By Jessica Orquina, Social Media Lead, Environmental Protection Agency
Earth Day is Monday! What are you going to do to protect the planet and celebrate? Here at EPA, we work to protect human health and the environment every day. On Earth Day to celebrate, we continue our work and take a moment to appreciate our planet.
Here are some things you can do online and in your community:
Get information, event listings, and learn about how you can help protect the planet on April 22nd and every day on our Earth Day website.
Want to volunteer or attend an event on Earth Day? Check out our events page to learn about opportunities across the country on our local events page.
Environmental action can mean taking simple steps in the different places where we all live. Start making a difference today by joining Pick 5 for the Environment!
Sign up for GoGreen! (our monthly email consumer newsletter) for news, activities, or events you can use to make a difference at home, in your community, and at your workplace - Earth Day and every day!
April 20th - 28th celebrates National Park Week across the United States when the National Park Service (NPS), in partnership with the National Park Foundation, honors our nation’s heritage. There is free admission to all national parks from Monday, April 22nd through Friday, April 26th.
With 401 National Parks across the country, many of these sites include battlefields, historic homes, and seashores. You can plan your own visit or look at the events calendar to see special programs offered throughout the week at national parks near you.
National Junior Ranger Day will be held on April 20th, which invites young visitors to “explore, learn and protect” our national parks, and includes being sworn in as a Junior Ranger.
For adults, April 27th is Volunteer Day, where you can help on a variety of national park projects across the nation.
How can I get a scholarship for a masters degree program in one or your colleges in the USA?
Asked by an anonymous Tumblr user.
EducationUSA, a Department of State website, has helpful information on the steps international undergraduate and graduate students should take to study in the U.S., including information about financial aid.
By Nisha E. Smalls, Consumer Education and Outreach Specialist, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission
If you’ve ever traded in precious metals, you’ve traded in commodities. Commodities are physical products that people trade in the marketplace. If you’ve been thinking about trading commodities, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) recommends you follow some basic principles and be on the alert for possible fraud.
Always follow these basic principles before you trade in the commodities markets:
Ensure that you can lose all of your investment and still be financially secure because it is “risk capital”
Check to make sure you have your risk disclosure documents
Determine if you will rely on advice from a broker or make your own trading decisions
Understand your financial obligations in commodity futures and option contracts
There is a great deal of fraud in the commodities markets. Fraudsters steal money from unsuspecting investors and traders. These are a few ways that fraudsters try to beat you out of your money:
Downplay the importance of the disclosure statement
Tell you to borrow money to invest
Guarantee profit or boast about past performance
Promise profits due to “predictable” seasonal or market cycles
Make “can’t miss claims” based on information already known to the public
You can beat the fraudsters by checking their registration status and background at the National Futures Association’s Background Affiliation Status Information Center (BASIC).
If you have questions, are aware of suspicious activities, or believe you have been defrauded, please let the CFTC know immediately at www.cftc.gov/TiporComplaint.
How to Report Tips Related to the Boston Explosions
Monday afternoon, two explosive devices detonated in Boston. Three people were killed and more than 150 people were wounded.
If you have any information or visual images related to the explosions, please contact the FBI by e-mailing email@example.com or calling 1-800-CALL-FBI (prompt #3). No piece of information or detail is too small.
Looking for a Spring Family Activity? Plant a Garden
There’s no better time to plant a garden than spring, when the weather is just right for plants and flowers. But you don’t have to do it alone. Planting a garden can be a great family activity that also promotes the environment.
There are several things you should consider before getting started.
Before Planting a Garden
Figure out how much space you have and what type of plants you’d like to have. There are different types of gardens for houses or apartments. Do some research and pick the one you like the most.
Once you are ready:
Select the plants you want. If you’re not sure which ones to choose, go to a gardening store and take your family with you. Everybody can help pick the plants, flowers or fruit trees for your home.
Make a budget for plants and materials to help you stay on track.
Be careful with drainage holes as too little water or too much water can affect the growth of your plants.
Make sure the soil has the right nutrients. Ask a specialist to recommend the right type of soil for your garden.
When Planting a Garden
Consider these tips as you begin:
Separate your flowers and trees so they are not too close to each other.
Figure out how much water and shade each plant will need.
Make a layout of your garden so you know which plants need to go where.
Once you’re ready to start, get your family together and assign tasks such as spreading the soil and placing the seeds in the holes.
After Planting a Garden
Taking care of your garden regularly will help your plants grow healthy. Give family members weekly tasks to help maintain the garden. For a healthy garden, make sure to:
Water your plants according to their needs. Some will need more water, some will need less.
Add fertilizer to the soil to make sure your plants get the nutrients they need.
Developmental Disabilities in Children – Early Screening and Intervention Can Help
About 1 in 6 children in the U.S. has one or more developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, fragile x syndrome, and others. Some conditions can be identified before a baby is even born while others may be identified in early childhood.
If you’ve noticed that your child isn’t reaching milestones for his or her age, speak to a doctor. It’s important to share your concerns as soon as you notice a problem because early screening and intervention can positively affect a child’s ability to learn.
By Gail Cunningham, National Foundation for Credit Counseling
April is Financial Capability Month. You probably won’t find any greeting cards celebrating that fact, but don’t let that stop you from taking a closer look at your personal economic situation.
It’s always fun to see how we stack up against our peers, and the NFCC’s hot-off-the-press 2013 Financial Literacy Survey is a great way to do that.
This year’s survey results provided somewhat of a mixed message. More than one in four respondents indicated they are spending more than last year, yet 77 percent admitted to having financial worries, listing insufficient savings as their top financial concern. Yes, you read that correctly. Americans (that means you) are spending more, but at the same time are worried about a lack of savings.
Taking a closer look at consumers’ top financial concerns, check out the following. (Respondents were allowed multiple responses, so don’t worry about the percentages not adding up to 100.)
Not enough savings – Overall, 57 percent of Americans indicated they are worried over a lack of savings, including 43 percent who are concerned about not having enough “rainy day” savings for an emergency, and 38 percent concerned about retiring without having enough money set aside. Although fairly evenly divided, the data suggest that having enough money to resolve daily emergencies takes precedence over the longer term retirement planning.
Not being able to pay financial obligations – A total of 26 percent of those responding, or roughly 61 million people, were worried about servicing their debt commitments, including concerns around paying credit card debt (13 percent), repaying student loan debt (8 percent), an inability to make monthly vehicle payments (7 percent), and not being able to pay off existing medical debt (6 percent).
Health insurance – One in four (25 percent) are worried about health insurance – either not being able to afford it (19 percent) and/or not having any (17 percent).
Credit – While 19 percent were worried about their credit score and/or lack of access of credit overall, 16 percent were anxious about their score, with 9 percent concerned over their lack of access to credit, suggesting that consumers continue to realize the importance of credit in their lives. However, most adults have neglected to review their credit report (65 percent) or score (60 percent) in the past year.
Job loss – Eighteen percent, or more than 42 million Americans indicated fear of job loss as a major concern, a number that is disturbingly high.
Foreclosure – As the least of consumers’ concerns (among those listed), a comparatively small 4 percent of Americans are worried over losing their home to foreclosure, undoubtedly a positive signal for the housing industry and the economy as a whole.
The good news is that 20 percent of U.S. adults indicated they do not have any financial worries, a strong sign of consumer confidence.
Remaining stubbornly consistent over the past three years, 40 percent of adults gave themselves a grade of C, D, or F on their knowledge of personal finance. How would you grade yourself? Should you put yourself in financial time-out?
Based on this poor report card, it is not surprising that nearly four in five (78 percent) agree that they could benefit from additional advice and answers to everyday financial questions from a professional.
Know that there is ample opportunity for you to improve your level of financial literacy and take steps to resolve any financial problems. Not surprisingly, most adults indicated that if they were having financial problems related to debt, they would first turn to their friends and family for assistance (28 percent). A similar number (27 percent) also said they would reach out to a professional nonprofit credit counseling agency for help, demonstrating a high level of confidence in the value of credit counseling.
So, how did you fare? If any of this data hits too close to home, take action. Ignoring a financial problem rarely solves it, and looking the other way only makes the problem harder to solve. To get started, consider renaming April My Financial Capability Month and resolve to make positive changes that will move you into a more stable financial future. Then start planning your Financial Capability Month 2014 party!
Day in and day out, we go to work, pay the bills, take care of the kids, and manage all of the other demands of daily living. Considering all these responsibilities and that the average American works 91,520 hours in their lifetime, it’s understandable that a comfortable retirement remains the American dream.
With emerging challenges and obstacles making a secure retirement seem more difficult to attain, it’s more important than ever to take the time to think about long-term financial needs so that our retirement dreams can become a reality.
Understandably, the process may seem complex and time consuming. Fortunately help is here.
National Retirement Planning Week, a nationwide effort to remind Americans of the necessity to consider their financial needs in retirement, takes place this week. Let National Retirement Planning Week be the motivation you need to set aside the time, roll up your sleeves and create a comprehensive retirement plan.
Let’s consider the facts. The retirement boom is underway. Approximately 79 million Baby Boomers will reach retirement age by 2030, with approximately 10,000 Boomers turning 65 every single day. For many, the challenges during retirement will be more complex than those facing prior generations.
During the last two decades many employers stopped providing traditional pensions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 19 percent of workers in 2012 had access to a defined benefit. Instead, most employers now offer defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans. In the process of shifting to these plans, greater risk has been transferred to individual workers.
At the same time, we have seen vast growth in the cost of health care. In fact, the latest research from the Insured Retirement Institute shows that a healthy 65-year-old female will spend on average at least $417,000 on cumulative health care expenses including premiums during her retirement years.
Her male counterpart will pay in excess of $369,000. Life spans also continue to increase, and so future retirees will need to have additional retirement assets to pay for basic expenses—for a longer period of time—in retirement.
And then there are the unknowns. One potent unknown is the future rate of inflation. A period of high inflation has the potential to increase the cost of expenses in retirement and erode the purchasing power of savings.
And there’s investment risk. Without access to a fortuneteller’s crystal ball, it’s virtually impossible to predict the performance of financial markets.
Creating a Retirement Plan
Intimidated yet? The challenges may seem vast, but they can be manageable so long as you are prepared. A solid retirement plan will help protect against foreseeable risks and hedge against the unknown variables.
If you are having trouble getting started, assistance from a financial professional is only a phone call away. There also are a number of resources available on the Internet to help as you think about your retirement needs.
The National Retirement Planning Coalition, organizer of National Retirement Planning Week, maintains an educational website— www.retireonyourterms.org— offering resources to help Americans stay focused on long-term financial goals.
One last thought—new research shows that Americans who have the highest levels of confidence in attaining a financially secure retirement are working with a financial advisor and have developed a targeted savings goal. So don’t delay and start planning today.
Use the resources available, set a goal, make a plan, save, and seek help from financial professionals when you need it. Now is the time to think about your retirement needs.
Use National Retirement Planning Week as the nudge needed to make the commitment to set aside time from your hectic day-to-day routine and put together a plan for a financially secure retirement. With a solid plan in place, your secure retirement dream could be on the horizon.
By Katherine Chon, Senior Advisor on Trafficking in Persons, Administration for Children & Families
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago, beginning the long road to freedom for the hundreds of thousands enslaved in homes, on farms, and other forms of industry. Considering how far we have come to abolish slavery as we once knew it, it might surprise some to learn that the Federal government is joining community partners to create a comprehensive strategic action plan to strengthen services for victims of human trafficking in its modern forms.
The International Labour Organization estimates that there are at least 21 million people around the world exploited in conditions of modern slavery, a dehumanizing practice of holding another person in compelled service. Human trafficking affects most countries, including the United States.
Human trafficking, or trafficking in persons, can take several forms and is defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) as follows:
Sex Trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; and
Labor Trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking
Victims of human trafficking are commonly found working in the following situations:
Prostitution and escort services;
Pornography, stripping, or exotic dancing;
Sexual services publicized on the Internet or in newspapers;
Agricultural or ranch work;
Factory work or sweatshops;
Businesses like hotels, nail salons or home-cleaning services;
Domestic labor (cleaning, childcare, eldercare, etc. within a home);
Restaurants, bars, or cantinas; or
Begging, street peddling, or door-to-door sales.
And may exhibit any of the following signs:
Evidence of being controlled either physically or psychologically;
Inability to leave home or place of work;
Inability to speak for oneself or share one’s own information;
Information is provided by someone accompanying the individual;
Loss of control of one’s own identification documents (ID or passport);
Have few or no personal possessions;
Owe a large debt that the individual is unable to pay off; or
Loss of sense of time or space, not knowing where they are or what city or state they are in.
The White House held a forum this morning to engage Federal partners and non-governmental stakeholders in ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking. In one announcement, HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr invited the public to comment on the draft Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services to Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States. Learn more on how you can end trafficking.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a toll-free, 24-hour hotline where victims of human trafficking and community members can seek information and get assistance through a phone call (1-888-373-7888) or text (BEFREE or 233733). The NHTRC received more than 20,000 calls in 2012, including more than 1,300 calls directly from victims and survivors of human trafficking.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Program operates the Rescue & Restore Campaign which promotes awareness of human trafficking and builds coalitions and regional partnerships to increase outreach and identification of victims
If you need assistance or think you have come into contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.373.7888 or text BeFree (233733). The NHTRC can provide you immediate resources and help you identify and coordinate with local organizations.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams, reminding taxpayers to use caution to protect themselves against a wide range of schemes ranging from identity theft to return preparer fraud.
Get Advice and Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Alcohol
By Fadi Seikaly, Programs Director, The Century Council
April is Alcohol Awareness month. It is the perfect time for parents to engage with their kids and start a conversation regarding underage drinking.
The numbers have shown that underage drinking is in decline in the U.S., however that does not mean parents shouldn’t talk to their kids about it. In fact the Ipsos Parent eNation Omnibus Survey shows that 93 percent of parents report concern about underage drinking. They need to make sure their kids are well informed and equipped to make the right decision if presented with the opportunity to engage in risky behavior.
The Century Council’s Ask Listen Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix program, provides youth ages 9- 14 and their parents with information about the dangers of underage drinking.
The program provides parents with information and practical tips on how to talk to adolescents about alcohol. It also enables kids to say “YES” to a healthy lifestyle and “NO” to underage drinking.
It’s important to start the conversations with kids at an early stage, and talk about underage drinking as often as possible, and not just limit it to “one big conversation”. As a parent, teacher, counselor or caregiver, make sure you are involved!
Order free copies of both the Ask Listen Learn Parents and Kids brochures.
Chat with experts from the Office Solid Waste and Emergency Response about how we can take simple actions such as recycling used electronics and reducing wasted food to combat climate change. Approximately 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use.
Earth Day, April 22nd 2:00pm EDT - Climate Change: What You Can Do
Every day our actions affect the planet. Experts from our Office of Air and Radiation will be joining us on Earth Day to talk about what we can all do at home, in the office, and on the road to save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help protect the planet. Let’s work together to protect our communities from the effects of climate change now and in the future.
Join our Earth Month Twitter chats by following @EPAlive and the #AskEPA hashtag on Twitter. Ask us a question, share your ideas, and join the conversation on climate change. If you don’t use Twitter, you can post your questions on our blog and watch the discussion at @EPAlive and #AskEPA. We look forward to talking with you!
If you’re planning a visit to the U.S., check the driving rules in the state(s) you’ll be visiting to verify that you can use your non-U.S. driver’s license. You should get an International Driving Permit (IDP), which translates the information contained on your official driver’s license into 10 languages. The U.S. does not issue International Driving Permits to foreign visitors, so you will need to obtain this document in your home country.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is fining four mortgage insurance companies $15.4 million for taking illegal kickbacks that raised payment costs for some homeowners. Learn more about the CFPB’s actions against these companies.
If a disaster struck your neighborhood, you would only have seconds or minutes to react. Is that enough time to find your homeowners insurance policy, bank account information, or backup your financial software? Probably not.
Financial responsibilities don’t stop when disasters hit. Even if your house is destroyed, you still must pay your mortgage. And, failing to pay bills or loan payments could wreck your credit just when you need it most.
Some of your neighbors, relatives and friends are prepared. Thousands of Americans just like you have made financial disaster plans and have included their important documents in their home disaster supply kits.
Being financially ready for a disaster is easy. Here are four steps you can take to get started today:
Visit Ready.gov to access tools and resources that will help you prepare financially for emergencies.
According to NASA, no branch of the United States government is currently involved with or responsible for investigations into the possibility of intelligent alien life on other planets.NASA has been investigating the possibility that the planet Mars was once the home to very simple life, such as microbes. The SETI project, which searches for evidence of transmissions from intelligent life in outer space, was a part of NASA until 1993 but is now private.
NASA’s Kepler mission is looking for planets that are similar to Earth, which would mean that they could possibly support life.