Powerful Book For Young Black Boys Celebrates 25 Years With Pledge To Get One Million New Readers

Jerald LeVon Hoover became the published author of a Young Adult (YA) title, one of a few books targeted toward young black and brown boys ages 12 and up, “My Friend, My Hero.” This novella has become a staple, as recommended reading in elementary through high schools across the country and around the world. That is a distinct honor Hoover shares with a short list of African-American male YA authors including: Walter Dean Myers, Kevin Powell, Kwame Alexander, and Ralph Burgess.

My Friend, My Hero, is celebrating its 25th Anniversary with a commemorative edition that includes an addendum of book discussion questions and now available; a full curriculum with a companion Student Success Guidebook, Teacher’s Guide, and Unit Assessments containing lesson plans. The goal is to promote Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in the classroom by providing strategies for students to make better choices and gain much needed confidence to support unleashing their inner greatness.

“Exposing black and brown children to a barrage of negative imagery and expecting their positive self-image to remain intact is ridiculous, insensitive, unjust and unfair,” said Hoover. “Young black and brown men are focused, gifted, driven, intelligent, and masterful at a host of other talents besides rap music and competitive sports; of which carries no shame, but we have other skill sets of significant influence. We are men of honor and integrity, regardless of whether we are born into poverty or wealth. But how can young black and brown men, or men of any race for that matter, define themselves and live up to their full potential if they only receive distorted representations?

“My Friend, My Hero is intended for all youth (races and genders), but I gave the spotlight to young, black and brown males because of the dire need for young black and brown men to have access to more positive representations of themselves to which they can relate.”

Celebrating 25 years in print, “My Friend, My Hero,” is the first in the acclaimed The Hero Book Series by Jerald LeVon Hoover. Other titles from The Hero Book Series are “He Was My Hero,” “Too, A Hopeful Hero,” and “Hoop Hero.” The novella took nine years to get published after forty rejections and sixty drafts.

In the book, Bennett Wilson has the world at his fingertips as one of the top basketball players in New York State who is destined to lead Mount Vernon High School to the state championship for the first time. Many of the nation’s top colleges are already reaching out, eager to sign him to their roster. Scholarships are guaranteed. Still young, Bennett is used to fanfare and eagerly anticipating his rise to fame and fortune. Yet, all is not as it appears.

Strife and difficulties plague Bennett’s personal life. Growing up in Mount Vernon, he is the son of a single mother and the oldest of three, sharing a tiny apartment in the tough inner-city projects. Life is a struggle. Bennett knows his ticket to freedom is through basketball and academic excellence. Thanks to the support of his loyal friend Kirby and a budding romance with Tara, he pursues his dreams and refuses to get caught up in the fast life of the streets.

Things change when Bennett learns his mother’s health is failing. She has fallen far behind on the rent, and they face eviction. The weight of responsibility falls on Bennett’s shoulders, just as trouble and the troublemakers appear. Fast money seems to be the only option. Will Bennett try to help his family and risk ruining his future? Will Bennett finally succumb to the dangers and temporary comfort of the street life he has fought so hard to avoid? And if he give in, what will it cost him?

“My Friend My Hero” is available for sale at Amazon.com. To learn more about The Hero Book Series, visit https://theherobookseries.com

Addressing Out-Of-Pocket Costs Key To Health Improvement And Cost Savings

More than 190 million Americans suffer from chronic diseases. For them, healthcare reform isn’t a political football— it’s a matter of life and death.

Unfortunately, both parties keep pushing reforms that won’t improve patients’ lives. One side is focused on making insurance coverage skinnier and cheaper; the other on having the government takeover large segments of the healthcare system, setting prices, and sacrificing innovation and consumer choice.

Both these approaches would make it harder for patients to get the care they need and burden our healthcare system in the long run. To cut costs and help patients save billions, politicians ought to focus on making preventing and managing chronic diseases more accessible by addressing out-of-pocket costs.

Chronic diseases account for 90 percent of all U.S. healthcare spending. Today, six in 10 Americans live with at least one chronic condition.

People with chronic conditions face unreasonable out-of-pocket costs. On average, individuals with two or more chronic diseases spend five times more out-of-pocket than patients without any chronic conditions. People with three or more conditions pay 10 times more.

These out-of-pocket burdens have grown as insurance has steadily shifted more costs onto patients. Because of such trends, average out-of-pocket spending has grown 58 percent over the past decade.

Consider the growth of high-deductible health plans, which typically require

patients to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket before coverage begins.

This year, 30 percent of workers have a high deductible health plan compared to just 4 percent in 2006. For people living with chronic conditions, surging out-of-pocket costs often mean delaying or forgoing care altogether.

A recent study showed that even women receiving a breast cancer diagnosis delayed treatment at every step— screening, testing, surgery, radiation, and therapy— when insured under a high deductible health plan.

This harms patients and adds to overall costs. Medication non-adherence alone causes approximately 125,000 deaths and adds nearly $300 billion to America’s healthcare bill annually. In fact, we spend more failing to optimize adherence and medication benefits than we do on drugs themselves. Reducing out-of-pocket costs would improve adherence— thus keeping people healthy, saving money and lives.

As Congress considers legislation to improve our healthcare system, it is shortsighted to focus on just one silo of care in our continuum.

Instead, policymakers should focus on ways to lower out-of-pocket costs for people living with chronic conditions. Improving access to high quality chronic disease care could save our nation $6.3 trillion in spending.

Chronic diseases are the number one cause of death, disability and rising healthcare spending in the United States. The only way to save lives and reduce costs is to invest in better treatment— and address out-of-pocket costs so treatment is accessible to the people who need it most.

Kenneth E. Thorpe is a professor of health policy at Emory University and chairman of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.

What Do The 2019 Elections Mean For 2020?

If the 2019 elections are any indication, Republicans need to worry about their viability come 2020. In Virginia, Democrats have majorities in both its upper and lower houses. With a Democratic governor, Virginia has an unprecedented opportunity to shape public policy, especially around gun control, a key concern for many. In West Virginia, the candidate backed by 45 lost. Many will say it is because of the Republican governor, Matt Bevin, was extremely unpopular. If so why was 45 propping him up? He must have thought he had a prayer.

Forty-five notwithstanding, Bevin’s Democratic opponent, Attorney General Andy Beshear, scored a very narrow victory, getting 49.2 percent of the vote, compared to Bevin’s 48.8. Just five thousand votes separate the two men, but a narrow win is still a victory, and 45 has egg on his face. Usually, when 45 shows up and takes it over the line, the base is supposed to get fired up. Not this time.

While Democrats scored some gains, the Mississippi governor’s mansion is still in Republican hands. Mississippi has the largest concentration of black people— 39 percent— of any state, but African Americans remain underrepresented among elected officials in Mississippi. Is it voter turnout? An inability to forge a progressive coalition? Or, are race matters so hardwired in Mississippi that Republicans will always prevail?

Speaking of other race matters, the affirmative action ballot measure that appeared on the Washington state ballot failed, which is disappointing news for those who think that we have not yet met diversity goals. Washington state was one of the first to ban affirmative action in 1998 (California’s anti-affirmative action Proposition 209 also passed that year). After California and Washington, other states followed, including Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma.

Although the affirmative action measure— Referendum 88— lost very narrowly, it still failed. That means that state agencies can’t openly recruit diverse candidates, and contracting agencies can’t make special efforts to reach out to those who are underrepresented. And since the anti-affirmative action measure passed in 1998, the numbers of minority and women-owned businesses have dropped in the state. That’s a step backward!

One of the reasons Referendum 88 failed was because a group of Chinese immigrants was among those who campaigned to defeat the affirmative action measure. Former governor Gary Locke, an Asian American man who describes himself as a product of affirmative action, fought for the referendum. But the majority of voters rejected the measure. So much for the “people of color” coalition.

Still, it is interesting that a recent Gallup poll showed that a majority of white people in this country narrowly favor affirmative action, with 65 percent advocating affirmative action for women and 61 percent supporting affirmative action for minorities. These levels of support are the highest since Gallup began polling on this issue. Perhaps the recent focus on the wealth gap has sensitized some people to inequality. In any case, as positive as the poll was, it didn’t translate to the vote.

The affirmative action loss is bad news because it may signal other states to avoid pro-affirmative action referenda. Further, the loss confirms that many are satisfied with the lack of diversity that is commonplace in politics, the workplace, and elsewhere. And, given the composition of this Supreme Court, challenges to affirmative action that come before them are likely to weaken efforts to encourage diversity in employment, contracting, and education. Several of the justices have already openly opined that race should matter less. Their overturning of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is evidence of their race myopia. It is as if these judges are oblivious to the persistence of racism. It is as if they ignore the headlines about the police shootings of Black men. It is as if the wealth gap means nothing to them.

So, what do we learn from the last elections? Democrats have a chance to defeat some Republicans and may yet prevail in the 2020 elections. But race remains a divisive factor in our country. And unfortunately, we have a President who will use race divisiveness to his advantage. Count on the 2020 election to be as contentious as the 2016 election was, but hopefully with different results.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, media contributor and educator. Her latest project MALVEAUX! On UDCTV is available on youtube.com. For booking, wholesale inquiries or for more information, visit www.juliannemalveaux.com

Becoming Numb To Mass Shootings

Each time we experience a mass shooting, we repeat the pattern— a point I have made in previous columns. Shock, grief, prayer, throwing up our hands, and proponents of unlimited gun ownership arguing that this is not the time to discuss sensible gun control; instead we should restrict ourselves to prayer.

And then nothing ever happens. Except for one thing. We become increasingly numb to the impact of gun violence, which I have come to conclude, right-wing gun fanatics wish to encourage. When we no longer see mass or just random killings as outrageous and uncivilized, the demand for sensible gun regulations diminishes in importance. Gun fanatics would like us to accept that this violence will happen and that the best that we can do is to further arm US society, e.g., arm teachers in schools.

There is no easy way to avoid becoming numb to mass shootings and random violence.

When you read about it or hear about it or witness it nearly every day and you conclude that it will not change, your mind searches for safety. That “safety” plays itself out in our becoming less shocked and—to be blunt—more accepting of the reality that our children may get killed at school or that our family or friends may get shot at a parking lot or by an outraged former employee at any number of facilities. The mind says to us that we cannot exist on a permanent level of tension and anxiety.

Except, we do harbor that tension and anxiety. It’s just that we may not display it. Rather, it eats away at us in our insides.

Is there any way around this, in addition to legislation? Yes. First and foremost, it necessitates community organizing and community organization. As simplistic as it may sound, our youth need to be forced to confront the finality of death. Death is not an action video game. Nor should it be the immediate recourse when someone feels emotionally injured. Thus, the victims—including families—of gun violence need to be at the center of discussions about the ramifications of gun violence.

A second route is the establishment of legitimate gun clubs. This may sound strange but hear me out, and this is especially important in African American communities. Guns are not going away so, there needs to be training and discipline associated with the use of fire arms. Just as with martial arts, the younger members of our communities must understand when, where and how to utilize firearms, and when not to.

Platitudes and prayer are nearly meaningless when one is up against a combination of a multi-million-dollar gun industry linked directly with a fanatical, right wing movement opposed to sensible gun ownership. At the end of the day, the barbarians must be out organized.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the executive editor of globalafricanworker.com and the former president of TransAfrica Forum.

Report Reveals 35 Million Americans Still Have 2018 Holiday Debt

Black Friday, the knockdown, drag-out, mother-of-all-shopping-days, and the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season is here.

With consumers expected to dig deep into their wallets and spend as much as $1.1 trillion this holiday season, the time is now for gift buying, deals, savings and debt— lots of debt.

A new report from the District of Columbia-based personal finance website WalletHub, has revealed that 35 million Americans still have credit card debt from last holiday season, and nearly one-third of consumers will spend less this year than in 2018. The study also found that 52 percent of people don’t think Black Friday sales are anything special including 54 percent of women; 49 percent of men; 64 percent of those 59 years-old and older; and 37 percent of individuals between 18 and 29.

The study noted that one in five Americans will owe holiday credit card debt into at least February.

While 58 percent will pay for holiday purchases made by credit card in full by the due date, 23 percent said they will have a holiday balance after January. Just 19 percent said they would pay off their holiday purchases in full by New Year’s Day.

As a side note, Americans also noted what they would pay extra for this holiday season just to make something go away.

Seventy-five million Americans said they would pay extra for no tweets this holiday season from President Donald Trump; 49 percent said they’d pay extra just for peace and quiet; and 32 percent said they’d pay additional for faster delivery of products and services.

While debt is the primary focus of the study, experts noted that credit cards can be confusing, perhaps even dangerous if used irresponsibly.

WalletHub experts say credit cards can also be the ticket to hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars in savings, thanks to their credit-building capabilities, rewards and 0 percent financing deals.

The study noted several questions for consumers to consider, including should everyone have at least one credit card? Are credit cards safer now than before the Great Recession? Are consumers good at picking credit cards? What are the biggest pitfalls?

“Yes, everyone should have at least one credit card simply because it is the easiest method of establishing and maintaining credit,” said WalletHub Expert James Estes, a Professor of Finance at California State University San Bernardino. “In addition, I believe that a second credit card, with the lowest fees, should be kept as an emergency fund substitute. Often when an emergency occurs, it is not the best time to liquidate assets, and at current interest rates, one would lose money in light of inflation.

“A credit card for emergencies would allow a 30 day window to pay off its use with invested funds, possibly mitigating the inopportune time to sell in need of immediate funds.”

Harold Hartmann, a WalletHub expert and assistant professor of Accounting at the Eastern Connecticut State University, said credit cards are safer now than they were prior to the Great Recession.

“But due to the amount of data that is transferred and the sophistication of hackers no one is completely safe at all,” Hartmann said. “The chip technology is a good addition to security for credit cards and I also think the credit card are proactive in trying to head of fraudulent charges. My wife had her card declined the other day; she tried it again and it [was] declined again.

“She called the card company and they had flagged her card for a suspicious transaction. That transaction turned out to be our weekly breakfast spot and it was inconvenient, but the take is they are trying to get it right. So, safer now yes; safe— not so much.”

Family background, familial behavior pattern, personality, and financial education are all factors in knowing whether a consumer is good at picking the right credit cards, said Nan Li, a WalletHub expert and associate professor of Business and Economics at California University of Pennsylvania.

Li noted some of the pitfalls.

“The biggest pitfall is deceiving yourself by thinking you can pay the credit card bill later when you can’t pay it off now,” LI said. “People should use credit card the same way as they use their debit card, deeming it as their own money, never overspending.”

To view the WalletHub survey, visit their website.

Baltimore Times Embarks On Community Conversations Project To Improve Charm City

The Baltimore Times and the Times Community Services, Inc are inviting all to participate in the opening segment of a community conversation project that will tackle the more challenging issues facing Charm City.

A host of community leaders, social change experts, city officials, and others are expected to be a part of a three-part series with the first event titled “Baltimore’s Future: A Conversation on Baltimore’s Changing Neighborhoods” taking place on Saturday, December 7, 2019.

Details about participants, the venue, and exact times will follow in upcoming editions of the Baltimore Times, Annapolis Times, and the newspapers’ website www.baltimoretimes-online.com

The establishment of the community conversations is part of a grant funded by the Facebook Journalism Project Community Network Grant, in which recipients will use these grants to support projects aimed at building community and new paths to sustainability in local news.

Through the Community Conversations Project, The Baltimore Times will act as a convener, bringing together decision-makers, neighbors, and new leaders who will join forces to move forward as a team to help solve the city’s most pressing issues, according to Baltimore Times Publisher Joy Bramble.

“The focus is to create a project that bridges the gaps of key decision-makers in Baltimore. Also, it’s for neighbors in Baltimore who are impacted by those decisions. Who is working on what key issues in the city? Who is collaborating? How do neighbors get involved and learn about projects and organizations?” Bramble stated.

The publisher noted that the city is changing, “We are now a city made of ‘life-longers’ with a growing number of transplants and new faces in the city,” she said.

“We have a large number of new and emerging leaders, many of whom are doing different things to make Baltimore a thriving city, but no true thread or knowledge available on all of the moving pockets and parts.”

The Baltimore Times can – and will attempt to – be the thread.

Among the many topics, the discussions will center on solutions to abandoned buildings, blight, and helping the underserved become homeowners.

The newspaper is seeking to work at bridging the gap through research, interviews, and local reporting, to help bridge what seems to be a disconnect among the groups. In this effort, it will help introduce people to one another, build community, and answer questions for those who want to collaborate and share their knowledge.

Since the 2015 uprisings, there has been a significant focus on social impact and social change, and many people and projects are partaking in this change.

The series will also focus on those individuals and projects and gage what might be done to achieve more immediate progress.

“We will [also] promote community journalism,” Bramble stated.

Please stay tuned for future announcements on participants and times and dates for the discussions.

Report: Baltimore Among Most Stressed Cities In America

Everyone feels stressed from time to time but some people may cope with stress more effectively or recover from stressful events more quickly than others, according to the National Institute on Mental Health.

There are different types of stress – all of which carry physical and mental health risks, according to experts. A stressor may be a one time or short term occurrence, or it can be an occurrence that keeps happening over a long period of time.

A new study suggests that many Baltimore residents experience the type of stress that continues for lengthy periods. City residents experience the third highest work-related stress and the fourth highest family-stress in the country, according to the study of the “Most & Least Stressed Cities in America,” conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based personal finance website, WalletHub.com.

Further, according to the study, city residents have the eigth highest financial-related stress in the nation – all of which served to place Baltimore fourth overall among all cities when it comes to stress. Detroit, Cleveland, and Newark (NJ) ranked first, second and third respectfully. Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Birmingham (Ala.), Wilmington (Delaware), and Shreveport (La.), rounded out the top 10 most stressed cities. Fremont (Calif.), Bismarck (N.D.), Sioux Falls (S.D.), Overland Park (Kansas), and Irvine (Calif.), ranked as the five least stressed cities.

To determine the cities where Americans cope best, WalletHub compared 182 cities – including the 150 most populated – across four key dimensions: work stress; financial stress; family stress; and health and safety stress.

Experts found that a little bit of stress, known as acute stress, can be exciting – it keeps people active and alert but, when stress reaches an unmanageable level, however, it turns chronic and that’s when individuals become vulnerable to its damaging effects such as health problems and loss of productivity.

According to WalletHub, in the U.S., stress affects more than 100 million people with money, work, family and relationships counting among the leading causes. Also, by some estimates, workplace-related stress alone costs society more than $300 billion per year.

“Stress, conflict and tension are part of life, and being a part of a family should teach us how to solve problems and take care of ourselves in healthy ways,” said WalletHub expert Julie Ann Liefeld, a clinical director at Southern Connecticut University.

The best way to alleviate tensions and stressors is to have healthy strategies to resolve them, otherwise they simply join you on your vacations, she said.

“During difficult times, healthy families tend to cooperate, rather than blame or compete. They don’t tend to use a scapegoat when things go wrong. They stay focused on resolving a problem without making anyone feel they are losing their value or their love,” Liefeld said.

Work-related stress is of increasing importance over the past few decades due to the demands of the contemporary work environment, said Alper Kayaalp, a WalletHub expert and assistant professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at South Dakota State University.

“Indeed stress is so common that it likely affects every employee at some point during their careers. Employees usually experience stress from work when the demands of their jobs exceed their mental and physical resources and coping abilities,” Kayaalp said.

“Numerous surveys and studies confirm that job stress not only affects health and well-being of employees in general but also deteriorates performance at work. It, therefore, could be a significant factor to poor performance, unmet expectations, organizational inefficiency, high turnover, absenteeism, and burnout,” he said.

To view the full study, visit https://wallethub.com/edu/most-least-stressed-cities/22759/

Vietnam Veteran Fighting For The Rights Of Black Soldiers

Vietnam War veteran Ari Merretazon is spending another Veteran’s Day fighting for fellow soldiers in Philadelphia.

A court is expected to hear soon more arguments in a case Merretazon has brought against the city.

Philadelphia officials have failed to follow a 1955 provision in the city charter that created a budget for an Office of Veterans Affairs with a salaried director, Merretazon’s suit claims.

While there is a Veterans Commission, an Office of Veterans Affairs could have reached more local returning soldiers and helped them receive more substantial benefits.

Merretazon, who founded the Pointman Soldiers Heart Ministry, wants Philadelphia officials to formally establish a Veterans Office.

“They are not in compliance with the law,” stated Merretazon, whose story of the Viet Nam War was highlighted in the 1984 book, “Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War, An Oral History,” by Wallace Terry.

The book was later the inspiration for the 1995 motion picture, “Dead Presidents,” which reviewers called the most powerful depiction of black veterans in the history of American cinema. The film starred Terrence Howard, Larenz Tate and Chris Tucker as returning Vietnam War veterans whose lives after discharge were plagued by crime, addiction, and a host of psychological challenges.

“As Black veterans, we not only face post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), but we have racially induced PTSD as well because there’s so much racism in the military,” Merretazon said.

He believes race has played a significant role in his battle with Philadelphia that has led to the current court case.

“Philadelphia needs to acknowledge that racism in the military is a PTSD injury,” Merretazon said.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have conducted various studies of PTSD in ethnic minority Vietnam Veterans. The results of the research are not entirely consistent. Still, VA officials noted that the overall finding seems to be that most ethnic minority veteran groups have a higher rate of PTSD than White veterans.

According to the VA, some of this may be due to psychological conflicts related to identification with the Vietnamese. Another factor may be higher exposure to war zone stressors, VA officials stated.

“It’s been years, if not ever, that Philly hasn’t met any of its obligations to veterans,” Merretazon said. “My anger is based on the fact that we have had to fight two wars. One was in the field of battle in Vietnam and the other at our base where rebel flags flew and black soldiers had the worst jobs. They threatened us with going back to the field with those who were less qualified.”

Merretazon says his court battle had progressed well. An appeals panel earlier indicated that the only thing keeping him from prevailing was that he lived outside of the city.

“I live in a neighboring county but Ido my work in the city of Philadelphia,” Merretazon said. “But, it’s clear that Philadelphia is trying to cover up their misdeeds toward veterans. The fact that there’s no office of veterans affairs is wrong. Philadelphia, in particular, City Council President Darrell Clarke, has messed up the money for veterans, and that’s why we are where we are.”

A spokesperson for Clarke declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit.

Merretazon, who does not have the use of his legs because of a war injury says he counts among the fortunate because he has obtained full benefits. However, he must continue to fight for others.

“The veterans who come home to Philly have nobody saying what to do, and through our ministry, we’ve been able to provide direction on direct services,” Merretazon said. “It’s well-known that many are hurting. There are significant guaranteed benefits for the veterans and their families, but they aren’t getting them. I’m 100 percent disabled. I’ve got mine. I’m trying to help other people get what they deserve.”

How To Avoid Being The Victim Of A Cyberattack

Not a day seems to go by without reading about the latest cyberattack. No one is safe anymore— big companies like Equifax and Facebook to Uber and eBay have been suffered major security breaches, along with countless everyday people. There has long been a prevailing attitude among many individuals that goes, “If I get hacked, I’ll just change my password.” Whether that reflects misplaced trust in our constantly connected world or simply laziness, it seems the majority of people think a digital security breach will never strike them and if it does, it won’t be a big deal. But deep inside they know that may not be true.

Not only is our money at risk, but our personal information, as well. As for easily fixing things after you’ve been hacked? Ask anyone who has been digitally compromised and they will tell you it can take years to repair the damage.

With the deck seemingly stacked against us, what chance does the average person have if the bad guys have them in their crosshairs? Despite numerous

reports of major corporations and entire cities being held hostage by cyber criminals, there actually are things the average person can do to protect him or herself.

— Never assume you are safe online. Today’s online world is convenient with apps for everything and access to our personal finances and our most personal information just a tap away on our smartphones. But convenience comes at a price. This very ease in use is at the center of the problems we are facing today.

—Cyber theft is largely based on hackers using your personal information against you. The biggest culprit is social media. Whenever you update your status on any of the many platforms, you are giving away information about yourself which artificial intelligence can capture. Through this means hackers can develop a profile on you and your personal habits, including determining where you bank, where you eat, which gym you frequent. Most people don’t realize they are making it easy for hackers to target them by announcing their profiles to the world.

— Do not use free services, such as Wi-Fi, email and cloud data storage. While many of these online services are household names and extremely popular— such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger— they are all inherently insecure. In addition, your privacy is compromised when you use them.

Remember the old saying, “Nothing is really free?” Their business model is based on advertising and through their careful monitoring of the habits of their users. Countless millions of individuals are inadvertently handing over their personal data to these companies, which they turn around and sell to other businesses.

—Consider using an encrypted email service to protect the privacy and security of your messages. If you insist on staying with G-mail, Yahoo mail or any of the other many free email services, assume your messages can be read by anyone. Therefore, do not send anything sensitive or personal via these email services, such as credit card numbers and passwords.

—Always remember that when you connect to Wi-Fi in a coffee shop, hotel or airport, you are inadvertently exposing yourself to virtually every single person who is logged on at the same time. Many hackers hang out on public Wi-Fi just waiting for the opportunity to strike.

—Do not do online banking through apps. Apps are created by third-party developers and there is no way to know they are secure. Your life savings could wiped out simply by using an app with security holes.

—We’ve all heard this a million times, but do not use the same password for all your accounts. Also, be sure to change them regularly. The easiest way to handle this is through an inexpensive password manager.

Alain Ghiai is the CEO of GlobeX Data Ltd., a publicly listed company (CSE:SWIS) that distributes, designs and develops Swiss-hosted software and cybersecurity solutions for secure data management and secure communications. He has been an active internet entrepreneur since 2000. In 2009, Ghiai was mandated by the Republic and State of Geneva’s Economic Development Office to represent it to Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Canada in all matters relating to the fostering of good relationships between companies originating in GCC countries, Canada and Switzerland. For more information, visit https://www.globexdatagroup.com.

Canada Cannot (And Doesn’t Want) To Be America’s Pharmacy

Drug importation is no longer a pipe dream. Now it’s a pipe bomb. The Department of Health and Human Services recently floated a proposal, dubbed the “Safe Importation Action Plan,” to allow Americans to use Canada as their personal pharmacy.

The FDA has stated over and over again that our government cannot vouch for the safety and efficacy of Canadian medicines. Pushing this policy through would needlessly threaten patient health and well-being. And, it’s infeasible— Canada simply doesn’t have enough drugs to share with the United States.

The Safe Importation Action Plan offers two paths forward for drug importation. First, states, wholesalers, or pharmacists could submit plans for demonstration projects for HHS to review outlining how they would import Health-Canada approved drugs. Second, manufacturers could import versions of existing FDA-approved drugs into the United States.

The plan sounds reasonable enough, but neither the Trump administration or any state that’s been pondering drug importation has ever consulted the Canadian government. Had they done so, they’d see that our neighbors to the north have some serious concerns with the proposal.

Canadian officials have already stated that “Canada does not support actions that could adversely affect the supply of prescription drugs in Canada and potentially raise costs of prescription drugs for Canadians.” These concerns are justified.

Canada is just one-tenth the size of the United States with a mere 37 million people. Given the sheer magnitude of the U.S. population— a whopping 329 million people— there is no way Canada could cover drugs for all Americans.

The strain on the Canadian medicine supply would likely lead to shortages and increased costs for Canadian patients. If Canada filled 10 percent of U.S. prescriptions, Canada’s drug supply would run out in less than eight months, according to one study.

Even if Canada had an endless supply of treatments, drug importation is dangerous. Though the Trump administration’s new plan states that the drugs would be verified before importation, the Canadian government has stated that it cannot guarantee a drug’s effectiveness.

Counterfeit drugs are very common in foreign markets. In fact, one out of ten medications is fake, according to a 2017 report by the World Health Organization. Nevertheless, counterfeit medicine sales add up to billions of dollars a year.

There are two types of counterfeit medicines. The first are cheap copies of commonly sold drugs masquerading as the real thing. They contain few if any active ingredients and have no quality control. Patients who purchase these medications may not realize they’re taking ineffective drugs until their health condition fails to improve.

Other counterfeit drugs are composed of potentially deadly substances. Investigators have found counterfeit medicines that contain everything from paint thinner and antifreeze to arsenic and uranium. From April 2016 to March 2017 alone, Health Canada seized close to 5,500 packages of counterfeit drugs.

Access to high-quality medicines is a crucial issue, but drug importation is not the answer. The Trump administration’s drug importation plan would create more problems than it would solve by jeopardizing Canada’s drug supply and exposing Americans to deadly counterfeits.

Peter J. Pitts, a former FDA Associate Commissioner, is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.