Category Archives: News

Celebrity Failures Highlight the Importance of Proper Estate Planning

The act of creating a will forces you to think about your own mortality, which isn’t generally a pleasant topic. When you are young or even middle-aged, you can fall into the trap of feeling you have plenty of time left to put a will in place. An unfortunate reality of life is that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, and passing away without a will can leave your loved ones with difficult emotions, prolonged court battles and little money. High-profile celebrity estate battles illustrate the importance of properly structured and regularly updated wills.

Celebrity Failures

Many celebrities have failed to put wills in place, which left their families and other loved ones with the typical challenges associated with someone dying intestate as well as challenges associated with any ongoing business. Celebrities, as John Branca points out, are businesses as well as people, and when a celebrity passes away, that business goes on. Failure to properly estate plan puts entities in charge of that business who may know nothing of how to run it. This can further complicate already complex inheritance matters. The estate of Prince, for instance, took years to sort out.

Properly Structured Wills

Putting a will in place isn’t enough. If the will is overly simplistic, you could accidentally cause your estate to pass to unintended parties. This happened with Jim Morrison’s estate. He had created a will that left his estate to his girlfriend if she was alive at the time of his death and equally to his brother and sister if she was not. As she was alive at the time of his death, his estate passed to his girlfriend. His girlfriend passed away a few years after Morrison, and applicable law left Morrison’s estate passing through to her family instead of back to his brother and sister. Morrison could have dealt with that possibility by putting a trust in place with instructions regarding what happened to his estate once his girlfriend passed away.

Regular Updates

Even a properly structured will can become defunct if it is not updated after major life events, such as divorces or marriages or the birth of children. Heath Ledger, who passed away at 28, had a will in place that left his entire estate to his parents and three sisters. He had developed his will, however, before the birth of his daughter, Matilda, so she was effectively disinherited. Luckily, in the case of Ledger’s will, his parents ensured Matilda received an inheritance, but if they had not done that, Ledger’s young daughter would have received nothing.

Thinking about death, especially your own death is not pleasant. A definite way to show your loved ones you care is to spend the time to put a proper will in place and ensure you update it after major life events. No one likes to think about their loved ones having to go on without them, but proper estate planning can make sure if that happens, your loved ones will be able to spend time grieving and celebrating your life instead of battling in courts.

Study of Evolutionary Biology Could Be Key to Human Survival

You’re interested in studying biology and possibly going to medical school. You’ve researched what you need to do in order to become a doctor, and you are starting to think about interesting specialties. Evolution never crossed your mind. Isn’t that something that archeologists study? You may be surprised to find that evolutionary biology is not the arena of archeologists but is exceptionally relevant and a key to humans’ survival as a species.

Basic Science

Evolutionary biology is the study of the evolution of organisms, both origin and changes to the organisms over time. This definition does make it sound as if focusing on this field will put you squarely in the past every day. All kinds of current and relevant work, however, is being done in the field, such as that by Rachel Tobin Yale. Advancements in the understanding of gene expression have led to a deeper understanding of how organisms survive and thrive over time. Some experts are even making the case that evolutionary biology should be declared a basic science for medicine.

Disease Cures

If you are still not convinced that the study of evolutionary biology won’t have you living in the past, you’ll want to look into specific DNA sequences called enhancers. Though these enhancers are instrumental in driving the evolution of species, mutations in the enhancers can be associated with an extremely high percentage of human diseases. This association between mutations in enhancers and human disease makes them the key to the understanding and cure of diseases that still plague the human race today. Further, researchers have developed a method to create mutations in genomic enhancers so they can observe evolution in real-time.

Species Survival

Beyond its applicability to the treatment and cure of human diseases, evolutionary biology also has relevance to humans’ adaptation and survival as the climate changes at an unprecedented and increasing rate. Though genetic adaptation isn’t a shield against the ravages of a harsher climate, there is a possibility of it being a buffer. Understanding this buffer effect could be key to mitigation of some of the more devastating impacts of a climate that is becoming increasingly hostile to human life.

Whether you are interested in treating and curing human diseases or helping better understand how humans can best adapt to a rapidly changing climate, the study of evolutionary biology brings excitement and relevance. You may have imagined yourself figuring out why dodo birds went extinct, but you could instead be figuring out how to keep humans from following in the dodo’s footsteps.

How to Make Your Home Handicapped Accessible

When someone in your household has begun to experience a mobility limitation or a disabled loved one will be coming to live with you, it may be necessary to make some modifications to your home. Here are some things that you can do to make your home more accessible to an individual who relies on the use of a wheelchair.

Widen Doorways

It may be necessary to widen some of the doorways of your home. A wheelchair needs approximately 36 inches of space to In order to be able to pass through a doorway easily.

Modify a Bathroom

Several modifications may be needed in order for a handicapped person to use a bathroom with ease. A bathroom remodel for disabled persons requires adding a shower without any obstacles to entry. In addition, you may need to install your sink directly to the wall so that a vanity doesn’t prevent a person in a wheelchair from reaching the sink comfortably and safely.

Add an Exterior Ramp

If your home has front steps, you will need to install a ramp for ingress and egress. Ramps need to be constructed at a relatively low angle.

Install a Stair Lift

If someone in a wheelchair will need to get up and down a flight of stairs inside of your home, you may wish to consider installing a stairlift. An electronically activated wall-mounted stairlift is the safest way to enable access between two different levels in your home.

Change Out Door Handles

It may be necessary to lower door handles to a height that is easily accessible from a seated position. Alternatively, you may need to replace turn knob door handles for levers. Push-activated automatic door-openers may be the most ideal solution because it spares someone who is seated from having to reach forward to access a handle or having a door pushing inward push against them as they pass through.

Create Storage Solutions

You may need to give some thought to making changes to your home’s storage areas. A closet may need to include a low-hanging rack for clothes. Certain items in your kitchen may need to be moved from above-counter cabinets to a low-level storage rack.

The most important changes that you need to make are those that facilitate entry and make the most frequently used areas of your home more functional. It’s advisable to get a professional evaluation of how to ensure that certain modifications to your home will be safe and effective.

Natural Ways To Ease Anxiety

Anxiety can be distressing, and it can feel like it’s taking over your life. This can not only be troubling, but it can be exhausting, too. That doesn’t mean, though, that there isn’t anything you can do to help ease your situation. If you’re looking for natural ways to help keep your anxiety at bay, here are a few things to try.

Herbal Supplements

One simple way to help calm your anxiety is to try stress-curbing supplements. One kind of substance that can be helpful is an adaptogen. Adaptogens help improve your mood by balancing your body’s response to stress hormones. Some commonly used adaptogens include holy basil and ashwagandha. Besides adaptogens, there are many kinds of supplements that can be helpful for your mood like kratom pills or supplements high in calming minerals like magnesium. Either way, doing some research before you make a selection can be beneficial.

Yoga and Meditation

In addition to supplements, yoga and meditation can be powerful tools for reducing anxiety. When practicing yoga, you often have to focus on the pose that you are doing. This increased focus on your body and the sensations you experience while you move through poses can help shift focus off of feelings of anxiety and help you to feel calmer. Meditation can be beneficial in a similar way. Because you focus your attention on your breath during meditation, it can help you take your mind off of your anxious thoughts, as well as soothe your nervous system.

The Bottom Line

Anxiety, whether mild or severe, can feel like it’s taking over your life. Dealing with this can not only be troublesome emotionally, but it can be exhausting, too. That doesn’t mean, though, that you don’t have any options. By trying natural solutions like an anxiety-reducing supplement, to practicing yoga and meditation, you can help keep your anxiety at bay and feel your best.

Setting New Roots: How to Obtain Italian Citizenship

When it comes to obtaining citizenship in another country, things can get a little complicated. If you’re looking to become an Italian citizen, here are some of the most common methods that allow you to do that.

Citizenship by Descent

The first method of becoming a citizen of Italy is by descent. Becoming an Italian citizen by descent means you have to have a paternal or maternal line of Italian heritage. If you have an Italian bloodline that you can prove, you can become an Italian citizen without going through the traditional route.

Obtaining Italian citizenship by descent may be simple for those who are eligible, but proving you’re eligible can be a bit of work. If you were born in a country where your citizenship was granted to you at birth, you need to have a mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, great-grandmother or great-grandfather who was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth to be eligible. If you want to become an Italian citizen by your bloodline, you will need to provide the proper documentation to prove your heritage.

Citizenship by Marriage

One of the most popular ways to obtain citizenship in any country is by marriage. When you marry a person who is a citizen of a particular country, you can also become a citizen of that country. The good thing about obtaining Italian citizenship through marriage is that it’s one of the simplest ways to become an Italian citizen. Of course, it does require you to marry an Italian citizen in the first place.

Citizenship by Naturalization

In general, the most difficult way to obtain Italian citizenship is by naturalization. To start, you’ll have to live in Italy for at least 10 years if you want to apply for citizenship by naturalization. If you have some Italian heritage, you may be able to obtain citizenship in as little as four years. On top of the strict requirements in terms of how long you live in the country before becoming a citizen, the Italian government may also deny your application if they deem you a security risk of some sort.

While becoming an Italian citizen takes a bit of work, it’s far from impossible. In fact, there are numerous ways to become an Italian citizen. If you’re interested in becoming an Italian citizen, you need to look into citizenship by descent, marriage and naturalization and choose your best option.

Focusing on Eye Health: Warning Signs and Symptoms

Your vision is a critical part of your overall health and wellness. Changes or problems with your eyesight can affect your ability to perform everyday tasks or enjoy simple hobbies and activities. More importantly, they can actually be a sign of underlying issues that need to be addressed promptly. If you are experiencing any of these common yet serious symptoms, it may be time to see an eye care professional.

Noticeable Changes in Vision

Have you recently experienced trouble focusing on objects either close up or far away? Are these issues relatively new? Whether you’ve never needed corrective lenses or already use them, recent or sudden vision changes should never be ignored. In some situations, it may be the result of pregnancy or medications. However, it can also point to diabetes or a degenerative condition that needs to be treated by an ophthalmologist.

Chronic Headaches

Some people experience frequent headaches or migraines due to stress or vitamin deficiencies. However, many chronic headache problems can be solved with the right corrective lens prescription. If you suffer from this issue frequently, be sure to have your eyes checked, as it could provide a simple pain relief solution.

Floaters

From time to time, you may notice floaters in your field of vision when you’re in a well-lit area. This occurs when the eye is able to focus on tiny, otherwise invisible organisms or debris that move over the surface of the eye. If you start to notice an increase in how often you see floaters, you should talk to an eye doctor, as it could be a sign of retinal detachment.

Blurred or Impaired Vision

Blurry eyesight can happen for a number of reasons, including

  • Allergies
  • Viruses
  • Common infections, such as conjunctivitis
  • Outdated corrective lens prescriptions

However, these can also be a sign of more serious conditions, such as dry eye disease, cataracts or an eye tear. If symptoms do not improve with eye drops, require continued lubrication or are accompanied with severe eye pain, it is important to seek medical evaluation and treatment. While a prescription can help in some situations, others may require surgery to resolve the problem.

When you experience any of these symptoms, early detection and diagnosis can help lead to a more favorable outcome. In addition, it’s important to maintain regular, annual checkups with an eye doctor, as some signs of a serious condition can go unnoticed due to their gradual progression. Make your eyesight a priority and stay on top of any changes you notice for healthier vision and a healthier life.

Inspire Girls Around the World to Continue Their Education with CARE #SimplySaid

Growing up, any time I wanted to know the answer to something, my grandmother told me to look it up. Who invented something; the roots of a tradition; the motivation behind a movement. Whatever it was, she would send me upstairs to the bookcase that stood in her hallway to find the encyclopedia (yes, the encyclopedia!) that contained the information that I sought. She didn’t send me to look up an answer because she didn’t want to help me, but rather, because she did.

As she would tend to a project or chore, I read aloud from the thick books and we would discuss whatever the topic happened to be. If it was more sensitive subject matter, which came up more frequently as I developed an interest in politics and social justice, she would encourage me to share my opinion and how I came to it. Sometimes she shared a different point of view and challenged me. More often than not, one teachable moment would lend itself to another. Before we knew it, we had spent the day (or wee hours of the night, being classic night owls) in deep discussion.

My grandmother always made learning exciting, and she still does. Because of this, it should not come as a surprise that I actually enjoyed school. Well, for the most part anyway. There were some years during high school when I was not so enthusiastic about school, but hey, that’s being a teenager for you. Even so, I know how fortunate I was to have had the opportunity to attend school. To learn about the history of the world; develop and hone skills that would serve me into adulthood; do well so that I could do well in the future.

But not all girls have the opportunity to attend school and receive the education they deserve. For more than 100 million girls around the world, hunger, early marriage, extreme poverty, and threats to safety are all barriers that keep them from attending school.

CARE Simply Said Bridget
© CARE

CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty with a commitment to empowering women and girls. They have worked tirelessly to eliminate barriers to education for girls in developing countries. They know that when you invest in education, children will pay it forward. Equipped with knowledge and confidence, educated children grow up to lead healthier, more productive lives.

Bridget, pictured above, is inspired to work hard so that she may become a doctor. There is no health clinic in her community and patients in need of care must walk over six miles to get medical attention. She hopes that access to education could help her make a difference.

CARE Simply Said: Inspiring Girls’ Education

© CARE
© CARE

The CARE Simply Said campaign inspires girls around the world to continue their education and follow their dreams, regardless of adversity. Moni is an 11-year-old fourth grader whose education inspires her to someday be able to take care of her family. She wants to be successful in life, and in order to do so, she says she will study accordingly. Having watched her parents suffer since her early years of school, she is inspired to get an education and then a job so that she can one day take care of them.

Click here to join the CARE Simply Said mission and write a letter of encouragement supporting students in developing countries who are working to achieve their dreams.

Hurricane Preparedness Week: Red Cross Issues Safety Steps for Hurricane Season

It’s National Hurricane Preparedness Week and the American Red Cross has put together some crucial steps people should take now to get ready for hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.

Hurricanes are thought to typically cause the most problems for those living in coastal areas, but it’s important to know that these storms can also cause damage hundreds of miles inland. In 2011, tropical storms caused devastating flooding in Pennsylvania and New Jersey hundreds of miles from the coast. In 1972, Hurricane Agnes ravaged the mid-Atlantic region from central Virginia through Pennsylvania to New York.

“A hurricane is a serious threat to residents in coastal areas as well as hundreds of miles inland,” said Brad Kieserman, vice president of Disaster Services Operations and Logistics for the Red Cross. “We’re ready, and we want people to know it’s important for them to get prepared, too.”

Thousands of trained Red Cross disaster workers all over the country are prepared to respond if and when needed. The organization stocks items like food, cots, blankets, and other relief supplies in warehouses across the country — enough to support thousands of people who might need shelter. Through a variety of methods and partnerships, the Red Cross has the ability to serve one million meals a day, if needed. Thousands of shelter locations are already identified and Red Cross emergency vehicles are ready to move into action.

Getting ready for hurricane season now is the best way to be prepared for these dangerous storms. Hurricane preparedness should include:

  • Build an emergency kit containing one gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, any necessary medications, supplies for an infant or child if applicable, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important documents, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area, and emergency contact information. Many of these items are available through the Red Cross Store.
  • Talk with household members and create an evacuation plan. Practicing the plan will minimize confusion and fear during a necessary evacuation.
  • Be informed. Learn about the community’s hurricane response plan. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs as required, and make plans for pets.
  • People should also download the free Red Cross Emergency App to select up to 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts on their mobile device. The content includes expert guidance on what to do before, during, and after different emergencies or disasters from home fires to hurricanes. All Red Cross apps can be found in smartphone app stores by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/apps.

If someone already has a disaster kit, now is the time to make sure the food and water is still okay to consume and that copies of important documents are up to date. If a household emergency plan is already in place, begin talking about it with family members so that everyone knows what to do if an emergency should occur.

Hurricane Preparedness for Businesses, Schools & Organizations

The Red Cross Ready Rating™ program helps businesses, schools, and other organizations prepare for emergencies that can disrupt daily operations by offering specific steps that can be taken to be better prepared. It includes a planning tool to help their employees or members know what their roles are in the early hours of an emergency, what their next steps are, and a resource center with tools that help businesses, employees, and students develop and practice preparedness plans.

Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds, and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarianism aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. To find out more about the American Red Cross, visit redcross.org, cruzrojaamericana.org, or follow them on Twitter at @RedCross.

Projects Abroad Offers Accessible Gap Year Volunteering Options for Anyone

Taking a gap year before embarking onto the next stage of their academic careers is an increasingly popular trend for North American high school graduates. Some, like Malia Obama, are even deferring their college enrollment to do so. With volunteer organization Projects Abroad, a global leader in short-term international volunteer programs, bridging high school and college with a gap year is an option that can still help make a difference around the world for anyone eager to experience it.

Typically, a gap year can take place over a full year, a semester, or even just a month or two spent fulfilling an inner calling before heading back to the classroom. Volunteering abroad is just one meaningful way to spend a gap year, and it’s an option that offers several benefits, says Elizabeth Cauchois, a Program Advisor for Projects Abroad USA.

“Students taking their gap years in developing countries find that their experience as volunteers impacts them significantly. They devote their time, energy, and skills to helping others, learning about cultural exchange firsthand by living and working in local communities, and exploring the world. This gives them a measure of independence and maturity that few other experiences can, and many students feel more confident and prepared for their impending studies. A well-planned gap year can make all the difference.”

Projects Abroad has more than one option for gap year students. Global Gap is a pre-designed gap year volunteering program for a group of students to volunteer together throughout the course of an academic year (eight months). The group travels together to five countries — Ghana, South Africa, Peru, Nepal, and Thailand — to participate in a wide variety of volunteer projects and internships, such as helping local teachers improve their English and learning new classroom management techniques.

Students can also customize their gap year by participating on standard projects of their choice. They can choose exactly what they want to do, where they want to go, how long they want to go for, and when they want to start. This gives gap year students enormous freedom when planning their gap year and their travels can take them across the globe.

“A gap year is accessible to everyone,” Cauchois emphasizes. “We have a number of projects that are available on a budget, but that still offer safety and are well-coordinated. Volunteering abroad is possible on any budget and we are always happy to speak to and advise students who are looking to make their trip a reality.”

A gap year is an experience for anyone, and there are various ways to go about planning a year focused on traveling and volunteering. Learn more about gap year volunteering with Projects Abroad.

5 Reasons to Intern on a Public Health Project

In many of the countries that international volunteer organization Projects Abroad works in, basic primary healthcare infrastructure cannot support the demands of the population. To ease the pressure on these services, it is vital to prevent disease at a community level by providing basic treatments and diagnoses. This, along with improving the overall health of local communities, is a priority of each Public Health Project run by the organization.

Here are the top five reasons to get involved at a Public Health Project.

1. Provide Primary Medical Care Where it is Needed

Accessing medical care and treatment can be difficult for underprivileged communities and at-risk groups. Public Health interns take on an important role in these communities by working with local medical professionals to provide basic care. This can include cleaning and bandaging minor wounds, testing blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and testing for illnesses like malaria. This has an immediate effect on communities — not only do doctors, nurses, and interns treat any immediate symptoms as best they can, they can help people get further medical care at a hospital or clinic if needed.

2. Contribute to Long Term Impact

While local medical staff and interns can provide immediate treatment, Public Health Projects also focus on prevention and causes of illnesses. By educating communities on how to prevent illnesses and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), interns ensure that they have the knowledge to pass on to others and future generations. This is especially important considering the increasing prevalence of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Public Health interns regularly contribute to health campaigns, such as the larviciding campaign held last year to help prevent the spread of Dengue fever in the Philippines.

3. Enhance Personal Medical Knowledge

Public Health interns learn various practical skills for their resumes during their placements and working alongside local medical professionals also gives interns the opportunity to improve their medical knowledge. Projects Abroad encourages interns to ask questions and take notes every day, particularly when observing illnesses and conditions not usually seen in North America.

4. Experience Cross-Cultural Exchange

One of the main motivations for volunteering and interning abroad is to immerse yourself in the culture where you will be working. Interning on a Public Health Project is a fantastic way to do this. Not only do interns work directly in the community every day, they also live with local host families. Having an understanding and respect for different cultures and mindsets is an extremely valuable skill to have, especially in the healthcare field.

5. Stand Out From the Crowd

Medical school admissions are tough! Participating on a Public Health Project shows that you are prepared to challenge yourself, you are passionate about healthcare, and are committed to helping those in need. Internships also give applicants relevant experience to talk about during interviews.

Projects Abroad offers Public Health Projects in five destinations in the developing world. These programs typically run from one to four weeks or more at any time of the year. Start dates are flexible and participants can choose when they depart and return. The organization also offers Public Health placements for university students over spring break and for high school students during the summer.

About Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad was founded in 1992 by Dr. Peter Slowe, a geography professor, as a program for students to travel and work while on break from full-time study. The program had its genesis in post-USSR Romania, where students were given the chance to teach conversational English. After a few years just sending volunteers to Eastern Europe for teaching, the company expanded to sending volunteers of all ages around the world on a wide range of projects.

Projects Abroad is a global leader in short-term international volunteer programs with projects in 30 countries and recruitment offices in the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Holland, Hong Kong, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and the United States.

For details on volunteering abroad, visit Project Abroad’s website.