Archives May 2016

Veterans Being Honored Across the Country

The Veteran Treatment Court opened in Warwick, RI, five years ago. The program was developed to help struggling veterans avoid prison time and help them get on the right track.

According to the Military Times, William Delaney, a former marine, suffered from alcoholism and depression and was in and out of courts battling DUI convictions for a few years before taking part in the VTC program.

Delaney is now a mentor for other veterans and is working toward earning his master’s degree in social work.

“We judge ourselves really harshly in addition to how the court judges us because of how far we’ve fallen,” Delaney said. “It’s just devastating.”

Chief District Judge Jeanne E. LaFazia credits the court for giving struggling individuals the tools to change their lives.

“By the time you get someone in here,” LaFazia said, “they are often at rock bottom. You’re helping them rebuild themselves. It’s a remarkable difference.”

Wholly 81% of elders cite good health as the most important aspect of their retirement. As for these veterans, they are happy just to get their lives back, and their health is improving because of it.

“I wasn’t the lost, drunk person,” Delaney added. “I could be something better again. That was the life-changing moment.”

The VTC has graduation ceremonies for all veterans who complete the treatment program.

More than 2,000 miles away in Spokane, WA, veterans are being honored another way.

“Earlier today we had a Vietnam family here and a child drew a photo for their grandfather and put it underneath the paver,” Nicole Thomas, of the Washington State Fallen Heroes Project, said.

According to KHQ, bricks were laid into the Walk of Remembrance for fallen veterans in Washington in late May. Families were able to purchase empty spaces and write whatever they wish to honor their loved ones.

“It’s beautiful to see everyone come out in one place,” Thomas added.

Thomas, along with the Washington State Fallen Heroes Project, wants to continue to remember every fallen veteran in the way that their own family remembers them.

“It’s important to the families,” Thomas said. “Everybody has a different story.”

Indy 500 Celebrates 100th Anniversary With Special Traditions

This weekend marks the 100-year anniversary of the Indy 500. And to celebrate this centennial anniversary, the race’s organizers have planned special traditions all throughout the weekend.

One event that will take place is an auction for a car to benefit children’s cancer research and treatment. The bright yellow Stinger is an interpretation of the first car to ever win the Indianapolis 500.

Commissioned by exterior remodeling company Window World, the Stinger is meant to represent a hundred years of Indy 500 legends. It boasts nearly 250 signatures of famous racers, and experts believe it to be one of the largest collections of autographs in sports history.

All proceeds from the auction will benefit the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN.

Additionally, World War II veterans will have their moment to shine in the festivities. In celebration of Memorial Day, these veterans will ride in the IPL 500 Festival Parade in Indianapolis this Saturday.

These decorated veterans stormed the Normandy Beaches in France on D-Day in June 1944. Some members also fought on the Japanese island of Okinawa, and others liberated thousands of Jewish prisoners in Holocaust death camps across Poland.

The organization Veterans of Anthem, are choosing to honor the men so more Americans can recognize the selfless service of these American Heroes.

Anthems member Michael Poulimas tells the Indy Star that this is important not just for the Veterans but for the people attending the parade.

“They’re humble men. I have to ask them a lot of questions for them to talk about things,” Poulimas said. He goes on to tell the group, “You’re one of our national treasures. The tribute to you is what is important to me.”

Without a doubt, the day of the race will be a celebration for car enthusiasts all over the nation. It also highlights some of the most intense driving most will ever see.

With general day-to-day wear, experts recommend having a tire rotation done every 7,500 miles. But in the Indy 500, the tires get so worn down they are changed multiple times during the race.

Billboard’s List of Top Earning Musicians Is a Big Fat Lie

This week Taylor Swift has been dominating the news thanks to Billboard‘s latest list of the top earning musicians in the world. Taylor came in at the top spot with a staggering $73 million haul in 2015.

But astute readers will notice a glaring flaw in the list if they read between the lines. The list completely ignores DJs and electronic music producers.

So how did stars like Avicii, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, and other top DJs somehow earn less than Billboard stars like Marc Anthony ($6.5 million), Bette Midler ($9.1 million), and Canadian prog-rockers Rush ($12 million)?

They didn’t. Billboard‘s Top Money-Makers List of 2015 is a lie.

For some reason, electronic musicians and DJs simply don’t qualify as real “musicians” according to Billboard’s new list. While it’s too early to know exactly how much top EDM acts earned in 2015, based on 2014 revenue figures, more than a few DJs should have earned a spot on this year’s list.

According to the Forbes 2015 Electronic Cash Kings report (which uses total earnings from 2014), the #1 top earning DJ in the world last year was Calvin Harris, who pulled in an incredible $66 million. As Taylor Swift’s latest high-profile boy toy, that means Calvin Harris and T-Swift likely earned more than $120 million combined over the past year.

EDM music has gone mainstream over the past five years, and it seems like a bizarre snub not to include electronic artists on the list. EDM has come a long way in a short time, and it deserves to be taken seriously by gate keepers like Billboard. Back in 2008, DJs like Avicii were little known nobodies. After earning 70% of the votes in an EDM competition, Avicii went on to become a world famous DJ with a net worth of $75 million, though you won’t find him on the Billboard list.

To be fair, part of Forbes‘ figures includes endorsement deals like Harris’ partnership with Giorgio Armani, and Billboard‘s list doesn’t include money earned from those kinds of sponsorships, but just imagine how much Taylor Swift would have earned if those numbers had been included.

Still, Forbes also reported that their EDM runner up David Guetta earned $37 million in 2014, writing that “The ageless French DJ had another massive year, playing 30 shows in Las Vegas while still maintaining a weekly residency in Ibiza.”

Meanwhile Skrillex and Steve Aoki earned a cool $24 million apiece, while even #10 on the list, Afrojack, earned the sizeable sum of $16 million, which would have put him at #12 on the Billboard list, in between Jason Aldean and Shania Twain.

Presidential Visit to Flint Sheds Light on the Real Issue

President Barack Obama is set to visit the city of Flint, MI, this week. The reason for the visit stems from a letter written by 8-year-old Amariyanna Copeny, a resident of the city also known as Mari or “Little Miss Flint.”

Mari, a victim of the water crisis still plaguing the city today, wrote to the President to simply ask to meet with him and the First Lady. She was not expecting to get a reply from either them.

“My mom said chances are you will be too busy with more important things but there is a lot of people coming on these buses and even just a meeting from you or your wife would really lift peoples spirits,” Mari wrote to the president.

The city’s water crisis has just recently passed the two-year mark since the state made the decision to change Flint’s water source, resulting in numerous contaminants integrating into the water system, with lead being chief among them.

Lead exposure in children six years or younger can have harmful, lasting effects. In fact, exposure to lead makes up 600,000 of new cases of intellectual disabilities in children each year.

The exchange between the President and Mari sheds light on the crisis in Flint in a way not yet portrayed by the media. It focuses on the effects on the real future of Flint: its children.

Most media outlets have been producing stories detailing the mistakes the Michigan government made, but very few have focused on the effects of the crisis on children and their future development.

While politicians have been busy calling each other out for what they have and have not done, one little girl has managed to shift the discussion to shed light on the big picture. Not only has she gotten the attention of the media but the Commander-in-Chief himself.

As Millennials Enter the Housing Market, New Tools Arise

When it comes to home buying, there is an app for that, but unfortunately for Millennials, it isn’t — for once — catered to them.

Ellie Mae, the software company that processes about a quarter of U.S. mortgage applications, has just released its “Ellie Mae Millennial Tracker,” which will track Millennial loan trends in the United States.

The tool will refresh its data during the first week of every month in order to provide demographic data about the new generation of home-buyers to mortgage lenders.

Joe Tyrell, Ellie Mae’s executive vice president of corporate strategy, said that “Our new Ellie Mae Millennial Tracker gives mortgage lenders perspective into the next generation of home-buyers in order to better serve them, and ultimately help make their home-ownership dreams a reality.”

So far, March data from the Millennial Tracker, which takes data of Americans aged 18 to 35, showed women as the primary borrower on 31% of closed loans. Ladies also had an average of 724 for their FICO score. Men were listed as the primary borrower on 66% of closed loans.

Indeed, with more and more Millennials entering the housing market, the name of the game is bound to change. As Tyrell said, “There are roughly 87 million would-be home buyers in the millennial generation and 91% of them say they intend to own a home one day. Lenders must prepare today to meet their needs.”

Those new home buyers have several obstacles to overcome across the board when it comes to taking out home loans, and one of the greatest is credit.

Millennials have come of age in an almost “post-apocalyptic housing market,” where lenders are still paying untold amounts in reparations after the housing bubble burst in 2008. Many lenders require a 680 minimum credit score, which can be hard for young people who have just started to build credit and may have student loans.

Unfortunately, many Millennials, who were only kids during the crisis, must pay the price in the form of higher credit score requirements. Also, most Millennials are taking out FHA loans, which tend to run high mortgage insurance premiums.

Mortgage rates are at historic lows right now, but many home prices are rising faster than incomes. FHA loans are attractive to young buyers because they allow just a 3.5% down payment.

The Detroit Zoo Opens New Penguin Facility and the Penguins are Thrilled

It looks like there is a new iceberg in town. Inside, one can find mock gale force winds swirling sea salt spray through the Detroit Zoo’s new penguin exhibit.

Finally open to the public this week, the Polk Penguin Conservation Center is a stunning display that is leaving both penguins and visitors happy.

More than 80 penguins of all shapes and sizes have moved into their spacious new digs within the past few weeks. They inhabit a place that has all the watery chills and thrills of their native Antarctica, without the risk of dangerous predators, and it’s safe to say they’re enjoying it.

The zoo’s spokeswoman Patricia Janeway tells the Detroit Free Press, “Ever since they got here, it’s like they’re jumping for joy. They’re porpoising like crazy – leaping out of the water, then arcing back in — and they’re behaving exactly like we hoped they would.”

The Gentoo, Macaroni, Rockhopper, and King penguins are content in a habitat kept at 37 degrees Fahrenheit with the water at 40 degrees. Visitors watch from galleries kept at a balmier temperature.

The exterior of the building represents a tabular iceberg, with a 25-foot waterfall meant to stimulate melting ice and a crevasse where the berg is beginning to break apart.

Once inside the lobby, excited visitors immediately see a broad topside view of penguins huddling on rocks then descend walkways to view them from under and beside.

There are even blasts of saltwater spray to provide a true penguin sensory experience.

To prevent curious kids from playing with the penguins, the zoo installed high glass walls so kids can see, but not touch. This helps cautious parents feel at ease, as one in every five drowning deaths is a child 14 years or younger.

Even before its official opening, this new penguin center received praise from around the country for its educational mission of expanding the zoo’s offerings to do more than just show the animals.

These 10 Cities are Losing Millennials in Droves

A new report from Trulia counts down the 10 U.S. cities losing Millennials because of impossible-to-afford rents and home prices. While young people and college graduates have been flooding into urban settings like Austin, New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago for a decade now, many believe that trend is finally reversing.

With wages flat, young people simply can’t afford to pay $1,500 per month in rent, nor put up a down payment of $20,000.

There aren’t many surprises on the Millennial Migration list; most of the cities seen recently in headlines about sky-high living costs make an appearance. Trulia data scientist Mark Uh analyzed three primary metrics: the percentage of homeowners who are Millennials, the share of households moving away that are Millennials, and the moving rate for young people relative to the average moving rate.

San Francisco was number 10 on the list of cities losing young people because of too-expensive home prices. San Francisco has always been an attractive city for young people, and today Millennials head 27.4% of households in the city. Yet young people make up more than half of the people moving away at 52.3%, and the city’s Millennial population had a move-away rate 91.1% above the average.

Washington, D.C., was sixth on the list with a move-away rate 102.7% above the norm, while New York City had a move-away rate of 106.4%.

While owning a home was once part of the American Dream, the Great Recession has changed many people’s opinions on homeownership for good. Today, homeowners can expect to pay 5% of their home’s value on even simple projects like a kitchen remodel, which can average $17,000 to $37,000. Similarly, in an era of record college loan debt, it’s becoming harder for many young people to justify buying a home in the first place.

LifeHacker recently tackled the rent-versus-mortgage debate and concluded the entire argument is absurd.

“Even as a homeowner, I still think renting is underrated,” wrote LifeHacker’s Kristin Wong. “That doesn’t mean buying is a bad decision. The rent vs. buy debate is just silly overall. It ignores the enormous grey area that exists between the two options.”

Wong argues that neither renting nor homeownership is a positive or negative financial decision on its own, but ultimately depends on an individual’s lot in life. While that may seem obvious, that hasn’t stopped the online content industry from flooding the Web with think pieces like “Why Homeownership is Evil” or “Renting is the Smartest Decision You’ll Make This Year.”

Even though home prices are on the rise at the moment, in the wake of the housing bubble, many economic advisors no longer think that buying a home is a prudent investment.

Wong added, “Experts agree that buying is a bad investment, but the problem is, many misinterpret this to mean buying a home is a bad idea in general. Just because your home isn’t a great investment doesn’t necessarily make it a bad purchase.”

Visit Trulia to see the rest of the list.

Video: Viral Work Safety Video Goes Full on Final Destination

At the end of April, a number of popular blogs posted a link to a disturbing workplace safety video from the 1990s.

Most workplace safety videos are cheesy and dull, more likely to induce yawns or eyerolls than anything else. That’s exactly what the United Safety Council was afraid of when the produced “Will You Be Here Tomorrow?”, a workplace safety video that’s genuinely terrifying. According to the official synopsis, “This eye-opening meeting opener will capture your employees’ attention and show them just how easily accidents can happen.”

While the graphic ’90s-era special effects and over-the-top acting might seem outdated today, the video is still on sale in the Accident Prevention section of the United Safety Council catalogue. According to the official description, this four-minute video was produced in 1994.

Gawker Media’s popular technology vertical Gizmodo picked up the story, describing it like this, “Neither Freddy Krueger nor Jason were ever as scary as the apparent horrors lurking in the average factory.”

The video is available on YouTube (Warning: Rated NSFW for Gore and Bloody Depictions of Workplace Accidents).

Yet while many Internet culture blogs have been having a laugh at the bloody video, it’s really no laughing matter. Workplace safety remains a top issue for many unions across the country, as well as the domestic oil and gas industry.

The video features a diverse group of workers having their limbs torn off by lathes, being impaled on spikes, being crushed to death under forklifts and inside balers, and more gruesome scenarios than should be possible to fit into a four-minute training video.

While the National Safety Council reports that overexertion and slip-and-fall accidents are the most common type of workplace injuries, anyone who works with heavy equipment faces serious health risks. Falling from heights, being struck by falling objects, and machine entanglement are all some of the most common workplace injuries.

And often, injured workers are the lucky ones. A recent study from the Ohio Safety and Health Administration found that 20.2% of workplace fatalities occurred in construction-related accidents — that’s one in five workplace deaths.

Facebook Brings its Money-Making Algorithm to Instagram

Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 and received a great deal of criticism because of it. Critics felt that the $1 billion purchase was poorly informed, considering the photo sharing social platform was producing zero revenue from its user base at the time. During that time, Facebook wasn’t doing so hot either, with their trading at an all-time-low.

But since then, Facebook has made a tremendous comeback and Instagram is undoubtedly part of this upswing. Over the course of the past year, the company’s shares have risen nearly 33%.

social media

Recently, Instagram’s algorithm changed, making its timeline switch from reverse-chronological to an algorithm-based feed that shows users content based on interaction history and photo popularity. This change takes a page out of Facebook’s book, as the social media giant underwent this change already, resulting in increased engagement and user growth.

And in a recent blog post by Instagram, the company pointed out that the average Instagram user misses 70% of their feeds; considering that 880 billion photos were taken in 2014 alone, many of which were uploaded to social media, this comes as no surprise. That being said, the new system results in a better, more well-curated experience.

But not everyone felt as hunky dory about the algorithm changes, as the changes will likely come at the expense of brands that use the photo sharing tool. Eat24, for example, deleted its Facebook page in protest of the Instagram changes and wrote a “break-up letter” to Facebook, accusing them of intentionally limiting the company’s ability to reach audience members organically and instead asked them to pay for promoted posts.

Regardless of whether or not brands are getting the short end of the stick, the algorithm-based timeline will encourage more ad spending from brands. And this kind of thinking has worked in Facebook’s favor in the past, as increased engagement and ad spending helped the company grow 44% in the last fiscal year.

Ben and Jerry’s Co-Founders Get Arrested in Political Protest in Washington, D.C.

If you are one of the 90% of Americans who regularly eats ice cream, then you most likely are familiar with the ice cream brand Ben and Jerry’s.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben and Jerry’s, were two of the roughly 300 protesters arrested in Washington D.C at a protest demonstrating about money in politics.

They were a part of the group Democracy Awakening, which is an organization that represents labor, peace, environmental, student, racial justice, civil rights, and money in politics reform movements.

Reported on NPR and released on their website, Ben and Jerry expressed in a statement that money in politics is an issue they deeply care about.

The company explains its stance: “At Ben and Jerry’s, we love dough so much, we invented Cookie Dough ice cream. But dough doesn’t mix well with democracy. In fact, there’s so much big money flooding into our elections in the United States that the voice of regular folks is being drowned out.”

The pair believes it is time to get money out of politics and that presidential nominee Bernie Sanders is the right person for the job.

They urge their customers to join a movement of citizens working to diminish the role of money in the political process.

The U.S Capital Police in Washington, D.C., charged Cohen and Greenfield with unlawful demonstration activity, then processed and released them on the scene.

This is not the first time these two have spoken out on political issues.

However, this presidential election is the first where they have personally made an ice cream flavor to help a candidate get elected. “Bernie’s Yearning” is a plain mint ice cream beneath a solid layer of chocolate on top.