Making Money From Pictures

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They say do something that you love and you won’t work a single day in your life. If only life is that simple. Societies are more complex now and finding the niche where you belong to is easier said than done. You can only wish to end up doing a job you’d learn to like as you go along. However, as technology continues to progress, changes are likewise taking place and opportunities are opening up to those who are willing to take the risk. Our love for social media and the visual arts proved to be an edge for aspiring photographers who want to make money out of their hobby of taking pictures.

Most photographers often make the transition of taking photography to the next level if only to cover the basic costs of pursuing their hobby. There are various opportunities when it comes to picture taking and you don’t always have to have the latest professional camera (although it helps) but have an eye for what looks good in photos or not. You can offer your services (at a lower cost) to people within your circle (family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors) to take photos during weddings or other special events for starters. You can also dabble with real estate photography or even sell your own photos as stock photographs or to collectors who don’t mind buying works of amateurs like you.

Starting your own photography business is a great way to add a second income or a main income, if you work hard. While the photography market is competitive, many photography business owners have been able to find their niche and build a sustainable career. Like most creative endeavors, you need to balance your passion for photography with real business skills in order to be successful. To build and grow your business, you need both raw talent and a knack for marketing. One photographer we spoke with said an ability “to market yourself” was one of the most important factors in success. You should continually be working to improve your craft and evolving your product, and work consistently on your own branding, online marketing and people skills. Without the two, the results will likely just be an expensive hobby rather than a viable full-time business.


If you want to turn your hobby into a lucrative career, the first investment you have to make is to buy that fancy looking camera with a long list of features that only pros know how to use. And mind you, they can be quite pricey especially high-end lens. You also have to prepare for additional lenses, flashes, memory cards, computers, external hard drives, and a professional-looking website to boot. If you want to make your business more legit, prepare additional requirements in securing a business permit, insurance, business cards, accounting, and contracts. It is quite a handful for a budding photographer like you but they are important requisites to becoming a pro.

In Instagram’s early days, few photographers realized the photo-sharing platform’s full potential. Often, it was used as an alternative portfolio or a way to keep your followers up to date on your day to day photo musings. But as Instagram has grown – it announced 500 million users last month – it has become, for some, an opportunity to work on commercial shoots where posting on their own Instagram feeds is part of the deal.

TIME LightBox spoke with five photographers who are leveraging their followings.

Pei Ketron for Pfizer

Few photographers have been seamlessly incorporating Instagram into their business as long as Ketron has. When Instagram-based assignments began emerging around three years ago, Ketron says it was i nitially with travel companies in exchange for lodging and airfare but has grown to bigger budgets as its value as an advertising tool has increased. She cautions photographers that “it’s a big ego boost to have companies approach you, but be weary of accepting the handouts in exchange for money to avoid undercutting the market.”


We now live in a day and age where things have evolved to fit our highly digital lifestyle. Social media is a force to reckon with but it can also be your friend. Photographers who mastered social media are able to leverage their income and make money from the photos they post on social media especially that of travel bloggers who travel the world for a living, so others can experience what it’s like from the photos they post online. Basically, they make money from being popular social media influencers with a cult following and do a lot of sponsored posts because that is where the money is at. It can even pave the way for your transition from an amateur to a pro photographer.

While talent helps a lot, it takes a lot of patience, courage, and skills to shift to professional photography where you can turn your hobby into your main source of bread and butter. Learn about building your brand and reaching out to a wider audience using the technology we have today. Just keep in mind that it won’t always be easy, so be ready to build your name and connections because they can help a lot in your future success.

What Is It Like To Be A Member Of The LGBT Community In America?

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Our society is becoming more diverse than ever as people feel more relaxed and open to showing their true colors and no longer hiding their sexuality in the closet. Despite still being frowned upon in some societies, you can hear more gay and lesbian relationships out in the open now than it was a decade ago. Some are into cross-dressing while others prefer to be more discreet.

Gays also give life to parties and conversation with their lively personalities. But what is it really like to live in one of the most progressive countries in the world? Gay pride is popular in America but there are still many incidences of gay abuse and crimes where the LGBT community are picked on, ridiculed, or even killed because they are considered as sexual deviants by many conservative citizens in the country.

A local chapter of a national LGBTQ support organization will be hosting a screening of the National Geographic documentary “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric” at 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 21, in an effort to help educate the local community about issues related to gender identity and the LGBTQ community.

The documentary, which was made in conjunction with an entire issue of National Geographic magazine dedicated to LGBTQ and gender issues, examines the “rapidly evolving complexities of gender identity,” said Chad Farner, an Oskaloosa Middle School teacher and a president and co-founder of the PFLAG Oskaloosa chapter.

Raising awareness can make a big difference on how the population at large understands the life of the LGBT community and be more tolerant of them as members of the community.

“There is certainly a need to advocate and educate about LGBTQ issues,” Farner said of the film showing and discussion. “[Gender identity] is not as black and white as people may think. The idea is to educate the public on gender identity and the different facets.”

Farner said PFLAG has a goal of advocating for equal rights for all Iowans, especially those who identify as LGBTQ. The local Oskaloosa chapter has a mailing list with more than 50 people, and meets monthly. Farner said there are several students in the Oskaloosa Community School District that are “exploring their gender” and the organization strives to help them in any way possible.

“We’ve had a least one transgender student reach out at the high school, and there are several at the middle school.” Farner said. “There is support among the other students and the district seems to be handling [the issue] well. It feels good.”


All over the country, LGBT support groups take initiatives to fight for their rights and make their voices be heard in the nation’s capital.

Brinton started #50Bills50States, a campaign to eliminate conversion therapy in all 50 states. Brinton went through conversion therapy, later graduated MIT and went on to become a nuclear physicist. Brinton also is on the board for the Born Perfect campaign as a part of the National Coalition for Lesbian Rights. So far, five states have banned conversion therapy for those who are under 18, and another 22 have submitted legislation this year. The ban means that licensed therapists would have their licenses removed for performing conversion therapy.

Brinton said the suicide rate for LGBT people, already higher when compared to the straight and cisgender population, is astronomically high for those who have survived conversion therapy. Brinton said survivors may need mental health support but don’t seek it because conversion therapy caused the mental health crisis in the first place.


It seems as if that despite the openness towards gays/ lesbians we see in the mainstream media, it does not really or rarely happens in real life all the time and many members of the LGBT community still struggle to be accepted by the people around them. They even struggle to get fair and just treatment from leaders of the country who tramples on their rights and even manage to get away with it.

The US Senate should “interrogate” President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, several of the country’s top LGBT groups said on Thursday, warning that Judge Neil Gorsuch’s track record raises concerns he opposes same-sex marriage and transgender rights.

In a letter to leading members of the Senate Judiciary Committee obtained by BuzzFeed News, 19 organizations worried Gorsuch may stymie attempts to expand legal protections, saying, “We have concluded that his views on civil rights issues are fundamentally at odds with the notion that LGBT people are entitled to equality, liberty, justice and dignity under the law.”

Gorsuch would serve on the Supreme Court as several LGBT cases percolate in the federal judiciary, including those asking whether transgender students and workers are protected under existing law, and if corporations are free to act based on their opposition to same-sex marriage.


There is a lot of work involved before the LGBT community can finally be viewed as normal members of society where people will no longer judge them because of their gender identity or sexual preference. It is not a lost cause for them, though, as the public gradually becomes less condescending to them and start to see them as human beings too. It is a different case, though, when it comes to biased government officials whose policies are affected by their own personal biases.

Hacking It Up In The Clouds

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Technology is not 100% safe from hackers. It is common knowledge. If they can hack the most complex of systems of the government and big companies, it is effortless to do that to ordinary citizens like the rest of us mere mortals. The problem now is that we use too much technology in our lives. From the moment we wake up until we close our eyes, we live and breathe technology.

And it is not just about our obsession with technology. Technology makes our world go round as most processes and business relies heavily on it to function. Just imagine its impact on our lives. But there is an accompanying risk we can’t always ignore: hackers. A hacking attack experienced in the last quarter of last year only revealed the severity and gravity of such a situation not to mention how vulnerable we all are.

Major websites were inaccessible to people across wide swaths of the United States on Friday after a company that manages crucial parts of the internet’s infrastructure said it was under attack.

Users reported sporadic problems reaching several websites, including Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb, Reddit, Etsy, SoundCloud and The New York Times.

The company, Dyn, whose servers monitor and reroute internet traffic, said it began experiencing what security experts called a distributed denial-of-service attack just after 7 a.m. Reports that many sites were inaccessible started on the East Coast, but spread westward in three waves as the day wore on and into the evening.

And in a troubling development, the attack appears to have relied on hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices like cameras, baby monitors and home routers that have been infected — without their owners’ knowledge — with software that allows hackers to command them to flood a target with overwhelming traffic.


Even techy everyday objects can be used against you. And this hacking incident made everyone realized just that.

In the aftermath of the attack, security experts reported finding that flaws in the Internet of Things had made the problem worse. The Internet of Things is the collection of everyday objects that can gather information then share it online. These objects use built-in sensors and other small devices to interact with the environment around them.

For example, “smart” basketballs or soccer balls can collect data on shooting skills to help a player improve. Smart dolls can recognize their owners and have friendly conversations. Smart cars can monitor the road for signs of danger. Even an ordinary house can become a smart home. A heater might shut itself off when it senses that the house is empty, for example. Or a lamp might turn itself off after a child falls asleep.

The possibilities are almost endless. But storing data about your life online — and all the time — brings hidden risks.


As technology advances; so does the capability of hackers. They also innovate and adapt to the safety and security measures implemented by most websites. Cloud computing is one example. The cloud is now a favorite and convenient data storage option for many but it is no longer safe from hackers. But what will happen to our data now that the hackers found a way to bypass cloud cyber security among others.

In recent years, computing has gone to the cloud. But this so-called “cloud computing” can pose new risks, a study finds. The reason: Computers that make up the cloud have become a hideout for malware, programs that can hijack or harm someone’s computer or files.

People use “cloud computing” to free up space on their own computers. They can store files containing anything from research data to vacation snapshots. Some people also run programs on devices connected through the cloud, rather than on their own, personal machines. This cloud computing, therefore, makes it possible for someone to share files quickly with a lot of other people.

But for all its benefits, the cloud can have a dark side. That’s a finding of the new study. Malware stored on devices that make up the cloud can turn on — and against you — when you click on certain fraudulent website links or when you download an attachment that masks its real intent. These links or attachments will trick the user, linking its computer to files in some cloud where malware lurks.


Hackers have stepped up their game. If there is one good thing that can ever come out of this issue is that perhaps it will keep everyone on their toes. Cliché as it may seem, prevention is always better than cure.

Take cybersecurity seriously. Install firewalls or anti-virus software to protect your gadget from modern hacking threats. Be wary of the sites you visit and limit online transactions whenever possible. Also, limit the amount of technology you use in your life. You don’t need all those smart gadgets to live in your day-to-day.

And most importantly, remember that data is such a precious commodity that is often underrated. Protect yours at all cost. Identity theft is possible, always keep that in mind. Hackers are just around to steal your information at a time when you are vulnerable the most.

Are These Yoga Trends Here To Stay?

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In a world full of junks and majority of the population are becoming overweight or obese, getting fit is not an easy thing to do or maintain. Eating right and living healthy are considered as novelties right now when almost everyone prefers to eat in fast-food and consume bags of chips along with bottles or cans of soda endlessly. Those who realize that they have a big problem in their midst make a conscious effort to take care of their body and live healthily despite the abundance of temptations in their surroundings.

There is more to yoga than meets the eye. You can do yoga by yourself or in groups and still enjoy the same benefits. However, like everything else, there are trends that pop up now and then that may or may not always last long. Among the most recent yoga trends involve drinking wine. It sounds too good to be true, right? But yes, it is a thing now in places like Italy, California, Hawaii, and Mexico. If you aren’t a fan of yoga, the thought of drinking wine may motivate you to start stretching those aching muscles and do your body some good after all the abuse it has to bear day in and day out.

Sixty minutes of yoga can be restorative, sure, but the practice of yoga itself can also be solitary, says Morgan Perry, founder of Yoga Unwined in New York City, who also has an advanced certificate through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Throughout her Vinyasa-style classes, she sprinkles in wine facts and ends with a meditative tasting. It’s a good plan: A tasting at the tail end of yoga class provides a built-in happy hour with people you already know you have a lot in common with, and these connections give you more than just a solid squad—research has proven tight social ties keep blood pressure and BMI in check, and even increase longevity.

You’ll get double the zen.

It’s no surprise that wine gives you that breezy, free feeling after a long week. This calming sensation is, in part, attributed to the lower alcohol content in wine compared to hard alcohol, says Victoria James, a sommelier and the author of Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé. “The alcohol content in wine is 12 to 14 percent on average, versus 30 to 40 percent for tequila. This allows your body to slowly relax and adjust to the alcohol levels at a better pace,” she explains. With a meditative focus on breath and movement, yoga also helps us release tension, decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, studies have shown. Read: A double whammy of calm.


Yoga and wine are good for us even when done or taken separately as long as the latter is consumed in moderation. Also, wine is best tasted when you are focused in doing only one thing which is why it tastes so much better when you drink it during yoga sessions. Moreover, a vineyard setting is the perfect place to get lost and get into the yoga zen you so desperately want (need) and that glass of wine can help you burn fats faster than just doing yoga alone. So, try yoga instead if you need to lose weight if you aren’t such a fan of more rigorous exercise routines.

The strangest fitness trends are emerging. One of those strange fitness trends is called beer yoga, according to GQ Magazine. As seen in the below video, “beer yoga” features people sucking down sips of beer in the middle of performing yoga poses. Whereas some classes feature yoga participants drinking beer after the classes, other “beer yoga” classes show the yoga participants incorporating the beer bottles into their yoga poses.

According to Vice, beer yoga started out at Burning Man, and now it has caught on in Australia, Southeast Asia, and perhaps soon in the U.S. However, folks are warning about the dangers of holding glass beer bottles in your hand whilst trying to perform the tree pose in yoga classes. A slip or fall could result in injuries that likely wouldn’t have happened if the yoga participant didn’t have a glass beer bottle in their hands at the time.

The beer yoga trend joins the goat yoga fitness trend. As reported by WTOP, goat yoga began to trend about a year or more ago as the social media trend of performing yoga poses near goats took off.

Goat yoga, according to, involves yoga adherents visiting farms or other places with goats roaming nearby. 


You’ll be surprised at how creative some people who start these trends are. But more than that, these people are actually just concerned about their well-being that they are willing to try just about anything no matter how absurd they may seem at first. Yoga, in particular, may not look that beneficial but it actually is. Assuming and holding certain poses does wonder to the body and provide immediate relief to tired and aching muscles that many people miss out on but oh so desperately needs.

Female Entrepreneurs On The Rise

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Running a business isn’t an easy feat. From starting up to maintaining it and making sure it stays relevant and profitable, entrepreneurs juggle various tasks to keep the business afloat. The economy isn’t always stable and there are various factors that can shake your business up, so you always have to be on your toes. Countless businesses are still opening up despite that gloomy forecast. That’s the beauty of competition and a free and open market. While mostly dominated by men, there are also more female entrepreneurs now than it did before.

Women are now empowered to take bigger business risks because most are educated and hold degrees of their own. From small startups to family businesses and online ventures, you can see more women at the forefront of business ventures and actually succeed in it. It no longer comes as a surprise that many women hold important positions in various big and multinational brands not only because they are educated but more so because most women naturally have a knack for business themselves.

The economic recovery has been a long, slow slog. Without women starting businesses, we’d all be in much tougher shape. Here’s why: Women start businesses at a rate five times faster than men. In fact, women launch 1000 new businesses every day.

Women would do a whole lot more to save America if only America would return the favor and treat women small-business owners equally.

Since the recession, new businesses and jobs have grown slowly. Women-owned businesses have been a beacon of hope: they’ve grown five times faster than the national average, according to the sixth annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express.


Women own about 10 million businesses as of date and most are small businesses that contribute a lot for the betterment of society. Unlike in the past, women are more optimistic now to go out of their comfort zone and take calculated risks when it comes to business. Consequently, their businesses create jobs that help people earn money and provide for their families aside from the lives they touch with the products and services they offer whether it is in retail, food and beverage, spa, salon etc.

This fact forms part of a bigger picture of gender imbalance in the business world. Just a tenth of capital invested globally is in a business led by a woman. Only 18 percent of venture capital investors in the UK are female. In the US, a woman is twice as likely to start a business as a woman in the UK.

Clearly, this all needs to change, especially when you consider recent findings from Barclays Bank and the Entrepreneurs Network, which showed that female-led companies bring in 20 percent more revenue with 50 percent less money invested when compared to companies led by men. The same research found that 34 percent of male entrepreneurs have seen a business go under compared with 23 per cent of female founders.

There is much that can be done. A good place to start is to provide young women with successful business role models – 83 percent of women who have started their own business have known someone else who has done so.


Not only in the US but female entrepreneurs are likewise growing in the UK albeit at a much slower pace. It’s actually a good culture of women entrepreneurs helping other women make a living and even start small businesses of their own. You can’t always predict what will happen to the market, so saying that there are risks involved in business is an understatement.

Women see things differently, which is perhaps the reason why they also do things differently and come up with plans and ideas that are new to many people. They aren’t afraid to compromise too unlike men who have a more structured approach to business. And lastly, women are likewise often better than men when it comes to customer service since ethics and honesty are among the finest traits of women that are crucial to making a business succeed.

Not A Good Time For LGBT Activists

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Times have changed a lot that gays and lesbians no longer have to hide in the dark (or in the closet) anymore. Most of them are now free to express their gender choices and even cross-dress if they are confident enough. Those who are in relationships with one another even get to get married for real because some US states and countries now allow that to happen. Best of all, it is legal too. Indeed, the LGBT community is doing better now than they did before but underneath, problems still exist.

Even though their lives are better now, there are still challenges that the LGBT community continues to face until now. LGBT activists speak up on behalf of the gay community to voice out their sentiments and ensure that the people in authority know about it and they can include such changes in the policies they make. While gays and lesbians live better now, some are still discriminated and had to endure some sort of violence (verbal or physical) now and then.

In the United States and many other parts of the world, this is a worrisome time for LGBT activists, as the pace of civil rights victories has grown uneven and reports of anti-LGBT violence and persecution surface relentlessly.

In the past two months, there have been large-scale detentions of gay men in Nigeria and Bangladesh, and chilling accounts of roundups and torture of scores of gays in Chechnya.

In Indonesia, a major police raid on a gay sauna was followed two days later by the public caning of two gay men.

More than 70 countries continue to criminalize gays’ sexual activity.


In some places in the US, serial killings of gays have flooded the news not long ago that it became a cause of alarm for the entire LGBT community. In far away places of Bangladesh and Nigeria, gay men are also being detained. Other similar cases are happening in various places all over the world that the LGBT community is calling for everyone to unite in the face of extreme and violent oppression and make their voices heard.

But this year, the meeting leading up to the parade was not to finalize organizational touches. Instead, many members of the LGBT community bombarded Capital Pride organizers with their concerns about corporate sponsorship, police participation, the lack of diverse leadership, and fundamental questions of whether this year’s Pride should be a celebration or a demonstration. For more than two hours, attendees pushed for significant changes, outnumbering those who wanted Pride to remain the same celebration it’s been in recent years.

In various ways, the meeting in DC was a microcosm of concerns that have become more prominent in planning Pride celebrations in the era of President Donald Trump, from New York to Los Angeles. Cities all over the country began having June parades in 1970, on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots, in which patrons of a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn spontaneously rose up against police harassment in an event generally considered to be the beginning of the LGBT liberation movement. Over the years, the events became lively festivals and parades celebrating LGBT identity, with increasing corporate sponsorship and police participation.


Gay pride is no longer just a celebration but more of an opportunity to protest. It’s more than just being out and proud but fighting for their inherent human rights that the rest of humanity enjoys. However, like everything else, this is easier said than done especially if you live in America. With a president like Donald Trump, you can’t expect to live a normal life as a member of the LGBT community. He isn’t the type of person to support such causes and it is easy to see how disconnected he is from the gay community as a whole.

In reality, these issues fail in comparison to the threats of war and terrorism that we all now face. However, it does not mean that they don’t have any bearing at all because we are still talking about people’s lives even if many people consider them queer. Nobody should be above anyone for we are all created equal. Of we only keep this in mind, there won’t be any problem achieving world peace at all for everyone regardless of their gender identity.

Health Issues Affecting Children

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Children are a vulnerable group. They rely on their parents and guardians for support. But their health and well-being suffer as more parents struggle to juggle work, home, and other responsibilities. As a result, kids are left to amuse themselves with their gadgets or watch television to pass time. Most kids also have to deal with the issues they face daily on their own since their parents are often not around to guide them or listen to their stories.

We may take it for granted but neglecting children and not giving them the attention they need can make them more prone to different health issues. Both parent often works to provide for the family, so younger kids are usually left at daycare while older kids are free to do what they want, even engage in vices. Over time, it can lead to health and safety problems or even poor performance at school, worst, mental issues for those who have a hard time coping.

But an Ofsted follow up visit just three months ago said “children and young people are still not consistently receiving good enough services” and a Norfolk MP says he will present the new boss of the department with a dossier of concerns.

Meanwhile, we were also concerned that such a vital department, which clearly needs stability, is now on its fifth head in recent years. We sincerely hope Matt Dunkley, the newly appointed director, can give Norfolk children’s services the direction it needs to improve, and quickly.


Moreover, child abuse issues are also on the rise, which is starting to alarm many. Cases of child abuse leave these children scarred for life.

“Every year, thousands of children in Oregon are abused or neglected. Some we know about because we read their tragic stories in our newspapers — and I know I can speak for all Oregonians when I say that any child who suffers abuse or neglect is one child too many,” Kulongoski said that year.

“As part of our collective responsibility to protect Oregon’s children, the state must strengthen our state child protective and youth authority services so that Oregonians have confidence that the children and youth who come into contact with those systems will be safe,” he said.


Although rarely talked about, it is perhaps time to talk about children’s mental health because it is a growing threat to the community as suicide rates also keep on growing. Even people in authority who are supposed to offer help and support fail to do that. Hence, children take solace in their loneliness and feel even more depressed and suicidal.

Grace, 16, has been bullied for the past nine years, has moved schools twice, struggled with suicidal thoughts and taken medication for anxiety and depression.

At one point, she says, “there was no-one to turn to in the school and I felt so low I didn’t want to go on”.

According to research for BBC School Report, half of teenagers with mental wellbeing issues try to cope alone.

And a third said they were not confident enough to speak to a teacher.

At her lowest point, Grace made a “suicide video”, which she posted on YouTube.

“I’d get beaten up every week,” she says.

“Teachers wouldn’t do anything. I even heard the teachers talking about me behind my back.”


Children all over the world, not just in the United States, experience bullying, harassment, and other forms of abuse that wreaks havoc with their mental health. Parents should step up and establish a warm and open relationship with their children right from the start so their kids grow up to be responsible, confident, and happy children who can take care of themselves in the outside world, even on their own.

The Future Is Here For Small Businesses in Asia

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To get ahead in life, it’s either you get lucky with business or in the lottery. You won’t get rich by just working a regular 9-5 job and we all know that by now. Competition in the workplace is tough and you can work for decades without getting the recognition you deserve. It’s the exact opposite of being an entrepreneur. In the business world, you reap what you sow. There are a lot of variables, though, but the bottom line is that you have the choice to keep moving forward or not.

As an entrepreneur, you will take full responsibility for the decisions you make that pertains to your business. It’s that simple. No more passing on the blame to other people but be prepared to reap the rewards of your hard work too.

With continued globalization and rapid technological advancements, always be on the lookout for opportunities and grab them as soon as you can. Even traditional businesses can’t continue to resist change when the portal used by all now is the Internet. That’s where everybody is – your customers. Countries like America and Europe may be first world nations but many Asian countries continue to enjoy upward growth as well despite the many issues with the global economy and lingering threats of war.

GoDaddy, an internet domain registrar and web hosting company, is casting its eyes outside the U.S. as it targets half a billion small businesses worldwide in its global expansion.

“Our mission is to help individuals take all ideas from inception all the way through to reality,” said GoDaddy’s chief product officer, Steven Aldrich.

Asia will be a key area for its expansion, he told CNBC on the sidelines of the InnovFest Unbound 2017 conference.

In Singapore on Wednesday, the company launched its next generation website builder which allows users to build, publish and edit a website on their mobile devices.

“You can do everything on your mobile phone. There is not a feature that is on the next generation website that you need to go to your desktop for,” he said.

The product is localized for different markets.

Adrich did not say if the website domain name provider was looking to acquire companies in Asia but said the region is important for the company that is committed to working with small businesses.


There is a big market waiting to be discovered in Asia. While there may be some limitations on countries like China, you can always find a way to make things work if you dream just big enough. However, that does not disregard the fact that poverty is a major issue in most Asian countries that should likewise be taken into consideration when putting up a small business of your own.

Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak said in his speech that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has “achieved a critical mass” to further spur its growth trajectory, with the combined economy growing 28 times to $2.57 trillion in past four decades to become the sixth-largest economy in the world currently.

But he warned that uneven growth that could cause instability, promote extremism and raise trade barriers that limit the flow of goods across borders.

“Our economies are growing faster than most of the rest of the world, and it is expected that by 2050 that the ASEAN economy will amount to over $9.2 trillion, making it the fourth largest in the world… there are other predictions that are even more optimistic, suggesting ASEAN could reach the number four position by 2030 — a mere 13 years from now,” Mr. Razak told his audience of regional business and political leaders in his keynote address during the forum organised by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council and held in conjunction with the 30thASEAN Summit that culminates on Saturday.

“These are big numbers and impressive positions. But we have yet to achieve them,” he noted.

“The big challenge is to ensure that the integration of our individual economies — that is necessary for ASEAN itself to become a significant world market — is driven through. On that, we still have a long way to go.”


Small businesses drive growth and innovation in a lot of Asian countries and are big contributors when it comes to economic growth. Many Asian governments aspire to grow their economy because only then will they be able to distribute the nation’s wealth and support their citizen’s prosperity. Wealth can only be shared to all people of the land with economic success. And at the rate that businesses are sprouting all over Asia, it is no wonder that major key players in the international business arena are actively considering and pursuing business in Asia as well.

You can explore Asia by flying with Technically a US territory, Guam is just a stone throw away from most Asian nations, so you’d feel at home touring the continent by flying with them.  The world is getting smaller by the minute and whether you are in the US or somewhere in Asia does not matter because everyone will still mind their own business as they pursue their interests in life. What’s important is that you take all the necessary precautions and take calculated risks when dealing with setting up a small business of your own because you don’t want your money to go down the drain just like that because you failed to anticipate problems and solutions for them before it is too late.

Budget Cuts: Health Care Will Suffer In Case Of Outbreaks

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Health care is a basic service that the government should provide to its citizens. Healthy citizens can function productively and help in improving the economy. The people are also less likely to succumb to diseases in case of outbreaks because their immune system can fight off the infection with ease.

But over the years, health case costs are continually on the rise. Medicines, vaccines, and doctor checkups are becoming more expensive than ever. The big pharmaceutical companies continue to thrive as the health care system suffers from more budget cuts. Even health insurance has far less coverage but is more expensive than before.

Now, what happens when disaster strikes, like an outbreak perhaps? Are the government and the various health institutions prepared for such a scenario? Will they be able to control it and prevent further cross contamination or will we witness a bloody end? It is a scary reality as bioterrorism remains to be a threat from enemies of the state. American citizens can also get infected during travels in affected areas throughout the globe.

Is the world ready to defend against the next big infectious disease outbreak? It’s one of the biggest threats humanity could face. But experts who have reviewed reports on the global response to the massive Ebola outbreak that swept through West African countries for two years starting in 2014 say we’re “grossly underprepared” to handle a similar health crisis. 

A team headed by Dr. Suerie Moon, director of research at the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, published their findings from a review of seven major post-Ebola reports in the medical journal The BMJ at the end of January. The team concluded that, while progress has clearly been made by the world’s governments and the World Health Organization (WHO), for instance, there are gaps that could still leave millions of people at risk.


In the event such an outbreak hits the U.S., will there be a large casualty? The answer is likely yes if the health care system does not receive the support and funding it needs from the government.

President Donald Trump is proposing big cuts to biomedical research as part of a budget to reduce discretionary spending at the Department of Health and Human Services by 23 percent — a move likely to provoke outcry from lawmakers, research groups, drugmakers and patients.

The proposal would cut the budget of the National Institutes of Health — which conduct and fund medical research — by $5.8 billion, or about 18 percent from 2017 levels. The Office of Management and Budget called the change “a major reorganization of NIH’s institutes and centers to help focus resources on the highest priority research and training activities.”


And the country’s population is also at risk of getting sick from the more common and widespread infections and diseases we have faced over the last few years.

A multibillion dollar federal fund that helps prevent disease outbreaks and fights chronic conditions may disappear with a Republican plan to revamp the Affordable Care Act, worrying local physicians and county officials who say they rely on the money to sustain community health.

The GOP legislation, as it was released Monday, proposes cutting a piece of the Affordable Care Act called the Prevention and Public Health Fund – a store of federal money created to bolster immunization rates, disease surveillance, workforce training and community health education, among other programs. If the replacement legislation passes, county and state agencies throughout California will lose millions of dollars they relied on for public health efforts. Those governments also used the grants to prepare for emergencies such as Ebola and Zika virus outbreaks, health officials said.


Even medical professionals are worried about the long-term consequences of these drastic measures to the poorer citizens of the country who relies on the government for support.

Chapman said county health departments use the fund for much more than education. The fund has provided more than $28 million in vaccine supplies to the California Department of Public Health, which county health departments rely on to immunize children and adults, Chapman said. Without free vaccines available, low-income families may vaccinate at lower rates, increasing the likelihood that once-common diseases such as measles and polio will return.

The fund also supports laboratory capacity at the state and local levels so health departments can more rapidly diagnose infectious diseases and quarantine people to prevent their spread. Testing capacity was an issue during both the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the Zika virus outbreak last summer.

The proposed cut to the fund alarmed state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, a pediatrician who called it a short-sighted move that could harm state and local efforts to respond to potential outbreaks.

“When you erode our public health infrastructure, it’s going to curb our ability to respond effectively and quickly to health and safety,” he said. “It’s all about prevention. We need the capacity to track down and fight contagious diseases. When we don’t, people get sick and die.”


It is too early to tell the effects of these policies being enforced by President Trump and the Congress. The health care system affects every single person in the country. People’s lives will be affected once the system can no longer provide the services they need because they do not have the money to fund it.

No More Budget For Quality Education

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For most parents who aren’t wealthy enough, a good education is the only gift they can give their children to help them get ahead in life. With quality education comes better opportunities to succeed in life. It is why many will do their best to get a college degree despite the odds because most good companies won’t just hire anyone who isn’t qualified for the job.

The problem is that a good education does not come cheap. Aside from the hefty tuition fees, you also have to pay for other miscellaneous expenses that can accumulate over time. While you can go to school for free in public schools, parents who only want the best for their kids often opt to send them to private schools instead. And these days, going to public school may just be as costly as private schools without sufficient federal funding. Yes, it’s a big possibility looming on the horizon now and it is making many parents and students across the country worried sick.

U.S. Education secretary Betsy DeVos found herself on the hot seat again this week, testifying before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, defending President Donald Trump’s 2018 education budget.

President Trump proposed a $59 billion federal education budget, cutting more than $9 billion, or 13 percent, from current levels.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chairs the committee and opened by telling DeVos, “This is a difficult budget request to defend,” and saying the proposal likely will not be adopted as is.

This was DeVos’ second time defending President Donald Trump’s 2018 education budget, having been grilled at a House appropriations committee hearing on May 24.


K12 education will suffer the most with a 13% budget cut estimated at $60 million but the entire education system will get hit by these budget cuts. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has a hard time defending why the need for all these budget cuts that will also affect federal funding for teacher support. If Trump wishes to push for these budget cuts, will he really be able to make America great again at the expense of many of his constituents? Even the “Forgiveness Program” will cease to exist, a program that urges graduates to work in the government so their student debt will be paid off after rendering ten years in service.

Just the numbers tell a surprising story: Program cuts totaling $9 billion from the Education Department’s $68 billion budget and $1.4 billion for school choice, including new money for states that embrace vouchers. Families could use the vouchers to offset tuition at private schools.

The budget proposal would eliminate more than 20 education programs that benefit children from low-income families and those with disabilities. The proposed cuts include an after-school program that serves mostly low-income students, would take money away from career and technical education, cut Special Olympics education programs and a number of other programs. Many of these make up a small part of Washington’s education budget.

But the real danger in the Trump administration’s education budget is that it shows where President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would like tax dollars increasingly to go in the future — toward private schools, including religious institutions. The Washington state Constitution specifically prohibits state dollars going to religious schools, so Washington could not benefit from this program even if the citizens thought it was a good idea, which it is not


For those against this budget cut, they see this move as a way to promote for education privatization and the initial steps to entirely abandoning public education for good. It is a big problem for low-income families who can barely make both ends meet but still try their best to put their children to school. Even with the help of vouchers and support from the local government, they would still have a hard time doing so. These policies question the existence of public education in the first place. If Trump gets his way, he’d make people work hard for everything they get from the government even if it means sacrificing the quality of education young Americans gets.

Corruption Is The Leech That Kills Societies

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Greed is so powerful it can make people forget about their sense of humanity more often than not. Many times we only think of ourselves, which is actually not a bad thing but problems arise once you start trampling on the rights of others as you protect your own. And corruption is a fine example of how greed gets the best of a person. You don’t have to go far to see corruption at work. Just look at the government and see public officials from the lowest to the highest position making the most of their positions for their benefit and not of the people.

It is a sad reality that governments in most societies are riddled with corruption and it affects the delivery of basic services. The people suffer the most when their government leaders only preoccupy themselves on getting rich and not in really extending public service to the people who need help the most. Conflict and political unrest are not uncommon in such societies because people won’t just keep their mouths shut when they see their leaders not doing their job right.

The mother was reportedly told that the surgery was necessary and that it would be “a walk in the park.” However, her daughter sadly died due to surgery complications.

It was revealed that the hospital has financial incentives for performing certain types of surgeries – like open-heart surgery on children – so they push for the operations despite being told by experts that the surgeries are not in the best interest of the patients.

“I just watched this video from Represent.Us,” Jennifer wrote. “It’s incredible and horrifying. And it got me thinking: corruption affects all of us, but so many people don’t recognize it. We need to tell each other our stories. We need to show that everyone – our neighbors, our families, our community leaders – everyone we know is touched by corruption. I want to hear your story. How does corruption affect you? #WeDemandBetter Represent.Us/WDB.”


These corrupt government officials often ignore the needs of their people just to make more money from the people’s taxes and improve their personal lives. Some do it discreetly while others are so blatant in stealing money from the people.

Corruption eradication programmes need crusaders. A media organisation has the set-up and platform to do that.

People matter in fighting corruption. People Power is critical.

Nothing excites people more than news of high-profile individuals being investigated or charged for alleged corrupt practices. But screaming headlines won’t last.

Hauling them to court is one thing but for every suspect charged, there are many more who get away with murder, so to speak.

The law is not perfect. The system has loopholes.

It is not easy to prove one is corrupt. Many get away scot-free and live happily ever after with their ill-gotten gains.

That is why understanding the scourge is important for people. Creating awareness is key.

Corruption is not to be tolerated. The late Prof Syed Hussein Alatas, who wrote many books and essays on corruption, likened corruption to a disease than can sweep through a society like a tidal wave, leaving in its wake “a trail of negligence, lethargy, inefficiency and callous regard of man’s inhumanity to man”.

According to him, corruption is “victimising innocent people”.


The money these corrupt leaders steal can make a big difference to the lives of their constituents and the future of their country. Progressive nations make it a point to take care of their people but you’ll see millions of people living in poverty in countries ruled by corrupt leaders. They live in makeshift shanties on the side of the road, under the bridge, or any vacant lots where they can find shelter for a short while or for the long term. They aren’t protected from the elements and they often live for days without eating. If the government’s resources are used properly, they shouldn’t worry about food and shelter at the very least.

Fortunately, it has become easier now to speak up against corruption and even public shame corrupt officials with the help of social media. One powerful post can touch people’s emotions and make your post go viral in an instant. While we often don’t have that much power to oust a public official from public office, raising awareness about their crimes can empower people and help them vote for the right person come next election. You’d seldom come across honorable leaders nowadays. Make sure to take voting seriously so that the right people are put into office and put a stop to corruption once and for all.

Foreigners Not Happy With The U.S. Travel Ban

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International relations have been on the edge ever since the U.S. announced its travel ban that mostly affects citizens from most Middle East countries. President Trump delivered his promise of taking the country’s safety and security seriously by limiting the numbers of foreigners living in America, especially the ones coming from nations with known terroristic activities – in short, Muslims.

The travel ban created such a buzz throughout the globe and people can’t help but voice out their own opinions. Overall, people are not happy and it is hurting U.S. international relations. Not only that, it also has a negative effect on a lot of U.S. tourism.

Foreign tourism to the United States, which supports millions of American jobs, is slowing, possibly because President Donald Trump sought controversial travel restrictions on visitors from some Muslim majority nations. Online searches for flights to the United States are down in most major nations, but not just those hit by restrictions.

The travel restrictions sparked demonstrations, critical press coverage and a flurry of lawsuits. A petition drive gathered thousands of signatures in support of British citizen and mathematics teacher Juhel Miah, who was removed from a U.S.-bound plane as he was escorting British students on a school trip to America.

And truth be told, the damage has been done no matter how noble Trump’s intention may be and its aftermath can be felt over the years to come.

Pace University Professor Andrew Coggins, who researches travel issues, said the Trump administration’s push to restrict immigration is making some foreign tourists and students wary of visiting out of concern they might face bigotry and prejudice. He said such worries mean New York City alone will see hundreds of thousands fewer visitors and lose millions of dollars in revenue. Professor Coggins said efforts to revise the restrictions are pointless.

“The damage has been done. I think the resentment is there. It has been generated and it is not going to go away that fast,” he said.


The first travel ban may have been blocked in court but it will not stop President Trump from realizing his goals.

After the first travel ban was blocked in court, President Trump signed a new executive order last week temporarily blocking travel to the U.S. from countries he said pose a high terrorism risk. The new order bars travel to the U.S. for 90 days from six predominantly Muslim countries — Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The new list excludes Iraq, which was included on the original list of countries announced in January.


While the new administration is determined to prevent the access of foreigners from high-risk countries into the U.S., the threat is also palpable among citizens of the said banned nations who are already living in the United States. They may end up deported back home. Some of them seek refuge in the neighboring country of Canada while tension is still high in America.

Refugees in fear of detainment and deportation are fleeing the US across its northern border with Canada at an increased rate even as courts block the Trump administration’s travel ban, according to refugee support groups and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Mukhtar Idhow, executive director of the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS), a New Hampshire-based group that assists asylum seekers find work and teaches them gardening, told Al Jazeera that the Trump administration’s two attempts to place a ban on Muslims from entering the US have left the refugee community questioning their place in the country.

“The US was once a place of opportunity for immigrants and refugees where all races, religions and nationalities were accepted,” Idhow, himself a refugee from Somalia, continued. “Now, we aren’t sure what will happen.”


It is hard to tell what the next few years in America will be like under the Trump administration. It is very likely that bridges will be burned and more tension will be felt both in and out of the country.

But for now, maybe we should give the new president a chance. He only wants the best for our country and our people. If only he is guided on how to become a good president at the least to spare us from all these worries, it will definitely be appreciated by all. President Trump should always remember that he is now the leader of a powerful nation and everything he says or does will reflect America in general.

Blogging In The New Millenium

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The new millennium opened up a plethora of opportunities to everyone who is gutsy and talented enough to get out of their comfort zones and embrace all the changes in this world. You are no longer restricted to having traditional 9-5 jobs. Now, the possibility of working from home is normal and you can earn as much as those with managerial positions in traditional businesses. What’s more, some of these home-based jobs can be done whenever you want as long as you get the job done.

Aside from more technical positions that are very much in demand on the web, blogging has also evolved from being a past time to a real paying job. Social media and WordPress are platforms that enabled ordinary people to share their story to the world and earn money from it. Those who are gifted with words can turn this into a profitable hobby. Your new mantra in life now is “do something you love and you won’t work a single day in your life”.

When Erin Schrader first launched her blog in 2011, she only meant to share it with a few close friends and family members.     

Six years later, that blog has more than 150,000 fans on Facebook and strangers have even recognized Schrader in hotel lobbies when she travels to conferences.

Schrader, who lives in east Elkhart, Indiana, along the Upper St. Joseph River with her husband of more than 10 years, never would have imagined that what started as a part-time hobby would turn into a full-time career. But last month — almost exactly six years after her first blog post — she took a leap of faith and quit her office job.

Now Schrader is pouring all of her energy — or what is left after spending time with her husband and her friends — into her blog, Living in Yellow. The name was inspired by two of Schrader’s favorite things: sunshine and macaroni and cheese.

At first, Living in Yellow was an extension of the gratitude journal that Schrader wrote in every day. It was a way to be more mindful about the simple joys in the everyday and to remind herself of the multiple blessings in her life.

“It was initially going to be my private space to transition my gratitude journal to the internet, but then it wasn’t this secret anymore,” Schrader said. “I started to realize that there’s a community here, that I can connect with people online and talk with them.”


There is a lot of potential on the web especially if you are among the first to discover it. Even now when there are far too many online bloggers you can barely remember their names, there is still a chance for you to make money from the stories you write. You’re not just limited to traditional pen and paper format but photos and videos make your blog more appealing and increase your followers over time.

When blogging started, the first blogs were really glorified online journals, and in all likelihood, becoming a professional blogger and making money online wasn’t the goal. Since then, the blogosphere has evolved, and now people blog for many different reasons. There are even distinctions among types of blogs – business, lifestyle, fashion, food, and entertainment blogs, among others.

Among the benefits of blogging include:

Share Your Knowledge

If you’re someone who loves to teach, starting a blog can provide the opportunity to educate others interested in your field of expertise. The best part is that, as you build resources on your blog to teach others, you may realize there is a chance to monetize your blog by creating educational products or services online.

Refine Your Writing Skills

The more you write, the better you become at it. Most professional bloggers write on a regular basis and therefore analyze and proofread their writing constantly. You may even get feedback from readers to help you become a better writer.

Learn How To Make Money Online

Most people start out with one blog, but along the way, they gain experience and eventually generate ideas for blogs in other niches. What you learn from your initial blog – the dos and don’ts, marketing strategies that are effective, how to make money blogging, etc. – will help you accelerate the growth of future ventures.


Not only do blogs benefit the blogger themselves but even businesses that these blogs promote. Blogging is a great way to build your audience and followers, and of course, there is money where there are people, right? This is the new age version of advertising straight to the right market – the people who follow those blogs because the stories interest them.

Startups prefer online promotion over offline promotion because the former is cost-effective and yet often has shown definite results. Because blogging is the default window leading to online promotion, more and more brands are getting into it these days.

For a small business on a shoestring budget, investing time and resources in blogging is a better option tha other marketing alternatives. Blogging can aid in getting a high ranking on search engines and in gaining social media visibility?

At a fraction of the price, businesses can enjoy the same benefits of traditional advertising. Most people go online daily now, so you know you are doing the right thing when people start noticing your blog.

Blogging is an excellent way to get noticed by big players. There’s no dearth of platforms if drawing the attention of the big players is on your mind. Admins of third-party B2B blogs will be delighted to publish your posts, provided these posts are useful and offer new information. Then there are publishing platforms like Pulse. LinkedIn is where most of the VC guys are. And they hover over Pulse articles for new insights.


This is the new age. Conventional wisdom does not usually apply because innovation is the name of the game. Blogging is just like that. This former hobby is now racking up mileage for businesses and money for entrepreneurs. Bloggers, too, don’t go home empty-handed. Aside from monetizing the blog, you can also enjoy a steady stream of freebies from businesses who wants you to feature their products on your next blog. So, it’s a win-win situation for any blogger after all.

Mental Illness Can Put You At Higher Risk of Stroke

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The times are changing and many of us have a hard time coping with the demands of daily life. Social norms have also evolved, which has also affected gender roles. Depression is a rising health threat as the majority of the population feel that their efforts are not enough. We may all appear okay on the outside and post the good side of our days to social media but deep down we are hurting. The bad part about this is that many refuse to seek help even though it is obvious they are struggling on their own.

Stress is a major precipitating factor to many of today’s health conditions. From anxiety attacks to epilepsy to cancer, we can all blame stress for putting us at a higher risk than before. And more recently, the experts also discovered the relation between mental illness and a predisposition to having a stroke later in life.

Patients hospitalized or treated in the emergency room for depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other psychiatric disorders may have an increased risk for stroke, particularly in the 15 days following their psychiatric diagnosis.

This is reported by research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2017.

Researchers analyzed the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project database for California and found 52,068 stroke patients between 2007-2009.

Of these patients, 3,337 patients were hospitalized or treated in the emergency room for depression, anxiety, PTSD or another psychiatric disorder.

But why is that so? Why are we more predisposed to getting a stroke if we continually suffer from stress?

Psychological distress may send the body’s fight-or-flight response into overdrive, causing increased blood pressure — the No. 1 risk factor for stroke.

Psychologic distress may also cause changes within cells that trigger inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are thought to increase stroke risk.

Another possible explanation for the study findings, he said, is that when people experience psychological distress, they may forget to take medicines prescribed to reduce their risk of stroke.


What’s even more surprising is that a person suffering from mental illness is at the highest risk of suffering from a stroke within the next couple of weeks after getting hospitalized.

People who sought care at a hospital for serious mental health conditions — such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder — faced a tripled risk of stroke following their visit, the study authors contended.

The risk started to decrease after 30 days, but remained twice as high for at least a year after the ER visit or hospital stay, the researchers said.

“We have known for some time that people who have a stroke seem to be at an increased risk for later on developing some sort of psychiatric illness, depression or post-stroke psychosis,” said study lead author Jonah Zuflacht. He’s a fourth-year medical student at Columbia University‘s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.

“But what has been less studied is the inverse of that. Meaning, if you have some sort of psychiatric illness, does it increase the risk for stroke?” he added.

“And what we found is that if you are hospitalized for some sort of mental illness, your risk of stroke is increased, and it’s most increased over the two-week period following your hospitalization,” Zuflacht said.


Health professionals say that even previous patients acknowledge the link between their stress levels and their stroke attack.

“Based on my clinical experience in the hospital, I have noticed that many patients believe that stress for whatever reason — work, family, work-life balance — contributed to their stroke,” said Jonah P. Zuflacht, B.A., lead researcher and a fourth-year medical student at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.

“But the data to support a connection between stress and stroke is limited and often relies on a patient’s subjective recall of distress, which can bias results,” stated Zuflacht.

The takeaway is this:

Short-term stroke risk appears higher in patients hospitalized or treated in the emergency room for psychiatric illness.

Risk of stroke was greatest within 15 days of psychiatric diagnosis, declined with time, but persists for at least a year.

Healthcare professionals should listen carefully for signs of psychological distress in patients at risk of stroke.


The bottom line is that stress is a major factor in your mental health and the risk of having a stroke. Life may be tough for most of us but you can always adapt stress-busting practices for your own sanity. If you are clueless on how to relieve yourself of stress, a simple deep breathing exercise works wonder.

Do not let yourself get carried away with your worries. Problems are only temporary. Help is available in case you need one. It may not be in the form of an expensive visit with a shrink, a friend whom you can talk to and provide support when you need one is just as good.

Is Christianity Still Alive In America?

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People will move mountains for their faith. It has been evident over the centuries where nations go to war to protect their faith or to conquer other nations. Many countries still have that obsession over religion today, especially in the Muslim faith. Their faith and loyalty to their religion can go to extreme lengths – even give up their lives for their religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, religion is struggling in modern-day America. People still profess their faith – especially the Christians that make up the majority of the populace – but theirs lack the authenticity and the action that often goes hand in hand with true religion. In short, they say one thing but do something else. Now, with the political and the economic turmoil that the country faces, is religion still alive to save the Americans and keep everyone together until we all survive these dark times? Or perhaps, this growing nonchalance towards religion will finally open up the minds of conservative citizens to ease up and be more accepting of the LGBT community, for instance, among other sensitive issues we face.

Over the past decade, pollsters charted something remarkable: Americans—long known for their piety—were fleeing organized religion in increasing numbers. The vast majority still believed in God. But the share that rejected any religious affiliation was growing fast, rising from 6 percent in 1992 to 22 percent in 2014. Among Millennials, the figure was 35 percent.

Some observers predicted that this new secularism would ease cultural conflict, as the country settled into a near-consensus on issues such as gay marriage. After Barack Obama took office, a Center for American Progress report declared that “demographic change,” led by secular, tolerant young people, was “undermining the culture wars.” In 2015, the conservative writer David Brooks, noting Americans’ growing detachment from religious institutions, urged social conservatives to “put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations.”

Perhaps, we can even attribute the surprising win of Donald Trump to the rising secularism in the country.

That was naive. Secularism is indeed correlated with greater tolerance of gay marriage and pot legalization. But it’s also making America’s partisan clashes more brutal. And it has contributed to the rise of both Donald Trump and the so-called alt-right movement, whose members see themselves as proponents of white nationalism. As Americans have left organized religion, they haven’t stopped viewing politics as a struggle between “us” and “them.” Many have come to define us and them in even more primal and irreconcilable ways.


And if you just look around you, religion is not just a religion anymore. It has evolved from being the very essence of faith and salvation, religion has gone mainstream it is so obvious that it is surprising we haven’t realized it ages ago. The separation of the church and the state allows them to enjoy many benefits – most of it involves tax breaks.

Our religious groups are a creative bunch. They have invaded our school boards and forced religion into our textbooks in states like Texas, and they have been finding numerous ways to fight for things like school prayer for decades. However, one way in which religious groups have been able to push their ideology on our children that often goes unnoticed is currently happening inside our charter schools.

In 2013, The New York Times ran a story about a Texas woman named Latisha Andrews. She had attempted to run a private school out of a church for some time but eventually lacked the funding necessary to continue. What did she do? She did what so many Americans have done in recent years; she asked Uncle Sam to foot the bill. As the story notes, there are many charter schools in Texas that operate inside churches. So much for the separation of church and state.


It also changed the way people view previous controversial issues like LGBT. The LGBT community is now widely accepted and only a handful of conservatives still oppose gay rights and relationships.

The irony of my message is not lost on me. As surprising as all of this will sound to fellow conservatives — and as cynical as all of this might sound to the LGBT community coming from me — it is time for those of us who cherish religious freedom to stop, yes stop, opposing gender equality. This is no trade-off, no compromise nor quid pro quo. Neither is it unilateral surrender. It is neutrality and it is wisdom.

Unfortunately, Carlston unwisely conflates the LDS Church and its members’ behavior. Nevertheless, we can save the spirit of her message. To effectively defend religious freedom, religion can choose (and should choose) to stop opposing gender equality. It should “render unto Caesar” and get out of public policy negotiations and litigation. Religion cannot with credibility commiserate with the LGBT community and then turn around and condemn private, sexual behavior over the pulpit. Though scheming lawyers and political operatives may disagree, religious institutions, for good reasons, should not engage in disingenuous political posturing with the LGBT community to protect religious freedom.

And it makes perfect sense too even to non-believers. We should stop condemning others because of their faith or the lack of it because it is not the basis of their character.

We cannot afford to keep doing what hasn’t worked and isn’t right. Religious freedom needs to be defended on its own merits, not on the backs of its perceived enemies. And, if on its own merits, it must be a reflection of its own virtues. Live your faith, love your enemy, and no viable grounds will rise to challenge individual religious freedom.


The answer lies in all of us. Do you see religion as something that truly reflects your spiritual beliefs or is it just a front that you can use as an excuse or as a savior when the times call for it? Americans are struggling to find this balance in our now-chaotic and technology driven world. There is conflict everywhere. Perhaps we should call for true religion and faith to help everyone navigate these dark times in unity and full of love for one another regardless of their chosen religions.

Antique Collection Is Good For The Soul

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We all can’t help but admire people with extensive antique collections. Their dedication to their passion is anything but outstanding. But aside from collecting valuable antique and heirloom pieces that are such eye candies, collecting these rare items itself is a stress reliever for antique collectors and also a great way to pass time without ever getting bored.

You do not need to spend a lot of money to start an antique collection. Although most of the hard-to-find items are quite expensive, you can still find some interesting pieces when you visit flea markets or yard sales. After all, there are different types of antique pieces. If the bigger ones are quite out of your reach, you can always begin with the smaller items – stamps or paper currencies may be a good start.

Paper money has always been collected for the breath of its beauty and various printing methods, but mainly for its great value. Age is a major factor, but other factors also come into play, such as condition, demand and the lower the grade, the lower the value. Paper money, unlike coins, should always be kept in sealed holders and one should never think of washing paper money with soap and water. When keeping the bills safe, always store world currency in low humidity and away from sunlight.

Collecting old money has always been an interesting hobby enjoyed by many numismatic enthusiasts. Many of these collectors during the beginning stages focus on assembling a worthy and impressive collection, trying to unearth a bargain along the way. Searching for paper money gives one the chance to learn history during research into the origins. Also, the artful printing bearing many symbols and portraits of presidents and monarchs excites many first-time collectors. 

Some collectors, interestingly enough, use certain “nickname notes” to refer to certain series of currency. Buying a new “bison,” for instance, actually refers to a handful of notes from the buffalo series of 1901, $10 legal tender. Another example is “Chief,” since it is the only Native American found on an 1899 $5 silver certificate. There’s also the “Black Eagle” Series of 1899, $1 silver showing an image of a black winged eagle certificate, and “Martha” for Martha Washington, who appears on the front of a $1 silver certificate series 1886. Last but not least, there’s “Battleship,” which exhibits a battleship on the reverse of a 1918 $2 Federal Reserve Bank Note. It is almost like a secret code among series and dedicated collectors who learned the techniques about collecting notes over a long period of time.    


Antique collections, although mostly done as a hobby, is also collected for its value. But it is also worth noting that the antique industry is driven by fashion.

Collectable is a broad term and I’ve spent many a year at auctions, antique fairs and private sales both here in the UK and over the water buying interesting artefacts to make money on.

Sometimes it’s heartbreaking to see a lifelong collection sell for nothing at a saleroom: The time and effort that’s gone into bringing a collection to life for it to result in a poor return can be pretty devastating.

As a seller, this is awful, but this gives a buyer an opportunity. Is this the time to buy?

The antique industry is fashion led. I’m sure that you will have heard the terms shabby chic, industrial, kitsch. These are all terminologies used to describe particular styles.

Designers may start out with ideas and concepts which then start to shape the antique/vintage/retro market.

The first places you usually see the new trends is at the international antique and home fairs, followed by auctions, and then finally retail outlets.


But if you are an avid antique collector and the item’s value is not an issue with you, by all means, pursue your passion. Nothing can be as rewarding as seeing your entire collection that you’ve accumulated over the years as well as reminisce the stories that go alongside each item. What’s even better is they become more vintage as the years go by. You can pass it on to your loved ones and share the art and passion of art collecting to them without them having to start from scratch. And who knows, it might sell off for a fortune sometime in the future, we can never tell.

Do Black Lives Still Matter?

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It is a difficult time in the United States nowadays. The nation has never been as divided regardless of the absence of civil unrest. While terrorist threats abound and are just disasters waiting to happen, tension among Americans themselves is at a boiling point because of political disagreements. It is not uncommon for family or friends to unfriend and block each other on social media because of their disagreements when it comes to politics and current events.

Among the most prominent critics of the new admiration is the Black Lives Matter movement. Society claims that racism is already a thing of the past but the truth is that it’s actually far from over. If you just scour social media, you can see why the black lives matter came to be and how they’ve been protesting all over the country until now. But the question is, do they really still matter today?

Even in the splintered and often fractious world of social justice movements, Black Lives Matter doesn’t fit easily into existing categories. Few grassroots uprisings have done as much, in such a short period of time, to focus attention on long-neglected issues of racial justice, gender, and economic inequality. Yet so far, BLM has not followed up on its initial victories by building the kind of lasting, hierarchical organizations that grew out of the civil rights movement; nor has it dedicated itself to a single, easily identifiable goal, like enacting the Voting Rights Act. How are we to make sense of organizers who themselves remain so loosely organized? And if Black Lives Matter isn’t devoting itself primarily to bringing about substantive legal and legislative change, then how can it hope to transform its resistance into lasting and meaningful gains in human rights?

Not just your typical protest group, they have tapped into all corners of the country, fighting for causes that are more defined. Black Lives Matter conquered social media and took advantage of this powerful tool to spread their message and what they are fighting for. While the nation remains divided, they aim to unite the nation by fighting for better reforms, equality and social justice.

But BLM has moved beyond many of the blind spots and shortcomings of its predecessors, embracing the full complexity of black identity and forging a movement that is far more inclusive and democratic than either the Panthers or civil rights activists ever envisioned. Many of its most active leaders are queer women and feminists. Its decentralized structure fosters participation and power sharing. It makes direct links between the struggles of black Americans and the marginalization and oppression of women, those in LGBTQ communities, and other people of color. It has made full use of the power and potential of social media, but it has also organized local chapters and articulated a broader political agenda.

Last summer, following critiques that they had failed to put forth specific demands, BLM activists and affiliated organizations published “The Movement for Black Lives,” a detailed and ambitious agenda. Divided into six parts, it includes a host of interconnected demands: a shift of public resources away from policing and prisons and into jobs and health care, a progressive overhaul of the tax code to “ensure a radical and sustainable redistribution of wealth,” expanded rights to clean air and fair housing and union organizing, and greater community control over police and schools. More detailed than the ten-point program issued by the Black Panthers, the BLM policy agenda offers a remarkably pragmatic yet potentially revolutionary blueprint—one that it aims to implement through the concerted use of both protest and politics.


While we all advocate for equal opportunities and treatment to everyone whether you are an American citizen or an immigrant, there would always be some form of racism that is ingrained in every society.

Black Lives Matter says recent incidents involving police and Syracuse residents show there is still progress to be made with equality in the justice system. The group protested alleged police brutality today outside the city’s federal building. They’re calling for justice for last year’s Father’s Day shooting and an alleged rape by a police officer.


We can only dream of a time when world peace can be achieved for real. It is unfortunate for us to still witness cases of discrimination and racism still being prevalent in our modern times when technology even allowed mankind to conquer space and the depths of the ocean. Why is it so hard for us to accept one another without prejudice and learn to live in harmony for all the days of our lives?

As long as there is inequality in society, activists like the Black Lives Movement will continue to fight for their rights and initiate protests so their voices can be heard by those in power. While it is hard to tell which side is right or wrong, what we need to remember is that we should still see the good and others and help those in need that regardless of the political climate, our personal opinions, and any issues we may face in society. Only in complete acceptance can we achieve the peace that remains to be out of our reach.

Sustainable Energy: The Solution To Climate Change

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The world is changing and I’m not just talking about the technological advancements that dominate the world today. We also can’t deny the fact that too much technology is damaging our environment. Climate change is no longer just a threat but a reality that we all face. If you are observant enough, you’d notice how natural calamities have intensified over the years. Storms have gotten stronger and droughts longer. But whose fault is it anyway?

However, enough with the finger pointing. We are all responsible for the gradual destruction of our planet. While the damage has been done and we can’t undo our past mistakes, we can still change now and salvage as much as we can on what is left. Every good deed we do can go a long way in protecting and preserving Mother Nature. Using sustainable energy is the best, easiest and most cost-effective recourse we now have, so why not start at home?

The global community has been trying to achieve sustainable development for the past 25 years, but the world is faring poorly against most environmental indicators. What’s causing this failure? Griffith University’s Michael Howes investigates.

In 1992, more than 170 countries came together at the Rio Earth Summit and agreed to pursue sustainable development, protect biological diversity, prevent dangerous interference with climate systems, and conserve forests. But, 25 years later, the natural systems on which humanity relies continue to be degraded. 

So why hasn’t the world become much more environmentally sustainable despite decades of international agreements, national policies, state laws and local plans? 

These are the probable culprits why we can’t still move forward with our sustainability initiatives:

So what’s going wrong with sustainability initiatives? We found that three types of failure kept recurring: economic, political and communication.

The economic failures stem from the basic problem that environmentally damaging activities are financially rewarded. A forest is usually worth more money after it’s cut down – which is a particular problem for countries transitioning to a market-based economy.

Political failures happen when governments can’t or won’t implement effective policies. This is often because large extractive industries, like mining, are dominant players in an economy and see themselves as having the most to lose. This occurs in developed and developing countries, but the latter can face extra difficulties enforcing policies once they’re put in place.

Communication failures centre on poor consultation or community involvement in the policy process. Opposition then flourishes, sometimes based on a misunderstanding of the severity of the issue. It can also be fed by mistrust when communities see their concerns being overlooked.


Despite the odds, there are still efforts to embrace this sustainable living wherever in the world you may be. There is still hope to save the planet and everyone else living in it.

A new United Nations-backed report has revealed overwhelming consensus that renewable power will dominate in the future, with many experts saying that even large international corporations are increasingly choosing renewable energy products either from utilities or through direct investment in their own generating capacity.

“[The report] is meant to spur discussion and debate about both the opportunities and challenges of achieving a 100 per cent renewable energy future by mid-century,” said Christine Lins, the Executive Secretary of Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) – a global renewable energy policy multi-stakeholder network hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“Wishful thinking won’t get us there; only by fully understanding the challenges and engaging in informed debate about how to overcome them, can governments adopt the right policies and financial incentives to accelerate the pace of deployment,” she added.

At a press conference at UN Headquarters today, Ms. Lins said that 2016 was the third year in a row where the global economy continued to grow, by three per cent, but emissions related to the energy sector decreased. And that was mainly due to renewable energy and efficiency investment in China and in the United States.


We need a collective effort to help realize this dream. Let us all remember that we are not doing this for a monetary gain but to save the very planet where we live in. If we continue abusing the environment and not find a way to reduce our carbon footprint (with airlines as well), what will be the Earth like ten to twenty years from now? Will it still be livable? Back in the days, we did not have to buy water or air, but now, purified water is the only form of safe drinking water in many countries and air conditioning units are a must in many households once the summer heat strikes.

Let us take accountability for our actions. One of the best ways we can protect Mother Nature and prevent further environmental degradation is through the use of sustainable energy. Fossil fuel will not last us forever. Just how many dead dinosaurs can we get power from? There’s the sun. Each day its shining rays can fuel homes and cities. Wherever the wind blows, there is also energy. Even water can be exhausted in a way that generates power. The government should look into all these things but we also have a personal obligation to keep. By simply reducing our energy use and recycling our trash we already contribute a lot to saving the planet.

The Influence Of Ballet To Society

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Ballet is an art. Nobody will argue with that. Not everyone is gifted with the grace and class of a ballerina. It takes years of hard work, discipline. and dedication to perfect the craft and perform as a world-class ballerina.

Unlike sports that appeal to many because of the limitless options, ballet is for those who have a refined taste. Ballet classes are also expensive and only a handful can get into prestigious ballet companies. Most successful ballerinas also started early in life, with most of their adult life consumed by their passion – to dance and perform in front of people.

As an African-American soloist with the United Kingdom’s Royal Ballet, Eric Underwood says he is often asked why the ballet world isn’t very diverse.

It’s complicated, Underwood says. Race, income, social hierarchies and other factors often conspire to create a situation that excludes people of color from serious pursuit of dance.

“I feel that because you have to start training as a youngster, it’s the responsibility of the parents or society’s responsibility to introduce children to it,” Underwood says. “A five-year-old child would find it very difficult to come and say, ‘Mom, I’d like to dance.’”


Not only that ballet is a career for some and a recreation for many but it also creates jobs and revenues that propel the country’s economy forward.

Yesterday, Lincoln Center — the world’s largest performing arts center, which famously hosts the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Juilliard, and much more — published an open letter defending the National Endowment for the Arts against Donald Trump’s threats to defund it, despite the minuscule amount of money it takes to keep it running. The letter first draws on the personal — and thereby social — import of the arts:

A child’s early introduction to ballet teaches strength and discipline. A veteran’s exposure to art therapy brings healing and hope. A student’s participation in music class improves math scores and critical thinking skills. Art shapes achievement, with profound and practical effects.

But it doesn’t only speak in compelling human terms; it plunges, rather, into pragmatic, monetary terms that, say, a real estate tycoon-turned-politician might perhaps understand:

Still more, art anchors communities. In American cities and towns, arts institutions and districts are breathing life into neighborhoods—attracting investment, spurring development, fueling innovation, and creating jobs. Arts and culture help power the U.S. economy at the astounding level of $704.2 billion each year.


But ballet is now threatened by budget cuts from the new administration along with other areas of the culture and the arts.

Leaders of local cultural institutions are anxiously awaiting a decision on cuts to federal arts funding as reports claim the Trump administration is considering defunding or eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for Humanities.

Federal funding supports a diverse swath of local arts programs, from Aspen Film’s Shortsfest to Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s tours, from artist residencies at the Aspen Art Museum and Anderson Ranch Arts Center to high-profile events at the Aspen Music Festival and School and military veterans’ wilderness therapy excursions through the nonprofit Huts for Vets.

Grants from the feds help arts organizations educate, create and share art with the community and the world. But the money, leaders said, is less important than the statement that America values the arts and humanities.

“It impacts every community in some way, even if it’s a little, and the symbolism that our leaders have their finger on the pulse of the arts nationally is hugely important,” said Aspen Music Festival and School President and CEO Alan Fletcher. “And thus, the symbolism of saying ‘We don’t care about it’ is hugely important. It should be maintained.”


The art sector will greatly suffer from such a drastic and unprecedented move from the new president. The industry relies heavily on government funding to continue their passion in sharing their love for the arts. It will also result in an increase of ticket prices of ballet shows or other artistic presentations so that all costs are covered.

In the end, it will not only affect those who are directly involved in the arts but the state as well. This budget cut is also in violation of the law that says the citizens of the state should have access not only to a good education but to the arts and humanities too.

Is Indoor Farming The Solution To Our Farming Woes?

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The world’s population continues to rise through the years but our resources are dwindling and other environmental factors make traditional farming more challenging. Water is always a constant threat whether in excess or the lack of it. Floods ravage farming communities while droughts make it impossible for crops to grow.

Climate change is another threat that for sure will only get worse as the years go by. Add to that the fact that a big chunk of agricultural lands is being converted into suburban communities, industries, or commercial complexes. Indeed, the agricultural sector is suffering. What many of us fail to realize now is that it is us who will eventually suffer once food becomes scarce and not enough to meet our growing needs.

There are times that Mother Nature is just too darn unpredictable.

When everything goes without a hitch, the U.S. typically has an abundant supply of vegetables. But throw in rainy weather, delays that move back planting and harvesting, and all of a sudden you have a case of panicky buyers who are keen to look for more predictable and nearby sources of supply.

Retailers and consumers in the United Kingdom in February suffered a shock when rains in Spain caused some stores to ration their supply of greens. Some California companies saw an opportunity and shipped lettuce to the U.K.

Now it’s California facing rain-related production problems. The Packer has covered the gaps in vegetable supply in California, and various marketers predict it will get worse before it gets better. The rains that brought relief to the Golden State could give buyers a roller coaster ride later this spring.


There is nothing much we can do once calamity strikes. It will not only take lives, destroy properties and displace people but also affect the food supply and demand. What can we do to cope then?

A new farming company is growing its produce at a quicker and more cost-effective rate than traditional farms.

The secret to the success? The produce is grown indoors.

Bowery, based in the southern section of Kearny, was founded two years ago by Irving Fain and officially launched last week. The company dubs itself as the first to grow “post organic produce.”

“We have completely pure and clean crops,” Fain said.  

By growing produce – like kale and arugula – indoors, Fain said the company eliminates dealing with harsh weather conditions and is able to bring its products to local retailers quicker then other distributors. 

Now, you are probably wondering how do they do it?

Using hydroponic techniques and software that controls the atmosphere inside the farm, produce crews significantly quicker without using any pesticides. 


And the experts can’t help but agree.

If agriculture is to continue to feed the world, it needs to become more like manufacturing, says Geoffrey Carr. Fortunately, that is already beginning to happen.

Technology, however, has come to Mr. Rogers’s aid. His farm is wired up like a lab rat. Or, to be more accurate, it is wirelessed up. Moisture sensors planted throughout the nut groves keep track of what is going on in the soil. They send their results to a computer in the cloud (the network of servers that does an increasing amount of the world’s heavy-duty computing) to be crunched. The results are passed back to the farm’s irrigation system—a grid of drip tapes (hoses with holes punched in them) that are filled by pumps.

The system resembles the hydroponics used to grow vegetables in greenhouses. Every half-hour a carefully calibrated pulse of water based on the cloud’s calculations, and mixed with an appropriate dose of fertiliser if scheduled, is pushed through the tapes, delivering a precise sprinkling to each tree. The pulses alternate between one side of the tree trunk and the other, which experience has shown encourages water uptake. Before this system was in place, Mr Rogers would have irrigated his farm about once a week. With the new little-but-often technique, he uses 20% less water than he used to. That both saves money and brings kudos, for California has suffered a four-year-long drought and there is social and political, as well as financial, pressure to conserve water.

Mr. Rogers’s farm, and similar ones that grow other high-value but thirsty crops like pistachios, walnuts and grapes, are at the leading edge of this type of precision agriculture, known as “smart farming”. But it is not only fruit and nut farmers who benefit from being precise. So-called row crops—the maize and soyabeans that cover much of America’s Midwest—are being teched up, too. Sowing, watering, fertilising and harvesting are all computer-controlled. Even the soil they grow in is monitored to within an inch of its life.


Smart farming is now possible and farmers should look into this option in growing their crops. It may sound daunting for many but it actually proved to be a success in different farms all over America. With a little help from government agencies and private organizations that provide funding, indoor farming may be the solution we are all looking for to solve our intermittent food crisis.

Crops are no longer vulnerable to the elements and there is a promise of its steady food supply all year round regardless of environmental changes or seasonal weather variations.

The Relevance Of Today’s Religions

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Religion always played a major role in people’s lives. It reinforces the faith of believers and gives them hope despite the many problems plaguing mankind. The church that we now know of is separate from the state but it was not always that way. Ancient religions – especially the early  Christians – actually governed the land and enforce laws that the people must obey at all cost.

The people of today believe in different religions just like in the past. They take their faith seriously. Some will even give up their lives to prove how devoted they are to their faith. Muslims are known for that practice.Unfortunately, others have taken advantage of it and used religious extremism to cause chaos in the world through terroristic activities. And America has witnessed and became a victim to this extremist cause and lives were lost along the way.

Unfortunately, others have taken advantaged of it and used religious extremism to cause chaos in the world through terroristic activities. And America has witnessed and became a victim to this extremist cause and many lives were lost over the years.

Liberal churches and synagogues — and all other religious institutions that share our ideals — must step up at this time of crisis for our country. America is in peril, and we must take the lead in saving it, preaching a message of justice and compassion. But we must do more than preach. We must offer an action agenda that is also a moral agenda, rooted in Biblical teachings and religious precepts — an agenda that will lift our nation’s sights and challenge our nation’s conscience.

There is no one else to play this role. If we fail to rise to the challenge, the result will be catastrophic. American values will be undermined in a profound way. And not only that; the religious congregations that we serve will be seen by our members and by all Americans as irrelevant at precisely the time when they are needed most.

Religious congregations are essential right now because the problems that America faces are without precedent in our country’s history. Following the election, Americans looked around and what they saw everywhere was incivility, division, and bigotry. The campaign of President-elect Trump incited people to hate, and hate they did. Hatred is infectious, and the result is that the fires of intolerance are roaring unconstrained.


Wars have been fought and people displaced as their hometowns get ravaged by shootings and explosions. Many of them are seeking refuge in various countries including the United States in the hope of finding a new home and being able to start their lives anew. But the idea of accepting refugees is also a cause of many heated arguments among ordinary American citizens and even leaders of the state.

Hundreds of houses of worship are offering sanctuary to people who could face deportation if President-elect Donald Trump follows through on his campaign pledge to remove millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

To some churches, sanctuary means spiritual support or legal assistance to fight deportation. Others promise or already are extending physical sanctuary by housing immigrants.

In Brockton, a poor city of about 95,000 people south of Boston, four churches have pledged to take in immigrants fearful of being deported.

“If you need a safe place, once you enter the doors of this building, you are safe,” said the Rev. Abraham Waya, pastor of Central United Methodist Church, who said his church can shelter as many as 100 people. “We will host you and take care of you for as long as it takes.”


Both sides have valid arguments. One fears the safety and security of the people and the thought of having an additional burden to feed, shelter and care for are not appealing when the country’s homeless population are actually increasing without a promising solution from the government. But then, there are those who believe in the innate goodness of humans. Charity begins at home and they believe offering their homes to those in need are the moral obligation of everybody especially that it was the U.S. who initiated war in their countries in the first place.

As more countries still suffer from endless wars that seem to have no end, the issue of refugees will likely stay for a while. But it is unlikely that the government will have their hand on it or will even approve it considering how vocal President Trump is against non-Americans. It is evident in the first few policies he has signed since assuming office. Now, it will be a tough battle for the various churches to extend their help to the homeless when the administration is clearly opposing their efforts right from the start.

What To Do With The Homeless

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No matter where you go, you are sure to come across homeless people littering the streets. Men or women, the young or the old, homelessness does not discriminate. The last recession and the difficulties of most industries to bounce back after the crisis led to massive layoffs and a rise in the country’s unemployment rate. People were asked to leave their homes because they can no longer pay their mortgage.

So, in a way, these people actually had no choice but to live on the streets since shelters can’t always accommodate them. Even now that the economy is gradually improving and business is starting to pick up, other industries are still closing down. Employees will lose their jobs and can no longer afford to pay their rent or their mortgage.

For instance, malls are closing down as people prefer to shop online. So, it is not surprising to see more homeless people in the community than before. The U.S. should follow Canada’s lead in their efforts to take care of the homeless, so they become productive members of society once more.

A task force of Metro Vancouver mayors and business leaders released 12 recommendations to combat homelessness in the region on Monday, again calling on the provincial and federal governments to create and fund a provincial poverty reduction plan.

The report focused on three goals: preventing people from becoming homeless, serving them if they become homeless, and helping them into housing.

“The research unequivocally demonstrates a complete system-wide failure in the social services network designed to assist the most vulnerable in the region,” said Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read, who helped lead the effort with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

The report recommended expanding home care for people with chronic health issues and addictions, and adding social housing units – key factors of homelessness, it said, that are outside local government jurisdiction.

Just how will they do that?

Coleman pointed to 1,900 units of affordable rental housing, including about 300 units for homeless people, that are in the works in the region.

Two shelter proposals were once on the table for Maple Ridge, Read noted, and both were later rescinded by the province, leading to some people staying in the local shelter for 18 months as they waited to move into transitional housing.


The Canadians clearly know what they are doing.

The Minister also participated in the official opening of a three-story building at 220 Terminal Avenue, hosted by the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency. The new building is the first project in Canada to be approved by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation under the Affordable Rental Innovation Fund, and features 40 single occupancy suites for people at risk of homelessness, students and seniors. The project also includes moveable modular units, which are set up on undeveloped, city-owned land to provide temporary housing when needed.


Albuquerque, New Mexico is among the first states in the country to initiate programs for the homeless population and has now been adopted by other U.S. states. It is not just a simple housing program but a more lasting solution by providing employment to the homeless so they can finally get themselves off the streets.

In 2015, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry made national headlines when he debuted a no-frills effort to reduce panhandling and homelessness in the city. With one driver and one 10-seater van, the program, called There’s a Better Way, would transport the city’s jobless to six-hour gigs pulling weeds in parks, picking up trash or tidying up the grounds at the local dump.

What started off as a $50,000, six-month pilot is now an $181,000 annual program that has inspired spin-offs in Denver, Dallas and the state of Wisconsin. Anaheim, California, became the most recent municipality to get on the trend, with Mayor Tom Tait telling an audience of 800 at the State of the City address on Feb. 7 that jobs were the solution to homelessness.


These stories deserve to make the news. They not only uplift the lives of homeless people and boost their morale but also encourages other communities, non-profit organizations, and government agencies to take the lead and help solve the problem of homelessness in their area.

Helping one another is not just a moral obligation among the faithful but a responsibility each and every citizen must take to heart. Progress is achieved once we all learn to look after one another with the help of a government that takes an active approach to solving many of the issues plaguing the community.

The Impact Of Technology To Small Businesses

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Employment is but a means to provide for your needs and hopefully help you secure your retirement fund. After all, having a job is better than being unemployed. At least, you have the spending power to pay for your needs and that of your family. However, it can’t let you fully enjoy the bigger things in life.

Becoming an entrepreneur means you have a chance to make it in the world and increase your wealth ten-fold. Not only do you have control over how much your business grows but you are no longer limited to the usual limitations of traditional employment.

One may indeed become rich and successful by engaging in business but let us not forget that the risks involved are bigger too. Aside from putting in your own capital (or borrowing it), there is no assurance your business would make it or that it will be safe from the issues affecting the country’s economy (regardless of where you are in the world).

The vast majority of small business owners in Australia are navigating tough conditions with little or no support. While they know their business better than anyone, often they fail to tend to certain nagging issues because, well, they’re too busy; instead, they choose to reassure themselves their business model is strong and push on. If you are one of these people stop and think – if you let those issues persist and grow, cracks will become fissures and your business stands to fail.

Australian small businesses are made up of a huge amount of people that bravely take on their chosen market as well as huge personal risk and employ the majority of the adult population. But they are not helping themselves. Most of these brave individuals are missing the basic governance controls, systems and processes that help push their business into hyperdrive, and protect it from failure.


Most business owners micromanage, thinking they can do things all by themselves. And that is usually their first mistake. They get too engrossed in the actual business itself that they forget that they are also there to manage their business, so they can be free to do the manual labor someday and reap the fruits of their hard work.

Also, one thing all business owners can’t avoid or put off for long is automating their operation. Even small family-owned businesses need to establish an online presence or make use of various computing tools to improve their services and the conduct of their business.

Finding the perfect balance between this emerging technology and traditional human elements of customer service is a growing challenge for small businesses. The magic behind this balance stems from digital messaging platforms that merge the abilities of chatbots and humans to create a “hybrid bot”. Whilst the chatbot can process figures and administrative tasks, the human can respond to more complex issues and problems. In effect, the chatbot alleviates the stress on the human and allows them to place their focus on the more important issues at hand. For a small business, this super-agent streamlines both time constraints and problem solving, as the chatbot’s ability to save time and provide assistance to the customer service agent becomes a lifesaver. While it alleviates business pressures, it also creates goodwill amongst customers as it opens more opportunities to communicate on their terms.

While some argue bots are the cost-cutting future of customer engagement, others contend that a human is the most effective way to solve problems. As with so many things, the solution lies somewhere in the middle. The one thing both sides agree on? A business can’t force customers to call it. Those that do send their customers a message loud and clear: They don’t respect consumers’ time, and the consumer will be put on hold.

Consumers have become accustomed to chat and messaging — via apps on their phones and tablets or on their computers. For a small business, it provides an efficient alternative to voice-based communication that limits consumer frustration and opens the door to cost-effective features like AI and bots. Shaping the customer experience is about finding that balance between traditional interaction models and emerging technology to create a seamless experience benefiting both consumer and business.


Indeed, everything has gone digital. And like any other piece of technology, it has its pros and cons. As a business owner, you must always see these things in relation to your business – how it will affect your business and how you can benefit from it.

Small businesses may find it challenging to automate everything that needs to be computerized at first because of limited funds, manpower, and time constraints but only businesses that learned to innovate and keep up with the many technological advancements remained to be at the forefront of the business world.

A Trip Down America’s Parks

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Our days may be consumed by work or school but we still make it a point to unwind once the weekend comes. Rest day is for the family and spending quality time with them is a must. Malls and theme parks may be a staple when it comes to a family getaway but let us not forget that the country is full of beautiful public and state parks where your family can have a good time at a fraction of the price.

Take the time to get in touch with the entire family minus any techy gadgets and enjoy the beauty of nature. Nothing compares to the relief of breathing the fresh air and the joy of sleeping under the stars.And now is the best time to commune with nature when

And now is the best time to commune with nature when these important parks are still around. They may be gone in the years to come with constant threats of modernization and human abuse. Furthermore, not receiving the funding and attention it needs from the national government contributes to their degradation.

Over the past few years there have been budget cutbacks for state parks across the US, which have resulted in a reduction in management staff, lack of new equipment, and shorter visitor center hours. In 2016, general funding for Wyoming’s Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources was cut by 7.18 percent. As a result, park employees have struggled with loss of staff. Last year, funding to Connecticut’s state parks was reduced by 10 percent, and in West Virginia, cuts led to the closure of several state park pools along with employees layoffs. Both Utah and Alabama have struggled to buy equipment under budget constraints, and Alabama closed five state parks in 2016, though several have since reopened. Over the past several years, California, too, has struggled with the idea of closing dozens of state parks due to budget cuts and maintenance backlogs, among other factors.

However, the future of these parks does not look promising with budget cuts from the new administration.

Proper funding is essential to maintaining our state parks and the ecosystems they preserve, but with the cut in funding in Wisconsin, it is uncertain where money will come from. In late 2016, the state Department of Natural Resources, which operates the parks, outlined options for generating additional funds for the park system. Proposals included further raising the price of admission, higher camping fees, and the authority to solicit donations and sponsorships, but Ben Bergey, state parks director, says major funding changes must come from the legislature. “It’s not really fair,” says Stacey Balsley, president of the Waukesha County Green Team, a local environmental organization in Wisconsin. “We need to look at this plan again and ask ourselves if it’s sustainable for the future of our parks. There is a real threat of decline in our parks, and we need to step up and do something about it.”


And many can’t hide their disappointment about the new administration’s policies that aim to cut the funding on health, safety, education, the environment, the workplace and the overall economy in favor of things like homeland and border security.

“It’s fitting for President Trump to release his budget in March, because this is simply madness. This budget would decimate the very foundation of what makes America great: our parks, public lands and historic leadership on conservation. Instead of investing in conservation programs that provide clean drinking water, protect public health and support a booming outdoor recreation economy, Trump is rigging the system to solely benefit oil executives and private developers at the expense of essential conservation programs that benefit all Americans.”
Cameron Witten, government relations and budget specialist, The Wilderness Society

“Trump’s budget will accomplish nothing besides making it easier for corporate polluters to boost their profits at the expense of our families and the places we love. Plans to gut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Interior clearly show that Trump’s billionaire budget is only helping Wall Street and corporate polluters, not our wildlife and natural legacy, our nearly $650 billion outdoor economy or the air our children breathe and the water they drink.”
Melinda Pierce, legislative director, Sierra Club

“Polluters won’t police themselves and water pollution doesn’t stop itself. President Trump’s billionaires’ budget makes huge cuts to the EPA that would strain its ability to enforce landmark laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act. This reckless budget would make it harder to stop polluters from destroying sources of drinking water and threaten EPA’s ability to identify water pollution threats, to set strong protections for our rivers, lakes, bays, streams and wetlands, and to enforce laws that protect public health.”
Bob Wendelgass, president and CEO, Clean Water Action


The wildlife population in these parks are also in danger. These parks are perhaps the last frontier in the country for most of these animals and they have nowhere else to go once these parks disappear. Our hands are already tainted with the extinction of many animals in the planet because of poaching, loss of their homes, etc., among the most recent, is the Western Black Rhino.

The entire country will suffer once we lose our natural parks and wildlife. The new administration does not realize the gravity of their policies right now. We may end up losing many of our national parks to most land developers with a simple budget cut in say, land protection. And environmental issues like this can worsen climate change, a problem that has disastrous consequences for our planet if not addressed right away.

How Computer Programming Shapes The Future

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Computing has achieved so much today. If you look at computer systems now and compare to that of ten to twenty years ago, much has definitely changed and improved. These advances in computer programming enabled technologies to reach greater heights – advancements we can only but dream of during computing’s infancy.

However, its evolution also has its pros and its cons. Computing systems are far more efficient now than earlier models. You can do multiple tasks at once and the Internet has become an essential aspect of life. Unfortunately, advances in technology mean that robots can now do manual labor that is done by people before. It means people can lose their jobs and have a hard time in life because of limited opportunities – especially for skilled workers who lacks in education.

Moreover, technology has access to more data but we have no idea how these data are used, transmitted and stored. Hacking becomes a bigger threat not only to the government and big companies but even to ordinary citizens as well.

“A dream of artificial intelligence is to build systems that can write computer programs.”

Coding has been described as one of the most important skills of the future, and a recent survey from job markets firm Burning Glass found that as many as seven million job openings in 2015 required some form of coding skills.

But with AI now having the ability to code itself, it could put many budding coders out of work.

A recent report from the United Nations (UN) revealed AI is set to displace millions of workers across the globe as scientists storm towards making machines with human-level intelligence.

While many firms will welcome the news of free labour that will be more efficient than humans, it will leave many people worried about their economic future.


And there is no stopping technology from doing the impossible and changing the society that we know.

Scientists have trained a quantum computer to recognize trees. That may not seem like a big deal, but the result means that researchers are a step closer to using such computers for complicated machine learning problems like pattern recognition and computer vision.

The team used a D-Wave 2X computer, an advanced model from the Burnaby, Canada–based company that created the world’s first quantum computer in 2007. Conventional computers can already use sophisticated algorithms to recognize patterns in images, but it takes lots of memory and processor power. This is because classical computers store information in binary bits–either a 0 or a 1. Quantum computers, in contrast, run on a subatomic level using quantum bits (or qubits) that can represent a 0 and a 1 at the same time. A processor using qubits could theoretically solve problems exponentially more quickly than a traditional computer for a small set of specialized problems. The nature of quantum computing and the limitations of programming qubits has meant that complex problems like computer vision have been off-limits until now.

In the new study, physicist Edward Boyda of St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga and colleagues fed hundreds of NASA satellite images of California into the D-Wave 2X processor, which contains 1152 qubits. The researchers asked the computer to consider dozens of features—hue, saturation, even light reflectance—to determine whether clumps of pixels were trees as opposed to roads, buildings, or rivers. They then told the computer whether its classifications were right or wrong so that the computer could learn from its mistakes, tweaking the formula it uses to determine whether something is a tree.


All these technological breakthroughs can overwhelm an ordinary citizen who only understands basic computer programming and terminologies. And even though common sense dictates us that hacking is wrong, it may eventually prove beneficial after all.

As the world around us becomes more connected to the internet, the number of ways that hackers can infiltrate our lives becomes increasingly multifarious. Today data breaches are taking place in ways that were unheard of just a decade ago — from remotely hacking cars to infiltrating “smart” teddy bears.

The threats have grown so quickly that companies are overwhelmed by the increasing number of attacks, security experts say. This is not just because of the growing number of opportunities to infiltrate a network or device, but also because these attacks are increasingly automated and launched from low-priced computer hardware using open-source tools that require relatively low coding skills to deploy. Defending against such attacks can require well-paid and highly trained experts.

“We believe that cybersecurity is a correctable math problem that, at present, overwhelmingly favors the attackers,” Ryan M Gillis, vice president of cybersecurity strategy for enterprise security company Palo Alto Networks, said at a House Homeland Security Committee meeting last week about protecting the private sector from hacking. “Network defenders are simply losing the economics of the cybersecurity challenge.”


Technology is rapidly growing and progressing and there is no stopping it. It makes perfect sense to embrace the world of computer programming in our lives considering how much of everything we do revolves around computers and technology. Having at least a basic understanding of it can save you from a lot of headaches that has to do with technology – whether at home or at work.

A Brighter Future Through Education Funding

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We all know how powerful education is. It not only empowers the mind and enhances one’s knowledge and skills but can change the future too. An education can help people realize their dreams and aspirations in life. A myriad of opportunities opens up to an educated person – opportunities that will never come knocking to someone who did not get an education. Books are key to this, of course.

Yet for as long as we can remember, public education is only free to primary and secondary school students and is plagued with issues and controversies too. Affluent parents who only want the best for their kids would rather enroll their children in private schools than compromise their child’s learning at the many public schools sprawled all over the country.

College is an even bigger problem as most students no longer pursue it because they simply cannot afford the high tuition fees. As a result, more and more Americans go through adulthood without a degree, making it harder for them to compete globally. Many of them also lack the necessary knowledge and skills to qualify them for work in various industries both in and out of the country.

Our nation’s rapidly evolving, technologically oriented economy is driving a surge in demand for skilled employees. It is estimated that two-thirds of all jobs created in the coming decade will require some form of postsecondary education. In response, the United States has established a goal of achieving a 60 percent postsecondary degree or certificate attainment among the nation’s labor force by 2025, equating to an additional 62 million Americans. But with the current trajectory, the U.S. will produce only 39 million such graduates, 23 million short of the goal.

At the same time, funding constraints and other factors have resulted in a 20 percent decrease in total state appropriations to public baccalaureate-granting institutions. Our experts report that innovative approaches to funding postsecondary education are required to meet America’s demand for skilled workers.


Fortunately, lawmakers are finally doing something about the problem so that the future of the country has a better chance in work and in life.

Florida lawmakers are pushing an education agenda that includes big changes to higher education and k-12 schools. Recess could become mandatory, tuition less expensive and Bright Futures expanded under proposals in the House and Senate.

The sound of kids playing on jungle gyms and monkey bars isn’t as common as it used to be in public schools. Over the years, as the state has increased requirements on schools, they’ve cut back on recess. It’s now optional in many districts, and that’s not fair to students says Angie Gallo, legislative chair of the Florida Parent-Teacher Organization.

School systems put undue stress on students that they end up hating school rather than being excited to learn something new every day. We should not dismiss the fact that teachers play a major role in a student’s enthusiasm to go to school daily.

Meanwhile, a plan to boost universities is already waiting for a full Senate vote. The plan calls for the state to use a four-year graduation rate instead of the traditional six-year-figure to help determine who gets what money. Bright Futures scholarships would expand to cover 100 percent of tuition. There are also dollars for recruiting new faculty into the system. And schools would have to offer flat, block tuition plans. Senate President Joe Negron says students take fewer courses because they can’t afford more. 


Both parents and students can only hope that the new Secretary of Education also put their best interests in mind and strive to improve the quality of public education aside from increasing access to college and university scholarships instead of making further budget cuts. Many are baffled when she said that the sector is not facing any problem today when asked in an interview.

Further, she seems to be in support of the Department of Education being significantly stripped of some—if not all—of its powers. “There’s clearly an opportunity to slim down the department in some ways. I don’t know if that will ultimately significantly reduce the overall expenditure, but it may, it may help incentivize states in other ways,” she said, according to Axios.

When asked if there are current issues involving education that the federal government has a place intervening in, she said: “I can’t think of any now,” though she acknowledged the Department played an important role in desegregating schools and promoting gender equality in the past.


A good education is the foundation of a thriving economy. Educated workers need less supervision and can contribute to the growth of any company or organization. They not only work to survive but work to make a name for themselves. If the government only sees it that way, then it will put more emphasis on education reforms that the education sector desperately needs right now.

Israel: A Nation Eluded By Peace

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Many countries in the Far East have been ravaged by war for centuries now. Peace seems to elude them. The people learned to live a life that is always on the edge. Attempts of powerful western nations to restore peace in these nations seem futile and to no avail.

Israel is one of these countries that are always in the path of war and destruction. It had always been in conflict with its neighbor, Palestine. But so far, nobody has ever come up with a more lasting and positive solution. People died in the process of restoring peace in these countries and it seems like wishful thinking now.

Israel has issued 35 administrative detention orders against Palestinian prisoners, including one woman, within the last two weeks.

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Club said in a press statement that the orders were served to prisoners from across the occupied West Bank cities, including 11 to Palestinians from Bethlehem, eight to those from Hebron, six in Jenin and five in Ramallah.

It added that the orders were issued against first-time detainees as well as those who have been previously detailed.


Many suggestions have been considered (with finger crossed – that is).

Israel has been a sovereign state, with all the trimmings, since 1948, including a government, an army, a seat in the UN and membership in the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as many other international bodies. By now, 135 of the 193 member states of the UN have recognized “Palestine” as a sovereign state, plus the Holy See, which is not a full member state of the UN.

If all of these facts are taken into account, you would be forgiven for thinking that nothing could possibly stand in the way of the two-state-solution. But there are a few small matters that ought to be addressed before Jerusalem and Ramallah are to take up any diplomatic relationships. These are, namely, the issues of borders, the Jewish settlement in the West Bank, the “return policy,” which is non-negotiable for Palestinians, as well as the recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state,” a condition that Israel is not willing to forego.

And all of this is without mentioning the most important question of all: who will speak for the Palestinians? The local elections in the West Bank and Gaza, set for Oct. 8, 2016, had to be cancelled due to the fact that leaders of Fatah and Hamas could not reach an agreement.

The rules are basically the same: the first to move, loses.


Many people (Americans and non-Americans) may not like most of President Trump’s statement and policies so far but it appears that he is doing something right in this aspect after all.

To understand what President Trump has indeed achieved and undertaken – which although limited, does represent a strong foundation for a future Middle Eastern peace initiative – requires envisioning an alternate scenario. Envisage a Democratic American president who in his or her first two months of leadership has appointed two premier advisors to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian issue; called on the Israeli government to hold back on settlement construction; intimately engaged Palestinian and Arab leaders; and has avoided any notable scandals on this particular front.

The President helps negotiate peace among these troubled nations and extend a helping hand, so peace can finally be achieved if everything works in their favor.

Observers and commentators on the Israeli-Palestinian issue should do so by cautiously highlighting positive developments, which further incentivize a working, democratic relationship between the community and the White House. To continue on the current path would otherwise signal four complete years of partisanship and opposition that would dissuade progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front, which Israelis, Palestinians, and world interests simply cannot afford.


Life in a war-torn nation is something you would not wish on anybody. We all deserve to live in a society with established law and order, where the citizens are free to roam the streets and go after their pursuits in life. Children should enjoy a normal childhood that is not exposed to violence and various injustices.

It may not be the reality for countries like Palestine and Israel right now (and many other countries in the Middle East e.g. Syria and Iraq) but it is possible once the nations unite and look past each other’s difference. The bottom line is, the world will be a better place if everyone learns to love more and hate less.

The Changing San Diego Landscape

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Weather changes are old news. Wherever you are in the globe, you have likely witnessed your fair share of environmental mayhems that probably have temporarily put your lives on hold. Devastating as it may be, there is little one can do once disaster strikes. And in its aftermath are even more problems as people try to rebuild their lives and pick up from where they left off. There are services to help clean up, but often, they may not be enough.

More often than not, the people rely on the government for help. With taxes that are supposed to fund the most basic of services, the government can tap into these resources to secure calamity funds needed by everyone. And the United States is not an exception. Major cities like San Diego in the West Coast face the wrath of nature where storms, droughts and bush fires are quite common.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued state-of-emergency proclamations Tuesday for counties across the state, including San Diego, in response to damage during powerful storms that struck in January and February.

Brown also sent a letter to the White House requesting a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to complement state and local recovery efforts.

The emergency proclamations direct Caltrans officials to immediately request assistance through the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program to obtain federal funds for “highway repairs or reconstruction.” They also direct the Office of Emergency Services to provide assistance to counties affected by the late January storms.


And even neighboring towns outside the country are just as affected as San Diego itself considering their close proximity. They also suffer when infrastructure breaks down because of wear and tear that are perhaps hastened by the elements or the failure to maintain it.

Baja California’s governor is preparing to declare a state of emergency in the coming days, hoping to draw financial aid for Tijuana’s strained and underfunded sewage system following a massive spill that sent millions of gallons of untreated wastewater from Tijuana across the border and into San Diego last month.

The incident was triggered by the collapse of a major sewage trunk line in Tijuana, state officials say, and repairs led to the release of a large amount of untreated sewage into the Tijuana River channel, which empties into the ocean at Imperial Beach. The spill generated outrage north of the border, especially because of Mexico’s failure to notify U.S. officials, who found out only after residents reported foul odors over a two-week period.


It is also common to see other infrastructure problems brought about by weather disturbances and neglect from public agencies that are supposed to oversee its repair and maintenance.

We apparently have 36,000 potholes to fill, on 2,800 miles of street. Your writer says the crews “can fix a small hole in five minutes.”

A 2011 U-T article called the budget $26 million then, no indication what the 2017 cost is. If increased at the rate of inflation that could be $31 million. I doubt that includes pension costs. That’s almost $900 per pothole.

Do we think any private companies might be willing to take on the job of pothole repair for, say, a measly $800 per pothole and save us a few dollars?

What if we simply hired a city “inspector” to drive those streets and held a private company (or two) to standards for timeliness and quality of repair? Effective government?


The United States is a first class country. San Diego itself is a big city with a bustling economy. Even if the weather and other environmental factors are a constant threat to the city, it is not an excuse for its public officials to slack and do nothing when many of the infrastructures are crumbling and negatively impacts the lives of the people.

Can Pot Stop The American Opioid Addiction?

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One of the issues that people are beginning to become weary of across the United States is addiction to painkillers. Whether you were in a car accident, are a veteran, or just simply have a rather grave injury, you may have already been in contact with them.

And yes, who can hate something that actually relieves pain for so many people? Don’t people deserve to not be in pain in the richest country in the world? Frankly, no one deserves to be in pain. But the real issue right now in America is that not only are opioids being prescribed in number, they are also being abused.

And what’s quite strange about this abuse is that it is rampant, and it’s affecting people who haven’t necessarily encountered these problems before – poor, white southerners, often farmers – something noted in this story from

Between 1999 and 2014, opioid fatalities in New Hanover County grew from one to 24. Then, in only a year, the rate ballooned, nearly doubling to 45. These overdoses did not result only heroin, they came increasingly from prescription opiates and synthetic painkillers. In fact, prescription medication killed more than twice as many people as heroin in 2015. In North Carolina, 738 were killed by prescription medication, some of it stolen.

Those are huge numbers and are beginning to serve as a shock to many. What’s more, it’s affecting the crime rates as well:

Statewide, the North Carolina Department of Justice notes that cocaine arrests are down and marijuana arrests have remained stable. Meanwhile, according to the DOJ’s State Bureau of Investigation, arrests for possession of synthetic opiates – one of the leading factors in spiking overdose rates – have risen 132 percent (more than doubled) between 2000 and 2011. Sale and manufacturing arrests have risen 251 percent (more than tripled).

Wilmington, NC is far from alone in terms of addictions, but it is emblematic of a problem that is spiraling out of control. The high cost of these Opioid medications mean that once you become addicted, you may find yourself broke as well. It’s a double edged sword that has brought crime, poverty and, yes, heroin (which is sometimes actually cheaper than the prescriptions) to many areas that simply never had those issues before.

Pain Relief Without Addiction?

Deep in the morass of the marijuana debate, there is hope. The fact that medical marijuana does indeed relieve pain in many Americans without any addiction at all is now become well known. What’s more, the use of medical marijuana to relieve pain has actually begun to save people’s lives:

A 2016 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that states with medical marijuana laws had 25 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths than states that do not have medical marijuana laws. And another study published in Health Affairs last year found that prescriptions for opioid painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet paid for by Medicare dropped substantially in states that adopted medical marijuana laws.


No Study, No Fact?

A major and quite brutal issue in the medical marijuana debate is simply that because of its Federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1, it is nearly impossible to study it. A recent study has brought some interesting ideas, though:

In January, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a review of 10,000 medical marijuana studies published since 1999, showing that substantial evidence supports the use of marijuana or its extracts for the treatment of chronic pain. Existing research also supports its effectiveness in treating multiple-sclerosis-related muscle spasms and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, according to the literature review. But the study cautioned that both the positive and negative health effects of marijuana need to be studied further.

As a result of this study, doctors, like New York’s Dr. Howard Shapiro, are starting to scale through the regulations and actually prescribe marijuana to patients in chronic pain. While smoking is often not recommended, some devices do smooth out the smoke. He’s enthusiastic of the anecdotal results thus far:

“I really think medical marijuana is the drug of the future,” Shapiro said. “We’re going to find out that it does a lot of things we already think it can do, but don’t have scientific studies to prove it.”

“I urge my patients to purchase only a two-week supply at first, so they don’t waste money on a dose that may not be effective,” Shapiro said. Most patients start out with a 1-to-1 ratio of THC, the intoxicating component of marijuana, to CBD, the second major component, which has proven to be medically effective for a range of conditions.”

And while Shapiro’s bravery (New York is not a fully legal Marijuana-state), other doctors are starting to sign up and consider providing patients with the proper prescriptions.

The debate will continue, of course, but one of the unfortunate facts right now is that, as the study above notes, many of the states with the heaviest addiction problems are also the states least likely to legalize, either recreationally or for medical use.

But, as states continue to legalize fully, a group that at this point includes Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, Maine, Massachussetts and California, it will be harder and harder for the Federal Government to ignore patients.

Small Businesses Get Smart With Creative Financing

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Living in the United States for the past 10 years has seen many affected by one of the harshest boom and bust cycles in a lifetime. Not since the depression has there been a scenario where so much wealth was lost after being gained over such a short period of time. At one point, times for financing were easy, and banks had their doors open to pretty much anyone who required capital.

But now, sadly, that has all changed. Banks themselves are suffering from a serious lack of capital, and the small business owner has suffered as a result. In an attempt to provide credit relief to many small business owners like Glen Markstrom of San Diego’s All Clear Tree Service, equipment leasing companies have begun to work directly with many entrepreneurs.

“I never really considered leasing before,” says Markstrom, whose tree service company has won local awards. “Leasing did end up saving my bacon when the banks let me down. It’s nice to know there are options.” Read the rest of this entry