Archives February 2017

Virginia Boy Gets New Lease on Life After Adopted by Relatives

In Richmond, Virginia, a little boy is getting a new lease on life after enduring several life-altering tragedies.

Kindergartner Thomas Miller had just turned one when his mother, Reina Opperman, was killed in a car accident. Miller was in the vehicle at the time of the accident and was ejected nearly 70 feet. While Miller survived with scrapes and bruises, his mother was tragically killed. Miller’s Aunt calls his survival after the incident a “pure miracle.” No word on what time of year the accident occurred, but according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) a higher volume of travelers combined with more alcohol-impaired drivers cause nearly two times the number of auto accident fatalities during summer months than during the rest of the year combined.

To make matters worse, Miller’s father, Erik Opperman, died of a heart attack in 2014.

In the wake of these tragedies, Miller’s aunt and uncle performed an act of courage: they took the boy in and raised him with their two daughters. In a recent turn of events, William and Gretchen Miller have decided to legally adopt Thomas.

To this day, many people who aided in Miller’s rescue efforts after the crash are still a part of his life.

“As much stuff as he’s been through, there’s a reason he’s here,” said Henrico firefighter Mike Hodges.

Hodges was present when Miller was thrown from the car and assured the family he would always be there for Thomas.

“I told his dad I would be there for his graduation,” said Hodges. “Didn’t realize I would be there for his adoption.”

For now, things seem to have settled down for Thomas. He enjoys eating his favorite foods, going to school, and playing with his new sisters. He continues to inspire people everywhere with his courageous and positive attitude. More than 90% of adopted children ages five and up have positive feelings about their adoption, and it’s safe to say that Thomas Miller is certainly one of them.

Opioid Epidemic Continues Across United States

Prescription drugs and heroin issues continue to plague people across the Untied States.

The U.S. holds roughly a 40% share of the global pharmaceutical market. Recently, and seemingly more and more each week, prescription drugs are causing serious problems for people across the country and are even leading to heroin addiction.

“We knew that this was going to be an issue, that we were going to push addicts in a direction that was going to be more deadly,” said Dr. Carrie DeLone, Holy Spirit Medical Group Medical Director. “But, we also know that you have to start somewhere. You have to understand what you’re doing. You have to regulate this. It can’t just be business as usual.”

According to The Sentinel, the influx of prescription pills has become such a significant problem that in some areas of the country, particularly in Pennsylvania, the problem had to be addressed immediately in order to save the lives of addicted individuals.

“The initial problem is that we have people who are addicted and now we are not giving them as many pharmaceutical-grade painkillers, so they are moving to heroin,” DeLone added.

The Daily Cardinal reports that far too many children have had their lives lost at the hands of these opioids.

“We want people to know that opioids, though they are prescribed by doctors, can be very dangerous,” said Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleeisch, head of the Opioid Task Force.

Sadly, many of these opioid addictions aren’t starting from young people abusing drugs just to experiment, but rather from being legally prescribed after experiencing an injury or having surgery or dental work done.

According to University of Maryland Professor of Criminology Katie Zafft, a multifaceted approach to addressing this heroin and prescription drug issue must be implemented on a national scale.

“When they [addicts] become this entrenched in a community, we need a holistic approach to bend that curve down again,” Zafft added.

Worldwide, Ad-Blocking Software Use Skyrockets by 30%

In many industries, digital advertising has virtually replaced the need for traditional print ads. After all, online advertising alone is a $149 billion annual business. So the big tech platforms that count on online advertising — like Facebook, YouTube, Google, and more — may not be so pleased to learn that consumers are rebelling against the idea of being forced to watch seemingly endless numbers of online ads.

It seems that internet users want to skip these advertisements by any means necessary. So much so that the use of worldwide ad-blocking software has shot up by 30% in just the last year.

Despite attempts by various platforms to block the use of this software, nearly 11% of all internet users used ad blockers in some way during the last year. This software isn’t relegated to just computers, either; smartphones and tablets now have ways to utilize ad-blocking software.

That 30% increase represents a loss that amounts to tens of billions of dollars for websites and publishers. Because these platforms rely on revenue from these ads, people who use ad blockers are breaking their implicit pact with these companies. Essentially, they’re getting to use a service for free with no consequences, while the websites are forced to take a huge financial hit.

Use of these blocking tools has become especially prevalent in Asian countries and the developing world. In Indonesia, approximately two-thirds of the population that access the internet uses such software. In fact, more than 90% of ad-blocking software used on mobile devices originates from the Asia-Pacific region. It’s often utilized by those who want to save money on their data plans. Since video advertisements eat up a substantial portion of that data, it makes sense that they’d want to remove them. All told, around 380 million smartphones and tablets used ad blocking software last year, representing a 39% increase in that sector alone.

But when ad blockers are used on desktop and laptop computers, it’s typically for another reason: users want to block malware that’s masquerading as advertising. This is an even more understandable reason to block digital ads, as malware poses a substantial threat to users’ privacy and safety while online. In contrast to the high percentage jump that smartphone ad blockers experienced, the use of ad blockers on computers jumped up only by 17% in the last year. Their use is mostly limited to the U.S. and Europe.

However, experts are predicting that this may change in the near future. Sean Blanchfield, chief executive of PageFair — the startup that published the initial report on the dramatic increase — said,

“In the U.S., ad-blocking on mobile is slightly immature. But there’s no doubt that people’s use of it will skyrocket.”

The problem is a significant one for the advertising and marketing industry.

Paul Verna, analyst at eMarketer, stated, “Ad blocking is a detriment to the entire advertising ecosystem.” But Verna noted that there is a way for marketers to fight back: “The best way for the industry to tackle this problem is to deliver compelling ad experiences that consumers won’t want to block.”

Trump’s Proposed Income Bracket Could Rattle Low and Middle-Income Americans

The average real estate investor makes far more than the average American, with one-third making more than $75,000 per year. One former mogul, however, stands out as one of the richest in the world. President Donald Trump has taken a massive pay cut to become the leader of the free world and has proposed a willingness to lift middle America out of poverty by boosting industry and providing the biggest corporate tax breaks since the Reagan administration.

Since Americans are preparing to file their taxes for the 2016 calendar year, this is becoming more and more pressing. Under ordinary income tax brackets, the more taxable income you earn, the more money you owe the IRS. Under the current tax bracket system, the majority of Americans fall within the 15% range — or the second lowest — and make between $13,351 and $50,800 per year.

President Trump has proposed reducing federal income tax rates from seven brackets to just three: 12%, 25%, and 33%. Under this system, the poorest Americans would pay more in income tax, while the top two income brackets would get a significant cut.

“For many middle-income taxpayers, the new standard deduction [under Trump’s proposal] may exceed their itemized deductions,” said Timothy Speiss, chairman of personal wealth advisors at accounting firm EisnerAmper. This, in turn, would allow them to have a higher tax deduction.

But this isn’t all cut-and-dry, of course. And not all middle-income taxpayers would benefit.

The plan also calls for the repeal of personal exemptions for taxpayers and their dependents, while also proposing to repeal the head of household filing status. Because of this, single parents with children will have to pay more in income taxes, as will married households with more than three dependents.

Some basic income advocates are optimistic about where these tax reforms will lead.

“People feel uncertain and anxious about the future,” Jim Pugh, CEO of Share Progress and co-founder of the Universal Income Project. Because Americans are hungry for change, Pugh believes that Trump may be able to use the uncertainty to project nationwide income reform and help kickstart the otherwise grassroots movement toward universal income.

But many others are far more skeptical. Trump has said time and time again that he wants to bring industry and manufacturing back to the U.S. but has failed to mention the threat of automation.

“Enacting basic income would help to revitalize parts of the country hit hardest by outsourcing and automation by spurring entrepreneurship in those areas,” Pugh also says. In theory, universal income would help improve the business sector and help lift people out of poverty.

Being just a couple weeks into Trump’s administration, it’s hard to tell which direction he may lean toward. Under the proposed tax bracket, it appears that the majority of middle-income Americans may be spared, but the poor will continue to suffer as they have before, maybe even more so.

Keep Calm and Moose On: How Volvo’s New Technology Has Prevented Moose-Related Car Crashes Globally

For the average car driver, the biggest risks on the road are other drivers acting erratically and the occasional storm. But, Swedish carmaker Volvo believes there is a not-so-hidden risk out there for drivers in the northern part of the globe: the moose.

The automaker has recently developed technology that is meant to protect drivers from wildlife getting in the way of their Sunday drive. Their Large Animal Detection System has been created to spot and identify large carbon-based “hazards” and stop the car immediately. While created with moose in mind, this detection software can stop any car from colliding with large animals such as kangaroos, deer, or bears.

While some may laugh envisioning moose as an ample threat against drivers, this technology has the ability to save lives. It was developed to reduce the number of fatalities — both human and moose — due to distracted driving. In fact, moose-related car crashes are a growing problem not only in the United States but in other northern countries such as Canada and Sweden. According to How Stuff Works, between 1996 and 2006, 17 people died from moose-related car crashes, but the moose seem to have it worse that we do, as about 138 moose die every year from cars in Anchorage, Alaska alone.

So how does it work? Volvo’s system utilizes radar to pinpoint objects around the car, then identifies them with a camera. The camera will see a seriesva-car of shapes and movements and then match what it sees to the already established database of thousands of different animals. It will then slowly start the car’s automatic braking system.

In order to make the system successful, Volvo engineers dedicated a lot of time to researching how animals move in the wild.

“We put a lot of effort in seeing how animals moved and teaching the computer to look for that movement,” Volvo lead safety engineer Malin Ekholm explains to Wired. You can’t just tell a moose to run across the road, so we created initial captures of real animals and then simulated variations of their movement for the computer.”

Volvo is so serious about the risk of moose that they have a test moose in their crash laboratory, and design their cars with structural defenses in case someone does come in contact with these gentle giants.

This system debuted in Volvo’s S90 Sedan and XC90 SUV, and can now be found in their off-roading V90 Cross Country Wagon.

To the moose of the world, this is for you.