Help Inspire a Child During National Mentoring Month
January is recognized annually as National Mentoring Month, and it’s a chance for you to get involved in helping children in your community.
Mentoring usually consists of pairing a young person with a caring adult, helping create a successful path of growth and development for the child. Mentoring can lead youth to be more engaged in school, finish high school, go onto college, and form more positive social attitudes and relationships.
While mentors are not a replacement for parents, guardians or teachers, they play a supplemental role of inspiring and engaging youth.
If you’re interested in mentoring a child, there are free resources available to help get you started. You can use a “Mentoring Tool Kit” to learn more about what mentoring entails. You can also find National Mentoring Month resources including bookmarks, posters, thank you mentor note cards and more at Serve.gov.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and is estimated to be responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
You can’t see, smell, or taste radon—it’s a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon can be present outdoors and in any type of building, but you’re likely to get the most exposure to radon in your own home.
Internet dating and romance scams, commonly called “sweetheart scams,” target people with online dating profiles or through social media networks, and are becoming more common. The Internet makes it easy for people to create fake identities, using other people’s pictures to pretend they are attractive and interested in you.
After a bond has been formed, the scammer will typically ask to borrow money, either for a travel expense to come visit, or because of an “emergency” to one of their family members or even to themselves.
The State Department offers these tips on how to recognize sweetheart scams:
The scammer and the victim meet online – often through Internet dating or employment sites.
The scammer asks for money to get out of a bad situation or to provide a service.
Photographs that the scammer sends of “him/herself” show a very attractive person. The photo appears to have been taken at a professional modeling agency or photographic studio.
The scammer has incredibly bad luck— often getting into car crashes, arrested, mugged, beaten, or hospitalized — usually all within the course of a couple of months. They often claim that their key family members (parents and siblings) are dead. Sometimes, the scammer claims to have an accompanying child overseas who is very sick or has been in an accident.
The scammer claims to be a native-born American citizen, but uses poor grammar indicative of a non-native English speaker. Sometimes the scammer will use eloquent romantic language that is plagiarized from the Internet.
Whether you’re interested in investing for the first time or whether you’ve been investing for years, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has advice on how you can get the most from your investments.
Checking the background of an investment professional is easy and free.
Details on an investment professional’s background and qualifications are available through the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website and FINRA BrokerCheck. If you have any questions on checking the background of an investment professional, call the SEC’s toll-free investor assistance line at (800) 732-0330.
Diversification can help reduce the overall risk of an investment portfolio.
By picking the right mix of investments, you may be able to limit your losses and reduce the fluctuations of your investment returns without sacrificing too much in potential gains. Some investors find that it is easier to achieve diversification through ownership of mutual funds or exchange-traded funds rather than through ownership of individual stocks or bonds.
Promises of high returns, with little or no associated risk, are classic warning signs for fraud.
Every investment carries some degree of risk and the potential for greater returns comes with greater risk. Ignore so-called “can’t miss” investment opportunities or those promising “guaranteed returns” or, better yet, report them to the SEC.
Some investments provide tax advantages.
For example, employer-sponsored retirement plans and individual retirement accounts generally provide tax advantages for retirement savings, and 529 college savings plans also offer tax benefits. Individuals who are interested in learning about the tax impact of their investment decisions should consult their tax adviser or visit the IRS website.
Active trading and some other very common investing behaviors actually undermine investment performance.
According to researchers, other common investing mistakes include focusing on past performance, favoring investments from your own country, region, state or company, and holding on to losing investments too long and selling winning investments too soon.
Warning for Small Businesses: Don’t Open E-mail Falsely Claiming to be From FTC
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning small businesses that an e-mail with a subject line “NOTIFICATION OF CONSUMER COMPLAINT” is not from the FTC. The e-mail falsely states that a complaint has been filed with the agency against their company.
The FTC advises recipients not to click on any of the links or attachments with the e-mail. Clicking on the links may install a virus or other spyware on the computer. The FTC’s advice is to delete the email.
5 Things You Can Do to Have a Healthy Baby in the New Year
By: Dr. Peggy Honein, CDC’s Birth Defects Branch Chief
Did you know that every 4 ½ minutes a baby in the United States is born with a major birth defect? January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about birth defects and of the steps that can be taken to prevent them. While not all birth defects can be prevented, there are things you can do to get ready for a healthy pregnancy.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, be sure to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during early pregnancy.
See a health care professional regularly. Talk to them about taking any medicine, including prescription and over-the counter medicines and dietary or herbal supplements, and take only what is needed. Talk to your health care provider before starting or stopping any medication.
Work to get health conditions, like diabetes, in control before becoming pregnant, and keep them in good control during pregnancy.
Managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant is important, because many birth defects happen very early during pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Take care of yourself today for a healthy baby tomorrow.
If you’re suffering from a cold, the flu, or another virus, there are things you can do to help relieve the symptoms, but taking antibiotics will not help. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections, such as strep throat.
Antibiotic resistance is a serious public health problem that is primarily being caused by the repeated and improper use of antibiotics.
You can help prevent antibiotic resistance by taking these actions:
Don’t take antibiotics for viral infections, such as colds or the flu.
If you are prescribed antibiotics for a bacterial infection, take the full course of treatment even if you begin to feel better after a few days.
DIY Tips and Assistance Programs to Help You Save on Home Heating
As the cold weather firmly takes hold in most parts of the country, you might notice a steep spike in your utility bills as your heating system works to keep your house warm.
If you’re trying to keep your heating bill in check, there are some assistance programs and DIY-tips that might help.
See if you qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Families who meet the qualification standards are eligible for assistance with their heating bills. You must apply for LIHEAP benefits through your state. Some states also offer assistance to help you weatherize your home. If you need additional help applying for LIHEAP benefits you can call 1-866-674-6327.
Federal Buildings Promote Open Spaces, Environmental Conservation
Do you usually think of federal buildings as places to shop for fresh produce, listen to live music or enjoy a colorful art gallery? Perhaps not, but many people regularly do these things at federal properties across the country.
That’s because some federal properties are open for events like farmers markets, concerts, book readings, lectures and more.
“We’ve had weddings, aerial dance shows on building facades, concerts, holiday markets and even an insect museum. We’ve seen a lot of creative uses at federal buildings,” says Frank Giblin, director of the Good Neighbor Program at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).
The program promotes public use of federal properties and works with federal agencies and local communities to locate federal buildings in places that minimize the environmental impacts of commuting and offer easier access to a wide range of employees, including those from low income areas.
Federal Buildings as Community Spaces
Nonprofit organizations and members of the public can use many of the country’s 2,000 federal buildings for community events for low or no cost.
Some of these buildings might include a historic site such as the James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco or a local Social Security or Veterans Affairs office. Others include lesser-known office buildings, warehouses, and laboratories.
Events that last fewer than 30 days are often free unless the building needs to pay for additional costs such as security, heating, air conditioning and trash removal. Long-term, commercial use is also available at some federal buildings for businesses like restaurants and stores.
Federal Buildings Help Protect the Environment
GSA works closely with local communities to make sure that, when possible, federal buildings are designed, built, renovated and managed in a way that protects the environment. GSA’s Good Neighbor program works to promote the location of federal buildings in neighborhoods that minimize commute times and distances for employees by choosing locations that are easily accessible by public transportation, bicycles and pedestrians. Shorter commutes and less need to rely on employees driving to work protect the environment by reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality.
Through the Good Neighbor Program, GSA works to make federal buildings more open to the public and to create policies that promote the use of federal properties while protecting the environment.
“These are public buildings,” says Giblin, “And we want to make sure that the actions we take as an agency keep them as public as possible and provide great benefits to communities.”
How to Use a Federal Building
Because federal properties vary in size, functionality, security and location, it can be tricky to figure out which ones are best for public use. You can find that out by contacting the on-site property manager of the building you’re interested in. The process for obtaining a permit is easy and usually includes:
Filling out a page with basic information and copies of material that will be displayed or distributed during the event
If approved, you will get a permit within 10 days of the date you applied
Where to Learn More
Visit GSA.gov for more information on the Good Neighbor Program or contact the federal building manager closest to you if you are considering organizing an event on federal property.
Also, you may contact your local representatives if you have issues with federal real estate. You can visit an inventory of properties owned or leased by GSA and find information on how to contact the agency’s regional staff.
By Sima Michaels Dembo, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Population Affairs
Cervical cancer is the only gynecological cancer for which there is a screening test. Screening can help find this cancer early, when treatment can be most effective. To help you be informed and stay healthy, the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has information on screenings and warning signs to help with early detection:
Pap tests check for abnormal cells changes on the cervix.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, and is responsible for more than 70% of cervical cancers
Cervical cancer can be treated by removing the cancerous cells or through radiation or chemotherapy.
You can use the clinic locator on OPA’s website to find a family planning clinic where you access low-cost, confidential care including Pap tests.
If you’re interested in helping people in your own community file their taxes, you can volunteer with the IRS through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs.
You will receive the necessary training to help low-to-moderate income families with their taxes. Volunteer hours are flexible.
2012 is now the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States, according to the data gathered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center. 2012 had a record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn. The average temperature in 2012 was 55.3 °F, 1°F warmer than the previous warmest year, 1998.
2012 was also filled with extreme weather, making it the second most extreme year on record for the contiguous United States. Precipitation was almost 3 inches below average, making it the 15th driest year on record. 2012 had 11 disasters that reached beyond $1 billion in losses, including Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, and the tornado outbreaks in the mid-west.
How Does the American Taxpayer Relief Act Affect You?
On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) into law. This new law addresses many of the tax issues that were debated by Congress at the end of 2012, and which were referred to by many as the “fiscal cliff.”
Here is what the law addressed, and how it could affect you:
The “Bush-era tax cuts”
The new law permanently extended reduced tax rates on income and capital gains and dividends if you make less than $400,000 ($450,000 if you’re married and file jointly). If you make more than that, the marginal tax rate for income beyond the new levels rose from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.
This change also increased the top tax rate on long term capital gains and dividends from 15 percent to 20 percent and made changes to several other tax credits, the marriage penalty and education-related incentives.
The Estate Tax Rules
ATRA permanently extended the estate tax laws as they currently exist, except for the top tax rate, which was increased from 35 percent to 40 percent. Now up to $5 million of an estate’s worth is exempt from taxes.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Tax Provisions
The child tax credit, some provisions surrounding the Earned Income Tax credit and an education tax credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, were all temporarily extended through 2017.
The Payroll Tax Reduction
There was a two percent reduction in the amount of money you paid through the Social Security payroll tax that Congress put in place in 2010. This tax reduction was not extended as part of ATRA. As a result, the tax rate reverted back to the original amount — 6.2 percent for employees and 12.4 percent for the self-employed. You may notice a change in the amount of your take-home pay in your first paycheck of the 2013 calendar year.
The ATRA also addressed several other issues, including unemployment, Medicare and other health provisions and the farm bill.
AnnualCreditReport.com is the only website authorized to give you the free annual credit report you’re entitled to each year. Checking your credit report regularly will help you spot any problems or may alert you if you’ve been the victim of identity theft.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States. Smoking is believed to cause 80-90 percent of lung cancer cases, but there are several additional risk factors.
You can reduce your risk of developing lung cancer by following this guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Have your home tested for radon and take corrective actions if high levels are discovered.
Be aware of your exposure to radiation from medical imaging, especially images of the chest.
Follow health and safety guidelines when working with toxic materials such as asbestos.
Avoid diesel exhaust and other harmful air pollutants.
Different people experience different symptoms of lung cancer. Some symptoms may include shortness of breath; coughing that doesn’t go away; wheezing; coughing up blood; chest pain; and repeated respiratory infections.
If you have symptoms that concern you, see your doctor.