Make Algebra Less Daunting One Game at a Time

The votes are in: parents would rather teach their children how to drive or educate them about alcohol and drug abuse than help with algebra homework.

But parents aren’t alone in their terror of polynomial equations – 8th- and 9th-graders surveyed by the National Assessment of Educational Progress would eagerly give up Facebook and video games if it meant no more algebra.

Education expert Dr. Richard Bavaria recommends parents treat algebra like reading, a fun chance for quality time with your kids.

Businesses Find Opportunity in Idaho

(NewsUSA) – Remember when it was sort of fun to talk about The Number? The Number refers to the amount of money you’d need to retire comfortably, and it was borrowed from the title of a 2006 book by former Esquire editor Lee Eisenberg. Everywhere you went in those comparatively giddy pre-crash days, it seemed, people were tossing around figures — $1 million, $5 million – and often acting like it’d be a cinch to get there if they just gave up one Grande Cafe Vanilla Frappuccino a week. Needless to say, times have changed since then. But unless you like your 1-in-175 million odds of winning Power Ball, the need to soak away as much money as possible – as fast as possible, in the case of aging Baby Boomers – has only become more imperative. “One of the best pieces of advice we give clients is to keep it simple,” says Elaine Smith, master tax advisor at H&R Block, the giant tax preparation firm (www.hrblock.com). How simple? Read on:* Make automatic contributions to 401(k)s. We now know what can happen if you let market fluctuations spook your use of this convenient savings vehicle. According to a study by Fidelity Investments of millions of their accounts, investors who dumped all their allocations in stocks between October 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009 (the market crash), and stayed out of stocks through last June 30, 2011 (a big upswing), saw an average increase in account balances of only 2 percent. That compares to an average 50 percent increase for those who rode things out with a continuous allocation strategy that included stocks.* Don’t squander your raise. Consulting firm Hay Group says the average raise last year was 2.8 percent. Say your salary’s $50,000. That’s a $1,400 increase, or $26.92 a week. If you put that money into an IRA, in 10 years it would’ve grown to $3,108, based on an 8 percent average annual return. “It’s all about delaying immediate rewards on things like your fifth pair of designer jeans,” says Smith. * Invest your tax refund. The average refund last year was $2,913. Even the interest rate on savings accounts beats the free loan you essentially gave the government. * Take advantage of new fee disclosures. A new law is set to require much more transparency in most 401(k) plans. But why wait? Financial websites let you compare fund expense ratios, and the difference between an actively managed mutual fund charging 1.75 percent and an index fund charging only 0.07 percent — especially if the former’s performance is sub-par — adds up.

How Do You Define "Natural"?

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – It’s safe to say neither cats nor dogs give one whisker about whether the products they use are eco-friendly. Yet more pet owners do — and the pet industry is responding.
The exploding popularity of sustainable living has manifested itself in an increasing number of products being marketed as eco-friendly options for earth-conscious owners of all types of pets. Walk down the aisle of your local grocery store, and you’ll see countless bags and boxes whose now-leafy labels boast “green,” “natural,” or “organic” claims.
However, the definition of “green” remains the subject of much debate. Look no further then cat litter for an example of how the “natural” line is blurred: Clay — the main ingredient in a large majority of litters — is often touted as being “natural,” but it requires strip-mining and can contain silica dust that carries the potential of damaging the lungs of people and pets. In fact, most cat litters are made out of minerals that can technically be described as “natural,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are sustainable, biodegradable or healthy if ingested or inhaled.
The question you must ask yourself, as a pet owner, is whether the products you choose actually live up to their eco-friendly billing or whether they are using “green-washing” — a term used to describe how companies use marketing gimmicks to make their product only seem more natural.
One company, World’s Best Cat Litter, urges customers to scrutinize labels to make sure that you’re getting the type of natural products you demand. They define “natural” as products made of naturally occurring ingredients that are biodegradable, healthy, safe and derived from renewable resources. World’s Best Cat Litter uses the power of natural, whole-kernel corn to stop odor in its tracks. It’s grown and is digestible, dust-free and lacking any chemical additives.
Reinforcing their commitment to high standards, in addition to the original Clumping and Multiple Cat Clumping Formulas, World’s Best Cat Litter has also launched a truly “natural” scented formula providing consumers who prefer a scented litter with an all-natural lavender oil option — once again proving you don’t have to sacrifice the planet to meet consumer demands.
For more information, visit www.worldsbestcatlitter.com.

A Mushroom That Heals? An All-Natural Alternative That Stimulates the Immune System

For years, researchers and practitioners have known that mushrooms are a powerful medicinal source. In the 1970s Japanese researchers were able to isolate a powerful extract in one mushroom in the form of a polysaccharide krestin (PSK) and found that it had strong, anti-tumor and anti-cancer capabilities. The Japanese government started providing it to patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Researchers linked the PSK extract directly to the stimulation and modulation of the immune system, showing surprising results in dealing with serious illnesses. In the 1980s Chinese researchers developed a more potent strain of a polysaccharide peptide (PSP). These developments sparked a series of over 400 medical studies around the world that has excited the medical community.

Employee-Friendly Office Cultures Improve Retainment

Today’s economy isn’t just frustrating for those without jobs – limited budgets can do a number on employed workers’ morale as well. Exemplary employees might not be awarded with raises, no matter how much effort they put into their projects. Employers unable to afford larger salaries may find their best employees looking elsewhere.

But some companies are finding way to keep employees happy by cultivating employee-friendly office cultures. For example, in the fall of 2010, Washington, D.C.’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer implemented a Results Only Work Policy (ROWE), which pays employees  for results, not the hours  that they work. This means that employees are able to work when or wherever they want, so long as their work gets done. In places where it has been tried, ROWE not only boosts morale and retention, but also improves output.

New Study Reveals More Children Home Alone After School

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – A newly released study, “America After 3PM”, finds that more than a quarter of America’s schoolchildren are on their own in the afternoons.

According to a national survey of nearly 30,000 households conducted for the Afterschool Alliance and sponsored by the JCPenney Afterschool Fund, the number of children left alone after school has risen to 15.1 million, 800,000 more than were left alone in 2004.

It goes without saying that children benefit from supervision and educational activities after school, while parents are still at work. In the United States, 8.4 million children now participate in afterschool programs, which have grown in popularity over the last five years. The parents of 18 million more children say they would enroll their kids in afterschool programs, if programs were available.

“We have increased the number of children in afterschool programs over the last five years, but not enough to keep up with demand,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “Today, too many parents are unable to enroll their kids because afterschool programs are not available, transportation is unworkable or they can’t afford the fees. We need to make quality afterschool programs available to all children who need them.”

The Afterschool Alliance and the JCPenney Afterschool Fund are working to support afterschool programs. For example, JCPenney conducts Round-Up fundraising events that allow customers to “round-up” their store purchases to the nearest whole dollar, with 100 percent of the difference benefitting their local community afterschool program. Proceeds in 2009 are expected to raise $4 million, helping the JCPenney Afterschool Fund provide children with life-enriching opportunities that foster their academic, physical and social development.

For more information, visit www.afterschoolalliance.org.

America Faces Cardiologist Shortage

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Heart disease remains the number-one killer in the United States. There is no shortage of patients needing cardiologists — and yet there aren’t enough doctors to go around.

According to a new report released by the American College of Cardiology (ACC), the number of practicing cardiologists will need to double between 2000 and 2050 to accommodate aging baby boomers, and a growing population of heart disease patients.

“We have a significant shortage of 3,000 cardiologists in the workplace today, and all indicators are that it’s going to get worse if we don’t do something,” said George P. Rodgers, M.D., F.A.C.C., chair of the ACC Board of Trustees Workforce Task Force.

The ongoing obesity epidemic and new treatments, which allow patients to live longer with heart disease, are increasing the demand for cardiologists. At the same time, more than 40 percent of cardiologists in the current workforce are over the age of 55, and nearing retirement.

Training opportunities for cardiologists are limited — in the 1990s, policymakers wrongly assumed that family practitioners would treat heart disease, resulting in a 25 percent cut in the number of cardiologist training spots. While other medical fields have a growing number of women and minorities, they remain underrepresented in cardiology. African Americans and Hispanics form only 6 percent of all cardiologists, women only 12 percent.

In its report, the ACC recommends solutions, including expanding the number of fellowship positions, reducing known factors that may encourage early retirement and creating incentives for underrepresented minorities to consider cardiology, as well as encouraging a team-based approach to cardiology care that leverages the skills and expertise of nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

“We need to advocate for more training spots and funding for cardiovascular specialists and, in the meantime, find creative and more effective ways of delivering care,” said Alfred A. Bove, M.D., F.A.C.C., president of the ACC. “Team-based care is a major opportunity for improving the current and future workforce crisis.”

For more information, visit www.acc.org.