Friday, June 29, 2012

Students Seen Bullying Bus Monitor Suspended For A Year

The Greece Central School District in Western New York has decided on a punishment for the students seen bullying their 69-year-old school bus monitor on a YouTube video that went viral earlier this month.

Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams said the parents of the four middle school students agreed to a one-year suspension and 50 hours of community service with senior citizens. They will also be required to complete a bullying prevention program.

"The Greece Central School District is legally required to provide all students ages 5 to 16 with an education, therefore, during the 2012-13 school year, the students who have been suspended will be transferred to the district Reengagement Center, located in a non-school facility," the district said in a statement. "This alternative education program keeps middle school students on track academically while providing a structured opportunity for students to take responsibility for their actions by completing community service hours and receiving formal instruction related to conduct and behavior that prepares them for a productive future."

The students will be able to apply for readmission to their regular school — Athena Middle School — if they've stayed out of trouble for 30 weeks.

As we've told you, the video showed 10 minutes of profane and relentless taunting of their school bus monitor Karen Klein. The video caused so much concern for Klein that a fund was started on her behalf.

So far, it has collected $667,304. Some of the students and their parents had also issued apologies.

Credit: National Public Radio

Spiral Cut Hot Dogs Before Grilling for Maximum Meaty Goodness and Plenty of Room for Toppings

Cooking a hot dog isn't rocket science, but making that hot dog something really special can be trickier than loading it up with toppings. The fine folks at Chow suggest giving your hot dog a quick spiral cut before putting it on the grill: It'll cook up perfectly straight, you boost the surface area so you get more of that nice grilled flavor, and once it's on the bun there are plenty of nooks and crannies for relish and other toppings to fit into.

It turns out the spiral cut is really simple—just skewer the hot dog, hold your knife at an angle, and roll it away from you under the knife. Take the dog off of the skewer and drop it on the grill. One of the benefits of the spiral cut is that the hot dog will cook up perfectly straight, and you won't have to worry about it curling up, the skin ripping, or it cooking unevenly. Every tiny corner of the dog will cook up with that nice, caramelized flavor that makes grilling so delicious. Chow's Blake Smith notes that the spiral cut dog also fits better in a bun once it's cooked up, and the toppings just fall right into the crevices, making every bite tastier.

For another boost of flavor, consider marinading your dogs before they go on the grill—they actually take well to it. Of course, if you're not into hot dogs, you can definitely do the same thing with sausages or brats, just be careful of any meat that'll start to fall apart before cooking once the casing is cut.

Credit: Alan Henry,

I don't know what the weather's like where you live, but...

here in Kentucky, this is what we are dealing with this afternoon. I know that most of the U.S. is dealing with extreme heat the next couple of days, and I would like to offer these tips for preventing heat-related illness from the CDC.

'Think Like A Man' sequel is in development

Steve Harvey’s best-selling advice book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” was translated into the film Think Like a Man earlier this year. The transition from ink and paper to celluloid was a successful one, resulting in a movie adaptation that received surprisingly solid marks from critics – given Hollywood’s underwhelming track record, when it comes to turning popular dating advice books into star-studded events (He’s Just Not That Into You, looking at you).

The aspect of Think Like a Man‘s success that’s surely pleased Screen Gems the most is a $93 million worldwide gross on a $12 million budget. Hence, it’s little surprise that development has begun on a sequel (we’ll call it Think Like a Man 2, for now).

Screen Gems’ Think Like a Man sequel will be scripted by the same duo who wrote its predecessor, Keith Merryman and David A. Newman (they also penned Friends with Benefits). The screenwriters have established a reputation for churning out rom-coms that resonate with contemporary audiences, but do not stray far from the tried-and-true plot formulas and conventions which have earned the sub-genre fans since… well, the early days of narrative filmmaking, to be honest.

Harvey will be back as an executive producer on Think Like a Man 2, with Rob Hardy and Rushion McDonald; Will Packer is also returning, in a producer capacity. It stands to reason that the central cast from the first film (including, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraja P. Henson, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Romany Malco, Gabrielle Union, and Chris Bown) will likewise be brought back, as could also be the case with director Tim Story.

Think Like a Man 2 will presumably travel a path similar to the first film, following the various male and female “players” as navigate the “game” of evolving relationships. Rom-com sequels are a rare species, as most filmmakers hold off on continuing the love story – or stories, in the case of Think Like a Man – after the happy ending (or something close to that) has seemingly been reached.

Think Like a Man 2 could turn out okay, assuming the original cast returns (screen chemistry intact). Not to mention: so long as Merryman and Newman refrain from simply rehashing what went down in the first film – while passing the sequel off as a “new” chapter in the ongoing story (that’s never happened before, right?).

Of course, the real question is: how much of an informercial will this sequel be for Harvey’s new book, “(Continue To) Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man”? (Zing!)

Credit:Christian Science Monitor

Thanks to science, your weekend will be one second longer

The transition from June to July will be delayed by circumstances beyond everyone's control. Time will stand still for one second on Saturday evening (June 30) because a "leap second" will be added to let a lagging Earth catch up to super-accurate clocks.

International Atomic Time is a very accurate and stable time scale. It is a weighted average of the time kept by about 200 atomic clocks in over 50 national laboratories worldwide. Atomic time is measured through vibrations of atoms in a metal isotope that resembles mercury and can keep time to within a tenth of a billionth of a second per day. The result is extremely accurate time that can be used to improve synchronization in precision navigation and positioning systems, telecommunications networks and deep-space communications.

But from their careful observations of the positions of the stars, astronomers have deduced that Earth's rotation is ever so slightly slowing down at a non-uniform rate, probably attributable to its sloshing molten core, the rolling of the oceans, the melting of polar ice and the effects of solar and lunar gravity.  

Adjusting the clock

Today's atomic clocks are accurate to approximately one second in 200 million years. On average, our planet has been falling behind atomic time at a rate of about two milliseconds per day.  As a result, it now trails the "official" clock by about six-tenths of a second. 

As a result of this difference, atomic clocks, which are used to set all other clocks, can get out of sync with the Earth and periodically have to be adjusted. A leap second has to be added from time to time to make up the difference. 

The next time will be Saturday, when the master clock at the United States Naval Observatory will be adjusted at 7:59:60 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, or 23:59:60 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). This will put Mother Earth about four-tenths of a second ahead of the clock, giving her a bit of a head start as we transition into the new month of July. 

Who says chivalry is dead?

How to see and hear the extra second

Today many retailers market radio clocks as "atomic clocks." Though the radio signals these clocks receive usually come from true atomic clocks, they are not atomic clocks themselves. Typical radio "atomic clocks" require placement in a location with a relatively unobstructed atmospheric path to the transmitter, need reasonably good atmospheric conditions to receive the time signals, and perform synchronization once a day, during the nighttime.

If you own such a device, you may want to observe what your clock displays just before 0 hours GMT July 1, which corresponds to 8 p.m. EDT on June 30. The minute beginning at 7:59 p.m. EDT will contain 61 seconds. (When a leap second was added in 2005, I watched my own clock closely during that minute as the seconds ticked off.  When the final second of that minute was reached, the number "59" flashed not once, but twice!)

If you don't have a radio clock, you can bring up a time display on your computer by going to:

You can also listen for the leap second by tuning in to a shortwave time signal station. In North America, the "extra tick" can be heard by listening to either station WWV in Fort Collins, Colo., at 2.5, 5, 10, 15 and 20 megahertz; WWVH in Kekaha, Hawaii, at 2.5, 5, 10 and 15 megahertz; or CHU in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, at 3330, 7850, and 14670 kilohertz. A listing of shortwave time signal stations for other parts of the world can be found at

Should you encounter poor reception, try preparing a seconds pendulum by hanging a small weight on a string about 39.1 inches (99.3 centimeters) long. Adjust the string length beforehand until the swings exactly match the time signal ticks.  If the beeps denoting the start of each minute occur at the left extreme of a swing before the final (UTC) minute of June, they will be heard at the right extremes thereafter. (Although the swing amplitude will be steadily dying down, this does not affect a free pendulum's oscillation period.)

Not the year's midpoint

Saturday will be the 25th time a leap second has been needed since the practice was initiated in 1972, and will be the first in 3½ years. The most recent leap second was inserted into the atomic time scale on New Year's Eve of 2008.

Incidentally, July 1 is not the midpoint of 2012. That will take place July 2 at 0 hours UTC if you count the year as beginning when it did at Greenwich, England  – or at 1 a.m. Daylight Saving Time, if you count the year as beginning when your clock said midnight in the standard time of your time zone, .

Regardless of how you use your extra second, just keep this one indisputable fact in mind: Whenever you note the time on the clock, realize that it is now – right now – later than it has ever been.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

20 Things You Shouldn’t Buy Used

I’m an avid garage sale shopper. Most of my furniture was bought used, and I’ve saved more than 50 percent off the cost of some pieces. But a few things I would never buy used – especially if they put my health or safety at risk.

Here’s more information on why you shouldn’t buy those seven things used, plus more than a dozen others…

1. Cribs

Cribs – especially the drop-side kind – are frequently on recall lists, and the reasons why are pretty terrifying. For example, in April, Nan Far Woodworking recalled their drop-side cribs for repair. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission had this to say about it:

"The cribs’ drop sides can malfunction, detach or otherwise fail, causing part of the drop side to fall out of position, creating a space into which an infant or toddler can roll and become wedged or entrapped, which can lead to strangulation or suffocation. A child can also fall out of the crib. Drop-side incidents can also occur due to incorrect assembly and with age-related wear and tear."

So how do you know if that crib you’re eyeing on Craigslist hasn’t been recalled? You could check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s list of crib recalls, but you don’t know if the crib was sent back for repairs or not. You’d just have to take the seller’s word for it. It’s better to play it safe and buy a new crib.

2. Car seats

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says car seats can be safely reused after minor crashes – if the air bags didn’t deploy, no one was injured, and the car drove away. But it recommends car seats be replaced after moderate crashes.
So how do you tell the difference between a car seat in a minor crash, one in a moderate crash, or one that wasn’t in a crash at all? You probably can’t. The damage could be internal and not visible. Don’t risk it. Buy a new one.

3. Helmets

In a crash, the thick foam inside a helmet absorbs shock and protects your head. After a crash, the helmet may look fine, but it often has breaks or tears inside the foam. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends replacing a helmet after any crash – even a minor one. Otherwise, the helmet might not protect you in the next crash.

4. Laptops

If you take great care of a laptop, it can last through years of heavy use – but you can’t know how someone else treats their stuff. Maybe they dropped it or spilled coffee on it. The laptop could work great at first, but break down after you take it home.

I just paid $119.99 to replace the hard drive in my laptop – and it was working great until it wasn’t. Had I sold the laptop to someone else, they wouldn’t have known about the failing hard drive.

5. Video cameras

The same goes for video cameras. You may not see any visible damage, but it could have been dropped, exposed to water, or otherwise mistreated. Video cameras are costly to repair, so it isn’t worth buying one used.

6. Mattresses

A used mattress can come with a lot of extras you don’t want – dead skin cells, bacteria, hair, and every other gross thing you could imagine. It might also have bed bugs. The bugs are such a growing problem that Terminix has released a Top 15 Cities for Bed Bug Infestation list.

Bed bugs live off human blood, leave itchy bite marks, and can cause skin infections. And they multiply. According to Orkin:
Females can deposit one to five eggs a day, and may lay 200 to 500 eggs in a lifetime. Under normal room temperatures and with an adequate food supply, they can live over 300 days.

Bring a bed bug-infested mattress into your house, and you’ll pay a hefty fee to an exterminator.

7. Shoes

I believe you need a good mattress and a good pair of shoes – since you’re usually in one or the other. The problem is, those used shoes may have been great for the original owner, but they’ve conformed to his or her feet. They might not be great for you. Used shoes that don’t fit just right can lead to feet or leg pain and back problems.

8. Makeup

I see makeup at almost every garage sale I go to, but I’d never buy any. Cosmetic brushes and wands come into contact with skin and can’t be cleaned very well. That barely used tube of lipstick? It might be hosting illness-causing bacteria. Considering drug stores and beauty shops regularly run makeup sales, risking your health isn’t worth the savings.

9. Plasma and HDTVs

Old tube-style TVs held up a lot better than modern flat-screens. While MSNBC says TVs cost an average of $500 to repair, the repair costs run much higher for plasma screens and for more complicated issues.
Even at the lower end, it may be more cost-effective to buy a new TV under warranty than a used one.

10. Hats

The inside of that hat could be brimming with someone else’s dead skin, hair, or worse – lice. Head lice feed on blood and cause itchy and painful reactions in the scalp. The nearly invisible bugs also travel quickly onto other people and your stuff.

Getting rid of lice requires two treatments of pesticides on everyone in the household. Then you’ll have to clean your bedding, linens, clothes, mattresses, and any other soft fabric in the house. The treatment can take hours or days of hard work – all because you bought a cheap hat.

11. Swimsuits

Swimsuits hug the body. The close contact can transmit bacteria and other diseases – which may transfer to you when you wear the suit. Swimsuits are also fragile. If the washing instructions aren’t followed, the straps might rip or the swimsuit might lose its shape. So you could be buying something that may fall apart after only a few uses.

12. Vacuums

Vacuums take a lot of wear and tear. (This morning I slammed mine into the wall three times trying to reach some dog hair in the corner.) That can lead to costly repairs. Considering you can buy a new vacuum for under $100, it isn’t worth the risk to buy a used one.

13. Tires warns that thin tread isn’t the only safety hazard for tires – old and used tires can pose a safety risk. As tires age, they lose elasticity. As a result, the tread could separate from the tire, causing an accident. Even if the tire isn’t that old, it could have been treated poorly. Bottom line – you can’t tell a tire’s condition from the tread alone, so don’t buy a used one just because it looks good.

14. Software

Software comes with a product code, and most software manufacturers put a limit on the number of times you can reload it. When you buy software used, you have no way of knowing how many times the product code has been used. For example, if the code has a three-time limit and the original owner used it twice, you’ll only be able to load the software onto one more computer before it’s no longer good.

15. DVD players

DVD players often cost more to repair than replace. For example, a friend of mine took her DVD player to a repair shop because the DVDs wouldn’t load. The repair shop told her she’d need a new DVD drive tray. It would’ve cost $55 for the repair. She bought a new one for less.

16. Stuffed animals

Children love to stick stuffed animals into their mouths, dirt, and gooey substances. Since the stuffed animal has a fabric surface, bacteria and dirt are absorbed in the fibers. Do you really want your child putting that teddy bear in his mouth if you don’t know where it’s been?

17. Halogen lamps

Those old halogen lamps may look cool, but they’re a fire hazard. Anne Ducey, the marketing coordinator for Seattle Light, told the The Seattle Times that halogen lamps have been linked to at least 350 fires, $2 million in property damage, 114 injuries, and 29 deaths across the United States.
Instead of buying that retro-looking halogen lamp at a thrift store, look for new
CFL or LED lamps – they’re safer and cheaper to use.

18. Blenders

Blenders are subject to loads of abuse. (I’ve broken two myself trying to force-feed frozen strawberries and ice through the blades.) Not to mention most blenders have not-always-invisible old bits of food stuck to the underside of the blades and in the blending bowl.

Since you can buy a new blender pretty cheap – I just paid $25 for one at Target – the savings isn’t worth it for used ones.

19. Costume jewelry

Children and adult’s costume jewelry can contain poisonous substances like nickel, cadmium, and lead. The problem was so prevalent that testing and subsequent legal action by the Center for Environmental Health in 2004 led to the recall of more than 150 million pieces of jewelry for kids. While lead testing is stricter now for new products, the used costume pieces you’re buying may have lead or other chemicals.

20. Pet food and treats

A recent outbreak of pet food recalls has me worried – after all, salmonella causes serious health problems for pets that eat recalled food.
So why would I buy used stuff? Even if the food hasn’t been recalled, open bags of dog food and treats can contain bugs and bug eggs. Where I live, it’s not uncommon for pet food to become infested with roaches. The possibility of food poisoning and bugs isn’t worth the potential savings.

Those are the 20 things I would never buy used.

Credit: Christian Science Monitor

New? No thanks! 14 things you should always buy used

We recently shared a list of 20 things you should never buy used. Because it’s often true: You get what you pay for. When it comes to safety, hygiene, and warranties, there’s no substitute for buying some things new.

But for the most part, you can save a lot of money without sacrificing quality by purchasing many things used. In fact, it can change your life.

1. Cars

The biggest way to save on car ownership is to avoid paying the sticker price. A properly maintained year-old vehicle looks and functions like a new car – but costs 20 percent less. If you can save just $4,000 by buying used, then earn 10 percent on it for 20 years, you’ll be $26,000 ahead. And if you can avoid interest by paying cash rather than financing your ride, you’ll be richer still.

You can find a reliable used car for $5,000. The older the car the greater the risk, but having a car inspected by a mechanic can reduce it. The important thing when it comes to cars: Ignore the commercials. Cars are transportation, not status symbols.

2. Houses

With new homes, you don’t have to worry about repairs. But even factoring in fix-up costs – which you’ll know prior to purchase because you’ve had a professional inspection done – a pre-owned house will normally save thousands over new.

According to the latest data from the National Association of Home Builders, the average price for a new home in April ($282,600) was about 25 percent higher than the average price for an existing home ($226,400). Save $50,000 by buying used and you’ll have a lower mortgage payment, freeing up cash to do other more important things – like saving for retirement.

Pre-owned also means more flexible negotiations and mature landscaping.

3. Books

There’s no good reason to buy a new book. Pick up a copy online or at a local store for pennies on the dollar. Or rediscover the library, which these days may even offer free e-book downloads.

The high price of college textbooks makes buying used especially attractive. But you can save even more by checking the library (before your classmates), finding a textbook exchange, or buying an older edition for less. Do some searching and you’ll find lots of ways to get textbooks cheaper, or even free.

Depending on demand and when a new edition is released, you may also be able to recoup much of your cost by reselling them in the right places. Money Talks News writer Ricky Michalski recently bought one of his chemistry texts online for $75 – and resold it for $72 four months later. That means he’s $72 richer than the student who paid full price, then threw that book in a box, never to be read again.

4. Timeshares

A new timeshare is a terrible buy. Reuters recently reported owners are so desperate to ditch the annual maintenance fees that many timeshares are selling for $1. If you can buy a timeshare for basically nothing, avoiding a developer’s high-pressure sales pitch will make you tens of thousands of dollars richer. Check out articles like How to Buy and Sell Timeshares.

5. Recreational toys

From boats to RVs to bikes, buying used makes sense: They’re terrifically expensive new, they depreciate rapidly, and if someone is selling, they may not have had the free time to use it very much.

6. Sports and exercise gear

Everybody wants to lose weight, but few make the time to do it. That means many people have exercise gear they want to unload cheap or even free on sites like eBay and Freecycle. There are also stores that specialize in used gear, like Play It Again Sports.

Weights can’t go bad, although you’ll want to test things like treadmills and other more complex equipment. As we mentioned in our Best Bought New post, bicycle helmets are one thing you should buy new for safety reasons. But otherwise, why not buy used?

7. Furniture

Used furniture from garage sales and consignment stores is often a great bargain – just ask Money Talks News writer Angela Colley, who refurnished her home for under $720. Look around your house and mentally add up the amount you’ve spent on new furniture. Had you bought used, you could easily have saved 50 percent, which means that money would be in your pocket instead of a furniture retailer’s.

Moving sales are great places to save on furniture, since moving furniture is expensive, and sellers have a deadline to dump it. Snap up bargains when college dorms and apartments start emptying in the Spring.

Added bonus of buying used: you might find stuff that’s better built than today’s.

8. Jewelry

Jewelry depreciates faster than cars. And unlike cars, used jewelry isn’t going to break down, and nobody can tell a ring made this year from one made in 1950. In fact, vintage styles can be highly sought after. Best sources include pawn shops, online at places like eBay, and government and other auctions. Obviously, if you’re buying something expensive, be knowledgeable or enlist the help of someone who is.

9. Baby gear

Baby stuff doesn’t get much use – they outgrow everything in months. So baby clothes, toys, and nursery furniture can be smart used buys.

But there are definitely used baby items to avoid. Car seats and cribs have safety risks, and everything should be checked for product recalls. If you’re not sure, say no. But if you are, you can easily save 50 percent or more.

10. Clothes

Clean out your closet and get a tax deduction by donating the clothes you don’t want to a thrift store. Better yet, take them to a resale shop and make some money. And while you’re there, shop around.

The problem with buying clothes this way – as with many things you buy used – is that it might be hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. But if you’re not in a hurry, buying used can cut your clothing budget by 90 percent. For nicer clothes, head to the thrift and resale stores closest to upscale neighborhoods.

11. Dishware

Dishes don’t go bad with time, and buying used can save 80 percent or more. Got a friend getting married? Odds are good they’re going to be getting rid of old stuff to make room for wedding gifts. Thrift shops, yard sales and online sites like Freecycle are also good bets.

12. Electronics

Used electronics are a mixed bag: Things a few years old might be obsolete or incompatible with the latest technology, and it’s often hard to tell whether there are hardware issues.

However, buying used a few months after a product’s release (or even getting last year’s model) can be a great way to save. Purchasing from someone you know personally is a good way to avoid lemons, and factory-refurbished items have been professionally examined and repaired, and may even come with a warranty.

Electronics are a great place to save because so many people foolishly feel the need to buy the latest edition of everything. Not being one of those people will make you richer.

13. Video games and movies

These media are a lot like books. Many buy them new, enjoy them once, then toss them on a shelf. If that’s you, recycle your entertainment money and trade them in.

Online-only stores such as Amazon and Newegg sometimes feature sales with new copies cheaper than the used ones at brick-and-mortar stores, so be sure and check. But used prices are typically 10 to 70 percent less than new, with the best deals on the older stuff.

As with electronics, patience pays.

14. Tools

Most people don’t use tools regularly, so it may make sense to borrow or rent them. But well-maintained tools last a long time, and are easy to find at yard sales. It can be hard to tell how much life power tools have left – so only buy them used from people you trust.

Bottom line? You can be thousands of dollars richer simply by letting other people take the depreciation hit that accompanies virtually all consumer purchases. While it’s convenient to go into a local store and walk out with something new, there’s a high price to pay for that convenience. If you can save $10,000 every year by buying used, then compound that money at 10 percent, in 30 years you’ll be $1,809,434 richer than someone who buys the same things new. And what have you sacrificed? Nothing. After all, those new items become used the minute you bring them home.

Credit: Christian Science Monitor

Check out your local library: It's not just for books anymore

The public library is my single favorite “free” resource in my community. In fact, I value it so much that I actually posted a visual tour of the local library I use the most on this site a few years ago.

(It’s worth noting that libraries aren’t truly free. While you don’t have to pay any money immediately to use the resources, libraries are usually funded by a mix of taxpayer dollars, grants, and donations. However, the value that most people get out of the library, if they choose to use it, far exceeds what goes into the library.)

A good library isn’t some unique resource that you’ll just find in certain towns. Most towns have a library, even small ones like the one depicted below.
What value can you get out of your local library? I’m going to reiterate some of the items mentioned in my “tour” post above, along with some other value that libraries contribute.

Books Yes, libraries are a warehouse of books that you can check out for free. You can also find magazines, newspapers, tax documents, and other such printed material at the library, too. Beyond that, most librarians are quite happy to share their expertise in helping you find the right book for your needs and interests.

Music Most libraries have a collection of CDs that you can check out for your own enjoyment. Larger libraries even have musical discovery programs to help introduce you to new kinds of music that you may never have known about before.

Films Many libraries have DVDs that you can check out. Some libraries carry this further and show films at the library. Larger libraries even have a small auditorium which goes a long way toward creating a theater-like experience for free.

Cultural events Libraries often host muscial groups, speakers, and presenters of all kinds for the public to enjoy. At my own library, I’ve heard authors speak and bands perform. I’ve seen jugglers juggle and movie directors present their work.

Audiobooks Going on a trip? Your library likely has a good collection of audiobooks to check out that will make your travel a lot more enjoyable.

Meeting places Many libraries have rooms that can be used for meetings of community groups. I’ve participated in gaming groups and book clubs at libraries, and I’ve seen everything from gardening clubs to jester training (yes, jester training) at libraries.

Children’s resources Libraries often have abundant children’s resources. For example, right now my children are involved in a robust reading program that rewards them for summer reading with new books and other items, plus there’s a weekly storytime and other activities at the library for them.

Internet access Almost every library today offers computer use with internet access for those who do not have access to the internet at home. Many libraries offer wi-fi access for people who bring in their laptops and other devices.

Teen resources Many larger libraries offer teen programs, including rooms where teens can hang out together in a safe yet private environment. They also offer book clubs targeting teenagers.

Additional community resources Some libraries offer additional services beyond these. For example, some local libraries offer battery recycling. One local library near us offers free paper recycling for people who don’t have home pick-up.

Your local library has a wealth of resources right there for you to take advantage of. All you have to do is walk in the door.

Credit: Christian Science Monitor

Pride-themed, Rainbow-colored Oreo stirs up more than milk

An ad featuring a gay pride-themed Oreo is stirring up viral controversy today after Kraft posted the rainbow-colored Oreo on the popular treat's Facebook page. The ad, which featured an oversized cookie with rainbow-hued frosting layers above the date and accompanying caption, “Proudly support love!” was originally posted to Oreo’s profile Monday evening.

June has special significance in the LGBT community. President Barack Obama declared the month Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Month on June 1, 2009. Many US cities, including New York and San Francisco, held annual Pride events over the weekend.

So far, over 167,000 Facebook users have “liked” the photoshopped image of the self-proclaimed “world’s favorite cookie.” It has racked up 48,853 shares and over 22,000 comments – not all of them positive, and quite a few vitriolic.

Website Buzzfeed was one of the first sites to aggregate some of the more negative feedback as rumblings of a possible boycott grew louder Tuesday morning.

Facebook user Jeff Tulloch writes, “No gay pride I boycott now.” Lacy Wheeler Anderson sadly posts, “I love oreos but will no longer be buying them because of this,” while another user, Cody Patterson comments, “disliked Oreo page just because of this one post. Think about how much business u just killed oreo. I can’t support a business that supports gays.”

At least Boycott Oreo Facebook page has also been created in response to the cookie, which the ad was careful to point out is not real. The page so far has 0 “likes.”

Many other comments applauded the move. “This is absolutely amazing!” writes Haley Swilling. Eric Andrew writes, “Awesome Oreo. Merci beaucoup!”

Oreo’s parent company Kraft Foods, which also owns Jell-O and Kool-Aid, among many other brands, released a statement saying that the picture was part of a “series of daily ads reflecting current events in a fun way using images of Oreo cookies and milk.” Basil Maglaris, a spokeswoman for Kraft, told ABC News in an email that the cookie was created solely in honor of Pride month.

“We are excited to illustrate what is making history today in a fun and playful way,” she writes in the email. “As a company, Kraft Foods has a proud history of celebrating diversity and inclusiveness.  We feel the OREO ad is a fun reflection of our values.”

Oreo is only the latest in a line of high-profile brands that have proclaimed their support for the LGBT community through various ad campaigns. A line of gay pride t-shirts launched by Target sold out in less than a month, while Ben & Jerry’s ice cream has renamed two different flavors in honor of marriage equality: “Apple-y Ever After,” an apple pie ice cream sold in the U.K. during debates over same-sex marriage legalization, and “Hubby Hubby,” a version of the “Chubby Hubby” flavor that premiered when  same sex marriage was legalized in Vermont in 2009.

Department store JCPenney has drawn significant criticism from conservative groups such as One Million Moms for a recent series of ads featuring gay and lesbian parents.  The clothing purveyor made headlines last year for recruiting openly gay talk show host Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson. One Million Moms, which has 47,825 "likes" on its Facebook page, launched a boycott of the store.

Credit: Meredith Bennet-Smith, Christian Science Monitor

Alien attack! Americans pick Obama over Romney to battle invasion from space

President Obama may be trailing Mitt Romney in the polls on who'd do a better job fixing the economy.

But if the Earth ever is attacked by hostile beings from another planet, a strong majority of voters believe Mr. Obama would be superior in dealing with the situation. 

In what may be our favorite polling question of the campaign so far, a survey by the National Geographic Channel, first reported by USA Today, finds that 65 percent of Americans say Obama would be better suited than Mr. Romney to handle an alien invasion.

And lest you are tempted to dismiss this poll as pure silliness, the study also found that 36 percent of Americans think UFOs exist, while another 48 percent aren't sure. Which means that at least some of the respondents judging the presidential candidates' alien-fighting abilities may see it as a plausible scenario. (According to the poll, 79 percent also say the federal government has been hiding information about UFOs from the public – which may actually say more about the public’s overall distrust of government than its views on aliens.)

Even for those who don't really think aliens might attack Earth, we say it's an interesting poll question – essentially prodding which candidate voters would prefer at the helm in the case of a sudden, terrifying crisis that threatens the world's very existence.

Or, to put it another way, it's kind of like asking voters which candidate has more Will Smith in him? Who'd be more likely to bring down an enemy spacecraft, charge over to the wreckage, and punch the alien in the face?

For most Americans, the answer seems to be Obama.

Of course, part of Obama's edge here may come from incumbency. He's already the president, so voters are automatically more inclined to see him as a wartime leader. Obama's foreign policy ratings in general have been a source of strength for him. This is the guy who took down Osama bin Laden, after all –so why not aliens?

On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that in the most recent Gallup poll, Obama and Romney were essentially tied on the measurement of who is a “strong and decisive leader,” with 53 percent of respondents saying Obama was, and 55 percent saying Romney was.

Still, it seems being a strong leader isn’t exactly the same thing as defending the nation against aliens.

Delving further into the alien-fighting scenario, the National Geographic survey also probed the key question of sidekicks. Who would Americans want at their side in an alien attack? According to the poll, 8 percent chose Spiderman, 12 percent said Batman, and a full 21 percent chose the Hulk.

Hmmm. Maybe Romney should pick New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as his running mate, after all.

Credit: Christian Science Monitor

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lawrenceburg man smashes Kentucky skydiving record

Kudos to Mr. Woods for breaking Kentucky's single-day skydiving record and raising money for a Leukemia patient all at the same time!
For many people, jumping out of a plane from 2,200 feet in the air once would be enough. But Troy Woods had a mission: Break the Kentucky skydiving record of 40 jumps in a day.

In six hours Friday, starting at 6:30 a.m., Woods, 38, surpassed the record that had stood more than 10 years. After his 41st jump, a small crowd of supporters, mostly family and friends, quickly congratulated him before he was back on the plane to jump again.

"It's a very quick pace," he said.

Each complete jump, which included the plane's takeoff, the jump from 2,200 feet and packing up to do it again, took about seven minutes. Earlier this week, Woods said his goal was to take 80 jumps.

"But that might be too challenging," he said. As it turned out, it wasn't — when he finally stopped at almost 9:30 p.m., Woods had jumped 80 times.

Kentucky's record for most jumps in a day had stood for more than a decade only because no one tried to beat it, said previous record-holder Bob Boswell, 66, of Bardstown.

Boswell, Woods' friend, wasn't torn up about someone taking his place.

"It's time for the new guys to have the record," he said after a jump alongside Woods.

Boswell was one of three pilots flying the Cessna 182 from which Woods took his jumps. He said skydiving has become part of his lifestyle.

"You really can't describe the feeling of jumping; it just makes you want to keep doing it," he said.

Boswell said most skydivers jump six or seven times in one day at most.

To keep him going, a team of about 10 co-workers and friends helped Woods with safety checks, packing parachutes and fueling him with food and water.

"At the end of the day, he's going to feel dead; it's just extremely draining after so many times," Boswell said.

After speaking with Boswell and other skydiving veterans about the record, Woods said, he expected to feel worn out.

He said he hit a wall at 45 jumps, but after No. 80, he said he felt great.

Woods had extra incentive to break the record.

When Woods, an electrician, found out that his co-worker's cousin, Jesse Scott, 17, is battling leukemia a second time, he used his record attempt to raise money for Scott's medical expenses by asking volunteers to sponsor him, pledging a given amount for each jump.

"That's really what this is all about," said Woods, who skydives weekly with a group of friends. Woods said he raised about $5,000 by the end of Friday. Donations can be made at any BB&T Bank branch.

Scott's cousin, Marc Hourigan, said he and his family were appreciative. "It worked out really well that Troy could do something that people want to see, and we needed something like that," said Hourigan.

Woods said he expects his performance to inspire more Kentuckians to join him in his passion. He invited the public to watch, and a crowd gathered, enjoying free food, games and live music.

The world record for parachute jumps in a 24-hour period is 640 in 2006, according to Guinness World Records. That reportedly required three planes and a staff of 50, Boswell said. To put that record in perspective, Woods has made about 500 jumps in his six years of skydiving.

Woods, who has jumped in states all over the country, said Kentucky's modest previous record stood because few people in the state have adopted skydiving as a hobby.

"There aren't very many of us here, not more than 20 of us in the state, I'd say," he said.

Credits: Lexington Herald-Leader

Jerry Sandusky Found Guilty, Now Healing Begins

Yesterday evening, Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted on 45 of 48 counts related to sexual abuse of boys. While celebrating this end result, we should also be praying for the victims and their families. That they may now have closure and that their wounds may begin to heal.

We should also pray for the Sandusky family. I'm certain that having to live through this process has been one of the most painful things they have ever had to endure. (Let's not forget after the conclusion of the trial, it was revealed that the Sandusky's adopted son had also been a victim of his father's.)

Finally, let's pray for Jerry Sandusky. Now that he has been found guilty he will, more than likely, be spending the last of his days on Earth in jail. Let's pray he can/will repent for the heinous sins he has committed and will somehow be able to find peace within.