The average American family spends $1,900 a year on household utilities; however, a large portion of that is spent on wasted energy. Not only does wasting energy cost you more money, but it releases extra carbon dioxide into the air, slowly deteriorating the environment. Luckily, there are small, simple steps you can take to minimize your energy use.
Air dry dishes instead of using the dry cycle on your dishwasher
Only wash full loads of dishes and clothes
Turn off electronics, such as your computer, when you they are not in use
Use power strips for your electronics, and turn them off when they are not in use
These are just a few options for saving energy in your home. There are also longer term energy savers you can try that could reduce your energy use by up to 25%.
Check to see if your utility company offers energy audits. For a small fee, they will determine how well your home uses energy and compare the results of the analysis to your monthly bill. Once you learn how energy is being used in your home, you can learn how to make changes to minimize your use and save money.
If you have a smart phone or other mobile device, you may download and use apps. Mobile apps allow you to play games; get turn-by-turn directions; and access news, books, weather, music, or videos.
Apps can be so convenient that you might download them without thinking about how they’re paid for, what information they gather from your device, and who gets that information. Before you download a mobile app, consider these questions.
At T-43 hours until take off, the space shuttle clock starts counting down the time until departure. Learn what happens at each stage of the countdown and what milestones to watch for during live coverage of the Atlantis’ final launch.
President Obama will hold the first ever Twitter Town Hall this afternoon at 2:00pm ET. Anytime today, ask President Obama a question about jobs or the economy on Twitter, using the hashtag #AskObama; then follow @townhall for updates.
You will also be able to follow the live stream from the White House as Obama answers questions from across the country in a live event moderated by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.
No matter what your travel plans are for the summer, the government has useful mobile apps to help you stay safe and healthy.
If you’re flying in the U.S., the Transportation Security Administration offers My TSA for iPhone and mobile web browsers. This app offers easy access to important information, such as what you can and cannot bring in your carry on, tips for packing, and security check wait times for most domestic airports.
For international travelers, the Department of State has a free iPhone app called Smart Traveler. You can keep up on the latest travel alerts and find maps and U.S. Embassy and consulate locations all over the world.
Local Health Services
No matter what kind of travel you’re planning, it’s important to know how to access local health services. The Health Resources and Services Administration has a Find a Health Center app for iPhones that can provide the location of emergency or non-emergency healthcare centers in your area.
Sun Exposure and Air Quality
To help you stay safe in the summer sun, the Environmental Protection Agency created the UV Index app for Android and Blackberry smartphones, as well as a mobile web version. This app provides information on both UV sun exposure and air quality for your current location.
Spending time in the pool is one of the most popular ways to stay cool each summer. Although it seems like all fun and games, remember that water safety is critical. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 3,000 people die from unintended drowning each year.
Use these tips from poolsafety.gov to make sure your day by the pool doesn’t end in tragedy:
Actively supervise children in any size body of water; even the bathtub can be dangerous if left unattended.
Install anti-entrapment drain covers in your pool and inspect them to make sure they aren’t broken. These devices can keep your hair, limbs, or clothing from being trapped in the pool’s drain and ultimately prevent drowning.
If you plan to spend time boating on open bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, or the ocean, you should take some additional precautions:
Wear a life vest, even if you know how to swim.
Check the weather forecast. Thunderstorms and windy conditions can make it dangerous to be in the water.
In March, we announced a new URL shortening service called 1.USA.gov. 1.USA.gov automatically creates .gov URLs whenever you use bitly to shorten a URL that ends in .gov or .mil. We created this service to make it easy for people to know when a short URL will lead to official, and trustworthy, government information.
Data is created every time someone clicks on a 1.USA.gov link, which happens about 56,000 times each day. Together, these clicks show what government information people are sharing with their friends and networks. No one has ever had such a broad view of how government information is viewed and shared online.
Today, we’re excited to announce that all of the data created by 1.USA.gov clicks is freely available through the Developers page on USA.gov. We want as many people as possible to benefit from the insights we get from 1.USA.gov.
1.USA.gov Hack Day
To mark the occasion, we’re also planning a nationwide 1.USA.gov Hack Day on July 29.
The Hack Day will bring together software developers, entrepreneurs, and curious citizens to look at the data produced by 1.USA.gov and discover new uses for the information.
Hack day events will take place in San Diego, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.. Participation is free! We hope you will join us.
If you’d like to attend, please visit the pages our collaborators have set up for each event where you can find more information and RSVP:
Of course, you don’t have to attend a physical event to share your 1.USA.gov ideas with the world. If you create something interesting with 1.USA.gov data that you’d like to share, leave a comment about it on this blog post, or tweet about it using the hashtag #1USAgov.
And, even if you’re not a developer, you can help us get the word out! Please share this post with anyone interested in showcasing what open government data can do!
While the internet is a great place for kids to learn, watch funny videos and catch up with friends, it can also be dangerous because of child predators. The FBI offers guidelines on what to look out for if you think your child might be at risk for a child predator’s unwanted advances:
Monitor the amount of time your child spends on the computer. Staying up late after school or on the weekends might put them at higher risk of talking to strangers or participating in sexually explicit online activities.
If your child quickly shuts off the monitor or changes their screen when you walk into the room, they might be trying to hide something from you.
Sexual predators may try to reach your child through other means. If your child is receiving packages from someone you don’t know, or making phone calls to long distance numbers, check with them to see who they are from.
Look out for special abbreviations your child might use while you are in the room. Some examples include: PAW or PRW: Parents are watching, PIR: Parents in room, POS: Parent over shoulder, (L)MIRL: (Let’s) meet in real life.
If you suspect your child is communicating with a sexual predator online, talk openly with them about your suspicions and explain to them the dangers of computer-sex offenders. The FBI also suggests checking out their computer for any signs that they are involved in a dangerous activity or relationship.
Starting today, all cribs manufactured and sold in the United States must follow new federal safety regulations. It is now illegal to manufacture or sell traditional drop-side rail cribs. All cribs must have more durable mattress support, slats, and hardware and manufacturers must go through a more rigorous testing process.
Facilities such as daycare centers, hotels, and church nurseries have until December 28, 2011 to replace old cribs with compliant cribs that meet the new safety standards.
It is important to note that you cannot tell by looking at a crib whether or not it meets the new standards. The CPSC recommends you check with the retailer or manufacturer, who is required to run tests on their products to ensure they meet the standards.
There is no scientific proof that cell phone radiation shields significantly reduce exposure from cell phone emissions, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
A “shield” is any product that claims to block radiation from harming someone using a cell phone.
But scam artists might still try to sell the so-called “shields.” Products that only block one part of the phone are ineffective because the entire phone can emit electromagnetic waves. Phony radiation shields might actually emit more radiation if they draw more power from the device.
While health studies are still ongoing, the FTC offers tips on reducing your exposure to cell phone emissions:
Use an earpiece or the speakerphone feature as often as possible
Keep calls brief and text when you can
Wait for a strong signal; phones emit more radiation when they have a weak signal and are looking for service
Fireworks like bottle rockets and small firecrackers may appear harmless because of their small size, but they sent 1,900 people to emergency rooms last year during the 30 days surrounding July 4th. In total, about 8,600 emergency room visits in 2010 were from fireworks injuries.
If you do decide to buy legal fireworks, be sure to take the following safety steps:
Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
Avoid buying fireworks that come in brown paper packaging, as this can often be a sign that the
fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers.
Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents often don’t realize that there are many injuries from sparklers to children under five.
Never have any portion of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move away to a safe distance immediately after lighting.
Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not gone off or fully functioned.
Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
Light one item at a time then move away quickly.
Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
After fireworks have gone off and fully functioned, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding to prevent a trash fire.
Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
Know the risks. Prevent the tragedies. And have an injury-free Fourth!
Dr. Don Berwick, M.D., Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
“Prevention” is a word we use a lot in health care – June is “National Prevention and Wellness Month” – but I want to take a minute to think about what it really means.
Intuitively, prevention makes sense: as the saying goes, you can either pay now or you can pay later. But oddly enough, our health care system often doesn’t reflect this fundamental mindset. Most health care focuses on treating disease. Prevention, on the other hand, focuses on health.
Preventive care is also patient-centered care, as people become active participants in maintaining their health and get services customized for their individual needs and preferences.
Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new report (PDF) showing that more than 5 million Americans with traditional Medicare, or nearly one in six people with Medicare, took advantage of one or more of the recommended preventive benefits now available for free thanks to the Affordable Care Act – most prominently, mammograms, bone density screenings, and screenings for prostate cancer.
These are just a few of the preventive services available to people on Medicare. Earlier this year, Medicare eliminated the Part B deductible and copayments for a host of preventive services, including bone mass measurement, some cancer screenings, diabetes and cholesterol tests, and flu, pneumonia, and hepatitis B shots.
We’ve also eliminated out-of-pocket costs for the “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit and, for the first time since the Medicare program was created in 1965, Medicare now covers an annual wellness visit with a participating doctor, also at no cost.
We’ve added expanded prescription drug benefits to the preventive arsenal as well. This year, people with Medicare started to benefit from a 50% percent discount on covered brand name drugs bought when they’re in the donut hole, and we’ll continue to chip away at the donut hole until it’s closed in 2020. Making prescription drugs more affordable increases the chance they’ll be taken as needed. Again – prevention just makes sense.
Find out which preventive services are right for you by taking this checklist to your doctor or other health care provider.
Our job now is to ensure that everyone eligible for Medicare uses these benefits. We need to encourage every person with Medicare, every caregiver, every physician to join our nationwide campaign for prevention. We are calling our campaign, Share the News, Share the Health, which will run throughout the summer, with online ads and community events all over the country starting in July.
Focusing on prevention doesn’t just improve care – it’s also an important step in reducing the cost of health care. The financial costs of treating chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes are enormous. Add in the intangible costs of pain and suffering, and the very real economic costs of lost productivity, and the opportunity costs of chronic illness are simply unacceptable.
This is why we’re also working closely to incorporate best practices from the Centers for Disease Control, particularly around ways to reduce cardiovascular mortality. This type of collaboration is critical to moving us towards a prevention-based model of care.
Focusing on prevention also makes sense when we value treating the whole patient – not just a condition or disease. When we help people take better care of their health, everyone in the community benefits. If we wait to pay for care as illness progresses, the price of health care for the country will continue to rise.
Through the Making Home Affordable program you might be able to get help if you’re facing foreclosure, struggling with your mortgage payment, or trying to avoid mortgage troubles.
With Making Home Affordable modifications, you might be able to lower your mortgage payment by more than $500 each month. You might also be able to refinance your mortgage to make it more affordable or get help if you owe more than your home is worth. There are also programs to assist unemployed homeowners and those with second mortgages.
You can also call 888-995-HOPE (TTY 877-304-9709) to speak with a HUD-approved housing counselor for free. A counselor can help you understand your options and design a plan to suit your individual situation.
Image description: An example of what the new sunscreen labels will look like from the FDA.
The Food and Drug Administration is changing sunscreen labels to make it easier for you to pick a product that offers the protection level you want.
The changes will require sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” - those that protect against both UVA and UVB rays — to pass a standardized test.
The labels will also clearly tell whether a sunscreen protects against sunburn, skin cancer and signs of premature skin aging.
Only sunscreens labels with “broad spectrum” and an SPF of 15 or higher will protect against all three. Anything without the “broad spectrum” label or with an SPF between 2 and 14 will only protect against sunburn.
The FDA will also be making additional changes to the labels to help you get maximum skin protection:
Sunscreen products that are not broad spectrum or that are broad spectrum with SPF values from 2 to14 will be labeled with a warning that reads: “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
Water resistance claims on the product’s front label must tell how much time a user can expect to get the declared SPF level of protection while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing. Two times will be permitted on labels: 40 minutes or 80 minutes.
Manufacturers cannot make claims that sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweatproof,” or identify their products as “sunblocks.” Also, sunscreens cannot claim protection immediately on application (for example, “instant protection”) or protection for more than two hours without reapplication, unless they submit data and get approval from FDA.
The new labels will start to appear on sunscreen bottles next summer.
Thirty years ago this month, HIV/AIDS was identified as what we know it as today. During this time over 25 million people worldwide have died from HIV/AIDS. Even today, the only “cure” is prevention.
Currently, more than one million people in the United States live with HIV; 21% of those with HIV have yet to be diagnosed and are unaware of their infection. But great strides have been made in HIV prevention and treatment over the past thirty years. In fact, the number of new HIV infections has fallen by more than two thirds since the height of the epidemic.
The CDC is sponsoring a special thirtieth commemoration of HIV/AIDS this summer to help educate people about the impact across our country and the world. Learn more about the commemoration.
Frequently, you will hear meteorologists mention the air quality index (AQI) during the weather report. The AQI is a tool used to express the local air quality on a daily basis and help you determine if there are any health risks.
The AQI is expressed on a scale from 0 to 500; higher scores indicate greater levels of air pollution and health concerns. There are six AQI categories, ranging from “good” to “hazardous” and each level has a color associated with it to make it easy for people to quickly assess the AQI. Be cautious if the AQI is “code orange” or “code red”.
Some groups, such as children, older adults, and people with lung or heart related diseases are more sensitive to poor air quality, so they need to take extra precautions, such as:
If you’re in the market for a new car, then you may be familiar with fuel economy labels. These labels list the gas mileage estimates for city and highway driving.
Starting with 2013 model year vehicles, you will be able to easily see how much you will save on gasoline with a more efficient vehicle, such as a hybrid, electric, or alternative fuel vehicle. The labels will show the traditional miles per gallon estimate and will also tell you the average annual fuel cost and how much you would save by buying a fuel efficient car.
The new labels also feature a Quick Response (QR) code that allows you to comparison shop using a smart phone. You can scan the QR code with your phone to store that vehicle’s information, compare it to other vehicles, and access Fueleconomy.gov for more detailed estimates based off current gas prices and electricity rates in your area.
These new additions to the fuel economy label will help you understand the long-term cost in addition to the sticker price.
Learn about specific types of weather dangers and what you should do if they occur:
Earthquakes – If an earthquake occurs while you’re indoors, stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls, get under a sturdy table or desk, and cover your head. If you are outside, keep away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
Extreme Heat – Stay indoors as much as possible and consider spending the hottest part of the day in an air-conditioned public building, such as a library or shopping mall. Drink plenty of water, and limit physical exertion.
Hurricanes – If you are unable to evacuate, get inside, secure external doors, and close interior doors. Take refuge in a small, interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level. Stay away from windows and doors.
Lightning – Remember the 30/30 lightning safety rule: if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder, get inside a home, building, or hardtop vehicle and wait 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before going back outside. If you are outside, avoid tall, isolated trees, boats, the beach, open fields, and anything metal (golf clubs or carts, bicycles, motorcycles, etc.).
Tornadoes – Storm cellars or basements are the best place to stay safe from tornadoes. If underground shelter is not available, go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible and stay away from windows, doors, outside walls, and corners. If shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area.
Wildfires – If your home is threatened by a wildfire, you must evacuate. Be sure to bring an emergency kit that includes copies of important documents.