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Presidential Inauguration in Washington

The US Capitol

There is great excitement in Washington as the United States prepares for the inauguration of Barack Obama. Those of us who supported equality of civil rights for all citizens feel that the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. is closer. In his famous speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, MLK said:
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Ever since the days of emancipation, black people and other minorities have struggled for acceptance into American society. Lyndon Johnson signed more education bills into law than any other president, thereby creating a melting pot which forced young people of all races to look at each other closely and find out that they were not that different after all.

Separatists movements like "Black Power" and "Ebonics" failed to get mainstream acceptance, and rather than ending up with a black and white America, we are uniting into a single America. Interracial personal relationships no longer have the stigma that was so prevalent in the 1960s. Barak Obama embodies many of the characteristics and goals of today's America.

When you come to Washington to celebrate, you will have the opportunity to visit many famous landmarks such as The U.S. Capitol, The Library of Congress, and the National Museum of Natural History.
Travel Checklist

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Reduce Your Credit Card Debt

Dollars and Cents

One of the best New Year resolutions that you can make is to reduce your credit card debt. It is not unusual to have to pay 21% interest when you carry a balance on a credit card. In addition, you can be penalized with late fees and lower credit scores if you do not pay by the date your payment is due.

Although credit is convenient when you do not have the money, it places a great burden on your future finances. Suppose that you bought some new furniture for $1000.00 on a credit card. The lender usually will ask you to pay only 5% of the total amount per month, which is around $51.39 Dollars per month. It will take 24 months to pay off the loan at 21% annual interest. At the end of the two years, you will have paid $1,233.26 Dollars, including $233.26 in interest.

You can reduce the interest that you pay and accelerate your payment schedule by increasing your monthly payment. For example, if instead of paying $51.39, you pay $70 Dollars per month ($18.61 Dollars extra), you will pay off the loan in 17 months instead of 24, and you will save $72.34 Dollars in interest.

Download the Amortization and Annuities Calculator

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Diet Coke Plus is not a healthy drink

Diet Coke Plus

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the Coca-Cola company to revise the label of the Diet Coke Plus beverage with Vitamins and Minerals that was introduced in March 2007.[1] The FDA says that the product is misbranded because it bears the nutrient content claim "plus" but does not comply with the regulations governing the use of this claim.

The term "plus" may be used on the label to describe the level of nutrients when the food contains at least 10 percent more of the Reference Daily Intake or Daily Reference Value for the nutrient than an appropriate comparable food. The FDA does not consider it appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages.

The Coca-Cola company will respond to the FDA early in January, but it has no plans to change the label. Scott Williamson, a spokesman for the Coca-Cola company, said:
"We believe the label on Diet Coke Plus complies with FDA's policies and regulations."

Adding vitamins and minerals to soft drinks seems designed to make consumers feel less guilty about consuming junk food, but even though diet soft drinks may not contain sugars that cause dental decay, they may still contain acids that erode tooth enamel.
Learn to take care of your Teeth

[1] The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Warning Letter to the Coca-Cola Company

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Surviving the Flood in Bethesda

Bethesda Flood

A 66-inch water main broke in Bethesda today due to several days of sub-freezing weather. The flow of the water was so powerful and so sudden, that it trapped several cars on River Road and the drivers had to be rescued by helicopter. The water company took several hours to determine which valves to turn off to control the flood, but we will be living with the consequences of this rupture for many days. The strong water flow undermined a portion of the road and it will take several days to repair it. There will be terrible traffic jams because River Road is a major commuting artery from Potomac, MD to Washington, D.C.

The water main break happened early in the morning, and many people woke up to find that they could not brush their teeth or take a shower. Shoppers rushed to the grocery stores to stock up on drinking water. Partial water service was restored by noon to some neighborhoods, but the pressure was too low to get to the top of high-rise buildings. On the 19th floor of my building there is no water. The breakfast dishes are piled in the sink. County regulations require office buildings to close when there is no water due to concerns about sanitation. The Bethesda Post Office was closed and the bank across the street was closed. You cannot mail Christmas gifts, and you cannot do banking transactions unless you travel several miles to Rockville, Md. which is unaffected by the water main break.

Incidents like this make you think about strategies for surviving natural disasters. In this modern age, we depend on an infrastructure of utilities that bring water, electricity, and communications to our home. Water is the most important for survival, but electricity is a basic necessity that powers elevators, heating fans, telephones, and computers. It would probably be impractical or impossible to live in a high-rise building without electricity.

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Remote Control Chaos

Remote controls

The first TV remote control that I owned was connected by a wire to the television. You could not take it more than twenty feet away from the TV because that was the length of the wire, but it never got lost. Cordless infrared remote controls became popular in the late 1950s, and soon they were being used not only for televisions, but for audio systems and cable television boxes.

Unfortunately, every manufacturer set up their own coding system and a remote control could not be used for two different appliances. Remote controls proliferated because one was needed for the TV, another one for the cable box, and a third one for the DVD player. There are several "universal remote" controls which promise to manage all your devices, but the programming is so hard that the average person prefers to use multiple controls.

This week, I have had calls from two little old ladies. One of them accidentally pressed some button on one of her two remote controls and lost the picture on her TV completely. She tried and tried but could not get the picture back. The other lady subscribed to a cable channel to watch some programs in her native language. She ended up with one cable system for her American programs and another cable system for her foreign programs. Each cable system has its own remote control, but to switch between them or to turn the TV on or off it is necessary to use a third remote control. This is too complicated for her and now she cannot watch her programs because she cannot get past the barrier of complexity.

Technology was so simple half a century ago. Remote controls had wires and telephones were connected to the walls. Today, you have to keep your mind sharp to be able to change the channels on the TV.
Try some Puzzles to expand your mind

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Vegan Diets and Recipes

Zenpawn Vegan Blog
Zenpawn Vegan Blog

I just received the first issue of a one-year subscription to E - The Environmental Magazine. I won this subscription from a raffle among people who contributed vegan recipes to Erin Dame for his vegan cookbooks. Erin has published a book of recipes called Vegan Done Light and he manages the vegan blog www.zenpawn.com/vegblog/

Erin's blog discusses veganism, raw food, calorie restriction, and interesting topics about diet.

Traditional Mexican staples include beans, rice, corn, tomatoes, and hot peppers. The vegan recipes that I submitted were some classic Mexican dishes like guacamole, salsa, and an unusual bean soup with beer. You can find these vegan recipes and many other international dishes here:
International Recipes

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Conversation with a 95-year old

Lillian Marion
Lillian Marion

This weekend, I met Lillian Marion, a lady who recently retired at age 95 from her business as an interior designer for very famous people. She would have continued working, but her son, who is a plastic surgeon, told her that she should retire because he was afraid that she could fall and break a hip.

So what does Lillian do now? She travels from New York to Las Vegas and to Atlantic City. She spends time at the casinos, stays up all night playing the slot machines and has a great time even though she has not won any big jackpots.

I told her that I belonged to the Calorie Restriction Society whose members starve themselves because research shows that eating less increases lifespan, and that the members are also interested in finding out about the lifestyle of older people to find out whether it takes more than genetics to live a long life.

When I asked to what she attributed her longevity, she said that every day she walked six or seven blocks and ate some ice cream. What else does she eat? "I don't eat anything that I don't like", she said. I observed what she took from the buffet. She selected pan-grilled scallops on a bed of rice, a small tuna salad sandwich, and some smoked lox that she left on the plate. She drank some tea with cream, and had a puff pastry topped with glazed fresh fruits on top, but she gave away the fruit because she does not like fruits.

Lillian walks with a cane, some of the joints in her hands have been slightly deformed by arthritis, but she is vivacious and her mind is clear. She takes pride in dressing very well, as you can tell from her designer glasses and exquisite brooch and rings. If you get her talking about politics, watch out! She has some strong opinions.

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Alzheimer's disease may be caused by a virus

Cold sore caused by herpes simplex virus
Herpes simplex virus type 1 causes cold sores
and maybe Alzheimer's disease

A team of researchers headed by Professor Ruth Itzhaki from the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester, UK has found localization of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) DNA within the amyloid plaques present in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients.[1] In Alzheimer's disease brains, 90% of the plaques contained the viral DNA and 72% of the DNA was associated with plaques; in aged normal brains, which contain amyloid plaques at a lower frequency, 80% of plaques contained herpes simplex virus type 1 DNA but only 24% of the viral DNA was plaque-associated.

The researchers think that the strong association of herpes simplex virus type 1 DNA within the amyloid plaques makes the virus a very likely causative agent of Alzheimer's disease, particularly because most people harbor the virus. Other experiments using antiviral agents such as acyclovir for treating Alzheimer's disease have shown a reduction of amyloid plaque deposition. Professor Itzhaki said:

Professor Ruth Itzhaki
We suggest that HSV1 enters the brain in the elderly as their immune systems decline and then establishes a dormant infection from which it is repeatedly activated by events such as stress, immunosuppression, and various infections. The ensuing active HSV1 infection causes severe damage in brain cells, most of which die and then disintegrate, thereby releasing amyloid aggregates which develop into amyloid plaques after other components of dying cells are deposited on them.

The researchers hope that clinical trials will be set up to test the effect of antiviral agents on Alzheimer's disease patients.
Learn more about viruses

[1] Wozniak M, Mee A, Itzhaki R., Herpes simplex virus type 1 DNA is located within Alzheimer's disease amyloid plaques, J Pathol. 2008 Sep 18. PMID: 18973185

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Christmas Carols

Christmas carols were introduced in the 12th century in church services as a way to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus. During the Victorian era, religious Christmas carols grew in popularity, and the legend of Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, or Kris Kringle has been an inspiration for many Christmas carols and Christmas songs. These are some of the most popular:

Download Music Samples

Learn about the History of Christmas

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Overeating during the holidays and weight loss scams

Weight loss fake pictures

Are you feeling fat after eating so much over the Thanksgiving holiday? If so, you may be tempted to try some of the impressive weight loss diets advertised on the internet.

The advertisement above shows some pictures of a woman's remarkable transformation after losing 44 pounds. In your eagerness to click on the advertisement, you may overlook the fact that the picture is a fake. Here are some ways to tell that the claims are fake:

1) The advertisement claims a 44 pound loss. For every loss of weight of 6 or 7 pounds there is a waist size reduction of about 1 inch. A person could only lose about 6 or 7 inches at the waist by losing 44 pounds. With the pants folded in half, the slack would be only three or four inches. But look at the picture. There are about 6 inches of slack or about 12 inches in circumference. That would correspond to a weight loss of around 80 pounds.

2) Notice the width of the pant legs in both pictures. The legs of the pants on the right are much wider than the legs of the pants on the left. Do you seriously think that the model in the picture would be able to put her hips and both legs into one pant leg? Since the face is not shown, we have to ask: is it the same girl in both pictures?

Avoid weight loss scams. The only way that you can lose weight is by avoiding junk food and cutting calories.
Learn How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

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