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‘The New Childhood’ and How Games, Social Media Are Good For Kids

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 07:00 AM PST

Jordan Shapiro‘s new book “The New Childhood,” was released on December 31. Shapiro, an influential columnist, thinker, and teacher, dedicated many years to exploring and writing about education in the digital age and how it impacts children and families.

I know Shapiro’s work through my time at Games for Change, where he proved an active and positive voice in the discourse about video games for learning and social impact. I was thrilled to get my hands on an advance copy of the book and found it to be a thought-provoking, bold read. As a father of two daughters at similar ages to Jordan’s children (7 and 9), facing similar challenges and dilemmas, the book provided me with an inspiring and optimistic perspective that’s rare in the current media landscape.

I reached out to Shapiro in the hope of expanding on the ideas in the book.

I’m constantly surrounded by friends and fellow parents who are threatened and frustrated by video games and new technology, and reading this book made me feel like I’m doing something right as a parent with a much more open policy and dialogue. At the same time, your book is also demanding — it puts a lot of responsibility on parents.

“Demanding” is such an interesting word choice. I say that because I think everyone knows that parenting, in general, is a very demanding endeavor. I’m so exhausted all the time, and I’m guessing you are, too. But I’m not complaining. I knew what I was in for what I signed up for this–didn’t you?

Does anybody actually expect that raising kids will be easy? I doubt it. And still, for some reason, grown-ups seem especially distraught when it comes to dealing with kids and video games. They’re downright angry about how much effort it takes to make sure that children develop a healthy relationship to digital devices. Even in your question, there’s the implicit assumption that parents shouldn’t have to take so much responsibility for it. And we all do that — we get mad at the devices rather than teaching our kids how to live with them. Where does that way of thinking come from? Is it related to our expectation that technology should just work right all the time, the same reason we get so frustrated when software is buggy (even though it almost always is)? Maybe.

But the point is: Nothing is ever going to make parenting less demanding. And that’s why I wrote this book. I wanted to help people see that the real task of childrearing has always been to teach kids how to live well in a changing world. We take what we know — those values that we learned from our parents, and that they learned from theirs — and we teach our children how to be fulfilled and kind and thoughtful in new technological, economic, and cultural contexts. Video games are just a part of living in a new, connected world.

Some of the thoughts and concepts you present feel almost like a framework that is meant to “wake up” decision-makers and thought leaders — educators, government, nonprofits, and other people with influence.

What I find interesting is that on the one hand, everyone — parents, educators, policy makers, etc.–seem worried about how to prepare kids for the so-called fourth-industrial revolution. They’re asking: How do we make sure that people can still live a meaningful, productive life after A.I., automation, the internet of things, and bioengineering completely transform our society, our economy, our culture? And then, on the other hand, folks are also panicked about the way kids are playing video games or using social media all the time.

Well, it seems to me that there’s a fundamental paradox here. See, digital play is the best possible way to prepare kids for what’s coming. How do I know that? Because play has always been the best way to prepare kids for the future. The research is clear about this; the science is conclusive. Through play, kids learn key social and emotional skills. It’s how they cultivate self-regulation and executive function skills. And so much more.

But a lot of people seem to make the mistake of thinking that play is a neutral thing, that there is such a thing as “pure” play. That’s not true. You can’t separate play from the context, or the zeitgeist of a particular era. That’s one of the ideas I explain in the book: so many of the things we think of as the sacred components of the childhood experience–the sandbox, the family dinner, the Teddy bear–were actually developed during the industrial era. Why? To prepare kids with the skills for the economic and technological realities of the 20th century.

So, it’s not just that kids need to play. It’s also that they need to play with toys and games that fit the contexts in which they live. Today’s kids live in a connected world. So, they need connected play. They need to participate in activities that prepare them to navigate a networked world with ease. And video games are already doing just that. If parents, teachers, and caretakers get involved–if they start playing video games with their kids–well, then, I’m certain that everything will be alright.

You discuss a variety of common misconceptions and myths about video games, social media and other new tools. Why do you think these gaps of understandings are so pronounced? It almost feels like we are challenging a “gut feeling” of parents and no matter how much evidence and stats you will throw at them, it won’t change their perception of video games as “a waste of time. What do you feel is the key to transform these views in the short or long-term?

I don’t really think that this is an issue that’s unique to video games. If you look back at history, you find all these examples of grownups complaining about the way kids play. Play is frivolous. Idleness is sinful. These are the old Puritan values. And at least in the U.S., we’re still reckoning with this outdated way of thinking. You see it especially in schools. Many kids only get about 20 or 30 minutes a day of recess.

Even at the university level, the kinds of scholarship that can’t demonstrate a direct return on investment is often criticized for being inconsequential. And of course, it’s the arts, the humanities, music, poetry, even theoretical physics–the very subjects that involve “playing” with ideas. Imagine the annoying uncle at a holiday dinner asking, “What are you gonna do with degree in philosophy?” The answer, of course, is anything I want. Because all the research shows that most professional skills can be learned very quickly. Whereas the playful critical thinking involved in a liberal arts education is what really leads to success, what really enables people to transfer skills and knowledge from one vocation to another.

See, I think a lot of people misunderstand the old religious attitude about the moral virtue of a strong work ethic. Of course, hard work is good, the passion for productivity is an essential component of human progress, but we don’t need to rely on direct causal metrics to define “work.” To a kid playing a video game, trying to learn the secret moves, struggling to level-up, that’s all work. But grownups don’t see it. And then these ideological prejudices get reinforced from one generation to the next and it becomes an almost unconscious knee-jerk reaction to criticize playful activities.

Plus, we have this strange, contradictory technophobia. It’s like modern humans love to build (and buy) devices that we feel guilty about. We love our phones, but we’re also ashamed of them. That “gut feeling” you’re describing is like some deep Freudian superego stuff. It’s a kind of self-loathing. And we really need to eliminate it. Why? Because I don’t want to pass that onto my kids. Instead, I want them to have a healthy relationship with technology. And the whole binge-and-purge, digital detox way of thinking is not at all healthy.

Anyway, in my experience, when parents recognize how badly we’ve handled our responsibility to demonstrate what it looks like when you integrate technology into your life in a positive way, their attitude shifts considerably.

In the book’s journey, we find the “new playground” and the “new playtime” and even the “new puberty.” Re-defining and challenging the fundamental structure of how we live at home, or how our kids are engaging socially or at school. You are speaking about what’s taking place in terms of a revolution, equal to the introduction of writing or printing.

Well, I doubt there’s a way to know if this is a transitional shift equal in scope to the introduction of writing or printing. It’s possible, but nobody can predict the future. Still, I think that this is a big revolution we’re living through. That’s what’s really at the core of parental anxiety. Grownups can see that things are changing in substantial and confusing ways. And they want to handle it well, but don’t know how.

By the way, I also think this is one of the big factors in the political unrest that’s happening all over the globe. We were wholly unprepared for living in such a connected world. We were still coasting in that “We Are The World” euphoric bliss. Like me, you probably remember watching the Live Aid concert as a kid; it was so magical and heartwarming. But now we’re discovering that just being connected isn’t a guarantee that people will handle it well. And we didn’t teach everyone how to deal with it.

It’s the same as playground etiquette: kids will hit and bite and kick if you don’t teach them not to. That’s why so much of the book is about how parents can (and should) play video games with their kids, or the ways they can get involved their kids’ digital lives. When my kids were little, I used to run around on the jungle gym with them–I’d slide and swing and play ball. Now, I do it in the virtual playground.

Why a book? I am sure that you made a deliberate decision to utilize this medium over YouTube videos or blogs… or games.

Well, I’m a writer. That’s my skill. For a long time, I wrote blogs and magazine articles about this stuff. But eventually, I felt like I needed to do it in a long form. I really wanted to lay out the argument in a comprehensive way. And a book seemed like the best way to do it. Still, I’d love to see a video game about “The New Childhood.” Maybe you know someone who wants to make it?

What are you playing these days with your kids?

I hesitate to answer this question because we just got “Mortal Kombat X” for the Xbox One. It’s the newest one in the franchise, but it came out two or three years ago. The other day, I saw it on the clearance shelf at Target and I remembered how much I loved the original when I played it on the Sega Genesis with my older brothers. So, I brought it home.

Now, just about every night, I make a big bowl of popcorn and we have this family time full of fierce virtual battles. “FINISH HIM!!!!” Of course, “Mortal Kombat” is a two-player game. But there’s three of us. So, whoever’s sitting out takes on the winner next. The game’s short best-of-three format makes it especially well-suited to that kind of turn-taking.

Here’s the reason I hesitated, Asi. You probably remember that the original Mortal Kombat led to one of biggest moral panics in video game history. That’s because it’s really bloody and violent. But if you play it, you see that it’s all presented in a cartoonish sort of way. It’s like “Itchy & Scratchy” from “The Simpsons. In fact, my boys and I constantly laugh at how ridiculous it is that someone can stab your avatar in the eye with a magical dagger, blood squirts out all over the place like a fountain, and then you just get right back up and fight some more.

A lot of people will find that disturbing. But notice what I just said: “We constantly laugh.” To me, that’s the most important part of family time. We’re playing together and we’re having a great experience. And the critical point I want to make is that these kinds of prosocial serve-and-response interactions between parents and their children do a whole lot more to cultivate well-adjusted, healthy, ethical individuals than a little bit of violent content could ever do to hurt them.

Variety Gaming editor Brian Crecente is a volunteer on the Games for Change advisory board.

Netflix Expected to Name Activision Blizzard’s Spencer Neumann as New CFO

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 04:40 AM PST

Spencer Neumann is joining Netflix as its new chief financial officer and will exit as Activision Blizzard‘s CFO after less than two years, according to reports.

As first reported by Reuters, Neumann will start at Netflix in early 2019, replacing CFO David Wells. Netflix announced last summer that Wells planned to step down after 14 years with the company and would depart after a successor was hired.

Netflix didn’t immediately respond to a request for information.

In a Dec. 31 SEC filing, Activision Blizzard disclosed that it planned to fire Neumann “for cause unrelated to the Company’s financial reporting or disclosure controls and procedures.”

Neumann had joined Activision Blizzard as CFO in May 2017. Previously, he had been CFO and EVP of global guest experience at Disney’s Walt Disney Parks and Resorts division since 2012.

From 2005-12, Neumann worked at private-equity firms Providence Equity Partners and Summit Partners. Before that, he held several other roles with Disney, which he first joined in 1992, including EVP of the ABC Television Network from 2001-04 and CFO of the Walt Disney Internet Group from 1999-2001. Neumann holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and an MBA from Harvard University.

Netflix wanted its next CFO to be based in L.A., where Neumann resides, to focus on production finance related to its original series and movies, per the Reuters report, citing an anonymous source. Wells has been based out of Netflix’s headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif.

In its filing Monday, Activision Blizzard said it placed Neumann on paid leave and informed him that it intends to fire him “pending an opportunity for him to demonstrate why cause does not exist to terminate his employment or why termination of his employment is not otherwise justified.”

With Neumann’s impending departure, Activision Blizzard said that effective Jan. 1, 2019, chief corporate officer Dennis Durkin will assume the duties of CFO (who previously served in that role prior to Neumann’s hire). Durkin, 48, will become permanent CFO in the event Neumann exits the post, according to the games company.

Shane McLeod on Papua New Guinea After APEC

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:48 AM PST

 

From November 17-18, Papua New Guinea (PNG) became the first Pacific Island country to host the annual gathering of leaders from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member governments. That brought a wave of global attention to PNG and a raft of foreign presidents and prime ministers to Port Moresby. At the same time, critics questioned the wisdom of the small, budget-strapped state hosting a massive multilateral event, with all the expenses that entails.

With the benefit of hindsight, Shane McLeod, a Research Associate working with the Lowy Institute’s Australia-PNG Network, helps The Diplomat consider the big question: Was it worth it? McLeod, who previously served as a foreign correspondent with postings in Japan and Papua New Guinea, talks about the potential impact of APEC on PNG’s economy, politics, and foreign relations.

What goals did the PNG government have for hosting APEC, and how well did they succeed?

One of the main goals for PNG in hosting APEC was to showcase the country to the world. And I think they’ve achieved that goal. The event itself ran relatively smoothly. There was a positive feeling about its hosting of APEC and it brought a lot of people to engage with PNG who wouldn’t have otherwise. So on that front I think it’s a success.

There is the broader question of whether a country with as many economic challenges as PNG should be spending its limited resources on hosting an event like this. There were obviously a lot of in-kind contributions from countries like China, Australia, and the U.S. that have offset a lot of the costs. But there has still been a lot of money and government effort that has gone into hosting this event. The test will be whether PNG will, in the short, medium, and long term, be able to realize the benefits of hosting.

PNG wanted to put the digital economy and participation by developing countries in that space as its key theme. Given some of the investments that are coming for PNG and the Pacific out of APEC you would have to say that they have had some success in putting that on the agenda.

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LINDA C. BLACK HOROSCOPES for 1/1/19

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

Today’s Birthday (01/01/19). Good things come through peaceful reflection this year. Lead by setting a positive example. Romance kindles when least expected. A personal dream lies within reach this winter, before shared finances turn around. Summer partnership flowers, inspiring a personal shift. Listening can be more powerful than speaking.

To get the advantage, check the day’s rating: 10 is the easiest day, 0 the most challenging.

Aries (March 21-April 19) — Today is an 8 — Your personal leadership shines, with Mars in your sign for two months. Shared accounts and collaborative projects could see a bonus or windfall. Count your blessings.

Taurus (April 20-May 20) — Today is an 8 — Mars in Aries energizes your organization and planning. You’re making a fabulous impression; add some glamour. Collaborate with someone who makes your heart skip a beat.

Gemini (May 21-June 20) — Today is an 8 — Make your move. Advance your agenda and push ahead. Find allies who want the same thing. Team action gets farther, with Mars in Aries.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Today is a 7 — Prioritize time with people you love. Savor passion, fun and beauty. A career opportunity flowers with careful tending over two months, with Mars in Aries.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22) — Today is a 7 — Home centers you. Family and domestic comforts recharge. Long distance travels or academic pursuits go farther with Mars in Aries. When ready, go explore.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22) — Today is an 8 — Creative strategies get results. Practice your artistry and expressive talents. Negotiate win-win deals and collaborate for shared gain over two months, with Mars in Aries.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22) — Today is a 9 — A lucrative opportunity presents itself and you’re well placed for it. A collaboration seems turbo charged for a few months, with Mars in Aries.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21) — Today is a 9 — Take charge and follow a personal dream. Avoid lies like the plague. An intense two-month physical action phase begins. Practice for speed and strength.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21) — Today is a 5 — Review, rest and consider. Put away one project before beginning the next. Follow your heart over the next few months, with Mars in Aries.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19) — Today is an 8 — Enjoy social gatherings and meetings. Make new connections. Renovation and remodeling projects seem energized, with Mars and Aries. Transform your home over two months.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18) — Today is an 8 — Your reputation is on the rise. Focus on professional priorities. Get the word out for eight weeks, with Mars in Aries. Energize your communications.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Today is a 7 — Investigate and explore. Travels and studies take you farther. A bonus hits shared accounts, with Mars in Aries for a few months. Divert some to savings.

(Astrologer Nancy Black continues her mother Linda Black’s legacy horoscopes column. She welcomes comments and questions on Twitter, @LindaCBlack. For more astrological interpretations like today’s Gemini horoscope, visit Linda Black Astrology by clicking daily horoscopes, or go to www.nancyblack.com.)

Crisscross overtrick

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

With Bob Jones

North-South vulnerable, South deals

NORTH

S-A K Q

H-K 10 9 6 3

D-8 5 3

C-A 6

WEST EAST

S-J 6 4 S-10 9 8 3 2

H-7 2 H-Q 8 4

D-Q 9 4 D-10 7

C-K 10 7 5 4 C-8 3 2

SOUTH

S-7 5

H-A J 5

D-A K J 6 2

C-Q J 9

The bidding:

SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST

1NT Pass 2D* Pass

2H Pass 4NT Pass

6H All pass

*Transfer to hearts

Opening lead: Five of C

Many players would interpret North’s four no trump bid incorrectly — as Blackwood. North’s sequence of bids is invitational, showing a five-card major along the way. South had a maximum in support of hearts and jumped to the heart slam.

The opening club lead ran to South’s nine, and the next problem was finding the queen of hearts. South reasoned that West would not have led away from a king — an aggressive lead — if he had any hope of a trump trick. Accordingly, he led a low spade to dummy’s ace and ran the 10 of hearts. A heart to the jack and the ace of hearts picked up the trumps and assured the contract.

An overtrick wasn’t important, but it was fun to go after, especially if there was an unusual play involved. South cashed the ace of diamonds followed by dummy’s king and queen of spades and the last two hearts, discarding three diamonds. This was the position:

NORTH

S-Void

H-Void

D-8 5

C-A

WEST EAST

S-Void S-Void

H-Void H-Void

D-Q 9 D-10

C-K 10 C-8 3

SOUTH

S-Void

H-Void

D-K

C-Q J

West still had to discard on the last heart. Whatever West chose, declarer could take the rest for a lovely overtrick.

(Bob Jones welcomes readers’ responses sent in care of this newspaper or to Tribune Content Agency, LLC., 16650 Westgrove Dr., Suite 175, Addison, TX 75001. E-mail responses may be sent to tcaeditors@tribpub.com.)

Tooth and Nail

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

When I watched today’s deal at the club, East-West were a dentist and a manicurist we call “Tooth and Nail” because that’s how they argue.

Against 3NT, Nail led the four of spades: five, ten, ace. South next led the king of diamonds. Nail won and led a second low spade, but declarer guessed right, playing dummy’s nine. Tooth took his king and returned a spade, but South made his game with two spade tricks, three diamonds, four clubs and one heart.

ARGUMENT

Then came the inevitable argument:

Nail: “You goofed. Play the six on the first spade.”

Tooth: “What if declarer’s spades were 8-2? Besides, he still makes 3NT by playing the nine on the second spade, blocking the suit.”

Nail: “Baloney. He would surely play the queen.”

Nail had the better argument. East could use the Rule of 11 to ascertain that South held only one spade higher than the four. If he had two low spades, he would play dummy’s queen on the first spade as his best chance for a spade trick.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: S A 2 H A J 9 3 D K J 5 C Q J 5 2. Neither side vulnerable. The dealer, at your right, opens three spades. What do you say?

ANSWER: This is a judgment call. Some experts would double, and that action could be a winner. In my view, this hand has too many losers and too few high-card values to undertake a contract at the four level. If partner has enough strength to make four hearts, he may bid more than that and get overboard. I would pass.

South dealer

Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

S Q 9 5

H Q 10 5

D Q 10 8 3

C A K 3

WEST

S J 8 7 4 3

H K 8 2

D A 7 2

C 7 4

EAST

S K 10 6

H 7 6 4

D 9 6 4

C 10 9 8 6

SOUTH

S A 2

H A J 9 3

D K J 5

C Q J 5 2

South West North East

1 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening lead — S 4

The return of Maximalism

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

If there’s one thing that’s become a mantra in the past 20 years of decorating, it’s that less is more. But there’s a new wave of thought that’s decidedly old-fashioned, and it says that less is sterile and un-homey. There are those who feel that there is comfort in stuff, like the overfull bookshelves in your grandmother’s living room, the ceramic figures that adorned the tops of dressers, and the chintz and patterned wallpaper that gave her rooms life. Has our give-it-all-away decluttering left us with little to cherish and a home absent of hominess? Some say yes.

Maximalism defined

If owning very little and having few possessions is a relief, maximalism is not for you. Maximalism is a trend that bucks the “less is more” idea with a belief that more is more. However, Maximalism isn’t about clutter and hoarding. It’s finding comfort in excess or repetition, such as with color or design. In the arts, maximalism celebrates patter and texture, and it has a no-holds-barred view of design.

It doesn’t matter that things don’t match; it’s exactly the point that they don’t. Putting together what works for you and your personal aesthetic is the key to maximalism. To a Zen decor enthusiast, the visual array is clutter, overwhelm and excess, and adds visual stress, the point at where maximalists feel comfortable.

Bucking Zen

For years, the Zen style of decor has offered a respite from the busy, hectic and oversaturated world. It’s streamlined with scaled back possessions, clear, open spaces and muted, neutral colors with emphasis on colors and textures of nature. It’s the absence of excess that creates a Zen-style home. And it’s that stark absence that the maximalist notices and that makes them feel uncomfortable. The lack of color and personal items represents loss of connection and feels like your floating in your home — the very thing the Zen style is aiming for — versus being anchored firmly by color, collections and the stuff of your life.

Permission granted

If you’ve grown weary of feeling the need to relieve your home of your possessions or to streamline it to a point that it’s uncomfortable, maximalism is your escape route. Embrace your joy of color, pattern and excess so you find your comfort zone again. Simply put, there may be only so much white, beige or brown you can manage, and if you’re tired of living in a white out, then pull in some color.

Pile up the pillows on the sofa. Mix and match patterns to your heart’s content, but try to keep a little order by organizing some of the chaos. If you have a collection, try pulling it together so that it can make a statement instead of spreading it around the house where it looks cluttered and loses impact. Put your stuff out and let it take center stage. Use juxtaposition to keep it interesting. Have a stuffed moose head? There’s no reason it can’t go over a chintz covered sofa next to a contemporary leather sling chair.

Maximalists see the neutral emphasis as a home going nowhere, and being transported is where they want to be. If you love big, bold design you are part of a burgeoning trend and it’s colorful, loud and proud.

(For more information, contact Kathryn Weber through her website, www.redlotusletter.com.)

*Half Full-Strip – 20190101cshfu-b.tif

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

2018: The year that was

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

Twenty eighteen was a “win some, lose some” year in travel. Travelers neither gained nor lost across the boards, and these days not losing is almost as good as winning. Here are my awards for the 2018 events that will have the biggest impact in 2019 and beyond.

Yogi Berra Trophy: Overtourism. “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” Yogi’s famous quote — not really Yogi’s, but who cares — is only half right about major visitor destinations: They’re too crowded, but people keep going there, anyway. Although overtourism has been a problem for several years, 2018 was the year that it first gained widespread attention, and with good reason. Major tourist magnets from Skagway to Yosemite to Reykjavik to Barcelona to Venice all faced enough visitors as to overwhelm local populations and facilities. Small cruise ports everywhere have a tough time coping with the arrival of 5,000-passsenger cruise ships, and cruisers have a tough time avoiding the mob. Resource managers are finally taking the problem seriously, with some locations already limiting access in some way. For travelers, the best strategy is to avoid going in the busiest seasons — for many, easier said than done.

Year’s Worst Idea: Drones around Airports. The last week of the year, seasonally ultra-busy London/Gatwick airport had to shut down completely, for extended periods of time, due to the suspected presence of drones. Later, the folks there decided that maybe there weren’t really any drones, but the idea certainly was. Sophisticated drones are cheap, widely available, unregulated and easy for anyone to fly. Regardless of what actually happened at Gatwick, you can bet that idiots around the world will say “that looks like fun.” And I mean any idiots, not just terrorists. Travelers and governments currently have no strategies or easy fixes, so you can look to real Gatwick-like problems in 2019.

Cockamamie Idea of the Year: Bisect Southwest Chief. Amtrak floated the idea — realistically — about splitting the Southwest Chief into separate eastern and western rail sections, with bus service linking them between Dodge City and Albuquerque. It’s clear that current Amtrak management would like to dissemble Amtrak’s long-distance system, and if they can’t do it in one big cut, they’re going to try a thousand small cuts.

Enough, Already: “Lifestyle” Babble. These days, hotel flacks rival wine merchants for over-the-top descriptions that nobody really understands. We get endless babble about “Lifestyle” hotels designed for “millennials” without finding out anything specific about how that hotel differs from every other hotel. A little less purple prose and more facts would be a most welcome change, but don’t count on it. Similarly, airline people delve into Roget for as many colorful adjectives as they can find to describe their line’s new “livery,” which is ad-speak for “paint job.” And they seem oblivious to the fact that travelers don’t give a hoot.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Airline bankruptcies. 2018 wasn’t kind to transatlantic low-fare airlines: Primera disappeared, WOW had to cut flying by more than half, and some reports say that Norwegian is circling the drain. Clearly, $99 transatlantic airfares do not constitute a viable business model. Several European and Asian low-fare lines also died, victims of the clash between overenthusiastic expectations and hard realities. I suspect we’ll see more of the same in 2019. Fortunately, now that Alaska saved Virgin America, the U.S. system no longer has any obvious weaklings.

Relief from the Cattle Car: Moxy (or Whatever). David Neelemen’s new U.S. startup, temporarily called “Moxy,” but not ultimately, looks to be real. The idea is to use Airbus A220s — formerly Bombardier C-Series — to offer low-fare but high-quality flights from secondary airports. The “high quality” part is due, in part, to the A220 cabin design: Seats will be five-across rather than the usual six, and each seat will be one to two inches wider than seats on 737s and A320s. “High quality, low-cost” has been a graveyard for startup lines for decades, but Neeleman seems to have the magic touch: Whatever it turns out to be called, Moxy will be his fourth start-up after three successes.

(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins@mind.net. Also, check out Ed’s new rail travel website at www.rail-guru.com.)

The pros and cons of cruising

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

Recently, I was on a massive cruise ship with 3,000 passengers blitzing the great ports of the Mediterranean — and having lots of fun. No, I’m not suddenly abandoning my independent travel principles and becoming a huge proponent of cruising. But I am impressed by the economy, efficiency and popularity of this kind of travel … and, to be honest, I enjoy cruising.

I’m the first to admit that cruising doesn’t appeal to everyone. For some, it’s anti-travel. For others, it’s the perfect vacation.

On our ship, I met people who seemed to be having a great time … most of them veterans of many cruises. I also met lots of budget-conscious travelers who told me that a cruise (which includes transportation, lodging and food for one discounted price) is a wonderful value.

The per-day base cost for mainstream cruises beats independent travel by a mile. For a weeklong European cruise, a couple can pay as little as $100 per person per night — that’s less than most hotel rooms in London or Paris. To link all the places on your own — with hotels, rail passes, boat tickets, taxi transfers, restaurants, and so on — would add up fast. And you can’t beat the convenience and efficiency of sleeping while you travel to your next destination.

There are some negatives. There’s no denying that the cruising industry contributes to water, air and marine-noise pollution — but technology and consumer pressure are helping a bit. Environmental responsibility is such a hot topic that all the large cruise lines have website sections where you can evaluate their efforts. (Just keep in mind that this info is also intended to help market their cruises.)

And what about the impact on local economies and communities? Cruising can trample towns with sightseers who leave almost no money (since they eat, sleep and buy their tours onboard). On the other hand, most of those communities view cruise ships as an economic boost — which explains why so many ports are investing in cruise-worthy piers and terminals.

Then there are issues of economic justice. Critics point out that the industry is built on rich tourists being served by crew members from poor countries. But I’ve talked to many people who work on cruise ships, and they’ve told me that the income they earn on a ship is far more than any employment prospects they have back home. And the remarkable loyalty of numerous crew members (working many, many years for the same cruise line) says a lot about this working arrangement.

There’s also diversity to this style of travel. Cruising can accommodate a family with vastly different travel philosophies. It’s possible for Mom to go to the museum, Dad to lie by the pool, Sally to go snorkeling, Bobby to go shopping, Grandma and Grandpa to take in a show … and then all of them can have dinner together and swap stories about their perfect days. (Or, if they’re really getting on each other’s nerves, there’s plenty of room on a big ship to spread out.)

Cruising is especially popular among retirees, particularly those with limited mobility. Cruising rescues you from packing up your bags and huffing to the train station every other day. Once on land, accessibility for wheelchairs and walkers can vary dramatically — though most cruise lines offer excursions specifically designed for those who don’t get around well.

And yet, I still have reservations. Just as people trying to learn a language will do better by immersing themselves in that culture than by sitting in a classroom for a few hours, I believe that travelers in search of engaging, broadening experiences should eat, sleep and live Europe. Good or bad, cruising insulates you from Europe. If the taxi drivers in Naples are getting a little too pushy, you can simply retreat to the comfort of 24-hour room service, American sports on the TV and a boatload of people who speak English. It’s fun — but is it Europe?

Cruising might not be for everyone. But neither is my style of travel. And at least cruising gets people (who might otherwise stay home) out interacting with the world. Frankly, many of the people I met on my last cruise were enjoying (and benefiting from) the chance to broaden their perspective through travel … even if tethered to a big floating chunk of America.

Let’s face it: Americans have the shortest vacations in the rich world. Some choose to dedicate their valuable time off to all-inclusive, resort-style vacations in Florida, Hawaii, the Caribbean or Mexico: swimming pools, song-and-dance shows, shopping and all-you-can-eat buffets. Cruising lets you toggle back and forth between the floating American-style resort each evening and a different European adventure each day. If you know how to use your time on shore smartly, it can be the best of both worlds. Bon voyage!

(Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes travel guidebooks to the cruise ports of the Mediterranean and Northern Europe and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at rick@ricksteves.com, follow his blog on Facebook, and watch for his TV special “Rick Steves’ Cruising the Mediterranean,” coming to your local public television station in February.)

Go Away With … Jae Suh Park

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

“Friends from College” star Jae Suh Park is based out of Los Angeles, where she resides with her husband, actor Randall Park, and their daughter, Ruby. But she also spends a lot of time in New York City, where her Netflix series is filmed. “I would say that New York is the seventh friend in the show,” says Park, who portrays Marianne. “The energy of the city is so inspiring. I can’t help but bring it into my role on the show.” Park stays in touch with her fans via Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/thejaesuhpark/).

Q. When I interviewed your husband, Randall said Kauai was his favorite, because that’s where you honeymooned. What would you pick?

A. Well, it’s still in Hawaii. But now with our 6 year old in tow, I would say Oahu. I think it’s a little more kid friendly.

Q. To someone who was going there for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?

A. Go to Leonard’s Bakery immediately upon arrival for a coffee and malasada (Portuguese donuts). Go to the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet to bring back kitschy things for your friends and the Ala Moana Center to take advantage of the Hawaii sales tax. And, of course, relax on the beach. The water in Hawaii is always so clear and just the right temperature.

Q. How adventurous are you when it comes to eating new food?

A. I’m super adventurous. I love food and trying new food is always exciting for me. And with hot sauce, everything tastes delicious!

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. The first trip I remember as a child was our immigration to the United States from South Korea. I was six and I remember being really sad and crying, because we were leaving my grandmother, and being on the plane for what felt like forever. I was the same age as my daughter is now. I’m not sure what I understood or what I was able to process at the time, but I guess it turned out OK. My daughter wouldn’t be here if I didn’t take that trip.

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?

A. Pack light. You won’t wear half of the things you pack. Packing in neutral colors helps, so you don’t have to think too much about matching things.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. I really enjoy going to the Solvang, Santa Barbara and Ojai area. It’s just so quaint. It’s not too far of a drive and I love the restaurants, shops and the wine tasting there.

Q. Where is the most romantic destination?

A. Well, I’d have to say Kauai. We honeymooned at the Grand Hyatt there and they have these amazing giant lagoons, which are very romantic. Also, there’s something about that slight humidity in the air and ocean breeze that makes my husband look extra sexy.

Q. Do you prefer to stay in town or go away for the holidays?

A. I don’t really go away for the holidays. The holidays are the best times of the year in L.A. It feels like half of L.A. goes home, so the streets feel empty and there’s very little traffic. No traffic in L.A. is the Christmas miracle.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. New York City, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seoul.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. Australia. Everyone who’s ever been there tells me that I have to go.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. Good headphones are a must on the plane. Sheet face masks take up no room at all in your suitcase and they come in handy — you just don’t know how your skin might react on your travels — and a couple of really good power banks.

Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?

A. Room service.

Q. What is your best travel memory?

A. One of the best memories I have is when I traveled to Osaka, Japan, in college. I was cast in a theater production of an original Japanese play. Our group performed the play in English at our college and at a college in Osaka. Their group performed it in Japanese at their college and ours. We hosted them in our country as they hosted us in theirs. It was just the coolest experience, although I think they got the short end of the stick as our college was in Davis, California. No dig on Davis but, you know, not the most exciting town.

(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow “Go Away With…” on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)

Phil Hands – Color – 20190101edphc-a.tif

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

HANDS; PAUL RYAN; NANCY PELOSI

House full of roommates can’t keep it clean

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

Dear Amy: I have eight roommates (five men and three women), all living together in a large house.

All of the roommates rent separately from a landlord; we are not friends sharing a house as friends (the rent is very cheap, and so is the landlord).

The things that have never been resolved over the years are primarily people taking out the trash and keeping the kitchen and front hallway floor clean. Dishes are left in the sink for days, weeks or over a month and also general cleaning the kitchen.

Sometimes one of the people will bring some cleaning help in for her specific needs, but that is not reliable regarding the house common areas.

It seems that some people just don’t care — and believe it or not, some people seem to be obstructing any resolution.

I should not have to pick up the slack that others leave undone.

How can we get people to finally get on the same page as much as possible, and resolve this?

Amy, can you visit the house and gently persuade these scumbags to act like adults and do their part?

— Grunged

Dear Grunged: Before I book my flight to intervene on your behalf, you need to understand that if I could inspire others to clean the house to my standard (through force or persuasion), I would not be up late vacuuming while my own family of seven slumbers peacefully.

You should certainly try to call a “house meeting” to address these issues. One logical solution would be for all of you to chip in to hire a cleaner (or “Hazmat” specialist) to come every other week and clean the common areas of the house. However, my instinct is that the individuals who care the least will continue to care the least, and therefore will refuse to either help or pay.

With nine people all renting cheaply and separately on individual leases, and without friendship ties between you (which would create some emotional leverage), your only advantage is the freedom to choose to move when your own lease runs out.

Dear Amy: My husband and I (along with our 4 year old), live next to a childless couple in their 40s. They moved in after the husband inherited the house about two years ago.

Last summer, we were awakened at 3 a.m. by the husband from next door. He was sobbing and yelling to himself on their front porch. Apparently, the neighbor was very drunk, and his wife locked him out of the house.

My husband tried to help — he managed to get him into their garage.

This has happened at least 20 more times in the last six months: Husband comes home late, is locked out and then yells or cries for hours. Eventually, he passes out or the wife relents and lets him in.

I left them a note asking them to please be more considerate. A neighbor got slapped by the husband when he tried to move him inside. Another neighbor has called the police several times.

Now, they avoid us at all costs. The police have said that there is no assault or abuse happening, and that the issue is domestic, and the most they can do is write them a citation for disturbing the peace.

I understand that there is probably a serious addiction problem here, and I sympathize with them, but their issues should not be our issues! Especially at 3 a.m.!

Do you have any recommendations for a strategy to get them to take it inside?

— Awake and Pacing

Dear Awake: “Taking it inside” might be best for you, but not necessarily for them. If this husband is drunk, belligerent and (sometimes) physically violent, forcing this couple into home confinement might not be best for either of them.

You’ve been neighborly; you’ve also contacted them discreetly. Calling the police is the appropriate thing for you to do at this point. If at some point the wife is ready to leave, or needs a restraining order, a history of police visits might help her to build a case. Being threatened with arrest for public intoxication might force him toward getting help.

Dear Amy: “Hurt and Sincere” wrote about being at the stage of life where many of the parents are ill and dying.

I’m at that stage, too. Thank you for writing this: “…showing up as a witness to someone else’s loss is a vital expression of our own humanity.”

I wish more people understood how important this is.

— Been There

Dear Been There: I agree.

(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: Askamy@amydickinson.com. Readers may send postal mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.)

OMARR’S DAILY ASTROLOGICAL FORECAST, For release 01/01/19 for 01/01/19

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

BIRTHDAY GAL: Actress Angourie Rice was born in Australia today in 2001. This birthday gal has starred in such movies as “Every Day,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and “The Nice Guys.” She’s also appeared on episodes of Australian series such as “Mako Mermaids,” “Worst Year of My Life, Again,” and “The Doctor Blake Mysteries.” Rice will next reprise her role as Betty in the upcoming sequel “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Holiday parades and televised sports might not be your cup of tea. Your work ethic or idealistic self-discipline could dominate your thoughts. Use your drive and energy to make your day off productive and worthwhile.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Think twice before you make a binding resolution. As you develop your dreams you need to be inspired but you also need to have the facts. Keep your money in your pocket and credit card locked away.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Out with the old, in with the new. It’s time to focus on what has broken down and replace what has become outdated. The change can be effortless if you keep an open mind and have a clear vision of what you want.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Play fair. You can be a good sport even if football fails to fulfill your favorite fantasies. You shouldn’t act on your secret desires where a certain person is concerned because your advances could be rebuffed.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): What comes around goes around. If you play fair and honorably, others will do the same. If you are greedy or focused on looking out for number one, you might find yourself locked in a fierce battle of wits.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Reconnoiter. When something seems impossible, step away, clear your head and you may see things from a new perspective. You might not be prepared to make a New Year’s resolution for a few more days.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Form a New Year’s resolution that focuses on what you can accomplish rather than how you rate when compared to others. Don’t undertake a new romantic project too quickly. Stay at the “getting to know” each other stage.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Sometimes you only hear what you want to hear. Some criticisms can be helpful rather than hurtful and you’d do well to listen up. If someone has helped you in the past, don’t let them down when they need a favor.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Calculate the odds carefully. Financial gain from a wager might not be in the stars but going home to the family will make you feel rich. Your first impressions of some people might not be on the mark.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): What has worked in the past will work in the future. The voice of experience can help you make sensible New Year’s resolutions. Take time to reflect on the past so that you may understand what the future holds.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Do your share of the work. Don’t just tag along for the ride; pitch in and help when the need arises. Any job worth doing is worth doing well; when faced with a task your best bet is to give it your all.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Don’t forget where you are. Be careful not to let jokes go too far, as certain people could be sensitive or easily have their feelings hurt. Work quietly behind the scenes and let someone else be the life of the party.

IF JANUARY 1 IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: The next four to six weeks is a good time to enter into business agreements or make a job change. Not only will people in general recognize your unique abilities and practicality, but you project a friendliness that will be reciprocated. Romeo and Juliet might have met under the conditions that exist in May, but you know what happened to them. Avoid romantic entanglements and don’t make crucial decisions because you may be blind to the facts. September can be a great time to relax in an exotic location or to visit a spa or inspirational retreat. October is a good month for decision making or to obtain professional advice because you will be wiser than usual.

*Love Is… – Comic Panel – 20190101cplis-a.tif

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

Resolved: To speak English

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

“Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?” asked Professor Henry Higgins in the musical “My Fair Lady.” It’s a good question for Americans, especially millennials.

On a recent flight two young women sat behind me, chattering away rather loudly. In just one minute I counted 16 “likes” and “you knows” from just one of them.

It went this way: “And then she was like and then he was like and I was like, you know.”

As an adverb, “like” means nearly, closely or approximately, as in “the experience was like jumping off a high diving board.” There are other uses of the word “like,” but this is perhaps the most familiar.

As for “you know,” if the person already knows what you are telling them, why tell them?

These are verbal crutches, used to replace common English usage. They are the language of the ignorant, of a generation that can neither speak well, nor think rationally. Call them Bernie Sanders voters.

The late NBC News Correspondent Edwin Newman wrote two books about the misuse of English. Some of his (and my) least favorite words are heard inside airports. Newman got irritated when airline employees spoke of a “podium,” and not a desk. He was also flummoxed when they invited certain passengers to “pre-board” the airplane, which he noted was impossible. One can board early, or board ahead of others passengers, but to “pre-board” is a contradiction.

When I was in school English grammar was a requirement, not an option. We diagrammed sentences and learned the proper use and positioning of words. We were taught never to end a sentence in a preposition and learned when to say “me” and “I,” and the difference between there, their and they’re.

Clichés were once mostly used by young people and inexperienced writers. Today, they have crept into the language of people who should know better. These cliches include “needless to say” (then why bother to say it?), and “cautiously optimistic.” The Washington Post once compiled a list of “200 journalism clichés … and counting” of which the clichés above are only two.

Politicians love clichés and other words and phrases that often serve as smokescreens to fool the public. “The American people” is a favorite, as if all Americans think alike. “We can’t keep spending as if there is no tomorrow” is another. So if we stop spending, will tomorrow come, or is this like Groundhog Day when there will be six more weeks of winter whether or not the rodent sees his shadow?

Don’t get me started on TV hosts and reporters. “As you can see,” they often say. Yes, we can. That’s because it’s called television. It’s not radio, OK? It has pictures. “Shot in the encounter” was a favorite of a former news director at a TV station where I worked. We wondered where one could find the encounter on one’s anatomy? “Rushed to the hospital” was another of his favorites. Why not “taken” or “driven”? After being rushed to the hospital, one was then “hospitalized,” which always sounded to me as a process resembling the application of wax to a car (Simonize for those who don’t get it).

The point is to learn English as a means of expressing ourselves that shows we didn’t just fall off a turnip truck (deliberate use of a cliché). What’s the point of speaking English if it can’t be properly spoken and understood?

Over Christmas I listened to the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas reading his brilliant “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” The delight of words, well-chosen and beautifully spoken, was thrilling and captivating. He makes the listener want to listen, as opposed to wishing to plug one’s ears when assaulted with “like” and “you know.”

“One common language I’m afraid they’ll never get,” lamented Henry Higgins. Could one of our Resolutions for 2019 be to speak better English?

(Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.)

*Pluggers – Color Comic Panel – 20190101cpplc-a.tif

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

Guys, does your body need more nitric oxide and KSM-66?

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

My body is a flabby, fleshy mass of Christmas fudge. My blood type is no longer Type B-negative; instead, it is Cheese-positive. If I cut my finger, onion dip would squirt out prodigious quantities. Ladies, how do you like me now?

The “ruining of the physique” as I call it, occurs every December, despite my annual pledge to walk away from all snacks mozzarella-related and be the lone party guest who actually consumes the raw cauliflower and broccoli stalks, sans queso. While friends and relatives gorge themselves on food that, due to its small size, can be easily piled on plates in large quantities, I would be the rational party attendee, placing a single naked cracker on my plate, taking minute bites as if I were a newborn rabbit nibbling on a baby carrot.

Didn’t happen. Which is why I need … a pill.

Oh, you were thinking the previous sentence should contain the phrase “extreme diet”? “Strict exercise regimen”? “Barbed wire around the cheese aisle in my local grocery store”? Nah, not necessary. Not when there’s AGELESS MALE MAX.

Every year, post-Christmas, my car radio airwaves and my web browser seem to be flooded with advertisements for these wonder guy pills that are so amazing, so awesome, so full of testosterone-producing whatever, that health clubs and home gyms need not exist. Take one a day, the ads promise, and my stomach will be so taut, one could bounce a cheese ball off it. The Ageless Male Max (yes, it’s a real product) ad filled my ears as I was driving to, ironically, my health club, hoping to burn the caloric equivalent in one piece of toffee.

I returned home after an hour of, barely, lifting weights, googled “Ageless Male Max,” and was immediately directed to a site featuring a shirtless man who looked as if he was trying to sprint off my computer screen. The site featured an image of an Ageless Male Max bottle and was full of open-ended, mysterious phrases like “FROM THE NUMBER ONE BEST SELLER!” though the site failed to disclose the number one best seller’s identity or how Ageless Male Max derived from it. Furthermore, the pill promised to provide KSM-66, “a full-spectrum extract of the natural Ashwagandha root.”

Testimonials from three hunky dudes praised the pill’s merits, even though all were identified only by their first names and last initials, making it impossible to track them down online and verify that, yes, they were real Ageless Male Max customers. My office shuts down for the week following Christmas, yet I still don’t have time to sift through 278 million Google hits, trying to find the correct “Erik M.” who insisted that, yes, he was able to do more gym reps thanks to Ageless Male Max.

The ad promised “Easy as 1-2-3” results. First, the pill would enter my blood stream and produce much-needed nitric oxide, necessary for sexual arousal. Who knew?

Step two would bring the arrival of the mysterious KSM-66 and all its Ashwagandha root benefits. My “cortisol levels” would decrease, thereby improving my mood, the ad promised.

By the time I hit step three, I would, the site stated, have increased muscle size and reduced body fat. If I had doubts, all I had to do was look at Erik M. Or Rocco S. Or Scott L. All three were ripped; yet two were bald, making me wonder if KSM-66 causes hair loss.

My first bottle, shockingly, would be free. I’d just have to pony up $6.99 for shipping and handling. My mouse hovered over the “try it now” button but, as I do every year, I reneged at the last moment, fearful of these wonder drugs that promise so much but cost nothing.

Instead, I vowed to hit the gym harder, cut down on evening beers and bring my own, healthy snacks to next year’s round of Christmas parties.

Anybody know what kind of dip goes best with Ashwagandha root?

(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: “Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad” and the recently released “The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian,” available at Amazon.com. Visit Greg on the web at www.gregschwem.com.)

LATEST LINE

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

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             By J. McCarthy  

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Kentucky is only 3-12 against the spread its last 15 non-conference games. The Wildcats are 1-5 against the spread their last 6 neutral site games. Penn State is 15-5-2 against the spread its last 22 games versus a team with a winning record. The Nittany Lions are 6-1-1 against the spread their last 8 non-conference games. Take Penn St -6 for another Best Bet winner. Other plays include Iowa +7 vs. Mississippi State, Central Florida +7 vs. LSU, and Texas +12 1/2 vs. Georgia.

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                      NFL  

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 Favorite            Points   (O/U)       Underdog  

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               Saturday, Jan 5th.                 Wild Card Playoffs   HOUSTON               2 1/2  (47.5)  Indianapolis   DALLAS                2 1/2  (43)         Seattle                  Sunday, Jan 6th.                 Wild Card Playoffs   BALTIMORE             2      (41.5)   LA Chargers   CHICAGO               6      (41)    Philadelphia  

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                College Football  

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 Favorite            Points   (O/U)       Underdog  

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                  Outback Bowl            Raymond James Stadium-Tampa, FL.   Mississippi St        7      (40.5)          Iowa                    Citrus Bowl           Camping World Stadium-Orlando, FL.   Penn St               6      (47.5)      Kentucky                    Fiesta Bowl       University of Phoenix Stadium-Glendale, AZ.   Lsu                   7      (58) Central Florida                     Rose Bowl               Rose Bowl-Pasadena, CA.   Ohio St               6 1/2  (57.5)    Washington                     Sugar Bowl        Mercedes-Benz Superdome-New Orleans, LA.   Georgia               12 1/2 (58.5)         Texas                  Saturday, Jan 5th.                FCS Championship Game              Toyota Stadium-Frisco, TX.   North Dakota St       14     (61)   E. Washington                   Monday, Jan 7th.              National Championship Game            Levi's Stadium-Santa Clara, CA.   Alabama               6      (59.5)       Clemson  

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                      NBA  

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 Favorite            Points   (O/U)       Underdog  

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 TORONTO               3 1/2  (212)           Utah   MILWAUKEE             10 1/2 (218)        Detroit   DENVER                14     (217.5)     New York   Portland              1 1/2  (230)     SACRAMENTO   x-LA CLIPPERS       No Line  (XXX)   Philadelphia  

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x-Philadelphia J. Embiid is questionable.

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               College Basketball  

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 Favorite            Points               Underdog  

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 VIRGINIA TECH         11               Notre Dame   SAN DIEGO ST          15 1/2        CS Northridge   ST. JOHN'S            1                 Marquette   WASHINGTON            12 1/2         CS Fullerton  

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                      NHL  

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 Favorite            Goals     (O/U)      Underdog  

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            2019 NHL Winter Classic          Notre Dame Stadium-South Bend, IN.   Boston             Even-1/2   (6)         Chicago   NASHVILLE           1/2-1     (5.5)  Philadelphia   VEGAS               1/2-1     (5.5)   Los Angeles  

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               Home Team in CAPS  

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Family finances: Advice for stay-at-home moms

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:01 AM PST

When I first met Variny Yim, she had just had her second child and moved across the country to California. But she was still commuting to Washington, D.C., as part of her job as director of a nonprofit association. She was considering leaving that job, and the cross-country commute, to spend more time with her children, and she asked me for advice on balancing work and family. I advised her to “keep one foot in the door.”

Those six little words ended up making a big impact. “I have literally lived your advice,” Variny told me recently. She quit her D.C. job, but over the years she has taken a series of part-time and consulting positions — and even managed to write a novel, “The Immigrant Princess.” That path, she says, “has enabled me to keep my skill set current while also giving me flexibility to be a full-time mother.”

Taking time off from the workforce is emotionally satisfying and can make economic sense (no child care expenses), but it comes at a cost — not only in current income but also in future earning power and retirement savings. Before you make the move, “understand what’s at stake financially for you and be proactive about planning for it,” says Adrienne Penta, executive director of the Center for Women & Wealth at Brown Brothers Harriman. “It’s important to preserve your earning power to the extent you can.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean working part-time. It can also mean staying in touch with your network or hiring a babysitter so you can attend an industry seminar or event. And don’t sell short any activities unrelated to your former career. “Women don’t give themselves enough credit for volunteer activities they’re involved in,” says Penta.

You and your family are now dependent on the income of one earner, so to protect that income, you need disability and life insurance coverage for your spouse — one rule of thumb is to buy term life insurance equal to seven to 10 times your family income — and insurance on your own life to cover child care and other expenses if anything were to happen to you.

One key way to provide for your financial security is to have a spousal IRA. A working spouse can contribute up to $6,000 to a spousal IRA in 2019, or $7,000 if you’re 50 or older. Spousal IRAs pack a triple wallop: They help you make up for years out of the workforce, they provide an independent pot of money that belongs to you should anything happen to your spouse (or your marriage), and they give you an opportunity to manage your own retirement assets.

And if you earn money on the side, you can save a portion of that for retirement in an IRA or a solo 401(k) — or as seed capital to build your side gig into a real business.

(Janet Bodnar is editor at large at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to moneypower@kiplinger.com. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.)

Madonna Gives Surprise New Year’s Eve Performance at Stonewall Inn (Watch)

Posted: 31 Dec 2018 10:25 PM PST

People expected something a week ago when Stonewall Inn — the bar in New York’s Greenwich Village where the riots that kicked off the modern LGBTQ movement took place in 1969 — announced that Madonna had been named an ambassador for the 50th anniversary celebrations. However, they may not have expected it quite so soon. On New Year’s Eve, word leaked out that Madonna would be making an appearance, and not long after midnight, she did, giving a speech and then performing two songs.

Wearing black jeans, a black shirt, a black leather jacket with glittering chains and a shiny bow in her hair, Madonna took the tiny stage saying, “I just wanna say I’ve never performed on a stage this small!” The enraptured crowd cheered wildly, obscuring some of her words.

“You survived 2018? Are you happy to say ‘Goodbye bitch’?,” she laughed before saying, “I do have some serious things to say.” She donned a pair of horn-rimmed glasses — “2019 is the year I start wearing glasses,” she joked — and read from cards emblazoned with rainbow colors on the back.

Instagram Photo

“I stand here proudly at the place where pride began, the legendary Stonewall Inn, on the birth of a new year. We come together tonight to celebrate 50 years of revolution.”

She then spoke of the community’s efforts against “hatred, discrimination and most of all indifference. Let’s never forget the Stonewall Riots and those who stood up and said, ‘Enough.’ Half a century later, Stonewall has become a defining moment and a critical point in history.

“If you can’t imagine how happy I am to return home to New York City, where dreams are born and forged out of fire and brought to life, where I am proud to say that my journey as an artist began, and my commitment to equality for all people took root,” she continued.

“If we truly took the time to get to know one another we would find that we all bleed the same color and we all need to love and be loved,” she concluded. “Let’s remember who and what we are fighting for — ourselves, for each other, but truly and most importantly, what are we fighting for?” she asked rhetorically. “Let’s take a minute to reflect on how we can bring more love and peace into 2019, let’s look at how we can bring random acts of kindness. Maybe we can find an opening to bring the light in. Are you ready to do that?”

The crowd roared.

She continued to speak and joke and laugh with the crowd before leading them in a singalong of her own “Like a Prayer” — accompanied by an acoustic guitarist, her own voice was completely drowned out by the crowd — and then after more joking, she led them into another singalong, this one of Elvis Presley’s 1961 hit “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

Watch most of the performance on MadonnasTattoos Instagram video.

Additional reporting by Marc Malkin.

CBS, Nielsen Fail to Strike New Deal as Contract Lapses

Posted: 31 Dec 2018 10:07 PM PST

CBS, which distributes some of TV’s most-watched programs, may have to use a new way to count its viewers.

CBS and the media-measurement service Nielsen are without a contract after their current deal lapsed at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the matter. The situation — for now — remains fluid. Talks are likely to continue. But CBS is determined to secure a pact that it feels makes the best economic sense for the company while Nielsen believes the network will find negotiating with advertisers more difficult if it does not have access to its measures of audience viewing, these people said.

CBS has been weighing dropping Nielsen and instead using its own data as well as measurement information from Comscore, a Nielsen rival, to do deals with advertisers. CBS senior executives informed staffers at the company’s owned and operated stations and various other business units late last year to prepare in case a deal with Nielsen could not be reached. The network is the home of such popular programs as “NCIS,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “The CBS Evening News” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

At issue is a long-running complaint from TV networks that Nielsen isn’t measuring the many different audiences for their programming as well as it should. As smartphones, mobile tablets and broadband-connected TV’s gain more consumer acceptance, audiences are increasingly able to stream their TV favorites in on-demand fashion, making the task of counting them exponentially more difficult. TV networks have long based their advertising rates on Nielsen’s measure of linear TV audiences, which have slipped as consumers embrace Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and other streaming and on-demand options. In such an environment, TV networks believe Nielsen’s overnight ratings are no longer are not longer the critical yardstick of viewership they once were.

And yet, Nielsen has long been the standard of measurement in the media industry. Media buyers and TV networks do deals for billions of dollars based on its measure of how many people are watching the commercial breaks in various TV programs. Nielsen has worked in recent years to start measuring viewers who watch TV in new ways, including video streaming, across multiple viewing windows and even in bars, hotels and other out-of-home venues.

The move will not be without potential ramifications for CBS. While many of the nation’s big media companies have worked to expand the way they get credit from advertisers for audiences, Nielsen continues to support the one that brings in the most money – people who watch TV via linear viewing. If CBS were to move forward without Nielsen measures, according to one person familiar with Nielsen’s side of the talks., it could be akin to walking into a bank that uses American dollars with big handfuls of Italian lira. CBS’ access to Nielsen data has been revoked with the lapsed contract, this person said, but the media agencies it does business with will continue to be able to use the information, and might try to strike new agreements that rely on smaller audience numbers.

Millions of dollars could potentially be at stake for both sides.

Nielsen measures underpin so-called “scatter” ad deals for CBS commercial inventory bought close to air date; the value of any “make-goods,” or ad inventory CBS would have to give clients whose previously-aired ads did not meet previous ratings guarantees; and local ads. Under one estimate, provided by the person familiar with Nielsen’s side of talks, more than $500 million in CBS advertising could potentially be affected. At the same time, CBS’ contract with Nielsen has been said to be worth more than $100 million a year.

Nielsen executives are concerned, the person said, that CBS not having a Nielsen deal could destabilize the rest of the marketplace for TV advertising.

Nielsen has been enmeshed in negotiations on several fronts, recently renewing a deal with Raycom Media, owner of TV stations in cities like New Orleans and Richmond, and Hearst Television. But another company, Gray Television, said late last year it had decided to use Comscore instead of Nielsen starting in 2019.

 

Netflix Announces ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 Premiere Date (Watch)

Posted: 31 Dec 2018 09:01 PM PST

The third season of “Stranger Things” will launch on Netflix July 4, 2019.

The streamer made the announcement via a clip that was designed to look like the local Hawkins, Ind. television affiliate. First, Dick Clark appeared during “live” footage of his 1985 “Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” special, but as the camera panned to the crowd, the image was interrupted by some static and crypto code.

“Run Program: SilverCatFeeds.exe” was typed into the system, and the picture switched back to the live apple drop with the final few seconds of the countdown, only the picture began to rotate. It never fully reached an upside down image, instead dissolving into the fiery red of the show’s “Upside Down” before showing the test pattern and premiere date information.

A new tagline for the season says “One summer can change everything,” and the streamer warns that “something strange arrives in Hawkins, summer 1985.”

Newly released key art for the season (which you can see below) shows the kids enjoying fourth of July fireworks while what appears to be the arms of the Demogorgon behind them. While most of the kids are caught up in the activity, both Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) — who is holding hands with Mike (Finn Wolfhard) — and Will (Noah Schnapp) are looking back with worry, knowing the dangers looming, despite the distraction.

Previously, Netflix released the episode titles for this third season, which provide a little more insight into just what may be changing in the small town that has been touched by sci-fi. The episode titles are: “Suzie, Do You Copy?,” “The Mall Rats,” “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard,” “The Sauna Test,” “The Source,” “The Birthday,” “The Bite” and “The Battle of Starcourt.”

David Harbour, who plays Chief Jim Hopper in the period piece, also previously told Variety that the third season was inspired by “Fletch.”

Created by Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer, the series stars Brown, Wolfhard, Schnappy, Harbour, Winona Ryder, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Joe Keery, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Sadie Sink and Dacre Montgomery.

Watch a teaser for “Stranger Things” Season 3 below:

See the key art for “Stranger Things” Season 3 below:

Heart health steps also help ward off peripheral artery disease

Posted: 31 Dec 2018 09:01 PM PST

News briefs

Better cardiovascular health may substantially lower your risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD), according to a study in the November 2018 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. PAD occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the legs become narrowed or blocked with fatty deposits. About 8.5 million Americans suffer from the condition, which typically causes cramping pain in the legs when walking. For the study, researchers evaluated adherence to the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” guidelines among almost 13,000 people who were free from PAD or other cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. More than 430 PAD cases occurred in this group over about 24 years. Compared with people who did not follow Life’s Simple 7, those with average and optimal adherence cut their risk of PAD by 64% and 91%, respectively. Life’s Simple 7 emphasizes managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar, getting sufficient physical activity, eating better, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting smoking.

How to spot the most common “food fakes”

Posted: 31 Dec 2018 09:01 PM PST

Healthy-sounding claims on food packaging can be misleading. Here’s how to find impostors.

The New Year may have you thinking about a healthier diet, but you may need to do some detective work to find the healthiest foods in your grocery store. Food manufacturers often use terms that make products sound healthier than they are.

“Finding the healthiest foods takes time and effort, and we want things that are quick and easy. We need to take a couple of steps back and look beyond the flashy labels to see what actually is — and isn’t — in the foods,” says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Here’s a guide to common terms you’ll see on food packaging, as well as how to distinguish the facts from the flash.

“Real” fruits and vegetables. Many “made with real fruit” and “made with real vegetables” claims are deceptive. “Food manufacturers often use a misleading image of whole fruits and vegetables on their packaging when the product actually contains a very small amount. You need to look at the ingredients list to see what is really in the product,” says McManus. “Instead, choose the real whole fruit or vegetable — no package needed, so no reading required.”

Made with whole grains. When shopping for breads, rolls, crackers, and other baked goods and snacks, don’t be fooled: “made with whole grains” isn’t the same as 100% whole grain. “You’ll see products that say 7-grain, 9-grain, or even 15-grain, but those products still may be mostly white flour. Again, check the ingredients list; the first word should be ‘whole,’” says McManus. “Enriched flour” and “enriched wheat flour” are not whole grains.

Contains fruit juice. Be aware that fruit drinks are not the same as fruit juice; they may contain small amounts of juice, but the rest is water, sugar, and other additives. “Avoid any fruit drinks that have added sugar, and limit your amount, even if it is 100% fruit juice. Since there’s no fiber in juice, it is digested quickly and can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels,” advises McManus.

Low-fat and fat-free. The real issue with these terms is that low-fat and fat-free foods are not necessarily healthier than full-fat foods, and they often contain added sugar and salt.

“A low-fat diet does not mean it is healthier or helps with weight loss. People need to get past their fear of fat and understand that healthy fat is part of a healthy diet,” says McManus. “Peanut butter is a perfect example; you don’t need a reduced-fat version because the main type of fat in peanuts is healthy, unsaturated fat. The only ingredient in your peanut butter should be peanuts.”

Reduced sodium. This is another area where labeling can be deceptive. A “reduced-sodium” product must contain 25% less sodium than the regular version, but if the regular product is very high in sodium (for example, 800 mg of sodium per serving), the reduced-sodium version (600 mg per serving) may still be high in sodium. Another term to double-check is “no salt added,” a term allowed if no salt is added during processing; however, it doesn’t mean the food is sodium-free, or even low in sodium.

Gluten-free. If you do not have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, there’s no reason to eat gluten-free foods. They are not necessarily healthier than foods that contain gluten, and sometimes they contain more added sugar, refined flour, salt, and other additives.

The key to healthy grains, whether or not they contain gluten, is choosing whole rather than refined grains.

Cholesterol-free. Food manufacturers use the term “cholesterol free” hoping that you will think the product must be healthy, but how much cholesterol you eat is no longer a primary concern, say health experts.

Research has shown that diets high in trans fat and saturated fat, more than diets high in dietary cholesterol, can raise blood levels of LDL cholesterol, the “bad” type that is linked with higher risks of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.

Avoid being tricked

The easiest way to a healthy diet is to eat whole or minimally processed foods whenever possible. Make fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins (fish, skinless poultry, eggs, beans), and vegetable oils (olive, canola, soybean, corn) the foundations of your eating plan.

When buying processed products, look at the Nutrition Facts label. Check the serving size, calories, saturated fat (not total fat), sodium, fiber, and sugar.

“These are the numbers that provide the most information about whether or not a food is healthy,” says McManus.

And always look at the ingredients. “Buy products that have the fewest ingredients. Also, choose products that contain ingredients you recognize; if you don’t know what an ingredient is, chances are, it’s not healthy,” advises McManus.

Medicine cabinet makeover

Posted: 31 Dec 2018 09:01 PM PST

Remove expired medications to avoid hazards such as accidental poisoning or ineffective treatment.

Like any cupboard in your house, the medicine cabinet can easily become overstuffed with pills, potions, and creams that have expired or are no longer needed. But holding on to them can be dangerous. That’s why experts recommend weeding through your medicine cabinet regularly. “Check it every six months or when you change your clocks,” recommends Joanne Doyle Petrongolo, a pharmacist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “Make it a regular habit to protect your family.”

Medicine cabinet risks

For all their value, the substances in your medicine cabinet pose some risks beyond the side effects of the drugs:

Accidental poisoning. The CDC reports that unintentional overdoses among children ages 5 or younger results in 60,000 emergency room visits each year. More than 90% involve children who get into medication on their own.

Drug abuse by other family members. Research suggests that 60% of people who misused opioids in 2015 did not have a prescription, and 40% obtained the drugs from family or friends.

When medicines are outdated or unnecessary, these risks become unacceptable. In addition, if medications have expired they may no longer be as potent. That could be very dangerous, for example, if you’re taking a drug for an unstable heart rhythm.

Expiration vs. dispensing dates

When you get a prescription drug, the label on the bottle is stamped with the dispensing date (the day the pharmacist filled your prescription). But the dispensing date is not the same as the expiration date.

“The expiration date is the day the manufacturer can no longer guarantee 100% potency of the product,” Doyle Petrongolo explains. “You won’t see expiration dates on prescription medications, but they’re generally within one or two years of the dispensing date.”

You will see expiration dates on nonprescription drugs, such as anti-itch creams like hydrocortisone or over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). The dates may be stamped on product’s label, box, or crimp (the end of a tube).

Beyond expiration

Can you use a product beyond the expiration date? “It depends,” says Doyle Petrongolo. “Some products degrade quickly, including liquid antibiotics and compounded medications. You should get rid of those immediately after the expiration dates stamped on the label.” Compounded medications are created just for you and made in a form you can tolerate, such as a suspension liquid instead of a pill.

What about other products? Some government studies have suggested that many prescription drugs are good even three years after the expiration date. Should you automatically apply such an extension when you see that a remedy in your medicine cabinet has expired? “It’s best to talk to your pharmacist first, since each medication has different stability properties,” Doyle Petrongolo counsels. She recommends that you don’t keep drugs that have been shown to fail stability tests past expiration dates, such as aspirin, nitroglycerin, and insulin.

Medicine cabinet staples

Keep these basic nonprescription remedies on hand to help provide relief when you need it.

  • Aspirin for emergency heart attack response (chew one 325-mg tablet and call 911 if you think you’re having a heart attack)

  • Painkiller, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol)

  • Hydrocortisone cream for itch relief

  • Antibiotic ointment for minor cuts

  • Antacid for heartburn, such as combination magnesium and aluminum (Maalox, Mylanta)

  • Artificial tears to relieve dry eyes

  • An antihistamine for allergy relief or itching, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

  • A medicine for diarrhea, such as loperamide (Imodium)

Disposal

Don’t just throw old medications in the garbage, where they can wind up in the landfill, and don’t automatically flush them down the toilet, where they can wind up in the water supply.

The FDA urges you to dispose of medications properly. The best way is to take advantage of drug take-back events held by local law enforcement agencies. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sponsors these events every April and October; for information and collection sites, see takebackday.dea.gov. In addition, many communities and hospitals have drop boxes you can use all year round.

Are you missing this simple treatment for restless legs?

Posted: 31 Dec 2018 09:01 PM PST

Iron supplementation may be all it takes to reduce symptoms of restless legs syndrome. But many doctors don’t know about it.

People with restless legs syndrome (RLS) experience an overwhelming need to move the legs, particularly at night or as they fall asleep. But a simple treatment that may help reduce RLS symptoms is often overlooked as a potential first line of defense.

“The concern is that people are being started on medications first when iron might be a valuable treatment. It’s simple, with relatively few side effects,” says Dr. John Winkelman, an RLS specialist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Understanding RLS

An estimated 2.5% of Americans — more women than men — have frequent and bothersome RLS. Symptoms include tingling, crawling, aching, pulling, or painful sensations that can be relieved only by moving the leg (or, sometimes, arm) in which it occurs. Some people have RLS symptoms only when immobile on long plane or car rides.

Four out of five people who have RLS also have another condition called periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS), which causes involuntary jerking or twitching movements in the legs during sleep.

Movements occur every 20 to 40 seconds for a few minutes or a few hours at a time, leading to disrupted sleep, daytime sleepiness, and fatigue for both the person who has PLMS and his or her bed partner.

RLS causes

The exact cause of RLS is unclear. People with iron deficiency (see “The importance of iron”) are much more likely to experience the disorder. “But many doctors don’t know that iron deficiency is one cause of RLS, and therefore don’t test for it, particularly in men, in whom iron deficiency is uncommon,” explains Dr. Anthony Komaroff, editor in chief of the Health Letter.

The link between RLS and iron does not just depend on low blood iron levels. Instead, RLS may be caused by low levels of iron in the brain. “It’s possible to have a low brain level of iron but a normal blood level of iron. The two levels are different,” says Dr. Winkelman.

Diagnosing low brain iron

Brain iron deficiency should be one of the first considerations when looking for a cause of RLS. But diagnosing low brain iron is tricky.

“We don’t have a way of assessing brain iron outside of specialized brain imaging,” Dr. Winkelman says. “We have to infer it from blood levels and make the jump that if you have low blood iron, your brain levels are probably low as well.”

Doctors use several tests to measure iron in the blood. One test measures iron levels directly. But the best way to diagnose iron deficiency, says Dr. Winkelman, is a blood test measuring ferritin, the primary form of stored iron in the body. The ferritin level also provides guidance as to which type of iron therapy should be recommended.

Treating RLS with food

“Dietary iron may sometimes be enough to treat RLS if your ferritin level is at or below 50 micrograms per liter (mcg/L). Red meat is really the best way,” notes Dr. Winkelman.

However, consuming excessive amounts of red meat, especially cured meats like ham or salami, is associated with an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, diverticulitis, and some types of cancer. Legumes are a healthier iron source, but absorption of iron from them is less efficient.

The importance of iron

Iron is an essential mineral that we get from our diet, in foods such as red meat, cooked soybeans, cooked lentils, ground turkey, and fortified bread and breakfast cereals.

We need only a small amount of dietary iron each day: 8 milligrams per day for adult men and for women starting at age 50 (or whenever menstruation ends).

You may have low iron levels if your diet does not include iron-rich foods or if you have an underlying condition — such as cancer of the stomach, colon, bladder, or kidney — that causes blood to be lost from the body. Women who are menstruating often have low iron levels.

The vast majority of dietary iron we absorb helps us make hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying chemical in the body’s red blood cells). Iron is also essential for making myoglobin (a protein in muscle cells); activating certain enzymes; and making amino acids, collagen, neurotransmitters, and hormones.

Low iron levels can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. In this condition, there are too few red blood cells, and the red blood cells are too small. The low levels of hemoglobin make it harder for the blood to carry oxygen to organs.

In menstruating women, iron deficiency is most often due to menstrual blood loss. In men and in women who are not menstruating, it’s important to find out what may be causing low iron levels and treat potential causes.

Treating RLS with oral iron

The more reliable treatment is oral iron. Dr. Winkelman recommends treating RLS with a pill form of iron when the ferritin level is 50 mcg/L or lower. He says it relieves RLS symptoms substantially in about half of the cases in people with ferritin at these levels.

The dose: The usual starting dose is one tablet of 325 milligrams of ferrous sulfate once per day. “It’s best absorbed when your stomach is acidic, so take it on an empty stomach or take it with vitamin C to acidify the stomach,” Dr. Winkelman advises. Oral iron can cause stomach upset and constipation, so it may help to take it every other day rather than daily.

Treating RLS with IV iron infusion

Absorbing iron orally may not be possible if blood iron levels are not low. “Sometimes the gut absorbs iron poorly,” Dr. Winkelman explains. In those cases, and in cases in which people are unable to tolerate the digestive effects of oral iron, doctors bypass the gut and prescribe an intravenous (IV) infusion of iron to treat RLS. Dr. Winkelman recommends iron infusions when ferritin levels are between 50 and 75 mcg/L. “About one third of people who get IV iron have RLS symptom relief,” he notes.

How often would you need an infusion to treat RLS? “That depends how quickly you’re losing iron, but maybe once a year,” Dr. Winkelman suggests.

Other strategies

It may take a month before iron levels increase and RLS symptoms decline. During that period, if RLS is intolerable, Dr. Winkelman recommends prescription medication to treat it.

Medication may also be recommended for RLS if you are not deficient in iron. Some drugs for RLS, like pramipexole (Mirapex) and ropinirole (Requip), are also used to treat Parkinson’s disease but the doses used for RLS are lower.

“In many people, these drugs over time can actually make RLS symptoms worse,” Dr. Winkelman warns. Other options are gabapentin (Neurontin), pregabalin (Lyrica), or gabapentin enacarbil (Horizant), which are also used to treat nerve pain.

Pill-free strategies may help ease RLS, too: massage or stretch the legs before bed, exercise daily, and avoid alcohol. Like taking iron, pill-free approaches offer a simple way to help relieve RLS and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Retiring? What about your health?

Posted: 31 Dec 2018 09:01 PM PST

You’re ready to head for sunnier climes. But have you thought through your evolving health needs? Here’s a checklist.

When we get close to retirement age, we’re all a little guilty of deluding ourselves into thinking how rosy it’ll be — long walks on the beach at sunset, meaningful volunteering to engage the mind, the warmth and conviviality of friends and family.

It’s great to approach retirement in a positive state of mind. But it’s also a good idea to consider your future health needs when it comes time to select a community where you can live out your golden years.

“Some people move to a place where they spent vacations and have great memories,” says Dr. Suzanne Salamon, associate chief of gerontology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “But often these places are remote and not close to medical care. People have to realize that, as they age, there may be medical problems they didn’t anticipate. Being close to a good hospital can make the difference between a good or bad outcome.”

A simple way to plan

Dr. Helen Chen, a geriatrician at Harvard-affiliated Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, promotes a way of looking at this challenge called “The Five Ms.” The idea was first advanced by researcher Mary Tinetti of Yale University.

Mind. How are you going to stay intellectually active and manage your mood in your new retirement community? Will you find enough mental stimulation?

Move. Will you be part of a community that provides transportation to key places (like a grocery store)? If you have to drive everywhere, how will you manage that?

Mingle. Will you be socially connected in your new environment? Is moving really in your best interests if you’ll be far from friends or family?

Meaning. What will be your purpose as you enter life’s so-called third act? Purpose and meaning contribute to one’s mental well-being (and there’s only so much golf you can play). Another way to frame this M is as what “matters most” to you in your retirement years. Maybe it’s giving back by volunteering. Maybe it’s checking in more frequently with grandkids.

Multicomplexity
. The fifth M is perhaps the most difficult. It pertains to the myriad health challenges of getting older, from managing medications and procedures, to keeping doctor appointments, to arranging for lab tests and routine screenings.

The Five Ms in practice

How do we translate the message of the Five Ms into practical steps? When you’re thinking about where to live in retirement, consider the qualities of a community that are important for health at an older age:

  • medical services

  • nonprofit health services, like meal delivery

  • transportation services

  • affordable housing options

  • recreation opportunities

  • volunteering opportunities

  • private-duty services (such as a companion or certified nursing assistant).

For example, these days, walkable city centers are getting more consideration as retirement destinations, as are college towns that offer robust learning opportunities or entertainment.

Home is more than a house

According to Jennifer Molinsky, senior researcher with Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, there are several challenges in making a home suitable for retirement living. Affordability is very high on her list. “If it’s not affordable, you’ll cut back on other necessities like food and health care. Affordability problems only get worse as you get older.”

And while access to groceries and medical care become crucial, safety and accessibility inside the home are also paramount. “Stairs can be a problem, so it can be beneficial to have all the rooms on one floor. Even having steps to reach the front door can cause problems later. Imagine the challenges of having the washer and dryer in the basement and the shower and bath on the second floor,” says Dr. Salamon.

In fact, a whole new field of urban design caters to the needs of older people. Ann Forsyth, professor of urban planning at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, has a unique window on the latest trends: “There are a lot of fantastic housing options. Some mix middle-age and older people. Others cluster people into social groups, or introduce animals people can befriend and take care of.” The “greenhouse model” has a nursing home broken into various pods where people live in private studio apartments but share a kitchen and other amenities.

Our experts agree on one vital factor. Don’t overlook staying right where you are if your existing house and community checks all your boxes. For many of us, there’s no place like home.

What is immunotherapy?

Posted: 31 Dec 2018 09:01 PM PST

Ask the doctor

Q.
A friend has melanoma, and his doctor wants to use a new kind of treatment that boosts the immune system. Can you tell me more?

A. The immune system exists to attack foreign things that enter the body, such as germs. Certain cells of the immune system recognize and attack foreign things. Cancerous cells make chemicals that are not made by normal cells, chemicals the immune system should recognize as foreign. Unfortunately, eight million people around the globe die of cancer each year after their immune systems fail to destroy the cancer. Why do their immune systems fail?

About 20 years ago, two scientists — one in the United States and one in Japan — were studying T cells, immune system cells that attack foreign things. They weren’t studying cancer. They were just trying to figure out how T cells work. Each of the scientists found a chemical on the surface of T cells that had not previously been discovered. One chemical was called PD-1, and the other CTLA-4. What did they do? When stimulated, the chemicals kept the T cells from attacking things: they applied the brakes.

The scientists wondered: what if we could figure out a way to disable these chemicals? Would disabling them release the brakes and make the T cell attack more effective? Over several years of trial and error, they finally found drugs that disabled the chemicals. Then came the acid test: would giving these drugs to mice with cancer help the T cells to attack the cancer? The answer was a robust “yes”!

But treatments that work in mice don’t always work in people. And a century of trying had made many scientists skeptical that the human immune system could ever be stimulated to fight cancer. The scientists struggled to interest pharmaceutical companies, and finally succeeded. In certain people, with certain types of cancer, the immune-boosting treatment produced startling results.

Perhaps the best known example is former president Jimmy Carter. In 2015, he was diagnosed with melanoma that had spread to his brain, and was given months to live. His doctors tried one of these immune-boosting drugs, and the brain metastases melted away. In 2018, at age 94, President Carter published his latest book. For some people, the treatments appear to have cured their cancer. While it’s very unlikely that this approach will cure all kinds of cancer, it is helping a growing number of people.

For me, there is an important message in this story. These scientists, whose work was honored in 2018 with the Nobel Prize, were not trying to cure cancer. They were just trying to figure out how living things work. A society that supports such curiosity benefits in ways that it never could have predicted.

— by Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D.Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter

Are your hamstrings working double duty?

Posted: 31 Dec 2018 09:01 PM PST

Weak gluteal muscles can overload the muscles in the backs of your thighs.

The hamstrings are the unsung heroes of the upper legs. The three muscles in the back of each thigh enable you to bend your knees and pull your legs back as you walk. They also assist the gluteal muscles (or “glutes”) in the buttocks — the powerhouses that propel your body forward when you get up from a chair, bound across a room, or climb stairs. The glutes also help you come to a stop from a run or walk and lower your body to sit down or squat.

But weak gluteal muscles wind up overburdening the hamstrings. “When the glutes are weak, which is common in the age of sitting too much, the hamstrings are continually overworked and overloaded,” says Matt Natanson, a physical therapist with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Sitting down on the job

Sitting for long periods weakens the glutes in two ways. One is inactivity: the glutes need to move to stay healthy.

The other is a chain reaction caused by sitting too much: the hip flexor muscles in the front of each hip contract and tighten, and tell the nerves to inhibit or turn off the muscles that provide the opposite motion — the glutes. This phenomenon is called altered reciprocal inhibition.

Weak glutes then force the hamstrings to pick up the slack and do more of the glutes’ job. But hamstrings also become tight from too much sitting.

Overworked hamstrings

When tight hamstrings are forced to work overtime, they’re at risk for injury. “They’re strained easily, especially if there’s a sudden burst of energy — if you have to run after your dog or run across the street at a crosswalk to beat a stoplight,” Natanson explains.

A muscle strain is the stretching or tearing of muscle fibers. Strains range from mild (the tearing of some fibers) to severe (a tear that rips all the way through the muscle fibers, and sounds like a pop when it occurs). Strained hamstrings can leave you sidelined with pain and may even require surgery.

Aim for teamwork

The best way to protect your hamstrings is to keep all of your leg muscles healthy and working together, including the glutes and the quadriceps (the muscle group at the front of each thigh).

Natanson recommends getting an evaluation from a physical therapist who can assess your muscles and joint health and develop a workout program tailored to your needs. “We look for balance. We examine the joints where the hamstrings attach — the knee and hip — and we look at the lower back and ankle, to see if things are moving as they should. If there’s stiffness in one area, you may be taxing another.”

Marching orders

A hamstring strengthening program involves two approaches: targeting a single muscle group and targeting several muscles at the same time. An example of an exercise for a single muscle group is a hamstring curl (see “Move of the month”).

An example of an exercise that works the glutes and hamstrings at the same time is a bridge. To do it, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lift up your buttocks, hold the position for a few seconds, then lower your buttocks to the floor and repeat the exercise.

And another example: “Place a lightweight exercise band above your knees or ankles and take steps sideways, backward, or forward to engage the hamstrings, glutes, and quads,” Natanson explains. Do this exercise only with supervision and arm support nearby, since it may cause you to fall.

After strengthening the muscles, remember to stretch them, to keep them long and flexible. For more information, check out the Harvard Special Health Report Stretching: 35 exercises to improve flexibility and reduce pain (www.health.harvard.edu/str).

Move of the month: Curl

Movement: Extend your right leg behind you. Bend your knee and lift your heel toward your right buttock. Slowly lower your foot. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs for another 10 repetitions.

The payoff

Natanson says it may take a few months of daily strengthening and stretching to get your upper legs healthy again, and then a maintenance program of leg workouts a few times per week. He also advises taking breaks from long periods of sitting. “And if your muscles are healthy,” he says, “your hamstrings won’t tighten up so much.”

Greater fitness linked to a longer life

Posted: 31 Dec 2018 09:01 PM PST

News briefs

Some small studies have suggested that too much vigorous exercise might harm your heart, perhaps by triggering heart rhythm changes or other problems. New evidence allays this concern. In fact, the more fit you are, the longer you may live. For the study, researchers reviewed data from more than 122,000 people who underwent exercise treadmill testing from 1991 to 2014. Based on the findings, they divided the subjects into five performance groups: elite, high, above average, below average, and low. Elite performers — who had fitness levels comparable to endurance athletes — had the lowest risk of dying of any cause during the follow-up period, which averaged just over eight years. The survival benefit was most notable among people ages 70 or older and those with high blood pressure. According to the study authors, there does not appear to be an upper limit of fitness above which a survival benefit is no longer seen. They published their findings online Oct. 19, 2018, in JAMA Network Open.