Friday, October 30, 2009

Alcohol Conference Debate Changes Minds About Minimum Drinking Age

/PRNewswire/ -- Health Communications, Inc. (HCI), provider of the TIPS program and host of the Alcohol Responsibility Conference 2009 (ARC 2009), posted the pre- and post-survey results from one of the conference sessions, a debate entitled Should the Minimum Legal Drinking Age Remain 21? Dr. John McCardell, founder and president of Choose Responsibility and former President of Middlebury College, presented the case in favor of reducing the minimum drinking age. Mr. James Fell, Senior Program Director at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), presented the case for continuation of the minimum drinking age of 21. Observed by 75 conference attendees, the debate took place on October 1, 2009. Conference attendees represented a cross section of people from diverse sectors of the community, including law enforcement, community coalition groups, alcohol retailers, university and college administrators, and independent consultants.

Debate observers were asked to complete a survey prior to the debate and another survey immediately following the debate. All attendees completed the surveys. "The most resounding result was that 31% of the attendees claimed that the debate changed their opinions about the current drinking age of 21," said Trevor Estelle, debate moderator and Vice President of Health Communications, Inc. "I was shocked that a 90-minute debate could have that kind of sway."

The survey results indicated that the debate triggered a change in attitudes and opinions regarding the issues that were discussed. In every case, the percentage of observers who were not sure of their position about an issue was smaller after the debate than before. Hearing both sides present their cases apparently allowed individuals to form more informed opinions about the age at which persons should be allowed to drink and about the effects that the current drinking age has had on behavior as it relates to alcohol consumption in this country.

Some of the results suggested that attendees were more influenced by Dr. McCardell's arguments. When attendees were asked if they thought the minimum drinking age should be lowered to 18 in the U.S., 16% of the pre-survey respondents checked "yes," compared to 29% of the post-survey respondents. When asked if they thought 21 was an appropriate minimum drinking age, 64% of the pre-survey respondents checked "yes" as opposed to 55% for the post-survey respondents. In addition, the pre-survey indicated that 33% were in favor of a drinking age lower than 21, while 44% of the post-survey attendees favored lowering the drinking age.

Other results suggested that Mr. Fell had a greater impact. When attendees were asked if they thought the minimum drinking age of 21 has reduced high-risk binge drinking by underage youth, 28% of the pre-survey respondents answered "yes" as opposed to 31% of the post-survey respondents. When asked if they thought that the lower minimum drinking age in European countries was the reason for the lower incidence of alcohol-related problems among European youth, 47% of the pre-survey respondents answered "no" compared to 65% of the post-survey respondents. Mr. Fell commented, "While a small minority of ARC 2009 attendees changed their minds about the drinking age, still only 29% were in favor of lowering it. The majority of the audience still thought 21 was the appropriate drinking age (55%). Apparently the life-saving effects and common sense of the 21 drinking age still resonates with the public."

If nothing else, the survey results confirm that a national discussion on the legal drinking age is desired. As one attendee commented, "This debate is really needed. I am definitely open to more information."

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wal-Mart Price War Sets Grim Tone For The 2009 Holiday Season

/PRNewswire/ -- American retail chains panicked last holiday season as they stared at overstocked shelves and wondered, "How will we sell all this stuff?" Their response to the collapse of the economy--namely, to markdown everything in sight and cross their fingers--was a last-minute act of desperation. Because they spent the past year ruminating about worst-case scenarios, however, many retailers now face a new problem as the holidays actually approach, says Stevan Buxbaum, executive vice president of Agoura Hills, Calif.-based Buxbaum Group, the consulting and turnaround investment firm.

"Retailers were so nervous they over-constricted their inventories," explains Buxbaum, who looks for comparable store sales to be in the flat to negative 1% range for the season. "They are now scrambling to stock up. The problem is that we have a worldwide supply chain. Much of the inventory comes from Asia and can sit on a boat for up to six weeks before it gets here. Beefing up inventories in time for the holiday season will be virtually impossible."

And that means parents hunting for hot-sellers like Disney's Netpal laptop or the Zhu Zhu Pets Hamsters might have a tough time fulfilling their kids' holiday wishes. "The best inventory--all the stuff that turns out to be the most desirable this year--will be gone by December 7," Buxbaum predicts. "From then until Christmas, shoppers will be picking through all the remaining merchandise."

Amid dismal holiday sales forecasts, meanwhile, Wal-Mart has embarked on a price war in which it plans to slap discounts on new groups of products every week until the season is over. The world's largest retailer is now selling 100 different toys for $10 each, and will make especially aggressive markdowns on books, DVDs, video games and other entertainment products. "The online price-war in best-selling books between Wal-Mart, Amazon and now, Target, speaks volumes about the cutthroat nature of retail in 2009," Buxbaum says. "Wal-Mart has fired the first shot across the bow and it is only October.

"In general," he continues, "consumers are still focused on price and value. The winners will be those chains that have the guts to slash prices the most. Eking out a profit in this environment requires highly rationalized SG&A (selling, general and administrative) costs and lower overhead. Wal-Mart is No. 1 in that regard, followed by the warehouse clubs and Target. Everybody else is in the rearview mirror."

The top 1% of richest Americans might unwrap a MacBook Pro or find a Lexis SUV parked in the driveway. But the vast majority of shoppers will not be maxing out any credit cards this year at the likes of Nieman Marcus, Buxbaum says. "We have gone from the 'aspirational' shopper--people who spent beyond their means for the sake of status or the sheer thrill--to the 'desperational' shopper," he observes. "Now, most people are just trying to find value."

That said, certain trends hint at the types of products that will go over best with budget-constrained and newly circumspect shoppers, Buxbaum says. Rave reviews of the new Windows 7 operating system, which Microsoft radically simplified after consumers railed against its feature-packed Vista predecessor, show the rising importance of simplicity and practicality in consumers' harried lives.

"Wired magazine talks about the rise of 'Good Enough' tech," he says. "Take digital cameras. People don't want another $1,000 camera. They're saying, 'Heck. I never figure out what 90% of these features do anyway, and I'm not Ansel Adams.' Personally, I use about 1% of the features on my Blackberry. People's lives are so complex, they want to simplify them. They don't want all this stuff that they neither need nor understand."

Even though devices like Apple's all-in-one iPhone or Amazon.com's Kindle e-book reader are expensive, they continue to sell because they help people reduce clutter and bulk. "If you simplify my life by putting four different devices, or thousands of books, into one device, that's convergence," Buxbaum says. "People are interested in convergence, not complexity."

Nor are American parents interested in short-changing their kids. They will continue to spend as much as they can on children and younger adults, and retailers focused on these segments will see stronger sales, especially if they have somehow managed to find a niche that enables them to avoid direct competition with Wal-Mart, Buxbaum notes. "People won't take out their frustration with the financial system and Wall Street on their nieces and nephews," he says. "But they will cut back on spending for themselves."

Sustainable or "green" products might have bright longer-term futures, but they won't set any records this year with the broad base of the American economy. "The extra cost of green doesn't fit the proposition of getting the best price," Buxbaum says. "The overwhelming thing right now is not whether something will disintegrate in a landfill--our economy is disintegrating in a landfill. You could call it the biodegradable economy. It will take a resurgence of that broad base for us to rebuild a new economy that doesn't break down."

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The scary waste of 'vampire power'

(ARA) – Vampires may be hot right now in the entertainment world, but “vampire power” – the slow, invisible energy drain caused by leaving electric devices plugged in – simply sucks.

Every electrical item you leave plugged in, from your home computer to your high-def, flat-screen TV, draws power even while it’s turned off. This “vampire power” drain adds up, costing consumers about $10 billion a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Reducing Vampire Power in your home is an easy way to do your part, both helping the environment and reducing your family’s carbon footprint – plus it could save you 10 percent of your family’s electric bill, according to the Intrusive Residential Standby Report.

Vampire power – or “standby power” – refers to the power many electric and electronic items draw while in “stand by” mode, when they are plugged in, but not turned on. Virtually every item you plug in draws some standby power, but major electronic items like PCs and TVs are the biggest power-sucking culprits.

You can reduce vampire power drain with a few simple steps:

* Buy ENERGY STAR rated products. These products are designed to not only use less power when operating, but to draw less standby power as well. Items ranging from dishwashers to laptops carry the rating. Log on to www.ENERGYSTAR.gov to learn more about the product rating program.

* Don’t leave your laptop, cell phone, iPod or other chargers plugged into the wall outlet. Even these innocent-seeming cords draw vampire power. Instead, plug chargers into a product designed to halt vampire power, like the iGo Laptop Charger. The device uses up to 85 percent less power than standard chargers and you never have to turn it on or off. You can purchase a range of adapters that allows you to use the charger with virtually any electronic device that requires one. Visit www.iGo.com to learn more about this product.

* Streamline the number of devices you have to plug into the wall. Like most of us, you probably can’t live without your PC or DVR and need to leave it plugged in. But do you really need a TV in every room of the house and three game consoles – one for each kid? Reducing the number of devices in your home will reduce the amount of standby power you use and possibly help you to streamline your life a bit.

* Unplug your appliances when they are not in use. And when it’s not practical to unplug some devices, like the PC, Wii game system or flat screen TV, you can keep them plugged in using a power management device that halts vampire power, like the iGo Power Smart Tower. With an instant wake-up button and four always-on outlets, the iGo Power Smart Tower ensures that you’ll always have power for your devices as soon as you need it without wasting energy.

To learn more about vampire power, how it impacts the environment and consumers’ wallets as well as additional tips to minimize its effect, visit www.VampirePowerSucks.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Votes Are In, Spiders Win

/PRNewswire/ -- Results from Orkin's first-ever "Scariest Pest Halloween Poll" reveal spiders, one of Halloween's quintessential icons, are the scariest pests of 2009. According to Orkin experts, the pests people consider (and voted) the scariest are not necessarily the most dangerous.

From October 1 - 23, the Atlanta-based pest control leader invited people to vote online at Halloween.Orkin.com for one of six spine-chilling pests. Following are the scariest pest rankings and percentages from the online poll:

1. Spooky spiders (30 percent)
2. Hair-raising rodents (27 percent)
3. Creepy cockroaches (23 percent)
4. Terrifying ticks (10 percent)
5. Freaky flying/stinging insects (6 percent)
6. Menacing mosquitoes (4 percent)

Similar to plastic spider rings and cotton web decorations that run rampant this holiday season, most of the 3,500 spider species found in the United States - even if they bite - cause little harm to humans. However, the following few spider species rank among the most dangerous pests in North America because of their potentially harmful and even deadly bites:

-- Black widows
-- Brown widows
-- Brown recluses
-- Hobo spiders

According to Ron Harrison, Ph.D., technical director for Orkin, Inc., the few dangerous spider species like the black widow and brown recluse are so well known that people overlook the great benefit spiders provide. "Their food sources - moths, flies, cockroaches, bees and other bugs - are the same insects that pester us. Because of that, their presence in or around our homes is a good indicator that we have a larger pest issue that needs attention."

Harrison does not ignore the fact that most people consider spiders scary, or that they should protect themselves against spider bites. He offers these tips to make homes less attractive to spiders:

-- Target their food source. Contact a licensed pest management
professional to first control the insects that are attracting spiders
to your home.
-- Sweep, dust, clean and remove clutter to make areas uncomfortable for
spiders, which often like to hide.
-- Seal off potential entries like cracks and crevices, spaces under
doors, holes in screens, etc.

Harrison also warns that homeowners should understand the risks posed by rodents, cockroaches, mosquitoes, ticks and flying/stinging insects. Although not voted the scariest, these pests are some of the world's most dangerous because of the diseases they can carry and health threats they pose.

Following are Harrison's rankings for the most dangerous pests:

1. Blood-Suckers: Mosquitoes top Harrison's list as they pose a
significant danger to public health throughout the world - transmitting
West Nile virus, malaria and yellow fever. Harrison warns that ticks -
associated with Colorado Tick Fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and
Lyme disease - are actually the number one transmitter of disease in
the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), over 28,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease were reported in the
U.S. in 2008.
2. Creepy Crawlers (including poll-topping spiders): In addition to
eliciting a scream, rodents can transmit numerous diseases - including
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and LCMV - through their urine, feces and
bites. Cockroaches can cause more than the chills, transferring
pathogens from the decaying matter they live and breed in to food and
food-preparation areas. With their cast skins producing allergens,
cockroaches have been proven to cause allergic reactions and even
asthma.
3. Stingers: Some species of flying and stinging insects are known to
protect their nests aggressively and inflict painful stings on
intruders. Stings from yellow jackets, hornets and wasps can cause
swelling, become infected easily and also aggravate skin conditions and
allergies.

According to Orkin, Halloween's cold weather often sparks an increase in activity from the creepy crawlers, but whatever the season, people should protect themselves and their homes from these scary and potentially dangerous pests. For more facts about frightful pests, visit orkin.com.

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You can get it all done before the holidays ... even learning to play the piano

(ARA) – Shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking ... not to mention untangling those dratted lights – does it seem like there’s no way you can get everything done that you need to accomplish before the holidays?

Actually, a little smart scheduling and some stress-relieving techniques are really all you need in order to check off everything on your “to do” list this holiday season. In fact, you probably already know what you need to do. Sometimes, it just helps to have a reminder or two of how to use your time wisely:

* Take the time-eating bite out of holiday shopping by doing it online. Secure Web sites, great deals and free shipping incentives from many sellers make online the easiest way to do your holiday shopping. Just keep in mind shipping times, and shop as early as possible to allow yourself extra time in case you need to return something before the holiday.

* Use laundry baskets to organize gifts by recipient. Have one basket of small, generic gifts that can be used for unexpected gift-giving occasions that may arrive – like the surprise last-minute gift from a co-worker or acquaintance.

* Set aside one afternoon a weekend for several weekends prior to the holidays and bake and freeze holiday goodies that you plan to serve or give as gifts. Or, organize a few baking parties with family and friends, and have each person bring a few dozen of a specific type of cookie to exchange during the party.

* Don’t forget to do something for yourself, like learn to play the piano. Seriously ... you can learn how to play some favorite Christmas carols in the weeks leading up to the holidays, even if you’ve never played the piano before. And it will probably take a lot less time than untangling last year’s lights.

“The trick is learning to play the way the pros play, learning a few simple chords rather than tackling the time-consuming task of learning to read sheet music well,” says Scott Houston, host of the Emmy-winning Public Television how-to show, “The Piano Guy.”

"It's much easier for people to focus on chords and interpretation, rather than spending years trying to figure out how to read notes," Houston says. He teaches people how to play piano in a flash by reading a "lead sheet," which is like the shorthand professional musicians use to follow a tune's melody line – matching the chords that work with the tune.

You’ll find three free lessons, teaching you how to play “Silent Night,” at www.scotthouston.com/freelessons/. So dust off that piano or keyboard, and, with a little help from the Internet, learn to play at least one favorite carol in time for this year’s family gathering.

* Dedicate one area of your home – which will be off-limits to potential gift recipients – where you can create a gift-wrapping center. Over-the-door towel racks – the kind with arms that swing out – make great holders for rolls of gift wrap. Store decorative supplies like ribbon, bows and mini ornaments in clear plastic bins. Invest in a new pair of scissors and only use them to cut wrapping paper or ribbon so they stay sharp and swift.

Wrap as you go. If you wait until Christmas Eve to wrap gifts, you not only run the risk of wandering eyes getting a preview of their holiday gifts, you’ll stress yourself trying to get everything done at the last minute. Plus, it’s much easier to purchase extra wrapping supplies two weeks before the holiday, than it will be if you run out the night before the big day.

As for untangling last year’s lights, consider how much time and effort – and aggravation – the chore will cost. If it’s going to raise your stress level and take hours, it’s probably better to toss last year’s tangle, buy new and do a better job of storing them when the season’s over this year.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Monday, October 26, 2009

CVS/pharmacy Rewards Shoppers For Passing on Plastic Bags

/PRNewswire/ -- According to The Wall Street Journal, approximately 100 billion plastic shopping bags are used in the U.S. each year, and only roughly one to three percent of those bags are recycled. To encourage shoppers to cut down on the use of single-use plastic bags, CVS/pharmacy has introduced a new product and program called GreenBagTag which rewards members of the company's ExtraCare loyalty program for declining plastic bags when making a purchase. As of today, GreenBagTag is available for purchase at any of CVS/pharmacy's 7,000 convenient store locations nationwide and all store locations now accept GreenBagTag.

CVS/pharmacy's GreenBagTag: How the Program Works

Available in-stores for 99 cents, GreenBagTag is made with corn-based material, an annually renewable resource, as well as 100% recycled silicone, and is packaged in 100% recycled paper. Shoppers can purchase GreenBagTag for themselves or as a gift for environmentally-conscious friends and family; each tag must be used with an ExtraCare card. Whether they are using re-usable bags or simply carrying out their items, customers who choose not to take a plastic bag, benefit each time they shop at CVS/pharmacy and scan both their GreenBagTag and ExtraCare card at the register. On every fourth scan, GreenBagTag cardholders receive a $1.00 Extra Buck on the bottom of their receipt. Extra Bucks are like free CVS/pharmacy money that can be used on nearly anything in the store.

The GreenBagTag program is a new feature of CVS/pharmacy's ExtraCare Rewards program, the largest retail rewards program in the U.S. Now more than 62 million existing cardholders (and shoppers who register for a new ExtraCare account) can receive incentives for choosing not to take a single-use plastic bag when shopping, in addition to the various other money-saving benefits associated with participation in ExtraCare.

"CVS/pharmacy is committed to improving the lives of the people and communities we serve, and that includes helping all our customers adopt more eco-friendly practices," said Bari Harlam, Vice President of Marketing for CVS/pharmacy. "We have a long history of rewarding our customers with incentives that are both convenient and beneficial to their well-being. Our new GreenBagTag program provides an easy way for shoppers to take a small step in going green, while also receiving Extra Bucks as a 'Thank you!' for joining us in making an impact in the fight to reduce waste from disposable plastic bags."

How ExtraCare works: Quarterly and Instant Extra Bucks

Beyond the Extra Bucks earned through the GreenBagTag program, CVS/pharmacy customers save money through the ExtraCare Rewards program all year long. Registering for an ExtraCare account is free and takes less than two minutes in-store or online. ExtraCare cardholders receive 2% back on nearly every dollar spent in the store, every time they shop, regardless of whether or not they participate in any sales or special offers. Additionally, for every two prescriptions filled at CVS/pharmacy, ExtraCare cardholders automatically receive $1 Extra Buck. At the end of each quarter, these Extra Bucks are printed on the bottom of cardholder's receipts during their first visit. Cardholders can also register their ExtraCare accounts on CVS.com, so they can print out Extra Bucks at home before shopping.

In addition to the automatic quarterly rewards all cardholders receive, each time a shopper visits CVS/pharmacy, certain items are marked with instant Extra Bucks offers. These special discounts are listed in the weekly sales circular and are marked on store shelves. To take advantage of these instant offers, shoppers earn additional Extra Bucks simply by purchasing the qualifying items. These Extra Bucks coupons print immediately on the bottom of the receipt after the transaction is completed.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Older Adults Want Robots that Do More than Vacuum, Researchers Find

Researchers at Georgia Tech have discovered that, contrary to previous assumptions, older adults are more amenable than younger ones to having a robot “perform critical monitoring tasks that would require little interaction between the robot and the human. The findings will be presented at the upcoming HFES 53rd Annual Meeting, Grand Hyatt, San Antonio, Texas on Thursday, October 22.

Despite manufacturers’ increased development of in-home robots, it’s unclear how much interaction people would be willing to have with them. Robots can perform routine tasks such as cleaning, the Roomba vacuum cleaner being the best-known example. Studies have found that individuals think of robots as advanced appliances, but there is not much research on why this is so. Robots could perform more critical tasks, such as reminding a person to take medications, teaching a new skill, providing security and reducing social isolation.

To gauge how willing people might be to have a robot perform these kinds of more interactive tasks, Neta Ezer (now at Futron Corporation), Arthur D. Fisk and Wendy A. Rogers sent a questionnaire to 2,500 Atlanta-area adults ages 18 to 86 and received 177 responses. One of their questions addressed respondents’ level of experience with technology and robots that do things like mow, clean, guard and entertain. Older adults (ages 65 to 86) had significantly less experience with technology than younger ones (18 to 28), but younger adults had only slightly more experience with robots currently on the market.

When asked about their willingness to have robots perform 15 tasks in the home (categorized as entertainment, service, educational and general health/self-care), respondents of all ages preferred that robots stick to noninteractive tasks (such as “Help me with housework” or “Bring me things I need from another room in my home") rather than interactive ones (for example, “Have a conversation with me” or “Help motivate me to exercise"). Infrequent critical tasks, such as “Warn me about a danger in my home” or “Inform my doctor if I have a medical emergency,” were seen by more older adults than younger ones as important for robots to perform.

Both younger and older respondents reported positive attitudes toward a robot in their homes. They thought a robot would be useful, but were less confident that it would be easy to use. Given a choice between receiving care from a robot in their homes and moving to a care facility in the event of illness or injury, 67 percent of younger adults and 77 percent of older adults chose the former option. (This finding is not reported in the paper to be presented in October.)

The researchers say their results “suggest that both younger and older individuals are more interested in the benefits that a robot can provide than in their interactive abilities.” Furthermore, the results discredit the stereotype that older adults would be less willing than younger ones to accept new technology such as a robot in their home. Manufacturers: Take note.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Identity Has Been Stolen - What Should I Do?

/PRNewswire/ -- It could be as simple as an unexplained charge on your credit card statement or a debit from your checking account that you don't recall making or have a receipt for. Many victims of identity theft don't recognize small transactions as symptoms of a larger problem. In fact, many victims do not realize their identity has been stolen until months, or even years after the theft. The average victim of identity theft will spend close to 200 hours and $1,200 repairing damage done by an identity thief.

"Even one unexplained transaction on your account could be a sign of identity theft," said Suzanne Boas, president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta (CCCS). "Quick action can minimize the impact and reduce the amount of time and money spent repairing the damage."

If you are the victim of identity theft, take the following steps:

Notify the Credit Bureaus

Contact the fraud departments of any of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file.

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Equifax: 1-888-766-0008; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

Once you call one credit bureau, they are required to notify the other two. Once you place the fraud alert on your file, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each. Request that only the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number appear on the report. Review the reports carefully, looking for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain.

Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently

If you suspect that your accounts have been tampered with or see new accounts that may have been opened fraudulently, close them immediately. Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Be sure to document each conversation, including dates, times and who you talked to. Keep copies of all supporting documents and if you send correspondence, do so by certified mail, return receipt requested.

When you open new accounts, use new passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs). Avoid easy to crack codes such as birth dates, phone numbers, your mother's maiden name or your house number.

Once you clear up your credit report, check them periodically to make sure no new activity has occurred.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them.

File a complaint with the FTC using the online complaint form (https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/); or through their toll free Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338). Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems.

File a Police Report

File a report with your local police department and get a copy. You may need to submit this report to creditors and others to prove the theft.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Attorney General Announces Formal Medical Marijuana Guidelines

/PRNewswire/ -- Attorney General Eric Holder today announced formal guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The guidelines make clear that the focus of federal resources should not be on individuals whose actions are in compliance with existing state laws, while underscoring that the Department will continue to prosecute people whose claims of compliance with state and local law conceal operations inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of those laws.

"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," Holder said. "This balanced policy formalizes a sensible approach that the Department has been following since January: effectively focus our resources on serious drug traffickers while taking into account state and local laws."

The guidelines set forth examples of conduct that would show when individuals are not in clear and unambiguous compliance with applicable state law and may indicate illegal drug trafficking activity of potential federal interest, including unlawful use of firearms, violence, sales to minors, money laundering, amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law, marketing or excessive financial gains similarly inconsistent with state or local law, illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances, and ties to criminal enterprises.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Wear Someone Else's Face for Halloween

/24-7/ -- Innovative ThatsMyFace.com will make a custom lifelike mask of any person from photographs. This may be the ideal way to scare friends at Halloween.

ThatsMyFace.com simply requires one or two photographs of the person and they will create a fully wearable photorealistic facemask in resin. The possibilities are endless: a friend's mother-in-law or their boss, a serial killer, a favorite horror actor or a least favorite politician.

Previously such technology has only been within the budgets of Hollywood productions. Now ThatsMyFace.com has leveraged their state-of-the-art 3D imaging and manufacturing techniques to bring custom masks within reach of the consumer.

The website, ThatsMyFace.com, allows one to upload photographs of the frightening person and preview a mask before purchasing. Eager customers may also buy the product straight away and send in their photographs for expert processing. There is also the option to tweak the person's appearance, such as changing their age, ethnicity, gender or even ordering a caricature.

About ThatsMyFace

ThatsMyFace.com specializes in making photorealistic color sculpted faces, busts and custom action figures. The customer simply needs to provide one or two portrait photographs of the subject. Worldwide shipping is available. The site also offers free gender changing, race changing, beautification and analysis to anyone who uploads a photograph. For more information, please contact John Keaton by phoning: (+1) 503 608 4616 or by emailing pr@ThatsMyFace.com.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Social Security COLA: Today's Zero COLA Announcement for 2010 Could Cost Average Senior $10,134

(BUSINESS WIRE)--This morning, the Social Security Administration is expected to announce that seniors will receive no Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in their Social Security checks next year.

President Obama’s call late yesterday for Congress to pass a one-time payment of $250 for seniors would make up just a tiny fraction of the amount seniors will lose throughout their retirement.

A senior retiring in 2009 with average benefits would lose $10,134 over the course of a 20-year retirement, due to the loss of the compounding effect of an average annual benefit increase of three percent, according to a recent analysis by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL).

PROBLEM

* The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also forecasts a zero COLA for 2011. If there is no COLA for both years, a senior retiring in 2009 with average benefits would lose $20,144.
* Although the COLA is intended to help seniors keep up with inflation, a recent study by TSCL that analyzed 20 key expenditures found that people 65 and over have lost 20 percent of their buying power since 2000.
* Common senior expenses have soared since the beginning of the decade, such as Medicare Part B premiums (up 112 percent), heating oil (up 96 percent), and a dozen eggs (up 99 percent).
* Almost 70 percent of beneficiaries depend on Social Security for 50 percent or more of their income. Social Security is the sole source of income for 15 percent of beneficiaries.

SOLUTION

* The Emergency COLA Bill (H.R. 3557), introduced last month by Congressman Walter Jones (NC) and encouraged and promoted by TSCL from the beginning, would provide a COLA for 2010 equal to the average of the COLA over the past ten years. That average is roughly three percent.
* The bill would give the average beneficiary an additional $415.20 in Social Security payments in 2010, a boost of $34.60 per month.
* More importantly, the bill prevents seniors from losing the compounding effect of a COLA increase, which could result in thousands of dollars more throughout retirement for millions of seniors.
* In June, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) became the first national group to call for an Emergency COLA for 2010.

QUOTES

Daniel O’Connell, Chairman, The Senior Citizens League:

“With inflation rising faster than the COLA, it’s no surprise that more seniors are slipping into poverty than ever before. Since millions of seniors are desperate for an Emergency COLA next year, we encourage all seniors to contact their Members of Congress immediately.”

Shannon Benton, Executive Director, The Senior Citizens League

“Although President Obama’s call for a one-time payment of $250 will help seniors, it is not nearly enough to compensate for the rising costs seniors have been enduring for years. Today, a senior can buy just 80 percent of what they could have afforded at the beginning of the decade – and $250 does not address that terrible trend in an effective manner.”

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Online H1N1 Flu Response Center Taps Emory Assessment Tool

A new web site has been launched by Microsoft Corp. providing users with a H1N1 Self-Assessment tool developed by medical and public health experts at Emory University.

Called H1N1 Response Center, the web site is designed to help people decide what to do if they are worried that they or someone they love has symptoms of the flu, the site offers consumers a self-assessment tool licensed from Emory. The tool helps individuals determine whether the symptoms they have could be caused by the flu virus, whether their illness is severe enough to warrant immediate medical attention, and whether they are at increased risk for developing severe disease. The site also offers practical advice on what to do.

The clinical content of the web site is closely based on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) algorithm for health professionals designed for the 2009-2010 flu season, jointly developed with Emory School of Medicine.

With the current H1N1 flu pandemic underway, public health officials are concerned that critical health care resources could be stretched thin if everyone with the flu symptoms rushes to the nearest ER or doctor's office to determine what to do. Although the flu, including 2009 H1N1 flu, can cause serious illness and death in some people, the majority of people who get the flu will have a have a relatively mild form of illness that gets better on its own.

"Certain people are more vulnerable to the effects of the H1N1 flu virus than others," says Arthur Kellermann, MD, professor of emergency medicine and an associate dean at the Emory School of Medicine. "This website is carefully designed to encourage those who are severely ill, and those at increased risk for serious illness to contact their doctor, while reassuring large numbers of people with mild illness that it is safe to recover at home."

"Hopefully, providing easy to understand information to the public will reduce the number of people who are needlessly exposed to H1N1 influenza in crowded clinic and ER waiting rooms, and allow America's doctors and nurses to focus their attention on those who need us most," adds Kellermann.

Called the Strategy for Off-Site Rapid Triage (SORT) the concept was created and developed by an interdisciplinary team at Emory led by Alexander Isakov, MD, MPH and Kellermann. Microsoft's web site is designed communicates complex health information in simple terms that the public can understand. The content and images used in the site were developed and field- tested with more than 100 community volunteers by the Emory@Grady Health Literacy Team, which includes Ruth Parker, MD, and Lorenzo DiFrancesco, MD, of Emory's School of Medicine, and Kara Jacobson, MPH, of Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.

Emory's algorithm and the idea of using a web-based tool to help flu patients decide what to do is endorsed by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the nation's leading organization for the specialty of emergency medicine.

Visit www.h1n1responsecenter.com to find the H1N1 assessment tool.


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Monday, October 5, 2009

Civil Rights Coalition Launches Census 2010 PSA Series on Atlanta Buses

Ads Are Designed to Raise Awareness of the Upcoming Headcount and Its Importance to Community and Public Services

Today, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) launched a series of Census 2010 public service announcements in Atlanta buses to educate Atlanta residents about the upcoming decennial count of every person living in America.

The PSAs in Atlanta are part of a cross-country, coast-to-coast series of bus ads created by LCCREF to explain the importance of the census to Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) bus riders. Between October 5 and December 27, the ads will appear in 200 buses, as well as buses in Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Seattle. Here in Atlanta, the bus ads will feature a wastebasket filled with money with a headline reading “Don’t Throw Away Money. Fill Out Your Census Form.”

“The census shapes our lives in ways most people never think about,” said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), a local LCCREF census partner. “The federal government uses census information to decide where and how to spend almost $400 billion every year on health care, education, transportation and more – that’s why we’re working so hard to get the word out to Atlantans that the census is coming and that everyone should participate.”

Information collected by the census will also be used to decide how many seats each state will get in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade, and to draw the lines for congressional, state legislative, and local voting districts.

LCCREF believes that an accurate census is a significant civil rights issue because it directly affects our nation’s ability to ensure equal representation and equal access to important government resources for all Americans.
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Study Finds Racial Segregation a Strong Factor in Learning Disparities

Racial segregation in the schools is fueling the learning disparity between young black and white children, while out-of-school factors are more important to the growth of social class gaps, according to a study by Emory University sociologist Dennis Condron.

His findings were published in the October issue of the American Sociological Review.

Condron was perplexed by prior research showing that schools narrow the achievement gap among students of varying social classes while widening the gap between black and white students. To tease out possible reasons for this difference, he analyzed data from the Kindergarten Cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.

He found that between the fall and spring of first grade, black students' reading and math skills fall almost two months behind those of white students. After controlling for other factors, the data suggested that segregation of schools was a primary driver of this early black-white learning disparity. In contrast, out-of-school factors explained the growth of social class gaps.

"This research adds an important piece to the puzzle of when and why social class and black-white inequalities in academic achievement emerge," says Condron, assistant professor of sociology. "And I hope it raises awareness that social class and black-white achievement gaps come from different sources to some extent. We tend to speak of ‘the' achievement gap, but in reality different gaps probably have different sources and require different solutions."

His research also indicated that regardless of social class, black students are less often taught by certified teachers than are white students, and black students are far more likely than white students to attend predominantly minority schools, high-poverty schools and schools located in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The findings are "a reminder of a persistent problem," Condron says, decades after the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka struck down state laws establishing separate schools for black and white students.

"De facto segregation remains high these days, with important implications for education," he says. "When it comes to both housing and schools, race trumps class as the central axis upon which blacks and whites are segregated. Real solutions to the black-white achievement gap lie far beyond schools and require changes to society more broadly."


Condron's study is the lead article in the October issue of the American Sociological Review, which also features two other studies of educational inequality.

A specialist in educational disparities, Condron is currently analyzing data on more than 80 countries to research the impact of economic inequality on countries' average achievement levels.


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Friday, October 2, 2009

Stopping Teen Dating Violence Before It Starts: Jane Fonda Launches Campaign

Jane Fonda, actor, writer and founder/chair of the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (GCAPP), along with local teenagers and Atlanta community groups officially launched today the Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships Program aimed at stopping teen dating violence and abuse before it starts at Emory University.

The Jane Fonda Center at Emory was chosen as one of 11 community organizations nationwide to receive $1 million in funding through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's national Start Strong initiative. This is the largest national public health initiative ever funded, targeting 11-to-14-year-olds, to stop teen dating violence.

"This initiative, both locally and nationally, promises to educate and empower teens and their surrounding communities that dating violence and abuse among teenagers must be stopped before it ever starts," says Fonda. "With teen dating abuse a significant public health issue in this country, we must focus on teaching our young people to develop healthier and more positive relationships at an early age."

As part of this four-year initiative, Start Strong Atlanta will rally the entire community, including teenagers, parents, caregivers, educators, coaches and community leaders to build environments that support healthy relationships and ensure violence and abuse are never tolerated.

"October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this campaign's launch is the perfect tie-in, aimed at middle school youth, for reducing the nation's unacceptable level of intimate partner violence through early prevention," says Melissa Kottke, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Jane Fonda Center. Kottke is also the principal investigator of the national initiative at Emory.

The Jane Fonda Center along with its partners, Atlanta Public Schools and Grady Memorial Hospital Teen Services Program, have together developed a comprehensive community plan for this initiative. This plan will focus on four core strategies involving education, policy change, community outreach and social marketing campaigns to empower local teens to develop healthier relationships.

"It's so sad that almost every teen you ask knows someone who has been a victim of dating abuse, if they themselves have not," says Marie Mitchell, Start Strong Atlanta project director at the Jane Fonda Center. "Indeed, the National Council on Criminal Delinquency Focus states that approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. This can't continue. We must actively engage youth at an early age and provide them with the knowledge and skills to develop healthy teen relationships and prevent them from becoming victims of teen dating abuse."

Other Atlanta collaborators include: Metro Atlanta Violence Prevention Program, Department of Juvenile Justice, Fulton Family Care Network, Rock of Escape, Journey Girls, Young Adults Talk, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Girl Scouts and Georgia Campaign for Pregnancy Prevention, and the list continues to grow. Learn more about Start Strong Atlanta and other related events going on during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The Jane Fonda Center at Emory University was created in 2000 with a lead gift from Jane Fonda. The mission of the Jane Fonda Center is to advance scientific knowledge about adolescence with an emphasis on adolescent reproductive health. The center seeks to disseminate information and strategies for risk reduction and healthy transitions to adulthood. It fulfills its mission by research, program and curriculum development and evaluation.


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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Watery conditions lead to mold, mildew problems

With floodwaters receding from Georgia homes and roadways following recent record rainfall, mold and mildew may seem like secondary threats to the many who find their properties damper than usual. But in a few weeks, that dank smell will alert people that they have a problem.

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension coordinator Susan Culpepper is getting ahead of the storm, so to speak, by providing her area with information now about mold and mildew cleanup. Much of Douglas County, where she works, and Paulding County, where she lives, have been under water for days.

“Once people regroup, once they can see or smell the mold or mildew,” they’re going to want information, she said. “We’re going to try to head off some of that by getting information out right now.”

It’s not just floodwaters that cause mold and mildew problems, says Pamela Turner, a UGA Extension housing specialist with the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

“The humidity is already making everything grow,” she said. “The dead leaves on my plants are growing fuzzy mold.”

People in any area that has received a large amount of rain should be on the lookout for fungus problems, particularly its musty, earthy smell. It often appears as a discoloration, stain or fuzzy growth.

“Mold will live anywhere where there’s food,” she said. “You can find it growing on windows, and it’s not the glass, it’s the dirt on the window. It just needs a little food, moisture and a place to grow.”

To keep mold and mildew growth at a minimum, run the air conditioner and keep the windows shut, which may be impossible for Georgians currently without electricity, she said. Air conditioning, fans or dehumidifiers will remove some of the moisture and keep the indoor humidity below 60 percent.

Turn on the bathroom exhaust fan when taking a shower and the kitchen fan when cooking. Most mold and mildew problems start in bathrooms or kitchens, especially if there’s a leaky faucet or pipe.

“The other place you might find mold is in a closet on your shoes or clothing. People usually leave their closet doors shut,” Turner said. “And closets are often jam-packed full of stuff, and there’s no air circulation. ... I’ve seen little gray fuzz on handbags and shoes.”

To solve this problem, she suggests leaving closet doors open or switching to louvered doors, which allow air to circulate.

Keep an eye on crawl spaces. If water sits too long under a house, the chance for mold problems increases.

For homes, basements or garages that have been flooded, the problem isn’t just water damaging the floors. “The water is going to be wicked up into your wallboard and insulation,” she said.

Turner has a few tips to get rid of mold:

1. Wear long sleeves, long pants, close-toed shoes, gloves, a mask and a hat when cleaning up large quantities of mold. Wash these clothes as soon as you’re done cleaning. Don’t wash them with other clothes.

2. Use a mild detergent mixed with water to wash mold off hard surfaces.

3. Or, use a solution of either mild bleach and water or borax and water. With both, mix one-half cup of bleach or borax with 1 gallon of water. She prefers borax because it inhibits mold growth and is a little better on the environment.

Put the solution in a bottle and spray the infected area lightly before wiping clean. “You don’t want to saturate the wall,” she said. “More is not better. More is just more.”

4. Wash fabrics infected with mildew in the washing machine. If fabrics can handle it, use the hot water cycle.

5. Tear out carpet and padding that have been in flood water. It’s almost impossible to get mold and mildew out of soft flooring materials. You will probably have to replace them.

6. Hire a certified mold removal specialist in extreme cases, especially if water has saturated the walls and insulation. This is especially important for people with respiratory problems, immune deficiencies or other illnesses.

For more information on mold and mildew, visit www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/housing.php?category=Indoor%20Air. For more on what to do before and after a flood, visit www.caes.uga.edu/topics/disasters/flood/articles/beforeafter/index.html.

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

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