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Archive | October, 2010

New laws to fight deceptive debt relief

Good news for those struggling to pay their bills: all of the new Federal Trade Commission regulations to help protect financially-desperate families from deceptive offers for debt relief will go into effect on October 27, 2010.  While the new rule will have a significant impact on reducing predatory debt relief, the Better Business Bureau advises consumers that they still need to use caution when enlisting the help of a third party to get out of debt.

Since the start of the recession in December of 2007, the Better Business Bureau has received more than 6,000 complaints from consumers about debt relief or debt settlement companies. Typically, complainants say they were charged large up-front fees in exchange for the empty promise that the company would significantly reduce or eliminate their debt.

“The debt relief industry has flourished in the current economy and you can bet that many unscrupulous companies are feverishly trying to figure out ways to get around the new laws, such as relying less on telephones to solicit new customers,” said Ken Vander Meeden, President of the BBB Serving Western Michigan.  “While these new rules provide effective new protections, consumers still need to be on the lookout for deceptive debt relief services.”

Under the new rule, any company that solicits debt relief services over the phone—including taking incoming calls from new customers—will not be able to charge upfront fees until:

• the debt relief service successfully renegotiates, settles, reduces, or otherwise changes the terms of at least one of the consumer’s debts;

• there is a written settlement agreement, debt management plan, or other agreement between the consumer and the creditor, and the consumer has agreed to it; and

• the consumer has made at least one payment to the creditor as a result of the agreement negotiated by the debt relief provider.

Additionally, debt relief providers cannot require that consumers set aside payments in a “dedicated account” unless:

• the dedicated account is maintained at an insured financial institution;

• the consumer owns the funds (including any interest accrued);

• the consumer can withdraw the funds at any time without penalty;

• the provider does not own or control or have any affiliation with the company administering the account; and

• the provider does not exchange any referral fees with the company administering the account.

Finally, before the consumer signs up for any debt relief service, providers must disclose fundamental aspects of their services, including how long it will take for consumers to see results, how much it will cost, the negative consequences that could result from using debt relief services, and key information about dedicated accounts if they choose to require them.

Businesses can learn more about how to follow this new rule on the FTC’s Business Center web site: http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus72-debt-relief-services-telemarketing-sales-rule-guide-business

For more information on managing credit and getting out of debt, check out the BBB’s free online advice at:  http://www.bbb.org/credit-management/

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New drunk driving law to take effect Sunday

from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning

Starting Sunday, Michigan’s new high blood alcohol content (BAC) drunk driving law takes effect, with enhanced penalties for first-time drivers convicted of operating with a BAC of .17 or higher.  Because the new law’s effective date is Oct. 31, it also coincides with additional federally funded drunk driving patrols in 35 counties, that started Monday and runs through Halloween.

Public Act 462 of 2008 creates a new high BAC category of “operating while intoxicated.” BAC refers to the alcohol content in a person’s blood, breath or urine.  This new operating while intoxicated offense provides for enhanced criminal and driver’s license sanctions.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt) and Rep. Bob Constan (D-Dearborn Heights).  Sen. Patricia Birkholz (R-Saugatuck Township) and Rep. Marc Corriveau (D-Northville) sponsored related legislation that will establish a DWI/sobriety court ignition interlock pilot project in 2011.

Among the enhanced penalties, convicted drivers could face:

*Up to 180 days in jail (increased from 93 days).

*Fine of $200 but not more than $700 (increased from $100 but not more than $500).

*One year license suspension with restrictions permitted after 45 days. (increased from six-month license suspension with restrictions permitted after 30 days).

*Up to 360 hours community service (same).

*Cost of prosecution (same).

*Immobilization not exceeding 180 days allowed (same).

*6 points on the driving record (same).

*Mandatory alcohol treatment program or self-help program for a period of not less than one year.

Motorists who wish to have limited driving privileges following a  45-day license suspension may do so only after a breath alcohol ignition interlock device is installed on their vehicle. Installation and monthly fees are the responsibility of the driver.
An ignition interlock requires a driver to blow into the device and prevents a vehicle from starting if it measures a BAC of .025 or above. In addition, the device requires periodic retests when driving longer periods.  The device records the date and time of each test and any violation is reported to the Department of State.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s review of research, ignition interlocks reduce recidivism among first-time and repeat DWI offenders, with reductions in subsequent DWI arrests ranging from 50 to 90 percent while the interlock is installed on the vehicle.

A related law will take effect in 2011 that establishes restricted driver’s license requirements for individuals participating in the “sobriety court interlock project” pilot program. The program will allow repeat alcohol offenders to obtain a restricted license and drive a vehicle that has an ignition interlock device. Participants will be limited to driving to and from work, school or a treatment program.

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Creatures of the night

It’s the time of year when people celebrate “the night.” Come meet our creatures of the night at HCNC on Friday, October 29!

Join us at 7:00 p.m. in the Red Pine Interpretive Center. Interpretive instructor Greg Swanson will share interesting facts about owls, bats, moths and other nocturnal animals. (Have you heard him “talk” to owls?) The hike is for people of all ages. In case of rain, the presentation will be indoors. The cost is $3 per peson, $5 per family … or purchase a $5 raffle ticket! RSVP requested, but not required.

It’s also your last chance to get a raffle ticket to win a beautiful hand-crafted prize …an “I Spy Nature” quilted wall hanging, bird feeders and more. All proceeds from teh raffle benefit environmental education programs.

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Fiddler’s Jamboree

The Original Michigan Fiddlers Association (OMFA) is putting on a Fiddlers Jamboree on Saturday, November 6, 2010, at Coral Community Center located at 4662 Bailey Road in Coral.

This Jamboree is open to the public and is free of charge. Donations are gratefully accepted but NOT solicited under the guise of buying a ticket. Anyone who plays an acoustic instrument and desires to join us is welcome to play back-up at the fiddle microphone or jam with other musicians. We usually have some pretty good jams outside or in other areas of the building. Fiddlers from all over the state will be entertaining and we have had, on occasion, a player or two from out of state. This type of music performed is “old time, country, jigs, reels, waltzes” etc. and whatever else these old time fiddlers can remember.

Fiddlers performing at the microphones all afternoon from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Open microphone from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Square and round dancing from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Food and refreshments will be available.

2 miles south of Howard City on Federal Hwy. to blinker light – turn east on Kendaville – Turn right in Coral to community Building. Need more information? Contact: Jo Sears, 616.984.2597 or Barb Jorgensen, 616.984.5552.

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Roger on Main St.

Main St. by Roger AllenROTFL: Dave’s colonoscopy

If you’ve read this Dave Barry piece elsewhere, you’ll notice that this is a shortened version. We wouldn’t want anyone to bust a gut laughing, especially since it deals with the gut.
About the writer: Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist for the Miami Herald.
I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy.
Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis. He explained the colonoscopy procedure to me.
I nodded thoughtfully but didn’t really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, “HE’S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!”
I left Andy’ s office with some written instructions and a prescription for a product called “MoviPrep,” which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven.
In accordance with my instructions, I didn’t eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor.
Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder in a one-liter plastic jug and fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons.)  You have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.
MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food you have not even eaten yet.
The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I had to sign forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room, where I took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.
A nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. In the procedure room, Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist.  I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand.
And then it was the dreaded time. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.
I have no idea. Really! I slept through it all. In a moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a mellow mood.
Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that IT was all over and my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of an internal organ.
Memorize these
A few comments to make during YOUR colonoscopy in case you don’t sleep through it:
1. “Take it easy, Doc. You’re boldly going where no man has gone before!”
2. “Find Amelia Earhart yet?”
3. “You know, in Arkansas we’re now legally married.”
4. “Any sign of the trapped miners, Doc?

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On the Lighter Side

by Lois Allen

Important women’s health issue

* Do you have feelings of inadequacy?

* Do you suffer from shyness?

* Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive?

* Do you suffer exhaustion from the day-to-day grind?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about Margaritas.

Margaritas are the safe, natural way to feel better and more confident  about yourself and your actions. Margaritas can help ease you out of  your shyness and let you tell the world that you’re ready and willing to do just about anything. You will notice the benefits of Margaritas almost immediately and with a regiment of regular doses you can overcome any obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want to live.

Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past and you will discover many talents you never knew you had. Stop hiding and start living, with Margaritas.

Margaritas may not be right for everyone. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use Margaritas. However, women who wouldn’t mind nursing or becoming pregnant are encouraged to try it.

Side effects may include:
- Dizziness
- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Incarceration
- Erotic lustfulness
- Loss of motor control
- Loss of clothing
- Loss of money
- Loss of virginity
- Table dancing
- Headache
- Dehydration
- Dry mouth
- And a desire to sing Karaoke

WARNINGS:
* The consumption of Margaritas may make you think you are whispering when you are not.
* The consumption of Margaritas may cause you to tell your friends over and over again that you love them.
* The consumption of Margaritas may cause you to think you can sing.
* The consumption of Margaritas may make you think you can logically converse with members of the opposite sex without spitting.

Please share this with other women who may need Margaritas.

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Healthy habits that guard against breast cancer

By Richard N. Waldman, MD
President, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

We know that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. And while we can’t predict who those women will be, research has shown that certain lifestyle habits play a significant role in lowering breast cancer risk. Help protect yourself against breast cancer by:

Maintaining a healthy weight. Women who gain excess weight, especially after menopause, are more prone to breast cancer. Extra body fat produces estrogen, which can fuel certain cancers, such as some breast and endometrial cancers. Find your ideal body mass index (BMI)—a measure of body fat in comparison to your height and weight—at www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi.

Being active. Women who exercise regularly have a 20–30 percent reduction in breast cancer risk. Physical activity keeps weight in check and may have a positive effect on harmful factors that can raise the risk of cancer, such as inflammation and metabolic hormones.

Thirty minutes of walking each day is a good start and may be enough to provide some protection. As your strength and stamina increase, add more time, intensity, and variety to your workout schedule.

Drinking less. Despite the often-touted cardiovascular benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, drinking has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. If you choose to drink, limit it to one drink or less per day. And avoid supersizing—remember that 5 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of hard liquor, or one 12-oz. beer equals one drink.

Eating Healthier. Aim to eat a balanced diet rich in a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lowfat dairy, and lean protein. By filling your plate with healthy whole foods, you have less room for foods that are high in fat, sodium, and processed sugar.

Substances found in healthy foods, including omega-3 fatty acids (in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and lake trout) and vitamin D (in fish and fortified milk and dairy products, cereals, and juices), may also offer some protection against breast cancer.

The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that almost 40 percent of breast cancer cases in the US—roughly 70,000 cases a year—could be prevented if women stayed within a healthy BMI range, exercised more, and cut down the amount of alcohol they consumed. The good news is that every woman has control over all of these factors.

During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, make a conscious effort to understand the habits that may raise your risk and then try your best to reduce it.

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Male breast cancer and common treatments (Sources: ACS, NCI, Mayo Clinic, Komen)

Breast cancer occurs primarily in women, but men can also develop breast cancer. Although men have less breast tissue than women, they do have breast cells that can undergo cancerous changes. Male breast cancer makes up less than 1 percent of all cases of breast cancer, and is usually detected in men between 60 and 70 years of age.

Symptoms

It is important to see a doctor if any of the following changes to the breasts is noticed:
•    A lump or swelling in the chest area
•    Dimpled or puckered skin
•    A nipple that is inverted (facing inward)
•    Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
•    Discharge from the nipple

Most breast lumps in men are due to gynecomastia and not cancer. Gynecomastia, the most common male breast disorder, is an increase in the amount of a man’s breast tissue. However, it is still important to see a medical professional about any of the symptoms, including a lump, to rule out male breast cancer.

Diagnosis

The following types of breast cancer are found in men:

•    Infiltrating ductal carcinoma: Cancer that has spread beyond the cells lining ducts in the breast. As with women, most men with breast cancer have this type of cancer.
•    Ductal carcinoma in situ: Abnormal cells that are found in the lining of a duct; also called intraductal carcinoma.
•    Inflammatory breast cancer: A type of cancer in which the breast looks red and swollen and feels warm.
•    Paget’s disease of the nipple: A tumor that has grown from ducts beneath the nipple onto the surface of the nipple.
Lobular carcinoma in situ (abnormal cells found in one of the lobes or sections of the breast), which sometimes occurs in women, has not been seen in men.

The stages of male breast cancer, and the prognosis at each stage, are the same as for female breast cancer. (See Stages of Breast Cancer). The spread of cancer from the breast to lymph nodes and other parts of the body also appears to be similar in men and women.

Important differences between male and female breast cancer can result in male breast cancer being diagnosed at a later stage, which affects prognosis and treatment. One difference is breast size. Men have little breast tissue, which does make it easier to feel small masses. For the same reason, though, cancers do not grow far before reaching the skin covering the breast or the muscles underneath. The result is that while male breast cancers tend to be smaller than female breast cancers when they are found, they have more often spread beyond the breast.

Another key difference is that breast cancer is rare among men. Most women are aware of breast cancer and have a female friend or family member affected by breast cancer. Men often do not even know it is possible for them to get breast cancer, and therefore may ignore the symptoms.

Treatment

Since the types of breast cancer, staging, and patterns of how the disease spreads are similar in both men and women, treatments are also similar.

A mastectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the breast with the cancerous tumor, is generally the treatment of choice for male breast cancer. Chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapies are also used following surgery.

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Women’s cancer screening program in Michigan

Program serves low-income uninsured and underinsured women

Since 1991, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has implemented a comprehensive Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP) through a multi-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With these funds, low-income women now have access to life-saving cancer screening services and follow-up care, including cancer treatment if that should be needed.

Through this program, women who have breast and cervical cancer will be identified at earlier stages of these diseases, when treatment is less expensive and the survival rate is more favorable.  Working together, participating medical providers and local health agencies can ensure that the highest quality breast and cervical cancer control services are available to all women in their communities.

Through these local public health programs, eligible women aged 40 – 64 can receive screening services free of charge, such as:

•    Clinical breast exam
•    Pap test
•    Pelvic exam
•    Screening mammogram

Many follow-up programs are also covered.

Where are these services available?

Women throughout Michigan may seek these services from local health departments and over 700 contracted BCCCP providers across the state.

A woman’s usual health care provider may encourage the woman to take advantage of this program. In addition, any Michigan woman ages 40 through 64 can call (toll-free) 800-922-MAMM to obtain a phone number for the BCCCP local coordinating agency closest to her home. In Kent County, call 616-632-7283 or toll-free 888-515-1300.

The local agency will assess each woman for program eligibility, based upon age and income, and will provide an appointment to a health care provider or clinic near her home.

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Halloween and Harvest Happenings for 2010

Family Harvest Celebration

Oct. 30: Pine Ridge Bible Camp will hold a family harvest celebration on Saturday, October 30, from 6-8 p.m. Come anytime to check out the decorated cabins and enjoy a night out with the family. It’s a free family event with wagon rides, games, puppets, gospel magician, games cider, treats and a trip through Treat Town for candy. Pine Ridge is located just 5 miles east of town. Call 696-8675 with questions.

Pet costume contest in Sparta

Oct. 30: Join in the 7th annual Pet Costume Contest! Registration begins at 11 am with judging beginning at Noon! Entry is free! Dress up your pets and bring them down to Rogers Park (75 N. Union, Sparta, MI 49345). Awards for best costumes! Micro-chipping will also be available for pets by the Humane Society for only $15.

Harvest party at Solon Center Wesleyan Church

Oct. 30: Families are invited to attend our annual Harvest Party this Saturday, October 30th from 6:30 – 8:00 PM. There will be bounce houses, games, activities, snacks & candy! Kids wear your costumes, but nothing scary please. Bring a decorated pumpkin for a pumpkin contest. The church is located @ 15671 Algoma Avenue, just north of 19 Mile Rd.

Cedar Springs 3rd Annual Halloween Spook~tacular

Oct. 31: On October 31 at 6:00 p.m. trick-or-treaters (under 18) will descend upon downtown Cedar Springs for the 4th annual Halloween Spook~tacular. Ghosts and goblins must stop at City Hall first to obtain their game board. They will then visit each participating business for candy and a punch on their game board.  The children who visit every participating business will have their names entered into a drawing for some fantastic prizes. Participants should report to the Kent Theatre at 7:10 p.m. for the drawing. Children must be present to win!

Cedar Springs Fire Department

Oct. 31: The Cedar Springs Fire Department, located on W. Maple Street, will work with the Kent County Traffic Squad and Cedar Springs Police to hand out candy, cider, and donuts from 6-7 p.m. Stop in and say hello!

Trunk or Treat at the Springs

Oct. 31: When kids are out trick-or-treating in Cedar Springs, they can swing by The Springs Church for Trunk-or-Treat from 6-8 p.m. There will be lots of candy for the taking, games and a 20-foot giant slide. For the adults there will be hot chocolate, cider and donuts. It will be fun for the whole family, and a safe, well-lit environment for kids. The church is located at 135 N. Grant St., in Cedar Springs.

Spencer Fire Department

Oct. 31: The Spencer Township Fire Department will be handing out candy at the fire department from 5-8 p.m. The fire department is located at 12131 18 Mile Road, NE, Gowen.

Sparta Kids Costume Parade

Oct. 31: Kids Costume Parade! At 4:45 Line up at Old Central Elementary School Grounds (200 Alma Street, Sparta) with your Halloween Costumes for Trick or Treating! The kids parade begins at 5 pm as we walk down to the American Legion building on North Union and kick off the official trick or treat time in Sparta with cider and treats from the Legioners!

Trick-or-treating in Sparta

Oct. 31: Trick-or-Treating in Sparta will be on Sunday, Oct. 31 from 5:30-8 pm. Please be safe! Wear reflective clothing. Have an adult check your candy before consuming. Only visit houses with front porch lights turned on.

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