Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Take the Hype out of the Holidays

by Richard Ellis

Do you remember what Christmas was like when you were a kid? I'd hear the weatherman on TV track Santa's progress from the North Pole and telling me I needed to get to bed. I'd listen for the sound of reindeer's hooves on the roof. I spent days wondering what was in those brightly wrapped packages under the tree. The first one up on Christmas morning? It was me. Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most stressful, especially for your kids. Here are some suggestions to minimize their stress.


Keep your routine as much as possible. Everything about Christmas disrupts our routine. But routines are what makes kids feel safe and secure. You don't have to go to every holiday party. Avoid dragging the kids on all day shopping sprees in noisy and crowded malls. They'll get tired and cranky. If they do, you know they are feeling the stress too!


It's the season of sweets. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are when we indulge. Fast food family meals become more common because of all the extra tasks. Control their sugar intake. Serve healthy meals even if it takes more time.
Time Out

Take some time to rest. Turn off the TV with all the commercials specifically intended to get your kid hyped about what he's getting for Christmas. Go for a family walk or bike ride. Take a nap. Build a snowman. Rest.


Focus on the true meaning of the holidays. Carry on religious rituals and family traditions or create some new ones. Emphasize the Christmas is about giving along with getting. Choose to help a less fortunate family and involve your kids in that process.


Set a limit on spending and stick to it. No child needs everything they want. Many families create unnecessary financial stress lasting for months because of the inability to say NO now. Purchases on credit will keep costing you long after the child becomes bored with that toy.


Kids from single parent and step families need special attention. It is critical that the adults communicate about schedules, gifts, and holiday activities. It may not be easy to do, especially if hard feelings exist, but conflict between adults creates stress for the kids. Allow kids to express their feelings about disappointments related to the non-custodial parent. Realize that being separated from either parent is hard for children.

My expectations? I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. Just like the ones I used to know. When I was a kid.

Posted: 11/30/2005

(c) 2005 Richard Ellis.
(c) 1996-2002, Heartlight, Inc.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Crisis Group Shocked at New Ban on Sidney Jones



Crisis Group Shocked at New Ban on Sidney Jones

Brussels/Jakarta, 25 November 2005: “The International Crisis Group is shocked and mystified by the decision of the Indonesian government to ban Sidney Jones, our South East Asia Project Director, from entering the country,” Crisis Group President Gareth Evans said today.

Jones was denied entry on Thursday as she was returning to Jakarta from Taipei, where she had accepted an award from TIME magazine on behalf of Crisis Group, which had been designated in TIME’s 10 October Asian edition as one of “Asia’s Heroes 2005” for its work on conflict prevention and resolution.

Jones had been expelled from Indonesia in June 2004 by the government of Megawati Soekarnoputri but welcomed back in July 2005 by the Yudhoyono government. She had obtained a work permit and a residence permit without difficulty, and all signs were positive that Crisis Group would be allowed to continue its work in analysing sources of conflict and extremist violence in South East Asia.

A Crisis Group report on the Aceh peace process, issued on 15 August 2005, the day an accord between the Indonesian government and the Aceh rebels was signed in Helsinki, was praised inside Indonesia and out as identifying issues that needed to be addressed to keep the peace on track. Another report, published on 13 October, on violence in Poso and Maluku, became required reading as a series of violent attacks erupted in Poso in October and November. The most recent report on the region, on violence in southern Thailand, published on 18 November, was also well-received.

“I’m just baffled,” said Jones from Singapore. “I had no warning of any problems, have no idea why this happened, and don’t know when or if I’ll be able to return.”

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) 32 (0) 2 541 16 35
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) 1 202 785 1601
To contact Crisis Group’s Media Unit please click here

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering over 50 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.

No money for college? One town's reply.

This is an example of what can be done when people have the hearts and minds to make a difference?  If it can happen in Kalamazoo it can happen in your town too.  plk
No money for college? One town's reply.
By Yvonne Zipp | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
- Bryan Whitmore, a senior at Kalamazoo Central High who has a talk-radio show and raps under the name "bry2fly," is planning to study broadcasting after graduation.  He had found a scholarship that would help him pay for college, but "it wasn't a lot."  His mom works at the Old Country Buffet and his dad, a former roofer, is on disability. 

But Bryan's college plans just got a big boost.  He's eligible for a new scholarship, available to the school district's graduates, that will cover 100 percent of tuition and fees for any public university or community college in Michigan.

"I'm going to be the first one in my family to go to college," says the fourth of six siblings, who has a message for the donors: "Thanks for the scholarship, guys."

The Kalamazoo Promise is the gift of an anonymous group of donors.  

City officials believe it has the potential to revitalize this former manufacturing hub in southwest Michigan.  And in the long term, they hope the program leads to a better-educated workforce and an increase in everything from public-school enrollment to housing prices.

Kalamazoo is only the second US city, after Washington, to offer full-tuition scholarships to its graduates.

"It's really a noble effort," says Edward St. John, coauthor of "Refinancing the College Dream" and an education professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  "It's a novel program with respect to promoting economic development and retaining the city's stature.

There's a powerful incentive structure to keep more families committed to being in the public school system."  This city of 77,000, like many in Michigan, had grown accustomed to weathering tough economic news - from layoffs at Pfizer to projected increases in home heating bills of up to 71 percent.  The area has been struggling to hold on to manufacturing jobs since the 1980s, when Checker cabs stopped rolling out of Kalamazoo.  "Right now, the immediacy of it is, we have hope.

About a dozen states, including Michigan and Massachusetts, provide merit-based scholarships to academic achievers.  But critics of those programs, including Professor St. John, say that the money ends up going to more affluent students who were college-bound anyway.

For example, a 2002 study by Harvard University found that Georgia's HOPE scholarship program, the oldest in the country, increased access to college by only 4 percent.

Other states have followed the lead of Indiana, which adopted a need-based program that offers tuition to low-income students who sign a pledge to abstain from drugs and alcohol.

In addition, private philanthropists, such as George Weiss, have singled out individual high schools for scholarship grants, and others, such as the Gates Foundation, follow a need-based model.

Time is the only factor in the amount a student receives: A child who enrolls as a kindergartner will receive 100 percent of his or her tuition and fees.

"We're really excited about it," says Linda Greer, a single mom whose eighth-grade daughter, Meghan, is a straight-A student.

Still, Dr. Brown and others acknowledge that the community will need to step up to continue to improve the quality of education and to ensure that more minorities and economically disadvantaged students will be able to benefit from the Promise.

At a community celebration Tuesday for the Promise, Mayor Hannah McKinney said she would gather community leaders, school-board members, and other interested residents to discuss how to best support the new program.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Friday, November 25, 2005

NCMEC Missing Child Success Story

Just a reminder -- you could help reunite a missing child with is family just like the store clerk in the story below. Just take a moment to look at the photos on the NCMEC missing children banner posted on PointOfView316. Thanks

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Missing Child Success Story

November 18, 2005

On October 10, 2004 a man called to report his 13-year-old son was missing. The child had been living in Florida with his mother and had recently moved to California to live with his father. His mother visited with him before school started and he did not want her to leave. During his first semester of school in California, the boy’s grades had dropped and he was upset by two deaths in the family. The boy ran away without leaving a note or contacting his parents and only took a bag of clothes, food, his father's bike, and some change with him. The father believed his son might be in the local area or could be trying to find his way to his mother. NCMEC created a poster of the child and it was sent to the child’s father and his Junior High School principal. The father knew his son frequented bookstores and had distributed posters to various bookstores in the city early one day. Within four hours of the distribution, his son was seen by a store clerk and reported to the police. The child’s father called NCMEC and reported that his son had been located.

For more information about NCMEC, please call 1-800-THE-LOST® or go online to

· for child safety information, an international database of missing children, and other NCMEC resources

· for animated, 3D Internet safety games and lessons

· for reporting child pornography and sexual exploitation, including unsolicited obscene material sent to a child


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Save the Date: Cover the Uninsured Week 2006


Cover the Uninsured Week 2006 will take place May 1-7! We hope you will join concerned citizens from every sector of society for activities designed to help people living without health insurance.

Building on the momentum of previous Cover the Uninsured Week efforts, Cover the Uninsured Week 2006 will mobilize thousands of business owners, union members, educators, students, patients, hospital staff, physicians, nurses, faith leaders and their congregants, and many others in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

There has never been a more important time for the nation to come together on this issue. Visit often for updates on this year's plans and to find out how you can get involved. a project of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Copyright © The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation   All rights reserved

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving.
Posted by Picasa
As we take a momentary break to give thanks may we continue to remember those in need. Happy Thanksgiving and Thank You for your conitnued support Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Along With 'I Do' Comes a Chance to Say 'We Care'

Along With 'I Do' Comes a Chance to Say 'We Care' - New York Times
Published: November 14, 2005

JENNIFER VAN ZANDT'S wedding in Key Largo, Fla., had all the trimmings: Friday night party, Saturday celebration, drinks, dancing and merriment. And something else: rather than taking home a commemorative box of chocolates or a trinket, the guests helped save a few manatees.

When Mrs. Van Zandt and Derek, who is now her husband, started planning their nuptials last year, they knew that they wanted to put the money they would have spent on favors to better use.  "We thought it would be nice to give to a charity rather than an item that no one looks at again," said Mrs. Van Zandt, who works in asset management in Manhattan.

Mr. Van Zandt's mother had died from a painful battle with lymphoma over the winter, so the couple considered donating the money to cancer research in her memory.  But his mother, an animal lover who lived in San Diego, would have chosen a more cheerful outlet, they thought.

So in lieu of wedding favors, the bride and bridegroom donated $203.91 to the Save the Manatee Club, a Florida charity that rescues the endangered species.  The couple's 130 guests each received a sugar cookie in the shape of a palm tree with an attached message about the charity.

The Van Zandts are one of many American couples who are now including charitable giving in their wedding celebrations.

According to the I Do Foundation, a nonprofit online organization that links engaged couples with charities, 10 percent of all such couples this year will include some form of philanthropy in their wedding, be it a donation to a charity instead of favors or giving a percentage of their wedding registry spending to a charity.

The organization, founded in 2000, expects to handle at least $600,000 in donations this year, more than three times the donations it received in 2004.  That amount is most likely to be higher than the couples had originally planned to spend - $26,327 is the American average now, although the total tends to be larger in cities.

"There is enormous excess in planning a wedding," said Sharon Elaine Lewis, the publisher of Washington Weddings, a bridal magazine covering the District of Columbia and its suburbs.  Americans are marrying later in life now, and the princess-for-a-day bridal culture has given way to a more divalike atmosphere, where brides in designer dresses demand far more than a reception at the fellowship hall, and nearly anyone can spot a Bridezilla at 20 yards.

With the large wedding bill comes an awareness of the potential excess, said Bethany Robertson, who is the executive director of the I Do Foundation.

"Today's couple is already living together, has furnished their kitchen and is looking to do something special."

Brides are also opting to donate their dresses to resale organizations, with profits going to causes like breast cancer research or financing a homeless shelter.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Internet Matchmaking: Those Offering Help and Those Needing It

Just you, your computer and the desire to help is all it takes to make a real difference to those in need.  plk
Internet Matchmaking: Those Offering Help and Those Needing It - New York Times
Read the entire article at:

WHERE can I deliver a truckload of clothing?"

Tom Wales, a stock trader in Ridgewood, N.J., was oozing frustration when he posted this plea on Sept. 13 on the New Orleans site of, which offers free access to local classifieds and discussion forums.

Mr. Wales's 15-year-old daughter, Tori, had led a clothing drive at her high school for victims of Hurricane Katrina, but neither the Red Cross nor the Salvation Army, overwhelmed themselves, wanted her carefully organized bags.

So Mr. Wales rented a truck and drove to Louisiana himself.  "The big bureaucracies didn't fit what I was trying to do, but I didn't know where to go," Mr. Wales recalled.

One of the many people who responded was Brendan Hendrix, a boilermaker who had quit his job to help New Beginning Outreach Ministries in Greensburg, La., in its disaster relief efforts.

Mr. Wales and another parent, Bob Edelman, arrived in Greensburg on Sept. 18, finding they were not alone.  Rental trucks from Boston and New York, as well as two volunteers from New York City, had also found their way there via Craigslist.

Scores of Americans like Mr. Wales had pioneered a new kind of philanthropy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Spurred to do something more personal than writing a check, they turned to the Internet, which linked people who wanted to help with those who needed it, often with no relief agency acting as a middleman.

Established sites like Craigslist and Yahoo Groups took on new purposes, while charity neophytes created dozens of new sites.

"Each major news event generates new phenomena online, and the new thing with Katrina was the spontaneous and distributed offers of personal charity," said Lee Rainie, project director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project in Washington.  "This is a new age of directed, individualized giving that is not dependent on existing agencies, and it has already become embedded in online culture." 
The flexibility of online organizations proved particularly compelling because citizens were reacting, in part, to reports about the difficulties faced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other large relief groups.  "People in such large numbers probably wouldn't have gotten into their own trucks except for that media storyline," Mr. Rainie said.  Sites like Craigslist also had plenty of users ready to mobilize.

"We are well known and have a category structure that covers all basic human needs, things like jobs and housing," said Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive of Craigslist.  "We quickly started new sites for cities like Baton Rouge and Shreveport."

The variety of activity on Craigslist ranged from pet rescue and food donations to offers of jobs, housing and volunteer services. The site also connected two like-minded mothers, one in California and one in Mississippi.

The result was an effective blog called Hurricane Katrina Direct Relief (

One of the mothers, Victoria Powell, is a tax lawyer in Madison, Miss., about three hours north of the coast.  She knew the situation in the small towns to the south would be dire.  "I asked myself, What would a mother do?"  "You'd get a Band-Aid kit and get started."  So she drove to a few shelters to find out their needs.  She collected contact names and addresses, then went on Craigslist and asked people to ship to the shelters.

In Santa Cruz, Calif., Grace Davis, a former biotechnology worker turned journalism student, saw Ms. Powell's post and set up a blog to advertise her S O S. Soon Ms.

Their success stories included supplying shelters with goods; getting pharmaceutical supplies donated by manufacturers directly to clinics; arranging for firefighters to donate equipment; and spurring donors to support a deli owner, Sunny Wilson, who was feeding dozens in her small Mississippi community for nothing.

Another Internet site that served as an information clearinghouse, with at least five million page views, was the KatrinaHelp Wiki (  This effort (a "wiki" is a site that anyone can add to and edit) was started by 20 volunteers around the world who had worked on a similar site after the tsunami in South Asia, according to a co-founder, Rob Kline of Seattle.

The wiki first focused on its PeopleFinder database (a technology eventually adopted by Google) and then on ShelterFinder, one of the few comprehensive lists of shelter information available.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Monday, November 14, 2005

Senate Fails to Reform Inequitable Agricultural Subsidies

When you mention the words "agricultural subsidies" to residents of urban areas the first response is often a comment on wasteful government spending.   However, the truth is not so much that the subsidies are wrong in concept but that the failures lies in who is benefiting from them.  plk
Senate Fails to Reform Inequitable Agricultural Subsidies
Read the entire article at:
Just 8% of U.S. farms--the largest industrial farming  operations--receive the vast majority of government subsidies each  year, while family farmers in the U.S. and abroad are driven into poverty.

The US Senate once again missed an important opportunity to reform an agricultural subsidy program that is rife with fraud and abuse by voting down the Grassley-Dorgan amendment to the budget reconciliation bill.

An amendment introduced on the Senate floor on November 3rd by Sens. Charles Grassley and Byron Dorgan would have capped farm payments at $250,000 and eliminated the loopholes that have allowed megafarms to collect more than $1 million in subsidies.

In the budget reconciliation effort, both chambers of Congress were tasked to find $3 billion in savings from the agriculture budget, mainly from three programs: anti-hunger, conservation, and commodities.

Current US subsidies are calculated based on acreage and the volume of crops produced, so the largest industrial farms receive the most subsidies and gain the most advantage from loopholes in the law. This built-in incentive to produce and expand creates surpluses which cause prices to fall, putting smaller farms at a disadvantage. While large farmers benefit richly, small family farmers— here and abroad—struggle. In fact, according to the USDA, fewer than half of all farmers and ranchers in America collect government subsidies. And of those who do, a small percentage (8%) receive the great majority of the payments (78%).

“Congress should fund a sustainable farm program, not one that hurts family farms by encouraging consolidation and overproduction,” said Moore. “Instead, today’s move demonstrated the power that a small number of farming operations have in maintaining an antiquated farm program.”

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child

November 14th thru 21st is National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child
Each year, Operation Christmas Child operated by Samaritan's Purse delivers gift-filled shoe boxes and shares the real meaning of Christmas with millions of children living in some of the most challenging regions of the world.   You can read more about this wonderful undertaking at: and please consider supporting their efforts.  At little gift goes a long way in the heart of a child.

Payment order counts when saving money on your debt

DEBTSMART®: Payment order counts when saving money on your debt
by Scott Bilker

Scott Bilker is the founder of and the author of Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt, Credit Card and Debt Management, and How to be more Credit Card and Debt Smart. Send your questions about money, credit, loans, mortgages, or debt, to him at: Scott Bilker,PO Box 563, Barnegat, NJ 08005-0563 or online at:

A big myth in credit card and loan repayment is to “start with the smallest debt” and work your way to the largest.

I have been asked repeatedly about this debt-repayment strategy during radio interviews and directly, and the only reason that I can think of that some people may pay the smallest debts first is purely for psychological reasons. They want to feel like they’re wiping out their debt, and it may seem faster to start with the smallest debt. But the reality is that it may take longer.

The advice that one should “start with the smallest debt” when applying payments should never be used as a rule of thumb. Paying the smallest debt first is only good when the smallest debt happens to be the debt with the highest interest rate. If that’s not the case, then paying the smallest debt first can be a costly mistake.

The least expensive way to apply payments to your debt is to pay the most toward the highest-interest-rate loans (that’s the rule). Here’s an example that illustrates exactly what’s going on:

Say you have two debts: $11,000 at 18% APR with a minimum monthly payment of $220, and another loan of $7,000 at 6.9% APR with a minimum payment of $140. You also have a total of $500 per month available to pay toward both loans, and you want to apply the payments in the most efficient way to each debt.

Strategy 1: Pay the smallest debt first.

The most you can allocate to pay toward the “smallest debt” is $280, because you must make minimum payments of $220 on the larger debt ($280+$220=$500). If you make the payments in those amounts, the “smallest debt” ($7,000) is paid off in 27.07 months. During this time, you are paying $220 toward the $11,000 debt, which will now have a balance of $9,180.

Since the “smallest debt” is paid back, you can put the total $500 toward the remaining debt. And with that payment, it takes 21.64 months to finish repaying it. The total time you’re making payments is simply 27.07+21.64=48.71 months. Each of those monthly payments totals $500, so the total amount to repay the original debt of $18,000 is $24,355 (48.71 months x $500).

Strategy 2: Pay the highest interest rate first.

It would be nice if you could use the total $500 and pay it toward the 18% debt, but you still must make minimum payments on the other loan. So the payment structure begins with $360 being paid toward the $11,000 debt and $140 toward the $7,000 debt. Notice that the total payments are still $500.

With these payments, the $11,000 debt is paid back in 41.18 months, and the remaining balance on the 6.9% loan after this time is $2,380. Now that the high-rate debt is repaid, you use the total $500 toward the remaining debt, which is then completely paid back in another 4.84 months. The total repayment time is 41.18+4.84=46.02 months and the total monthly payment is still $500 for each of those months, bringing the grand total of paying back the loans to $23,010 (46.02 months x $500).


The bottom line is that the pay-the-smallest-debt-first strategy cost $24,355 to repay the original debt, and the pay-the-highest-interest-rate-first strategy cost $23,010 in total payments. By applying the payments toward the highest interest rate first, the amount saved is $24,355-23,010=$1,345! What a difference the payment order can make—that’s a HUGE chunk of money! You could buy an entire, top-of-the-line, multimedia Pentium computer system with that, or 270 McDonald’s value meals. The best part of the strategy is that you’re paying the same amount per month and using the same checks and stamps; the only change is how much you apply toward each loan.

Thought For The Day

'If you want to know my identity, don't ask me what I do or where I work. Rather, ask me what kind of person I'm becoming or how I'm fulfilling my purpose in life.'
-- Dan Miller -- Author Career Counselor

Friday, November 11, 2005

Lessons to Live By


This was written by an 83-year-old woman to her friend.

Dear Friend,

I'm reading more and dusting less. I'm sitting in the yard and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden.

I'm spending more time with my family and friends and less time working.

Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savor, not to endure. I'm trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them.

I'm not "saving" anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, or the first Amaryllis blossom. I wear my good blazer to the market. My theory is if I look prosperous, I can shell out $28.49 for one small bag of groceries.

I'm not saving my good perfume for special parties, but wearing it for clerks in the hardware store and tellers at the bank.

"Someday" and "one of these days" are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now.

I'm not sure what others would've done had they known they wouldn't be here for the tomorrow that we all take for granted. I think they would have called family members and a few close friends. They might have called a few former friends to apologize and
mend fences for past squabbles.

I like to think they would have gone out for a Chinese dinner or for whatever
their favorite food was. I'm guessing; I'll never know.

It's those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew my hours
were limited. Angry because I hadn't written certain letters that I intended to write one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn't tell my husband and parents often enough how much I truly love them.

I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, tell myself that it is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift from God.

-- Author Unknown

Monday, November 7, 2005

I'm Back

I took a little vacation last week and celebrated by ?? birthday.   I'm back now just in time for tomorrow's elections.  Prepare yourselves there's a lot to talk about.