A compendium of news, facts, questions and answers

News and trivia

Ambitious tech-tinkerers

The potentials of 21st Century technology apparently have no limits. Consider that tech-tinkerers are already able to make musical instruments and prosthetic body parts using their computers and 3D printers, according to the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC]. Enterprising tech-savvy parents can even turn their children’s make-believe crayon drawings into real toys. But, Sterling Backus’s kid was not interested in simple novelties. The boy asked his dad to use his 3D printing system to make a full-size, functional Lamborghini Aventador-- a luxury sports car that can sell for more than $400,000. And, Backus is well on his way to making his son’s epic challenge a reality and it has cost him just $20,000 so far.

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‘It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature’

If you are old enough, you may recall a 1970’s TV commercial that used the catch phrase “it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Well, the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC] reports that a California start-up is doing just that. Perfect Day is the name of a nascent company that has found a way to manufacture dairy free protein to produce non-dairy products that look and taste like the ones Mother Nature has been making since the beginning of time. And, that includes ice cream that will allow the lactose intolerant to know how great real ice cream tastes.

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Pot luck?

It’s all in the pronunciation. For example, the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC] says Kensli Davis of Milledgeville, GA blames her mother’s deep South drawl for the mix-up when she ordered her birthday cake. Mom asked for Kensli’s cake to feature icing with a theme based on her favorite Disney character, Moana. But when the cake was delivered, it featured a marijuana leaf and a horse smoking a joint, as they say. Kensli says, "I think they thought that she said 'marijuana' because we are from south Georgia and kind of have an accent. So, 'Moana,' marijuana?"

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Social Security Matters

by AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Will Social Security Go Bust?

Dear Rusty: I'm always hearing rumors of Social Security imploding - of people my age getting benefits but not the younger as they have time to do something else. I wonder if I file in December for 50% of my spouse's benefit, and later, before I turn 70 and change to my own benefits, if SS goes bust will I lose what I would have been able to claim under myself? I understand that you would only be guessing to answer that. From what I've read, it seems that 20% reduction will be necessary across the board. I do not trust politicians who love to play Santa to get reelected. Signed: Untrusting Senior

Dear Untrusting Senior: As of right now, Social Security (SS) has about $2.9 trillion in reserves in its Trust Fund. Beginning probably in 2020, SS income will be less than needed to pay all benefits, and money will start to be withdrawn from the Trust Fund to meet benefit obligations. Current projections are that the Trust Fund reserves are sufficient to pay 100% of benefit obligations until 2035, at which time SS will only be able to pay out as much money as it brings in. According to projections, that would result in about a 21% cut in benefits for all beneficiaries. But those dire predictions are only valid if Congress does nothing to resolve Social Security’s cash flow deficit expected to start in 2020.

The solutions for Social Security’s financial issues are very well known to Congress. What’s missing is a bipartisan agreement on the best way to resolve it. One side of the aisle wants to simply raise Social Security taxes (remove payroll caps and raise FICA contributions), while the other side prefers future program adjustments which deal with the reality that people are living much longer today than they did when SS was first enacted. Most pundits believe that Congress will eventually reach a compromise before the Trust Fund is depleted in 2035 requiring benefit cuts. After all, what politician who wishes to stay in Congress would want to be associated with reducing Social Security benefits for the very large and voting senior citizenry?

To get to your specific question: There is no real danger of SS going “bust,” as in not being able to pay any benefits at all, so you’ll never “lose what I would have been able to claim under myself.” The worst-case scenario is that your age 70 benefit (which will be about 32% more than your age 66 benefit) might be reduced, but it would never be totally eliminated. The best-case scenario is that Congress puts the current vitriolic atmosphere aside and does their job to fix the problem before it’s a crisis.

The last time Social Security had a crisis of this nature was in 1983, and the Democratic-controlled Congress and the Reagan Administration worked together to enact a fix which lasted for decades (until now). It’s my sincere hope, and indeed my expectation, that a similar bipartisan effort will eventually take place to resolve Social Security’s financial issues for many decades to come. The Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) has developed a common-sense Social Security Guarantee proposal which has been presented to multiple Congressional representatives for consideration, and which would solve Social Security’s financial issues for generations. If you’d like to see that proposal feel free to go to this link: https://amac.us/social-security/. Will Congress act on this any time soon? I’m afraid that’s impossible to predict, but if history offers any insight it’s that they will probably act only when the crisis can no longer be ignored.

Burp!

Joey Chestnut downed 71 frankfurters and Miki Sudo sucked up 31 of them to hold on to their titles in the 104th Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island, NY on July 4th. The day before in Washington, DC a hungry Molly Schuyler took the title for the fifth time in the 10th Annual Z Burger Eating Championship event. She broke the burger eating record she set last year, consuming 32 of them in just ten minutes. Last year she put away 27 whoppers.

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It’s all in the game

Perhaps “Jeopardy!” champ James Holzhauer might want to stick to word games; the professional gambler folded after playing 14 hands at this year’s World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Holzhauer still holds the record for the most wins on the TV game show. He took home more than $2.4 million with 32 consecutive Jeopardy wins earlier this year. He took the 454th place in the poker fest.

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Another daring young man

An unidentified daredevil appears to be the first to climb the tallest building in the U.K. recently. He used no ropes or harnesses, just a couple of suction cups to make his way up the side of the 95-story tower known as the Shard. The British tabloid, the Mirror, says that police detained him briefly, but let him go.

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A fishy story

Four years after he was divorced, Jason Rose of Newaygo, MI decided it was time to get rid of his wedding ring. Says Rose, his was an unhappy marriage and he became convinced the ring was cursed. So the charter boat captain decided to get rid of it the best way he knew how-- by throwing it overboard tied to the tail of a recently caught steelhead trout. “I am convinced that ring is cursed,” he told reporters after the story got out that another fisherman, Jim Nelligan caught the trout seven weeks later. It seems that Nelligan may also believe the ring is ‘cursed’ and, not wanting to tempt fate, is not inclined to keep the ring. He says that he’s been having boat troubles ever since he landed the fish.

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A deadly truth

The owner of a new themed coffee shop in Bangkok, Thailand says his aim is to show customers that it’s best not to give in to greed. Customers of his Death Awareness Café not only get coffee, they get a chance to experience what it’s like to be laid out in a coffin. He believes the experience reinforces the benefits of a selfless life by showing them that you can’t take it with you when you die.

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Hen pecked

Scotland’s women’s World Cup team recently came up with a unique way to vent when they lost their first match against England. They hoped the team would rally by getting het up in a rubber chicken fight that was caught on tape. The video shows enthusiastic teammates chasing each other on their training field wielding the squeaky rubber hens.

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Asthma & summer heat

During summer months, high heat, humidity, and pollution levels can cause asthma attacks, flare-ups, and emergency room visits for the millions of people who suffer from this chronic condition. Patricia Takach from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine said the findings of the report emphasize the need for patients with asthma to work with primary care providers to develop a personalized approach. “The asthma action plan is a critical resource that allows patients to identify when their asthma symptoms are increasing, and what they need to do to treat it,” she said.

Toxins from the tap

Chemicals known as PFAS, short for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are gaining attention as they are increasingly being discovered in sources of drinking water. These compounds, used in everything from non-stick pans to clothing, are long-lived. In many areas, particularly near some military sites where PFAS-laden fire-fighting foam had been used in training exercises, water sources have been found to contain concerning levels of the chemical, which has been associated with harmful health effects. Howard Neukrug of the Water Center at the University of Pennsylvania, a former Philadelphia water commissioner, said these emerging toxins often leave regulatory agencies and consumers with more questions than answers.

Nature Rx

Nature Rx, a new initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, aims to highlight relaxing and contemplative moments in nature as not just leisure but as therapy to help curb anxiety and depression among students. “The idea is that clinicians and health partners would write prescriptions for people to spend time in nature,” said Chloe Cerwinka, landscape planner at Penn. “It’s really simple. You can spend time in nature any way you want to. And there’s scientific research that shows spending as little as five minutes outside in nature can help improve your health.”

Facebook & illness

research from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and Stony Brook University found that the language used in Facebook posts can help identify conditions such as diabetes, anxiety, depression and psychosis. Researchers analyzed the entire Facebook post history of nearly 1,000 patients who had their medical record data linked to their profiles. The study found that all of the 21 medical conditions the researchers assessed were predictable from Facebook posts alone. “As social media posts are often about someone’s lifestyle choices and experiences or how they’re feeling, this information could provide additional information about disease management and exacerbation,” said physician Raina Merchant of Penn.

Brands & social impact

Corporations are making social impact front and center in their business models as shoppers increasingly want meaning from their purchases. It’s a trend that is poised to continue, as consumers buy items that are consistent with and help expand upon their own values and beliefs. “I think brands are being pushed to have a social conscience,” said Patti Williams, a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “Brands are increasingly expected to have a social and moral perspective.” (EDITORS: Additional information)

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Age Seventy hasn’t yet applied for Social Security

Dear Rusty: How can I maximize my monthly Social Security benefit? I'm already 70 years old – almost 71 now. Signed: Ready to Apply.

Dear Ready to Apply: You’ve already maximized your monthly Social Security benefit by waiting until age 70 to apply. Age 70 is when you stop earning delayed retirement credits, which have boosted your monthly benefit amount by 32% over what you would have received at your full retirement age of 66, and by 76% over what you would have received if you had claimed benefits early at age 62. Your maximum Social Security benefit is reached in the month you turn 70 years of age, so you shouldn’t delay any longer. Since you’re now actually more than 70 (almost 71), you should immediately claim your Social Security benefit and you should also ask for 6 months of retroactive benefits, which SS will give you in a lump-sum. You can claim your benefits by contacting the Social Security office (find your local office at www.ssa.gov/locator) and making an appointment to apply for benefits, or you can apply online at www.ssa.gov. To apply online, you’ll have to first set up your personal “My Social Security” online account at www.ssa.gov, and then complete and submit your application online. You should specify your “benefit start month” as six months before the date you apply to get the retroactive benefits.

If you are married, since you have not yet applied for benefits your wife is not yet receiving spousal benefits from your record. Assuming she has reached her full retirement age, her spousal benefit will be half of the benefit you were eligible to receive at your full retirement age, if that amount is more than she is entitled to on her own lifetime work record. If your wife was born on or before January 1st, 1954 she should contact your local Social Security office to file for her spousal benefit. If your wife was born January 2nd, 1954 or later, her spousal benefit should be automatically added to her own benefit when you claim, and she should not need to contact Social Security to apply. I encourage you both to claim these benefits as soon as possible, because each month you delay you are losing benefits which you are entitled to. This is true even if one or both of you are still working, because there is no penalty for working after you have reached full retirement age. And even if you’re still working and paying FICA taxes monthly, your benefit will not increase just because you are still paying into Social Security.

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History Matters

The Grateful American Book Prize

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was arguably the most comprehensive civil rights law ever passed in the United States. It was proposed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and passed by his successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, on July 2, 1964, seven months and 10 days after President Kennedy was assassinated. The law prohibited segregation -- based on race--in schools and public places, and it made employment discrimination illegal.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Civil Rights Act of 1964: An End to Racial Segregation by Judy L Hasday.

The Fourth of July is one of the most highly anticipated holidays of the year. It’s a day for picnics, barbecues and fireworks. But it has a more significant meaning. It is when we celebrate -- and remember -- America’s hard-won independence from British rule.

Recommended reading: The Declaration by Gemma Malley.

Hamilton, one of Broadway’s most popular offerings, has appealed to people of all ages. It almost guarantees an interest in learning more about the man and his times. He was killed on July 14, 1804 in a duel with his long-time political rival, Aaron Burr. Their complicated history is worth knowing.

The Grateful American Book Prize suggests that Judith St. George’s book, The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, is an attractive way to teach your kids a lesson.

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Ransomware can put healthcare providers — and patients — in critical condition

A healthcare organization can find itself in critical condition if attacked by ransomware — a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their files unless a ransom is paid.

Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report discovered that ransomware accounts for 85 percent of all malware targeting the healthcare industry. Ransomware attacks have been numerous in hospitals and other health facilities recently, and the consequences can be dire for providers and patients, who are denied access to their files and cannot receive the care they need.

“Many healthcare offices are not prepared to combat cyber attacks,” says Alex Zlatin, CEO of Maxim Software Systems and author of Responsible Dental Ownership (alexzlatin.com). “It can be a life-or-death situation if they can’t access data. So, they are more likely to pay up.

“Healthcare organizations are prime targets because of all the patients’ personal information they have to offer cyber criminals. It’s imperative they get up to speed on how to prevent such a nightmare scenario and know how to deal with a ransomware attack quickly.”

Zlatin offers ways for healthcare organizations to prevent or reduce the risks of ransomware attacks, and how they should respond if infected:

If attacked by ransomware

Isolate the infected computer immediately. “Infected systems should be removed from the network as soon as possible to prevent ransomware from attacking network or shared drives,” Zlatin says.

Isolate or power-off affected devices. Those devices that have not been completely corrupted should shut down or be isolated. Zlatin says this can provide time to recover data and contain the damage.

Secure backup data or systems by taking them offline. “You’ll want to ensure backups are free of malware before using them to restore inaccessible data,” Zlatin says.

Change online account passwords and network passwords. “After removing the system from the network, do this, and change all system passwords once the malware is removed,” Zlatin says.

To prevent attacks and mitigate risks

Train employees on cyber hygiene. “This is a healthcare organization’s best defense against ransomware,” Zlatin says. “Cyber hygiene is not putting yourself in a situation where you're surrounded by malicious links — like surfing the internet for personal reasons, opening emails from unfamiliar sources, going on Facebook or checking your Twitter feed from a workstation.”

Keep all systems secure. To remain compliant with HIPPA regulations in the U.S. and Canadian ones like PIPEDA, PHIPA and Alberta’s IHA, all systems that contain protected health information are required to stay up to date. “To protect against a ransomware threat, a similar approach must be taken so that all systems are secured against any potential vulnerabilities,” Zlatin says.

Monitor network traffic and file access. “Data breaches can be discovered by monitoring for unusual behavior within the systems,” Zlatin says. “Detecting outbound connections can pinpoint the location of an infection.”

Back up all data. “If some or all of a system’s files get encrypted, restoring the files from a backup is the only recovery option,” Zlatin says. “Making sure that the backup restores properly is as important as having a backup from the get-go.”

Adopt additional protection. “Ransomware sometimes goes undetected by many antivirus tools,” Zlatin says, “and IT departments must apply safeguards to block suspicious emails and deploy additional filters that block potential harmful sites,” Zlatin says.

“Providers can’t just hope an attack doesn’t happen to them,” Zlatin says. “They must do everything they can to prevent it.”

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Social Security Matters

by AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Will my Canadian pension affect my U.S. Social Security?

Dear Rusty: I worked for 15 years in Canada and for 20 years in the USA and I live in the USA. I will get Social Security from the US soon and I suspect that I can get a smaller (20% of US) pension from Canada as well. Does the US claw back (all or part) of a Canadian pension from the US pension amount? Is it possible it's a net loss to apply for Canadian pension? Signed: Dually Entitled

Dear Dually Entitled: The United States and Canada have a bilateral agreement which regulates benefits for people who have worked part of their career in both countries and are eligible for benefits from both. Under this agreement, your Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) benefit, earned independently in Canada, will affect your U.S. Social Security (SS) benefit amount based upon a rule in U.S. Social Security regulations known as the Windfall Elimination Provision (or "WEP").

WEP will not take effect until you start your Canadian pension but will then affect your U.S. Social Security benefit by using a special formula to compute (or re-compute) your U.S. benefit amount. Your U.S. Social Security benefit amount will be based upon your "average indexed monthly earnings" (or "AIME"), which is the inflation-adjusted monthly average for your years of lifetime significant earnings in the U.S. The AIME actually uses 35 years of lifetime earnings, and if you don't have a full 35 years of U.S. earnings they add in zeros to make it 35 years.

To compute your SS benefit, your AIME is broken into three parts, each of which is multiplied by a different percentage to arrive at an amount, which will become part of your "primary insurance amount" (the "PIA" is the amount you get at your full retirement age). If you have 20 years or less of significant U.S. earnings, the WEP formula will take 40% of first part of your AIME as the first of three numbers which will be added together to arrive at your U.S. Social Security benefit (without WEP, the normal formula uses a 90% multiplier). What that would mean, if you first become eligible for U.S. Social Security in 2019, is that the first $926 of your AIME, rather than adding $833 to your SS benefit amount, would instead add $370 (a reduction of $463; thus, your total U.S. Social Security benefit amount would be reduced by $463). But there are some additional things you should be aware of:

· WEP cannot reduce your U.S. benefit amount by more than 1/2 of your Canadian CPP/QPP benefit amount.

· WEP cannot and will not eliminate your U.S. SS benefit.

· If you have more than 20 years of significant U.S. earnings, the 40% multiplier increases by 5% per additional year, which would mean a smaller WEP reduction. The WEP provision does not apply to anyone with 30 or more years of significant Social Security earnings.

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A fishy story

Four years after he was divorced, Jason Rose of Newaygo, MI decided it was time to get rid of his wedding ring. Says Rose, his was an unhappy marriage and he became convinced the ring was cursed. So the charter boat captain decided to get rid of it the best way he knew how-- by throwing it overboard tied to the tail of a recently caught steelhead trout. “I am convinced that ring is cursed,” he told reporters after the story got out that another fisherman, Jim Nelligan caught the trout seven weeks later. It seems that Nelligan may also believe the ring is ‘cursed’ and, not wanting to tempt fate, is not inclined to keep the ring. He says that he’s been having boat troubles ever since he landed the fish.

###

A deadly truth

The owner of a new themed coffee shop in Bangkok, Thailand says his aim is to show customers that it’s best not to give in to greed. Customers of his Death Awareness Café not only get coffee, they get a chance to experience what it’s like to be laid out in a coffin. He believes the experience reinforces the benefits of a selfless life by showing them that you can’t take it with you when you die.

###

Hen pecked

Scotland’s women’s World Cup team recently came up with a unique way to vent when they lost their first match against England. They hoped the team would rally by getting het up in a rubber chicken fight that was caught on tape. The video shows enthusiastic teammates chasing each other on their training field wielding the squeaky rubber hens.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Age Seventy hasn’t yet applied for Social Security

Dear Rusty: How can I maximize my monthly Social Security benefit? I'm already 70 years old – almost 71 now. Signed: Ready to Apply.

Dear Ready to Apply: You’ve already maximized your monthly Social Security benefit by waiting until age 70 to apply. Age 70 is when you stop earning delayed retirement credits, which have boosted your monthly benefit amount by 32% over what you would have received at your full retirement age of 66, and by 76% over what you would have received if you had claimed benefits early at age 62. Your maximum Social Security benefit is reached in the month you turn 70 years of age, so you shouldn’t delay any longer. Since you’re now actually more than 70 (almost 71), you should immediately claim your Social Security benefit and you should also ask for 6 months of retroactive benefits, which SS will give you in a lump-sum. You can claim your benefits by contacting the Social Security office (find your local office at www.ssa.gov/locator) and making an appointment to apply for benefits, or you can apply online at www.ssa.gov. To apply online, you’ll have to first set up your personal “My Social Security” online account at www.ssa.gov, and then complete and submit your application online. You should specify your “benefit start month” as six months before the date you apply to get the retroactive benefits.

If you are married, since you have not yet applied for benefits your wife is not yet receiving spousal benefits from your record. Assuming she has reached her full retirement age, her spousal benefit will be half of the benefit you were eligible to receive at your full retirement age, if that amount is more than she is entitled to on her own lifetime work record. If your wife was born on or before January 1st, 1954 she should contact your local Social Security office to file for her spousal benefit. If your wife was born January 2nd, 1954 or later, her spousal benefit should be automatically added to her own benefit when you claim, and she should not need to contact Social Security to apply. I encourage you both to claim these benefits as soon as possible, because each month you delay you are losing benefits which you are entitled to. This is true even if one or both of you are still working, because there is no penalty for working after you have reached full retirement age. And even if you’re still working and paying FICA taxes monthly, your benefit will not increase just because you are still paying into Social Security.

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History Matters

The Grateful American Book Prize

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was arguably the most comprehensive civil rights law ever passed in the United States. It was proposed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and passed by his successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, on July 2, 1964, seven months and 10 days after President Kennedy was assassinated. The law prohibited segregation -- based on race--in schools and public places, and it made employment discrimination illegal.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Civil Rights Act of 1964: An End to Racial Segregation by Judy L Hasday.

The Fourth of July is one of the most highly anticipated holidays of the year. It’s a day for picnics, barbecues and fireworks. But it has a more significant meaning. It is when we celebrate -- and remember -- America’s hard-won independence from British rule.

Recommended reading: The Declaration by Gemma Malley.

Hamilton, one of Broadway’s most popular offerings, has appealed to people of all ages. It almost guarantees an interest in learning more about the man and his times. He was killed on July 14, 1804 in a duel with his long-time political rival, Aaron Burr. Their complicated history is worth knowing.

The Grateful American Book Prize suggests that Judith St. George’s book, The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, is an attractive way to teach your kids a lesson.

###

Ransomware can put healthcare providers — and patients — in critical condition

A healthcare organization can find itself in critical condition if attacked by ransomware — a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their files unless a ransom is paid.

Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report discovered that ransomware accounts for 85 percent of all malware targeting the healthcare industry. Ransomware attacks have been numerous in hospitals and other health facilities recently, and the consequences can be dire for providers and patients, who are denied access to their files and cannot receive the care they need.

“Many healthcare offices are not prepared to combat cyber attacks,” says Alex Zlatin, CEO of Maxim Software Systems and author of Responsible Dental Ownership (alexzlatin.com). “It can be a life-or-death situation if they can’t access data. So, they are more likely to pay up.

“Healthcare organizations are prime targets because of all the patients’ personal information they have to offer cyber criminals. It’s imperative they get up to speed on how to prevent such a nightmare scenario and know how to deal with a ransomware attack quickly.”

Zlatin offers ways for healthcare organizations to prevent or reduce the risks of ransomware attacks, and how they should respond if infected:

If attacked by ransomware

Isolate the infected computer immediately. “Infected systems should be removed from the network as soon as possible to prevent ransomware from attacking network or shared drives,” Zlatin says.

Isolate or power-off affected devices. Those devices that have not been completely corrupted should shut down or be isolated. Zlatin says this can provide time to recover data and contain the damage.

Secure backup data or systems by taking them offline. “You’ll want to ensure backups are free of malware before using them to restore inaccessible data,” Zlatin says.

Change online account passwords and network passwords. “After removing the system from the network, do this, and change all system passwords once the malware is removed,” Zlatin says.

To prevent attacks and mitigate risks

Train employees on cyber hygiene. “This is a healthcare organization’s best defense against ransomware,” Zlatin says. “Cyber hygiene is not putting yourself in a situation where you're surrounded by malicious links — like surfing the internet for personal reasons, opening emails from unfamiliar sources, going on Facebook or checking your Twitter feed from a workstation.”

Keep all systems secure. To remain compliant with HIPPA regulations in the U.S. and Canadian ones like PIPEDA, PHIPA and Alberta’s IHA, all systems that contain protected health information are required to stay up to date. “To protect against a ransomware threat, a similar approach must be taken so that all systems are secured against any potential vulnerabilities,” Zlatin says.

Monitor network traffic and file access. “Data breaches can be discovered by monitoring for unusual behavior within the systems,” Zlatin says. “Detecting outbound connections can pinpoint the location of an infection.”

Back up all data. “If some or all of a system’s files get encrypted, restoring the files from a backup is the only recovery option,” Zlatin says. “Making sure that the backup restores properly is as important as having a backup from the get-go.”

Adopt additional protection. “Ransomware sometimes goes undetected by many antivirus tools,” Zlatin says, “and IT departments must apply safeguards to block suspicious emails and deploy additional filters that block potential harmful sites,” Zlatin says.

“Providers can’t just hope an attack doesn’t happen to them,” Zlatin says. “They must do everything they can to prevent it.”

Like a big pizza pie

There are a lot of ways to celebrate the Fourth of July. Some plan elaborate firework displays. Others plan extravagantly lavish barbecues. Still others try to set records, like the Outta Hand Pizza shop in Westfield, NJ. The daring Pizzaiolos [Italian for pizza makers] cooked up a 9-foot by 4-foot red, white and blue pie recently for the kickoff of the town’s Summer Movie Night event. The pizzeria issued a statement confidently stating that: "We will submit an application with Guinness Book of World Records for largest square pizza and for the largest Flag Pizza in the world."

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Shaggy dog story

Petaluma, CA may be known as the Wrist Wrestling Capital of the World, but now has a relatively new boast, the home of the World's Ugliest Dog contest. Scamp the Tramp, a pooch that one wag said is cuddly, not ugly, took the honors this year and now is hailed as Scamp the Champ.

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The long arm of the law

It happened in 1990 in Iowa. Fifteen-year-old Amy Rush was running away from home and hitched a ride. The driver who picked her up was stopped for speeding and the officer gave the runaway teen a $35 ticket of her own for not wearing her seat belt. Ms. Rush ignored the ticket lo these many years, but the law has a long reach and caught up with her, demanding she pay up. But she is offering resistance, declaring that she has no intention of paying the fine. She says the officer should have been more concerned with the fact that she was only 15 years old and running away from home.

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Could A Better Diet Cool Your Inflammation? Avoid These 5 Food Groups

Chronic inflammation is associated with such diseases as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and can harm people in numerous other ways, from painful joints to dental problems and aging skin.

It can even disturb your slumber, since inflammation can impact the breathing airways during sleep, resulting in sleep apnea among other potential issues, says Dr. Lynn Lipskis (www.drlipskis.com), director of the TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre and co-author with her husband, Dr. Edmund Lipskis, of Breathe, Sleep, Live, Smile: Integrative Treatments for TMJ/TMD, Sleep Apnea, Orthodontics.

Yet, with all the potential complications, not everyone may realize that one effective way to combat inflammation is through better nutrition, Dr. Lipskis says.

“Inflammation can come from a variety of issues, but diet undoubtedly is one of the bigger factors,” she says. “Some people unwisely put dietary compliance at the bottom of their priority list. While some patients with better diets don’t have a lot of inflammation, others are so inflamed they can’t breathe at all through their nose.”

Dr. Lynn Lipskis and Dr. Edmund Lipskis suggest a list of inflammatory foods to avoid:

Gluten. Foods containing gluten can be some of the most inflammatory. “Generally,” Dr. Lynn Lipskis says, “gluten is the protein part of a grain. A lot of people will react to gluten by experiencing increased inflammation. Gluten-free eating has become popular because so many people who adopt it find that they feel better. Symptoms of sensitivity to gluten include fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, achy joints and brain fog.”

Dairy. “Dairy products promote mucus production,” Dr. Ed Lipskis says. “That inflames tissue and mucous clogs the nasal passages. There are mixed reviews on whether people should consume dairy products and to what extent. I recommend an elimination diet to see how it affects you.”

Processed carbohydrates. These include a litany of foods people love, but the Lipskis team says the eventual harm outweighs the enjoyment. “It may mean saying good-bye to pasta, breads, cookies, candies,” Dr. Ed Lipskis says. “People often believe that whole wheat bread is better than white bread, but whole wheat is actually just as inflammatory because of the carbohydrate in wheat, known as amylopectin A.” Similarly, Lipskis says most people mistakenly believe brown rice to be a better choice than white rice. “But like whole wheat,” he says, “the husk of brown rice contains the allergens and proteins that can cause inflammation.”

Alcohol (red wine). “People who have sleep apnea are assured a bad night’s sleep after drinking alcohol,” Dr. Lynn Lipskis says. “Red wine targets the nasal membrane, causing swelling and limiting the opening for air flow. This inflammation can last six to eight hours, ruining a full night’s sleep.”

Refined sugars. “Sugar is everywhere,” Dr. Ed Lipskis says. “While sugar is known for negatives – rotting teeth, packing on the pounds, providing no nutrition – the biggest reason you should say good-bye to sugar is that it’s one of the most inflammatory parts of many foods. And be careful with fruit, which is generally thought of as healthy but contains naturally occurring fructose. The less fiber there is in a fruit, the less healthy it is.”

“We should be eating a normal, balanced diet of real food – not processed foods,” Dr. Lynn Lipskis says. “It’s tough to avoid the occasional bagel, bag of chips, or glass of red wine, but going off the wagon, so to speak, can lead to immediate inflammation and long-term problems. Listen to your body - it will let you know the effect that each type of food has.”

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History Matters

On June 18, 1812, the United States Congress voted to declare war on Great Britain. Although America had won its independence from their rule less than 30 years earlier, this time, the cause was to stand up for our fledgling nation’s rights on the high seas. It was an audacious challenge, considering that Great Britain was arguably the greatest naval power in the world. Yet, a year and a half later, the war was over, and the Treaty of Ghent was signed in Belgium on Dec. 24, 1814. As a matter of pride, many in the U.S. began referring to the conflict as “the second war of independence.”

For more information, The Grateful American Book Prize recommends What Caused the War of 1812? by Sally Senzell Isaacs.

The 1960s was a decade of great change in the U.S. It was the end of the beginning of the struggle for equal rights -- for all. Volunteers from across America got involved in the crusade for civil rights. Some died for the cause, including three young activists, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner; they disappeared in Neshoba County, Mississippi. on June 21, 1964, but their bodies were not discovered until Aug. 4. Mississippi was then a heavily segregated state. The U.S Justice Department indicted 19 men on Dec. 4 for violating the civil rights of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney.

For more information, read The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell.

When General George Armstrong Custer led 250 cavalrymen against a Sioux Indian force of approximately 2,000-4,000 encamped near the Little Bighorn River in Montana on June 25, 1876, it became an event that has been retold through the generations. Custer and almost all of his troops were massacred; only one scout survived. But, it was the Indians who lost the most. The outrage over the humiliating defeat ramped up the government’s rage to drive the Native Americans off of their lands.

Custer’s famous--or infamous--defeat at Little Bighorn is a true story about America’s westward expansion. Young learners will benefit from a better understanding of this important event by reading CUSTER'S LAST STAND by Quentin Reynolds.

America’s electorate got younger on June 30, 1971. The ratification of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution lowered the voting age in all elections from 21 to 18, and 11 million people were added to the eligible constituency.

Knowing the power of the ballot box teaches kids to become responsible, civically minded adults. The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Amendment XXVI: Lowering the Voting Age by Sylvia Engdahl.

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Celebrate the Red, White and Blue While Making Sure Rover is Safe, Too!

Humane Society of Missouri shares Fourth of July pet safety tips

Independence Day celebrations would not be the same without the scorching sun and fireworks lighting up the night sky. For pets, however, heat and sudden loud noises can be more harmful and frightening than fun.

The Humane Society of Missouri encourages pet parents to keep their furry friends’ safety in mind as they celebrate the stars and stripes. And in case pets aren’t chipped already, the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America is offering $25 microchips the entire month of July to ensure pet owners can locate their pet in a worst-case scenario.

Follow these four tips for a safe Fourth of July for your pets:

Don’t Forget: 70 Degrees & Over, Don’t Take Rover!

When the temperature outside is 70 degrees or higher, the temperature inside a parked car can reach more than 100 degrees in just minutes, leading to death or severe injury in just minutes, regardless of whether a window is cracked or the car is located in the shade.

If you see an animal in an untended car, call the local police and the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Cruelty Hotline at (314) 647-4400.

When your pet is outside, provide them with a shady spot and a bowl of clean water, ensuring they are protected from the sun at all times of the day. Secure a plastic (never metal) bowl to the ground so the bowl does not tip over or get too hot.

Keep Track of Your Pet

If your pet is going with you to participate in any festivities, keep them on a non-retractable leash or in a fenced-in area. Also, be sure your dog has an up-to-date microchip.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. The Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Medical Center of Mid-America is providing discounted microchips for just $25 throughout the month of July!

Make Parties Pet Friendly

Human treats and leftovers can damage a pet’s sensitive stomach, so pet owners need to clean up after themselves and remove any dangers that may be laying around.

Keep fireworks, glow sticks, lighter fluid, sunscreen, insect repellent, citronella candles and other potentially dangerous items away from a pet’s paws.

Reduce Rover’s Anxiety

If possible, pets should be kept at home with a quiet, cool place to retreat where heat and sounds are less intense. Pets are more likely to relax in an interior room with access to clean, cool water – not on a chain or in a small crate.

Pets are more sensitive to loud noises, so close the windows and consider turning on the radio or television to mask the sounds. If your pet is extremely anxious with loud noises, visit your veterinarian to discuss anti-anxiety options, such as ThunderShirts®, nutritional supplements and prescription medications that can often provide relief.

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Housecall

By Dr. Appathurai Balamurugan

Assistant professor Department of Family and Preventive Medicine

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Email your health questions to housecall@uams.edu.

Q. Why should my children receive vaccinations against measles? Wasn’t this disease eradicated years ago?

A. Public health officials declared this highly contagious disease eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 but since then, there has been a reappearance of measles in the nation with an all-time high of 667 cases reported in 2014 and 349 cases confirmed in 26 states and the District of Columbia last year.

The increase is caused, in part, by people not having their children vaccinated. The disease is still common in many other countries and travelers can bring it here, spreading it to others who are unvaccinated, sometimes leading to outbreaks.

Measles can cause severe complications, including lung infections and swelling of the brain. It can even be fatal. Measles vaccine has been safe and effective since the mid-1960s, yet some people cannot get vaccinated because they are under a year old or have a weakened immune system.

It’s important for those who are able to get the vaccine to become vaccinated to provide “community immunity” for those who cannot. Prevention through the vaccine is the only way to fight the virus.

Q. I heard the HPV vaccination is not just for teens now. Who should get it and when?

A. Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States with about 20 million people infected. At least 50 percent of sexually active people will contract it at some point in their lives.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all girls and boys age 11 or 12 get the two-dose vaccine series, along with those up to age 26, regardless of whether they are sexually active.

Most HPV infections do not cause symptoms and go away on their own but some can cause cervical cancer in women. Each year in the U.S., about 10,000 women get cervical cancer and 3,700 die from it. HPV is also associated with several less common types of cancer in both men and women and can cause genital warts. The HPV vaccine, introduced in the U.S. in 2006, can prevent most genital warts and cases of cervical cancer.

The vaccine doesn’t protect against all 100-plus types of HPV but is nearly 100% effective in protecting against two high-risk strains, HPV 16 and 18, which account for 70% of all cervical cancers.

Q. What is herd immunity and how can it protect my elderly mother?

A. When many people in an area are vaccinated, less germs are spread and fewer people get sick. This concept, known as community or herd immunity, protects others beyond the person receiving the vaccine, including older adults with chronic diseases or babies too young to receive a vaccination.

When a very high percentage of people in any one area have received vaccinations and the necessary threshold is reached, community immunity is achieved. For measles, 93 to 95 percent in the community need to be vaccinated.

Some people think they don’t need to be vaccinated if a disease, such as measles, has been eliminated from the U.S. But this leads to fewer people being vaccinated and allows the disease to be reintroduced by foreign visitors or Americans who have traveled outside the nation.

Community immunity is also important because vaccine protection can fade over time and when people’s immunity drops, new outbreaks of disease can occur unless more people continue receiving vaccinations.

Do not rely on community immunity for protection. Vaccines are still the best way to protect from diseases.

Q. I received vaccines as a child for various diseases, but what vaccines do I need as an adult?

A. Each year, thousands of adults in the United States contract diseases, many of which can be deadly, that vaccines can help prevent. Immunizations are one of the safest ways to protect your health.

Childhood immunizations can weaken over time and more vaccines are now available. Several factors determine what adult vaccines are necessary, including age, lifestyle, health condition, and vaccines previously received.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults be protected against the flu with an annual vaccine; whooping cough with a tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine at least once for all adults and for women during each pregnancy; tetanus and diphtheria with a Td vaccine every 10 years; shingles with a zoster vaccine for those aged 50 and older; and pneumonia with two vaccines for adults aged 65 and older.

Ask your doctor what additional vaccines may be right for you and remember to protect yourself when traveling since vaccines can prevent diseases that are rare in the United States, like yellow fever.

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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 benefits early and invest them?

Dear Rusty: I am 64 years old and my wife is 62. We both have good paying careers. Our original plan was to wait until we each turned 70 before drawing our Social Security benefits. But I was talking to a friend who is a very successful small business owner who told me that he started drawing his SS benefits at age 62. He puts the funds in a mutual fund every month. He has “run the numbers “ and he is convinced that he will come out ahead rather than waiting to draw at age 70. I was shocked to hear this advice since I had never heard any expert advocate this option before. What say you, Sir? Signed: Questioning My Plan

Dear Questioning: I, too, have "run the numbers" many times. Although Social Security will say that it makes no difference when you apply (they say you get the same in total benefits no matter which age you claim) with average longevity today being in the mid-80's (84 for men; 87 for women) that may not be true. I have done numerous "break even analyses" and have found that if one claims at their full retirement age instead of at age 62, they will have collected the same amount of benefits at age 78 in either case. That means that by living longer than age 78, you will realize more in total cumulative lifetime Social Security benefits by waiting until your full retirement age to apply. Similarly, if you wait until age 70 to claim, you will break even (collect the same in total benefits) at age 82, and if you live beyond 82 you'll get more in cumulative benefits by waiting. If you live well beyond those ages, the extra benefits can be very substantial.

I wonder if your friend included in his analysis how the “earnings test” affected his early benefits. If you are still working and you claim benefits before you reach your full retirement age, you'll be subject to Social Security's "earnings limit" ($17,640 for 2019) which, if you exceed it, will cause Social Security to withhold benefits equal to $1 for every $2 you are over the limit. This applies to both you and your wife. The earnings limit doesn't go away until your reach your full retirement age, so when contemplating whether to collect benefits before your full retirement age you should assess the amount of benefit loss you will incur if your earnings exceed the earnings limit. Although at your full retirement age (FRA) Social Security gives you time credit for any months you don't received benefits because you exceeded the earnings limit, it will take you years to recover any withheld benefits because they only slightly increase your benefit at your FRA to compensate for withheld benefits from over-earning (you need to live long enough to recover those lost benefits).

And did your friend consider this: your surviving spouse will receive 100% of the benefit you are receiving at your death. If you claim before your full retirement age, your surviving spouse will get the reduced amount; if you wait until after your full retirement age to claim, your surviving spouse will get the full amount of your benefit increased by delayed retirement credits. Benefits are about 76% more at age 70 than they are at age 62.

Of course, the question of when to apply must always take into account your current financial needs, your current health and lifestyle, and your expected longevity (considering your family history). Whether to claim early and invest those benefits or wait until later is a choice only you can make. But you should consider the above points and compare the guarantee of increasing your lifetime benefit amount by 6% to 8% for each year you wait to claim, against the interest or growth rate you might expect from investing in the securities market.

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Ransomware can put healthcare providers and patients in critical condition

A healthcare organization can find itself in critical condition if attacked by ransomware — a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their files unless a ransom is paid.

Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report discovered that ransomware accounts for 85 percent of all malware targeting the healthcare industry. Ransomware attacks have been numerous in hospitals and other health facilities recently, and the consequences can be dire for providers and patients, who are denied access to their files and cannot receive the care they need.

“Many healthcare offices are not prepared to combat cyber attacks,” says Alex Zlatin, CEO of Maxim Software Systems and author of Responsible Dental Ownership (alexzlatin.com). “It can be a life-or-death situation if they can’t access data. So, they are more likely to pay up.

“Healthcare organizations are prime targets because of all the patients’ personal information they have to offer cyber criminals. It’s imperative they get up to speed on how to prevent such a nightmare scenario and know how to deal with a ransomware attack quickly.”

Zlatin offers ways for healthcare organizations to prevent or reduce the risks of ransomware attacks, and how they should respond if infected:

If attacked by ransomware

Isolate the infected computer immediately. “Infected systems should be removed from the network as soon as possible to prevent ransomware from attacking network or shared drives,” Zlatin says.

Isolate or power-off affected devices. Those devices that have not been completely corrupted should shut down or be isolated. Zlatin says this can provide time to recover data and contain the damage.

Secure backup data or systems by taking them offline. “You’ll want to ensure backups are free of malware before using them to restore inaccessible data,” Zlatin says.

Change online account passwords and network passwords. “After removing the system from the network, do this, and change all system passwords once the malware is removed,” Zlatin says.

To prevent attacks and mitigate risks

Train employees on cyber hygiene. “This is a healthcare organization’s best defense against ransomware,” Zlatin says. “Cyber hygiene is not putting yourself in a situation where you're surrounded by malicious links — like surfing the internet for personal reasons, opening emails from unfamiliar sources, going on Facebook or checking your Twitter feed from a workstation.”

Keep all systems secure. To remain compliant with HIPPA regulations in the U.S. and Canadian ones like PIPEDA, PHIPA and Alberta’s IHA, all systems that contain protected health information are required to stay up to date. “To protect against a ransomware threat, a similar approach must be taken so that all systems are secured against any potential vulnerabilities,” Zlatin says.

Monitor network traffic and file access. “Data breaches can be discovered by monitoring for unusual behavior within the systems,” Zlatin says. “Detecting outbound connections can pinpoint the location of an infection.”

Back up all data. “If some or all of a system’s files get encrypted, restoring the files from a backup is the only recovery option,” Zlatin says. “Making sure that the backup restores properly is as important as having a backup from the get-go.”

Adopt additional protection. “Ransomware sometimes goes undetected by many antivirus tools,” Zlatin says, “and IT departments must apply safeguards to block suspicious emails and deploy additional filters that block potential harmful sites,” Zlatin says.

“Providers can’t just hope an attack doesn’t happen to them,” Zlatin says. “They must do everything they can to prevent it.”

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A horn to toot

Jeral Pope of Goodwater, Texas, earned the right to toot his own horn when he learned that the record keepers at Guinness picked his seven-year-old longhorn, Poncho, for what amounts to two world records. Pope’s steer has the longest horns of any living longhorn and he has the “largest horn spread on a steer ever.” Poncho’s rack measures more than ten and a half feet tip to tip giving this gentle giant a very intimidating look. But, according to Jeral’s son Dennis, "He's had so many people over the years stop by to see him, feeding him treats, that he’s turned into a wonderful big pet."

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Picking a name for your newborn

Some expecting parents might choose to use family namesakes when picking a name for their child. It’s an old fashioned method, but in this day and age parents-to-be might wish to find “unique” names and that can be a daunting task. So a pair of moms have established a startup company, Future Perfect, to make it easier for prices ranging from $100 to $350.

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Beethoven’s gift

The story goes that Beethoven had a pal who presented his wife with what was purportedly a lock of Ludwig’s hair. The famed composer set the record straight declaring that it was not snipped from his scalp, but from a goat. So, he replaced the bogus clipping with an authentic lock of his hair, which was auctioned off in the U.K. recently bringing in some $45,000.

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Ready to retire? 5 steps for getting a good night’s sleep after the paychecks stop

Those early days of retirement can be exciting as you are finally rewarded with a little rest and relaxation after all those years of toil.

But it can be a bit unsettling as well when the regular paychecks you counted on stop appearing in your bank account.

That’s why anyone who’s still a few years away from retirement should ask themselves: Am I ready for that moment both financially and emotionally?

The answer could come down to whether you have a solid retirement plan – or a plan at all.

“Regardless of how much you accumulate for your retirement, poor planning or lack of planning can put you at risk of exhausting your resources,” says Tad Hill, a retirement planner and author of Retire with Freedom: The Five Steps to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep After the Paychecks Stop (www.askfreedomfinancial.com).

Hill says people nearing the end of their working years should follow this five-step process for a more secure retirement:

Create your ideal picture of retirement. What is it you want out of retirement? Do you want to travel? Volunteer with a charity? Spend time with the grandkids? The first step isn’t about your financial portfolio, Hill says, it’s about forming a clear image of the big “why” of your ideal retirement. “Otherwise, even though your money may last the rest of your lives,” Hill says, “you may never achieve your dreams because you’re unclear on your dreams.”

Put your situation to the “stress test.” With the help of a financial professional, give your retirement plan a “stress test.” That can include reviewing how to best maximize your Social Security benefits and examining how your portfolio might perform under a variety of market scenarios. “Analyze all the factors that could affect your retirement plan over the next few decades and create a strategy for dealing with those risk factors with as much certainty as possible,” Hill says.

Design your plan. Designing a retirement plan, Hill says, is much like creating the blueprint for a house. “These blueprints identify the strategies available to help minimize risk, increase certainty, avoid excess taxes and ensure an adequate retirement income,” he says. Some of the concerns that need to be addressed include income planning, investment planning, health care planning, tax planning and legacy planning.

Build the plan. Once the design is agreed upon, it’s time to implement it. “That can mean making changes to your current structure, adding some things and getting rid of others,” Hill says. “Maybe risk-prone aspects of your current approach that we need to eliminate were discovered in the design step. We also often identify new strategies that you aren’t using that can really make a difference.”

Seek continued guidance. Even a great retirement plan may need tweaks and adjustments over the years. “Times change, people change and situations change,” Hill says. With his clients, he holds a regular yearly consultation to help ensure they are on the right pathway to retirement success at all times. “You need to look at whether there are things that have changed in your life that need attention,” he says. “Are there decisions you need to make about a pension or Social Security? Is your spending tracking at the amount you thought it would?”

“There are no guarantees of anything in life, including how your retirement will work out,” Hill says. “But taking action to create a solid and well-thought-out plan for this important part of your life is a critical first step.”

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5 ways states can unify behind marijuana and reap the benefits

Medical marijuana is now legal in 33 states, but some have been slow to reap the economic benefits. Advocates say this is because of a long legislative and legal process that delays the rollout of legalization and results in numerous restrictions.

“How the states regulate marijuana varies greatly,” says Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish (www.sarahleegossettparrish.com), a cannabis industry lawyer. “Each state has to decide how much a patient can possess, where and how they can obtain it, and what medical conditions warrant a physician’s recommendation for its usage.

“The more permissive state regulatory systems result in more patients and usually in more dispensaries.”

Oklahoma, though regarded as a conservative or red state, is viewed as one of the most liberal when it comes to medical marijuana laws, Parrish says. And about a year after voters approved medical cannabis in Oklahoma, business is booming in the state.

Now comes Oklahoma’s “Unity Act,” signed into law in March. Parrish says it was designed to streamline state regulation of medical marijuana without impeding commerce and imposing too many restrictions.

“The Unity Act further develops Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program, an exemplary model for states that seek a more permissive regulatory scheme,” Parrish says. “There are compromises added for employers, but overall it benefits the patients and entrepreneurs. Oklahoma rolled out its medical marijuana program quickly and efficiently, wisely avoiding the quagmire of regulations that strangle the industry in other states.”

Parrish explains some key provisions of the Unity Act that promote the industry’s growth while ensuring proper oversight:

Sale of seeds. “The Act includes language allowing commercial growers to sell seeds or clones to other commercial growers, thereby providing a much-needed legal way for new growers to obtain seeds and clones,” Parrish says. “Language that would also have allowed the sale by growers to patients or caregivers was deleted.”

Patient confidentiality. “The Act preserves confidentiality of patients and caregivers, making the handling of all records subject to all relevant state and federal laws, including HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996),” Parrish says.

Employment Issues. The Act permits employers to refuse to hire workers for safety-sensitive jobs, examples of which are listed in the legislation. It provides that employers are not required to permit or accommodate the use of medical marijuana at the place of employment. “It also recognizes employers’ right to establish written policies about drug testing and impairment in accord with current Oklahoma law,” Parrish says.

Seed-to-sale quality and safety checkpoints. The Act requires a medical marijuana seed-to-sale inventory tracking system, and mandates quality testing by licensees. “This includes testing for contaminants and THC/CBD content,” Parrish says.

New licenses. The Act creates a medical marijuana transporter license, a testing laboratory license, research license, a caregiver license and an education facility license. “These components show how the Unity Act represents a concerted effort to create a working framework for regulation and oversight,” Parrish says.

“It’s encouraging to see both sides of the aisle work together to achieve a common goal,” Parrish says. “Oklahoma is on its way to becoming a thriving cannabis industry, and that’s good news for everyone.”

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Flower Care maintenance keeps gardens looking their best all summer long

By Melinda Myers

A bit of grooming and care will keep your flower gardens looking their best throughout the hot summer months and into fall.

Remove the flower stems of salvias, veronicas and similar flowers as the blooms begin to fade. Use a pruner or sharp garden scissors and cut just above the first set of leaves or above the side shoots where new flower buds are forming.

Cut back flopping perennials like Walker’s Low catmint, veronica and Salvia that have finished their second flush of flowers. New growth will be sturdier, more compact and eventually covered with blooms.

Plants like daylilies and balloon flower require a bit different care. Remove the individual blooms as they fade for maximum beauty. Once all the individual flowers have bloomed out, you can cut the flower stem back at the base.

Keep coral bells tidy and many varieties blooming longer with a bit of deadheading. Remove the whole flower stem, once blooms fade, back to the leafy base where it arises from the plant. And cut a few flowers to enjoy indoors in a summer bouquet.

Remove faded flowers for a neater and tidier appearance, but no additional bloom, on peonies, lamb’s ear and bergenia. Removing the seedpods of peonies as they form, back to a healthy set of leaves, helps keep stems upright and makes for a tidier plant throughout the summer.

Deadheading won't extend the bloom for columbine, but it will prevent reseeding - if that’s a concern for you. Prune the flowering stems back to their base in the foliage.

Removing spent flowers on perennials like bee balm, purple coneflower, salvia, veronicas, garden phlox and many others will encourage additional bloom. You may want to skip deadheading of any late blooming varieties. This allows them to form seed pods for a bit of winter interest.

Pruning your flowers can also impact the appearance, size, and flowering of plants. Prune Russian sage and upright sedums, like Autumn Joy, subject to flopping back halfway in mid-June to encourage sturdy growth. Pruning coneflowers and other late blooming perennials once, early in the season, can result in shorter plants that flower a bit later. Pinch asters and mums back to 6 inches throughout June and into early July in southern regions for compact plants and an attractive fall display.

Further improve your garden’s beauty by removing or trimming back discolored foliage with sharp scissors or a hand pruner.

Stake taller perennials in need of a bit of support. Use bamboo stakes and ties, twigs woven into stems or other attractive or virtually invisible supports. Then make a note on next year’s calendar as a reminder to put stakes in place in spring as plants emerge.

Spread a layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic mulch over the soil surface. This conserves moisture, helps suppress weeds and improves the soil as they break down.

A bit of pinching and pruning now as various flowers fade will extend the beauty and your enjoyment throughout summer and into fall.

Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books and is the host of The Great Courses’ How to Grow Anything DVD series. Her website, www.MelindaMyers.com, offers gardening tips and videos.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Confused about Working, Medicare and Spouse Benefits

Dear Rusty: I will reach my full retirement age (FRA) in September of 2020 at age 66. My wife will be 64 at that time and will start drawing her SS at 1/2 of my benefit because it will be more than hers, even if she reached her FRA. My question is, I know I will need to sign up for Medicare Part A this year at age 65 but do I need Part B at this time? Both myself and my wife work for the same company and have insurance through them. I will have insurance for one more year through the company until I retire at 66. Another question is when I retire at 66 and my wife retires at age 64 at 1/2 my benefit, will she be able to sign up for Medicare because she is drawing SS benefits? Or will she have to wait until 3 months before she turns 65? Signed: Planning Our Retirement

Dear Planning: Signing up for Medicare when you turn 65 is optional if you have creditable employer coverage. If you enroll in Part A, and you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) you and your employer must both stop contributing to it the month before you turn 65. Whether you should take Medicare Part B (coverage for doctors and other outpatient services) at age 65 depends upon whether your healthcare coverage through your employer is considered a “creditable” alternative to Medicare Part B coverage. Generally, if it’s a group plan with more than 20 participants it will be considered creditable, but you should check with your HR department to make sure. Assuming your employer coverage is “creditable,” you can defer enrolling in Part B until your employer coverage ends. At that time, you’ll enter a “special enrollment period” during which you can enroll in Medicare Part B (and Part D drug plan) without a late enrollment penalty. You can enroll in Part B (and Part D) a little before your employer coverage ends so as to avoid any lapse in health care coverage.

If your wife claims her Social Security benefit at age 64 when you claim your SS at age 66, her own benefit will be reduced, and her spousal benefit will also be reduced from 50% of yours because she is claiming the spousal benefit earlier than her full retirement age. Any time any Social Security benefit is claimed earlier than one’s full retirement age it is reduced. Taken 2 years before her FRA, your wife’s spousal benefit will be about 42% of yours, not 50%.

Your wife cannot enroll in Medicare simply because she is collecting Social Security; she’s not eligible for Medicare until she is 65 (she can enroll 3 months earlier for coverage to start the month she turns 65). If your wife retires from work before she is eligible for Medicare, she may use COBRA coverage until she reaches age 65 and her Medicare coverage begins. If your wife claims her Social Security to start when she retires at 64, she will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B just prior to her turning 65 years of age, but if she continues to work and still has creditable employee (not COBRA) healthcare coverage from her employer at that time and wishes to delay enrolling in Part B (to avoid the premium), she can do so until her employer coverage ends. Then when her employer coverage ends, she should enroll in Medicare Part B (and Part D plan) during her special enrollment period so as to avoid any future late enrollment penalties.

Finally, you should both be enrolled in Medicare Part A (hospitalization coverage) because it is required to collect Social Security benefits after age 65. Medicare Part A coverage is free for anyone who is eligible to receive Social Security benefits.

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Life coach is trendy, but therapy is where you will find answers

Life coaching is a booming industry. Everyone from struggling sales reps to executives and celebrities is hiring coaches to help them maximize their professional and personal potential.

But for many people who seek life coaching, therapy might be a better answer because it often exposes the roots of problems that pose obstacles for people personally and professionally, says John Collopy, author of The Reward of Knowing (www.johncollopy.com).

“Being coached isn’t nearly the same thing as being in therapy,” says Collopy, a successful real estate broker and sales manager whose book reflects on his battle with addiction and ongoing recovery. “There’s a tremendous reluctance among people to seek help from a qualified doctor when it comes to emotional issues, because therapy is a slow, introspective process that drills much deeper than life coaching.

“A lot of people aren’t willing to go that deep because they’re afraid of the truth. And they worry what people will think about the appearance of taking therapy.”

Collopy gives five reasons he thinks therapy is a better solution for personal and professional problems:

There’s no quick fix in therapy. “Honestly, all this motivational stuff among life coaches is popular because it’s easy,” Collopy says. “But it’s not real. It’s a game, showbiz. It’s often a lot of rah-rah in a big room or in small groups. Motivational speakers and life coaches do offer advice on how to quantify the quality of your life, but they can’t answer your central question of ‘Why do I do these things?’ ”

Prompts introspection. “Asking what’s wrong, why you’ve been depressed, why you are constantly stressed, etc., are much deeper personal questions than why haven’t you made your sales quota,” Collopy says. “A good therapist can help you get to know who you really are with questions like, ‘How did I get here? What do I want to change, and how can I look for opportunities to grow and improve?’ ”

Real breakthroughs happen. “In therapy, you know you’ve made a genuine breakthrough when you have an ah-ha moment of clarity, of self-discovery,” Collopy says. “It provides an insight into a part of yourself you’ve never acknowledged or even been aware of. That’s the moment when change ‘takes,’ not the moment when the seminar crowd jumps up and says, ‘Yay!’ ”

Forces accountability. “Can having a coach be beneficial?” Collopy asks. “Of course. A coach demands accountability, and in sales, accountability is essential. But you’re going to find it easier to become accountable to yourself if you first find out who you really are, which you do through therapy.”

Ends underlying troubles that drag you down. “If you have personal problems in your life, your life coach really can’t help you with that,” Collopy says. “You can’t perform adequately in your career if you’re dragged down by underlying personal problems, because they’re going to distract and exhaust you.”

“Why would anyone not want to work with a professional therapist,” says Collopy, “whose life’s work is helping people uncover what’s holding them back?”

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Rethinking the American dream: 5 tips to live a simpler life

Millennials have been coined “the burnout generation.” Culture observers attribute the burnout to work, social, financial, and technological pressures that can leave a young adult overwhelmed and their coping mechanisms frazzled.

With so much life yet to live, what can millennials do to reverse or avoid burnout? Further, how can subsequent generations handle the pressures that consume millennials? Simple life and self-help guru Gary Collins says it comes down to simplifying their lives.

“Burnout is an undeniable fact among many millennials,” says Collins, author of The Simple Life Guide To Decluttering Your Life (www.thesimplelifenow.com). “They’re feeling the effects of complicated living. It’s no secret today that we’re bombarded by outside stressors that are unfamiliar to earlier generations of humans, and we’re struggling to deal with them.

“Decluttering is a popular concept today in terms of organizing your closet, garage, etc., but it’s also an effective mindset for simplifying your life. It’s about removing the unnecessary internal and external stressors in order to live the life you want.”

Collins offers five principles for decluttering your life – or living a simple life from the outset of adulthood:

Knowledge is power. People tend toward the quick fix in today’s fast-moving world, but Collins says it takes time to acquire the correct, in-depth information that helps someone make lasting, positive changes. “New habits are most effective when you know why you’re doing them,” Collins says. “Otherwise, you’re likely to be swayed by the next fad product that promotes the easy life but does not work long-term.”

Avoid extremes. People can be drawn to selling pitches such as, “Make millions in just a few hours per week,” but extreme claims rarely pan out. “A slow-and-steady approach with a well-thought-out plan that’s followed day-after-day delivers true change for the positive,” Collins says.

Keep it simple. “As a culture,” Collins says, “we’ve turned the concept of living a healthy, happy life into a confusing and overwhelming selection of products and gimmicks. But less is more. We love to overthink everything and make living the life we want far more complicated than it needs to be. Once you cut out the noise and clutter, everything comes into focus.”

Something is better than nothing. While overhauling an entire lifestyle can seem daunting, little changes and choices can add up. Examples are analyzing spending habits when short on money each month, or developing skills to find a job you enjoy rather than staying in a job you don’t like. “When it comes to doing nothing versus doing at least something, something is always the right choice,” Collins says. “Think of it like dropping a dollar into a piggy bank every hour of the day for years and years. Eventually, you’ll have a nice nest egg.”

Take action every day. “America is full of people who want to live a better and more fulfilling life,” Collins says, “but in reality very few ever take action to accomplish this. Happy, successful people take action — today and every day. Maybe that means getting up earlier to get to the gym, writing that novel you’ve talked about for the last 10 years, or selling that sports car you can’t afford and getting something more practical.”

“You must ingrain and practice positive habits to achieve positive outcomes,” Collins says. “Life gets hard, and making better choices is sometimes inconvenient, but today’s choices are under your control. Once it’s a habit, it gets easier.”

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A wing and a prayer

The Dutch airline KLM aims to make the future of air travel eco-friendly by building a plane with no fuselage. Instead, passengers will be seated inside V-shaped wings. KLM would use the Delft University of Technology’s Flying-V concept to execute its vision. The designers at Delft say the new configuration will enhance the airliner’s lift and significantly reduce drag. As one online observer put it: “This gives middle seat a whole new meaning.”

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This thief needed a bigger car

A doorbell camera recently caught an unprepared thief pull up to a Miami home and try to steal a rather large package that had been left at the home’s front door. He struggled to stuff the very big box into the back seat of his compact car. It didn’t fit, giving the home owner time to challenge the burglar who wasted no time to drive off empty handed.

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A very high-rise sand castle

It took international teamwork to build this high-rise sand castle on a beach in Northern Germany. The castle is so big that the experts at Guinness are calling it the world’s tallest. It stands 54.72 feet high and it took “builders” from five European countries, using more than 11 tons of sand, to complete the construction.

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How to reconcile the problem of chronic pain and opioid addiction

With about 2 million Americans suffering from opioid addiction, the nation’s healthcare system has tried to perform an extraordinary balancing act – help patients who suffer from chronic pain while also aggressively combating the opioid epidemic.

Part of the problem is too few patients and physicians consider options other than medication and surgery when it comes to dealing with chronic pain, says Dr. Bradford Butler, author of The Blueprint for Back Pain Relief: The Essential Guide to Nonsurgical Solutions (www.drbradfordbutler.com).

“Not only are drugs and surgery not shown to be effective, but the costs related to them are staggering,” Butler says. “Opioids block the symptoms, but not the causes of pain. They fail to address the underlying issues that cause so many people to suffer so much.”

Here’s just one example of a mistake that contributes to the problem: People who suffer from excruciating back pain in many cases don’t visit a chiropractor, who specializes in back-pain relief and nonsurgical solutions, Butler says. Instead, the patients make an appointment with their primary care physician.

“In the primary care world, doctors are simply trained to analyze and then treat symptoms,” he says. “Therefore, it should come as no surprise when they do what they are supposed to do for pain, which is give you a drug.”

The result, he says, is that too many patients face a false choice about how to handle their chronic pain, and that has led to an epidemic of abuse and addiction.

A few years ago, as America’s opioid crisis continued to rage out of control, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stepped in with pain-medication guidelines aimed at scaling back the over prescription of the drugs.

That created its own unwelcome situation.

The prescription pendulum swung too far the other way, leaving some patients suffering unnecessarily. So, the CDC recently issued a clarification to the guidelines, saying that doctors shouldn’t just stop a patient’s prescription cold turkey or switch to a lower dosage when a higher dosage is needed.

To Butler, the trouble is that drugs should not have become the first line of defense against chronic pain to begin with. He says anyone who is suffering and seeking medical attention for their pain should consider these points:

Education is the key. “You are responsible for your choices, not your doctor,” Butler says. “Question how the treatment plans he or she recommends will help you and how it will correct what’s causing the pain, not merely mask it.”

Time is of the essence. Butler says wasted time allows for conditions to get worse and makes it harder to employ treatments that really do work. “All that wasted time pursuing ineffective treatments could have instead been used to heal.”

Physical problems aren’t the only worry. The psychological costs of pain are immense, Butler says. Left untreated, chronic pain can lead to emotional issues, including depression. “In fact, many depression patients may be misdiagnosed,” Butler says. “It might be the psychological effect of chronic pain that was left untreated.”

“Your body can reach a point where so much damage has been done over time that drugs really do become the only answer,” Butler says. “And that is not a good answer.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Couple with Age Difference Planning Benefits

Dear Rusty: I am nearing my full retirement age of 66 and given the differences in age of my wife and I, and the retirement benefits we will each receive; I was wondering what the best options are for us claiming SS and when. I am 65 and will turn 66 (my full retirement age) in September and my benefit then will be $2347/month as per the latest estimate on the SSA website. My Wife is currently 58 years old. Her full retirement age is 67, which will be in January 2028. Her estimated SS benefit at full retirement age will be $2498/month. I have read some things regarding being able to defer one of the benefit payments and receive the other (higher) amount based on certain criteria. I’m not sure if it would apply or be of benefit to us but was wondering if it would. I am looking for the best options to receive the most in benefits that would apply to us. Signed: Planning Ahead

Dear Planning: I think you’re referring to the “restricted application” which can be used to collect spousal benefits while allowing your own to grow, but I’m afraid that is not something you can take advantage of. It’s an option not available to your wife because her birth year is after the cutoff imposed for that option by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, and it’s not available to you because your wife isn’t yet eligible to collect Social Security on her own work record.

You have the option to take your full benefits in September at your full retirement age (FRA) or, if it’s financially feasible, you may also choose to delay past your FRA to claim. If you delay past your FRA you’ll earn Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs) of 2/3rds of 1% per month of delay (8% per year of delay) up until age 70 when your benefit would be 32% more than it will be in September. Whether that’s a good choice for you depends upon how badly you need the money right now, and your health and expected longevity. If you enjoy at least average longevity (mid-80s) then you’ll get the most in cumulative lifetime benefits by waiting until age 70 to claim.

Your wife cannot collect Social Security benefits until she reaches age 62 in 2023. If she claims at that time she’ll be automatically deemed to be filing for both her own SS retirement benefit and any spousal benefit she might be due from your record. However, given the benefit estimates you’ve shared she’ll not be eligible for a spousal benefit from you (nor will you be eligible for benefits from her). Spousal benefits are only paid if 50% of the higher earner’s benefit at FRA is more than the lower earner’s FRA benefit amount. Since neither of you will be eligible for a spousal benefit, your wife should also consider delaying past her full retirement age if her personal and financial circumstances at the time permit. To do so, she will gain 24% more benefit at age 70 than she would get at her full retirement age of 67.

So, for both of you to achieve the most you can get, the longer you both delay past your respective full retirement ages the more your benefit will be, up to age 70 when the maximum is reached. Since your wife won’t reach her FRA until January 2028 but will be eligible to apply for benefits in 2023, be aware that if she applies before her FRA her benefit will be reduced (according to the number of months before her FRA that she applies), and that if she starts her benefits before her FRA and continues to work, she’ll be subject to Social Security’s earnings limit. The earnings limit changes annually, so I can’t tell you what it will be in 2023, but it will be more than the 2019 limit of $17,640.

Cheese rolling, as sport

These downhill racers have no need for snow. After all, Gloucester, England is not known as a destination for Alpine skiers. But, Gloucester is well known for its annual Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling Competition. Participants from localities nearby and throughout the U.K. have been rolling cheese wheels down the hill’s 45 degree slope for centuries. In recent years, however, the race -- complete with tumblers rolling trippingly downhill -- has attracted competitors from all over the world. This year, it was rough rolling for a goodly number of them, much to the delight of thousands of spectators. The winner of this year’s cheesy race was 21-year-old Mark Kit from Toronto, Canada who says he’s been fascinated by the event since he first saw videos of the cheese rollers when he was a kid.

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Albino panda makes headlines

Pandas are an endangered species. With fewer than 2,000 of them known to be living in the wild in the mountains of China, they are at risk of extinction. These lovable black-and-white mammals are, in fact, a very rare species of bear. Even rarer are albino pandas. In fact, there has been no photographic evidence of the existence of an albino panda until now when a fully white giant panda was caught by an infrared camera in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in southwestern China.

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Let the competition begin

The Japanese may be known for their prowess in the Martial Arts and the sport of Sumo Wrestling, but perhaps they may soon gain fame for their skill as pillow fighters. A qualifying event was held recently in the country’s Shizuoka Prefecture for the All-Japan Pillow Fighting Championships. The first pillow fight competition was held in 2013 by a group of high school students and since then it has become one of the nation’s oddest “sporting” events.

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Names & the brain

Infants as young as 6 months old can typically recognize and respond to their own names. It’s an important skill for language development and social growth, one that children with autism spectrum disorder often struggle with. A team from the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia wanted to understand what brain activity looks like when typically developing preschoolers and preschoolers with autism hear their name. As it turns out, children in both groups show a preference for their own name and exhibit neural patterns akin to those observed in adult brains experiencing similar stimuli. What’s more, this observation holds regardless of whether the child’s mother or a stranger is calling the name. “We want to get these results out there and get research going on this topic,” said researcher Leah Wang. “Our study is a really nice first step.”

Destructive pest

The spotted lanternfly, an invasive insect introduced to the United States in 2014, is poised to wreak havoc on farms, wineries, and forests. Lanternflies feed on a wide variety of tree species but have a particular affinity for ailanthus trees, also known as the “tree of heaven.” A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania is working to understand what other tree species are particularly attractive to these bugs as a way of helping property owners and land managers devise strategies to control the rapidly spreading pest. Working in The Woodlands, a historic cemetery in Philadelphia, graduate student Benjamin Rohr is trapping lanternflies on both ailanthus and other tree species to discern the lanternflies’ preferences, and to evaluate the effect of Department of Agriculture treatment aimed at reducing populations of the exotic insects.

Diversity training

Does diversity training work? New research from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania included a field experiment that measured actual behaviors rather than how people say they feel or what they say their attitudes are right after completing the training. The study was based on responses from 3,000 employees of a global company who work in 63 countries. Regarding gender bias, the study showed that women in the U.S. responded by seeking out more mentorship. “We expected actually the effect would be for everyone to try to help women more, instead it was women trying to help themselves,” said Katherine Milkman.

Climate change & banks

The heads of two major European central banks issued an open letter warning that climate change poses a significant financial risk to the global economy. The letter, co-signed by a group of 34 central banks, emphasizes that the economic effects of climate change are already being felt globally. Given that central banks are responsible for financial stability, there is a newfound focus on the issue. Severe financial disruption—including a new financial crisis—could be part of that mix, said Eric Orts of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

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History Matters

A biweekly feature courtesy of

The Grateful American Book Prize

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future

Nearly five years after President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination in Dallas, TX, his brother, Robert Francis Kennedy, was shot and killed on June 5th in Los Angeles, CA. Robert Kennedy, a former U.S. Attorney General, was serving as the junior senator from New York, and seeking the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidency. The shooting took place after the celebration of his victory in the California presidential primary at LA’s Hotel Ambassador. His assailant, Sirhan Sirhan, was immediately arrested, convicted, and given the death sentence—which was reduced to life imprisonment.

In 1870, voting rights were granted to African Americans by the 15th Amendment of the Constitution. Two years later, on June 6, 1872, a group of pioneering women’s rights activists, led by Susan B. Anthony, voted illegally in a Rochester, NY election. She was arrested and fined $100. It was reported that Anthony made this statement: “Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen's rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.” It took 48 years and 14 years after her 1906 death for the 19th Amendment to pass, so that women could vote.

Until June 13, 1966, the police were not required to inform an arrested citizen about his rights. But, all of that changed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miranda vs. Arizona that everyone—including the accused—has the right to remain silent, or to refuse making a statement without the presence of an attorney. It was a landmark case, which deserves the attention of every American.

The calendar will tell you that the U.S. celebrates Flag Day on June 14th but many people do not know why. The reason: on that day in 1777, John Adams, who later became America’s second president, introduced a resolution in Congress that stated, in part, “the flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen starts, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.

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Don’t be like Cardi B and rush back; 5 tips for healing from plastic surgery

Healing time from plastic surgery varies, depending on the patient and type of procedure. But surgeons agree that following post-op instructions is key, and failing to do so can extend and complicate the recovery period.

Rapper Cardi B is proof of that; she cancelled three upcoming concerts because, according to her publicist, she was “overzealous in getting back to work and didn’t take the necessary time to fully recover” after plastic surgery.

“It can take several months to fully heal, but patients often minimize this fact and try to resume activities too quickly,” says Dr. Dennis Schimpf (www.sweetgrassplasticsurgery.com), founder of Sweetgrass Plastic Surgery and author of Finding Beauty: Think, See and Feel Beautiful. “It’s important to be patient and allow the healing process to occur.

“Most cosmetic plastic surgery procedures cause significant swelling, edema, and inflammation in response to the moving or tightening of tissue or the placing of implants. Thus there can be long periods of post-operative healing requiring resolution of symptoms. But while the patient’s age, health and type of procedure are factors in the healing time, the post-op care and the patient’s part in it is equally important.”

Schimpf recommends following these post-op instructions:

Use ice, not heat, for swelling. Heating pads or hot compresses should be avoided until the plastic surgeon gives the “all clear” to use them. “An ice pack applied to the area for short intervals can help reduce the inflammation,” Schimpf says, “but care should be taken when using ice packs. Since the area is numb following surgery, it can be difficult to feel the cold, and too much cold applied too close to the skin can actually cause injury. Use a towel or other material to protect the skin, and apply the ice pack for only limited periods.”

Take care with sutures. “Occasionally, small openings may appear along an incision site, and these require additional attention such as washing with soap and water, applying an antibiotic cream, or more frequent redressing,” Schimpf says.

Elevate — it’s key with some procedures. “Sleeping propped up against a pillow to elevate your face after a facelift is extremely important,” Schimpf says. “Elevation helps dramatically to reduce swelling and discomfort, especially when dealing with extremities.”

Be active, but not too soon. “In short,” Schimpf says, “if any activity causes significant pain, don’t do it. Moderate walking is encouraged, but strenuous activity or heavy lifting should be avoided following a procedure.”

Manage your wound dressing. All dressings should be removed before taking a shower. “Use soap and water in the shower, but don’t scrub the wound,” Schimpf says. “Pat the area dry, don’t rub it dry, after getting out of the shower, then replace the dressing.”

“While there are some issues that should be addressed with your surgeon — significant swelling, drainage, pain, or redness at the surgical site — the bottom line is that healing after most procedures is just going to take time,” Schimpf says. “Trust the process. And the better you understand the process as explained by your surgeon before the procedure, the less anxiety — and hopefully, the more patience — you will have during recovery.”

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Is work draining? How to cut distractions and boost energy

Have you ever left your office feeling drained from an 8-hour workday — but also frustrated because you got little accomplished?

Join the crowd. Many Americans struggle to get things done at work; over half spend less than one-fourth of their time in the office on priority, deadline-driven assignments.

The day gets away from us for a variety of reasons, studies show – everything from emails to meetings, project or customer issues, social media use, conversations and conflicts with co-workers.

It’s important to know what those time and energy drains are that lower productivity and to implement a strategy to minimize distractions and maximize work time, says Cynthia Howard, an executive coach and performance expert.

“There is a vicious cycle of distractions that fill the typical workday and interfere with getting the job done,” says Howard (www.eileadership.org), author of The Resilient Leader, Mindset Makeover: Uncover the Elephant in the Room. “People need to learn to focus in ways that get beyond the distractions and stress. It calls for resilient thinking.”

Howard offers four common workplace energy drains and solutions for them:

Shortage of time. ”Constant interruptions and the inability to concentrate compel many people to spend their energy and internal resources on the most urgent issues that show up,” Howard says. “This leaves the most important work sidelined. So you need a time strategy to manage interruptions. The best way is sticking with an operational plan that makes clear the time involved to do your job correctly or, if you’re a leader, a plan that details your team’s tasks and how time-sensitive those are. The less-important interruptions won’t be allowed to get in the way.”

Lack of priorities. Having too much work to do can make it difficult to establish priorities and easy to get sidetracked by everyone else’s issues. The solution, Howard says, begins with having clarity of your long-term goals and letting the priority list flow from there. “Visualize your work,” Howard says. “Use whiteboards to show the workflow. Also, limit your work in progress. Spreading yourself too thin results in errors and burn-out.”

Status quo. “Most organizations have their sacred cows — the untouchable subjects, protocols, or people who continue to operate within the system without any scrutiny,” Howard says. “This conditioning creates a mental default mode and change is resisted.” But you can get beyond the status quo and the resistance, she says, by asking yourself and/or your team three questions: 1) What if we … ? 2) What would it take …? 3) How can we …?

Office politics – i.e., drama. “Drama drains energy faster than anything else,” Howard says. “It’s what most people in the workplace complain about. Progress toward solutions starts with your own drama self-check. Ask yourself these questions: Do you compromise to avoid conflict and feel resentful? Do you use intimidation to get your way? Are you impatient when things don’t go your way? Do you take feedback as a personal attack? Do you feel your opinions don’t matter? Then what will you do differently to extricate yourself from drama, or to develop boundaries with those who engage in it?”

“Work has become a major stressor for people,” Howard says. “Making progress is a major motivator for most, but chronic distraction dulls momentum and demands a new approach for one to move forward.”

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Ask yourself 3 questions to help find a financial advisor you can trust

When it comes to financial planning, most Americans take a do-it-yourself approach.

In fact, various surveys and studies over the years have shown that anywhere from 60 to 70 percent or more don’t have a financial advisor.

But does that mean the remaining minority who do hire someone are more confident about what the future holds for them financially?

Maybe. But maybe not.

Most of those people say they don’t completely trust that their advisor is always acting in their best interests, according to a poll by the American Association of Individual Investors.

That distrust could even be part of the reason some people decide to forgo using an advisor at all.

“People see headlines about shady practices that exist in the financial word, and as a result they become leery of working with any financial advisor because they no longer know who to trust,” says Chris Hobart (www.hobartfinancialgroup.com), a financial professional and financial commentator.

It was the shady practices of one such advisor that put Hobart on the path to a career in financial services. His grandmother placed her trust in an advisor who “advised her right out of her life savings,” he says.

“I think it’s important for those of us in the industry to demand more of ourselves, because investors deserve more from us,” he says. “We must call out questionable practices when we see them.”

But what can the average person do to improve the odds that they are working with an advisor they can trust? Hobart suggests a few questions to ask yourself about the person you rely on to handle your finances:

Is your advisor honest when discussing how they are paid? Financial professionals are paid in a number of ways, but the financial industry hasn’t always been forthcoming about compensation, Hobart says. Some are paid on commission. Some charge fees. Some work based on a combination of commissions and fees. It’s important to know just what you are paying for the services. “Clients often are hesitant to ask how their advisors make money,” he says. “Don’t be. A trustworthy advisor will have an honest, open conversation with you about this.”

Does your advisor encourage questions? “Any good relationship is built on open, two-way communication,” Hobart says. “It’s your money. You deserve to know exactly how it’s being invested and why.” But a good advisor will do more than answer your questions, he says. They will also proactively provide information to your about your accounts, whether you ask or not.

Does your advisor know you? Everyone is different, with their own goals and dreams about the future. “The right financial plan for you isn’t the right plan for anyone else,” Hobart says. “Your advisor should offer personalized financial planning that fits your life, not cookie cutter advice that’s the same for everyone.”

“Now, more than ever, investors are demanding honesty from not only individual advisors but also larger financial institutions,” Hobart says. “There is no longer space within the industry for financial professionals who are motivated only by their own financial gains.”

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10 tips for safer generator usage this summer: Follow manufacturer’s instructions and ensure proper ventilation, says OPEI

Generators are critical during severe weather events, when the power can go out. They can bring power to remote job sites, aid in disaster recovery and assist homeowners in emergencies. During hurricane season, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), an international trade association representing power equipment, small engine, utility vehicle, golf car and personal transport vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, reminds home and business owners to keep safety in mind when using generators.

“Not having power when you need it is frustrating, so a generator can provide emergency backup power at a reasonable cost,” says Kris Kiser, President and CEO of OPEI. “It’s important to follow all manufacturer’s instructions, and never place a generator in your garage or inside your home or building. It should be a safe distance from the structure and not near an air intake.”

Additional tips include:

#1 - Take stock of your generator. Make sure equipment is in good working order before starting and using it. Do this before a storm hits.

#2 – Review the directions. Follow all manufacturer’s instructions. Review the owner’s manuals (look manuals up online if you cannot find them) so equipment is operated safely.

#3 - Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in your home. This alarm will sound if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide enter the building.

#4 - Have the right fuel on hand. Use the type of fuel recommended by the generator manufacturer to protect this important investment. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10% ethanol in outdoor power equipment. (For more information on proper fueling for outdoor power equipment visit www.LookBeforeYouPump.com). It’s best to use fresh fuel, but if you are using fuel that has been sitting in a gas can for more than 30 days, add fuel stabilizer to it. Store gas only in an approved container and away from heat sources.

#5 - Ensure portable generators have plenty of ventilation. Generators should NEVER be used in an enclosed area or placed inside a home, a building, or a garage, even if the windows or doors are open. Place the generator outside and away from windows, doors, and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to drift indoors.

#6 - Keep the generator dry. Do not use a generator in wet conditions. Cover and vent a generator. Model-specific tents or generator covers can be found online for purchase and at home centers and hardware stores.

#7 - Only add fuel to a cool generator. Before refueling, turn the generator off and let it cool down.

#8 -Plug in safely. If you don’t yet have a transfer switch, you can use the outlets on the generator. It’s best to plug in appliances directly to the generator. If you must use an extension cord, it should be heavy-duty and designed for outdoor use. It should be rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Make sure the cord is free of cuts, and the plug has all three prongs.

#9 - Install a transfer switch. A transfer switch connects the generator to the circuit panel and lets you power hardwired appliances. Most transfer switches also help avoid overload by displaying wattage usage levels.

#10 - Do not use the generator to “backfeed” power into your home electrical system. Trying to power your home’s electrical wiring by “backfeeding” – where you plug the generator into a wall outlet – is dangerous. You could hurt utility workers and neighbors served by the same transformer. Backfeeding bypasses built-in circuit protection devices, so you could damage your electronics or start an electrical fire.

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8 tips to save on summer bills

PHOENIX – Summer is synonymous with fun in the sun, road tripping and unwinding by the pool. But climbing temperatures also mean higher electric bills – and increased strain on the monthly budget.

“Increased energy use during the summer can cause utility costs to skyrocket, deflating your plans to have fun or relax,” says Michael Sullivan, a personal finance consultant with Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit counseling and debt management agency. “With a few simple changes to your routine, you can keep summer costs and stress to a minimum.”

Sullivan offers eight tips to reduce utility costs during the summer months:

Keep up with regular HVAC maintenance. Change the filter in your air conditioner once a month and have it inspected annually to identify any wear and tear that could cause performance issues.

Adjust your thermostat to meet your needs. When no one is home, consider setting temperatures 7-10 degrees higher. When you are home, set the thermostat at 78-80 degrees to keep comfortable.

Close up during the day. Add extra insulation against the heat by closing blinds through the day. On cool nights, open up windows to let in the breeze.

Consider running large appliances in the evening. Large appliances put off heat. Running them at night allows your air conditioner to work more efficiently during the day. Some energy companies provide lower rates for off-peak hours, providing guidelines to help you reduce your energy bill.

Wash your laundry in cold water and always wash full loads. According to General Electric, between 75 and 90% of your washer’s energy use goes to heating water. Reducing the number of loads you wash – and washing them in cold water – can make a major impact on your monthly bill.

Keep oven use to a minimum. Meal prepping and no-cook meals save time, require less energy usage throughout the week and keep your home cooler. You can also grill and cook outside while the weather is nice.

Set your water heater to 120 degrees. The default setting on most water heaters is 140 degrees. Turning your heater down 20 degrees is still plenty hot, and it can save 6-10% per year in energy costs according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s also smart to insulate your water heater to prevent heat loss and lower energy use.

Seal doors, windows and other openings. Replace damaged or missing weather stripping around doors and windows. Add insulation anywhere your home could be losing energy, such as openings around pipes. This keeps hot air from entering and improves air conditioner efficiency.

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Money tip for students: Forbearances may help student loan borrowers

Borrowers having trouble making their student loan payments may be able to take advantage of a loan forbearance program, according to KHEAA.

Forbearances allow people to stop making payments or make smaller payments for a period of time. A forbearance can be general or mandatory.

A general forbearance might be granted if a borrower is having financial problems or has to pay high medical bills. A mandatory forbearance would be granted if a borrower who belongs to the National Guard or Reserves is called to active duty.

Borrowers must request a forbearance from their loan servicer. The servicer can decide whether to grant a general forbearance. If a borrower meets the criteria for a mandatory forbearance, the servicer must approve it.

KHEAA is a public, non-profit agency established in 1966 to improve students’ access to college. It provides information about financial aid and financial literacy at no cost to students and parents. KHEAA also helps colleges manage their student loan default rates and verify information submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To learn more about those services, visit www.kheaa.com.

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Have too many bad habits? Here are 6 ways to create good ones

It’s said that we become our habits. In some cases that is not a good thing; bad habits prevail among many Americans. One report found that over 70 percent of US adults have at least one unhealthy behavior associated with chronic health problems.

Breaking bad habits isn’t easy, but sometimes the best answer is replacing them with empowering new habits that bring positive changes to one’s daily life.

“We often have habits that hold us back, like smoking or eating food lacking in nutrition,” says Dr. Rob Carter III, co-author with his wife, Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter, of The Morning Mind: Use Your Brain to Master Your Day and Supercharge Your Life(www.themorningmind.com).

“A great way to start every day is with a series of empowering habits. Morning, in fact, according to some researchers is the best time to start making these kinds of changes in your life.”

Carter has six ways you can create new, empowering habits and make them stick:

Prioritize habits. “For each area in which you want to grow,” Carter says, “take some time to think about what kind of empowering habits you’d like to establish around that topic.” Areas to consider are health, wealth, social, relationships, job, hobbies, self-esteem, interpersonal skills, positive thinking, time management, and life purpose.

Focus on one at a time. “Because we have a limited amount of willpower in the morning, it’s very important how we use that energy,” Carter says. “By focusing on just one habit you would like to change – for example, eating a healthy breakfast – you can concentrate that willpower on the task at hand until it becomes a habit.”

Be reasonable with yourself. The time it will take to establish the new habit depends upon how much resistance a person has. And sometimes developing a new habit represents a long leap from where one currently stands. “That’s too daunting,” Carter says, “so break it down into more achievable steps. Incremental improvements add up to a big transformation and are often more powerful and sustainable.”

Commit specific time toward the goal. Carter suggests nailing down a detailed timeline and committing a full effort toward formation of the new habit within that time span. “Write down what you hope to achieve, how many times a week you will practice the new habit, and when and where you’ll do it,” Carter says. “Having a specific goal helps keep you accountable to yourself.

Reward success. Have a reward in place to celebrate performing your new habit. “It has to be something that will motivate you to complete your habit,” Carter says.

Stack habits. “The neural pathways of your pre-existing habits are well-travelled routes in your brain,” Carter says. “You can take advantage of this by building a new habit and associating it with an old one that is well-established. This is a quicker way to create new habits than if you were to start from scratch. For example, if you want to create a new habit of exercising in the morning, and you have a habit of reading the newspaper every morning, tie these activities together by exercising immediately before you read the paper. Reading the paper becomes your reward.”

“When you learn for yourself how simple it is to change habits,” Carter says, “you’ll want to make adjustments to all areas of your life.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Computing Benefits When “WEP” Applies

Dear Rusty: My wife is subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and I’m trying to calculate what her monthly Social Security payment might be. The circular provided by SS says that her earnings will be calculated by multiplying the first $895 of her average monthly earnings by 90%. According to the circular, since she doesn’t have 30 or more years of substantial earnings the 90% will be reduced to 40%. My question is this: How many months do they use to divide into the total earnings to determine the average monthly earnings? If I use the number of total working years, her monthly average is very low and getting lower the longer she works. For example, she has been working since 1973 (46 years/552 months). However, she only paid SS taxes in 20 of those years (240 months). She turned 62 last November, so if she waits to draw SS until her full retirement age she will add another 56 months to the average calculation and reduce her benefit accordingly. I can’t determine when it’s better for her to apply unless I know how many months they will factor into the calculation. Signed: Confused

Dear Confused: First, I need to clarify for you the basics of how SS benefits are determined (before the WEP computation). Social Security will look at your wife’s entire lifetime record of SS-covered earnings, adjust each year’s earnings for inflation, and find the 35 years in which she had the highest earnings. If she doesn’t have a full 35 years of SS-covered earnings, they’ll put zeros in to bring the number of years to 35. They’ll then total her earnings for those 35 years and divide by 420 (the number of months in 35 years) to arrive at her “average indexed monthly earnings” (AIME).

The WEP computation is done using her AIME. To arrive at the SS benefit amount, her AIME is divided into 3 parts, and a different percentage of each part contributes to her “primary insurance amount,” or “PIA” - the amount due at full retirement age. Normally, the first of the 3 parts is 90% of $895 (for her eligibility year, which was last year). But when WEP applies, a different percentage is used for the first calculation. If she has 20 or fewer years of SS-covered significant earnings, the first part is multiplied by 40% instead of 90%. If she has more than 20 years of SS-covered significant earnings, the multiplier will increase by 5% for each additional year, up to 30 years of SS covered significant earnings when WEP no longer applies. So, for example, if she has 24 years of SS-covered significant earnings then the WEP multiplier would be 55% instead of 40%, thus increasing her WEP-PIA and lessening the amount of her WEP reduction.

For each year your wife now works and has significant SS earnings, one of those zero years in the 35-year computation will be eliminated, thus increasing her “AIME” and “PIA” (as described above). If your wife now has 20 years of SS-covered earnings, then each additional year she now works in SS-covered employment will add 5% to the multiplier used when doing the WEP computation (thus reducing the WEP effect and increasing her net SS benefit amount). If your wife claims before her full retirement age (FRA), her WEP-reduced benefit amount will be further reduced because she is claiming benefits early. WEP reduces her PIA, which is her FRA benefit amount; claiming earlier than her full retirement age further reduces her benefit amount.

So, to your specific question, the number of months they factor into the benefit calculation is always 420 (35 years times 12). If she doesn’t have earnings in all 35 of those years working now will improve, not decrease, your wife’s Social Security benefit.

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It’s travel season! Tips for pet parents who want to road trip with their furry kids

Plan ahead. There are probably a few pet-friendly restaurant patios, hotels and even shops along your route, but they aren’t always easy to find. Sometimes you must call a business to find out if pets are allowed, and if so, if there are any size restrictions or fees associated with including them.

Ask for special pet treats. Some restaurants cater to pets on-the-go with treats like “pupuccinos,” plain hamburger patties and more. Just ask, you might be surprised by what’s out there! (Pro tip: be cautious with sensitive tummies and skip the treats if your dog is prone to car sickness!)

Pack some familiar dog items. Make your dog feel at home away from home by packing his favorite dog bed, blanket, chew bone, food/water bowls and toys.

Plan pet breaks. Remember, your pets need breaks from the car, too. Find a dog park along your route where your pet can play or take a walk around a public park during your pit stop to make long car rides more bearable. (Pro tip: keep the clean-up bags handy!)

Spend time in living landscapes with your pet. Pets benefit from time outside, just like people! Getting your pet out of the car for a run, a walk, or a leg stretch in green space can really help keep spirits high.

Keep their meal schedule consistent. Even on the road, you’ll want to keep your pet’s feeding schedule consistent. That means packing a bag that’s easily accessible with food, water and bowls.

Pack paper towels & stain remover. Even the best-planned trips can have issues! Always travel with clean-up supplies in an easy-to-reach spot just in case.

Be respectful. Most hotels and restaurants have very specific rules about allowing pets, like not leaving them alone in the hotel room.

Know and follow these rules to ensure a smooth trip. For more information about our living landscapes, go to www.SaveLivingLandscapes.com.

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A heavenly libation

The blessed beer brewers of Belgium will begin brew beer after a 224 year hiatus. The monks at a monastery in the town of Grimbergen north of Brussels had been brewing beer since the 13th Century. French troops raided the abbey and put them out of business in 1795. Father Karel Stautemas told Reuters, “For us, it’s important to look to the heritage, to the tradition of the fathers for brewing beer because it was always here.” The news agency explained that: “Grimbergen’s monks will follow the rules of Belgium’s Trappist beer makers, even if they are not a Trappist order, requiring them to brew within the abbey walls, control the brewing and steer profits toward maintaining the abbey and supporting charitable causes.”

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“In there stepped a stately Raven,” as Poe put it

They are breathing a sigh of relief in Great Britain. Four raven chicks were born recently in the 1,000 year old Tower of London, the first in some three decades. The lack of newborn raven chicks over such a long period of time raised the specter, in some circles, that the Tower and the Kingdom would be doomed. Ravenmaster Christopher Skaife told reporters the black birds would secure the future. “After all, legend tells us that should the ravens leave the Tower of London it will crumble into dust and a great harm will befall the kingdom.”

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These thieves really cleaned up

It must have been pretty scary when Nate Roman and his five-year-old son returned to their Marlborough, MA home recently.They found the back door wide open. It was pretty obvious that someone had broken in while they were away and, indeed, it was a clear-cut case of breaking and entering, which the police are taking seriously despite the fact that nothing had been taken. In fact, not only was there no damage or loss from this particular home invasion, whoever the culprit was, he or she or them must have had only the best intentions. It seems they cleaned the Roman home. In Nate’s own words: "You could smell the cleaning chemicals. I could tell something was wrong so I started looking around the house, and I found that my bathrooms had been cleaned." The only clue the police found when they searched the property was an origami rose fashioned out of toilet paper.

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Political echo chambers

After the 2016 presidential election, a flurry of news coverage focused on the idea that social media echo chambers led to political polarization and amplified existing biases. But new research from Damon Centola at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and Joshua Becker, a postdoctoral student at Northwestern University, found that social bubbles actually aren’t bad. In fact, collective intelligence—peer learning within social networks—can increase belief accuracy, even in politically homogenous groups. “Remarkably,” Centola said, “our new findings show that properly designed social media networks can even lead to improved understanding of contentious topics.”

Threats to plants & animals

A million plant and animal species face imminent extinction due to human activity, according to a report from the United Nations. Despite the dire news, experts at the University of Pennsylvania say there are simple steps nearly anyone can take to stem the threat of mass extinction and biodiversity loss. Julie Ellis, a researcher in the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine, recommends planting native species, decreasing plastic consumption, and voting. Dan Garofalo, director of Penn Sustainability, suggests reducing your travel footprint and paying attention to the foods you eat. “There’s no silver bullet, and there’s no secret lever that will protect ecosystems from our collective impact,” he said, “but there are actions that we can take.”

Unknown virus

Most viruses are discovered because they cause a new disease, but researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine have identified a previously unknown viral family, which turns out to be the second-most common DNA virus in human lung and mouth specimens. Frederic D. Bushman and Ronald G. Collman led the team that uncovered the new virus, called Redondoviridae. “New sequencing techniques have helped us uncover a world of new viruses,” says Bushman.

Late-day cancer screenings

Patients who visit their primary care doctor later in the day are less likely to be offered cancer screenings than patients who see their doctor in the morning. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and Wharton School attributes this decline in cancer screening rates to both “decision fatigue,” the cumulative burden of screening discussions made earlier in the day, and doctors falling behind in their busy schedules. “Our findings suggest that future interventions targeting improvements in cancer screening might focus on time of day as an important factor in influencing behaviors,” says lead author Esther Hsiang.

Cognitive enhancers

According to recent surveys, the general public largely views the use of cognitive enhancers, such as Adderall, as an acceptable practice when used by adults in the workplace, but not for students or athletes. Cognitive enhancers are increasingly misused by adolescents and adults—millions use them to boost productivity or alertness, even in light of negative side effects such as dependence and, in some cases, cardiovascular issues. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine found that people were more likely to be accepting of the practice when it’s framed positively, for example using the analogy of “fuel” rather than “steroids.” The study sheds light on the attitudes of the public which may help understand and address the misuse of these medications.

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Expectant mom didn’t expect this

Ask any cop and he or she will tell you that drug tests don’t lie. But, there’s a new mom in upstate New York who will attest to the fact that the results of such tests can get it wrong. Elizabeth Dominguez had a drug test while in labor and was told she tested positive for opiates. Even though she gave birth to a healthy daughter, who tested negative for drugs, she and her baby were separated. Elizabeth’s husband recalled that she had a bagel for breakfast that morning and it was covered with poppy seeds, which are used in many foods, including breads. But, they are also the source of opium. Her baby was finally returned to her, but the frustrated Mrs. Dominguez told one reporter: "All of this could have been so easily prevented. Expectant moms are warned not to eat all kinds of things -- why don't they warn about poppy seeds?"

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Family reunion long time in coming

Ever wonder what good testing your DNA can do? Back in the 1940s when a pregnant woman put her newborn up for adoption, she would not be allowed to see her baby when it was born. And so, 90-year-old Elizabeth Pullen never saw her newborn when she gave the child up for adoption 70 years ago. But fate apparently intervened when Pullen’s granddaughter, Wanda LeBlanc, got a DNA test kit for Christmas from her mom, Lynne Wray, who turned out to be Mrs. Pullen’s long lost daughter. LeBlanc told reporters for the TV show, Inside Edition, that when her mom gave Wanda and her sister the kits she told them: “this is gonna be the gift that keeps on giving.” In fact, it was the key to reuniting a family when they used their DNA test results to discover their heritage.

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Gorillas in the mist

You can’t easily scare a gorilla, but Mother Nature can. The Zookeeper at South Carolina’s Riverbanks Zoo and Garden recently posted a video on Facebook showing a family of gorillas seeking shelter from a rainstorm. The video was captioned “Gorillas are magnificent, majestic creatures full of grace and beauty... except when it rains.” The video has had millions of views.

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Pokémon & the brain

Images of Pikachu and other characters from the original Pokémon video games activate a particular and unique region in the visual cortex, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University. The study, which incorporated 11 Pokémon experts and 11 novices, sheds light on the brain’s organizational structure. “Pokémon nowadays does not look like the original Game Boy graphics, so this was a trip down memory lane, and it yielded some interesting results,” says Penn doctoral student Michael Barnett, one of the study’s co-authors. “Our message isn’t that video games change your brain. Everything changes your brain.”

Uptick in allergies

Bad news for allergy sufferers: climate change may exacerbate your symptoms. Warming temperatures, which extend the growth cycle of plants, causes trees, grasses, and weeds to pollinate earlier and to die back later. New research from the University of Pennsylvania found that pollen loads and durations have been increasing on three continents during the past two decades as average temperatures have increased. Taken together, this means increased exposure to more allergenic plants, said Michael Phillips, director of allergy programs at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and an author on the study. “Some plants don’t grow very well in cold climates,” he said. But as temperatures warm, they can thrive further north. “And since we haven’t been exposed to these plants before,” Phillips said, “they can be potent allergens.”

Circadian rhythms & cancer

Chronic disruptions of circadian rhythms, or internal body clocks, can lead to an increased risk of cancer, but the mechanism of how this occurs is not well understood. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine found that disruptions to circadian rhythms trigger an increase in cell proliferation that stimulates tumor growth in mice. Results also suggest that “chronotherapy,” or timing the delivery of treatment to match circadian rhythms, can make the drugs that inhibit tumor growth more effective.

Cultural health interventions

The rates of non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, are on the rise in South Africa, with many South Africans being overweight or obese due to poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication found that participating in a culturally-relevant health intervention program resulted in better eating habits and increased physical activity among youth. “The results of the study are impressive,” says John B. Jemmott III, lead author of the paper. “One six-day intervention creating behavior change that lasts for 4.5 years is quite promising, and I’d like to see additional research to better understand how we can encourage healthy behavior.”

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Sign up for Medicare and estimate Medicare costs

By Phylis Dills

Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Affordable medical coverage is something everyone wants, especially as people age. Luckily, our nation has safeguards for workers as they get older. Millions of people rely on Medicare, and it can be part of your health insurance plan when you retire.

Medicare is available for people age 65 or older, as well as younger people who have received Social Security disability benefits for 24 months, and people with certain specific diseases. Two parts of Medicare are Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medicare Insurance). You are eligible for premium-free Part A if you are age 65 or older and you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. Part B usually requires a monthly premium payment.

You can apply online for Medicare even if you are not ready to retire. Use our online application to sign up. It takes less than 10 minutes. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if we need more information. Otherwise, you’ll receive your Medicare card in the mail.

You can sign up for Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/medicare.

If you don't sign up for Medicare during your initial enrollment window that begins three months before the birthday that you reach age 65 and ends three months after that birthday, you'll face a 10 percent increase in your Part B premiums for every year-long period you're eligible for coverage but don't enroll. You may not have to pay the penalty if you qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP). If you are 65 or older and covered under a group health plan, either from your own or your spouse’s current employment, you may have a special enrollment period during which you can sign up for Medicare Part B. This means that you may delay enrolling in Part B without having to wait for a general enrollment period and without paying the lifetime penalty for late enrollment. Additional rules and limits apply, so if you think a special enrollment period may apply to you, read our Medicare publication at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/, and visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at Medicare.gov for more information.

Health and drug costs not covered by Medicare can have a big impact on how much you spend each year. You can also estimate Medicare costs using an online tool at https://www.medicare.gov/oopc/.

Keeping your healthcare costs down allows you to use your retirement income on other things that you can enjoy. Social Security is here to help you plan a long and happy retirement at www.socialsecurity.gov.

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Self employment and Social Security

By Phylis Dills

Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Many people enjoy the independence of owning and operating their own small business. If you’re a small business owner, you know that you have additional financial responsibilities when reporting your taxes. A part of this is paying into Social Security.

Most people who pay into Social Security work for an employer. Their employer deducts Social Security taxes from their paycheck, adds a matching contribution, then sends those taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and reports the wages to Social Security. Self-employed people must do all these actions and pay their taxes directly to the IRS.

You’re self-employed if you operate a trade, business or profession, either by yourself or as a partner. You report your earnings for Social Security when you file your federal income tax return. If your net earnings are $400 or more in a year, you must report your earnings on Schedule SE, in addition to the other tax forms you must file.

You must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain length of time to get Social Security benefits. The amount of time you need to work depends on your date of birth, but no one needs more than 10 years of work (40 credits).

In 2019, if your net earnings are $5,440 or more, you earn the yearly maximum of four credits — one credit for each $1,360 of earnings during the year. If your net earnings are less than $5,440, you still may earn credit by using an optional method described below.

We use all your earnings covered by Social Security to figure your Social Security benefit, so, report all earnings up to the maximum, as required by law.

Family members may operate a business together. For example, spouses may be partners or run a joint venture. If you operate a business together as partners, you should each report your share of the business profits as net earnings on separate self-employment returns (Schedule SE), even if you file a joint income tax return. The partners must decide the amount of net earnings each should report (for example 50 percent and 50 percent).

You can read more about being self-employed and how that affects your Social Security benefits including optional methods of reporting at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10022.pdf.

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Understanding Social Security benefits

By Phylis Dills

Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Social Security touches the lives of nearly every American, whether at the birth of a child, the loss of a loved one, the onset of a disability, or the transition from work to retirement. For more than 80 years, our programs have contributed to the financial security of the elderly and the disabled. Social Security replaces a percentage of a worker’s pre-retirement income based on their lifetime earnings. The amount of your average wages that Social Security retirement benefits replaces varies depending on your earnings and when you choose to start benefits. If you start benefits after full retirement age, these percentages are higher. If you start benefits earlier, these percentages are lower. Most financial advisers say you will need about 70 percent of pre-retirement income to live comfortably in retirement, including your Social Security benefits, investments, and personal savings.

You can learn more about retirement benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/retirement. Our resources and publications are easy to share with people you think might need the information.

Many people think of Social Security as just a retirement program. And it’s true that most of the people receiving benefits are retired, but others receive benefits because they’re:

Individuals with disabilities;

A spouse or child of someone who receives benefits;

A divorced spouse of someone getting or eligible for Social Security;

The spouse or child of a worker who died;

A divorced spouse of a worker who died; or

The dependent parent of a worker who died.

If you can’t work because of a physical or mental condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

Our disability rules are different from private or other government agency programs. Qualifying for disability from another agency or program doesn’t mean you will be eligible for disability benefits from us. Having a statement from your doctor saying you’re disabled doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

We’ve made learning about our disability programs very easy at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/disability.

Please share these resources with friends and family who might need them.

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Social Security Column

Beware of people pretending to be from Social Security

By Phylis Dills

Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Social Security is committed to protecting your personal information. We urge you to always be cautious and to avoid providing sensitive information such as your Social Security number (SSN) or bank account information to unknown people over the phone or internet. If you receive a call and aren’t expecting one, you must be extra careful. You can always get the caller’s information, hang up, and — if you do need more clarification — contact the official phone number of the business or agency that the caller claims to represent. Never reveal personal data to a stranger who called you.

There’s a scam going around right now. You might receive a call from someone claiming to be from Social Security or another agency. Calls can even display 1-800-772-1213, Social Security’s national customer service number, as the incoming number on your caller ID. In some cases, the caller states that Social Security does not have all of your personal information, such as your SSN, on file. Other callers claim Social Security needs additional information so the agency can increase your benefit payment, or that Social Security will terminate your benefits if they do not confirm your information. This appears to be a widespread issue, as reports have come from people across the country. These calls are not from Social Security.

Callers sometimes state that your SSN is at risk of being deactivated or deleted. The caller then asks you to call a phone number to resolve the issue. People should be aware that the scheme’s details may vary; however, you should avoid engaging with the caller or calling the number provided, as the caller might attempt to acquire personal information.

Social Security employees occasionally contact people by telephone for customer-service purposes. In only a very few special situations, such as when you have business pending with us, will a Social Security employee request that the person confirm personal information over the phone.

Social Security employees will never threaten you or promise a Social Security benefit approval or increase in exchange for information. In those cases, the call is fraudulent, and you should just hang up. If you receive these calls, please report the information to the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or online at oig.ssa.gov/report.

You can also share our new “SSA Phone Scam Alert” video at http://bit.ly/2VKJ8SG

Protecting your information is an important part of Social Security’s mission. You work hard and make a conscious effort to save and plan for retirement. Scammers try to stay a step ahead of us, but with an informed public and your help, we can stop these criminals before they cause serious financial damage.

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Social Security’s recent top five blog posts

By Phylis Dills

Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Social Security matters to millions of people and that’s why we aptly named our blog Social Security Matters. Over the past several years, more and more people have realized that our blog is a trusted source for information and easy-to-share articles. Here are five recent popular blog posts:

1. Three Common Ways Your Social Security Payment Can Grow After Retirement

You made the choice and now you are happily retired. You filed online for your Social Security benefits. They arrive each month in the correct amount exactly as expected. But, did you ever wonder if your Social Security check could increase? You can see all three ways at blog.ssa.gov/three-common-ways-your-social-security-payment-can-grow-after-retirement.

2. So You’ve Lost Your Social Security Card

Losing important documents is frustrating, especially something as important as your Social Security card. You’ll want to consider whether you really need to get a replacement card. Knowing your number is what’s important, after all. You’ll rarely need the card itself — perhaps only when you get a new job and have to show it to your employer. Learn how to replace your card at blog.ssa.gov/so-youve-lost-your-social-security-card/

3. Is that Phone Call From Us?

It’s the morning of a busy day at home and you get a call from an unknown number. You answer only to find yourself on the receiving end of a threatening message saying your Social Security benefits will stop immediately unless you provide your personal information. It happens every day to thousands of Americans. And it’s not Social Security calling. Read more about this scam at blog.ssa.gov/is-that-phone-call-from-us/

4. Need to Change Your Name on Your Social Security Card?

Are you changing your name? If so, let Social Security know so we can update your information, send you an updated card, and make sure you get the benefits you’ve earned. Updating your card is easy at blog.ssa.gov/need-to-change-your-name-on-your-social-security-card.

5. Spruce Up Your Financial Plan with Social Security

Now that tax season is over, it’s probably a good time to evaluate some financial “best practices” for the rest of the year. A good spring-cleaning can clear out the clutter to let you see a clear path for your future. Social Security is always here to help. Even if you just started working, now is the time to start preparing for retirement. Achieving the dream of a secure, comfortable retirement is much easier with a strong financial plan. Read more at blog.ssa.gov/spruce-up-your-financial-plan-with-social-security.

These aren’t the only topics that might matter to you on Social Security Matters. You can always subscribe and get alerts for new policies, COLA information, and more. Remember, you can easily share these blog posts with friends and family both on social media and via email. Sharing what matters to you can change someone’s life for the better.

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3 tips for helping children embrace their unique selves

Some small children don’t care what anyone thinks about them.

If they want to sing at the top of their lungs, they sing at the top of their lungs. If they want to wear a silly hat, mix-matched socks or gloves on a hot day, they do it – with no regard for how others might judge their eccentricities.

Somewhere along the line, though, most children long to fit in and begin to worry that their differences make them stand out – and not in a good way. So, they try to conform to what they perceive their peers or society expect from them.

“Unfortunately, in the process they begin to hide what makes them unique instead of embracing it,” says Jennifer Lynch, an educator, child advocate and author of the children’s book Livi and Grace (www.jenniferlynchbooks.com).

“They become embarrassed or sad about their differences, maybe feel that people think they are strange, and that other kids won’t like them or won’t play with them. And in truth, other children sometimes will bully a child who is seen as different.”

Lynch has served as an advocate for children in the court system, foster care and treatment facilities. In working with those children, many of whom are abused or neglected, she says, you often have to help them overcome their insecurities about their differences.

“It’s important for them and all children to believe in themselves,” she says. “They need to understand that different is okay. It’s our differences that make us special.”

This message is so universally important, Lynch says, that it became the theme of her children’s book, which is based on her daughters and their distinct personalities.

“My two girls are so unlike one another that it’s almost shocking,” she says. “It made me think back to the children I encounter in the court system who say they dislike or even hate themselves because they feel different from their peers or their siblings.”

Lynch says some of the ways parents or other adults can help children include:

Remind them that differences make people special. While it’s natural for children to long to fit in with their peers, Lynch says, it’s also important for them to understand that their individuality is what makes them unique. “Differences are interesting and life enriching,” she says. “Part of the message is that you should appreciate the diverse traits in everyone you know, and also appreciate what makes you special.”

Talk to them about the ways in which they shine. “Kids like talking about themselves,” Lynch says. “So get them involved in a conversation about what they are good at. Maybe that is sports. Maybe it is writing. Maybe they make good grades or they are a good big brother or friend. Whatever their special talent is, explore it with them so they know that there is something they do well.”

Encourage them to help other kids feel good about themselves. Young people can feel empowered not only by embracing their differences, but also by providing support and being a friend to others who are different.

“When you help a child pick out positive things about themselves,” Lynch says, “they begin to focus on that, not the hurtful things that weigh so heavy on their hearts and minds.”

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House Call

By DR. DANIEL KNIGHT

Chairman of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine

College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Email your health questions to housecall@uams.edu.

Q. Can walking get you into shape?

A. Brisk walking is a good cardiovascular exercise but offers other benefits for those walking at least 30 minutes daily. Research shows those who walk at least 5.5 miles per week are likely to live longer and walking this much at a slow pace of two miles per hour can lower the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure by 31%. Those who walked further received more benefits. Women who walk 30 minutes a day may cut their risk of stroke by 20 to 40%.

Increasing the heart rate can make the heart stronger and lower blood pressure. Those wanting to lose weight should walk 45 minutes daily.

Exercise has also been shown to lower the risk of breast cancer because it lowers the estrogen in the bloodstream. Men and women who exercise regularly are at a lower risk of developing colon cancer.

Walking benefits those with arthritis by easing the stress on joints as leg and core muscles strengthen. It also circulates the joint fluid, bringing oxygen and nutrients to joints and cartilage. Walking is good for the bones because it stresses the bones, leading them to become more solid.

Q. My husband has radicular pain in his neck. What is this and what caused it?

A. Radiculopathy, most common in those aged 30 to 50, is the result of a herniated disc. This happens when the outer rim of the disc weakens or tears, causing the nucleus or center to push outward. When the disc herniates backward, to the right or left, it may impinge or “pinch” on the spinal cord or a nerve.

Symptoms may include pain, numbness and loss of muscle strength in the affected area. Cervical or neck radiculopathy causes pain in the lower arm while lumbar or lower spine radiculopathy causes pain in the lower leg.

But not all herniated discs cause impingement. Up to 30% of adults have symptom-free minor herniations in their neck, and 30 to 60% of adults have disc bulges in their lower back but no symptoms.

In most cases, radiculopathy can be diagnosed based on history and a physical exam. Treatment includes physical therapy, pain medications, muscle relaxants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine like aspirin or ibuprofen, epidural blocks, a short course of steroids, and possibly short-term bed rest. Most patients improve without surgery.

Q. Is the loss of bladder control unavoidable as we age?

A. Urinary incontinence – leaking urine that you can’t control – is common and doesn’t just affect older people. About a third of older men and half of all women accidentally leak occasionally and it’s more common after pregnancy, childbirth or menopause. But there are ways to manage it.

Urinary incontinence can be caused by obesity, anxiety, smoking, prostate problems, or nerve damage from diabetes, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. It could also be from consuming too much alcohol or caffeine or from an infection or structural problem, so you should see your doctor to identify the cause.

The size of the bladder isn’t the issue. Instead, the bladder can’t hold the usual amount of urine (about two cups) or has lost the ability to stretch and retain that amount.

Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises that tighten and relax the muscles and release and stop the flow of urine can improve bladder control.

It may help to establish a routine for urinating every two or three hours and work to extend the time in between. Don’t reduce fluid intake, though, as that can lead to overly strong urine, which can irritate the bladder.

Q. I have toenail fungus under the nail, in the nailbed. How is this treated?

A. Toenail fungus impacts nearly 20% of the population. It usually starts in between the end of the nail and the nail bed, where soft yellow material gradually forms. As it develops, the nail becomes thick, yellow and may show white spots and streaks. Untreated, the nail can become fragile or chalky and in severe cases, may crumble.

Toenail fungus can be caused by damage to the nail, tight-fitting shoes, walking barefoot in public areas, or keeping the foot in a warm, moist environment. A family physician, dermatologist, podiatrist can provide treatment, which may include topical medication, removal of the diseased nail, antifungal pills, (which can take three to 12 months to work), or laser treatments.

To prevent toenail fungus from forming, inspect feet and toes regularly, keep feet dry and clean, wash feet daily with soap and water and thoroughly dry them. Change shoes, socks, or hosiery daily, wear properly fitting shoes, use a quality foot powder like talcum instead of cornstarch, and clip toenails straight across so the nail does not extend beyond the tip of the toe.

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Social Security Matters

By Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Older Father Seeks Benefits for Young Children and Wife

Dear Rusty: I was 62 in February and my 44-year-old wife and I have 3 young daughters ages 5, 7 and 13. My 2019 income via wages will be about $98,000. My wife does not work outside our home. In round numbers my Social Security full retirement benefit is estimated to be about $3,000 per month if I wait until 2023. I understand I am eligible to start receiving reduced benefits at age 62 and I could also collect an additional 50% up to 80% of my full retirement benefit for my young daughters until they graduate from high school. My questions are: What determines where in the range of between and 150% and 180% my extra benefit would be? Would my benefit be reduced because of my income (I know my benefits may be taxed but the question is, will my benefits be reduced)? Finally, is my wife also eligible to receive any benefits because we have 3 young children? Signed: Older Father

Dear Older Father: In your situation the Family Maximum would apply and there is a rather complex formula which Social Security uses to determine that maximum. The computation is based upon your “primary insurance amount” (PIA), which is the amount you are entitled to at your full retirement age (regardless of when you claim). Your PIA is broken into 4 parts, and a percentage of each part is taken as an amount which contributes to your family maximum. The four parts (in 2019) and percentages taken are: 150% of the first $1184 of your PIA; 272% of your PIA amount between $1185 and $1708; 134% of your PIA amount between $1709 and $2228; and 175% of your PIA amount over $2228. Your family maximum will be the sum of those computations. What’s left after your PIA is deducted is equally apportioned among your other eligible beneficiaries. For example, if your estimated 2023 PIA is $3000, using the above formula your family maximum would be about $5245. After subtracting your PIA amount, there would be about $2245 to be apportioned evenly among your 4 eligible dependents ($561 each). But no dependent benefits can be paid until you start collecting your benefits.

Once your benefits start, your wife will be eligible to collect “child in care” spousal benefits, but the amount will be limited by the Family Maximum as described above. You already know that your children can no longer receive benefits when they graduate high school (or turn 19). When a child is no longer receiving benefits, the amount they were receiving is added proportionately to your remaining dependents. When your youngest daughter reaches 16 years of age, your wife can no longer receive child-in-care spousal benefits, but she will be eligible for regular spousal benefits when she turns 62.

Yes, your Social Security benefit will be reduced by your earnings if you claim SS benefits before your full retirement age and your current earnings are over the annual earnings limit. If you claim in 2019, you will not be entitled to benefits for any month you earn more than $1470. After this first year, you’ll be subject to the annual earnings limit (which changes yearly but for 2019 is $17,640) and exceeding that limit will mean that SS will withhold $1 for every $2 you are over the limit. In the year you reach your full retirement age (which is 66 ½), the earnings limit goes up by about 2.5 times ($46,920 for 2019) and the penalty is less ($1 for every $3 over the limit), and once you reach your full retirement age there is no longer an earnings limit. But if you exceed the annual limit, SS will withhold future benefits until they have recovered what is due. But here’s a big red flag: anyone collecting benefits on your record will also be “contingently liable” for any overpayment made to you, so their benefits will be withheld as well until Social Security recovers any overpayment as a result of you exceeding the earnings limit.

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How a hybrid model can help retailers survive the online-shopping trend

With shoppers finding much of what they want online, the future of the brick-and-mortar store can seem bleak.

Such major retailers as J.C. Penney, Lowe’s, Gap and Family Dollar, among many others, have announced plans to close at least some stores across the United States this year.

Is it possible, though, that an answer for what’s troubling retailers these days could be a hybrid model that marries digital with an in-store experience?

Already some are trying such an approach, as when Amazon opened a Black Friday pop-up store in Madrid where customers could browse, scan the QR code to learn more about any item that drew their interest, and instantly make a purchase online.

“This no-pressure concept is becoming increasingly popular as today’s customer strongly rejects any hard-sell tactics,” says J.J. Delgado (www.jjdelgado.xyz), a former Amazon marketing manager in Europe who led the largest sales day in the company’s history.

“Instead, they favor an environment that allows them to make their own choices based on all the information that is available to them.”

Retailers have been facing a sea change in their customers’ shopping habits for some time now. A recent Harvard Business Review article pointed out that some stores are handling the problem by cutting the number of employees and reducing the amount of training they give employees. But the three Wharton School of Business professors who wrote the article conclude that approach is counterproductive.

In Delgado’s view, retailers can’t waste time lamenting what was. They need to adapt to what is.

“The future of shopping is not in decline, it is evolving,” he says.

Delgado offers a few suggestions on how a hybrid of digital with brick-and-mortar can work for retailers determined to survive in the digital marketplace:

The customer must experience something they can’t online. Shopping has become a multi-sensorial experience that goes much further than a mere retail transaction, Delgado says. It is about replacing the traditional shopping experience and putting the customer at the center of the whole retail process. “The customer wants authenticity and something of real value, not just monetary value but emotional value,” he says.

Store staff must provide the human connection not available online. “That human connection is the store’s trump card and they must play it right,” Delgado says. “Maximizing that connection and combining it with online connectivity is fundamental to creating the ideal hybrid experience.”

Companies must seek innovative ways to manage their new reality. The changing retail landscape is paving the way for deals between manufacturers, retailers and delivery companies to create ‘mashups’ that allow them to combine their strengths and combat their weaknesses, Delgado says.

“Amazon is the main player in this game, as we have seen with their acquisition of Whole Foods Market,” he says, “but many others are following suit.”

One example is the clothing chain Zara. The chain’s London store features interactive mirrors and high-tech facilities, and combines traditional shopping areas with online areas where customers can scan QR codes and make orders that in many cases are instantly delivered to the store on the same day.

“Some see the digital transformation as the cause for store closures, but it’s very possible that this same digital transformation also could provide the solution to retail woes,” Delgado says. “It is clear that we will soon see more hybrid-retail strategies as retailers seek ways of consolidating their online and offline presence to deliver a seamless customer experience.”

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Seven Tips: Keep your string trimmer running strong with a spring tune-up

The gas-powered string trimmer, also known as a weed whacker by many people, is a common yard and garden tool. Because they are less complicated than a lawn mower, many people do not know that string trimmers can benefit from a tune-up. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute shares seven tips to help you tune up your string trimmer for spring and summer use.

Clean and visually inspect your equipment. Wipe it down with a rag or cloth and remove any dirt or debris. Look for loose screws, missing parts, or signs of damage.

Remove and inspect the spark plug. If the electrode looks worn replace the spark plug. Whether you install a brand new spark plug or plan to use the old one, use a spark plug gapping tool to set the proper gap. Information on this should be found in your owner's manual.

Inspect and replace the line. Pull the trimmer line spool out and remove any leftover line from last season. The line can get brittle over time. Rewind with new line and reinstall the head.

Examine the air filter. Remove the cover and the air filter. Inspect the air filter carefully not only to see if it needs to be cleaned, but also to make sure it does not have any holes in it. Holes will let dirt enter the engine, causing damage.

Check the controls. Start with the on/off switch. It should click on and off. Pull the starter rope all the way out and check for cuts, nicks, and frayed spots. Replace it if you see any signs of damage. Test the throttle for smooth operation and check the choke and primer bulb.

Drain any old fuel. If you did not empty your trimmer’s fuel tank in the fall, drain your tank now. Most fuels today contain ethanol which can phase separate into alcohol and water and cause damage to your mower’s engine. Follow safe handling procedures and dispose of old fuel properly.

Protect your power by using the right fuel. Always use E10 or less fuel. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in any outdoor power equipment, including your string trimmer. Higher ethanol blended fuels may damage or destroy outdoor power equipment. For more information about safe fueling, go to www.LookBeforeYouPump.com.

By following these tips before you start using your string trimmer this spring, you will protect your investment. For more information about the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, go to www.opei.org.

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Cool, refreshing and straight from the garden – mint

By MELINDA MYERS

Add a bit of cool flavor to your beverages and meals this summer with homegrown mint. Try using peppermint leaves in fruit cocktails and ice cream. Add spearmint to your tea or use the leaves to season lamb and jelly. Or try chocolate mint for a unique sweet and refreshing flavor in desserts and drinks.

This vigorous plant is easy to grow and suited to container gardens. In fact, growing it in a pot will help keep this vigorous herb contained. Or sink a container of mint in the garden or plant where surrounding walks and walls will keep this vigorous plant contained.

Grow mint in a full sun to partial shade location with moist well-drained soil. Mulch the soil to conserve moisture. Though hardy in zones 3 to 11, you will need to provide a bit of winter protection when growing mint in containers in colder regions. Either sink the container in a vacant spot in the garden or move the planter into an unheated garage. Water thoroughly whenever the soil is thawed and dry.

Harvest the leaves as needed. Cutting leafy stems off the plant just above a healthy leaf or bud will encourage compact tidy growth. Pick mint just before flowering for the most intense flavor.

Include a container of mint in your patio, balcony or deck plantings. Keeping it close to the kitchen and outdoor living space will make it easy for you to harvest and use. Plus, your guests will enjoy plucking a few fresh mint leaves to add to their iced tea, mojito or favorite summer beverage or salad.

Not only does this easy to grow herb add flavor, but it also aids digestion. Add a garnish of mint to dress up dessert plates or provide it to a loved one to calm a queasy stomach. And use it to increase the manganese, vitamin C and vitamin A levels in your diet.

Make this the year you plant, harvest and enjoy some minty fresh flavor straight from the garden.

Melinda Myers is the author of numerous books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers web site is www.MelindaMyers.com.

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Could a better diet cool your inflammation? Avoid these 5 food groups

Chronic inflammation is associated with such diseases as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and can harm people in numerous other ways, from painful joints to dental problems and aging skin.

It can even disturb your slumber, since inflammation can impact the breathing airways during sleep, resulting in sleep apnea among other potential issues, says Dr. Lynn Lipskis (www.drlipskis.com), director of the TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre and co-author with her husband, Dr. Edmund Lipskis, of Breathe, Sleep, Live, Smile: Integrative Treatments for TMJ/TMD, Sleep Apnea, Orthodontics.

Yet, with all the potential complications, not everyone may realize that one effective way to combat inflammation is through better nutrition, Dr. Lipskis says.

“Inflammation can come from a variety of issues, but diet undoubtedly is one of the bigger factors,” she says. “Some people unwisely put dietary compliance at the bottom of their priority list. While some patients with better diets don’t have a lot of inflammation, others are so inflamed they can’t breathe at all through their nose.”

Dr. Lynn Lipskis and Dr. Edmund Lipskis suggest a list of inflammatory foods to avoid:

Gluten. Foods containing gluten can be some of the most inflammatory. “Generally,” Dr. Lynn Lipskis says, “gluten is the protein part of a grain. A lot of people will react to gluten by experiencing increased inflammation. Gluten-free eating has become popular because so many people who adopt it find that they feel better. Symptoms of sensitivity to gluten include fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, achy joints and brain fog.”

Dairy. “Dairy products promote mucus production,” Dr. Ed Lipskis says. “That inflames tissue and mucous clogs the nasal passages. There are mixed reviews on whether people should consume dairy products and to what extent. I recommend an elimination diet to see how it affects you.”

Processed carbohydrates. These include a litany of foods people love, but the Lipskis team says the eventual harm outweighs the enjoyment. “It may mean saying good-bye to pasta, breads, cookies, candies,” Dr. Ed Lipskis says. “People often believe that whole wheat bread is better than white bread, but whole wheat is actually just as inflammatory because of the carbohydrate in wheat, known as amylopectin A.” Similarly, Lipskis says most people mistakenly believe brown rice to be a better choice than white rice. “But like whole wheat,” he says, “the husk of brown rice contains the allergens and proteins that can cause inflammation.”

Alcohol (red wine). “People who have sleep apnea are assured a bad night’s sleep after drinking alcohol,” Dr. Lynn Lipskis says. “Red wine targets the nasal membrane, causing swelling and limiting the opening for air flow. This inflammation can last six to eight hours, ruining a full night’s sleep.”

Refined sugars. “Sugar is everywhere,” Dr. Ed Lipskis says. “While sugar is known for negatives – rotting teeth, packing on the pounds, providing no nutrition – the biggest reason you should say good-bye to sugar is that it’s one of the most inflammatory parts of many foods. And be careful with fruit, which is generally thought of as healthy but contains naturally occurring fructose. The less fiber there is in a fruit, the less healthy it is.”

“We should be eating a normal, balanced diet of real food – not processed foods,” Dr. Lynn Lipskis says. “It’s tough to avoid the occasional bagel, bag of chips, or glass of red wine, but going off the wagon, so to speak, can lead to immediate inflammation and long-term problems. Listen to your body - it will let you know the effect that each type of food has.”

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IRAs come with strings attached; Are there safer retirement alternatives?

Most people planning for retirement probably would prefer some predictability as they plot out their post-work futures, but financial professionals say the reality they face is that uncertainty surrounds the stock market, tax rates and the future of Social Security.

And even one of the most popular retirement-savings tools – the Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) – can get more complicated than many people realize, limiting a retiree’s control of their money, retirement planners say.

“We’re supposed to believe we’ll pay lower taxes on our future IRA distributions,” says Jeff Brummett (www.greenlinefinancialservices.com), a financial talk show host, public speaker, and the author of The Worthless IRA: How To Keep Wall Street and Uncle Sam From Getting Their Greedy Little Fingers On Your Hard-Earned Money.

“An IRA gives Wall Street the use of our money with no promise it will be there when we need it. Even if it is, one must remember we have a partner in our traditional IRA/401k account. When one considers our astronomical national debt combined with the fact that only one-third of baby boomers are drawing social security (or medicare) benefits today, does anyone really believe tax rates are not likely to go through the stratosphere in order to support these programs in the future?

“Fifty million baby boomers have yet to turn 65. All will have done so by 2030. Math says Uncle Sam will likely increase his percent of ownership on our tax-deferred IRA account values by raising taxes on withdrawals. How else will he pay for these two retirement entitlement programs? Both are broke today with a third of baby boomers drawing benefits. The math is the math!”

Brummett breaks down three ways strings are attached to IRAs and provides two retirement-money alternatives he says are safer:

IRA Strings

Most IRA holders must invest in a securities-based financial product. “This is a product of risk, and retirement is a critical and certain need,” Brummett says. “Wouldn’t it be more logical and responsible for everyone to be able to invest a portion of their cumulative life savings into an investment offering certainty? Why not allow these retirement IRA savings instruments to include a variety of safe-money financial products?”

You can’t withdraw until age 59½. If you take money out of an IRA before 59½, the IRS imposes a 10% penalty. There’s also the possibility of a marginal tax rate increase that the withdrawal might cause. “Studies by Fidelity and Vanguard have indicated that over 40% of people with IRAs and 401(k)s withdraw from those accounts before they’re 59½,” Brummett says. “And long-term, whether stock values rise or fall, the only guaranteed beneficiary is Uncle Sam and the financial elite of Wall Street.”

You must begin withdrawing at age 70½. “IRA rules restrict your activity not only on the front end, but also the back end,” Brummett says. “The key back-end requirement is that at age 70½ you must start withdrawing a minimum amount each year, which is subject to income tax. We give up far more control of our money than one might think, and it can severely hurt our financial future if taxes are increased in the future.”

Retirement Alternatives

Tax favored cash-value life insurance. Cash-value life insurance can offer its owner a source of non-taxable income if properly designed and executed. “Most people have been purposely – and incorrectly – taught to believe that the only benefit of owning a life insurance policy is the death benefit,” Brummett says. “Permanent cash-value life insurance policies often have great living benefits, allowing the owner to leverage multiple non-taxable cash benefits contained within the policy while still living.”

Fixed-index annuity. “Protecting principal and providing income are the two most important objectives for anyone approaching retirement,” Brummett says. “In a variable annuity, there is no principal protection, and the owner must sometimes pay an additional fee to include a spouse in the living benefit. Fixed-index annuities offer lifetime income protection with zero to 1% fees, and they have 100% protection of principal from market risk.”

“What most retirees need today is not more of Wall Street’s version of diversification - diversification of market risk,” Brummett says. “What they need is diversification frommarket risk and a healthy dose of guaranteed income.”

Happiness class

What is happiness, and how can people attain it? A new course at the University of Pennsylvania called “The Pursuit of Happiness” uses psychology and philosophy to help students explore this question. The professor, James Pawelski, wants his students to practice what they are learning and form long-term habits. “My job isn’t to foist habits on students, and I’m not teaching this class because I’m the model of happiness that I hope the students will follow,” he said. “Really the pursuit of happiness is not a class but part of their lives. Regardless of how well they do academically, much more important for them will be what they take away for their own life moving forward.”

Lump-sum pensions

The U.S. Treasury Department’s recent move to allow private companies to provide retirees and beneficiaries lump sums rather than monthly payments is good news for companies that do not want to be saddled with long-term pension obligations. But Olivia S. Mitchell of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania wants the federal government to weigh the long-term implications for retirees. “If we look at the retirement picture, we have to understand the incentives we are putting in peoples’ way — or the disincentives to save,” she said.

The brain & smell

Animals like dogs and rodents use their sense of smell to navigate toward desirable items or places and away from those they should avoid. But do humans have the same capabilities? It’s a question that University of Pennsylvania neurobiologist Jay Gottfried has been trying to answer, and in a recent study that used varying mixtures of banana and pine scents, he discovered that three key brain regions help humans navigate from one odor to the next. The work points to the existence of architecture in the olfactory regions of the brain which resemble the same structures that help animals with spatial navigation.

Bacteria & diabetes

About 10 percent of Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and a quarter of these patients will develop wounds that do not heal. A study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that specific strains of common bacteria are associated with these non-healing wounds. Researchers also identified other common strains in these wounds that can either impair or improve healing, suggesting that monitoring the types of microbes in diabetic foot ulcers could provide doctors with information on how best to treat wounds.

Childhood trauma

Childhood trauma is linked to abnormal connectivity in the brains of adults with major depressive disorder. “This study not only confirms the important relationship between childhood trauma and major depression,” said Yvette I. Sheline of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, “but also links patients’ experiences of childhood trauma with specific functional brain network abnormalities. This suggests a possible environmental contributor to neurobiological symptoms.”

The brain in space

Living in space for an extended period of time may lead to a decline in cognitive performance. Three years after astronaut Scott Kelly returned from his nearly year-long mission on the International Space Station, the NASA Twins Study has yielded results published recently in Science. Mathias Basner at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine led the team that studied the cognitive performance of Kelly and his twin brother, who acted as a control on Earth. “The surprising finding was that, once Scott returned to Earth, we saw a more relevant decline in performance across almost all 10 tests; he was slower and less accurate, and this effect persisted for six months after he returned, when we performed our final test,” Basner said. This study is a step toward ensuring the safety of astronauts who may undertake longer missions in the future.

Rwandan genocide

Since 2016, historic preservationist Randall Mason of the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design has been working with the Rwandan government to protect memorials of the genocide that took place in that country 25 years ago. The monuments are dedicated to remembering the 800,000 people who died, including nearly three-quarters of the entire population of Tutsis, one of Rwanda’s two socioeconomic classes. The other group, the Hutus, committed the majority of the genocide. “There’s a long game here, to be sure,” Mason said, “but, if there’s a way to contribute to protecting these memorials in the short term, that’s an incredible opportunity and honor.”

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5 questions your financial advisor would not expect you to ask

Have a meeting scheduled soon with your financial advisor?

If so, it could be time to ask a few probing questions that might surprise and challenge him or her, but could help you be better prepared if the U.S. economy takes a turn for the worse that some economic forecasters are predicting.

But first, before that meeting and before you start posing those questions, it’s important to understand some of the factors affecting the economy’s future and why there are potential problems that likely won’t go away, says Nahum Daniels, a Certified Financial Planner and Retirement Income Certified Professional.

“Many Americans today have anxiety confronting retirement,” says Daniels (www.integratedretirementadvisors.com), author of Retire Reset!: What You Need to Know and Your Financial Advisor May Not Be Telling You. “And in an unfortunate turn for baby boomers, the U.S. economy is struggling to recover from one of the worst downturns in generations.

“When closely examined, the retirement challenges we face as a society are actually much more complex than they first appear. The mainstream media skate along the surface, pointing to baby boomers with inadequate personal savings who are looking to a fragile — if not insolvent — Social Security system unable to make up the difference.

“But upon deeper analysis, there’s much more to the problem in the U.S. and globally. That includes slowing population growth, shrinking consumer demand, exploding debt, inflated financial bubbles in the stocks and bonds market, deflationary wage and employment pressures, and overspent governments. The connectivity of these global forces may be forming a tsunami.”

Daniels says those in retirement or nearing it are going to want answers from their advisors on how to avoid pitfalls in a possibly volatile future economy. And it starts, he says, by asking the right, penetrating questions. The answers may depend on your particular situation, but the important thing is that you and your advisor have a deeper conversation about your situation and that you are satisfied with the answers:

Do you think our economy faces the risk of an extended period of secular stagnation and, if you do, how do you think my nest egg should be positioned to counteract any negative effects?

Is the possibility of a volatile economic future during my retirement years worthy of hedging against and, if so, how?

Do you believe that our low rates of economic growth reflect bad tax policy predominantly and that corporate tax relief in the U.S. will turn our economy around for the long term?

How reliable are my Social Security and pension benefits, and do you think I should start taking them, or would it be better to defer them for as long as possible?

Can I retire before paying off all of my debt, or should I keep working until I’m completely debt free?

“Some prominent economists predict a long-term slowdown in economic activity, productivity and innovation,” Daniels says. “And neither fiscal (tax) nor monetary (Fed) policies alone may be able to reverse it. Consequently, our personal nest eggs have taken on a level of importance they haven’t previously had.”

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History Matters

A biweekly feature courtesy of

The Grateful American Book Prize

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future

Two American aviators made history in 1927 and 1932, respectively. The first was 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh, who made a solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic. He started his mission from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, NY in a custom-made, single-engine monoplane on the morning on May 20th and landed at Paris’s Le Bourget Airport 33 hours later.

Seven years later, Amelia Earhart emerged as the pioneering aviatrix who piloted a solo Atlantic crossing. She departed from Newfoundland, flew more than 2,000 miles, and landed after 13 hours in Ireland, near Londonderry.

These daring stories make history exciting. For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize suggests The Flight of the Lone Eagle: Charles Lindbergh Flies Nonstop from New York to Paris by John T. Foster, and Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming.

Clarissa Harlowe Barton, a self-taught nurse at a time when there was no such thing as a nursing school, risked her life caring for wounded soldiers during the Civil War. When it was over, she devoted herself to seeking opportunities to be of service--wherever she could. On May 21, 1881, Clara Barton, as she was known, founded the American Red Cross at the age of 59. During the next 23 years, she was its president.

She died in 1912.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Joshua Hanft’s Clara Barton (Heroes of America).

The Constitutional Convention convened in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787 to amend the Articles of Confederation, which had been ratified in 1781. They were—in effect-- the nation’s first constitution, but it was considered a flawed document. Instead, the Convention resulted in the creation of the Constitution of the United States--the foundation of America’s Federal Government.

The Constitution is a worthy read for adolescents, as is the story of the Convention. For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Constitutional Convention: A History Just for Kids by the KidsCap group, and—for the Constitution--The U.S. Constitution And Fascinating Facts About It by Terry L. Jordan

No visit to the Nation’s Capital would be complete without pausing to think about the American Dream as envisioned by the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, whose memorial overlooks the Reflecting Pool at the National Mall. The United States Congress officially authorized its construction in 1867, two years after his assassination. However, it was not completed and dedicated until May 30, 1922. It was designed by architect Henry Bacon, along with Daniel Chester French’s life-sized sculpture, “Seated Lincoln”.

As journalist Phil Edwards put it: “the story behind the Lincoln Memorial’s construction is a surprisingly complicated one, and it says something about the contortions that, even today, politicians have to undergo to become monument-making visionaries.”

For more reading: Brent Ashabranner’s Memorial of Mr. Lincoln is an ideal book for young readers. It is as much about Mr. Lincoln’s life as it is about how and why it took five and a half decades to erect something suitable in his honor. As one reviewer put it when the book was published, the strength “is in the author's examination of the way the monument has become a powerful symbol of freedom and civil rights in our country.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Worker Received Overpayment Notice from Social Security

Dear Rusty: I have a problem with Social Security. They told me if I went over the annual earned income limit they would withhold $1 for every $2 I went over. But they did not tell me about the monthly rule for the first year of retirement and now they want $13,000. I am a part time bus driver with irregular hours and cannot afford this. Can you help? Signed: Feeling Wronged by SS

Dear Feeling Wronged: The so-called “first year rule” is one which surprises many who claim benefits early and continue to work. That rule says that if your monthly income, in your first year after your benefits start, exceeds a certain limit ($1470 in 2019), you are not entitled to SS benefits for that month. In your specific situation there are two things in play that I suggest you focus on.

First, you should immediately request a repayment plan on the grounds that you cannot afford to repay the entire amount right away and that forfeiting your benefits until the $13,000 is repaid will result in a hardship for you. Although the Overpayment Notice you received asked you to refund the money within 30 days, it also suggested repayment options if you cannot afford to do so. I recommend you contact Social Security immediately to arrange a repayment plan, which is affordable for you. You can do this by submitting form SSA-632, which you can find at this link: www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-632.pdf. Be aware that if you don’t get a favorable initial response from your first contact with Social Security, you have the right to appeal at several levels, including a review of your case by an independent Administrative Law Judge. But please note that it might take up to 60 days for Social Security to complete your repayment plan request. If you do not get action within that timeframe you should contact them again to determine your status.

Next, I suggest that, since Social Security informed you of the annual limit but neglected to inform you of the rule which limits your monthly income in your first year of early retirement, you may also have grounds to request a waiver of the entire overpayment. Social Security’s own rules state that if your overpayment was caused by misinformation received from Social Security, you may be found “without fault” for any overpayment in your first year of early retirement. You may even want to download Social Security’s own rules on this topic at this link: https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0202250061. The onus will be on you to prove that the overpayment occurred as a result of misinformation supplied by Social Security, and you will need the name of the person(s) who supplied the incorrect information as well as the date and time. And as with all contact you have with the Social Security Administration, you should keep a complete written record of each transaction. In resolving this issue, you can and should use the appeals process if necessary, and you may even want to consider asking your local Congressional Representative to intercede on your behalf.

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Take the hassle out of daily watering

By Melinda Myers

Proper watering is key to gardening success, but untangling and dragging heavy hoses across the yard, smashing delicate flowers and young vegetable plants along the way is a common occurrence in many yards. If this describes your escapades when watering garden beds and planters, it may be time to look for some time-saving solutions that reduce the hassle of hand watering.

Protect edging plants, especially those at the corner of the bed with hose guides. You can make your own from colorful wine bottles inverted over a section of rebar anchored in the ground. Or invest in some functional or decorative hose guides available for sale.

Connecting and disconnecting the hose to the faucet, inadequate length of hoses, and nozzles can be a source of aggravation. Washers disappear, connections loosen, and leaks occur. Invest in quick-connectors that allow you to make all these connections with a simple click.

Clear the hose clutter off patios, decks and walks while keeping them easily accessible for daily watering. A hose reel allows you to easily wind up the hose out of sight near the faucet. These are often mounted on the wall or are unsightly and bulky devices with wheels that can still be a bit unwieldy. Evaluate the design and ease of use before investing.

An automatic reel that retracts the hose quickly and easily or a lightweight portable model may be just the solution. Irrigation equipment like the G.F. Italia Portable Reel Nozzle Hose available at gardeners.com is lightweight enough, allowing you to carry 50 feet of hose that unravels just the length you need as you water various garden beds or containers on the deck.

Coil hoses are designed to expand when filled with water then retract into a small size for clean, easy storage and portability. You eliminate the need to unwind and rewind long lengths of hoses every time you water. Look for hoses made of long-lasting, kink-free materials that have superior coil memory for years of easy watering.

Make moving long stretches of hoses easier with featherweight and lightweight slim products. A featherweight hose can weigh as little as two and a half pounds, making it easier to move through the garden and back onto the reel or storage container.

Combine the convenience of storage and lightweight portability. You’ll minimize the need for maintaining hoses at every faucet while retaining the convenience. Look for products that allow you to easily move your hose where it’s needed. Expandable hoses allow you to easily move your hose from faucet to faucet for watering around the yard or pack it in your RV when traveling.

Make proper watering a more convenient part of garden and container maintenance by investing in quality hoses, connectors and storage options. If it’s easy, you are more likely to water plants as needed and then store the hoses conveniently out of sight after each watering.

Tech-savvy witches

Romanian witches are using the Internet to cast spells thanks to a younger generation of sorceresses. Millennial enchantress Cassandra Buzea says why not bring the ancient art of witchcraft into the 21st century via the worldwide web. She told Reuters: “A truly powerful witch can solve problems from a distance.” Her mom was quick to join her daughter in offering their services to clients throughout the world. And now, it is estimated that some 4,000 witches throughout the country are in the business of casting electronic spells. Apparently an enchantress can make a pretty good living online. For example, a simple tarot card reading can net nearly $60. 

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She didn’t leave a tip

Karen Vinacour stopped in at the New York City’s 90-year-old Patsy’s Pizzeria for lunch recently with her daughter and when they finished she paid the bill but deliberately did not leave a tip. That could have put Ms. Vinacour in a bind because she left an envelope on her table containing a $424,000 certified check. A less gallant waiter might just have tossed the check, but Armando Markaj proved himself to be a noble server, indeed. He gave it to the restaurant’s owner and, ultimately, the check was returned to its rightful owner. Ms. Vinacour told reporters: "I'm so grateful that the insult that we gave him did not prevent him from doing the right thing." She offered the waiter a reward for his kindness, but he refused.

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Baby giraffe needed new shoes

A giraffe was born at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. It weighed in at a healthy 155 pounds but, was suffering from misaligned rear legs. The Zoo was quick to seek a cure, creating a pair of custom-made shoes fashioned from plywood and high-density plastic. Veterinarian Tim Storms says the remedy is a work in progress. As he put it, “we’ll continue refining and improving our approach to find a good balance between supporting his limbs and strengthening his tendons.”

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NFPA offers tips for safe grilling this Memorial Day

Often considered the unofficial kick-off to summer, Memorial Day weekend includes lots of celebrations featuring cookouts and barbeques. As the holiday and warmer months near, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reminds everyone to follow some basic precautions for safely grilling outdoors.

According to NFPA’s statistics, in 2013-2017, U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 10,200 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbeques, including an average of 4,500 structure fires and 5,700 outside or unclassified fires. These fires resulted in 10 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $123 million in direct property damage, on average each year.

Peak months for grilling fires are July, followed by June, May, and August. Leading causes of home grilling fires include failing to properly clean the grill, leaks or breaks, and having a flammable object too close to the grill. Unattended cooking is a major cause of all types of cooking fires, including grill fires. Leaks and breaks are a particular problem with gas grills.

“As people prepare to do more entertaining and cooking outside in the months ahead, it’s a good time to inspect your grill to make sure it’s in working order, especially if it hasn’t been used during the winter months,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA. “It’s also important to establish a fire-safe location for using your grill, making sure it’s a safe distance from your home and other items that can burn.”

NFPA offers these tips and recommendations for enjoying a fire-safe grilling season:

For propane grills, check the gas tank for leaks before use in the months ahead. (Watch NFPA’s video on how to check for leaks. The footage can be used as b-roll.)

Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.

Place the grill well away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.

Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grilling area.

If you use starter fluid when charcoal grilling, only use charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. When you a finished grilling, let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container.

Never leave your grill unattended when in use.

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Microrobots

Two types of microrobots, one working on surfaces and the other in confined spaces, are able to destroy biofilms, sticky amalgamations of bacteria. Such microrobots have a wide variety of potential applications, including removing dental plaque and reducing the risk of tooth decay. “Treating biofilms that occur on teeth requires a great deal of manual labor, both on the part of the consumer and the professional,” says Edward Steager of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, who led the study with Hyun (Michel) Koo of Penn’s School of Dental Medicine. “We hope to improve treatment options as well as reduce the difficulty of care.”

Keto diet

Despite the buzz about the little-to-no-carb, high-fat keto diet, there haven’t been randomized clinical studies to determine if it is effective in the long term. Most studies to date have been smaller scale and highlight both positives and negatives. “We often don’t have a lot of data to guide us on the positive or negative effects, so I am cautious to say this is the right thing to do and not the right thing to do. I think that diet is important, and I have a personal interest in many of these approaches to nutrition, but what I share with patients is mostly my informed opinion based on as much science as possible,” said Neel Chokshi of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Family leave

The idea of paid parental or family leave in the U.S. appears to be gaining momentum in both major political parties. “I think what’s in the air is a larger conversation about gender inequality,” said Stephanie Creary of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “By making gender inequality also about parents, it has allowed more people, including men, to champion this issue.”

Doctors & patients

A new study shows that first-year doctors spend 87% of their work days away from patients, half of it interacting with electronic health records. “This objective look at how interns spend their time during the work day reveals a previously hidden picture of how young physicians are trained and the reality of medical practice today,” Krisda Chaiyachati of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Our study can help residency program leaders take stock of what their interns are doing and consider whether the time and processes are right for developing the physicians we need tomorrow.”

Predicting hernias

A new app can predict the likelihood that a patient will develop an incisional hernia following abdominal surgery, a problem that affects one out of every eight of these surgical patients. Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania used electronic health records to identify the most common risk factors for patients, as well as which surgeries most commonly result in incisional hernias. “Our tool presents the risk for each case at the point of care, giving surgeons and patients the chance to consider this outcome ahead of time and incorporate data into the decision-making process,” John P. Fischer said.

Oral care & cancer

For cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, intensive oral cleanings may help reduce oral mucositis, a potentially debilitating side effect of cancer care. “It can affect the tongue, the throat, even the intestinal tract,” said Patricia Corby of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, “and it’s a disaster. Severe cases place patients at risk for secondary infections and even sepsis due to open sores in the mouth. Sometimes it interrupts cancer treatment, and in the worst cases treatment can’t continue.”

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Gene editing

Gene editing may be able to treat lethal lung diseases before birth in the future. Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have thwarted a lethal lung disease in a mouse model, in which a genetic mutation causes death within hours after birth. The researchers are hoping to apply gene editing to lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis, surfactant protein deficiency, and alpha-1 antitrypsin.

The power of prayer

A pair of Florida teens recently skipped class to go swimming off the coast of Vilano Beach, FL and were carried away by a strong ocean current. Tyler Smith and Heather Brown wound up two miles offshore treading water for some two hours. The 17-year-olds said they were so scared at the prospect of drowning that they prayed as hard as they could. And, their prayers were answered. Amen was the name of the boat that spotted and rescued them. In an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America soon after, Smith said all he could do was to pray “God, please don't let this be the end. I still want to see my family ... send someone to save us." Crew members aboard the Amen they heard teens’ cries for help and answered his prayer.

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Reading is Fundamental

An education-minded barber in Kutztown, PA, Jonathan Escuet, is putting his money were his heart is. He pays kids $3 to read a book out loud while getting their haircuts. His aim is to give them confidence in themselves and it appears to be working.

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They choose to snooze

The bedding company, Mattress Firm, is offering students not-so-strenuous internships this summer. They’re looking for a few good “snoozeterns” who won’t be considered slackers if they sleep on the job.

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Hazardous jobs

Hazardous jobs in industries such as logging, firefighting, mining, and the military are critical to sustaining the standard of living in the U.S. But simply offering higher wages for physically dangerous jobs doesn’t absolve companies of responsibility, said business ethicist professor Robert Hughes of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Writing in a paper entitled “Paying People to Risk Life or Limb” published in the journal Business Ethics Quarterly, Hughes said, "If the only reason to take [this job] rather than a safer job is the extra money—the hazard pay—then you have something to worry about.”

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Genes & alcoholism

Scientists have discovered 18 genetic variants associated with heavy alcohol consumption or with alcohol use disorder (AUD). The VA-funded study suggests that, though heavy drinking is a prerequisite for AUD, certain variants may need to be present for people to escalate to AUD. "This study has revealed an important genetic independence of these two traits that we haven’t seen as clearly before,” said Henry R. Kranzler, MD, a psychiatrist in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and an investigator at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center. “Focusing on variants only linked to AUD may help identify people at risk and find targets for the development of medications to treat it. The same applies to alcohol consumption, as those variants could inform interventions to help reduce consumption in heavy drinkers, who face their own set of adverse effects.”

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Gender & racial biases

A voluntary survey released by the American Economic Association has revealed high levels of gender and racial bias in the field of economics. Olivia Mitchell of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania believes that one reason is that many of the anti-bias measures that are already in place still lack teeth. “It’s very depressing, actually,” she said. “I’ve been teaching for 40 years now, and, sure, 40 years ago there were very few women in the profession. You stood out. You were sometimes made to feel uncomfortable or awkward. But I had hoped that today things would be much better.”

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Empathy & cooperation

Empathy can help cooperative behavior overcome selfishness. Taking an evolutionary and game theory approach, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that a capacity for empathy fosters cooperation and that the degree to which this happens depends on a society's system for moral evaluation. “Having not just the capacity but the willingness to take into account someone else’s perspective when forming moral judgments tends to promote cooperation,” said biologist Joshua Plotkin.

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Vulnerabilities of HIV

A new imaging study that reveals the shape of HIV suggests new paths to fight this deadly disease. An international team involving researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre, Tufts University and the University of Melbourne have shown how molecular "can openers" can be used to expose parts of the viral envelope, which can then be targeted by antibodies. "Directly visualizing the molecules at the surface of HIV will allow us to devise strategies to cure disease, a dream comes true.” said Isabelle Rouiller of the University of Melbourne.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Is Social Security based on Last 3 years of Work?

Dear Rusty: I have heard many times that what is earned the last 3 years you work before drawing Social Security benefits determines what your benefit dollar amount will be. Is this true? If not, what determines your benefit dollar amount and how is it calculated? Signed: Working Still

Dear Working: Funny how true the adage – if you say something often enough, people will believe it is true. But I’m afraid that what you’ve heard so many times about how your Social Security benefit is determined is incorrect. While it’s true that the last 3 years you work may affect your Social Security benefit amount when you claim, those years alone are not what determine your benefit dollar amount. Rather, your benefit is determined using a formula, which includes the highest earning 35 years of your lifetime working career. Each year in your lifetime earnings record will be adjusted for inflation, the highest earning 35 years will be selected and your "average indexed monthly earnings" (AIME) will be computed from those years. And to clarify another often-misunderstood point, you only get credit for earnings on which you paid FICA taxes, so earnings up to the annual payroll tax cap are the only earnings counted.

For most people, the latter years of their working career are the highest earning, so it's quite likely that your last few years of earnings will be included in the 35, which are used to determine your benefit. Once your AIME is computed from your lifetime earnings record, it is subjected to a standard formula to arrive at your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), which is the benefit you are entitled to at your full retirement age. If you claim benefits before your full retirement age (FRA) that benefit will be reduced, by up to 30% depending upon how many months before your FRA that you claim. And if you wish to increase your benefit you can wait beyond your FRA to claim and earn delayed retirement credits of 8% per year, up to age 70. Claiming at age 70 could get you a benefit as much as 32% more than it would be at your full retirement age (depending upon the number of months after your FRA that you claim benefits).

Unfortunately, there are many myths floating around about how your Social Security benefit is determined, and what you’ve previously heard is but one variation of those myths. But reality is as described above – the highest earning 35 years of your lifetime earnings record are used to determine your average monthly career earnings (adjusted for inflation), and that 35-year lifetime average becomes the basis for your Social Security benefit. Anything else you hear to the contrary is simply incorrect.

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Landscape structures provide function and beauty

By MELINDA MYERS

Incorporate arbors, trellises and other structures into your designs when planning new or updating existing gardens and landscapes. These structures help form the framework of any garden, add year-round interest and provide years of beauty and function.

Utilize arbors to define and connect distinct areas of the landscape. Invite visitors into your landscape with a vine-covered arbor. Guests won’t be able to resist the invitation to enter and experience the beauty that lies beyond. Cover these structures with vines for seasonal interest, additional texture and blossoms. Combine two different vines to extend or double your floral display. Plant an annual vine for quick cover with a perennial that takes a year or more to establish and cover the structure.

Beat summer’s heat by creating your own shade with vine-covered arbors. Plant annual or deciduous vines that let the sun and its warmth shine through during the cooler months. When the leaves return, they provide shade and cooler temperatures during warmer times.

Arbors are as much at home in the food garden as the flowerbed. Connect two garden beds with an over-the-top arbor. Grow pole beans, melons or squash up and over the Titan Squash Tunnel (gardeners.com). You’ll expand your gardening space by going vertical and help reduce disease problems by increasing the sunlight and airflow reaching the plants. Secure large fruit to its obelisk with a net, cotton or macramé sling to prevent them from breaking off the vines.

Dress up any home, garage or shed with trellises covered with flowering vines, climbing roses or an espaliered fruit tree. Provide space between the wall and trellis when mounting them to a building. The space reduces the risk of damage to the wall and the plants benefit from the added airflow and light.

Many trellises are works of art in their own right, so when the plants go dormant the structure continues to dress up an otherwise blank wall. Whether you prefer simple squares and diamonds, circles, leaves or ceramic songbirds perched among the branchlike supports of the Enchanted Woods Trellis; select a design that reflects your personality and complements your garden design.

Combine several trellis sections to create a decorative screen or bit of fencing. This is a perfect solution for creating privacy or a bit of vertical interest in any size or shape of garden space. Add colorful glass bottles and contemporary design to a vertical planting with a trellis like Gardener’s Achla Designs Vinifera Bottle Trellis.

Use obelisks as focal points and plant supports in the garden or containers. They’re perfect for creating scale in the garden, especially when new plantings are small and immature. Select a support tall and sturdy enough for the plants you are growing.

Add a bit of beauty and elegance when growing watermelons, cucumbers, pole beans or tomatoes. Train them onto decorative obelisks and they’ll be pretty enough to include in flowerbeds and mixed borders. Add more beauty and a bit of hummingbird appeal with scarlet runner beans. The bright red flowers are followed by green beans that can be eaten fresh or its large seeds harvested and used fresh or dried.

Always consider the function, strength and beauty when selecting structures for your landscape. Team them up with plants suited to your growing conditions and you will benefit from years of enjoyment.

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3 ways to restore the climate — For ourselves and future generations

Scientists say we see the adverse effects of climate change everywhere -- in weather patterns, throughout plant and animal habitats, across farmland, on the polar caps, and in the oceans.

Numerous studies have concluded dire consequences for the planet unless the right solutions are implemented. And now comes a report painting a particularly bleak picture: one million of the planet’s eight million species are threatened with extinction by humans. Climate change, shrinking habitat, and pollution were blamed in the report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a United Nations committee, as the main reasons for species loss.

What are the solutions? Is climate change as dangerous and imminent a threat as scientists say?

Dr. Paul Zeitz, an epidemiologist and the senior policy advisor with the Healthy Climate Alliance (www.drpaulzeitz.org), says there’s no time to waste, and that “climate restoration” legislation would mark the beginning of the solutions.

“Our failing planetary health requires bold political action to ensure our planet is habitable for future generations,” says Zeitz, author of Waging Justice: A Doctor’s Journey To Speak Truth And Be Bold. “Legislation is being developed to promote the removal of excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and to prevent catastrophic methane release from the melting of the Arctic.

“Multiple methods are currently available to achieve these actions and restore a safe and healthy climate for ourselves and future generations. We must call for the passage of comprehensive legislation at the federal, state and local levels to rapidly accelerate climate restoration.”

Zeitz explains three methods that could assist in climate restoration:

Carbon sequestration for a commercial market. Massive amounts of rock, sourced from quarries, are used annually for infrastructure construction. If the rock was sourced from carbon dioxide instead, Zeitz says, that action would sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide away from the atmosphere. “Companies, such as Blue Planet Ltd, are developing commercially viable ways to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by turning it into limestone aggregate for concrete,” Zeitz says. “This method can scale to remove a trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere within 30 to 40 years.”

Fishery restoration. “This combines poverty reduction and community empowerment with carbon sequestration,” Zeitz says. “There are massive stretches of ocean that are nutrient-limited due to climate change. If we supplement nutrients, then we promote photosynthesis and build up fisheries. That, in turn, allows for carbon sequestration in the deep ocean. A pilot project in Madagascar commences this summer that involves nutrient supplementation as a foundation for fisheries restoration.”

Restoring Arctic ice. Researchers at Ice911 Research have spent 10 years creating, testing and refining floating glass spheres that act as a reflective layer on the Arctic ice. “These spheres get spread across the ice in the spring and act as fresh snow — a highly reflective surface — during the 24 hours of daylight experienced in the summertime,” Zeitz says. “This allows the ice to remain through the summer, which, in turn, enables the ice to thicken and become more durable over time.”

“If we take bold action in the next several years to implement the range of solutions described, we will be able to reduce the most devastating impacts of the climate crisis,” Zeitz says. “And we can do our best to ensure that our children and future generations can survive and thrive.”

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Score a workplace win with these 5 traits of successful athletes

When Tiger Woods thrilled the sports world by winning The Masters golf tournament, many golf experts and fans viewed his triumph as inspirational.

After all, the 43-year-old Woods demonstrated not just athletic skills, but also mental strength that allowed him to overcome declining physical prowess and years of adversity that included a sex scandal, divorce and numerous back and knee surgeries.

For high-performing athletes, that’s not so unusual because mental attitude is often critical to success in sports. But the same can be true in the workplace for those willing to learn from the practices of athletes and apply them in their own lives, says Grant Parr (www.gameperformance.com), a mental sports performance coach and the author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown.

The key, Parr says, is to be prepared when big opportunities arrive – sometimes unexpectedly, as it did for Woods.

“Many of the demands we face at work are not so different than those faced by high-caliber athletes,” Parr says. “The need for mental toughness in the face of chaos and adversity is similar.

“But what happens when a big moment is at hand, like a promotion, and people aren’t ready for it? What did they not do to be properly prepared? The world is filled with unexpected opportunities for greatness, and there are processes that athletes and people in all types of positions can execute to get prepared for that moment.”

Parr focuses on five areas where athletic examples can be applied toward readiness and success in the workplace:

Applying grit in the face of adversity. “Handling adversity starts with being flexible,” Parr says. “Take difficult people you have to deal with; you must be able to adapt and adjust, know when to let things roll off your back and when to stand your ground. Or when you’ve missed your sales quota, you lose key people, etc., the stress can be enormous. These are times you have to rely on your inner warrior and draw on your past examples of strong mental performance.”

Turning crisis into opportunity. Some athletes are summoned to a bigger role because the performer in front of them is ineffective or hurt. “Can you see opportunity when everyone else sees uncertainty?” Parr asks. “When others react with fright, you can choose mental might.”

Embracing your role. Every team requires people who fulfill their roles. Part of embracing your role is recognizing that the team’s needs are bigger than your own. “Rock your role, and people will notice,” Parr says. “But keep aspiring, studying the practices of those in higher roles, and you’ll be fully prepared for advancement when it comes.”

Visualizing success. So critical to success in sports, visualizing success is just as vital in business. “See the performance as you wish it to go,” Parr says. “See yourself performing with energy and confidence; pump yourself up with positive talk.”

Assuming leadership. “Doing your best, showing enthusiasm and trustworthiness help establish a culture that lifts everyone up,” Parr says. ”Showing leadership when you don’t have a formal title allows you to develop the skills you’ll need when an opportunity arises and offers evidence you’re the one to fulfill that opportunity.”

“You may wait 10 or more years for a big opportunity, or it may come suddenly,” Parr says. “But if you’re not ready mentally, that opportunity will pass you by.”

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Tips for Creating a Pet Friendly Family Yard for Summer Fun

People aren’t the only ones who love to spend time in the family yard during the summer months. For the family pet, the outdoor living room serves many purposes – providing a place to relax, burn off some energy, play safely with friends (human and furry), and do their “business.”

To help everyone – including your pets – enjoy the family yard this summer, consider these tips from TurfMutt. He’s the spokesdog for the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) environmental education program. TurfMutt is a former rescue dog who paws it forward by helping kids and their families learn about the benefits of their family yard for people and pets. As a former street dog himself, TurfMutt also advocates for pet rescue organizations and causes.

Skip Fake Grass

Artificial turf (a.k.a. fake grass) is never a good idea, especially if you have pets. Plastic grass gets very hot during the summer, is challenging to clean, and is anything but environmentally-friendly. It cannot be recycled, and it requires water to clean and cool it. Be a backyard superhero and select real turfgrass.

Pick the Right Plants & Grasses

As for which kind of grass to choose, go for something hardy that will withstand a high volume of traffic. Buffalo and Bermuda grasses can be a good choice, depending on your climate zone. For other plants and shrubs, check the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic garden plants for advice before buying. You’ll want soft, yet sturdy, foliage near walkways – save the delicate decorative flowers for elevated flowerbeds and patio pots.

Choose Natural

There are many non-toxic ways to prevent pests in your backyard, which is good news for your people and pets! Wind chimes near flower and garden beds can help keep pets and pests away. Scented marigolds repel unwanted insects while attracting spider mites and snails. Lavender smells amazing and repels fleas and moths. The oil in basil plants can keep mosquitoes and flies away.

Consider Pollinators & Other Wildlife

While you want to keep some pests out, remember that nature starts in your backyard! Your family yard provides habitat and food for birds, butterflies, bees and more. Each of these species help pollinate human food crops and flowering plants, so take them into consideration when you’re selecting your living landscapes.

Create a Doggy Dream Yard

One final tip – there’s no shame in going all out to make your yard a dream for your dog! Remember, your outdoor living room is one of his favorite places to be. Some ideas include adding a splash pool for your pup, creating a sandbox for Fido to unleash his love of digging, or adding a puppy pergola to provide shade for Sadie. Be creative! Your canine will thank you.

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Do introspective questions have the power to change your life?

If you’re stuck in a rut or struggling with life – at work, in your relationships, in the way you view yourself – it could be time for a little self interrogation.

Asking yourself probing questions about who you are and where you want to go in life is how powerful change can begin, says Khalil Osiris, author of the book A Freedom That Comes From Within (www.khalilosiris.com).

Those questions can be as simple as “What makes me weep?” or as challenging as “What might other people see about me with clarity that I’m unable to see clearly about myself?”

“For me, deep questioning is something we need to regularly engage in as human beings,” Osiris says.

Once people start digging, they realize that some things they’ve taken for granted about themselves, their lives and the world are in need of closer examination, he says.

These days, Osiris is a successful international speaker who conducts workshops focused on personal transformation and overcoming self-imposed limitations. But it was hitting rock bottom that motivated him to begin asking himself soul-searching questions. As a young man in prison on robbery charges, Osiris contemplated the choices he made that led him to that point.

“I asked myself questions such as, ‘Was the judge right about me when he said I had squandered my gifts and advantages, and would probably die in prison?’ and ‘What would it look like to become a man my sons could be proud of?’ The questions kept coming and as the questions evolved, so did I.”

The average person doesn’t need to face something as dramatic as incarceration to start asking questions that can transform their lives, though, Osiris says.

“Questions have the power to change the life of anyone who’s willing to look within and to answer as honestly as they can,” he says. “And the process doesn’t have to be painful or torturous. It can be joyful and full of hope.”

Osiris has suggestions for getting started with questions tailored to a variety of situations.

Improving relationships. Does the way I treat others say what I would really like to say? Do my actions speak volumes to other people about the way I feel about them? What relationship would I like to change, starting with the way I treat the other person and letting my actions speak in a more loving, nurturing way?

Defining yourself. In my life as it is now, am I an observer or a participant? Am I someone who brings energy to people and situations, or someone who drains it? Do I feel like a victim with no ability to change my life, or do I feel that I have a say in the way my life unfolds?

Embracing change. How firmly do I hold on to old ideas about who I am and what I can do? Am I gripping too tightly to ideas that no longer serve me? Have I limited myself in what I see as possible for my life?

Impacting the world through work and volunteering. Do I see my job as simply a way to pay the bills? Can I be kinder and more positive in my interactions with those I work with each day? Can I see myself doing volunteer work that is meaningful to me?

“Deep questioning can transform every facet of your life if you have an honest desire to change the attitudes and misperceptions that need changing,” Osiris says. “But regardless of how, when and where you ask yourself the questions, the fact that you’re even asking them is the most important step of all.”

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3 ways art brings awareness to environmental concerns

It’s perhaps the most typical of environmental political battles.

Congressional leaders from Florida – Republicans and Democrats alike – want $200 million allocated in the federal budget for restoration efforts in the Everglades. President Donald Trump included about one-third that amount in his proposed budget, though he hinted in a recent trip to south Florida that more money could be coming.

Yet, regardless of how the Washington politics plays out, it’s important that attention is paid to the Everglades and to environmental issues in general, says Clyde Butcher (www.clydebutcher.com), a nature photographer who since the 1980s has helped bring national awareness to the Everglades through stunning black-and-white photographs that have been compared to the works of Ansel Adams.

And Butcher says that, while politicians wrangle, it is artists like him who can help give people a greater understanding what would be lost if we fail to conserve and protect the natural wonders around us.

“So many people these days live in cities, or spend time on computers, and they lose touch with nature,” he says. “Through art, we can perhaps inspire them to venture out and gain an appreciation for how important it is.”

Butcher over the years has dared to wade into regions of the Everglades that most people never see. He’s making plans to put his latest photographic exhibit, “America’s Everglades: Through the Lens of Clyde Butcher,” on a national tour. Right now the exhibit is on display through May 26 at the Appleton Museum in Ocala, FL, and in 2020 will be in Youngstown, Ohio.

He says some of the ways artists help bring attention to environmental issues include:

Let people vicariously experience the world’s wonders. Butcher says his large prints make people feel like they are walking right into the scene, which many of them wouldn’t dare do in reality. “A lot of people don’t want to get wet,” he says. “They don’t want to play with the gators and the snakes.” Of course, eventually he wants them to experience the real thing. “You have to get your feet connected to the earth, or to water, to understand it, to feel it,” Butcher says.

Help people understand government’s role. “The government is making the laws, so we need to work with those guys,” Butcher says. One of the early ways he worked with government was when a water management district wanted to display some of his photographs in a new building. The problem: The water district had no money to pay for the photographs. Butcher’s businessman side hesitated at first, but eventually he agreed to provide the photos, feeling that his art could help connect the public to the water district’s mission.

Spread the word. Each time someone is exposed to nature through art they are reminded of the beauty and importance of these environmental treasures. Butcher took that a step further. About 25 years ago, he began offering guided swamp walks through the Everglades at one of his galleries. He says people who are exposed to the habitat may be more likely to want to preserve nature and will influence others.

“I feel my images create an emotion that reaches out to people beyond any political debates,” Butcher says. “That helps them see their surroundings in a different way, and encourages them to save those wild places where peace can fill the soul.”

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Have too many bad habits? Here are 6 ways to create good ones

It’s said that we become our habits. In some cases that is not a good thing; bad habits prevail among many Americans. One report found that over 70 percent of US adults have at least one unhealthy behavior associated with chronic health problems.

Breaking bad habits isn’t easy, but sometimes the best answer is replacing them with empowering new habits that bring positive changes to one’s daily life.

“We often have habits that hold us back, like smoking or eating food lacking in nutrition,” says Dr. Rob Carter III, co-author with his wife, Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter, of The Morning Mind: Use Your Brain to Master Your Day and Supercharge Your Life(www.themorningmind.com).

“A great way to start every day is with a series of empowering habits. Morning, in fact, according to some researchers is the best time to start making these kinds of changes in your life.”

Carter has six ways you can create new, empowering habits and make them stick:

Prioritize habits. “For each area in which you want to grow,” Carter says, “take some time to think about what kind of empowering habits you’d like to establish around that topic.” Areas to consider are health, wealth, social, relationships, job, hobbies, self-esteem, interpersonal skills, positive thinking, time management, and life purpose.

Focus on one at a time. “Because we have a limited amount of willpower in the morning, it’s very important how we use that energy,” Carter says. “By focusing on just one habit you would like to change – for example, eating a healthy breakfast – you can concentrate that willpower on the task at hand until it becomes a habit.”

Be reasonable with yourself. The time it will take to establish the new habit depends upon how much resistance a person has. And sometimes developing a new habit represents a long leap from where one currently stands. “That’s too daunting,” Carter says, “so break it down into more achievable steps. Incremental improvements add up to a big transformation and are often more powerful and sustainable.”

Commit specific time toward the goal. Carter suggests nailing down a detailed timeline and committing a full effort toward formation of the new habit within that time span. “Write down what you hope to achieve, how many times a week you will practice the new habit, and when and where you’ll do it,” Carter says. “Having a specific goal helps keep you accountable to yourself.

Reward success. Have a reward in place to celebrate performing your new habit. “It has to be something that will motivate you to complete your habit,” Carter says.

Stack habits. “The neural pathways of your pre-existing habits are well-travelled routes in your brain,” Carter says. “You can take advantage of this by building a new habit and associating it with an old one that is well-established. This is a quicker way to create new habits than if you were to start from scratch. For example, if you want to create a new habit of exercising in the morning, and you have a habit of reading the newspaper every morning, tie these activities together by exercising immediately before you read the paper. Reading the paper becomes your reward.”

“When you learn for yourself how simple it is to change habits,” Carter says, “you’ll want to make adjustments to all areas of your life.”

DIY cancer screening

Colorectal cancer is the second-deadliest cancer in the U.S., but only six out of 10 adults who should get routine screening reportedly do so. Looking for ways to increase that number, researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania mailed nearly 900 kits to overdue patients and found that 29 percent of them returned completed kits. Mailing kits directly "reduced steps in the screening process, making it easier for patients to get screened and catch colorectal cancer earlier or even potentially prevent it from occurring,” said Chyke Doubeni, who was the senior author on the project, which was led by Shivan Mehta.

Trans teens & eating disorders

Research shows that transgender children are at greater risk of developing eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, than others. Rosemary Thomas of the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health at the University of Pennsylvania said that more work is needed to educate families and raise awareness. “It’s important to remember that the LGBT community has many of the same health concerns as other patients, but historically have had poorer access to health care and experiences of stigma and discrimination resulting in increased risk for certain health conditions and support around mental wellness.”

Nuclear energy & climate change

Due to the threat of climate change, anti-nuclear sentiments in the U.S. are softening, but it is important to remember the risks. Geologist Reto Gieré of the University of Pennsylvania said the public needs to remain aware of the disadvantages of nuclear energy, especially the safe storage of nuclear waste. “If you want electricity the way we want it, which is all the time, then we have to accept the negatives that come with generating it,” he said.

Legacy brands

More and more legacy brands are shutting down and losing once-loyal customers. According to Santiago Gallino of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania the brands are breaking up with the customers by “losing touch with the customer and thinking customers will keep going to a particular retailer because their whole life they had an emotional connection," he said. "They do not understand why the customer is starting to buy other things at different places. And this, over time, erodes the relationship.” Also, Gallino said, brands often fail to combine legacy with the evolving preferences of today's consumer.

Mexico's urban areas

Despite the Mexican government's stated intentions to increase the use of public transport, existing land use and transportation policies are almost certainly contributing to the growth in car ownership and car travel. A new study by Erick Guerra of the Stuart Weitzman School of Design and the Penn Institute for Urban Research at the University of Pennsylvania finds that Mexican land use policy has separated housing developments from existing job centers or transit supply, and that public investments have favored road infrastructure. "Together, these two policy shifts have converged to support the substantial growth of vehicle use in Mexico’s cities," Guerra said. "Stemming the tide of rising motorization will require a concerted shift in public policy."

Uterus transplants

For women with uterine factor infertility (UFI), a uterus transplant is the only way to carry a pregnancy. But the procedure is relatively new. Researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have launched a multi-year clinical trial that will offer women with UFI another option and that will provide researchers the possibility to uncover new information about pregnancy and its complications, as well as about how the fetal immune system is formed and how to make uterus transplantation safer and more accessible. “We’re going to gain tremendous knowledge from this trial about anatomy, surgery and perfusion of the uterus, and other organs," said researcher Nawar Latif. "Obstetricians will also learn a lot about transplant and pregnancy, and how we can better manage those situations. It’s uncharted territory.”

Hong Kong

Confrontation over democracy is unlikely to go away in Hong Kong and has in fact been escalating. "The problem is that China can’t seem to stop itself,” said Jacques deLisle of the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “Beijing is either worried that democratization and liberal politics in Hong Kong are a threat to its control and a potential contagion that could spread to the mainland or is confident that it can simply ignore pressures for political change in Hong Kong from local and foreign critics and activists."

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Can your mistakes be the big break your business needs?

Success is often preceded by failure – in some cases, many failures.

Honda founder Sochiro Honda once said, "Success is 99 percent failure." Many products, from Thomas Edison’s light bulb to potato chips, were created after a multitude of mistakes.

Yet research has shown that many organizations aren’t good at accepting failure, an approach that can impede innovation and stress the work culture. But some entrepreneurs who have succeeded after numerous misfires say it pays off to embrace mistakes as a necessary path toward breakthroughs.

“You’ve got to be willing to get it wrong on your way to getting it right,” says Arnie Malham (www.WorthDoingWrong.com), author of Worth Doing Wrong: The Quest To Build A Culture That Rocks, and founder/president of BetterBookClub.com. “A lot of failure can bring many benefits, including a happier and more productive work culture.”

Malham says he repeatedly got it wrong in all aspects of running a business, but mistakes pushed him and his companies forward. Ultimately, he operated two highly successful businesses.

He can discuss for your listeners how companies can build more free-thinking, creative cultures by being unafraid of failure and seeing errors as steps toward solutions.

Discussion Questions

How did some of your successes occur after failures?

Can you expand on the phrase, “Failing up,” what that means, and how an organization can operate by that motto?

How does an entrepreneur stay encouraged – and keep the office culture positive – when mistakes multiply?

Some companies can make only so many mistakes before going out of business. How does a business leader in that scenario engender a workplace attitude that mistakes are OK?

From your observations or experiences, do businesses often get into trouble when they try to diversify, rather than maximizing their strengths or niche?

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Have too many bad habits? here are 6 ways to create good ones

It’s said that we become our habits. In some cases that is not a good thing; bad habits prevail among many Americans. One report found that over 70 percent of US adults have at least one unhealthy behavior associated with chronic health problems.

Breaking bad habits isn’t easy, but sometimes the best answer is replacing them with empowering new habits that bring positive changes to one’s daily life.

“We often have habits that hold us back, like smoking or eating food lacking in nutrition,” says Dr. Rob Carter III, co-author with his wife, Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter, of The Morning Mind: Use Your Brain to Master Your Day and Supercharge Your Life (www.themorningmind.com).

“A great way to start every day is with a series of empowering habits. Morning, in fact, according to some researchers is the best time to start making these kinds of changes in your life.”

Carter has six ways you can create new, empowering habits and make them stick:

Prioritize habits. “For each area in which you want to grow,” Carter says, “take some time to think about what kind of empowering habits you’d like to establish around that topic.” Areas to consider are health, wealth, social, relationships, job, hobbies, self-esteem, interpersonal skills, positive thinking, time management, and life purpose.

Focus on one at a time. “Because we have a limited amount of willpower in the morning, it’s very important how we use that energy,” Carter says. “By focusing on just one habit you would like to change – for example, eating a healthy breakfast – you can concentrate that willpower on the task at hand until it becomes a habit.”

Be reasonable with yourself. The time it will take to establish the new habit depends upon how much resistance a person has. And sometimes developing a new habit represents a long leap from where one currently stands. “That’s too daunting,” Carter says, “so break it down into more achievable steps. Incremental improvements add up to a big transformation and are often more powerful and sustainable.”

Commit specific time toward the goal. Carter suggests nailing down a detailed timeline and committing a full effort toward formation of the new habit within that time span. “Write down what you hope to achieve, how many times a week you will practice the new habit, and when and where you’ll do it,” Carter says. “Having a specific goal helps keep you accountable to yourself.

Reward success. Have a reward in place to celebrate performing your new habit. “It has to be something that will motivate you to complete your habit,” Carter says.

Stack habits. “The neural pathways of your pre-existing habits are well-travelled routes in your brain,” Carter says. “You can take advantage of this by building a new habit and associating it with an old one that is well-established. This is a quicker way to create new habits than if you were to start from scratch. For example, if you want to create a new habit of exercising in the morning, and you have a habit of reading the newspaper every morning, tie these activities together by exercising immediately before you read the paper. Reading the paper becomes your reward.”

“When you learn for yourself how simple it is to change habits,” Carter says, “you’ll want to make adjustments to all areas of your life.”

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House Call

By Dr. Appathurai Balamurugan, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Email your health questions to housecall@uams.edu.

Q. What is plantar fasciitis and how is it treated?

A. This painful foot condition is the result of inflammation of the fascia or thick, fibrous band of tissue connecting the heel to the toes and supporting the foot muscles and the arch. When the fascia is overly stretched, small tears occur.

Plantar fasciitis is more common in women and those who are overweight or on their feet for several hours daily. Additional risk factors include wearing worn-out, thin-soled shoes; regularly wearing high heels; having a very high arch or flat feet; an unusual walk or foot position; or tight Achilles tendons or heel cords.

Symptoms include pain in the bottom of the foot at either the center or front of the heel bone. Some experience pain that’s worse upon waking in the morning or when they have sat for a long period.

Plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed by a physician examining the tender area, often determining the cause by its location. The condition usually improves on its own after a few months, but rest, applying an ice pack or taking over-the-counter pain medications can help reduce swelling and ease discomfort. If the condition doesn’t improve or redness or bruising on the heel appears, notify your doctor.

Q. Is there a safe way to remove skin tags at home or should I see a dermatologist or leave them alone?

A. Skin tags are usually the size of a grain of rice and appear alone or in a group. The small flap of flesh-colored tissue hangs off the skin by a slender stalk and is most often found where skin folds or rubs together. Skin tags are non-cancerous, have no symptoms and don’t increase in size. They usually appear in middle-aged or older men and women but others at risk include those who are overweight, diabetic or pregnant.

It's unclear why skin tags form but hormone changes may be a factor, and friction from rubbing against skin or clothing appears to be a trigger.

Those with a new skin tag should consult their doctor as some serious skin conditions may resemble skin tags. Those that are multi-colored, bleed, or grow quickly may need a closer examination.

At-home removal can lead to bleeding, possible infection and is strongly discouraged. Instead, a physician can remove a skin tag by numbing the area and cutting it off with special scissors, freezing (cryotherapy) or burning by using an electrode to deliver an electric current.

Q. Is it true that a generic version of the popular inhaler Advair was recently approved by the FDA?

A. Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved use of the first generic version of the widely used Advair Diskus inhaler for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The inhalers consist of a combination treatment of fluticasone propionate and salmeterol inhalation powder. The generic inhaler, called Wixela Inhub, is produced by Mylan.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that narrows and inflames the airways while COPD is a progressive one that affects breathing and often worsens over time.

The generic inhaler, which comes in three strengths, has been approved for twice-daily treatment of asthma in patients aged 4 and older. It has also been approved for COPD patients for maintenance treatment of airflow obstruction and reducing exacerbations. The most common side effects for asthma patients are upper-respiratory tract infection or inflammation; swelling in the back of the throat; hoarse voice or difficulty speaking; oral candidiasis; bronchitis, cough; headaches; nausea; and vomiting. For COPD patients, in addition to oral thrush, respiratory infections, headaches, and hoarse voice or difficulty speaking. Other common side effects include pneumonia, throat irritation and musculoskeletal pain.

Q. Does my doctor need to know what over-the-counter supplements I’m taking?

A. While supplements are available over the counter or online without a prescription, you should always check with your physician before taking them. Some can cause side effects, or interact with prescribed or over-the-counter medicines or supplements you’re already taking.

Consulting with your doctor is especially important if you’re pregnant or nursing, preparing for surgery, or have health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure. It’s just as important to check with a child’s physician before giving them a supplement.

Ask your doctor whether you need the supplement based on your diet and health, what benefits and risks are involved, and the amount and length of time you should take the supplement. Be sure your physician knows all medicines and supplements you are taking.

While some supplement ingredients have been tested in animal or human studies (such as folic acid, which has been shown to reduce the risk of birth defects in pregnant women), supplement manufacturers aren’t required to test their products for safety and effectiveness. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does regulate dietary supplements but treats them as foods, not medications.

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History Matters

The Grateful American Book Prize

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future

Ten years after the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 that took the lives of approximately 3,000 people in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania, the mastermind of the diabolical assault, Osama bin Laden, was found, and killed . U.S. Special Forces carried out a daring raid on his secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011 where bin Laden and his cadre of minions were hiding out. The unprovoked 9/11 assaults were carried out by terrorist hijackers who commandeered four U.S. passenger planes; two were crashed into the 110-story Twin Towers in New York City, a third hit the Pentagon in Washington DC, and passengers aboard a fourth fought back against the bombers aboard their plane as it tumbled into a field in Pennsylvania.

For more information: The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Live Aware, Not in Fear: The 411 After 9-11, A Book for Teens by Donna Wells and Bruce C. Morris.

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We remember the veterans who fought and died for our country on Memorial Day, each year, at the end of May.

But, the original observance was on May 5, 1865, and it was called Decoration Day. It was established so the nation could pay its respects to the soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War. Relatives, friends and neighbors “decorated” their graves with flowers. Many years and too many wars later, the day was renamed, and in 1971 Congress turned Memorial Day into an official national holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May. It created a three-day holiday weekend that has become the unofficial start of summer.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends the engrossing Memorial Day by Vince Flynn, to better understand the holiday.

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Before the War Between the States, America had already been involved in three international conflicts. The Revolutionary War established the country’s independence and the War of 1812 reaffirmed our sovereignty from Great Britain. And, then there was the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848. On May 13, 1846, Congress declared war on Mexico at the behest of President James K. Polk. The cause was what President Polk called “manifest destiny,” or the United States’ right to expand its western boundaries. In the end, the nation extended to the Pacific Ocean, including parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah and Colorado. But, it was a costly war in which 11,300 American soldiers perished.

For more information: The Mexican-American War by John DiConsiglio; a good book for young readers to interpret the times and causes of the fight, according to the Grateful American Book Prize.

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On May 17, 1954, the landmark Brown v. Board of Education was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. It declared that separate educational facilities for black and white students were “inherently unequal,” even if their physical accommodations were designed to be tangibly equal. Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first African American jurist to be appointed to the Supreme Court, argued the ground breaking case before the court. The story behind Brown v. Board of Education is a must for young learners in order to understand what it means to be a responsible citizen of the U.S.

For more information, read Susan Goldman Rubin’s Brown v. Board of Education: A Fight for Simple Justice.

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Want to do business with Baby Boomers? You’ll find them on social media

Forget those jokes about Baby Boomers and their supposed struggles grasping today’s technology.

They may have grown up in a black-and-white TV, rotary-phone era, but most Baby Boomers long ago adapted to the 21st-century digital world. And that includes social media, which they took to with almost as much delight as their children and grandchildren if recent studies on the subject are any indication.

As a result, any business or professional who wants to market to Baby Boomers needs to understand that reaching them through social media channels should be part of the strategy, says Jonathan Musgrave, owner and chief digital marketer for Steep Digital Marketing (www.steepdigital.com).

“I always tell people that educationally based messages are the key to getting traction when it comes to reaching and influencing people on social media,” Musgrave says. “While plenty of goods are sold on Facebook, for example, that’s not primarily why Baby Boomers, or anyone else, logs in each day.

“Instead, the reason they are addicted to social media is to see what’s new. What’s new with their friends, kids and grandkids? What’s new in the news? The best way to reach them and market to them is to position yourself as an educator; someone who is telling them what’s new.”

If that still sounds more like a way to reach younger generations rather than Baby Boomers, consider this: A study by Google revealed that Boomers and seniors spend more time online than they do watching TV. Also, 82.3 percent of Boomers who use the internet have at least one social media account, with Facebook being their favorite.

Musgrave says his company uses several approaches when creating effective Facebook ads, but many of these elements also can work for routine social media posts on a business or professional site as well. They include:

Images. It’s important to have compelling images to catch a social media user’s attention while they’re scrolling through their newsfeed and makes them stop to take a second look. “We use colors and font combinations that grab your attention immediately,” Musgrave says.

Captivating headlines. Headlines are the gateway to getting people to read the rest of your copy. “Shorter headlines are easier to read and get straight to the point,” Musgrave says. “We want things to be as easy as possible for people to understand what we are offering in their area.”

Engaging copy. Once the headline draws them in, you need to deliver with an engaging message. Musgrave suggests one way to do this is with questions. “Asking questions of your audience creates a desire for an answer to those questions,” he says. “This creates an open loop that makes the brain grab on tight. It acts like a ‘pop quiz’ and keeps the audience glued.” It’s also important to avoid buzzwords, he says. “You want your copy to be easily readable, and buzzwords usually do the opposite of that,” Musgrave says. “People do business with people who make things easier for them.”

“Facebook is the primary way Baby Boomers interact with content online, although you can find them on other social media platforms as well, such as Twitter and LinkedIn,” Musgrave says. “It’s critical that anyone who wants to do business with Baby Boomers understand that if you’re looking to reach them, social media is a good place to make the connection.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Mother Seeking SSI Benefits for Disabled Child

Dear Rusty: My young daughter is disabled, and I am trying to make ends meet financially. Can you help with a child’s SSI claim? Signed: Needy Mother

Dear Needy Mother: "SSI", or “Supplemental Security Income”, is a Federal benefit program administered by, but separate from Social Security. SSI is available for low-income disabled seniors and disabled minor children. As your daughter’s parent you must apply directly with the Social Security Administration (you cannot apply online). You can do this at the general SSA number (1.800.772.1213) or at your local Social Security office, which you can find by going to this link: www.ssa.gov/locator. Here, you can enter your zip code and get back contact information for your local office, including location, hours, and telephone number to call.

You should call first to make an appointment so as to speed up the SSI application process and avoid long wait times. In order to expedite the application, you should first complete a Child Disability Report which will ask you to provide detailed information about the child and the child's medical condition. A child is considered disabled if suffering from physical or mental impairment which causes a severe functional impairment which has lasted (or is expected to last) more than a year. Go to link for complete information on applying for SSI: www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/child.htm. In addition to information on the child’s eligibility criteria and how to apply, at this SSA website you will also find a link to the Child Disability Report.

Completing the report online is relatively straightforward and intuitive if you have some computer skills but, if not, you can also obtain a copy of the form (SSA-3820) at this link: www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-3820.pdf. You can download the Child Disability Report form (SSA-3820), print it, fill it out as completely as possible by hand and provide it to Social Security when you submit the SSI application. Gathering all the information requested and providing it to Social Security via the Child Disability Report will serve to greatly expedite the SSI application for your child. Please be aware that there are household income limits and that SSI benefits are closely coordinated with the State in which you live. In fact, Social Security will contact your State's SSI benefit office to provide them with your application, and your State's SSI benefit office will verify the child's eligibility by contacting doctors, hospitals, teachers, medical providers, schools or other contacts you have provided who can verify the child's disability and eligibility. If the child is working, he/she must not be earning more than the monthly allowable amount ($1220 for 2019) in order to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income. Also, be aware that if the application is initially denied, you have the right to appeal that initial decision. And for clarity, money for SSI benefits is not taken from Social Security funds but rather from the Government’s general funds.

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If you’re feeling stressed and anxious research says, feed the birds

In today’s constant contact, cell-phone celebrated, digital world, most people can go days or even weeks without spending any time in natural sunlight. Instead, we eat breakfast inside, or on the go, only to race to an office, filled with artificial light and plastic plants, for 8 to 10 hours a day. It’s no wonder why Americans’ mental health is suffering.

Compare that hectic routine to those memorable moments when you’re able to sit quietly, let the sunshine warm your face, hear the birds, and allow nature to envelope you. While everyone longs for less stress, actually relaxing can be dauntingly stressful!

However, a new study out of the United Kingdom sheds light on one way people can de-stress: bird watching. The study finds that people who watch birds from their home have lower depression, anxiety, and stress compared to those that live in less leafy areas that have fewer birds. People “felt relaxed and connected to nature when they watched birds in their garden,” researchers say. These feelings increased with the level of bird feeding in the yard, they add.

Specifically, the number of birds people might see was directly associated with better mental health. “This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental well-being. Birds around the home and nature in general, show great promise in preventive health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live.,” says lead researcher Dr. Daniel Cox from the University of Exeter.

Dr. Tina Phillips, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, agrees. “Overwhelmingly, studies show that people feed birds because it makes them feel more relaxed, that it’s something they’re interested in and ultimately something that makes them feel good.”

If you want to disconnect from the digital world and relieve some daily stress and anxiety, getting outside, bird watching could be the key to increasing your mindful, mental health. Since studies reveal the more birds you see, the less likely you are to be stressed and anxious, it’s important to attract as many birds as possible.

The first step to attracting birds is to use an all-purpose tube feeder, which is the number one feeder choice, allowing birds to feed from multiple ports. Cole’s Wild Bird Products, Co. offers the Terrific Tube feeder, it’s made to last with state-of-the-art materials that prevent warping and discoloration and it features a “Quick Clean” removable base, so cleaning is super simple. Natural grip perch covers mimic the feel of a real branch, which encourages longer feeding times.

Once you have the right feeder, you’ll need reliable seed that will bring birds to your backyard to deliver that dose of stress relief we all desire. According to Elaine Cole, President and owner of Cole’s, the quality of birdseed will determine how many feathered friends will flock to your backyard.

Unlike other birdseed mixes, which typically contain cheap filler seed like milo and wheat, Cole’s selects only the top 1 to 2 percent of the highest quality seeds birds like to eat. Plus, Cole's doesn't add pesticides or chemicals, preferring instead to keep the seed as close to its natural state as possible.

“If you use inferior seed, you’re not going to like the results. Our seed is specifically formulated to attract the greatest number, variety, and species of birds. Birds are picky and birdseed matters. If you use cheap feed, they won’t hesitate look for something else they prefer. Birds are like people, give them what they like to eat and they’ll come back and bring their friends.” Cole said.

Since we’ve learned that the more birds we attract, the more stress-free we’ll be, it makes good sense to use the best bird feed you can buy. Cole’s Special Feeder, attracts the greatest number of wild birds than any other mix out there. Add Cole’s Blue Ribbon blend, which attracts the greatest variety of wild birds to the mix, and you’ve got the perfect prescription to help calm your anxiety and stress.

At the heart of it, everyone wants less stress and anxiety. Once you start watching birds in action, they’ll engage your attention in a way that keeps you in the moment, a state that provides mental relief. Admiring their beauty, listening to their sweet song and enjoying their antics will calm your overactive mind and bring joy and renewal.

Modern day Jonah

If someone had had a video camera when the whale swallowed Jonah, we might see a scene similar to this one captured off the coast of South Africa. It seems that Rainer Schimpf was snorkeling near Port Elizabeth Harbour when a whale with its mouth wide open tried to gobble him up. Schimpf managed to extricate himself later and told Sky News: "Once you're grabbed by something that's 15 tonnes heavy and very fast in the water, you realize you're actually only that small in the middle of the ocean,"

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The police let her go

Anne Brokenbrow has had a good life, always keeping on the straight and narrow. So how did this law abiding centenarian manage to wind up in hand cuffs being carried off by two of Bristol, England’s finest? It was all part of a charity event organized by the Stokeleigh Care Home where Ms. Brokenbrow resides. She and her housemates were asked to reveal something they might have on their bucket list. Her wish, she explained to a reporter for Sky News, was to be arrested, explaining that she is “104 and I have never been on the wrong side of the law." She described her arrest as “very exciting.”

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A modern day good Samaritan

You might want to call Mike Weirsky the absent minded mega-millionaire. He purchased several lottery tickets at a local supermarket recently but was distracted and left them on the counter. He explained to reporters what happened when he showed up at the New Jersey Lottery offices to pick up his $273 million jackpot. He said that while still at the store, "I put the tickets down, put my money away, did something with my phone and just walked away." The night the jackpot was announced Weirsky searched high and low for the tickets and finally, in desperation, he returned to the supermarket where he purchased them in the first place. And, to his surprise, the cashier had his tickets. The good Samaritan who found the tickets had returned them. Oh yeah, Weirsky opted for a lump sum payout of $162 million.

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Spy-plane bonus

Declassified photographs from American U2 spy planes reveal a treasure trove of archaeological information in the Middle East, from prehistoric hunting traps to 3,000-year-old irrigation canals. Emily Hammer of the University of Pennsylvania and Jason Ur of Harvard University have indexed and analyzed the frames, which were taken during the Cold War era and remained classified until 1997. “The photos provide a fascinating look at the Middle East several decades ago, showing, for example, historical Aleppo long before the massive destruction wrought in the ongoing civil war,” Hammer said. “Plus, the work and the accompanying online resources will allow other researchers to identify and access U2 photos for the first time.”

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Hospital readmissions

Medicare patients sent home from the hospital have higher readmission rates than those discharged to a skilled nursing facility. “With the increasing costs of post-acute care, it’s important to assess and understand the impacts of these choices,” said Rachel Werner of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “We found clear trade-offs: While home health care may cost less, it doesn’t have the same intensity of care as a skilled nursing facility, which may be sending many of them back into the hospital.”

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U.S. debt

The U.S. national debt has crossed $22 trillion. According to a Treasury Department report, the federal budget deficit rose to $310 billion in the first four months of the 2019 fiscal year, up 77 percent from the same time last year, as revenues fell 2 percent to $1.1 trillion and spending rose 9 percent to $1.4 trillion. Kent Smetters of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania said the growth in debt "is very closely in line with our previous projections of the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It is hard to definitely pin down a date of ‘no return.’ But, under the current debt path, we currently estimate that the government will have almost no reasonable options left, outside of debt default, in about 25 years.”

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Risk & adolescents

Adolescents are not naturally inclined to be greater risk-takers than younger children, despite stereotypes to the contrary and as some neuroscience theories have suggested. A recent policy review, led by Ivy N. Defoe, a recent postdoctoral fellow at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, found instead that when adolescents can opt out of taking a risk, they take the safer option more often than children do. The researchers noted that despite the lack of evidence for adolescents being inherently more risk-taking than younger children, they are more likely to take risks than adults, even when the risks are spelled out.

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Seven tips: Keep your string trimmer running strong with a spring tune-up

The gas-powered string trimmer, also known as a weed whacker by many people, is a common yard and garden tool. Because they are less complicated than a lawn mower, many people do not know that string trimmers can benefit from a tune-up. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute shares seven tips to help you tune up your string trimmer for spring and summer use.

Clean and visually inspect your equipment. Wipe it down with a rag or cloth and remove any dirt or debris. Look for loose screws, missing parts, or signs of damage.

Remove and inspect the spark plug. If the electrode looks worn replace the spark plug. Whether you install a brand new spark plug or plan to use the old one, use a spark plug gapping tool to set the proper gap. Information on this should be found in your owner's manual.

Inspect and replace the line. Pull the trimmer line spool out and remove any leftover line from last season. The line can get brittle over time. Rewind with new line and reinstall the head.

Examine the air filter. Remove the cover and the air filter. Inspect the air filter carefully not only to see if it needs to be cleaned, but also to make sure it does not have any holes in it. Holes will let dirt enter the engine, causing damage.

Check the controls. Start with the on/off switch. It should click on and off. Pull the starter rope all the way out and check for cuts, nicks, and frayed spots. Replace it if you see any signs of damage. Test the throttle for smooth operation and check the choke and primer bulb.

Drain any old fuel. If you did not empty your trimmer’s fuel tank in the fall, drain your tank now. Most fuels today contain ethanol which can phase separate into alcohol and water and cause damage to your mower’s engine. Follow safe handling procedures and dispose of old fuel properly.

Protect your power by using the right fuel. Always use E10 or less fuel. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in any outdoor power equipment, including your string trimmer. Higher ethanol blended fuels may damage or destroy outdoor power equipment. For more information about safe fueling, go to www.LookBeforeYouPump.com.

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3 ways to head off employee turnover – and produce a better workforce

Sometimes a good salary isn’t enough.

Companies that want to attract and keep the best talent are finding that – perhaps more than ever – they need to understand just what it is today’s employees want out of work and then find ways to provide that.

While a great salary and good benefits are important, employees also desire such things as flexible schedules, a way to let their talents shine, and work that gives them a purpose, according to the 2018 Global Talent Trends study by Mercer.

And, with the unemployment rate so low, it’s easier for employees to find work elsewhere if they become discontented. That makes it even more important to keep them happy, since replacing employees can prove expensive.

“The majority of human behavior is emotionally driven, but unfortunately a higher percentage is driven by negative emotions,” says Alex Zlatin, CEO of Maxim Software Systems, a dental-practice-management software company, and author of Responsible Dental Ownership (www.alexzlatin.com).

“A high turnover of employees suggests a high level of stress, which indicates there are human resources problems that need to be addressed. In some cases, an employee may just be a bad fit. But in other cases, it could be that management in some way isn’t meeting the needs of the employees.”

Anytime an employee leaves, the business will need to find a replacement and then train that replacement. There is reduced productivity during that hiring and training timeframe, and there also could be morale problems if other employees have to take up the slack.

Zlatin says just a few of the ways companies can give employees what they want – and benefit the business at the same time – include:

Help them understand their purpose. It’s important for employees to be able to grasp the connection between their daily tasks and the goals, vision and purpose of the company, Zlatin says. “This connection is the key to building the employees’ awareness that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, which gives them purpose,” Zlatin says. “This is especially true for the millennial generation. Purpose is essential to their happiness and retention. One of the most important things to millennials in a work setting is to be able to make that connection, allowing them to adopt the company’s goals as their own.”

Empower them to grow and learn. A good manager should inspire employees to think outside the box. “You want to push them outside their comfort zones so they can find better ways to achieve their goals,” Zlatin says. Employees who don’t feel they are being challenged, who aren’t growing in their abilities, are more likely to become bored and seek employment elsewhere.

Provide coaching and mentoring. “Coaching and mentoring means guiding people through failures and mistakes,” Zlatin says. “This is the best way to learn and gain experience.” But if you try to mentor people by telling them exactly what they need to do and making sure they do it, he says, you’re not a leader or a mentor. Instead, you are a supervisor who is ensuring that processes are being followed. “There’s no creativity there,” Zlatin says. “Telling people how to solve a problem limits their professional growth and prevents them from realizing their potential.”

“To keep employees happy and engaged, it’s important for businesses to have a clarity of purpose and an ability to communicate expectations,” Zlatin says.

“Without these, employees end up not knowing what they should be doing, how they should be doing it, what goals they need to achieve, and how they fit into the organization. They become frustrated and start looking for another workplace that will give them what they need.”

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Are you so focused on retirement you are missing out on your life?

Mary and Pete saved every penny for retirement. They never went on vacations, they rarely went out to eat, and they lived a frugal lifestyle secure in the knowledge that when they retired, they would be able to live comfortably.

In short, they worried so much about retirement that they forgot to experience all that life has to offer.

“Saving for retirement is a worthy goal but there must be a balance between that and living life to the fullest,” says John Hagensen, founder and managing director of Keystone Wealth Partners (www.keystonewealthpartners.com).

Hagensen says he has clients who scrimped and saved all their lives so they would have plenty of money for retirement. But when they do retire, they still don’t want to spend any money to enjoy themselves because they have been so programmed during their working lives to save every penny until the day they die.

“The trick is to find that balance between saving to have a good retirement and managing your money so you can be rich in experiences,” he says.

Hagensen says this concept was driven home to him when a 20-year-old friend died in a traffic accident while driving across the country to start a new church.

“She lived a life of kindness and joy and had wonderful adventures in her life,” he says. “I saw the people she had impacted and it really hit home to me that life is short. Saving for retirement is a worthy goal, but it shouldn’t be the only goal. We need to know that if we died tomorrow, we would be happy because we lived richly, not that we died rich.”

Hagensen offers these tips for people who want to live richly instead of dying wealthy:

Have a comprehensive plan. Design a life plan around all your financial goals – both short term and long term – and how you plan to reach them. If you are unsure how to devise such a comprehensive plan, seek the advice of a qualified financial planner.

Stop procrastinating. Stop making excuses about making comprehensive plans about your financial future. The future will be here sooner than you think. “We think we have an infinite amount of time – we don’t,” Hagensen says.

Take risks. Those who experience life to the fullest sometimes have to take risks, both professionally and personally. “You will only regret the risks you never took. Everything else is just a learning experience,” Hagensen says.

Get out of the mindset of fear and scarcity. Hagensen says we should ask ourselves “what is the worst that can happen?” when taking a big gamble, such as moving to another city for a job. Once people ask themselves that question, he says, many are able to overcome their fears because they know they can handle that worst-case situation.

“Yes, it is important to be able to have a comfortable retirement,” Hagensen says. “But we only go around once in life and it is also important to live richly while our health is good so we don’t have any regrets when we do retire. You don’t want to be short of money, but you also don’t want to be short on experiencing life.”

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Testosterone for women, estrogen for men? wrong levels bring problems

By DON COLBERT, M.D.

You don’t normally think of women needing testosterone and men needing estrogen. But when those levels drop for women and men, respectively, or are way out of balance, a wide range of symptoms may be suffered.

Fortunately, there are ways to correct those levels and restore health.

Ladies first.

Testosterone is considered the manly hormone, yet few women know that they have quite a bit of it in their bodies, primarily when they are young. In their 20s and 30s, their testosterone is in the normal range, but after 40 is when we start to see the decline in levels.

There are numerous factors that push testosterone levels lower – menopause, medications, stress, aging, removal of ovaries, and more. And with that drop, myriad problems can occur. Blood work is needed to confirm suspicions, but persistent symptoms of low testosterone in women are hard to argue away. Among those symptoms are aching joints, depression, inability to sleep, lack of sex drive, migraines, and weight gain.

But the great news is, it’s fixable.

The hormone health zone for testosterone in women

The first hormone women need to optimize is testosterone. It may sound a little strange to recommend testosterone therapy for women, but with it they can benefit enormously. Depression and anxiety usually lift. They can slow or sometimes reverse cellulite, lose weight (especially belly fat), tighten skin, restore libido, improve memory, strengthen the heart, and boost energy levels and stamina.

The benefits of boosting testosterone go further; low testosterone is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, and weak bones. Low testosterone levels give women many of the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism, which serves as another strong motivator for women to keep their testosterone levels up.

Sadly, most doctors are taught to prescribe only low doses of estradiol (in pill format, which is not good) and no testosterone whatsoever. In fact, doctors usually choose not to address hormone issues at all. They will tell you “normal ranges,” and if you happen to be low, they will usually prescribe you a medication for the symptoms. But that will never get your health back.

What your body needs is bioidentical hormone therapy. You may need to find another doctor, someone who will treat your low-testosterone symptoms with bioidentical testosterone.

I have found boosting testosterone levels with pellets to be effective and efficient. They raise levels quickly, and you don’t need to come back for another treatment for three to four months, and sometimes six months. Testosterone injections are the next-best method if pellets are too pricey, followed by testosterone creams.

I suggest women in their 40s start monitoring their testosterone levels. The time to start optimizing them is when the hormone levels go below 50-60 percent of upper range or when symptoms develop. When your testosterone levels are optimized, life is great!

Now for you men

Yes guys, it’s true: Even men need estrogen. There’s just a delicate balance that needs to be understood.

Estrogen is one of those things that is good for you in the proper amounts but bad if you have too much or too little of it. Just the right amount of estradiol is good for bone strength, sperm count, cholesterol metabolism, healthy libido, and clear thinking, just to name a few of the known values of estrogen in men.

Usually, however, it is too much estrogen in men that is much more common. This occurs when testosterone levels decrease due to aging, obesity, lifestyle, a lack of exercise, stress, endocrine disruptors, and so on. Too much estrogen has been found to promote abnormal clot formation or blood clots, and excessive estrogen levels may also increase the risk of stroke.

A healthy man usually needs to maintain at least a 10-to-1 ratio of testosterone to estrogen. When the ratio is far below 10-to-1, estrogen levels are too high, and that brings with it a host of ailments. Among the symptoms I’ve seen in men who have too much estrogen in their bodies are brain fog, blood clots, gynecomastia (man boobs), lack of erections, lack of sex drive, and low sperm counts.

There’s also a higher risk for prostate cancer and heart disease when estrogen (estradiol) levels in men are too high.

Too little estrogen, and you also have a lack of sexual interest, few erections, and no libido. It’s also not healthy for the brain to have super-low estrogen levels, nor is brain fog a symptom that anyone enjoys.

The hormone health zone for estrogen in men

Optimizing estrogen levels in men usually coincides with their testosterone levels. They are linked; raise testosterone, and estrogen usually rises; lower testosterone, and estrogen usually lowers. Remember, the goal is for at least a 10-to-1 ratio.

When men start using testosterone cream, shots, or pellets, some of the testosterone aromatizes, or converts, to estrogen. Some men have excessive aromatization, especially older men and men who are obese. To stay in the estradiol hormone health zone, men will need to take a hormone-regulating supplement called DIM (Diindolylmethane), 150 mg twice a day. It is the safest way to lower estrogen without the fear of going too low.

For men who have never had their estrogen levels checked and believe they might have the symptoms of high or low estrogen, ask for blood work that gives you your estradiol level. Then you and your doctor will know what to do to treat it. Estrogen levels are usually pretty easy to treat in men.

It may be surprising that men need to watch their estrogen levels, but it’s one of those things that they must be aware of. When we were learning to drive, we were all taught to watch for the “blind spots.” Those spots aren’t dangerous in and of themselves. But when you need to take action, the blind spots are suddenly very important.

Don Colbert, M.D. (www.drcolbert.com), is the author of Dr. Colbert's Hormone Health Zone. He has been a board-certified family practice doctor for more than 25 years and has offices in Orlando, Fla., and Dallas. The author of over 40 books, he wrote two New York Times best-sellers – The Seven Pillars of Health and Dr. Colbert’s “I Can Do This” Diet – has sold more than 10 million books and treated 50,000-plus patients. Dr. Colbert is a frequent show guest of Christian leaders Joyce Meyer, John Hagee, and Kenneth Copeland and has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, Fox News, ABC World News Tonight, and in periodicals such as Newsweek and Reader’s Digest.

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IRAs come with strings attached; Are there safer retirement alternatives?

Most people planning for retirement probably would prefer some predictability as they plot out their post-work futures, but financial professionals say the reality they face is that uncertainty surrounds the stock market, tax rates and the future of Social Security.

And even one of the most popular retirement-savings tools – the Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) – can get more complicated than many people realize, limiting a retiree’s control of their money, retirement planners say.

“We’re supposed to believe we’ll pay lower taxes on our future IRA distributions,” says Jeff Brummett (www.greenlinefinancialservices.com), a financial talk show host, public speaker, and the author of The Worthless IRA: How To Keep Wall Street and Uncle Sam From Getting Their Greedy Little Fingers On Your Hard-Earned Money.

“An IRA gives Wall Street the use of our money with no promise it will be there when we need it. Even if it is, one must remember we have a partner in our traditional IRA/401k account. When one considers our astronomical national debt combined with the fact that only one-third of baby boomers are drawing social security (or medicare) benefits today, does anyone really believe tax rates are not likely to go through the stratosphere in order to support these programs in the future?

“Fifty million baby boomers have yet to turn 65. All will have done so by 2030. Math says Uncle Sam will likely increase his percent of ownership on our tax-deferred IRA account values by raising taxes on withdrawals. How else will he pay for these two retirement entitlement programs? Both are broke today with a third of baby boomers drawing benefits. The math is the math!”

Brummett breaks down three ways strings are attached to IRAs and provides two retirement-money alternatives he says are safer:

IRA Strings

Most IRA holders must invest in a securities-based financial product. “This is a product of risk, and retirement is a critical and certain need,” Brummett says. “Wouldn’t it be more logical and responsible for everyone to be able to invest a portion of their cumulative life savings into an investment offering certainty? Why not allow these retirement IRA savings instruments to include a variety of safe-money financial products?”

You can’t withdraw until age 59½. If you take money out of an IRA before 59½, the IRS imposes a 10% penalty. There’s also the possibility of a marginal tax rate increase that the withdrawal might cause. “Studies by Fidelity and Vanguard have indicated that over 40% of people with IRAs and 401(k)s withdraw from those accounts before they’re 59½,” Brummett says. “And long-term, whether stock values rise or fall, the only guaranteed beneficiary is Uncle Sam and the financial elite of Wall Street.”

You must begin withdrawing at age 70½. “IRA rules restrict your activity not only on the front end, but also the back end,” Brummett says. “The key back-end requirement is that at age 70½ you must start withdrawing a minimum amount each year, which is subject to income tax. We give up far more control of our money than one might think, and it can severely hurt our financial future if taxes are increased in the future.”

Retirement Alternatives

Tax favored cash-value life insurance. Cash-value life insurance can offer its owner a source of non-taxable income if properly designed and executed. “Most people have been purposely – and incorrectly – taught to believe that the only benefit of owning a life insurance policy is the death benefit,” Brummett says. “Permanent cash-value life insurance policies often have great living benefits, allowing the owner to leverage multiple non-taxable cash benefits contained within the policy while still living.”

Fixed-index annuity. “Protecting principal and providing income are the two most important objectives for anyone approaching retirement,” Brummett says. “In a variable annuity, there is no principal protection, and the owner must sometimes pay an additional fee to include a spouse in the living benefit. Fixed-index annuities offer lifetime income protection with zero to 1% fees, and they have 100% protection of principal from market risk.”

“What most retirees need today is not more of Wall Street’s version of diversification - diversification of market risk,” Brummett says. “What they need is diversification from market risk and a healthy dose of guaranteed income.”

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Reduce maintenance and increase success with self-watering gardens

By Melinda Myers

Raised beds and containers expand our planting options. They allow us to grow edible and ornamental plants even where there is no plantable space to garden. Use them to make planting, tending and harvesting convenient by bringing the garden to your back door. And fill them with pollinator-friendly plants to enjoy the colorful hummingbirds and butterflies that visit and flit past the window, deck and balcony.

Their need for frequent watering may have discouraged you from growing in raised beds and containers. The limited soil mass and increased exposure to wind, heat and sunlight make fast-draining potting mixes dry out more quickly than in-ground gardens.

Self-watering raised gardens are now available, making these gardens a realistic option; even for the busiest gardener. Consider one with a large built-in water reservoir, like Gardener’s Corrugated Metal Self-Watering Raised Bed, that extends time between watering.

Create mixed plantings of edibles and flowers for beautiful combinations in raised beds. Include some edible flowers like nasturtiums, pansies and calendulas that you, the hummingbirds and butterflies will enjoy. Lettuce, parsley, kale, Swiss chard and red cabbage combine nicely with most flowers and chives provide an edible vertical accent. Select compact vegetable varieties like Patio Choice yellow cherry tomato, Patio Pride peas, Mascotte bush beans and Astia zucchini suited to container and raised bed culture. And if concerned about maintaining the integrity of the patio or deck surface consider a Patio Raised Bed with Base (gardeners.com) that protects the underlying surface.

Elevated gardens raise your plantings to a comfortable height. No bending or kneeling needed to plant, weed and harvest. These are basically containers on legs. Many have wheels so you can move them out of the way or into the sunlight as needed.

Look for those with built-in trellises and supports when growing vines like cucumbers, pole beans and Malabar spinach and tall plants like tomatoes, dinner plate dahlias and cosmos. But like containers, they dry out more quickly than in-ground gardens and need frequent irrigation.

Look for easy care, self-watering containers like the Self-Watering Standing Garden with large reservoirs to maximize the time between watering. Look for those with fill tubes and water-level indicators to help you determine when to water. These features help keep your garden looking and producing its best. You’ll have plenty of fresh greens for salads, herbs for seasoning drinks and meals, and flowers to dress up your table.

Don’t fret if you already have a raised bed or elevated garden that lacks these easy-care features. DIY irrigation kits are available and easy to design for these types of gardens. Select systems that allow you to customize and fit the irrigation layout to your gardening needs.

Further reduce maintenance by incorporating a slow release fertilizer at planting. These types of fertilizers release small amounts of nutrients over a longer period of time. No weekly mixing and applications needed. Just give them a mid-season boost if needed and according to the fertilizer label.

Reducing ongoing maintenance of raised beds and container gardens makes it practical to expand your gardening space. Just be sure to fill them with a quality potting mix and plants suited to the growing conditions and in no time, you’ll be enjoying the flavor and beauty these gardens provide.

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty: Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) Affects State Retiree

Dear Rusty: I have a question in regard to the "windfall act." I am receiving a pension from the State of Nevada. I retired from the State, and did not pay into Social Security, but I worked in the private sector before and am currently working in the private sector. My question is: How much "penalty" will I be subject to when I decide to finally hang it up? Signed: State Retiree

Dear State Retiree: The State of Nevada is one of 27 states which, for all or some employee categories, do not participate in the Federal Social Security (SS) program; rather their State pensions are designed to provide a retirement benefit in lieu of Social Security. Because you receive a Nevada state pension and have also worked in the private sector long enough to be entitled to a Social Security (SS) benefit, your SS retirement benefit, when you claim it, may be reduced by the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), with the amount of reduction based upon how many years of substantial SS-covered earnings you have. If you have 20 or fewer years of SS-covered employment, here’s how WEP will affect your Social Security benefit:

Your actual benefit amount is based upon your “primary insurance amount” (PIA), which is computed using the average monthly earnings from the 35 highest earning years over your lifetime, known as your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings or “AIME” (only earnings up to the maximum payroll tax cap for each year are counted). Your PIA is the Social Security benefit you are entitled to at your full retirement age. Normally, when WEP doesn’t apply, your Social Security benefit amount is computed by taking the monthly average of those 35 inflation-adjusted years of earnings (your AIME) and using a standard formula to arrive at your PIA. That formula includes using 90% of the first part (called a “bend point”) of your AIME to be the first portion of three used to arrive at your PIA amount. For those first becoming eligible for benefits in 2019 (usually at age 62) that first bend point is $926, which means that $833 (90%) would normally be the first contribution to your PIA. But when WEP applies, the formula is different; instead of using 90% of that first bend point, if you had 20 or less years of covered-SS substantial earnings they use 40%, which would mean that the first bend point would add $370 to your PIA amount instead of $833, a reduction of $463. Remember that the bend points used are those for your year of Social Security eligibility, not for the year you claim benefits.

The percentage used to compute that first “bend point” goes up by 5% for each year over 20 years of substantial SS-covered earnings you have - for example, if you have 22 years of SS-covered substantial earnings, the formula would use a 50% multiplier instead of 40%. And at 30 years of SS-covered earnings you’re no longer affected by WEP. WEP can’t reduce your PIA by more than half of your NV pension amount, and there is also a maximum WEP reduction which might apply. And finally, please note that any benefit estimates you might get from Social Security now will not include the WEP reduction, which will be applied only when you actually claim your Social Security benefits.

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Poor planning could lead to 5 big retirement problems

Ideally, retirement is a time someone anticipates eagerly – a reward for a lifetime of hard work and solid financial planning. But nearly half of workers who haven’t reached retirement yet aren’t that excited about the so-called golden years. In fact, they have big concerns.

A Gallup poll showed 46 percent of those not yet retired expect they’ll be financially strapped when they do retire. Gallup’s tracking of that metric has reflected persistent concerns with retirement through the early 21st century. Fifteen years ago, only 36 percent of workers said they wouldn’t have enough money to be comfortable in retirement.

“A lack of sufficient retirement savings is a common problem, but there’s a lot more to the pie chart of a comfortable retirement,” says Chris Hobart, (www.hobartfinancialgroup.com), a financial professional and CEO of Hobart Financial Group. “Even people who have saved and invested wisely don’t factor in enough of the costs in retirement, from health care to single living and taxes.”

Hobart notes five common retirement-planning mistakes:

Underestimating health-care costs. It’s estimated that the average 65-year-old couple will need $280,000 in today’s dollars for health-care costs, and that number doesn’t include long-term care. “Typically, we look at longevity as a blessing, but the longer we live, the more likely we are to have health-care issues,” Hobart says. “The No. 1 solution is being intentional about segmenting a portion of money to address long-term health-care issues and studying the applicable insurance products. Many Americans ignore this problem and hope they don’t have to deal with it, and then when they do, it’s too late.”

Not having a plan for the surviving spouse. On average, women outlive men. “But for either spouse, the main factors to consider for a surviving spouse plan are the potentially reduced income, taxes as a single filer, where they’ll live, and paying for the deceased spouse’s final expenses,” Hobart says. “Another problem results if the surviving spouse was never engaged much in the couple’s financial planning. It pays for both spouses to have a good working knowledge about it.”

Counting on Social Security to cover expenses. The monthly Social Security check usually won’t pay the bills, especially if you still have mortgage payments. “You’ll need to make up the shortfall with other sources of income,” Hobart says. “The important thing to look at here is, in a world where few people have pensions anymore, the onus on saving is on the individual retiree. It’s more important than it’s ever been.”

Thinking you can dictate when you retire. One study showed that 51 percent of retirees retired earlier than they planned – and less than half did so by choice. “You have to expect the unexpected and plan for it well ahead of time,” Hobart says. “Many things can happen – downsizing, health issues, taking care of a family member.”

Signing up late for Medicare. The initial enrollment period is three months leading up to your 65th birthday, during the birthday month, or three months later. But if you don’t enroll, your Medicare premiums can increase by 10 percent for each year you were eligible and didn’t enroll. “Whether you like Medicare or not, you don’t want to pay more for something when you didn’t have to,” Hobart says.

“There is no reason you should trip over these things that you can avoid early on,” Hobart says.

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Author’s story of mental illness seeks to remove stigma, restore hope

Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May in the U.S. since 1949. Seventy years later, statistics show mental illness – in many forms – is more prevalent than ever.

Nearly one in five U.S. adults – 46.6 million – live with a mental illness, and estimates suggest about half do not receive professional care. Suicide rates in the U.S. have increased 25 percent since the turn of the century, and world-wide, depression accounts for more disability than any other disease in the world.

Mental health professionals say these numbers are a wake-up call, and that stigmas associated with mental disorders prevent many from seeking treatment. Sonja Wasden, (www.animpossiblelife.com), co-author with her daughter of the book An Impossible Life, says her harrowing but uplifting story of living with her mental disorders is proof that treatment can bring hope and a stable life.

“We need to talk openly about mental disorders so we can destigmatize them,” Wasden says. “We all must make the most relentless attempt we can to normalize mental health issues, so that people can come forward knowing they will be understood and shown compassion.

“I want them to believe they can create a life worth living, despite the pain.”

From the outside, Wasden was living an idyllic suburban life with her husband and three children when, at 35, she was involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital by her husband and father.

“To everyone who knew me outside of my family, I was living the perfect life,” Wasden says. “I dressed to the 9’s, I was married to the CEO of a hospital, I went to all the civic and charity events, and I had a beautiful home and great kids.”

Wasden didn’t think she belonged in a psychiatric hospital despite evidence to the contrary. For example, she hid steak knives throughout her home so she could cut the bottom of her feet, something she says she did when her emotional pain was so great that she needed physical pain to override it.

Upon being admitted to the hospital, Wasden remembers vividly, “I wanted to run, but my feet were glued to the floor. Surely it was a nightmare from which I would wake, and I pleaded to my husband to take me home.

“They told me, ‘Mrs. Wasden, we’re going to help you get well.’ I yelled, ‘But I’m not sick! Why won’t anyone believe me?’ But looking into my husband’s eyes, the realization hit me: the hospital visit was him running out of ways to make things better.”

Wasden got better, and while there were bumps in the road through 26 years of treatment, she says Ketamine and Dialectical Behavior Therapy helped her through her struggles. It’s been a remarkable journey through depression, mania, an eating disorder and suicidal thoughts.

“My father died from suicide, and I have attempted suicide,” Wasden says. “I’ve been in psychiatric hospitals twice, and I know five people who have committed suicide.”

Wasden’s inspiring story includes the profound impact her mental illness had on her family, yet how ultimately – through love, acceptance and treatment – it didn’t stop her from being a devoted wife and mother.

“You can be married and raise a family being mentally ill,” she says. “I have created a life worth living despite my struggles. There is hope.”

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US soldier fights to bring puppy dragged by rope out of war-torn Afghanistan

Paws of War is seeking donations to get puppy “Misha” to the United States

NESCONSET, NY – Timothy Boyd is a U.S. soldier stationed in war-torn Afghanistan. He will soon be heading back to his hometown of Dallas, Georgia. He desperately wants to bring back Misha, a puppy he saved and has cared for during his stay there. If he has to leave her behind, her fate like so many others, will be certain death. He has reached out to Paws of War pleading for assistance in transporting the Misha to America, so he can keep her and let her live out her days in a safe country with those who love her.

“We can’t stand by and let this dog fall back into the hands of cruel people. There has been a fantastic and lasting bond created between Misha and Timothy,” explains Robert Misseri, co-founder of Paws of War. “We understand his concerns in having to leave her in a place that is very hostile toward dogs, so we are doing everything we can to help make his wish come true and bring the dog to the United States.”

It’s difficult enough for a soldier to spend time in a war zone, with blasts and danger in every direction. But when you add in a puppy that has no idea what is going on, and it falls into the hands of the opposition, it’s a life of cruelty and abuse, often leading to death. That’s what could have happened with Misha, but a US soldier came along and everything changed.

Timothy is the Task Force Viking 1SG stationed at the COP De Alencar, formerly known as Camp Blackfish, Afghanistan. He is part of an infantry unit that is assisting Special Forces in fighting against ISIS-K. Needless to say, they are in a combative area, where fighting and explosions are a daily part of their lives. Misha is a dog that was rescued by the former SF Team when soldiers saw her being dragged by her neck. They rescued her, brought her back to their camp, and gave her proper medical treatment. She then became a part of their family, and over time, strong bonds have been created.

To help make it possible for Timothy bring Misha back to the U.S. with him, Paws of War has enlisted the help of Nowzad Dogs, a charity that helps rescue the animals in Afghanistan. There is a lot of red tape that they will need to go through in order to bring Misha back, and there are expenses involved. Through the Mission Misha campaign, they are seeking donations from the community in order to help make the transport possible. Transporting just one dog costs upward of over $6,000.

“I am desperately trying to bring this loving fur baby back to my home in Georgia, where she will live a quiet life away from this war-torn country,” says Timothy Boyd. “I appreciate any and all assistance that people can provide in helping to make Mission Misha a successful operation. She needs to come home with me. I can’t imagine it any other way.”

Those who would like to donate to Mission Misha can go to:

Paws of War is an organization that provides assistance to military members and their pets, and provides service and therapy dogs to veterans suffering from PTSD. The War Torn Pets Program brings companion animals from war zones to the U.S for military members. To learn more about Paws of War or make a donation to support its efforts, visit its site at: http://pawsofwar.org.

About Paws of War

Based in New York, Paws of War is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to helping both ends of the leash. The mission of Paws of War is to train and place shelter dogs to serve and provide independence to our United States military veterans who suffer from TBI and/or PTSD. To learn more about Paws of War, visit the site at www.pawsofwar.org.

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5 outdated it practices that companies need to eliminate

Technology changes nearly as quickly as the calendar flips. A new device or upgrade that was trending not long ago may become antiquated or obsolete before you know it.

Information technology is integral to most businesses today, but keeping up with the interrelated parts of IT and the advancements – from software to cyber security to social media platforms – isn’t always prioritized. IT experts say companies falling behind in that category could see their business slip as a result.

“Over the last several years, many IT practices have become fixed and inflexible,” says Chris Hoose (www.choosenetworks.com), an IT consultant who works with small businesses. “While older concepts are a good springboard, some have become ineffective. There are many you can reconsider and/or eliminate.”

Hoose looks at five IT practices he thinks businesses should stop using:

Outdated software. One of the biggest security vulnerabilities a company can face is one of the simplest to address: outdated software. “There are many risks associated with using unsupported or outdated software, and hackers love to exploit these gaps,” Hoose says. “Then there are the inevitable problems of a system failure or antiquated workflows that slow a company’s productivity. Although upgrading software – including your operating systems – can be time-consuming and expensive, doing so can safeguard your organization and create more room for innovations.”

In-house server hosting. Much of today’s modern software is hosted in the cloud. “Most cloud vendors are able to provide public, private or hybrid cloud hosting based on your requirements,” Hoose says. “With such extensive cloud capability, there is no reason anymore to rely on in-house server hosting. Migrating to these versions can not only help save your business the costs of purchasing and maintaining software, but also the costs of maintenance and upkeep on servers.” Another plus of cloud computing is the added security of cloud disaster recovery, a backup and restore capability that enables companies to recover data and switch to a secondary operational mode.

Inflexible work environment. The new wave of the workforce is an IT strategy that includes video cameras and laptops for team members to facilitate remote work and remote communications. “If your firm doesn’t have that flexibility, they risk being left behind,” Hoose says. “Flexible work arrangements improve a company’s effectiveness and morale. It’s one of the best uses of today’s IT.”

Newsgroups and discussion forums. These popular mediums once served as portals where questions were raised from the team and answers were provided in a question-and-answer format. Better alternatives, Hoose says, are options like Facebook, Hangouts or Slack. “The format is far more intuitive and user-friendly with social media pages than with conventional discussion forums,” he says. “Also, multiple answers can be handled easily with social-media pages.”

Unnecessary complexity. Hoose says an overly complex structure is the core failing of legacy systems. “Rethink your architecture and prioritize for simplicity,” he says. “When modernizing your systems, less is more in terms of both architecture and functionality. You can start by implementing only the most important features. Make sure the new application will work well with the rest of the tools used in your business by default. Whatever applications you choose, make sure you use a solid and future-ready technology stack to deliver optimal performance.”

“Many executives are unsure, or even unaware, of the risk that obsolescence presents to their technology portfolios,” Hoose says. “Their uncertainty stems from not having the right data and dealing with conflicting points of view on priority, value, and risk.”

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Getting your lawn mower out of the garage this spring: nine tune-up tips

Good maintenance in the spring will ensure your mower runs strong, help you operate safely, and protect your investment in your outdoor power equipment. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute offers nine tips to help you get your mower tuned up.

Work in a well-ventilated area. Work outdoors or in an area with good ventilation that is away from sparks and flame.

Remove the spark plug. If you did not remove the spark plug when you put away your mower in the fall, you should take it out now. Install a new one when you finish tuning up your mower.

Start the season with a clean air filter. Clean the air filter if your mower has the foam type, or replace the filter if you have a paper one.

Change the oil. Remove the oil drain plug and let the dirty oil run out into a container. When it has completely drained, replace the plug and refill the crankcase. Use the type and quantity of oil recommended in your owner's manual.

Lubricate any other moving parts. Oil the wheel bearings and other moving parts, following the instructions in your owner's manual. Wipe off excess oil.

Drain your gas tank. Most fuels today contain ethanol which can phase separate into alcohol and water and cause damage to your mower’s engine. If you did not empty your gas tank in the fall, drain it now. Follow safe handling procedures and dispose of old fuel properly.

Protect your power by adding the right fuel. Always use E10 or less fuel. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in any outdoor power equipment, including your lawn mower. For more information about safe fueling, go to www.LookBeforeYouPump.com.

Sharpen your mower’s blade. A dull mower blade can shred the tips of your grass. Always remove the blade from the mower for sharpening. If the blade has large nicks in the cutting edge from hitting debris, it should be replaced.

Clean your mower. Use a rag or brush to get grass clippings, leaves, and other debris off the deck and out of crevices. After you clean it, you may want to wax the deck. The wax will keep grass and dirt from sticking to it.

By following these tips before you start cutting your grass, you will protect your investment in your lawn mower and mow more effectively. For more information about the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, go to www.opei.org.

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Don’t let your Social Security check go on vacation

If you are like most people on Social Security, you need that check every month to buy groceries and to keep a roof over your head. But believe it or not, for a fortunate few that check is essentially bonus money, totally unnecessary for day-to-day survival.

““That situation is not as unusual as many may think,” says Jeffrey Eglow, the Chief Investment Officer for Guardian Wealth Advisory (www.guardianwealthadvisory.com). “Some people may have inherited an income, won a lottery or had investments that did really well.

“But just because they don’t need that Social Security money to live on, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make the most of it. There are some specific things they should do to make sure they are getting the maximum benefit.”

Eglow said that many baby boomers see their investments and retirement income differently than they did before the 2008 recession. They are looking for sources of guaranteed income instead of more risky investments. While Social Security is guaranteed income, if they are wise about how they leverage it, they can have even more guaranteed income, he says.

Eglow says strategies for people who are in this situation include:

Don’t take Social Security until you are 70. This is the best strategy since there are few investments that offer a similar low risk, guaranteed 8 percent annual growth. By waiting until age 70 to receive benefits, your monthly payments may increase by as much as 32%, not including any cost of living increases that may be added to this amount. For example, someone who could get $2,000 a month at the "full retirement age" of 66 would get $2,640 if they postponed taking Social Security until they were 70.

Spend the Social Security check instead of 401(k) or IRA funds. Most people are taxed on only 50 percent to 85 percent of their Social Security benefit. But they are taxed on 100 percent of any withdrawals from traditional IRAs or 401(k) accounts.

Give it to the kids. Use the Social Security checks to pay premiums on life insurance policies so your heirs will receive a larger inheritance. Your heirs will receive this death benefit tax free.

Don’t delay getting Social Security past 70. Since the benefit stops growing at 8 percent once the beneficiary reaches 70, it makes no sense to delay the start of getting the checks past that age.

Eglow says even if some people don’t need their Social Security check for day to day living, it is still foolish to not maximize its value so it can benefit them and their families.

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A refreshing reward

Two guys got up early one morning recently to clean up after Platte River floodwaters near Schuyler, NB receded recently. And, as fate would have it, they were well rewarded at the end of a hard day’s work. Gayland Stouffer and Kyle Simpson, parched from their labors, spotted what turned out to be a refrigerator as they made their way across a field as they headed home. The fridge turned out to be chock full of ice-cold beer. Photos they posted on Facebook went viral and the owner of the fridge, Brian Healy, saw the post and recognized it as his. Healy told the Omaha World-Herald that the give-away was that it was packed with the proper ratio of Bud Light beer and Busch Light beer. Simpson promised to return the fridge to Healy, “minus a couple of beers.”

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It’s all about the beat

A young 72-year-old Chicago man has embarked on a new career as a hip-hop artist-- a field that is ostensibly the domain of trend-setting 20-somethings. But, Arthur Dubois says he is “young at heart” and proved it to the folks at the Haven Studio where aspiring performers get discovered. Andre "Add-2" Daniels, who owns the Haven concern, posted this message on social media: “Today I met a 72yr old producer who makes TRAP MUSIC!! He said the doctor told him to stay in the house but instead of wasting away he used the time to teach himself how to produce beats.” Translation, Dubois is hot stuff.

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A ‘house proud mouse’

A retired electrician with a messy storage shed in the U.K. couldn’t figure out how the shed was neat and tidy each morning, no matter what bits and pieces he left about the night before. And so, he set a trap and caught a mouse in the act on video - a “house proud mouse” who lived in the shed and who, it appears, has a penchant for cleanliness.

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Egg-celent tips and hoppin’ advice on taking care of Easter animal friends

The Humane Society of Missouri

With Easter less than a week away, families may be considering adopting a spring chicken or bunny rabbit. While these cute farm friends make great companions, there are several factors the Humane Society of Missouri and Longmeadow Rescue Ranch want potential adopters to keep in mind before making one of these feathered or furry animals a pet.

First and foremost, unless your family and home are properly prepared for chicks or bunnies, opt for a delicious chocolate bunny or plush toy chick instead. You can also sponsor a Longmeadow Rescue Ranch Barn Buddy. Donations and sponsorship fees go towards the feeding, housing and medical care for the Longmeadow animal of your choosing. Donors also receive a plush Barn Buddy replica, making the donation a unique gift for special occasions, such as Easter!

Chick considerations not to squawk about:

Chickens require daily attention, food, clean water and shelter – and, just like dogs, they are not self-sufficient, requiring someone to care for them when you’re away.

An adequate chicken coop is needed to protect chickens from extreme temperatures and secure them from predators, such as raccoons and opossums.

If you plan on having your chickens produce eggs, hens need a nesting place to lay, an elevated roost to sleep and loose dirt or sand for dust bathing. They also need access to a yard to engage in pecking, scratching and foraging.

Make sure backyard chickens are permitted in your area. Call a member of your local planning board or county clerk and secure a copy of the local ordinances.

Rabbit considerations to chew on:

Rabbits are best as indoor pets, as they are social and intelligent animals that require daily interaction and playtime with their owners.

Aim to provide your rabbit with an exciting home. A multi-level cage with many areas for the rabbit to explore is a great option. You can also purchase toys, water bottles and a “cuddle cup” or a small cat bed for rabbits to sleep in.

Make your home un-chewable. Rabbits need to chew to keep their teeth at a comfortable length. Remove anything your rabbit might chew on, especially dangerous electric wires. Local hardware stores sell electric-cord covers and PVC piping to keep your wires, and rabbit, safe.

Hairballs can be a serious medical problem for rabbits, so brush your rabbit regularly to help reduce the amount of fur it ingests while grooming itself. Long-haired breeds will require a daily brushing, while short-coated breeds need to be brushed once a week.

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A different kind of Easter egg hunt: seven ways to seek and celebrate the bright spots in your community

By Quint Studer

Author of Building a Vibrant Community

Spring is here, and it's time to fall in love with our hometowns again. Everything is lush and green, Easter is days away, and those who've moved away are coming home to visit loved ones and celebrate the holidays. With family and spring rituals in the spotlight, it's the time of year that people really appreciate their communities the most. But even so, there are plenty of things we take for granted.

Each small and mid-size city is unique. Each has its own history and traditions. But when we live there, it's easy to forget how many gifts we really have.

Over the next few weeks, take some time to notice and honor those things that make your community special. To make it fun, think of them as 'Easter eggs'—those bright spots that we might miss if we aren't paying attention.

Every community has Easter eggs. They're those monuments, natural features, old buildings, or quirky businesses that create a sense of place. When we celebrate them, we can help ignite the kind of community spirit that helps places bloom and become more vibrant.

An Easter egg might be something you're used to and rarely notice, like a 200-year-old church or a beautiful riverfront park or a restaurant hidden away on a country road that serves award-winning barbecue and plays great bluegrass music. The point is that it's 'hidden in plain sight' but as you go about your busy life, you kind of don't notice it.

Finding and celebrating your town's Easter eggs is just a matter of getting in the right mindset. A few tips:

Stay positive. Spread the good news about your community. All too often, we tend to look at our communities with an eye for what is going wrong. Focus on what is going right instead. Talk up your community to friends and family. If you're on social media, post a picture of a beautiful spot or the crowd at the local fish fry or flower festival.

By staying positive, you can inspire others to feel good about where they live also. More people will get out and about, and others will be attracted to the community as well.

Notice what you normally take for granted. What features does your town have that you've gotten used to, but that are truly unique and special? Is there something you drive by every day on your way to work that's commonplace to you but might be delightful or charming to a visitor?

When you've lived somewhere for a while, you quit noticing what's great. Open your eyes and look around. Maybe there's a country store that sells homemade jams you could serve at Easter dinner, or a park you could take the grandkids to for a picnic.

Try to find one Easter egg a day for the next week. Each day, walk through a historic site, pop into a boutique or museum, or take the family to a locally owned restaurant. Everyone is busy but even spending 30 minutes appreciating an "Easter egg" will brighten up your day.

Make your "egg hunt" public. For example, if you belong to a local Facebook page or other social media group, make a post asking others to share their favorite local "Easter eggs." See how many responses you can get. (Even better if you make it a contest with a small giveaway to motivate people to contribute.) Or extend a blanket invitation for the community to join you for a short day hike at a local nature preserve or a meet-up at a local landmark—this is a good way to help other citizens appreciate local hidden gems too.

Arrange to make a neglected bright spot a bit brighter. Is there a city landmark that's looking a little dilapidated and could use a little TLC? Consider hosting a clean-up day. People can volunteer to mulch and plant flowers or maybe even apply a fresh coat of paint. If you volunteer to spearhead the event (and of course get the proper permissions or permits), you can always recruit help from local youth groups or school Beta clubs.

Ask visitors what they like most about your town. This can be newcomers, visitors, or former residents just returning for a visit. Very often a new viewpoint can help us see the familiar in a new light.

Look out for new things that could become Easter eggs of the future. For example, you might have a large blank wall that could be turned into a mural that celebrates your town. Or there might be an old warehouse or factory with great bones that could be repurposed as a local art gallery or a cool restaurant.

When you decide to look at your community with fresh eyes, it changes everything.

Practice makes perfect. The more you think about your town's bright spots, the easier it will be to notice and take advantage of them. Before you know it, you'll find your attitude has shifted. You'll be more appreciative and grateful for all your town has to offer.

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History Matters

A biweekly feature courtesy of

The Grateful American Book Prize

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future

April 18-30

It happened on April 18, 1775. Bostonians Paul Revere and William Dawes galloped into history when they set out on horseback from the city to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were on the march to disrupt the Patriot cause. They planned to overthrow the fledgling revolutionary movement before more colonists were recruited to the cause of independence. Two signal lamps were lit, which meant the British were crossing the Charles river to launch their attack. Hundreds of Minutemen were roused and set out to confront the enemy. It was the beginning of the end of British rule in America, and a critical period in history.

The winner of the 2016 Grateful American Book Prize was Chris Stevenson’s, The Drum of Destiny, the story of a boy who walks hundreds of miles to join the American Revolution’s Continental Army. According to the author, “by reading [The] Drum of Destiny, young readers can learn about history without realizing they are learning about history. Most history textbooks are written with the idea of teaching kids facts they can memorize so they can then take a test. This method misses the most important aspects of history. The real life stories, the reasons behind the facts, and the character of our country’s founders are where the real learning is discovered.”

From February 23rd to March 6th in 1836, the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, TX was used as a fortress by Texans determined to win their freedom from Mexico. Approximately 4,000 troops under the command of General Antonio López de Santa Anna, sieged the fort, and trapped about 200 defenders. Nearly all of them were killed, including Colonel James Bowie, Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis, and frontiersman David Crockett. The battle captured the imaginations of settlers throughout the territory who rallied around the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo.” And, it set the stage for the independence of Texas, a hard won victory by Sam Houston and his 800 troops, who went up against Santa Ana’s 1,500 men at the battle of San Jacinto.

For further reading, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Margaret Cousins’ The Boy in the Alamo, a perennial favorite among preteens and teens.

On Thursday, April 30, 1789, six years after the end of the American Revolution, George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States, on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York, in full view of the citizenry.

Washington had distinguished himself as commander of the Continental Army, leading a band of heroic rebels to a decisive victory. His citizen soldiers had been up against the disciplined Redcoats, who fought on behalf of King George lll, but they were defeated, soundly. The Revolution was, perhaps, the first great adventure tale in American history—from which a powerful, free democracy was formed that became the envy of the world.

For further reading, The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Laurie Calkhoven’s George Washington: An American Life.

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3 ways art brings awareness to environmental concerns

It’s perhaps the most typical of environmental political battles.

Congressional leaders from Florida – Republicans and Democrats alike – want $200 million allocated in the federal budget for restoration efforts in the Everglades. President Donald Trump included about one-third that amount in his proposed budget, though he hinted in a recent trip to south Florida that more money could be coming.

Yet, regardless of how the Washington politics plays out, it’s important that attention is paid to the Everglades and to environmental issues in general, says Clyde Butcher (www.clydebutcher.com), a nature photographer who since the 1980s has helped bring national awareness to the Everglades through stunning black-and-white photographs that have been compared to the works of Ansel Adams.

And Butcher says that, while politicians wrangle, it is artists like him who can help give people a greater understanding what would be lost if we fail to conserve and protect the natural wonders around us.

“So many people these days live in cities, or spend time on computers, and they lose touch with nature,” he says. “Through art, we can perhaps inspire them to venture out and gain an appreciation for how important it is.”

Butcher over the years has dared to wade into regions of the Everglades that most people never see. He’s making plans to put his latest photographic exhibit, “America’s Everglades: Through the Lens of Clyde Butcher,” on a national tour. Right now the exhibit is on display through May 26 at the Appleton Museum in Ocala, FL, and in 2020 will be in Youngstown, Ohio.

He says some of the ways artists help bring attention to environmental issues include:

Let people vicariously experience the world’s wonders. Butcher says his large prints make people feel like they are walking right into the scene, which many of them wouldn’t dare do in reality. “A lot of people don’t want to get wet,” he says. “They don’t want to play with the gators and the snakes.” Of course, eventually he wants them to experience the real thing. “You have to get your feet connected to the earth, or to water, to understand it, to feel it,” Butcher says.

Help people understand government’s role. “The government is making the laws, so we need to work with those guys,” Butcher says. One of the early ways he worked with government was when a water management district wanted to display some of his photographs in a new building. The problem: The water district had no money to pay for the photographs. Butcher’s businessman side hesitated at first, but eventually he agreed to provide the photos, feeling that his art could help connect the public to the water district’s mission.

Spread the word. Each time someone is exposed to nature through art they are reminded of the beauty and importance of these environmental treasures. Butcher took that a step further. About 25 years ago, he began offering guided swamp walks through the Everglades at one of his galleries. He says people who are exposed to the habitat may be more likely to want to preserve nature and will influence others.

“I feel my images create an emotion that reaches out to people beyond any political debates,” Butcher says. “That helps them see their surroundings in a different way, and encourages them to save those wild places where peace can fill the soul.”

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4 challenges Blockchain must overcome to achieve mass appeal

When most people think about blockchain, they likely associate it with Bitcoin or other types of cryptocurrency.

But the blockchain technology introduced a decade ago to serve as a secure database for transactions in the cryptocurrency world has plenty of uses beyond that – and potential for even more. Around the world, blockchain can be or already has been used in such areas as energy, tourism and financial services.

Yet, plenty of people still have little knowledge of this technological breakthrough that could transform how they do business and live their lives. That raises a couple of questions: Is blockchain ready for the masses? And are the masses ready for blockchain?

“Despite renewed investor interest, blockchain technology still needs to evolve to overcome some challenges before adoption reaches people who are not early adopters or who are not very tech savvy,” says Kirill Bensonoff (www.kirillbensonoff.com), a serial entrepreneur and an expert in blockchain.

Those challenges include:

Interaction with other systems. Blockchain’s growth depends on the technology’s ability to scale and interact with other systems and networks, Bensonoff says. “Right now, blockchain as a service is limited in performance because of slowed transaction processing times and the inability to have various blockchain platforms interact with each other,” he says. Just one way this challenge is being addressed is by developers creating consensus mechanisms, Bensonoff says. Consensus mechanisms refer to how participants in a blockchain network agree that the transactions recorded in the digital ledger are valid. “This mechanism creates a trust and validity in the transaction between participants who aren’t familiar with each other,” he says.

Cost and usability. The cost of creating and implementing blockchain networks remains a significant barrier, Bensonoff says. One possible solution could be the introduction of cloud-based blockchain technology from tech giants such as IBM, Microsoft and others. “These companies have made cost reduction and scaling the crux of their business offerings,” he says. For blockchain to evolve, the average user experience also needs improvement, Bensonoff says. “The good news is that developers and blockchain companies are catching on, and working to create a more welcoming look and feel for consumers,” he says.

Regulation. If there’s a grey area in the blockchain world, regulation is it, although some states, such as Wyoming, and countries such as Malta, Estonia and Switzerland, are attempting to change that. “In the meantime, this regulatory limbo is affecting adoption, with many waiting for some finality in legislation before they implement their own blockchain solution,” Bensonoff says. As some states pass blockchain bills, hopes are high that others will follow suit, he says.

Privacy. Blockchain’s transparency is one of its strengths – and a weakness. Bensonoff points out that blockchain acts as a public ledger, which is necessary for the technology to provide trust and to verify transactions. But that can make use of blockchain troublesome for some industries, such as healthcare, which needs to protect the privacy of much of its data. Some solutions on the horizon, Bensonoff says, include making use of new developments like stealth addresses, ring-confidential transactions and state channels.

“Blockchain is definitely going to become more useful and more popular,” Kirill says. “But it must overcome these hurdles to get where it needs to be.”

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3 tips for creating a clear vision to ensure business success

Running a business is similar to taking a family vacation. To be successful, both require meticulous planning, clearly defined roles for everyone involved, and a predetermined destination.

“Not having a clear vision and specific goals is a proven way to ensure you’ll never achieve them,” says John Collopy, author of the book The Reward of Knowing (www.johncollopy.com). “That’s why articulating your vision is a critical first step toward success—to give yourself something to aspire to besides some general idea of ‘making it.’”

Collopy knows a thing or two about having a vision and then setting goals to make the vision a reality. He is the owner and broker of RE/MAX Results and its subsequent 38 offices across Minnesota and Wisconsin. Setting goals in his personal life helped him overcome his addiction to alcohol. Now he is dedicated to helping others find the right steps to achieve their dreams, but he says there can be many roadblocks.

“Having an unclear vision can also make it difficult to stay motivated and passionate about your work,” says Collopy. “Identifying a clear vision and set of goals can keep us going through tough times, and give us energy when we want to give up. That’s because, even when you’re in a rough patch, you know you’re working toward something.”

In contrast, a vague, half-formed vision may leave you feeling lost and powerless, he says.

“Eventually, you may even give up entirely,” Collopy says. “You may decide that, based on your record of failure, success just isn’t in the cards for you. And that’s the saddest result of failing to articulate your vision.”

Collopy has the following tips for those who are ready to set goals to achieve their vision:

Be specific and realistic. Be specific about your goals, and the steps you need to take to reach them. “If you don’t, be ready to deal with challenges now and in the future,” Collopy says. Also make your goals attainable but not too easy. You want to have pride when it is accomplished. If you set the bar too high, you may get discouraged. And if you set it too low, you will not feel a great sense of accomplishment.

Make goals measurable. Any good goal that is worthy of your time should be measurable so even if you don’t make it, you can measure your progress. It will be easier to measure your goals if they are clear goals that are attainable, relevant and time-based.

Write it down and tell someone. Write down your vision, make copies and leave those copies where you will routinely see them – on your refrigerator, in your car, on your dresser, in the bathroom. “This will remind you about your vision throughout the day and keep you on task,” Collopy says. In addition, the more people you tell about your vision and your goals, the better. They will encourage you because the next time they see you, he says, they will probably ask you about your progress.

“Once you have attained your goal, take some time to celebrate your victory with your team,” Collopy says. “Even if the goal wasn’t a team goal, invite others that work with you or for you to share in your accomplishment.”

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4 undiscussed but serious side effects of sleep apnea

It’s estimated that 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, and that 80 percent of moderate to severe cases are undiagnosed.

Also known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS), the condition affects between 5 and 20 percent of adults and 10-20 percent of children. While many are familiar with some side effects – loud snoring, disturbed sleep, and daytime sleepiness – other related issues are talked about less, but can be quite severe.

“The disruption of nasal breathing can affect digestion, brain function, mood, attention, growth, heart health, head pain, metabolism and much more,” says Dr. Edmund Lipskis(www.drlipskis.com), director of the Centre For Integrative Orthodontics and co-author with his wife, Dr. Lynn Lipskis, of Breathe, Sleep, Live, Smile: Integrative Treatments for TMJ/TMD, Sleep Apnea, Orthodontics. “But sleep apnea in children can be treated at a young age. The symptoms include irritability, lack of concentration, poor school performance, pseudo ADHD, and nighttime bed wetting.”

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when a blocked airway prevents the body from getting the oxygen it needs. Breathing can stop for several seconds numerous times during the night.

“This causes the brain to wake up so the sleeper can breathe,” Dr. Lipskis says. “People with OSA usually don’t remember every instance of waking up, but the result is fragmented sleep.”

Dr. Lynn Lipskis adds that proper diagnosis, combined with advanced technology, can lead to successful treatment. She says there are more than 100 FDA-approved appliances for treating sleep apnea and proper selection is key to addressing the individual’s special needs.

“For adults, that can mean therapy using an oral appliance,” she says. “For children, it can mean orthopedic orthodontics for airway development and correction.”

The Lipskis team points out four of the less-discussed but serious side effects of sleep apnea:

Depression. Depression is linked with OSA and works both ways. “That is, people who are depressed are more likely to develop OSA, and people with OSA are more likely to develop depression,” Dr. Lynn Lipskis says. “One study found that slightly less than half of people with OSA showed depressive symptoms. This is not so surprising, considering that restful sleep is so important for physical and mental health.”

Chronic pain. As with depression, chronic pain may be a cause of, or may be caused by, OSA. A study found that over half the people with OSA had chronic widespread pain and that the risk was higher in women than in men.

Hormone disruption. Sleep is a critical time for the body to regulate hormones. “An important one to note is the growth hormone HGH, which is produced during Stage 3 sleep,” Lipskis says. “It helps with cell reproduction, cell regeneration, and metabolism. If Stage III sleep is cut short, or never reached, HGH can’t perform its job. So rather than repairing itself during sleep, the body continues to break down.”

Nocturia. This is the frequent need to urinate at night. “People with OSA are more likely to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom,” Dr. Edmund Lipskis says. “That’s because it affects the release of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which prevents fluid from filling the bladder and prevents the need to urinate during the night. When ADH can’t do what it’s supposed to, the bladder fills and the urge to urinate appears. This is yet another way that OSA disturbs proper bodily functions and compounds disordered sleep.”

“If you suffer from OSA or suspect you do, have a sleep study done, which includes a diagnosis by a medical physician,” Dr. Lynn Lipskis says. “This is the only way to correctly diagnose OSA or other sleep disorders. OSA should be treated as a serious medical condition because the consequences go far beyond daytime fatigue.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Married Couple confused about Social Security Benefits

Dear Rusty: We are a little confused about husband and wife Social Security benefits. I am 63 years old (born 1955) and still employed full-time. My wife turns 60 this month. She is retired military and has been working in the civilian sector for a number of years now. She has always earned more than me. We are confused as to how Social Security payments between us will work. I know I will start to collect before she does. Can you help with an explanation? Signed: Confused

Dear Confused: Social Security benefits for married couples can, indeed, be confusing, especially if you both still work. If your wife has always been the higher-earner, you could possibly be entitled to a spousal benefit from her record, but only if your own benefit amount at your full retirement age (FRA) is less than 50% of your wife’s benefit amount at her FRA.

Since you say you will claim Social Security before your higher-earning wife, any spousal benefit you may be entitled to will not take effect until your wife starts her benefits. To be clear, a spousal benefit is only due if that amount is more than you are entitled to on your own work record; otherwise you only get your own benefit. If a spousal benefit is due, what essentially happens is that you get your own Social Security benefit plus a “spousal boost” to bring you up to what you are entitled to as a spouse. The spousal benefit can be 50% of the higher earner’s FRA benefit amount (if that is more than your own) but you only get the full 50% if it starts at your full retirement age; otherwise it is less than 50%. That’s because any time any Social Security benefit is taken earlier than your FRA it is actuarially reduced according to the number of months before your FRA that it is taken.

If you (or your wife) collect Social Security before you have reached your full retirement age and you continue to work, you will be subject to an annual earnings limit ($17,640 for 2019) which, if exceeded, will cause SS to withhold benefits equal to $1 for every $2 you are over the limit. Since they don’t withhold partial benefits, that could mean some months without benefits. That is true up to the year you reach your full retirement age when the earnings limit goes up by more than 2.5 times and the penalty is less ($1 for every $3 over the limit). Then, once you reach your full retirement age, there is no longer a limit to how much you can earn while collecting benefits. And for clarity, if you have benefits withheld because you exceed the earnings limit, you’ll get time credit for those months when you reach your full retirement age, which will somewhat increase your benefit amount at your FRA. So, your plans for working and earning should be considered in deciding when both of you should claim your SS benefits.

To summarize, if you have both earned at least 40 SS credits, you are both entitled to your own Social Security benefit. If half of your wife’s SS benefit at her full retirement age is more than your own benefit at your full retirement age, you’ll also get a spousal boost equal to the difference. But if either of you claim benefits early they will be reduced, and if your spousal benefit starts before your FRA it will also be reduced. And don’t forget, working before you reach your full retirement age will subject you to Social Security’s annual earnings limit.

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5 ways climate change affects the mental health of young people

The European Parliament’s recent ban on single-use plastic products was hailed as a positive step in the world’s battle against climate change.

Yet at the same time, younger generations around the world want to see more government action. Deeply concerned about their future as dire forecasts of a worsening environment continue, students from across the globe keep protesting. And while the threats often associated with climate change are to physical health, homes, the air, water, and economy, psychologists says the toll it takes on young people’s mental health can’t be ignored.

“The impact that all the aspects of climate change have on mental health is far-reaching,” says Leslie Landis (www.chendell.com), a family therapist and author of Chendell: A Natural Warrior, a fantasy novel with environmental themes. “It’s especially profound after natural disasters on teens, children and young adults – stress, depression, anxiety, and strains on relationships.

“On the other hand, the activism many young people are engaging in due to climate change is very mentally healthy. They’re inspiring others and trying to bring about action by getting people to take climate change seriously.”

Landis outlines some positive and negative impacts that climate change is having on the mental health of young people:

Positives

Activism. Young people are leading the way to fight climate change by forming mass protests around the globe. ”Climate justice is a fight for the future,” Landis says. “Despite rising sea levels, wildfires, extreme weather events and dire warnings from scientists, politicians globally haven’t responded as needed. And young people are enraged; they know that doing nothing, sitting silently, severely threatens their future.”

Innovation. In Congress, 29-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has put climate change solutions at the forefront with her proposed legislation, the “Green New Deal.” Young entrepreneurs are growing profitable businesses by focusing on environmentally friendly innovations. “Each project is an inspiring example of how young people are taking creative approaches to combating climate change,” Landis says. “In each there’s some solidarity, which is key to progress being made.”

Negatives

Anxiety, stress. “Fear of extreme weather, changing weather patterns, or worrying about what the future will look like because of climate change increases stress and anxiety,” Landis says. “That in turn can cause depression, sleep disorders and weaken the immune system.” One report says young people with depression and anxiety might be disproportionately more at risk for worsening symptoms due to climate change.

Trauma, shock. Natural disasters caused by climate change bring a high potential for severe psychological trauma from personal injury, the injury or death of a loved one, loss of personal property, and loss of pets. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result when feelings of helplessness and despair last for long periods.

Strained relationships. “Disasters can not only hit the structure of the home hard, but also the infrastructure of family relationships,” Landis says. “Relocations or just missing the usual conveniences can result in constant tension. Children may have to attend a different school, and the safe world revolving around their home doesn’t exist anymore.”

“We keep hearing the warnings about catastrophic conditions in the coming years, which add to lost hope among a lot of young people,” Landis says. “But the activism and ideas they engage in provide hope. And confronting a problem head-on is a wonderful way to achieve mental wellness.”

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How traditional marketing can benefit from a digital twist

At one time, marketing meant using such tactics as buying commercial time on TV or radio stations, advertising in a newspaper or magazine, or sending your message through direct mail.

All of those remain options today, but they are joined by a plethora of digital alternatives for reaching potential customers or clients, who spend a lot of time hanging out in the digital world.

“Websites are optimized for sharing content with others, and people are getting on social media to be educated or entertained, so delivering on those ‘needs’ is super important for any business or professional who wants to remain relevant,” says Jonathan Musgrave, owner and chief digital marketer for Steep Digital Marketing (www.steepdigital.com).

Yet, Musgrave says many businesses and professionals don’t always take advantage of what digital marketing offers, instead falling back on what worked in the past, either out of habit or due to a lack of understanding of the power of digital.

And that’s no way to move forward, he says. But choosing between digital or traditional approaches to marketing isn’t an either/or proposition. Musgrave offers a few examples of how the two can be married to produce great results:

A text instead of a call. Musgrave says one of his clients, a financial professional, would buy TV time each month for a show in which he would talk about money issues. At the end of each segment, in an effort to generate leads, his firm’s telephone number would be displayed so viewers could call if they wanted more information. “I suggested that instead of a number to call, they should show a number that people could text,” Musgrave says. That change might appear insignificant on its face, but it proved to be extraordinarily consequential. The financial professional went from receiving about three responses per show to about 300.

Billboards and digital calls to action. A message on a billboard provides the same opportunity to elicit a digital response from anyone who sees it. Once again, instead of urging people to call, urge them to text. You can also include your website address in your billboard ad so those intrigued by what you have to offer can learn more there, Musgrave says.

Work digital connections into all marketing materials. Likely, you have business cards, brochures or any number of other marketing materials that people can hold in their hands. All of those should let people know how they can find you online, whether it’s on your website or on social media channels, Musgrave says. By the same token, if you have speaking engagements, you can put that information on a display poster or include it in a PowerPoint slide. “Since people always carry their phones, if they see how to find you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or wherever, they may follow you right then and there,” he says.

“The most dangerous thing I hear people say is that digital marketing is the future,” Musgrave says. “That’s not quite accurate because the future is already here. Advertisers globally spent more on digital advertising than any other medium in 2017, displacing TV at the top of the chart for the first time. If you keep kicking the digital can down the road, by the time you catch up to it again, your competitors will have already passed you.”

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Are you less of a man if you opt for cosmetic surgery?

While the stereotype says it is women who worry most about body image, in truth men also are concerned about what they see when they gaze in the mirror.

They just aren’t always willing to admit it. So, while more men than ever before are turning to cosmetic surgery to improve what they see as defects in their appearance, plenty of others are reluctant to even acknowledge anything that could be seen as a weakness or a flaw.

“For many men, especially older men, being concerned about their appearance is not manly,” says Dr. Dennis Schimpf (www.sweetgrassplasticsurgery.com), founder of Sweetgrass Plastic Surgery and author of Finding Beauty: Think, See and Feel Beautiful.

“They are probably as insecure about their appearance as any woman might be, but they feel that they need to project confidence or be indifferent to their looks.”

Still, some men are clearly putting aside those worries. For example, the number of tummy tucks for men increased 12 percent between 2012 and 2017, according to a study by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Liposuction procedures for men were up 23 percent, and breast-reduction surgeries were up 30 percent.

Even so, Dr. Schimpf says, men who do explore the idea of plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons often seem embarrassed.

“Sometimes a man will come in with his wife, who will talk about herself first, and then open up the conversation to what he’s considering having done, almost as if it’s an afterthought,” he says.

But slowly but surely, more men are entertaining the idea of making changes to their appearance. Dr. Schimpf says a few reasons for that include:

Changing times and attitudes. Men who are baby boomers often worked in jobs involving physical labor. How they looked did not matter on the job. “We live in a different world today,” Dr. Schimpf says. “Men are more concerned with their appearance – their hair, their clothes, their overall look. Little by little, It’s becoming more acceptable for men to publicly talk about looks, and every day there are new products on the market for men who want to change the way they look.”

Technological advances in plastic surgery. Today’s technology allows for less-invasive procedures, which appeal to men. “Men are looking for procedures that deliver more subtle changes with quick recoveries because they want work done ‘under the radar’ essentially,” Dr. Schimpf says. “They don’t want others to know they’ve had something done because of what they believe people will think.”

Social media’s influence. One factor that affects both men and women is how in today’s world, everyone is constantly being photographed and those photographs often end up on Facebook, Instagram or other social media sites for all the world to see. That makes it more difficult than in the past to not care what others think, Dr. Schimpf says. “Patients tell me all the time that they didn’t realize they had a double chin until they saw themselves on their cell phone screen when they turned it on to take a selfie,” he says.

The bottom line, though, is that anyone considering plastic surgery needs to make the decision based on what’s best for them, and not based on how other people view them, Dr. Schimpf says.

“People are going to think what they are going to think, and those who are the most critical of others often have many issues themselves,” he says. “If you try to do for yourself only what someone else thinks is reasonable, you’re not going to be happy.”

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Lawn equipment: Keep safety in mind

Spring has arrived and home owners are often eager to get outside and spruce up their yards. It’s important when doing so to keep safety in mind.

“Before you use a mower, trimmer, blower, chain saw, pruner or other piece of outdoor power equipment this season, it’s important to refresh yourself on handling and safety procedures,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), an international trade association representing outdoor power equipment, small engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. “We’re all eager to get outside and enjoy the living landscape after a long winter, but take the time to do basic maintenance now to ensure your equipment operates safely for the season and is ready to get the job done.”

These six tips can help:

1. Read your owner’s manual. Follow all guidelines for your outdoor power equipment and familiarize yourself with the controls. If you have lost your manual, look it up online (and save a copy on your computer for easy reference in the future).

2. Inspect equipment. Check for loose belts and missing or damaged parts. Replace any parts needed or take your equipment to a qualified service representative for servicing.

3. Drain old fuel. Never leave fuel sitting in the gas tank of your equipment for more than 30 days. Untreated gasoline (without a fuel stabilizer) left in the system will deteriorate, which may cause starting or running problems and, in some cases, damage to the fuel system.

4. Protect your power by using only E10 or less fuel in outdoor power equipment. Some gas stations may offer 15 percent ethanol (E15) gas or higher-ethanol fuel blends but any fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol can damage—and is illegal to use in—small engine equipment not designed for it.

5. Store fuel safely. Label your fuel can with the date of purchase and ethanol content of the fuel. Never put “old” gas in your outdoor power equipment. If you don’t know the date of purchase, dispose of the fuel in the can safely and buy fresh fuel. Always store fuel out of the reach of children or pets and in approved containers.

6. Clean equipment. Remove any dirt, oil or grass stuck to it. Clean equipment will run more efficiently and last longer.

“Now is also a good time to assess your outdoor power equipment needs,” adds Kiser. “Whether you’re needing battery-, gasoline-, propane-, diesel- or hybrid-powered equipment, there is a product to fit your unique needs that can handle any job.”

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4 tips for creating less chaotic, more productive mornings

When the alarm rings each morning, do you arise quickly, eager to take on whatever the day brings?

Or do you drowsily reach for the snooze button?

Your answer could be crucial because the mindset you start the day with can play a significant role in whether the rest of your day is filled with successes or setbacks.

“Every time the sun rises, so do new opportunities to grow, develop and improve,” says Dr. Rob Carter III, co-author with his wife, Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter, of The Morning Mind: Use Your Brain to Master Your Day and Supercharge Your Life (www.themorningmind.com).

But to make the most of those opportunities, you may need to adjust your morning routine to better prepare your mind and body for what’s to come.

“Your morning routine can be as little as 15 to 20 minutes if you like,” Carter says, “but the idea is to have time dedicated to you and habits that support you.”

Carter offers these suggestions for starting the day right:

Plan your day the night before. A peaceful morning can quickly turn chaotic if you don’t have things carefully planned out. “It’s not unusual for people to be heading out the door and discover they can’t find their car keys,” Carter says. A lot of morning stress can be relieved by planning your day the night before, he says, such as deciding what clothes to wear, making sure your phone is charged, and writing the next day’s to-do list.

Make time for yourself. If you’re married with kids, this can be a challenge. But Carter says everyone needs time for reflection, which is unlikely to happen unless you make it a priority. Set aside time to meditate, pray, do yoga or even do nothing for 10 minutes. “Spending time by yourself,” he says, “allows you to reflect on life’s happenings and can increase productivity and focus, and make you appreciate time with others more.”

Minimize noise and distractions. Many people start the day by turning on the TV, the radio or other devices. Avoid that urge, Carter says. Instead, devote your energy to getting yourself mentally focused for the day. “You definitely want to avoid watching the news if at all possible,” he says, “because the often-stressful images you’ll see aren’t conducive to a peaceful morning.”

Create a morning-exercise routine. Exercising gives you a sense of achievement to start the day with, provides you with more energy for the rest of the day, improves your mood, and makes you feel in control of your life. “Research shows that people who exercise in the morning are more consistent with their routine than those who try to fit exercise into their schedule later in the day,” Carter says.

“The most important thing about a morning routine is that you create one that you enjoy so much you will stick to it,” Carter says. “If you begin to realize that any aspects are not making you feel good, then get rid of them and replace them with something better.”

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Mosquito Madness: Protecting your pet from heartworms as warm weather hits

Spring and warmer weather are upon us, which means outdoor activities and, unfortunately, the return of pesky mosquitos. In recognition of Heartworm Awareness Month, the Humane Society of Missouri and its Animal Medical Center of Mid-America emphasize the importance of heartworm disease detection and share preventative tips to protect pets year-round.

Here’s what pet owners need to know about heartworm disease to keep their furry friends safe and healthy.

· What are heartworms? Heartworms are parasites that can live in the major organs of an animal’s body such as the heart, lungs and connected vessels. Pets can only contract heartworms after being bit by infected mosquitoes, making prevention extremely important.

· What are the risk areas? While the threat of heartworm disease is greater in warmer months due to an increase in disease-spreading mosquitos, the risk is always present, especially in the Midwest where weather can be unpredictable.

· Who does the disease affect? Heartworm disease affects both indoor and outdoor dogs and cats. Mosquitos often find their way into homes, and one bite is all it takes to infect a pet.

· What are the symptoms? Heartworm disease symptoms are often unnoticeable until six months after a pet is infected and the worms multiply. Symptoms start off with a cough and transition into the more extreme including exercise intolerance, shortness of breath, nosebleeds and, eventually, collapse due to complete blockage of blood flow to the heart.

· Can a pet recover from heartworm disease? While dogs can be treated for heartworm disease, the process is lengthy (6-8 weeks), expensive, painful for the dog and hard on their system. It’s also difficult for the owner as the dog must be kept as inactive as possible during the treatment period. There is no effective treatment for heartworms in cats. Therefore, prevention is obviously the best option.

· What’s the best prevention? Puppies and kittens should begin heartworm prevention medication at eight weeks old. Dogs should be tested prior to starting heartworm preventatives, or if they are less than 6 months of age, they should be tested once they reach 6 months of age. Dogs should then be retested yearly for heartworm disease and preventative medication should be administered year-round.

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The perils of potholes: Tips for drivers:

How can I avoid damage, and what does my auto insurance cover?

As winter becomes a memory, the telltale sign of the season is the sudden increase in the number of potholes.

A close encounter with a car crater can lead to totaled tires, wheels, and suspension. Vehicle repairs from a pothole can cost drivers from $300 to $700 or more. A recent AAA study estimates that potholes cost drivers nearly $3 billion each year. Potholes can occur in any climate, but are prominent this time of year in areas that have experienced ice, snow, and freezing temperatures. The freezing and thawing cycles allow moisture to seep into the road surface, which causes the road to crumble.

Pothole-Related Driving Tips from State Farm

Not much can be done to prevent the deterioration of driving surfaces, but there are five things you can do to protect yourself and your vehicle:

· Slow down and don’t tailgate. Give yourself a chance to see the pothole.

· If you can’t avoid a pothole, do your braking before impact. There’s less damage when a tire is rolling than when skidding over a hole during braking (which can damage the braking system).

· Try to take roads you know well. Your familiarity will help you avoid potholes.

· At night, travel on well-lit roads so you can see the surface.

· If you hit a pothole, inspect your tires and wheels for damage. Note how your car handles. If it “pulls” one way or the other or the steering feels wobbly, you may want to have your car checked by a professional.

Does My Auto Insurance Cover Pothole Damage?

Potholes are a fact of life for anyone who drives. These road hazards are not only a nuisance, but they can also do extensive damage to your vehicle. If you hit a pothole and your vehicle is damaged, there are a few of ways to address your issues:

• The damage to your car would generally be covered under the collision portion of your auto insurance and subject to the deductible.

•Tires are not covered if that is the only part of the vehicle that is damaged.

• Contact your insurance agent to report damage and discuss your specific coverage and deductible, to determine whether it’s worth filing a claim.

• Report the pothole to the local or state agency responsible for maintaining the road.

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Container gardens for every occasion

By MELINDA MYERS

Make every occasion special by designing and growing containers for summer holidays, weddings, anniversary parties or other special celebrations. Pick a color scheme appropriate for the occasion or a variety of colors and shapes sure to add a festive touch.

Look for opportunities to include edible and flower filled planters. Set containers at your front entrance to welcome family and guests. Use smaller containers to line a pathway and decorate each table. Fill large pots with tall plants and ornamental grasses to provide privacy and define spaces.

Boost your confidence and eliminate the guesswork by including winning varieties trialed and proven for their performance in gardens and containers. All-America Selections (AAS) is a non-profit trialing organization with test sites across the U.S. and Canada. Volunteer judges rate entries based on their improved performance, flavor and unique qualities. Visit the AAS website for help selecting edibles and flowers suitable for container gardening. (all-americaselections.org)

Then pick a color theme. Red, white and blue combinations are perfect for patriotic holidays like the fourth of July. Or pick one color and display it in patriotic pots. For reds consider Summer Jewel red salvia, Viking XL Red on Chocolate begonia and Double Fire Zahara zinnia. Add a light airy touch with Sparkle White guara and Gypsy White Improved baby’s breath. Evening Scentsation petunia, Strata salvia and Lavender Lady lavender provide the blue. Add an explosion of texture with fiber optic grass or Fireworks penstemon.

Host a sports event using flower colors or containers of your favorite team. Add to the festivities by growing them in a football, baseball or soccer shaped planter.

Gold is always a great choice when celebrating anniversaries, golden birthdays or any special occasion. Dress up the tables with the plump blooms of Marigold Big Duck Gold or the feathery blossoms of Fresh Look Gold celosia. Let them know they’re special by including Super Hero™ Spry marigold. The maroon and golden yellow flowers top 12” tall plants and the name says it all. All these golden beauties will continue to flower and thrive long after the party ends. Combine them with other bright colors like South Pacific Orange canna, and Calliope® Medium Dark Red geranium to create a festive atmosphere.

Bring the garden to the party with a few edible containers for a bit of interactive dining. Encourage guests to harvest herbs and vegetables as they create a salad, season their dinner or flavor their favorite drink. Then dress up the meal with edible flowers like calendulas and Baby Rose nasturtium with its peppery flavored flowers and leaves.

Make any outdoor wedding, reception or rehearsal dinner at your home memorable by creating planters that complement the bride’s color scheme. Include white flowers, like Summer Jewel White salvia, Mont Blanc nierembergia, Starlight rose zinnia and Gypsy White Improved gypsophila. White is the perfect neutral and lights up any evening celebration.

Once you experience the difference specially-designed containers can make, you’ll be looking for more opportunities to host events and grow more planters.

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Social Security Matters

by AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Widow Asks About Survivor Benefits

Dear Rusty: My husband passed away 7 years ago at the age of 64, at which time he was receiving SS Disability. I was 58 at the time he passed and could not apply for his Social Security. I was still working but let SS know he was deceased, so his check was no longer deposited. I am now 65 and my age to reach full benefits without penalty is 66. I plan to work three more years before applying for Social Security. My question is: Can I apply for my deceased husband's SS benefits now and not my own without any penalties? And if so, what is the process? Thank you for your time and the information and resources you provide. Signed: Widowed Wife

Dear Widowed: Yes, as a widow you have the choice of claiming either your survivor’s benefit or your own benefit but claiming either before your full retirement age will reduce it. If you claim your survivor’s benefit before you reach age 66 it will be somewhat reduced from 100% of what your husband was receiving when he passed. Since you’re now 65, the reduction won’t be too severe (about 0.4% for each month before your full retirement age of 66). Your own benefit would be reduced by about 0.69% for each month before your full retirement age.

I suggest you evaluate which of your future benefits will be greater – the survivor benefit at maximum or your own benefit at maximum. Your survivor benefit reaches maximum at your full retirement age of 66, but your own SS benefit can continue to grow until age 70 when it would be 32% more than it would be at age 66. You may want to set a goal to claim in such a way that you can get the highest benefit for the rest of your life. If you know what your own benefit will be at your full retirement age, add 32% to that, and compare that number to the benefit your husband was receiving at his death. If your own at age 70 is more than he was receiving, then it would be wise to take the survivor benefit first and let your own grow by 8% per year until 70 and then switch from the survivor benefit to your own. If your survivor benefit at your FRA will be greater than your own at age 70, then it would be wise to let the survivor benefit grow to maximum at your full retirement age and claim it then.

In any case, to answer your question – yes, you can apply for your reduced benefits as a widow now or wait until you’re 66 to get the full benefit, and the way to do that is to contact Social Security directly and request your benefit as your husband’s widow. Survivor’s benefit cannot be applied for online, so you should call Social Security (find your local office at www.ssa.gov/locator) and request an appointment to apply for survivor benefits. When you make your appointment, Social Security will advise you if they’ll require any additional documentation. And if you wish to let your own benefit grow to age 70, then be sure to specify you are applying only for your survivor benefit, not your Social Security retirement benefit.

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How to have a great lawn for your Easter egg hunt

Spring has arrived and Easter morning will be here before we know it. Families nationwide will be in their yards and seeking perfect Easter photo opportunity. Get your lawn in shape with a few tips from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), is an international trade association representing power equipment, small engine, utility vehicle, golf car and personal transport vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.

“You want to spruce up your lawn before the kids are out there hunting for eggs,” said Kris Kiser, President and CEO of OPEI. “If you tidy up the lawn before Easter morning, they’ll have a great time and you’ll get better pictures,. And, a great lawn, starts with a great trim.”

Here are a few tips to help:

Tidy the yard. Remove leaves, branches, and sticks. Make sure pathways are clear and ready for foot traffic and mowing. Clean up playsets and other items that spent the winter outside.

Assess the lawn’s condition. Look for dog poop, holes in the ground, pests, or other hazards—and remove or repair them. Spring is the time to fix bare patches in the lawn by re-seeding or re-sodding. Remove thatch (decaying items like leaves, grassroots and stem accumulation) so nutrients and water can reach grass roots, and disease and pests are discouraged from nesting.

Plan where the Easter egg hunt will be. Use rope, tape or ribbon to mark boundaries so children know where they can go. You’ll want to avoid having excited little feet trample any bare lawn patches you are re-seeding or repairing, so avoid these areas if you can. Most grass varieties are hardy and can withstand foot traffic, but keep more delicate plants, such as flower beds, from eager hands and feet.

Cut your grass a few days in advance. Your lawn will benefit from the clippings being left behind on the grass, so it’s better to cut a couple of days before the egg hunt so clippings dry and don’t stick to the eggs. Use a freshly sharpened mower blade, for a clean cut, and always mow to the recommended height for the grass variety you have,, the season, and the growing conditions. Proper mowing, including choosing the correct height of grass, creates a low-maintenance, more drought-tolerant lawn.

Keep by-standers indoors while mowing (and hiding eggs). Children and pets should be inside and supervised when any outdoor power equipment is being used. Plus it will be easier to keep the egg hunt a secret from your kids—and curious pets!

Hide with safety in mind. Consider your child’s age when selecting hiding locations for the eggs. Young children will run around the lawn and find eggs. Older children might need more complexity such as hiding eggs in shrubbery.

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What a waste

New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) routinely collects seal scat [more commonly known as poo] to track the lifestyles and travels of Leopard Seals. About a year ago they picked up a bit of deep sea scat and put it in a freezer for safe keeping. When they thawed it out and examined it recently, they found a USB computer memory stick. It turned out that the USB device was none the worse for wear, considering where it had been. When they plugged it in, they made an “ironic” discovery. It contained, as NIWA put it, “photos of sea lions at Porpoise Bay in the Caitlins and a video of a mum and baby sea lion frolicking in the shallows.” The Caitlins is a coastal region in the southeastern corner of New Zealand.

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A very rara avis, indeed

Authorities will tell you that male cardinals are brilliant red in color and that the female of the species is pale brown. But, a very rare yellow cardinal appeared in Karem Maldonado’s back yard in Theodore, AL recently. Luckily, she was taking pictures at the time and was able to snap photos of the rara avis to prove her sighting of the one-in-a-million mutant bird. It gives new meaning the hit 1960’s calypso song with the lyric, Yellow bird, you sit all alone like me.”

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This little piggy

Pigcasso is quite the talented porcine. Fortunately, she was rescued from a South African slaughterhouse when she was just a piglet and handed over to the folks at an animal sanctuary]. It was there that her talent for painting was discovered. Her art sells for thousands of dollars reports Reuters. The news agency notes that the money she earns is earmarked for animal welfare causes.

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Early birds & night owls

Whether you are an early bird or a night owl could affect your mental health. Through a genome-wide analysis of nearly 700,000 people, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine discovered that being a morning person lowers risk for schizophrenia and similar disorders, while being an extreme night owl is linked to greater risk of mental health issues. The next step, said Penn psychiatrist Philip Gehrman, is to determine exactly which genes are associated with circadian tendency and with issues such as insomnia.

Not always green

When tech companies move into a city, they often encourage a sustainability mindset. However, new research from Daniel Aldana Cohen of the University of Pennsylvania and collaborators from the University of Georgia, Southwestern University, and Portland State University, shows that they also lead to gentrification and emissions that either stay the same or increase. “When density results from more high-income residents, the low-carbon benefits of that density get wiped out,” Cohen says. Addressing these issues requires investments in affordable housing, sustainability interventions, and awareness of the issue.

Fertility decline

The U.S. fertility rate hitting 1.77, the lowest it’s ever been, is not necessarily cause for alarm. A decline was inevitable, due to the recession, less immigration to the U.S., and the difficulty individuals have maintaining pre-parenthood lifestyles after having children, according to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Population Studies Center. The low fertility rate may be surfacing now, but it has been years in the making. “Would the current trends undermine living standards? I don’t think there’s any concern for that at this time,” says demographer Hans-Peter Kohler. “In fact, if the U.S. population grows somewhat less rapidly, it may even be a good thing because right now, you’re pushing up against resources.”

Second cured HIV patient

News that a second person may have been cured of HIV is being greeted with both hope and hesitation. The so-called “London patient,” who had both HIV and cancer, underwent a stem-cell transplant using a donor with a unique mutation that confers HIV resistance. The transplant seems to have successfully vanquished the virus. However, University of Pennsylvania researchers urge caution. “Just because it can be done doesn’t mean it’s a solution or a cure for all people who have HIV,” said Pablo Tebas of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, who underscores the risks of a stem cell transplant. Bridgette Brawner of the Penn School of Nursing called the London news "phenomenal" but stressed the importance of continued support for people who are living with the virus today. “There is a concern that money may be getting thrown at a cure for ‘one day,’" she said, "when there are already people around the world who may not have access to the drug regimens that are helping them live longer, healthier lives today."

Treatment for depression

The FDA has approved esketamine for people with treatment-resistant depression. Known as Spravato, it is the only approved drug to treat depression that is administered via nasal spray. "All of the newer antidepressants introduced over the prior 30 years were variations or slight modifications of the existing classes of medications, such as Prozac,” said Michael Thase, a professor of psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "It is not a miracle solution. But it’s a wonderful thing if you get a nice response to it if your depression is debilitating. Having another treatment that can help many long-suffering people is a good thing."

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Use prescription pain medications safely

By Bob Moos

Southwest public affairs officer

U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Medicare wants to help you use prescription pain medications safely.

Prescription opioid medications – such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and codeine – can help treat pain after surgery or after an injury, but they carry serious risks, like addiction, an overdose and death.

Those risks increase the higher the dose you take or the longer you use the pain medications, even if you take them as prescribed. Your risks also grow if you take certain other medications, like benzodiazepines (commonly used for anxiety or sleep), or if you get opioid medications from many doctors or pharmacies.

More than 11 million Americans misuse prescription opioids every year. In fact, opioid misuse has become so prevalent that the government has declared it a public health emergency. Opioid overdoses accounted for 47,600 deaths in 2017, and 40 percent of those deaths involved a prescription opioid medication.

For years, Americans overestimated the benefits of opioids and underestimated the risks. Many people became regular users of the pain killers, often quite innocently, with a prescription from a doctor after surgery or an injury or as treatment for a chronic condition. Few thought their growing dependence would lead to addiction.

Medicare is working closely with drug plans, pharmacists and health care providers to ensure that beneficiaries use these powerful pain medications appropriately. Federal health care officials recently introduced new guidelines for opioid prescriptions in the Medicare Part D drug program. Here’s a brief overview of the safety measures:

Your Medicare drug plan and pharmacist may do safety reviews of your opioid pain medications when you fill a prescription. The reviews are especially important if you have more than one doctor who prescribes these drugs. In some cases, the Medicare drug plan or pharmacist may need to talk to your doctor before filling the prescription.

Your drug plan or pharmacist may do a safety review if they determine you’re taking potentially unsafe opioid amounts, or if you take opioids with benzodiazepines (like Xanax, Valium or Klonopin) or if you’re using opioids for the first time. New users may be limited to an initial seven-day supply or less to reduce the possibility of long-term use and addiction.

If your pharmacy can’t fill your prescription as written, the pharmacist will give you a notice explaining how you or your doctor can contact your drug plan to ask for a coverage decision. If your health requires it, you can request a fast decision. You may also ask your plan for an exception to its rules before you even go to the pharmacy, so you’ll know if it will cover your medication.

Some Medicare drug plans will have a drug management program to help patients who are at risk for prescription drug abuse. If you get opioids from more than one doctor or pharmacy, your plan may talk with your doctors to make sure you need the medications and are using them safely.

If your drug plan decides your use of prescription opioids and benzodiazepines may not be safe, the plan may limit your coverage of those drugs. For example, you may be required to get your medications only from certain doctors or pharmacies to better coordinate your health care.

Before the drug plan places you in a drug management program, it will notify you by letter, and you’ll be able to tell the plan which doctors or pharmacies you prefer to use. If your plan decides to limit your coverage for these medications, it will send you another letter confirming that. You and your doctor can then appeal if you disagree with the decision or think it is a mistake.

It’s important to note that the safety reviews and drug management programs generally won’t apply to you if you have cancer, get hospice, palliative or end-of-life care, or live in a long-term care facility.

Talk with your doctor about all your pain treatment options, including whether taking an opioid medication is right for you. You may be able to take other medications or do other things to help manage your pain with less risk. Decisions to start, stop or reduce prescription opioids should be made by you and your doctor. What works best is different for every patient.

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5 outdated IT practices that companies need to eliminate

Technology changes nearly as quickly as the calendar flips. A new device or upgrade that was trending not long ago may become antiquated or obsolete before you know it.

Information technology is integral to most businesses today, but keeping up with the interrelated parts of IT and the advancements – from software to cyber security to social media platforms – isn’t always prioritized. IT experts say companies falling behind in that category could see their business slip as a result.

“Over the last several years, many IT practices have become fixed and inflexible,” says Chris Hoose (www.choosenetworks.com), an IT consultant who works with small businesses. “While older concepts are a good springboard, some have become ineffective. There are many you can reconsider and/or eliminate.”

Hoose looks at five IT practices he thinks businesses should stop using:

Outdated software. One of the biggest security vulnerabilities a company can face is one of the simplest to address: outdated software. “There are many risks associated with using unsupported or outdated software, and hackers love to exploit these gaps,” Hoose says. “Then there are the inevitable problems of a system failure or antiquated workflows that slow a company’s productivity. Although upgrading software – including your operating systems – can be time-consuming and expensive, doing so can safeguard your organization and create more room for innovations.”

In-house server hosting. Much of today’s modern software is hosted in the cloud. “Most cloud vendors are able to provide public, private or hybrid cloud hosting based on your requirements,” Hoose says. “With such extensive cloud capability, there is no reason anymore to rely on in-house server hosting. Migrating to these versions can not only help save your business the costs of purchasing and maintaining software, but also the costs of maintenance and upkeep on servers.” Another plus of cloud computing is the added security of cloud disaster recovery, a backup and restore capability that enables companies to recover data and switch to a secondary operational mode.

Inflexible work environment. The new wave of the workforce is an IT strategy that includes video cameras and laptops for team members to facilitate remote work and remote communications. “If your firm doesn’t have that flexibility, they risk being left behind,” Hoose says. “Flexible work arrangements improve a company’s effectiveness and morale. It’s one of the best uses of today’s IT.”

Newsgroups and discussion forums. These popular mediums once served as portals where questions were raised from the team and answers were provided in a question-and-answer format. Better alternatives, Hoose says, are options like Facebook, Hangouts or Slack. “The format is far more intuitive and user-friendly with social media pages than with conventional discussion forums,” he says. “Also, multiple answers can be handled easily with social-media pages.”

Unnecessary complexity. Hoose says an overly complex structure is the core failing of legacy systems. “Rethink your architecture and prioritize for simplicity,” he says. “When modernizing your systems, less is more in terms of both architecture and functionality. You can start by implementing only the most important features. Make sure the new application will work well with the rest of the tools used in your business by default. Whatever applications you choose, make sure you use a solid and future-ready technology stack to deliver optimal performance.”

“Many executives are unsure, or even unaware, of the risk that obsolescence presents to their technology portfolios,” Hoose says. “Their uncertainty stems from not having the right data and dealing with conflicting points of view on priority, value, and risk.”

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History Matters

Ponce De Leon, the Spanish explorer, discovered Florida on April 2, 1513 during Easter Week, which in Spanish is celebrated as the festival of Pascua Florida. That’s how Florida got its name. Fifty-two years later, on September 8, 1565, during the settlement of St. Augustine, FL [America’s oldest city] the state was claimed as a Spanish colony by Admiral Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. In attendance at the ceremony were Spanish colonists and members of the indigenous native American Timucua tribe, all of whom were invited to a commemorative communal meal.

Some claim that event was the original Thanksgiving celebration, predating the festivities at Plymouth by more than half a century. The story has been chronicled by children’s author, Robin Gioia, in her book, America's Real First Thanksgiving: St. Augustine, Florida, September 8, 1565. The Grateful American Book Prize believes that tale might inspire your children to learn more about history.

After General Robert E. Lee’s army withdrew from Richmond, VA, the capital of the Confederacy, the city surrendered on April 3, 1865 to the Union Army. Six days later, General Lee yielded to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, VA, officially ending the Civil War—the bloodiest, most destructive “conflict” in America’s history. The death toll is estimated to have been between 620,000 and 850,000 Union and Confederate soldiers—all of them Americans.

If you want your children and grandchildren a get a “look” at the War Between The States from a kid’s point of view, give them Kathy Cannon Wiechman’s Like a River: A Civil War Novel. The book won the inaugural Grateful American Book Prize in 2015. It was written especially for middle-grade readers and provides an exciting perspective that has a particular appeal to young readers.

James Earl Ray perpetrated what is considered a “crime of the century” when he assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, TN. Ray was captured, he confessed to the murder, and was sentenced to 99 years in prison—which he never completed. He died at Columbia Nashville Memorial Hospital in Tennessee from complications related to kidney disease at the age 70 in 1998. Dr. King, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964, was an iconic civil rights leader who was known for advancing the cause of racial equality through nonviolent activism.

The Grateful American Prize recommendation for young readers interested in learning about Dr. King’s life, death, and the capture of his murderer is James L. Swanson’s Chasing King's Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Assassin.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the only president to win four consecutive terms. He lived and served through some of the most tumultuous times in U.S. history; he guided the country through the Great Depression and World War II during which the U.S. fought in Europe and the Pacific, simultaneously. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945—less than five months before the war ended.

The only other person who tried to abandon the term limit tradition was another Roosevelt; Franklin’s distant cousin, Theodore. The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1951, officially limited U.S. presidents to two terms (8 years) in office.

Albert Marrin’s FDR and the American Crisis is a definitive biography of Franklin Roosevelt, and an easy, interesting read for those who are 12 and up, says the Grateful American Book Prize.

President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated while he was attending a performance of the play, “Our American Cousin”, at Ford’s Theater in Washington on April 14, 1865. He died the following morning—six days after the end of the Civil War. His accomplishments were legion, and interest in Mr. Lincoln continues; more has been written about him than any other person in history--with the exception of Jesus Christ.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends for readers 11 and older another book by author James L. Swanson, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. It’s a taut, well-sourced detective story with the power to prove that a lesson in history need not be boring.

About the Grateful American Book Prize

The panel of judges for the 2019 Grateful American Book Prize is now accepting submissions for books published between July 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019. Historically accurate books of fiction and nonfiction written for middle schoolers are eligible. Entries for the Prize will be accepted until July 31.

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Simple strategies for a larger tomato harvest

By Melinda Myers

Nothing is more frustrating than investing time, money and energy in planting and growing tomatoes only to watch them succumb to disease. We can’t change the weather conditions that support disease problems, but we can tweak our growing strategies to reduce this risk.

Select and grow the most disease-resistant varieties suited to your growing region. Consult your local University Extension Office for a list of recommended tomatoes and always check the plant tags before purchasing plants.

Plant tomatoes in a sunny location, that receives at least eight or more hours of sunlight, with rich well-drained soil. Your plants will be healthier and better able to fend off insects and tolerate disease.

No room – no problem. Grow your tomatoes in containers filled with a quality potting mix and drainage holes. Many of the newer containers, like Gardener’s Victory Self-Watering Patio Planter are designed to increase success with less effort on your part. Look for containers with built-in trellises, large reservoirs and other features that promote healthy growth and productivity.

Properly space plants to increase airflow and sunlight reaching all parts of the plant. This reduces the risk of disease and increases a plant’s ability to produce more fruit. Leaving space between plants also helps reduce the spread of disease from diseased plants to nearby healthy plants.

Further reduce the risk of disease by lifting the plants off the ground. Supporting plants with strong tomato cages improves air flow and light penetration while keeping the plants and fruit off the ground and away from soil-borne insects and diseases.

Avoid flimsy tomato towers that tend to topple and bulky cages that consume too much storage space. Consider investing in one of the stronger supports like the Gardener’s Vertex Lifetime Tomato Cage that stores flat and is strong, but flexible to encourage stouter growth. Another benefit is that it opens, so you can easily place them around larger plants; just in case you waited too long to set the cages in place.

Use soaker hoses or irrigation systems like the Waterwell Irrigation System that target water to the soil around the plant. Placing water just where it is needed – on the soil – conserves moisture while keeping the foliage dry. Overhead irrigation uses more water and increases the risk and spread of many common tomato diseases.

Boost your tomato plants’ productivity by as much as 20% with red mulch. The USDA and Clemson University developed a red mulch that reflects far-red wavelengths upward into the plants stimulating growth and development. For more help growing tomatoes successfully and boosting your tomato harvest visit gardeners.com.

Rotate plantings from one garden, or area within a garden, to another. Moving related plants to different locations each year reduces the build up of insects and diseases, reducing the risk of future problems. Consider rotating your tomato plantings into containers if space is limited. Start with fresh soil, a clean container and disease-resistant plants.

With these few changes and a bit of cooperation from the weather, your new challenge may be finding ways to use and share your bumper harvest. Your surplus tomatoes and vegetables are always welcome at food pantries and meal programs in your community.

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Digital dentistry is revolutionizing the patient experience

Dentistry is undergoing a revolution as “digital dentistry” moves from concept to reality.

“Digital dentistry allows for a wide variety of advanced techniques to be used to not only make the patient experience better, but it also allows the dentist to utilize quicker, easier and less expensive techniques,” says Dr. Doug Depew, author of “Change Your Smile, Change Your Life: Your Guide to Orthodontic Treatment” ((https://www.depewsmiles.com). “Dental dentistry advancements will continue to revolutionize many different aspects of the dental profession.”

Digital dentistry incorporates computer-controlled components to carry out dental procedures rather than using mechanical or electrical tools, or plaster tooth models. More dentists are embracing the technology because it improves efficiency, accuracy and potentially produces more predictable outcomes than non-digital techniques.

Not all dentists are embracing the technology due to the significant investment required, a steep learning curve for both doctors and technicians, and a natural resistance to change, especially for those nearing retirement.

The benefits, however, are worth it, says Dr. Depew. He says the following areas are where digital dentistry is making a difference:

Computerized patient rooms. The first area that most dentists start with in digital dentistry is putting computers into each patient room. This allows for a variety of state-of-the-art techniques as well as enhanced patient education.

Digital patient education. This includes technologies already available in other industries, such as voice-activated and/or touch-screen computer and software instruction, live video and rapid recall of photos and educational components.

Digital Radiography. X-rays no longer require film or chemicals. “The main advantages include lower radiation, significant time reduction, ease of storage and organization, and image enhancements for quick and improved viewing,” Dr. Depew says.

Cone Beam CT. This is being quickly adopted by most specialties and becoming the proposed standard for diagnosing of a myriad of conditions; and for planning surgical procedures, including implant placement, third-molar removal, and endodontics. “Future advances and changes will see improved software diagnostic capabilities to automatically take measurements and propose implant positions, and algorithms that automatically look for problems,” says Dr. Depew.

Intra-oral Scanning. Instead of the gooey impressions, the dentist puts a wand in your mouth that makes a three-dimensional reproduction of your teeth. “Scanning teeth and preparations is becoming increasingly easier and faster” says Dr. Depew

Digital Design. Using special CAD/CAM software the doctor and laboratory use the data from the methods mentioned above to design aligners for tooth movement, crowns, and other oral appliances.

3D Printers. Designing software, tooth models and even appliances can be printed instead of using outdated plaster models.

Lasers. Diode lasers allow for advantages in simplifying surgical procedures, and an expanding use in many dental procedures make this area of digital dentistry highly desirable. The current trend is small, portable, cordless, low-cost diode lasers.

“Combining these technologies, our treatments can be faster, more economical, predictable, consistent, and even more accurate,” says Dr. Depew. He believes digital dentistry is already changing the dental profession and that it will lead to even more remarkable technological advances in the future.

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Social Security Matters

by AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

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

Dear Rusty: I’ve been trying to determine the best way to proceed with retirement and could use some help. I’d like to retire on or about my 62nd birthday this September. Waiting for “full retirement” does not motivate as I have income replacement through my real estate investments. I’ll have way over any earnings limits for 2019, but I don’t want to have my benefits reduced. Can I apply as SSA suggests three months before my 62nd birthday without running afoul of SSA’s arcane benefit reduction rules? Or should I quit first then apply? Please don’t refer me to my Financial Advisor or local SSA office, they just confuse. Signed: Anxious to Retire

Dear Anxious: Well I’m afraid I can’t offer you any obscure methods to avoid Social Security’s rules & regulations, but perhaps I can clarify some things which will help you manage the timing of your application for Social Security benefits. From what you’ve said, I assume you mean you plan to retire from your working career in September, but by that time you will have greatly exceeded Social Security’s annual earnings limit (which is $17,640 for 2019). Again, from what you’ve said, you wish to claim SS as soon as possible but you don’t want to lose any benefits because of exceeding the earnings limit. So, if you wish to claim SS as soon as you turn 62, you’ll be happy to know that there is a special rule which applies for your first year of collecting benefits before your full retirement age (66 ½ in your case).

That “first year rule” essentially says that if you start benefits in mid-year, earnings prior to the month your benefits start don’t count; instead you’ll be subject to a monthly earnings test for the remainder of that year, once your benefits have started. So in your case, your first month of eligibility for SS would be the month of October (you must be 62 for the entire month to be eligible for benefits), and your benefit payment for October would be paid the following month (the payment date will be either the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th Wednesday of the month, depending on the day of the month you were born). Then, starting with the month of October, if you do not have earnings from working which exceed $1,470 in any of the remaining months of 2019, your benefits will not be cut; but if you have earnings from working which exceed that monthly amount in any month for the rest of 2019, then you will not be entitled to SS benefits for that month. Exceeding the monthly limit by any amount (even by $1) will cause Social Security to take back the full benefit for that month. So, if your plan is to retire from your working career in September and depend upon your savings and investments for income, and if you claim Social Security as soon as you’re eligible in October and you have no further earnings from working, you’ll not suffer any loss of benefits in 2019.

But just as a caution, after 2019 you’ll still be subject to the annual “earnings test” because you’re claiming Social Security before you reach your full retirement age, and the annual earnings test will apply until the month that you reach your full retirement age (after that, there is no longer a limit to what you can earn). As for when you should apply for benefits, Social Security recommends that you apply 3 months before you wish your benefits to begin. When applying, you can specify the month you want your benefits to start, so if you wish that to be at age 62 simply specify October 2019 as your benefit start month. Applying prior to September and specifying October as your benefit start month will not expose you to any extra earnings limitations over those explained above.

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Unsure what to do with your 401(k) when you switch jobs? Here are 5 options

The average American changes jobs 12 times in their lifetime. With each new job comes new offices, new co-workers – and possibly a decision about what to do with the 401(k) plan they started at their last job.

Selecting the right course of action for what becomes of that money can be crucial because the 401(k) has essentially replaced pensions as an employer-sponsored retirement savings vehicle.

“You have to look at where you are in life,” says Christy Smith (www.thepresleygroup.net), founder of Presley Wealth Management and an Investment Adviser Representative. “If you’re in your 40s with many working years left, it might be better to roll the 401(k) into your new company’s plan. If you’re just a few years from your planned retirement, putting the money into the new company’s plan is possibly not the best thing.”

Smith outlines five 401(k) options to consider when taking a new job:

Direct rollover to the new company’s 401(k). A direct rollover is a transfer of assets that allows those retirement savings to grow and remain tax-deferred without interruption. It goes directly into the new employer’s retirement plan without ever passing through your hands. “If you’ve got at least another 10-12 working years left with the job change, this is often a preferred route to take,” Smith says. “One of the advantages is a 401(k) offers lower-cost or plan-specific investment options.”

Direct rollover to a traditional IRA. People roll over a 401(k) to an IRA to have wider investment options and more control over their money. You don’t pay taxes on IRA contributions or gains until withdrawing the money, which you can do starting at age 59 ½. “With a traditional IRA you contribute pre-tax dollars, and that money grows tax-deferred,” Smith says. “This might be a better option for those closer to retirement. At that point you want lower-risk investments, and moving your money from a 401(k) to an IRA will give you a variety of fixed-income options.”

Convert to a Roth IRA. Contributions to a Roth are taxed when they’re made. The upside is you can withdraw contributions and earnings tax-free at age 59 ½. “If you have a relatively small 401(k), maybe it’s worth it to convert to a Roth and pay the taxes up front,” Smith says. “I certainly think Roth conversions can be a great situation, but they have to be done delicately.”

Leave it behind. Leaving your money in your former employer’s plan may make sense if you like the investment options it offers, or if you’re taking time to explore other options. “The downside is you’re no longer contributing to it,” Smith says.

Cash it out. Smith says this is almost never a good idea, due to the tax implications and the hit your overall retirement fund takes. “People who have financial distress will take the 401(k) distribution, but if there’s any way to avoid that they should,” she says. There’s a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty if you are under age 59 ½. The exception to this rule is if you are leaving or losing a job at age 55 or later, but the distribution counts toward that year’s taxable income.

“Whatever one decides,” Smith says, “the key considerations are continuing the tax-deferral of these retirement funds for as long as possible, and to avoid current taxes and penalties that can take big chunks out of what you’ve saved and invested.”

Music hath charms

Some might find hip hop music annoying, but now the Swiss may have proven that it can be “cheesy,” as well. It seems that researchers in Burgdorf, Switzerland, recently tested the effect music might have on Emmental cheese. They found that hip hop music outdid opera and classical rock when it came to the impact on “flavor, smell and taste.” According to the report produced by the Bern University of Arts scientists who conducted the research, “the hip hop sample topped the list of all cheese exposed to music,” significantly increasing fruitiness, smell and taste.

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Dog gets ‘seeing eye pup’

Charlie, an 11-year-old golden retriever belonging to the Stipe family of Mooresville, NC lost its eyesight and so the family adopted a puppy named Maverick to be a companion for Charlie. The dogs quickly bonded. In fact, Mrs. Stipe told reporters that when they would play, Maverick would realize that Charlie would lose the toy sometimes, so [Maverick] would pick it up and put it back in front of him to re-engage playtime." And, when out of doors, the puppy would guide Charlie much the same way a seeing eye dog might guide a blind person. Maverick became a regular “seeing eye pup.”

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A big, but not the biggest baby

Harper Buckley who was born in Elmira, New York, on March 15, 2019, weighing 15 pounds, 15 ounces at birth may hold the record for heaviest neonate ever born in New York State, according to her doctors. But, the folks who chronicle world records at Guinness would consider her a lightweight. The world record holder was a boy who weighed in at a whopping 22 pounds when he was born at home in Saville, Ohio, to 7 feet, 11 inches, tall Anna Bates and her husband, Martin, who was just 7 feet, 9 inches tall.

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Senior citizens & dog walking

Fractures related to dog walking have more than doubled between 2004 and 2017 among older patients. The rise in injuries can be attributed to increased pet ownership and a greater emphasis on physical activity at older ages, according to a study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “This study highlights that, while there are undoubtedly pros to dog walking, patients’ risks for falls must be factored into lifestyle recommendations in an effort to minimize such injuries," said medical student Kevin Pirruccio, the lead author of the study.

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Doctors & sleep

Allowing first-year doctors to work longer shifts does not result in chronic sleep loss or reduced patient safety. That’s the conclusion of a study from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. “Although there was a lot of concern about shift limits, they really don’t seem to have an effect on any important domains, such as patient safety, when applied in the current context,” said David Asch of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "We were able to use a single study to examine the impact of resident on-duty hours on their sleep and alertness, the safety of the patients they cared for and the education the residents received, all at once. In the past, what research there has been only looked at one of these factors at a time.”

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Homicides & guns

Gun-related homicides in states with strict gun laws increase when neighboring states have lax gun laws, and 65 percent of guns recovered in more restrictive states originate from elsewhere. These findings from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, suggest that "the benefits of firearm laws might not be fully realized until either all states reach a certain threshold level of firearm legislation, or more universal federal firearm legislation is enacted," said Mark. J. Seamon, the senior author on the study.

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Cancer & the liver

When cancer spreads, it is more likely to move into the liver more often than into other organs. Hepatocytes, the primary functional cells of the liver, respond to inflammation by activating the STAT3 protein. this activation increases the production of other proteins that remodel the liver and create the "soil" needed for cancer cells to "seed." “The seed-and-soil hypothesis is well-recognized, but our research now shows that hepatocytes are the major orchestrators of this process,” said oncologist Gregory L. Beatty of the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. He said that using antibodies to block inflammatory signals can limit the risk of cancer spreading to the liver.

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Redefining gender in the workplace

Many employers have responded to awareness of transgender workers by developing new policies aimed at accommodations, but there is still much progress to be made. The question of gender in the workplace has only grown more complicated, in part because “gender in general has been in the air with the #MeToo movement,” said Nancy Rothbard of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “That really brought gender to the forefront of people’s conceptualization around what’s going on in the workplace, what influences how we experience work.” Stephanie Creary, also of Wharton, said, "There wasn’t as much expectation for being authentic at work until around 10 years ago. And that has changed.”

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Western bias in genetics

The vast majority of participants in genetics studies are of European ancestry, and this lack of diversity has serious consequences for biomedical research and the treatment of diseases. “Leaving entire populations out of human genetic studies is both scientifically damaging and unfair,” said Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, who co-authored the commentary. “We may be missing genetic variants that play an important role in health and disease across ethnically diverse populations, which may have deleterious consequences in terms of disease prevention and treatment.” A more complete understanding of human genetics and its relationship to disease requires studies of people representing the full “landscape of human variation.”

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Why prison reform is about changinghearts and minds – as well as the system

Prison reform efforts in many states have often been about reducing the inmate population in an effort to save money, but for prison reform advocates this is more than just a pocketbook issue.

“Criminal justice reform isn’t just about passing laws to reduce prison sentences or promoting policies to reduce prison populations,” says Khalil Osiris, a former prison inmate and author of the book A Freedom That Comes From Within (www.khalilosiris.com). “It’s about changing the way we think about crime and punishment.”

States are experimenting with reducing mandatory sentences, and giving judges and prosecutors more discretion in sentencing. Other reforms include coming up with alternative settings for the mentally ill, which some studies show is more than 30 percent of the prison population. Reforms also include enhancing educational opportunities, which is what helped Osiris turn his life around.

His path to prison began when he was a teenager, and at one time he was facing the possibility of a 75 year sentence. But by the time of his release, he had earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston University, and wrote the manuscript for his first book – The Psychology of Incarceration: A Distortion of the State of Belonging. During this time, Osiris also became pen pals with Makaziwe Mandela, the daughter of Nelson Mandela. This friendship led him to South Africa where he worked for seven years and launched several educational and social reform initiatives – including a re-entry program in prisons.

Osiris thinks there is plenty of room for more effective prison reforms in the United States. His suggestions include:

Better data collection. “We should start developing more effective practices and processes for collecting data on incarceration in order to develop a clearer understanding of what is happening and why, particularly on a state and local level,” Osiris says. “There are vast disparities in state statistics on prison and criminal justice reform. We must develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding of those differences in order to quantify what progress means.”

Increase employment opportunities. Employment for formerly incarcerated citizens is foundational to criminal justice reform efforts. The most successful employment program Osiris has seen in America is Ready4Work, an anchor initiative of the Jacksonville, Florida based organization called Operation New Hope. Ready4Work provides a practical way to turn our national concern about criminal justice reform into effective, scalable action.

Increase indigent defense and plea bargaining guidelines. “To ensure prosecutorial oversight, it’s important to require judges to enforce the plea bargaining guidelines. It is also important to secure legislative adoption of the guidelines in states with directly elected county district attorneys,” Osiris says.

Develop prosecutorial guidelines. “Prosecutors have more discretionary choices and power in the criminal justice system than any other stakeholder, including judges,” Osiris says. “They can have more impact on mass incarceration numbers than any other stakeholder. Yet they have very few established guidelines regarding sentencing.”

“Prison reform is a critical issue, and it can indeed save states money,” Osiris says. “But my mission is to transform the hearts and minds of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated citizens by inspiring them to think differently and make better choices.”

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4 tips for creating less chaotic, more productive mornings

When the alarm rings each morning, do you arise quickly, eager to take on whatever the day brings?

Or do you drowsily reach for the snooze button?

Your answer could be crucial because the mindset you start the day with can play a significant role in whether the rest of your day is filled with successes or setbacks.

“Every time the sun rises, so do new opportunities to grow, develop and improve,” says Dr. Rob Carter III, co-author with his wife, Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter, of The Morning Mind: Use Your Brain to Master Your Day and Supercharge Your Life (www.themorningmind.com).

But to make the most of those opportunities, you may need to adjust your morning routine to better prepare your mind and body for what’s to come.

“Your morning routine can be as little as 15 to 20 minutes if you like,” Carter says, “but the idea is to have time dedicated to you and habits that support you.”

Carter offers these suggestions for starting the day right:

Plan your day the night before. A peaceful morning can quickly turn chaotic if you don’t have things carefully planned out. “It’s not unusual for people to be heading out the door and discover they can’t find their car keys,” Carter says. A lot of morning stress can be relieved by planning your day the night before, he says, such as deciding what clothes to wear, making sure your phone is charged, and writing the next day’s to-do list.

Make time for yourself. If you’re married with kids, this can be a challenge. But Carter says everyone needs time for reflection, which is unlikely to happen unless you make it a priority. Set aside time to meditate, pray, do yoga or even do nothing for 10 minutes. “Spending time by yourself,” he says, “allows you to reflect on life’s happenings and can increase productivity and focus, and make you appreciate time with others more.”

Minimize noise and distractions. Many people start the day by turning on the TV, the radio or other devices. Avoid that urge, Carter says. Instead, devote your energy to getting yourself mentally focused for the day. “You definitely want to avoid watching the news if at all possible,” he says, “because the often-stressful images you’ll see aren’t conducive to a peaceful morning.”

Create a morning-exercise routine. Exercising gives you a sense of achievement to start the day with, provides you with more energy for the rest of the day, improves your mood, and makes you feel in control of your life. “Research shows that people who exercise in the morning are more consistent with their routine than those who try to fit exercise into their schedule later in the day,” Carter says.

“The most important thing about a morning routine is that you create one that you enjoy so much you will stick to it,” Carter says. “If you begin to realize that any aspects are not making you feel good, then get rid of them and replace them with something better.”

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Are you so focused on retirement you are missing out on your life?

Mary and Pete saved every penny for retirement. They never went on vacations, they rarely went out to eat, and they lived a frugal lifestyle secure in the knowledge that when they retired, they would be able to live comfortably.

In short, they worried so much about retirement that they forgot to experience all that life has to offer.

“Saving for retirement is a worthy goal but there must be a balance between that and living life to the fullest,” says John Hagensen, founder and managing director of Keystone Wealth Partners (www.keystonewealthpartners.com).

Hagensen says he has clients who scrimped and saved all their lives so they would have plenty of money for retirement. But when they do retire, they still don’t want to spend any money to enjoy themselves because they have been so programmed during their working lives to save every penny until the day they die.

“The trick is to find that balance between saving to have a good retirement and managing your money so you can be rich in experiences,” he says.

Hagensen says this concept was driven home to him when a 20-year-old friend died in a traffic accident while driving across the country to start a new church.

“She lived a life of kindness and joy and had wonderful adventures in her life,” he says. “I saw the people she had impacted and it really hit home to me that life is short. Saving for retirement is a worthy goal, but it shouldn’t be the only goal. We need to know that if we died tomorrow, we would be happy because we lived richly, not that we died rich.”

Hagensen offers these tips for people who want to live richly instead of dying wealthy:

Have a comprehensive plan. Design a life plan around all your financial goals – both short term and long term – and how you plan to reach them. If you are unsure how to devise such a comprehensive plan, seek the advice of a qualified financial planner.

Stop procrastinating. Stop making excuses about making comprehensive plans about your financial future. The future will be here sooner than you think. “We think we have an infinite amount of time – we don’t,” Hagensen says.

Take risks. Those who experience life to the fullest sometimes have to take risks, both professionally and personally. “You will only regret the risks you never took. Everything else is just a learning experience,” Hagensen says.

Get out of the mindset of fear and scarcity. Hagensen says we should ask ourselves “what is the worst that can happen?” when taking a big gamble, such as moving to another city for a job. Once people ask themselves that question, he says, many are able to overcome their fears because they know they can handle that worst-case situation.

“Yes, it is important to be able to have a comfortable retirement,” Hagensen says. “But we only go around once in life and it is also important to live richly while our health is good so we don’t have any regrets when we do retire. You don’t want to be short of money, but you also don’t want to be short on experiencing life.”

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Inside the interrogation room: Manipulation brings false confessions

By BRIAN LESLIE

True crime shows comprise one of the most popular genres in the entertainment culture. People are fascinated with who did it and why; how they got caught or got away.

More and more, though, it seems the storyline is “falsely accused” and “false confession.” Curiosity and fascination deepen when the possibility emerges that the convicted criminal may actually be an innocent victim. Recent developments regarding the central figure in Netflix’s controversial documentary series, “Making a Murderer,” is a case in point.

In numerous cases where prime suspects end up in jail, defense attorneys later go back to the beginning and, with the help of forensic and interrogation experts, expose flaws in the evidence gathering and, often, in the way investigators interviewed suspects. In “Making a Murderer,” Steven Avery is in prison for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Avery denied carrying out the crime, and his attorney, Kathleen Zellner, recently won a request that could help lead to a new trial.

The conviction was based in part on the confession of also-convicted 16-year-old Brendan Dassey, Avery’s nephew. However, the teen later recanted the confession, which he gave without a lawyer present. It was claimed that Dassey was coerced and intimidated by investigators. Attempts by Dassey's attorneys to have his confession overturned have bounced through state and federal courts since his conviction.

Without his confession, there wasn't much of a case. With a suspect like Dassey, who has reported intellectual disabilities, interrogators often try to build a rapport so the suspect will see them as being good guys trying to help. That’s particularly effective with someone as young as Dassey. You can convince a 16-year-old of anything, especially if they're in a vulnerable position.

The Netflix series investigated the law enforcement and judicial procedures in the case and suggested: 1) evidence may have been planted and, 2) that Dassey’s confession came due to interrogators pressuring him.

The latter occurrence, statistics show, happens a disturbing amount of the time in law enforcement, and the public isn’t aware of it. Let’s take a peek inside the interrogation room and see how forced and false confessions happen.

There’s a misnomer about what occurs inside the interrogation room. One of the issues is that what juries see in an interrogation video is not necessarily what’s really occurring. Some of the interviewing language and techniques that are used are sometimes not explained to juries.

Remember, the whole point of an interrogation is to get a confession, and it can lead to all kinds of tricks to get just that.

The “narrative trap.” When investigating how interrogations went down, I look at how the questions were constructed, and also how law enforcement got to the point where they targeted the suspect. The narrative trap is when a question is constructed in such a way by the interviewer that the context may not be understood completely by the suspect. Thus he or she provides an answer that may be incriminating.

But when a jury looks at that video, they don’t know why certain questions are being asked. Or, why is a rapport being built between the interrogator and the suspect? Or, why during rapport-building was the suspect given their Miranda Rights – their right to silence – which they soon forgot in an hour during the interview?

Blackout confessions. Drug use and drinking get brought up in interrogations, and interrogators sometimes will use it as a way to establish having something in common with the suspect. The questioner will say something like, “Yeah, I’ve had a few too many drinks and done things I didn’t remember. A lot of us make mistakes like that. Maybe you had too much that night.” The interrogator engages in rapport-building, and questions can come in a sneaky way, eliciting responses that can be seen as incriminating. The innocent suspect gets tricked into a confession. He or she leaves the interview thinking everything is fine, and the next thing they know, they’re arrested.

Minimizing and maximizing. Interrogators talk suspects into a confession sometimes by telling them “coming clean” will result in a minimized sentence. Otherwise, they say, it could be the maximum. The pressure builds on the suspect to confess.

One of the key issues is the pressure of the press and local community. The police believe they’ve targeted the right person, but there can be biases and a lack of information or hard evidence. That happens because they’re not using the inductive method of investigation, which considers all evidence – not just the part that fits their original theory.

You have to ask yourself: Why would someone confess something he or she didn’t do? Sometimes they’re being led down a garden path by interrogators. The suspect believes they’re helping interrogators solve the problem – when in reality they’re on a path to prison.

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5 ways young people (and everyone else) can fight for the environment

Climate change continues to draw attention globally, from governmental debates on pollution solutions to people protesting against a lack of action.

In Europe, teenage girls and young women are leading a large student environmental movement, and organizers in the U.S. are planning to join an international day of action on March 15. Against this backdrop, those engaged in environmental issues say that while there is strength in numbers during protest events, the difference often starts with individuals doing the right things daily for clean air and water – when no one is watching.

“Creating awareness on a massive stage is wonderful, but how many realize the responsibility each of us has in this critical battle and how it can’t be won unless we all make the necessary changes?” asks Leslie Landis (www.chendell.com), author of Chendell: A Natural Warrior, a fantasy novel with environmental themes.

Landis hopes her novel will expand awareness of climate change and inspire young people to work together and foster environmental improvements. The characters in her book have a special relationship with nature and that leads to a superhero who fights for environmental issues.

“Anyone can be a hero in the fight against pollution; anyone can step up for any of the environmental problems that plague us and be a natural warrior,” Landis says. “From everyday habits to small lifestyle changes, doing those things daily can make a huge difference.”

Landis lists five ways to be a natural warrior for the environment:

Take a tote. “Ditch the plastic shopping bag and opt for a more versatile alternative like a reusable tote bag,” Landis says. “States like California are already doing their part to reduce the use of plastic bags, and you can help carry that movement forward by keeping a handful of reusable bags in your house and car.”

Think before you drink. “Say goodbye to plastic water bottles by getting a reusable canteen or thermos,” Landis says. “Not only do these items help Mother Nature by cutting down on plastic waste, they also reduce your exposure to BPA and help keep your beverages insulated.”

Get thrifty. “The fashion industry creates a lot of unnecessary waste,” Landis says. “But you can help slow it down by giving discarded clothes a second chance. Shop at thrift stores, second-hand shops and vintage boutiques. By sporting looks from the past, you’ll actually be helping the environment in the future.”

Don’t put the pedal to the metal. Environmental experts talk about how we all leave carbon footprints by the modes of transportation we use. “It’s a lot larger than you think,” Landis says. “Fortunately, there are many alternative means of transportation. Whether you ride your bike to work, carpool to school, or walk, you’ll be saving yourself from the high price of gas while helping reduce carbon emissions in our air.”

Grow green. Whether you’re planting trees to combat the carbon emissions or planting an edible garden to cut back on store-bought waste, Landis says, “Putting your green thumb to good use will always have a positive effect on the government.”

“It’s great to see young people in particular get involved in large numbers regarding climate change,” Landis says. “But it’s amazing how simple it is for everyone to get involved to save our most precious resources.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Increasing your Social Security Benefit Amount

Dear Rusty: I turned 67 in September 2018. My benefit estimate is $1478 a month if I claim benefits now. I work and will continue working as long as I can. My 35-year earnings period includes about ten years of zeros when I was married (twice for about 5 years each). If I claim benefits now will my monthly amount go up if I continue to work? I read that the SSA recalculates each year and uses your high years. I make about $57k a year now and hopefully will continue to do so. Does the SSA replace one of the zero years with the years I work after claiming benefits and raise my monthly benefit accordingly and how much? I truly appreciate your help with this as I would like to decide this month. I have read on SSA that if I don't claim it will go up 8 percent but I also have read I could be drawing benefits and working too, and this would be a better financial situation. Signed: Working Senior

Dear Working Senior: Yes, if you have 10 years of zeros in your 35-year earnings history, your more recent earnings each year will replace one of those zero years, if the earnings are what Social Security considers “substantial” (which your $57,000 income would be). Social Security gets your earnings information from the IRS as soon as your W-2 is available each year and makes any benefit adjustment necessary at that time (if you’re self-employed the adjustment is made after you file your income taxes). When Social Security receives your income information each year, they will recompute your “average indexed monthly earnings” (AIME) with your revised 35-year earnings history (including one less zero year), adjust your “primary insurance amount” (or “PIA”), and increase your benefit accordingly. I can’t tell you how much of an increase it would be because I don’t have access to your lifetime earnings records, but you shouldn’t expect it to be a major increase each year. After all, your new earnings will only represent 1/35th of your AIME, so the increase to your benefit won’t be big. But if you continue to work with significant earnings your benefit will continue to increase over time and each increase you get will last for the rest of your life.

You are correct that for each year you delay claiming benefits beyond your full retirement age of 66, you’ll earn delayed retirement credits (DRCs) of 8 percent, up until you are 70 when your benefit would be 32 percent higher than at your full retirement age. You’re earning those DRCs now at a rate of 2/3rds of 1percent each month after your FRA and will continue to earn them until you claim (but not after age 70). However, if you are trying to compare the increase you will get by claiming benefits and continuing to work, versus the 8 percent per year increase you will get by delaying claim of your SS, please be aware that the 8 percent annual increase will be much more than any increase you’ll get from working and replacing a zero year. And the fact is, if you continue to delay and also continue to work, you’ll still be improving your eventual benefit from your earnings and you’ll still earn those delayed retirement credits until you are 70. In other words, you can do both.

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House calls

By Dr. Daniel Knight

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Email your health questions to housecall@uams.edu.

Q: My husband’s elbow swelled and the doctor said it was a bursa. What causes this and how is it treated?

A: The bursa, of which the human body has more than 150, is a small sac filled with lubricating fluid located between bone, muscle, tendons and skin. Shoulder, elbow, knee, foot and hip joints are more likely to develop bursitis, which occurs when a bursa becomes inflamed or irritated.

Bursitis is often caused by repetitive motions but less often, results from a sudden, more serious injury. Other causes include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriasis, thyroid disease or an unusual drug reaction.

Treatments to reduce pain and inflammation may include rest, splints, cold and heat application, anti-inflammatory and non-steroidal drugs, corticosteroid injections, physical therapy and when other treatments aren’t effective, surgery.

Since bursitis is usually due to overuse, the best treatment is to avoid or modify the activities that led to it.

Most cases of bursitis improve without treatment after a few weeks, but those experiencing pain that interferes with normal daily activities or a soreness that doesn’t improve, a recurrence of bursitis, or a fever with the affected area becoming red, swollen or warm should see their physician.

Q. Is it more important to stretch before or after exercising or both and why?

A. Stretching is a good idea, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. The ACSM recommends stretching each of the major muscle groups at least twice a week for 60 seconds for each exercise. The slow, sustained lengthening of the muscle is one of three types of exercises, the others are aerobic and strengthening.

Those performing flexibility exercises should stretch as far as possible before easing back. Each stretch should be done gently and without sudden jerking or bouncing movements. Be sure to breathe naturally and avoid holding your breath. Instead, exhale during exertion and inhale during relaxation. Those stretching should expect to feel tension but not pain. Maintaining a regular routine of stretching two to three times a week will provide the best benefits to those who do so.

Studies about the benefits of stretching are mixed; some concluding doing so before or after exercise has little or no benefit. Other research concludes that while stretching doesn’t prevent injuries or lessen soreness, it can improve flexibility, range of motion in joints, prepare muscles for activity, and allow the muscles to work most efficiently.

Q: What is a conversion disorder?

A: This is a neurological condition that causes physical symptoms, such as a paralyzed arm, while a physician can’t find any injury or physical cause. Instead, the body is converting psychological and emotional stress into a physical response. Researchers believe this condition, which often develops suddenly, is usually triggered by a stressful situation and other mental disorders. Women are more likely to have this and it occurs more often to individuals with a history of emotional trauma or those who struggle with expressing their feelings.

Symptoms, lasting a few days to several weeks, usually involve the central nervous system and include tunnel vision or blindness, loss of speech or smell, uncontrollable movements, and numbness or paralysis. Since the cause is unknown, diagnosis is made by ruling out other physical, mental or neurological causes. Symptoms can cease as quickly as they began. Often, learning it is not a serious physical condition can lead to the symptoms to stop. Psychotherapy treatments are most often used, but other treatment may include occupational or physical therapy, counseling, hypnosis, antidepressants or antipsychotic drugs. The best methods for preventing conversion disorder are managing stresses through physical exercise, meditation or yoga.

Q. What are the pros and cons of bariatric surgery?

A. Bariatric surgery is a drastic step with a high rate of complications. It also requires patients to make radical, lifelong dietary and lifestyle changes, and permanent weight loss is not guaranteed.

There are several types of bariatric surgery, the most common being gastric bypass surgery, which shrinks the size of the stomach and also bypasses part of the digestive system to limit food absorption. Others are adjustable gastric banding in which an inflatable band is placed around the uppermost part of the stomach to separate it into two parts and limit the amount of food consumed.

While not always the best choice for everyone who has a lot of weight to lose, bariatric surgery can be lifesaving. About 95 percent of those who have weight loss surgery report their quality of life improves and studies suggest they live longer compared to those equally obese who don’t have the surgery.

Surgery carries risks, with up to 10 percent of patients experiencing complications. Those can include pulmonary embolism, leaks in the new surgical gut connections, bleeding ulcers and heart attacks.

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News and trivia 

This was no birdie

A golfer in British Columbia started his first round of the season recently with a birdie that turned into a dubious hole-in-one. His tee shot landed on the green where the birdie in question was basking in the sun. It was an eagle, to be precise, and it picked up the golf ball when it landed and eventually dropped it into the hole. According to the golfer, "Despite the rules of golf saying I need to replace it (which I did and missed the putt), this will still go down as my hole in one story for life."

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A new spin on spin exercise

Spin classes are becoming all the rage among those seeking the ultimate in fitness exercise., A young and very agile Ukrainian personal trainer has developed a new take on spin workouts. So intense is Olena Sheremet’s stationary bike workout routine that it has gone viral on the Internet.

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Thrift store purchase came with a warning

The donations manager at a North Carolina thrift store was warned by the donor that the furniture in question was haunted. According to the store’ Operations Director, Elizabeth Brady, "he was told 'you don't want those, they're haunted.' And he said 'well, now I definitely want them'." The buyer, Ricky Scott, gladly paid $1,000 for the hand carved haunted bedroom suite saying, "maybe it will be a nice ghost."

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4 reasons it’s a mistake to remove permanent teeth when getting braces

Like many industries, orthodontics has advanced to the point where some long-time methods are considered usually unnecessary, if not obsolete.

Those considering braces are glad to hear that one of those mostly outmoded approaches is pulling teeth. At one time, 75 percent of orthodontic cases included the removal of at least one permanent tooth, usually to give the other teeth more room, but in the vast majority of today’s cases, extraction isn’t done.

“These days, most orthodontists consider this a last resort rather than a first option,” says Dr. Jamie Reynolds, an orthodontist, national and international lecturer and author of World Class Smiles Made in Detroit (www.AskDrReynolds.com). “In my practice, I’d say that less than 1 percent of patients need to have a permanent tooth removed.

“Fortunately, the number of cases best treated by extractions has drastically reduced due to early orthodontic intervention and advanced treatment options.”

There are times when a patient might require an extraction of a permanent tooth before getting braces. But Reynolds says if that’s the first recommendation, it’s prudent to get a second opinion.

“While baby teeth are meant to come out in due time, permanent teeth are supposed to be, as the name applies, permanent,” Reynolds says. “Removing a permanent tooth is a big deal.”

Reynolds points out some important considerations to keep in mind about having a permanent tooth pulled for orthodontic treatment:

The consequences. Two of the long-term benefits of braces – enhanced oral health and smile – can be somewhat lessened. “Pulling permanent teeth can compromise the health of gum and bones,” Reynolds says. “It can also result in long-term negative effects on facial structures, such as seen in the aging process. That’s a huge deterrent to extraction. As people age, their lips naturally flatten out, and for patients who had permanent teeth extracted, this flattening is significantly magnified because support for the lips was reduced.”

Modern research. “In the past, orthodontists believed that teeth crowding was due to teeth that were just too big to fit in your mouth,” Reynolds says. “Research has shown that this is not the case at all. Crowding is a result of smaller dental arches. Instead of pulling permanent teeth, treatment should focus on creating additional room for crowded teeth.”

Gentler wires. “Today’s wires provide a much lighter and gentler force on the teeth than traditional, stainless steel wires,” Reynolds says. “This gentleness allows the bone to adapt and change with the movement of teeth, increasing the ability to treat more cases without pulling teeth.”

Better braces. Traditionally, braces were tightened with small wire tires or colored elastics. They kept the wires in place but caused friction and prevented the teeth from sliding freely. “Nowadays, braces have a door or clip that opens and closes to hold the wire in place,” Reynolds says. “This new type of brace does not require ties or elastics, so teeth are free to slide and don’t need to be pushed as hard to move. That’s largely eliminated the need for permanent tooth extraction.”

“These advanced technologies and discoveries allow orthodontists to make room for teeth, rather to remove them,” Reynolds says. “If a doctor recommends the extraction of permanent teeth, be sure to advocate for yourself or your child and consider getting a second opinion.”

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Don’t let your Social Security check go on vacation

If you are like most people on Social Security, you need that check every month to buy groceries and to keep a roof over your head. But believe it or not, for a fortunate few that check is essentially bonus money, totally unnecessary for day-to-day survival.

““That situation is not as unusual as many may think,” says Jeffrey Eglow, the Chief Investment Officer for Guardian Wealth Advisory (www.guardianwealthadvisory.com). “Some people may have inherited an income, won a lottery or had investments that did really well.

“But just because they don’t need that Social Security money to live on, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make the most of it. There are some specific things they should do to make sure they are getting the maximum benefit.”

Eglow said that many baby boomers see their investments and retirement income differently than they did before the 2008 recession. They are looking for sources of guaranteed income instead of more risky investments. While Social Security is guaranteed income, if they are wise about how they leverage it, they can have even more guaranteed income, he says.

Eglow says strategies for people who are in this situation include:

Don’t take Social Security until you are 70. This is the best strategy since there are few investments that offer a similar low risk, guaranteed 8 percent annual growth. By waiting until age 70 to receive benefits, your monthly payments may increase by as much as 32 percent, not including any cost of living increases that may be added to this amount. For example, someone who could get $2,000 a month at the "full retirement age" of 66 would get $2,640 if they postponed taking Social Security until they were 70.

Spend the Social Security check instead of 401(k) or IRA funds. Most people are taxed on only 50 percent to 85 percent of their Social Security benefit. But they are taxed on 100 percent of any withdrawals from traditional IRAs or 401(k) accounts.

Give it to the kids. Use the Social Security checks to pay premiums on life insurance policies so your heirs will receive a larger inheritance. Your heirs will receive this death benefit tax free.

Don’t delay getting Social Security past 70. Since the benefit stops growing at 8 percent once the beneficiary reaches 70, it makes no sense to delay the start of getting the checks past that age.

Eglow says even if some people don’t need their Social Security check for day to day living, it is still foolish to not maximize its value so it can benefit them and their families.

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4 ways to be a positive force in the lives of others

Do you think you have an impact on others? The truth is we impact everyone around us every day – both positively and negatively.

“We can make a huge difference if we become more intentional about having a positive impact on others,” says Dr. Bobby J. Grossi, a motivational speaker and author of the book Destiny is Not Hereditary: How Becoming A Better You Impacts Others (www.drbobbyjgrossi.com). “Those who go through their lives focused on themselves and their own needs never realize the immense power they have.”

Grossi says even something as simple as opening a door for a stranger may put that person in a better mood and possibly change their interactions with others.

“Many people don’t see the full extent of the impact they make because one action can set off a chain reaction that reaches far beyond the starting point.” Grossi says.

“There are many ways you can choose to be intentional about how you impact others. You also can choose to be positive and supportive rather than negative and critical.”

Grossi offers a few suggestions on how to have a more positive impact on those around you:

Become a mentor. Sharing your skills with others will give you a sense of responsibility and pride while the receiver will be on their way to mastering something entirely new. “Someone, somewhere is keen to learn the skill you possess,” Grossi says.

Spend time with a senior citizen. You can light up an older person’s day by spending quality time with them over a cup of tea and a nice chat, Grossi says. You also may find they have plenty of wisdom to share with you.

Become involved in a charity. There is a charity for virtually every worthwhile endeavor. What are you passionate about? Find a charity where you can share your passion and impact the lives of others. Plus, you will meet others who are as passionate as you are.

Change your “script.” Instead of asking “what can I get?” ask “how can I help?” “We have many programmed responses we make every day in life that are automatic,” Grossi says. “We never even think about them.” Changing your script can be as simple as saying “thank you” instead of “ok.” Small changes in your internal scripts can make a big difference not only in the lives of others, he says, but how you feel about yourself.

“Some people think they don’t matter enough to make an impact on other people,” Grossi says. “This is because they might not see the full extent of the impact they make because one action can set off a chain reaction that reaches far beyond the starting point.”

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Poor planning could lead to 5 big retirement problems

Ideally, retirement is a time someone anticipates eagerly – a reward for a lifetime of hard work and solid financial planning. But nearly half of workers who haven’t reached retirement yet aren’t that excited about the so-called golden years. In fact, they have big concerns.

A Gallup poll showed 46 percent of those not yet retired expect they’ll be financially strapped when they do retire. Gallup’s tracking of that metric has reflected persistent concerns with retirement through the early 21st century. Fifteen years ago, only 36 percent of workers said they wouldn’t have enough money to be comfortable in retirement.

“A lack of sufficient retirement savings is a common problem, but there’s a lot more to the pie chart of a comfortable retirement,” says Chris Hobart, (www.hobartfinancialgroup.com), a financial professional and CEO of Hobart Financial Group. “Even people who have saved and invested wisely don’t factor in enough of the costs in retirement, from health care to single living and taxes.”

Hobart notes five common retirement-planning mistakes:

Underestimating health-care costs. It’s estimated that the average 65-year-old couple will need $280,000 in today’s dollars for health-care costs, and that number doesn’t include long-term care. “Typically, we look at longevity as a blessing, but the longer we live, the more likely we are to have health-care issues,” Hobart says. “The No. 1 solution is being intentional about segmenting a portion of money to address long-term health-care issues and studying the applicable insurance products. Many Americans ignore this problem and hope they don’t have to deal with it, and then when they do, it’s too late.”

Not having a plan for the surviving spouse. On average, women outlive men. “But for either spouse, the main factors to consider for a surviving spouse plan are the potentially reduced income, taxes as a single filer, where they’ll live, and paying for the deceased spouse’s final expenses,” Hobart says. “Another problem results if the surviving spouse was never engaged much in the couple’s financial planning. It pays for both spouses to have a good working knowledge about it.”

Counting on Social Security to cover expenses. The monthly Social Security check usually won’t pay the bills, especially if you still have mortgage payments. “You’ll need to make up the shortfall with other sources of income,” Hobart says. “The important thing to look at here is, in a world where few people have pensions anymore, the onus on saving is on the individual retiree. It’s more important than it’s ever been.”

Thinking you can dictate when you retire. One study showed that 51 percent of retirees retired earlier than they planned – and less than half did so by choice. “You have to expect the unexpected and plan for it well ahead of time,” Hobart says. “Many things can happen – downsizing, health issues, taking care of a family member.”

Signing up late for Medicare. The initial enrollment period is three months leading up to your 65th birthday, during the birthday month, or three months later. But if you don’t enroll, your Medicare premiums can increase by 10 percent for each year you were eligible and didn’t enroll. “Whether you like Medicare or not, you don’t want to pay more for something when you didn’t have to,” Hobart says.

“There is no reason you should trip over these things that you can avoid early on,” Hobart says.

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Ask Rusty – No special “extra dollars” for veteran’s monthly benefit

Dear Rusty: I am within a few weeks of applying for SS. My 70th Birthday is in April and I have stayed in my job for the maximum benefit from SS. I am also a veteran and so am taking my DD-214 with me to apply for the $300.00 or so extra dollars that is offered per month. Are there any other extra items I need to apply for? I keep hearing about a $16,000 benefit that I should apply for from SS but of course they never actually give you the specifics. Signed: Veteran Applying for SS

Dear Veteran: Please accept my gratitude for your service to our country, and congratulations for choosing a great strategy by waiting until you are 70 to get the maximum Social Security benefit available to you. However, I’m afraid I must clarify something regarding that “$300 or so extra dollars that is offered per month.” What you’re referring to is called “special extra earnings” for military service, but that provision doesn’t provide you with $300 in additional monthly SS benefits because of your military service. Rather it is a provision, which adds dollars to your recorded military earnings, with the amount added dependent upon the years during which you served.

Those who served between 1957 and 1977 get $300 added to their military earnings record for each quarter of active duty service. For example, if their actual military earnings for a given year of active duty were $2,700, their military earnings for that year for Social Security purposes will be shown as $3,900 ($300 per quarter times 4 quarters = $1200 additional earnings for that service year). Those who served between 1978 and 2001 would also receive an addition to their military earnings record, but it would be computed somewhat differently – they receive an additional $100 in earnings for every $300 in active duty military pay, up to a maximum of $1,200 additional for each service year.

But these credits are not added to your monthly Social Security benefit payment; they are additions to your military earnings record, which may influence the amount of your Social Security benefit if your military service years are among the 35 years used to compute your SS benefit amount. Put simply, your earnings records for each year of active military service are increased by up to $1200 per year for each year of active duty so that when your SS benefit is computed the higher earnings may increase your benefit amount. You can read all about this at the following link to Social Security’s rules on this topic: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/military.html. As you will see in this document, if you served between 1968 and 2001 you do not need to do anything to receive these additions to your military pay record; the special extra earnings have already been credited to your military pay records. And no “special extra earnings” are credited for military service after 2001.

As for your question about “any other extra items” you need to apply for, there really aren’t any for you. By claiming your SS benefit to start in the month you attain 70 years of age you will be getting a benefit which is 32 percent more than you would have received at your full retirement age of 66, and that is the maximum you can receive.

Regarding what you hear about “a $16,000 benefit” you should apply for; those advertisements are marketing hype designed to get you to buy something or enroll in some program. If you keep digging (as I have) you will find that they’ll finally suggest that you may be able get that much more if you delay claiming benefits until you are 70 years old, which, of course, you have already done. Please keep this adage in mind – “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.” And once more, thank you for your military service and congratulations for choosing a Social Security strategy that yields you the highest possible Social Security benefit available.

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What’s in your pocket?

Finally, the accessory we just can’t do without-- a tee shirt with its own pizza pocket. No more will your hot slice of pizza go cold on you before you can munch away at it. Mike Hourani of Medford, New Jersey, says he’s raised more than enough money to bring his “better mousetrap” to market. He posted on his Kickstarter.com page that “we have already surpassed our goal! The Pizza Pocket Hoodie will be brought to the masses all because of you guys! I can't thank you enough.”

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A truly Great Dane

A Great Dane named Cleo put the maternity team at the Kingman Animal Hospital in Arizona to the test recently. It took 11 staffers to perform a C-Section on the expectant mom that produced an incredible litter of 19 pups, all of which are “doing great” the hospital reported. That is eleven more pups than the typical Great Dane litter of 8 puppies.

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Doomsday preppers, attention!

The ultimate bomb shelter is for sale-- an $18 million, five bedroom, six bathroom underground bunker complete with a guest house, a pool and a spa. It’s located in Las Vegas, Nevada, and it features a lighting array that mimics a sunrise in the morning, balmy daytime illumination and a sunset to put you to sleep. The property listing boasts that the "concrete and steel doomsday bunker was designed to survive cataclysmic events in comfort."

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Preventing digital damage: 4 tips for managing your child’s screen time

The digital age has given new generations of parents something extra to worry about:

How much screen time is too much?

Physicians, teachers and psychologists generally agree that spending inordinate amounts of time immersed in computers, smartphones or social media can negatively impact a child’s developing mind and body. A screen time study published recently in JAMA Pediatrics found a link between excessive screen time and later development milestones.

Other studies have associated digital overuse with teen depression, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines suggesting daily limits on screen time for different age groups.

“It’s the responsibility of the parents to get control of this and guide their children, from a young age, on the positives and negatives of screen time,” says Christine Kyriakakos Martin (www.youvegotthisparenting.com), an early education expert and author of You’ve Got This! Keys To Effective Parenting For The Early Years.

“Parents can often think it’s acceptable for a young child to spend a couple hours with an iPad, but the type of education the iPad game is providing isn’t always the type of learning most needed at that stage.”

Martin has suggestions for how parents can manage screen time and decrease a child’s risk for screen-related health or developmental problems:

Distinguish screen time from play time. Play is a fundamental learning tool for young children, but parents, Martin says, should not think of screens as toys for play time. “When screen time is limited and separated from other types of play, parents show their children the importance of setting boundaries, using their imaginations, and being active.”

Get involved. Parents who engage with their children about on-screen activities can help them increase their communication skills and teach them how to navigate digital media. “Parents can talk with their children about the videos they watch and games they play like they would discuss characters and plotlines in a book,” Martin says. “When there is parental engagement like this, a child’s vocabulary and literacy skills develop and family communication gets stronger.”

Make mealtimes screen-free. “Eliminate screens from the meal table, including when you’re out at a restaurant,” Martin says. “While it can be tempting to pack the iPads to have some adult conversation while you’re out to eat, doing this doesn’t teach your children about manners, properly engaging in conversation, or being mindful of other patrons.”

Set a good example. It will be harder for a child to disengage from screens if his or her parents are consistently looking down at their own phones or tablets. “Remember,” Martin says, “your children learn from your example. If they see you spending a lot of time with your face in front of a screen, they’ll also want to use technology at the same time. Try your best to save your time on social media for your lunch break, during nap time, or after your children have gone to bed.”

“Learning how to use screens, verbally communicate or socially interact will have a positive impact on language skills, relationships and overall health,” Martin says. “Spending time with their parents, learning through play is what young children need and want.”

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From garden to bouquet – Growing your own cut flowers

By MELINDA MYERS

Keep your flower vases filled all summer long with beautiful blossoms picked right from your own garden and containers. Growing seeds, plants and tender bulbs that can double as cut flowers makes it easy to create casual, fresh-cut bouquets for your dinner table, guest room or to share with family and friends.

For early spring flowers, look to spring-blooming bulbs like tulips and daffodils, and cool weather annuals like pansies and snapdragons. Clipping branches from trees and shrubs such as forsythia, quince and daphne is another good way to bring spring into your home. Your perennial garden can provide bleeding heart, iris, hellebores, peonies and much more.

If the selection in your own spring garden is limited, strike up a trade with a friend. Pick some of theirs in the spring and share some of yours in the summer. Then make a note to add more spring-blooming bulbs and perennials to your landscape.

Gladiolas and dahlias add pizazz to summer and fall bouquets. These spring-planted bulbs combine nicely with other summer flowers and they continue to bloom well after other flowers have faded in the heat of late summer. Get some free help planning your additions with the “How to Design a Cutting Garden” article found at longfield-gardens.com.

The flower-packed spikes of gladiolas are available in a rainbow of colors that will inspire your creativity. These inexpensive bulbs are easy to plant and take up very little space. Pop them into containers, flowerbeds or even your vegetable garden. Start planting in mid spring and continue every two weeks until midsummer for months of colorful flower spikes.

With dahlias, you can choose from dozens of different flower sizes, flower styles and colors. For easy, eye-catching bouquets, plant a color-themed blend such as the Sugar Plum Mix from Longfield Gardens. Another option is to select colors that will harmonize with flowers that are already in your gardens such as phlox, sunflowers, asters and lilies.

Hybrid lilies are perennial garden favorites as well as fabulous cut flowers. Plant the bulbs of Asiatic lilies, Oriental lilies and Oriental-trumpet lilies in spring, for color and fragrance that lasts all summer long. To ensure months of flowers, be sure to plant a few bulbs of each type of lily.

Annuals play an essential role in any cut flower garden. Extend your budget by starting zinnias, sunflowers, larkspur and cosmos from seed, and supplement with greenhouse-grown transplants of snapdragons, celosia, amaranth and statice.

Foliage can elevate an ordinary homegrown bouquet from good to great, and your garden can provide all sorts of interesting options. Incorporate the leaves of perennials such as hosta, baptisia, artemesia and sage as well as flower farmer favorites such as bells of Ireland, bupleurum and dusty miller. Shrubs such as ninebark, boxwood, viburnum and holly are another source of attractive foliage and some offer colorful berries as well.

Cutting and arranging flowers is a fun way to exercise your creativity and bring the beauty of your garden indoors. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and you’ll soon be sharing your flowers with friends, neighbors, family, coworkers and everyone who stops by.

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Four reasons everyone should care about America’s Everglades

It’s been called one of the world’s great biological wonders.

And since there’s nothing quite like Everglades National Park, efforts have been made for decades to protect and preserve its fragile ecosystem.

But just how well protected the park is can be confusing, especially with two recent events that seem at odds. An appeals court ruling could pave the way for oil drilling in at least one part of the 1.5 million-acre park. Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently proposed spending $360 million for Everglades restoration projects.

Regardless of such conservation contradictions, there’s no denying that the Everglades is a national environmental treasure, though a swampy one that many people haven’t explored up close and personal.

“Even people in Florida don’t always realize what they have here, much less people elsewhere in the country,” says Clyde Butcher (www.clydebutcher.com), a nature photographer who since the 1980s has helped bring national attention to the Everglades through stunning black-and-white photographs that have been compared to the works of Ansel Adams.

“People just don’t realize how unique and beautiful the Everglades are. When I first moved from California to Florida in 1979, I didn’t either. Now I’ve fallen in love with a swamp.”

Butcher over the years has dared to wade into regions of the Everglades that most people never see. He’s making plans to put his latest photographic exhibit, “America’s Everglades: Through the Lens of Clyde Butcher,” on a national tour. Right now the exhibit is on display through May 26 at the Appleton Museum in Ocala, FL, and in 2020 will be in Youngstown, Ohio.

Butcher has photographed other locations, but it is the Everglades that became his greatest subject. He suggests 4 reasons why everyone, whether they live in Florida, Ohio or Oregon, should care about this natural wonder:

The uniqueness. Unlike rivers, lakes and mountains, there is no other Everglades. The planet has just one to care for. “There is no other place on earth like the Everglades,” Butcher says. “It’s beautiful in its primeval essence.”

The need for clean water. Everyone can identify with the need for fresh, clean water to support life. By saving the Everglades we save the water, Butcher says, and by saving the water, we save ourselves. “If we don’t clean the water, our own drinking water will fail, thus destroying the economy of both coasts of Florida,” he says.

The impact on the ocean. Saving the Everglades also helps save the fish nurseries along the coast, and thus saves the ocean.

The example that will be set. By saving the Everglades, Butcher says, we can show the world that we can save a precious environment and give other communities and countries the inspiration to do the same. As Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of the book The Everglades: River of Grass, said, “If we can save the Everglades we can save the world."

Butcher says everyone can help make the world a better place, by speaking up for places that are wild and endangered; by volunteering in state and local parks; and by personal choices related to how we treat nature.

For Butcher, photography is his contribution.

“Through my images,” he says, “I hope people will come to a greater understanding of the beauty they will lose if the preservation and restoration of our environment is not in the forefront of our thoughts.”

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Inside the interrogation room: Manipulation brings false confessions

By Brian Leslie

True crime shows comprise one of the most popular genres in the entertainment culture. People are fascinated with who did it and why; how they got caught or got away.

More and more, though, it seems the storyline is “falsely accused” and “false confession.” Curiosity and fascination deepen when the possibility emerges that the convicted criminal may actually be an innocent victim. Recent developments regarding the central figure in Netflix’s controversial documentary series, “Making a Murderer,” is a case in point.

In numerous cases where prime suspects end up in jail, defense attorneys later go back to the beginning and, with the help of forensic and interrogation experts, expose flaws in the evidence gathering and, often, in the way investigators interviewed suspects. In “Making a Murderer,” Steven Avery is in prison for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Avery denied carrying out the crime, and his attorney, Kathleen Zellner, recently won a request that could help lead to a new trial.

The conviction was based in part on the confession of also-convicted 16-year-old Brendan Dassey, Avery’s nephew. However, the teen later recanted the confession, which he gave without a lawyer present. It was claimed that Dassey was coerced and intimidated by investigators. Attempts by Dassey's attorneys to have his confession overturned have bounced through state and federal courts since his conviction.

Without his confession, there wasn't much of a case. With a suspect like Dassey, who has reported intellectual disabilities, interrogators often try to build a rapport so the suspect will see them as being good guys trying to help. That’s particularly effective with someone as young as Dassey. You can convince a 16-year-old of anything, especially if they're in a vulnerable position.

The Netflix series investigated the law enforcement and judicial procedures in the case and suggested: 1) evidence may have been planted and, 2) that Dassey’s confession came due to interrogators pressuring him.

The latter occurrence, statistics show, happens a disturbing amount of the time in law enforcement, and the public isn’t aware of it. Let’s take a peek inside the interrogation room and see how forced and false confessions happen.

There’s a misnomer about what occurs inside the interrogation room. One of the issues is that what juries see in an interrogation video is not necessarily what’s really occurring. Some of the interviewing language and techniques that are used are sometimes not explained to juries.

Remember, the whole point of an interrogation is to get a confession, and it can lead to all kinds of tricks to get just that.

The “narrative trap.” When investigating how interrogations went down, I look at how the questions were constructed, and also how law enforcement got to the point where they targeted the suspect. The narrative trap is when a question is constructed in such a way by the interviewer that the context may not be understood completely by the suspect. Thus he or she provides an answer that may be incriminating.

But when a jury looks at that video, they don’t know why certain questions are being asked. Or, why is a rapport being built between the interrogator and the suspect? Or, why during rapport-building was the suspect given their Miranda Rights – their right to silence – which they soon forgot in an hour during the interview?

Blackout confessions. Drug use and drinking get brought up in interrogations, and interrogators sometimes will use it as a way to establish having something in common with the suspect. The questioner will say something like, “Yeah, I’ve had a few too many drinks and done things I didn’t remember. A lot of us make mistakes like that. Maybe you had too much that night.” The interrogator engages in rapport-building, and questions can come in a sneaky way, eliciting responses that can be seen as incriminating. The innocent suspect gets tricked into a confession. He or she leaves the interview thinking everything is fine, and the next thing they know, they’re arrested.

Minimizing and maximizing. Interrogators talk suspects into a confession sometimes by telling them “coming clean” will result in a minimized sentence. Otherwise, they say, it could be the maximum. The pressure builds on the suspect to confess.

One of the key issues is the pressure of the press and local community. The police believe they’ve targeted the right person, but there can be biases and a lack of information or hard evidence. That happens because they’re not using the inductive method of investigation, which considers all evidence – not just the part that fits their original theory.

You have to ask yourself: Why would someone confess something he or she didn’t

do? Sometimes they’re being led down a garden path by interrogators. The suspect believes they’re helping interrogators solve the problem – when in reality they’re on a path to prison.

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Social Security Matters

by AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Maximizing Social Security Benefits

Dear Rusty: I am currently 68 and am waiting to take maximum benefits at age 70. I have been retired for 3 and a half years. My wife turned 62 in February of this year. She stopped working around 1994. What is the best way to maximize our SS benefits? Both of us have longevity on our side. My wife’s parents lived into their 80s, her grandmother lived to 96. My mother lived to 84, my father to 98. We are both very active, no big health issues. Signed: Planning Ahead

Dear Planning: You’re already on a path to maximize your benefits by waiting until you are 70 to claim. Given that both of you are in good health and assuming you both live a long life, maximizing your wife’s benefit will yield you the most in cumulative Social Security benefits.

Assuming you are the higher-earner, your wife’s highest benefit will probably be her benefit as your spouse, so maximizing her spousal benefit would be an excellent strategy. Although your wife is eligible to collect her own SS benefit at age 62, if she does so her eventual spousal benefit will be reduced to something less than 50 percent of your full retirement age (FRA) benefit.

Here’s how that works: A spousal benefit, if taken at one’s full retirement age (66 ½ for your wife), is 50 percent of the higher-earning spouse’s benefit at his full retirement age (not the increased benefit you get by waiting until age 70). But if the spousal benefit is taken earlier than full retirement age it is reduced actuarially according to the number of months before FRA it is claimed. If your wife claims her own SS benefit at age 62, her eventual spousal benefit will be less than 50 percent of your benefit, because the spousal boost is added to her early benefit amount. Said another way, any time a Social Security benefit is taken earlier than one’s full retirement age it is reduced. In your case, when you claim your benefits at age 70, your wife will be 63 ½. If she is already receiving her own SS benefits she will be automatically deemed to be filing for a spousal benefit at that time, and the amount of her spousal benefit will be reduced due to starting it earlier than her FRA.

However, if she is not yet receiving her own SS benefit, she will not be deemed as filing for her spousal benefit until she files for her own SS on her own work record. The only way your wife can get the full 50 percent of your FRA benefit amount is by waiting until her full retirement age to claim her benefits. And if you are both in good health and expect to live at least until your mid-80’s, your wife waiting until her FRA to apply will give you the most in cumulative lifetime benefits (as well as the highest combined monthly benefits).

But keep in mind that the decision of when to claim benefits must always take into account current financial needs, current health and lifestyle, and anticipated longevity. If you don’t need the money right now, and if you’re both in good health and expect a long life, then maximizing both of your benefit amounts as described above would be a very sound strategy.

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In the big picture, is streaming bad news for Hollywood?

A Netflix Film’s Big Night At The Oscars Magnified

How Streaming Disrupts Modern-Media Consumption, Author Says

Streaming is taking America by storm – and it’s even taking home Oscars.

Nearly 60 percent of Americans have some form of streaming service, and over half of U.S. streamers subscribe to Netflix. As streaming dramatically changes the media habits of Americans, its disruption of an American tradition – Hollywood filmmaking and the Academy Awards – is making waves.

Iconic film director Steven Spielberg is pushing for a rule change that would prevent Netflix from duplicating the statues it got in February in next year’s Academy Awards. The Netflix film “Roma” took home three Oscars. To do that, it met existing Academy rules while simultaneously putting the movie out on its worldwide streaming platform.

Spielberg and others say the industry’s highest honors have always been a competition among studios that make movies for theatrical release.

“Most studios don’t have a platform that enables instantaneous, worldwide release,” says author Meredith Jordan, whose book, Below The Line: Anatomy of a Successful Movie, provides a rare behind-the-scenes look at the making of an A-list Hollywood film. “The issue isn’t whether Netflix can compete as a studio. It just needs to compete as a studio, without using the tools of its larger streaming business.”

Currently, Academy rules stipulate that a movie needs seven consecutive days in theatrical release in either New York or Los Angeles to qualify for award consideration. Spielberg reportedly seeks a change that would require a one-month theatrical release.

“It’s not unreasonable to think about streaming in the context of what happened when television went mass market,” Jordan said. “If this were 1975, ‘Roma’ would be a truly outstanding made-for-TV movie being put on one of the major networks while also going into theaters for a couple of weeks, and then qualifying for competition as a feature.

“The Academy periodically updates its rules to address cultural shifts, most recently in 2012,” she said. “This is one of those times.”

Jordan says streaming’s disruptive impact on Hollywood and modern media in general comes down to three main factors:

Building massive scale in subscribers and content. Netflix is rapidly approaching 150 million subscribers. Continually increasing capital allows Netflix to create tons of content. Last year, Netflix reportedly spent over $10 billion on new content. “They say ‘Roma’ cost $15 million to make and Netflix spent more than three times that advertising ‘Roma’ for the Oscars,” Jordan said. “Most studios use traditional marketing and distribution methods, and then later make additional advertising spends to promote a movie in contention.”

Luring big stars. “Netflix is playing a different game,” Jordan says. “It’s outbidding studios for top talent. While it doesn’t provide the back-end perks of traditional studio deals, Netflix replaces those with generous upfront payments.” In 2018, Netflix’s original films included starring roles by Will Smith, Sandra Bullock, and Jennifer Aniston.

Having distribution control. A subscriber-based business model at a relatively low fee has been a huge key to Netflix’s and other streamers’ success, providing what industry observes say is better customer value than TV or cable. “By owning the direct relationship between customer and content, Netflix and other subscription-based streamers have a big advantage over TV, which is predicated on advertising,” Jordan says. “That’s something studios don’t have. Netflix is making movies as a studio and then using its role as a platform to promote those efforts. That isn’t fair, at least not for the Oscars.”

“Streaming had already put most of the media incumbents – Hollywood, TV and cable – into a state of chaos,” Jordan says. “The Oscars – a very big stage – amplified that.”

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3 tips for creating a clear vision to ensure business success

Running a business is similar to taking a family vacation. To be successful, both require meticulous planning, clearly defined roles for everyone involved, and a predetermined destination.

“Not having a clear vision and specific goals is a proven way to ensure you’ll never achieve them,” says John Collopy, author of the book The Reward of Knowing (www.johncollopy.com). “That’s why articulating your vision is a critical first step toward success—to give yourself something to aspire to besides some general idea of ‘making it.’”

Collopy knows a thing or two about having a vision and then setting goals to make the vision a reality. He is the owner and broker of RE/MAX Results and its subsequent 38 offices across Minnesota and Wisconsin. Setting goals in his personal life helped him overcome his addiction to alcohol. Now he is dedicated to helping others find the right steps to achieve their dreams, but he says there can be many roadblocks.

“Having an unclear vision can also make it difficult to stay motivated and passionate about your work,” says Collopy. “Identifying a clear vision and set of goals can keep us going through tough times, and give us energy when we want to give up. That’s because, even when you’re in a rough patch, you know you’re working toward something.”

In contrast, a vague, half-formed vision may leave you feeling lost and powerless, he says.

“Eventually, you may even give up entirely,” Collopy says. “You may decide that, based on your record of failure, success just isn’t in the cards for you. And that’s the saddest result of failing to articulate your vision.”

Collopy has the following tips for those who are ready to set goals to achieve their vision:

Be specific and realistic. Be specific about your goals, and the steps you need to take to reach them. “If you don’t, be ready to deal with challenges now and in the future,” Collopy says. Also make your goals attainable but not too easy. You want to have pride when it is accomplished. If you set the bar too high, you may get discouraged. And if you set it too low, you will not feel a great sense of accomplishment.

Make goals measurable. Any good goal that is worthy of your time should be measurable so even if you don’t make it, you can measure your progress. It will be easier to measure your goals if they are clear goals that are attainable, relevant and time-based.

Write it down and tell someone. Write down your vision, make copies and leave those copies where you will routinely see them – on your refrigerator, in your car, on your dresser, in the bathroom. “This will remind you about your vision throughout the day and keep you on task,” Collopy says. In addition, the more people you tell about your vision and your goals, the better. They will encourage you because the next time they see you, he says, they will probably ask you about your progress.

“Once you have attained your goal, take some time to celebrate your victory with your team,” Collopy says. “Even if the goal wasn’t a team goal, invite others that work with you or for you to share in your accomplishment.”

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Lawn equipment: Keep safety in mind

When spring is on its way, home owners are often eager to get outside and spruce up their yards. It’s important when doing so to keep safety in mind.

“Before you use a mower, trimmer, blower, chain saw, pruner or other piece of outdoor power equipment this season, it’s important to refresh yourself on handling and safety procedures,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), an international trade association representing outdoor power equipment, small engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. “We’re all eager to get outside and enjoy the living landscape after a long winter, but take the time to do basic maintenance now to ensure your equipment operates safely for the season and is ready to get the job done.”

These six tips can help:

1. Read your owner’s manual. Follow all guidelines for your outdoor power equipment and familiarize yourself with the controls. If you have lost your manual, look it up online (and save a copy on your computer for easy reference in the future).

2. Inspect equipment. Check for loose belts and missing or damaged parts. Replace any parts needed or take your equipment to a qualified service representative for servicing.

3. Drain old fuel. Never leave fuel sitting in the gas tank of your equipment for more than 30 days. Untreated gasoline (without a fuel stabilizer) left in the system will deteriorate, which may cause starting or running problems and, in some cases, damage to the fuel system.

4. Protect your power by using only E10 or less fuel in outdoor power equipment. Some gas stations may offer 15 percent ethanol (E15) gas or higher-ethanol fuel blends but any fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol can damage—and is illegal to use in—small engine equipment not designed for it.

5. Store fuel safely. Label your fuel can with the date of purchase and ethanol content of the fuel. Never put “old” gas in your outdoor power equipment. If you don’t know the date of purchase, dispose of the fuel in the can safely and buy fresh fuel. Always store fuel out of the reach of children or pets and in approved containers.

6. Clean equipment. Remove any dirt, oil or grass stuck to it. Clean equipment will run more efficiently and last longer.

“Now is also a good time to assess your outdoor power equipment needs,” adds Kiser. “Whether you’re needing battery-, gasoline-, propane-, diesel- or hybrid-powered equipment, there is a product to fit your unique needs that can handle any job.”

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4 undiscussed but serious side effects of sleep apnea

It’s estimated that 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, and that 80 percent of moderate to severe cases are undiagnosed.

Also known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS), the condition affects between 5 and 20 percent of adults and 10-20 percent of children. While many are familiar with some side effects – loud snoring, disturbed sleep, and daytime sleepiness – other related issues are talked about less, but can be quite severe.

“The disruption of nasal breathing can affect digestion, brain function, mood, attention, growth, heart health, head pain, metabolism and much more,” says Dr. Edmund Lipskis (www.drlipskis.com), director of the Centre For Integrative Orthodontics and co-author with his wife, Dr. Lynn Lipskis, of Breathe, Sleep, Live, Smile: Integrative Treatments for TMJ/TMD, Sleep Apnea, Orthodontics. “But sleep apnea in children can be treated at a young age. The symptoms include irritability, lack of concentration, poor school performance, pseudo ADHD, and nighttime bed wetting.”

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when a blocked airway prevents the body from getting the oxygen it needs. Breathing can stop for several seconds numerous times during the night.

“This causes the brain to wake up so the sleeper can breathe,” Dr. Lipskis says. “People with OSA usually don’t remember every instance of waking up, but the result is fragmented sleep.”

Dr. Lynn Lipskis adds that proper diagnosis, combined with advanced technology, can lead to successful treatment. She says there are more than 100 FDA-approved appliances for treating sleep apnea and proper selection is key to addressing the individual’s special needs.

“For adults, that can mean therapy using an oral appliance,” she says. “For children, it can mean orthopedic orthodontics for airway development and correction.”

The Lipskis team points out four of the less-discussed but serious side effects of sleep apnea:

Depression. Depression is linked with OSA and works both ways. “That is, people who are depressed are more likely to develop OSA, and people with OSA are more likely to develop depression,” Dr. Lynn Lipskis says. “One study found that slightly less than half of people with OSA showed depressive symptoms. This is not so surprising, considering that restful sleep is so important for physical and mental health.”

Chronic pain. As with depression, chronic pain may be a cause of, or may be caused by, OSA. A study found that over half the people with OSA had chronic widespread pain and that the risk was higher in women than in men.

Hormone disruption. Sleep is a critical time for the body to regulate hormones. “An important one to note is the growth hormone HGH, which is produced during Stage 3 sleep,” Lipskis says. “It helps with cell reproduction, cell regeneration, and metabolism. If Stage III sleep is cut short, or never reached, HGH can’t perform its job. So rather than repairing itself during sleep, the body continues to break down.”

Nocturia. This is the frequent need to urinate at night. “People with OSA are more likely to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom,” Dr. Edmund Lipskis says. “That’s because it affects the release of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which prevents fluid from filling the bladder and prevents the need to urinate during the night. When ADH can’t do what it’s supposed to, the bladder fills and the urge to urinate appears. This is yet another way that OSA disturbs proper bodily functions and compounds disordered sleep.”

“If you suffer from OSA or suspect you do, have a sleep study done, which includes a diagnosis by a medical physician,” Dr. Lynn Lipskis says. “This is the only way to correctly diagnose OSA or other sleep disorders. OSA should be treated as a serious medical condition because the consequences go far beyond daytime fatigue.”

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The 5 biggest disruptors wreaking havoc on your hormones

Some people are taking a “new year-new you” approach. They’re determined to make self-improvements that provide a fresh, positive outlook and strong sense of well-being.

But sometimes health factors undermine those good intentions, such as depression and its link to hormone imbalances. There are myriad ways both men and women suffer adverse effects to their hormones, says Don Colbert, M.D., and many of them are avoidable.

“We are exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals on a regular basis in the air, water and food,” says Colbert (https://drcolbert.com), author of Dr. Colbert's Hormone Health Zone. “Some of them are hormone disruptors because they disturb your endocrine system, wreaking havoc and creating hormonal imbalances.

“Not only are the effects of all these disruptors depressing to think about; they actually cause depression, along with countless other ailments such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and more. But the basic principle is this: decreasing the number of disruptions will improve your health.”

Dr. Colbert breaks down the top hormone disruptors affecting men and women along with ways to minimize the disruption or stop it:

Lifestyle choices. “Whether it’s weight gain and a lack of exercise, anger and unforgiveness, drinking too much alcohol or some other thing that can be controlled, your hormone levels drop and you begin a slow slide to poorer health,” Dr. Colbert says. “Make better choices, and that dramatically decreases the chances of having any hormone deficiency symptoms.”

Medications. Medications affect the body’s cells, and sometimes side effects manifest in major problems. For example, Dr. Colbert cites Mayo Clinic research showing a prescription statin drug that lowered cholesterol could result in liver damage, memory loss or type 2 diabetes. “I estimate that 55 percent of the entire US population is taking pills that directly and negatively affect hormone levels,” Dr. Colbert says. “Get off these harmful medications you hate.”

Things you touch. Chemicals entering the body through the skin can cause long-term damage. Dr. Colbert notes phthalates, disruptors found in household cleaners, cosmetics, toys and numerous other products. “Phthalates negatively affect both men’s and women’s ability to use the testosterone that is in our bodies,” Dr. Colbert says. “Another is BPA (bisphenol A), found on the inside of metal-canned foods and plastic food-storing containers. Specifically, BPA has been found to cause or contribute to cancer, fertility problems, developmental issues and heart disease. I recommend buying glass jars of food and storing in ceramic containers.”

Diet deficiencies. “The standard American diet is usually low in key nutrients that support a healthy thyroid,” Dr. Colbert says. “Many patients with hormone imbalances have low iodine. The best solution is eat more vegetables, ideally raw or steamed.”

Aging. Dr. Colbert says estrogen levels for women begin to decline around the age of 50; for men, testosterone levels can drop low around age 45-50. “Aging is a natural combatant as a hormone disruptor,” he says, “but we can slow the acceleration of the effects of aging by optimizing our hormones. Healthy habits can make a huge difference.”

“Symptoms of serious problems indicated by hormonal imbalance can be reversed by those who focus on health in their diet, lifestyle and living environment,” Dr. Colbert says. “Then they can enable all of their systems to function optimally.”

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It happened in Iceland

Texan Judith Streng was captivated by a throne-shaped chunk of ice on a recent visit to Iceland and just had to sit in it. "I thought it [would] be quite fun. You know I always wanted to be queen. I mean, come on, that was my chance." But the iceberg carried her off far offshore. Meanwhile, her son was snapping pictures as mom was swept away by a strange destiny on the ice cold North Atlantic Ocean.

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Baby, it’s cold outside

Wendy Lange really didn’t mean it when she posted the message, “I hate Iowa, please buy my house,” on Facebook. She was quick to tell reporters that she really doesn’t hate Iowa, “it’s just too cold” and she wants to move to a warmer climate. She said that she had no idea that her Facebook post would go viral, but it’s been reported that the “accident” might attract new interest in her home, which has been on the market for the better part of a year.

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The doorbell cam caught it on video

You never know what those new-fangled doorbell cameras will capture. It could be a potential burglar or it might be an epic lightning strike that set a neighbor’s house on fire. It happened in Fort Bend County, TX and a good thing it was, too, because the residents of the home with the video doorbell were able to alert their neighbors to the fire so no one was injured.

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3 tips for planning your retirement during uncertain times

Retirement planning can be fraught with worry in the best of times, but when the market turns volatile and uncertainty reigns, people in or near retirement may give way to anxiety or unease to an even greater degree than normal.

And as a result, those dreams of carefree golden years may transform into sleepless nights.

“Plenty of people remember what happened with their 401(k)s when the recession hit a decade ago, and that naturally can make you nervous,” says Jeffrey Eglow, the Chief Investment Officer for Guardian Wealth Advisory (www.guardianwealthadvisory.com).

“But that makes it all the more important to make a plan and not leave everything to chance.”

The good news, Eglow says, is anyone can start taking steps now that can improve the odds retirement will be fulfilling and joyful.

Certainly, each person’s circumstances will be different, and just because a specific financial strategy worked for your neighbor doesn’t mean it will work for you. But Eglow offers a few general tips for navigating the financial road ahead to help give you a more secure retirement:

Don’t underestimate your retirement’s length. People are living longer than ever, which means retirements can last longer, too. Many people may assume they need to plan for 20 years, when in fact their retirement could last 30 years or longer, Eglow says. As you figure out how much money you will need, make sure to plan for what could be a long retirement. “Having a target amount in mind is critical,” Eglow says. “Without a target amount, you have no way of measuring whether you are on track to meet your goal.”

Know where your retirement money will come from. Social Security likely will help fund a portion of your retirement, but it won’t be enough to replace your weekly paycheck, Eglow says. Some people have pensions, but those are fast disappearing for most workers. “That means personal savings, such as in an IRA, a 401(k) or other investments, will play a major role in whether you have a satisfying retirement or whether you struggle to make ends meet,” Eglow says. “Unfortunately, studies have shown that many Americans aren’t doing a great job with their savings.” It’s important to sit down with your financial professional, determine where you stand, and make a plan so you don’t run out of money, he says.

Determine your risk tolerance. At some point, as you create a financial plan and determine the best investment strategy for reaching your goals, you will need to do a little self assessment, Eglow says. “Some people are fine with taking risks with their money,” he says. “Others become uneasy at the thought that they could suffer a big loss if the market takes a sudden turn for the worse.” Each individual investor needs to decide whether the potential rewards of an aggressive investment strategy outweigh the stress they might feel about the uncertainties of how the market will perform. In addition, you likely will want to re-assess your risk as you draw closer to retirement because you’ll have less time to recover if the market does take a plunge.

“If you’ve been stashing money away for retirement, that’s great,” Eglow says. “But you should do more than save. If you want to reach your financial goals efficiently, you need to have a good, solid plan that will get you there.”

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How an early orthodontist visit can head off a child’s jaw problems

While it may seem premature to take a 7-year-old child to the orthodontist, such an early visit can save thousands of dollars in future dental issues.

“Jaw issues especially are much more easily fixed when children are young,” says Dr. Stuart Frost, an orthodontist and author of The Artist Orthodontist: Creating An Artistic Smile is More Than Just Straightening Teeth (www.drstuartfrost.com). “This includes imbalances of the muscles of the face along with tongue and tooth-positioning problems.”

It is easier to correct skeletal jaw problems at an early age while guiding the teeth into the mouth correctly. Doing so maximizes the ability to create or maintain space in the child’s jaws to allow teeth to grow in, and minimizes the opportunity for the teeth coming in wrong, says Dr. Frost.

Dr. Frost says that after about age 9, the window closes on fixing most of the problems easily. At that age, he says, the seam in the roof of the mouth fuses into solid bone and once it does, widening the upper palate from side-to-side is nearly impossible. If the problem is addressed before that happens, the upper jaw can be more easily expanded to create the space needed for all the teeth to come in, he says.

If a child snores, has sleep issues, bedwetting or is grinding their teeth they should have an airway evaluation done by an orthodontist as soon as possible, says Dr. Frost.

“Waiting even a few years can have a lifetime impact,” Dr. Frost says. “By the time the child hits 11 or 12 years old and the adult teeth are coming in, the problems multiply. If we can fix the issues while the child’s bones are still developing, it will be easier and a lot cheaper to accomplish instead of after all the damage has been done.”

Many of the issues can be remedied by the orthodontist applying braces and an expander appliance to coax the structures into balance.

Not tackling these issues early can cause issues such as a flaring of teeth, underbites and adult teeth erupting sideways through the gums.

Dr. Frost says other issues that could get complicated if they are not treated early include:

Breathing problems. These breathing issues lead children to thrust their tongues and heads forward when asleep, causing further misalignment of the jaw and interrupted sleep. Adults with sleep apnea are fatigued and unrefreshed, causing their bodies to break down as the cells become slowly malnourished.

Immune system Issues. Immune system issues unknown to humans in past generations are common today. The immune system can be impacted by dental problems at an early age.

Increased allergy problems. Allergies can play a crucial role in childhood development of the face, jaw, and teeth. They can be an early warning sign that your child’s teeth aren’t growing properly.

Jaw alignment problems. -Misaligned jaws lead to chronic head, neck and shoulder pain.

“The bottom line is that an early investment in your child’s health will almost certainly pay off in time and money,” Dr. Frost says, “as well as enhance their future health.”

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Blockbuster or flop? Film tax credits offered by states bring mixed reviews

The entertainment that movies provide is deeply embedded in American popular culture. And in recent years, the making of them in many states has become an important consideration in their economic strategy.

States have lured Hollywood movie production with tax credits, banking that shooting films in their area will substantially boost their economy. As of 2018, 31 states offered film tax incentives, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

While the move has been controversial in some states and spurred legislative debate, largely over lost tax revenue and budget pressure, it has been a hit in others, such as Georgia, with Atlanta now being called “Hollywood East.” The state claims an economic impact of $9.5 billion since the film tax incentives were passed in 2008. Georgia doled out $600 million in incentives alone in 2016.

Meredith Jordan, an author who chronicled the making of Last Vegas, which was shot in Atlanta, Ga. and Las Vegas, says film tax incentives have proven to be mutually beneficial and are likely to stay.

“Tax credits have reshaped the face of movie production in the United States,” says Jordan (http://www.belowthelinebook.com), author of Below The Line: Anatomy of a Successful Movie, a rare behind-the-scenes look at an entire movie production. “To understand why much of the movie happened in Georgia is to take a quantum leap into the business of Hollywood in the new millennium. This movie had a $36 million budget, but with tax credits it became a $30 million movie for filmmakers.

“Tax incentives have come and gone in a lot of states. They’ve worked for the states that stuck with them.”

Some state politicians and economic experts say the benefits states receive in association with movie production aren’t enough to justify tax breaks for the industry. Some states have dropped or reduced tax incentives for films. Other state leaders see the credits as a necessary tool that stimulates the broader economy; New Jersey and Ohio are among those who called for bigger tax breaks recently for film companies.

Jordan notes some different ways film tax credits impact state economies:

Creates new businesses and job sectors. States committed to the film industry see a steady flow of production annually, which creates new businesses sustainable for the long-term. “New companies open to service the industry,” Jordan says. “In Georgia, companies like Panavision and Central Casting have opened offices along with big studios like Pinewood. With time, other needed businesses have filled in, from prop and costume houses to catering companies and casting agencies.”

Enhances existing businesses. In building an infrastructure for future filmmaking, the economic impact is felt across many parts of the already-existing business community. “When a film or TV show is produced, a lot of jobs come with it,” Jordan says. “People sometimes forget that studios also hire local companies - dry cleaners, caterers, paper shredders, hotels and florists. They buy clothes and furniture and greenery. All that has an enormous effect on direct spending. Other industries are impacted as well, including health care, manufacturing, food services, transportation, retail and real estate.”

Increases awareness of the state. Filming locations show off a place. Some become cultural landmarks. All of that encourages tourism. “It all works hand-in-hand,” Jordan says. “It shines a brighter light on the state, making people aware of it and more appealing in the process.”

“The movie industry relies heavily on incentives,” Jordan says. “Take them away or cut them too much and they’ll stay home. The trend among numerous states is to make their tax programs appealing to bring Hollywood to them.”

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Don’t Let Curiosity Kill the Cat

Tips from the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America for pet poison prevention

Dogs and cats can be curious creatures, sticking their noses in places they shouldn’t. It’s sometimes easy to forget how everyday household items can be poisonous to our furry friends.

March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month. While spring cleaning gets underway, this month serves as a good reminder that pets are vulnerable to potentially life-threatening items in our homes. The Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Medical Center of Mid-America shares five of the top potential dangers all pet parents should be aware of to keep our four-legged friends safe:

Household Cleaners: Watch out for household cleaners that use harsh chemicals such as toilet or drain cleaners, which can cause chemical burns. Consider all-natural cleaning alternatives to avoid any unexpected incidents with your pet.

Human Food: While your pet may be your best friend, they shouldn’t be eating the same food as you. Nuts, grapes, raisins, chocolate, salty foods, undercooked meat and even bones can be detrimental to your pet’s health. If you do have the urge to share your food with your furry friend, try peanut butter, baby carrots, apple slices, oatmeal, pumpkin or cooked chicken.

Indoor Plants: Plants and flowers spruce up a home, but several varieties can be toxic to cats and dogs. Lilies, for example, are especially poisonous to cats, and should be removed from cat households. If a cat ingests just one or two petals, it could be fatal. Other poisonous plants include azaleas, aloe vera and daffodils.

Rodent Traps: Nobody likes a rodent scurrying around the house, but rodenticides found in mouse and rat traps can be extremely dangerous to pets. Even small amounts may cause internal bleeding or swelling of the brain in dogs. If you need to use rodenticides in your home, consult a veterinarian to select one that is safe for your pet.

Human Medication: Medications such as over-the-counter and prescription pills, inhalers and dietary supplements should be safely locked up in secure cupboards. Do not leave them on countertops or tables or store them in plastic zippered baggies, which can be easily chewed through.

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That ‘aha!’ moment: 7 ways entrepreneurs find inspiration

Entrepreneurship starts with an idea. One of the challenges once the business gets off the ground, though, is coming up with more ideas that push the company forward.

An idea often stems from inspiration and lacking that, some business owners say, can result in stagnation or a failed enterprise.

“Without innovation and forward thinking, no business can succeed,” says Peter J. Strauss (www.peterjstrauss.com), an attorney, entrepreneur and author of The Business Owner’s Definitive Guide to Captive Insurance Companies. “But being a business owner is very demanding, and at some points, you’ll hit a wall where you can’t seem to come up with new ideas.

“To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to stay on the search for the next idea that will grow your business. And the truth is that most entrepreneurs are in need of some inspiration to ignite those ideas.”

Strauss says there are several solid ways to cultivate inspiration:

Fix things that bug you daily. Entrepreneurs encounter frustrations, and the more bothered they are by certain issues, the more those can become an obstacle in the way of the business. Focusing some attention on negatives of the business and solutions can move it forward. “Your desire to eliminate a daily problem or a building annoyance can inspire you to fix it,” Strauss says.

Listen to your employees. “Ask yourself, ‘How could they get better at what they do?’” Strauss says. “How could they be happier and make our business better as a result of their passion and growth?”

Think outside the box. “The day-to-day grind shouldn’t prevent the entrepreneur from daring to dream,” Strauss says. “Have fun with it; see five to 10 years ahead and where you envision the business being. Further, use that inspiration to fuel sound ideas for expanding the business sooner than you thought, and even adding new ventures.”

Meet with peers. Strauss says an entrepreneur can re-energize and be inspired by being around like-minded leaders and speakers, perhaps at an industry trade show, where participants are pumped up. “It can get you more excited about your business and remind you of why you started it,” Strauss says.

Read frequently. Strauss says leaders learn far more when they not only keep up with industry trends through reading but by reading about topics outside of their industry. “This can really inspire you,” he says, “because when you read outside your niche, you see creativity you’re not used to, and it inspires ideas.”

Unplug and take walks. In the often loud and chaotic world, we live in, especially in the business sphere, entrepreneurs need quiet time to clear their minds and then think freely. “We live with distractions,” Strauss says. “They get in the way if we let them – or if we don’t get away from them on occasion. Walking in nature is a great way to do it. Quiet time opens a door to inspiration and creativity.”

Tailor an existing idea to your business. “You don’t want to exactly copy people, but it’s foolish not to observe and learn from other businesses’ ideas,” Strauss says. “Then find innovative ways to apply them to your business.”

“Inspiration rarely just shows up out of nowhere, uninvited,” Strauss says. “An entrepreneur needs to make time for it and go look for it, and there are a variety of ways to make that search energizing for you and your business.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Widower Seeking Answers About Social Security

Dear Rusty: I have two questions. My wife passed away in May of 2015, and I never received any of her benefits. Should I have? Also, I am now 62, turning 63 next month. I am still working and probably won’t quit until age 75 or older. Should I start taking benefits now? Signed: Bewildered

Dear Bewildered: As a widower, you could have started receiving a survivor benefit from your wife at 60 years of age, though it would have been reduced by about 28.5 percent for claiming early. But you haven't really lost those benefits because you can still claim them, and they won't be reduced as much now because you'd be claiming closer to your widower's full retirement age (FRA) of 66. In your specific case, your "widower FRA" is 4 months earlier than your normal FRA of 66 plus 4 months, because a survivor's FRA is determined by subtracting 2 years from their actual birth date. Since you were born in 1956, Social Security uses 1954 as the date to determine your FRA for survivor benefits.

Since you are now 62 (turning 63 soon), you have a choice to collect either your own benefit or your survivor benefit, and which one you should choose depends upon which one would be highest when it reaches maximum. Your survivor benefit will reach its maximum when you reach your widower FRA; your own benefit will reach its maximum at age 70. You might choose to collect your survivor benefit first and allow your own benefit to grow until you are 70 when it would be about 29 percent more than it would be at your normal FRA. Or, if your survivor benefit at your widower FRA would be more, you could choose to take your own benefit until your survivor benefit reaches maximum at your widower FRA.

But there is one catch you should consider. Any time Social Security benefits of any kind are taken before one's full retirement age and you continue to work, you will be subject to Social Security's "earnings test." That means if your earnings from working exceed the annual earnings limit ($17,640 for 2019), Social Security will take back $1 for every $2 you are over the limit, and they'll withhold that from future benefits until they recover what you owe. Once you reach your normal full retirement age the earnings limit goes away, and you can earn as much as you like without penalty. For clarity, when you reach your normal full retirement age they will recompute your benefit and give you time credit for any month’s benefits withheld, which will increase your benefit slightly allowing you to recover some (or eventually all) of the withheld benefits. But exceeding the annual earnings limit before your reach your normal FRA will cause you to lose current benefits for some number of months.

Provided that your finances, your health and your expected longevity allow it, and provided that your own benefit at age 70 will be more than your survivor benefit, you may want to consider a strategy of postponing your own benefit, and also delaying your claim for the survivor benefit until it reaches maximum at your widower’s FRA. Then at your widower's FRA (66) you could claim 100 percent of your survivor benefit, while allowing your own benefit to grow to maximum at age 70. In this way you would avoid any lost benefits from exceeding the earnings limit, you would collect the maximum survivor benefit between your FRA and age 70, and at that time switch to your own higher benefit for the rest of your life. This, of course, is but one of several scenarios you have available to you being dually-entitled to both survivor benefits and your own Social Security retirement benefit.

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Serve backyard birds the ‘candy’ they’re craving – dried mealworms

Think about your favorite restaurant. Sure, you probably enjoy the ambiance and service, but it’s really the delicious food that keeps you going back, right? When it comes to attracting birds to your backyard this season, keep in mind the same principle applies for them. They’ll appreciate the water and shelter you provide, but what will really bring them back year after year will be the quality and variety of the food they find in your backyard.

Seed and suet are staples, and birds will reward you for serving them by flocking to your outdoor oasis. Keep in mind, suet is not just for winter anymore, no-melt formulas make it the perfect protein for warm weather feeding too. But if you really want to wow them, serve mealworms. What you may consider utterly icky – mealworms – is like candy to the birds. And not only are mealworms delectable to your feathered friends, they’re an important source of much needed nutrition during a season that is vital to birds’ survival.

Warm months are crucial for backyard birds. Their long migration north can leave them fatigued, stressed and depleted. Then as soon as they arrive in their spring and summer habitat, they must begin the arduous process of finding a mate, staking out their territory, building a nest and raising their young – all while hunting for food. And they have just a few short months to raise their young before it’s time to migrate again in anticipation of cold weather. Before your feathered friends show up, make sure all feeders, baths and houses are in good repair and clean. A quick rinsing with bleach, warm water and detergent gets rid of dirt, grime and mold. Then, think about the menu.

If you already serve a seed brand that’s natural, not washed or coated with chemicals or mineral oil, and doesn’t include cheap filler seeds, you’re on the right track. Add in some succulent suet and you have the makings of a dining dream for backyard birds. Now push it over the top by adding dried mealworms to the birdie buffet.

High in protein, fat and potassium, mealworms help birds maintain energy. They’re favorites for species like bluebirds, flickers, woodpeckers, nuthatches, siskins and chickadees, and are a perfect food source for new born nestlings. However, it can be much harder for humans to see the appeal; after all, we don’t usually seek out the company of grubs and larvae. And handling live mealworms is probably not a welcomed bird feeding experience even for the most committed bird enthusiasts.

In the past, it was difficult for bird fans to provide a supply of mealworms for their feathered friends. But freeze-dried varieties, like Cole’s Dried Mealworms have made it easy to serve this nutritious, much-loved treat year round. Freeze-dried mealworms provide all the nutritional benefits of fresh ones and are easy to store and serve. It’s also a great way to serve birds something they love without having to endure the “ick factor” of live mealworms. There are a variety of feeders specifically made for serving mealworms, or you can blend with your seed mixes and add to any feeder. Either way, the birds will benefit from the nutritional value of these high protein-packed treats and you’ll satisfy their craving, keeping them coming back for more!

With a little preparation and the right blend of food, water and shelter, you can fill your backyard with the bright colors and welcome song of birds all season – and give your feathered friends the help they need to thrive throughout the year. If birds arrive at a well-stocked and well-prepared backyard, they will not only stay for the summer, but probably return the following spring. For more information on top quality seed, suet and mealworms visit http://www.coleswildbird.com

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If you think motherhood is driving you crazy, you may be right

Even in two-parent families, it appears that the bulk of child-rearing duties still fall to one person.

For all the help dads give, it is moms who take on most of the emotional labor of parenting, according to a recent study by researchers at Arizona State University and Oklahoma State University. Mothers handle grocery lists, doctor's appointments, playdates, homework help, and other responsibilities.

And sometimes juggling all those duties becomes more than they can bear, creating a strain on their mental health – as mothers themselves can tell you.

“I hit a time in my life when my ability to cope with the normal challenges of every day was weakening,” says Fran Pitre, a mother of three sets of twins and author of the book TwinsX3 (www.franpitre.com), in which she described the joys and stresses of raising six children.

“Looking back, I realize that I was experiencing mild anxiety attacks, and the situation would grow even worse when my husband was away on business trips. I found myself snapping at the children over the littlest things. Small irritations like a misplaced library book would seem much more serious than they should have.”

When other relaxation measures didn’t work, a doctor temporarily prescribed to Pitre an anti-anxiety medication to counter the chemical imbalance that the non-stop daily stress had created for her.

She says that medical assistance was critical at that time in her life. But, as the mother of six, she also found that staying organized was also crucial to keeping her family – and her mental health – under control.

Her tips to help other mothers avoid being overwhelmed by the normal stresses and strains of raising children include:

Know everyone’s plans. Children and parents have plenty of activities, and family members can end up going in many different directions. To avoid becoming frazzled, Pitre says it was imperative that she know everyone’s plans for the upcoming week. Initially, she tracked this on a calendar, but switched to an erasable white board. “Because each night needs a meal, I would insist that the older kids communicate their evening plans so that I didn’t cook for eight people, and have four or 10 show up,” she says.

Everyone must pitch in. At one time Pitre exhausted herself physically and emotionally by trying to keep her children’s bedrooms organized and clean. “I gave that up when I began going to school while working outside of our home full time,” she says. “Not only did I believe each kid had the ability to take over this task and should, I was just too tired and had too little time.”

A curfew is a must. Few things take more of a toll on a mother’s mental health than worrying about where her children are and whether they are safe. Pitre says that’s why a curfew is a must, and should be adhered to except on special occasions, such as a prom. “If they realize they are going to be a little bit late, they need to text and let you know what’s going on,” she says.

Remember to take care of yourself. Mothers can become so focused on caring for others that they fail to care for themselves, Pitre says. “Don’t neglect your own needs such as exercise, wellness check-ups, quiet alone time, and regular visits to a salon or spa,” she says.

“Our ultimate goal as moms is to raise our children to become self-sufficient, responsible adults,” Pitre says. “They’re watching you handle the day-to-day challenges, and learning by watching your responses to the good and the bad. Does that feel like too much pressure? Take a deep breath and relax because you don’t have to be perfect. No one can be.”

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Fasten your seat belts

Some people will do just about anything to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Take the 103 or more Brits who plan to break the record for the most nudist riders on a roller coaster. The event will take place at a theme park in Blackpool, England. It is being sponsored by the British Naturalism organization, which has put out a call for naked volunteers for the occasion promising a fun-filled afternoon including three hours of skinny dipping at a nearby water park.

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Snake in the sky

This python is no snake in the grass. It’s milieu seems to be TV antennas where he is comfortable enough to snatch a snack in the form of a passing bird, The serpent’s most recent rooftop hunt in New South Wales, Australia was caught on cell phone video by a quick-thinking woman who looked up just in time.

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Another hapless husband

The wife said she wanted tulips for Valentine’s Day. But, early on Valentine’s Day morning the husband informed his confused spouse that her turnips had arrived. It wasn’t a joke. After all he went to great lengths to put the turnips in a bucket with the words “I Love You” written on the side.

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Life-saving milk

Human milk is a "life-saving intervention" for infants with congenital heart disease (CHD). That is the finding from research conducted by Diane L. Spatz of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and Jessica A. Davis of UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. The two scientists analyzed six studies on the benefits of human milk for infants with CHD, the most common category of birth defects. Until now, little attention has been given to the role of human milk in improving outcomes for infants with CHD.

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Payroll cuts in retail

To increase profits, retailers often cut down on labor. But this is a big mistake, according to researchers at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Understaffing stores "takes away the biggest advantage traditional stores have over e-tailers: a live person a customer can talk with face-to-face," they write. In their research, Marshall Fisher, Serguei Netessine, and Santiago Gallino devised a mathematical approach to help companies determine how much staffing is needed and at which locations.

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Negative hospital reviews

Researchers have discovered that the word most associated with negative reviews of hospitals is "told." Found in nearly 20 percent of Yelp reviews, it points to the value patients place on communication in the hospital. “Oftentimes, words such as ‘told’ hint at a breakdown in communication,” said Anish Agarwal, an emergency medicine physician at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. "I suspect that patients are not feeling listened to or heard and this could be driving poor experiences and low reviews."

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4 ways to find support during the lonely battle with infertility

Infertility can be a lonely and challenging journey. Women struggling to get pregnant may consider numerous options while experiencing a wide range of emotions in the process.

About 10 percent (6.1 million) of women in the United States between the ages of 15 and 44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant, and the psychological toll can be great. Undergoing different types of infertility treatment, studies show, can exacerbate the emotional pain and anxiety as women wait for good news.

Those who try a natural fertility approach may initially feel lonely or detached from mainstream doctors because it’s considered a non-traditional path to pregnancy, says Hethir Rodriguez, founder and president of Natural Fertility Info.com (www.natural-fertility-info.com), a website that features natural fertility-focused expert advice and support.

“Most doctors tend to recommend medical interventions such as in vitro fertilization,” says Rodriguez, also a certified herbalist specializing in women’s health. “Many women will start researching different options online and trying to make a decision, but it can be confusing and overwhelming, and many couples can’t afford the medical interventions.

“Regardless of which route they choose, high levels of stress kick in, which makes it’s very difficult to conceive. Sadness, despair and loneliness are often part of the journey, and women struggling with infertility need support and sound direction on different levels.”

Rodriguez says there are four ways for women to find relief from the stress and sadness of infertility, and to maintain their hope of getting pregnant:

Talk to someone you trust. “It really helps if you connect with someone who understands what you’re going through – a loved one, therapist, or another woman who has gone through what you’re experiencing,” Rodriguez says.

Find inspiration. “This is a great way to keep hope alive,” Rodriguez says. “Many women eventually become pregnant after months or years of trying to conceive naturally. The key is to keep trying and never lose hope. There is always a path to motherhood for every woman out there – natural conception, medical interventions, sperm or egg donor, or adoption.”

Manage your stress. “Stress only exacerbates infertility and could potentially make it worse if your body is constantly in the sympathetic nervous system response of fight or flight,” Rodriguez says. “Do things to take your mind off it: start yoga, get involved with a spiritual group or your community, spend time volunteering, and practice gratitude for what you have.”

Stay connected. “This process may take some time, so it’s important to stay motivated and connected with whoever you’re working with, in whichever fertility path you choose,” Rodriguez says.”You need a support structure. Don’t go it alone.”

“When infertility becomes an issue, many women can feel like they have no one to talk to,” Rodriguez says. “But as they decide on a path to take, they will find they can build a support team, along with a bank of knowledge, that can keep them strong and help them realize their dream.”

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Why your community must embrace newcomers

By QUINT STUDER

We all know we need people moving into our community to help keep it healthy. New residents fill job openings, pay taxes, populate schools, and spend money in the local economy. Plus, they bring in fresh ideas and new energy to keep things moving forward.

For these reasons, communities spend a lot of time and energy attracting new residents. We focus on economic development and tout our strong schools, reasonable cost of living, and low crime rate. But what we often don't consider is what happens once they get here.

As I travel across the country and visit different communities, I find that at times people may do a great job on the hard stuff and forget to do the easy stuff. We need to make it a point to celebrate and include newcomers. When communities do a good job of this, it can be very powerful.

Think about your own social circle. When you've lived in a community for a while, you already have well-established groups. It can be hard to invite people in. But seeing these "closed" groups only makes newcomers long for their old community.

Most of us don't mean to exclude anyone. But we're all busy and we might not always make time to welcome newcomers. We need to get intentional about helping our community feel like home to them.

From working with chambers of commerce across the country, I know that these organizations are in a unique position to help newcomers. For starters, chambers have a vested interest: They need a new leadership pipeline and fresh ideas to breathe new life into the community. Also, they know everyone in town and are masters at connecting people.

The Putnam County Chamber of Commerce in Palatka, Florida, even created an award to celebrate a newcomer in their community. Michael Leonard, publisher of the Palatka Daily News and a new resident in town, received the 2018 Newcomer of the Year Award at the chamber's 84th annual meeting in February.

The award is the brainchild of outgoing Chamber Chair Joe Pickens, president of St. Johns River State College, who had this to say: "When you move to a new place, it can be tough to break in, but Michael jumped right in and tried really hard to engage the community. We actually created this award for him, because we felt like this much effort deserved recognition. Not only did he embrace a lot of local issues, but he has really served as a positive influence in our community."

Here are some ways chamber members and anyone else can get intentional about welcoming newcomers to town:

Do more than the "Welcome Wagon" thing. In addition to dropping off cookies and brochures, invite the newcomers to a civic or club meeting or a downtown festival. But don't ask once and drop it. Without pressuring, check back in and ask again. It may take a couple of tries before they realize you are sincere.

Assign someone to be a "buddy" to the newcomer. This works across all sectors: schools, neighborhoods, businesses, and churches. If someone owns the task of making sure they get involved, it's more likely to happen.

Give them a real role in a group or club, one like they used to have in their old community. Don't "cookie cutter" this. Do what really makes sense. If someone has a background as a music instructor, you might ask them to be part of the local arts committee.

Let them know you value civic engagement and get them involved. Assure them that you want to hear their voice. Outsiders can often see things we can't!

Really let them into your groups; don't just extend a superficial invite. It's easy to say, "Why don't you come to my book club," or, "We'd love for you to join our neighborhood spin class." It's another to engage them in conversation and introduce them to new people once they're there. Don't abandon them to talk to others. Make them your honored guest.

Celebrate them. I love the idea of the newcomer award the Putnam County Chamber came up with. It just feels good and gets people thinking about how to welcome other newcomers. Also, I heard about another chamber that had a local radio personality sit down on stage with a couple who were new in town and 'interview' them during their annual luncheon. There are lots of great ways to make newcomers feel a sense of belonging."

We spend so much time attracting newcomers that it only makes sense to take care of them once you get them. It creates a ripple effect. They will tell others. People are what make our community great. We need to always remember this.

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Get engaged, not enraged: 30 ways to take ownership of your community's future

By Quint Studer

When things aren't going well in our community, our first impulse has traditionally been to get upset. Our second impulse has been to look for someone to blame. Typically, we may point the finger at government: Why, we demand, aren't they making progress on ___ (insert the painful issue of the moment here)? This approach is counterproductive—and communities are realizing there is a much better way.

There really is no they; there is only we. Getting angry at "them" solves nothing, and the community continues to hurt. When citizens get engaged and take ownership of the issues, big progress happens and it happens fast.

Struggling communities can't wait on government to fix their problems. This is true even in the best of times, and with the highly complex issues today's communities face, it's even more so. Elected officials are short on resources; plus, they move in and out of projects due to the election cycle. If there's to be sustainable progress, it must be driven by private citizens.

In other words: Don't get enraged. Get engaged.

I've seen more and more communities come to realize revitalization is the job of 'we the people. It's a big trend, and it's taking place all across the country. And the first step is a mindset shift. Citizens start to think: What can I do to reinvent my community, to make it a great place to work, live, and play?

Here are 30 ways you can get more engaged in your own community:

1. Shift your mindset to one of ownership. The first step in getting engaged is to make this your mantra: "My community is my responsibility. Every child is my child." This mental shift changes a lot of things. You'll stop thinking only about things that directly affect you and your family and start thinking about the needs of others. You'll start feeling a sense of responsibility for the well-being of all citizens. This mindset is crucial for a vibrant community.

2. Educate yourself on your community. Maybe you've never paid much attention to your community's economic conditions, culture, demographic trends, social networks, or political and power structures. It's time to change this. Brush up on the local history. If you don't already read the local paper, start. As you're doing your research, write down a list of questions you have and seek out the answers. Understanding the forces that are currently impacting your community will help you formulate smart strategies for change.

3. Promote trust and transparency on all levels. Stay aboveboard in all that you do. The slightest hint of a cover-up or backroom deal can break trust and derail your efforts. Communicate often and with everyone; no one should be left out. The more stakeholders and residents understand the process and what the goal is, the more successful your efforts will be.

4. Know your numbers. Studer Community Institute worked with the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement to create the Pensacola Metro Dashboard. It contains 17 metrics that, together, provide a snapshot of all the data that is vital to a healthy community. If your community doesn't have a dashboard, put together your own. This will help you figure out where you stand and where you need to start making improvements.

5. Make sure your information is accurate. This is key to good decision-making. Do your homework and bring in experts if necessary. Also, know that there's almost always misinformation floating around about community issues. This may sway people to oppose needed changes, so correct it whenever you hear it.

6. Educate yourself on the processes through which decisions are made. Know how your local government works and what you can do to effect change. In Pensacola we've established the Center for Civic Engagement to teach citizens how government works and how to advocate for change. We currently offer courses for local leaders and citizens who want to be a part of creating a vibrant community, but soon we hope to expand to attract regional and national participants.

7. Get to know your neighbors and their issues. Talk to people everywhere: at school functions, at church, standing in line at the grocery store. Ask questions and solicit their opinions on community issues. Don't be afraid to go outside your comfort zone and talk to those from different cultures and/or socioeconomic levels.

8. Join your neighborhood association... This is a great way to get to know your neighbors and their issues. You'll instantly become part of an engaged group of citizens who care about the community. If you can join the board or some other leadership group, so much the better. Generally if you're willing to step up and work hard, the group will be grateful to hand over the responsibility.

9. ...Or, if you don't have a neighborhood association, start one. When neighbors band together, amazing things can happen. This is why the Pensacola Center for Civic Engagement made "The Next-Level Neighborhood Organization" a cornerstone of its course offerings. We wanted to provide guidance for those who want to start a neighborhood association and also for those wanting to make an existing one more effective. These groups really can drive meaningful and lasting change.

10. Start a dialogue and keep an open mind. Listen to the other side before you make up your mind on a hot-button issue, even if you initially disagree with them. (There will be mixed levels of interest on different topics.) You might be surprised to find that your ideas change as you learn more. Even if you've publicly taken a position in the past and you change your mind, it's okay to say that. People will respect you for being transparent and forthcoming.

11. Position yourself as an enabler/facilitator. Make it clear that you're not looking to aggressively push an agenda or strong-arm others to do your will. The idea is to help citizens help themselves. Collaborating with others—be they individuals or groups—is the best way to solve problems. Someone just needs to galvanize them.

12. Instead of complaining, figure out who the decision makers are and start there. It's all too easy to complain about what officials or organizations are (or are not) doing inside a community. And with social media, there's even more opportunity. Resist the urge. This is not what leaders do. Instead, ask, Who can get things done? Get in front of these people and try to build a relationship with them.

13. Build relationships with the other deeply engaged and committed people. Don't just focus on formal leaders who have the "right" title. Informal leaders—often business leaders, educators, physicians, and others who are highly visible and respected in the community—are a powerful group. Get them on board first. By leveraging and mobilizing these leaders up front, you'll be far more likely to get the momentum you need to create change.

14. For sure, VOTE, but do more than that. It's important to vote for smart, ethical elected officials who have the public's interest at heart and who are committed to smart growth and community building. Do your research. Work to get people elected (or re-elected). You might even consider running for office yourself. (See "The Engaged and Empowered Citizen" course description on the Center for Civic Engagement website.)

15. Show up. Look for meetings you can attend. For example, research when and where your local government meets. Find causes and groups in your community that are important to you and find out when they meet. Yes, most of us have limited time and must pick and choose carefully—but almost everyone can find time to attend a meeting or two a month.

16. Look for opportunities outside formal meetings too. For instance, make a point to attend community events like street festivals, rallies, or school fundraisers. These gatherings tend to attract diverse groups. They are great opportunities to talk to people whose paths you might not otherwise cross and to learn about causes and issues that matter to them.

17. Be an advocate for what you believe in. If you're passionate about an issue—whether it's protecting the local environment, bringing art and culture to your community, or raising money to support the local children's hospital—step up. Channel your passion into action. Take a leadership role if you can. Offer to head up a parent group or advisory committee.

18. Partner with other groups (especially larger, more established ones). Are there any strong national groups that share your common interest? Connect with them to see if you can establish a local branch in your community or at least benefit from some helpful tips or best practices. This can make your job much, much easier. Collaboration between groups is no longer a nice-to-have; it's a must-have.

19. Keep meetings short, but make them count. If you're in charge of a meeting, keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Make sure all meetings are action-oriented. Always wrap up with action items that are clearly assigned to a particular person and that have firm deadlines. It's the only way to drive accountability.

20. Promote engagement 24/7. It's great that you're engaged, but make sure others are too. Invite a friend to a meeting or ask her to join your neighborhood association. Especially seek to engage people who wouldn't normally be engaged. Look at new ways of talking to local people so they feel connected. If they aren't coming to meetings, go where they are: festivals, schools, farmers markets, and so forth.

21. Encourage and support engaged young people. For any community to thrive, it must attract young, talented people. Change cannot happen without them. Reach out to the youth in your community. Support their causes and show up to their meetings and marches. Also take your own children with you as you attend meetings and events. You're showing them firsthand what it means to be an engaged citizen.

22. Communicate often and in a variety of formats. How do people like to get info? Be flexible and adaptable in providing it. Give people a variety of ways to engage: online forums, social media, etc. After you attend a meeting, do a quick recap on Facebook. Remember, many people care about the issues but simply don't have time to attend meetings. They will appreciate your keeping them updated.

23. Ask politicians the tough questions and keep on asking. For example, Why are neighborhood groups sometimes the last to know when government makes changes or funds projects that impact them directly? OR What is the process for establishing a city or county budget, and how does that budget process support or exclude the public? In the same way that you seek to be transparent, so should elected officials. Most will want a chance to explain the decision-making process.

24. Be an ambassador for your city. Don't say negative things about your community. Highlight the positive and manage up your city every chance you get. If others are making unfair accusations or spreading misinformation, gently correct them.

25. Support local businesses. Local companies, including new and small businesses, are the backbone of your community. Yes, government should make it easy for them to thrive, but that's only part of the equation. Citizens also need to shop at locally owned stores (even if the price is a bit higher), dine at local restaurants, and take guests to downtown entertainment spots. Whenever possible, spend your dollars at home!

26. Volunteer for local charities. Walk dogs at the local shelter. Visit patients at your community's hospital. Work a shift or two at your city's food bank or soup kitchen. Not only will giving back make you feel good (and of course benefit the recipients), it will help you see firsthand where your community's most dire needs really lie.

27. Don't underestimate the power of small acts of engagement. Look around your own neighborhood. Is there an elderly homeowner who needs help with yard work? Could you organize a cleanup day with other neighbors? Is there a sick or homebound neighbor who needs help with meals? Perhaps a few neighbors could take turns cooking for him. This is a great way to learn about and engage the people who live directly around you.

28. Expect and prepare for setbacks. Tackling changes inside your community involves multiple outside factors: bureaucratic red tape, funding issues, the differing opinions of thousands of citizens just like you. Getting anything accomplished, even small tasks, can feel impossible. Instead of feeling frustrated or defeated, use setbacks as an opportunity to look at what you are doing with fresh eyes. Brainstorm new ways to accomplish your goal. Ask around for others to help you solve the problem.

29. Maintain a sense of civility. These are your neighbors. You will almost certainly disagree with many of them on what you perceive as needed change. That's okay. Keep in mind that they are part of the community you are seeking to improve. They deserve to be treated with respect at all times.

30. Stay the course. Have patience. Like Rome, vibrant communities aren't built in a day. It will take time. Sometimes that can mean years and years of hard work and dedication to make just one plan come to fruition. Never give up. This is a long-term process, and you can't quit when things get tough.

When you're deeply engaged in building a vibrant community, it can be one of the toughest journeys you ever undertake. It can also be one of the most rewarding. Communities matter. When we improve them, we're improving lives. I believe we have a human responsibility to do so to the best of our capacity.

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Braces just for kids? 4 reasons mom and dad want a great smile, too

When it comes to braces, teens and pre-teens remain the typical patients for orthodontists. But their moms and dads may soon be catching up.

Today, one in four orthodontic patients is an adult, according to the American Association of Orthodontists.

Many of those adult patients are in their 20s and 30s, but the number of older patients also continues to grow. In fact, it’s not unusual for an orthodontist to see patients in their 60s, 70s and even 80s.

“We have seen parents and grandparents go through an orthodontic treatment alongside their children and grandchildren,” says Dr. Seth Newman, who is co-author with Dr. Steve Giannoutsos of Giving It To You Straight: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Orthodontics But Were Afraid to Ask (AskTheOrthos.com).

In deciding if orthodontic treatment is appropriate for an adult, Dr. Giannoutsos says the most important consideration is the condition of their gums and bone levels, and whether they are healthy enough for the procedures. Usually, that’s not a problem, though.

“As long as the gums and bone levels are satisfactory, there are many new treatments and procedures that can greatly benefit adults, including senior citizens,” Dr. Giannoutsos says.

Dr. Newman says patients who had braces as a child are informed consumers and know the importance of consulting with an orthodontist if they have any issues, such as teeth shifting over the years.

But many adult patients didn’t have any orthodontics treatment as a child. Dr. Newman and Dr. Giannoutsos say those patients usually decide to get their teeth straightened now for one of four reasons:

Finances are better. They always wanted straight and beautiful smile but they couldn’t afford it until they became adults, or they could never find the right time to do it.

They are educated consumers. They know about the benefits of having straight teeth, including both the cosmetic and health benefits.

They are having other dental work done. The treatment is being done in coordination with other dental work so they have a strong foundation on which the additional dental procedures can be performed.

They want to please their spouse. Some adults decide to improve their smile for their significant others, or because they are being encouraged by them to pursue the procedure. Dr. Newman and Dr. Giannoutsos refer to those people as “the romantics.”

“We all want to look good,” Dr. Newman says. “The days of ‘I’m too old for braces’ are over. Our mature patients are just as proud as our younger ones to have their teeth straightened.”

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Is your sleep problem tied to the family tree? Here are 3 diet tips to reverse it

It’s estimated that 50-70 million U.S. adults have some type of sleeping disorder. And what you eat or don’t eat may impact how you sleep.

Many studies provide evidence of how nutrition influences sleep quality and also plays a role in disorders such as sleep apnea, snoring, TMJ, and insomnia. Some doctors say the connection goes even further - perhaps back one or two generations in a family tree.

“Although patients often understand the role that diet plays in their overall health, many are surprised to find out that factors such as what their mother ate, or what their family traditionally eats, may have also played a role in their issues with breathing-related sleep disorders and TMJ,” saysDr. Shab Krish, author of Restore Your Rest: Solutions for TMJ and Sleep Disorders (www.krish.com). “That happens when outside stimulus detected by the body causes modifications at the cellular level, known as epigenetics. Diet can have a significant impact on changes to the cells.

“Several studies show that a poor or high-fat diet is detrimental to health across several generations. So what the mother eats when she is pregnant can affect the cells of the fetus. But the good news is that epigenetic marks are reversible and can respond to environmental changes like a healthy diet.”

Dr. Krish has three diet recommendations that can lead to healthier cells and better sleep:

Avoid Inflammatory foods. Dr. Krish says foods such as sugar, dairy products and gluten can cause inflammation and weight gain all over the body. This in turn increases the chances of sleep disorders. “For example, if there is excess fat in the neck, it can put more pressure on the airway,” Dr. Krish says. “Sugar is the worst; it causes inflammation everywhere, including in the nasal passages, which can cause a person to develop a bad habit of breathing through the mouth. And when that happens, the lower jaw is set back and downward, which can lead to poor tongue position and poor swallowing habits. All of these contribute to sleep issues.”

Load up on Omega 3s. “The typical Western diet is filled with refined carbohydrates and animal proteins and does not include many inflammation-reducing Omega 3s - fatty acids which have been shown to reduce cardiac arrest,” Dr. Krish says. Omega 3 foods Krish recommends include fish - anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines - nuts and seeds (walnuts, flax seeds), navy beans and soybeans, and vegetables such as spinach and brussel sprouts.

Eat epigenetic boosters. “An epigenetic diet can maximize the health of DNA,” says Dr. Krish. “Foods such as broccoli, turmeric, and green tea have demonstrated the ability to slow or reverse damage to the DNA. Foods that are rich in folate - vitamin B9 - improve epigenetics. These include citrus fruits, strawberries, and leafy green vegetables. Foods rich vitamin B12, such as milk, meat, fish and eggs, also are part of the folate family and boost epigenetics.”

“When it comes to sleep problems, nasal breathing and issues of the jaw and mouth, inflammation is a big culprit,” Dr. Krish says. “A strong overall diet goes a long way toward reducing it.”

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3 myths that rob millions of financial success

When it comes to achieving personal success or accumulating wealth in America, there is no one "set-in-stone" path. But the most accepted formula still seems to be: make excellent grades, earn a college degree, and climb the corporate ladder by outworking everyone around you.

In an ever-changing business world, however, some entrepreneurs say that traditional thinking is misguided and outdated – and that it can be self-limiting to those who buy into it and fall short of those standards.

“There’s a lot of poisonous conventional wisdom we’ve heard all of our life, things that hold many great people back,” says Daniel Ameduri (www.futuremoneytrends.com), co-founder of the Future Money Trends newsletter. “Much of what we’re led to believe leads to success is really a collection of myths. And they become obstacles in our path when we feel we can’t measure up.

“But if you start to believe in yourself, you can overcome the many negative roadblocks that can be deeply embedded in our subconscious minds.”

Ameduri goes over three common myths that interfere with people’s potential:

Get great grades and degrees. Many successful and wealthy people never graduated from college, and recently some of America’s biggest brands removed college diplomas from their job requirements. “High grades and a degree can certainly help you,” Ameduri says, “but this very thought has held back millions. Study after study of millionaires has proven that GPAs and college play a very limited role. This belief actually has the biggest negative effect on people who were straight-A students, but later went on to face rejection in business and in life. This belief has also held back millions who think they aren’t smart enough to achieve greatness due to poor or average grades in school.”

Work harder than everybody. “Let’s change it to, ‘Work smarter,’ ” Ameduri says. “I would encourage anyone who has any influence on a child to replace this with ‘work smarter.’ Success does come with sacrifice, but working 12-to-16-hour days is not mandatory. However, maximizing your time and covering details, like researching your investments, is required. I know many people who want to get rich, but then spend their entire Saturday mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, and doing other $10-an-hour jobs. Is that really the best use of their time? And how about time spent in meetings? My honest conclusion is that meetings are where productivity goes to die. If you want something done, use email, make written offers and proposals, and then get it done.”

‘Jobs are safe; business is risky.’ “Jobs are just as risky, not only because you can be fired or laid off, but because you cap your income,” Ameduri says. “If you’re a school teacher and you over-deliver, it probably won’t change your income. Own a tutoring company and over-deliver, and you’ll receive tips, bonuses, gifts, and can raise your rates. The income equation is simple: deliver value.”

“Belief in one’s self, discipline, and perception of risk,” Ameduri says, “have a lot more to do with becoming successful or even a multi-millionaire and living your own dream life.”

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Social Security Matters

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Why should a Veteran Pay for Medicare?

Dear Rusty: I am a Veteran and all my Medical needs are covered by the VA. Why should I be paying for Medicare out of my monthly SS check? Signed: Inquiring Veteran

Dear Inquiring Veteran: Well, it depends upon how comfortable you are that the VA will be able to provide ALL the medical services you may ever need, emergency or otherwise, for the rest of your life. I, too, am a veteran and receive some of my care – such as wellness exams, blood tests, some prescription drugs, and immunizations - from the VA, but I also have Medicare to cover other services which are not typically available on an immediate basis from the VA. The point is, there will almost surely be times when you won’t be able to rely on the VA for needed immediate care or certain specialized services from specific medical experts, and if you don’t have Medicare you may find yourself facing some very large medical expenses for which you will be personally responsible. That’s where Medicare will help because nearly every medical facility and healthcare service in the country accepts patients with Medicare. And being immediately accepted as a Medicare patient anywhere in the country, anytime of day or night must certainly have some value for you. After all, none of us know what our health future will be.

Since you’re now collecting Social Security I assume you’re already enrolled in Medicare Parts A & B, and you’re questioning why you should continue to pay the Part B premium. Medicare Part B is coverage for doctors and other outpatient services, while Medicare Part A provides hospitalization coverage. There’s a premium for Part B ($135.50/month in 2019), but Part A is free if you also qualify for Social Security. And, by the way, you must have Medicare Part A to collect Social Security after you’re 65. For information, VA coverage for drugs is considered “creditable” as an alternative to Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. But other VA healthcare coverage is not a “creditable” alternative to Part B by Medicare’s standards, so it won’t count for avoiding a late enrollment penalty if you drop Part B now and decide afterwards to re-enroll.

Unless you have other “creditable” healthcare coverage from your or your spouse’s employer after dropping Part B, re-enrolling later will result in you being assessed a late enrollment penalty of 10% on top of the Part B premium amount, recurring every year, for each full year you go without Part B coverage. That penalty doesn’t go away, and It will go up as the Medicare Part B premium increases (which it does from time to time).

Additionally, you will be restricted when you can later re-enroll and when your coverage will start again. For clarity, if you have other “creditable” (not VA) coverage you can drop Part B, save the premium, and re-enroll in Part B again later without penalty (when your other “creditable” coverage ends). But if you don’t, you may find your healthcare options limited and you’ll incur penalties for re-enrolling in Part B later.

Obviously the choice is yours to make, but I suggest you consider the above points carefully when making your decision about whether to drop Medicare Part B and rely only on the VA only for your healthcare coverage. That’s not to take anything away from the excellent healthcare services offered by the VA, but only to make sure you’re aware of the risks associated with dropping Medicare Part B.

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Gaining weight, losing energy? Your hormones may need this 4-step boost

Fatigue, weight gain, declining sex drive, decreasing muscle strength, irritability – all can be unwelcome signs of aging or stress for both men and women.

Some doctors, however, think those symptoms often are rooted in a deeper problem: insufficient hormone levels. Studies show a gradual decline in testosterone begins for most men after age 30, and women can start struggling with hormonal imbalance between 35 and 40.

Hormonal issues are associated with long-term, serious health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure. But before those arise, there are do-it-yourself ways to boost hormones or bring them back in balance, says Dr. Don Colbert (www.drcolbert.com), author of Dr. Colbert’s Hormone Health Zone.

“The foundational, do-it-yourself plan is really the best place for most people, regardless of age or gender, to begin their hormone therapy,” Colbert says. “It is the basis of good health.

“Millions of patients have been told their symptoms were due to aging, stress, or depression, and were probably prescribed an antidepressant. But what they probably need is, first, a blood test, and then to get on track to optimizing their hormones. When that happens, most of these symptoms can be relieved.”

Dr. Colbert summarizes what people can do to restore hormonal equilibrium and enjoy better health and vitality:

Use the Keto Zone diet. Dr. Colbert suggests this nutritional approach in which 70 percent of the daily food intake comes from fat (fish oil, seeds, nuts), 15 percent is protein (grass-fed meats, fish), and the remaining 15 percent is carbohydrates (salads, vegetables, herbs). “The Keto Zone diet is one of the best lifestyle diets you can be on because it is anti-inflammatory and burns fat,” Dr. Colbert says. “You lower inflammation by choosing anti-inflammatory foods and lowering sugars, carbs, and starches dramatically.”

Increase exercise. Physical activity can strongly influence hormonal health. Two major benefits are lowering insulin levels and increasing testosterone. “Incorporating weight-lifting and some cardio like bike riding or walking on a regular basis make a big difference,” Dr. Colbert says.

Find ways to relax. “Stress affects us in every conceivable way,” Dr. Colbert says. “Reducing it is a must for hormonal health. There’s a certain amount we endure, but developing ways to combat stress is key, lowering cortisol levels. When cortisol levels rise, it triggers calorie intake and even obesity. Try soothing music on a long commute, doing things you enjoy, cutting back on caffeine and electronics, turning the noise down in your life – in general taking more time for yourself.”

Get more sleep. About one-third of adults don’t get enough sleep. Research shows those who fail to get enough sleep increase their risk of chronic disease. You should aim for seven hours nightly. “Increased sleep boosts the adrenal gland reserve by decreasing the amount of cortisol that the body produces when under extreme stress,” Dr. Colbert says. “Cortisol lowers testosterone levels, so fixing this one area would have a compound beneficial effect on the body.”

“Can you boost all your different hormones by improving your lifestyle – changing your diet, exercising, having less stress, getting more sleep?” Dr. Colbert asks. “The answer is a resounding yes.”

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House Calls

By DR. APPATHURAI BALAMURUGAN

Assistant professor, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Q: Why are the veins in my hands getting larger as I age?

A: The back of hands often show the first signs of aging, even before the face. That’s because there’s less fat. As the skin ages, it becomes thinner and less elastic.

Exercising can also cause the veins in your hands to appear prominent. Arterial blood pressure increases during exercise, forcing the plasma from the blood to pool around the muscles and causes the muscles to increase and harden. This pushes the veins toward the skin’s surface, making them more prominent. When the body returns to rest, the veins diminish. Those who lift weights may notice the veins in their hands become more pronounced as the larger and harder muscles push the veins toward the skin’s surface.

These conditions are normal but bulging veins may be due to vascular disease including blood clotting disorders. Medical treatment should be sought to determine the cause. More common in legs than hands, varicose veins are enlarged and painful and can cause hands to swell. They occur when the vein is stretched with age and its valves are no longer as efficient in preventing blood from flowing backward.

Q: Why do some Alzhiemer’s disease patients get more irritable and confused in the late afternoon and evening?

A: Physicians refer to this as sundowning, or sundown syndrome and fading light appears to be the trigger. Light and more shadows in the home can lead to confusion and fear. Also, at night, trouble distinguishing dreams from reality can be disorienting.

Up to 20 percent of Alzheimer’s patients get sundown syndrome but it can occur with seniors who don’t have dementia. Symptoms can increase through the night and typically improve by morning.

The cause isn’t known but some scientists believe dementia patients undergo changes in the brain that may affect the area that signals waking and sleeping periods. Those who are tired, hungry or thirsty, depressed, bored, in pain, or have problems sleeping are more at risk.

To help manage this challenging time of day, look for patterns, note what seems to trigger sundowning and then try to limit or avoid them. Maintain a regular daily routine with appointments, visits and bathing set earlier in the day when the patient feels her best. Consult with the patient’s physician to ensure their medications help them relax and sleep rather than cause more confusion.

Q: What does it mean to be “on the spectrum” with autism?

A: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a group of complex disorders affecting brain development. Symptoms usually include problems communicating; interacting socially; and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities. Autism can also include intellectual disabilities, delay or absence of speech development, difficulties with motor coordination and/or attention and physical health issues.

The spectrum refers to a wide array of possible symptoms. There are no biological tests to diagnose autism. Instead, specialists observe autism-specific behavior. Once diagnosed, the autism is defined as mild, moderate or severe and the type and frequency of treatment is determined. Some with autism live regular lives but often need continued support and services.

Previously, patients with symptoms were divided into three categories — autism; Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), usually with mild symptoms; and Asperger’s (also described as high-functioning autism). Patients with Asperger’s usually don’t have the severe language impairments but struggle with social interactions and other symptoms. In 2013, the diagnosis manual combined the three diagnoses into the autism spectrum disorder.

Q. During a recent visit to a hospital, I saw a sign directing patients to a Gamma Knife area. What is that?

A. Not actually a knife, this is a stereotactic radiosurgical device that treats malignant and benign brain tumors in just one visit, either on an out-patient basis or with an overnight hospital stay. Using advanced diagnosis imaging and three-dimensional treatment planning software, Gamma Knife radiosurgery sends 192 precisely focused beams of gamma radiation to one point to treat the diseased area, leaving the surrounding healthy tissue untouched.

This treatment, during which the patient may remain awake, is less expensive than conventional neurosurgery and offers excellent clinical outcomes for several brain disorders and diseases. Benefits include that it is virtually painless, does not cause hair loss, and offers a return to pre-treatment activities a few days after the procedure. It can replace brain surgery for some patients with vascular malformations or facial pain or is used to stabilize or shrink brain tumors.

Those at risk for complications from conventional surgery, including older patients or those in poor medical condition, may be a candidate for this. It is also beneficial for patients whose brain lesions are in a critical or inaccessible area.

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5 cost-efficient innovations to improve the U.S. infrastructure

Much has been written about the poor state of infrastructure in the world’s wealthiest nation. From its roads and bridges to waterways and rail systems, the United States has issues requiring hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fix.

Innovation in the form of recycling or repurposing is being implemented as a cost- and environmentally-friendly way to improve segments of the U.S. infrastructure. Some companies and government entities are supporting the turning of outdated materials into useful pieces to the infrastructure equation. Amazon, for example, recently invested $10 million in a Closed Loop Fund project, which targets recycling infrastructure in the U.S.

“In this area of innovation, you consider a product’s whole life cycle, from cradle to grave,” says Barry Breede (www.koppersuip.com), author of Transforming the Utility Pole and chief innovation officer at Koppers Utility & Industrial Products. “It’s a closed-loop process, and the promise of these developments exemplifies the value and the validity of this kind of innovation.

“For smaller and mid-sized companies, corralling the resources to build a lasting innovation effort is not always an easy task. However, one potential upside is transforming how the business operates. You’re bringing value to the customers and, by contributing to the greater good through helping the infrastructure, you’re bringing value to the general public as well. A win-win.”

Here are five recycle/repurpose innovations that can assist the public infrastructure:

Spinning old tires into better roads. Many states don’t have the funding to maintain and repair roads. Magdy Abdelrahman, a civil engineering professor at North Dakota State, is experimenting with using recycled rubber from scrapped tires to help preserve asphalt on existing roads. This would also help the environment; “tire dumps,” which contain roughly 300 million discarded tires annually, can pose environmental concerns.

Building walls out of old utility poles. Old poles can be recycled and used as both agricultural and/or building materials. Fence posts and retaining walls are some of the common applications. “If a utility company is stockpiling whole poles, this could be a valid solution,” Breede says. “This is perhaps the most environmentally responsible wood disposal method - and at the same time it’s a boon for building.”

Turning bottles into bridges. Places in Europe have been constructing bridges with recycled plastic for a decade. The U.S. has two bridges made of 100 percent recycled plastics. “It makes sense to replace worn-out wood with plastic,” says Breede. “Plastics in construction generally have a longer lifespan. Plastic costs more initially but in the long run it pays for itself.”

Converting railroad ties and wood pallets into biomass fuel. “Untreated wood waste, as from pallets and reels you see all over America, makes for excellent biomass fuel,” Breede says. “Local and regional energy providers use biomass facilities as do energy-intensive private industries.” An energy plant in northwest Michigan, powered by renewable biomass fuel, produces much of it from used railroad ties.

Drawing methane from landfills. Landfills are not a forgotten wasteland. Breede says landfill recovery gas (LFG), an option in which methane gas is captured from landfills, helps produce electricity while reducing harmful emissions. “The methane gas is an energy source to power turbines and, in turn, the turbines generate electricity for the grid,” Breede says.

“Seemingly mundane products can be the backbone of our infrastructure system,” Breede says. “They may be taken for granted and forgotten, but the job of the innovator is to think about the questions others don’t ask, and hopefully develop solutions.”

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Tut-Tut-‘Tudder’

A new online dating service for ranchers in the U.K. was introduced recently. No, it’s not a boy-meet-girl smart phone app. The “Tudder” bull-meet-cow service lets ranchers find suitable breeding partners for their cattle and other farm animals online. It is currently available to British farmers via the Apple app store, which boasts that it features “data-profiles of farm animals from 42,000 farms across Britain.

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That ‘Snowna Lisa’ smile

Robert Greenfield, of Toronto, Canada, obviously loves to go ice skating and he seems to be pretty good on ice. But, says the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC], he garnered his minute of fame not for his toe loops, flips and Lutzes. But, it is for recreating Da Vinci’s famed Mona Lisa as he cleared the snow from his backyard ice skating rink. He was so proud of his facsimile on ice that he posted a time-lapse video on YouTube that can easily be accessed by Googling "Snowna Lisa," the moniker he gave his work of art.

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How embarrassing

Towson University Police are still trying to identify the mom who has been trying recently to set up a date for her son. She stops undergraduates on campus and shows them a cell phone picture of the young man. It’s not clear whether her son attends the Maryland college, but her antics have stirred a variety of different reactions. Some thought it is a sweet thing for a mom to do; others felt it is creepy. Still others felt embarrassment for the son. The police say she is not going to be charged with a criminal offense. But, they do want to inform her that her actions are inappropriate.

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Spicy food

Are spicy foods healthy or not? Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania explains that there is little evidence that spicy foods harm the body. When a negative response, such as a blister, does occur, it it usually because the body has tricked itself into marking the food as harmful. Over time, the body adjusts to the spice. Moreover, spicy foods trigger the thermic effect of food, which increases metabolic rate and expends more calories; this effect only minimally impacts the metabolism. As for its effect on gastrointestinal stress, the matter is still up for debate. People with irritable bowel syndrome tend to do poorly with spicy foods, but people worried about ulcers can rest assured that spicy foods are not a concern.

Trucker victory

A recent Supreme Court decision allows transportation workers to sue their employers in class-action lawsuits. This decision is a boon for truckers, says University of Pennsylvania researcher Steve Viscelli, who has studied the trucking industry for a decade and wrote a brief for the Supreme Court case. It could also have implications for Uber drivers and others in the gig economy, whose employment status—as employee, independent contractor, or another class altogether—likely represents the next big legal battle in this area.

Ghosting

An increasing trend in society is "workplace ghosting," in which job applicants and employees fail to show up to interviews or work, without explanation. Peter Cappelli, a management professor in the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, believes the rise of this phenomenon reflects the changing power dynamics in the workplace. Employers once held the cards and "people were just really grateful that you'd even consider their application." Now, however, "the power has changed" and the balance of power has shifted toward the employees.

Free press

Calling a free press “an essential element” of American democracy, a new report from the Knight Commission on Trust, Media, and Democracy said “a free press is not, and must not be seen as, the enemy of the people.” The commission recommended that media organizations “practice radical transparency” and collaborate on common rules for labeling news, analysis, and commentary, as well as corrections, anonymous sourcing, and tracking disinformation. Commission member Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, said, “No single principle is more fundamental than the free and robust exchange of ideas, especially when we disagree.”

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Clear aligners are popular alternative to metal braces, but myths persist

Instead of traditional metal braces, more people are opting for the clear aligners on the market such as Invisalign, Candid Co., Byte and similar products, but plenty of myths and misconceptions surround them.

“There are a lot of new clear aligner products hitting the market now, but many patients seem to be misinformed about them,” says Dr. Michael McCarthy, DMD, author of the new book The Smile of Your Dreams” (bhamorthodontics.com). “Patients should consult their orthodontist if they are confused about the issues concerning these devices.”

Clear aligners are almost invisible, are used to help adjust teeth, and are often considered a good alternative to metal braces, Dr. McCarthy says. They are customized for each patient’s mouth to fit snugly and securely.

“They can also be removed by the patient for sports and eating. They can be also be easily removed and put back in place for regular cleaning of the teeth and the aligner,” says Dr. McCarthy.

The aligners, over time, will begin to move teeth both horizontally and vertically as needed, Dr. McCarthy says. Patients typically visit the orthodontist every eight to twelve weeks to receive new sets of aligners and to check on progress.

Dr. McCarthy says some of the myths surrounding these products include:

More expensive. One of the biggest misconceptions about these products is that they are more expensive than traditional braces. However, the cost is about the same.

Not as effective as metal braces. Clear aligners work just as effectively as metal braces, even though they may not seem as sturdy, McCarthy says. However, more significant problems may require the metal braces.

Insurance doesn’t cover it. Most insurance companies that cover metal braces will cover the clear aligners as well.

Patient is too old. Braces and aligners will work well for people of almost all ages.

Too much maintenance. Clear aligners require about the same maintenance as traditional braces and may be even easier, since they can be taken out of the mouth for regular cleaning.

There is no discomfort: People often think that because they are clear aligners and are not made of metal, they are a painless alternative. Since teeth are being shifted into a new position, it may not be a comfortable experience regardless of what type of braces are used. The clear aligners may not be as uncomfortable as traditional braces because of the absence of metal wires, but patients should expect some discomfort and gum soreness.

Faster than metal braces. The teeth are slowly and slightly moving into position in very small increments, just as you would see with metal braces. Both types of braces take about the same amount of time.

“I think the use of clear aligners will continue to increase as more people find out about the advantages,” McCarthy says. “But they aren’t right for everyone, and you should consult with your orthodontist to determine what type of treatment is best for you.”

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4 ways divorce could affect your retirement

Couples going through a divorce have numerous personal and financial issues to work out, from who gets the house to how custody of the children will be handled.

But one significant area of concern that can be easily overlooked is that a divorce also involves issues that could affect your retirement.

“That can be true even if your retirement is still years away,” says Andrew McNair, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and founder and president of SWAN Capital (www.SWAN-Capital.com). “One of the big pitfalls in any divorce is the failure to cut emotional ties from the divorce negotiations. That’s only natural. But unless you have a third party who can help everyone take a step back and say, ‘Financially, does this make sense,’ it can be very tough.”

McNair says just a few of the ways retirement and divorce become interlocked include:

IRAs. Since an IRA is an individual retirement account, only one name appears on the account. But that doesn’t mean it’s off limits during a divorce, McNair says. “Everything that you acquire during the marriage, no matter whose name it's in, is typically considered marital property,” he says. During a divorce, McNair recommends evaluating the financial drawbacks to having your IRA included in the assets you plan to retain post-divorce. It’s important to remember, he says, that the money in an IRA can’t be accessed before you are 59 ½ without paying a penalty.

Pensions. Maybe you earned a pension at your job and your spouse didn’t. But just as with the IRA, pensions and retirement plans are marital assets, McNair says. In general, the portion of the pension that you earned while you were married is subject to division. “Depending on which state you live in, it’s possible that even the portion of the pension you earned before you were married could be viewed as a marital asset,” he says. “That said, it may still be possible to keep your pension intact and offset it with other assets.”

Social Security. There are plenty of rules that govern your Social Security benefit, and the rules for married couples can carry over into divorce. For example, McNair says, if your spouse has worked and if you have been married for 10 years or more, then you have options. You can get a benefit that is equal to half your spouse’s Social Security, or you can draw your own benefit, whichever is higher. Either way, your spouse retains 100 percent of their benefit. This is an automatic guarantee that falls under Social Security rules, he says, so it’s not a negotiable point during the divorce.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order. Pensions, IRAs and Social Security are something people are familiar with, but you may be thrown by this one. During a divorce, a QDRO (or Qualified Domestic Relations Order) is the legal document that divides up a qualified pension or retirement account (including 401(k)s) during a divorce. “There are a lot of nuances that go into a QDRO,” McNair says. “To protect your assets, you want to be sure to get qualified advice in this area from a specialist.”

“In negotiating the financial issues in a divorce, despair can set in and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but there is light at the end of the tunnel,” McNair says. “Concentrate your energy on problem solving. Emotions are understandable, but you don’t want to let them run wild and govern your decisions.”

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4 ways your smile improves your life – and the lives around you

Many people go to the dentist not just because they want good oral health, but also because having a great smile is a good confidence booster and makes them more likely to smile more often. But it also impacts those who see that dazzling smile.

“Every day we see people who tell us about how their friends, family and business colleagues are also affected by their new smiles,” says Dr. Ana Castilla, an orthodontist and author of the book The Smile of Your Life: Everything You Need to Know for Your Orthodontic Journey (www.castillaortho.com). “They are just more willing to smile, and they didn’t anticipate how much that would impact others in their life.”

Studies have shown that people believe smilers are reliable, relaxed and sincere. A study published in the journal Journal of Neuropsychology reported that seeing an attractive, smiling face activates the orbitofrontal cortex, the region in the brain that processes sensory rewards. This suggests that when someone sees a person smiling, they feel rewarded.

As a result, Dr. Castilla says some of the things a smile can do for you include:

Make you more attractive. “Your smile is your best accessory,” Castilla says. “Studies have shown that people who smile are automatically viewed as more attractive, reliable, relaxed, and sincere. Seeing an attractive face can be considered a rewarding stimulus, and when a person sees a smiling face, the region of their brain that processes sensory rewards is activated significantly more than when viewing a non-smiling face.”

Relieve stress and boost your mood. Science has shown that smiling increases your health and happiness, not just at the moment, but even in the long run, Castilla says. “The more you smile, the healthier and happier you will be,” she says. How so? When you smile, your brain releases signaling molecules called neuropeptides to the rest of your body, she says. These neuropeptides influence your brain, body, and behavior in many ways, including reducing stress, aiding sleep, and elevating your mood.

Lower your blood pressure. When you smile your brain also releases feel-good neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These chemicals calm your nervous system by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. “It’s great to know that even when you skip out on going to the gym, you can still work on your health by smiling away,” Castilla says. “Although I don’t recommend skipping the gym.”

Help you make others happy. Smiling not only has the power to elevate your mood, but it can also change the moods of others. “If you’re grumpy or rude, then you’re likely to put others in a bad mood or even put them off,” Castilla says. “The same thing happens with laughter and smiling. What happens when you smile at someone? They smile back, of course. Even babies know what to do. Smile at a baby and they will smile right back at you.”

“A beautiful smile is so much more than just straight teeth,” Castilla says. “It is health, confidence and joy. It is what you display during the happiest moments of your life, such as when you graduate from school, get married, or your child is born. It is a reflection of your spirit, and make no mistake, it can change your life.”

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The 5 biggest disruptors wreaking havoc on your hormones

As 2019 dawns, some people are taking a “new year-new you” approach. They’re determined to make self-improvements that provide a fresh, positive outlook and strong sense of well-being.

But sometimes health factors undermine those good intentions, such as depression and its link to hormone imbalances. There are myriad ways both men and women suffer adverse effects to their hormones, says Don Colbert, M.D., and many of them are avoidable.

“We are exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals on a regular basis in the air, water and food,” says Colbert (https://drcolbert.com), author of Dr. Colbert's Hormone Health Zone. “Some of them are hormone disruptors because they disturb your endocrine system, wreaking havoc and creating hormonal imbalances.

“Not only are the effects of all these disruptors depressing to think about; they actually cause depression, along with countless other ailments such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and more. But the basic principle is this: decreasing the number of disruptions will improve your health.”

Dr. Colbert breaks down the top hormone disruptors affecting men and women along with ways to minimize the disruption or stop it:

Lifestyle choices. “Whether it’s weight gain and a lack of exercise, anger and unforgiveness, drinking too much alcohol or some other thing that can be controlled, your hormone levels drop and you begin a slow slide to poorer health,” Dr. Colbert says. “Make better choices, and that dramatically decreases the chances of having any hormone deficiency symptoms.”

Medications. Medications affect the body’s cells, and sometimes side effects manifest in major problems. For example, Dr. Colbert cites Mayo Clinic research showing a prescription statin drug that lowered cholesterol could result in liver damage, memory loss or type 2 diabetes. “I estimate that 55 percent of the entire US population is taking pills that directly and negatively affect hormone levels,” Dr. Colbert says. “Get off these harmful medications you hate.”

Things you touch. Chemicals entering the body through the skin can cause long-term damage. Dr. Colbert notes phthalates, disruptors found in household cleaners, cosmetics, toys and numerous other products. “Phthalates negatively affect both men’s and women’s ability to use the testosterone that is in our bodies,” Dr. Colbert says. “Another is BPA (bisphenol A), found on the inside of metal-canned foods and plastic food-storing containers. Specifically, BPA has been found to cause or contribute to cancer, fertility problems, developmental issues and heart disease. I recommend buying glass jars of food and storing in ceramic containers.”

Diet deficiencies. “The standard American diet is usually low in key nutrients that support a healthy thyroid,” Dr. Colbert says. “Many patients with hormone imbalances have low iodine. The best solution is eat more vegetables, ideally raw or steamed.”

Aging. Dr. Colbert says estrogen levels for women begin to decline around the age of 50; for men, testosterone levels can drop low around age 45-50. “Aging is a natural combatant as a hormone disruptor,” he says, “but we can slow the acceleration of the effects of aging by optimizing our hormones. Healthy habits can make a huge difference.”

“Symptoms of serious problems indicated by hormonal imbalance can be reversed by those who focus on health in their diet, lifestyle and living environment,” Dr. Colbert says. “Then they can enable all of their systems to function optimally.”

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4 reasons everyone should care about America’s Everglades

It’s been called one of the world’s great biological wonders.

And since there’s nothing quite like Everglades National Park, efforts have been made for decades to protect and preserve its fragile ecosystem.

But just how well protected the park is can be confusing, especially with two recent events that seem at odds. An appeals court ruling could pave the way for oil drilling in at least one part of the 1.5 million-acre park. Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently proposed spending $360 million for Everglades restoration projects.

Regardless of such conservation contradictions, there’s no denying that the Everglades is a national environmental treasure, though a swampy one that many people haven’t explored up close and personal.

“Even people in Florida don’t always realize what they have here, much less people elsewhere in the country,” says Clyde Butcher (www.clydebutcher.com), a nature photographer who since the 1980s has helped bring national attention to the Everglades through stunning black-and-white photographs that have been compared to the works of Ansel Adams.

“People just don’t realize how unique and beautiful the Everglades are. When I first moved from California to Florida in 1979, I didn’t either. Now I’ve fallen in love with a swamp.”

Butcher over the years has dared to wade into regions of the Everglades that most people never see. He’s making plans to put his latest photographic exhibit, “America’s Everglades: Through the Lens of Clyde Butcher,” on a national tour. Right now the exhibit is on display through May 26 at the Appleton Museum in Ocala, FL, and in 2020 will be in Youngstown, Ohio.

Butcher has photographed other locations, but it is the Everglades that became his greatest subject. He suggests 4 reasons why everyone, whether they live in Florida, Ohio or Oregon, should care about this natural wonder:

The uniqueness. Unlike rivers, lakes and mountains, there is no other Everglades. The planet has just one to care for. “There is no other place on earth like the Everglades,” Butcher says. “It’s beautiful in its primeval essence.”

The need for clean water. Everyone can identify with the need for fresh, clean water to support life. By saving the Everglades we save the water, Butcher says, and by saving the water, we save ourselves. “If we don’t clean the water, our own drinking water will fail, thus destroying the economy of both coasts of Florida,” he says.

The impact on the ocean. Saving the Everglades also helps save the fish nurseries along the coast, and thus saves the ocean.

The example that will be set. By saving the Everglades, Butcher says, we can show the world that we can save a precious environment and give other communities and countries the inspiration to do the same. As Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of the book The Everglades: River of Grass, said, “If we can save the Everglades we can save the world."

Butcher says everyone can help make the world a better place, by speaking up for places that are wild and endangered; by volunteering in state and local parks; and by personal choices related to how we treat nature.

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The new trend in cosmetic procedures: Less is more

The number of minimally invasive cosmetic procedures performed has grown nearly 200 percent since 2000 and in 2019, that trend is expected to continue - but with a "less is more" twist.

‘We don’t see a lot of patients anymore who are bringing in photos of movie stars and saying they want to look like them,” says Dr. Jerome Potozkin (https://www.mybeautymd.com), author of the new book Botox and Beyond: Your Guide to Safe, Nonsurgical, Cosmetic Procedures. “Most of our patients now just want to be a better version of themselves. They are taking advantage of the many low-cost minimally invasive procedures that have been introduced in the last few years.”

Minimally invasive procedures usually have less pain, a shorter hospital stay (or no hospital stay at all) and fewer potential complications. Other advantages include the low cost and little or no downtime, as some of the procedures can be done over a lunch break. Plus, many patients like that there is less of a chance that their friends will notice a dramatic change in appearance.

Dr. Potozkin, who is a board-certified dermatologist who is specially trained in the art and science of dermatological surgery, says just a few of the new trends expected to become even more popular in 2019 include:

Injectables. The accessibility of injectables means there is less downtime for a procedure, lower cost and less invasiveness. Injectables, lasers, and skin resurfacing can be relatively quick procedures, often with immediately visible effects.

More cosmetic treatments by men. There has been a slow but steady increase in the number of men seeking cosmetic procedures as it becomes more mainstream. The total number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed among men was 1.2 million in 2015 -- more than triple the number of men since 1997.

Exaggerated cosmetic procedures will decline. Patients are increasingly wanting to maintain their general face structure, inherited family traits, and just generally wanting to look like themselves, but with a few refined tweaks.

Less medical tourism. What was once an emerging trend of people going to foreign countries for cheaper cosmetic procedures will continue to decline. “Horror stories of complications with no way to remedy them have resulted in many patients realizing that the cost savings are simply not worth gambling with their appearance,” Dr. Potozkin says.

The non-surgical facelift. This procedure delivers focused ultrasound energy deep into the skin, which causes it to lift and tighten and promote maximum collagen rejuvenation. “Collagen is what keeps the skin looking plump, but it decreases with age,” Dr. Potozkin says. “Studies show that collagen production continues to increase in the six to 12 weeks after the procedure, resulting in a tighter, more contoured look that can last for more than a year.”

“The number of people seeking non-invasive cosmetic treatments will continue to increase,” Dr. Potozkin says, “as even more innovative procedures are developed in the coming year.”

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Digital dentistry is revolutionizing the patient experience

Dentistry is undergoing a revolution as “digital dentistry” moves from concept to reality.

“Digital dentistry allows for a wide variety of advanced techniques to be used to not only make the patient experience better, but it also allows the dentist to utilize quicker, easier and less expensive techniques,” says Dr. Doug Depew, author of “Change Your Smile, Change Your Life: Your Guide to Orthodontic Treatment” ((https://www.depewsmiles.com). “Dental dentistry advancements will continue to revolutionize many different aspects of the dental profession.”

Digital dentistry incorporates computer-controlled components to carry out dental procedures rather than using mechanical or

tools, or plaster tooth models. More dentists are embracing the technology because it improves efficiency, accuracy and potentially produces more predictable outcomes than non-digital techniques.electrical

Not all dentists are embracing the technology due to the significant investment required, a steep learning curve for both doctors and technicians, and a natural resistance to change, especially for those nearing retirement.

The benefits, however, are worth it, says Dr. Depew. He says the following areas are where digital dentistry is making a difference:

Computerized patient rooms. The first area that most dentists start with in digital dentistry is putting computers into each patient room. This allows for a variety of state-of-the-art techniques as well as enhanced patient education.

Digital patient education. This includes technologies already available in other industries, such as voice-activated and/or touch-screen computer and software instruction, live video and rapid recall of photos and educational components.

Digital Radiography. X-rays no longer require film or chemicals. “The main advantages include lower radiation, significant time reduction, ease of storage and organization, and image enhancements for quick and improved viewing,” Dr. Depew says.

Cone Beam CT. This is being quickly adopted by most specialties and becoming the proposed standard for diagnosing of a myriad of conditions; and for planning surgical procedures, including implant placement, third-molar removal, and endodontics. “Future advances and changes will see improved software diagnostic capabilities to automatically take measurements and propose implant positions, and algorithms that automatically look for problems,” says Dr. Depew.

Intra-oral Scanning. Instead of the gooey impressions, the dentist puts a wand in your mouth that makes a three-dimensional reproduction of your teeth. “Scanning teeth and preparations is becoming increasingly easier and faster” says Dr. Depew

Digital Design. Using special CAD/CAM software the doctor and laboratory use the data from the methods mentioned above to design aligners for tooth movement, crowns, and other oral appliances.

3D Printers. Designing software, tooth models and even appliances can be printed instead of using outdated plaster models.

Lasers. Diode lasers allow for advantages in simplifying surgical procedures, and an expanding use in many dental procedures make this area of digital dentistry highly desirable. The current trend is small, portable, cordless, low-cost diode lasers.

“Combining these technologies, our treatments can be faster, more economical, predictable, consistent, and even more accurate,” says Dr. Depew. He believes digital dentistry is already changing the dental profession and that it will lead to even more remarkable technological advances in the future.

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Social Security Matters

By Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Ask Rusty – Spousal Benefits and Enrolling in Medicare

Dear Rusty: I will be 65 in March. Husband will be 61 in August. If I started collecting Social Security now would I only be able to collect on myself? My husband plans on collecting at 62. Will I be able to collect some of his when he starts collecting at age 62? Also, who can advise me about Medicare? Do I have to apply now? Signed: Needing Advice

Dear Needing: Yes, if you start your Social Security benefits now, you can only collect your own benefits - you cannot collect a spousal benefit until your husband starts collecting his benefits. Whether you will get a spousal benefit from your husband’s record depends upon whether your own benefit at your full retirement age of 66 is less than ½ of your husband’s benefit at his full retirement age (or “FRA”).

If your husband will be 61 in 2019 his full retirement age for Social Security purposes is 66 and 8 months and if he starts his benefit at age 62 it will be 28.3% less than it would be at his full retirement age. If you start your benefit at age 65, it will be reduced by 6.7% from what you would get at your FRA of 66. Your spousal benefit will be based upon both of your FRA benefit amounts and, if your husband claims his benefit in August 2020 when he is 62, you will have already reached your FRA. So, if 50% of your husband’s FRA benefit amount is more than your FRA benefit amount you’ll get a spousal boost. But since you are taking your own benefit one year earlier than your FRA, the spousal boost will be added to your own reduced benefit amount, which means your total spousal benefit will be slightly less than half of your husband’s FRA benefit amount. To summarize: you can’t get a spousal benefit until your husband starts collecting his; you will only get a spousal benefit if 50% of your husband’s benefit at his FRA is more than your FRA benefit amount; and your spousal benefit amount will be slightly less if you claim your own benefit one year earlier than your FRA.

Regarding Medicare, whether you need to apply now depends on your current health insurance. If you have “creditable health insurance” coverage through an employer (either your own employer or your husband’s) which will continue after you are 65, you do not need to enroll in Part B or Part D at this time. You should check with the employer’s Human Resource department to make sure their coverage will remain first payer now that you are Medicare eligible. If you do not now have creditable coverage you need to enroll in Medicare now. You are still in your initial enrollment period, which begins three months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after the month you are 65. If you do not apply within this time frame and you don’t have other creditable coverage you will be subject to a 10% Part B penalty (that never goes away) for each year you delay. If you apply now for your Social Security benefits to start in March, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A (hospitalization) and Part B, but you can choose to opt out of Part B (doctors and outpatient services) as part of the application process. However, if you change your mind and decide to wait to claim your Social Security benefits and you do not have other creditable coverage, you should still enroll in Medicare during your initial enrollment period by contacting your local Social Security office or by enrolling online at www.ssa.gov. The current monthly premium for Medicare Part B is $135.50 for a married couple filing a joint income tax return with a combined income (from all sources) of $170,000 or less.

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The workplace blues: 5 ways to help stressed-out employees

Problems with the emotional health of employees is costing employers up to $500 billion per year. As a result, the global wellness market is growing nearly twice as fast as the global economy, according to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI).

For employers wondering whether their workers are stressed out and unhappy – and thus hurting the bottom line – the signs are everywhere.

Discontented employees are less likely to engage each other in conversation, relying instead on email. The absentee rate increases and production declines as workers call in sick more often. And, of course, eventually employees begin to search for a more emotionally stable place to work, leaving managers to constantly look for replacements.

“The employers who do not consider their employees’ emotional wellness are bound to suffer high turnover rates,” says Alex Zlatin, CEO of Maxim Software Systems, a dental-practice-management software company, and author of Responsible Dental Ownership (www.alexzlatin.com). “Employers who are not responding to those needs will feel a significant impact.”

Zlatin says there are many ways to change the company structure to accommodate employees who are feeling stressed out:

Review existing (or create new) core values, vision and purpose. These items often sound like flaky ways for big corporations to show their connection to clients. The reality is, if done right, these items are the pillars of every company.

Walk the Walk. Leadership’s role in corporate change begins when its leaders behave the way they expect their staff to behave. If one of your core values is “have integrity” and the leaders do not act with integrity consistently, they cannot expect it from their teams.

Invest in employees. Create a “game” room for staff. Explore team activities that are pure fun and are not specifically designed to “enhance teamwork”. Treat random employees to lunch.

Monitor client feedback. Are your clients happy? If they are not happy, is it because your employees are not happy? When client feedback starts heading south, it might be because your employees are not “smiling on the phone” and if they are, it feels and sounds fake. Client feedback is the canary in the coalmine that your employees are not happy.

Don’t let employees suffer in silence. To reduce and prevent burnout, employers need to create a workplace culture that encourages employees to raise their hands and ask for help.

“The pressures of today’s society are unlike anything we have seen before,” Zlatin says. “These pressures don’t go away when a person goes to work. If employers want to have happy, satisfied employees, it is important that they offer comprehensive emotional wellness programs.”

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Troubled teens: 5 ways adults can connect and empower them

The statistics suggest that a disturbing percentage of America’s teenagers are in crisis.

In a given 24 hours in the U.S.,1,439 teens will attempt suicide, 2,795 teenage girls will become pregnant, 15,006 teens will use drugs for the first time, and 3,506 teens will run away, according to a report by Verywellmind.com.

Health and education professionals cite numerous socio-economic factors for these youth problems, but some say adults could make a difference if they connected better with teenagers.

“America is unintentionally betraying the emotional and social needs of its adolescents – ages 11 to 21,” says Dr. Kim Metcalfe, an educational developmental psychologist and author of Let’s Build ExtraOrdinary Youth Together (www.xtraordinaryyouth.com). “We have parents, guardians, school teachers, administrators, coaches, and volunteers working with youth every day who have no idea how to use meaningful connections or even how significant they are.

“Adults focus mainly on a young person’s physical and educational needs, but when it comes to supporting adolescents in meeting their creative, social and emotional needs, most of us have limited time to do it. With the right approach and intentions, though, adults can make things better for them.”

Metcalfe notes five ways adults can make meaningful connections with teenagers that can help them navigate the journey to adulthood:

Be sensitive. “The roadmap to their life journey starts with teen questions like, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What is my purpose?’” Metcalfe says. “Adults need to listen thoroughly and then take the time to guide or advise, and this starts with being sensitive to their intellectual, creative and emotional aspects.”

Offer encouragement. “Youth who are encouraged by adults will act in connected and cooperative ways,” Metcalfe says. “Encouragement helps youth feel capable and appreciated, but when youth are discouraged, they act in unhealthy ways. The idea is to encourage the development of the whole young person.”

Elicit their creativity. An adult can empower a young person and give them self-confidence by making them feel important. “One way to do that is by asking them for ideas and possible solutions to problems outside of their own,” Metcalfe says. “You let them take the lead in something. Getting them to think outside the box expedites growth.”

Let them know you care. “Tell kids that we are on their side, that we love and care about them unconditionally, and that we are there to support them despite their mistakes,” Metcalfe says.

Emphasize resilience. “Help youth appropriately deal with adversity rather than attempting to remove it or allowing them to run away from it,” Metcalfe says. “That’s where much of the trouble starts – with escape. A strong foundation of support can build self-empowerment that makes them stronger.”

“Meaningful connections are the most powerful way to say to a young person, ‘You matter, you are important, and you are worthy of my time and patience,’ ” Metcalfe says. “These are the messages that support a positive self-image.”

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4 ways marketers can ensure they learn the right lessons from data

In this digital age, marketers have more data to work with than ever before.

But actually deriving meaningful insights from that data and converting those insights into action is easier said than done. Often, the problem is that, with so much data at their disposal, marketers are confused about where they should direct their attention.

“Focusing on the wrong data is nearly as bad as having no data,” says Scott East, co-author of The Cuttlefish Marketer: The Five Essential Traits of the Modern Marketer (www.cuttlefishmarketer.com).

“But, unfortunately, sometimes focusing on the wrong data is exactly what marketing departments do.”

East suggests a few tips to help you avoid such pitfalls, and to make the best use of data to empower your marketing:

Define your goal. One of the most important factors for using data to empower marketing is to be able to define specifically what your goal is, East says. “When you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, it helps to know precisely what needle you’re looking for,” he says. “Otherwise, you’ll end up with a lot of useless needles. As a marketing executive, it’s your job to meticulously define your marketing goals so your IT teammates know what you’re looking for from them.”

Realize that data is fluid. Data doesn’t ever give you a final answer. “Because the world is constantly changing at an ever-increasing pace, data changes as well,” he says. “This requires an outlook that is far more flexible than what we may have been accustomed to in the past. As new information comes in, even our approach to data collection will constantly evolve.”

Create a corporate culture of accountability and transparency with data. “We’re good with data until it tells us something we don’t want to hear,” East says. Once that happens, though, people may be inclined to ignore the data and go with a gut feeling. Or, they are so committed to a particular course of action that they only use the data that supports their bias, and ignore the data that would give them a more complete – though undesired – picture. It’s important to have a culture where everyone has access to the data, regardless of whether the results of a particular campaign, produce or service are positive or negative.

Redefine success. Success doesn’t mean you get everything right on the first try, East says. “The real success story is embracing negative data and then jumping on them to turn around the things that aren’t working,” he says. “That’s not to say you should try to fail. The goal of properly activated data is to help us succeed the first time as often as we can. But when we do fail, we should not let that discourage us.”

“Data is what empowers a marketing department, giving you the information you should have to be flexible and fast,” East says. “When you activate data, embracing transparency and accountability, you can learn fast and move fast.”

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Is Binge-Watching TV Affecting Your Health?

By Chris Martland, MS,

Health Strategies Consultant,

UnitedHealthcare of Arkansas

Whether it’s Game of Thrones, Handmaid’s Tale, or a Stranger Things Marathon, with streaming services and constant access to entertainment, we can now watch almost anything we want for however long we want.

If you sit down for just one episode and find yourself still watching hours later, you’ve probably veered off into binge territory.

You’re not alone. In a 2017 study of people 18 to 25 years old, more than 80 percent identified as binge-watchers.

Watching a full season of a show you’re hooked on may seem like the perfect day, but did you know that binge-watching could affect your health?

There are four things to consider next time you sit down to indulge in the latest addition to your preferred streaming service.

1. Difficulty Falling Asleep

Researchers have found that binge-watching can cause “pre-sleep arousal.” That means physical and mental activity, like a pounding heart rate or intense thinking, may keep you awake. Further, the light emitted from the TV, as well as other digital screens, blocks the release of melatonin, therefore making it more difficult to sleep.

2. Fatigue

The difficulty in falling asleep after binge-watching may lead to fatigue the next day. Potential effects of fatigue include depression, obesity and decreased work and driving safety, according to the National Safety Council.

3. Cardiovascular Disease

Spending long periods in a sitting or reclining posture might be associated with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. Research has also linked too much sitting to an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancer.

4. Back Pain

Sitting in fixed positions for prolonged periods can increase your risk of developing lower back pain.

Here are some healthier alternatives for catching up on the latest season of your favorite series.

• Work out while you watch. The American Heart Association suggests walking or jogging on a treadmill, lifting weights or doing push-ups while watching television.

• Take a break. Consider pressing pause on binge sessions with 10-minute activities like walking or playing with a pet.

• Use TV time to stretch. Stretching major muscle groups such as calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders can improve flexibility and your ability to fully move your joints, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Binge-watching every once in a while is probably not going to lead to long-term problems. As with most things, moderation is key.

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The best weapon against cyber threats is not better tech – it’s people

When a company’s computers are hacked, management’s first impulses often are to invest in better software, better virus protection packages, better computers or even entire networks.

But they may be putting the emphasis in the wrong place.

“The problem’s root cause is usually not the technology, but people,” says J. Eduardo Campos, co-founder with his wife, Erica, of Embedded-Knowledge Inc. (www.embedded-knowledge.com) and co-author with her of From Problem Solving to Solution Design: Turning Ideas into Actions.

Campos, who worked as Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in large international corporations, says “organizations that take a simplistic approach, assuming “computer hacks are an IT department’s problem” are headed for trouble. “Cybersecurity is everyone’s job”, he cautions.

For lasting results, Campos harnesses the power of solution design techniques to develop cybersecurity systems and protocols, based on the I.D.E.A.S. framework, outlined in his book:

Identify: Get to the root cause of the problem. Step back, take a breath, and assess the situation, so that you will ensure you are treating not just the symptoms.

Design To avoid security breaches, take time to determine the options that can be used to address all the problems related to these issues.

Engage. Confirm that everybody who is impacted by a new cybersecurity program or effort is on board with the changes before they are implemented.

Act. Implement mandatory training for all employees to explain the common ways hackers enter the system, including how phishing works.

Sustain. Design metrics to keep cybersecurity policies in place and implement an easily accessible system for employees to identify and report incidents.

“The company that truly engages all of its employees, suppliers, vendors and other stakeholders to be knowledgeable and aware of basic cybersecurity protocols,” Campos says, “will have a much better chance of countering criminals.”

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5 ways young people (and everyone else) can fight for the environment

Climate change continues to draw attention globally, from governmental debates on pollution solutions to people protesting against a lack of action.

In Europe, teenage girls and young women are leading a large student environmental movement, and organizers in the U.S. are planning to join an international day of action on March 15. Against this backdrop, those engaged in environmental issues say that while there is strength in numbers during protest events, the difference often starts with individuals doing the right things daily for clean air and water – when no one is watching.

“Creating awareness on a massive stage is wonderful, but how many realize the responsibility each of us has in this critical battle and how it can’t be won unless we all make the necessary changes?” asks Leslie Landis (www.chendell.com), author of Chendell: A Natural Warrior, a fantasy novel with environmental themes.

Landis hopes her novel will expand awareness of climate change and inspire young people to work together and foster environmental improvements. The characters in her book have a special relationship with nature and that leads to a superhero who fights for environmental issues.

“Anyone can be a hero in the fight against pollution; anyone can step up for any of the environmental problems that plague us and be a natural warrior,” Landis says. “From everyday habits to small lifestyle changes, doing those things daily can make a huge difference.”

Landis lists five ways to be a natural warrior for the environment:

Take a tote. “Ditch the plastic shopping bag and opt for a more versatile alternative like a reusable tote bag,” Landis says. “States like California are already doing their part to reduce the use of plastic bags, and you can help carry that movement forward by keeping a handful of reusable bags in your house and car.”

Think before you drink. “Say goodbye to plastic water bottles by getting a reusable canteen or thermos,” Landis says. “Not only do these items help Mother Nature by cutting down on plastic waste, they also reduce your exposure to BPA and help keep your beverages insulated.”

Get thrifty. “The fashion industry creates a lot of unnecessary waste,” Landis says. “But you can help slow it down by giving discarded clothes a second chance. Shop at thrift stores, second-hand shops and vintage boutiques. By sporting looks from the past, you’ll actually be helping the environment in the future.”

Don’t put the pedal to the metal. Environmental experts talk about how we all leave carbon footprints by the modes of transportation we use. “It’s a lot larger than you think,” Landis says. “Fortunately, there are many alternative means of transportation. Whether you ride your bike to work, carpool to school, or walk, you’ll be saving yourself from the high price of gas while helping reduce carbon emissions in our air.”

Grow green. Whether you’re planting trees to combat the carbon emissions or planting an edible garden to cut back on store-bought waste, Landis says, “Putting your green thumb to good use will always have a positive effect on the government.”

“It’s great to see young people in particular get involved in large numbers regarding climate change,” Landis says. “But it’s amazing how simple it is for everyone to get involved to save our most precious resources.”

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What’s in a name

Looking for a unique way to say “I Love You” or has the love of your life betrayed you? Don’t take this the wrong way, but the Bronx Zoo is peddling cockroaches as an ideal Valentine’s Day gift for that special someone in your life. The zoo claims that while flowers wilt and candlelight fades, for a fee, they’ll name a roach after your loved one… because roaches are forever. Or, if that special someone has done you wrong, as they say, you may want to turn to a zoo “down under.” The Wild Life Zoo in Sydney, Australia will enter you in a competition to name a very deadly snake after that miscreant so you can truthfully declare that he or she is a snake in the grass.

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A-Maze-Ing

It gets pretty cold in Manitoba this time of the year and there’s plenty of snow so the proprietors of A Maze in Corn, a summertime attraction just south of Winnipeg, replaced it with A Maze in Snow to attract wintertime tourists. Owner Clint Masse believes his creation will make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. His snow maze measures more than 29,000 square feet, significantly larger than the 17,222 square foot Thunder Bay snow maze in Ontario, which currently holds the record.

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Puppy love

New York City again pays homage to man’s best friend with the return to the City of the Museum of the Dog, which reopened recently. The museum, which is operated by the American Kennel Club, was relocated from New York to St. Louis in 1986. In addition to dog-themed works of art, visitors can learn everything they ever wanted to know about breeds of dogs. And, it features an interactive exhibition that allows you to “train” a virtual dog named Molly.

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Firearm injuries

Victims of gunshot injuries fare best at trauma centers, but a third do not receive care in these centers, according to a new report. Trauma centers are equipped to make survival of gunshot injuries more likely, but an analysis of data from 900 hospitals in the United States revealed that nearly a third of patients with gunshot injuries were treated at community hospitals that are not trauma centers. The work, led by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, underscores that emergency departments, whether in trauma centers or not, should offer interventions and resources to prevent such injuries from happening again.

Housing market

With interest rates rising and high prices in the most coveted markets, the housing market is likely to be sluggish in 2019. The potential bright spots? New demand from millennials looking to buy their first home and affordable prices in the growing Southeast, said Susan M. Wachter and Benjamin Keys, real estate professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Georgia O'Keeffe

The home and studio of the painter Georgia O’Keeffe in Abiquiú, N.M., are the subjects of a new comprehensive conservation assessment and interpretation. Located northwest of Santa Fe, the properties are designated National Historic Landmarks, owned and managed by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. “O’Keeffe was a Modernist whose work was deeply rooted in place,” said Pamela Hawkes of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, who is working on the project. “She was drawn to the ruins in Abiquiú, preserved fragments that remained and restored traditional adobe forms—while transforming the house inside and out to afford light, views, and her lifestyle.”

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6 leadership habits ceos need to develop

Bad habits can be hard to break, and for business leaders who have them, they can be deal-breakers.

In a survey by Leadership IQ, an online training firm, the primary reasons CEOs were fired - mismanaging change, ignoring customers, tolerating low performers, and not enough action - were often related to unproductive habits.

“Although leaders who display these behaviors generally know what to do, and how to do it, their unproductive habits render them unable to get things done - with dire consequences,” says Mark Green, a speaker, coach to CEOs and author of Activators: A CEO’s Guide to Clearer Thinking and Getting Things Done (www.Activators.biz). “The most common unproductive leadership habits include avoiding decisions and conflict, maintaining comfort-zone networks, needing to be liked, neglecting to listen enough - and they are hard to break.”

But Green says they can be broken and suggests replacing them with foundational habits that make leaders successful. He lists six of them here.

Capitalize on luck. This is a habit of forward-moving thinking in response to both good- and bad-luck events. Green says bad luck, such as the extended absence of a key employee, affords an opportunity for the leader to empower others by challenging them to learn, grow and contribute in new ways. “Whatever the circumstances, leaders rapidly come to understand the value of generating return on luck,” Green says. “Everyone wins.”

Be grateful. “When you appreciate and value what you have, you gain a clearer perspective,” Green says. “A daily meeting ritual of appreciation creates space for each executive to share what they appreciate most, and it opens up the room to clearer thinking and increased collaboration.”

Give - within limits. Research shows there are many advantages to being a giver, but striking a balance is important to remain productive. “Sharing information and resources cultivates an abundance mindset, bringing benefits that both the company and the leader can reap,” Green says. “But there are limits; if you’re giving away too much time and too many resources, you won’t be able to accomplish your own objectives. Give, but know when to say no.”

When problems arise, focus on process - not people. “When something goes wrong, a common approach is to find fault with the people involved,” Green says. “But bad or poorly communicated processes can make even the most talented, dedicated staff look terrible. Question processes and communication first, before you explore the intentions, character or capabilities of those involved. Research shows that believing in your people pays off.”

Have high expectations of others. Leaders who set the bar high and then give their teams latitude to execute reap more benefits than those who simply tell their teams what to do,” Green says. “Those whose habits include valuing autonomy and individual responsibility can build something great over time. High expectations and empowerment are key.”

Maintain intentional focus. “Countless research studies have exposed excessive multi-tasking as ineffective,” Green says. “To make real progress, hold a small number of very important things in your mind and let go of the rest. Ruthless prioritization and focus in execution will set you free.”

“With our thoughts, we make our world,” Green says. “Check your beliefs about your leadership habits, choose just one or two to change, enlist others to support your efforts, then get to it.”

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3 ways coercive questioning brings false confessions, wrongful convictions

Many crime-based movies have been made about the wrongly accused and imprisoned, but the scenario plays out often in real life as well. One contributing factor continuing to draw interest from the legal profession and law enforcement is coercive police interrogation – and how it can influence a false confession by an innocent suspect.

According to The Innocence Project, which focuses on the exoneration of falsely convicted felons, between 1989 and 2016 false confessions occurred in 31 percent of DNA-exonerated cases, and in 63 percent DNA exonerations involving homicides. Concerns about false confessions reached the point where a long-used interrogation technique was discredited by a large police consulting firm due to the risk of it producing false confessions.

“Juries need to have a comprehensive understanding of interrogation,” says Brian Leslie (http://www.criminalcaseconsultants.com), an author and expert analyst of coercive police interrogation techniques who has been retained in high-profile criminal trials throughout the United States.

“They need to know how an interrogation is broken down and how the interrogator determined the ‘presumption of guilt,’ which is a prerequisite for conducting such an interrogation.”

Leslie says there’s an important distinction between an interview - the purpose of which is fact-finding and gathering evidence - and an interrogation. The purpose of an interrogation is to solicit a confession.

“When a presumption of guilt is based on bias, or inaccurate, unvetted information and not on evidence, that may result in a wrong suspect being targeted,” Leslie says. “Thus, the interrogator is forced to resort to coercive methods, which increases the potential for a false confession.”

Leslie explains three ways suspects can be coerced into giving a false confession:

Minimization. This is when an interrogator minimizes the culpability of the suspect, trying to get the suspect to drop their guard when answering. “An excellent example of this would be if an interviewer tells a suspect that the offense he committed was not a serious one and that the most important thing is to be honest, and ‘man up,’ because ‘everyone makes mistakes,’ “ Leslie says. “The interviewer is appealing to the suspect’s male ego and suggesting that by just admitting to the crime, people would understand and respect his honesty.”

Vulnerability. In this scenario, the interrogator takes advantage of a suspect’s mental defect, personality, age, etc. “Typically, these suspects are alcoholics or drug users, those with mental disabilities, maybe a person who may have deep-seeded religious or political beliefs,” Leslie says. “Certain types are vulnerable to manipulative tactics or coercive questioning by the interviewer. A low IQ may also affect a person’s ability to articulate answers or not fully understand the questions asked. Also vulnerable are teens or persons who speak English as a second language.

Word and narrative integration. “The interviewer changes the word usage of the suspect to support the interviewer’s narrative,” Leslie says. “An example of this would be changing the suspect’s word from ‘hit’ to the word ‘whacked,’ or ‘moved’ to ‘shook.’ That makes the context more dramatic.”

“Coercive questioning by an interviewer does not necessarily mean there was misconduct by the interviewer,” Leslie says. “And although coercive questioning during an interrogation plays a vital role in how false confessions occur, a crucial component to any interrogation is the investigation that preceded it and how it was conducted.”

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Should you borrow from your 401(k)? Here are some of the pros and cons

It’s nice to have a 401(k), but how helpful or damaging is it to dip into your retirement savings to cover an unexpected expense, to pay down a deluge of debt, or to make a major purchase?

Some people borrow from their 401(k) for those reasons and others, such as helping a family member, paying for large medical expenses, funding a business startup or going on vacation. There are pros and cons, and those considering the option need to balance long-term impacts with their immediate needs for tapping into what should be a long-term retirement savings account.

“Most financial experts caution against borrowing from your 401(k),” says Charisse Mackenzie (www.saturnwealth.com), a financial advisor. “But they also concede that a loan may be a more appropriate alternative to an outright distribution, if the funds are absolutely needed.”

Mackenzie lists a few advantages and disadvantages of borrowing from a 401(k):

PROS

No credit check. If a person has trouble getting credit, borrowing from a 401(k) becomes an option because it requires no credit check. “As long as your company and its participating plan permits loans, you should be able to borrow,” Mackenzie says.

It’s more convenient. Usually less paperwork is required when borrowing from your 401(k) and you receive the money quicker than with a traditional loan.

Better interest rate. “While the rate you pay depends upon the terms your 401 (k) plan sets out, the rate is typically lower than the rate you will pay on personal loans or through a credit card,” Mackenzie says. “Plus, the interest you pay will be to yourself rather than to a finance company.”

CONS

Opportunity cost. “One of the main drawbacks is the money you borrow will not benefit from the potentially higher returns of your 401(k) investments,” Mackenzie says. “Additionally, many people who take loans also stop contributing. This means the further loss of potential earnings and any matching contributions.”

Potential penalties and tax consequences. A 401(k) loan not paid is deemed a distribution, subject to income taxes and a 10 percent penalty tax if you are under the age of 59 ½. “Should you switch jobs or get laid off, your 401(k) loan is required to be paid by the due date of your federal income tax return,” Mackenzie says. “If you do not have the cash to pay the balance, it will have tax consequences.”

Less take-home pay. Most retirement plan loans are repaid as payroll deductions. “If you’re suffering financially and living paycheck-to-paycheck, a loan from your 401(k) doesn’t help you,” Mackenzie says. “If you’re squeezed further to pay monthly bills, a loan in fact could make your situation worse.”

A red flag alert. “Borrowing from retirement savings to fund current expenditures could be a warning sign of overspending,” Mackenzie says. “You may save money by paying off your high-interest credit card balances, but if these balances get run up again, you will have done yourself more harm.”

“Much of the decision on whether to borrow from a 401(k) depends on the degree of financial difficulty people find themselves in,” Makenzie says. “They should always try to consider better alternatives first, because retirement savings are so vital.”

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What every caregiver should know about Medicare

By Bob Moos

Southwest public affairs officer

U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

The phone call can come at any hour. Your elderly parent has fallen ill and needs your help. If you haven’t gotten the call yet, chances are you will. About 70 percent of our parents will require some kind of personal care during their old age. Sometimes, the care will extend for years.

Caregivers often find themselves at wits’ end, careening from one crisis to another and having little time to confront the problem that cropped up yesterday, let alone tackle the one that just reared its head today. The challenges can quickly become overwhelming.

Having a working knowledge of Medicare may help you keep your balance and ensure that your parent, or other loved one, receives the appropriate care. Medicare doesn’t have to be a mystery. There are simple ways to get answers to your questions.

The best overview of the Medicare program is the official “Medicare and You” handbook. It’s mailed to all beneficiaries every fall and provides an up-to-date-description of all services and benefits. It’s also readily available on Medicare’s main website, at www.medicare.gov.

If you have a particular question, you may want to visit with a Medicare customer service representative at 1-800-633-4227. Medicare also works closely with State Health Insurance Assistance Programs to provide free health insurance counseling. The Arkansas number is 1-800-224-6330.

Caregivers find Medicare’s secure website – www.mymedicare.gov – especially useful. After setting up a personal account for your parent, you can view the details of your elder’s coverage, track recent health care claims and keep up to date on preventive services your parent qualifies for.

Medicare can also help you locate the right health care providers for your parent. Its “Compare” web pages – at www.medicare.gov – are a good place to begin your search for a nursing home, hospital, home health agency, dialysis facility or physician that fits your parent’s needs.

Medicare can reduce many out-of-pocket medical expenses, but it doesn’t cover everything. Understanding what Medicare covers, as well as what it won’t cover, can save you time and spare you frustration when navigating the caregiving maze. Here are a few key points:

Besides basic hospital and physician services and optional prescription drug benefits, Medicare covers home health care. To qualify, a beneficiary must be homebound, under a physician’s care and in need of part-time skilled nursing care or rehabilitative services like physical therapy.

Medicare also helps pay for oxygen, catheters and other medical supplies that a doctor prescribes for home use. The same is true for medically necessary equipment like oxygen machines, wheelchairs and walkers.

Medicare covers skilled care in a nursing home for limited periods following hospital stays. But it doesn’t cover long-term stays. Patients who need custodial care (room and board) must pay out of pocket unless they’re eligible for Medicaid or have private long-term care insurance.

Medicare pays for hospice care for someone with a terminal illness whose doctor expects will live six months or less. The hospice benefit also includes brief periods of respite care at a hospice facility, hospital or nursing home to give the patient’s caregivers an occasional rest.

Besides long-term nursing home stays, Medicare typically doesn’t cover regular dental care or dentures, regular eye exams or eyeglasses, and hearing exams and hearing aids. Likewise, it won’t pay for non-emergency ambulance trips -- unless a doctor certifies they’re medically necessary.

Money can quickly become a worry when managing a parent’s health care. If your parent lives on a limited income, you should check whether he or she qualifies for help with prescription drug costs or with other Medicare-related premiums, deductibles and copayments.

For help with drug costs, contact Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov or 1-800-772-1213 and ask about the “Extra Help Program.” For help with other Medicare costs, go to www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-633-4227 and ask about the “Medicare Savings Programs.”

It’s common for caregivers to suffer from stress, loss of sleep, and poor health themselves. So it’s important to eat properly, get regular exercise and set aside some time each week to do something you enjoy. You can’t care for someone else if you don’t look after yourself.

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Preventing digital damage: 4 tips for managing your child’s screen time

The digital age has given new generations of parents something extra to worry about:

How much screen time is too much?

Physicians, teachers and psychologists generally agree that spending inordinate amounts of time immersed in computers, smartphones or social media can negatively impact a child’s developing mind and body. A screen time study published recently in JAMA Pediatrics found a link between excessive screen time and later development milestones.

Other studies have associated digital overuse with teen depression, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines suggesting daily limits on screen time for different age groups.

“It’s the responsibility of the parents to get control of this and guide their children, from a young age, on the positives and negatives of screen time,” says Christine Kyriakakos Martin (www.youvegotthisparenting.com), an early education expert and author of You’ve Got This! Keys To Effective Parenting For The Early Years.

“Parents can often think it’s acceptable for a young child to spend a couple hours with an iPad, but the type of education the iPad game is providing isn’t always the type of learning most needed at that stage.”

Martin has suggestions for how parents can manage screen time and decrease a child’s risk for screen-related health or developmental problems:

Distinguish screen time from play time. Play is a fundamental learning tool for young children, but parents, Martin says, should not think of screens as toys for play time. “When screen time is limited and separated from other types of play, parents show their children the importance of setting boundaries, using their imaginations, and being active.”

Get involved. Parents who engage with their children about on-screen activities can help them increase their communication skills and teach them how to navigate digital media. “Parents can talk with their children about the videos they watch and games they play like they would discuss characters and plotlines in a book,” Martin says. “When there is parental engagement like this, a child’s vocabulary and literacy skills develop and family communication gets stronger.”

Make mealtimes screen-free. “Eliminate screens from the meal table, including when you’re out at a restaurant,” Martin says. “While it can be tempting to pack the iPads to have some adult conversation while you’re out to eat, doing this doesn’t teach your children about manners, properly engaging in conversation, or being mindful of other patrons.”

Set a good example. It will be harder for a child to disengage from screens if his or her parents are consistently looking down at their own phones or tablets. “Remember,” Martin says, “your children learn from your example. If they see you spending a lot of time with your face in front of a screen, they’ll also want to use technology at the same time. Try your best to save your time on social media for your lunch break, during nap time, or after your children have gone to bed.”

“Learning how to use screens, verbally communicate or socially interact will have a positive impact on language skills, relationships and overall health,” Martin says. “Spending time with their parents, learning through play is what young children need and want.”

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To better treat patients, hospitals should keep the family close

By Dick Resch

Loneliness is as hazardous to one's health as smoking a pack a day, new research suggests.

Oddly enough, people in the hospital are at particular risk of becoming lonely. Doctors, nurses and support staff may poke and prod them at all hours of the day or night. But they tend to lack interactions with family and friends, especially as the days in the hospital mount.

That could have dire consequences for their recovery. All the good work their clinicians are doing to heal them could be undermined by loneliness.

Fortunately, healthcare providers can "treat" loneliness -- by making smart design choices that keep loved ones by patients' sides.

Social health has a significant impact on physical health. An analysis of multiple studies conducted by Yale University researchers found that social interaction helps patients recovering from coronary artery disease or bypass surgery. The more a patient felt supported by his social network, the more quickly he recovered.

A separate study published by the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found that patients with smaller social networks were more likely than their peers with larger networks to stay in the hospital for longer than a week.

In other words, a healthy social life in the hospital speeds healing.

There's a lot hospitals can do to keep their patients' social health up. For starters, they can make it easier for friends and family to stick around. Too many hospitals lack places for family members to sleep, share a meal with their loved one, charge their phones or even hang up their coats.

Hospitals don't have to transform themselves into the Ritz. But simple things like natural light, potted plants, artwork on the walls, and free WiFi can go a long way toward getting friends and family to extend their visit.

Reconfigurable patient rooms can make it easier for visitors to stay with their loved ones. Thirty years ago, a new dad might've had to nap in a folding chair while he waited to give his wife a break from their newborn baby. Today, he may be able to sleep right beside his family on a sofa that converts into a bed at the flip of a switch.

Movable walls that replace the curtains of yesteryear could allow one patient to enjoy a visit with family while her roommate sleeps in silence.

Hospitals increasingly understand that effectively ministering to patients requires addressing the needs of their families.

Memorial Sloan Kettering's surgery center in New York has movable sofas that let large families all sit together. In Chicago, families at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group can sit behind frosted-glass panels to have serious conversations in private.

Some hospitals are even going so far as to allow loved ones to help with patient care. Intermountain Healthcare in Utah found that letting family members perform some hospital staff functions reduced rates of readmission.

When hospitals design spaces with visitors in mind, patients and loved ones alike feel at home, at ease, and connected with one another. It's time we treat loneliness like the vital sign it is -- by making healthcare spaces a little more welcoming.

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Dahlias bring diverse shapes, sizes, colors to the garden

By Melinda Myers

Dahlias have been a fixture in summer flower gardens for generations. But it may be time to update your idea of dahlias! With hundreds of varieties to choose from in a fabulous array of colors, shapes and flower sizes, it is no surprise the National Garden Bureau has declared 2019 the Year of the Dahlia. Join the celebration and brighten your garden with dahlias this year.

Not only are dahlias beautiful, but they’re also easy to grow. Just plant the tuberous roots in a sunny, well-drained location, once the soil has warmed to about 60 degrees – or around the same time as you would plant tomatoes. It takes a week or two for the first shoots to emerge, but the plants grow quickly and will be blooming by midsummer.

Grow dahlias in containers to brighten your balcony, deck or front steps. They combine nicely with other plants in containers as well as in the garden. Mix them with bold, leafy elephant ears, Lacinato kale and Swiss chard; finely textured ornamental grasses and gaura; upright salvias and gladiolus; and trailing plants like calibrachoa, verbena and ivy. Dahlias will add pizzazz to your gardens and landscape, especially in the second half of the summer when many other flowers are starting to wane.

Dinnerplate dahlias are bodacious beauties that command your attention. They include any variety of dahlia with flowers that are at least eight inches in diameter. These extra-large blossoms are produced on bushy plants that grow 3 to 6 feet tall. Favorites include Café au Lait, Vancouver and Thomas Edison. Use stakes to help support the flowers and keep the plants standing upright.

Decorative dahlias offer the widest array of colors and styles. Their petals are flat to slightly rolled and flower sizes vary from 4 to 8 inches. Growing an assortment of several different varieties, like the Spice Mix Decorative Dahlia Collection (longfield-gardens.com), lets you enjoy a color-coordinated blend of hues that combine well in both the garden and in a vase.

For dahlias with a completely different look, grow cactus and semi-cactus types. Their rolled or partially rolled petals give the flowers a spiky texture. Varieties such as Yellow Star and burgundy-maroon Nuit d’Ete will add style and sophistication to your garden.

Make sure your flower garden also includes a few ball and pompon dahlias. These perfectly round swirls of tightly rolled petals come in vivid colors, and their long vase life make them a favorite with floral designers. Use coppery-orange Mirella or vivid Boom Boom Red to weave shots of color throughout an arrangement.

For contrast, incorporate some single, peony-flowered, anemone and collarette types. Dahlias such as HS Date, Bishop of Dover and Fascination have fewer petals and slightly smaller blooms, which makes them good companions for annuals as well as perennials. Plus, their daisy-like centers are magnets for bees and butterflies.

Bring your dahlias up close with dwarf varieties, commonly known as border dahlias. These plants grow just 12 to 24 inches tall, yet most have big, 4 to 5” blooms. Popular varieties include Gallery Pablo, Melody Swing and Gallery Art Nouveau. They are ideal for small spaces, lining a walkway and are a perfect addition to containers.

With so many colors and flowers styles to choose from, growing dahlias can become a life-long adventure. Make room in your garden for some of these easy-to-grow, easy-to-love, summer-flowering bulbs. You’ll discover why so many gardeners have fallen under their spell!

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4 ways a great smile can improve your life

We’ve all heard that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but the truth is we sometimes make quick judgments about people based on appearance.

One of the first things we see when meeting someone is their smile, and research shows that owning a pleasing smile can significantly influence a person’s life – from their self-esteem to job prospects and even romance.

“A smile is the gateway to your personality, and it also creates an immediate and often lasting perception,” says Steven J. Moravec (www.stevemortho.com), an orthodontist and author of Going The Extra Smile: Merging Technology And Expertise For A Lifetime Of Smiles.

“One of the most universal biases is toward pleasant-looking people. Those who smile easily and confidently are often perceived as happier, smarter, and healthier than those with misaligned teeth, who aren’t as comfortable smiling.”

Moravec says there are a number of ways having a consistent smile can improve a person’s life, including:

A boost in self-confidence. “Straight teeth are the physical foundation for a smile, which brings confidence personally and professionally,” Moravec says. An Invisalign-Harris Poll survey found 92 percent of adults who straightened their teeth said doing so had been good for their confidence. “Smiling also elevates your mood with the release of endorphins in your brain and creates an overall sense of well-being,” Moravec says.

Economic benefits. Crooked teeth can be a disadvantage when competing for a job with someone whose smile reveals straight teeth. Most Americans believe the latter person is more likely to get that job even if the skill sets and experience levels are similar. “Your smile is an investment that will increase in value through the years,” Moravec says.

Enhanced social life. When it comes to attracting a possible mate on a dating site, those with a nice smile and straight teeth are seen as more likely than those with crooked teeth to get a date based on their picture. “Whether a person’s smile and teeth are straight or crooked can have a significant impact on his or her romantic success,” Moravec says. “Teeth play a major role in attractiveness, which also implies good hygiene, personal pride, and by extension a more together person.”

Overall health improvement. “Straight teeth are easier to clean,” Moravec says. “You can keep tartar at bay and prevent cavities easier than if you are dealing with overlapping teeth or wide gaps. And because you can control tartar better, this is huge for overall health, because then you can prevent gym or periodontal disease, which has been linked with heart disease, strokes and other chronic conditions.” Also, Moravec notes that realigned teeth and a repositioned bite can help people who have sleep apnea.

“We often take our smile for granted,” Moravec says. “But it’s a gift that leads to many good things in life.”

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Ask Rusty – Using Health Savings Account (HSA) Funds while on Medicare

Dear Rusty: My understanding is that once I’m on Medicare the HSA cannot be used. I have prescriptions that cost more with the Medicare Insurance than paying cash, so why can’t I use the HSA to pay for these types of prescriptions and for DME with prescriptions? Signed: Wanting to Know

Dear Wanting: The “HSA” (Health Savings Account) is an excellent vehicle to save money tax-free to use for paying medical expenses not covered by other types of healthcare insurance, but the rules surrounding HSAs are often confusing. To be eligible for an HSA, your main healthcare coverage must be (or have been) a high-deductible plan which exposes you to significant healthcare expenses you must pay “out of pocket.” While you are working the HSA provides a savings account that you (and your employer) can contribute pre-tax dollars to, up to certain annual limits ($3,500 if you’re single and $7,000 for a family in 2019). The money contributed reduces your taxable income and thus your tax burden, and money withdrawn from your HSA account to pay medical expenses is not considered taxable income. Certainly, a win-win situation, but there are some restrictions that you need to be aware of: First, you and your employer must stop making HSA contributions 6 months prior to your date of application for Medicare Part A (hospitalization coverage). Enrollment in Part A is automatic if you are 65 when you apply for Social Security, because you cannot receive Social Security benefits without taking Part A if you are 65. Any HSA contributions made after the cut-off may be subject to tax penalties and they will not be considered pre-tax contributions (this applies to contributions from both you and your employer). But although you can no longer contribute to your HSA 6 months before applying for Part A, you can still use the money which has accumulated in your HSA to pay medical expenses for you and your spouse after you have enrolled in Medicare. A medicine or drug is a qualified medical expense for HSA purposes only if the medicine or drug requires a prescription or is available without a prescription (an over-the-counter medicine or drug) and you get a prescription for it or is insulin.

If you have prescriptions or expenses for durable medical equipment (DME), the cost associated with the purchase or rental of DME which is prescribed by a medical practitioner to alleviate or treat a specific medical condition is a qualified HSA expense. If it costs less to pay cash, you can use the accumulated funds in your HSA account to pay those expenses, rather than using Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. And as an extra bonus, you can even get reimbursed for your Medicare Part B (and D) premiums using funds which accumulated in your HSA account while you were working and contributing to it.

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Prisons Without Bars: How our thoughts keep us locked up

Khalil Osiris knows all about prison - he spent the first half of his life in one and was finally released when he was 40 years old. But he says anyone can be incarcerated in their own lives because imprisonment is much more about a state of mind than a time and place.

“It took me being in prison for me to find my freedom,” says Osiris, author of the book A Freedom That Comes From Within (www.khalilosiris.com). “When I finally understood that my thoughts and values were the source of my imprisonment, then I was free. With inner work and soul-searching, I learned that I could have faith in myself again.”

It was a long, hard road to get to that realization.

Osiris’ path to prison started when he was 17 years old and was arrested for armed robbery. He spent a few years in prison, was released and committed another robbery before he turned 21. He was sentenced to up to 75 years in prison. He did not know if he would ever get out.

“Prison was like gladiator training with each person reduced to full-on survival mode,” he says. He was stabbed by members of a white supremacist group, and while he was lying on the floor in blood, he heard one of the guards gleefully sayOsiris would soon be dead.

“I realized it was not racism or injustice or a mistake that led me back to prison,”Osiris says. “Instead, it was the effect of my many choices. I was the one who had chosen this path.”

Osiris decided to change his life after he had a life-altering experience; he heard his son’s voice for the first time during a phone call in prison. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees while incarcerated and became pen pals with Makaziwe Mandela, the oldest daughter of Nelson Mandela. The foreword of his book is written by Dumani Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela and a South African author.

After his release, Osiris dedicated the rest of his life to helping people stay out of jail, whether it’s a physical jail or the prison of misguided thinking. Osiris says these are the prisons that keep people from living their lives to the fullest:

A prison we construct by using our doubts, fears and limitations as prison bars.

The prison we reinforce every year by the lack of trust in ourselves and a lack of faith in the basic goodness and rightness of the source that created the universe.

The prison that deludes us into thinking nothing more is possible for us than that which we see right now in our own life.

A prison that robs us of our dreams, of our belief in possibilities, of the motivation and inspiration to recreate our life and change it for the better.

Osiris says it was only through his prison journey and subsequent transformation that he realized that anyone can incarcerate themselves by limiting their potential.

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What your pain is telling you – And 3 things to do about it

Is that pain you feel in your back, neck or shoulders just a momentary twinge from strain you are putting on your body, perhaps with a new exercise regimen? Or is there something deeper and more serious at work? Either way, you ignore it at your peril.

“Pain is an alert system; it tells us that something is wrong,” says Bradford Butler, a chiropractor and author of The Blueprint for Back Pain Relief: The Essential Guide to Nonsurgical Solutions (www.drbradfordbutler.com). “Chronic pain goes a step further. It is telling you that a whole system in your body isn’t working right.”

For many people and their physicians, the first option for pain, and sometimes the second and third options as well, is to munch on some pain pills – over-the-counter or prescribed – and go on your way.

“That’s fine, except it doesn’t address the fundamental problem,” Butler says. “Too often, with back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain or other chronic pain, many doctors focus on reducing the pain rather than addressing the cause.”

He likens it to waking up with an excruciating toothache, and then visiting a dentist who discovers a huge cavity but, instead of repairing the cavity, just gives you a powerful drug for the pain and sends you home. “Left untreated, the pain would get more debilitating and the damage to the tooth would worsen, leading to bigger and more invasive and expensive procedures,” Butler says. “But that’s what happens when it comes to the American healthcare system and treatment for chronic pain.”

Butler offers these words of advice for those whose bodies are trying to warn them that something is amiss:

Choose your doctor wisely. Blind faith in any doctor is not the answer, Butler says. Instead, ask yourself what the particular doctor you plan to visit is trained to do. In the primary care world, for example, doctors are trained to analyze and to treat symptoms, so they are more likely address the pain rather than its cause. Surgeons often will recommend surgery, because that’s their specialty. Yet, he says, medicine just masks symptoms and surgery isn’t always successful. “It’s your pain, so ultimately it’s up to you to do the research and find out what works, avoid what doesn’t, and find someone who will really help you with your problem,” Butler says.

Don’t let your body resetting its pain level fool you. What happens when you let the pain go? Your body adapts. “It can’t sound the alarm constantly, so it resets,” Butler says. “Where once the threshold for pain was X amount of damage, that threshold gets raised. What that means for you is that the pain goes away. You think the problem must be gone, when in reality, your body’s pain setting has been raised. Eventually, the only time you’re feeling pain is when you’re already in dire straits.”

Think in terms of prevention. This is something dentistry definitely gets right, Butler says. Dental patients are encouraged to have regular checkups, whether they’re in pain or not, so the dentist can head off potential problems. “That’s the way it needs to be for neck and back pain,” he says. “Being free of symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t have major problems brewing. It just means that you don’t know they’re developing.”

“We need to listen to our pain and fix whatever is wrong as soon as possible,” Butler says. “You won’t get better – permanently better – until you find the cause of the problem.”

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‘Sun Dog’ weather

That gal in Kalamazoo, MI got as rare glimpse of what the National Weather Service calls, “Sun Dogs, last week when temperatures plummeted to as low as 18 below zero. It was a sight to see and, fortunately, the phenomenon caused by airborne ice crystals was caught on video.

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She was frozen

Anyone with a little daughter, niece or granddaughter will know Elsa. She’s the animated Queen of Arendelle in the Disney film, Frozen, who had the power to deploy ice and snow. So, when frigid temperatures left McClean, IL “Frozen,” the cops decided to hunt Elsa. They found her [or a reasonable facsimile] and put her under arrest, noting on Facebook that she would not be freed until the temperatures warmed up.

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This Valentine’s Day, say it with a meteorite

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and you can bet that a goodly number of local lovers will soon scramble in search of an appropriate present lest they be labeled Lotharios. But, there are plenty of ways this year to make an impression on your lady fair. For example, British auctioneers have a 22-pound meteorite up for bid. Not romantic enough, you say. Well this bit of space debris split from an asteroid 320 million years ago and fell to earth in 1947 in the shape of a heart. And, it has the appropriate moniker, “Heart of Space.” Can it get any more adorable than that? Oh yeah, it is expected to fetch $300,000 to $500,000 when it is put up for auction on Valentine’s Day. Now, that’s adorable.

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Pain & opioids

Managing pain in surgical patients is crucial for addressing the ongoing opioid crisis. A new study at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine

found that an “Enhanced Recovery After Surgery” pain-management plan led to a dramatic reduction in the number of patients requiring opioids after spinal and peripheral nerve surgery. The plan led to fewer patients on opioids one month after surgery.

Appliance boom

Before running water and electricity, a single load of laundry could take four hours to wash and four-and-a-half hours to iron. With the advent of mechanical appliances, the time to complete those tasks dropped to 41 minutes and less than two hours, respectively. Other household chores became much less cumbersome, too. In a new book, University of Pennsylvania economist Jeremy Greenwood argues that such technological advances saved labor and allowed women their first opportunity to work outside the home.

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Copyright expirations

After a 20-year extension, copyrights expired on Jan. 1, bringing into the public domain works first published in the United States in 1923. Thousands of books, poems, films, music and other creative works are now available to be reprinted and reimagined without permission or risk of copyright infringement. The Libraries at the

University of Pennsylvania has embarked on a year-long project to digitize and share the newly available books unique to its collection. “It is a major event,” says Peter Decherney, director of Penn’s Cinema and Media Studies program, and author of the book “Hollywood’s Copyright Wars: from Edison to the Internet.” “They now belong to everyone.”

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Blockbuster or flop? Film tax credits offered by states bring mixed reviews

But Author Who Chronicled Atlanta-Based A-List Production Says Such Incentives Are Mutually Beneficial And Likely To Stay

The entertainment that movies provide is deeply embedded in American popular culture. And in recent years, the making of them in many states has become an important consideration in their economic strategy.

States have lured Hollywood movie production with tax credits, banking that shooting films in their area will substantially boost their economy. As of 2018, 31 states offered film tax incentives, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

While the move has been controversial in some states and spurred legislative debate, largely over lost tax revenue and budget pressure, it has been a hit in others, such as Georgia, with Atlanta now being called “Hollywood East.” The state claims an economic impact of $9.5 billion since the film tax incentives were passed in 2008. Georgia doled out $600 million in incentives alone in 2016.

Meredith Jordan, an author who chronicled the making of Last Vegas, which was shot in Atlanta, Ga. and Las Vegas, says film tax incentives have proven to be mutually beneficial and are likely to stay.

“Tax credits have reshaped the face of movie production in the United States,” says Jordan (http://www.belowthelinebook.com), author of Below The Line: Anatomy of a Successful Movie, a rare behind-the-scenes look at an entire movie production. “To understand why much of the movie happened in Georgia is to take a quantum leap into the business of Hollywood in the new millennium. This movie had a $36 million budget, but with tax credits it became a $30 million movie for filmmakers.

“Tax incentives have come and gone in a lot of states. They’ve worked for the states that stuck with them.”

Some state politicians and economic experts say the benefits states receive in association with movie production aren’t enough to justify tax breaks for the industry. Some states have dropped or reduced tax incentives for films. Other state leaders see the credits as a necessary tool that stimulates the broader economy; New Jersey and Ohio are among those who called for bigger tax breaks recently for film companies.

Jordan notes some different ways film tax credits impact state economies:

Creates new businesses and job sectors. States committed to the film industry see a steady flow of production annually, which creates new businesses sustainable for the long-term. “New companies open to service the industry,” Jordan says. “In Georgia, companies like Panavision and Central Casting have opened offices along with big studios like Pinewood. With time, other needed businesses have filled in, from prop and costume houses to catering companies and casting agencies.”

Enhances existing businesses. In building an infrastructure for future filmmaking, the economic impact is felt across many parts of the already-existing business community. “When a film or TV show is produced, a lot of jobs come with it,” Jordan says. “People sometimes forget that studios also hire local companies - dry cleaners, caterers, paper shredders, hotels and florists. They buy clothes and furniture and greenery. All that has an enormous effect on direct spending. Other industries are impacted as well, including health care, manufacturing, food services, transportation, retail and real estate.”

Increases awareness of the state. Filming locations show off a place. Some become cultural landmarks. All of that encourages tourism. “It all works hand-in-hand,” Jordan says. “It shines a brighter light on the state, making people aware of it and more appealing in the process.”

“The movie industry relies heavily on incentives,” Jordan says. “Take them away or cut them too much and they’ll stay home. The trend among numerous states is to make their tax programs appealing to bring Hollywood to them.”

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How an early orthodontist visit can head off a child’s jaw problems

While it may seem premature to take a 7-year-old child to the orthodontist, such an early visit can save thousands of dollars in future dental issues.

“Jaw issues especially are much more easily fixed when children are young,” says Dr. Stuart Frost, an orthodontist and author of The Artist Orthodontist: Creating An Artistic Smile is More Than Just Straightening Teeth (www.drstuartfrost.com). “This includes imbalances of the muscles of the face along with tongue and tooth-positioning problems.”

It is easier to correct skeletal jaw problems at an early age while guiding the teeth into the mouth correctly. Doing so maximizes the ability to create or maintain space in the child’s jaws to allow teeth to grow in, and minimizes the opportunity for the teeth coming in wrong, says Dr. Frost.

Dr. Frost says that after about age 9, the window closes on fixing most of the problems easily. At that age, he says, the seam in the roof of the mouth fuses into solid bone and once it does, widening the upper palate from side-to-side is nearly impossible. If the problem is addressed before that happens, the upper jaw can be more easily expanded to create the space needed for all the teeth to come in, he says.

If a child snores, has sleep issues, bedwetting or is grinding their teeth they should have an airway evaluation done by an orthodontist as soon as possible, says Dr. Frost.

“Waiting even a few years can have a lifetime impact,” Dr. Frost says. “By the time the child hits 11 or 12 years old and the adult teeth are coming in, the problems multiply. If we can fix the issues while the child’s bones are still developing, it will be easier and a lot cheaper to accomplish instead of after all the damage has been done.”

Many of the issues can be remedied by the orthodontist applying braces and an expander appliance to coax the structures into balance.

Not tackling these issues early can cause issues such as a flaring of teeth, underbites and adult teeth erupting sideways through the gums.

Dr. Frost says other issues that could get complicated if they are not treated early include:

Breathing problems. These breathing issues lead children to thrust their tongues and heads forward when asleep, causing further misalignment of the jaw and interrupted sleep. Adults with sleep apnea are fatigued and unrefreshed, causing their bodies to break down as the cells become slowly malnourished.

Immune system Issues. Immune system issues unknown to humans in past generations are common today. The immune system can be impacted by dental problems at an early age.

Increased allergy problems. Allergies can play a crucial role in childhood development of the face, jaw, and teeth. They can be an early warning sign that your child’s teeth aren’t growing properly.

Jaw alignment problems. -Misaligned jaws lead to chronic head, neck and shoulder pain.

“The bottom line is that an early investment in your child’s health will almost certainly pay off in time and money,” Dr. Frost says, “as well as enhance their future health.”

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Rediscovering yourself once the kids are older

After watching their children walk out the door for the last time as they embark upon their own lives, many parents feel lost. For the last 20 years, they have identified their role in life as family nurturer, dealing with diapers, homework and soccer practice. So how do you turn off that part of your life and undertake a journey of self-discovery to find your passion?

“I think it is important for people to pursue their passion, regardless of where they are in life,” says Fran Pitre, mother of three sets of twins and author of the book TwinsX3 (www.franpitre.com)

“My children and family are true blessings, but now that the kids are mostly grown, I am excited to get on with the next chapter of my life.”

In Pitre’s case, that means pursuing her next dream as a singer-songwriter. She describes her compositions as “heart and soul music”. She says she is drawn to that type of music because she believes there is too much turmoil and negativity in the world today, and she hopes her songs will move, inspire and soothe her listeners.

“Doors and opportunities have opened for me already that have far exceeded my expectations,” she says. “I believe in me and I believe in my music.”

Pitre offers these tips for others who have reached a point in life where one chapter has closed and they want to rediscover themselves and pursue their dreams:

Allow yourself to be inspired. Pitre says it is easy to get down on yourself, but just being open to inspiration is the first step to an inspiration-filled life.

Take action. Don’t wait. Do it now. Life is short.

Be other’s inspiration. Live your life with passion, purpose and kindness, and you’ll naturally inspire others to do the same.

Realize it is never too late to chase your dream. Don’t let age stand in your way of realizing your dream.

“I have more energy and ambition now than when I was younger,” Pitre says. “I’ve waited my whole life for this amazing time and opportunity.”

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Business vs. family: 4 tips for finding a successful balance

Almost everybody bemoans the difficulties in trying to maintain a healthy balance between family and work. But for entrepreneurs, the inability to find that balance is not just unhealthy, it can result in the failure of both the business and the loss of the family.

Most entrepreneurs work at least 50 hours a week, and some people like Elon Musk say that working 100 hours a week is doable and will improve the chances for business success.

But what about having a life beyond the business?

“Entrepreneurs really do have to walk a tightrope between their families and their businesses,” says Peter J. Strauss (www.peterjstrauss.com), an attorney, entrepreneur and author of the upcoming book The Accidental Life. “Failure in one of those two aspects usually leads to failure in the other.”

Making matters worse is that when entrepreneurs first launch the business, many are using their homes as an office. This creates family issues when there are no physical barriers between job and family, Strauss says.

He offers tips for entrepreneurs who want to have success in both their business and their home lives.

Set boundaries. Especially if you run the business at home, it is important to set boundaries with your spouse or partner to make sure you are not always talking about business. When you are at work, be at work. And when you are at home, even if your business is in the garage, be at home. Have a separate phone for your business and don’t take business calls when you are on family time unless it is an emergency.

Prioritize work tasks. Determine what is the most difficult task and attack it first. That will help you get out of work on time and go home to your family. If you have a family event in the evening, it is much easier to leave a small task to the morning instead of a large, difficult task.

Take vacations (even small ones). A vacation doesn’t have to be two weeks. Take a day off and take the family on a picnic. It will not only be good for your relationship with your family, it will also be good for your business. You will come back refreshed and better able to tackle the challenges of your business.

Don’t intrude on your family’s space. If you run your business from your home, have a designated workspace. Don’t use the family dining room table for your paperwork. Find someplace where you can focus on your business without family interruptions.

Strauss says entrepreneurs should not underestimate the importance of finding the right balance between business and family.

“If they don’t get it right,” he says, “they risk losing everything.”

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How to prevent common money conflicts among couples

With guidance from Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit counseling agency, don’t let finances get in the way of what’s really important

PHOENIX – Money is a source of tension among many modern couples — but it doesn’t always have to be. With practice, dedication and open communication, most couples can prevent some of these common, yet avoidable, money woes.

As many couples can attest, avoiding important financial conversations can result in more problems developing over time. Statistics illustrate the impact finances can have on relationships:

According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2014, 31 percent of couples reported money as a “major source of conflict.”

This trend has continued, too. The Harris Poll completed a study in 2018 that found adults ages 18-54 were likely to rate money as a top stressor in comparison to older adults (55+).

The same poll found four in 10 couples who are married or in a “serious relationship” share income and expenses.

“Money is easily one of the greatest reasons for stress between partners,” said Michael Sullivan, a personal financial consultant with Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit counseling and debt management agency. “But I’m confident anyone can overcome these common financial issues and strengthen their relationship in the process.”

According to Sullivan, couples can make the love last with these five tips:

Stay Open and Honest: Communication is the number one skill for resolving any conflict — money included. Being transparent about credit card use, student loans, income sources, alimony and child support, among other financial issues, can help prevent future arguments. Be open with your partner about financial struggles to avoid any unseen issues.

Seek to Understand: Everyone’s upbringing can influence future money choices. Watching and learning from our parents can lead to lifelong habits, good or bad. Starting a conversation from a place of nonjudgement and compassion can help your partner feel safe and supported when discussing financial issues.

Find a Balance: When it comes to investing, you might be more risk-seeking while your significant other is more conservative. The key to mediating opposite approaches is finding a happy medium – a balance where you both feel comfortable with the financial decisions being made and the mutual goals you’re seeking to achieve.

Make your Dreams Come True: Couples who want to have children, buy a home, retire early or travel the world together need to consider the best financial pathways to see their dreams become a reality. This means setting up a logical plan with attainable saving goals. Even the loftiest aspirations are doable with dedication.

Stick Together: Approaching money troubles as a unit strengthens the bond between partners and leads to a more confident financial future. If needed, meet with a financial planner, credit counselor or seek guidance on buying a home. Commit to paying down credit cards, student loans or other debt as a pair — couples who save together, stay together.

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3 tips for planning your retirement during uncertain times

Retirement planning can be fraught with worry in the best of times, but when the market turns volatile and uncertainty reigns, people in or near retirement may give way to anxiety or unease to an even greater degree than normal.

And as a result, those dreams of carefree golden years may transform into sleepless nights.

“Plenty of people remember what happened with their 401(k)s when the recession hit a decade ago, and that naturally can make you nervous,” says Jeffrey Eglow, the Chief Investment Officer for Guardian Wealth Advisory (www.guardianwealthadvisory.com).

“But that makes it all the more important to make a plan and not leave everything to chance.”

The good news, Eglow says, is anyone can start taking steps now that can improve the odds retirement will be fulfilling and joyful.

Certainly, each person’s circumstances will be different, and just because a specific financial strategy worked for your neighbor doesn’t mean it will work for you. But Eglow offers a few general tips for navigating the financial road ahead to help give you a more secure retirement:

Don’t underestimate your retirement’s length. People are living longer than ever, which means retirements can last longer, too. Many people may assume they need to plan for 20 years, when in fact their retirement could last 30 years or longer, Eglow says. As you figure out how much money you will need, make sure to plan for what could be a long retirement. “Having a target amount in mind is critical,” Eglow says. “Without a target amount, you have no way of measuring whether you are on track to meet your goal.”

Know where your retirement money will come from. Social Security likely will help fund a portion of your retirement, but it won’t be enough to replace your weekly paycheck, Eglow says. Some people have pensions, but those are fast disappearing for most workers. “That means personal savings, such as in an IRA, a 401(k) or other investments, will play a major role in whether you have a satisfying retirement or whether you struggle to make ends meet,” Eglow says. “Unfortunately, studies have shown that many Americans aren’t doing a great job with their savings.” It’s important to sit down with your financial professional, determine where you stand, and make a plan so you don’t run out of money, he says.

Determine your risk tolerance. At some point, as you create a financial plan and determine the best investment strategy for reaching your goals, you will need to do a little self assessment, Eglow says. “Some people are fine with taking risks with their money,” he says. “Others become uneasy at the thought that they could suffer a big loss if the market takes a sudden turn for the worse.” Each individual investor needs to decide whether the potential rewards of an aggressive investment strategy outweigh the stress they might feel about the uncertainties of how the market will perform. In addition, you likely will want to re-assess your risk as you draw closer to retirement because you’ll have less time to recover if the market does take a plunge.

“If you’ve been stashing money away for retirement, that’s great,” Eglow says. “But you should do more than save. If you want to reach your financial goals efficiently, you need to have a good, solid plan that will get you there.”

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The 5 biggest disruptors wreaking havoc on your hormones

As 2019 dawns, some people are taking a “new year-new you” approach. They’re determined to make self-improvements that provide a fresh, positive outlook and strong sense of well-being.

But sometimes health factors undermine those good intentions, such as depression and its link to hormone imbalances. There are myriad ways both men and women suffer adverse effects to their hormones, says Don Colbert, M.D., and many of them are avoidable.

“We are exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals on a regular basis in the air, water and food,” says Colbert (https://drcolbert.com), author of Dr. Colbert's Hormone Health Zone. “Some of them are hormone disruptors because they disturb your endocrine system, wreaking havoc and creating hormonal imbalances.

“Not only are the effects of all these disruptors depressing to think about; they actually cause depression, along with countless other ailments such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and more. But the basic principle is this: decreasing the number of disruptions will improve your health.”

Dr. Colbert breaks down the top hormone disruptors affecting men and women along with ways to minimize the disruption or stop it:

Lifestyle choices. “Whether it’s weight gain and a lack of exercise, anger and unforgiveness, drinking too much alcohol or some other thing that can be controlled, your hormone levels drop and you begin a slow slide to poorer health,” Dr. Colbert says. “Make better choices, and that dramatically decreases the chances of having any hormone deficiency symptoms.”

Medications. Medications affect the body’s cells, and sometimes side effects manifest in major problems. For example, Dr. Colbert cites Mayo Clinic research showing a prescription statin drug that lowered cholesterol could result in liver damage, memory loss or type 2 diabetes. “I estimate that 55 percent of the entire US population is taking pills that directly and negatively affect hormone levels,” Dr. Colbert says. “Get off these harmful medications you hate.”

Things you touch. Chemicals entering the body through the skin can cause long-term damage. Dr. Colbert notes phthalates, disruptors found in household cleaners, cosmetics, toys and numerous other products. “Phthalates negatively affect both men’s and women’s ability to use the testosterone that is in our bodies,” Dr. Colbert says. “Another is BPA (bisphenol A), found on the inside of metal-canned foods and plastic food-storing containers. Specifically, BPA has been found to cause or contribute to cancer, fertility problems, developmental issues and heart disease. I recommend buying glass jars of food and storing in ceramic containers.”

Diet deficiencies. “The standard American diet is usually low in key nutrients that support a healthy thyroid,” Dr. Colbert says. “Many patients with hormone imbalances have low iodine. The best solution is eat more vegetables, ideally raw or steamed.”

Aging. Dr. Colbert says estrogen levels for women begin to decline around the age of 50; for men, testosterone levels can drop low around age 45-50. “Aging is a natural combatant as a hormone disruptor,” he says, “but we can slow the acceleration of the effects of aging by optimizing our hormones. Healthy habits can make a huge difference.”

“Symptoms of serious problems indicated by hormonal imbalance can be reversed by those who focus on health in their diet, lifestyle and living environment,” Dr. Colbert says. “Then they can enable all of their systems to function optimally.”

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Keto for fertility? An expert weighs in

Weight loss is a good thing for most of us, but it can be especially helpful for women who are trying to get pregnant. Reducing their weight to a normal range after being overweight has been shown to balance their insulin levels, which can positively impact fertility and conception.

One way to get the weight-loss program rolling is to cut down on carbohydrates, studies have shown. And one such program that reduces carbs, the popular ketogenic diet, nutritionists say, can possibly improve a woman’s fertility status. Evidence continues to mount that a high-carb diet results in low fertility.

Still, the right kinds of carbohydrates can be helpful to a couple wanting children, and both the egg and sperm benefit in terms of fertility when healthy carbs are consumed in a regular diet, says Hethir Rodriguez, founder and president of Natural Fertility Info.com (www.natural-fertility-info.com) and a certified herbalist specializing in women’s health.

“Recent research shows that reducing the carbohydrates in your diet may improve egg quality,” Rodriguez says. “But our long experience with nutrition shows us the issue is more complex than just ‘go low carb’ or ‘go keto’ for fertility.

“Remember, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Complex carbohydrates from whole grains – gluten-free is best – and vegetables burn slowly in the body, keeping your energy and mood high during your fertility program. Healthy sources of carbohydrates are those that are fresh, organic, and whole, because they are high in fiber and low in sugar.”

Rodriguez adds that a major problem with fertility is often caused by eating refined carbohydrates – white flour, pasta, white rice, baked goods, cereals, white potatoes.

“Fertility problems are aggravated when refined carbs are combined with simple sugars and processed foods,” Rodriguez says. “And women who rely too heavily on carbs from any source without adequate protein also frequently have hormonal imbalance or fertility concerns. Eating the right carbohydrates is important for your fertility.”

Rodriguez says the carbohydrates that are necessary and enhance fertility can be found in the following food sources:

Fruits. Blueberries, raspberries, apricots, apples, grapefruit, oranges, pears, avocado, melon, watermelon, prunes and plums.

Vegetables. Acorn and butternut squash, artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, green and yellow beans, peas, carrots, celery, Brussels sprouts, bitter greens, cabbage, turnips, kale, chard, zucchini, peppers, leeks, onion, garlic, cucumber, lettuces (not iceberg), radishes, turnips, sweet potatoes, yams, parsnips.

High-fiber foods. Dark leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beans – navy, black, french, pinto – chickpeas, lentils, fresh-popped organic popcorn (not microwave) and whole fruits.

Whole grains. Barley and quinoa, sprouted bread, oats, rice pasta, brown rice, teff, millet, amaranth, or buckwheat, and wild rice.

Nuts and seeds. Cashews, pistachios, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

“Following a low-carb diet could be a good short-term option for women with egg health concerns as they prepare for natural conception or In Vitro Fertilization,” Rodriguez says. “Whatever your choice, be sure that you don’t end up with deficiencies in any key area and choose only nutritious foods that encourage natural fertility.

“It’s the overall composition of the diet, not just carb intake, that’s critical for reproductive health.”

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Heart shaped plants to give for Valentine’s Day

By MELINDA MYERS

Consider giving your valentine something different this year. Select an indoor plant with heart shaped leaves or flowers.

Anthuriums are an easy-to-grow, low maintenance, long-blooming indoor plant. The red, pink or white heart shaped flowers rise above glossy green leaves.

Pothos and philodendron with heart shaped leaves are easy-to-grow and long time favorites. Select one of the newer variegated varieties like Brazil philodendron with a thin line of chartreuse down the center of the leaf or Neon pothos with bright lime green leaves for an updated look.

Caladiums and Elephant ears are popular in the garden, but also make great houseplants.

Perhaps your valentine would prefer a living heart sculpture. Stems of lucky bamboo are often trained into heart shapes and are a fun, unique gift.

Or maybe it’s a topiary of wire vine, English or another small leafed ivy trained into a heart. All you need is a pot with drainage holes, a couple vining type plants and a piece of heavy gauge wire or a pre-formed heart shaped topiary frame.

When making your own, bend the wire into a heart shape with one or two legs that will extend into the container. Select small plants with long branches to provide immediate impact. And consider dressing up your container with a bit of paint.

Fill the bottom half of the container with a well-drained potting mix. Set the topiary frame in place. Locate the plants in the container so the stems can be trained up either side of the heart. Cover the roots with soil and water.

Secure the stems to the wire frame and add a decorative stone mulch, if desired.

For a simpler gift, add a few cut flowers placed in water picks to any pot of indoor plants. They add some color and are sure to brighten your Valentine's Day.

No matter how you decide to celebrate, enjoy a Valentine’s Day celebration with a friend or family member that is sure to refresh your spirit and honor those you love.

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The financial storm on the horizon: 4 ways a recession might play out

Americans are becoming more pessimistic about what the coming year could hold for them financially, with a Gallup poll1 reporting that 48 percent say the economy is worsening, up from 45 percent in December and 36 percent in October.

But if bad news is what 2019 has in store for us, no one should be caught off guard completely, says Craig Kirsner, MBA (www.StuartPlanning.com), a retirement planner and author of Retire with Confidence: Preserve and Protect Your Wealth and Leave a Legacy.

“Frankly, I find it surprising that people are shocked that the stock market went down substantially two times in 2018,” Kirsner says. “Do markets go up forever? No. Are 13.2 percent average annual S&P 5004 returns since 2009 normal? No.

“Hopefully, anyone who is in or near retirement is taking this opportunity to reduce the risk in their retirement portfolio to a level that they’re comfortable with.”

Unfortunately, Kirsner says he suspects not everyone is doing that.

“Our brains are designed to remember the good times and forget the bad times,” he says. “This is why people believe that markets that are going up will keep going up, and may forget the impact of losing a portion of their portfolio like they might have was back in 2008-2009.”

Kirsner has predictions for how he thinks things eventually could play out, if not in 2019 then perhaps soon after that:

The next recession. The markets will go down drastically in the next recession and like with any other recession we do not know how far the markets will drop, Kirsner says. “Consumer spending generally slows down considerably as people tighten their finances.”

Deflation. Recessions can bring deflation, which is when prices go down year after year, Kirsner says. “Deflation may come as this credit-fueled bubble bursts and people spend less and borrow less,” he says.

Lower interest rates. The Fed likely will use its tools to try to fight the recession just like they did in previous recessions, meaning they will probably lower interest rates again, Kirsner says. “I believe that we may even see negative interest rates in the United States,” he says. “Negative interest rates mean that, were you to put your money in a 10-year government bond, you might earn -0.5 percent interest per year. Indeed, 10 years later you would get slightly less than what you put in. Why would people buy negative interest rate bonds? Because they think that interest rates will go even lower, perhaps to -1 percent in the future – or even lower.”

More borrowing. The Fed’s goal for using negative interest rates would be to encourage people to spend money instead of keeping it in banks. “They want people to borrow more money – more mortgages, more corporate debt, more auto loans, etc. – and lower interest rates should encourage people to spend using debt,” Kirsner says. “That’s good for a debt-fueled bubble and our consumer-spending based economy.”

Despite the concerns, Kirsner says he’s still hopeful that 2019 will bring a good year in the market.

“But that does not mean that I would recommend a retiree throw caution to the wind and invest everything in higher-risk stocks,” he says. “If we do have a recession in 2019, you don’t want to lose half your portfolio.”

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Is a nose job a no-no for your kid? Parental tips on teen plastic surgery

Plastic surgery in the past was an option most often associated with adults, especially older adults, who desired to improve their appearance. But the number of teenagers undergoing plastic surgery is trending upward.

Nearly 230,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients from the ages of 13 to 19 in 2017, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Doctors say part of the reason is due to the social media explosion, but they add that it’s also to fix a feature that makes teens a target of bullying, or to address a health need.

Parents can be faced with a quandary: Is the type of plastic surgery their teen wants appropriate or safe for their age?

“It’s very important that a parent know their child’s motive for plastic surgery and that they consult with the surgeon to ensure they are age-appropriate for the particular procedure,” says Dr. Dennis Schimpf, a plastic surgeon, author of Finding Beauty: Think, See And Feel Beautiful, and founder of Sweetgrass Plastic Surgery (www.sweetgrassplasticsurgery.com). “The family needs to be aware of the risks involved and be honest about why they are seeking the surgery. Is it because their child wants to look like a movie or TV star, compete with their appearance on social media, or because they’re getting teased at school?”

“Parents and the surgeon must determine the psychological and social impact the teen is feeling and factor that into the equation. There are procedures that are very helpful to teens from that perspective, but there are others that don’t have enough research to be proven age-appropriate.”

Some plastic surgeries or appearance procedures teens should stay away from, Dr. Schimpf says, include breast enlargements, liposuction and injectables (such as Botox or fillers for lip or cheek enhancement). Dr. Schimpf reviews some other procedures for teens that may be acceptable and helpful depending on the situation.

Rhinoplasty. This is nose reshaping, which is the most common plastic surgery for teens. It’s often performed due to a child being teased at school for having a big nose. Most doctors recommend waiting on surgery until the teenager’s nasal growth is complete, which is usually between the ages of 16-18 in males and 15-16 in females. “This surgery may provide a major improvement for teens, helping them psychologically as well as with confidence in their appearance,” Dr. Schimpf says.

Breast reduction. Performed on teen girls to take away back and neck pain. Doctors emphasize the importance of waiting to do the surgery until the patient has finished breast development, which can be as late as 19 years old.

Otoplasty. This is performed for those with ear deformities or large ears, another subject of school mocking. The problem can be corrected by surgery early, sometimes at age 5, because the ear is almost fully grown at that point.

Noninvasive procedures. Common procedures requested by teens include skin procedures such as microdermabrasion, laser skin resurfacing and chemical peels. “These improve the overall appearance of the skin, like diminishing acne scars,” Dr. Schimpf says.

“A lot of parents are scared of plastic surgery and the messages it sends to young people,” Dr. Schimpf says. “Being open and honest with a board- certified, credible surgeon is always beneficial. And, any conscious surgeon will listen to parents' concerns regarding the well-being of their child."

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Ask Rusty – Social Security for couple with large age difference

Dear Rusty: My wife is 63 and I’m 55. I’ve been the breadwinner for 37 years and draw almost $2000 per month tax free from VA disability for life. I’m also still working until I’m 60 or 62, not sure yet, and will have a pension of about $1900 per month. We have about $300k put away in retirement accounts. Since I still have a few years I haven’t really looked much into retirement. Is there anything you can recommend on how to go about Social Security with the age difference? Signed: Younger Husband

Dear Younger: With your VA disability benefit, your expected pension from work, your savings and your eventual Social Security benefit you are positioned better than many for your later retirement. You didn’t say whether your wife is already collecting Social Security benefits on her own work record, and that can be a factor in deciding when you should apply. This is because (from what you’ve told me) your wife will eventually be entitled to spousal benefits from your record. To start, please note that your wife’s full retirement age (FRA) for Social Security purposes is 66 years and 2 months, while your full retirement age is 67. Your full retirement age is when you get 100% of what you have earned from a lifetime of working, but if you claim benefits earlier than your FRA, they will be reduced and if you wait beyond your FRA you can earn more. When to claim your Social Security should always take several things into account – your health, your current (and future) financial needs and your expected longevity. You cannot claim your Social Security until you are at least 62 years of age, but if you claim at 62 you will incur a 30% cut in the benefit you would be entitled to at age 67, and that is a permanent reduction.

Assuming your wife will be eligible for a spousal benefit from your record, since she will have reached her FRA whenever you claim benefits she can get up to 50% of the benefit amount you are due at your full retirement age. But if she claimed her own SS retirement benefit before her FRA, her spousal benefit will be somewhat reduced. Your wife cannot get her spousal benefit until you start collecting your Social Security so that may be a factor influencing the decision of when you should apply. While that might suggest you should apply as soon as you’re eligible, you should also remember you will take a cut in benefits by claiming earlier than your FRA. You can maximize your benefit by waiting beyond your FRA to apply and earning delayed retirement credits which would yield a benefit 8% higher for each year you delay, up to age 70 when you could get 24% more than you’ll get at age 67. However, delaying would mean your wife can’t collect her spousal benefit until you start your benefits, so you should weigh the loss of her spousal benefit against the increase you get by delaying (remembering that you would get the higher benefit for the rest of your life, which is where expected longevity comes into play). And one other point: if you claim before your FRA and continue to work, you will be subject to Social Security’s annual earnings limit until you reach your FRA (exceeding the annual limit will cause Social Security to withhold some of your benefits).

So, as you can see, there are numerous considerations when it comes to deciding when you should claim your Social Security. I suggest you get a Statement of Estimated Benefits from Social Security. You can do that by contacting your local office (find it at www.ssa.gov/locator) or by creating your personal “My Social Security” online account at www.ssa.gov. Your Statement of Estimated Benefits will show your estimated benefit at ages 62, 67 and 70, and you can evaluate which of those amounts is most beneficial, considering your financial needs, your wife’s potential spousal benefit, and your anticipated longevity.

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3 myths that rob millions of financial success

When it comes to achieving personal success or accumulating wealth in America, there is no one "set-in-stone" path. But the most accepted formula still seems to be: make excellent grades, earn a college degree, and climb the corporate ladder by outworking everyone around you.

In an ever-changing business world, however, some entrepreneurs say that traditional thinking is misguided and outdated – and that it can be self-limiting to those who buy into it and fall short of those standards.

“There’s a lot of poisonous conventional wisdom we’ve heard all of our life, things that hold many great people back,” says Daniel Ameduri (www.futuremoneytrends.com), co-founder of the Future Money Trends newsletter. “Much of what we’re led to believe leads to success is really a collection of myths. And they become obstacles in our path when we feel we can’t measure up.

“But if you start to believe in yourself, you can overcome the many negative roadblocks that can be deeply embedded in our subconscious minds.”

Ameduri goes over three common myths that interfere with people’s potential:

Get great grades and degrees. Many successful and wealthy people never graduated from college, and recently some of America’s biggest brands removed college diplomas from their job requirements. “High grades and a degree can certainly help you,” Ameduri says, “but this very thought has held back millions. Study after study of millionaires has proven that GPAs and college play a very limited role. This belief actually has the biggest negative effect on people who were straight-A students, but later went on to face rejection in business and in life. This belief has also held back millions who think they aren’t smart enough to achieve greatness due to poor or average grades in school.”

Work harder than everybody. “Let’s change it to, ‘Work smarter,’ ” Ameduri says. “I would encourage anyone who has any influence on a child to replace this with ‘work smarter.’ Success does come with sacrifice, but working 12-to-16-hour days is not mandatory. However, maximizing your time and covering details, like researching your investments, is required. I know many people who want to get rich, but then spend their entire Saturday mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, and doing other $10-an-hour jobs. Is that really the best use of their time? And how about time spent in meetings? My honest conclusion is that meetings are where productivity goes to die. If you want something done, use email, make written offers and proposals, and then get it done.”

‘Jobs are safe; business is risky.’ “Jobs are just as risky, not only because you can be fired or laid off, but because you cap your income,” Ameduri says. “If you’re a school teacher and you over-deliver, it probably won’t change your income. Own a tutoring company and over-deliver, and you’ll receive tips, bonuses, gifts, and can raise your rates. The income equation is simple: deliver value.”

“Belief in one’s self, discipline, and perception of risk,” Ameduri says, “have a lot more to do with becoming successful or even a multi-millionaire and living your own dream life.”

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5 cost-efficient innovations to improve the U.S. infrastructure

Much has been written about the poor state of infrastructure in the world’s wealthiest nation. From its roads and bridges to waterways and rail systems, the United States has issues requiring hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fix.

Innovation in the form of recycling or repurposing is being implemented as a cost- and environmentally-friendly way to improve segments of the U.S. infrastructure. Some companies and government entities are supporting the turning of outdated materials into useful pieces to the infrastructure equation. Amazon, for example, recently invested $10 million in a Closed Loop Fund project, which targets recycling infrastructure in the U.S.

“In this area of innovation, you consider a product’s whole life cycle, from cradle to grave,” says Barry Breede (www.koppersuip.com), author of Transforming the Utility Pole and chief innovation officer at Koppers Utility & Industrial Products. “It’s a closed-loop process, and the promise of these developments exemplifies the value and the validity of this kind of innovation.

“For smaller and mid-sized companies, corralling the resources to build a lasting innovation effort is not always an easy task. However, one potential upside is transforming how the business operates. You’re bringing value to the customers and, by contributing to the greater good through helping the infrastructure, you’re bringing value to the general public as well. A win-win.”

Here are five recycle/repurpose innovations that can assist the public infrastructure:

Spinning old tires into better roads. Many states don’t have the funding to maintain and repair roads. Magdy Abdelrahman, a civil engineering professor at North Dakota State, is experimenting with using recycled rubber from scrapped tires to help preserve asphalt on existing roads. This would also help the environment; “tire dumps,” which contain roughly 300 million discarded tires annually, can pose environmental concerns.

Building walls out of old utility poles. Old poles can be recycled and used as both agricultural and/or building materials. Fence posts and retaining walls are some of the common applications. “If a utility company is stockpiling whole poles, this could be a valid solution,” Breede says. “This is perhaps the most environmentally responsible wood disposal method - and at the same time it’s a boon for building.”

Turning bottles into bridges. Places in Europe have been constructing bridges with recycled plastic for a decade. The U.S. has two bridges made of 100 percent recycled plastics. “It makes sense to replace worn-out wood with plastic,” says Breede. “Plastics in construction generally have a longer lifespan. Plastic costs more initially but in the long run it pays for itself.”

Converting railroad ties and wood pallets into biomass fuel. “Untreated wood waste, as from pallets and reels you see all over America, makes for excellent biomass fuel,” Breede says. “Local and regional energy providers use biomass facilities as do energy-intensive private industries.” An energy plant in northwest Michigan, powered by renewable biomass fuel, produces much of it from used railroad ties.

Drawing methane from landfills. Landfills are not a forgotten wasteland. Breede says landfill recovery gas (LFG), an option in which methane gas is captured from landfills, helps produce electricity while reducing harmful emissions. “The methane gas is an energy source to power turbines and, in turn, the turbines generate electricity for the grid,” Breede says.

“Seemingly mundane products can be the backbone of our infrastructure system,” Breede says. “They may be taken for granted and forgotten, but the job of the innovator is to think about the questions others don’t ask, and hopefully develop solutions.”

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Is your sleep problem tied to the family tree? Here are 3 diet tips to reverse it

It’s estimated that 50-70 million U.S. adults have some type of sleeping disorder. And what you eat or don’t eat may impact how you sleep.

Many studies provide evidence of how nutrition influences sleep quality and also plays a role in disorders such as sleep apnea, snoring, TMJ, and insomnia. Some doctors say the connection goes even further - perhaps back one or two generations in a family tree.

“Although patients often understand the role that diet plays in their overall health, many are surprised to find out that factors such as what their mother ate, or what their family traditionally eats, may have also played a role in their issues with breathing-related sleep disorders and TMJ,” says Dr. Shab Krish, author of Restore Your Rest: Solutions for TMJ and Sleep Disorders (www.krish.com). “That happens when outside stimulus detected by the body causes modifications at the cellular level, known as epigenetics. Diet can have a significant impact on changes to the cells.

“Several studies show that a poor or high-fat diet is detrimental to health across several generations. So what the mother eats when she is pregnant can affect the cells of the fetus. But the good news is that epigenetic marks are reversible and can respond to environmental changes like a healthy diet.”

Dr. Krish has three diet recommendations that can lead to healthier cells and better sleep:

Avoid Inflammatory foods. Dr. Krish says foods such as sugar, dairy products and gluten can cause inflammation and weight gain all over the body. This in turn increases the chances of sleep disorders. “For example, if there is excess fat in the neck, it can put more pressure on the airway,” Dr. Krish says. “Sugar is the worst; it causes inflammation everywhere, including in the nasal passages, which can cause a person to develop a bad habit of breathing through the mouth. And when that happens, the lower jaw is set back and downward, which can lead to poor tongue position and poor swallowing habits. All of these contribute to sleep issues.”

Load up on Omega 3s. “The typical Western diet is filled with refined carbohydrates and animal proteins and does not include many inflammation-reducing Omega 3s - fatty acids which have been shown to reduce cardiac arrest,” Dr. Krish says. Omega 3 foods Krish recommends include fish - anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines - nuts and seeds (walnuts, flax seeds), navy beans and soybeans, and vegetables such as spinach and brussel sprouts.

Eat epigenetic boosters. “An epigenetic diet can maximize the health of DNA,” says Dr. Krish. “Foods such as broccoli, turmeric, and green tea have demonstrated the ability to slow or reverse damage to the DNA. Foods that are rich in folate - vitamin B9 - improve epigenetics. These include citrus fruits, strawberries, and leafy green vegetables. Foods rich vitamin B12, such as milk, meat, fish and eggs, also are part of the folate family and boost epigenetics.”

“When it comes to sleep problems, nasal breathing and issues of the jaw and mouth, inflammation is a big culprit,” Dr. Krish says. “A strong overall diet goes a long way toward reducing it.”

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Oral health and the opioid epidemic

By DR. TED WONG

Chief Dental Officer

UnitedHealthcare

The opioid epidemic is affecting countless lives and communities across the country, including here in Arkansas. In fact, opioids each day cause more than 130 overdose deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC); and the economic cost exceeds $500 billion annually, according to a study from The Council of Economic Advisors.

Painkilling prescriptions are often necessary and useful for some medical conditions; however, these powerful drugs – such as oxycodone or codeine – come with a high risk of misuse and addiction. This is especially true for teens and young adults, in part because adolescent brains are not fully matured and are therefore more susceptible to the effects of opioids.

One potentially overlooked aspect of the opioid epidemic is the connection to oral health. In fact, oral health professionals write 12 percent of all opioid prescriptions, including 45 percent of opioid prescriptions for adolescents, according to a UnitedHealthcare analysis of claims data.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, an opportunity to recognize the risks for young people – and provide a reminder for parents – about the connection between oral health and opioids. With that in mind, here is information for people to consider:

Wisdom Teeth: More than 5 million people had their wisdom teeth removed last year, mostly teens and young adults. While the decision to remove wisdom teeth should involve professional advice from a dentist or oral surgeon, patients and parents should also be aware of the risks associated with potential exposure to opioids following this procedure. For many young people, wisdom teeth extraction often represents their first exposure to opioids, and a recent study from Stanford University found that teens can end up in a battle with opioid additional following this procedure.

Limit Supply: Other than in extreme cases, it is important to limit prescriptions for the minimum appropriate dosage and number of days, which the CDC recommends at three days and fewer than 50 morphine milligram equivalents per day. This is because the likelihood for chronic opioid use increases after the third day of use and rises rapidly thereafter, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and misuse or dependence on opioids can lead to addiction to more powerful illicit drugs.

Alternative Pain Medications: If you or a loved one is prescribed an opioid following a dental procedure or another medical event, it is good to ask your health care professional if there are alternatives, including over-the-counter pain relievers such as a combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. In many cases, these medications can be equally effective in pain management, without the risk of addiction.

Proper Disposal: Approximately 70 percent of misused opioid prescriptions were obtained, stolen or purchased from a friend or relative, according to the CDC. That’s why it is important to keep opioids in a safe place – like a locked cabinet – and always properly dispose of unused medications. That can include returning the drugs to your pharmacy, or mixing them with water and an unappealing substance, such as cat litter, and putting in the trash (if simply thrown in the trash, unused prescription drugs can be retrieved and misused).

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This is not a golfer’s “lie”

The pro shop at your local golf course is not likely to have this driver in stock. It’s more than 37 feet long and it recently made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. The star of the TV sit-com “Black-ish,” Anthony Anderson had the honor of using it to drive a golf ball 106-feet. It took Anderson three tries to set the record and it was all caught on tape.

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Achoo

Dr. William Schaffner at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine warns that those $80 boxes of so-called “infected” tissues recently introduced by a start-up company in Los Angeles are potentially hazardous. But, the company, Vaev, says “we believe using a tissue that carries a human sneeze is safer than needles or pills.” They suggest that their tissues allow you to control when you have a cold, allowing users to "get sick on your terms." Dr. Schaffner disagrees. He says: "Save your $80. This whole thing is a cockamamie idea."

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A tale of two barbers

A seven-year-old girl in Houston is turning heads as she embarks on a potential career as a barber. Alijah Hernandez’s father says she’s been hanging out in his barber shop since she was four years old and has learned a thing or two about styling hair. She can’t practice on real customers, but she’s so good that her services are on demand by friends and family. Meanwhile, in upstate New York, the world’s oldest barber, according to the folks at Guinness, is still plying his trade at the age of 107. Anthony Mancinelli will turn 108 in March, and according to recent news reports, he is still putting in 40 hours a week at the Fantastic Cuts barber shop in the town of New Windsor, NY.

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Homeless elderly people

The number of elderly homeless people will likely triple by 2030, according to an expert at the University of Pennsylvania. Dennis Culhane says the situation is dire but, with the appropriate funding, things could improve. “We can either just maintain people who are in poor health and in a state of homelessness, with crowded emergency rooms, hospitals and nursing homes, or we could use the money wisely to actually solve their homelessness problem and reduce the total costs,” he said.

Controlling cancer

A drug originally approved 65 years ago to control blood pressure has the potential to serve as an anti-metastatic drug, according to new findings from a study in an animal model of melanoma. The drug, reserpine, prevented what are known as tumor-derived extracellular vesicles from fusing to healthy cell and sharing their cargo of disease-promoting molecules. Led by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, the study found that moderate doses of reserpine before and after surgery to remove a primary melanoma tumor virtually eliminated lung metastases and significantly prolonged survival.

Genetically modified food

The more opposed to genetically modified foods people say they are, the more they think they know about the subject and the lower they score on a knowledge test about it. This is according to research from the University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Toronto. “It’s always interesting, and not infrequent,” said Paul Rozin of Penn, “that people with particularly strong opinions about a subject are less informed about it than those in the middle of the spectrum.”

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Teeth-whitening products could cause bigger problems than yellow teeth

Are you thinking that your teeth don’t look nearly as white as the movie stars you see? If so, perhaps you’re thinking about purchasing one of those over-the-counter teeth- whitening products.

But buyer beware: Cosmetic teeth-whitening is a $3.2 billion-dollar industry that is not regulated by the Food And Drug Administration because it is considered a cosmetic procedure.

The sheer number and types of whitening products can be overwhelming. They include whitening toothpastes, gels, whitening strips, whitening pens, whitening mouth rinses and even paint on bleach.

“It is best to consult your dentist before purchasing over-the-counter whitening products,” says Dr. Anita Myers, a dentist and author of the book Stunning Smiles: A Dental Guide To Improve the Way You Eat, Smile & Live (https://dranitamyers.com). “Some of these products can lead to thinning enamel, gum irritation and recession, and make teeth overly sensitive.”

Some whitening strips contain chlorine dioxide, which can destroy the enamel on teeth. Chlorine dioxide is the same acid that is used to disinfect swimming pools. It whitens teeth by eating away at the surface of the enamel.

“All stains are the same,” Dr. Myers says. “Some are mostly on the surface of the teeth and come from consuming lots of dark-colored liquids like coffee, tea and red wine, as well as foods with vibrant yellow spices like turmeric. The tar and nicotine from cigarettes are also huge culprits.

“Often, surface stains can be diminished by routine brushing, flossing and biannual professional cleaning in the dentist's office. Unfortunately, there are deeper stains you just can't avoid by being careful about what you eat and drink. And some issues may remain after whitening. Porcelain or composite dental crowns and bondings will not lighten up. So if you change the color of the teeth around them, you might wind up with an uneven smile or need to replace old fillings and crowns.”

If you are going to use an over-the-counter whitening product, Dr. Myers has these recommendations:

Don’t leave the strips or gels on longer than recommended. This could lead to sore gums and other dental problems.

Avoid acidic beverages. After you whiten, avoid soda, sports drinks, or other acidic beverages for a couple of hours to protect your teeth.

Pregnant women or nursing mothers should delay applications. Although no studies have shown this to be a problem, it is best to delay using those products, Dr. Myers says.

Monitor Gums. If you use gel-filled trays, which you wear over your teeth like a mouth guard, it may bother your gums if they don't fit well. “Stop using the product if you start having this problem,” Dr. Myers says. “If you like the gel-filled trays, your dentist may be able to make one that better fits your teeth.”

“If you are in doubt about what to choose as a teeth-whitening product over the counter, look for the The American Dental Association seal of acceptance,” says Dr. Myers. “At least you will know that the product has been evaluated by an independent panel of qualified dentists.”

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Ask Rusty - Confused about enrolling in Medicare and Social Security

Dear Rusty: I will be 64 years old in 2019 and thinking about Social Security. My full retirement age is 66 and 2 months, and I’m trying to figure out the best way to get the most out of my retirement. I have a lot of questions, but just need to know the right direction to go. I’ve been told by family members that I have to sign up for Medicare by the age of 65 even though I can't get full benefits from social security until I am 66 and 2 months. I don't understand exactly how that works. Do I have to pay out of pocket for Medicare until my Social Security starts? Can my wife get benefits from me? Thanks in advance. Signed: Confused

Dear Confused: Medicare and Social Security are two independent benefit programs, even though you enroll in Medicare through Social Security. You do not need to enroll in both at the same time. You can wait until you reach your full retirement age, or up to age 70, to take your Social Security benefits, but age 65 is when you should enroll in Medicare for your healthcare coverage. You have a 7-month window to do that, starting 3 months before the month you turn 65 and ending 3 months after the month you turn 65.

If you have other “creditable” healthcare coverage from your or your spouse’s employer, you can decline enrolling in Medicare Part B (coverage for doctors and other outpatient services) and thus avoid the Part B premium. Medicare Part A is free because you are also eligible for Social Security (but you don’t need to claim SS to get Medicare Part A).

If you do not have other creditable healthcare coverage, you should enroll in both Medicare Part A and B at age 65 and, at that time, make arrangements with Medicare to pay the premium directly (2019 base premium is $135.50/month), which can be done three different ways: You can set up an automatic payment from your bank, you can complete a form requesting Medicare to automatically debit your bank account on the 20th of each month, or you can be billed directly and pay by check, money order or credit card in three month increments using coupons they will provide. By enrolling in Medicare at age 65 you avoid any potential late enrollment penalty if you enroll later.

You can enroll in Medicare either online at www.ssa.gov, or by contacting your local Social Security office directly (find it at www.ssa.gov/locator). Then later, after you claim your Social Security benefits, Social Security will automatically deduct your Medicare Part B premium directly from your Social Security payment. At age 65, you should also seek creditable prescription drug coverage (known as Medicare Part D), because if you don’t take a Part D plan within your initial enrollment period you’ll be subject to a late enrollment penalty if you take a Part D plan later.

As for your wife getting benefits from you, I’m not clear if you’re referring to Medicare benefits or Social Security benefits. If your wife isn’t eligible for Medicare on her own (doesn’t have enough Social Security credits) she can enroll on your record when she turns 65. If you are referring to your wife getting Social Security spousal benefits from you, she may be able to when you have started to collect your own benefit, if she is at least 62 and if any benefit she is due on her own is smaller than she is eligible for as your spouse.

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House Calls

By Dr. Daniel Knight

Chairman, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine

College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Q: What causes hemorrhoids and how are they treated?

A: Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower rectum and anus found inside the anal canal or externally around its opening. They can be caused by straining during bowel movements, vigorous activity, heavy lifting, sitting on the toilet too long or a low-fiber diet. Aging, pregnancy and vaginal deliveries can also cause them.

Symptoms of internal hemorrhoids - rectal bleeding during and sometimes between bowel movements, anal pain, itching or burning - can flare up occasionally or be chronic. A thrombosed external hemorrhoid occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein at the anus opening, creating an external lump that may be painful and occasionally bleed. Both types are common and can be easily treated.

Anyone with rectal bleeding should be examined by their family physician. Hemorrhoids are diagnosed through a digital rectal exam and sometimes a colonoscopy.

Treatment for milder symptoms includes increasing fiber intake, refraining from straining or sitting on the toilet too long, and taking a warm tub or sitz bath. More severe symptoms may require a rubber band ligation or surgery. Thrombosed external hemorrhoids usually do not require surgery since the hemorrhoid shrinks when the clot dissolves.

Q: Why do urinary tract infections make seniors confused?

A: A urinary tract infection (UTI), more common in women, occurs when germs infect the system carrying urine out of the body. This system includes the bladder, kidneys and connecting tubes. UTIs are common and usually not serious when treated promptly, but when spread to the kidneys, a UTI becomes more serious.

Some people have a higher risk for complications. This includes the elderly, among whom UTIs are the most common infections. However, symptoms in the elderly may not follow the classic pattern. Sometimes, agitation, delirium or other behavioral changes may be the only sign of a UTI in the elderly.

In the elderly, a UTI can often cause a sudden onset of symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s in which the patient becomes confused, sleepy, has trouble paying attention or even hallucinates. When a senior becomes confused, a urinary tract infection should be one of the first things that come to mind. Seniors are also more likely to develop serious complications as a result of the infection. To reduce the risk of UTIs, seniors should drink plenty of water, wipe front to back, take showers instead of baths and avoid feminine hygiene sprays.

Q: What are growing pains and why do children have them?

A: Despite its name, there is no solid data that “growing pains” are actually connected to rapid growth. Instead, they may be sore muscles due to intense childhood activities, as the discomfort appears more often after a full day of sports. The level of these pains, which affect muscles, not joints, varies and may continue for months or years.

The pains, usually experienced in late afternoon and evening, cease for most after a few years. The leg pains, usually felt in both legs and sometimes intensive enough to awaken a child from sleep, is concentrated in the front thighs, calves or behind the knees. Pain in just one leg may be a sign of a more serious condition.

A physician will exam the child to rule out any other possible cause before diagnosing growing pains. Treatment includes massaging the legs, stretching leg muscles, and placing a heating pad or warm cloth on sore legs. For pain that doesn’t improve, an over-the-counter, non-aspirin pain medicine may be recommended.

Q: I’m a 56-year-old white female. A recent bone density test revealed significant bone thinning in my spine. How can I prevent future bone loss?

A: Bones are constantly being renewed with new bone formed and old bone broken down. Young bodies make bone faster than they break it down, and as we age, bone mass is lost faster than it is produced. Those who’ve created more bone mass in their youth are less likely to later develop osteoporosis.

Risks for developing osteoporosis include age, race, lifestyle, medical conditions and treatments. Some risks - like age, sex (women are more at risk), race (whites and Asians are at higher risk), family history and body frame size (smaller frames are at greater risk) - can’t be changed. Hormone levels, long-term use of steroids and other medications, certain cancers and other diseases can also interfere with bone rebuilding.

Risks that can be controlled include low calcium intake, eating disorders (being underweight weakens bone), sedentary lifestyle, and excessive use of tobacco and/or alcohol.

Calcium and vitamin D supplements, adequate protein, sufficient body weight, and strength training combined with weight-bearing and balance exercises can help build bones and slow bone loss.

Email your health questions to housecall@uams.edu.

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How to make philanthropy fit into your financial plans

One of the universal truths is that, while money can help meet your needs and provide you with the basic necessities of life, it can’t make you happy.

However, it can be a powerful weapon of self-satisfaction when used the right way – such as through philanthropic endeavors. And since April 15 is around the corner, it is a good time to contemplate how you can integrate charitable giving into your tax-planning strategies.

“Money can be an incredible tool when you align it with your values,” says John Hagensen, founder and managing director of Keystone Wealth Partners (www.keystonewealthpartners.com) “It enables you to feel a sense of contentment that your money is working hard for you to help you accomplish goals that match your values.”

And if you value giving back to others – to your community, to your favorite cause or to planet Earth – then money will enable you to accomplish that goal.

But as you look at your budget for 2019, you may not know where the money will come from to give to your favorite charity or cause. The answer is that it is probably sitting right underneath your nose, Hagensen says. But it will take discipline to find it.

Hagensen practices what he preaches; his company Keystone Wealth Partners has made a commitment to donate up to $10,000 to help create clean-water projects in Africa. That aligns with his values because he adopted two children from Ethiopia and wanted to give something back to their native homeland.

Hagensen has three tips for those who want to give to their favorite charities in 2019, but aren’t sure where the money will come from:

Write down your values. Spend a few minutes to really examine what is important to you. Make sure all your monetary decisions support your values. If you have older children, include them in the discussion so you can create a teachable moment for them.

Write down your long-term and short-term goals. Compare those goals to how you are spending your money.

Spend intentionally. If you value traveling, then cut down your expenses at home so you can travel more. Align your expenses with what you value in life and your wants and needs.

Cut out all of the expenses that don’t align with your values. There is no one size fits all when it comes to what is important to people. Most people think that a house is a necessity, but some people would rather live in a tent and travel all the time than own a home. It just depends on what you value so make the most of your money.

“It usually does not take a major financial overhaul to give more to philanthropic causes,” Hagensen says. “It just takes a consistent approach that aligns with your values.”

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News and trivia

The cops will pour the drinks

Three citizens of Kutztown, PA will imbibe for free at an event sponsored by the Kutztown Police Department. A call for volunteers "willing to drink hard liquor to the point of inebriation" was posted on the department’s Facebook Page recently and produced instant results. The volunteers will be part of a training exercise designed to demonstrate how to administer Standardized Field Sobriety Tests during suspected DUI incidents. There were quite a few responses when the police announced they had selected the three volunteers. Most of them lamented that they weren’t picked, and many asked to be considered for future such “drinking exercises.”

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Where’s Wally?

There are service pets, mainly dogs, that help individuals with disabilities. And then there are emotional support animals that provide comfort to those who need a break. Wally’s owner, Joie Henney, frequently visits schools and senior citizen facilities in the greater York, PA area, encouraging the children and the seniors he meets to pet the 4 ½ foot emotional support alligator. "He's just like a dog. He wants to be loved and petted," says Henney.

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New for the well-dressed golfer

Attention all you golf aficionados, don’t let the grass grow under your feet! Nike will soon introduce for sale a new take on golf shoes, golf sneakers featuring what the shoe maker calls, “golf-ready traction.” And, to give them a bit of panache they have fairway-like uppers made from an AstroTurf-like material. The company says when they hit the stores, they’ll cost a mere $140 a pair.

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 ‘Digital hood’

Research from the University of Pennsylvania found that nearly 85 percent of a group of teens who were studied see risky behaviors on social media, but only about 20 percent actually post such content. It’s part of work that more broadly studies what School of Nursing researcher Robin Stevens calls the “digital hood,” which describes the connection between the negative interactions disadvantaged youth experience in their real communities and their digital ones.

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Music and memory

Can music improve anxiety and depression for people with memory disorders? That’s the aim of a new collaboration between the Penn Memory Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the Curtis Institute of Music. The program gives patients with any level of cognitive impairment—from mild decline to Alzheimer’s disease—the chance to interact with undergraduates, grad students, and musicians in a comfortable setting. The success of the recently completed pilot program led to two additional seven-week sessions beginning at the end of January. A small body of literature suggests that music therapy can aid in improving memory deficits, but no such research exists regarding composition.

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Preparing for disasters

As climate change creates more frequent and intense weather events, risk mitigation becomes more important. Howard Kunreuther of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of “Mastering Catastrophic Risk” says a multi-pronged approach should include public-private partnerships, better regulation and enforcement, and serious preparation by private citizens. Requiring comprehensive property insurance that would cover a range of natural disasters could be effective in mitigating risk, and the insurance industry is exploring the idea. “It’s a nice idea in theory,” Kunreuther said. “But one could move in that direction and banks would then have to require it.”

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By the numbers

3 ways coercive questioning brings false confessions, wrongful convictions

Many crime-based movies have been made about the wrongly accused and imprisoned, but the scenario plays out often in real life as well. One contributing factor continuing to draw interest from the legal profession and law enforcement is coercive police interrogation – and how it can influence a false confession by an innocent suspect.

According to The Innocence Project, which focuses on the exoneration of falsely convicted felons, between 1989 and 2016 false confessions occurred in 31 percent of DNA-exonerated cases, and in 63 percent DNA exonerations involving homicides. Concerns about false confessions reached the point where a long-used interrogation technique was discredited by a large police consulting firm due to the risk of it producing false confessions.

“Juries need to have a comprehensive understanding of interrogation,” says Brian Leslie (http://www.criminalcaseconsultants.com), an author and expert analyst of coercive police interrogation techniques who has been retained in high-profile criminal trials throughout the United States.

“They need to know how an interrogation is broken down and how the interrogator determined the ‘presumption of guilt,’ which is a prerequisite for conducting such an interrogation.”

Leslie says there’s an important distinction between an interview - the purpose of which is fact-finding and gathering evidence - and an interrogation. The purpose of an interrogation is to solicit a confession.

“When a presumption of guilt is based on bias, or inaccurate, unvetted information and not on evidence, that may result in a wrong suspect being targeted,” Leslie says. “Thus, the interrogator is forced to resort to coercive methods, which increases the potential for a false confession.”

Leslie explains three ways suspects can be coerced into giving a false confession:

Minimization. This is when an interrogator minimizes the culpability of the suspect, trying to get the suspect to drop their guard when answering. “An excellent example of this would be if an interviewer tells a suspect that the offense he committed was not a serious one and that the most important thing is to be honest, and ‘man up,’ because ‘everyone makes mistakes,’ “ Leslie says. “The interviewer is appealing to the suspect’s male ego and suggesting that by just admitting to the crime, people would understand and respect his honesty.”

Vulnerability. In this scenario, the interrogator takes advantage of a suspect’s mental defect, personality, age, etc. “Typically, these suspects are alcoholics or drug users, those with mental disabilities, maybe a person who may have deep-seeded religious or political beliefs,” Leslie says. “Certain types are vulnerable to manipulative tactics or coercive questioning by the interviewer. A low IQ may also affect a person’s ability to articulate answers or not fully understand the questions asked. Also vulnerable are teens or persons who speak English as a second language.

Word and narrative integration. “The interviewer changes the word usage of the suspect to support the interviewer’s narrative,” Leslie says. “An example of this would be changing the suspect’s word from ‘hit’ to the word ‘whacked,’ or ‘moved’ to ‘shook.’ That makes the context more dramatic.”

“Coercive questioning by an interviewer does not necessarily mean there was misconduct by the interviewer,” Leslie says. “And although coercive questioning during an interrogation plays a vital role in how false confessions occur, a crucial component to any interrogation is the investigation that preceded it and how it was conducted.”

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4 ways your smile improves your life – And the lives around you

Many people go to the dentist not just because they want good oral health, but also because having a great smile is a good confidence booster and makes them more likely to smile more often. But it also impacts those who see that dazzling smile.

“Every day we see people who tell us about how their friends, family and business colleagues are also affected by their new smiles,” says Dr. Ana Castilla, an orthodontist and author of the book The Smile of Your Life: Everything You Need to Know for Your Orthodontic Journey (www.castillaortho.com). “They are just more willing to smile, and they didn’t anticipate how much that would impact others in their life.”

Studies have shown that people believe smilers are reliable, relaxed and sincere. A study published in the journal Journal of Neuropsychology reported that seeing an attractive, smiling face activates the orbitofrontal cortex, the region in the brain that processes sensory rewards. This suggests that when someone sees a person smiling, they feel rewarded.

As a result, Dr. Castilla says some of the things a smile can do for you include:

Make you more attractive. “Your smile is your best accessory,” Castilla says. “Studies have shown that people who smile are automatically viewed as more attractive, reliable, relaxed, and sincere. Seeing an attractive face can be considered a rewarding stimulus, and when a person sees a smiling face, the region of their brain that processes sensory rewards is activated significantly more than when viewing a non-smiling face.”

Relieve stress and boost your mood. Science has shown that smiling increases your health and happiness, not just at the moment, but even in the long run, Castilla says. “The more you smile, the healthier and happier you