Toys of the World Celebrate Power of Play

<b>Toys of the World Celebrate Power of Play</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – For most children in the United States, finding a toy with which to play is hardly a hardship. A trip to the toy store with some allowance money, or a holiday or birthday, provides plenty of action figures, model cars, dolls, talking robots and video games.

But many children in developing countries around the world cannot afford to buy any toys — and these children often show ingenuity and creativity in making their own toys.

To celebrate the power of play, ChildFund International has created a touring exhibition titled, “The Power to Play: From Trash to Treasure,” which displays 350 handcrafted toys created by children around the world. Some of the toys are easily recognizable, like soccer balls and kites. Others are unique to their place of origin, or reveal the social, economic and political conditions in which their makers are growing up.

“Our traveling exhibition highlights the resourcefulness and creativity of the children who created the toys,” says Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund International. “Thousands of viewers will gain new appreciation for the power of play and its role in childhood development.”

Play proves essential to children’s healthy development, helping kids solve problems, test new ideas and gain friendships. So, what kind of toys can viewers expect to see? Warsito and Ade of Central Java, Indonesia make stilts to play a popular game, called “egrang.”

“It’s an exciting and unique game, and I love playing it,” says Warsito. “You can tell when a child is an expert in playing this game. He or she must have a good sense of balance and high skill to play it.”

Tyrel of Dominica has made his own toys since age eight. “I loved playing with toys, but my parents were not always able to afford them, and the ones that they occasionally bought did not hold together for long.”

Nollan, a 13-year-old from Honduras, fashions a toy called “The Trapeze Artist,” which he makes once a year and often lends to siblings and friends.

These unique toys are just a few examples of the types of items in ChildFund International’s Power to Play exhibit, which will be traveling to major museums and other locations across the United States through 2011.

For more information about the exhibit, or to learn how you can improve the life of a child in need, visit www.childfund.org.

Children Create Posters for Peace

<b>Children Create Posters for Peace</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – When Yennie Shyu, a 12-year-old from San Jose, Calif., tried to visualize peace, she immediately thought of e-mail.

“In this age, technology and computers are very popular, so I thought about combining technology and e-mail with spreading the message of peace and love,” said Shyu, whose poster, which depicts little girls e-mailing olive branch-carrying doves, won the 21st Lions Clubs International Peace Poster Contest.

Shyu describes the image as “little fingers typing big messages, spreading love and peace worldwide.”

Shyu’s poster, which was selected from 350,000 entries from 70 countries, portrays the theme “Peace Begins With Me.” As the grand prize winner, Shyu received a trip to New York City for a special award ceremony during Lions Day with the United Nations.

“Lions in many nations have embraced the Peace Poster Contest as a hands-on way to promote peace and to support the young people in their communities,” said Lions Clubs International President Al Brandel. “The contest is another example of Lions being everyday heroes in reaching out and listening to the young people of this world.”

During the past two decades, more than 4 million children from ages 11 through 13 have artistically shared their visions for peace through the Lions International Peace Poster Contest. Lions clubs sponsor the contest in schools and organized youth programs. The contest provides an outlet for children and adults to discuss the meaning of world peace while visually portraying their feelings. Now entering its 22nd year, the contest has been held in more than 100 countries.

“It takes energy and even courage to live in peace,” said Remi Delanghe, a merit award winner from Belgium. “It’s something you need to work on every day in order to be able to create and maintain it.”

Winners have come from all across the globe to share their visions of peace. “Peace is something big and marvelous, full of happiness to be achieved from our own homes and in the heart of each human being,” said Ana Stephanie Rosero Morales from Peru, a merit award winner.

The 24 finalist peace posters will be exhibited during the year at children’s museums and various locations throughout the United States. Visit www.lionsclubs.org to view posters and send e-cards.

Earn Federal Tax Credits for Insulated Window Treatments

<b>Earn Federal Tax Credits for Insulated Window Treatments</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – In a struggling economy, Americans are taking a closer look at their heating and cooling bills. Keeping a home at a comfortable temperature can use considerable energy — especially if hot and cold air fly out the window.

Windows can be a major area of heat transfer. During winter, cold air comes in through the glass. During the summer, heat enters the home through the window, making the HVAC system work harder to maintain its set temperature.

If your home could use some upgrades, now might be the time to work on energy-efficient home improvement projects. In February, President Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The act contains benefits for adding energy-efficiency products into existing homes. Specifically, tax credits are available for up to 30 percent of the cost, up to $1,500, in 2009 and 2010, for windows, doors, insulation products and systems, roofs, HVAC, non-solar water heaters and biomass stoves.

Replacing existing windows with energy-efficient models isn’t cost-effective in terms of energy savings, but insulating existing windows will help lower your heating and cooling costs while also making you eligible for a tax credit.

One product in particular, the Comfortex ComforTrack Plus Energy Saving Sidetrack Insulation System, uses a double honeycomb cellular shade with removable sidetracks to insulate windows. The insulation system seals all of the gaps between the fabric edge and the window frame, preventing heat transfer through the glass.

Consumers purchasing the ComforTrack Plus Insulation System will reduce energy loss up to two-thirds when compared to an uncovered window.

For more information on home improvement projects eligible for tax credits, visit www.energystar.gov. To learn more about the ComforTrack Plus Insulation System, visit www.comfortex.com.

South Beach: A Tropical Location Close to Home

<b>South Beach: A Tropical Location Close to Home</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Americans who want to plan a tropical beach vacation without traveling beyond the continental U.S. should set their sights on Miami. The city’s multi-cultural flair, superb beaches and lively nightspots satisfy everyone from art buffs to water sports enthusiasts to partiers.

Miami’s South Beach provides the best mix of beach, culture and entertainment. Historic Art Deco boutique hotels line the boardwalk. For a truly deluxe experience, check out The Hotel Clinton South Beach on Washington Avenue. The ultra-contemporary hotel houses a full spa and 88 sleekly styled rooms with smooth carpeting and elegant, white accents.

After relaxing in the hotel’s pool or optional in-room spa, guests who step outside can find world-class clubs, shopping and restaurants. South Beach, or the “America Riviera,” headquarters the U.S. Latin music industry and offers a sizzling nightlife scene. More than 200 restaurants and upscale shopping — think Armani, Kenneth Cole and Versace — leave no visitor unsatisfied.

The beach itself is a long, white stretch of warm sand and blue water — perfect for sunbathing or a game of beach volleyball. Those with a taste for adventure can rent Jet-skis at the Miami Beach marina or visit the South Beach Dive and Surf Center, located across the street from the Clinton, to plan scuba, surf and snorkeling excursions.

If even a beach this lovely can wear thin, guests should explore South Beach’s cultural destinations. The Wolfsonian Museum houses modern art objects dated from 1885 to 1945, while the Bass Museum exhibits everything from 16th-century Flemish tapestries to contemporary conceptual art.

Of course, no visit to Miami would be complete without a taste of the city’s vibrant nightlife. From popular clubs like Mansion, Prive, Glass, Bed and Opium Garden, to more intimate, but no less chic destinations like the Rose Bar, Social, Sky Bar and the Roof Top at Town House, visitors and celebrities alike can enjoy one of the world’s hottest clubbing destinations.

For more information, visit www.clintonsouthbeach.com.

Miami Turns Up the Heat for a Celebrity-Style Vacation Destination

<b>Miami Turns Up the Heat for a Celebrity-Style Vacation Destination</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Travelers looking for luxe, hip beach destinations have to look no further than Miami’s South Beach, where top celebrities, models and fashion photographers unwind after the sun goes down.

South Beach is famous for its superb beaches, mouth-watering cuisine and infinite celebrity hot spots. One such hot spot is the Maison d’Azur Restaurant at Hotel Astor on South Beach. The French restaurant’s Mediterranean-style decor and candle-lit garden set the tone for a splendid evening and is ideal for both large groups and intimate occasions.

Start the evening off with drinks and caviar sliders — a decadent twist on a standard appetizer — then choose a fresh seafood entrée. Maison d’Azur’s “Market,” located right in front of its open kitchen, allows diners to choose the fish they want prepared. The ratatouille provides a flavorful, yet light, side. For dessert, don’t miss the créme brûlée. Served with shaved lemon ice, the creamy, sweet indulgence is one of the best you’ll find this side of the Atlantic.

On Saturdays, the Maison d’Azur offers a deejayed brunch starting at noon. With bellinis and fresh French-style pastries served on a jasmine-scented patio, there’s no better way to start off your Saturday.

The restaurant also provides ample celebrity-spotting. Fran Drescher and Gloria Estefan have dined at the Maison d’Azur, as have Stefan Fortier and various socialites.

Layla Lounge, also located at the historical 1936 Hotel Astor, brings Moroccan flair to South Beach. The sensuality and warmth of Layla will make you feel temporarily transported to a North African jungle surrounded by resplendent cocktails and a charming garden annex with jasmine trees and bamboo walls.

Cuisine and celebrities aren’t the only things happening on Miami Beach. Step outside the Hotel Astor, and you’ll find yourself in the Art Deco Historic District. Spend an afternoon strolling down Lincoln Road Mall and Espanola Way to browse the many galleries displaying exciting work from contemporary artists, or get tickets to a show at the historic Filmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater.

For more information, visit www.hotelastor.com or find other great MOD Hospitality locations at www.eastcoastventures.com.

Tips to Make Dining Out More Affordable

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – As families find themselves strapped for cash, they’re spending less money and time dining out. In response, restaurant chains are evaluating their offerings and finding new ways to entice customers.

Of course, Americans can learn to dine out even while sticking close to their budgets. Uno Chicago Grill offers these tips for less-expensive dining:

– Try Eating in the Lounge or Bar Area. Many restaurants offer special smaller-portion menu items in the bar area. This creates a low-cost dining option while also accommodating guests who may be too busy to enjoy a typical lunch or dinner hour.

– Enjoy Your “Just Desserts.” Dining out doesn’t have to mean a full dinner. Why not treat yourself to dessert or a specialty coffee? Many restaurants offer dessert specials. Order two coffees and split dessert with a friend for an indulgence that’s light on the wallet, if not on calories.

– Join the “Insider’s Club.” Most chain restaurants offer loyalty programs, so take advantage of them. For example, Uno Chicago Grill encourages its loyal guests to register for the Uno Insider’s Club online at www.unos.com to receive exclusive offers and information regarding new menu items and promotions.

– Come for Lunch Instead of Dinner. A recent survey of American workers by the Center for Work-Life Policy found that 21 percent of respondents work at least 60 hours a week under highly stressful conditions. Many restaurants now offer lunch specials that feature smaller portions with a quick turnaround, which works for those pressed for time — and money.

– Take It to Go. Several leading chains now offer curbside or take-out specials at lower cost than dining in. Families on the go can fit a quality restaurant meal into their tight schedule without busting their budget.

“One look at the headlines tells us how tough it is today,” says Richard Hendrie, senior vice president of Uno Chicago Grill. “So we’re creating options that help our guests reclaim some of their leisure time and enjoy dining out for less.”

This Economy Presents Opportunities, Too

<b>This Economy Presents Opportunities, Too</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – It is time to stop focusing on our economic problems and to start considering the new needs created by the current economy. Opportunities for entrepreneurialism abound.

It’s always good to know where growth markets are. Recently, I asked my SUCCESS Magazine board of advisors to point out the industries and businesses that are booming because of the economy.

Here are a few trends that seem to be surfacing:

Safety and Comfort. It has been established that the economy is driving people to psychologically safe places. People are escaping by renting movies, visiting their counselors and psychologists and buying comfort foods. While high-end restaurants are struggling, places like McDonald’s and other inexpensive takeout spots like Wingstop, who’s sales are up 6.5 percent, 75 percent of which are takeout, are growing.

A Return to Prudence. A social shift to cost-saving measures redirects dollars to alternative services. People are cancelling their cable subscriptions and using the streaming television Web site Hulu.com to watch the same programs through the Internet for free. Additionally, people are staying home versus going out. Netflix subscribers have increased to more than 10 million, and iTunes’ sales are way up, with growth of more than 25 percent.

Also, because we are staying home for fun, the video gaming industry has reported an increase of 31 percent. GameStop is outperforming the retail sector with expected growth of 18 to 22 percent for 2009.

Retraining, Retooling and Re-evaluating. In a poor economy, people update and advance their education to give themselves a competitive edge in the job market. Community colleges’, business schools’ and distance learning programs’ enrollments are up. And, of course, job search and résumé consulting, networking and preparatory service companies are thriving.

Contract Services. Instead of hiring full-benefit employees, companies are hiring outside consultants and contractors for specific projects, including IT, design, production and creative services. This increase in specialized contract work has spurred an increase in independent consulting and small contract service businesses.

The Unfortunate Obvious. Bankruptcy attorneys, accounting services specializing in accounts receivable collection, law firms representing displaced employees, realtors specializing in bank-owned properties, restructuring consulting companies and equipment liquidators have also done well in this economy. Overstock.com has reported a 17 percent increase in business.

Darren Hardy has been engaging and inspiring audiences with his messages of personal achievement for more than 15 years. He is now the publisher and editorial director of SUCCESS magazine as well as a private-equity investor and board member to several multimedia companies. Visit his blog at http://darrenhardy.success.com.

USO Delivered: Boosting Morale of Isolated Troops

<b>USO Delivered: Boosting Morale of Isolated Troops</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – How do you support troops you can’t get to? Today, many troops serve in isolated outposts around the world. “USO Delivered” is the USO’s cutting-edge focus on lifting the spirits of troops weherever they serve.

“With our troops serving at austere, far-flung bases, the need for USO programs and services has increased dramatically; we’re working hard to find new ways to deliver the comforts of home wherever they serve,” said Sloan Gibson, USO president.

As part of an effort to modernize the USO’s programming to meet the needs of today’s military, USO Delivered consists of USO2GO, MEGS (Mobile Entertainment Gaming Systems) and USO In A Box.

USO2GO lets units request tailored USO kits to set up their own service member-run centers. Commanders can select from eight kits containing a range of athletic equipment, books and games, toiletry items, furniture, nonperishable comfort foods and beverages, art supplies and much more, after which USO employees headquartered in Arlington, Va., send the kits to them. Since the program’s inception, USO2GO kits have reached more than 100 bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines and Egypt.

MEGS are another effort by the USO to provide services to even the most remote areas. Created by Xe, MEGS units feature a high-end projection TV, DVD player and video game system contained in a rugged case. With the MEGS launch, the USO distributed 20 units in time for the 2008 holiday season. By the end of 2009, more than 50 MEGS will be delivered to isolated outposts worldwide.

The most extreme USO Delivered component is the USO In A Box, which is arguably also the most advanced way the organization is bringing a home away from home to service members. The 256-square-foot, collapsible USO In A Box can be transported by helicopter and used in just about any weather environment. Once opened, the “box” is set up in approximately 20 minutes and can hold up to 10 people. Each unit features satellite Internet, three Xbox 360 gaming consoles, two WiFi-capable rugged laptops, flat screen TVs and a theater area equipped with Dolby surround sound and DVDs. The first three USO In A Box units are in Afghanistan, with seven more to be delivered by year end.

“Supporting America’s troops and their families has always been the heart of the USO mission,” Gibson said. “Wherever they serve, whenever they serve, we’re working hard to lift their spirits.”

To donate to this private charity, visit www.uso.org.

In Recession, Luxury Hotels Offer Deals

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – In a tough economy, taking a luxury vacation might seem impossible. But some of the nation’s nicest hotels are taking steps — including lower rates and vacation specials — to lure new visitors.

Take Gaylord Hotels. The luxury multi-property operation with resorts in Nashville, Dallas, Washington, D.C. and Orlando offers guests majestic views, high-end shopping and dining experiences, full business accommodations and world-class entertainment. Even better, the hotels offer packages for special events.

Starting at just $199, guests can discover the rich history of the Nation’s Capital and enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience at the Washington region’s newest waterfront resort destination. The package includes round-trip tickets on the resort’s exclusive shuttle to downtown Washington, D.C., which makes stops at Union Station and the Old Post Office. Afterwards, guests can take advantage of the resort’s offerings, which include four restaurants, Pose Ultra Lounge, Relache Spa, nightly entertainment and an all-season pool. This package is available now through August 31, 2009, but other great packages can also be found.

In addition to finding great packages, Gaylord offers these tips for travelers hoping to enjoy a little luxury without breaking the bank:

– Plan meals carefully. Choose package deals that provide breakfast at no extra cost. If you have children, choose family-friendly restaurants that allow children to eat for free. If your hotel room has a refrigerator, consider purchasing lunch staples so that you can prepare you own mid-day meal.

– Save your money for nice dinners. Before making a dinner reservation, look for coupons or ask the front desk about area restaurants that give discounts to guests.

– Travel with friends or family members. Some hotels and entertainment destinations, like museums or theme parks, offer discounts to guests traveling as a large group.

– Pack wisely. Don’t bring things that the hotel will provide, like soaps or shampoos. Bring refillable water bottles so that you don’t have to purchase new ones at every destination. If you have a young child, bring a light stroller to save on rentals.

To find and reserve your vacation package, call 301-965-2000, or book online at www.gaylordnational.com.

Couples Learn to Face Economy Together

<b>Couples Learn to Face Economy Together</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Money certainly can’t buy you happiness, but that doesn’t mean that suffering finances can’t put strain on a relationship.

Money doesn’t make marriages end in divorce -; in fact, financial problems might lead to as little as 5 percent of divorces in the U.S. But when money’s tight, couples feel greater strain, which can lead to more disagreements.

Couples facing money problems can gain strength from each other. Here are some tips for couples looking to support each other through tough times:

– Take time to discover each other’s real needs. One spouse might feel alienated, not because there’s less cash, but because less cash means fewer restaurant and movie nights. But couples can enjoy quality time together no matter their finances.

Free activities, like community movie screenings or museum trips, can provide fun without breaking the bank. Instead of going out to eat, couples can cook meals at home and follow dinner with a romance-inducing beverage, like Magic Power Coffee (www.magicpowercoffee.com), which combines high-quality arabica coffee beans with healthy herbs. Gingseng, goji berries, epimedium herb and vitamins help increase energy, mood elevation and euphoria -; never a bad thing when pursuing quality time as a couple.

– Take a cue from your kindergarten teacher -; use your words and your indoor voice when discussing difficult subjects. Talk about how you feel without putting blame on your partner’s actions. If you can’t discuss a certain subject without becoming angry, at least attempt to write down your thoughts.

– Come up with a plan together. If one partner handles all of the finances, the other person might not realize how tight things are, or when money will be entering or leaving a joint account. Sit down together to determine a spending and saving plan. If you are in debt, consider going to a financial counselor who can help you consolidate loans and develop a sound financial strategy.