Good Reads

Fire safety tips that could help save your life

(BPT) - Having working smoke alarms in your home is as important as wearing a seatbelt in your car. It’s a necessity that protects you and your loved ones. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), approximately three out of five home fire deaths occur in residences with no working smoke alarms or without any smoke alarms at all. These cases can be avoided as smoke alarms are accessible and easy to install.

Smoke alarms serve a critical and life-saving purpose, sounding when smoke is detected to give people the most time possible to escape and call for help. The NFPA shares that the risk of dying from a home fire is cut in half if working smoke alarms are in place. However, only 23% of Americans check their smoke alarms monthly, according to data from a new survey conducted by UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI). Smoke alarms with dead, missing or disconnected batteries account for a significant number of fire tragedies, and according to the NFPA, 46% of nonworking smoke alarms are due to missing or disconnected batteries.

While an unexpected chirp — beep, beep, beep — from a smoke alarm may sometimes be a nuisance, the need for working smoke alarms is critically important. Forty years ago, people had around 17 minutes to escape their home in the event of a fire. Today, due to synthetic materials, furniture, more spacious floorplans and lighter-weight construction materials, people now have three minutes or less to escape their home. Smoke alarms give the earliest possible warning that there could be a fire.

New technology has made smoke alarms better at differentiating common smoke from cooking, and an actual, potentially life-threatening fire. While it is difficult to eliminate all nuisance chirps, the next generation of alarms will greatly reduce nuisance alarms due to cooking — the leading reason for a smoke alarm to be disabled, according to the NFPA and Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). This practice is extremely dangerous.

“Simply put, the complacent ‘it won’t happen to me’ approach many take when it comes to fires can have significant consequences today,” said Steve Kerber, vice president, Research, UL FSRI. “Working smoke alarms are an easy and effective safeguard to protect you and your family, and with new technology greatly reducing nuisance alarms, we’re hoping to see significantly fewer disabled alarms in the field when responding to fires.”

Smoke alarms help save lives. Here are helpful fire safety tips to follow:

  • Install working smoke alarms on every level of the house, in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and in the basement.
  • Position smoke alarms on the ceiling or high on a wall. Smoke alarms should be at least 10 feet away from the stove.
  • Test all smoke alarms once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
  • Don’t disable your smoke alarms.
  • Working smoke alarms will continue to provide protection through the end of their 10-year life span. At the end of the 10-year span, install new alarms with enhanced technology.
  • Create an escape plan, practice it with your immediate and extended family and caregivers, and act on it when an alarm sounds.
  • Close Before You Doze. A closed door can be an effective barrier against deadly levels of carbon monoxide, smoke and flames, keeping rooms survivable for longer.
  • Get down, get out and stay out if a smoke alarm goes off in your home or building.

For information on the technology advancements behind these life-saving products and for more fire safety tips, visit

5 tips for hosting an award-winning viewing party

(BPT) - Whether it’s the long-awaited premiere of your favorite drama, the return of a hyped reality series, or this season’s big award show, there’s always a reason to gather your friends around a screen for a viewing party!

If you find yourself up next to host, it can feel like the pressure is on to impress. Luckily, hosting doesn’t have to be as difficult as it might seem.

Follow these simple tips to make sure your viewing party is anything but basic, and you will be sure to win the award for the host with the most.

Step up the snack game:

A little creativity goes a long way

Snacking is an essential part of any viewing party, and while a bowl of chips could get the job done, creating thematic dishes is key to making the viewing party complete. For award shows, star-shaped treats or cookies cut in the shape of awards will tie in the Hollywood theme, while an island-based reality show might call for tropical fruit kabobs. Instead of pre-making all of the food, let your guests do some of the work! Whether it's a build-your-own flatbread station, complete with delicious toppings, or a simple popcorn and candy bar, make sure to offer a blend of savory and sweet for a balanced menu.

Set the bar high

With the perfect cocktail

Spoiler alert: Many party drinks are full of sugar and excess calories. To help your guests enjoy their hors-d'oeuvres — and avoid a punch bowl hangover — opt for a healthier alternative, like Bai. The antioxidant-infused drink contains five calories per serving with no artificial sweeteners, making it the perfect beverage choice for the night. Bai is delicious to drink on its own, and even more fun as a cocktail mixer. Plus, the tasty flavors, like Brasilia Blueberry and Puna Coconut Pineapple, are sure to transport guests to a flavor paradise — even if heartbreak is happening on-screen.

For a tasty, healthier twist on a cocktail favorite, try a Citrus Mule.

Pour 4 ounces Bai Costa Rica Clementine, 2 ounces bourbon and 1/2 ounce of lime juice over ice. Top with ginger beer. Stir and garnish with orange and lime wedges.

Voila! You have a refreshing drink that guests are sure to love.

Comfort is key

Make your guests feel at home

There’s nothing worse than settling in for a viewing party and realizing there's no place to sit. When hosting, make sure to think through how many guests you will have, and ensure that there is space for everyone. If you're limited on traditional seating, floor space can work too! Disperse floor cushions, blankets and extra pillows throughout the viewing room, so your guests can get cozy and enjoy the show.

Let the games begin

Everyone loves a little friendly competition

Engage your guests in the fun by creating a customized version of Bingo or trivia. For example, have guests make predictions on who will get sent off the island or create ballots for guests to fill out before an award show. If you're short on time, there are often templates for upcoming awards shows online, as well as apps that will help you build the questions. A grand prize for whoever wins the most points will keep everyone on their toes!

Leave an impression

Did someone say swag bags?

Everyone knows that swag bags are the most bougie part of a celebrity awards show. And while yours may not include a vacation to Greece and gold-infused face oil, it can still be a fun surprise! Whether you gift your guests their Mule cup — with the recipe card and ingredients to make their own Citrus Mule, a favorite beauty product, or a mini spa kit, everyone loves a treat to take home.

Viewing parties help make every on-screen moment more exciting and, with the right people and ambiance, the night is sure to be a smashing success.

For additional information and fun recipes, visit

Estate Planning: Most People, Alas, Fail to Make Crucial Decisions

(NewsUSA) - How best to put this delicately?

We're all going to go at some point, and - just because you'd rather not think about it - doesn't make you somehow immune.

And then what?

Maybe you think your estate will all get miraculously sorted out, and that squabbling relatives are only the stuff of TV dramas. But you're not just leaving an estate. You're leaving what Ken Cella, an executive with the financial services firm Edward Jones, calls "a legacy."

"You want to be the one who's in control of what happens to what matters most to you, such as minor children, dependents, financial assets, even your own health care decisions," he says. "Without a properly planned estate, or legacy strategy, your assets could be subject to the time-consuming, expensive and very public process where relatives and creditors can gain access to records and even challenge your will."

And yet, according to a recent survey by Edward Jones, while 77 percent of Americans believe having such a strategy in place is important for everyone - not just the wealthy - only 24 percent have even taken the most basic step of designating beneficiaries for all their accounts. To avoid one of those "then what?" moments, here are some of the key elements to consider:

• A Will. What's the worst that can happen if you haven't written one? "Plenty," as US News & World Report has written, "depending on your situation, the personalities of the people in your life - and the estate laws that your state has on the books."

In other words, not only could some court judge be deciding who gets everything down to your Beatles records if your family can't agree on their own, but he or she could also wind up appointing a guardian for your minor kids.

• A Living Trust. Do you own out-of-state property, a la a vacation home, say? Or maybe you want to leave more to one child than the others? Assets you register into a revocable living trust are there for your benefit during your lifetime, can be managed by your named trustee if you become incapacitated, and - here's the kicker - are harder to contest than wills.

• A Health Care Directive. The same way you don't want some judge deciding who gets your Beatles albums, you definitely don't want the courts having to settle an inter-family fight over whether you'd rather go on living in a vegetative state or be taken off hospital feeding tubes.

And, yes, it's happened.

Shivering at the thought? Then you'll recognize the importance of appointing someone to carry out your medical treatment wishes in the even you're no longer able to communicate of incapable of giving consent.

• Beneficiary Designations. Suffice it to say you don't want to be among the 76 percent the survey found hadn't even bothered, for starters, to fill in a beneficiary's name on accounts like their 401(k) or other savings.

For some, estate planning is as simple as a written will. But a financial advisor, like a local one at Edward Jones, can work with you and your tax and legal professionals to employ a strategy that among other things potentially avoids the court process known as probate - there, we said the "P" word - while also making sure your investments are aligned with your goals.


Tips for keeping kids safe on the road

(BPT) - With all the distractions on today's roads, parents are feeling increasingly anxious about keeping their children safe while driving. According to a new study by Volvo Car USA and The Harris Poll, more than six in ten American parents believe roads today are more dangerous than ever, and are actively seeking guidance on how to properly protect their loved ones when they’re on-the-go.

To help parents overcome their anxiety around child safety on the road, Volvo Car USA and Britax, two leaders in the field, worked together to curate helpful tips to keep children protected from harm and give peace of mind to parents everywhere.

Parents are overwhelmed when researching child safety products.

Parents have never had more options or information available to help them make decisions, yet for nearly two-thirds of parents, this is causing more confusion and stress. Almost all new parents (97%) find it overwhelming to research products — with 58% citing car seats specifically as a product they are seeking more guidance on how to install and use properly.

Tip 1: Keep children in rear-facing car seats as long as possible.

In some states, children are required by law to sit rear-facing until a certain age. However, that does not mean they should move to a forward-facing seat immediately when they come of age. Safety experts recommend children remain rear-facing until reaching the maximum height or weight restrictions for that seat. Rear-facing seats spread crash forces more evenly across the back of the car seat.

Besides keeping children rear-facing as long as possible, make sure you've installed the safety seat correctly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly three in five (59%) car seats are installed incorrectly. Additional resources and information about car seat installation can be found at

Tip 2: Install harnessed seats using either the LATCH system or the safety belt.

One of the most common misconceptions in car seat installation is that utilizing both the LATCH system and safety belt together adds a layer of protection, when in fact, it’s not recommended by most car seat and vehicle manufacturers. Read both the seat instructions and vehicle owner’s manual to determine the best way to install the car seat and ensure the seat does not move more than one inch side-to-side or front-to-back at the belt path once installed.

Parents are distracted when driving with children.

Two-thirds of parents surveyed said they often feel distracted while driving with children. About one in three parents reported children throwing a tantrum or getting sick while they were driving, leading them to shift their focus away from the road. As a result, one in four new parents said they unintentionally ran over a curb while driving with children, while one in five admitted to getting into a fender bender with their child in the car.

Tip 3: Avoid reaching into the back seat while driving.

Whether you’re reaching for an item, consoling a child or breaking up an argument, it’s safer to pull over and address the issue than to take your eyes off the road, even when stopped behind stalled traffic, at a stop sign or traffic signal. Better to arrive at your destination late than to end up in an accident. Parents also said they’ve experienced children throwing a toy (22%) or food (18%) at them from the backseat while they were driving.

Tip 4: Secure items inside the car.

Limiting the number of items accessible to children in the back seat not only to makes it less likely to have an unexpected item hurled at the driver, but also prevents the possibility of items becoming projectiles that could harm passengers in the event of a crash.

To read the full report from Volvo USA and The Harris Poll, visit

Spice Up Your Life With Easy-To-Enjoy Jambalaya

(NAPSI)—For a fast, easy and delicious one-pot meal, few dishes can beat a jambalaya. Created by the unique blend of cultures that make up New Orleans cuisine, jambalaya is both satisfying and simple to make using whatever you happen to have on hand (thus excellent for that “end-of-week-clean-out-the-fridge-meal”). Known for its bold flavor and versatility, there’s no wrong way to make this crowd-pleaser.

“Jambalaya is a one-pot meal that combines elements of our French, Spanish, African and Acadian heritage,” explains New Orleans culinary authority and cookbook author Poppy Tooker. “Every jambalaya starts with what is often called the ‘trinity’ of seasoning vegetables—celery, onion and bell pepper—and, of course, rice and signature spices. Where you go from there is really up to you. Add seafood, smoked sausage, chicken or whatever you have on hand.”

Try this recipe for Classic Jambalaya:

Original Jambalaya

Use Zatarain’s Jambalaya Rice mix as the quick starter base then just add any combo of smoked sausage, chicken, ham, shrimp and vegetables. Feeding a crowd for tailgating or a football watching party? Double the batch, as hungry mouths always want more!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

2 ½ cups water

1 package (8 ounces) Zatarain’s® Original Jambalaya Mix

1 pound smoked sausage, thinly sliced*

1. Mix water, Rice Mix and meat of your choice in large saucepan until well blended. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 25 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed and rice is tender.

2. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with fork before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

For richer flavor: Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil with the water.

*Suggested Substitutions:

1 pound cubed, cooked or rotisserie chicken, cubed ham or peeled and deveined shrimp, cut into bite-size pieces (add shrimp during the last 10 minutes of cooking time and cook just until shrimp turn pink.). Stir in sautéed vegetables like bell pepper, tomatoes, and sliced green onions just before serving.

Learn More

Jambalaya is known for its versatility. You can find other flavorful jambalaya recipes like Slow-Cooker Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya along with facts and tips at

clicktotweet ““Jambalaya is a one-pot meal that combines elements of our French, Spanish, African and Acadian heritage,” explains New Orleans culinary authority and cookbook author Poppy Tooker.

On the Net:North American Precis Syndicate, Inc.(NAPSI)

‘I knew I wasn’t alone’: North Carolina nurse looks back on Hurricane Florence

(BPT) - One year ago, North Carolina native and licensed practical nurse Shannon Lanier found herself caught in a storm that seemed otherworldly. Hurricane Florence had arrived. And with it came more than two feet of rain in her hometown of Wilmington.

Lanier had listened to all the warnings and knew this had the potential to be a big one. But she’d never evacuated before. Her plan was to wait out the hurricane in her 30-year-old house at the end of a cul-de-sac near the Cape Fear River.

A few hours after Florence made landfall, rising water levels forced Lanier, her roommate and their 140-pound Great Dane to seek shelter up on their home’s second floor. Through Facebook, Lanier discovered that the United Cajun Navy was rescuing people in her neighborhood. She used the flashlight on her phone to signal for help and waded through four feet of water on her home’s first floor to reach the boat.

Volunteers assisted the trio into a boat and began paddling against the current up the street. As they did, the boat capsized, forcing everyone to swim to safety with only one lifejacket available. They were fortunate to make it out of the water before being transported to an evacuation shelter.

“All we had were the clothes on our backs,” said Lanier. “The shelter was packed and supplies were dwindling. We were so grateful to even be given a few paper towels to use to dry off.”

Lanier has worked for DaVita Sedc Wilmington Dialysis Center — the sole dialysis provider in Wilmington — for 18 years. Her patients with chronic kidney disease require life-sustaining dialysis treatment three times per week for four hours a day. Lanier considers them family.

“After Florence, my heart hurt because I knew I couldn’t be there for my patients,” recalled Lanier. “I was always the one who would jump in to help find patients and make sure they could receive dialysis somewhere after a storm. But I wasn’t able to do that this time.”

Instead, hundreds of her teammates stepped in to help. They waded through thigh-high waters to guide patients to safety and treatment. DaVita trucked in fuel, stationed generators where power had been lost and set up a dedicated support line to connect Lanier and others to resources. One-time donations were also given to teammates in need who were impacted by Florence. Six months after the hurricane, Lanier finally returned to her home.

“I wouldn’t have made it through this without DaVita,” shared Lanier. “Churches, shelters, everyone was there for me. When things like this happen, people come together. The power in this story is how everyone came through for me. I knew I wasn’t alone.”

When a disaster strikes, it’s important to have a plan in place. Here are some items to consider when creating a disaster plan:

  1. Make sure all insurance policies are up-to-date.
  2. Know the evacuation routes out of your city. Be sure to note all types of emergency alerts and warnings in advance.
  3. Identify an emergency point of contact. Consolidate emergency phone numbers for doctors and medical centers.
  4. Develop a list of medicines and dosage amounts. If an emergency occurs, you’ll want to have at least three days’ worth of any medications on hand.
  5. Put together a basic home emergency kit with enough water and food for each person for at least three days, paper and plastic ware, a manual can and bottle opener, first aid supplies, a flashlight and a battery-powered radio. Store the kit in a place that’s easily accessible and waterproof.

As hurricane season continues, look for more preparedness tips at Emergency preparedness recommendations for people living with kidney disease are available at

With tax extensions up, October tax deadline nears

(BPT) - The IRS projected that more people than ever before — 14.6 million — would file an extension. That estimate may have been conservative, given how tax reform influenced people to delay filing as they figured out what tax reform meant for them.

Now, those who still haven’t filed are running out of time, because the tax filing extension deadline is Oct. 15, 2019. Once Oct. 16 rolls around, those who still haven’t filed and owe the IRS will face a 5 percent monthly failure-to-file penalty on unpaid tax. The penalty adds up each month until the taxpayer files, up to a maximum of 25 percent. For those who did not file for an extension before the April deadline, the 5 percent monthly penalty kicked in immediately after the deadline.

The good news is people due a refund don’t pay a late filing penalty. In fact, most taxpayers (53 percent) filing after the April deadline get a refund. But the longer they wait to file, the later and later they will get their refunds, which average more than $4,000.

If that’s not reason enough to file, taxpayers who filed an extension have indicated to the IRS they need to file a return, essentially putting themselves on the IRS’ radar. These taxpayers will be easy targets for an IRS notice if they don’t file by the October tax deadline.

Taxpayers who still haven’t finished their taxes are more likely to be looking for help: 85 percent of them get professional help from a tax preparer, compared to 58 percent of taxpayers who file during tax season. They may be afraid of owing the IRS, uncertain about the tax outcome, missing documents, or just procrastinating. Whatever the reason, anyone who wants help filing a tax return to meet the October tax deadline can make an appointment with an H&R Block tax professional by calling 800-HRBLOCK or finding a local, year-round H&R Block office online. Online tax filing and DIY tax software are available 24/7.

Tips for getting your family organized this fall

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(BPT) - Fall marks the beginning of a new school year and a perfect time to get you and your family organized. Use this fresh start as an opportunity to establish clear routines for scheduling, sorting papers and organizing everything your family needs for your work, school and home lives to run more smoothly.

The right tools plus the right approach will help to get everyone more organized.

1. Post a central calendar

Developing a central calendar in one of the common rooms in your home to track activity provides your family with a quick and easy way to stay organized and in the know. A large reusable monthly calendar in the kitchen or other key area of your home allows all family members to mark appointments, lessons and deadlines, plus special occasions so you'll know what's coming up at all times. Try the Staples Magnetic Calendar, a dry-erase calendar that comes with self-stick tape for posting on the wall, and two magnets to highlight special dates. There’s even a cork board at the bottom for pinning tickets or other important papers.

2. Find easy ways to leave notes

Whether you need to remind your family about lunches in the fridge or feeding the dog, Post-it Super Sticky Notes make it easy for everyone to communicate throughout the house. Using brightly colored notes means family members won't miss them and you'll be one step closer to your fall organization goal.

3. Focus on planning ahead

For your own goal-setting and scheduling, find a planner that helps keep track of monthly appointments and goals while also offering tips to help you de-clutter and streamline processes. The Emily Ley Simplified Pineapple Planner is as stylish and attractive as it is useful and inspiring. Check out the handy tips on quick clean-up routines — and even a page for your bucket list!

4. Crush your to-do list

To stay on top of long-term goals, it's important to focus on what "to do" every day. Using a small tear-off pad with a to-do checklist helps you conquer your goals. The Martha Stewart Daily Goals Tracker fits the bill, dividing daily to-dos into a.m. and p.m., with space for overall daily goals and tomorrow's focus. There's even a place to check off your daily glasses of water.

5. Use color coding methods

Visual cues are key to organizing, so use color to help keep track of what's what. You can use differently colored pens for various reminders in your planner or items on your to-do list (red means urgent!). Assign a different colored pen to each family member so you'll know at a glance who each item is for. With TRU RED retractable pens, everyone can choose their favorite color. The ink in these gel pens dries quickly for smudge-proof writing, making them ideal for lefties.

To further organize papers, use a color-coding principle. Staples Top-Tab File Folders in pastel colors separate different types of papers into clear categories before filing them away. One hundred folders in a variety of pastels come in each box, with three tabs for easy labeling.

6. Stay organized on-the-go

When you're running around doing errands, what could be better than a simple way to stash your papers, pens, keys and phone with an Emily Ley Simplified Seersucker Storage Pouch? Measuring 10 by 7 1/2 inches, the pouch can secure important items, and the navy cotton lining helps it stand up to daily use.

7. Clear your desk

Even if it's just a section of your kitchen counter, free up space by sorting your "home office" items. Find an organizer (or two, or three) with different-sized compartments to fit what you and your family regularly need: stapler, scissors, pens, paper clips, etc. Try the sturdy plastic TRU RED desk organizers, in different sizes and configurations. Mix and match pieces to set it up just the way you want it.

8. Sort papers by type

It's easier to find papers if you group them by category. Separate magazines or newspapers from brochures, kids' homework or bills. Get boxes that fit the kinds of papers you most need to store, like Martha Stewart StackFit Magazine Files, which look stylish and fit neatly on a shelf. You can use them for magazines, catalogs, notebooks or any other papers. Label contents clearly using the metal bookplate on the side.

9. Box it up

A neat storage solution brings peace of mind to your home. To store kids' artwork, papers, cards, photos or craft supplies neatly on shelves, stock up on these medium style boxes with lids. These sturdy, rattan-look storage baskets have integrated handles and reinforced corners. They're also scratch resistant and easy to clean with a damp cloth.

Getting organized can be stressful, but having the right tools and supplies to get the job done will make the process go smoothly. Kids and parents alike can use these tips and tricks to organize their rooms and stay on track. Visit for more ideas on how to get organized and meet your goals this fall.

How at-home allergy treatment is changing lives

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(BPT) - More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, and as pollen production grows in intensity and duration due to longer freeze-free periods, that number is expected to rise. For chronic allergy sufferers, this can mean battling symptoms year-round, year after year.

Allergies pose health risks beyond stuffy noses and itchy, watery eyes. Those with intense symptoms find their quality of life drastically affected, leading to missed school and work days, or even emergency room visits. Severe allergy sufferers may experience intense congestion, sneezing, hives or eczema, plus difficulty breathing.

Of the 26 million Americans who suffer from asthma, around 60% have allergic asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, meaning that the serious, life-threatening respiratory distress of asthma is triggered by allergic reactions to pollen and other substances.

Over-the-counter antihistamines and other allergy medications can provide temporary relief, but long-term relief requires finding a specialist for inconvenient office treatments, often multiple times a week for years. Or does it?

Immunotherapy at home

The standard of care for allergy treatment, immunotherapy, was introduced in 1911 based on the positive results of vaccines that produced protection against infectious diseases such as smallpox. Scientists recognized that they could induce immunity and build tolerance to allergens by injecting hay fever patients with pollen they were allergic to.

Today, only 20% of allergy sufferers see an allergy specialist. And those that do must stick to a regimented schedule of frequent in-office visits for treatment for it to be effective. But innovation in allergy immunotherapy means patients can be tested by their general practitioner instead of seeking out a specialist, and then conduct their own treatment at home. That makes it more convenient to seek treatment and commit to the immunotherapy protocol as it helps their bodies build up resistance to the allergens that affect their lives. At-home immunotherapy allows allergy sufferers to treat themselves over time.

“The biggest challenge is getting a patient to stay consistent with treatment. With the traditional method, it’s a huge inconvenience and time commitment to have to go to an allergist’s office sometimes hundreds of times over the course of years to make a difference,” says Dr. Hormazd Sanjana, of Castle Hills Family Practice in San Antonio, who has incorporated allergy immunotherapy treatment into his practice.

“To be able to provide better access to treatment to my patients, and a way for them to conveniently administer it to themselves on their time, where they are most comfortable, is a game changer.”

How does immunotherapy treatment work?

The largest provider of immunotherapy services, United Allergy Services, has been working with physicians to create and administer custom treatments for patients since 2009. More than 500 primary care providers offer UAS testing and treatment in their offices.

  1. First, an onsite allergy specialist tests for the 48 most common allergens.
  2. After triggers are identified, doses of the allergen are mixed for the patient to gradually expose him or her to very small amounts.
  3. The physician and Clinical Allergy Specialist guide the patient through at-home immunotherapy administration and the myAllergyPal app helps patients see test results, track doses and receive helpful tips between check-in visits.
  4. With exposure to increasing amounts at regular intervals over the course of treatment, the body is gradually desensitized to those triggers that once caused uncomfortable or debilitating symptoms.

Up to 85% of patients on United Allergy Services’ treatment program start seeing results within 12 months, some in half that time. With continued treatment for up to three years, patients can then discontinue doses and experience long-term relief.

"I have lived with allergies my entire life and now I have almost no symptoms,” said Tiffany Conner of North Carolina. Going through at-home immunotherapy treatment was the best decision I could have made.”

For help finding a primary physician in your area that offers UAS testing and treatment, visit

Beef basics: Everything you need to become a pit master

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(BPT) - Grilling is an American staple, and many home grill masters yearn to take it to the next level, impressing their friends and families with tasty, mouthwatering smoked beef. Smoking is a timeless technique that elevates the beef people crave by delivering rich flavor and tenderness.

What do you need to become a pit master? Here are the basics from the Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Culinary Center, funded by the Beef Checkoff.

Selecting your beef

Large cuts, such as brisket, roasts and ribs, are prime candidates for smoking, but even a burger can benefit from a hint of smoke. Some of the most popular cuts of beef for smoking are:

  • Back ribs — A barbecue must, these ribs are flavorful and a great value.
  • Brisket — This smoking classic is a fan favorite — sliced or shredded, can’t go wrong here.
  • Rib-eye steak — Rich and juicy, rib-eye is known for exceptional taste and generous marbling.
  • Tri-tip roast — Boneless and tender, this rising star is growing in popularity.

Regardless of the cut you select, always remember that time, patience and practice pay off — don’t be afraid to tweak your technique to suit your tools and tastes.

Choosing a smoker

Your smoker should fit your space, budget and preferred heat source. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Kamado or ceramic smokers use lump charcoal and are very versatile, providing heat retention and consistent high temperatures.
  • Pellet smokers use an electric-powered auger to feed wood pellets into the smoker. They have a grilling area big enough for large cuts of meat.
  • Electric gas smokers are great for beginners, making it easy to select and gauge temperatures.
  • Charcoal smokers are favored for the low, slow cook many pit masters prefer. They offer a more natural flavor, but also need more temperature monitoring.

Picking the right wood

Once you’ve selected your smoker, you can further customize your smoking experience with different types of wood. Some variations to choose from include:

  • Hickory is popular for smoking due to its strong, hearty flavor.
  • Mesquite offers a very smoky flavor, great for cooking smaller cuts for shorter periods.
  • Oak has a subtle flavor that's great for larger cuts of meat.
  • Apple smoke provides a sweeter taste.
  • Pecan has a rich, sweet, nutty flavor.
  • Cherry offers a hint of fruitiness.
  • Maple leads to a sweet, mild smoky flavor.

Experimenting with types of wood allows you to add your signature twist.

Deciding on a rub

Next up is creating a rub to complement the flavors provided by the beef and smoke. There are two main types of rubs to consider:

  • A dry rub typically starts with a base of sugar and salt and incorporates a variety of bold spices and herbs to create a flavorful crust on the outside of the meat.
  • Wet rubs contain wet ingredients, such as oil, vinegar, citrus juice, Worcestershire sauce or even molasses, combined with dry herbs and spices. One benefit of a wet rub is that the seasonings can have an easier time adhering to the meat.

When creating your rub, keep in mind your beef should always be the star of the show. Rubs play a supporting role by enhancing the taste beef innately brings to a smoker.

Ready to put your skills to the test?

Try this recipe for Classic Smoked Beef Brisket from the chefs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Culinary Center, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, who develop recipes for

Classic Smoked Beef Brisket


  • 1 whole beef brisket (approximately 12-13 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup granulated garlic
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 1/4 cup cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt


Add wood chunks, chips, pellets or charcoal to smoker according to manufacturer's instructions. Preheat smoker to 225°F.

Combine spices in small bowl. Press spices into brisket on all sides and edges.

Tip: Brisket may require trimming fat to ensure the rub contacts the beef.

Place beef on rack in smoker. Set timer for 12 hours.

Tip: To prevent dryness and accelerate the cooking process, try the “Texas Crutch” — wrap aluminum foil around the meat along with a little liquid, such as water, juice or beer.

Carefully remove beef from smoker after 10 and 1/2 to 11 hours or when temperature reaches 195°F for beef that slices easily. For beef that can be shredded or chunked, carefully remove from smoker at 12 hours or when temperature reaches 205°F.

For more smoking recipes and tips, visit

Would you like the power to own your own home? Here are 4 steps to follow if you want to make your dream a reality

(BPT) - For many people, a monthly mortgage payment may be manageable, but their biggest obstacle is the upfront expense — namely down payment and closing costs — of buying a home. In fact, according to the Bank of America Spring 2019 Homebuyer Insights Report, 69% of prospective homeowners say saving enough money for a down payment and closing costs is the biggest challenge they face.

Unfortunately, many assume the hurdle of upfront costs can’t be overcome, and they self-select themselves out of taking the next steps towards owning a home. However, there is good news: through smart planning and research, you may uncover new ways to turn your dream into a reality.

While everyone’s situation is unique, here are four helpful tips to get you ready to buy a home of your own.

It’s never too late to start saving: Take control of your finances by creating a budget to track your spending and discover areas where you can cut back and boost your savings. Even if it’s only $50 every month, every little bit gets you one step closer to your dream.

Understand what you can afford: It’s always important to get a sense of what your budget can handle — comfortably — every month, before you start looking. Put together a detailed budget so you can get a full picture of your finances and understand how much you can afford each month for a mortgage. A mortgage calculator lets you estimate housing costs given your income, debt, savings and other financial obligations. Don’t forget taxes and insurance.

Talk to an expert and get prequalified: Understanding your budget is just one piece of the financial puzzle when it comes to homebuying. To learn about the loan options that make sense for you, meet with a lending expert who can provide more information on current interest rates and how much you can borrow. Once you find a loan that fits your needs, get a prequalification letter, which estimates your borrowing power based on your financial information and shows sellers you are serious and gives you some negotiating leverage.

Take advantage of available help: To help afford your dream home (and all the associated costs), keep your eyes open for available grants and programs designed to help prospective homeowners like you. Through its Community Homeownership Commitment, Bank of America is providing up to $17,500 to eligible buyers in select markets to help with upfront costs. Specifically, to assist with down payments, Bank of America will give eligible homebuyers 3% of the home purchase price (up to $10,000) when they use a specific low down payment loan product. Homebuyers may also qualify to receive up to $7,500 for non-recurring closing costs or to buy down their interest rate.

To get on the right track to affordable and sustainable homeownership, keep these tips and programs in mind and talk to a Bank of America lending specialist to learn what programs and offerings you may qualify for. Visit or text “mortgage” to 226526 to learn more.

7 Traits to Look for in a Financial Planner

(StatePoint) When looking for a financial planner who can bring all the pieces of your financial life together and put you in the driver’s seat of your own financial future, experts say it’s important to look beyond his or her resume.

While a financial planner’s background and experience are important, so are some of the intangibles. Here are seven traits you should look for when choosing a financial planner:

• Competence. A financial planner should be able to demonstrate an appropriate level of experience. In order to obtain Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification, professionals must have a minimum of two years professional experience related to financial planning, in addition to meeting rigorous education requirements.

• Objectivity. Your needs should be at the heart of all your financial planner’s recommendations. He or she should use experience and judgment to carefully consider your personal and financial situation, and then provide advice that best meets your individual goals. CFP professionals are always required to act in your best interests when providing financial planning services.

• Integrity. Trust is central to a successful financial planning relationship. When you know your planner takes his or her duties seriously and places principles over personal gain, you can form a good working partnership. The strict practice standards and code of ethics of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) are designed to ensure CFP professionals act in a professionally responsible manner.

• Fair Treatment. A good financial planner clearly defines the services he or she will provide and will communicate the costs and risks associated with each financial recommendation. A good financial planner will also disclose potential conflicts of interest. CFP professionals are required to make full disclosure of conflicts and compensation methods to their clients.

• Diligence. A diligent financial planner will reasonably examine recommended products or services to ensure they are suitable for you, and will closely supervise any staff or related professionals working with you.

• Professionalism. Trustworthy financial planners will not provide investment advice or stock brokerage services unless qualified and licensed to do so, as required by state or federal law. If your situation requires expertise that your planner does not possess, he or she should suggest other professionals who could assist you.

• Privacy. To get the best results from your financial planning relationship, you’ll need to regularly divulge relevant personal and financial information to your financial planner, who will keep this information in confidence, only sharing it to conduct business on your behalf, at your consent or when ordered to do so by a court.

To find a CFP professional near you, visit

Partnering with a financial planner will provide you with confidence today and a more secure tomorrow. Be sure you work with a trustworthy, competent professional.


Photo Credit: (c) fizkes / iStock via Getty Images Plus

5 new ways to bring the beauty of nature into your home

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(BPT) - (BPT) - There’s nothing like being outdoors. It soothes the soul, calms the spirit and delights the senses. Most of us can’t spend as much time as we’d like outside, but many clever methods can bring the serenity and beauty of nature into your home. Take a look at a few of the innovative ways that you can introduce nature’s beauty, from a lush garden to a forest of birch trees, into your interior spaces.

1. Air plant terrarium

A terrarium, with sand, stones and other decorative elements, is an easy option for displaying a collection of air plants. Perfect for small, indoor spaces, these amazingly versatile plants can grow on any surface because they take in nutrients and moisture from the air.'

2. Beautiful blooms wall mural

What better way to give your space some style and a pop of color? This sweet, vintage-inspired floral print makes for an elegant feature wall.

3. Custom wall mural

Display your favorite family vacation or travel photos in a big way. Create a custom, one-of-a-kind wall mural for the ultimate statement. Upload your own image to get started.

4. Zen garden

A peaceful Zen garden of carefully placed objects and smooth, flowing lines of sand can be a beautiful addition to any space. Your garden can be small enough to sit on a coffee table, or grace a large area in your home.

5. Branch out with birch trees

Transform your room into a woodland wonderland. With its simple and natural palette, this birch tree wall mural can be easily styled to fit any décor.
For more information on decorative wall murals, please visit

5 step fire safety checklist

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(BPT) - When flames engulfed his 1940s beach bungalow without warning, actor Taylor Kinney was thankful to make it out alive. That experience, paired with his role as one of America’s favorite TV firefighters, inspired him to advocate for fire safety and is why he’s partnering with First Alert this fall to share important messages about fire safety preparedness.

“In my role as a firefighter on TV, I help portray very serious and dangerous fire emergency situations,” said Kinney. “But one of the most dangerous of all is the lack of fire safety precautions among a majority of Americans, including having working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to provide early warning in the event of a real home emergency.”

Recent research shows that more than 60% of consumers do not test their smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms regularly. That, along with other easy-to-perform tasks, can mean the difference between a safe home and a dangerous home.

This simple fire safety checklist can help ensure your home and family are protected from the threats of smoke, fire and carbon monoxide.

1) Install smoke alarms on every level and in every bedroom. Three out of every five home fire deaths result from fires in homes without smoke alarms or with no working smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). For maximum protection, install smoke alarms inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.

2) Testing and maintaining alarms is key. Alarms should be tested regularly and replaced at least every 10 years. Help ensure your alarms remain in good, working order by changing the batteries at least every six months. For hassle-free protection, install alarms like the First Alert 10-Year Smoke and CO Alarm available at Lowe’s, which has a sealed 10-year battery — rendering battery removal and replacement a thing of the past. Many cities and states require sealed 10-year battery alarms, so check with your local fire department if you do not know what to install.

3) Equip your home with fire extinguishers. Beyond alarms, having fire extinguishers — and knowing how to use them — is an important part of maintaining a safe home for you and your family. Every 24 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire, according to the NFPA, so being prepared to fight small fires is critical. Place extinguishers in convenient locations on every level of the home, in the kitchen and in the garage.

4) Protect against the “silent killer.” An odorless and invisible gas, CO is the number one cause of accidental poisoning and can only be detected with an alarm — yet only 47% of homeowners report owning a CO alarm. Consider hassle-free protection by installing 10-year sealed battery alarms and, just like smoke alarms, be sure to check all CO alarms regularly using the “test” button for continued protection.

5) Plan. Practice. Repeat. Recent consumer research reveals that less than 50% of homeowners have an escape plan — and even fewer practice a plan regularly. Make sure to involve everyone in your household in creating a plan and practice it at least twice every year. As part of this plan, equip second-floor bedrooms with escape ladders and discuss how to use them. Identify two ways out of each room and a meeting place outside. Emphasize that once at the predesignated meeting area, call 911 and wait until officials clear your home to re-enter it safely.

For more information, visit

CDC Foundation program makes a difference for people with cancer

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(BPT) - Imagine being diagnosed with cancer, going through chemotherapy, and then getting sidelined by an infection.

Unfortunately for people with cancer, this is a serious potential side effect of chemotherapy. Each year, more than half a million people with cancer are treated with chemotherapy, which may weaken their immune system (a condition known as neutropenia), making them more vulnerable to getting an infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an infection linked to neutropenia is one of the most dangerous side effects of chemotherapy that can put a patient in the hospital, delay their treatments or even cause death. That’s why back in 2009, CDC and the CDC Foundation, with financial support from Amgen Oncology, set out to develop innovative ways to educate people about this side effect and steps they can take to reduce their risk of infections during chemotherapy.

The Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients (PICP) program is now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, and continues to provide evidence-based resources for patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals. To celebrate this milestone, the program has developed its first-ever public service announcement (PSA) highlighting the importance of infection prevention during chemotherapy and tips on how people with cancer can lower their infection risk.

“The CDC Foundation is honored to have been part of this program that has helped educate and inform cancer patients about their increased risk of an infection during chemotherapy since 2009,” said Dr. Judith Monroe, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “The PICP program has been strengthened over time as a result of our strong and lasting partnerships that allow these innovative tools to be disseminated to patients.”

“These resources are working,” said Dr. Lisa Richardson, MPH, director of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. “By providing patients and oncology providers with simple, evidence-based materials, cancer patients and caregivers report that they understand their risk for neutropenia and infection better after visiting our website.”

As part of the program’s evolution, PICP recently launched new educational tools using virtual human technology: TINA. Housed in a free mobile app and on, our fully animated virtual provider TINA (Talking about Infection and Neutropenia Awareness) is an interactive tool for patients and providers. For patients, TINA will ask and answer the user’s questions about infection risk and the steps they can take to protect themselves. For oncology providers, TINA allows the user to role-play and practice a conversation with an emotionally responsive and interactive virtual patient. This training tool was developed to help providers improve their conversations with patients about a topic that can be difficult to explain.

The PICP program is also available in Spanish, including a Spanish-language version of TINA (TINA en Español). One in three Hispanic men and women are diagnosed with cancer each year, yet there are few Spanish-language resources available, according to the American Cancer Society. Based on the fundamental belief that every person should have information tailored to their needs, 3 Pasos Para Prevenir infecciones durante el tratamiento del cancer was launched to meet the needs of the Spanish-speaking community.

“An infection during chemotherapy is serious, yet many cancer patients are not aware of what they can do to lower that risk,” said Dr. Darryl Sleep, senior vice president, Global Medical and Chief Medical Officer at Amgen. “I couldn’t be prouder of the work we’ve done with CDC and the CDC Foundation over the past 10 years to provide evidence-based, educational resources to patients and their families.”

For more information about PICP and its English and Spanish resources available for patients, caregivers and providers, visit TINA and TINA en Español are also available online or as a free mobile app.

The secret to recruiting top talent? Next-level office amenities

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(BPT) - A recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that U.S. employment is projected to grow by 8.4 million jobs from 2018 to 2028. At the same time, employers are battling an ultra-competitive job market, in which candidates are being wooed by increased pay and enhanced medical benefits.

Today’s smartest employers are thinking more creatively about how to attract talented workers and encourage them to stay. Many are partnering with large landlords to include next-level amenities into their workspaces.

Specific areas today’s employers are focused on include:


A well-located workplace is a major selling point for attracting potential employees and retaining existing ones. Employers with a central location, easily accessible by public transportation, already have an advantage. For example, The Legacy Town Center office in Plano, Texas boasts transit drop-off and pick-up right at the building.

For environmentally-minded employees who bike to work, secure bike storage is a real plus. The office tower at 201 Spear St. in San Francisco anticipates the needs of the area’s environmentally-conscious workforce with bike storage and EV car charging stations, plus easy access to light rail.

Accenture Tower in Chicago sits above Ogilvie Transportation Center, one of the main suburban train stations connecting downtown Chicago to the suburbs, providing direct access to city trains, buses and expressways. The first two levels of the property are comprised of 80,000 square feet of retail space, with more than 45 stores and restaurants.


Beyond providing competitive healthcare plans, employers are seeking new ways to encourage and support employees’ health-related activities — a focus that contributes to less absenteeism and greater productivity. For example, Park Place Village in Leawood, Kansas has massage therapy on-site for all of its tenants.

Many major office owners are adding state-of-the-art fitness centers. 3001 Washington Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia features workout studios offering barre, yoga and HIIT performance classes in its 8-story, LEED Gold-certified Class A office building. And at Accenture Tower, the building includes a two-level fitness center spanning 14,000 square feet, with a basketball court, group exercise classes and new tenant lounge with air hockey, shuffle board and wine lockers.


For employees with busy schedules, it can be tough to find enough time in the day to take care of necessary errands. Workers are especially drawn to locales that provide day-to-day services everyone needs without even having to walk outside.

Some office buildings go a step beyond. For businesses located at RBC Plaza in Minneapolis, employees can use the U.S. Postal Service, on-site bank, a sundry shop and even a shoe repair/shoe shine service. But it doesn’t stop there. Other services offered in the building include a car wash and detailing service, and private wine lockers. And in the Carillon office tower in Charlotte, North Carolina, there's an on-site daycare for parents.


Beyond location and service-based amenities, today’s employees are increasingly demanding a workplace with a beautiful atmosphere, which often includes access to outdoor spaces. Building designers are taking note, providing more open spaces, skylights and/or atriums for a lighter, more welcoming work environment.

For example, The McEwen Building in the Cool Springs submarket of Nashville, Tennessee offers employees and visitors an outdoor sitting area complete with a fountain and plush landscaping, while 3003 Washington Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia has a rooftop terrace with stunning views of Washington, D.C.

Employee engagement

With Generation Z workers about to enter the workforce, today’s employers also understand the power of creating engagement within their team, especially among young professionals. Next-level office amenities can increase employee satisfaction and deepen their connection to their employer.

For instance, RBC Plaza in Minneapolis offers a billiards lounge, as well as a cafe and coffee shop, while Preston Commons in Dallas, Texas and 201 Spear Street in San Francisco both have on-site bars, giving office workers places to unwind and congregate after work.

KBS, one of the largest owners of premier office buildings in the nation, has partnered with many of America’s most prominent companies to support recruitment and retention by buying well-located offices and infusing them with state-of-the-art amenities — many of which go well beyond the “traditional,” elevating the office experience to the next level. To learn more, visit

Escape to the Caribbean for Stress-Free Holidays

(NewsUSA) - Summer vacation season may be over, but it is never too soon to start planning a Christmas- season getaway.

Christmas in the Caribbean means a stress-free change of scenery with warm weather and a serene setting.

Calabash Cove, a secluded boutique resort on the island of Saint Lucia, welcomes adults of all ages, such as empty-nesters who want to relax and reconnect, young adults looking to establish their own holiday travel traditions, or anyone looking for a unique Christmas vacation.

Visitors to Calabash Cove at Christmas can enjoy discounts of up to 53 percent, and the longer you stay, the more you save. A stay of seven paid nights or longer includes a complimentary car service to meet you at the airport in Saint Lucia. The resort's unconditional all-inclusive package covers all meals including room service, and all beverages including premium liquors and a variety of wines from an extensive wine list.

An all-inclusive holiday package at Calabash Cove includes Christmas dinner with ham or turkey, a New Year's Eve gala dinner, and complimentary champagne. New Year's at Calabash Cove features a stunning fireworks display that can be seen from the resort's restaurant or bar, or from the private balconies of the elegant guest rooms.

Other reasons to consider visiting the Caribbean for Christmas:

- Romance: The holidays are prime time for proposals, and what better place to pop the question than a tropical island? Planning a holiday wedding? A Caribbean destination is an ideal option, and resorts such as Calabash Cove work with couples to plan the ideal ceremony and other events. And wedding guests feel pampered, too. Holiday honeymoon? The intimate setting of Calabash Cove lends itself to honeymoons and anniversary trips.

- Restoration. A boutique resort offers the ultimate setting to recharge your batteries and prepare for the new year. Calabash Cove's Ti Spa treatments, including massage, facials, and mani/pedis, are a popular way for guests to relax. Meanwhile, those who want to burn off stress with exercise can take advantage of the infinity pool and cardiovascular fitness center with inspiring ocean views. In addition, Calabash Cove staff can help arrange off-site activities, including kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, and diving.

For more information, visit to discover how you can make the most of a Caribbean Christmas that you'll never forget.

Virologist's Book Warns of Coming Lethal Flu Pandemic

(NewsUSA) - Scientists have long held that it will not be weapons of mass destruction that kills the human race, but rather a biological one.

Case in point: the flu pandemic of 1918, colloquially known as the Spanish flu, occurred during World War I and spread worldwide during 1918-1919. Published research suggests the final death toll may have been as high as 100 million.

Despite decades of developments in biology and virology at the cost of more than $80 billion, the U.S. is unprepared to handle a flu pandemic of a similar scale if one should occur, contends Dr. Steven Hatfill, a specialist physician and virologist with additional training in medical biochemistry, and experimental pathology.

After more than a decade of study, Dr. Hatfill and his team have published a book, Three Seconds Until Midnight, in which he revisits the challenges of the 1918 pandemic and highlights the limitations of the current public health system in the U.S. in the event of a serious pandemic on the scale of the 1918 event.

"There are worse viruses out there in nature than another 1918-type pandemic. They are simply waiting for the right conditions to jump into man," says Dr. Hatfill.

In addition, "the overwhelming majority of Americans assume that the CDC and public health authorities are capable of rapidly detecting when a new outbreak of infectious disease is occurring and that they will quickly respond with a vaccine, drugs, and other measures to contain the event. In reality, none of this is true with respect to a serious pandemic," he emphasizes.

In the book, Dr. Hatfill and his team point out how the U.S. has an insufficient public health workforce and lacks the "surge" medical capacity needed for a pandemic situation with mass casualties, and that no programs are currently in place to train personnel how to handle a pandemic.

Vaccine distribution is another problem, says Dr. Hatfill. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) documents show that in a pandemic on the scale of the 1918 event, a minimum of 123 to 125 million Americans will not receive any anti-viral drugs or vaccine until at or near the peak period of infection and death. Historically, the poor, socially disadvantaged urban communities will be hit the hardest.

Citizens are uninformed on how to care for family members at home if they contract a contagious and possibly lethal infection, and entire households can become ill, Dr. Hatfill says.

Dr. Hatfill's book outlines how the government can salvage its preparedness plan by considering more involvement by the military in a disaster response mode, similar to the role played by the Armed Forces after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The major problems in pandemic preparedness occur not with the federal government but with the local city authorities who continue to be unprepared to manage an outbreak of a serious lethal infectious disease on a 1918-type scale. This includes having rational methods to manage worker absenteeism, organizing alternate care sites, expanding mortuary capabilities and teaching non-pharmaceutical interventions to the public.

"We now live under population densities that are a new phenomenon in human civilization and we have no precedent to indicate if we are nearing a threshold or not". As a consequence, every individual alive today is participating in a great on-going global biological experiment," says Dr. Hatfill.

Three Seconds Until Midnight will be available for purchase online via Amazon or Kindle in approximately mid-October. For more information, visit

Transforming Your Under-Stair Space

(NewsUSA) - If you live in a multi-story house, chances are you've looked at the no-man's-land under a set of stairs and thought: That space could be made to look and function much better. The classic solution is to fill the unattractive void with a closet, which is a perfectly serviceable idea. But there are other, more imaginative possibilities - home office, mini-library, powder room, wet bar, dog kennel, to name a few - creative hardwood built-ins that can transform those formerly awkward architectural cul-de-sacs into a visually interesting, highly practical, value-adding features in your home.

"Today's homeowners look on such unused square footage as a wasted resource," says Linda Jovanovich of the American Hardwood Information Center, "Solid hardwood built-ins not only provide the customization needed in an awkwardly configured space, but also bring the warmth and character of natural wood to a gloomy, uninviting spot."

"If you do it right, an under-stairs hardwood built-in becomes a combination of a fine piece of furniture and a strong, reliable workhorse that should last a long time and be a sound investment," says Laura Bohn, a New York interior designer. "Make sure that whatever you install addresses some real requirement in your daily life. Storage is usually a good choice, but think about what kind you need most - for wine, maybe, or a collection of vintage LP records. Functionality never goes out of style, so make sure it works for you."

"No matter how thoughtfully designed, any type of under-stairs hardwood built-in should be well-made and carefully installed," advises Melissa Morgan of San Antonio-based M Interiors. "And don't forget the details. Make sure moldings, trims, and other decorative elements match existing millwork. Hinges, handles, or any other hardware should be chosen for beauty and stylistic appropriateness as well as functionality and durability."

Finally, look for inspiration in books, magazines, and online. For example, staircases are often built against external walls. Architect Matthew Kerr of SOK Design Studio in Sandpoint, Idaho, took advantage of this fact by installing a fan-shaped window under a stair to create a naturally illuminated nook. He then designed a simple built-in daybed comprising a full-length twin mattress on a painted hardwood base with pullout drawers, like a cozy bunk on some old sailing ship. Even though the nook is small, it doesn't look or feel claustrophobic, thanks to the window. The result is a delightful spot to relax, read a book, take a nap, or even accommodate an overnight guest.

Visit for more about under-stairs built-ins and other applications and products using American hardwoods.


A Thrilling Book Trilogy And More—Megalomaniacs Battle Zealots, With America Caught In The Middle

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(NAPSI)—This issue of BookBites introduces readers to Eric C. Anderson’s New Caliphate trilogy, a saga ripped from today’s headlines that could leave tomorrow’s Europe on the brink of a new Dark Age, as well as a fourth thriller depicting the use of cryptocurrency as a tool for political regime change. Anderson is a former member of the U.S. intelligence community.

“Osiris” (Book 1) by Eric C. Anderson (Dunn Books)

It’s a dilemma no Washington politician wants to confront: rescuing 5,000 Americans trapped in Baghdad. Taking on the challenge is a crusty Marine, an embattled Army officer, two Turkish spies and the ultimate cyber-warrior.

Their enemy? An ISIS regime intent on carving out a new caliphate. Can they rescue an American embassy under siege by a weapon that even Washington’s military can’t defeat?

Buy Book 1 of the New Caliphate trilogy at

“Anubis” (Book 2) by Eric C. Anderson (Dunn Books)

As if the slaughter of thousands of U.S. citizens in Baghdad wasn’t enough, now the Caliphate has a new plan in Book 2 of the trilogy. “Anubis” picks up where “Osiris” left off, on an incendiary mission of soldiers, spies, statesmen and sellouts, all thrown together to either save the world—or see it destroyed.

Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant More and U.S. Army Special Forces Major Faheem are thrust to the front as the world braces for a hurricane of terror.

With the enigmatic U.S. President dead, his hated political opponent about to be inaugurated and ISIS attacking on multiple fronts, will America and her allies surrender to terrorists and withdraw from the Middle East? The clock is ticking.

Buy at

“Horus” (Book 3) by Eric C. Anderson (Dunn Books)

Recovering from the last round of terror, an exhausted U.S. President deals with the specter of nuclear horror. In the trilogy’s thrilling conclusion, More and Faheem hoped to never see one other again. But warlords and fanatics on the march in the Middle East have no regard for others.

With ISIS on its heels and the Caliph on the run, Turkish strongman Recep Erdogan revives the Ottoman Empire. The Kurds refuse to get out of his way. More and Faheem discover that North Korea has sold cruise missiles to terrorists. Can they stop these madmen before mushroom clouds light up the world?

Buy at

“Byte” by Eric C. Anderson (Dunn Books)

In a fourth book by Anderson, “Roller” is the wise-cracking, pistol-packing agent known at the CIA as “the Veterinarian,” dispatched to cage big dogs and bring the bits and bytes to heel.

When Roller’s superiors discover the balance of power between the U.S. and Russia is about to run off the rails, she’s called upon to head a cyber strike team and face off with her arch-nemesis. There’s $50 billion of oligarch money at play, Bitcoins to intercept and evidence of a surging cyberattack on the global infrastructure that could kill thousands.

Buy at

BookBites is a continuing series bringing readers information and ideas for their next read. For more reading ideas, visit, where readers and writers meet, and subscribe to the weekly newsletter.

clicktotweet “Readers will thrill to Eric C. Anderson’s New Caliphate trilogy, from Dunn Books—a saga ripped from today’s headlines—as well as a fourth novel on cryptocurrency as a political tool.

On the Net:North American Precis Syndicate, Inc.(NAPSI)

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