiday parties cancelled.

But all isn’t necessarily lost.

With the restrictions and worries created by COVID-19, this holiday season is a great time for singles to focus on themselves rather than worry about their relationships with others or bemoan their lack of a partner to toast the New Year with, says Acamea Deadwiler (www.Acameadeadwiler.com), author of Single That: Dispelling the Top 10 Myths of the Single Woman.

“Think of this as an opportunity to do what makes you happy and to make decisions without needing to consult with someone else,” Deadwiler says. “A little self-indulgence can be good for your mental and emotional well-being, even if that time is spent doing nothing at all.”

Deadwiler offers a few tips on how single people can make this holiday season merry and bright, despite the pandemic:

Make a plan. Large gatherings may be out this year, but it’s still possible you and a few family members might spend time together, even if you’re wearing masks and social distancing, Deadwiler says. But just in case that limited celebration doesn’t happen – and even if it does – plan some special time for yourself, whether it’s taking a stroll on the beach, enjoying a favorite holiday movie while drinking hot cocoa, or hiking into nature on a crisp December morning. “You can immerse yourself in thought or be captivated by surrounding beauty,” she says.

Take advantage of virtual connections. Although 2020 came with plenty of downsides, remember the upsides of living in the 21st century. That includes Zoom, Facetime and other ways to make a video connection with friends and loved ones. “It’s not the same as being there,” Deadwiler says, “but you can still make memories, just in a different way.”

Embrace the alone time. Some men and women struggle more than others with being alone, Deadwiler says. They can become uncomfortable, bored and even sad. While she says there’s nothing wrong with seeking companionship, Deadwiler also insists that you can’t really know yourself unless you spend time with yourself, independent of the needs and influence of others. “Many of us don’t remember who we were before parents, friends, and society made us someone else,” she says. “In spending time alone, we get to hear our thoughts without all of the outside noise. We learn our authentic likes and dislikes, what we need, and who we are.”

“Certainly, I am not going to pretend that being alone is all sunshine and freedom,” Deadwiler says. “No matter how comfortable you are alone, we all desire companionship sometimes and can get a bit dejected when it’s unavailable, especially at the holidays if everyone else we know is sharing meals and gift exchanges with a special someone.

“But I also know that there is too much life to be lived to wallow in self-pity. There are benefits to being single and things to be enjoyed. Sometimes, the most important relationship you have is with yourself.”

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Sometimes forgotten – Breast cancer among men

PINE BLUFF — Breast cancer is often thought of as “a woman’s disease” but this is not true, Dr. Janette Wheat, Cooperative Extension Program specialist and professor of human development and family studies at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said.

About one out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. is found in a man, she said. In 2017, there were about 2,300 new cases of male breast cancer and 500 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) Division of Cancer Prevention and Control 2020 report.

The most common kinds of breast cancer in men are the same kinds as in women – invasive ductal carcinoma, invasive lobular carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in situ, reports the CDC. Although having risk factors does not mean a man will get breast cancer, some things may increase the risk, such as genetic mutations, a family history and certain radiation and hormone therapy treatments.

A recently released CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) said that a lot of research on the survival among men with breast cancer is not available because of its rarity. The CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries reports on the relative survival rates of males diagnosed with breast cancer during 2007-2016. The one-year relative survival was 96%, and the five-year relative survival rate was 85%. The relative survival rate looks at the survival rate in a certain group of cancer patients as compared with the survival rate in a cancer-free group from the general population.

Non-Hispanic Black males have the lowest one- and five-year relative survival rates compared with non-Hispanics, whites and Hispanics. By region, males diagnosed in the West have the highest relative survival rate. Males diagnosed at earlier stages have higher survival rates than males diagnosed at distant or unknown stages according to the MMWR report, said Dr. Wheat.

The most common symptoms of breast cancer in men are as follows:

Lump or swelling in the breast

Redness or flaky skin in the breast

Irritation or dimpling of breast skin

Nipple discharge

Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area

These symptoms can occur with conditions other than cancer, but if you have any symptoms, see a doctor right away, advise Dr. Wheat and the CDC.

Several factors can increase a man’s chance of breast cancer. Risk factors do not mean you will necessarily get breast cancer, says the CDC. Risk factors include:

Age. Most breast cancers are found after age 50.

Genetic Mutations. Inherited mutations in certain genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase risk.

Family History. A man’s risk is higher if a close family member has had breast cancer.

Radiation Therapy. Men who have had radiation to the chest have a higher risk.

Hormone Therapy. Drugs containing estrogen that were used to treat prostate cancer in the past increase men’s chances of breast cancer.

Klinefelter Syndrome. This is a rare genetic condition in which a male has an extra X chromosome, which can lead to the body making higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of androgens.

Conditions that affect Testicles. Injury, swelling or surgery to remove the testicles can increase risk.

Liver Disease. Cirrhosis can lower androgen levels and raise estrogen levels.

Overweight and Obesity. Overweight and obese older men have a higher risk of breast cancer than men of normal weight.

If several family members have had breast or ovarian cancer, or a family member has a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, men should share this information with their doctor who may refer them for genetic counseling. Mutations in the BRCA genes can also increase the risk of high-grade prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer, reports the CDC.

Treatment for breast cancer is the same in men as in women, Dr. Wheat said. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone and targeted therapy. For more information, see the National Cancer Institute’s overview of male breast cancer treatment (https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/male-breast-treatment-pdq).

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How to avoid sabotaging yourself when it comes to money and retirement

Creating a secure retirement often comes down to smart planning as you consider saving and investment options, and choose the ones most likely to help you meet your goals.

But not everyone makes wise choices, and financial missteps can play a significant role in how much – or how little – you have stashed away once retirement arrives, says Toby Mathis, a tax attorney, founding partner of Anderson Law Group (www.andersonadvisors.com) and current manager of Anderson’s Las Vegas office.

“Most people know they need to save a sizable amount for retirement, but many Americans are still woefully unprepared as they begin to near retirement age,” Mathis says. “In fact, some estimates suggest that as many as 50% of U.S. households are at risk of not having enough money to fund their retirement needs.

“There may be a number of reasons for that, but one of those reasons is that people often sabotage their own finances by making avoidable mistakes.”

He says a few ways they do that include:

Failing to start building a nest egg – now. A significant retirement nest egg takes years – even decades – to grow, so the first step is to make a commitment to saving money every month, Mathis says. The younger you are, the better. “If you work for a company that provides a 401(k) and matching program, take advantage of that free money,” he says. “That compound interest can make your money grow exponentially, so the more money you put into your retirement account now, the bigger your nest egg will be in the decades to come.”

Paying higher taxes than necessary. While the country needs tax money to function, there’s no need for any individual to pay the IRS more than they owe, Mathis says. One easy way to reduce your tax bill is through contributions to a tax-deferred account, such as a traditional IRA. “With an IRA, for example, you can deduct your contributions each year when you file your taxes,” he says. “Also, the money you put into tax-deferred accounts won’t become taxable until you are 72 or whenever you begin making withdrawals; whichever comes first.” A good advisor can help with other tax savings, Mathis says.

Investing in rental property without understanding the drawbacks. Plenty of people do well by becoming landlords, but there are also pitfalls, such as paying too much for property or not taking into account all the related expenses. For many people, stocks, bonds and other investments are a better bet. “I’m not saying not to invest in real estate,” Mathis says. “I’m just saying not to start with it if you’re a first-time investor with a tight budget.”

Not knowing Social Security is taxable. The Social Security Administration provides Americans with an estimate of what their benefits will be. That helps you calculate how much additional money from other sources you will need to maintain your lifestyle. But what many people fail to account for is that it’s not guaranteed every penny of Social Security checks will go into their pockets. “Depending on your overall income, as much as 85 percent of your Social Security benefit can be taxed,” Mathis says. “You need to be aware of that when budgeting for retirement.”

“Most Americans will need to retire at some point, and they will need money set aside so they can achieve financial independence during the last years of their life,” Mathis says. “It’s crucial that you don’t sabotage yourself because building a sizable nest egg is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.”

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Snow and ice tips to protect our yards this winter

With the pandemic keeping people sheltering at home, more people are extending their outdoor time in the winter by adding fire pits, outdoor heaters and other features. Even in the wintertime, it’s important to take care of your yard. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, an international trade association representing power equipment, small engine, portable generator, utility vehicle, golf car and personal transport vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, offers tips to keep your yard in top shape for winter use.

Stop trimming your lawn once it freezes. Trim your grass to the height recommended for your lawn variety before it freezes. Cutting your grass too short can leave it dry and exposes it to the elements, not to mention insects and disease.

Add a thin layer of mulch to your lawn before it’s too cold. A thin layer of mulch can protect your grass roots from snow and frost. It can even prevent deeper layers of soil from freezing, making it easier for your lawn to bounce back in the spring.

Check your trees for dead or damaged limbs. Removing dead or damaged limbs before inclement weather arrives, is one way to protect your shrubs and yard from damage (not to mention people and pets!).Snow and ice can weigh heavily on dead branches and make them snap and fall. Remove any dead branches carefully with clippers, a chainsaw or pole pruner, following safety precautions. Consult an arborist for problematic trees.

Mark pathways to clear and beds to avoid. Mark the areas that you will need to clear of snow and ice, as well as areas you want to avoid, like flower beds. Stakes or sticks can help. When it’s time to run your snow thrower, you won’t accidentally cut a path through the lawn and can stick to your walkways. Always follow manufacturer’s safety procedures and never put your hand inside the snow thrower. Always use a clean out tool or stick to clear a clog. Be sure that children and pets are safely inside and not near outdoor power equipment while it’s being operated.

Keep new (and old) plantings well-hydrated. Many people have added trees and shrubs to their yards during the pandemic, and caring for them in the winter is still important. Plants and trees that are well-hydrated are more likely to survive a hard freeze so water well before the cold snap sticks. Newly planted trees can only survive about two weeks in the winter without water, so be sure to water any new trees you’ve added to your landscape if they aren’t getting water naturally from rain or snow. If your outside hose is already shut off for the winter, then use a bucket and add 5 gallons to the area around the tree.

Continue watering plants and trees even after the leaves drop. Older plants and trees should enter winter well-hydrated, so continue watering even after the leaves have dropped. Even in the wintertime, hardy evergreen plants continue to lose moisture through their needles and if it’s a dry winter they need supplemental water too.

Don’t shake heavy snow and ice off branches. It may be tempting for children (or adults) to wiggle those branches and watch the snow come off, but snow or ice can damage a branch. Shaking them can cause the branches to snap. It’s better to wait until the snow melts to assess the damage.

Remove damaged branches as soon as the weather allows you to do it safely. If snow or ice have snapped a limb, look at the cut and assess the damage. Try to get a clean cut on an already broken branch or limb, as this will make it more difficult for insects or disease to enter the stressed area on your tree or shrub. Follow all manufacturer’s safety precautions if using a chainsaw or pole pruner.

Be careful about salt. Salt can melt snow and ice, but it can also damage plants and trees by drawing water away from their roots. Keep salt applications away from your trees and shrubs. Salt should also be cleaned off pet paws following a romp outside in the snow.

Remember to get outside, even when it’s chilly. It’s good for our mental and physical well-being to spend time in our family yards and breathe in the fresh air – and it also helps us connect to each other and with nature.

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Can you rid yourself of 2020’s financial stress as we head into 2021?

By ALAN BECKER

2020 has been a tough year for nearly everyone, and that may be especially true for retirees and those nearing retirement who suddenly are worried about whether their careful planning and years of saving could be upended by events beyond their control.

After all, retirement is supposed to be a pleasurable and satisfying time when you kick back and enjoy the fruits of all those decades of labor. That’s difficult to do if you’re jittery about a volatile stock market, or you fret over every expenditure because you aren’t sure whether your savings can go the distance in a lengthy retirement.

As this year draws to a close, and we look toward 2021, plenty of people still have worries. For them – and maybe for you – the future is uncertain. But frankly, the future is always uncertain, and worrying about your finances without taking charge of your situation does no one any good.

So, if you’re already in retirement or plan to be there soon, how can you reduce some of that financial stress that’s weighing you down in these tumultuous times? Let me offer a few ideas:

Take control. Just stewing and letting the emotional strain rule your days and nights does no good. Instead, focus on actions you can take to help reduce some of that stress. Often, just doing something – anything – can help you feel better. Review your financial assets so you truly know where you stand. Those assets might include savings accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, real property or other items. You can’t create a plan unless you know exactly where you stand, so taking stock of things should be the first step. That way you aren’t operating in the dark. And what about the “T” word? Taxes! Have you imparted tax-efficiency as a part of your retirement plan? Do you know your options when it comes to this certainty?

Reconsider the timing of your retirement. Whenever the economy is shaky, it’s best to consider your options ahead of time so you can be prepared before problems arise. If you’re still working, for example, and you suddenly lose your job, one option may be to retire earlier than you originally planned and take Social Security. That can come with downsides, though. If you begin drawing Social Security before your full retirement age (between 66 and 67 for most people) you receive a reduced monthly check. That could cost you tens of thousands of dollars over a long retirement. Conversely, if your job situation is stable but you're worried your nest egg is inadequate, consider postponing retirement. That will allow you to save more, potentially increase your Social Security benefits, and can potentially give your investments time to recover from temporary market declines.

Review your budget and clean up bad habits. Many of us have less-than-stellar financial habits that we developed over the years. Those patterns of behavior don’t magically disappear as you approach retirement. You need to be intentional about changing bad habits so you aren’t spending more money than you need to – or should. To help you determine the difference between necessary and discretionary spending, review the past six months to a year of expenditures. As you review your spending, think beyond all those momentary, one-time splurges. Include your regular household bills, such as utilities, cable and cell phone service. You might be able to save money through a family plan, by bundling services, or by cutting the cord altogether.

Evaluate the risk in your portfolio. Perhaps you have had an aggressive investment strategy, and that’s how you accumulated a big nest egg that (you hope) was designed to carry you through decades of retirement. But, in an uncertain market and with retirement already here or close at hand, it may be wise to re-evaluate how much risk you’re holding in your portfolio. Now would be a good time to diversify and consider other investment options so you can help protect what you already have.

Remember, though, that if your unsteady financial situation is getting the better of you, you don’t have to go it alone. Find an experienced financial professional who can help you develop a plan that can potentially ease at least some of your worries.

It’s possible to get back on track financially – and, hopefully, set aside those concerns that could mar your enjoyment of life in retirement.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Adviser RUSSELL GLOOR

Association of Mature American Citizens     

Ask Rusty - No Simple Answer to Question on When to Claim Benefits

Dear Rusty: I'm almost 59 and hope to retire from working soon. Should I take Social Security as soon as possible, or wait for the maximum amount? Signed: Planning Ahead

Dear Planning Ahead: I’m afraid there’s no simple answer to your question, except “it depends.” It depends on your health; it depends on your need for the money when you retire; and it depends on your life expectancy. Plus, your marital status may also influence your decision on when to claim.

First of all, you cannot claim your Social Security retirement benefit until you are at least 62 years old. But if you claim at 62 your benefit will be cut by 30% from what it would be if you waited until your full retirement age (67). You actually have an 8-year window starting at age 62 and lasting until age 70 to claim your Social Security benefit. The earlier in that window you claim, the smaller your benefit will be. And the longer you wait to claim (up to age 70), the higher your benefit will be.

At age 70, your benefit will reach maximum at 24% more than it would be at age 67, and 76% more than it will be at age 62. Essentially, if you are in good health, don’t urgently need the money earlier, and expect to enjoy at least “average” longevity (about 85 for a man your age today), you will not only get a much higher monthly benefit, but also collect much more in cumulative lifetime benefits by waiting until age 70 (or as long as you can) to claim. Of course, no one knows how long they will live, but there are online tools which can assist you with estimating your life expectancy. One relatively simple and user friendly tool is available from Social Security at this link: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/population/longevity.html.

Conversely, if you are not in good health and don’t expect at least average longevity, or if you urgently need the money when you retire from working, claiming earlier may also be a prudent choice. If you are married and you predecease your wife, her survivor benefit will be based upon the benefit amount you are actually receiving, so by waiting to get a higher benefit for yourself you are also enhancing your wife’s eventual benefit as your widow, should you pass before her.

Be aware too that, should you decide to go back to work, until you reach age 67 you’ll be subject to Social Security’s “earnings test” which limits how much you can earn before Social Security takes back some of your benefits (the 2021 limit is $18,960 and if that were exceeded, they’d take back benefits equal to half of the amount it was exceeded by). The earnings limit changes annually but goes away at your full retirement age.

So, these are the things you should consider in deciding when in that 8-year window to claim your benefits. I cannot directly answer your question for you, but I hope the above gives you what’s needed to make an informed decision on when to claim your Social Security benefits.

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How the economic ‘reset’ can work in your favor

While news of vaccines on the horizon signal hope, some analysts think a sizable chunk of the U.S. economy has been damaged permanently by COVID-19, with more layoffs and business closures still to come in 2021.

But to others, the future of a “new economy” in the post-COVID world is bright, opening doors for entrepreneurs, working professionals and small-to-medium business owners, says Rod Robertson, Managing Partner of Briggs Capital (www.briggscapital.com), international entrepreneur, and author of Winning at Entrepreneurship: Insider’s Tips on Buying, Building, and Selling Your Own Business.

“While about 40 percent of the American economy has been turned into debris, the playing field has been cleared, and the whole business environment has gone through a reset,” Robertson says.

“At the same time, people who upgrade their skill-sets and broaden their thinking won’t be left behind. So instead of people saying, ‘How lost I am, how crushed I am, woe is me,’ this is an exciting time, especially for young people, who don’t have to wait 10, 20 or 30 years for their turn to be a business leader. They can make a generational jump by stepping up and embracing technology, and by understanding in the rubble and chaos what kernels of business are sprouting up.”

Robertson says these points are worth considering when planning for success in a changing U.S. economy:

Don’t buy the theory that COVID will destroy entrepreneurship. “It’s a great time to invest in or buy a business because the playing field has been reset,” Robertson says. “There is going to be a whole new generation of fortunes made in the next three to five years. These are small businesses, companies that are nimble and can shift easily.”

Investment in tech is trending. Robertson notes that over $50B has been spent by private equity on tech deals in 2020. “This fact dwarfs the issues that have swamped legacy or regular businesses that have seen a huge retraction in investments,” Robertson says. “The pivot to tech has accelerated, and beware those firms that cling to their old ways of doing business.”

Make the necessary cuts and stay streamlined. “Seismic shifts are coming in 2021 as companies prepare for the new world economy,” Robertson says. “Some businesses must make drastic cuts and changes in directions. Pivot quickly and don’t be among the last firms to embrace change; it could be your demise. It is more important than ever to streamline operations and create an implicit trust with employees to ensure your business thrives in the post-pandemic world.”

Remote workers can’t afford to coast. A report on remote work productivity during the pandemic found that global productivity among employees working from home due to COVID-19 has dropped. “U.S. employees are leading the pack both in terms of the amount still working remotely, and productivity declines,” Robertson says. “Salespeople without direct supervision aren’t producing like they used to. Remote workers who are coasting need to get in tune with their organizations to keep their jobs.”

Going solo isn’t a bad thing for boomers. Robertson says older workers who may get displaced can make the most of opportunities to fly solo. “The people over 50 and 60 are not grasping technology,” Robertson says, “and a lot of them are going to be pushed off the playing field. How do they switch to being an independent contractor, and stretch out their working years to 70-72? It’s time to reinvent and reinvigorate themselves.”

“Businesses and their best workers must shift with the times or invite extinction,” Robertson says. “The good news is, the reset opens great new opportunities, and people can take the blessing coming from all this chaos and turn it into business success.”

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Grow frilly, bold and unique amaryllis indoors this winter

By MELINDA MYERS

When squirrels are busy storing nuts for winter, it’s time for gardeners to start gathering amaryllis bulbs to sustain them through the dreary months ahead. Ordering now will ensure you have lots of choices, so you can select an assortment of different flowers styles, colors, and bloom times.

The flowers of double amaryllis are packed full of petals and sure to brighten any day. Double King lives up to its name with three or more layers of brilliant red, velvety petals. Each bulb produces multiple flower stems, so you’ll enjoy weeks of blossoms.

Sweet Nymph is another double and its softer coloring is equally beautiful. The flowers feature layers of creamy white petals with coral pink stripes and are sure to add a bit of romantic charm to your winter.

Add some energy to your indoor décor with amaryllis Dancing Queen (longfield-gardens.com). The bold eight-inch blooms are comprised of layers of ruffled snow-white petals with delicate scarlet-red stripes.

The flowers of Exotic Star have an unusual shape and color that have earned it lots of fans. The asymmetrical petals are parchment-white with narrow, garnet-red stripes and apple green highlights.

Bring in some fresh spring green color with amaryllis Evergreen. Pale chartreuse petals give it a fresh, modern look. Each bulb produces two stems with four to six flowers each. Enjoy them as a living bouquet or cut a few stems to display in a vase.

Grow Ice Queen when looking to add elegance to your winter décor. Its enormous, frosty white flowers have lime green accents and combine nicely with evergreen boughs and holiday decorations. Plant the bulbs by early November to get flowers for the holidays.

Charisma is another variety that blooms in early winter. The two-tone petals have a unique ombre effect. Enjoy the changing colors this variety exhibits as it transforms from bud to fully open flower.

Amaryllis are long lasting cut flowers and the variety Picotee is no exception. Each of its pure white petals are outlined with a very thin red line. A lime-green center adds freshness. Beautiful displayed in a pot or in a vase.

Rosy Star is another eye-catching amaryllis with snowy white blossoms that are decorated with brush stroke highlights in three shades of pink. The apple green throat adds to this variety’s elegance and appeal.

As more people discover the joy of growing amaryllis, flower breeders are busy introducing new cultivars. Gervase is a good example of these exciting new options. Each blossom is a little different, with ruby-red petals adorned with variable stripes and veining. You will have plenty of blooms to enjoy as large bulbs can produce twelve or more spectacular blossoms.

Maximize your enjoyment by growing your amaryllis where you can watch the daily transformation, from the first bud breaking through the soil until the flowers begin to unfurl.

Growing amaryllis indoors will keep you gardening all year round, no matter where you live.  You’ll enjoy the mood-boosting benefits and stress relief, and the colorful blossoms are sure to brighten your winter days.

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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.

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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Medal of Honor: Marine Corps Gen. Christian Schilt

By KATIE LANGE

DOD News

The majority of aviators who have received the Medal of Honor have earned it for their service in World War II or later conflicts. Marine Corps Gen. Christian Schilt, however, was one of the early aviators in that service. He earned his medal many years before World War II for his bravery in the skies over Nicaragua.

Schilt was born in Olney, Illinois, and grew up on a farm. After high school, he studied engineering at Rose Polytechnic Institute (now the Rose–Hulman Institute of Technology) in Terre Haute, Indiana. But after about two years, he felt compelled to do something else. So, on June 23, 1917, he enlisted in the Marine Corps.

Schilt first served in the Azores, a group of islands off the coast of Portugal, with a seaplane squadron assigned to anti-submarine patrol duty during World War I. When he returned to the U.S., he had decided he wanted to be a pilot, so he entered flight training. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on June 10, 1919, and spent the next several years on expeditionary duty in the Caribbean.

The Second Nicaragua Campaign

In November 1927, Schilt joined Observation Squadron 7-M in Managua, Nicaragua. U.S. forces had been serving in the Central American country since 1912 — with a brief pullout in 1925 — at the request of the Nicaraguan government, which continuously feared revolution. By 1927, a new, dangerous revolt against the country's government was indeed taking place.

In December 1927, guerillas known as Sandinistas had established a base in the country's north in a mountainous jungle region on the border with Honduras. There, they ambushed a detachment of 175 Marines, killing eight men and wounding 30 more.

The Marines were forced to fall back to a village called Quilali, which the guerillas promptly surrounded. There was little hope for the Marines to fight their way out, so they instead concocted plans for an air rescue.

An aviator stands beside an old propeller plane as another man works in the cockpit.

Over the next few weeks, the trapped Marines built a makeshift airstrip by burning and leveling part of the town's main street to make it long enough to land and take off. Schilt's squadron then modified an observation airplane with landing gear from a DeHavilland DH-4, an old combat plane used in World War I, to accommodate expected hard landings.

Schilt volunteered to be the pilot.

Between Jan. 6-8, 1928, Schilt, then a first lieutenant, used the plane to evacuate the wounded from their precarious position and bring aid to the other men, who were in desperate need of it.

Schilt flew his plane 10 times into the besieged village, hauling in 1,400 pounds of medical supplies and evacuating more than a dozen wounded Marines. He was also able to transport a relief commanding officer to take charge of the beleaguered men on the ground.

According to records, Schilt's modified plane had no brakes, so the Marines on the ground had to help him stop by grabbing its wings when it touched down. He faced hostile fire from the enemy with every landing and takeoff. Clouds, mountains and air currents added to the difficulty of the mission.

Once the ground troops were resupplied and the wounded had been taken to safety, the Marines at Quilali were able to fight their way free of the village and rejoin the main governmental force — a feat that was made possible by Schilt's bravery.

For his courage, Schilt was presented with the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony hosted by President Calvin Coolidge that April.

Schilt remained deployed for the rest of the year, finally returning to the U.S. in 1929. He continued to serve in the Marines for decades, including throughout World War II and in Korea where he commanded the 1st U.S. Marine Corps Aircraft Wing for a time. His years of service earned him several more awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal and five Air Medals.

Schilt retired on April 1, 1957, when he was promoted to full general.

At some point in life, Schilt married Elizabeth Schilt. They had four daughters and two sons and spent the remainder of their lives in Norfolk, Virginia.

Schilt died on Jan. 8, 1987, at age 91 after a bout with Alzheimer's disease. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Schilt’s Medal of Honor is now at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia.

Schilt's name and career are well-remembered across the U.S. Among the more recent honors, in  October 2011, a new headquarters building at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina was named in his honor. In 2014, his home state of Illinois dedicated a stretch of highway to him.

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 life insurance can pay you benefits – Even while you’re alive

Most people see life insurance strictly as something that will protect their family or business from financial hardship if they happen to die suddenly.

But those policies have an added benefit that can come into play while the policyholder is still alive—by helping to pay for senior living and long-term care.

This is done through what’s called a “life settlement,” where the policyholder sells the policy to a third-party in exchange for a cash settlement that is put into a long-term-care benefit account, says Chris Orestis, the president of LifeCare Xchange who is known as the “Retirement Genius” (www.retirementgenius.com).

“You could think of it as a tax-free health savings account, but for long-term care,” Orestis says. “Any form of medical and long-term care is covered, including home care, assisted living, skilled nursing care, memory care, and hospice.”  

November is National Long-Term Care Awareness Month, a good time for seniors and their families to take note of all the options, including life settlements, that are available for aging Americans who might soon be struggling to pay for the high cost of nursing homes and other long-term care.

Orestis says a few things seniors and their families should know about life settlements include:

They are age and health driven. Think of the process as “reverse underwriting” where the older and sicker the insured is, the better they will do with a life settlement, Orestis says. The minimum age is 65, with the ideal age range being between 75 and 92, he says. Settlements particularly benefit people with an impaired, chronic or even terminal health diagnosis and a life expectancy of two to 10 years.

Any form of life insurance qualifies. Universal, term, and whole life are the most common forms of insurance for life settlements. “The minimum death benefit to make a life settlement work is $100,000 for any one policy to be considered,” Orestis says. The average settlement payout is 22.5% of the death benefit, he says, with a range between 5% and 50% for life settlements and above 50% for viatical settlements, which are used when the insured is terminally ill.

Treating insurance policies as property that can be sold is nothing new. Since 1911, life insurance policies have been legally recognized as an asset of the policy owner, Orestis says. “This means the owner has the same personal property rights as the owner of a home,” he says. “The owner can sell their policy if they want for its highest market value.

Unfortunately, Orestis says, most people don’t realize their life insurance policy can provide benefits while they are alive. Too often, to cut back on expenses in their senior years, they abandon the policy after making premium payments for years – even decades – getting nothing from it at all.

“Would you abandon your home without selling it after years of making mortgage payments?” Orestis asks. “Of course not. It’s critical that the owner of a life insurance policy understands that they can use their policy while still alive to help cover the expensive costs of retirement and long-term care.”

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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 a