Patient First offers free Halloween candy X-rays

— Patient First wants everyone to enjoy the frightful fun this Halloween by offering free digital X-ray imaging of Halloween candy. Bags of candy may be brought into any Patient First Neighborhood Medical Center from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, October 31, 2013.

An adult should always inspect the candy before allowing a child to enjoy the sweet rewards of their trick-or-treating. This free X-ray offer is an additional precaution parents may consider. It will help provide parents peace of mind about the treats their children receive by possibly detecting objects like, glass, metal or plastic.

Parents still need to provide supervision since some foreign materials may not appear in X-rays.

As an additional safety measure, Patient First will provide free safety blinkers at each of our medical centers during the month of October (one per person, while supplies last).. The blinking light may be attached to a child’s Halloween costume and can help increase visibility. Stop by any of our medical centers and inquire at the front desk or ask your nurse if you are visiting us for medical care.

U.S. steps up hunt for Joseph Kony

— In a sign of a potentially expanded role for U.S. special forces in Africa, the Pentagon is considering sending V-22 Osprey aircraft to a base in Uganda for American and African forces to use in assaults on The Lord’s Resistance Army, a messianic group led by Joseph Kony, a warlord African forces are trying to capture with the help of the United States.

The V-22, which takes off like a helicopter and flies like an airplane, would increase the distance ground forces can operate, and transport them to targets faster than conventional helicopters, said two U.S. military officials who confirmed details to CNN.

Special forces commanders are making the case the operation needs more mobility than a small number of conventional helicopters can provide currently.

At the same time, the role of U.S. special forces in the Kony hunt has been expanded under a new authorization approved by the White House, both officials said.

This past summer, U.S. troops were authorized for the first time to go on missions in the field with Ugandan and other African forces.

This means after two years of largely advising and assisting African troops where they are based, U.S. forces are now flying on helicopters and providing direct ground support to African units.

But U.S. forces are not allowed to go on patrol where they believe they may see combat and they are only permitted to fire in self-defense.

But as one official said, even with those rules, “you never really know when you are going to encounter combat.”

The possibility of sending V-22s was first reported by the Washington Post. No decision has been made, officials said.

Military officials said the Kony mission is just one example of the growing role of special forces in remote or politically sensitive areas of the world where conventional large combat units are impractical.

The recent raids in Libya by the Army’s Delta force and in Somalia by Navy SEALs, along with the Kony mission are the most visible indicators of this trend, officials said.

Another option would be to simply send more Army Black Hawk transport helicopters.

Any additional deployments would effectively double the size of the U.S. force already there, which is about 100 troops.

U.S. troops are mainly based in Uganda, although a small number operate out of a remote area in the Central African Republic.

Some V-22 aircraft on their way back to the United States from Afghanistan were expected to be diverted to Africa for the Kony mission, but it was scrubbed due to aircraft maintenance scheduling issues.

The-CNN-Wire

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

What’s in our shopping carts?

— With a current buying power of $1 trillion, manufacturers and marketers should be paying careful attention to the shopping patterns of African American consumers.

The latest report on black consumers, Resilient, “Receptive and Relevant: The African-American Consumer 2013 Report,” illustrates how much of that spending breaks down: Our annual retail spending makes up 87 percent of the total market retail spending, while retail spending for the Total Market accounts for 70 percent. This is a narrow gap in retail spending between Blacks and the Total Market which indicates our importance as Black consumers. We shell out 30 percent more of our annual income than the Total Market as well.

So now that you have a glimpse as to where the bulk of our household income is spent, let’s take a look at where that spending occurs. Annually, African Americans, make 154 shopping trips, which is eight trips more than other groups. We average, 20 trips to dollar stores, seven trips more; 15 trips to convenience/gas stores, which is two more than any other group and 15 trips to drug stores, which is one more than any other groups. Less time is spent at grocery stores, with three fewer trips. The exception to grocery store shopping, though, is with blacks who earn upwards of $100,000 annually. We also make three fewer trips to warehouse stores and two fewer trips to mass merchandisers than the Total Market. However, more upper-income blacks (73 percent) shop at warehouse clubs than non-Blacks annually.

The Centers for Disease Control has identified a phenomenon specific to some of our communities known as “food deserts” or “retail deserts.” We all know you won’t find some large chains in some urban areas. And, some existing grocery stores simply don’t carry the freshest, most nutritious foods. This might explain the occurrences and store preferences of food shopping trips in the African-American community. As the data also shows, African Americans tend to frequent retail stores located in our communities. Consequently, there is an opportunity for expansion of both affordable, quality product variety and actual stores in our neighborhoods. In an effort to try to attack this “food desert” trend, the Whole Foods chain, plans to build a store in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.

Another retail area that’s big for us is ethnic health and beauty care products – I know, no shocker there, right? We spend more than nine times more than any other demographic on Ethnic Hair and Beauty Aids. Sure, of course there are other hair care products on the shelves, but those products are not identified as ethnic, but they can lead to tremendous market growth opportunities, as blacks’ hair care spending within traditional CPG retailers is underdeveloped compared to the total market. In fact, 46 percent of Black households shop at Beauty Supply Stores and have an average annual total spend of $94 on products at these stores.

Among other edible and non-edible products, the report shows that on average, African Americans also purchase more unprepared meat and frozen seafood, dry vegetables and grains, refrigerated juices and drinks (in addition to those that non-perishable and can have an extended shelf life), feminine hygiene products, fresheners and deodorizers. And, that’s just a few of the categories that we tend to over-index. On the other hand, the insights show that we spend less money on the range of dairy products (milk, yogurt, etc.) on the edible side and this could be because many of us are lactose-intolerant; and categories like hair care (not to be confused with Ethnic HABA), some magazines with selected titles plus lawn and garden products round out the non-edible list.

African Americans are brand loyal consumers, but like other consumer groups; we enjoy value (e.g. better per-item pricing) and spend 18 percent of our retail dollars on private label brands. You know – the store brands. I am always fascinated by how varied different groups’ preferences tend to be. For instance, in the private label category, disposable diapers rank as the most popular item for us; but they rank fifth on the store brand list of White non-Hispanics. Again, this is an opportunity for marketers who are paying attention.

And here’s one of the new areas that we explored for this year’s report. All of us make fast food runs from time to time – some of you I know, more often than others, but hey, there is no judgment here. I am sure our busy schedules and multiple mouths to feed at home, make hitting those drive-thrus a lot easier. So we took a look at our preferences for fast food or Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) over the last three months.

These are the top five Black household QSRs in comparison to other U.S. households:

1.McDonald’s (65% vs. 60%)

  1. Burger King (44% vs. 36%)
  2. Subway (43% vs. 40%)
  3. KFC (37% vs. 26%)

5.Wendy’s (36% vs. 30%)

If you would like to learn more, I invite you to visit our website at www.nielsen.com for the full report. I would love to hear from you so we can keep the conversation going. So, hit us up on Twitter or Facebook. In the meantime, remember how powerfully relevant you are with every consumer choice you make.

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsen.com. Follow Us on Twitter @NielsenKnows #AAConsumer13. Like us on Facebook: wwwfacebook.com/NielsenCommunity

Celebrating Halloween and fall affordably

— With the beginning of autumn comes time to decorate your home for Halloween and harvest, stock the pantry with heartier foods and spruce up your wardrobe with seasonal fashions.

Transitioning into fall can be easy by staying on a budget and the shopping experts at Dollar General are sharing ways to celebrate fall affordably:

• Make a picnic: There’s no better way to celebrate the season than with a picnic at a local park as the leaves change colors, complete with hazelnut cocoa spread and jelly sandwiches, turkey wraps and fresh fall apples. Be sure to pack plenty of reusable plates and silverware available in rustic fall colors too. It’s an affordable way for the whole family to enjoy the weekend outdoors.

• Halloween: Welcome trick-or-treaters with festive yard signs and decorations.  Save on all your Halloween celebrations by stocking up on candy, chocolates, treats and more from national and private brands.  Throw a festive and low-cost Halloween party with simple costumes and spooky décor by finding your supplies at a discount store such as Dollar General.   Great free party recipe ideas for dips and snack mixes can also be found online.

• Highlight your home: Be inspired by the spectacular natural colors of the season and accent your home with the latest fall trends and harvest décor items. Greet your guests with hospitality with a fall wreath and accent your kitchen with new owl-themed housewares. Plus, as the temperatures drop, make your home cozier with throw blankets and area rugs.  Candles in seasonal scents are another great fall addition.

• Get dressed: Enjoying the season means you’ll need new items in your wardrobe to stay comfortable, warm and fashionable. Don’t spend a fortune ramping up your family’s wardrobe with sweaters, knit shirts, jeggings and skinny jeans. A discount retailer will have all the same styles for less, including outerwear and shape wear designed for cooler weather, so you can stay active all season. 

• Eat well: Warm up the family with hearty meals made from inexpensive ingredients. Name brands can be pricey, so opt for private store brands such as Clover Valley Soup. For main dishes, think about hot entrees that can feed the whole family easily.

For more ideas for affordable fall fun and coupons, visit www.DollarGeneral.com.

It’s easy to make this season the fun and festive, yet affordable.

Chris Brown heads to rehab; seeks ‘insight’ into his behavior

— Chris Brown is reaching into Lindsay Lohan’s playbook for avoiding jail: Go to rehab before your court date.

The singer’s arrest Sunday on an assault charge put him on a path toward a possible prison sentence, but he will be in a rehabilitation facility as his next court date approaches.

“Chris Brown has elected to enter a rehab facility,” said a statement Tuesday night from his representative. “His goal is to gain focus and insight into his past and recent behavior, enabling him to continue the pursuit of his life and his career from a healthier vantage point.”

There has been no indication that Brown, 24, has a substance abuse problem. The behavior that has landed him in legal trouble over the past several years has been anger management.

Brown’s brutal attack on former girlfriend Rihanna on the eve of the Grammys in February 2009 resulted in a felony domestic violence conviction that carried a lengthy probation period. A judge found him in violation of that probation in August because of discrepancies in proving he fulfilled the court-ordered 1,400 hours of community labor. He imposed another 1,000 hours of work.

The Los Angeles County district attorney appears in no mood to cut Brown any breaks, which suggests that prosecutors will ask for jail time for him because of the arrest early Sunday in the shadow of the White House. While the simple assault charge in Washington is a misdemeanor, it could trigger a probation revocation.

Brown is in a vulnerable position. The Los Angeles judge overseeing his felony probation could order him to complete as many as four years in prison for the beating of Rihanna if he is found in violation of probation.

Brown is due in a Los Angeles court on November 20 for a probation status hearing. Prosecutors have declined to comment on if they will seek to put him behind bars.

The U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia charged Brown and his bodyguard with simple assault for a brawl over the weekend in which a 20-year-old Maryland man suffered a broken nose. Brown spent 36 hours in a Washington jail and was taken to court in shackles Monday afternoon. He was released and ordered to report to his California probation officer within 48 hours.

The probation officer’s job is to prepare a report for the Los Angeles judge who will decide if Brown will be found in violation of his probation.

Going to rehab — as his rep said “to gain focus and insight into his past and recent behavior” — could allow Brown lawyer Mark Geragos to argue that the entertainer is getting proper help for his core problem.

The statement from Brown’s rep did not disclose where the singer is going for rehab, how long he intends to stay, or what might be a “healthier vantage point” for him.

CNN’s Carolyn Sung contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Obamacare deadlines clarified

— Listen up, procrastinators: March 31 is now the only date to circle on your Obamacare calendar.

That’s the 2014 deadline to apply for coverage and not face tax penalties under an extension announced late Monday by the Obama administration.

The six-week delay resolves two conflicting dates: the open enrollment window extended beyond the deadline to obtain coverage. The extension does not involve people covered under employer health plans or government coverage such as Medicare or Medicaid.

Coverage through the health exchanges begins Jan. 1, but customers don’t have to enroll in a plan that quickly. The Affordable Care Act allows individuals to go without coverage for up to three months at a time. It also specifies a mid-month application deadline for coverage to begin the next month.

The law says the open enrollment window is open through March 31. But if individuals waited until that day to register, their coverage wouldn’t begin until May, long after the three-month clock that started Jan. 1 reached zero.

That meant a Feb. 15 application deadline.

The extension removes this confusion.

Faced with a malfunctioning website and confusion over the deadline, the agency running the insurance marketplace said it would give customers the extra time.

The penalty is known as the “shared responsibility payment.” Someone who is required to but does not have health coverage in 2014 would pay it in their taxes due April 15, 2015. It is $95 or 1% of income, whichever is greater, and increases quickly — to at least $325 for 2015 and $695 for 2016.

The-CNN-Wire

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Simple upgrades for older homes

— Increasing living space, sprucing up the exterior and improving energy efficiency are at the top of the list for many homeowners living in older or smaller houses. But such additions and upgrades can be extensive and costly. By making strategic upgrades, however, you can accomplish all these desires simply and affordably.

If you’re on a budget, here are some steps you can take to make your home more livable and beautiful while simultaneously reducing your utility bills:

Smart Interior Design

Smart decorating can improve energy efficiency. Ensure furniture is not blocking vents. Install carpeting or use area rugs to make your home cozier in winter.

Awnings

Considering an addition to your home? A fabric canopy or awning over your deck or patio is a great long-term solution to expand needed living space at a low cost. Be it an outdoor kitchen, living room or simply a covered deck or patio, you can make better use of your existing outdoor spaces with awnings.

And adding awnings and solar shades to your home can extend the life of your air conditioner and save you money on energy bills for years to come. Recent data indicates that the shade provided by this retrofit can help reduce cooling costs in some parts of the country by more than 50 percent, according to The Professional Awning Manufacturers Association.

Window and doorway awnings also provide an affordable and quick boost of curb appeal by complementing your home with splashes of color and adding drama and impact to an otherwise ordinary façade. Consider echoing the architecture of a traditional residence or complementing more modern-styled homes.

More information about how to upgrade your home with awnings can be found at www.AwningInfo.com.

Organize

If you’re short on space, expand your living area through organization. Do a sweep every few days to de-clutter. And think vertical versus horizontal, as a narrow, tall shelving unit will take up a lot less floor space than a large trunk. Consider opting for furniture that moonlights as storage, such as a coffee table with a bottom shelf and beds with pull-out drawers.

If closets are limited, look to under-used areas of the home, such as the foyer. For example, adding a row of hooks and a bench to your home’s entryway creates a makeshift mud room and a perfect place to store coats and shoes. 

By opting for affordable, high-impact upgrades, you can achieve maximum livability, comfort and functionality in your older or smaller home.

Smarter teen driving starts with parents

— Parents who ensure that teens get ample practice in a wide variety of situations and transfer their safe driving wisdom to their novice drivers are more likely to help their teens develop the necessary skills to be safer drivers, according to a series of research studies from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. In step with AAA’s advice that parents should spend more time with their teen drivers so they can build as much experience as possible before driving solo, these new findings provide evidence as to how parents can most effectively work with their teens.

While current tools on the market focus on teen education, AAA used this insight in the development of a new drivers ed tool for parents— AAA’s StartSmart Online Parent Session. Grounded in principles of adult learning, the program helps parents be more effective driving coaches as their teens learn to drive.

“Teens continue to have the highest crash rate of any age group, so it’s critical that parents are involved and use techniques that are shown to work,” said Ragina C. Averella, manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic. “These recommended coaching techniques may seem rather obvious, yet research findings show that parents aren’t regularly practicing these techniques.

For example, one Foundation study that surveyed parents and teens during the process of learning to drive found:

· Nearly half of parents reported they wanted their teens to get “a lot of practice,” when asked about their plans for their teens’ driving. Yet, only about one in four parents mentioned practicing under a variety of situations or conditions, such as in bad weather, heavy traffic, or on unfamiliar roads.

· Nearly half of parents (47 percent) reported that there was still at least one condition in which they were not comfortable allowing their teen to drive unsupervised even after they passed their driving test and got their license to drive independently.

· Few parents in the study were observed sharing more complex driving tips—such as visual scanning or anticipating other drivers’ behaviors – with their teen drivers.

“Parents should make sure that their teens get ample driving practice, particularly during challenging conditions such as in heavy traffic and bad weather, and not just on routine trips on familiar roads,” said Averella, adding, “If they do, teens will be much more likely to have the skills and mindset needed to be safer drivers.”

With the roll out of the StartSmart Online Parent Session, AAA aims to give parents easy access to the most useful parenting practices for supervising and managing a teen driver. Through interactive elements and demonstrations, the two-hour program covers everything a parent needs to know, including a discussion about the situations and challenges they will most likely experience during supervised driving practice. The program is being offered at a 50 percent discount ($9.95) in support of Teen Driver Safety Week, October 20-26, and is available for purchase at www.teendriving.aaa.com.

To encourage parents to share their wisdom with younger drivers, AAA is launching a national contest soliciting the best driving advice that parents wish to impart on teen drivers, along with a chance to challenge their own driving smarts by taking the “Are You Smarter Than Your Teen Driver?” quiz. Parents can submit entries at Contest.TeenDriving.AAA.com from October 21 through December 11 and will be eligible to win prizes including an iPad® mini and VISA® gift cards.

Five tips for haunting your house this Halloween

— Americans spent close to $8 billion on Halloween last year, according to the National Retail Federation. With scary celebrations getting bigger every year, becoming the best-decorated house on the block may seem difficult — but it’s easy if you have insider tips and tricks.

“Giving your home a spooky look for Halloween can make or break your trick-or-treaters’ night,” says Larry Kirchner, publisher of Hauntworld.com and owner and operator of the world’s number-one rated haunted house, “The Darkness”.

Kirchner, who has been building and operating Halloween amusement attractions for 25 years, has some tips for turning your home into a spooky haunted house:

• Create a cemetery: “Haunting” your yard sets the tone for your whole haunted house. One of the easiest, most fun, yet eeriest things you can do is turn the space into a graveyard.  Let your grass grow long, add a gothic fence and a zombie or two popping up through the ground and make your own tombstone or coffin to complete the look.

Start by getting pink or blue foam from the hardware store. Cut the foam into the shape of a tombstone and then coat it with light plaster, thin concrete or other textured material found at the hardware or art supply store. Finally, paint it gray, and use a hotwire knife to carve in RIP and a name.

To make a coffin, use 1×6 pine boards and 2x2s nailed together into a box. Paint the outside and then get creative with your theme. For a Victorian vampire style coffin, line the interior with velvet curtains. For a deserted Old West theme, use jute or burlap on the inside. 

• Spin cobwebs: Achieve that old, abandoned, dusty look inside, or create creepiness outside, by spinning your own cobwebs. Most haunted house supply websites sell cobweb glue guns that use air to spray thin strands of glue. You can create any size cobweb over fake birds, china cabinets or even trees.

• Creepify your windows: Add a red light to the bottom of the windows, and hang torn black curtains to make the windows look creepy when they`re lit. Hang boards across the outside to give the house an abandoned look.

• Add eerie effects: Play spooky sounds on a stereo outside or through open windows. You can find great Halloween soundtracks online. For a dramatic effect, use a fog machine to make the house look otherworldly. You can rent or purchase fog machines at most party stores.

• Break out some black birds: Dollar stores often sell black birds, which you can make frightening by gluing scraps of gray fabric to their feathers and buttons over their eyes. Hang them in the yard or throughout the house with black gauze or spider webs from the party store.

This Halloween, get spookily creative. Go beyond a simple Jack-O-Lantern and haunt your whole house.

For more inspiration on Halloween decorations or haunted houses, visit www.HauntWorld.com.

CUPs Coffeehouse provides jobs, opportunities

— When many have given up on at risk teens, one woman hasn’t. Holly Gray is the executive director and founder of CUPs (Create Unlimited Possibilities) Coffeehouse, a café in West Baltimore that aims to give local at-risk youth a professional insight into the work world.

Gray opened CUPs Coffeehouse, a non-profit organization, in August of 2012. She wanted to create a work place for at-risk youth, where she could employ and empower them to become financially independent. She teaches young people job skills that they will be able to use throughout their careers including communication and behavioral management. The hope is for her employees to become mentors and community leaders.

“I love kids,” said Gray. “I am tired of them not being afforded the same opportunities I had when I was growing up.

The CUPs Coffeehouse employs young men and women from the ages of 16 to 24. They go through a training period and once hired, can expect to work twelve hours a week and complete eight hours of community service. The job lasts for a year and enrollment is open twice a year.

“They’re amazing, they’re resilient and strong, and determined,” said Gray.

CUPs employee Day’Zhaunae Brown, was introduced to the coffeehouse by her grandfather, a regular customer of the neighborhood café. Her title is now barista. Although she has only been employed at CUPs for a few months, she said she has already improved her time management skills.

The environment at CUPs is inviting and diverse. They have many events each month; ranging from open mic night to children’s story time. Soon CUPs will be launching a new mentoring program and a newsletter.

Gray partnered with the University of Baltimore and MDCC AmeriCorps for the mentoring program. The program will provide each employee with a mentor to help guide them along their professional path. The newsletter is also a new venture for the coffee house. The publication will be created for the youth and by the youth.

Gray gave up a lucrative job to open the café but said she doesn’t miss the money, “I am more happy than I have ever been in my life, ” said noted.

For more information about CUPs Coffeehouse call 410-685-2878.