(NewsUSA) - A train rumbling down the tracks is an iconic part of America's landscape. For many, it represents economic empowerment -- a way for businesses to efficiently transport goods to market. America's increased energy production offers a good example of how rail is contributing to a growing economy. Though still a relatively small part of overall rail traffic, crude oil has increased as a percentage of rail cargo, and oil trains have become more common.
Though rail is one of the safest ways to transport crude oil, the addition of that cargo brings inherent risks.
This is a heightened concern for the Twin Cities, for instance, where six trains with 100 or more crude oil tank cars pass through every day. In the unlikely event of a derailment, local officials told the Minnesota Star-Tribune that "to fight a significant oil-train fire, local fire departments would need help from railroad emergency crews."
This is why BNSF Railway, a regional crude hauler, has created a free railroad hazmat-response training program. To date, the company has provided training to more than 65,000 emergency responders, or about 4,000 local emergency responders per year.
"It is in our interest to prevent any accident and injury, which is why we invest so much in safety," said BNSF Railway spokeswoman Amy McBeth.
While BNSF Railway's program has been in place for almost two decades, the railway understands that more can be done and the program can always be redefined and updated.
BNSF has specialized equipment and hazmat responders staged across its network to deal with hazmat and crude oil incidents, including firefighting and spill cleanup, more than 250 trained hazmat responders at 60 locations and a geographic information system for emergency incidents that enables the company to quickly identify emergency responders closest to any incident along one of its lines.
In addition, the company has developed and shared geographic response plans with state and local emergency response organizations in many areas and has also provided a computer-based emergency-response training program on hazardous materials to every fire department within two miles of its rail lines.
BNSF's desire to raise awareness about emergency response and to train first responders comes at a time when Congress, the Federal Railroad Administration, railways and tank car manufacturers are all studying rail safety to ensure transportation of crude by rail is as safe as possible.
For more information, visit www.bnsf.com.
(NewsUSA) - By gaining a better understanding of the allergies caused by pets, you may be able to find a healthier coexistence with your furry friend.
According to The Humane Society, 62 percent of American households have at least one pet. Yet, an estimated 31 million Americans are allergic to animals, including up to 30 percent of those who have asthma. Here's what you should know about pet allergies:
Myth 1: It's only pet hair that causes allergies to flare up.
Not true. Pet hair is a nuisance and causes allergies, as it contains saliva or other pet proteins. Allergic reactions to pets are actually caused by pet proteins contained in pet dander, such as microscopic skin flakes, saliva and urine. Overactive immune systems in those with allergies attack these otherwise harmless substances.
Myth 2: Continuous exposure to animals will eventually desensitize you to them.
Not only is this not true, but in some cases the opposite is true. If you have a confirmed allergy to animals, it usually will not get better through increasing exposure. In fact, it may get worse.
Myth 3: With the right pet breed, allergy problems go away.
Not true. All cat or dog breeds produce dander. However, some breeds are believed to be better for allergy sufferers than other breeds. Typically the best breeds are those that shed the least fur and/or are the most frequently bathed. Also, smaller dogs produce less saliva than do bigger dogs.
Myth 4: Small animals are not a problem for allergies.
Wrong. Hamsters, guinea pigs, birds and other warm-blooded mammals can also trigger asthma and allergies in people with allergies to animal dander, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Myth 5: Outside the home, you shouldn't have pet allergies.
Not necessarily. Because of their microscopic size and jagged shape, pet allergens easily stick to clothing and other fabrics and are carried to other locations. Animal dander -- in sufficient levels to cause allergies -- can be found in many public places such as the workplace, classrooms and hospitals, according to the American Lung Association.
Myth 6: An air purifier will help with pet allergies.
It depends on the air purifier. Only a high-performance air purifier can help. Some allergy sufferers report that small, low-quality air cleaners make little or no difference at all. However, many allergy sufferers report that their IQAir air purifier, in combination with improved cleaning methods, has reduced or completely eliminated their allergic reactions to pets in their homes.
For more information, visit the IQAir website at www.iqair.com.
(NewsUSA) - The news is full of headlines about the flu, CRE and the measles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that Clostridium difficile (C.diff) infections have doubled in recent years. If you or a loved one needs to go to the hospital, how do you avoid contracting a deadly infection?
There's no disputing the facts -- infections are caused by microorganisms like C.diff, MRSA, VRE, CRE and norovirus. These antibiotic-resistant germs lurk on high-touch surfaces in hospitals and health care facilities -- and some, like C.diff, can live for months on bedrails and tray tables. With new and deadlier viruses and bacteria emerging everyday, what do you need to know to avoid getting sick?
1. Superbugs are everywhere inside hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and even surgery centers. Research shows that even after the most thorough manual cleaning, 50 percent of the surfaces in a room are still contaminated enough to cause infection.
2. Do you need that antibiotic? Is it the right one? Don't use antibiotics for viral ailments, and don't insist on them for children's viral infections. C.diff reproduction in a patient's intestines is aided by broad-spectrum antibiotics and proton-pump inhibitors.
3. Be prepared, and carefully research the hospital where you are being treated. Look at the hospital's patient safety record. A good resource is www.hospitalsafetyscore.org. Look at its infection rates -- available at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.
4. Hand hygiene may save your life. When you are in the hospital, follow hand-hygiene protocol carefully, and make sure every health care worker (such as doctors and nurses) washes their hands before they touch the patient.
5. Superbugs can be destroyed before they harm patients. Properly disinfecting a patient room with a Xenex germ-zapping robot adds only 10 minutes to room turnover time, and hospitals using Xenex UV light robots are reporting significant decreases in their hospital acquired infection rates. If you or a loved one is going to the hospital, make sure the room has been properly disinfected. Insist on only going to a hospital that uses Xenex germ-zapping robots to disinfect its rooms.
New antibiotics may be part of the solution for solving the superbug crisis, but getting the germs out of the patient environment before they make people sick is what can and should be done right now. It only takes a matter of minutes -- and it may save your life. Visit www.xenex.com to learn more.
(NewsUSA) - Insider tips -- who doesn't love a good (legal) one?
And when it comes to buying or selling a house, it turns out some of the very best -- ones that can translate into big bucks -- are those maybe only someone with Brian Williams' imagination would think of.
Want to know why, for example, Starbucks may be the greatest predictor of home-value appreciation? Read on.
* March is the most profitable month. For sellers, that is. According to Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow.com, who mined his site's database of millions of homes in co-authoring the newly released "Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate," properties listed then sold faster and fetched 2 percent higher than average.
Buyers, on the other hand, catch a break in December when even New York owners are apparently so demoralized by the cold that they're willing to part with their homes for 2.8 percent less during the second week of the month.
"You shouldn't list your house for sale before March Madness or after the Masters (in April)," says Rascoff.
* Your real estate agent's gender matters. Women, because they're "more willing to negotiate," tend to close deals faster, research suggests. But sellers take note: If you can hold out, men -- stubborn devils that they are -- are often better at getting the original asking price.
* A new roof is a sure-fire way to boost a home's resale value. Forget kitchen remodeling. "You could spend a fortune, and it still might not suit prospective buyers' tastes," explains Patsy O'Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby's in Montclair, New Jersey.
Replacing an unsightly roof with a spiffy new one -- better for that all-important "curb appeal" -- was one of the very few projects singled out in Remodeling magazine's new annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2015, rising a chart-topping 5.9 percent over even last year's double-digit increase.
In fact, says O'Neill -- and, sellers, pay close attention to the psychology here -- if your current roof really is an eyesore, buyers will be "predisposed" to find a zillion other things they hate about your place. Ergo, those craving the look of luxury at affordable prices should check out the Value Collection Lifetime Designer Shingles from GAF (www.gaf.com), North America's largest roofing manufacture.
* The Starbucks Effect. Don't laugh. When Rascoff was checking his data, he discovered that, lo and behold, homes within a quarter mile of a Starbucks had appreciated 31 percent more -; 96 percent vs. 65 percent -; over the last 17 years than others nationwide.
"Is it that Starbucks is really great at picking locations, or is that Starbucks is sort of an omen of gentrification?" he writes. "It's a little of each."
(NewsUSA) - For over 30 years, The Weather Channel has inspired viewers to explore, investigate and appreciate how it's amazing out there by providing the latest weather information for the modern era. The network continues to explore this connection with its newest original primetime series, "BrainStormers," where weather will be both the teacher and the enemy.
The series follows three backyard inventors, Rob "Poppy" Parker, Ryan Parker (a father, son duo) and Bill LeVasseur (Ryan's best friend), who channel their inner MacGyver by building and testing inventions that either fight inclement weather or harness its power for everyday use -- while on a budget.
From their Colorado-based workshop, the three men test their ingenuity and tackle weather issues by repurposing what some may consider junk. Sometimes the builds required our BrainStormers to start from scratch, and other times they were called upon to help other backyard inventors improve their projects. Every build comes with its own unique set of challenges, from creating a homemade mosquito trap or solar water heater to fixing a nearby town's wind generator.
Here are some of the creative inventions you can expect to see on "BrainStormers":
* A beer can heater. A Denver friend needs a low-cost fix to make her drafty bedroom warmer. So, the team decides a solar heater could work, but would require expensive aluminum tubes to transfer the sun's radiation to heat. What to do? Use beer cans, of course. By using rows of black-painted beer cans in a sealed wooden box, the team finds a solar heater can be built for pennies on the dollar.
* A snow maker. If you think living in Denver means enough snow for even the most die-hard snowboarder, think again. This is the issue for Seth Hill, a pro-snowboarder who wanted to make practice runs near his house when he's not on tour. He enlists the BrainStormers team to build an inexpensive snowmaking machine by using a junkyard power washer.
* A "swamp bucket cooler." An Arizona housewife can't take the high temperatures in her kitchen, and the family is tired of ordering takeout. They enlist the BrainStormers for a portable and low-cost way to cool the kitchen. The BrainStormers determine that an evaporative cooling system would work best for Arizona's high heat and low humidity, but how do you make it so it is small and inexpensive? Well, you'll just have to watch to find out.
For more information, visit www.weather.com/tv.
(NewsUSA) - Can't file your tax return by the April 15 deadline? Taxpayers can request an automatic six-month extension of time to file the tax return. But, taxpayers beware, there is a catch. An extension is just an extension on the time to file the return -- it is not an extension on the time to pay.
Taxpayers are required to estimate the amount of tax that may be due with the tax return and remit payment with the extension to avoid failure-to-pay penalties. These penalties and interest could accrue from April 15 until the tax is paid, regardless of the extension. If a balance is still owed when the actual tax return is filed, at least the penalties and/or interest will have been minimized.
"If taxpayers are unable to file their tax return by April 15, there are several ways to request an automatic extension of time to file an individual return," says Twila Denton Midwood, EA, an enrolled agent with Advanced Tax Centre, Inc. of Rockledge, Florida and president of the Florida Society of Enrolled Agents.
"Most enrolled agents and other tax professionals can e-file the 'Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File US Individual Tax Return' for taxpayers. Or the application can be found on the IRS website (look for Form 4868), which can be printed and then mailed to the IRS. Whether taxpayers use a tax professional or print the application themselves, all or part of the estimate of the income tax due can be paid with a check or credit/debit card or by using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System."
Information regarding remitting payment can be found on Form 4868. The fee charged will depend on the amount of the payment. Be sure to record the confirmation number provided upon payment.
If a taxpayer estimates that he will owe taxes and is unable to pay, it is important that they file their returns timely. Failure-to-file penalties may be assessed in addition to failure-to-pay. So, to minimize penalties, it is always best to file the return or an extension and remit as much as possible with either. Payment plans may be established later.
If you receive a notice from the IRS at any time during the year, contact your tax preparer immediately. If you did not hire one to prepare your tax return, you should then contact a licensed tax professional. Only enrolled agents (EAs), CPAs and attorneys have unlimited rights to represent you before the IRS. The term "enrolled agent" reflects that an EA can act as your agent before administrative levels of the IRS -- meaning he or she can talk to or meet with the IRS in your stead.
To find an enrolled agent in your area, visit the searchable "Find an EA" directory at www.naea.org.
(NewsUSA) - A medida que los nacidos durante la explosión de natalidad de la posguerra se jubilan de sus trabajos en índices sin precedentes en los EE. UU., uno tiende a pensar que ellos estarían disfrutando de su tiempo libre con amigos, leyendo el periódico mientras toman café por las mañanas o tomándose vacaciones en enero en algún lugar cálido. Pero muchas de estas personas se encuentran actualmente ante un dilema que pocos prevén para esa etapa de la vida: volver a criar niños. Los censos indican que 2,7 millones de abuelos son responsables del cuidado de sus nietos. Estas nuevas responsabilidades pueden ser gratificantes, pero también causan mucho estrés.De hecho, hay muchas cosas que pueden generarles estrés a los jubilados; pagar las cuentas con un ingreso fijo, los problemas de salud, el ocuparse de parientes o esposos enfermos, e incluso el ser abuelos. El estrés en exceso puede provocar problemas serios de salud."Al estar estresado, el cuerpo libera sustancias como cortisol y adrenalina que afectan a todos los órganos y que provocan tensión en los músculos, secreción de insulina y un aumento del ritmo cardíaco", señaló Arthur Hayward, médico geriatra y Jefe del cuerpo de médicos del Instituto para el Cuidado de Ancianos de Kaiser Permanente."No es posible evitar el estrés, pero manejarlo puede ayudarlo a preservar su salud y bienestar", añadió el Dr. Hayward. Recomienda identificar y comprender la causa del estrés y buscar formas de liberarlo, como alguna de los siguientes consejos:1. Modere su propio ritmo. No trate de abarcar demasiado. Sea consciente de sus limitaciones.2. Fíjese objetivos y expectativas realistas, y no tenga miedo de pedir ayuda.3. Planifique tiempo para usted mismo. Recargue sus baterías.4. Haga ejercicio y siga una dieta balanceada. Coma muchas frutas, verduras y alimentos integrales.5. Intente practicar técnicas de relajación como meditación o yoga.6. Duerma lo suficiente. Si tiene problemas para dormir, consúltelo con su médico. El tomar bebidas con cafeína y alcohol puede afectar su capacidad para dormir bien por la noche.7. Hable con alguno de sus afectos o escriba en un diario personal.8. Sea positivo. Los pensamientos positivos pueden hacer la diferencia, como "Tengo esperanza" o "Las cosas van a mejorar".Para más información, consulte kp.org/healthyaging. Para preguntas o consejos sobre una enfermedad específica, consulte a su médico.
(NewsUSA) - A home is the biggest financial investment most people will make in their lifetime. However, dream homes can quickly turn to nightmares if destructive termites find their way into the structure.
With warmer weather on the way, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) warns that termite swarmers will be on the hunt for vulnerable homes where they can establish new colonies and inflict costly property damage that is often not covered by homeowners insurance. Termites, known as "silent destroyers," feed 24-hours a day, seven days a week on the cellulose found in wood and paper products and cost U.S. homeowners about $5 billion each year.
As spring also kicks off the house-buying season, the NPMA encourages all homebuyers to obtain a wood-destroying organism (WDO) inspection separate from their home inspection, and all homeowners to have a termite inspection completed every one to three years. According to a recent survey by the NPMA, 52 percent of Americans have never had their homes inspected for termites.
WDO inspectors are specially trained to recognize the often-subtle signs that termites may be present in a home, while the average home inspector will look only at the structural soundness of a building. WDO inspectors are also able to determine if conditions in a home are conducive to infestations or if there is evidence of past treatment for termites.
A WDO inspection is a vital part of the home-buying process and always in the buyer's best interest as any undetected damage from a termite infestation becomes the buyer's responsibility after the home is purchased.
Homeowners should also be aware of the following signs of possible termite infestations in their homes:
1. Mud tubes (used by termites to reach a food source) on the exterior of the home.
2. Soft wood in the home that sounds hollow when tapped.
3. Darkening or blistering of wood structures.
4. Cracked or bubbling paint.
5. Small piles of feces that resemble sawdust near a termite nest.
6. Discarded wings near doors or on windowsills, indicating swarmers have entered the home.
If you believe you may have a termite infestation, contact a pest management professional immediately. For additional information and prevention tips, visit www.pestworld.org.
(NewsUSA) - There are many things parents teach their kids before sending them off to college. Protecting their personal information and being aware of identity theft can go overlooked.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 16 million people were victims of identity theft in 2012, which resulted in more than $24 billion in lost money. Mary Johnson, vice president of financial literacy and student aid policy for Higher One, cautions that certain behaviors lead to students becoming victims of identity theft.
"Living with roommates, making online purchases and communicating through social media channels are just a few of the ways students can leave themselves dangerously open to thieves," she says.
There are ways, however, that colleges and parents can help protect students and minimize the risk of compromising their information. The following tips can help:
* Avoid carrying personal IDs together. Experts caution to never carry your Social Security information and driver's license in the same purse or wallet.
* Check online banking transactions often. Reconcile your accounts, credit card statements and transactions with your own records -- but never on a public Wi-Fi or cyber-cafe. Institutions like Higher One (www.higherone.com), a financial services company dedicated to helping students reach their goals, offers low-cost and affordable banking services that can help monitor your accounts.
* Learn more. The most important thing about protecting your information is to be proactive about keeping it safe. To this end, organizations like Higher One can help students by educating them on finances, budgeting and money management through its financial literacy program, $tart with Change. Consider this: According to "With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them," a 2009 study commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 54 percent of students surveyed who left college without graduating said they did so because of the stress of having to work and go to school at the same time, while 31 percent cited the cost of tuition and fees as the main reason for dropping out.
* Check your credit report yearly. Credit reports are not just for working adults. College students can receive these reports from the three major credit-reporting agencies by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
Finally, as you continue to build your protection, look for a college or university that offers robust money-management tools and advice to help you build a solid financial foundation.
(NewsUSA) - As boomers retire from their jobs at unprecedented rates in the U.S., you'd think they'd be spending their free time with friends, lingering over the morning newspaper and coffee or taking January vacations in a warm place. But many seniors are finding themselves in a predicament that few anticipate in retirement: parenting for a second time. Census reports indicate that 2.7 million grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren. Their added duties may be fulfilling, but they may be stressful, too.
In fact, many things can trigger stress among retired adults -- paying bills on a fixed income, failing health, caring for ill parents or spouses, or even grandparenting. Excessive stress can lead to serious health problems.
"When stressed, the body releases substances such as cortisol and adrenaline that affect every organ and can cause muscle tension, insulin secretion and increased heart rate," said Arthur Hayward, M.D., a geriatrician and the clinical lead physician for elder care with Kaiser Permanente's Care Management Institute.
"You can't avoid stress, but managing it can help preserve your health and well-being," Dr. Hayward added. He recommends identifying and understanding the cause of your stress and finding ways to relieve it, such as these eight tips:
1. Pace yourself. Don't take on too much. Be aware of your limitations.
2. Set realistic goals and expectations, and don't be afraid to ask for help.
3. Plan time for yourself. Recharge your batteries.
4. Exercise and eat a balanced diet. Get plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
5. Try relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga.
6. Get enough sleep. If you have problems sleeping, talk to your doctor. Drinking caffeinated beverages and alcohol can affect your ability to get a good night's sleep.
7. Talk with a loved one or write in a journal.
8. Stay positive. Positive thoughts can make a difference, such as "I am hopeful" or "Things will be better."
For more information, go to kp.org/healthyaging. For questions or advice about a specific condition, talk to your physician.