August 4, 2011 4:57 pm
Sun protection doesn’t stop with the end of summer. It's important for parents to remember that it is crucial to give children a lesson in year-round sun protection. As children head back to school, they need to be protected against exposure to dangerous UV rays. Sun exposure can occur during recess, physical education classes, field trips and fall sport activities. And, it is important to remember that children are also exposed to UV rays as they walk to and from school.
Sun protection has no season and while skin cancer in children is rare, many skin cancers take years to develop. UVB rays will lessen during the winter months but harmful UVA rays will be in full force all year long. Sun protection products should be on the back-to-school supply list because one severe childhood sunburn doubles the chance of developing melanoma later in life.
Try out these sun safety tips:
• Teach children to search out shaded areas for playtime activities. The sun’s rays are especially intense between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
• In the morning, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays to exposed skin. If the school permits, teach your children to reapply the sunscreen at school before they head outside for recess.
• Don’t rely only on sunscreen. Sun protective clothing and sun hats with broad brims offer much more protection.
• Have your children wear sunglasses when outside. Make sure they block 99 percent or more of UV radiation.
• Lead by example. Parents should be good role models and practice sun safety themselves.
It is important for children to be educated about the dangers of excessive sun exposure. Sunburn can be prevented and sun safety measures should become part of a daily regime.
For more information, visit SunGrubbies.com.
August 3, 2011 4:57 pm
As children, we’re taught that our bodies need calcium to grow tall and healthy. As adults, we learn that calcium helps keep our bones strong and our minds sharp. By the time we reach our golden years, most of us will be taking dietary calcium supplements and consuming plenty of calcium foods under doctor’s recommendation. The problem is some popular forms of calcium may actually cause the body more harm than good.
“People have a false sense of security when it comes to vitamins and minerals, especially calcium supplements,” says Dr. Edward Group III, DC, ND a leading authority on alternative and complementary medicine at Global Healing Center. “They assume that simply because calcium supplements have made it onto store shelves, that they’re effective and safe.”
The bulk of calcium supplements found in stores are made from either calcium carbonate or calcium citrate, both of which are difficult for the body to utilize, and carry side effects with excessive use.
Besides dietary supplements, calcium carbonate is commonly found in chalk, antacids, masonry and commercially manufactured paper. It has also been associated with increased risk of heart attack, especially in older women. Calcium citrate, also common in over-the-counter supplements, carries similar risks and is known to be toxic in larger doses.
“Calcium orotate is by far the most bio-available and safest form of the mineral,” says Dr. Group. “Unlike other forms, calcium orotate is completely non-toxic and able to penetrate deep into the cells, bones, cartilage and other tissues.” He also points out that quality calcium supplements also usually contain other minerals that help the body absorb and make use of calcium.
“We’re not just talking about vitamin D here either,” explains Dr. Group, “Magnesium, specifically the orotate form, is a good one to keep an eye out for. It’s usually the sign of a top-shelf calcium supplement and the only one I would recommend for healthy living. ”
When it comes to taking a calcium supplement, you should always take a close look at what kind of calcium is listed on the label. There are many differences in the various types of calcium. What you may be taking, may not be giving you the benefits you desire.
August 3, 2011 4:57 pm
As electronic devices such as computers, laptops and cell phones have become indispensable to everyday life, it has alerted many to question where these items are ending up after use. Sadly, most of these electronic materials end up in landfills according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The issue of proper e-waste management has finally piqued government attention and created cause for long overdue action.
There’s valid reason for government intervention. The EPA estimates that the country generated close to 2.5 million tons of used electronics in 2010. Improper e-waste management is a serious issue that has serious public health implications not to mention environmental hazards. Something clearly needs to be done.
To combat this, the government created the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship in July 2011 to promote responsible electronic design, e-waste management, recycling, and create green jobs. As outlined it will:
• promote the development of more efficient and sustainable electronic products
• direct federal agencies to buy, use, reuse and recycle their electronics responsibly
• support recycling options and systems for American consumers
• strengthen America's role in the international electronics stewardship arena
With the shift in the government’s preservation actions, consumers must follow. Despite EPA reports that consumers still struggle to understand and achieve sustainable consumption, there are numerous simple solutions that consumers can adopt. To begin with, recycling one of the most widely used electronic devices, the cell phone, is a good start. According to the USEPA, approximately 14 million Americans recycled their used cell phones in 2007. Recycling and reusing consumer electronic devices such as cell phones, PDAs, chargers, and batteries facilitates energy conservation and keeps reusable materials out of landfills.
Here’s how it works. Cell phone and PDA devices are built from precious metals, coppers, and plastics, which all take energy to mine and manufacture, not to mention gas emission. As reported by the USEPA, recycling 100 million cell phones could save approximately 7,500 pounds of gold and return these valuable resources to the supply chain, thus minimizing waste. This would prevent 12 billion pounds of loose soil, sand, and rock from having to be moved, mined, and processed. These benefits are considerable.
Now, there is an additional incentive for those savvy consumers who want to trade in an old cell phone without losing all investment. The benefits are twofold, consumers can sell used cell phones to gain extra cash and reduce waste by increasing product lifespan. An organization that buys and recycles used cell phones for cash, like an old iPhone, is SellandRecycle.com. SellandRecycle.com, an up-and-coming green company, provides consumers with easy to use recycling and reselling services while offering some of the highest product payout.
It’s clear that the environmental benefits of recycling are worthwhile. Recycling consumer electronics amounts to energy savings, waste and emission reduction, and re-utilizing valuable metal materials.
August 3, 2011 4:57 pm
In today's modern real estate transaction, negotiating is a big part of the process. For buyers wanting to sweeten their deal or save some money, knowing how to approach the negotiation table is key to their success. Consider the following before locking in your deal:
Nothing is worse than moving before you have to, so having a flexible closing date is beneficial for both the buyer and seller. Whether kids are finishing up the school year or you're expected to finish out a work project, negotiating for a flexible closing date will save you the cost of renting in between and moving twice. Sellers may even be able to convince a buyer to rent the home back to them for a few months while wrapping up loose odds and ends. Having a loose date gives leeway for both parties.
Another way sellers can entice buyers is by offering bonuses or gifts as part of the closing agreement. Some sellers have even been known to offer trips to New York or Hawaii as part of the close. On the buyer end, you have a legitimate right to ask for items that are either built-in or customized to the home. Almost all questions are fair game and your requests just may be thrown into the deal for an added bonus.
Lastly, think about furnishings. For sellers, is there anything else you'd like to get rid of along with the home? Though it's never recommended to include furnishings along with the price (it hikes up the overall cost), asking buyers if they need any of your belongings is a great idea. Items sold outside of escrow can simply be left where they stand. Buyers may want to negotiate to buy washers, dryers or other large-scale appliances. After all, who wants to move those items? It would make the moving process easier on both parties.
These are just a few of the ways that both buyers and sellers can sweeten the deal in order to keep each other happy. Don't feel bad about asking for such concessions. A great rule to follow: You'll never know until you ask.
Source: AOL Real Estate
August 2, 2011 10:57 pm
Would you prefer to use less-toxic cleaners around your home? Both homemade and natural-based commercial products can be used as alternatives to their sometimes more toxic, often petroleum-based commercial counterparts. While homemade cleaners can be made with familiar, less-toxic ingredients and may be cheaper, they do require some planning and perhaps a bit more elbow grease. Natural-based commercial products, on the other hand, may be more convenient, but keep in mind that “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean nontoxic. Here are some tips for getting the most value, while helping to save your home and your planet:
How to Get the Most Value
Homemade cleaners often cost less. Mixing your own cleaners at home will almost always save you money, since you won’t be paying for the advertising, marketing, and other costs that go into a commercial cleaning product’s price.
Using fewer cleaners can save money. Whether you buy or make them yourself, try to find one or two cleaners that can effectively clean a variety of surfaces. You’ll not only be able to save money and space, you’ll also cut down on packaging waste.
Buying larger sizes tends to be cheaper in the long run. Larger sizes are usually, but not always, less expensive, ounce for ounce. Choosing large sizes can also mean buying less often, helping to reduce packaging waste.
An Ounce of Prevention
If you can prevent stains from setting in by taking care of them right away, you’ll reduce the need for tough specialty cleaners, which are often relatively expensive, more toxic, and harmful to surfaces. Or better yet, try to prevent stains from happening in the first place. For example:
- To avoid using oven cleaners, put a layer of aluminum foil in the bottom of the oven and replace it periodically.
- To avoid drain cleaners, put fitted screens over drains and pour kitchen grease into empty containers that can be disposed of in the trash.
- To avoid air fresheners, open windows to air out the house occasionally.
- To avoid bathroom mildew removers, wipe down the shower curtain and walls after showering.
- To avoid carpet cleaners, take off shoes at the door.
For more information, visit GreenerChoices.org.
August 2, 2011 10:57 pm
A new study “Roadmap to Video Apps (What Makes Viewers APPy?)” shows that sometimes the best things in life are still free. When rating the attributes of video applications, like YouTube, Hulu or iTunes for smartphones and tablets, 63 percent of respondents said that “free or low subscription rates” is the most important attribute for a video application. In addition, 65 percent of video app users say that word-of-mouth plays an important role in deciding which video apps to use.
“This new research uncovers valuable insights into how people are using video apps, how they complement their TV viewing behavior and what’s most important to them. The results are encouraging, including the finding that consumers are open to advertisements on apps in exchange for a free or a lower cost service and generally even more receptive to ads on tablet apps,” says Indira Venkat, senior vice president, strategic research and consumer insights, The Weather Channel Companies, and member of the CTAM Research Committee overseeing this study.
This research, conducted by Nielsen and commissioned by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) is the first to feature both qualitative and quantitative consumer reactions to video applications on both mobile and in-home internet-connected devices.
According to the research, roughly 85 percent of video app users say they are watching the same amount or more regularly scheduled TV since using video apps. In fact, for many, it enhances viewership of regularly scheduled TV. Nearly half, 46 percent of video app users report being more engaged with the programs or networks associated with the video apps after accessing them. And 35 percent report that video app usage causes them to visit the network or program website associated with the video app more than they had before they started using the app.
In another first, the CTAM study found that “Sync-to-TV” apps actually increase consumers’ engagement with television programming rather than distracting from it. Sync-to-TV refers to a second screen app (in this case an iPad or iPad 2) that recognizes a program broadcast through a TV set that launches interactive “modules” on the second screen corresponding with the programming or show playing on the primary screen.
Consumers reported that the sync-to-TV experience makes them more likely to pay heightened attention to the program thus increasing their engagement with the program and the advertising and keeping them tuned in longer. One sync-to-TV respondent commented, “It made a difference because it was right there [on my lap]. I don’t have to go to the website and type out the URL or go searching for the same thing on my browser.”
Of the online survey respondents, roughly 95 percent of video app users have used a downloaded, or pre-installed, video app (paid or free) via a mobile device (smartphone, iPod touch or tablet) and roughly 80 percent via in-home device in the last 30 days. Roughly three-quarters of all video app users most often access video apps at home. Approximately 50 percent of those who use video apps on their smartphones and iPod touches report they most often access video apps on these devices when they are in a car.
These, and other CTAM findings, follow Nielsen’s Q1 2011 Mobile Connected Device Report illustrating explosive growth in video app usage by a combined 15 million smartphone and tablet users.
For more information, visit www.ctam.com.
August 2, 2011 10:57 pm
Freddie Mac released the results of its second quarter refinance analysis showing homeowners who refinance continue to strengthen their fiscal house.
Freddie Mac discovered the following:
• In the second quarter of 2011, 77 percent of homeowners who refinanced their first-lien home mortgage either maintained about the same loan amount or lowered their principal balance by paying-in additional money at the closing table. Of these borrowers, 51 percent maintained about the same loan amount, and 26 percent of refinancing homeowners reduced their principal balance.
• "Cash-out" borrowers, those that increased their loan balance by at least five percent, represented 23 percent of all refinance loans; the average cash-out share during the 1985 to 2010 period was 46 percent.
• The median interest rate reduction for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was about 1 percentage point, or a savings of about 18 percent in interest rate. Over the first year of the refinance loan life, these borrowers will save over $1,550 in interest payments on a $200,000 loan.
• The net dollars of home equity converted to cash as part of a refinance of a conventional, prime-credit home mortgage was an estimated $7.5 billion in the U.S. during the second quarter, similar to the first quarter level but substantially less than during the peak cash-out refinance volume of $83.7 billion during the second quarter of 2006. Taken together over the first two quarters of 2011 and adjusting for inflation, the amount of equity cashed-out was at the lowest level in 15 years, since the second half of 1996.
• Among the refinanced loans in Freddie Mac's analysis, the median value change of the collateral property was a negative 7 percent over the median prior loan life of five years. In comparison, the Freddie Mac House Price Index shows about a 25 percent decline in its U.S. series between March 2006 and March 2011. Thus, borrowers who refinanced in the second quarter owned homes that had held their value better than the average home, or may reflect value-enhancing improvements that owners had made to their homes during the intervening years.
"This is primarily a 'rate-and-term' market, meaning that the typical homeowner is looking to cut their interest rate or shorten their loan term. More than three-in-four borrowers are keeping their loan balance about the same or reducing their loan balance when they refinance," says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist.
"Savvy homeowners are taking advantage of some of the lowest fixed-rates in more than 50 years to lock in interest savings. Over the first half of 2011, fixed-rate mortgage rates hit a low during June, with 30-year product averaging 4.50 percent and 15-year averaging 3.68 percent over the last four weeks of June, according to our Primary Mortgage Market Survey."
For the latest information from Freddie Mac's Office of the Chief Economist, visit http://twitter.com/FreddieMac.
August 1, 2011 4:57 pm
The National Association of Home Builders commends the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for rejecting a proposal to add third-party clearance testing to the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP).
“We’re pleased that the EPA listened to the concerns of remodelers about the extreme costs the proposed clearance testing would have imposed,” says Bob Peterson, NAHB Remodelers chair and a remodeler from Fort Collins, Colo. “Homeowners are saved from spending a great deal of money on lead testing. If remodeling is more affordable, homeowners will be able to hire an EPA-certified renovator to keep them safe from lead dust hazards during renovation.”
At NAHB’s request this regulation was selected for review by the EPA under the Presidential Executive Order for Regulatory Review (Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review, 76 FR 3821 issued on Jan. 21) concerning the impact of federal rules on small businesses and job creation.
The lead rule applies to homes built before 1978 and requires renovator training and certification, following lead-safe work practices, containing and cleaning dust, and record keeping.
Under the lead paint rule contractors have been required to wipe down the project area after completing remodeling or renovation work and match the result to an EPA-approved card to determine whether lead paint dust is still present—a process that EPA says is “effective at reducing dust lead levels below the dust-lead hazard standard.”
The proposal would have required contractors to hire EPA-accredited dust samplers to collect several samples after a renovation and send them to an EPA-accredited lab for lead testing. Because of the cost of this as well as the waiting period for test results and the limited number of accredited labs nationwide, professional remodelers were very concerned about homeowners’ willingness to undergo the process.
“The EPA has maintained its common sense approach to keeping families safe during renovation,” says Peterson. “Hiring trained professional remodelers to contain dust, use lead-safe work practices, and clean up has been shown to successfully minimize lead hazards and protect individuals from lead exposure.”
Several problems with the rule still remain, however. The EPA has yet to recognize an efficient, low-cost lead test kit that meets the requirements of the regulation. And last year the agency removed a key consumer choice measure—the opt-out provision—which allowed homeowners with no children or pregnant women in residence to waive the rule’s requirement. In this down economy, consumers are still balking at the extra costs of the rule and often choose to reduce the amount of work done on their homes, hire uncertified contractors, or endanger themselves by attempting the work themselves.
For more information, visit www.nahb.org.
August 1, 2011 4:57 pm
Since the introduction of cash back credit cards many years ago, credit card providers are using any means necessary to gain new members and encourage the loyalty of their existing ones. In March of this year, Bankrate.com released the results of its annual credit cards survey and the findings were quite revealing.
Details such as the annual fees, introductory bonuses, reward rates and expiration periods for the rewards were taken from 32 top providers and compared against the previous year’s data. Some of the more revealing results of the findings include the fact that in spite of incentives and bonuses added to some programs, the average cash back payout remains at 1%. Still, it is heartening to know that 19% of providers offer tiered reward rates which increase with increased spending. Examples of these providers include Chase Freedom and Discover More who offers 5% cash back in certain categories and American Express who offers 5% cash back on all purchases once cardholders surpass $6,500 in purchases annually.
For consumers who don’t mind having their payouts delivered to Fidelity IRA, 529 or brokerage accounts, investment themed cards deliver 2% payouts.
Annual fees have been a thorn in the sides of consumers and the survey reveals that credit card providers are sitting up and taking notice. Only four of the surveyed issuers charge annual fees, one of them being the American Express True Earnings Card offered through Costco. The fee is promptly waived if the cardholder takes out a Costco membership.
Another important finding in the survey deals with the redemption of rewards. Fifty percent of the credit card providers surveyed do not impose expiration dates on the rewards earned and a whopping 31% give cardholders up to five years to redeem their rewards. In any case, cash back rewards are generally redeemed frequently so this is not too big an issue in most consumers’ minds.
Jessie Wills, a financial analyst from CashBackRewardCreditCards.net, firmly believes that cash back credit cards are still a good deal for consumers because they can fit into every lifestyle. She explains, “With cash back rewards, consumers can get something back for their everyday spending, but there is catch; they must pay back the balance on time. It’s like getting free money!” When asked about making the most of these types of cards she offers the following advice, “Start by choosing the right card, don’t settle for any card that offers less than one percent cash back. Second, charge all your daily expenses to that one card, but remember to use your cash to pay off the balance so that interest rates don’t consume your cash back earnings. Finally, before you are set to receive your payout at the appointed time, make a plan to put it to good use. Depending on your household budget you can earn as much as $4,000 over a three year period. That’s a lot of money, especially if all you did to earn it is pay your bills!”
For more information, visit www.bankrate.com and www.cashbackrewardcreditcards.net.
August 1, 2011 4:57 pm
Even though it has been years since the height of the subprime mortgage crisis, many Americans continue to receive fraudulent offers of foreclosure and refinancing assistance, both in the mail and online. The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) and the nation’s more than 7,000 community banks want consumers to know how to protect themselves from these financially detrimental loan scams.
“Too many Americans are still being targeted by scams that promise to help them avoid foreclosure or refinance their mortgage to a lower rate,” says Sal Marranca, ICBA chairman and president. “The best protection is good information. Community bankers want to be sure that consumers know the warning signs that they may be dealing with a scam artist and how to protect themselves so that they don’t wind up in an even worse financial situation.”
First, if you are having financial troubles, you should contact your mortgage lender immediately. By taking the direct approach, you will be less likely to be taken in by those pitches offered by way of unsolicited phone calls, emails or letters that appeal to your worst fears.
Consumers should be wary of any company that does the following:
• Guarantees to stop the foreclosure process—no matter what your circumstances.
• Instructs you to not contact your lender, lawyer or credit or housing counselor.
• Collects a fee before providing you with any services.
• Accepts payment only by cashier’s check or wire transfer.
• Encourages you to lease your home so you can buy it back over time.
• Tells you to make your mortgage payments directly to them, rather than your lender.
• Tells you to transfer your property deed or title to them.
• Offers to buy your house for cash at a fixed price that is not set by the housing market at the time of sale.
• Offers to fill out paperwork for you.
• Pressures you to sign paperwork you haven’t had a chance to read thoroughly or that you don’t understand.
If you think you have been the victim of a loan scam, you should contact your state attorney general’s office to file a complaint and learn the next steps to repair any damage incurred as a result of the scam.
“Community banks are here to help our customers with legitimate programs and loan options that are tailored to each individual’s situation,” Marranca says. “We never take a cookie-cutter approach. That’s the last thing people need when they’re facing financial difficulties.”
For more information, visit www.icba.org.