Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance Programs Expand to Atlanta to Help Tackle City’s Diabetes Crisis

* Atlanta among first cities in the nation to have access to community-based programs from UnitedHealth Group, Walgreens and the Y proven to prevent and control diabetes

* Delta Air Lines among the first employers to offer Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance programs to their employees

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Atlanta residents are among the first in the United States to have access to Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance community-based programs that use proven approaches to help prevent and control diabetes.

“Diabetes is taking a devastating toll on our children, our families and our communities in Atlanta, but we have a program that is proven to help prevent the disease”

The two Alliance programs – available at no cost to participants – are:

* The Diabetes Prevention Program with the Y helps people with prediabetes and who are at high risk for diabetes prevent the disease through healthy eating, increased physical activity and other lifestyle changes;
* The Diabetes Control Program with Walgreens provides education and support from trained pharmacists and nurse practitioners to help people with diabetes better control their condition and reduce the risk of developing complications from diabetes, such as nerve, kidney and eye disease.

The Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance was launched in 2010 by founding partners UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), Walgreens (NYSE, NASDAQ: WAG), the Y and others.

Diabetes cost the country an estimated $194 billion in 2010. More than 50 percent of Americans could have diabetes or prediabetes by 2020 if current trends continue, according to an analysis from the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization, which predicts diabetes and prediabetes will account for an estimated 10 percent of total health care spending by the end of the decade at an annual cost of almost $500 billion.

In Georgia nearly 10 percent of the adult population has diabetes, including about 354,000 people who are unaware of their condition, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health. Diabetes costs the state an estimated $5.1 billion annually, according to Department estimates from 2006, the latest year for which data are available.

“Diabetes is taking a devastating toll on our children, our families and our communities in Atlanta, but we have a program that is proven to help prevent the disease,” said Catherine Palmier, M.D., chief medical director for UnitedHealthcare’s southeast region. “Diabetes is largely preventable – it is the small lifestyle decisions we make every day that make the biggest impact. These programs provide an opportunity for people in Atlanta to take control of their own health and tackle this disease.”

Delta Air Lines is one of the Alliance’s first customers in the area to offer the programs to its employees.

“Delta Air Lines is committed to helping our employees live healthy lives, and we are intensifying that effort by making the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance programs available to our employees and their dependents,” said Lynn Zonakis, Delta’s managing director of Health Strategy and Resources. “Through the DPCA and other programs, our 25,000 Atlanta-based employees are able to take better control of their health and learn healthy behaviors that help them lead more productive lives now and into the future.”

There is substantial evidence that supports early and aggressive intervention to help people avoid the health and financial toll of diabetes. The programs at the Y and Walgreens have been tested in controlled clinical trials or pilot projects with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Y, Indiana University, clinical centers, employers and retail pharmacies.

Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO), a world leader in diabetes care and a DPCA partner, works with health care professionals to create awareness and understanding of the value of the Alliance’s two anchor programs and helps them refer their patients to the appropriate program.

Diabetes Prevention Program: Addressing Weight and Lifestyle to Prevent Diabetes

The Diabetes Prevention Program is offered in Atlanta in partnership with the Y and is part of CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program. It is designed to bring evidence-based lifestyle interventions to communities by working with community-based organizations and third-party payers who adhere to a CDC-recognized, evidence-based curriculum. UnitedHealth Group and the Y are partners in the National Diabetes Prevention Program.

The program, offered by the Y, uses a group-based lifestyle intervention designed especially for people with prediabetes (people who are at high risk of developing diabetes). In an interactive group setting, a trained lifestyle coach helps participants change their lifestyle by educating them about healthy eating, physical activity and behavior modifications over a 16-session program. After the initial 16 core sessions, participants meet monthly for up to one year for added support to help them maintain their progress.

Research from the Diabetes Prevention Program clinical trial, led by the NIH with support from the CDC, has shown that with lifestyle changes and modest weight reduction, a person with prediabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease.

Diabetes Control Program: Reducing Dangerous, Costly Diabetes Complications

The Diabetes Control Program is offered in Atlanta in partnership with Walgreens. It provides people with diabetes access to trained Walgreens pharmacists and nurse practitioners who provide personalized coaching and counseling and who help patients improve adherence to their physicians’ treatment plans. The goal is for patients to improve blood glucose control – every percentage point drop in HbA1c levels, a commonly used blood glucose marker, reduces by 40 percent the risk of developing complications from diabetes such as heart disease, nerve disease, blindness and limb amputations.

“Walgreens is proud to partner with UnitedHealth Group to bring this comprehensive diabetes treatment and self-care management program to Atlanta,” said Colin Watts, Walgreens chief innovation officer. “We believe the Diabetes Control Program is an ideal model for managing one of the most pervasive and costly chronic diseases in the country. For years, Walgreens has been committed to serving the needs of people with diabetes, and we are customizing many of the program elements of Walgreens Optimal Wellness™, a national program capitalizing on the power of face-to-face interaction with a trusted Walgreens pharmacist or nurse practitioner, for application in the Diabetes Control Program. Walgreens is excited to bring this initiative to Atlanta and looks forward to collaborating with such a strong and innovative partner.”

Home Healthcare Laboratory of America (HHLA), a subsidiary of Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, another Alliance partner, provides screening tests to Control Program participants through the use of Lab-in-an-Envelope® services for use at home. HHLA mails HbA1c and lipid panel testing kits to participants every three months to provide a convenient method for them to regularly monitor blood glucose control and cholesterol levels.

Alliance Programs Rolling Out Nationally

Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance programs are available now in 13 markets in 10 states, including Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Indianapolis; Minneapolis; Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; Oklahoma City; Albuquerque, N.M.; New York; Livingston, N.J.; New Haven, Conn; and Atlanta. This year, the DPCA programs are launching in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington and Houston, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and Jacksonville and Orlando, Fla. The Alliance programs will continue to roll out in additional cities across the country through 2012.

Services offered by the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance may be contracted by any health insurer and plan sponsor. The Alliance marks the first time in the United States that a health plan is paying for evidence-based diabetes prevention and engaging pharmacists to support critical diabetes management programs. Currently, DPCA services are available at no out-of-pocket cost to participants enrolled in employer-provided health insurance plans through UnitedHealthcare and Medica.

The Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance is one of many UnitedHealth Group programs and services that fight diabetes, obesity and related health problems in creative, practical ways to help improve health care quality, expand support and coverage, and help bend the cost curve.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tips on Avoiding Fraudulent Charitable Contribution Schemes

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reminds the public to use caution when making donations in the aftermath of natural disasters. Unfortunately, criminals can exploit these tragedies for their own gain by sending fraudulent e-mails and creating phony websites designed to solicit contributions.

The FBI and the National Center for Disaster Fraud have an existing tip line to receive information from the public about suspected fraud associated with the earthquake and tsunami that affected Japan. Tips should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud, (866) 720-5721. The line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, e-mails can be sent to disaster@leo.gov, and information can be faxed to (225) 334-4707.

The National Center for Disaster Fraud was created by the Department of Justice to investigate, prosecute, and deter fraud in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when billions of dollars in federal disaster relief poured into the Gulf Coast region. Now, its mission has expanded to include suspected fraud from any natural or man-made disaster. More than 20 federal agencies, including the FBI, participate in the NCDF, which allows the center to act as a centralized clearinghouse of information related to disaster relief fraud.

The FBI continues to remind the public to perform due diligence before giving contributions to anyone soliciting donations or individuals offering to provide assistance to the people of Japan. Solicitations can originate from e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, flyers, mailings, telephone calls, and other similar methods.

Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including:

* Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages because they may contain computer viruses.
* Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as members of charitable organizations or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
* Beware of organizations with copy-cat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
* Rather than follow a purported link to a website, verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group’s existence and its nonprofit status.
* Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
* To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
* Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use such tactics.
* Be aware of whom you are dealing with when providing your personal and financial information. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
* Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
* Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services. Most legitimate charities websites end in .org rather than .com.

Consumers can also report suspicious e-mail solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.ic3.gov.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Georgians Adjusting to 'New Normal' with Cautious Spending, Doubts on Economic Turnaround

/PRNewswire/ -- Georgia consumers are not optimistic about the state's economic condition, with just 12 percent of respondents to the latest poll from Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA) saying they believe the economy has improved in the past year. The rest characterized Georgia's economic situation as either about the same or getting worse than last year, sentiments which could have a material impact on consumer saving and spending throughout the state.

The quarterly Georgia Credit Unions' "Paying Attention" report indicates that, while consumers are working to build a buffer of savings by cutting back on expenses and delaying large purchases, they are still unprepared to deal with any further financial setbacks. The report compiled recent poll responses from more than 4,000 credit union members and aggregated data from credit unions statewide.

"As national statistics start to show an increase in consumer confidence, Georgia credit union members are still wary about their own personal financial health," said Mike Mercer, president and CEO of GCUA. "If the economy strengthens, consumers could become more optimistic. But, in the meantime, we expect to see cautious plans for spending and especially borrowing. In fact, loan demand at Georgia credit unions has been very soft."

Consumer Poll

The full report, available at www.georgiacreditunions.org, includes poll results measuring Georgia consumers' current economic mood, as well as savings and spending trends. Among the report's findings:

* Only 12 percent of poll respondents believe the economy is improving compared to a year ago, with 40 percent saying they think it's getting worse.
* More than 30 percent (32.9 percent) of respondents said they experienced changes in their employment situation during the recession, ranging from layoffs to pay cuts to having to take a second job.
* More than one-third of respondents (35.7 percent) said they had no reserve savings to cover essential expenses if they were to lose their job or other source of income. On the other hand, 18.9 percent said they had enough savings to cover more than one year without a source of income.
* Almost two-thirds of respondents (65.6 percent) said they have changed their personal savings habits over the past six months, including spending less or cutting expenses like eating out and taking trips.
* Compared to 2010, respondents appear even more wary about making large purchases. 63.3 percent said they do not plan to purchase any big-ticket items in 2011, compared to 52.1 percent who said they avoided large purchases last year.
* Half (50 percent) of respondents say they will pay for their large purchases with cash from savings.

Credit Union Data Show Continued Trend Toward Savings

In conjunction with the consumer poll, GCUA compiled savings and lending data from 39 credit unions from across the state that represents 91 percent of credit union assets and 83 percent of members in Georgia. The findings, outlined in the chart below, reflect a continuing trend toward savings, while figures for lending varied:

* Savings deposits rose at an annualized rate of 5.42 percent during 2010, just slightly less than the 6.24 percent rise in 2009. Checking account balances also grew by 13.12 percent in 2010.
* New vehicle loans continue to decline, with more consumers opting for used car loans: new vehicle loan balances fell by 10.42 percent in 2010, while used car loan balances increased by 7.16 percent, continuing a trend from 2009.
* First mortgage balances increased by 9.89 percent in 2010.
* The number of bankruptcy filings among members rose 12.47 percent in 2010 compared to 2009.

More information is available at www.georgiacreditunions.org or on facebook.com/creditYOUnion.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NASA Research Finds 2010 Tied for Warmest Year on Record

/PRNewswire/ -- Global surface temperatures in 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest on record, according to an analysis released Wednesday by researchers at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

The two years differed by less than 0.018 degrees Fahrenheit. The difference is smaller than the uncertainty in comparing the temperatures of recent years, putting them into a statistical tie. In the new analysis, the next warmest years are 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007, which are statistically tied for third warmest year. The GISS records begin in 1880.

The analysis found 2010 approximately 1.34 F warmer than the average global surface temperature from 1951 to 1980. To measure climate change, scientists look at long-term trends. The temperature trend, including data from 2010, shows the climate has warmed by approximately 0.36 F per decade since the late 1970s.

"If the warming trend continues, as is expected, if greenhouse gases continue to increase, the 2010 record will not stand for long," said James Hansen, the director of GISS.

The analysis produced at GISS is compiled from weather data from more than 1000 meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea surface temperature and Antarctic research station measurements. A computer program uses the data to calculate temperature anomalies -- the difference between surface temperature in a given month and the average temperature for the same period during 1951 to 1980. This three-decade period acts as a baseline for the analysis.

The resulting temperature record closely matches others independently produced by the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center.

The record temperature in 2010 is particularly noteworthy, because the last half of the year was marked by a transition to strong La Nina conditions, which bring cool sea surface temperatures to the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

"Global temperature is rising as fast in the past decade as in the prior two decades, despite year-to-year fluctuations associated with the El Nino-La Nina cycle of tropical ocean temperature," Hansen and colleagues reported in the Dec. 14, 2010, issue of Reviews of Geophysics.

A chilly spell also struck this winter across northern Europe. The event may have been influenced by the decline of Arctic sea ice and could be linked to warming temperatures at more northern latitudes.

Arctic sea ice acts like a blanket, insulating the atmosphere from the ocean's heat. Take away that blanket, and the heat can escape into the atmosphere, increasing local surface temperatures. Regions in northeast Canada were more than 18 degrees warmer than normal in December.

The loss of sea ice may also be driving Arctic air into the middle latitudes. Winter weather patterns are notoriously chaotic, and the GISS analysis finds seven of the last 10 European winters warmer than the average from 1951 to 1980. The unusual cold in the past two winters has caused scientists to begin to speculate about a potential connection to sea ice changes.

"One possibility is that the heat source due to open water in Hudson Bay affected Arctic wind patterns, with a seesaw pattern that has Arctic air downstream pouring into Europe," Hansen said.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

State Grant Will Help Prevent Underage Alcohol Sales and Service

/PRNewswire/ -- The Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) has awarded a $91,400 grant to The Council on Alcohol and Drugs in order to establish and deliver regular Responsible Alcohol Sales and Service (RASS) Workshops in four counties in Georgia. The workshops help alcohol owners and licensees to become more knowledgeable in preventing selling and serving alcohol to underage clientele. Underage drinking has been shown to be a leading cause of auto accident-related crashes, deaths and injuries in Georgia.

The counties to be served and the main partners working with the Council in those counties are listed below.

1. Learn to Grow, Inc. (Fulton County)

2. Drug Free Coalition of Hall County

3. Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families (Rockdale County)

4. Spalding County Collaborative Authority for Families and Children

The grant will also work with Ms. Michele Stumpe, President/CEO of Evindi, Inc., the designer of and trainer for RASS Workshops, to replicate the success enjoyed by RASS Workshops in other counties in the state.

"The grant [Georgia's RASS Program] will allow for the provision of training, technical assistance and a media campaign to help educate stakeholders and alcohol retailers in Georgia about the purposes and need for RASS Workshops," stated Chuck Wade, President & CEO of The Council on Alcohol and Drugs.

Evaluation Results

2009-2010 results from the Institute of Public Health at Georgia State University and the Burruss Institute for Public Service and Research at Kennesaw State University consistently show RASS training workshops to be an effective method for increasing knowledge and awareness of policies and issues related to preventing underage alcohol sales and service. The effectiveness of the workshops is demonstrated through both the knowledge-based pre and post-test comparisons as well as respondents' individual evaluations. Respondents' scores consistently increase on each measure from the pre-test to the post-test. Typically 98-100% of alcohol owners and licensees rate the program positively across all measures.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Harry Potter Wizard Legal Battle to Continue in English High Court, Despite US Dismissal

PRNewswire/ -- The Estate of Adrian Jacobs, the deceased British children's author, regrets that its US breach of copyright action, brought in good faith against Scholastic INC in relation to Harry Potter in the USA has been summarily dismissed by a New York Judge.

The Estate's US attorneys are presently analysing the judgment with a view to lodging an Appeal.

The Trustee Paul Allen stated that "This US decision has no legal bearing upon the Estate's established action in the High Court of England against J.K.Rowling personally and her publishers Bloomsbury over breach of copyright in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. That case is scheduled for a 10 day trial in February 2012 when the Estate hopes that evidence and cross examination will be heard in open court for the first time.

Major Disclosures are expected over the next few months.

The English case, involves allegations by the Estate of Adrian Jacobs that J.K. Rowling copied a substantial part of Jacobs' visionary 1987 book.

The Adventures of Willy The Wizard No 1 Livid Land, into her book Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire published 13 years later by Bloomsbury.

Trustee Paul Allen says "Jacobs' Estate will continue to vigorously pursue its Claim in London. The massive amount of evidence brought by the Estate, in the English High Court included forensic linguistic analysis, factual testimony relating to Rowling and her agent Chris Little, and evidence from experts in Children's fantasy literature demonstrating startling similarities between the two books."

In The Adventures of Willy The Wizard, a short, densely written, beautifully illustrated book, Adrian Jacobs created a fantasy world intertwined with the real world in which there are Wizard Schools, Villages of Wizard Brewers, Gambling Wizards, Wizard Chess played on Wizard Trains, special Wizard Hospitals, Wizard Travel by magic powder, apparently headless creatures, Elves as Wizard Helpers, International Gatherings of Wizards, Human Memory Erasers, etc.

The Estate claims that all of these Jacobs' concepts are part of Jacobs' original themes, many new to the genre, echoed and copied in Harry Potter and familiar now to Potter readers.

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Severe Winter Weather Threatens Georgia

/PRNewswire/ -- A winter storm is threatening Georgia this weekend and Verizon Wireless urges residents to have their emergency communications plans in place. The company offers the following tips:

* Keep wireless phone batteries fully charged – in case local power is lost – well before warnings are issued.
* Have additional charged batteries and car-charger adapters available for back-up power.
* Keep phones, batteries, chargers and other equipment in a dry, accessible location.
* Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers – police, fire, and rescue agencies; power companies; insurance providers; family, friends and co-workers; etc. – and program them into your phone.
* Limit non-emergency calls to conserve battery power and free-up wireless networks for emergency agencies and operations. Send brief TXT messages rather than voice calls for the same reason.
* Check weather and news reports available on wireless phone applications when commercial power is out.

Experts are predicting icing of roads, some tree damage, and possible power outages Sunday night into Monday morning throughout central and northern Georgia. Regardless, the Verizon Wireless network is built for reliability in emergencies, with battery back up power at all facilities and generators installed at all switching facilities and many cell site locations. These preparations have proved critical during and after storms. In the aftermath of even the most devastating weather, the Verizon Wireless network in Georgia has remained strong while many other wireless communication networks struggled to serve emergency response officials and residents.

Additional Verizon Wireless preparation for severe weather events includes:

* The company has developed and practiced a comprehensive emergency response plan, including preparing emergency command centers in the case of a storm or crisis.
* The company's 3G EV-DO wireless broadband network and 4G LTE networks allows the most advanced wireless services (downloads, location-based applications, video messaging, etc.) for usage by residents and emergency agencies.
* Verizon Wireless is fully prepared to set up Wireless Emergency Communication Centers* (WECCs) to serve residents and rescue agencies in the area(s) in the greatest need.
* The company also has a fleet of Cells on Wheels (COWS) and Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS), and generators on trailers (GOaTS) that can be rolled into hard-hit locations.
* Verizon Wireless pre-arranges fuel delivery to mobile units and generators to keep the network operating at full strength even if power is lost for an extended period of time.
* Installation of advanced in-building systems to boost wireless coverage and services at hospitals, government and emergency facilities, high-traffic public venues and other locations throughout Georgia.
* Verizon Wireless has a Communications Store on wheels* ready to roll. The 35-foot trailer allows Verizon Wireless to maintain retail operations in areas when company stores are not able to open or when retail services are needed in areas where natural disaster strikes, enabling customers to purchase the wireless phones and accessories they need.

"We work hard to ensure our customers and Georgia's emergency personnel can use their phones when and where they need it. We prepare our network all year long, through extensive investments, to be ready for storms and other emergencies," said Jeff Mango, region president for Verizon Wireless Georgia/Alabama.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Electric Utilities in Georgia Increase Reward for Identification of Copper Thieves

/PRNewswire/ -- In the wake of increased copper thefts, Georgia's electric utilities are offering up to $3,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in the theft of copper and other metals from their property.

Copper thefts from substations, utility poles and lines continue to be a growing problem and public safety issue. The thefts threaten the reliability of the electric system and could cause power outages in some cases. In addition, damaged lines pose a danger of electrocution to anyone in the area, including utility workers.

These crimes affect many businesses throughout the state and their ability to provide essential services. Utilities are aggressively working with law enforcement agencies and scrap recyclers to apprehend the perpetrators. This increased reward is one tool to encourage the public's assistance.

Details such as a tag number, a physical description of a person or a car could be especially helpful. Anyone who observes suspicious activity around an electric substation or other utility facility is asked to contact the statewide copper theft hotline at 1-877-732-8717. If a theft is in progress, the witness should notify 911 first, then call the hotline.

In February 2009 utilities began offering $500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone associated with copper thefts. Officials hope the increased reward will encourage members of the public to come forward with valuable information.

Up to $3,000 will be paid to anyone who furnishes information that leads directly to the arrest and conviction of someone involved in metals theft from a utility property in Georgia.

The reward is being offered by Dalton Utilities, Electric Cities of Georgia, 42 electric membership cooperatives (EMCs), Georgia EMC, Georgia Power, Georgia Transmission Corp. and Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Stolen Toys Intended for Disadvantaged Children Selling in Atlanta-area Stores

Scentsy, Inc., learned that more than 8,000 donated plush toys known as Scentsy Buddies were stolen in the Atlanta area and in some cases resold through discount stores. The scented, plush toys were part of a donation of 50,000 Buddies by Scentsy to Boys and Girls Clubs of America as part of a national toy drive and intended for disadvantaged children across the country.

Scentsy, a rapidly growing party-plan company which offers scented, wickless candles and other fragrance products, sells its merchandise only through independent sales consultants. Several Atlanta-based Scentsy Consultants alerted the company this week that its popular Scentsy Buddy, which normally retails for $25, was selling at area discount stores for $6.99. Working with Atlanta-area police, Scentsy determined a shipment of donated Scentsy Buddies was stolen and the merchandise illegally sold. About half of the stolen toys have been recovered. An investigation is in progress.

“To steal toys from disadvantaged and at-risk children at Christmastime and then sell them for a profit is a travesty,” said Mark Stastny, Scentsy’s chief marketing officer. “We believe the public should know these toys were stolen. Purchasing them helps the thieves and hurts the kids they were intended to help.”

Scentsy is asking Atlanta-area residents who purchased a stolen Scentsy Buddy to please return the toys to their area police stations. Atlanta police will then give the toys to children in need or distress this holiday season to honor the original intent of the donation.


FOR MORE INFORMATION:
If you have information about the stolen Scentsy Buddies, please contact the Georgia Bureau of Investigation at 404.244.2600. To report a store selling Scentsy Buddies, please contact Scentsy, Inc. at 877.895.4160.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Super Bowl XLV Raffle Challenges Community to 'Be Someone' and Help Kids Succeed

/PRNewswire/ -- It is often said that things are bigger in Texas. "This year's Super Bowl in Texas is right in line with that saying. It promises to be bigger and better than ever and is being played in the fabulous Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolis Football Stadium in Arlington, Texas," stated Orrin "Checkmate" Hudson, founder of the crime prevention educational program Be Someone, Inc.

"What you may not know, however, is how important chess is in changing the lives of at-risk kids and that Be Someone is doing what few organizations can: transforming lives with a game. Through chess, Be Someone is teaching at-risk kids in Georgia the critical academic and social skills that will change their lives - essentially, helping them make the right moves," continued Hudson.

But Be Someone is finding its mission in jeopardy. The Be Someone facility is in need of significant upgrades to meet local building codes. Without these upgrades there is a very real possibility that Be Someone will have to close its facility. That will leave the kids it serves with one less positive opportunity in their lives. Be Someone needs to raise $28,000 by the end of the year to do the work necessary to keep the facility open and the program going.

An incredibly generous donor has made the first move by offering a $14,000 challenge gift. Bob Bare, President Elect of the Dallas North Rotary Club, also does not want kids to lose. That's why the Club is helping Be Someone meet its critical need with the Big Goal Super Bowl raffle. This raffle will help Be Someone meet the challenge to improve its building but, more important, help kids change their lives.

Tickets are $100.00 each, and the grand prize is a trip to this year's Super Bowl in Texas. The grand prize (valued at $15,000.00) includes:

* 2 prime Sideline Club Seating 300 Level tickets to the game
* 4-night stay at The Mansion on Turtle Creek
* Limousine service to and from the game
* 2 tickets to pre-game and post-game parties, including food and beverage


Second prize is a 50" flatscreen television, and third prize is a $1,000 jewelry gift certificate.

The deadline for the purchase of tickets is 6:00pm EST on December 10, 2010.

"Win or lose, your purchase of a raffle ticket will help kids in need win. Please help Be Someone change kids lives," said Hudson.

Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.dallasnorthrotaryllc.com or contact Be Someone at 404-578-5278. Learn more about the work that Be Someone is doing at http://www.besomeone.org

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Volunteers Answer Call to Help Survey Frogs Across State

Sarah Barlow had a small problem. She had a deep knowledge and interest in frogs and toads, including two wildlife degrees focused on herps and a thesis exploring frogs’ use of restored wetlands. But the former city of Savannah environmental planner had no place to apply that experience.

“I had all these strong (frog) identification skills that I wasn’t able to use,” Barlow said.

The answer: NAAMP. Developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program is an international study investigating the distribution and relative abundance of amphibians across the continent. NAAMP depends on frog-savvy volunteers who monitor local listening routes three times a year.

Barlow signed up last year. She contacted Georgia NAAMP coordinator John Jensen of the state Department of Natural Resources, practiced her frog-ID skills and passed the required online quiz. She even drove her rural, 10-mile route near Glennville beforehand, checking out the habitat at the set listening sites.

Barlow then squeezed the two hours-plus it took per survey into her already hectic schedule. The result is what she described as “a very relaxing way to spend the evening.”

Considering the fieldwork she did in Louisiana for her thesis, “This was a lot tamer than being in the middle of a bayou on a four-wheeler,” Barlow said laughing. “This was country club frogging!”

Enjoyable and vital. Frogs can serve as sentinels of environmental change. Many frogs and other amphibians are high-priority species in Georgia’s Wildlife Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy that guides DNR efforts to conserve biological diversity. NAAMP monitoring data is analyzed for patterns of amphibian decline, stability or increase on local and wider levels.

Jensen, a senior wildlife biologist with the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, said more surveys are needed to pinpoint trends in Georgia. 2011 marks only the fourth year of the state’s involvement. But the immediate payback has included volunteers identifying lesser-known frogs in areas the species had not been documented before, Jensen said.

He’s hoping for more volunteers for 2011. Forty-five of the state’s 73 routes were covered this year. Most of the unassigned routes are in south Georgia.

Jensen suggested would-be volunteers assess their frog identification abilities, then contact him by e-mail, john.jensen@dnr.state.ga.us, or phone at the Nongame Conservation Section office in Forsyth, (478) 994-1438. The first listening window next year opens Jan. 15.

Barlow is now a naturalist at Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens. She plans to look for a 2011 route closer to home. But she will be putting her frog skills back into play, calling the citizen-powered NAAMP surveys “important work to be done.”

Georgians can help conserve amphibians and other nongame wildlife, native plants and natural habitats through buying a wildlife license plate featuring a bald eagle or a ruby-throated hummingbird. They can also donate to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund through the state income tax checkoff, online at www.georgiawildlife.com (click “Donate the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund”) and in other ways.

Contributions are vital to the Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section. The section receives no state general funds for its mission to help conserve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats in Georgia.

For more information, go to www.georgiawildlife.com/node/338, or call Nongame Conservation Section offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218). State income tax forms are available online at https://etax.dor.ga.gov/.


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Georgia Ranks 43rd in Protecting Kids from Tobacco

/PRNewswire/ -- Georgia ranks 43rd in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.

Georgia currently spends $2 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 1.8 percent of the $116.5 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other key findings for Georgia include:

* Georgia this year will collect $369 million from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 0.6 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs.
* The tobacco companies spend $426.4 million a year to market their products in Georgia. This is 209 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.


The annual report on states' funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled "A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 12 Years Later," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In addition to its lack of funding for tobacco prevention, Georgia's cigarette tax is only 37 cents per pack, which is the 48th lowest in the nation and well below the national average of $1.45 per pack. Increasing the cigarette tax is a proven way to reduce smoking, especially among kids.

"Georgia again is one of the most disappointing states and has failed to make the commitment needed to protect kids from tobacco," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "To reduce tobacco use and help balance the state budget at the same time, Governor-elect Deal and the Legislature should raise the tobacco tax and increase funding for tobacco prevention. Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention investment that saves lives and saves money by reducing health care costs."

In Georgia, 16.9 percent of high school students smoke, and 11,400 more kids become regular smokers every year. Each year, tobacco claims 10,500 lives and costs the state $2.25 billion in health care bills.

Nationally, the report finds that most states are failing to adequately fund programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Altogether, the states have cut funding for these programs to the lowest level since 1999, when they first started receiving tobacco settlement payments. Key national findings of the report include:

* The states this year will collect $25.3 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just two percent of it – $517.9 million – on tobacco prevention programs.
* States have cut funding for tobacco prevention programs by nine percent ($51.4 million) in the past year and by 28 percent ($199.3 million) in the past three years.
* Only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended level.


The report warns that the nation's progress in reducing smoking is at risk unless states increase funding for programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. The United States has significantly reduced smoking among both youth and adults, but 20.6 percent of adults and 19.5 percent of high school students still smoke.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year.

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Semester Finals Bring Added Pressures for College Students on the Road to Alcohol- and Drug-Free Sobriety

/PRNewswire/ -- Research shows that most college campuses continue to struggle with the prevalence of alcohol and other drug-use problems. For those collegians just out of treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction, the danger of relapse in this type of environment can be significant—and only exacerbated by the stress and anxiety associated with taking final semester exams. However, The Center for Addiction Recovery, a joint partnership between Willingway Hospital and Georgia Southern University, is proving successful at lowering the risk for recovering students, both during finals and throughout the year.

Housed on campus within The Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health (JPHCOPH), the Center has enrolled 44 students since its opening in August 2008. This past spring, the Center graduated its first class—one that boasted an average institutional GPA of 3.74—and became the first on-campus recovery initiative to record a zero number of relapses for students within the program.

"The main issue facing a collegiate recovering population is lack of structured addiction and recovery programs, particularly those built on peer support," said Kristen Harper, M.Ed., director of the Center for Addiction Recovery. "Our partnership with Willingway Hospital, through its Foundation, has allowed us to afford recovering students the opportunity to enjoy and leverage the full collegiate experience while minimizing the risk of relapse that often peaks during stressful periods such as exam weeks. The fact that we've had a relapse rate of zero percent within the program speaks volumes to the difference a strong on-site support system can make. These types of numbers are simply unheard of on college campuses."

Almost 25 percent of all individuals entering drug or alcohol treatment in the United States are between the ages of 17 and 26.(1) It is estimated that there are more than 50,000 students in recovery currently attending a college or university.(2) Yet, there are only eight collegiate campuses that offer full-blown addiction recovery programs.

"This is a miniscule number if you consider that there are approximately 7,000 higher education institutions, enrolling more than 15 million students," said Harper.

As More People Ages 17-26 Enter Treatment, Colleges Need to Do More

The Willingway Foundation, the non-profit affiliate of Willingway Hospital, donated start-up funding to initially develop the Center and continues to drive fundraising efforts that contribute to the daily operations. The long-term goal of the Willingway Foundation is to generate enough funding so that the Center will be known as the Dot and John Mooney Center for Addiction Recovery.

"The Willingway staff is enthusiastic about the success of the Center," said Jimmy Mooney, CEO of Willingway Hospital and board member of the Willingway Foundation. "It is such a reward for our staff to see the other side of addiction, which is recovery in process, with alcoholics and addicts going on to lead productive lives and doing things like returning to college and becoming contributing members of our community. The Center for Addiction Recovery assists with this process, and we are thrilled to be able to support them in their efforts."

Recent graduate Joshua H.* credits the Center for providing the necessary programs and services that facilitated his academic success. The 25-year-old Kentuckian received treatment for alcoholism as an inpatient at Willingway Hospital initially as an 18-year-old. He later enrolled in a private college in Kentucky and relapsed a year later, returning to Willingway Hospital for additional treatment. Willingway staff helped facilitate his enrollment at Georgia Southern, which he entered with a 2.6 GPA. He graduated with a degree in psychology and an institutional GPA of 3.5. He is attending law school at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., this fall.

"After unsuccessfully trying to make a go of it at another school that offered no support system for recovering students, I can absolutely say The Center for Addiction Recovery at Georgia Southern was a key element to my college success," said Joshua H. "The Center helped me build my self-confidence, develop important decision-making skills and foster healthier, more supportive relationships. These are all things I can use as I move into the next phase of my life."

About Willingway Hospital

Willingway Hospital is a privately owned, 40-bed hospital specializing in the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction. Founded in 1971 by the late John Mooney, Jr., M.D. and his wife, the late Dot Mooney, the hospital is recognized as one of the first treatment facilities in the United States. It is located in Statesboro, Ga., on a serene and wooded 11-acre campus. Willingway offers a full range of services including assessments, medical detoxification, inpatient/residential, intensive outpatient, family counseling, extended treatment for men and women and continuing care. For more information, visit www.willingway.com.

* In support of the traditions that coincide with 12-step recovery programs, we keep any references to, media interviews with and images of patients in treatment or recovery anonymous.

(1) Cleveland, Harris & Wiebe, "Substance Abuse Recovery in College," 2010.

(2) Harris, Baker, Kimball, Shumway, "Achieving Systems-based Sustained Recovery: A Comprehensive Model for Collegiate Recovery Communities," 2005.

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YSC Atlanta Awarded Grant to Further EMPOWER! Program

/PRNewswire/ -- Young Survival Coalition's Atlanta Affiliate was recently awarded a $42,640 grant from the Georgia Cancer Coalition and Georgia ACTS (Access, Care, Treatment and Services) Breast Cancer Grant Program, a program of the Georgia Department of Community Health. This program provides grants to organizations which offer breast health awareness, breast cancer screening and treatment to underserved women.

Funding from the Georgia Department of Community Health will allow YSC Atlanta to expand the reach of the EMPOWER! program, specifically focused on reducing health disparities by promoting breast cancer awareness among uninsured or underinsured young women in Fulton County. YSC Atlanta will use grant funding to specifically target uninsured or underinsured minority women ages 18-40 in Fulton County with a strong emphasis on the southern part of the county located below Interstate 20. As evidenced in the Georgia Health Equity Report, Fulton County is one of 16 counties in the state with the greatest health challenges for minorities. Young women in this area will greatly benefit from receiving culturally appropriate breast health education and resources.

YSC Atlanta is among 12 Georgia-based community organizations awarded part of the $996,939 funding.

For more information about the Young Survival Coalition (YSC), visit www.youngsurvival.org.

Young Survival Coalition is based in New York with nearly 30 affiliates across the United States. YSC is the premier global organization dedicated to the critical issues unique to young women and breast cancer. YSC offer resources, connections, and outreach so women feel supported, empowered and hopeful. YSC seeks to educate and influence the medical, research, breast cancer and legislative communities to address breast cancer in young women, and to ensure that no young women diagnosed with breast cancer has to face the disease alone. YSC Atlanta is the largest affiliate in the country, serving 11 counties in the metro area. For more information about the Young Survival Coalition Atlanta, visit youngsurvival.org/atlanta or call 404.250.6508.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

UGA Extension Implements New Delivery System

In mid-October, administrators with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension announced a new system for delivering its educational programs. That new system uses set criteria to assign each of Georgia’s 159 counties to one of six service tiers. Each tier represents what kinds and levels of service counties will receive from UGA Extension.

Implementation of the system is underway and is expected take 12 to 18 months to complete.
“Our aim with this new plan was to do all we can to ensure Georgians have access to the education and information they need from us,” said Beverly Sparks, associate dean for Extension with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “It was clear with our new budget reality we had to redesign how that education was delivered.”

UGA Extension is the public service and outreach branch of the UGA colleges of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Family and Consumer Sciences. For more than 100 years, it has delivered research-based education from the university to agricultural producers, families and, through Georgia 4-H, children.

“Cooperative Extension may take on a new look and feel in your county, but we will do our best to continue delivering the reliable service and education across the state that you know and trust,” Sparks said.

New look and feel

Over the past two years, all Georgia state agencies have suffered budget reductions. UGA Extension’s cut has grown to 23 percent. “When you have eliminated 88 county agent, 19 state specialist and seven administrator positions, you can no longer continue to do more with less,” Sparks said. “The time has come that we have to do what we can with what we have. We have chosen to focus on what we do best.”

Under the new system, every county will have access to a 4-H program. Most counties will have a county Extension office where residents can go for help. Support varies by tier.

Tier 1 counties include Chattahoochee and Taliaferro. These counties will have no local Extension office but will have a basic 4-H program offered in the school system through an employee supervised by an agent in another county.

Tier 2 counties include Brantley, Charlton, Clay, Crawford, Dade, Hancock, Heard, Long, Pickens, Quitman, Talbot, Towns, Twiggs and Wilkinson. These counties will have a core 4-H program and a county Extension office with an office manager to help residents access diagnostic services (soil, water and forage samples) and Extension resources. A county extension coordinator from another county will serve as administrator. Agents will be assigned as resources but will not generally offer programs or make client visits.

Tier 3 counties include Atkinson, Clinch, Dawson, Fannin, Franklin, Glascock, Jones, Lincoln, Pike, Marion, Meriwether, Rabun, Schley, Stewart, Taylor, Webster and White. These counties will have a core 4-H program, a county office staffed with an office manager and a shared agent from a surrounding county who spends time in the office.

Tier 4 counties include Baker, Baldwin, Barrow, Ben Hill, Brooks, Bryan, Butts, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cook, Dooly, Echols, Emanuel, Greene, Haralson, Harris, Irwin, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Lamar, Lee, Liberty, McIntosh, Macon, Miller, Montgomery, Murray, Newton, Peach, Polk, Terrell, Treutlen, Troup, Upson, Warren, Wilcox and Worth. These counties will have a 4-H program, a county office with a secretary, one county-based agent who may be agriculture, family and consumer science, 4-H or split between these program areas.

Tier 5 counties include Bacon, Banks, Bartow, Berrien, Bleckley, Calhoun, Camden, Candler, Carroll, Cherokee, Clarke, Columbia, Coweta, Crisp, Decatur, Dodge, Douglas, Early, Effingham, Evans, Fayette, Floyd, Gilmer, Gordon, Grady, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Jackson, Jasper, Jeff Davis, Lanier, Lowndes, Lumpkin, McDuffie, Madison, Mitchell, Monroe, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Paulding, Pierce, Pulaski, Putnam, Randolph, Screven, Seminole, Spalding, Stephens, Tattnall, Telfair, Thomas, Toombs, Turner, Union, Walker, Walton, Ware, Wayne, Wheeler, Whitfield and Wilkes. These counties will have a 4-H program, a county office staffed with at least one support position and two or more agents – one a county coordinator -- to provide educational programs.

Tier 6 counties include Appling, Bibb, Bulloch, Burke, Chatham, Clayton, Cobb, Coffee, Colquitt, DeKalb, Dougherty, Elbert, Forsyth, Fulton, Glynn, Gwinnett, Henry, Houston, Laurens, Muscogee, Richmond, Rockdale, Tift, Sumter and Washington. These counties will have a full-time coordinator with multiple agents.

The tier rankings were determined by district Extension leadership teams, Sparks said. Under the new tier system, 126 Georgia counties are classified in Tiers 4-6, which means they will have county offices, agents and 4-H programs.

“I think our stakeholders understand the very difficult situation we’re dealing with, with the state budget, and I think they understand that we have very limited resources,” Sparks said. “Now if you’re in one of those Tier 1, 2 or 3 counties you may not be as pleased with us as if you’re in a Tier 4, 5 or 6 county. But, again, I think this plan is flexible and allows us, as resources return, to build back and bring those 1, 2 and 3 tiers up to a higher tier.”



By J Faith Peppers
University of Georgia


Image credit: Angela Rowell/ UGA.

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