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Would You Like Pink Slime With That?

Guy Eating BurgerEven the most passionate meat-lovers and fast-food junkies are having a hard time swallowing their beloved burger after the recent hullaballoo surrounding the topic of pink slime.

Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it? Coined by Dr. Gerald Zirnstein, “pink slime” (or “white slime,” in the case of poultry) refers to the industrial product manufactured by swirling contaminated meat trimmings around in a centrifuge and exposing them to ammonia gas. Yum.

In case you missed the recent ABC News investigative report, the USDA has been caught concealing data revealing that 70 percent of ground beef sold at grocery stores contains pink slime.

Just like with genetically modified foods, there is no label indicating the inclusion of this suspect substance. The only way for you to ensure you are not consuming ammonia-spiked industrial swill is to buy organic meat—preferably grass-fed and pasture-raised by local farmers.

Cargill Meat Solutions and Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) are the two primary corporations responsible for using this filler product, which they lace with ammonium hydroxide to kill the E. coli, Samonella, and other pathogens that result from feeding cows an unnatural diet of corn.

Last Christmas Eve, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell announced that they would stop using BPI products. The remaining BPI fast-food chain customers have not been named.

ABC recently polled ten grocery stores to see if their meat contains pink slime, and only Publix, Costco, HEB, and Whole Foods confirmed that they do not.

To learn more about pink slime and other the other non-food products you may be consuming every day, see the documentary Food Inc.



Disputing a Fraudulent Claim

Stolen credit card reportDo you scrutinize every line item on your bank and credit card statements, keeping a watchful eye out for suspicious activity? Are you set up for online banking so you have immediate access to your account data? And do you make sure every online transaction takes place through a secure server to prevent fraudsters from scooping up your payment data?

Protecting your funds and your good credit takes vigilance, and you need to be prepared to act immediately once your debit or credit card is compromised. Sometimes, vendors may be the ones to call the fraudulent activity to your attention. For example, Amazon performs routine reviews of orders to protect its customers, and their charge inquiries division will alert you if someone has opened a new account with the same credit card on file with your existing account. They will also act quickly to shut down the new account so no further charges accumulate.

Whether you notice the suspect charge yourself or it’s brought to your attention, you must take immediate steps to dispute the charge with your financial institution, cancel the card, and request a replacement card. Comb through your recent card activity to spot any other unexpected charges. Be prepared to spend at least an hour speaking with two or three different customer service and claims representatives as they process the dispute, reimburse your funds, and reissue the card. Always request the representative’s name and extension so you have a way of getting in touch later if there are any issues, and write down your claim number before hanging up.

Credit card fraud can be a rattling experience, but you can recover your funds and protect your account if you stay on the alert and act quickly when the need arises.

Photo © alexskopje – Fotolia.com


Political Differences

Opposition sides shake hands agree compromiseIt’s a presidential election year, and as much as you may wish to mute the incessant barrage of media coverage, ad campaigns, and politicospeak streaming across the airwaves, the only way to escape it is to cut yourself off from all television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and every other form of human communication for the next nine months. And all the flights to deserted islands are full.

You can try to make your home an oasis, but when family or friends visit, the conversation is likely to turn toward politics at some point. It’s even harder to avoid the topic when you and your partner share different political views.

Things are simple if your perspectives jibe and you’re equally passionate about the issues dear to your side of the political debate, but sometimes opposites attract, and you may have wound up with a partner whose political beliefs diverge dramatically from yours.

Chances are if you’re still together, you’ve found a way to make peace despite these political differences. Maybe you make the topic of politics off-limits altogether, but that’s only dodging the issue, and it’s bound to resurface at some point—perhaps in a more explosive manner because of the history of silence.

A healthier approach may be to openly embrace each other’s differences and to make your relationship a model of bipartisan diplomacy. You can prove opposing camps are capable of holding civil dialogues without resorting to name-calling, finger-pointing, and pouting. Can’t you? Lay some ground rules while your heads are cool and know that if contentious political topics come up, you’ve agreed not to hurt each other’s feelings and to treat each other with mutual respect.

Accept your differences and find a way to discuss the issues peaceably, and you’ll have learned one of the keys to a happier, healthier relationship.

Photo © Michael Brown – Fotolia.com


Geek Chic

beautiful woman in dark rimmed glassesThanks to the rise of geek culture in recent decades, geeks are no longer the maligned outsider in popular media. From Microserfs to Wired to The IT Crowd to Office Space, geeks are now celebrated for their acutely focused sets of intelligence and their ability to change the future of our world through technological innovations and clever inventions. That doesn’t stop budding geeks from getting bullied on the playground, but it is a step toward societal acceptance.

Although Geek Pride Day is still a couple of months away (observed in Spain on May 25, the premiere date of Star Wars), you can show your solidarity and perhaps celebrate your own form of geekiness by adding a touch of geek chic to your wardrobe.

Of course, 1950s-style black-rimmed glasses are an iconic geek accessory, and Justin Timberlake and David Beckham have even had a go at that look. Eyeglasses of all sorts, prescription or not, are a fun way to add a smart accent to your outfit.

Doing a mashup of professional and casual looks or adding gadgetry like Griffin iPhone gear can nerd up your look a bit more. T-shirts referencing geek culture, thought-provoking humor, and inside references to topics like binary math will raise your fashion IQ even more. Online stores such as ThinkGeek cater specifically to the geek audience, and 80sTees offers a selection both bit-twiddlers and beer-drinking sports-watchers can enjoy.

Whatever look you assemble, just be authentic to your own inner geek. You’re going for self-expression, not mimicry.

Hair Loss Treatment for Women

Scared woman lose hair on hairbrushIf you’re a woman suffering from alopecia, you’re probably desperate to find a solution that will help you grow your hair back and prevent future loss. Before you nail down the correct treatment, however, you need to determine the underlying cause as discussed in our last health article.

Once you’ve visited your doctor, gotten the results from your bloodwork, and isolated the cause of your hair loss, you can proceed with a treatment plan. Doctors are often reluctant to prescribe drugs in these cases because they can play havoc with your hormonal balance. Your physician will want to confirm that excess androgen levels are causing your alopecia before giving you a prescription for anti-androgens. There may be unpleasant side effects, but the drugs can keep the alopecia from destroying too many hair follicles.

Androgen receptor inhibitors include spironolactone (Aldactone), cimetidine (Tagamet), and cyproterone acetate, while estrogen and progesterone drugs such as oral contraceptives, ketoconazole (Nizoral), are finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) are sometimes prescribed to encourage hair growth.

Often, doctors recommend scalp treatments. Minoxidil (Rogaine) is currently the only FDA-approved treatment for women, but even topical applications can cause internal side effects (supposedly minimal) since the chemicals are absorbed through the skin. Interestingly, a 5-percent minoxidil solution appears to be more successful in treating women’s hair loss than men’s, although far fewer women use it.

You should do thorough research and explore all of your options before embarking on a drug treatment program with potential side effects. If your hair loss is due to stress or nutritional deficiencies, you can correct the problem with natural approaches such as exercise and a healthier diet, along with supplements like a high-potency multivitamin paired with a strong multimineral.

Herbalists suggest taking 160 mg of saw palmetto daily. You can also try applying arnica shampoo, cream, or ointment to the scalp twice a day to boost your blood circulation. Jojoba oil, emu oil, licorice, rosemary, sage, and safflower oil have all been recommended as natural remedies for hair loss.

Photo © Gabriel Blaj – Fotolia.com


How Your Credit Score is Calculated

Credit Score improvement target card dartOur last money article showed you how to access your free annual credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Unfortunately, those free credit reports don’t contain the most useful bit of information—your credit score. You have to pay for that, but it might be worth the $7.95 to do so.

Your credit score is the fateful number that may determine the course of your future. It can tip the balance on the question of whether you will qualify for that home loan, get a decent interest rate on your next car agreement, or lower your monthly payments by refinancing your mortgage.

Named for the Fair Isaac and Company software that generates the critical numbers, FICO scores range from 300 to 850.  About three-fifths of consumers’ scores fall between 650 and 799. The higher your score, the better your creditworthiness.

The specific formulas remain top-secret, but FICO has revealed how it weights each of the relevant factors when calculating your credit score:

35%: Payment history. Consistently sending your payments in on time can make the difference between securing that dream home and being stuck in your rundown apartment. You might consider setting up automated payments for as many of your bills as possible—provided you’re certain you will always have funds available when the debits are processed.

30%: Credit utilization. If you have a walletful of credit cards with high balances, you’re going to take a hit in this category. Your credit utilization is based on the ratio of revolving debt (e.g., credit cards) to your total available credit. If you raise your credit limit while maintaining a lower balance, you can boost your FICO score.

15%: Length of credit history. The longer your record of responsible credit use, the higher your score will be.

10%: Types of credit used. Diversity pays off here. You want a proven record of being able to manage different kinds of credit, from mortgage payments to consumer finance, revolving credit to installment plans.

10%: Recent searches for credit. Keep a check on your credit applications. The more desperate you appear, the lower your FICO score sinks.

Given the degree of influence your credit score can have over your future, it’s worth taking the time to understand it and implementing measures to ensure you score in the upper percentile.

Photo © Michael Brown – Fotolia.com


One Second a Day

Happy young couple outdoors hikingThey say your life flashes before your eyes in split-second bursts when you’re about to die. The experience must be poignantly bittersweet as you relive the crescendos and decrescendos of your life as if listening to a symphony. What if there was a way for you to play that film without having to face death?

Animator Cesar Kuriyama has figured out a way to do that—on his 30th birthday, he began the “One Second Every Day” project, in which he captures one second of footage for every day of his life. You can see the surprisingly compelling results of his experiment in this six-minute video. He plans to make this a lifelong project.

Imagine if you were to undertake such a project for your own life. What would your one second a day be? And what about creating a companion piece to document the evolution of your relationship? What would be your one representative second of together time for each day?

Approaching the project as a couple will not only inspire you to do more meaningful things with your lives, but it will also bring you closer together. The act of recording itself will make you more conscious of the things you do together, how you spend your time, and who you are when you’re with your beloved. It will shine light on the moments of blissful connectedness and may even illuminate areas of friction in your relationship that require attention.

You don’t need exotic equipment or software to accomplish this. A cell phone camera will do the trick just fine. It’s really about the bond you’re capturing, and deepening, as you and your partner embark on this collaborative creation together.

Photo © Maridav – Fotolia.com

Pantone Fashion Report – Fall 2012

pantone color chartNo sooner had we finished the color rundown for spring than Pantone released its fall report. With colors so delicious you’ll want to eat them, some of the season’s designer favorites include French Roast, Honey Gold, and Pink Flambé. The only season-crossing color is spring’s beloved Tangerine Tango, a knockout no matter the weather.

Here’s what the top designers pick as their favorites in Pantone’s Fall 2012 Fashion Color Report.

Tracy Reese: French Roast (Pantone 19-1012) and Tangerine Tango (Pantone 17-1463)

Carmen Marc Valvo: Honey Gold (Pantone 15-1142)

Rachel Roy: Pink Flambé (Pantone 18-2133)

Bill Blass: Tangerine Tango (Pantone 17-1463)

Ella Moss: Ultramarine Green (Pantone 18-5338)

Nanette Lepore: Bright Chartreuse (Pantone 14-0445) and Pink Flambé (Pantone 18-2133)

Tadashi Shoji: Olympian Blue (Pantone 19-4056)

Charlotte Ronson: Titanium (Pantone 17-4014) and Ultramarine Green (Pantone 18-5338)

Nicole Miller: Rhapsody (Pantone 16-3817) and Titanium (Pantone 17-4014)

BCBG: Rose Smoke (Pantone 14-1506) and Tangerine Tango (Pantone 17-1463)

Lela Rose: French Roast (Pantone 19-1012)

Hervé Léger: Olympian Blue (Pantone 19-4056)

Peter Som: Pink Flambé (Pantone 18-2133)

Rebecca Minkoff: Titanium (Pantone 17-4014)

Tommy Hilfiger: Olympian Blue (Pantone 19-4056) and Rhapsody (Pantone 16-3817)

Pamella Roland: Olympian Blue (Pantone 19-4056)

James Coviello: Olympian Blue (Pantone 19-4056) and Pink Flambé (Pantone 18-2133)

Barbara Tfank: Pink Flambé (Pantone 18-2133) and Honey Gold (Pantone 15-1142)

Hyden Yoo: Olympian Blue (Pantone 19-4056) and Rhapsody (Pantone 16-3817)

NAHM: Honey Gold (Pantone 15-1142) and Olympian Blue (Pantone 19-4056)

Betsey Johnson: Tangerine Tango (Pantone 17-1463) and Pink Flambé (Pantone 18-2133)

It’s no surprise that Betsey chose her signature pink, which has caught many designers’ eyes for the fall. One surprising standout is Olympian Blue, making seven designers’ lists.

Enchantment seems to be the tune of the season, with the mysterious Rose Smoke melding with the dusky intrigue of Titanium and Rhapsody. The action heats up as Tangerine Tango, Bright Chartreuse, and Pink Flambé add fireworks to the scene, while French Roast and Honey Gold ground us in autumnal comfort colors. Ultramarine Green and the champion Olympian Blue bring the mysteries of the ocean and the forest to the fantasy. You’ll blend right into the fairy tale wearing your take on these fall faves.

Photo courtesy of Fusionbeadsblog.com


Hair Falling out in Clumps

beautiful woman just out of shower, not happy with hairWhile men are the ones preparing for the fearsome likelihood of hair fallout, 40 percent of the balding comprise unsuspecting women. So when women find themselves gripping a substantial clump of strands after shampooing one morning, they may worry.

Of course, worrying could very well be what caused that abnormal hair loss in the first place, and anxiety about hair loss may perpetuate the cycle of stress triggering hair loss triggering anxiety, and so on as the pattern repeats itself. Besides making the mental commitment to reduce the causes of stress in your life, there are other things you can do to help combat premature hair loss.

Before you plan a treatment strategy, however, you need to determine if you’re really losing more than an average amount, which is 50–100 a day or up to 250 if showering.

Once you’re sure you’re hair loss is unusual, it’s time to isolate the cause. This could range from autoimmune disease to thyroid disorder to anemia to genetics to stress. Although hair loss tends to strike in middle age, even those in their 20s can fall victim. Pregnant women may suffer hair loss due to telogen effluvium, and it is also a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and skin conditions like psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. Tight hairstyles such as cornrows can cause alopecia, as can chemical treatments, hairdryers, and other damaging hair practices.

Consult your physician or dermatologist to help diagnose the cause. In our next health article, we’ll discuss treatments for hair loss.

Photo © BestPhotoStudio – Fotolia.com



Free Credit Reports

Complete the credit inquiry form isolated on blueDid you know the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guarantees your right to free credit reports each year? Within 10 minutes, you could be downloading PDFs of your Equifax, Transunion, and Experian credit reports. But before you start clicking on random ads for free credit reports, know that only one website is sanctioned as legitimate by the FTC: AnnualCreditReport.com.

Requesting your reports through a single website simplifies the process immensely. Rather than writing, calling, or submitting an online request to each credit reporting agency, you can just fill out one form at AnnualCreditReport.com, and it will stroll you through the process of obtaining reports from Equifax, Transunion, and Experian.

You just need to answer a series of verification questions as you visit each reporting agency’s site. You will be given a handful of multiple choice questions about data like your past residences and creditors. Don’t worry—you won’t need to dig through your filing cabinet for clues. They should be easy enough to answer off the top of your head.

Once you’ve downloaded a PDF of your report at the first agency and are ready to move on, just click the menu item at the top asking to return to AnnualCreditReport.com. Then merrily continue on to the next agency and so on until you’ve rounded up the rest of your reports.

When you’re all done, set an annual reminder on your calendar so you know when you’re eligible to request your next set of free credit reports. Also be aware that if you are ever denied credit, you have the right to request a free report within 60 days of the denial.