- Special Sections
(BPT) - On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig said goodbye to the crowd at Yankee Stadium: "Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." The bad break he referred to was his career-ending diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known today as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Seventy-five years later, researchers studying ALS are using cutting-edge stem cell science to develop treatments and, one day, a cure.
ALS affects nerve cells called motor neurons that control a person's muscles. As the disease progresses, the brain loses the ability to control voluntary muscle movement, which slowly causes paralysis, eventually taking away the ability to breathe.
Monica Carrasco, Ph.D., an associate research scientist at Columbia University, lives on the cutting edge of ALS research. Carrasco uses human stem cells to study the ways ALS functions. Her current project focuses on the interaction between motor neurons and cells known as glia that help maintain the balanced environment neurons require to function properly. Stem cell research can be very intense, she says, because the cells need attention every day.
The breakthrough that made her projects possible came in early 2006, when another lab pioneered the process for developing stem cells for motor neurons. At the time, people mostly used mice to study ALS, but only a tiny fraction - 5 percent - of ALS cases can be studied with mice models. That imposed serious limitations on ALS research.
Carrasco says that stem cells will be huge for many diseases. For ALS, they already are. The ability to develop stem cells from the skin samples of many different ALS patients gives researchers the big picture that studies using mice could not. As a result, the past few years have been a hotbed of new discoveries.
To support those discoveries, the ALS Association funds more than 98 projects with a total award value of $18.1 million through its Translational Research Advancing Therapies for ALS (TREAT ALS) program. From 2006 to 2008, Carrasco was the recipient of the Milton-Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellowship for ALS Research from the ALS Association. Funding for this two-year scientific research award was made possible by the generosity of the Safenowitz family through The ALS Association Greater New York Chapter in memory of Milton Safenowitz, who died of ALS in 1998.Dr. Carraso has since received several other support grants from the association to continue her work and says that the ALS Association’s funding has been “Incredibly important. We wouldn’t be able to study ALS in the lab without that support. There are many things that we could not be doing right now without it.”
Research today is “advancing as fast as I have ever seen,” she says.
Many ALS patients have lost up to 60 percent of their motor neurons by the time they are diagnosed. Carrasco wants to better understand the causes and phases of ALS and enable doctors to diagnose the disease as early as possible. Early diagnosis is crucial to effective treatment, she says. “By understanding the mechanism of the disease, we can move on to develop drug treatments.”
There’s still a long road to travel before stem cell research into ALS reaches its full potential, Carrasco says. “You have to consider that only in 2006 was the technology developed to take skin samples and develop the skin samples into pluripotent stem cells,” she says. “This is unique and very new. It’s not just about using the cells; it’s about asking the right questions and understanding exactly what information you can get out of the cells. There is huge hope, but these are the really early days.”
(BPT) - Summer has just begun and that long-awaited vacation is on the horizon. Unfortunately, it can quickly pass you by and before you know it, that precious vacation time has been wasted due to inadequate trip planning or a basic inability to relax.
Twenty-three percent of Americans take no vacation time at all, according to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. With employees skipping out on vacation days every year, the bigger question remains as to why this continues to happen, and what happens when employees actually take that time off? More importantly, how can an individual enjoy a vacation without being completely disconnected from work?
First off, it’s important to understand the value of taking time off work. “A well-placed vacation can help break the cycle of everyday workplace-related stress,” says Dr. Joffrey Suprina, dean of the College of Behavioral Sciences at Argosy University. “Chronic stress takes a toll on our body's health, disrupting its ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions and even avoid injury. When you're stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill. Your sleep will suffer and not only do you become more irritable, depressed, and anxious, but your memory will become worse and you'll make poor decisions. So vacations are important to our overall physical and mental health.”
A new survey from Glassdoor found that 61 percent of employees admitted to doing some work while on vacation. In a connected world of smartphones, iPads and Wi-Fi, that might not seem like a big deal. It's easy to work remotely. However, many people aren’t getting the most of their vacation. Checking an email can easily lead to jumping on a project, which has potential to take up hours of your valuable vacation time.
“Taking time off has a positive effect on employee happiness and productivity, however many people are simply afraid to walk away from their work even for a few days,” says Dr. Carlos Tasso E. De Aquino, assistant dean of the Graduate School of Business and Management at Argosy University. “With globalization and increasing competition, the workforce feels threatened to lose their jobs to people anywhere in the world, so they develop this ‘addiction’ and never stop working,” adds Aquino.
So before you leave the office for vacation, assign a person to help others regarding your normal responsibilities and let everybody clearly know who this person is - including them in an automatic email reply and voice mail.
“Consider a time blocking strategy, where you choose a small block of time to catch up on work. Let your coworkers know that this is the only time you'll be responding to emails, calls and other work needs. By doing this you’ll be in control of your responsibilities, setting employee expectations, and alleviating some of the stress that comes from having to constantly check in,” says Suprina.
Another good idea is to train your stand-in coworker well in advance. Consider having your employees partner up with somebody who understands their job. When their counterpart goes on vacation, only they can contact each other if something comes up. This means that all the attempts to access the vacationing employee have to go through their “gatekeeper” who can judge just how important it actually is to contact that employee.
Vacations give you a chance to unwind, enjoy life, and to keep your work-life balance from swinging too far toward work. They allow you to take a step back from your normal, stressful routine and enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation. So go ahead this summer and take a few days off. Just don’t forget to bring a camera.
(BPT) - Are you a self-proclaimed road warrior who loves when other drivers do a double take to admire your well-cared-for car? Do you like to make others envious of your engine’s soft purr, your car’s immaculate finish, manicured curves and polished accents? Even if you’re not a car connoisseur, summer travel is upon us and now’s the time to get your vehicle road trip ready – inside and out.
Tune in to tune up
Before you hit the gas, it’s important to make sure your car is running properly so you don’t end up stranded on the side of the road. First, check the fluids – oil, coolant, brake and windshield washer. If it’s almost time to get the oil changed, get ahead of the game and do it before you leave. A long road trip can put additional stress on your motor, but clean oil can keep things working properly.
Another way to keep everything running smoothly is to maintain the health of your tires. This not only creates a much safer driver experience, allowing you to handle the car better, but also saves money on fuel. Review your vehicle owner’s manual for the correct air pressure for your specific tires.
The condition of the exterior tire surface should be cared for as well. Driving on bald tires can be extremely dangerous and can cause you to lose control in slick conditions. Tires also tend to heat up on long trips and thin tire walls can result in unnecessary blow-outs. To make sure you have proper tire tread, insert a penny in between several different tread grooves across the tire with the bottom of Lincoln’s head facing down. If the tire tread doesn’t touch honest Abe’s head, it’s time to invest in a new set of tires.
Lastly, check to be certain all lights and signals are functioning properly. Sit in the car and turn each light or signal on and off while a friend observes. This will ensure you can properly communicate with other drivers on the road, especially during night time travel.
Primped and polished
Now that the inner workings of your ride have been tended to, it’s time to give the outside a makeover.
First, give your car a quick wash and then some personality. A fast and affordable way to enhance the look of your ride is with Custom Wrap Removable Coating from Dupli-Color. Change the color completely or simply add a racing stripe or modify your wheels in a few steps.
Whether you’re cruising in a car, truck or motorcycle, the spray on, peel-off formula provides a smooth finish that lasts months, perfect for an extended getaway. Plus, it can be removed in a matter of minutes without the need for tools or solvents.
Custom Wrap comes in six matte finishes – Carbon Black, Graphite Metallic, Performance Red, Arctic White, Patriot Blue and Jet Grey – and even shields against surface scratches from dust and dirt, while protecting from rain, snow and UV exposure. If you happen to notice any pre-travel nicks and chips on the finish, use an exact-match touch-up paint tool, like Scratch Fix All-in-1, to quickly and affordably conceal, cover, seal and protect.
Get your gear in gear
Now that your car is prepared for the road trip ahead, it’s important for you to make sure you’re equipped with everything you need to make your getaway a success. These days, many cars come equipped with GPS but you never know when that might malfunction or a signal is lost. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to have a paper map handy in case you need to take a detour or would like to break your planned route and go exploring.
To avoid frequent stops, take tasty, filling snacks like pretzels, granola bars, trail mix or beef jerky. Bottles of water will keep you hydrated, but don’t overdo it otherwise you’ll be making several pit stops along the way. And don’t forget to make sure your glove compartment and trunk are both stocked with emergency essentials like a flashlight, jumper cables, roadside flares, blankets and a first aid kit. And, of course, no road trip is complete without a fun playlist to act as the soundtrack for your journey.
Once you’ve followed these necessary steps to make sure your car is functioning properly and looking great, consider that your green light to go. The open road awaits you.
(BPT) - Recently, emboldened Russian hackers breached the systems of power plants across the United States and Western Europe. In June, Chinese hackers attempted to gain access to several U.S. power plant operation control systems. And in May, the Department of Homeland Security announced hackers had actually gained control of a mechanical device at an unnamed U.S. energy facility.
These brazen cyber attacks on a critical infrastructure have raised new alarms within the information and homeland security sectors. Dr. Jane LeClair, COO at the, National Cybersecurity Institute notes that these types of incidents, in which hackers exploit vulnerabilities within the country’s digital infrastructure, are referred to in military parlance as “prepping the battlefield.” Following other recent high profile data breaches at private companies such as Target, Michaels, and eBay, and the digital bomb that was left in NASDAQ in 2011, the question is being raised – is America prepped to handle a contemporary cyber war?
While there may be no definitive answer to that question right now, it’s apparent the U.S. needs to look beyond the basics in cybersecurity like never before, says Dr. Sherly Abraham, program director for cybersecurity at Excelsior College. She emphasizes the need for a more proactive approach and comprehensive situational awareness.
Traditionally, the information security community has reacted to a cyber attack or discovery of a particular malware by developing an algorithm to identify the virus’s signature and then creating anti-virus software to prevent a future breach. But many in the security community argue in favor of training cyber professionals to “think like a hacker,” says LeClair. Many higher education institutions are now offering cyber programs that detail both offensive and defensive approaches.
The need for greater situational awareness and increased security education and training may seem like common sense, yet these are often underutilized or even ignored. Experts are urging private companies, organizations and governments to become attentive to the security strengths and weaknesses of their entire operational network - evaluating, monitoring and securing each device, user and service.
A strengthened posture of situational awareness also means taking into account individual weaknesses. Human error often is an organization’s largest cybersecurity vulnerability. Focusing on the human-side of the equation can help stave off social engineering, the criminal practice of using deception to trick an employee into giving up access to a company’s system or confidential information via clicking on a link that contains a virus or malware.
In fact, greater situational awareness and a proactive approach may have been able to prevent at least a few of the past data breaches. Data alerts surrounding the use of memory-scraping malware attacks against credit card companies were first issued in April 2013. A few days prior to Thanksgiving that year, malware introduced into Target’s security and payment system led to the theft of 40 million customer credit card numbers.
Did the merchant take the data alert warnings seriously enough? Even if they had, would this have prevented cyber intruders both at home and abroad (where there are reports of state-sponsored hacking efforts) from perfecting their craft? Industry analysts and commentators will continue to debate the issue. But what is certain is that better education and training can improve the likelihood that cyber-defenders not only heed attack signs in the future, but develop the necessary measures to build defenses against them before they are created in the first place.
(BPT) - With each passing year, student loan debt is digging a deeper hole for more young Americans. Over a nine-year period, the average student loan balance among 25-year-olds has grown 91 percent, from $10,649 in 2003 to $20,326 in 2012. More than 38 million Americans have outstanding debt amounting to nearly $1 trillion. This figure has nearly quadrupled over the last four years, surpassing both credit cards and auto loans as a leading source of personal debt, according to Pew Research and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
While the statistics are startling, some of today’s young people are prepared to take on the financial challenge. Younger generations (those in their mid-20s to early-30s) are showing signs of taking their finances seriously, according to a MassMutual 2013 State of the American Family Study. Nearly two-thirds want to be actively involved in all decisions regarding their finances, and almost half are actively seeking ways to educate themselves about personal finance, a rate significantly higher than older generations. For young people looking to take control of their future, there are ways to ease the strain of student debt. MassMutual offers the following tips to help graduates manage their loans:
* Seek out scholarships – College is expensive, and taking out student loans is often inevitable. If you are still in college or considering getting your degree, be sure to research and apply for a range of scholarships to help lower your education costs. “One of the most powerful steps young people can take to mitigate educational debt is to aggressively seek out scholarships to help fund college,” says Michael Fanning, an executive vice president with MassMutual. “Graduating from college with less debt can help take the financial worry out of the equation when making ‘grown up’ decisions like homeownership, starting a family and saving for retirement.”
* Make a budget that includes all expenses – Expenses fall into three categories: fixed, flexible and discretionary. Sit down and review all of your monthly costs, from meals to rent payments, and identify which category they fall in. From there, you can allocate funds to each area. It’s critical that you have a full understanding of all expenses, debt and assets in order to not only stay on top of fixed expenses – like your student loans – but also build a realistic financial plan.
* Borrow or swap – Before making a purchase, ask a friend or relative if you can borrow or swap for a similar item. This especially holds true for items you may use only once or very few times. Going on a backpacking trip abroad? See if you can borrow a friend’s backpack rather than buying a new one. Looking to update your wardrobe? Ask a friend to swap outfits, doubling each other’s wardrobes instantly. Buying something with your money isn’t the only way to get it.
* Keep living at home – Rent is a huge expense. If you’re moving away from your hometown to work, it’s unavoidable. But if your first job is close to home, consider asking if you can move in with your parents for the first year or two to save on expenses. Use the money you’re able to save during that time to make larger payments toward your student loans to pay them down quicker. That will also allow you to bolster your savings for when you do move into a place of your own.
* Avoid credit card debt – Post-graduation is a crucial point that will help determine your credit-score for years to come. Younger generations have close to $5,000 in credit card debt, according to MassMutual’s study. To keep credit card debt in check, only use one or two cards at a time with limits that aren’t high, and pay your balance in full each month to avoid interest. Missteps could affect the rate you pay on big purchases down the road, like a car or home loan.
* Ask for a raise – Once you have established a solid foundation at your job, usually around the one-year mark, raise your hand and ask for a raise. Be sure to approach your supervisor prepared, both with how much more you want and why you deserve it. Highlight how you’ve demonstrated value to company over the year and how your work merits a raise. Even if you don’t get it right away, you’ve started the conversation.
Taking steps today to manage your finances and get out of debt will help ensure a successful, debt-free financial situation in the future. For more tips and information regarding smart money management, check out www.massmutual.com/myfuturenow.
(BPT) - By the end of the first quarter 2014, more than 200 data breaches compromised millions of consumer records, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, which keeps track of reported data breaches. Stunned? Data breach stats are even more staggering if you’re among the millions of Americans caught up in one every year.
In addition to the potential monetary loss and identity theft risks, data breaches can also rob you of your sense of security and confidence. When you learn you’ve been involved in a data breach, it’s important to take steps to help protect your identity and financial accounts, and to rebuild your sense of security.
Often, breached organizations will offer affected customers some form of credit monitoring for a set period of time (usually one year) after the breach. While such services may go a long way toward making you feel more secure, be sure you understand exactly what the offered product can – and can’t – do to help you recover from the potential impact of a data breach.
Data breaches, credit monitoring and identity theft risks
Consumers whose personal or financial information is compromised in a data breach may be at greater risk of experiencing identity theft. In 2013, more than 13 million Americans experienced identity fraud, according to a study by Javelin Strategy.
Credit monitoring products aim to help minimize identity theft risks by keeping an eye on your credit accounts, where evidence of potential fraud and identity theft may first appear. Identifying such signs early may help mitigate some of the damages associated with identity theft.
While it’s true that consumers can do on their own virtually everything a credit monitoring product does, going it alone can sometimes be time-consuming and burdensome. Convenience is a significant benefit of a credit monitoring product. Not all credit monitoring products are alike, however, and if a company offers you this product in the wake of a data breach, don’t hesitate to carefully review the product and ask questions, including:
* Does the product provide daily monitoring of credit files?
* Will you receive timely alerts of key changes in your credit files?
* Does the product monitor your credit file at all three of the major credit reporting agencies, or only one? For example, Equifax Complete monitors information from all three bureaus.
* Are financial alerts included, and is it possible to link your bank and credit card accounts to the monitoring product? This allows you to be alerted when withdrawals from your bank account and/or charges to your credit card are processed, based on threshold amounts that you define.
* Is Internet scanning for your Social Security Number and credit card numbers included? This may help detect unauthorized posting of your Social Security number and credit card numbers on certain suspicious trading sites.
If a breached company cannot answer these questions, or you’re not satisfied that the credit monitoring product being offered is comprehensive enough for your needs, you may need to take additional steps. First, you should ask the breached company for a different product. Such companies are increasingly aware of the impact data breaches can have on their reputation, and may be more willing to engage with those customers who feel they’re not receiving an appropriate response in the wake of a data breach. If a company refuses to respond to your request, consider also subscribing to a more suitable product of your choice on your own – it can be a key step toward regaining some confidence and peace of mind when you’re a data breach victim.
(BPT) - With the hectic schedules that many women adhere to, it’s not surprising that many feel stressed out or overwhelmed. The responsibilities of juggling a career, a family and obligations as a wife and mother can be nerve-wracking, and for many women sex is not on their mind. While this lack of desire may be the result of the day’s stresses, in a number of cases it may be the symptom of a bigger issue.
Nearly one in two non-menopausal women ages 30 to 50 say they have experienced low sexual desire at some point in their lives, and 61 percent of these women felt distressed by it, according to a new survey supported by HealthyWomen and Palatin Technologies, which is developing an on-demand treatment for hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), a common type of female dysfunction otherwise known as low libido.
HSDD is characterized by a lack of sexual thoughts or desires that cannot be explained by another medical condition. Though HSDD has been diagnosed for over 30 years, the vast majority of women surveyed had never heard of the condition. But HSDD is very real and, if not recognized, can ruin relationships.
“Sex is an important part of a romantic relationship, so a lack of intimacy can sometimes create tension within an otherwise healthy partnership,” says Beth Battaglino, R.N., president and CEO of HealthyWomen. “Women who avoid sex because of low sexual desire may not realize that this could be a sign of a medical issue. Most women don’t know what female sexual dysfunction is, or understand that conditions like HSDD are real and can be a serious concern for them as well as their partner.”
Survey results support this idea, as 85 percent of surveyed women said they felt low sexual desire would hurt their relationship with their partner and 66 percent felt it would impair communication. Perhaps more concerning is that nearly half of those who had identified themselves as having HSDD blamed themselves for the condition, and 38 percent said it made them question their worth in their relationship.
“It’s important for women living with HSDD or some other form of female sexual dysfunction to not blame themselves, and they need to feel confident to discuss their concerns with their health care provider and their partner,” Battaglino says.
There are currently no approved medications for the treatment of HSDD, yet 92 percent of women surveyed said they would be interested in a treatment for HSDD. The good news is that medications for HSDD are on the horizon. For more information visit www.palatin.com.
(BPT) - When serving domestically and overseas, Sailors are away from home, family, familiar settings and traditions. Many use their beliefs and faith to help them understand and manage the unfamiliar surroundings they’re experiencing. Guidance, moral support and worship opportunities are critical services provided by the Navy to help Sailors through the challenges of the job while maintaining relationships with family and fellow military members.
Navy Chaplains and Religious Program Specialists from the Religious Ministry Team are available to meet the religious needs of Sailors and Marines and Coast Guardsmen. The Navy Chaplain Corps consists of more than 800 Navy Chaplains and represents over 100 different faith groups. All Chaplains are Navy Officers, meaning each holds an important leadership role practicing ministry and providing faith leadership, as well as personal advice in a ministry that is run 24/7. Chaplains live, work, eat and pray with their fellow shipmates and understand their needs and challenges like no one else.
Religious support has been provided to military members since before the 13 colonies declared independence from Britain. In 1775, the Continental Congress recognized the importance of religion for Sailors and required services to be held on Continental Congress ships. Later, during World War II, large numbers of civilian clergy stepped forward and enlisted to meet the religious needs of millions serving in the United States Navy. Today, the Navy’s Chaplain Corps consists of active duty and Reserve Chaplains who tend to the spiritual and emotional needs of all military members and their families.
Navy Chaplains are in high demand, and a religious counsel career can be especially rewarding in the military. Whether conducting worship ceremonies on a ship at sea or assisting clergy with religious activities on a base, these men and women are in a unique position to serve their country and fellow service members.
Navy Chaplains have more time to:
* Conduct worship services in a variety of settings
* Perform religious rites and ceremonies such as weddings, funerals and baptisms
* Counsel those who seek guidance
* Oversee religious education programs
* Provide spiritual guidance and care to hospitalized personnel and their families
* Train lay leaders
* Advise leaders at all levels regarding morale, ethics and spiritual well-being
In addition to providing religious ministry for overall faith and facilitating all religious requirements for those of different faiths, Chaplains also advise the command to ensure the free exercise of religion.
To train for the Navy Chaplain Corps, five weeks of training at Officer Development School are held in Newport, R.I., followed by seven weeks of Naval Chaplaincy School in Ft. Jackson, S.C. Continued educational opportunities are available through the funded Chaplain Corps Advanced Education Program, and clinical pastoral educational programs are also held. Any student in the process of earning a graduate theological degree could potentially enter the Navy Chaplain Candidate Program as a student.
Visit navy.com to learn more about Chaplain career opportunities and the background required to answer this exciting and important call to serve.
(BPT) - Deciding to get married is one of the biggest and most important decisions many people will ever make. According to The Knot and WeddingChannel.com, the average wedding costing more than $28,000 - the cost of a new car or a down payment on a home, so your next biggest decision may be figuring out how to pay for it. With that in mind, many couples are opting to tie the knot at home. Although hosting your special day in your own backyard can cut costs and give you more flexibility, you must address some critical details before you walk down the aisle.
First things first - make sure you have enough space to accommodate everyone. If you need to make extra space, get creative. Did you know you can fit more guests at round tables than rectangular or square ones? You can also invest in a short-term storage locker, which can temporarily house excess furniture as well as valuables you don’t want left out among wandering and rowdy guests. You’ll also want to check into local noise ordinances, which might require a permit to host a loud party. You might need a permit to park cars along your street, too.
Prepared and protected
In addition to these important basic details, couples need to make sure they are protected if anything goes wrong on their big day. Joe Vahey, vice president and product manager at Erie Insurance, suggests happy couples think about the following three key insurance issues when planning a wedding at their home or someone else’s to make sure they’re prepared for the unexpected:
Keep valuable wedding gifts protected. Depending on how many guests attend your event, you could end up with thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts. Since personal property like this is covered by your homeowners insurance policy, make sure to talk to your agent. They’ll look into your policy’s personal property limit – it’s usually a percentage of the value of your home – to ensure everything is covered.
It’s important to make sure you’re protected from liability, too. If your uncle falls while doing the chicken dance or your cousin trips while diving to catch the bouquet, you could end up in trouble. While some liability coverage is included on standard homeowners policies, you’ll want to review the liability limits with your agent in order to assure you have enough coverage. Additionally, it’s always wise to consider adding an inexpensive personal catastrophe liability policy (sometimes called an umbrella policy) to your insurance. Having this extra protection will provide you and your future spouse with needed peace of mind on a hectic day.
Wedding rings are an important part of the ceremony, a symbol of your special bond. Consider “scheduling” the rings rather than relying on the blanket coverage provided by a standard policy, which may have a value limit. A scheduled ring has additional coverage up to the specific value of that ring, so you won’t have to worry about replacing a lost or stolen ring.
Once the behind-the-scenes details have been addressed, it’s time to pull back the curtain and focus on putting on a spectacular show. Properly welcome guests by getting your landscape in tip-top shape and making sure to clean your house top to bottom a week before the wedding. Consider hiring professionals to lessen your responsibilities leading up to the big day. Keep wedding decor and flowers in line with the look and feel of the home. Getting married at a beach house on the lake? Then, stick to a more casual, understated feel. If you’re hosting a black-tie gala at a friend’s mansion, don’t be afraid to embrace elegance and opulence.
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate your big day, planning ahead to ensure you’re prepared and protected is one way to enjoy it worry-free, with the one you love.