Happy birthday to our nation! Here’s to celebrating with barbecues, the great outdoors, fireworks and friends!
And yet -- not to rain on your parade, snuff your sparklers or put a cramp in your cookout – we want to share a word to the wise: Besides being our national birthday, the Fourth has also been called the most dangerous holiday of the year. Do have fun! Just take a look at these numbers and adjust accordingly in order to keep your family safe, sound and happy.
Hand-held sparklers burn at approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission – as hot as a blowtorch. Always supervise any fireworks activities closely, including those that “just” feature sparklers.
Independence Day is the deadliest day of the year for motor vehicle crashes, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, with 118 lives lost each year, on average. A life-saving move: making sure that everyone in the car buckles up on every trip. According to estimates by the National Safety Council, if everyone used their seat belt at all times, 181 lives could be saved over the three-day weekend.
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Newsflash: Your dog would not enjoy watching the local fireworks display. When a pet goes missing, loud noises like fireworks and thunderstorms are responsible nearly 20 percent of the time, reports the ASCPA. Make sure your pooch is kept securely indoors or on a leash throughout the night.
Don’t let mosquitoes ruin your picnic or barbecue – consider wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and use an EPA-registered insect repellant, says the CDC. Consumer Reports tests show that repellants containing 30 percent DEET provide just as much eight-hour anti-mosquito protection as stronger formulas, but are less likely to cause side effects like rashes or even seizures. (Used as directed, the CDC says, an EPA-registered repellant is safe during pregnancy. Don’t use repellant on babies younger than 2 months old.).
A 2014 British study found that the average barbecue-goer eats and drinks about 1,800 calories at a backyard cookout. To avoid developing a barbecue bulge, fill half your plate with fruits and veggies.
Planning a cookout for Memorial Day? That’s a great idea: Grilling is a naturally healthy way to prepare food, says Jessica Palumbo, RD, a dietitian at Glen Cove Hospital -- as long as you take a few simple precautions and make smart choices about the menu.
For summer celebrations that are safe, nutritious, and, of course, delicious, take these easy steps when you fire up your grill.
1. Marinate your meats.
Marinating steaks and poultry for at least 30 minutes before grilling has several pay-offs: First, it adds flavor and helps tenderize meat, so you can choose a leaner cut. And second, it seems to act as a barrier against the grill’s high heat. That’s important, because the char that can form on well-done meat, poultry, or seafood contains chemicals that have been linked to cancer. (A chemical reaction between animal proteins and high heat seems to be to blame.) “Just be sure to discard any marinade that was in contact with raw meat,” says Palumbo. “Don’t use it to baste your food while it cooks.”
2. Give your grill the brush-off.
Give your grill grates a good scrubbing before every use. Not only will this remove grease that could start a fire; it will also help remove potentially harmful bacteria that can breed in leftover food particles. Just be sure to inspect the grill if you’ve used a wire brush -- every year, a few people end up in the emergency department after swallowing bits of wire bristle that are left behind and stick to food like hamburgers. Another smart move: Check the brush before you use it, and toss it out if the bristles are loose.
3. Bring out the fruits and veggies.
“People forget that you can grill fruit,” says Palumbo. “The natural sugar in peaches and pineapples can caramelize and make them even sweeter, so they’re really delicious fresh off the grill.” Also extra-tasty: veggie kebabs, made with onions, peppers, zucchini, mushroom and tomato. Brush with a little olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning to bring the flavor out.
4. Cook it just right.
Undercooking meat can put you at risk for a food-borne illness, but you don’t want to overcook it, either—remember those dangerous chemicals formed when meat gets charred. Flip meat every minute to reduce the chance of burning it, and check it with a thermometer before taking it off the grill. Cook chicken to 165 degrees, ground beef or pork to 160, and steaks, chops or fish to 145.
5. Store leftovers promptly.
Don’t let perishables like burgers, hot dogs and dips sit out for more than two hours, says Palumbo, and if it’s 90 degrees or hotter, put food away within an hour. This protects against bacteria that can cause food poisoning, so you can enjoy your leftovers—if you have any, that is!
Every few years, the federal government comes out with advice about one of the most important things you do every day—eating. The new recommendations came out last month in the form of an update to the official Dietary Guidelines, and they include some big changes that are meant to help Americans make smarter choices about the food they eat in order to lower their risk of obesity and chronic disease.
“People whose diets match these guidelines stay healthier than those whose diets don’t,” says Nancy Copperman, RD, assistant vice president of public health and community partnerships for Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System). “And as our understanding of nutrition gets more sophisticated, those guidelines get tweaked based on the strongest and most recent science.”
While many of the government’s suggestions will seem familiar (yes, you still have to eat your veggies), you may be surprised by some of the other recommendations in the new guidelines. One of the most important changes: Limit added sugar.
Dietary experts have cautioned for years against eating too much of the sweet stuff, but for the first time they’ve singled out added sugar, meaning sugar that doesn’t occur naturally in whole foods like an apple or glass of milk (although milk doesn’t taste sweet, it naturally contains a sugar called lactose). Americans should consume less than 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugar, say the new guidelines; for someone who eats about 2,000 calories a day, that’s just 200 calories.
“That’s equal to about 12 teaspoons of sugar, total,” says Copperman. “Most of us currently consume about 22 teaspoons a day, so we need to basically cut that in half.” The easiest way to do that is to read labels, she says; choose foods with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. If the label lists anything over that level, the item probably contains added sugar. “That should make you think twice about whether that snack is really worth it,” Copperman says.
Worry less about cholesterol
Research has shown that cholesterol in food isn’t a major factor in raising the cholesterol level in our body. Instead, the new guidelines suggest limiting saturated fat. How? Try reducing your intake of fatty cuts of meat, and increasing chicken, fish and plant-based proteins like beans and nuts.
Get pickier about protein
Dovetailing with the above, another of the new guidelines says that many of us—specifically, many teen boys and adult men—eat more than the recommended 26 ounces of protein from animal sources per week. The problem is, a body can process only so much protein at a time, says Copperman. Anything it doesn’t use is stored as fat.
And while the guidelines single out guys, Copperman says that most of us (of either gender) can benefit from eating less animal-based protein. “Choosing smaller portions and filling our plates with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead is never a bad thing,” she says. “That’s advice that has stood the test of time.”
Dumb WhatsApp Scam Spreads Malware, Touting 'Free Internet' Without Wi-Fi: Beware
A pretty dumb WhatsApp scam is making rounds in chain mail form, promising "free internet" without Wi-Fi on an invite-only basis.
First of all, the scam is quite dumb to begin with because the only way to use WhatsApp without Wi-Fi is to have a cellular data connection and WhatsApp cannot offer data - it's just an app, not a provider.
Secondly, the scam is spreading because it prompts victims to forward the message to 13 friends or five groups on WhatsApp to activate the "free internet."
How It Works
"As usual, the message spreads via WhatsApp groups or comes from a friend who 'recommends' the service - often unaware of it. In this case, you receive a special invitation with a link," explains the WeLiveSecurity blog of antivirus and security firm ESET.
"You can already get Internet Free Without WI-FI with Whatsapp, and it is by means of invitations, here I give you an invitation," reads the poorly written message.
Upon clicking on the included link, users are taken to a website mimicking the WhatsApp domain. It detects the device's language based on the browser settings and invites users to pass along the invitation to more people, ensuring that the scam keeps spreading.
The message also shows fake reviews from fake users, claiming to be incredibly satisfied with this amazing offer. Those users don't even exist, much like this "free internet" invite-only deal. Don't fall for it, or you'll get more than you bargained for - and not in a good way.
After sharing the message with at least 13 people or five groups, users who have fallen victim to this sham end up on various sites where a number of malicious actions can wreak havoc.
According to WeLiveSecurity, such actions range from subscriptions to premium and expensive SMS services to installing third-party apps on the device, of course aiming to generate some money for the scammer on the victims' expense.
Victims will see various offers, but they obviously will not get any "free internet." The only way to use WhatsApp to communicate with people is to have an active internet connection, be it cellular data or Wi-Fi, and the scam does absolutely nothing to change this reality.
At best, victims waste their time and end up disappointed that the magical chain message didn't work. At worst, they end up with malicious software on their phones.
How To Avoid Such Scams
First of all, keep in mind that any message that shows up out of the blue, poorly written and making seemingly attractive promises are most likely fake, part of a scam. Raising awareness regarding these scams plays a crucial role in limiting their damage and slowing their spread rate.
If you've received this "free internet" offer or some other dubious message that looks like a scam, warn the sender and your friends so that they're aware it's a scam. Moreover, reporting the fraud is also important and it's not that big of a hassle - just flag it in your browser as you'd normally report any phishing campaign.
Don't get ripped off by fake airline tickets, timeshare schemes or travel scams with our guide to six cons that target people booking holidays.
The first few months of the year are some of the busiest times for holiday bookings, as those fed up with the cold, wet weather think about escaping to sunnier climes.
But if you are about to book a holiday, you need to be on your guard, as fraudsters are ready to pounce on those distracted by the excitement of organizing a trip to a dream destination.
Here we look at six of the common scams, the warning signs, and the steps you can take to protect yourself.
1. Dodgy accommodation websites
When booking a holiday, you need to keep your wits about your to avoid getting duped by a fake travel website.
A common crime sees fraudsters hacking into the accounts of well-known accommodation sites, or redirecting people to bogus imitations.
If the company has been defrauding people – or has a bad reputation – it’s likely that consumers will have posted warnings about it.
Also look to see if the holiday provider is a member of a recognized trade body, such as Abta or Atol.
2. Fake airline tickets
You need to check – and check again – that the plane tickets you are buying are genuine. If not, you could end up parting with cash for a fake ticket, or a ticket that never arrives. Flights to West Africa are particularly prone.
If the flight prices you are looking at are considerably cheaper than competitors, proceed with caution, as this could be a scam.
You should also be wary if you are offered a discount for paying the whole bill upfront. Most legitimate bookings will require you to pay a deposit, and then the remaining balance a month or so before the trip.
3. Watch out for fraudsters targeting big sporting events and caravan stays
It’s also worth noting that big sporting events are often targeted by conmen, with sports fans ending up out of pocket on hotels and tickets for events such as the recent World cup in Brazil.
In addition, criminals will often target caravan stays, and will post fake promotions for accommodation on Facebook, as well as advertising websites, Craigslist and Gumtree.
4. Take care before posting holiday details on Facebook
Think carefully before posting any information about your forthcoming trip on a social-networking site, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, as you could end up essentially advertising the fact you are going to be away.
Fraudsters will trawl sites such as these in search of details about people’s holiday plans, and could then target your empty property while you are away, safe in the knowledge that you are not at home.
5. Watch out for copycat websites
If you need to apply for a new passport for your holiday, take care not to get caught out by a copycat website. These sites offer access to online Government services, but often charge a premium for a public service which is either free – or much cheaper – when accessed via the official site.
To avoid getting duped, go directly to the Gov.uk site.
Also exercise caution when applying for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – the card which entitles you to state-provided healthcare either at a reduced cost, or for free.
6. Fraudulent resort presentations
Once you’re on holiday, keep your wits about you if you get invited to a so-called “holiday club” presentation in the resort in which you’re staying.
You may be persuaded into attending by the lure of a “free” holiday.
But if you’re not careful, you could get duped into buying a timeshare – and if you pay by bank transfer or cash, there is often no means of getting your money back.
Did you know I have something in common with Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and his predecessor Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam? We all wear glasses. And while the three of us might be literally short-sighted, there’s nothing short-sighted about the government’s consistent commitment to business growth in Singapore.
And the maiden Budget speech that Mr Heng gave last month echoed the Budget speeches of his predecessor DPM Tharman, in that he continues to recognise the importance of supporting small and medium enterprises in Singapore. Measures to strengthen local industries, such as the creation of new industrial spaces to cluster companies within the same industry and support to Trade Associations and Chambers to strengthen their capabilities and drive industry-wide solutions to common challenges were announced.
SMEs stand to benefit from having greater industry support as well as a more competitive industry. SMEs also enjoy financial support from a wide range of measures such as grants and tax rebates. But too often, it’s not clear what measures are available for businesses, or whether you’re eligible for them. Well, we’ve done the legwork for you. Regardless of where your company is on your enterprise journey, here is what Budget 2016 has for you:
The first step to getting help is knowing what help is actually available. Mr Heng admitted that although there’s a range of incentives schemes, some firms may often be confused as to which applies to them, or which agency is relevant to their interests.
Hopefully, this problem will be solved with a new Business Grants Portal, expected in the fourth quarter of 2016, as a centralised source of information on all grants available from government agencies. Through the Portal, SMEs should be better equipped to tap on the various financial aid available at different stages of their development.
In addition to the grants, the government is introducing an SME Working Capital Loan scheme for an initial period of 3 years, which lends up to $300,000 for each SME. This is especially useful for an SME starting out, when cashflow issues are a major problem. The government will co-share half of the default risk with participating financial institutions. This announcement comes on the heels of DBS’s announcement that they are the first bank in Singapore to offer SMEs bridging loans, which are collateral-free and have preferential interest rates.
However, start-ups also need to be aware that the cash payout rate under the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme will be reduced from 60% to 40% for expenditures incurred on or after 1 August 2016, and the PIC scheme will expire after the Year of Assessment 2018. According to Mr Heng, this move is to shift away from broad-based support to more targeted measures. The implication is clear – firms cannot just do their own thing and expect the government to subsidise you. If you want state aid, you’re going to have to move in the same direction that the most competitive firms are going. Ultimately, however, this stands to benefit the company as it is somewhat of a partnership towards improving the performance of the company overall.
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- Careconnect Health Insurance Group Review: The New Rules for Eating Right
- Online Security: Dumb WhatsApp Scam Spreads Malware - Beware
- Holiday Booking Scams to Avoid by Bacall Associates
- If You Run an SME, Here Are the Most Important Elements of Budget 2016
- Richard “Scott” Isaacs MD