Food Awareness For A Healthy Life

As the old age goes' you are what you eat', eating healthy defines our health and wellness to a large extent. Unfortunately, for many of us eating healthy and maintaining body weight is a never ending struggle. Many people choose to follow crash diets that are potentially dangerous to our health. Others try to focus more on exercise routines than their diet. Both the approaches are not beneficial for losing weight or gaining muscle. What is needed is a healthy diet that can balance the nutritional needs of our body and support our exercise routines to provide optimum results.

Though people have an idea of what comprises a healthy diet the lure of junk food is hard to resist. As per a recent research results, approximately $190 billion is spent on fast food alone annually in the United States. Another survey conducted on trends of obesity in America by University of Oxford and University of Columbia reveals that by 2030 half of the America will be obese and by 2048 obesity could be the most common disease in the country.

We cannot follow diet plans that worked for others because what works for them may not help us. For weight loss or weight gain programs, diet plans must be individualized. For instance, for losing weight successfully, one can cut down on the calories with a balanced diet plan along with an effective exercise routine. Alternatively for weight gain one can resort to healthy carbs-diet with weight training routine.

The diet plans should be discussed with your physician, nutritionist and fitness trainer to tailor the diet plan for specific and individual needs.

Diet plans for weight loss
  • High-Protein Diet
Protein is not easily digested in our system and hence, it makes us feel full thereby cutting down the appetite. The high-protein diet should be strictly followed by a recommended amount of fibre intake (25-35 grams/day) and plenty of water consumption to facilitate digestion.
  • Crash-Diets
There are many crash or fad diets that are effective but only for a short duration of time. When the crash diet plan is not followed the person tends to gain weight. Unfortunately these diets pose potential health risks. Soup diet or liquid diet is one of the most famous fad diets followed by people who want to lose weight.
  • Low-Carb Diet
Low-Carb Diet coupled with High-Fat diet is thought to be the most effective way to lose weight, however, there are many studies going on to find out more about the accuracy of such results. Carbohydrates are very much needed by our bodies to function normally. Hence, Carbs cannot be eliminated from the diet. However, they can be restricted. The intake of carbohydrates can be decreased over a period to lose calories.
  • Fruit and Vegetable Diet
Fruits and vegetables contain necessary nutrients and dietary fibre in plenty. The fruit and vegetable diet can include a big portion of fruits and vegetables along with the daily food. When consumed in balanced portions fruit and vegetable diet can be helpful to maintain body weight.
  • Weight loss supplements
Many people may struggle to curb their appetite and hence, fail to lose weight. In such cases, weight loss supplementation can be very helpful. Weight loss pills will target the unhealthy appetite and reduce the amount of food intake facilitating weight loss.

Diet plans for weight gain
  • Healthy Carbs
Carbohydrates are necessary to gain weight but instead of munching on sugary treats and processed junk food one can choose to include healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains, sweet potatoes, bananas, mangoes, legumes, etc.
  • Protein rich diet
Alternatively a healthy diet rich in protein can help along with weight training to gain muscles. The inclusion of nuts, seeds, fish etc in the daily diet can pump up the protein intake.

Whether you are trying to lose weight or gain few pounds following healthy options for daily diet can be very beneficial for long-term results:
  • A healthy diet should have fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains.
  • It is better to cut down on dairy and consume fat-free food.
  • The intake of sodium and sugar should be restricted and for a healthy diet trans fats can be eliminated from the everyday diet.
  • It is always good to eat at intervals in small portions to check appetite.
It is not just what you eat but how you eat matters a lot. Mindful eating can go a long way to watch the portion size and enjoy what you eat. Some of the tips for mindful eating are:
  • Eat slowly and avoid binging
  • Enjoy and relish the food
  • Avoid watching TV or using your phone while eating
  • Eat when you are hungry

Food awareness is extremely essential to improve and safeguard our health. Though healthy diet is not easy to follow it is achievable and we need to know what we are consuming and how much we consume so that our weight loss or weight gain programs can be successful and we manage a healthy weight and thus a healthy lifestyle.

Why Is Dairy Inflammatory?

If you've read about dairy at all on the internet, no doubt you will read in countless blogs and articles about how dairy is one of the top 10 inflammatory foods. It's ALWAYS on the list. But why is that? What is it inherently about dairy that makes it so inflammatory. The particular proteins? The processing? The cows themselves? I would imagine many of you have no definitive answer, and yet we believe the inflammatory food lists without even thinking. If you are curious, let's investigate.

Civilizations began drinking the milk of animals between 9000 and 3000 BC, once they were less nomadic and began to farm and raise animals in one location. Mainly it was given to children because, interestingly enough, during those times most adults lacked the enzyme, lactase, to break down milk lactose. Eventually people started making cheeses and curds which reduced the lactose sufficiently for adults to consume. In more recent times a mutation occurred which allows lactase production into adulthood, allowing many adults to consume milk on a regular basis.

Milk production and consumption was quite fortunate, actually, as for many civilizations milk (and fermented beverages like wine) was safer than the questionable water sources. At least this source was non-alcoholic! It also provided a ready source of calories if for any reason food should become scarce.

This milk was, of course, raw and fresh. I am sure there were occasionally issues with hygiene and foodborne illness as there is with any fresh animal product but for the most part, as mentioned previously, it was considered safer than the drinking water. Apart from the occasional illness, however, there does not seem to be the same links between dairy and inflammation that we see today. What changed?

Processing: Pasteurization and Homogenization

One of the first ways we treated milk in modern times for safety reasons was with pasteurization. This was meant as a way to prevent illness and death given the often unsanitary methods of collection, storage and distribution that started to occur in modern times. It wasn't until 1860's that pasteurization was first utilized and it became standard practice in the 1890's.

There are currently several approved methods of pasteurization. The original method was to heat milk to 145 degrees F for 30 minutes. Newer methods use much higher heats for a shorter duration of time. The high-temp, short time method (HTST) sees the milk heated to 161 F for 15 seconds, and the ultra high heat method gets the milk up to 280 F for just a couple of seconds. There are other variations of heat and time as well, but the main point is that the milk is heat treated to kill pathogens. Presumably this is a good thing as no doubt it has prevented deaths from contaminated milk, but we will see that this has some unfortunate consequences as well.

Just like breast milk from humans, the milk from animals is "alive." What do I mean by that? There are delicate proteins, enzymes, immunoglobulins, vitamins and minerals all present in fresh, raw milk. Heat can damage or denature these elements, rendering them inactive or potentially harmful. Every parent knows you cannot heat breast milk or you take away its nourishing properties. When we do this to animal milk, we dramatically reduce its ability to work with our body. It is not the intact fluid it once was. While it still can provide helpful nutrients and protein, it may also be harming our body at the same time.

In an article Dr. Mercola wrote on the very same topic, he noted that first of all heat kills the Vitamin C naturally present in raw milk. It also converts the lactose into another form, called beta lactose, which is more rapidly absorbed and may adversely raise blood glucose levels. Pasteurization also destroys some of the naturally occurring iodine as well as alters the Calcium (the very thing we typically drink it for) into a form that is hard to absorb. Many of the natural enzymes are denatured as well, potentially making it harder to digest. While pasteurization may help keep us from falling ill, it seems to produce a product that is nutritionally inferior. Pros and cons, I guess.

The next way we treat milk is with homogenization. This is not for safety concerns but merely for desired consistency. In its natural state, milk is composed of fat and water. When left to sit, this fat will rise to the top. Once milk became commercialized, this was undesirable, and so manufacturers sought a way to prevent this from occurring. Homogenization was born. There are various mechanical methods to do this, but the end goal is to break up the fat globules and prevent them from clumping together. This practice appears to be harmless, however some have noted that during this process some of the proteins (whey and casein) become reassembled with the fats. It believed that these now protein-heavy fat globules may decrease absorption and increase risk for allergies, however there are few studies to back this up. For now it seems homogenization may be the least of your worries when it comes to milk consumption.

Nutrient Profile

The nutrient profile of milk has also changed over the years. Obviously when humans first began consuming milk, all of the cows were grass fed and raised on open pastures. Nowadays, as we all know, most cows are kept in close confines and fed a varied diet, usually consisting of a mixture of grains, dried grass, and random leftovers such as canola meal, almond husks and citrus pulp. This has an effect on the fats, vitamins and minerals that can be found in the milk we end up consuming.

Grass-fed cows, for example, produce milk that is higher in anti-inflammatory Omega 3's, Vitamin E, beta carotene, phytochemicals/antioxidants and conjugated linoleic acid. Cows that are fed more varied diets produce milk with higher levels of inflammatory fats and lower levels of vitamins and antioxidants. Remember, we are what we eat, and this same saying applies to the cow as well. Now, while grass-fed milk might seem more healthy after saying all of that, remember if its pasteurized, many of these beneficial properties may be neutralized as we discussed previously. Just something to ponder given the plethora of organic and grass-fed milks on the store shelves these days.

Apart from diet, the type of cow can also have a significant impact on the nutrients in the milk. Most dairy cows in the US are of the Holstein variety. This variety in particular tends to produce larger amounts of milk than their cousins and hence has been the cow of choice. However, this brings up the A1 vs A2 debate. The A-what? Apparently all cows originally produced A2 protein in their milk, a type of beta-casein that makes up about 30% of the protein in milk. Several thousand years ago a mutation occurred that changed the beta-casein slightly, which we then dubbed A1. Most of the European dairy cows, including Holstein, predominantly produce A1 proteins. It has been purported by several researchers that A1 milk is harder to digest and has been linked to increases in heart disease, Type 1 Diabetes, and leaky gut syndrome. Whether this is indeed true or not is yet to be proved, but it may be another reason why some people have a harder time with milk products than others.

If you want to look for A2 milk, you are in luck. The Jersey, Guernsey and Normande cows produce mostly A2 milk. Some stores carry these varieties and some milks in other countries are even starting to be labeled as "A2." Personally I have Guernsey cow milk and yogurt in my fridge right now. For someone such as myself with a history of dairy issues, it seems to be, at least for now, more digestible.


We likely have all heard about the issues with hormones in cow's milk. But where are those hormones coming from? First, there are natural hormones that pass into the milk from pregnant cows. The later in pregnancy the cow is, the more hormones she passes. One researcher noted that 60-80% of the natural estrogens we consume are from dairy. This can have implications when it comes to cancer. Also, the higher the fat content of the diary product, the higher the amount of estrogens.

In 1993, the FDA approved the use of genetically engineered recombinant growth hormone (rBST) to increase milk yield. Many studies and reviews have shown rBST to be safe, mainly in that it cannot be absorbed by humans via milk consumption. Despite those studies many countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and all of the EU have banned it. The main reasons for this involve animal welfare, namely referring to increased illness and infections amongst animals injected with rBST. More antibiotics are then needed, increasing the risk for antibiotic resistance, and these antibiotics may pass into the milk as well. Yet one more thing to consider.

Conclusions? Maybe you, like me, are just as confused as before. The government tells me milk is healthy and beneficial, but health websites are telling me that milk is inflammatory and best avoided... What is one to do?

First, I think it's safe to say that raw milk from grass-fed Guernsey or Jersey cows would be the ideal choice. Of course, there are risks to unpasteurized milk that need to be taken into account. Also there is the problem of finding those types of milk on a regular basis, not to mention the cost. The presence of hormones would also still be a concern. Additionally, even if you find the most perfect milk on the planet, the proteins may still set off your immune system and cause inflammation. Any food can be inflammatory if your immune system chooses to react against it.

The next best choice would be pasteurized milk from organic, grass-fed cows, however again there is potentially an availability issue for some and also cost concerns. Also the allergy issue remains and may even be more of a problem as the milk has lost some of the elements that improves and supports digestion.

The least favored choice would be non-organic, ultra high heat pasteurized milk that is treated with rBST from very pregnant cows (but how would you know this!). Unfortunately, this is the most common milk on the shelf and therefore what most Americans are consuming. This IS inflammatory for all of the reasons described and I would highly recommend to avoid. If this is your calcium source, there are far better ways to get this mineral than milk. Do a quick Google search and you can easily find great lists of non-dairy foods rich in calcium. If you drink milk simply because you like it, try one of the better options discussed above. You may want to drink less of it due to cost, but at least you will be consuming a healthier beverage.

We all have been taught that milk does a body good, but now we know this might not be the case. Do what is right for YOUR body and make your choices regarding dairy accordingly.

Danielle VenHuizen, MS, RD, CLT is a Registered Dietitian who helps her clients achieve health and vitality through food, not pharmaceuticals. She specializes in working with food sensitivities, Diabetes, Cardiovascular health, Digestive Disorders, and healthy pregnancies. For more expert health advice visit her blog at

The Role of Technology in Education

In the current age we live in, technology has become an important component. Every day there is some new gadget or software that makes lives easier and improves on the technology and software that already exists. Making lives easier is not, however, the only role technology plays in our lives.

Technology is playing an increasing role in education. As technology advances, it is used to benefit students of all ages in the learning process.

Technology used in the classroom helps students adsorb the material. For example, since some people are visual learners, projection screens linked to computers can allow students to see their notes instead of simply listening to a teacher deliver a lecture.

Software can be used to supplement class curriculum. The programs provide study questions, activities, and even tests and quizzes for a class that can help students continue learning outside the classroom.

Technology has also become part of many curriculums, even outside of computer and technology classes. Students use computers to create presentations and use the Internet to research topics for papers and essays.

Students also learn to use the technology available to them in computer and tech classes. This ensures that after graduation they will be able to use the technology in a work setting, which may put them ahead of someone who didn't have access to a particular technology or software in their own school setting.

As technology advances, students have better access to educational opportunities like these. When something new and "better" is revealed, the "older" technology becomes more affordable, allowing it to be used in educational settings, even when schools are on a tight budget.

Technology has also advanced to help children even before they've started school. Educational video games and systems for young children helps them prepare for school and in some cases get a head start on their education.

There are people who may say children are "spoiled" by technology. Instead of being able to add a long column of numbers in their heads, for example, they turn to a calculator. Regardless of these arguments, technology is an important part of today's society. By incorporating it into the classroom, students will be better equipped to transition from the classroom to the work place.

For more information about technology, software, and gadgets, be sure to visit [] for the latest products, videos, and information.

Why is Education So Important in Today's Society?

Education is very important. It helps us gain knowledge, information and interpret things correctly. Education teaches us how to lead our lives by mingling in the society and turning out to be good citizens. It makes us capable of interpreting rightly the things perceived. Education teaches us right behavior and makes us civilized people. It forms as a support system to excel in life, to continuously learn and build confidence, to reason everything till every question meets its answer. The conversion of information to knowledge is possible because of education and we also gain intelligence. Higher education influences the economic development of a nation as per the economists.

A person is always judged by good manners he/she has. Education is important as it teaches us to differentiate between good and bad manners and choose the right behavior that cultivates good manners. Good manners are important for kids to develop at a very young age. Kids must learn to be polite, learn telephone etiquette, socialize with other kids and develop values. All this can be taught at home as well as school. Teaching your children good manners creates a foundation for them that will follow them through life.

Education is important because it equips us with all that is needed to make our dreams come true. When we opt for higher education or masters, we need to choose the specialization field of our interest and talents. Most leading courses allow you to study all areas for the first year and to choose a specialization in your second year when you have more exposure and knowledge about these fields. The technical and analytical skills can be well explored in the area of one's interest.

Economic Development and higher education influences the economic development of a nation or a state. Economists hypothesize that the higher education industry is an important part of economic growth and the well being of the nation. The notion that an investment in education and human capital promotes economic growth can be traced to Adam Smith (1776), the Scottish philosopher in his famous study of what constitutes the "wealth of nations", the modern history sourcebook.

Real Estate For the WIN!

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article stating that a staggering 95% of Americans will face financial difficulties at retirement. 95% means that only 5% of the US population will retire with dignity and into a lifestyle that they can enjoy with financial freedom. How do you become a part of the exclusive 5%? It doesn't take an economics degree to know that it's not going to happen by saving change in a jar, or sticking money in the bank (nowadays, those 2 are pretty much the same thing except the jar isn't quite as annoying). The reality is that more people have become financially independent through real estate than by any other means. Real estate is without a doubt the most powerful way to build wealth.

Let's consider the options when it comes to building wealth. We can immediately dismiss any jobs or careers. It does not matter what job title you have or what career choice you make, nobody has EVER built true wealth through a job. A job is simply trading hours for dollars and the moment you stop giving your hours, you stop getting the dollars. The job is merely an asset that provides the initial capital to build the wealth.

The next option is the "safe route", things like savings accounts, CD's, bonds and money market accounts. Historically these options barely outpace inflation if they outpace at all. The end result is the equivalent of parking your money somewhere. There is absolutely a place for these engines in your portfolio, but building wealth is not what they are for. I am a fan of Dave Ramsey's analogy of these types of accounts as insurance. You need them and they have a function, but that function is to act as insurance during stormy times so you don't bottom out. They never have and never will build REAL wealth. I defy anyone to show me one millionaire who ever built their wealth from a money market account.

The stock market is always fun... and harrowing, stressful, confusing, etc. The truth is you have no control over the companies you invest in and when losses come, they come big and hard. There are virtually no tax advantages to owning stock either. I'm not saying you should never own any stock, I am merely saying that playing the stock market with your retirement fund is the epitome of risky and has a better than not chance of leaving you broke and sour in your golden years.

Historically, real estate provides reliable, consistent and stronger returns than any other investment. Using the median price for a single family home; a home bought in 1950 for $7,400 would value at $217,000 in 2007. Obviously there will always be fluctuations and dips here and there, but in the end real estate will show a steady appreciation in the long run.

If you ask 100 random people over the age of 50 what was the best investment they ever made, I would almost guarantee that the vast majority of them would say their home. I'll also be willing to bet that if they could do it all over they would try and buy a few more.

Here's a thought experiment. If you were to purchase a $125,000 home today with an investment of $15,000 and rent it out simply to break even on the mortgage, tax and insurance payment; at a conservative 4% appreciation on a 30 year note that home would be worth $405,000. That's a $280,000 profit on a $15,000 investment, not too shabby. Retirement wouldn't be too bad with that little $15,000 investment.

The concept of leverage allows you to take advantage of owning something worth of 15 times your initial investment and still be able to capitalize on 100% of the appreciation of that asset.

I can hear you now saying, "that's awesome... but 30 years is too long to wait to retire". Well, there are lots of solutions to that in real estate. Let' go with the simplest option which involves paying your loan off early by paying a little extra each month (again something you can build into the monthly rent while you are renting out your property).

Let's break down our $125,000 home from the example above and see what happens when we pay just a little more each year on the loan. Note that this is the extra payment per year.

    If you were to make an additional $1,000 payment per year that same loan would be paid off in 22.5 years!
    An extra $2,500 per year pays it off in just 17 years.
    And finally, an extra $5,000 per year (scenario #1) pays it off in only 12.3 years.

Loan scenario 2 is barely over $100 a month in extra payment.

Of course there is nothing stopping you from repeating this scenario over and over until you quickly find yourself with the title of "real estate guru" and all of your friends wonder how you did it. It all started with 1 choice to invest in 1 property and then...

Mikel K Smith

Believing Without Seeing

December is an interesting month for people, the deluge of the Holiday's, the wrapping up of another year, the anticipation of the next and the lingering question of what all of it means. Will I spend another year at this job? What changes are on the horizon? Will it be the same office party next year? Will it ever get any better than this? December finds us looking out at our world to access what's working and what's not, when perhaps the answer to that question is closer than we think.

Each person possesses the power to transform their lives. We deny this power because it is easier to believe that we are in a world that is happening to us, rather than we are creating the world we are living in. Once we accept the premise that we are the creators of our world and that we have the power to build what we want-focus becomes the operative stance. Can we stay focused on what we want to create even while it is in the process of being created?

Life would be wonderfully magical if we could instantaneously make our wishes come true. A new house, a better job, the perfect mate-so amazing it would be to wake and create it on the spur of the moment. While we can have it, and often much more quickly than we imagine, the work, or the leadership, comes in being able to stay focused on the vision while the rest of the world is shifting to support it. Yes, the rest of the world must shift to support it, because every thought, every action, we put out in the world is what makes the realization of our dreams possible and in creating them must come after shifts take place in the physical environment. These shifts can happen easily and will always take time to manifest; so seeing may be believing, but without believing we may never see it.

The challenge is believing in our worthiness and desire in the face of what appears to be stagnation or inaction-especially in the areas or places that mean the most to us. Consider this: have you ever flippantly yearned for something, perhaps tickets to a big game or new pair of shoes-something that you wanted but it didn't mean the world to you, so you put the desire "out there" and didn't think much about it? Often, what we want appears because we weren't constantly checking to see if it was happening, we allowed what we wanted to come because we weren't focused on if it happened or not. Other times, what we want may come to us although it may not look the way we thought it would look. Did you get tickets to the game in your boss's box where you may have to talk business while watching? Were the shoes you wanted on sale but in a different color? Recognize how often you really get what you want, even if it doesn't always look like you thought it would.

So why is this so hard? Because the belief that it really isn't going to happen is often so much easier that trusting that it will. Using love as the basis for our actions, words and deeds puts us on the right path to staying in the place of possibilities. Love is expansive, love doesn't have bounds, love doesn't create walls or blocks, it flows, it is easy and it feels good--and leadership is love in action. One thing that you can do this Holiday Season (and beyond) is to be our best and anchor every action we take in love. If we do nothing else our world will change in profound and amazing ways.

This December when the nostalgia for the magic of bygone days or the yearning for a shift in your circumstance occur: stop, breathe and visualize what you want your life to look next year and know it will be so. If you can believe without seeing, next year you will see a very different picture. Lead your life as you want it to be and that means being a leader every day and every step of the way.

By Kathleen Schafer

Phone Cards - Be Certain What You're Buying

Phone cards are an excellent way to stay in touch with family and friends without ending up with an astronomical phone bill at the end of the month. But before you choose the phone card that seems to be the cheapest available, be sure you know all the details of how that particular phone card works.

Some phone card companies have a service charge for each call you make using the card. That means that you'll lose several minutes each time you use the card - typically anywhere from four minutes to eight or even ten. If you have a phone card company touting their "three-cent a minute" rates, be sure of their service charges. If you're also losing an additional ten minutes for every connection you make, the rates go up considerably.

One gimmick used by phone card companies is that they give you a price "per unit" instead of "per minute." The significance is that there are different costs for different phone calls. You may pay only a penny or two per unit, but you may find that you're being charged several units per minute. For example, if you pay two cents per unit and you're phone call costs ten units per minute, you're paying twenty cents a minute - significantly higher than the many reputable phone cards. Per unit cards may very well be a good deal, but find out how many units you can expect to pay for phone calls before you shell out the money for one of these cards.

Rechargeable phone cards are sometimes an excellent deal because the additional minutes you purchase are often cheaper than the original cost of the card. If you think about it, it's fairly easy to see why. Instead of buying another pieces of plastic, you're simply buying the service - less cost to the company.

Buying larger amounts is also typically a good way to get the best deal on a phone card. Companies typically offer a better price per minute if you purchase a card with two or more hours of calling time than for a card with only a half hour. Again, it's a simple matter of marketing and you can see that the cost of producing the plastic card is a factor in that cost.

There's no doubt that phone cards are a good way to stay in touch, especially in some situations. Taking time to choose a reliable company for your phone card purchase is an important step in being sure you make the best selection for your phone card company provider.

By Mark Lambie

AT&T announces sweeping changes to data rates

AT&T today announced sweeping changes to its data plans for iPhones and iPads. Here’s the gist:
  • No more “all you can eat” data for mobile phones (beginning June 7)
  • DataPlus plan - $15/month for 200MB + $15 per additional 200MB
  • DataPro plan - $25/month for 2GB + $10 per additional 1GB
  • Current unlimited data customers may continue with their unlimited plan
  • iPad gets same plans
  • DataPro plan customers can pay $20 extra ($45 total) to share their 2GB of data between phone and tethered device
Each plan includes unlimited access at no additional charge to more than 20,000 AT&T Wi-Fi Hot Spots in the U.S. To prevent accidental overages AT&T will offer automatic text and email alerts at 65, 90, and 100 percent usage of your monthly allowance. Gizmodo offers a comprehensive breakdown.

Given that 98% percent of its customers use less than 2GB of data per month (at least according to AT&T) I’m fine with the new rates as they’ll mean a reduction for most customers.

I just hope that AT&T includes the iPad in its tethering plan and that it doesn’t require a contract extension if you change data plans.

Secrets to Saving Money with Prepaid Phone Cards

Prepaid prepaid phone cards allow the user to purchase a specific dollar value of calling time and to have the cost of each call deducted from the account balance. Sold at many retail locations as well as on the Internet, you can buy them at relatively cheap prices and use them from almost from anywhere.

But are these phone cards really a great deal?

Have you seen calling cards at your local convenience store or gas station and wondered how they work? Maybe you have heard about the great long distance rates that calling cards offer, and are curious about how they can offer such great prices?

Are you really getting any minutes with such a deal?

If you want a prepaid phone card, be sure to get the best card for your needs. Calling cards from different companies have a wide range of fees and restrictions. By comparing phone cards before you buy, you can make certain to get the most bang for your buck.

Don't get cheated on your phone card. With calling card companies, as with any product or service, there are good deals, bad deals, and outright frauds. Learning what precautions to take when buying a prepaid phone card could save you money and trouble. Learn how to select a good prepaid card, and what to do if you get cheated.

Don't leave home without it. Whether you use them to make sure you can always use a phone booth in an emergency or to keep in touch with your loved ones on the road, prepaid calling cards can be extremely handy. This is just one idea for how prepaid phone cards could be useful for you and save you in a tight spot.

Prepaid phone cards are an excellent way to save on international calls. By buying minutes in bulk, calling cards can offer rates at a fraction of the price of regular carriers, without complicated calling plans.

Keep in mind that you can donate calling cards to the military. Calling cards are an excellent way to show your support for our troops and to help a lonely soldier overseas stay in contact with his friends and loved ones.

Also, many of the credit card companies offer cards that have all of the usefulness of having a prepaid phone card on hand in case of emergencies, without many of the hidden fees and inconveniences.
It's only by comparing each of the plans that you will find the best one for you.

Karen Kirby

History of Nautical Flags

History of Nautical Signal Flags:

The International Maritime Flag System has been used for over 150 years by sailors and boaters to signal between ships and shore. In 1857, the British Board of Trade published the International Code of Signals for the means of maritime communications. The original Code included 18 signal flags, which could communicate as many as 17,000 different messages. In 1932, the Code was expanded to include six additional languages: French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Norwegian. By 1969, Russian and Greek languages were added and each of the alpha-numeric nautical signal flags was assigned a meaning under the International Code of Signals. Besides providing maritime communication, signal flags today are used to dress ships for ceremonial and festive occasions. Mariners string the flags end-to-end and hang them from the rigging in a bow-to-stern direction.

Signal Flags: Colors and Meaning:

The signaling flags are composed of different colors, shapes, and markings, which used alone or in combination, spell out different messages. The flags include 26 square flags for the letters of the alphabet and ten numeral pendants. The colors of the flags were selected because they are the most distinguishable at sea - red, blue, yellow, black, and white.

One-flag signals are urgent or common signals. Two- flag signals are mostly distress and maneuvering signals. Three-flag signals are for points of the compass, relative bearings, standard times, verbs, punctuation, general code, and decode signals. Four-flags communicate geographical signals and names of ships. Five-flag signals communicate time and position. Six-flag signals are used, when necessary, to indicate north or south or east or west in latitude and longitude. Examples of two-flag signals include:

AC I am abandoning my vessel.
AN I need a doctor.
BR I require a helicopter.
CD I require immediate assistance.
DV I am drifting.
EF SOS/MAYDAY has been canceled.
FA Will you give me my position?
GW Man overboard. Please take action to pick him up.
JL You are running the risk of going aground.
NC I am in distress and require immediate assistance.
PD Your navigation lights are not visible.
PP Keep well clear of me.
QD I am going ahead.
QT I am going astern.
QQ I require health clearance.
QU Anchoring is prohibited.
RU Keep clear of me. I am maneuvering with difficulty.
SO You should stop your vessel instantly.
UM The Harbor is closed to traffic.
UP Permission to enter Harbor is urgently requested. I have an emergency.
ZL Your signal has been received but not understood.

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Ghost Malls! - Hyper-Consumption Kills The American Dream

Prediction ... Malls across the nation will first become ghost-malls as America's obsession with hyper-consumption has come to an end. What started twenty years ago as the biggest over-consume, live-beyond-your-means, it's-going-to-last-forever mindset has come to an abrupt halt. So abrupt that, the perpetrators of this phenomenon, all slammed into each other like a chain-reaction crash on an icy freeway. The consequential damage to the economy and the country's financial systems is beyond anything most people have ever seen in their lifetime. People hope that we are on the verge of change. We are. Just not the type they were expecting.

Entire chains of the same stores they used to frequent on a regular basis (or maybe even work at) have disappeared forever. Increased store closings and bankrupt commercial landlords are coming next. This will force the closing of half the malls in the country turning them into ghost malls, not unlike the rotting ghost towns of the Wild West that disappeared after the Gold Rush.

So what will happen to all these empty malls...these wastelands of commerce that, for so many years, were the destination for bored compulsive shoppers, seniors who used them as a indoor track, and the breeding ground for teenage hooligans? Perhaps they should be converted into shelters for the unemployed and homeless by city and state governments, housing thousands of people and families. After all, these abandoned malls are already set up with fully-functional food courts. These food courts could cook enough food daily for thousands of economic refugees. It wouldn't be hard for the government to bring in several fast food companies or create a large soup kitchen operation. Next, you would have to build more restrooms and shower facilities. The abandoned stores would be retrofitted with rows of bunk beds dorm-style, maximizing vertical and horizontal space, making room for thousands of out-of-work people who lost their homes to foreclosure. The abandoned movie theaters could be converted to training centers to retrain people for new careers. Children could engage in supervised play in the parking lots. One store in the mall could be turned into a job resource center where able workers gathered daily to be picked up for all types of temporary work. . . accountants, sales people, telemarketers, office workers, retail clerks, truck drivers, warehouse workers, stock brokers, derivatives traders, and hedge fund managers. Most stores had high-speed Internet connections. A learning center / library / computer lab would be available to all for kids to do their homework and adults to find jobs.

So, what have we got to lose? The most expensive part -the physical structure - is already there. It's just waiting for people who need help to move in.

Ray Holley, manager
Channeled Readings, LLC

Presidential Pardons and the Auto Industry

I have been reading how President Bush might pardon some people in his administration prior to leaving office. I also read these pardons are absolute and cannot be reversed. I beg to differ.

According to the rules regarding presidential pardons, the following must hold true, otherwise these pardons are null and void.

Before a Presidential pardon is issued,
1) the person must have been convicted of the crime of which they are accused.
2) the person must have been in prison for five years prior to being pardoned.
3) the person must show remorse for their crime.

If President Bush pardons anyone in his administration before these terms are met, the pardon can and should be overturned by the President elect. As there are many people the new President is bringing into key positions, I am sure at least some of them already know the rules governing pardons.

Something Congress should do, before giving any money to the automotive industry, is insist on seeing their entire balance sheet, including stock assets. For years the automobile industry has taken profits and invested in the oil companies. It is time to put that money back into their companies, instead of asking the American taxpayers to bail them out.

The big three have been producing automobiles in Europe that get approximately 75 (seventy-five) miles per gallon. General Motors recalled all their electric cars and crushed them. Then General Motors sold the battery patent to Texaco. This was done to increase the value of their oil stock portfolios. Obviously, their top priority was no longer producing automobiles in America that people wanted, but to expand their other areas of operation. Now they are crying crocodile tears and saying bail us out?

To show the arrogance of the top executives of the Automobile industry, all one had to do was watch their antics before Congress. Not only did they go to Washington in private jets, but when asked what they personally would give up, one said his bonus and another said 'he is all right with the way things were' - in other words, he would give up nothing - not salary, not bonus, not private jet, but he wants tax payer money.

I think it is time for every private industry clamoring for a free hand out, and for Congress, to realize we Americans are not stupid. We have a pretty good common sense idea regarding what is happening in this country and why. The Preamble says - We, the People - not we the corporations. I think it is time for our government to remember that.

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