The other day I found myself very confused by two signs advertising gasoline prices at two gas stations directly across the street from each other. I was confused because one sign advertised unleaded gasoline at $2.17 and the other at $2.27. Why one gas station would be cheaper than the other I didn’t know, but I obviously went with the gas station advertising the cheapest price for gasoline.

I was even more confused to find five different options for unleaded gasoline. While I was familiar with E85 gasoline, I had no idea E15 gasoline existed. I did a quick Google search to determine whether E15 gasoline would be good for my car, and multiple sources revealed that as long as my car was newer than 2001 I’d be alright. I should have done more digging.

I’m not even through half my fuel tank and my fuel economy is two miles per gallon less than what I get with 87-octane gasoline. Doing the math, while I save $1.80 filling an entire tank with E15 gasoline, I lose 36 miles in range and roughly $3.25 due to that drop in fuel economy, resulting in a $2.45 net loss. So that warm feeling I got purchasing cheap gas is now cold as ice. I actually got robbed at the pump by subsidized corn growers.

If you’re like me and don’t own a flex fuel vehicle, don’t buy E15 gasoline. It’s that simple. The price of E15 gasoline would have to drop at least 18 cents below the price per gallon for 87-octane gasoline in order for E15 to be cheaper for me. This price point will, of course, depend on the difference in fuel economy you receive when switching to E15 gasoline.

It’s no surprise that Exxon Mobil is doing what it can to make sure E15 gasoline doesn’t take off. It pulled this graph from a blog page that no longer exists, but now that I’ve crunched the numbers, it’s a pretty good recommendation. Unless you drive a flex fuel vehicle or something made in the last couple of years, don’t buy E15 gasoline.

There’s plenty of other reasons not to buy E15 gasoline according to this report published by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Not only is it bad for the environment (“cellulosic and corn-based ethanol (E85) were ranked last of nine technologies with respect to climate, air pollution, land use, wildlife damage, and chemical waste”) and less efficient, it makes your engine run hotter, so if you have a high-mileage engine and are worried about extending the life of your engine, don’t use E15 gasoline.

States are even banning E15 altogether, and multiple bills have been introduced to limit the spread of E15 gasoline. One bill would eliminate the Renewable Fuel Standards entirely, which would probably please the Republican-led Congress and Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, who has blasted ethanol in the past and whose ties to the oil industry are well-publicized. Another bipartisan effort, obviously sponsored by legislators from corn-growing states Nebraska and Iowa, would expand E15 gasoline availability by allowing it to be sold year-round. E15 gasoline is currently not available during summer months because of that overheating issue I mentioned.

Four of the five bills introduced and listed below would be bad for E15, ethanol producers and corn growers. If that's any indication of the short-term future for ethanol during the Trump administration, it doesn't look good.

There’s still money to be made on ethanol exports, though, as Mexico has approved ethanol in small doses. The ethanol industry outlook for 2017 is mostly optimistic, but that’s because it’s written by ethanol producers. Dipping ethanol stocks are indicative of ethanol’s uncertain future, but gas station owners seem to think E15 will take off in 2017.

The fact remains: E15 gasoline just isn’t any good if you don’t drive a flex fuel vehicle. If it's not too hot out, though, and you can find E15 for 20 cents less than 87-octane, go for it. But never put it in a boat engine or lawn mower. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Date Introduced Bill Name and/or Reference Purpose
Jan. 3, 2017 Leave Ethanol Levels at Existing Levels Act (H.R. 119) "The bill would freeze renewable fuel blending requirements under the RFS at 7.5 billion gallons per year, prohibit the sale of gasoline containing more than 10% ethanol, and revoke the EPA's approval of E15 blends."
Jan. 31, 2017 N/A (H.R. 777) "The bill would require the EPA and National Academies of Sciences to conduct a study on 'the implications of the use' of ethanol gasoline blends containing 10-20% ethanol by volume."
Jan. 31, 2017 N/A (H.R. 776) The bill would limit the use of cellulosic biofuel required under the current RFS.
March 2, 2017 N/A (H.R. 1315) The bill would cap the ethanol blend rate at 10%.
March 2, 2017 RFS Elimination Act (H.R. 1314) The bill would fully repeal the RFS.

DATA SOURCE: PACIFIC ETHANOL.

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This year, nine confirmed cases of rat lungworm disease have surfaced in Hawaii (Maui and the Big Island), and a couple in California who recently traveled to the Aloha State  came down with symptoms after they returned home from their honeymoon. Four additional cases have been suspected since the start of the year and fortunately no deaths have been reported. The Hawaii Department of Health confirmed 11 cases in 2016, and between 2007 and 2015, 42 cases were reported.  Here are your questions answered.

What is Rat Lungworm?

 

Rat lungworm is in the family of roundworms (nematodes), named Angiostrongylus.   Angiostrongylus cantonensis is a parasite that can cause neurological infections such as meningitis, and its sister species, Angiostrongylus costaricensis, can cause severe gastrointestinal illness.  The specific meningitis, or inflammation of the brain, caused by A. cantonensis is an eosinophilic meningitis, where the main blood cell involved is an eosinophil, prevalent in parasitic infections as opposed to a bacterial or viral meningitis.

 

It's found primarily in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Basin but up until recently it's been extremely rare in the United States.  In 2015 a study published in the Journal of Parasitology cited cases had been reported in Florida, Alabama, California, Louisiana, and Hawaii.

 

It primarily lives in rodents but the larvae can be passed to other species through rat feces.  Adult nematodes live in the pulmonary arteries of rats.  The females lay eggs and these, once they hatch and become first stage larvae, may migrate to the rat’s throat and then enter the GI system, eventually exiting through feces.

What are the symptoms of Rat Lungworm?

 

Symptoms include severe headache, fever, neck stiffness, visual disturbances, difficulty looking at light (photophobia), nausea, vomiting, numbness, temporary paralysis of the face and possibly coma and death.

The incubation period, on average, can be anywhere from a week to three weeks and symptoms could start within that time and possibly last for months.  Neurological sequelae of the survivors can last for extended periods of time.

How does one contract Rat Lungworm?

 

An individual could become exposed to A. cantonensis when one eats undercooked slugs, snails, frogs, shrimp, mollusks and contaminated fruits and vegetables.  Slime from slugs may also be a source of contamination of the deadly parasite.

 

 

How do we know Rat Lungworm is the cause of one’s symptoms?

 

If a person presents with symptoms of meningitis, the cerebrospinal fluid, or fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord is able to be sampled during a lumbar puncture. The needle entering through the back could aspirate enough of a sample for laboratory technicians to determine if the meningitis is caused by bacteria, virus or parasites, the latter of which causing a higher concentration of eosinophils to be demonstrated in the CSF fluid as well as the blood.

 

What is the treatment for Rat Lungworm?

 

Currently there is no official treatment of the parasite.  The parasite will die on its own but can do so in a relatively short amount of time such as days, or become latent for months.  Dead worms could also cause severe neurological symptoms. Symptomatic measures of the patient are instituted to help with pain, although some have been treated with steroids and antiparasitic medications.

 

How do we avoid Rat Lungworm?

 

Make sure all raw vegetables are washed thoroughly,  Handle slugs and snails with gloves and wash hands diligently.  The University of Hawaii recommends boiling snails for at least 3-5 minutes prior to preparing for consumption.  And keep rodents, snails and slugs away from your food and kitchen counters.

 

For more on prevention of Rat Lungworm infections, read: Avoid Contracting Angiostrongyliasis (Rat Lungworm Infection): Wash Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Before Eating!

 

 

LearnHealthSpanish.com / Medical Spanish made easy

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a Board Certified Family Physician. The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00am-2:00pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00pm (Central) at GCN.

 

 

There are plenty of reasons why Amazon Instant Video is the fastest growing streaming video app, and many of them have nothing to do with streaming video. We’ll get to those. First, though, let’s focus on what makes Amazon better than Netflix and Hulu when it comes to streaming video apps.

1.    Best Library

If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried all three of the big three streaming video apps. And if you’re like me, you grew tired of the Netflix and Hulu libraries pretty quickly. Netflix might have a vast library, but it’s all crap. And while Hulu boasts about providing all the best television at a discount and with limited commercials, it doesn’t have the movie selection of either Netflix or Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime has the most quality titles from the silver screen and your flatscreen. I always seem to find something to watch with Amazon Prime, and I used to tune into Netflix and Hulu just to turn it off having found nothing to watch. The quality of titles is important to people, and Netflix and Hulu just aren’t providing the content people want.

2.    Best Value

Remember when Netflix and Hulu were in a price war? Well, that war is over and both sides lost. Price is no longer the driving force when it comes to choosing a streaming video app. If there’s one thing the internet has done well it’s helped consumers make more informed purchasing decisions. Both Netflix and Hulu can be had for as little as $7.99 per month, but my Amazon Prime membership at $8.25 per month ($4.083 per month if you’re a student) is much more valuable than the 26 extra cents I pay. Here's why:

3.    The Prime Perks

I don’t even get my $8.25-worth of monthly value out of the streaming video. I could go most the year without streaming anything and probably still find value in paying for Amazon Prime. I get free, two-day shipping on any Amazon-fulfilled product I purchase. That’s worth $8.25 almost every time I make a purchase. I also get access to Prime Pantry – a service that not only saves me money on home essentials but trips to the store and time standing in line. I get all my non-refrigerated food, cleaning supplies, toiletries and garbage bags delivered to my door. I just have to remember to order them when stock is getting low.

4.    Best 4K UHD Selection

I watched Spectre on my Hisense 4K UHD TV using Amazon Prime last night and was shocked by how far televisions have come. I didn’t think picture quality could get much better because the human eye can only see so much. I was wrong (because I sit/lay pretty close to my TV), and Amazon Prime seems to be the most committed to providing new, 4K UHD content, despite it only being available in the US, UK and Canada.

5.    Music

I haven’t listened to any of Amazon Prime’s 2,000,000 or so songs or any Amazon playlists, but it’s just another reason why Amazon Prime is more valuable than both Netflix and Hulu. I have purchased vinyl records from Amazon and taken advantage of their digital music downloads, which neither Netflix nor Hulu offer.  

Amazon Prime is just better than Netflix and Hulu, so pony up and pay the $99-annual fee or just give it a try for $10 per month. I think you’ll find it’s worth it.

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%PM, %10 %930 %2017 %21:%Apr

Netflix is wrong. Again.

Written by

Remember way back in 2011 when Netflix bungled their streaming/DVD unveiling and announced a 60 percent price increase? Social outrage resulted in an almost 80 percent drop in Netflix’s share price in four months, and cost them over 800,000 subscribers.

Well, Netflix is back at the bungling with its March announcement for plans to drop its five star rating system in favor of a “thumbs up/thumbs down” approach. Netflix has an adorable short video explaining the change. The “ratings makeover” was widely reported online but had little impact on social media, and, in turn, the internet released a collective, “meh.” But now that Netflix has actually gone through with the change, subscribers are not happy.  

The fine folks over at the The Mary Sue covered the Reddit and Twitter hate with their “Backlash Against the New Netflix Rating System Shows That People Want and Miss Nuance.”  Polygon, Variety and even the New York Post jumped on the bandwagon with “Thumbs Down” editorials.  I found Indiewire’sNetflix’s New Rating System is a Terrible Idea” to be the best read.

But Todd Yellin, Netflix's VP of Product, sticks to his guns. “Five stars feels very yesterday now. The five-star rating system really projects what you think you want to tell the world. But we want to move to a system where it’s really clear, when members rate, that it’s for them, and to keep on making the Netflix experience better and better.”

It will make my Netflix experience better, huh? What kind of malarkey is this? It’s actually making me kind of angry. Don’t make me angry, Netflix. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

So, what IS wrong with new approach and is there any chance we can get a random superhero appearance (as often seems to happen in your stories)?

Ugh. And maybe (depends on how angry I get).

My first and foremost thought about the change is the lack of nuance. Netflix’s five star rating broke it down like this:

1 star: Hated it

2 stars: Didn’t like it

3 stars: Liked it

4 stars: Really liked it

5 stars: Loved it

There are problems already. Do you know how many films I want to rate 3.5 stars? Or 2.5 stars? Lots! That’s how many! Lots! Netflix doesn't allow that! One to five stars is already a tad limiting and now they expect me to vote yes or no?  Um, I don’t think so.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I will just not rate movies on Netflix. It’s not improving my Netflix experience, yet.

I decided to post a righteous, whiny rant on my Facebook page and complain about Netflix. I sought solace from my English-y lit friends, and Pat Harrigan, part time editor for M.I.T. Press and author of the novel “Lost Clusters,” does not disappoint, “Dammit! 1-5 is perfect; it maps intuitively onto an A-F grading system, and avoids having to distinguish Jesuitically between things like “9 or 10 stars .. Godfather 1 vs. Godfather 2? No one has the time for that; give them both 5 stars and move on. But thumbs up vs. down is a commercial distinction (“buy vs. don’t buy"). Siskel and Ebert both hated it, and you’re right to hate it too.”

Yes. That! You win!

Actually, though, to be fair, Gene Siskel, the late Chicago Tribune film critic and co-host of At the Movies and The Siskel and Ebert Show, eventually warmed to the thumbs up/down system. Siskel writes, "What's the first thing people ask you? Should I see this movie? They don't want a speech on the director's career. Thumbs up--yes. Thumbs down--no."

Roger Ebert, the late Chicago Sun Times film critic and co-host of said shows, had problems with all the limiting systems. Ebert responds to Siskel: “That makes sense, but in a written review thumbs up/down has the effect of nudging a lot of films from 2.5 (a negative review) to three stars (a positive one). There is never any doubt about giving four stars, or one star. The problem comes with the movies in the middle.” Ebert goes on to wonder if instead of worrying about  Yes/No or the amount of stars attached, perhaps one should just, “...consider actually reading the review?” Roger Ebert’s thoughts on star ratings for film reviews and on reviewing, in general: “You Give Out Too Many Stars.”

I tend to lean more towards Ebert’s thinking. Yes, a star rating has problems, especially with the muddy middle portions, but it’s still vastly superior to a thumbs up/down. Siskel’s, “Should I see this movie? Yes/No” could be answered,  “I can’t just say yes or no to that. Let’s talk about it. What other movies do you like? What do you not like? Do you like seeing movies with strong female leads? Does excessive swearing bother you?” So on and so forth. I can’t just answer that question yes or no. I need nuance and information. I need more and more nuance and information!

But, um, didn’t Netflix say they would keep the star rating in the “My Account” section? So why are you still complaining? And where’s the superhero cameo?

They do. I found it. Let’s see how well it works.  I watched a movie six years ago. I can’t remember if it was DVD or streaming, but I want to see what rating I gave it. I follow these steps:

  1. Go to “Your Account.”
  2. Scroll down to My Profile.
  3. Click “My Ratings”.
  4. My rated movies are now listed by date from most recent watched first. There is no other way to sort them. Begin scrolling.
  5. Scroll through pages and pages and pages of movies until I find the film in question. If Netflix no longer carries the movie or if the film moved from streaming to DVD or from DVD to streaming, you may or may not be in the correct location.  
  6. Check the “Viewing Activity”
  7. Scroll through pages and pages.  For the same reasons listed above it may or may not be there.
  8. Check “Reviews” section. It may or may not be there.

Ugh. Who doesn’t love scrolling through pages and pages of information? I sure do!

It hasn’t even been two full weeks and I find all sorts of dubious recommendations with Netflix’s new system. Based on all our previous ratings their algorithm now creates a “percent” for everything on Netflix. The percent should communicate to you “the percentage chance one will like this particular movie/TV show/documentary.”  So, if I see a movie with a 90 percent green marker there is a high chance I will like it. The opposite should be true as well. Seems easy enough. The more you thumb up/down, the more Netflix will be able to improve your experience!

Except, getting back to the “dubious recommendations,” I see many movies I rated two stars come back to me with a Netflix Approved 98 percent chance of “liking it.” I see many movies I rated four stars come back to me with a Netflix Approved 40 percent chance I will like it. Like I said, “dubious recommendations.” You know what? Maybe it’s time to jump ship for Amazon Prime.

Look, I know the deal. There are more important things going on, and besides, no one will get cancer from Netflix’s new system (at least not that Netflix would ever admit to!). All this does is affect my entertainment consumption. But as for something that affects my entertainment consumption, it’s an obnoxious, time-wasting change.

And obnoxious, time-wasting changes make me angry. And when I’m angry, I smash!   

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Now that a Russian hacker has been arrested in Spain at the request of American authorities, what are America’s options if he reveals Donald Trump’s political campaign members were involved in a hack of the 2016 Presidential election?

  1. Impeach Trump

If it is revealed that Trump was directly involved in the hacking of the 2016 Presidential election he will most certainly be impeached. That doesn’t mean he will be removed. While Trump doesn’t have a strong contingent of Republican support in Congress right now, and traditional Conservatives would most certainly prefer a more traditional Conservative in Mike Pence as President, Republicans still hold enough seats to avoid a two-thirds majority impeachment vote. It would take 166 Republicans (more than half the Republican delegation) to turn on Trump to remove him from the White House, but a lot could change in the 2018 midterm election.

  1. Cyber attack on Russia

America will most certainly respond to a Russian cyber attack of the 2016 Presidential election by doing something similar to Vladimir Putin. While they could remove him in a traditional manner (airstrike, sniper, drone, etc.), it’s more likely America avoids World War III and flexes its cyber muscle to reveal some things Russians might not find attractive about their leader to swing the needle against him for once. One of those things could be revealing Putin’s financial information, including homes and properties owned and net worth. This won’t likely affect a Russian election because Russians revere their shirtless, horse-riding leader and let him score eight goals in hockey games. It might not even happen if Trump is still in office, because Putin is allegedly in a position to blackmail him.

  1. Re-vote

Holding an entirely new Presidential election is almost certainly out of the question given the Republicans current control of Congress and secretary of state positions. Currently, 29 of the state officials charged with election duties are Republican, but there will be 26 secretary of state elections in 2018. Every state would have to agree to a re-vote, making this option all but impossible.

  1. Military attack on Russia

This is even more unlikely than a revote given that America and Russia have the two strongest military forces in the world. While America spent a whopping $516.5 billion more military dollars than Russia in 2015, Russia has about 200 more nuclear weapons than America, according to the Federation of American Scientists. If World War III were to break out, China, the third largest military in the world, would most certainly join Russia in the effort. Their combined military budget would be just over half that of America’s.

So America’s options in response to a confirmed hack of the 2016 Presidential election are not only limited, but most are highly unlikely.

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A move to the city, any city, can be daunting. You don’t know where to go, what to do, and with whom to do what you don’t know. But you’re a local now, so act like it. These are the apps to make your move to the city easier

 Google

Of course Google is tops when it comes to apps. Without it I wouldn’t have discovered some of the apps listed below, and since Google utilizes the microphone you can use it relatively safely while behind the wheel of a car.

Whether you’re searching for the most affordable or best-rated movers, what your income tax rate will be in your new state, how to forward your mail or re-register to vote, or comparing internet and television packages available in your area, Google has the answer. It’s also the best at telling you the best route to your new home in the city.

2)     Google Maps

Google Maps is the king of map apps. Apple’s Maps isn’t even in the same league. With Google Maps you’re given the approximate time it would take to get where you’re going on a train or bus, bicycle or on foot. You also get the approximate price of what an Uber or Lyft would cost and the amount of time it would take to get where you’re going via taxi. You have to enable both the Lyft and Uber apps in Maps to do the same.

With Google Maps you can easily change the method of travel to view a recommended map and it previews the time it would take to get there. Apple’s Maps assumes you’re driving and doesn’t preview the amount of time it would take to walk, take public transit, bicycle or get a taxi. It’s a big mistake for a company that prides itself on ease of use.

While Google Maps still struggles with bicycle routes (it doesn’t take into account that a dead end road is still passable by bicycle), it’s still far better than Maps. Here’s why: when you search “parking near Target Field” in Maps (which you have to type because Maps doesn’t utilize the microphone like Google), the app shows you Target Field. That’s it. When I simply say “parking near Target Field” in Google Maps (a handy feature for use while driving since it’s usually illegal to use your phone and drive in most cities), I get a list and map of parking options near Target Field. The only thing missing is the price of each, which brings me to one of my favorite apps to make your move to the city easier…

3)     Park Whiz

While BestParking bids itself the #1 Parking App, Park Whiz had the Google SEO down, which is why I used them first. I fell in love immediately. There’s nothing better than discounted parking.

One of the best things about moving to a city is the increased access to great food and entertainment and the environment of downtown, but finding affordable parking that is near your restaurant or venue can be a hassle. Not anymore. When you search “parking near Target Field” in Park Whiz, you not only get a list and map of parking lots near Target Field, you get the price of each spot and distance from your venue.

It gets better. You ever pull into a parking garage and see an open parking space on the first level next to the exit and pull in to find it reserved? We all have, but now you can park in that primo spot next to the exit. Parking apps like Park Whiz and BestParking resell those reserved parking spaces when they’re not being used. Just hit the assistance button upon exit and give the attendant your confirmation code.

That’s how I ended up paying $7 and change on the first level of a garage right next to the exit a mile from my venue. I don’t mind a nice walk there and back, and I certainly won’t pay $20 to park for three hours. If I can drive a 20-mile, round trip and park for less than $10 between parking and fuel, that’s $5 cheaper than an Uber or Lyft and more convenient than a $5, two-hour round trip on a bus.

4)    Craigslist

I found the place I live now using the Craigslist app. I favorited the only two-bedroom apartment and garage I could find 20 minutes from work for $850, utilities included except for electric, which amounts to heat and air conditioning.

Craigslist would be higher on this list if the community was more thoughtful when it comes to correspondence. I drove 40 miles to score some first-come, first-serve book shelves that were posted that morning. I emailed the person to see if they were available, but since he had the stuff in his driveway, a passerby who got there first scored them just before I arrived. He didn’t send me a message to let me know they were gone until after I had pulled out of his driveway. I did, however, discover two great places downtown to get food and see live music and eat really good ice cream or drink espresso exploring the area with Google Maps .

“Free Stuff” is the best category in the Craigslist app and probably my favorite thing in the world besides Google, Google Maps and Park Whiz. I scored a free wooden, queen-sized bed frame complete with six drawers that slide in underneath and a headboard with three separated shelves for books, alarm clock, smartphone, etc. I scored a cheap entertainment table for my new 4K Ultra HD TV and stereo amplifier from the same folks.

I also scored a Yamaha 5.1 surround sound stereo with subwoofer and 220-watt amplifier for $60. It’s the same amplifier for which I paid $120 and sold for $60 along with the 5.1 surround sound speakers and subwoofer. These speakers aren’t as good as those, but there aren’t many home theater surround sound stereos with 220-watt amplifiers. What results is the loudest home theater system I’ve ever heard. My buddy, who was an aspiring DJ for a while, DJ Make it Rain Coate, was the only person I knew who has ever had a stereo louder than my old Yamaha.

I could have scored a free desk, but got a better, smaller option from a friend. I can still pick up a dresser if I want, but I fear it will shrink my tiny bedroom even further.

My second favorite category on the Craigslist app is “Tickets For Sale.” I’m a big sports fan, so getting a great deal on tickets that impress the scalpers puts a big smile on my face. It rarely happens since Minnesota sports teams have been pretty bad these last few years, but I sense things are turning around.

I’m also a theatre buff and enjoy a good concert, too, and the Craigslist app is the first place I go before Ticketmaster, Vivid Seats, SeatGeek or Gametime. In fact, I’ve only ever used SeatGeek and Gametime to get the discount for signing up for their newsletter.

Generally people on Craigslist are looking to get face value for their tickets. Avoid any of the posts that are in all capital letters or use a generic photo of a logo and not a photo of the view from the seats. If you follow this rule you’ll avoid looking at a bunch of listings meant to redirect you to a reseller’s website.

5)     Amazon

I didn’t take advantage of the Amazon app until after my move to the city, but I could have had all the essentials to fill my new home waiting for me when I got there. Amazon offers a pantry service to Amazon Prime members, and it really does have the best deals on all your pantry products. When it comes to non-refrigerated food items, cleaning products, garbage bags, toothpaste, etc., I’ll never have to make another trip to the dollar store or Wal-mart. (Amazon and Wal-mart are in quite the price war, which is great for you, the consumer.) I was forced to stand in line at Wal-mart while I could have been simply opening boxes at my house and starting dinner.

 Honorable Mention: Groupon 

Because I didn’t have food sent to my new home ahead of me, I could have taken advantage of Groupon. The discounts are deep, and from now on I probably won’t eat at another restaurant unless I have a Groupon. If you love sushi, Thai, Indian and Italian food like me, you know it can get expensive. Well, I’m seeing up to 45 percent off restaurant food on Groupon.

From comedy tickets to spas and massages to dental care and plastic surgery, you can find a Groupon for it in the city. Even psychic readings are cheaper on Groupon. It’s an app too easy not to use.

 SINGLES ONLY – Match

Sure you could continue swiping left with the free Tinder and OKCupid apps, but Match is where it’s at whether you’re looking for respectable folks for friendly encounters or searching for your life partner. I appreciate how Match considers political and religious preferences when matching people because that’s what smart people talk about.

While Match is expensive ($25 per month for the three-month package), I can honestly say it works. I haven’t found my life partner yet, but I have met people I enjoy and that’s worth $25 when you’re alone and new to a city. My mother met her husband on Match, and apparently Match is responsible for the most first dates and second dates amongst online dating sites. You can try it for seven days for free and cancel anytime. 

So those are the apps to make your move to the city easier. Don’t make the mistake I did and discover them too late. Use the apps early and often.

While Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution grants only Congress the right to declare war, the United States has won and lost (or fought to a draw if it makes you feel better) many wars since Congress last declared war on Dec. 8, 1941. The Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan, Libya, and now Syrian attacks have all taken place without Congress declaring war.

 

The War Powers Resolution of 1973 was a response to Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon’s advancement of the Vietnam War and was supposed to reinforce Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution over Article II, Section 2, which makes the president commander-in-chief of the armed forces. It clearly hasn’t, as President Donald Trump proved the night of April 6 when he launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on a Syrian air base after it was determined the Syrian government attacked a rebel ammunition cache holding chemical weapons that killed over 100 people -- none of which were American civilians or soldiers.

 

When Pearl Harbor was bombed on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, war was declared by Congress the very next day. When the Twin Towers came down on 9/11, the war effectively began the very next day, but without a declaration of war from Congress. Those were attacks on US soil, though. This, however, was not in response to an attack on America, which has members of both major political parties throwing a fit, which is uncharacteristic. Most often the party not inhabiting the White House makes a fuss about the president’s overreach. Both Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul think Trump’s military action in Syria violates the Constitution.

 

The War Powers Resolution only requires the commander-in-chief to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing a military attack, and Trump did indeed notify more than two dozen members of Congress of his plan to attack Syria the night of April 6. He did not seek their authorization to do so because it wasn’t required of him thanks to the leeway offered by previous presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, all of whom launched attacks without Congress. Hell, George Bush, Sr. won the Gulf War in less than 100 hours. How can Congress expect to take back its Constitutional right to declare war if they allow presidents to bomb for 90 days when it took less than five days to win a war in 1991?

 

The most interesting thing about the War Powers Resolution is that it’s likely unconstitutional, which would make it pretty difficult to replace it. John McCain and Tim Kaine attempted to do so in 2014. They proposed the president should consult Congress before launching a military operation that is expected to last more than a week. It never happened, and it wouldn’t have any teeth today anyways. Bush, Bush, Jr. and Obama have knocked them all out. Drones helped a bit, too.

 

The War Powers Resolution is useless when one person can blow up the entire world in a matter of minutes without deploying a single soldier. War has become a lot like a catch in the NFL. We don’t really know how to define it, but we know it when we see it. And Americans have gotten used to waging war without declaring war. The United States is in a perpetual war against terrorism, and Americans keep waking up everyday, going to work and mostly ignoring what’s happening on the other side of the world. It’s no different than if war isn’t being waged. Americans everyday can safely assume their country is bombing somebody, and ignorantly assume those people had it coming.

 

I’m a big believer in the order of things. That is, the order in which information is presented matters, and that’s how I perceive the US Constitution. Article I holds more weight than Article II, and Amendment I of the Bill of Rights is listed before the Second Amendment for a reason. I mean, the whole reason white folks even stumbled upon this country was in search of religious freedom. And I’m not even religious, but I value the right to a free press and free speech over the right to own a gun. In this case, I think Congress’s right to declare war holds more weight than a president’s right to command the armed forces, and I think the Constitution was written in that order for that reason. While a president can’t declare war, he can control military operations once war is declared. I'm sure the drafters of the Constitution didn't think war would be waged prior to a declaration of war, or that bombs would be built that can blow up countries.

 

I also understand the importance of the president being able to command the armed forces in order to avoid an attack on Americans, and in a nuclear age when one bomb can wipe out an entire country, stopping those attacks is more important than retaliating. That is not the case here. Bush, Jr. didn’t have a very good reason to bomb Iraq, but he really didn’t need one. Neither does Trump with regard to Syria. Allowing Congress to decide whether to declare war might have saved the United States from entering either conflict.

 

I like the idea of checks and balances, but what Congress really wants is to reign in the powers of the president they’ve already given away. And if Congress really wanted that, they should have passed unconstitutional legislation that had some teeth the first time around, because it won’t happen again. That’s why I think the War Powers Resolution should be repealed and Constitutional order given precedence.

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A recent chemical attack in northern Syria killed dozens and wounded more.  According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), victims were having difficulty breathing, foaming at the mouth, seizures, bleeding from the nose and mouth, fainting, and some progressed to losing consciousness and dying.  Based on these observances, sarin gas is suspected.

 

What is Sarin gas?

 

Sarin is a liquid that is clear, colorless, odorless and tasteless. It can also be vaporized and used as a gas in chemical warfare.  It is an extremely potent nerve agent.

 

What does Sarin do?

 

Sarin acts to inhibit cholinesterase.  To understand its effects, let me briefly break it down.

Cholinesterase is an enzyme in the body used to break down acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine is a neurotrasmitter, that is present in every synapse that bridges the nerve signals to the muscles and other nerves.

Cholinesterase is a “checks and balance” type enzyme that  prevents acetylcholine from building up and causing continual stimulation of muscles and nerves.

If  acetylcholine remains unchecked, continual stimulation of muscles and nerve fibers can occur, interfering with body processes and causing among many effects, inability to properly breath and ultimately death.

Sarin inhibits cholinesterase so it can’t inhibit acetylcholine, allowing the latter to build up, causing disastrous effects.

 

What are the symptoms of Sarin gas poisoning?

 

Within seconds of exposure, Sarin gas can cause a variety of symptoms.  These include:

  • Chest tightness

  • Cough

  • Runny nose

  • Watery eyes

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Blurred vision

  • Headache

  • Abdominal Pain

  • Drooling

  • Diarrhea

  • INcreased urination

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Confusion

  • Low Blood Pressure

  • Muscle twitching

  • Seizure

  • Loss of Consciousness

  • Death


Those who survive could have symptoms for weeks and sometimes long term neurological effects.

 

How does one get exposed to Sarin?

Sarin is man made.  Its an agent in liquid form that can be aerosolized.  It can be introduced to populations in food, water supply, by direct contact with the skin or  even inhaled.

How do we treat Sarin poisoning?

Firstly, we need to reduce exposure by immediately removing the clothing and washing off the body to reduce the amount of the chemical being absorbed.

Atropine is considered the antidote for nerve agent poisoning.  It acts by blocking acetylcholine receptor sites so the signals stop firing.

Pralidoxime is also used to help reactivate cholinesterase. It works by cleaving the bond made by the nerve agent/organophosphate and the cholinesterase so it is free to work again to control acetylcholine levels.

Both are given by injections and are available as autoinjectors.

History of Sarin Gas

Sarin was first developed as a pesticide during Nazi Germany in 1938 by Gerhard Schrader and his team.  The compound made was  found to be 500 times more deadly than cyanide.  So the chemical’s future of becoming a pesticide was thwarted because it couldn’t be used around humans.  Its been told that the team of scientists working on Sarin were incapacitated for a month.

The Nazis instead chose to develop it as a chemical warfare agent and named it Sarin after the scientists,  Schrader, Otto Ambros, Rüdiger and Hermann Van der Linde.  Fortunately it was never used during WWII.

 

However, in 1988 the Iraqi’s used it against the Kurds, killing 5000 and injuring tens of thousands more.  In 1995, the religious movement Aum Shinrykio released the gas on multiple subway trains in Tokyo, killing 12 and injuring thousands.

 

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a Board Certified Family Physician. The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00am-2:00pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00pm (Central) at GCN.

 

If you have cable internet service or television, you’ve probably had a bad customer service experience. Comcast customer service, though, is the worst I’ve ever experienced. This is the story of the worst transaction I have ever attempted to make and how it made me want to cut the cord and go off the grid.

I ordered Xfinity’s X2 Double Play through my iPhone on the night of March 27. It was so easy it was as if Comcast stole the money right out of my bank account, but I received a confirmation email that my order had been placed on March 28, and another the next day stating my DVR and installation materials were on their way. I set up an Xfinity account, which comes complete with a Comcast email address. Since I was installing the equipment myself, there was no need to stay home and await a technician – or so I thought. He or she was scheduled to arrive March 28 to turn on my cable.

On March 30 I received an email with the subject line stating, “Action required to complete your order.” I clicked the “Confirm Offer” button and confirmed my order. But when I saw that my monthly bill would be more than $120 instead of the $100 per month price that was advertised, I made my first call to Comcast. I actually had a pleasant chat with a young man who was a native English speaker and very helpful. I told him I couldn’t afford $120 per month and that $100 was basically my budget. He said there was a return label in the box of installation materials for reasons such as this. He said to just slap the return label on the box and drop it at any UPS location. The return shipping was free. I told him that I’d still need Xfinity’s 100 mbps internet service for $50 per month, and he said that’d be no problem. He put the order in.

Since I work for a living, I missed the UPS delivery of the DVR and installation materials, for which I had to sign. After calling UPS to find out which of their stations I needed to visit, I got my package, reviewed the materials to see if there would be anything I needed to setup internet. I was purchasing my own modem, so I didn’t require anything. I slapped the return sticker over the original and gave it right back to the UPS lady. So far so good, right?

On April 3 I received another email confirming my Xfinity term agreement for the new order. At the very least, Comcast was covering their bases. They want you to know what you’re getting into so you can’t get out too easily. It stated that my install date would be April 5 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., but since I had previously had an installation date to have the cable turned on March 28 (which it still states on my Xfinity account homepage to this day) it shouldn’t have been necessary.

Despite speaking with the friendly, native English speaker and telling him I still wanted internet, it must not have been relayed to the technician.

When I called again on April 4 after discovering my plugged-in, Xfinity-compatible modem was receiving no information, I spoke to a non-native English speaker who said she couldn’t issue me a refund for the week my connection had not been active. I demanded to speak to a manager. He told me my account had been closed and there was no charge on my account. In fact, there was a $50 credit, because apparently when I returned the DVR, my credit card was refunded for Xfinity’s X2 cable and internet bundle, but the $50 I put down for the 100 mbps internet was simply credited to my account. I told him I wanted my cable internet-ready the next day. He transferred me to the nicest customer service representative in the world.

Kiara is a fixer. She’s one of those customer service representatives brought in to fix problems. At first she had trouble accessing my account. This was the third time I had to present my account information during this 26-minute phone call, because of course none of these customer service representatives selling or servicing internet have a connection to each other.

Finally, she scheduled a technician to come out the very next day as I requested. She said the technician would be there sometime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. I asked if I had to be present, and she said I did not. She said she would call me personally to make sure everything went alright.

It was 7 p.m. when I got home from work the next day. I hooked up my new, Xfinity-compatible modem – because of course the one I already owned wasn’t compatible – and proceeded to fail in activating my internet service three times. I called customer service simply to find out if an Xfinity technician did indeed make my cable internet-ready that day, but the non-native English speaker said they don’t have access to that information. Well, after he ran me through the activation process another three times, which took 39 minutes on the phone, he said he would schedule a technician to come out as soon as possible. I said, “Don’t bother. I’ll go with someone else.”

But I wasn’t exactly ready to sacrifice my live streaming yet. I do a live, uncensored podcast during select Minnesota Twins games that probably requires a bit more than 5 mbps. So I put in yet another call to customer service after 8 p.m. Why I don’t know. I didn’t see an Xfinity truck or van pull up to my building in the hour leading up to 8 p.m. like I did prior to the folks downstairs moving in, so I figured either the technician never came or the cable running through my walls was garbage. Despite reaching a native English speaker, I only made it 33 minutes on the phone.

I again asked if he could confirm if a technician had in fact turned on my cable, and he said a technician was there today. I thought, “Great. So this should eventually work.” It did not. We ran through the activation process another three times before I decided I needed to eat something. It was 9 p.m. and I hadn’t had any food in eight hours. After about 25 minutes I asked the guy if he could give me the name of the technician that was supposed to make my cable hot, just so I could use it in lieu of a curse word. He could not. I told him that would be a good recommendation to make to the big bosses at Comcast. Even if it’s a random name and no face, at least there’s someone for the customer to blame. I again asked if he was sure the technician came out to turn on my cable, but this time he said he didn’t have that information.

“But you told me the technician was out here today,” I said.

“It says here there was a scheduled visit for today,” he said.

“Are you telling me you have no way of knowing whether the cable sending your signal is turned on?”

“I guess so.”

“So the only way you know if the cable is turned on is if the device works?”

“Yes.”

I was speechless. The only thing I could utter was a bellowing groan. How much time and money is Comcast wasting simply because of this bizarre business practice? Just think of all the extra customer service representatives they have to pay, regardless of location, because people are trying to activate devices with cable that isn’t internet-ready. How much lower could your monthly bill be if they just had a technician press one damn button in a smartphone app to confirm the cable is hot at each location they visit? I had had enough.

“You know what, transfer me to whoever can refund every penny I’ve given you because I want nothing to do with your company,” I said.

Another fixer tried to convince me to let them send out another technician, but I wasn’t going to let the third time be the charm. She assured me that they’d get it figured out, but I told her I wanted every penny back immediately, with a few curse words tossed in. She said there was no reason to curse, and I said she hadn’t had the customer service experience I had the last week. I told her this was the worst transaction I’d ever attempted to make. She told me my refund would be in the form of a check that would arrive in up to 10 business days. I didn’t care how long it took. I just never wanted to talk to any Comcast customer service representative ever again. And I might be forced to because my account balance shows a credit of $10 and some change. Comcast customer service representatives can’t even get a refund right.

All cable companies are the same because they’re all monopolies based in different areas of the world. It’s not unlike my Italian ancestors who “managed” territories in New York and Chicago and Vegas and California. There’s basically four companies that own everything – Time Warner/Charter, Comcast, Verizon and AT&T/DIRECTV. So far I’ve used all but Time Warner, and Comcast is easily the worst thus far. Time Warner doesn’t get much love online either, though.

The point of this story is to let you know what will continue to happen if we allow it. If we continue to make these corporations think we need their services, they will continue to provide terrible customer service and continue to fleece us. Take a stand and make a sacrifice.

In metropolitan areas there are tons of alternatives to cable internet. CenturyLink offers DSL internet service in my area, albeit at just 5 mbps, but it’s only $30 per month. There are faster speeds available in other areas, and all you need to stream Netflix, Hulu or live television is 5 mbps. Of course, the speed quoted is always a top speed and never an average speed, so keep that in mind. They also have a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you don’t like the service you can cancel for no cancellation fee. While the customer service representative was unsure if I’d also be refunded the $20 activation fee, he was incredibly helpful and a native English speaker who was familiar with my area. He even called me back personally at my request.

If you want to go off the grid entirely (I assume you have a VPN), you can start by extending your Wifi range with a USB adapter and antenna. TP-Link offers a slew of options. If you’re less than 500 feet from the nearest public Wifi signal and don’t have a lot of buildings or walls interfering with your signal, I’d suggest a single-antenna option.

If that doesn’t work, go into your kitchen and grab a colander or Wok out of the cupboard and build a parabolic dish antenna out of the previously purchased wireless USB adapter. The Woktenna has been proven to increase gain as long as the bowl is not too deep. And if that doesn’t work, try a dual-antenna version of TP-Link’s wireless adapters. If that doesn’t work, move closer to public Wifi signals. Don’t give monopolies your money. The more of us that unite against cable companies, the less everyone will pay in their attempt to bring us back.

Editor’s Note: An update follows.

After waiting more than a week for Comcast to turn on my Xfinity internet, I finally caved after finding almost no internet alternatives in my area. While I really wanted to go with CenturyLink because of their superb customer service, 5 mbps download speeds just wasn’t going to cut it. So I called Comcast one more time and stayed on the line for over an hour.

I tried to stay calm and told the first customer service representative exactly what I wanted. I wanted a coupon for a free first month of internet services at download speeds of at least 25 mbps, and I never wanted to call Comcast customer service again. I told her I’d happily visit the Xfinity store a few miles from my house and speak to a living, breathing human being who is familiar with my community so I knew who I could blame when my internet didn’t work.

She said a coupon was impossible but if I wanted to go to the store and speak to someone that would be fine. I told her I wouldn’t continue as a Comcast customer if I wasn’t given a coupon for the week-long internet absence, specifically stating the amount of time I wasted on the phone over the course of that week, which worked out to be about the cost of a month of internet at 25 mbps download speeds given my wage.

She finally transferred me to someone who actually knew what he was talking about, and while he initially said a coupon would be impossible unless it’s given by a technician in the field, I kindly said that I knew he could issue a coupon. “You can do it,” I kept saying.

He kept saying he couldn’t give me a free month of internet, but he did find out why self-activating my modem didn’t work. He informed me that there hadn’t been an account at my address for nearly a decade and that self-activation likely wouldn’t work and a technician would be required to do some maintenance. I knew that meant I’d have to be present so the technician can access the cable, so I asked if he could send one the very next day. He could not.

The seventh customer service representative to whom I spoke that week, Jerome, I believe, put me on hold to negotiate the absolute fastest response he could get from a technician. He said Monday between 2 and 4 p.m. was the best he could do. I told him that might actually work for me, as I have no meetings on Monday and can take off work early.

Then Jerome said the magic words: “I’m going to waive your first monthly fee and your activation fee because of what you’ve been through.” I was elated.

“You should have led off with that,” I responded.

I asked Jerome why he was the only person I spoke to who knew what he was talking about. He said that he had spent time as a technical support representative and understood why things don’t work sometimes. Comcast had recently moved him to customer service for obvious reasons.

Three days later my technician arrived and got my internet up and running. My download speeds are up around 66 mbps, so not only did I get what I wanted, but apparently the $40-per-month package has download speeds of up to 75 mbps. The technician said Comcast is increasing them all the time. Upload speed is what means most to me, though, which was right around 7 mbps. That’s plenty for the live podcast I do occasionally, so I thanked Nick, the technician, and went and bought a new router. Mine was apparently too old for this new technology and only provided 5 mbps download speeds via Wifi.

In conclusion, I would recommend to anyone who has access to an internet alternative that provides download speeds higher than 5 mbps to take that alternative and avoid Comcast at all costs. I’d probably just lose my mind if my Xfinity internet suddenly stopped working and I was forced to call customer service again. Exhaust every alternative before committing to Comcast.

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%PM, %06 %923 %2017 %21:%Apr

Call fake news what it is: for-profit news

Written by

Editor’s Note: This is not news. It’s not even for-profit news. It’s an editorial, which is an editor’s opinion. News articles are nonfiction works that strive for objectivity, because that’s how you reach the widest variety of people. Only small, local newspapers do this well anymore, and there are fewer doing it well every minute.

The problem in American journalism today isn’t fabrication of the news or biased media organizations. It’s not even biased journalists or an undereducated audience. It’s capitalism. Profit motivates news content in this country, and controversy and sensationalism result in clicks, which result in cash. If I can either please you or enrage you with a headline to earn a click or share, the bottomline is black and the boss is happy. Informing you is unnecessary if I can appeal to your emotions. I probably did with that jab at capitalism, didn’t I? This idea of fake news is not new. I’ve been writing about it since 2012. I just called it Gonzo rhetoric back then.

American journalists have been writing fake news since Joseph Pulitzer sent Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman to make Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days a reality back in 1890. He had already adopted first-person narration in his newspaper articles; now what he needed was a hero.

American reporters want to be heroes involved in the story when they should be flies on the wall. But the readers want sensationalism, too, so that’s what they got and continue to get. This “Yellow journalism” snowballed into a pissing match quickly. The war for readers between Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s Journal got nasty when Hearst started selling newspapers for a penny. Karen Roggenkamp’s essay “The Evangelina Cisneros Romance, Medievalist Fiction, and the Journalism that Acts” explains Hearst’s intentions.

“Making no attempt to discern truth from falsehood, fact from fiction, the Journal published story after unauthenticated story of fierce battles, daring exploits, and – Hearst’s favorite – Spanish atrocities against innocent Cuban maidens” (27).

In 1897, Hearst sent Karl Decker, writing as Charles Duval, to Cuba to free Cisneros, an imprisoned Cuban maiden charged with attempted murder. Hearst’s readers weren’t concerned with her criminal record, though, and ate the story up.

“Hearst encouraged his writers to blend the apparent facts of the news with specific literary vocabularies, creating a meta-fiction that Journal readers consumed voraciously…Hearst created the meta-fiction because he wanted his readers and the government to act, just as his was ‘the journalism that acts'” (25).

Only vain, American assholes could take something as solemn as journalistic integrity and sacrifice it for fame and fortune. Nowadays “journalists” are so rushed to get clicks, fact-checking takes a backseat to headline writing. Nowadays journalists spend the same amount of time or more on writing a headline than writing the actual content of an article or editorial. That isn’t going to improve the quality of information readers receive.

If news organizations were never required to make a profit, the news would be less fake. It’d also be pretty boring but likely more effective in effecting change. So instead of calling it fake news, call it for-profit news. And if you’re looking for news organizations that don’t have this profit motive, look no further. The Institute for Nonprofit News can direct you to investigative reporting that has made a real difference for real people and not for profit.

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