Friday, January 29, 2010

Hungarian Ambassador to Visit Clayton State as Part of Two-Day Trip to Atlanta

When His Excellency Béla Szombati, Hungarian Ambassador to the United States, makes his first trip to Atlanta on Thursday, Feb. 11 and Friday, Feb. 12, he’ll be stopping by Clayton State University to speak to Dr. Michael Deis’ Global Business class.

The Ambassador’s visit to Clayton State shouldn’t be a total surprise, since John E. Parkerson, Jr., director of International Programs for Clayton State, has been the Honorary Consul of Hungary for the states of Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina since 2007. Indeed, Parkerson has been working closely with the Hungarian Embassy to arrange a full schedule of meetings for the Ambassador on Feb. 11. Also visiting Atlanta for meetings with the Georgia Legislature, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Governor, the Atlanta Mayor’s office, the Carter Center and the Georgia Tech European Union Center of Excellence, will be commercial and cultural attaches from the embassy.

Szombati’s visit to Deis’ Clayton State class will run from 6:30 p.m. until approximately 7:45 p.m. on Feb. 11 and will be held in room 101 of the University’s Harry S. Downs Center. Other Clayton State business students will also be sitting in on the Ambassador’s presentation, which is open to the public as well.

On Friday, Feb. 12, the Ambassador will take part in a business seminar at the World Trade Center, a VIP dinner, and the first Atlanta Hungarian Carnival, also at the World Trade Center.

“Hungary is a key member of the EU and NATO and the U.S. has a large NATO airbase in western Hungary at Papa,” reminds Parkerson. “Hungary also recently inked a deal with President Obama to accept Guantanamo prisoners.”

Clayton State’s ties to Hungary also include an agreement of collaboration with the University of Pannonia in Veszprem, Hungary, that will result in numerous opportunities for the two institutions, including study abroad, student and faculty development exchanges, and research collaboration. Parkerson
is guest lecturing in International Business and Global Logistics at the University of Pannonia during the last two weeks of February, and a professor from Pannonia will lecture in the Clayton State School of Business in March.

Additional information about the Ambassador is available at: http://www.huembwas.org/Staff/Ambassador.htm.

A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.
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FedEx to Transport Giant Pandas from United States to China Onboard Its New 777F Aircraft

(BUSINESS WIRE)--FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) and the world’s largest express transportation company, is donating its logistical services to transport two giant pandas from the United States to China on February 4, 2010. Working in conjunction with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and Zoo Atlanta, FedEx Express will fly the pandas non-stop from Washington’s Dulles International Airport to Chengdu, China.

“FedEx is uniquely qualified to make this special delivery given our long history connecting the U.S. to China and our extensive global experience in shipping precious cargo, from packages to pandas”

Tai Shan, a 4-and-a-half-year-old male panda born at the National Zoo, and Mei Lan, a 3-year-old female panda born at Zoo Atlanta, will travel onboard a custom-decaled FedEx Express 777 Freighter (777F) – known as the “FedEx Panda Express.”

“FedEx is uniquely qualified to make this special delivery given our long history connecting the U.S. to China and our extensive global experience in shipping precious cargo, from packages to pandas,” said David J. Bronczek, president and CEO, FedEx Express. “It is a privilege to serve as the trusted carrier of these rare pandas, and we are proud to support the preservation efforts of this endangered species.”

Currently, conservationists estimate that only 1,600 pandas remain in the wild. Both Tai Shan and Mei Lan are part of global, giant panda conservation programs.

FedEx Express will fly Mei Lan from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., where she will join Tai Shan in preparation for the trans-Atlantic flight. Onboard the 777F aircraft – which is solely dedicated to the pandas’ journey – Tai Shan and Mei Lan will travel in two custom-built transport containers provided by FedEx Express. The pandas will depart Washington, D.C. late morning on February 4 and arrive in Chengdu late afternoon on February 5, approximately 14 ½ hours between take-off and landing.

The pandas’ flight will be shorter than ever before possible as a result of the fuel-efficient 777F aircraft, the world’s largest twin-engine cargo aircraft and the newest addition to the FedEx global fleet. In early January 2010, FedEx launched the 777F into international service with a direct connection from Shanghai to the U.S.

In addition to donating all the necessary air transportation, FedEx Express is also providing ground and logistical support in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. In both cities, caravans of FedEx vehicles will deliver the pandas to the airport. Local law enforcement will be on hand to ensure a smooth ride for the pandas. FedEx pilots and drivers selected to transport the pandas are some of the company’s most seasoned team members.

FedEx Express, the National Zoo, Zoo Atlanta and the China organizers in Chengdu have worked collaboratively to ensure all necessary precautions have been taken to provide a safe and comfortable flight for the pandas. Animal care experts from both zoos have been granted special flight privileges to accompany the pandas onboard the aircraft.

Upon arriving in Chengdu, Tai Shan will be received by the China Wildlife Conservation Association and the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens will take delivery of Mei Lan. Tai Shan will reside at the China Conservation and Research Center’s Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan, China and Mei Lan will reside at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Due to security regulations, the departure and arrival events for both pandas will be closed to the general public. However, FedEx will provide updates about the pandas’ journey online at news.fedex.com/pandas.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Governor Perdue Announces Executive Appointments

Governor Sonny Perdue announced today the following executive appointments. Brief biographies are provided below:

Board of Commissioners of the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund
P. Homer Bryson, 50, Flowery Branch, State Peace Officer Representative – Bryson is the Colonel and acting Chief of Law Enforcement with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division. He is also a specialized Peace Officers Standards and Training Instructor. He is the legislative chair and past president of the Peace Officers Association of Georgia. He was the state coordinator for water security for the 2004 Group of Eight Economic Summit in Sea Island. He has received numerous honors such as the DNR Law Enforcement Supervisor of the Year and the Coastal Conservation Association of Georgia Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. He earned an associate’s degree from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, a bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State College and a master’s degree from Columbus State University. He is married to Lisa Casey Bryson and has two children, and one stepchild.

Council on Aging
Kenneth P. Brooks, 57, Cochran – Brooks is an associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Cochran. He is the co-director of Pulaski-Bleckley Associational Senior Adult Ministries, and is the volunteer ombudsperson with Heart of Georgia. He is a Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief team member and serves on the Unit 1-F Rehoboth Association where he is a certified leader/director of the feeding unit. He is a trustee and vice chairman of the executive committee of Baptist Village Retirement Communities. Brooks earned an associate’s degree from Brewton Parker College, a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southwestern College, and a master’s degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Rebecca, have two children.

Victoria L. Collier, 39, Scottdale – Collier is an attorney and the owner of The Elder and Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC. She has been admitted to the United States Supreme Court and to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. She served as vice chair of the State Bar of Georgia’s elder law section, and as both the chair and vice chair of the Atlanta Bar Association’s elder law committee. She is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and a member of the Georgia Chapter of NAELA, of which she was also the chair. Collier earned an associate’s degree from Georgia Military College, a bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State University, and a law degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law.

Maria “Mimi” D. Dennis, 62, Eastman – Dennis is the director of student services for the Dodge County Board of Education. She is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma International Honor Society and is a National Beta Club Council Member. She is president-elect of the Dodge Retired Educators Association and serves on the Eastman-Dodge County Chamber of Commerce board of directors, the Dodge County Hospital Foundation Board, and the Ocmulgee Regional Library Board. She is on the board of directors of the Student Assistance Professionals of Georgia (SAPA), of which she is also past president. Dennis earned an associate’s degree from Middle Georgia College, and a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Georgia. She and her husband, Gene, have two children and seven grandchildren.

L. Bruce Nance, 82, Chickamauga, Consumer Representative – Nance is the owner of Nance Jewelry. He is a member of the Chickamauga Lions Club and the American Legion of Chickamauga and he is involved with the Crawfish Springs Masonic Order and the Royal Arch Masons. Nance is a graduate of the School of Horology. He and his wife, Elma, have one child and one grandchild.

Criminal Justice Coordinating Council
Kenneth “Ken” M. Smith, Sr., 70, LaGrange, County Representative – Smith serves on the Troup County Board of Commissioners. He is active with Troup Family Connection Authority and serves on the board of directors. He is a member of the LaGrange Shrine Club and is involved with Troup County Crime-Stoppers. Smith worked in construction for forty years prior to his retirement. He and his wife, Velna, have three children.

Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission
Donald “Don” P. Geary, 53, Lawrenceville – Geary is chief assistant district attorney in the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office. Prior to his legal career, he served as a pilot and flight instructor in the United States Marine Corps. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the USMC. Geary earned two bachelor’s degrees from East Carolina University, a master’s degree from National University, and a law degree from Georgia State University. He and his wife, Robin, have five children and two grandchildren.

Ben L. Kiker, 62, Dalton – Kiker is a karate instructor and director of United Karate Studio. He is a seventh degree black belt in United Karate and has hosted over sixty karate tournaments and a number of full contact fights. He has served as an ISKA Southeast Representative at numerous officiating clinics and has assisted ISKA in developing rules for competition. He also served as an assistant football coach at Haralson County High School. Kiker earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia. He and his wife, Vicki, have one child.

Georgia Composite Medical Board
Alice A. House, M.D., 48, Warner Robins – House is an assistant professor of family medicine at Mercer University School of Medicine. She is a board member of the Georgia Medical Directors Association and is past president of the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians. She is active in the Bibb County Medical Society, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Medical Directors Association. She is also a member of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine and is the board president of the Middle Georgia Concert Band in which she plays the flute and piccolo. House earned two undergraduate degrees from Macon State College and a medical degree from Mercer University School of Medicine. She has three children and five grandchildren.

Georgia Public Service Commission Advisory Committee
Jeffrey Stair, 56, Atlanta, PSC Representative and Chairman – Stair serves as staff attorney for the Georgia Public Service Commission. He is a member of the State Bar of Georgia and is active with “Everybody Wins!”, a national literacy and mentoring nonprofit oganization. Stair earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and a law degree from the University of Georgia. He and his wife, Debbie, have two children.

Governor’s Office for Children and Families Advisory Board
Brittany D. Jean, 23, Atlanta, Youth Representative – Jean is a student at Georgia State University where she is pursuing a master’s degree. She previously worked as an account executive for the Georgia TeenWork Program in the Department of Human Resources’ Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS). She has interned with the Comprehensive Child and Family Assessment Program (DFCS) as well, and in the office of Congressman John Lewis. She is a youth advocate with Georgia EmpowerMEnt Group and is the founder and past president of Uplifted Hands. Jean earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University. She is married to Moise Jean.

Shaquita S. Ogletree, 23, Clarkston, Youth Representative – Ogletree is an after-school counselor with the City of Decatur Children and Youth Services. She is active with Georgia EmpowerMEnt. She is also an AmeriCorps Alum and a Foster Care of America Alum. Ogletree earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard University.

W. Duane Whitley, 60, Baxley – Whitley is president and owner of Independent Office Services, Inc. He serves on the board of trustees for the Baxley Wilderness Institute and is an executive board member of its parent company, the Associated Marine Institute. He is also a member of the Workforce Investment Board of Claxton and is former chairman of the Appling County Board of Commissioners. Whitley earned an associate’s degree from South Georgia College. He is married to Margaret Whitley.

Professional Standards Commission
André B. Mountain, 34, Augusta – Mountain is a teacher on special assignment in the Department of Curriculum with the Richmond County School System. He was appointed as a Georgia TAPP Ambassador and was a Richmond County Public School Teacher of the Year finalist. He previously taught reading/language arts at Monte Sano Elementary School. Mountain earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University, a master’s degree from Wesleyan College, and a specialist’s degree from Augusta State University. He and his wife, Tanesha, have one child.

State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors
Michael “Mike” S. Fletcher, 59, Marietta, Structural Engineer Representative – Fletcher is director of the Atlanta Office of Halvorson and Partners, P.C. He has over 30 years of experience in structural engineering and is licensed as a structural engineer in Illinois, an architect in Texas, and as a professional engineer in Georgia and five other states. He is an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Structural Engineers Association of Georgia, and the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations. Fletcher earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois. He and his wife, Linda, have two children.

State Board of Registration of Used Car Dealers and Used Motor Vehicle Parts Dealers
Alexander R. Grovenstein, 30, Pembroke, Consumer Representative – Grovenstein is assistant director of alumni relations at Georgia Southern University. He is a member of the Statesboro Kiwanis Club and the Georgia Southern University Alumni Association. He is also currently a member of the Georgia Southern University Public Relations Advisory Board and a member of the Sons of the American Legion. Grovenstein earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University. He and his wife, Angela, have two children.

J. Michael “Mike” Rosser, 57, Monroe, Salvage Pool Representative – Rosser is the owner of Newton Auto Salvage, Inc. in Covington. He served as secretary/treasurer of Georgia Automotive Recyclers Association. Rosser earned a bachelor’s degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He and his wife, Fran, have one child.

Jonathan “Jon” W. Shoemaker, 54, McDonough, Consumer Representative – Shoemaker is facilities manager at Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church. He has over 30 years combined experience in civil engineering and construction consulting and is past president of C.B.S Motorsports, Inc. Shoemaker earned a bachelor’s degree from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He and his wife, Debra, have three children and one grandchild.

State Workforce Investment Board
Eunice M. Glover, 64, Atlanta, Business Representative – Glover is the president of the Center for Enhancing Organizational Learning and Development, LLC. She is the president of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Georgia State Council and is a member of the SHRM Expert Panel on Organizational Development. She is also president of the Audubon Forest Neighborhood Association and the chair of the NPU-I Safety Committee. Glover earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University and a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix. She and her husband, Hamilton, have four children and sixteen grandchildren.
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New Research Reveals Georgia Companies Lack Social Media Engagement

/PRNewswire/ -- Georgia's top public and private companies scored a D for social media engagement in 2009, according to a new study by Wunderkind Public Relations, an Atlanta-based communications strategy and services company. The Social Media Engagement (SME) scorecard reflects the activity of corporations and their chief executives in social media channels for Georgia's top 25 public and top 25 private companies, as determined by revenue and published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle 2009 Book of Lists. Wunderkind Public Relations established a company's score based on its use of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and a corporate blog.

"Clearly, there are corporations in the study that are effectively using social media marketing and networking on a daily basis, but the data shows the large majority of companies in Georgia are still evaluating social media as a business tool," said Steve McAbee, president and founder, Wunderkind Public Relations. "We expect this to change in 2010 as more companies seek to employ tools and technology to further extend their marketing budgets including social media, which provides businesses with an affordable content distribution option to supplement higher-cost initiatives."

Companies received a point for each of the five social media tools they employ, for a maximum score of five, where a perfect score is equivalent to an A grade. Data from the Georgia SME scorecard shows business-to-consumer (B2C) companies are more than twice as engaged with customers and prospects online than their business-to-business (B2B) counterparts. Private B2C companies had the highest SME score (3.2), followed by public B2C companies (3.0), public B2B companies (1.76), and finally private B2B companies (1.6). Omitting LinkedIn, a popular professional networking service, less than 20 percent of the companies researched appear to have an ongoing social media effort, though data was insufficient to conclude whether or not the channels were utilized with any frequency or as part of an integrated marketing plan.

Four Georgia companies received perfect scores: AGCO Corp., the Coca-Cola Company, Delta Airlines, and Infor Global Solutions. These companies utilize a variety of channels to create an interactive dialogue with customers, prospects and employees. On the other hand, thirty-one companies received a score of 2 or less, and all but one company is using some channel of social media. Data also concluded that public companies as a whole, whether B2C or B2B, are more engaged (2.36) than private companies (1.92).

Worldwide, companies are utilizing the emerging medium to strategically and methodically establish or reinforce their influence, reputation and brand within communities of existing and potential customers, prospects and other supporters. Most effective when integrated with more established marketing channels, social media is being embraced by companies of all sizes for its low-cost content distribution model and as a powerful catalyst for viral marketing. On social media sites, groups of individuals with different points of views are empowered to collectively determine the value or importance of content disseminated throughout the community. In most cases, users are given the editorial power to influence the visibility of content, providing significant insight to companies regarding their brand, products and services.

Highlights of the Georgia Social Media Engagement Scorecard:
-- LinkedIn is the most popular social networking service; 96% of all
companies have a LinkedIn page, followed by Facebook (42%) and Twitter
(38%)
-- Only 9 companies received a SME score of 4 or better
-- CEOs lack engagement with an average SME score of .26
-- 12 companies have a dedicated YouTube channel while only 7 have a blog
-- Only 1 CEO contributes to the company blog

Georgia CEOs Use LinkedIn More Than Other Channels

Among the chief executives of Georgia's top companies, data showed CEOs of private companies are more engaged than those of public companies, though almost all of that is attributed to their LinkedIn profiles. Thirty-two percent of private CEOs maintain a profile on LinkedIn, compared to only 16 percent of their counterparts in public enterprise. None of Georgia's top CEOs maintains a public-facing Facebook account.

Outside of Georgia, some CEO early-adopters, like Tony Hseih of Zappos, Virgin Group's Richard Branson, Guy Kawasaki of Garage Technology Ventures and AllTop, and Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems, are engaged with the public through a wide spectrum of social media tools from Twitter to blogs.

A new generation of corporate leadership is emerging and the C-suite is being occupied by an increasingly more digitally connected network. For B2C companies this means another touchpoint to the customer--a personal connection between company leadership and the consumer. In B2B circles, the rise of the social CEO means their customers, the executives who make purchasing decisions, will be dramatically more engaged and will seek to connect with vendors or research the brand's reputation through online channels.

"We certainly aren't advocating that all CEOs jump on the social media bandwagon - there are too many variables for social media to be one-size-fits-all - but the extremely low adoption rate among CEOs in Georgia is interesting given the explosive growth of social media in 2009," said McAbee. "This medium can provide CEOs an open line of communication with customers, investors and partners to start a constructive, long-term and transparent dialogue. However, before the CEO becomes involved with social media, the brand itself should get it right."

In the wake of a worldwide recession, many companies have recognized how the broad use of online tools can help attract and retain customers and have embraced social media out of an appreciation for the power online customers wield over brands, corporate reputations and public opinion. Additionally, younger generations of workers and college students are well connected and digitally engaged, making social media an effective tool for talent recruiting. These factors, combined with social media's low cost of entry, demonstrate social media's growing importance and are among the reasons analyst firms predict social media marketing budgets will quadruple over the next five years.

"The Georgia study found the majority of companies are participating in one-way conversations where they have complete control," said McAbee. "The real impact social media can have on an organization will only be fully realized when a company engages with its audiences by monitoring and managing the online conversation and participating in two-way communication. We look forward to following the progress of social media usage among Georgia's businesses and updating the results in next year's study."

Additional Information:
-- Wunderkind Public Relations' Georgia Social Media Engagement Scorecard
SlideShare
-- Georgia Social Media Engagement Scorecard Methodology
-- Georgia Social Media Engagement Company Index
-- Whitepaper: Is Social Media Right for B2B Companies?

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Consumers Use Over $3.5 Billion in Coupons, Drive 27% Increase in Redemption for 2009

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Inmar, the nation’s leading promotion transaction settlement provider, reported today that annual coupon use is on the rise for the first time since 1992 and coupon distribution hit the highest level recorded since the company began tracking trends in 1988. For the first time in 17 years, consumers used more coupons than they did the year before, with 3.3 billion consumer packaged goods coupons redeemed, an explosive 27% increase over the 2.6 billion redeemed in 2008.

“Brands saw coupons as a key to maintaining brand strength”

The rise in coupon use started in October of 2008, coinciding with news of the U.S. financial crisis. That has led to five consecutive quarters of double-digit growth (based on percentage change from the same period of the previous year).

The increase in redemption goes hand-in-hand with an increase in distribution. Despite the tight economy, marketers invested heavily in coupons, boosting the number available to the highest level in over 30 years. Brands issued 367 billion coupons, at an average face value of $1.44, indicating that they were committed to promotions in 2009.

News America Marketing, the company behind the SmartSource Magazine coupon inserts and consumer coupon site www.smartsource.com, says the data supports what they saw last year.

“There has been a noticeable increase in page count over the past year,” said News America Marketing EVP of Marketing, Jesse Aversano. “Manufacturers understand that in a tough economy, coupons are an effective and efficient way to spend their advertising dollar.”

“Brands saw coupons as a key to maintaining brand strength,” adds Matthew Tilley, Director of Marketing for Inmar’s promotion services division. “If they reduced their promotional presence, they stood to lose sales to lower priced competitors and store brands – so they doubled down hoping to create brand loyalty once the economic dust settles.”

News America Marketing also reported an increase in retailer promotion pages in its free-standing insert (FSI), driven primarily by the shift in advertising and promotion dollars to Shopper Marketing initiatives, according to Aversano.

Online coupons also contributed to the rise in coupon distribution and redemption, with Internet distribution up 92% and consumer redemption of these coupons up over 360%.

“The weekly prints from SmartSource.com are more than double what we saw a year ago, which was double what our 2007 numbers were,” said Aversano. “However, in spite of the meteoric rise in online and digital couponing, the traditional newspaper-distributed FSI still accounts for 89% of all coupons distributed and over half of the coupons redeemed. Consumers expect to find coupons in their Sunday papers, and we’ll continue to be there for them. But they’ll also find us online, in stores, on cell phones and anywhere else that they want to find them.”

As coupon numbers across the board were on the rise in 2009, brands were forced to mitigate the cost of increased redemption by maintaining face values and keeping expiration periods in check. In 2009, face values declined by a penny, reversing a multi-year trend of increasing values. Expiration periods were shortened by 10% last year, despite years of virtually no change.

“This is an exciting time to be in the coupon business,” said Tilley. “Of course, we don’t know how long this upward trend will continue, but it is evident that coupons are back on shoppers’ radar; the economic downturn has instilled a drive to be smart and frugal about spending and coupons definitely have a role in fulfilling it.”

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Friday, January 22, 2010

When to Take Social Security: Questions to Consider

/PRNewswire/ -- Monthly benefits will be higher for the rest of your life and you can get as much as a 76% boost in monthly retirement benefits if you delay claiming Social Security benefits, according to a new National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) brief released today. "When to Take Social Security Benefits" asks (and answers) questions that people should consider while deciding when to claim Social Security benefits.

"When to stop working and when to take Social Security are two of the most important financial decisions that people make," said Virginia Reno, co-author of the brief and Vice President for Income Security and the National Academy of Social Insurance. "Conventional wisdom often favors taking Social Security at the earliest opportunity. Yet waiting to claim benefits can bring the greatest financial security to a retiree over the long-term."

The brief addresses the following questions:

Q: How much difference does it make to wait?

A: Your benefit will be about 76 percent greater if you wait until age 70 to claim Social Security than if you had claimed benefits at age 62.

Q: What should I consider in deciding when to take Social Security?
A: Consider that:
-- Social Security is one of the few sources of retirement income that is
guaranteed to last for as long as you live;
-- Social Security is automatically adjusted to keep up with the cost of
living; and
-- Social Security does not put individual recipients at risk of
volatility in stock market returns.

Q: Is there a risk in waiting? Will Social Security still be there?

A: There is no risk in waiting. Social Security's finances are much stronger than many people fear. Small changes will ensure that benefits will be paid on time for the next 75 years and beyond.

Social Security is the safest and most secure source of retirement income most people have and it grows more important at older ages. According to the brief, nearly six in ten elders get half or more of their income from Social Security. "An important principle in deciding when to take benefits is to avoid unnecessary financial hardship caused by reducing the secure income one has available in the final years of one's life," said Janice Gregory, President of the National Academy of Social Insurance. "Delaying receipt of Social Security benefits recognizes the value of Social Security as insurance against the common financial risks retirees face."

To download the brief, visit the NASI website at www.nasi.org. Financial support was provided by The Actuarial Foundation in Schaumburg, Illinois.

The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation's leading experts on social insurance. Its mission is to promote understanding of how social insurance contributes to economic security and a vibrant economy.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Clayton State’s Black History Month Observance Runs from February 2 to February 25

February is designated as Black History Month to celebrate the culture and lives of African Americans. This year, Clayton State University will focus on the achievements and foundations of historical icons who changed the course of Black history and created opportunities for future generations. A total of eight events are planned from Feb. 2 to Feb. 25, highlighted by the Walk of Dreams on Wednesday, Feb. 3 and the Black History Month Super Bowl on Thursday, Feb. 18.

The African American Read-In on Tuesday, Feb. 2, will feature students reading from selections of their favorite African America authors. The Read-In is sponsored by the Clayton State English Department and The National Council of Teachers of English and will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in room 272 of the James M. Baker University Center.

The Walk of Dreams will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., in the Student Activities Center ballrooms A and B. This theatrical presentation will be a special tribute to the lives and legacies of prominent African Americans during slavery, Civil Rights Movement, Harlem Renaissance and beyond. The Walks of Dreams is sponsored by the Department of Campus Life and DEEP Peer Educators.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, “The Conversation: Relevance and Purpose of BGLOs in the 21st Century,” a dialogue on the evolution and significance of Black fraternities and sororities (Black Greek-Letter Organizations, or BGLOs) sponsored by: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in ballroom C of the Student Activities Center.

Actress Greta Glenn will portray “Marian Anderson: A Song for My Country,” in Spivey Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at both 9:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. Presented by the Capitol City Opera Company, this one-woman opera-play features Glenn portraying the famous Philadelphia-born opera singer Marian Anderson – the first black woman to sing at the Metropolitan Opera and one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th century. Written by Theatre Gael’s John Stevens, this program gives the audience an insightful look at Marian’s life, including the challenges she overcame and the triumphs she achieved.

Tickets to the show are only $1. Those wishing to attend either performance must call the Spivey Hall Education Department at (678) 466-4481 or email educationmanager@spiveyhall.org to reserve a ticket in advance. Any walk-ups on the day of the show will not be guaranteed a seat and will be subject to a $2 ticket price. For more information on this and other education programs, visit www.spiveyhall.org/education.

On Tuesday, Feb. 16, “The Hotseat” is a program is designed to provide participants with a safe environment to discuss controversial topics regarding the opposite sex including communication, dating, and relationships. Sponsored by the African American Male Initiative, “The Hotseat” will start at 6 p.m. in the Laker Hall multipurpose room.

The Black History Month Super Bowl is a game show designed to test the participants’ knowledge of African Americans. Scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 18 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Student Activities Center Ballrooms A and B and sponsored by the Campus Events Council, Campus Life, and DEEP Peer Educators, the winning team in the Super Bowl will walk away with the grand prize of $200.

The Third Annual Black History Month Gospel Explosion will be held on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 5 p.m. in the Student Activities Center ballroom. Sponsored by the Appointed Generation Gospel Choir, the Gospel Explosion will feature local artists, collegiate choirs and liturgical dancers from the surrounding area.

The Black History Month Cultural Connection is an opportunity to learn more about the African American culture through entertainment, refreshments, and much more. Sponsored by the Campus Events Council, the Black History Month Cultural Connection will be held on Thursday, Feb. 25, in Student Activities ballroom C, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.

Mystery/Secret Shopper Schemes

The IC3 has been alerted to an increase in employment schemes pertaining to mystery/secret shopper positions. Many retail and service corporations hire evaluators to perform secret or random checks on themselves or their competitors, and fraudsters are capitalizing on this employment opportunity.

Victims have reported to the IC3 they were contacted via e-mail and U.S. mail to apply to be a mystery shopper. Applicants are asked to send a resume and are purportedly subject to an extensive background check before being accepted as a mystery shopper. The employees are sent a check with instructions to shop at a specified retailer for a specific length of time and spend a specific amount on merchandise from the store. The employees receive instructions to take note of the store's environment, color, payment procedures, gift items, and shopping/carrier bags and report back to the employer. The second evaluation is the ease and accuracy of wiring money from the retail location. The money to be wired is also included in the check sent to the employee. The remaining balance is the employee's payment for the completion of the assignment. After merchandise is purchased and money is wired, the employees are advised by the bank the check cashed was counterfeit, and they are responsible for the money lost in addition to bank fees incurred.

In other versions of the scheme, applicants are requested to provide bank account information to have money directly deposited into their accounts. The fraudster then has acquired access to these victims' accounts and can withdraw money, which makes the applicant a victim of identity theft.

Tips

Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of employment schemes associated with mystery/secret shopping:

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Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
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Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
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Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Virus scan all attachments, if possible.
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Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
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Always compare the link in the e-mail to the link you are actually directed to and determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.
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There are legitimate mystery/secret shopper programs available. Research the legitimacy on companies hiring mystery shoppers. Legitimate companies will not charge an application fee and will accept applications online.
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No legitimate mystery/secret shopper program will send payment in advance and ask the employee to send a portion of it back.

Individuals who believe they have information pertaining to mystery/secret shopper schemes are encouraged to file a complaint at www.IC3.gov.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

President Obama Tasks Former Presidents Bush and Clinton with Fundraising for Haiti Recovery

/PRNewswire-/ -- The U.S. Fund for UNICEF today applauded the joint efforts of President Obama and Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in ensuring that the American response to the crisis in Haiti is sustained over the long-term.

"On behalf of Haiti's children, we applaud the joint initiative of President Obama and Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to provide leadership, resources and visibility to the long term recovery effort," said Caryl Stern, President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

"When the media spotlight fades from the initial disaster relief, UNICEF and its partners will still be on the ground, working to build Haiti back and this cannot be accomplished with out sustained support. Though we cannot undo the damage of Tuesday's earthquake, we can decide to make Haiti's children a priority and work to ensure their childhoods are not irrevocably destroyed by its aftermath."

Efforts are underway to unload and deliver UNICEF emergency supplies and equipment that arrived in Port-au-Prince by plane in the early hours this morning. This first UNICEF shipment included water tanks, water purification tablets and rehydration salts. Clean water and sanitation are amongst the most important emergency relief needs following most emergencies, in particular to protect against the serious health risks posed by diarrheal infections and diseases.

Two more planes loaded with relief are planned for the weekend, carrying some 70 metric tons of tents, tarpaulin, and medicine.

Many of Haiti's public buildings and utilities have been destroyed. There is severe damage to hospitals, schools and the city's two seaports. This infrastructure damage has resulted in large scale displacement of people from their homes, into makeshift and overcrowded shelters.

As communications systems and infrastructure damaged by the earthquake that hit near Port au Prince on January 12 are slowly being repaired, precise information about the damage is still not available. According to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) some 3.5 million people are estimated to be in the areas affected by the earthquake and its aftershocks. Thousands are feared dead, many more injured and unknown numbers still buried under the rubble.

UNICEF efforts to assist with life-saving and recovery operations in Haiti will focus on clean water and sanitation, therapeutic food for infants and small children, medical supplies and temporary shelter.

To donate to the ongoing emergency relief efforts in Haiti and the Caribbean region, please visit: www.unicefusa.org/haitiquake or call 1-800-4UNICEF.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Georgia Power's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Volunteer Service Projects Focus on Energy Efficiency

/PRNewswire/ -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"

For the past 10 years, Georgia Power and Southern Company (NYSE:SO) have urged their employees to honor Dr. King's legacy by volunteering on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Since beginning the volunteer service endeavor several years ago, hundreds of employees have participated in activities statewide to beautify neighborhoods and support community programs.

This year, in addition to the company's traditional volunteer activities, Georgia Power and Southern Company are teaming up with the city of Atlanta and the King Center to focus on energy-efficiency projects.

"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a vision to do everything possible to help those less fortunate in our community improve their standard of living," said Georgia Power President and CEO Mike Garrett. "This is a golden opportunity to make good on his vision by helping people save money, and use energy more efficiently."

One project involves replacing the shower heads and faucet aerators at all city of Atlanta natatoriums with new, efficient ones that save water and energy. Additionally, an energy-audit assessment and improvements will be made to the MLK natatorium.

"Georgia Power is one of the city's most valued corporate partners, and we appreciate their continued efforts to honor the legacy of Dr. King," said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. "This effort to improve energy efficiency in city facilities and in the Atlanta community is not only symbolic of King's vision, but represents a real contribution to people's livelihoods."

Georgia Power employees also will be giving away 6,000 compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and staffing interactive displays at the King Center on Monday to educate attendees on energy efficiency.

"Taking the small step of replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient CFLs can make a large impact on preserving the environment," Garrett continued. "It's also a smart and easy way for consumers to save money and energy at the same time."

Upon taking the ENERGY STAR® Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR pledge, which asks each recipient to replace at least one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR-qualified CFL, visitors will receive a free CFL. Georgia Power leads the nation in generating these pledges.

"Dr. King made such a remarkable impact on our nation through his service, it is only fitting that we honor his legacy with our own service," said David Ratcliffe, President and CEO of Southern Company. "Dr. King once said, 'Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.' The King Holiday affords the ideal opportunity to remember the legacy of a great American by being one yourself."

In addition to the displays and give-a way's at the King Center, the company has coordinated with volunteers from the King Center and Ebenezer Baptist Church to distribute or change out inefficient light bulbs in a low-income housing development and to residents in Atlanta's Fourth Ward.

Georgia Power employees and their family members also will volunteer at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Lutheran Towers, Mary Ann Manley House, South Bend Park and Bellwood Boys & Girls Club.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

NASA Caught in Climate Data Manipulation; New Revelations Headlined on KUSI-TV Climate Special

/PRNewswire/ -- Climate researchers have discovered that NASA researchers improperly manipulated data in order to claim 2005 as "THE WARMEST YEAR ON RECORD." KUSI-TV meteorologist, Weather Channel founder, and iconic weatherman John Coleman will present these findings in a one-hour special airing on KUSI-TV on Jan.14 at 9 p.m. A related report will be made available on the Internet at 6 p.m. EST on January 14th at www.kusi.com.

In a new report, computer expert E. Michael Smith and Certified Consulting Meteorologist Joseph D'Aleo discovered extensive manipulation of the temperature data by the U.S. Government's two primary climate centers: the National Climate Data Center (NCDC) in Ashville, North Carolina and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) at Columbia University in New York City. Smith and D'Aleo accuse these centers of manipulating temperature data to give the appearance of warmer temperatures than actually occurred by trimming the number and location of weather observation stations. The report is available online at http://icecap.us/images/uploads/NOAAroleinclimategate.pdf.

The report reveals that there were no actual temperatures left in the computer database when NASA/NCDC proclaimed 2005 as "THE WARMEST YEAR ON RECORD." The NCDC deleted actual temperatures at thousands of locations throughout the world as it changed to a system of global grid points, each of which is determined by averaging the temperatures of two or more adjacent weather observation stations. So the NCDC grid map contains only averaged, not real temperatures, giving rise to significant doubt that the result is a valid representation of Earth temperatures.

The number of actual weather observation points used as a starting point for world average temperatures was reduced from about 6,000 in the 1970s to about 1,000 now. "That leaves much of the world unaccounted for," says D'Aleo.

The NCDC data are regularly used by the National Weather Service to declare a given month or year as setting a record for warmth. Such pronouncements are typically made in support of the global warming alarmism agenda. Researchers who support the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also regularly use the NASA/NCDC data, including researchers associated with the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia that is now at the center of the "Climategate" controversy.

This problem is only the tip of the iceberg with NCDC data. "For one thing, it is clear that comparing data from previous years, when the final figure was produced by averaging a large number of temperatures, with those of later years, produced from a small temperature base and the grid method, is like comparing apples and oranges," says Smith. "When the differences between the warmest year in history and the tenth warmest year is less than three quarters of a degree, it becomes silly to rely on such comparisons," added D'Aleo who asserts that the data manipulation is "scientific travesty" that was committed by activist scientists to advance the global warming agenda.

Smith and D'Aleo are both interviewed as part of a report on this study on the television special, "Global Warming: The Other Side" seen at 9 PM on January 14th on KUSI-TV, channel 9/51, San Diego, California. That program can now be viewed via computer at the website http://www.kusi.com/. The detailed report is available at http://icecap.us/images/uploads/NOAAroleinclimategate.pdf.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Can a drop of water cause sunburn or fire?

To the gardening world it may have always been considered a fact, but science has never proved the widely held belief that watering your garden in the midday sun can lead to burnt plants. Now a study into sunlit water droplets, published in New Phytologist, provides an answer that not only reverberates across gardens and allotments, but may have implications for forest fires and human sunburn.

"The problem of light focusing by water droplets adhered to plants has never been thoroughly investigated, neither theoretically, nor experimentally", said lead researcher Dr Gabor Horvath, from Hungary's Eotvos University. "However, this is far from a trivial question. The prevailing opinion is that forest fires can be sparked by intense sunlight focused by water drops on dried-out vegetation."

The team conducted both computational and experimental studies to determine how the contact angle between the water droplet and a leaf affects the light environment on a leaf blade. The aim was to clarify the environmental conditions under which sunlit water drops can cause leaf burn.

These experiments found that water droplets on a smooth surface, such as maple or ginkgo leaves, cannot cause leaf burn. However in contrast the team found that floating fern leaves, which have small wax hairs, are susceptible to leaf burn. This is because the hairs can hold the water droplets in focus above the leaf's surface, acting as a magnifying glass. The latter not only partly confirms the widely held belief of gardeners, but also opens an analogous issue of sunburn on hairy human skin after bathing.

"In sunshine water drops residing on smooth hairless plant leaves are unlikely to damage the leaf tissue", summarised Horvath and co-authors. "However water drops held by plant hairs can indeed cause sunburn and the same phenomenon can occur when water droplets are held above human skin by body hair."

While the same process could theoretically lead to forest fires if water droplets are caught on dried-out vegetation, Horvath and colleagues added a note of caution:

"If the focal region of drops falls exactly on the dry plant surface intensely focused sunlight could theoretically start a fire," Horvath said. "However, the likelihood is reduced as the water drops should evaporate before this, so these claims should be treated with a grain of salt."

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-01/w-cad010810.php


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New AIDS Campaign Targets Previously Neglected Segment of Black America

/PRNewswire/ -- Thirty-four percent of new male HIV infections are in the 40-plus age range and 36 percent of new female HIV infections are in the 40-plus age range. Yet according to the Black AIDS Institute, there have been very few campaigns targeting this population.

"Last year Washington D.C. reported that one in 10 residents between the ages of 40 and 49 had the virus," says Black AIDS Institute Founder and CEO Phill Wilson. "That is an epidemic that rivals the worst AIDS epidemics in the poorest countries on the planet."

The Black AIDS Institute has found an innovative way to help Black people ages 40 and up become more aware of HIV/AIDS while raising money to fight the disease in Black communities. The campaign is called Trump AIDS. The campaign uses the traditional Black pastime of bid whist, popular with Black Americans aged 40-plus, as a unique way to target this often overlooked HIV/AIDS demographic. The Martin Luther King Jr. weekend kick-off event in Atlanta, GA includes a Bid Whist Qualifying Tournament and Health Fair in partnership with local Atlanta organizations Sister Love and AID Atlanta.

"We are proud to partner with the Black AIDS Institute on this new and innovative awareness campaign to reach Black Americans," says Sister Love Founder and President Dazon Dixon. "When two-thirds of the new HIV/AIDS cases among women in the US are Black, now more than ever it's important to educate and reach every demographic of the Black community."

The Health Fair includes free onsite HIV testing for all Tournament attendees, players and guests. All are welcome to attend.

"Rates of HIV in persons over 50 years of age are 12 times higher among African Americans than among whites," according to Achieve Quarterly's article on HIV Prevention by Timothy G. Heckman, Ph.D. "Older people do not consider themselves at risk. Physicians rarely talk to older patients about sex or other risk behaviors."

"Trump AIDS is an unprecedented event that will provide Black people who are not actively engaged in the HIV battle with access to important health information," says Black AIDS Institute COO Aron Myers. "This is a tremendous opportunity for the Atlanta community and good citizenship for all."

"There's no way to end the AIDS epidemic in Black communities without targeting this population," adds Wilson. "The Black AIDS Institute has spent the last decade meeting Black folks where they are. Trump AIDS is a perfect example of identifying an indigenous past time in our community and using it to deliver culturally effective messaging. Everything about this effort, from the date and city where we launch the campaign to celebrity co-chairs--Danny Glover and Jackee Harry--celebrate Black culture."

"I'm proud to be a Co-Chair of the TrumpAIDS campaign," says Actor and AIDS Activist Danny Glover. "AIDS does not only affect a select demographic such as youth, women, or gays. It affects all groups of people. That is why Trump AIDS is such an important campaign for Black people to support and participate in. We must unite as a community -- for the sake of our community. To do nothing is to be part of the problem."

Trump AIDS launches in Atlanta, GA in partnership with the 7NO! Players.

"The 7NO! Players are excited to host the kick-off event in Atlanta, GA Martin Luther King Jr. weekend,' says Montez Collins, President, 7NO! Players. "We look forward to welcoming all of our regular bid whist players and any new comers who are interested in learning more about the game."

Participants are encouraged to get involved with ending the AIDS epidemic in the Black community while having fun and potentially winning prizes. For a complete list of cities hosting events and to register visit www.TrumpAIDS.org.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Georgia’s public libraries celebrate 10 years of PINES

Georgia’s Public Information Network for Electronic Services (PINES) celebrates the start of its second decade this month, having saved the state’s public libraries more than $70 million in its first 10 years.

“PINES has evolved from a fledgling loan program at fewer than 100 facilities to a thriving network of nearly 290 public libraries and service outlets,” said Julie Walker, deputy state librarian. “Based on the costs for individual systems to provide the same services offered by PINES, we estimate that it has saved the state a very impressive amount in its first decade.”

According to PINES Program Director Elizabeth McKinney, PINES has saved Georgia’s public libraries more than $11 million in one-time costs and, exclusive of staff salaries, nearly $61.5 million in ongoing costs since its inception.

From the start, the goal of PINES was to create a statewide, borderless library — one that eliminated geographic and socio-economic barriers and would provide equal access to information for all Georgians. The program went live at 98 libraries in 26 public library systems on Dec. 15, 1999, offering a shared catalog of approximately 1.8 million items. It achieved its largest annual growth in 2001, when 111 libraries in 16 systems were added. PINES issued its 1 millionth card in May 2003 and its 2 millionth card in November 2008.

Today, PINES is in use at 51 library systems across the state, and it covers 140 counties. It is the lifeblood of 281 libraries and service outlets. Together, participating PINES facilities offer citizens a shared catalog of more than 10 million items that can be accessed by a single library card that is welcomed by all.

McKinney pointed out that this year’s PINES User Satisfaction Survey delivered the program’s highest-ever satisfaction ratings. Better than 19 out of 20 respondents (95.6 percent) would recommend the PINES system to friends, with more than four out of five respondents (82.9 percent) using the catalog at least weekly to renew books online, place holds on books, determine fines or see what items they have checked out.

"As we reach the 10-year mark and see how the service has grown, it is gratifying to take a look back at some of the moments that helped define PINES," McKinney said. “PINES provided the first statewide library card in the world with a single bibliographic and patron database. We’ve gone from lending approximately 6,000 items in FY 2000 to nearly 600,000 in FY 2009, and we have shown the world a new model for cost savings through PINES' economy of scale.”

In 2004, PINES was officially designated an “elite cataloging group” by the Online Computer Library Center. In 2007, it received a $50,000 Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration in recognition of the development and release of the Evergreen open-source library automation system. And in May of this year, the PINES community co-hosted the inaugural Evergreen International Conference with 155 attendees from around the world.

“It is with great pride that we celebrate these milestones from our first decade with the millions of users who have either been with PINES since the beginning or who have joined when they were given the opportunity," said State Librarian Dr. Lamar Veatch.

To commemorate the start of PINES’ second decade, Georgia Public Library Service will introduce a new PINES logo this month. A variety of PINES-related events will take place during 2010, with the official birthday celebration set to coincide with the PINES annual meeting in Warner Robins on May 15.

A complete list of participating libraries and service outlets, along with the full PINES catalog, is available from workstations within all Georgia public libraries, as well as for users logging in from home, at gapines.org.

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Rebate Cards Come With Fees and Other Gotchas

/PRNewswire/ -- If you got a rebate from holiday shopping this year, there's a good chance it came in the form of a rebate card. More and more retailers are switching from issuing rebate checks to providing rebates on prepaid cards that look like gift cards. But rebate cards come with fees and other restrictions that can diminish their value, according to Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.

"The switch to issuing rebates on plastic is saving retailers money but consumers stand to lose out to a host of fees that can eat into their rebate savings," said Michelle Jun, staff attorney with Consumers Union. "Consumers should be sure to read the fine print carefully when they get a rebate card to make sure they end up getting the full rebate they were promised."

Retailers issued $4.24 billion in rebates on rebate cards in 2008, according to Mercator, a market research consulting firm for the prepaid card industry. That represents a 53 percent jump from the previous year and industry analysts expect that trend to pick up in the coming years.

While rebate cards resemble gift cards, they aren't governed by state laws and a new federal law that limit fees and quick expiration dates on gift cards. The Credit CARD Act of 2009 prohibits gift cards from expiring before five years from the date of purchase or when money was last loaded onto the card. Gift card issuers are barred from charging fees for the first 12 months. These federal gift card protections will go into effect in August and stronger state protections will remain in effect.

Rebate cards come in two forms: "closed-loop" cards that can only be used by the retailer that issues it and "open-loop" cards issued by Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover. These "open-loop" cards can be used anywhere the card network is accepted. In most cases, the only way to redeem the funds on a rebate card is to buy something else. Rebate checks, on the other hand, can be deposited into a bank account.

To help consumers avoid problems with rebate cards, Consumers Union issued the following tips:

Watch out for rebate card fees: Like other prepaid cards, rebate cards can come loaded with fees, including fees for activating the card, checking balances, inactivity, going over the limit, or replacing a lost or stolen card. Be sure to read the fine print when you receive a rebate card to become familiar with the fees you might be charged so you can avoid them.

Keep an eye on rebate card expiration dates: Many consumers have a tendency to hang onto gift cards instead of spending them right away. That could be a big mistake with a rebate card since it might expire quickly. Some rebate cards expire in as little as three months. The best advice is to check the expiration date when you receive a rebate card and spend it before it expires or you accrue other fees.

Know your balance and avoid problems at the check-out: Rebate cards can sometimes be difficult to use if the funds on the card don't cover the full amount of the purchase. To avoid this problem, keep track of the balance on your card and ask the merchant to make a "split tender transaction" so you can use the rebate card and some other form of payment to cover the full amount. Unfortunately, not all cashiers know how to process these kinds of transactions, which can make redeeming your rebate card unnecessarily frustrating.

Be aware that your rights may be limited if your card is lost or stolen: When rebate cards are lost or stolen and used by others to make fraudulent transactions, consumers are not protected by the same regulatory and statutory safeguards that enable debit card users to recover their money. If a consumer contacts a card issuer about a lost or stolen debit card within two business days, the consumer's liability is limited to up to $50 (or up to $500 if the consumer reports the debit card lost or stolen after two business days). By contrast, rebate cards may only have voluntary protections that could be revised or rescinded at any time for any reason.

"It's time for the law to catch up with this latest form of plastic payment so consumers don't end up losing their rebate savings to hidden fees and short expiration dates," said Pamela Banks, policy counsel for Consumers Union. "The emergence of rebate cards is a perfect example of why we need a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) so that government regulators can respond more quickly and effectively to problems created by new financial products."

Last October, the House passed financial reform legislation that includes the creation of the CFPA, which would be charged with making sure that financial products and services are more transparent, fair and understandable for consumers. The CFPA will have the power to write and enforce rules, to fill the gaps under specific existing consumer protection statutes, and also anticipate and prevent harm to consumers from new products and practices. The Senate is considering a similar proposal.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Preparing for domestic attacks: What families can do today

(ARA) - With more arrests in suspected domestic terrorism plots and almost daily news reports of international terrorism incidents, Americans need to remain vigilant and prepared for the unknown.

But according to a recent survey conducted by Kelton Research, almost two in three Americans (66 percent) admit they would not know what to do in the event of a terrorist attack in their hometown.

Homeland security professionals charged with protecting the homefront are even less convinced of the average citizen's preparedness. More than nine in 10 professionals (94 percent) surveyed feel that Americans wouldn't know what to do in the event of an attack, even though a majority (75 percent) believes the U.S. will experience one similar to Sept. 11, 2001, in the next five years.

The surveys were commissioned by the National Homeland Defense Foundation and Colorado Technical University, which offers master's and doctoral degrees with a concentration in homeland security.

"The fact that homeland security professionals expect another terrorist attack similar to 9/11 within the next five years while at the same time believing most Americans are unprepared is a dangerous combination," says Capt. W. Andy Cain, USN (Ret.), a Homeland Security Advisory Board member at Colorado Technical University.

"The good news is there are things we can all do to be prepared and take responsibility for the safety and security of ourselves and our families. Seconds count in an emergency, so preparation can make all the difference in the world," he says.

While law enforcement and government officials are on the front lines of responding to terrorist threats, here are five steps that all Americans can take to feel more secure and prepared.

* Create a family emergency plan
Know who to call and what to do in case of an emergency such as a terrorist attack. Make a plan that includes each family member's contact information, as well as an out-of-town contact who may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members and may live far enough away not to be directly impacted by the same event. Online tools, like a family emergency kit featuring easy-to-use forms, are available for download at Ready.gov.

* Determine a meeting place
Family members may be in different locations when a terrorist attack strikes. Establish an agreed-upon location for everyone to meet to help save time and reduce stress.

* Get an emergency supply kit
To prepare for a possible emergency situation, including a terrorist attack, it's important to focus on survival basics - fresh water, food, clean air and warmth. Put together an emergency supply kit that includes items like bottled water, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, dust masks and blankets. Other essentials could include a flashlight with extra batteries, cell phone with chargers and a battery-powered radio to stay abreast of the news. FEMA.gov, among other Web sites, offers a disaster kit checklist.

* Have a communication back-up plan
Some terrorist attacks may cause communication network interruptions, preventing a person from getting through to family, friends or emergency personnel. If phone lines are down, have e-mail addresses available. In addition, text messaging may still work despite phone service disruptions. The American Red Cross also has a "Safe and Well" Web site available through RedCross.org, where families can register to let others know about their welfare.

* Sign up for alert services
Many communities have systems that will send instant text alerts or e-mails about emergencies and related action steps. Sign up by visiting the local office of emergency management Web site.

Ready.gov features more information to empower and educate Americans on what they can do today to be prepared should a terrorist attack or disaster strike.

Courtesy of ARAcontent


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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Carbon Monoxide and Home Fire Risks Are Heating up This Winter

“Space heaters, generators and other alternative heating solutions offer cost-effective ways to keep your family warm throughout the winter without heating the whole house, allowing you to lower your thermostat to reduce your energy bills”

(BUSINESS WIRE)--With frigid temperatures and winter storms blanketing communities across the United States, the national nonprofit Home Safety Council and Lowe’s are encouraging families to keep safety top of mind when heating the home this winter. Following safe heating practices will protect homes against two of the most common winter safety hazards: fires and carbon monoxide (CO).

The Home Safety Council’s State of Home Safety in America™ report revealed 67 percent of American households use fuel-burning appliances and equipment, such as gas fireplaces, wood stoves and kerosene heaters, to keep their loved ones warm during winter months. When using such products, be sure to follow all the manufacturers’ instructions and install a working CO monitor that will detect and alert your family when dangerous levels of the deadly—and odorless—gas are present.

“In January and February, fires caused by heating appliances overtake cooking fires as the leading cause of home fires, and carbon monoxide risks also rise as families turn to alternative heating solutions to keep warm,” said Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council. “To protect against fire, it is critical that families check all heat sources throughout their home to make sure they are not too close to anything that can burn. To be safe from CO poisoning, have all fuel-burning appliances inspected and cleaned by a professional, and install at least one CO detector to alert you to dangerous levels of the deadly gas in your home.”

An alarming 59 percent of American households have not installed a CO detector, and many other homes do not have a working CO detector due to missing or dead batteries. The start of 2010 marks the perfect opportunity to check the batteries in CO monitors and smoke alarms to ensure they are working properly.

“Space heaters, generators and other alternative heating solutions offer cost-effective ways to keep your family warm throughout the winter without heating the whole house, allowing you to lower your thermostat to reduce your energy bills,” said Eric Sowder, Lowe’s senior vice president of merchandising over outdoor living. “Many products have built-in safety features like automatic shutoffs, anti-tipping devices and heat guards, but be sure to follow all manufacturers’ instructions for use and placement of heating devices to avoid serious home injuries and help you rest easy throughout the winter.”

The Home Safety Council and Lowe’s offer the following tips to help warm up your home while preventing fire and CO dangers this winter.

Portable Space Heaters

* Make sure your heater has been tested for safety. Look on the bottom for a label such as ETL, UL or CSA.
* Place space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including furniture, people, pets and curtains.
* There should always be an adult in the room when a space heater is on.
* Turn off space heaters before leaving a room or going to sleep.
* Never use space heaters to dry clothing or blankets.

Prevent CO Dangers

* Install at least one CO alarm near sleeping areas.
* Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up your home’s central heating system and repair leaks or other problems.
* Keep gas appliances properly adjusted and serviced.
* Never use an oven or range to heat your home.
* Never use a gas or charcoal grill inside your home or in a closed garage.

Fireplaces and Wood Stoves

* Burn only seasoned hardwood like oak, ash or maple. Do not burn trash, cardboard boxes or Christmas trees because these items burn unevenly, and may contain poisons or cause a home fire.
* Have a professional chimney sweep inspect chimneys every year.
* Open flues before fireplaces are used.
* Use sturdy screens or glass doors to keep embers inside fireplaces.

Generator Safety

* Always read the Owner’s Manual and instructions for your generator.
* Carefully follow all instructions and warnings in order to safely start and operate the generator. Do not cut corners when it comes to safety.
* Permanently installed automatic standby generators are the safest way to provide backup power to your home.
* Portable generators will also provide electricity for your home when the power goes out. But you have to know how to use them safely.
* Portable generators can produce carbon monoxide. They should always be used outdoors and placed away from open windows.
* Never use a portable generator indoors or in any enclosed space, such as a garage.
* Be careful when you refuel generators to avoid starting a fire or getting burned.
* Be sure the generator is connected correctly.
* Never try to power the house wiring by “backfeeding” the generator into a wall outlet. This can put utility workers and neighbors in danger.
* After starting a generator wait 10 seconds for the power to stabilize. Then plug in your appliances. This helps avoid electrical shocks.

For more information and resources on how to stay safe during the winter season, visit www.mysafehome.org, and for tips on saving money and energy, visit lowes.com/energy.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Montana Becomes Third State to Permit Physician-Assisted Suicide - But Final Exit Network Asks, 'Is It Enough?'

/PRNewswire/ -- The Montana Supreme Court, on December 31, 2009, made Montana the third state allowing physician-assisted suicide. Oregon's voters, in 1994, had created the landmark decision first, surviving legal challenges when the U.S. Supreme Court, using states' rights as the deciding factor, affirmed the voters' wishes legally in 2005. Washington State became the second in 2008.

Jerry Dincin, president of Final Exit Network (FEN), accepts the Montana victory enthusiastically but with an important reservation: "While it may seem like we are on a roll toward the final human right of the 21st century for great numbers of our citizens, despite the victories in Oregon, Washington, and Montana and the good works of organizations like Compassion and Choices and Hospice, the needs of mentally competent, suffering patients who have not been declared 'terminal' (having fewer than six months to live) have not been addressed. These individuals still often suffer endlessly from an irreversible condition they can no longer bear, where quality of life is a distant memory and all that remains is the reality of an indefinite and hopeless future. Our organization is their only advocate."

FEN is an all-volunteer organization that offers counseling, support, and guidance concerning self-deliverance at a time and place of the individual's choosing. Dincin stresses that "FEN does not encourage anyone to end their life, does not provide the means to do so and does not actively assist in the person's death. We do, however, believe in the ultimate human right of people to end their lives when circumstances justify, and to have support in carrying out their plan."

On February 25, 2009, four elderly volunteers of the Final Exit Network were set up by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agent, who falsified medical records and posed as a terminally ill cancer patient wishing to hasten his own death. The four were arrested and released. To date none has even been indicted; no trial date is in sight. Final Exit Network welcomes a trial. (It is clear that the GBI does not, or a date would have been set months ago.) A trial would likely be a breakthrough, permitting the four elderly defendants to escape from limbo, casting some light on some inaccurate assumptions, and enabling FEN to demonstrate that its four volunteers acted within the confines of the law and in compliance with its basic credo: "We offer guidance, information and support but do not 'assist' those whose suffering lies beyond the imagination of those of us who have the luxury of discussing and debating their fate as an interesting issue."

Final Exit Network is a five-year-old volunteer-run non-profit that is committed to serve many whom other organizations may turn away. More information is available from their Web site http://www.finalexitnetwork.org/, or by calling 866-654-9156.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

U.S. Job Satisfaction At Lowest Level In Two Decades

/PRNewswire/ -- Americans of all ages and income brackets continue to grow increasingly unhappy at work--a long-term trend that should be a red flag to employers, according to a report released today by The Conference Board.

The report, based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households conducted for The Conference Board by TNS, finds only 45 percent of those surveyed say they are satisfied with their jobs, down from 61.1 percent in 1987, the first year in which the survey was conducted.

"While one in 10 Americans is now unemployed, their working compatriots of all ages and incomes continue to grow increasingly unhappy," says Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board. "Through both economic boom and bust during the past two decades, our job satisfaction numbers have shown a consistent downward trend."

Fewer Americans are satisfied with all aspects of their employment, and no age or income group is immune. In fact, the youngest cohort of employees (those currently under age 25) expresses the highest level of dissatisfaction ever recorded by the survey for that age group.

"The downward trend in job satisfaction could spell trouble for the overall engagement of U.S. employees and ultimately employee productivity," adds Franco.

"These numbers do not bode well given the multi-generational dynamics of the labor force," says Linda Barrington, managing director, Human Capital, The Conference Board. "The newest federal statistics show that baby boomers will compose a quarter of the U.S. workforce in eight years, and since 1987 we've watched them increasingly losing faith in the workplace." Twenty years ago, some 60 percent of that generation was satisfied with their jobs. Today, that figure is roughly 46 percent. Barrington adds: "The growing dissatisfaction across and between generations is important to address because it can directly impact the quality of multi-generational knowledge transfer--which is increasingly critical to effective workplace functioning."

The drop in job satisfaction between 1987 and 2009 covers all categories in the survey, from interest in work (down 18.9 percentage points) to job security (down 17.5 percentage points) and crosses all four of the key drivers of employee engagement: job design, organizational health, managerial quality, and extrinsic rewards.

"Challenging and meaningful work is vitally important to engaging American workers," adds John Gibbons, program director of employee engagement research and services at The Conference Board. "Widespread job dissatisfaction negatively affects employee behavior and retention, which can impact enterprise-level success." In fact, 22 percent of respondents said they don't expect to be in their current job in a year. "These data throw up a big, red flag because the increasing dissatisfaction is not just a 'survivor syndrome' artifact of having co-workers and neighbors laid off in the recession," says Gibbons.

Source:
I Can't Get No...Job Satisfaction, That Is: America's Unhappy Workers
Research Report #1459-09-RR
The Conference Board


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Double-Dip Recession Anyone? Forty Percent of People Now Say 'Yes'

/PRNewswire/ -- The Wealth Hazards Worry Index now indicates that the number of people who believe that the U.S. economy could enter another recession in 2010 now stands at 40 percent. Another 32 percent of survey respondents are unsure if a "double-dip" recession is on tap for 2010, while only 28 percent of people are confident that no recession will occur in 2010.

"The government stimulus and support programs in 2009 were instrumental in holding the economy together so that the recovery process could get underway, the fragility of the recovery is now center stage," says Thomas Hertog, editor at Wealth Hazards. Respondents to the Wealth Hazards Worry Index survey cited continuing concerns about the expiration of government stimulus and support programs and how this might impact their own financial health.

Specifically, people are anxious about the high rate of unemployment, rising interest rates, price inflation, more foreclosures, and flat wages or even wage deflation as employers bargain hunt for new employees. In summary, 40 percent of people expect another recession-like downturn and nearly one-third of people are not sure if another recession is waiting just around the corner.

"Many people remain vigilant as they wait and see if the other shoe is going to drop in 2010," said Hertog, "the fatigue factor has set in and consumers want to know that their jobs are safe, their home values will not fall another 10%, and that folks in government are not going to choke-off the recovery by letting support programs end before they fully stimulate the economy."

For example, the Federal Reserve program to buy mortgage-backed securities has kept 30-year mortgage rates at all time lows, but an exit from this program or a hasty retreat that is poorly timed, could result in another real estate downturn. The new $174 billion Jobs for Main Street Act stimulus bill appears to be facing an uphill battle in Congress as the Obama administration tries to provide support to a struggling job market recovery. The hope that "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects would ease unemployment in construction and materials was shared by many in early 2009, but now nearly one year later the actual improvement is more difficult to measure. Bottom line, consumers are not completely convinced that the recovery is fully underway and that their own lives and financial health is about to improve. "Our new book, 'Wealth Hazards - Surviving the Recovery,' discusses the areas of personal finance that are most critical to address and provides many insights and tips to avoid, manage, and recover from life's wealth hazards," says Hertog. Wealth hazards come in all shapes and sizes and very often in disguise. The most important areas to watch include: investing, saving, credit, retirement, insurance, taxes, health and your career.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope Discovers Five Exoplanets

/PRNewswire/ -- NASA's Kepler space telescope, designed to find Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of sun-like stars, has discovered its first five new exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system.

Kepler's high sensitivity to both small and large planets enabled the discovery of the exoplanets, named Kepler 4b, 5b, 6b, 7b and 8b. The discoveries were announced Monday, Jan. 4, by the members of the Kepler science team during a news briefing at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington.

"These observations contribute to our understanding of how planetary systems form and evolve from the gas and dust disks that give rise to both the stars and their planets," said William Borucki of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. Borucki is the mission's science principal investigator. "The discoveries also show that our science instrument is working well. Indications are that Kepler will meet all its science goals."

Known as "hot Jupiters" because of their high masses and extreme temperatures, the new exoplanets range in size from similar to Neptune to larger than Jupiter. They have orbits ranging from 3.3 to 4.9 days. Estimated temperatures of the planets range from 2,200 to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than molten lava and much too hot for life as we know it. All five of the exoplanets orbit stars hotter and larger than Earth's sun.

"It's gratifying to see the first Kepler discoveries rolling off the assembly line," said Jon Morse, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We expected Jupiter-size planets in short orbits to be the first planets Kepler could detect. It's only a matter of time before more Kepler observations lead to smaller planets with longer period orbits, coming closer and closer to the discovery of the first Earth analog."

Launched on March 6, 2009, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the Kepler mission continuously and simultaneously observes more than 150,000 stars. Kepler's science instrument, or photometer, already has measured hundreds of possible planet signatures that are being analyzed.

While many of these signatures are likely to be something other than a planet, such as small stars orbiting larger stars, ground-based observatories have confirmed the existence of the five exoplanets. The discoveries are based on approximately six weeks' worth of data collected since science operations began on May 12, 2009.

Kepler looks for the signatures of planets by measuring dips in the brightness of stars. When planets cross in front of, or transit, their stars as seen from Earth, they periodically block the starlight. The size of the planet can be derived from the size of the dip. The temperature can be estimated from the characteristics of the star it orbits and the planet's orbital period.

Kepler will continue science operations until at least November 2012. It will search for planets as small as Earth, including those that orbit stars in a warm habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface of the planet. Since transits of planets in the habitable zone of solar-like stars occur about once a year and require three transits for verification, it is expected to take at least three years to locate and verify an Earth-size planet.

According to Borucki, Kepler's continuous and long-duration search should greatly improve scientists' ability to determine the distributions of planet size and orbital period in the future. "Today's discoveries are a significant contribution to that goal," Borucki said. "The Kepler observations will tell us whether there are many stars with planets that could harbor life, or whether we might be alone in our galaxy."

Kepler is NASA's 10th Discovery mission. Ames is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed the Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., was responsible for developing the Kepler flight system. Ball and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder are supporting mission operations.

Ground observations necessary to confirm the discoveries were conducted with ground-based telescopes the Keck I in Hawaii; Hobby-Ebberly and Harlan J. Smith 2.7m in Texas; Hale and Shane in California; WIYN, MMT and Tillinghast in Arizona; and Nordic Optical in the Canary Islands, Spain.

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Bring 'Em Back Alive: These Words Deserve Wider Use; 'Word Warriors' Is Promoting the Return of Expressive but Neglected Words

/PRNewswire/ -- Last year Wayne State University launched a Web site designed to recall some of the English language's most expressive words that have fallen out of use and deserve to return to conversation and prose.

Word Warriors is a list of neglected but eminently useful words that visitors to the site - and we - would like to bring back into fashion. And though a few of these words may never have been heard everyday, we believe they deserve to be.

"The English language is a spectacularly supple and precise, rich and capacious means of expressing ourselves, which is to say we've got plenty of great words," says Jerry Herron, dean of Wayne State University's Irvin D. Reid Honors College. "But those words are only as good as our ability to use them. We've got so many words to deal with, in fact, that often a truly wonderful and necessary word will just get overlooked, so that our ability to express ourselves is diminished. What Word Warriors aims to do is to enlist the aid of everybody who cares about words, to make sure we are not letting essential parts of our language fall silent. There is perhaps no finer pleasure -- or greater fun -- to be had than in an act of precise expression, and there's no better language to be doing that good work in than our own English. And that's what Word Warriors is aiming for -- the pleasure of being able to say exactly what you mean."

The Word Warriors site (www.wordwarriors.wayne.edu) is a natural complement to the Lake Superior State yearly list of banished words. Wayne State solicits words from visitors to the site and allows them to vote on the current year's list. There is a word of the week and an annual list of words that WSU and visitors to the Word Warriors site feel should be used more often.

Fanfare, please. Here's the Word Warriors' 2010 list of sadly neglected but eminently useful words that should be brought back to enrich our language:

-- Antediluvian

Very old, old-fashioned, or out of date; antiquated; primitive. Literally "before the flood," referring by implication to the Biblical tale of Noah.

Though antediluvian by today's standards, the buggy whip was once at the forefront of transportation technology.

-- Bamboozle
To cheat or steal.
Stop trying to bamboozle me out of my money!

-- Bloviate
To speak at length in a pompous or boastful manner.

I was totally put off by the winning coaches' tendency to bloviate ad nauseam.

-- Charlatan
Quack. Imposter.

This guy claims his anti-aging cream really works, but I think he's just a charlatan.

-- Concupiscence
Sexual desire or longing. Lust.

Too many political figures, drunk on power and the heady liquor of self-esteem, let concupiscence get the best of them.

-- Festoon
To adorn or decorate, principally in a loop between two points.

After lunch we decided to festoon the tree with garlands of electric loons, moons, spoons, puccoons, cocoons, bassoons, baboons and vinegaroons.

-- Galoshes

Waterproof shoes or boots. "Galoshes" may be said to be onomatopoeic, mimicking the sound they make when splashing through puddles.

In rainy weather like this I always wear my galoshes; they may be garish, but they keep my feet dry.

-- Indefatigable
Tireless; endlessly persistent.

The English privateer Francis Drake was indefatigable in his pursuit of Spanish gold.

-- Insouciance
The quality of being carefree; a lack of concern.

We spent our two weeks at the beach in blissful insouciance, sleeping late and basking in the sun.

-- Mendacity
Untruthfulness. Lying.

Mendacity is a system that we live in. Liquor is one way out and death's the other. (Tennessee Williams, American playwright, 1911-1983)

-- Mercurial
Fickle; erratic.

She said she needed a break from trying to anticipate my mercurial moods. I haven't seen her in five years.

-- Numinous

Awe-inspiring; profoundly moving; evocative of transcendence. (Despite what Webster's Dictionary says, it never presumes the supernatural.)

As the full moon rose in numinous splendor over Mount Kilimanjaro, Ernie was stricken speechless with wonder and joy.

-- Quixotic

Excessively romantic; visionary but unrealistic. Like Cervantes' Don Quixote.

Many cherished ideals of the 1960s now seem more quixotic than even remotely practical.

-- Scuttle (verb)

A versatile verb meaning to sink a ship or boat deliberately; to sink figuratively, as to scuttle a project; or to scurry.

In 1939, the Germans scuttled the pocket battleship "Graf Spee" to keep the British from capturing her. ... OR ... When we turned on the light, mice scuttled under the furniture.

-- Unctuous
Oily or greasy; unpleasantly polite and insincerely earnest.

The mediator was so unctuous that both sides found him impossible to work with.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution of higher education offering more than 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 31,000 students.

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