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Updated: 33 min 20 sec ago

Giving the Elderly a Lift -- In Their Home

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 2:45pm
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - Although home may be where the heart is, for older people, it may not be where they are able to stay.

This need (and recognition) to downsize, yet not wanting to because of the memories associated with the home (after all, it's where they have lived for decades and may have raised their families), can be a problem. It may also be impractical due to today's still sluggish housing market.

So, what to do? Instead, you might want to consider a stairlift to make your current home more practical.

While there are a whole host of reasons to install a stairlift, the most common is that someone has become too infirm to walk up and down the stairs because of age, illness or injury.

For Cornelius Rice, 80, of Wilkins, Pennsylvania, it took a nasty fall to admit he needed help from a stair lift to deal with his balance problem.

"[A stairlift] makes it convenient for me to get around, and makes it easy on the wife," Rice told the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette in an interview. "She doesn't have to take me here or there now, or be lifting me."

Unlike chair lifts of old, new models like those sold by Orlando-based Acorn Stairlifts are powered by two small 12-volt batteries under the seat or by regular house current. The chair and built-in footrest typically fold up when not in use, allowing for easy passage on the stairs. All lifts have sensors around the perimeter of the foot platform that will stop the lift when a sensor is triggered -- be it by a child's toy, a pet or a foot that has slipped off the platform.

For Tim McCool, VP of Sales and Marketing for Acorn, having a built in stairlift makes sense for the elderly.

"When I first started with Acorn Stairlifts over 10 years ago as a sales rep, one of my first customer interactions was with a woman suffering from ALS," said McCool. "She had to be carried up the stairs just to use the restroom. I talked with her for over an hour, and it's stuck with me all these years, and it's why I'm so committed to what we do to improve people's lives."

The biggest challenge, say experts, is getting older folks to admit they need one. Once installed, however, many find they wished they'd done it earlier, said one consultant, who added that older people sometimes don't want to spend the money on this kind of thing because then they have to admit they have a disability.

For more information, visit www.acornstairlifts.com.

4-H Grown: Alumni Asked to Stand Up and Support STEM Education

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 2:47pm
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - For almost a decade, there has been a dramatic shift by educators to increase kids' interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM).

In fact, one of America's largest youth-development organizations (it's been around for almost 115 years), 4-H, along with HughesNet, the leading satellite Internet service provider, are throwing their collective weight behind 4-H Grown -- an interactive campaign that invites the estimated 25 million 4-H alumni across the U.S. to help direct sponsorship funding to their state by checking in at www.4-h.org/4hgrown/, tagging friends, and casting votes to bring more science innovation experiences to youth in their communities.

Through 4-H Grown, the two organizations hope to bring STEM learning experiences to youth across the country, including small communities where resources for interactive learning may be limited.

"In our first year of partnership, National 4-H Council and HughesNet helped thousands of young people experience the excitement of STEM, [and] I am thrilled that our new 2015 program will engage even more young people and expand our reach to 4-H alumni to show STEM can be rewarding and fun," says Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4-H Council.

The partnership is also giving a $10,000 "Innovation Incubator" Science Sponsorship to the state with the largest number of votes. This sponsorship is new and requires youth across the nation to design innovative science solutions to solve real community challenges. States compete to receive a science sponsorship. Additionally, two young innovators will be selected to receive an all-expense-paid trip to the flagship 4-H National Youth Science Day event in Washington, D.C., where they will participate in the world's largest youth-led science experiment.

"Exposing thousands of children to the excitement of STEM is priceless," says Mike Cook, senior vice president, Hughes North America Division. "We're thrilled to continue our work with 4-H to make a difference in kids' lives."

For more information, or to support your state in 4-H Grown, visit www.4-h.org/4hgrown.

Haven't Tried Sardines? Try These

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 3:10pm
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - Sardines are consistently rated as the most nutritious and environmentally friendly fish you can eat, and yet some people remain suspicious. "Wait! They have bones and scales?"

Well, yes, most premium sardines have bones -- which melt away during processing, which is why they have more calcium per serving than a glass of milk. And yes, they do have scales, though they're too tiny to notice. So despite the little fish's sustainability and wealth of protein, calcium and Vitamin D -- and the fact that sardines contain roughly 2,000 mg of omega-3s per 3.75-ounce serving -- many people consider sardines a non-starter.

But sardine makers, like Norway-based King Oscar, also offer what is known as "skinless and boneless" sardines, a potential game-changer for the tiny fish.

John Engle, president of King Oscar USA, says that skinless and boneless sardines are another kettle of fish entirely. "Skinless and boneless sardines are actually an entirely different species of fish from our traditional 'brisling' sardine. They're slightly larger, and fished from different waters, which allows us to remove the skin and bones from the fish and bring a totally different taste and texture to the can, qualities very similar to tuna."

It also allows sardine companies to experiment with new flavors and even recipes. For example, King Oscar's Spanish-Style Sardines are caught off the coast of Morocco and combined with olive oil, red peppers, pickled cucumbers, carrot and a dash of salt and a hint of chili flavor to make for a new twist on a time-tested food, and even potentially begin to change people's perception of sardines.

"People eat seafood in a can by the millions -- just look at tuna," said Engle. "I think that by introducing new varieties of skinless and boneless sardines, it'll open up the possibility of eating sardines to people who have heard that they're good for you, but who just haven't been able to get past the 'yuck' factor."

One popular food blogger, Kimberly Moore of The Hungry Goddess, is already ahead of the curve. She suggests pairing King Oscar Spanish Style skinless and boneless sardines with paella to put a healthy, savory spin on the rice-based classic.

To see Moore's paella recipe, as well as dozens of other recipes and products, visit kingoscar.com or King Oscar's Facebook page.

10 Tips to Stay Safe During Spring Break

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 2:50pm
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - It's that time of year again when thousands of college students and young adults will flock to the far reaches of the world for spring break. Wherever your travels take you, it's best to adopt the Boy Scout's motto,"Be Prepared."

The following tips will help you get started.

1. Arrive safely. Traffic death rates are three times higher at night than during the day. This means an all-night drive to Florida or any other sunny locale is not a good idea. If you can't avoid night driving, have someone stay up to talk you.

2. Secure your hotel room. Make sure your door is locked and important belongings like passports and wallets are in the safe. For added security, consider bringing along a portable door stop alarm like that from SABRE, a manufacturer of security products for both law enforcement and the general public. The door stop alarm can alert you if someone tries to break in.

3. Ensure you know the name of your hotel. Memorize the hotel's address, and take a card to give cab drivers (especially if you don't know the language).

4. Protect your personal information. Don't tell new acquaintances your hotel name or room number. You never know who has innocent (or not-so-innocent) intentions.

5. Employ the buddy system. Never leave a party with a stranger, but if you do, consider carrying a pepper gel key ring with you. SABRE offers one for less than $15. It's good for four years, has a 12-foot range and up to 25 bursts.

6. Practice safe drinking. Always have one friend who plans on minimal drinking to look out for everyone and watch cups and glasses as well. Only accept drinks you've watched get made or poured in front of you.

7. Ask for help. If you need help, call yourself. Don't rely on bystanders to call for you.

8. Drink water and wear sunscreen. Too much time in the sun can leave you dehydrated and at risk for sunburn or sun poisoning. Take a water bottle and sunscreen when you go out.

9. Open the lines of communication between students and parents. Providing an itinerary for family members is especially important when traveling overseas. In addition, know where the U.S. embassy or American consulate is in the country where you're headed, and check in often.

10. Travel with your personal protection. Small pepper sprays can be checked through major airlines, and personal alarms can be carried on flights with you. If you're out and about exploring, remember that pepper spray is legal to carry in all 50 states.

For more information, visit www.sabrered.com.

Weatherizing Your Home Can Mean Big Benefits

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 11:23am
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - The volatility of Mother Nature this year has served as a reminder that electric and gas bills can get out of hand quickly -- especially when a home isn't properly weatherized.

"The U.S. Department of Energy suggests homeowners spend nearly 50 percent of their utility bills on space heating and cooling, with heating accounting for the largest portion of money spent," said Stephen Wagner, assistant category manager at ShurTech Brands, LLC, the marketers of the Duck brand. "With so much spent, it's important to take measures to save energy and money. Something as simple as weatherizing can help block air leaks and drafts, helping to keep energy bills low."

The good news is that if you haven't already weatherized, it's not too late. The following tips will help prepare your home for not only freezing temperatures but also the warmer summer months:

* Start with the attic. The top of the house tends to be forgotten as a source of energy loss. To combat this, Duck brand Attic Stairway Covers can help seal attic stairway openings by helping to block drafts, saving energy all year round. These pop-up covers are flexible and lightweight, easily repositionable to allow attic access and simple to assemble and install.

* Check the windows. As houses age, window casings loosen and become drafty. To add a barrier between your home and the elements, consider the Roll-On Window Kit from the same brand. The crystal-clear shrink film requires no measuring and provides an airtight seal over interior window frames, creating an insulating air space between the film and window glass.

* Make sure doors are properly sealed. Not only does weatherizing the bottom of doors help prevent drafts, it also protects from dust, insects and pollen during warmer months. Duck brand Double Draft Seal is designed to work on a variety of floor types and has a patented design that offers two layers of protection from drafts -- straps hold the seal in place while it "hugs" the bottom of the door from inside and outside.

* Consider the walls. You might not know this, but energy loss can also come from sources such as electrical outlets and switch plates on exterior walls. Socket Sealers prevent drafts by acting as a buffer between the outside temperatures and your home's interior.

* Fill cracks and gaps. For stationary components, caulk is the appropriate material for filling cracks and gaps. Around windows and doors, weatherstripping, such as Duck brand window and door weatherstrip seals, provides a barrier against the elements, helping to insulate your home. For those who live in extreme temperatures, try a Heavy-Duty Weatherstrip seal made with EPDM rubber.

For more information, visit www.duckbrand.com.

10 Tips for Staying Safe During Spring Break

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 10:25am
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - It's that time of year again when thousands of college students and young adults will flock to the far reaches of the world for spring break. Wherever your travels take you, it's best to adopt the Boy Scout's motto,"Be Prepared."

The following tips will help you get started.

1. Arrive safely. Traffic death rates are three times higher at night than during the day. This means an all-night drive to Florida or any other sunny locale is not a good idea. If you can't avoid night driving, have someone stay up to talk you.

2. Secure your hotel room. Make sure your door is locked and important belongings like passports and wallets are in the safe. For added security, consider bringing along a portable door stop alarm like that from SABRE, a manufacturer of security products for both law enforcement and the general public. The door stop alarm can alert you if someone tries to break in.

3. Ensure you know the name of your hotel. Memorize the hotel's address, and take a card to give cab drivers (especially if you don't know the language).

4. Protect your personal information. Don't tell new acquaintances your hotel name or room number. You never know who has innocent (or not-so-innocent) intentions.

5. Employ the buddy system. Never leave a party with a stranger, but if you do, consider carrying a pepper gel key ring with you. SABRE offers one for less than $15. It's good for four years, has a 12-foot range and up to 25 bursts.

6. Practice safe drinking. Always have one friend who plans on minimal drinking to look out for everyone and watch cups and glasses as well. Only accept drinks you've watched get made or poured in front of you.

7. Ask for help. If you need help, call yourself. Don't rely on bystanders to call for you.

8. Drink water and wear sunscreen. Too much time in the sun can leave you dehydrated and at risk for sunburn or sun poisoning. Take a water bottle and sunscreen when you go out.

9. Open the lines of communication between students and parents. Providing an itinerary for family members is especially important when traveling overseas. In addition, know where the U.S. embassy or American consulate is in the country where you're headed, and check in often.

10. Travel with your personal protection. Small pepper sprays can be checked through major airlines, and personal alarms can be carried on flights with you. If you're out and about exploring, remember that pepper spray is legal to carry in all 50 states.

For more information, visit www.sabrered.com.

3 Things to Know Before Ride-Booking a Car

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 7:18am

(NewsUSA) - If you were some innocent fleeing a terrorist attack, would you expect to be charged four times the normal cost of a car ride?

Alas, that's what happened to some Uber passengers last December when the "off the charts" demand for a quick escape from anywhere near the 16-hour siege at Sydney, Australia's Lindt Chocolate Café automatically triggered the controversial "surge-pricing" that Uber and other ride-booking services also employ here in the U.S.

Even some of the app-based companies' (former) biggest fans say that's just a fancy term for price gouging. "#Neverforget, #neveragain," read the hashtags celeb Jessica Seinfeld used in Instagramming a receipt for a whopping $415 Uber fare during a recent New York snowstorm. And so many lawmakers across the nation have their own pro-consumer reasons for wanting to crack down on the industry -- lesser players include Lyft and Sidecar -- that you'd almost think the very idea of summoning a ride on a smartphone was Evil Incarnate.

It's your call, but here's what you should know before booking one of those cars:

* Your driver may not have been thoroughly screened. Newspapers have reported numerous cases of ride-booking drivers arrested for allegedly raping or assaulting passengers. But efforts to subject the newbies to the same rigorous background checks as taxi and limousine drivers -- akin to a "Not Welcome" sign for lowlifes -- have been fought by all three services.

"Background screening is a public safety issue," says Gary Buffo, president of the National Limousine Association (www.limo.org). "Competition is a good thing, but everyone needs to play by the same rules."

Uber, for one, has touted what it calls its "industry-leading (vetting) standards." But that claim took a hit last December when prosecutors in California alleged, as part of a consumer protection lawsuit against the company, that their drivers weren't being fingerprinted -- thus making its criminal checks "completely worthless."

* Good luck suing if you're injured. Some ride-booking services allow drivers to carry personal, rather than commercial, insurance. (Hey, they use their own cars.) Testifying at a recent City Council hearing in Buffalo, New York, Kristina Baldwin, of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, called that a "serious insurance gap."

* Surge pricing can be a shocker. Uber did reimburse Sydney riders after getting skewered by the media. But New Year's Eve revelers in New York City, learning a lesson in supply and demand, apparently had no such luck. "The most expensive eight minutes of my life," the New York Daily News quoted one angry passenger.

For Advanced Heart Failure Patients, There Is Hope

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 11:29am
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - NewsusaInfographic - Advanced heart failure is a serious and deadly disease that needs to be managed and understood. As a progressive disease that is rarely cured, it can get worse over time. That is why it might be time to consider other treatment options -- like LVAD therapy.

See full-sized image here.

5 Easy Tips for Taking Care of Your Heart

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 11:31am
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - Northern California native June Auld, 76, leads a very full life. Aside from her day job as a mental health professional, she can be found, with her husband, Glenn, cooking for the homeless, providing foster care to guide dogs or taking walks around their neighborhood.

It was during one of those full days that Auld began experiencing extreme discomfort in her chest. She and her husband went to the emergency department at Kaiser Permanente San Rafael Medical Center, where doctors immediately began running tests. Doctors confirmed that Auld had experienced a heart attack, and placed a stent in a blocked artery.

Auld's decision to seek immediate care at Kaiser Permanente not only saved her life, but saved her from having to undergo more complicated treatment.

"The care Kaiser Permanente gave me was fantastic," Auld said. "The day after I got home, I did my walk like I had never had a heart problem, and I've never had any pain or discomfort since."

Show your heart some love now and throughout the rest of your life with these five simple, healthy aging tips from Marc Jaffe, M.D., clinical leader, Kaiser Permanente Northern California Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Program.

How to keep your heart strong:

1. Be sweet. Instead of chocolate, try blueberries or strawberries. These heart-healthy treats are filled with natural antioxidants that can help keep your arteries open.

2. Move to the beat. Grab a partner and do some fancy footwork. Any activity that gets you moving -- like dancing or walking -- can help increase blood circulation, reduce stress and protect your heart.

3. Do your thing. Activities like painting, writing, yoga and meditation can help slow your heart and breathing rates and lower your blood pressure, all of which are good for your body and your heart.

4. Avoid tobacco. If you smoke, join a tobacco-cessation program to help you quit, and talk to your doctor about medications that can help increase your chances of kicking the habit. If you don't smoke, avoiding secondhand smoke may also help protect your heart, lungs and blood vessels.

5. Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can make a difference and lower your risk of heart problems.

Living a healthy lifestyle can help your heart stay strong, so you can live -- and love -- for years to come. See a video about Auld's story on the Kaiser Permanente Care Stories blog. For more information about Kaiser Permanente and heart care, visit kp.org. For questions or advice about a specific condition, talk to your physician.

The Financial Implications of Heart Disease

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 10:35am
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - NewsusaInfographic - Many people share the overly optimistic belief that they are shielded against suffering a heart attack or stroke. But the truth is, no one is immune to life-altering medical events. And, many don't understand the financial implications associated with these health issues. Critical illness insurance can help cover costs resulting from an unexpected illness.

See full-sized image here.

Labels Shed Light on Your Perfect Bulb

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 10:32am
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - In today's health-conscious times, chances are you read the labels of grocery items at the store before tossing them into your cart. And if you've ever accidentally shrunk a favorite sweater, it's a safe bet you check clothing labels before putting them in the washing machine. But when was the last time you checked the label when purchasing light bulbs?

"The labels on light bulb cartons are mandated by the Federal Trade Commission, and like food labels, they are designed with the consumer in mind," says Terry McGowan, director of engineering and technology for the American Lighting Association (ALA).

Light bulb labels answer the question: What kind of performance should you expect from this light bulb when you buy it and install it in your light fixture? In addition to factors like brightness, energy costs and wattage ratings, bulb labels also focus on the light's appearance, which is described in words such as "warm" or "cool" and also in Kelvins.

Kelvins Count

The color you see from light bulbs involves two components.

"The first component," says McGowan, "is what you see when you look at the bulb itself -- that's the overall tint or tone of the light. You might look at the bulb and say that it looks 'cool' or 'warm.' That color characteristic is called 'chromaticity,' and for bulbs used for residential lighting, chromaticity is expressed in Kelvins, such as a bulb of 2700 Kelvins, or 2700K.

"The second component is color rendering," says McGowan, "which is more subtle than chromaticity because it involves much more human judgment about what the eye is seeing. Color rendering, expressed as a number using the Color Rendering Index (CRI), describes how lifelike or natural people and objects appear."

Natural daylight and standard incandescent bulbs have a CRI of 100, with all other light sources being measured against them. For example, if a bulb has a rated CRI of 80 or 90, that means the light from that bulb will not render the colors of objects or people as well as if they were in natural daylight.

New bulb technology, particularly with LED bulbs, means bulbs are available in myriad brightness levels and colors.

An ALA retailer can help you select the perfect light bulb to provide the best color and ambience for your home. To find your closest ALA-member store, go online to americanlightingassoc.com.

Bringing Chiropractic to the Little League

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 10:29am

(NewsUSA) - Participating in sports may be a rite of passage for kids, but it's up to parents to recognize, manage and -- yes -- prevent sports-related health conditions and injuries like concussions. One way to help do just that: an evaluation by a doctor of chiropractic, says Stephanie Mills, the recently crowned Ms. America 2014 and herself a chiropractor. To learn more, visit www.F4CP.org/findadoctor.

 

Watch the video at: http://youtu.be/KiJV4otR0IM

Singapore Pastor Kong Hee Maintains Innocence, Gains Support From Leaders

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 10:25am
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - It is a classic case of "he said, she said."

At the crux of the matter is whether or not charismatic, influential Singapore pastor Kong Hee used millions of dollars from church funds to buy bonds to promote his wife's cross-over music career, as is being contended.

While the prosecution argues that the investment companies and bonds amounted to "shams," Hee maintains that he did nothing wrong. Supporting this claim is his church body, City Harvest, noting that all monies were returned to their coffers with interest, and no funds were lost.

While the case continues to gain attention both in America and abroad, Hee's supporters remain adamant that he is innocent.

"He [Pastor Hee] never did anything illegal, never did anything to the inurement of his own pockets or that of his wife," Pastor A.R. Bernard told the Washington Times in an interview this year. Bernard, an international religious leader based in Brooklyn, N.Y., has been one of Hee's most outspoken and vocal supporters.

Instead, Bernard asserts that the Singapore government is trying to make an example out of Hee and the 20,000-member church that he founded, saying, "Change is taking place in the nation [of Singapore] that is part of a bigger picture."

Bernard is referring to the fact that at least one-third of Singaporeans are Buddhist, while its younger generation is embracing Christianity and Christian churches that are popping up all over that country. This trend, Bernard says, is not sitting well with a government that is accustomed to control and status quo, and has little experience with special interest groups.

Theresa Tan, a spokeswoman for City Harvest, agrees.

"As a church, we believe that God's doing something in Asia, and Singapore is pivotal as a location," she told the Financial Times in an interview last month. "We are at a crossroads to various parts of Asia, so we feel that God's using Singapore in such a way."

For his part, Hee has remained quiet but has told his congregation that he "maintains his integrity ? and will defend that integrity against these charges." Hee continues to preach at City Harvest as a senior pastor.

"Pastor Kong has been a great leader of the church in Singapore and an influence throughout the world," said Pastor Casey Treat, a religious leader at the Christian Faith Center in Washington.

"I have never seen a compromise or unbiblical behavior."

Hee is expected to take the stand in his own defense when the trial resumes this summer.

How Will Individual Shared Responsibility Affect Your Tax Return?

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 1:22pm
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - Unless you've been way out of touch, you probably know that a key part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that taxpayers have qualifying health care coverage. Those without will need to qualify for an exemption, or pay a penalty. This "Individual Shared Responsibility" provision applies to both individuals and families. So, while preparing your tax return this year, here are some things you ought to know.

If in 2014, you, your spouse and everyone else on your tax return (dependents) had "minimum essential coverage," which includes most employer-sponsored plans, as well as programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and insurance purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you're in fine shape. Just check the appropriate box that says you are insured for the full year. If there were months that someone on your return had no coverage, that person needs to qualify for an exemption or pay a penalty.

To qualify for an exemption, one of the following situations must exist:

* The individual does not have access to affordable coverage because the minimum annual premium available is more than eight percent of the household income.

* The gap in coverage existed for less than three months.

* The individual qualifies for other exemptions that include a hardship or being a member of a group that is exempt from health coverage (for example, incarcerated inmates or members of a federally recognized Indian tribe).

Without coverage or an exemption, you'll have to pay a penalty for each month you were not insured. This penalty is calculated and reported on your tax return. In general, the payment amount is the greater of 1 percent of your household income over the filing threshold for your filing status, or $95 per person ($47.50 per person under 18 years old). This caps at a family maximum of $285 for 2014.

You'll owe half the annual payment for each month you or another person on your return doesn't have either qualifying health care or an exemption. Sound complicated? Taxes are. That's why so many taxpayers are thrilled to turn their taxes over to a paid preparer.

If that's your plan this year, be careful to make sure your preparer is licensed and required to complete continuing education to keep up with the changing tax code. Enrolled agents ("EAs") are licensed by the U.S. Department of Treasury, must pass an exam administered by IRS and complete IRS-approved continuing education. You can trust your taxes to an EA -- locate one in your area on the searchable "Find an EA" database at www.naea.org.

Virtually Everywhere -- Your Cash May Be a Thing of the Past

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 1:18pm
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - Coins jangling in a pocket is likely to be a thing of the past if companies that promote virtual currency (VC) have anything to say about it. The attraction of using VC stems from massive credit card hacks to retailers, such as Home Depot and Target -- all of which have raised questions among consumers about how safe their personal information is.

Currently, consumers have much of their information on display with their credit card company of choice and, for anyone with mediocre knowledge of technology and a laptop, it means open season. This is why it makes sense to consider how blockchain technologies (i.e., virtual currency) may help.

One of the problems is that there are only about 80,000 merchants worldwide that recognize and use VC, but from a business standpoint, it is worth exploring. Not only does it fit into a global economy, but it also offers consumers a higher level of security. The upside for retailers like Overstock and Dell (which support the use of virtual currency) is that it reduces credit card and debit card fees from 3 percent to 1 percent after the first $1 million in sales, which in turn defrays outgoing business costs and puts that money back into retailers' bottom line.

While much has been made of VC, it is clear that companies are using it and creating better ways to bridge old-world payment systems and new, coming technological advances. As an example, MovoCash (www.movocash.com) is a digital currency that allows consumers to link peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers that can be spent in-store, through e-commerce and m-commerce.

Consumers link their bank accounts to their MovoCash account for mobile payments with no limitation on the number of supported merchants. Eliminating the need for merchants and consumers to adopt closed-loop systems like near field communication (NFC), such as that used by Apple Pay.

Another benefit of MovoCash is that consumers' personal credit or bank information is not stored on merchant servers, but rather in a PCI-compliant environment, where tokenized form factors are generated to secure transactions using gateway technology and existing merchant POS terminals.

MovoCash follows bank rules and regulations, which are designed to protect consumers and merchants. The reality is that both are hesitant to adopt VC, which is why MovoCash is working on a product feature called BARK -- Bitcoin Account Relay Key -- which will allow consumers to convert Bitcoin to MovoCash (in a PCI-compliant environment) and enable them to spend anywhere Visa & MasterCard are accepted.

In this way, MovoCash catapults itself to the forefront of payments by integrating the old-world way of doing payments with new-world technology and advancement, with the opportunity to take a bite out of a $190 billion annual fraud problem for consumers, banks and merchants.

Eric Solis is a fin-tech entrepreneur and innovator, with three award winning start-ups under his belt.

3 Ways to Give Your Business a Competitive Edge in 2015

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 2:41pm
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - In case you are unaware, major changes to the shipping industry are afoot this year, which could cost businesses big bucks.

To better understand the transformation that is coming and find ways to save, read on:

* Beware of FedEx and UPS's New Pricing. The two shipping giants recently implemented dimensional weight pricing for all Ground shipments. What that means for business owners is that the cost of shipping a package will be based in part on how much space it takes up in a truck, as opposed to just its weight. As a result, sending large, lightweight items by UPS or FedEx could end up costing as much as 50 percent more. With this new pricing in place, businesses should re-examine how they send merchandise or risk paying extra to ship some of their packages. Companies should consider alternative carriers, such as the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), to offset this new pricing model.

* Get Lower Rates With the Post Office. The U.S. Postal Service chose to forego a price increase in January and also recently lowered rates for Priority Mail, making it an affordable option for packages weighing as much as 40 pounds. Priority Mail is a great alternative to FedEx and UPS Ground, which takes five to six days to deliver coast-to-coast. To compare, Priority Mail generally takes only two days to cross the country.

* Make Money on Returns. According to a survey conducted by Endicia, a provider of ecommerce shipping solutions, 89 percent of shoppers say they will revisit an online store following a positive returns experience. To this end, business owners need to offer a convenient returns process or risk losing customers to competitors. One option is to use Endicia's Pay-on-Use Returns, which allows retailers to create USPS return shipping labels to include in an outbound package or send via e-mail upon request from your customer. Postage for the label is deducted only if and when it is actually used. This means business owners won't have an outlay of money in pre-paid shipping labels and can take advantage of low shipping rates from the USPS.

"It's important for businesses to take a look at their shipping mix this year since there are many significant changes happening in this industry," said Endicia Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Harry Whitehouse. "If not addressed, increased shipping fees will certainly impact a business's bottom line."

For more small business shipping tips, visit endicia.com/edge.

5 Ways to Be Sweet and Healthy on Valentine's Day

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 8:00am
Five words or less

(NewsUSA) - NewsusaInfographic - Get healthier this Valentine's Day by following these five healthy alternatives from Kaiser Permanente's registered dietician, Ricia Taylor. For more information, visit kp.org.

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Employment Growth May Be From Your Street

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 10:16am
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(NewsUSA) - There is no doubt the economy is healthier than it has been in quite some time. One has only to look to the news to discern that the U.S. is in the midst of an economic growth spurt.

Underscoring a strengthening economy is that as of last month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 3 million more Americans were earning paychecks, compared with 12 months ago. And yet, even as unemployment rates are at an all-time low and at levels not seen in six years, there are still those who are struggling to find a job.

If this is the case for you or someone you know, opportunity may be closer than you realize. Here's why: Currently there are approximately 500,000 U.S. companies with annual revenue between $5 million and $25 million dollars -- companies that have succeeded in getting start-up financing with the help of families and friends, but have since grown into needing more capital to continue.

"Today 80 percent of investments in private companies are made within a 50 mile radius of that enterprise," says YourStreet Funds CEO Stephen H. Watkins. "The problem is that Wall Street struggles to find these companies in an efficient manner."

That's where the YourStreet Funds Independent Sales Organization (ISO) members come in. The sales member identifies these "faceless" companies who are on target for growth, but have capital needs too small to attract the attention of Wall Street, yet they typically need more capital than friends or family can spare to continue their growth.

These companies, Watkins says, are where the "economic and employment growth for America will occur if given a chance."

"Unfortunately, this void of companies, this chasm, has few resources and places to go for continued financing," he says.

The answer, according to Watkins, is a joint effort between YourStreet's ISO network identifying those companies in need and the regional and community brokers and sales reps across the nation.

"Mortgage brokers in every community know all the companies that fall into this category, as well as the CEO's and presidents of these growing companies," says Watkins. "Through the ISO network, the YourStreet Funds reach a large number of profitable companies across the nation, companies who would like growth capital for their business, so that in turn, they can hire more employees."

For more information, visit yourstreetfunds.com.

Homeowners May Be in Hot Water With New Water Heater Regulations

Wed, 02/04/2015 - 9:40am
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(NewsUSA) - In less than two months, new water heater efficiency standards will take effect and may end up hitting homeowners with an unexpected (and costly) expense.

To grasp the coming regulations, as imposed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), homeowners need to understand the impetus behind it -- which is that, according to the DOE, by replacing residential water heaters, pool heaters and direct heating equipment, consumers will save up to $10 billion and prevent the release of up to 164 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years.

"These energy-conserving appliance standards are a critical part of the Administration's overall efforts to save energy in homes and businesses nationwide," said former DOE Secretary Steven Chu. "By raising the energy efficiency requirements of our every-day appliances, we will save money for American families and companies, reduce carbon pollu-tion, and enhance our energy security for decades to come."

While no one is arguing the benefits of going green, the down side is the upfront cost to the consumer.

"Our customers could face price increases of up to 15 percent to 35 percent," said Mary Kennedy Thompson, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing. "Not only will the cost of water heaters increase an average of $120, but installation and maintenance costs will likely rise as well. As a result of new regulations that require a more complicated installation and increased amount of system parts necessary, homeowners could face a hefty replacement fee in the short run."

The added expense, says Thompson, comes in the form of the larger size of the new water heater units. Electric hot water heaters larger than 55 gallons -- the minimum required for most residential homes -- will require a minimum of 128 cu. ft. with a duct to a larger space in order to comply with the new standards. This means that homeowners will have the added burden of not only replacing a water heater, but potentially also undergoing a major renovation involving construction.

To combat a potentially high-priced situation, homeowners should consider checking the age of their hot water heaters. If they are getting close to the 10-year mark, they can be replaced before the new regulations take effect.

For more information on the right plan for your home, visit www.MrRooter.com.

Renovations Key to Boomers Looking to Age-in-Place

Tue, 02/03/2015 - 9:28am
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(NewsUSA) - With the vast majority of the 10,000 or so baby boomers turning 65 every day for the next 15 years wanting to remain in their current residence as long as possible, "aging in place" may hinge on how well outfitted for health, safety and comfort their homes are.

"You need to plan for reduced eyesight, poorer balance, diminished flexibility and less energy for upkeep," designer and home improvement expert Vicki Payne. "Making upgrades now to accommodate changing needs can make the difference between staying in your home or having to move."

On the inside, common age-in-place renovations include no-slip floors, bathrooms with grab bars and curb-less tiled showers, upgraded lighting, wider doors, levers instead of knobs, drawers instead of cabinets and higher electrical outlets.

On the outside, automatic lights and well-trimmed shrubs, no- or low-step entryways, and wide, textured, non-slip sidewalks can improve safety, and durable, low maintenance cladding like vinyl siding can reduce upkeep.

"For boomers' peace of mind and quality of life, vinyl siding is an ideal solution," Payne said. "It withstands sun, heat, cold and strong winds, never needs painting or re-caulking, and it only requires periodic cleaning with a garden hose, soft-bristle brush and a bucket of soapy water. In addition, insulated siding can save energy costs, improve comfort by preventing drafts and reduce noise."

And because vinyl siding does not absorb water, and its rainscreening design does not trap water behind the siding, a vinyl-sided home is less susceptible to water damage and the serious issues it can cause -- not an insignificant consideration, according to a study by home remodeling and design website Houzz.com.

The study said one in five homeowners perceive their home as having a negative impact on health, with Baby Boomers and Gen X'rs being the most critical of their homes' environment; nearly half said preventing health problems and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are motivating factors for home renovation. Homeowners who rated their homes as healthy were more likely to have made upgrades in the past 12 months.

"Homeowners are recognizing that their homes can have considerable impact on their well-being -- physical, psychological and economic," Payne said. "Retirees don't want surprises. That's why materials selection is an important part of any renovation, and partly why vinyl siding has been the number-one choice in exterior cladding for the last 20 years."

The NAHB Remodelers of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in collaboration with Home Innovation Research Labs, NAHB 50+ Housing Council and AARP, developed the Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS) program to work with boomers who will soon require home modifications. While most CAPS professionals are remodelers, an increasing number are general contractors, designers, architects and health care professionals. More information can be found at www.nahb.org.

To learn more about vinyl siding, visit at www.vinylsiding.org.

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