Kudos to Mayor Adams for Bringing the 21st Century to Life in NYC!

Knightscope security robot is seen in downtown Houston. Knightscope is an American security camera and robotics company.
Knightscope’s K5 in action in downtown Houston. Photo: Stock.

February 4th Update: K5 is no longer patrolling the Times Square subway station as local authorities are reviewing its effectiveness.

Is a Crime Terminator Here?

Not exactly, but it’s a start! New York City Mayor Adams has maintained his pledge to keep the city high-tech, and in so doing, he unveiled an autonomous robot that will patrol Times Square.

K5, as it is called, stands about 5′ high and about 4′ wide and will act as the eyes and ears of the police. It has four cameras and a button that can be pushed in an emergency.

The robotics company Knightscope created this autonomous machine. It stood beside Adams as he promoted it at a press conference in the Times Square subway, adorned with the NYPD colors. As the mayor demonstrated it, its cameras pointed directly at the reporters who attended the conference.

Autonomous robot in park
Photo by YAROSLAV SAPRYKIN on Unsplash

In keeping with the latest technology to fight crime in the city, the mayor said, “The NYPD must be on the forefront of technology and be two steps ahead of those who are utilizing technology to hurt New Yorkers,” Adams said. “And trust me. They are.

NYPD Chief of Transit Michael Kemper said, “It’s very important that the public knows what this robot is and what its capabilities are.”

Is K5 a Buy or Lease?

The city is leasing the drone robot. It will roam the Times Square station between midnight and 6 a.m. but not go onto subway platforms.

The robot will capture video footage only. It does not have audio, but it does have an emergency button that allows commuters to contact the police department with questions or to report an emergency. No facial recognition software is attached to the machine.

Some are Not Enthused

Civil rights advocates have alleged that the police department is not following the required protocols. Some say that a public review, as outlined in a law called the POST Act, is not being followed.

The statute requires the Adams administration to publish detailed descriptions of a new technology’s capabilities, how it will be used, and what will be done with any collected data. The public is supposed to have weeks to weigh in.

However, the NYPD stated that if this type of technology is similar to one already in use (the Digidog mobile robot), it should be incorporated into its existing impact statement.

The Legal Aid Society is questioning the NYPD and alleging that they are bypassing the concept of this law. Legal Aid attorney Shane Ferro stated, “What happens when the 400-pound autonomous robot hits somebody or falls down the stairs?”.

Mayor Adams counters these concerns by stating that these advancing technologies will increase safety in policing and help the NYPD become more efficient.

He also said that K5 saves money.“This is below minimum wage,” Adams quipped. “No bathroom breaks. No meal breaks. This is a good investment.” and “… eventually, this is going to be part of the fabric of our subway system.”

At the End of the Day!

Will these new technologies help or hinder the New York City Police Department? The answer remains to be seen, but the mayor appears hopeful they will benefit the city and increase safety for its citizens.

FAQ – Covid-19 Moderna Booster for 2023

September 2023 – Covid Vaccine UPDATE

Pharmaceutical company Moderna has said that its new vaccine booster works against this new virus variant, and as of September 2023, you can get the booster at your local pharmacy.

Drawing of family wearing masks for fear of Covid
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Here Comes BA.2.86, Maybe

Most of us believe that the Sars-CoV-2 Coronavirus (Covid-19) is behind us and that we can go about our normal daily routines without having to worry about catching it again. Well, maybe that’s true. Then again, maybe not.

A new variant called Pirola, technically labeled BA.2.86 is starting to show its ugly face and according to some sources, it is spreading rapidly around the United States and the world.

So What Exactly is BA.2.86?

Illustration of covid virus superimposed on a globe
Image by Miroslava Chrienova from Pixabay

The BA.2.86 variant was first detected in Denmark and Israel in late August 2023 and has since been found in several other countries, including the United States.

According to researchers, this particular virus is a subvariant of Omicron, the most dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2. BA.2.86 is more transmissible than the other Omicron subvariants.

How Transferrable is this Variant?

3D anination of coronavirus with enevelope
3D medical animation of Spike S protein, HE protein, viral envelope, and helical RNA. Wikipedia Commons

Scientists say that it may be more resistant to the current vaccines and antibody treatments. This is because BA.2.86 has a number of mutations in its spike protein, which is the part that the virus uses to attach to your cells. However,

How severe is BA.2.86?

It is still too early to say whether this variant is more severe than the others. More studies are needed to determine its severity. However, some early studies have suggested that it may be more resistant to current vaccines and antibody treatments.

How can I protect myself from BA.2.86?

Maintain the standard methods of keeping clean, which include washing your hands frequently, carrying an antibacterial cleanser, avoiding large crowds, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick, to name a few.

Additionally, get vaccinated and boosted. Vaccines are still very effective at preventing serious illnesses and hospitalization from COVID-19, even against the new variants.

although most people have stopped using masks, if you feel more comfortable wearing one when outside, by all means, do, especially when in crowded areas.

Who are Most Affected?

Granddaughter with her grandfather
Photo by Kampus Production, Pexels

As with all the Covid-19 viruses or more generally speaking, with any viruses, if you are elderly, have health issues, or have a compromised immune system, you should be vigilant and take all the recommended precautions.

Additionally, when any new disease is circulating in your area, you should also speak to your medical provider for any additional precautions you may need to take.

Conclusion

Staying attentive to Covid is nothing new. Even though a new variant has materialized, that doesn’t mean you have to run to your bed and hide. Research is determining that this virus may be more transmissible than the previous subvariants, and possibly more resistant to the current vaccines, but as research continues on the BA.2.86 virant, it may turn out that it is not as contagious as the other. It is just a wait-and-see game.

The general recommendations are to just stay vigilant and maintain the Covid rules of keeping clean and safe, especially if you are in the high-risk health category.

Did You Know? A Fun List of Trivia Facts

Illustration of Alber EinstenImage by Rob de Roy from Pixabay

Knowledge Gets You Places

You won’t be getting a college degree nor will this help you to get a job, but these trivia notes will surely raise an eyebrow or two! Not to mention it will stimulate your brain.

Illustration of the human brain
Photo by Natasha Connell on Unsplash

Knowledge is Power

We’re not saying you will rule the world or become the next billionaire tomorrow, but the better we understand the world around us, the better decision-makers we become.

The power of knowledge expands horizons and instills critical thinking, which can enhance our mental health. But probably most of all, having good intelligence works great for date nights! But if that is not useful to you, then at the very least, it can always help you finish your crossword puzzles or solve clues on Jeopardy!

On a more serious note, knowledge stimulates our brain which is a great benefit for our mental health. We can navigate challenges, solve problems, and build a better world for future generations through knowledge.

So, let’s give it a go!

Animals

Hippopotamus in a lake
Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay
    • Hippopotamuses are listed as one of the most dangerous animals in the world. They are very territorial so don’t try to pet one! 
    • The oldest turtle in the world is Jonathan, who is 190 years old.
    • There are twenty quadrillion ants on planet Earth. That’s a million billion or the number 1 followed by 15 zeros.
    • Male penguins give pebbles to the females as a courtship.
    • Elephants are scared of bees.

Entertainment

    • Bob Dylan is the only person to have won both an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize.
    • Every Academy Wards Oscar winner cannot sell their Oscar trophy. they would have to sell it back to the Academy for $1.
    • Over 106 million people watched the finale of MASH on February 28, 1983, which was the largest audience for a TV series finale.
    • Paul McCartney wrote the song Hey Jude to console John Lennon’s son, Jullian, who was depressed from his parents’ divorce. McCartney changed the name from Julian (AKA Jules) to Jude because he felt it sounded better. He composed the song in his car while riding to Lennon’s house.
    • CNN broadcaster Anderson Cooper is the son of Gloria Vanderbilt.
    • Humphrey Bogart never said “Play it again Sam” in the movie Casablanca
    • Newsmax Greg Kelly is the son of former NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
    • Mr. Potato Head was the first toy to be advertised on TV.

Finance

  • The average lifespan of a $1 bill is 6.6 years. For a $20 bill it is 7.8 years, and a $100 bill can extend up to 22.9 years.
  • 996 million dollars is printed by the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing every day.
  • The grooved edges on coins help visually impaired people determine the type of coins they are.
  • 78% of Americans prefer to bank digitally instead of physically going to the bank.
  • The average price of a home in 2024 is $416.000.

History

Shakespeare's birthplace. Stratford-upon-Avon.
Shakespeare’s birthplace. Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: SMS
    • As was customary in 17th-century England, the dining room would have a long wooden table where the father would sit at the end, the only chair with arms; hence, the expression chairman materialized. The table top was known as the board, which gives us the expression “Chairman of the Board and Boardroom.”
    • Shakespeare’s will stated that he left his wife, Anne Hathaway, his “second-best bed with the furniture.” Historians believe this suggested that Anne was merely the “second-best” woman in his life, implying that Shakespeare had other women in his relationship.
    • The Cosmetics company Avon was named after Stratford-Upon-Avon – Shakespeare’s birthplace.
    • The first American to win a Nobel Peace was Theodore Roosevelt.
    • The only president to hold a Ph.D was Woodrow Wilson.
    • Despite popular belief, Henry Ford did not invent the automobile. That credit goes to Illinois residents, the Duryea Brothers, circa 1892.
    • The son of the detective who investigated the Lindberg kidnapping was Norman Schwarzkopf, the general who led Operation Desert Storm in the war on Iraq in 1991.
T-Rex Dinosaur in the jungle
Photo by Fausto García-Menéndez on Unsplash
    • The Mesozoic Era, which existed about 252 million to 66 million years ago, is the period when dinosaurs roamed the earth. It is also the time when the Triassic, Cretaceous, and all-too-familiar Jurassic eras existed. Earth’s continents were breaking apart at this time, so we find remains of dinosaurs worldwide despite the vastness of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that formed after it.

      Illustration of a Nyasasaurus. Oldest dinasaur
      Nyasasaurus. Wikipedia CC
    • Nyasasaurus is the most ancient dinosaur on record, originating from the late Anisian stage around 243 million years ago. This discovery places it approximately 10 to 15 million years ahead of any previously identified dinosaur specimens.

Geography

The center of the 48 contiguous United States is located north of  Lebanon, Kansas, coordinates 39°50′N 98°35′W.

US Map with mark at the center of the map
Wikipedia CC
  • The closest point between the United States and Russia lies in the Bering Strait, which is a body of water that separates the northeastern most point of Russia from Alaska. Within the Bearing Strait are two small islands known as Big Diomede and Little Diomede. Russia owns Big Diomede and Little Diomede is owned by the United States.  These islands are 2.4 miles apart from each other at their closest points, but timewise, they are 21 hours apart, since the International Timeline cuts right through them.

    Map of the Bearing Straight
    Big Diomede and Little Diomede are the tiny islands located in the center of the map. nps.gov

Biology

:Illustration of a bioligical connection
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
    • Humans share 98.8% of their DNA with chimpanzees, making them our closest relatives.
    • It only takes six minutes for alcohol to affect your brain.
    • Your brain consists of 170 billion cells.
    • Spanish Flu didn’t originate in Spain. The first documented case was at an army base in Kansas.
    • The oldest person living today is 118-year-old Lucile Randon of France.
    • Brother Island is located just south of The Bronx, NYC, and no one can visit it. It was previously where people with contagious diseases were sent. The most well-known was Typhoid Mary.
    • Your femur bone can hold 30 times your weight.

Technology

    • 99% of all Internet communication travels through cables in the oceans.
    • Over 500 hours of videos are added to YouTube every minute.
    • You can have actual conversations with ChatGPT.
    • The most used word in the English language is “Time.”
    • The word most searched for on Google is “Love.”
    • The most powerful light beam in the world is on the Luxor Las Vegas.
    • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Spitsbergen, Norway, contains over 1 million seed samples, which will secure our food supply should a world disaster occur.

Architecture / Engineering

JP Morgan Chase building under construction. Photo: SMS©
    • The copper framework of the Statue of Liberty weighs 125 tons.
    • The Pentagon in Washington DC is the largest office building in the world. The Willis Tower in Chicago comes in at number 4 and One World Trade Center, AKA the Freedom Tower in New York City, comes in at number 8, above the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. 
    • The Citicorp Building in NYC could have fallen due to an engineering glitch, but it was caught in time by an engineering student at Princeton University.
    • The famous London Bridge was dismantled in London and reassembled in Arizona.

Astronomy

      • Scientists estimate there are over two trillion galaxies in the known universe.
      • The largest known space object is the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, a cluster of galaxies that extends 10 billion light years.

    • If the sun blew up right now, we would still have another 8.3 minutes to live. That’s because light travels at a finite speed of 186,000 miles per second, so grab your beer or whatever strikes your fancy (legally of course) for the next 8.3 minutes and live it up. At least you will be happy for that one moment in time! 

Scam Stories that Will Make Your Blood Boil

In a previous article, we spoke about Covid-19 scams. Now, with Covid practically over, we are going to discuss real-life examples of some common deceptions used by nefarious individuals with the sole intention of illegally extracting money from you.

Illustration of a computer hacker asking for your password
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Intro – If It Walks Like a Duck…

How many times have you heard your phone ring only to see that it is a phone number you don’t recognize, but the ID says it is coming from your location? Or you get an email or text that tells you your subscription is overdue and to “click here” to update your information? Quite often, right?

Copy of email scam
Emails from what appear to be legitimate companies can be scams. Image: SMS©

Have you noticed that this is increasing and not decreasing? One might call it an epidemic of financial proportions! Well, here are a few real-life examples of how other people were getting scammed, how they responded to the scam, and what they did afterward.

We are not expecting you to become an expert on how to handle fictitious calls or emails by reading this article, but these incidents may just help you realize what is out there and help you stay on the side of caution when contacted by fraudulent individuals.

The Guy Told Me to Withdraw $140,000
– Wait What?

Interios of a bank
Photo: Unsplash

One might ask why any thief would be so stupid as to not anticipate the variables that can go wrong in an operation like this. Be that as it may, this is a true case of an elderly person being conned into summarizing over $140,000 in cold cash to give to an individual who told her that she needed to pay her taxes immediately and deliver the money to him. Believe it or not, these individuals exist, and they are out there!

The Details

A 70-year-old woman entered her local bank to withdraw $140,000 in cash. As per bank policy, the teller immediately advised the manager who asked the woman why she was withdrawing so much money in cash.

The woman responded that she received a call from a company she was affiliated with. They told her that she was behind on her taxes and that she needed to pay them $140,000 immediately. They said they would send someone to her house to pick up the money.

Hooded man talking on cell phone
iStock

The woman, obviously scared went to the bank to withdraw the money, and the bank, obviously aware that this was a scam, contacted law enforcement, and a sting operation was set up.

When the perpetrator came to the house, he was arrested and is currently serving time in prison, which, according to reports, is not “getting out any time soon”.

They Count on Your Vulnerability

Elderly man looking out a window concerned
iStock

Loan Desperation

Joe, a 68-year-old married man with two children lost his job due to layoffs and was looking for work. Still, as the months proceeded, he realized that he was falling more and more behind on his debt, specifically his credit cards which were, at times, surpassing their 30-day delinquency period.

When a bank payment is delinquent for more than 30 days, an alert is sent to the credit bureaus, and it is noted on the credit report, subsequently lowering the credit rating. This can make it harder to prove creditworthiness when buying a car or applying for a loan. The man was getting very nervous with this credit score decrease. Time was of the essence for this individual.

Additionally, knowing that his credit cards were maxed out to their limit, he was worried about not having enough funds to support his household and he knew he had to do something about this fast, so he went online and searched for debt consolidation loans. He responded to a few of the listings that showed up. One of them was a website that looked for companies that listed a variety of companies that could possibly approve a loan based on his credit score, which was under 620.

He applied to numerous offers, but they all declined him. Later that day, Joe responded to an email offering him a loan for $6,000—just the amount he was looking for!

A focused and serious looking man working and thinking hard on a computer
iStock

They gave him an 800 phone number to call. He called them, and they told him that they don’t use the credit bureaus to check creditworthiness but a different method. They said the first step was to deposit money into his checking account to verify that it was a valid account.

Afraid and anxious that he wouldn’t be able to support his family under his current financial conditions, he hastily followed their instructions and gave them his bank account information.

The next morning, he noticed that $3000.00 had been deposited into his checking account, and shortly thereafter, a “financial representative” called him to verify that the money was there.

What happened next would have been obvious to many; however, Joe’s state of mind caused him to bypass this red flag and not think there was any issue with the process. This is one of the methods that scammers pray on—emotional stress!

Joe was told that he needed to send them the money back. They requested that he go to a local store that provides wire transfers. He proceeded to go to the local Rite Aide down the block from him; however, it was 8:45 AM, and they had not opened yet. So he went to CVS, but they also didn’t open until 9:00 AM.

The caller was persistent (another red flag) and told him to find an open store, but he told them he would prefer to wait until the store opened. While he was waiting in his car for the store to open, he thumbed through his email messages on his iPhone and saw a message from J.P. Morgan Chase – the bank where he has his account.

The message said that they were sorry to hear that money had been illegally withdrawn from his account and that they replenished the account with the $3000 that was “missing” until an investigation was completed.

Man with credit card in hand upset that he'd been scammed
Photo: iStock

Now Joe woke up. It hit him like a ton of bricks, and he realized he had been scammed. He ignored the spammer’s phone calls and drove directly to Chase.

The manager helped him place a report to their fraud department and Chase immediately withdrew the message that they received about a $3000 loss. In the end, no harm was done. Joe was saved from losing a lot of money and there was no record held against him from Chase, but had CVS or Rite Aide been open at the time, Joe would have most likely proceeded with the wire transfer.

Behind Your Bills Scare Tatic

Alexa was laid off from her job and she started falling behind on her bills. She was not that worried about her credit cards or FICO score so much as her utility bills, and she was most concerned about her electric bill.

Being two months behind on your electric bill is sure to concern even the most optimistic of people. Then the dreaded phone calls come in. Alexa is no exception to this.

But Alexa was no fool. She never answers phone calls that don’t have a caller ID, and even when the caller ID shows up, she won’t pick up if she doesn’t recognize the name of the company calling.

In Alexa’s situation, combining these two factors wasn’t enough to catch her off guard. Being delinquent on her utility bill was certainly enough to make her ill-prepared for what was to come.

The utility company called, and she answered. Why would she not? The ID showed up who it was, so she had no reason to believe it was not a fraudulent phone call.

The woman told Alexa that she was delinquent and that she needed to bring the account up to date, or her electric bill would be suspended. Alexa had no choice but to decide to use part of her mortgage money to pay for the electric bill, and she reiterated that message to the woman, who transferred her to a man who called himself “Dave.”

Dave explained to her in perfect English (no accent) the procedure where they could receive the money today by using Zelle. A quick and legitimate application where the recipient can receive money in a matter of seconds and most banks offer this method of money transfer.

Scared, Alexa complied and followed his directions. She went online to her bank app and clicked Zelle as directed by Dave. He told her that she should type in the box asking for the amount of cash to be sent with the last four digits of her utility account number and that their algorithm would read it and know how to handle it; other words, by reading the utility code, the past-due amount and only the past-due amount would be withdrawn from her bank account.

Alexa followed his directions, and the result was that it took out the amount that was listed as the code and not the past-due balance, so she ended up paying $347 more than she needed to pay.

When she told Dave what happened, he replied that this happens sometimes and he directed her to go back to the Zelle app. On the app, Alexa told him that she saw the Request Money button and asked him if she should enter the code in this box or request the exact amount that was withdrawn.

Dave corrected her and told her not to use the Request Money button but to use the Send Money button as she did before and the algorithm will correct itself and return her the amount she overpaid.

This is where Alexa drew the line. She realized that she had been scammed and hung up on Dave, not before telling him what she thought of him.

Alexa immediately contacted her bank and they initiated a return sequence via Zelle and Alexa was lucky. She had the band reverse the amount back into her bank account.

Zelle scams are on the rise and take many forms!

Conclusion

World Map With Currency Icons Network Over Dark Background,iStock

Spammers can approach you from anywhere in the world. Email, websites, and phone calls, or they could even approach you in the street. They prey on the elderly and hope their phone calls will reach vulnerable individuals, no matter what their age is.

Be wary of anything that even seems suspicious, and never send anyone any money until you are sure they are the legitimate party!

 

 

Straightforward Answers on to How Not to Get Scammed!

Illustration collage of spammers
BE VIGILANT – BE AWARE!

Some say that scamming has become an epidemic. Whether you believe that or not, it is certainly on the rise and moving at an accelerated rate.

Today we begin a new series on scam artists. We will cover the basics regarding what they do, how they do it, and how you can protect yourself.

Scams can come by email, text, social media messages, or phone calls. Here are the first line of defense methods you should use to avoid getting hooked by these criminals. We call them red flags.

Things You Should Never Do!

Red Flag #1. Never Give Anyone Your Private Information

Illustration of a computer hacker asking for your password
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

If you get a call, an email, or a text asking you for your social security number, birthday, bank account information, credit card information, medical information, or any other personal information, don’t give it to them and hang up! Call your institution directly to confirm that your information was not compromised.

NEVER GIVE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION TO A STRANGER WHO CONTACTS YOU! 

Red Flag #2. Never Agree to Send Cash or Use an App to Send Money!

If they don’t ask you for your personal information, they may contact you and request money regarding an emergency or other urgent issue. These people are sophisticated. They will sound professional and have a story to try to convince you how real the situation is. They may even already have some information about you, such as your name and address to make the story sound even more legitimate.

If you get tricked into believing them as many do, especially the elderly, they will discourage you from sending them a check, and instead, they will push you to send them money using apps such as Zelle, Venmo, Cash App or to wire them. DON’T!

What’s worse, they may tell you to bring the cash to them. Additionally, they may even tell you to have the cash ready and someone will pick it up at your house or a meeting place.

NEVER AGREE TO SENDING CASH!

Red Flag #3: You Won A Prize!

Although this category can’t be summed up in one article, we thought we’d acquaint you with the thousands of fraudulent methods scammers use to try to catch you off guard using legitimate companies and organizations to deceive you.

The scams may be from a phone call, email or text saying that you are the lucky winner of a prize drawing or that you will get a substantial discount if you send them money for the discount promotion or any variation of many other scenarios they may use.

If you didn’t enter any sweepstakes, consider the information very suspicious. If you get an email from what looks like a legitimate company but is asking you for money upfront via a rouse that you will get a discount or a prize, be wary and contact the business directly.

Screenshot of a scam from what appears to be from a ligitimate source
©SMS

There are ways to determine if these ‘promotions’ are real just by scrutinizing them a little bit. The email shown above exploits a legitimate retailer into making you think they are the ones sending you this promotion and if you click the link and answer a few questions, you may win the Stanley tool set. You won’t!

Some folks know how to determine that this is a deception, but for the majority of you who don’t, here’s what to look for.

    1. Take a look at where the email came from (circled in red). This is a dead giveaway. If it doesn’t have the company’s domain name, in this case, @acehardware.com, it is a scam.
    2. Many email scams do not show up with the language noted, but Google thinks that it came from Russia and is allowing you to translate the email copy into Russian. A legitimate email would never default to a request for a language translation. More on these deceptions will be in our upcoming articles.

Red Flag #4. Scammers Use Scare Tactics -Don’t Fall For It!

Man stressed and worried
Image by Sam Williams from Pixabay

Swindlers like to elicit emotions and their favorite tactic they will use is fear. They may tell you that your electricity is going to be terminated if you don’t pay them right now, or that they are from the IRS and you better pay immediately, or from a mortgage company or bank telling you that something bad is going to happen if you don’t send them money immediately.

Scammers prey on your fear that something bad is going to happen if you don’t comply

It gets worse and this happens to many of our elderly relatives. They may call you and pretend that they are one of your grandchildren and that they need money immediately because they are in trouble with the police. They will also ask you not to tell their parents, and now with AI at their disposal (which we will discuss in detail below), they can mimic your grandchild’s voice so that it sounds exactly like them.

DON’T FALL FOR SCARE TACTICS! 

What You Should Do if You Get One of These Calls

Hang up and call the source (Electric company, bank, mortgage company, etc.) directly. In the case of a relative or grandchild calling you. Tell them you will call them right back at the number you have for them. If they say no, you know it is a scam.

Red Flag #5. Con Artists Will Request Immediate Payment- Be Vigilant to These Signs of Urgency

100 dollar bills
Photo Unsplash

If the person tells you that they need the money NOW, it is a clear sign that something is definitely wrong! Legitimate companies or organizations will never tell you that.

They will work out a payment plan with you or let you consider the options and allow you to call them back later in the day or within a reasonable time period. They will never push you to send them money immediately!

 

DON’T FALL FOR CALLS OF URGENCY AND IMMEDIATE PAYMENT! 

Red Flag #6. Note the Accent!

Many of the scamers come from overseas and many of these are from people who will have foreign accents. This doesn’t mean that every time you receive a call from a person with a foreign accent the call will be fraudulent. Some may be from legitimate telemarketers or other businesses who may want you to sell you something or donate to a real charity, but you can add this to the list of KEEPING UP YOUR GUARD if you do receive a call like this.

IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT YOU DO NOT ANSWER ANY PHONE CALLS WHERE YOU DO NOT RECOGNIZE IT! 

Conclusion

Always approach unsolicited offers, emails, or calls with skepticism. Scammers often use urgency and pressure to manipulate you.

Verify the identity of the organization contacting you. Confirm their legitimacy through official websites or phone numbers, especially if they claim to be from a government agency, bank, or reputable company.

Be wary of requests for upfront payments to pay a bill, pay a charity, or to receive a prize. Legitimate organizations don’t require you to pay in a manner that sounds like a specific urgency

Never share personal information like Social Security numbers, bank account details, or credit card numbers via email, phone, or social media unless you’ve verified the recipient’s identity.

Stay informed about common frauds and the latest techniques thieves use.  You can follow the Federal Trade Commission’s scam page for the latest information on avoiding scams.

Trust Your Instincts: If something doesn’t feel right or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your gut feeling and exercise caution.

Share your knowledge so that others will not fall for these scams.

By following these guidelines and staying vigilant, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to fraudulent activity and protect your personal and financial information.

What is Aspartame?

Artificial sweetener aspartame on s spoon and its chemical bonds
Photo: iStock

Overview

In our previous article on artificial sweeteners, we spoke about the pros and cons of numerous sweetening agents, including aspartame, but there have been many discussions and research on this sugar substitute and subsequently, we will dwell into the specifics of aspartame, its history, controversy and the details of this sugar substitute.

What is Aspartame?

It is a low-calorie sweetener that is used as a sugar substitute in numerous food and beverage products. This sweetener is known for its exceptional sweetness and studies have shown it is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar.

Aspartame is used in diet soft drinks, sugar-free desserts, chewing gum, tabletop sweeteners, and various low-calorie or reduced-sugar food items.  It is a popular sugar substitute that, according to many reports, does not contribute to large increases in blood sugar levels, which benefits those with diabetes and others who are concerned about blood sugar levels.

A Bit of History

Stevia sugar substitute
Stevia sugar substitute. Photo: © SMS

James M. Schlatter is the chemist known for discovering aspartame. Its ingredients contain a peptide (a short chain of amino acids), specifically aspartic acid and phenylalanine that are joined together. It is this combination of amino acids that contributes to its sweetness.

A Weight Loss Alternative to Sugar

Due to its intense sweetness, only a fraction of its calorie intake is required to achieve the same level of sweetness compared to other sweeteners.

 Controversy 

There have been claims about potential health effects associated with aspartame consumption, including links to cancer, headaches, and potential neurological disorders, but these claims have not been substantiated after many studies, consequently, regulatory agencies have reaffirmed the safety of aspartame when consumed within the recommended levels.

Results

As of July 2023, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the sweetener in the United States. Aspartame has also been studied by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and these agencies have also concluded that the sweetener is safe when consumed within the acceptable daily intake (ADI) levels.

Safety Exceptions

As with any drug, prescribed or over the counter), some people may experience mild reactions to aspartame, such as headaches, digestive issues or other ailments; however, this is relatively rare and studies have shown that most people do not experience side effects. For the vast majority of the population, aspartame is considered safe when consumed within recommended limits.

Additionally, it should be noted that aspartame may not be suitable for individuals with a rare genetic disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU). PKU is characterized by the body’s inability to metabolize phenylalanine, which is one of the amino acids present in aspartame.  

Those who have this disorder or other health conditions or are unsure if they should use aspartame may want to discuss with their medical professional if it is safe to consume. 

Conclusion

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is used as a sugar substitute in various food and beverage products. It is composed of two amino acids, asprtic acid and phenylalanin.

It is a low-calorie alternative to sugar, which is appealing to people who are looking to manage their weight. 

It has been evaluated by regulatory agencies around the world for years, and it is considered safe for most people when consumed within recommended limits.  However, it is recommended that individuals with phenylketonuria should avoid aspartame due to its phenylalanine content. As with any food additive, it is essential to consume aspartame in moderation as part of a balanced diet and if you have any health conditions or concerns, it is always prudent to consult with your medical professional before consuming aspartame.

Top 10 Medical Advancements of 2023

Robot touching computer screen
3D rendering 3D illustration of medical artificial intelligence robot working in a future hospital. Futuristic prosthetic healthcare for patients and biomedical technology concept.

In 2018, we published an article on medical advancements, but five years have passed and the advances in medicine have been astounding. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant medical advancements in recent years that have the potential to change medicine as we know it today!

CRISPR Gene Editing

Concept of treatment and adjustment of DNA molecule.
Wouldn’t it be great if medical scientists could simply replace bad genes with healthy ones?

Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, known as CRISPR is a fairly new biological process that allows scientists to modify the DNA of living organisms.

The name arises from clustered DNA sequences, composed of a succession of repeats (short or long patterns of DNA, also RNA, that occur in multiple copies) separated by unique sequences called spacers.

It has made significant strides in genealogical research, but what is most appealing is its potential ability to cure certain diseases by editing faulty genes responsible for the disease. 

CAR T-Cell Therapy

Cancer cell, CAR t-cell (lymphocyte) and red blood cells on red background. vector Poster about immunotherapy or chemotherapy cancer
Cancer cell and CAR t-cell (lymphocyte) and red blood cells. Photo: iStock

This therapy, technically called Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy uses a patient’s own immune cells to attack cancer cells. Your immune system keeps track of all the substances normally found in your body. Any substance the immune system doesn’t recognize triggers an alarm, causing the system to attack it.

More specifically, it is a way to get immune cells called T cells (a type of white blood cell) to fight cancer by changing them in the lab so they can find and destroy the bad cells.

CAR T-cell therapy is also sometimes referred to as a type of cell-based gene therapy because it involves altering the genes inside T cells to help them attack the carcinogen.

This type of treatment can be very helpful in treating some types of cancer, even when other treatments are no longer working.

3D Printing in Medicine

Man applying prosthetics arm to a patient
Image by RAEng_Publications from Pixabay

Most of us have already seen or heard of 3D printing, but how is applied to medicine? 3D printing technology has already been used to create customized implants, prosthetics, and even human organs. Let’s take a look at what eD printing has done for the medical field so far this year.

    1. Surgical Training
      No doubt the use of 3D-printed anatomical models is the perfect training for medical professionals. Surgeons can understand more than ever before the patient’s anatomy and subsequently improve surgical outcomes.
    2. Prosthetics
      3D printing allows for the creation of personalized prosthetics, which is designed to perfectly match the anatomy of the individual. Not only is this a great advance for those who lose limbs due to diseases or accidents, but is extremely helpful for over 150,000 veterans who would definitely benefit from this technology.
    3. Patient-Specific Implants: Surgeons can use 3D printing to create implants tailored to a patient’s unique anatomy. This is particularly valuable in complex cases where off-the-shelf implants may not fit optimally or provide the required level of support.
    4. Organ and Tissue Bioprinting: While still an evolving technology, 3D bioprinting holds great promise for creating functional human organs and tissues for transplantation. This could potentially alleviate the shortage of organ donors and reduce the risk of transplant rejection.
    5. Drug Delivery Systems: 3D printing enables the production of complex drug delivery systems, such as personalized drug dosage forms or implants that release drugs gradually over time, improving treatment effectiveness and patient compliance.
    6. Medical Devices: 3D printing allows for the rapid prototyping and production of medical devices, ranging from simple instruments to more complex tools used in surgeries or diagnostic procedures.
    7. Orthotics and Wearables: Customized orthotic devices, such as braces and supports, can be easily produced using 3D printing technology, improving patient comfort and treatment outcomes.
    8. Education and Research: 3D-printed models are valuable educational tools for medical students and researchers. They can help in learning anatomy, practicing surgical techniques, and exploring new treatment options.
    9. Accessibility and Cost-Effectiveness: 3D printing can reduce the cost of manufacturing medical devices and prosthetics, making them more accessible to patients, especially in resource-constrained regions.
    10. Emergency Medicine: In remote or disaster-stricken areas, 3D printing can be used to produce essential medical supplies or devices quickly, helping to bridge the gap until conventional supply chains can be restored.

It’s important to note that while 3D printing has shown immense potential in the medical field, it also raises some ethical and regulatory considerations, especially in the case of bioprinting and patient-specific implants. Therefore, ongoing research and responsible implementation are crucial to fully harness the benefits of this technology while ensuring patient safety and ethical standards are upheld.

Precision Medicine

Precision medicine is a personalized approach to healthcare that considers a patient’s unique genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors when diagnosing and treating disease. It has the potential to greatly improve patient outcomes.

Regenerative Medicine

There are many animals that can regenerate. Now add humans to the list. Here doctors use stem cells and other techniques to repair or replace damaged tissue or organs. It has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of a wide range of diseases and injuries.

Liquid Biopsies

Liquid biopsies are a less invasive alternative to traditional biopsies and can detect cancer at an early stage. They are expected to become more widely used in the coming years.

Nanomedicine

Artist's rendering of nano robots interfacing with red blood cells
Artist’s illustration of nanomedicine robots inside a human artery flowing inside as a treatment for disease

No. Not Nano Nano from Mork and Mindy. This is mind-boggling stuff!
Nanomedicine involves the use of very tiny man-made devices, called nanoparticles to deliver drugs and treat diseases at a cellular level. It has the potential to greatly improve drug efficacy and reduce side effects.

Virtual Reality Therapy

Virtual reality therapy is a type of therapy that uses immersive technology to help patients with mental health disorders, phobias, and chronic pain. It has been shown to be effective in some cases and is expected to continue growing in popularity.

Artificial Intelligence

Illus
Doctors studying robotic AI to diagnose virtual Human Lungs with viruses spread inside

We saved the best for last! Artificial Intelligence. AI is being used to improve diagnosis, develop personalized treatments, and streamline administrative tasks. It is expected to become more prevalent in the coming years.

One of the most significant advancements in medical AI is its potential to diagnose issues with much greater accuracy. Machine learning algorithms can now analyze  X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans with a precision never before imagined.

These AI programs are designed to detect subtle anomalies that doctors might miss, and these faint but no doubt significant detections can provide more accurate diagnoses of cancer and other serious medical issues. Subsequently, it will allow medical professionals to detect life-threatening diseases at a much earlier time.

Conclusion

We are living in an exciting time for medical advancements and there is no telling how far these technologies will take us, although, anyone who watches Star Trek may have a pretty good idea of what’s in store!

 

When Do Dogs Start Feeling Hot

Pug, sitting and panting, 1 year old, isolated on white background
Photo: iStock

During these hot summer days, especially in the ones in the Midwest, we thought we’d give you some insight into how to take care of your canine family. There are many ways to keep your dog cool. We will list the most significant ones here but first, let’s look into when your pet starts to feel uncomfortably hot. 

When Dogs Get the Hot Spells

Dogs can start feeling hot when the temperature in their residing environment rises above their comfort level. Additionally, their body temperature will rise if they are active (running around, etc.). This is why there are so many alerts about humans exercising or working in hot conditions and if humans have a hard time dealing with a hot environment, just think how dogs feel. Especially those that have an abundance of fur!

In general, canines will feel hot and uncomfortable when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but it should be noted that this comfort level will differ depending on the breed of dog that you have and so their heat tolerance level will vary. With that said, however, stick to the 80-degree suggestion or if you want a more precise recommendation, ask your vet.

Your pet’s body temperature reaches 103 degrees or more, it can lead to organ failure and even death. Their body temperature can range from 101° to 102.5°, compared to humans whose body temperature ranges from 97.6° to 99.6°. When your dog’s temperature is 103° F or higher, it is considered a dog fever

About Specific Breeds

As mentioned, certain dog breeds are more susceptible to heat-related issues due to their physical characteristics. Brachycephalic breeds (skull bones that are shortened in length) such as bulldogs and pugs have compromised respiratory systems and subsequently, are more sensitive to the hot weather than other breeds. 

What to Look For

If you see any of the following conditions, you must help them as soon as possible:

    • Excessive panting
    • Drooling, restlessness
    • Weakness
    • Disorientation
    • Seeking shade
    • Lying flat on cool surfaces

Any of these can relate to your pet feeling overheated.

How to Keep Your Dog Cool

Jack russell terrier dog sits enjoying the cooling breeze from an electric fan on a white background
Photo: iStock

As mentioned, do what is necessary to keep the environment you and your pet are in below 80 degrees. Some of the items mentioned below may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people do not follow these basic rules.

    • Give them water ASAP.
    • If you are in a house and there is air conditioning, turn it on or use a fan if there are no cooling systems.
    • If you are outside, bring them to a cool place, or if there is no place to go immediately, put them in the shade.
    • When you know hot weather is coming and you want to prepare, you can buy dog cooling vests.
    • If you have a backyard, think about a dog pool.

In Summary

It’s essential to monitor your dog’s behavior for signs of overheating. If you suspect your dog is feeling hot, it’s important to act quickly so that he or she doesn’t fall into the fever category or more importantly, that they are back to feeling comfortable.

What Do Doctors Worry About?

Female doctor showing signs of worry and concern
Doctors are People Too!

The role of physicians is not without its challenges, and doctors often face many worries and concerns that can impact their work and personal lives. At times, people’s lives are in the hands of doctors and surgeons who are aware that one mistake could be a fatal one. But that’s not all that concerns medical professionals today.  In this essay, we will explore some of the most common worries that doctors face today.

Covid-19 Caused Anxiety Throughout the World

Girl tested for Covid 19
People line up to be tested for Covid at a clinic. Photo iStock

Although Covid is considered a past issue these days, there is no doubt the pandemic has caused worldwide anxiety, both for patients and physicians.

This infectious disease put an enormous strain on all healthcare systems, and doctors were at the forefront of dealing with this menace. They were tasked with diagnosing and treating patients, and providing care to the critically ill while trying to prevent the spread of the virus.

It was a mental and physical shock to many. One doctor from Elmhurst Hospital, the hospital that was inundated the most by the pandemic, said he used to see gurneys spread out into the streets because the facility just couldn’t house them all. Worse, he would witness scores of deaths daily, so even though physicians are more mentally equipped to manage patient deaths, there is no doubt that many physicians were emotionally and mentally affected when seeing so many people die in front of them daily.

In the United States and the world, the general concerns were that the physicians did not catch the disease and that personal protective equipment (PPE) and other resources were available for their patients, especially in the early period when Covid became a major concern.

As of this writing, the pandemic has subsided substantially, although not completely as there are still reports of people catching the disease, and there are those who suffer from long-covid, but for the most part, we can put this beyond us now; however, that doesn’t mean physicians do not have other things to worry about.

Physician Burnout

Doctor showing signs of stress
Physician burnout is real and many doctors are affected by it. Photo: iStock

Healthcare professionals often work long hours and deal with emotionally draining situations, such as caring for terminally ill patients or those with chronic illnesses. Burnout is a real concern and can lead to physical and mental exhaustion, decreased empathy for patients, and a decline in the quality of care provided.

The report also found that burnout is having a significant impact on physicians’ health and well-being. Nearly half (49%) of burned-out physicians said their issue has had a moderate or severe impact on their physical health, and 43% said it has had a moderate or severe impact on their mental health.

This condition is also leading to increased rates of physician turnover. Nearly one in three (32%) physicians said they are considering leaving their current job within the next year.

Medical Errors

Hands wiht pencils on top of paper on a deskMedical errors are another concern for doctors. Despite their best efforts, physicians can make mistakes that can have serious consequences for their patients. Medication errors, misdiagnoses, and surgical mistakes are just a few examples of errors that can occur. Doctors may worry about what impact this may have on their patient’s health and their professional reputation.

Although some cases are not the result of physician error and others may be frivolous, patient attorneys may proceed with a malpractice lawsuit anyway. In fact, there are, on average over 85,000 medical malpractice cases field in the United States each year.

Physicians who are legally notified for medical malpractice or who have been reported to OPMC (Office of Medical Conduct) should confer with an attorney for advice and possible legal defense if needed.

Summary

In conclusion, doctors face many worries and challenges in their work. Burnout, medical errors, as well as access to care, and healthcare policy changes are some of the major concerns.

These worries can impact their professional and personal lives and make it more difficult to provide the best possible care for their patients. We must recognize and address these concerns to support our healthcare providers and ensure that they can continue to provide high-quality care to those in need. By providing adequate resources, support, and policy changes, we can help alleviate some of the worries that doctors face and create a healthier and more equitable healthcare system for all.

 

Is Your Glass Half Empty or Half Full? A Discussion About Perception

Are You a Happy Person or Do You Worry?

Photo of a glass of water
Are you an optimist or a pessimist?  Photo: SMS©

A happy person tends to focus on the positive aspects of situations, maintains an optimistic outlook, and seeks joy in the present moment. They embrace gratitude, practice self-care, and find meaning in everyday experiences.

In contrast, a worried person is preoccupied with negative possibilities, tends to overthink and anticipate problems, and may struggle to find contentment. They dwell on uncertainties, magnify challenges, and may experience heightened anxiety. Many times, people who tend to worry a lot concentrate on unrealistic situations that will never materialize.

Many people who suffer from bipolar disease have these worries, but not to worry (pun intended). There are ways to overcome illogical concerns and view life more positively. This will not only serve to diminish your fears but also make you feel mentally healthy and subsequently, physically healthy as well.

In this year 2023, there is an abundance of ways to cope with worry and its corresponding emotions of stress and anxiety. Let’s get started.

The Stories

Fearful man with hands on his face.
Photo by MART PRODUCTION

 

Jack’s Letter

Jack got a letter from one of his credit card companies. It was a standard letter regarding updates on his privacy policies, but Jack got nervous thinking there was a problem with his credit card and ran to his phone to call them. 

What was Jack’s perception of this letter? No doubt it was a negative one, a half-empty glass outlook. 

Now, let’s look at another scenario.

Susan’s Voicemail

Happy womnan on phone
Image by Nebraska Department of Education from Pixabay

Susan received a voicemail from her doctor’s office after her visit there a few days earlier. The message was that they would like her to call them back. Susan didn’t think it was anything serious to worry about and when she called, they just needed to verify her insurance.

Is Susan a negative or positive thinker? No doubt she is thinking positively.

Let’s look at one more.

Marjorie’s Olive Oil

Marjorie needed olive oil, but she heard that the store might be out of it, so she called them first. The phone call went as follows:

Marjorie: “Hello, do you have olive oil or you don’t?”
Store: “Yes, we have it. The price is $9.99.”
Marjorie: “OK great. I will be there shortly.”

What caused Marjorie to say “or you don’t”? Is she a positive or negative thinker? 

Let’s take a deeper look at what positive and negative thoughts can do to us, or more expressional, is your glass half empty or half full?

Negative Thinking

Man stressed and worried
Image by Sam Williams from Pixabay

A negative thinker is someone who tends to focus on the negative aspects of a situation or experience, rather than the positive. They have a mindset that tends to dwell on worst-case scenarios and assume the worst in any given situation. They often view problems as obstacles, rather than as opportunities for growth or learning.

Negative thinking is a pessimistic outlook, which can lead to a lack of motivation and a decreased ability to cope with stress and challenges. As a result, these individuals may struggle with increased anxiety and depression. Some people may go to the extreme and create a sense of hopelessness and despair.

These damaging thoughts can also have an impact on relationships, as they can lead to a general sense of cynicism. It is important to note that negative thinking is not the same as critical thinking, which involves evaluating situations and ideas thoughtfully and objectively. Rather, this type of pessimism involves a persistent focus on the bleakest aspects of a situation, often at the expense of the positive.

What Can a Negative Thinker Do to Off-Set Pessimism?

Two seniors holding hands on a park bench
Photo: Shopify Burst Free Images

Negative thinking can be a difficult habit to break, but it’s not impossible. Here are some strategies that may help address these thoughts:

      1. Socialize and we are not talking about Facebook. Go out and meet people. This can help you forget about your worries and allow you to concentrate on talking about things that you enjoy.
      2. Surround yourself with positive people: With the above said, make sure the people you are with are positive thinkers. If you hear someone talking about their constant problems, politely excuse yourself and find some other folks who would be of more benefit to you.
      3. Sports and exercise: No doubt these activities will make you feel good, both inside and out. Anything from basketball to volleyball to weightlifting will be beneficial to you.
      4. Identify negative thinking patterns: The first step in addressing bad thoughts is to become aware of them. Notice when negative thinking arises and try to identify the patterns or triggers that lead to them.
      5. Challenge the negative: Once you’ve identified these thought patterns, challenge them by asking yourself if they’re based on facts or assumptions. Try to reframe them into more positive and realistic ones.
      6. Practice gratitude: Focusing on what you’re grateful for can help shift your focus away from negative thoughts. Start a gratitude journal or make a habit of reflecting on what you’re thankful for each day.
      7. Practice meditation: Meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings.
      8. Get a Pet: Studies have shown that pets, especially dogs and cats can help diminish your worries and reduce your stress.
      9. Seek professional help: If negative thinking is interfering with your daily life or causing significant distress, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would be the best route. These are trained psychotherapists who can help provide additional support and guidance in addressing negative thought patterns. Additionally, you can visit a psychiatrist who can prescribe the proper medication for you that can help with your anxiety.

Positive Thinkers

People jumping for joy
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

A positive thinker is a person who tends to see the world and situations in a positive light and has a generally optimistic outlook on life. Positive thinkers focus on the positive aspects of a situation, rather than dwelling on the negative, and they look for opportunities and solutions rather than being overwhelmed by problems.

These are folks who see challenges as opportunities and maintain an optimistic outlook on situations. They are not unrealistic or naive, but rather they choose to view situations constructively.

Optimistic thinkers find the positive aspects of a situation, rather than dwelling on the negative. They can naturally manage their thoughts and choose to focus on the good, rather than the bad in many circumstances.

This type of mindset can have many benefits, including improved mental health, increased resilience, better coping skills, and a more fulfilling life. However, it’s important to note that being a positive thinker does not mean ignoring or denying problems, but rather approaching them with a positive and constructive mindset.

Conclusion

Silhouettes of people jumping for joy
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

When you see an issue arise, give it a quick thought – is this something I should worry about? If it is something that would normally make you feel uncomfortable, confront the situation immediately and try to resolve it, but if this is something that may not be of concern at all, make a mental note and then confront your feelings by telling yourself that this is NOT something to worry about.

Follow the suggestions above regarding off-setting pessimism. Try meditation and socialize with positive people. Get a pet. Additionally, there is cognitive behavioral therapy available as well as speaking to a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication if the need arises.