Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The new love rules: Even love letters have gone digital

(ARA) - For centuries, people have expressed their words of love and affection through love letters, a meaningful tradition that continues to this day. Though much has changed since the days of Shakespearean sonnets, love letters are still a personal and inexpensive way to show someone special you care this Valentine's Day. Today, jobs, family and jam-packed schedules mean that not everyone has time to sit down and pen the perfect sonnet - which helps explain the recent trend of love letters going digital.

A recent survey of busy young professionals (ages 22-35) conducted by Microsoft indicates that more people are trading in calligraphy and scented stationery for e-mail and even text messages. In fact, 79 percent of busy young professionals surveyed have sent or received an e-mail love letter within the past two years, with more than 77 percent reporting that they love receiving e-mail love letters, since e-mail is their primary means of communication.

Sending a love letter online doesn't mean that it's less sincere or romantic than a handwritten note. In fact, there are major advantages to sending or receiving a love letter via e-mail, including the ability to refer back to it easily, and from anywhere. Eighty-six percent of people surveyed who have received an e-mail love letter say they saved them in their inbox. With very large storage limits available through free e-mail providers like Windows Live Hotmail, it's especially simple to access an old love letter from any computer, a Web-equipped mobile phone, or print them out as a permanent keepsake, as one survey respondent did. "I saved all of the [e-mail] love notes that my boyfriend-at-the-time wrote while we were in a long-distance relationship - now he's my husband. I printed them out and have them in a binder that I look at on occasion."

A love letter doesn't necessarily have to be a lengthy soliloquy professing your eternal love - it can be a simple "I love you" - in fact, more than 27 percent of people surveyed report that they've been told "I love you" for the first time over e-mail or instant messenger programs like Windows Live Messenger - or a short note recalling a fond memory you share. Another survey respondent recalled a particularly sentimental love note she received: "The day after my husband asked me to marry him, he sent me a beautiful e-mail saying how great he felt asking me, seeing the ring on my finger on the way in to work the next morning, watching how excited I was to show it off to everyone and how excited he was to spend the rest of his life with me."

Thanks to the convenience of e-mail, you don't have to be Casanova to send a memorable love letter that will make someone's day. With the recent trend of love letters going digital, these five simple tips will have you well on your way to sending a memorable e-mail love note that your significant other will cherish for years to come.

1. Set the mood: Find a quiet place and a dedicated time to write your love letter. Be sure to minimize distractions so you can focus your thoughts on your loved one and put your emotions into words.

2. Be your most romantic self: A well-written love letter should make your beloved fall more in love with you, so think personal. Focus on the other person and express your emotions, dreams and vulnerability. Never be negative, but try to avoid being too funny. A love letter shares deep and often difficult-to-express feelings and should always sound like it comes from you.

3. Be specific and sincere: Highlight unique quirks or characteristics you love about the person, recall special memories you've shared, or write about the reasons why you fell in love with him or her in the first place. Don't be too casual and don't be afraid to let your true feelings show.

4. Spice up the presentation: Try adding color, special photos of the two of you or graphics. Using e-mail features like Hotmail Quick Add, you can easily search for and add images without leaving your inbox. If your relationship is long distance, or if you're looking to add some more creativity to your letter, you can make and edit a short movie of yourself, a recent trip, or a favorite outdoor spot using free movie-making programs like Windows Live Movie Maker, available at

5. Double-check details before hitting "send": Don't let writing errors distract from the meaning of your words. Read over your letter to make sure it conveys what you really mean and check for spelling and grammar errors. Most importantly, before sending an e-mail love letter, double-check that the "to" line is correct - 1 out of 10 people surveyed have sent love letters to the wrong person by mistake!

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Overlooked Coosawattee River Draws Deserved Attention

The Etowah and Conasauga rivers are known for rare fish and biological diversity. Recent research reveals that the river between them – the Coosawattee – is in the same league.

Last summer, staff from the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame and Fisheries sections sampled the north Georgia river from Ellijay to Carter’s Lake and the stream’s two largest headwater tributaries, the Cartecay and Ellijay rivers. Results included new records for federally threatened goldline darters – documented in Georgia only in the Coosawattee – and field data critical to fleshing out a GIS-based analysis of the watershed.

The work labeled the Coosawattee as one of Georgia’s top three rivers for imperiled fishes, part of a Southeastern Fisheries Council assessment aimed at helping prioritize U.S. waterways for conservation. Each participating state relied on a recently published list of imperiled fishes recognized by the American Fisheries Society’s endangered species committee. Statewide analysis ranked the Coosawattee third with nine of the listed fishes (including two species last seen in the 1960s). The Etowah led with 14 imperiled fishes. The Conasauga followed with 12.

All three rivers are in the Coosa River basin. The Coosawattee rates data-poor, however, compared to studies of rare species and common threats on its neighbors. The project “allowed us to look a lot more closely at the Coosawattee,” said leader Brett Albanese, a senior aquatic zoologist with the Nongame Conservation Section.

Crunching details ranging from aerial snapshots to land-cover statistics marked expected threats such as riverside deforestation for vacation homes and farm runoff. Yet there were also surprises, like the 660 dams in the watershed. Dams block free-flowing stream habitat and fish movement.

GIS specialist Thom Litts of Wildlife Resources’ Fisheries Section used GIS and Maxent species habitat modeling software to develop a computer model that identifies stream sections in which threatened and endangered fishes might be found. “We’re thinking of this as a probability of suitable habitat,” Litts said.

Next comes fieldwork to vet the modeling, plus additional analysis to determine conservation remedies. Albanese lists protecting important populations of goldline darters and state-endangered holiday, trispot and bridled darters as priority.

There is a silver lining. Sampling showed that goldline darters are “doing pretty well” in the Coosawattee, Albanese said.

The challenge: Making sure this river receives the conservation attention its rank commands.

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Toyota Dealers Nationwide Have Begun Fixing Accelerator Pedals on Recalled Vehicles

/PRNewswire/ -- Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc. today announced that Toyota dealers nationwide have received the parts, information and training they need to fix accelerator pedals in recalled Toyota Division vehicles, and that repairs on involved vehicles have begun. The actual repair requires about 30 minutes of work.

The company also announced that it has begun mailing letters to owners of recalled vehicles to let them know when to bring their vehicles into a dealership. Owners will only receive a letter if their vehicle is involved in the recall. Upon receipt of a notification letter, owners will be asked to contact a local Toyota dealership to schedule an appointment to have their vehicle fixed.

"Nothing is more important to us than the safety and reliability of the vehicles our customers drive, and we are determined to live up to the high standards people have come to expect from Toyota over the past 50 years," said Jim Lentz, president and Chief Operating Officer, TMS. "Everyone at Toyota is focused on making this recall simple and trouble-free for our customers," he said.

"We're working hard to ensure that our dealers have the resources and support they need to make sure our customers get their cars fixed quickly," Lentz added. "The parts have been shipped, the dealers are trained, and they are already making the repairs. Many of our dealers are working extended hours - some 24/7- and adding service technicians and other staff to complete the recall campaign as conveniently as possible. I appreciate the efforts that our dealers are making to take care of Toyota owners."

Toyota's engineers developed and rigorously tested a solution to address the potential for sticking accelerator pedals that is both effective and simple. A precision-cut steel reinforcement bar will be installed into the accelerator pedal assembly on affected vehicles, thereby eliminating the excess friction that has caused pedals to stick in rare instances.

Toyota Dealers Going Above and Beyond to Take Care of Customers, Rebuild Confidence and Trust

Toyota dealers across the country are taking extra steps to support customers during this recall.

Many Toyota dealers will offer extended service hours, and some are planning to stay open 24 hours a day until all customer vehicles have been fixed. Others are adding greeters to their service drives, dedicating body shop capacity to expedite repairs, providing free car washes and oil changes, increasing owner communication and providing complimentary maintenance service, among other customer-focused activities.

To support these efforts, Toyota is sending checks of between $7,500 and $75,000 to its dealers in acknowledgement of the additional costs they are assuming to make it easier for customers to have the necessary repairs done quickly and conveniently.

About the Recall to Address Sticking Accelerator Pedals

On January 21, Toyota announced its intention to recall approximately 2.3 million select Toyota Division vehicles equipped with certain accelerator pedal mechanisms that may, in rare instances, mechanically stick in a partially depressed position or return slowly to the idle position. Toyota vehicles affected by the recall include:

-- Certain 2009-2010 RAV4
-- Certain 2009-2010 Corolla
-- 2009-2010 Matrix
-- 2005-2010 Avalon
-- Certain 2007-2010 Camry
-- Certain 2010 Highlander
-- 2007-2010 Tundra
-- 2008-2010 Sequoia

No Lexus Division or Scion vehicles are involved in these actions. Also not involved are Toyota Prius, Tacoma, Sienna, Venza, Solara, Yaris, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser, Highlander hybrids and certain Camry models, including Camry hybrids, all of which remain for sale.

Further, Camry, RAV4, Corolla and Highlander vehicles with Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) that begin with "J" are not affected by the accelerator pedal recall.

In the event that a driver experiences an accelerator pedal that sticks in a partial open throttle position or returns slowly to idle position, the vehicle can be controlled with firm and steady application of the brakes. The brakes should not be pumped repeatedly because it could deplete vacuum assist, requiring stronger brake pedal pressure. The vehicle should be driven to the nearest safe location, the engine shut off and a Toyota dealer contacted for assistance.

Separately from the recall for sticking accelerator pedals, Toyota is in the process of recalling vehicles to address rare instances in which floor mats have trapped the accelerator pedal in certain Toyota and Lexus models (announced November 25, 2009), and is already notifying customers about how it will fix this issue. In the case of vehicles covered by both recalls, it is Toyota's intention to remedy both at the same time.

Detailed information and answers to questions about issues related to these recalls are available to customers at and at the Toyota Customer Experience Center at 1-800-331-4331.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Justice Department Obtains $160,000 Settlement in Discrimination Lawsuit Against Atlanta Area Realtors

/PRNewswire/ -- Atlanta real estate firms Coldwell Banker Joe T. Lane Realty Inc., Coldwell Banker Bullard Realty Company Inc. and Rodney Lee Foreman, one of their former real estate agents, have agreed to pay $160,000 to settle allegations that they illegally steered prospective homebuyers toward and away from certain neighborhoods based on race and color, the Justice Department announced today.

The agreement, subject to approval by a federal court in Atlanta, resolves the Justice Department's Jan. 25, 2009, lawsuit which originated from a complaint filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Testing conducted by NFHA of Coldwell Banker Joe T. Lane Realty Inc. in 2003 and 2004 revealed that Foreman had steered white testers towards areas that are predominately white and away from areas that are predominately African-American because of race or color, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

According to the complaint, before showing the tester any homes, Foreman told the tester that he did not know where to take the tester because he could not tell from talking on the telephone whether the tester was white. Foreman said words to the effect that "I didn't know if you were a Caucasian or not over the phone." After an investigation, HUD found reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination had occurred and referred the matter to the Justice Department.

"People have the right to make fully informed housing choices. Unlawful steering by real estate agents frustrates this right and perpetuates segregated communities," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The work undertaken by NFHA and HUD is critical to our efforts to eliminate such discrimination. Real estate agents nationwide should take note that the Department of Justice works vigilantly to combat this type of discrimination."

"This case demonstrates that racial steering is not a relic of the past. Effective civil rights law enforcement, including testing, can and must put an end to housing discrimination," said John Trasvina, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department. The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.

More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at Persons who believe they have experienced or witnessed unlawful housing discrimination may call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777. More information about the Fair Housing Act can also be found at or

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