Monthly Archives: September 2016

What Happens When a Chocolate Giant and Social Media Maven Forms a Partnership? Chocolate For Everybody

Digital marketing is a growing global trend. In 2014, companies spent 25% of their total marketing budgets on digital platforms, and that figure is projected to increase to 75% within the next five years. It’s not just smaller companies who are trying to reach consumers in unique ways. Large corporations that are household names, too.

Take Nestle for example. The monolithic producer of chocolate is reeling from the shortage of chocolate consumption globally. According to Euromonitor, the chocolate market in the U.S.– the world’s largest– peaked in 2005 and has been on a steady decline for the past decade.

Each year, chocolate production decreases three percent. While this may look like a small number, it can represent millions of dollars in lost revenue for Nestle. Consequently, the company is switching gears and looking for newDark chocolate ways to reach their clientele.

It turns out that partnering up with the social media giant Facebook may be the answer. Nestle is using the application Facebook at Work, Facebook’s enterprise network that allows businesses to post comments and update users on new ad campaigns.

Using Facebook at Work is one way for Nestle to offer around the clock service to customers on the social media platform. In addition to the optimized customer service, the chocolate giant is able to experiment with new digital marketing techniques and receive live feedback.

The partnership between Facebook and Nestle has created specific brand campaigns only for the eyes of Facebook users. Nestle is able to utilize Facebook’s immense consumer reach and target campaigns for different users
, for example utilizing a high-resolution version of an add meant for western markets, and another that used less data for consumers in India with smaller data plans.

“This has been a journey for us in evolving the creative skill set for new environments,” Nestle’s global head of marketing Tom Buday said to Ad Week. We don’t want creative development to become an engineering exercise because it’s not a perfect science. But properly harnessing the data that we do have available to us is an incredibly powerful thing.”

Travel Much? Here Are a Few Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep on Vacation

sleepSleeping in a new place can be tough, especially if you’re traveling on and off all year. In fact, approximately 60 million individuals in the U.S. alone suffer from sleep disorders or sleep deprivation, both of which are sometimes made worse by travel.

Interestingly enough, a new study was just published that helps explain that phenomenon.

According to researchers from Brown University, it’s because the brain stays partially awake when sleeping in a new place for the first time.

Researchers observed the brain activity of 35 young, healthy individuals during deep sleep, and found that during the first night of sleep in a new environment, the left hemisphere of the brain stays partially active.

They deemed the activity a sort of “night watch” for the brain.

Because the environment is so new, and we’re most vulnerable when sleeping, the brain stays partially alert in the event that a potentially dangerous situation occurs.

However, that opens up the question as to if there is a way to get a good night’s sleep while traveling.

According to Rebecca Robbins, The Benjamin Hotel’s sleep expert, there is a way to get those 40 winks when you’re sleeping somewhere new.

Travel-induced insomnia is something the luxury hotel in Manhattan takes very seriously. In fact, they even hired a sleep concierge to help answer any slumber-related questions or concerns that guests may have.

In addition, the hotel sought the expertise of sleep researcher, consultant, and Sleep For Success author Rebecca Robbins to further assist in their quest for restful nights for all guests.

Robbins said that the first step to sleeping well in any space is to make yourself feel like you’re at home. Take a picture of family or friends with you, and a few other essential items from your personal environment.

She’s also a strong advocate of snacks before bed, but never alcohol.

“The term nightcap drives me crazy! It’s the worst thing you can do before bed. Alcohol is one of what I like to call the three cardinal sins of sleep, which are stress, stimulants, and screens before bed,” she explained. “Alcohol is an REM sleep inhibitor—it pulls your body out of rapid-eye movement sleep, which is where all of the benefits of sleep come in to play.”

She also advised against taking any red eye flights — no matter how tempting they may be — because they can seriously destroy a sleep schedule.

She said that when traveling to a new time zone, everyone should do some preparation. “Start about five days before your trip starts, and pull your bedtime back 15 minutes each night. That’ll help you adjust and ease your transition.”

Adhering to Robbins’s sleep tips just may help you get a better night’s sleep when traveling, but it doesn’t change the fact that subconscious instincts may still keep your brain partially awake.

Researchers observed that mammals like whales, dolphins, and birds exhibit the same kind of behavior.

OSHA Launches Pilot Program For Whistleblower Violators in Region VII

oshaUnder the False Claims Act, those who submit or coerce another person to submit false claims for government funds are liable for severe penalties, including civil penalties up to $11,000 for each false claim made. False claims and whistleblower laws are no joke, and OSHA is cracking down in Region VII.

OSHA has recently launched a pilot program in Region VII and titled it W-SVEP. The program became effective May 27, 2016.

W-SXVEP was designed by OSHA as an enforcement mechanism for alleged severe violators of whistleblower retaliation regulations. Region VII includes employers in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska, and those companies under federal enforcement in Iowa.

The program is modeled after another violator program: the National Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which puts employers on a public log for certain alleged violations of OSHA safety regulations.

OSHA has elaborated that employers will only be placed on the W-SVEP log if certain criteria are met first.

However, this isn’t the first time OSHA has put its foot down when it comes to whistleblower retaliation and violation.

Earlier this month, OSHA fined one company $105,000 due to their retaliation against an employee who had brought up mold concerns.

IFCO Services N.A. (IFCO) agreed to pay the fee violating Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act when it ended the employment of Debra Walters, an office manager who had put forth a complaint about mold exposure.

When Walters alerted management to the suspected mold that was growing behind a series of filing cabinets, the company failed to take any corrective or preventative action.

After an anonymous complaint was sent by Walters to OSHA, the company ran tests and found active toxigenic mold growth behind the filing cabinets. However, they still took no action, even when Walters raised concerns once more.

Shortly after, Walters was terminated from her position at IFCO. Fortunately, an investigation led OSHA to bring a whistleblower retaliation complaint against IFCO under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Though this situation was resolved, many others haven’t been, which is partly why OSHA has the new pilot program.

If companies have any significant whistleblower cases related to a fatality, work-related injuries, or have more than three merit whistleblower cases within the past three years, they are subject to the W-SVEP log.

Home Fire in Maine Started by Puppy Knocking Over Candle

Firefighters in Maine managed to rescue a deaf man from his apartment just moments before the entire unit was engulfed in flames.

Fire teams were called to the scene at 4 Berwick Road in Berwick, Maine, around 3:48 a.m. on August 28. The building was an old house with five units inside.

“When we got there, the left side of the building was pretty much fully involved,” said Deputy Chief Bruce Plante of the Berwick Fire Department. “Everybody got out, but then they told us someone was still in the back apartment, so two of our firefighters went in. The individual was handicapped — he was deaf — and they had to go in and kick in the door and get him and the cat out.”

The rescued man reported no injuries, though another tenant, James Auger, was sent to Massachusetts General Hospital for burn treatments after attempting to put out the fire himself.

The fire reportedly started after a puppy knocked over a burning candle in Auger and his wife’s apartment on the first floor of the building. The couple reportedly tried to put water on the flames, but it spread too quickly for them to control.

“They grabbed the puppy and got out,” Deputy Chief Plante said.

By the time the fire department arrived on the scene, they had to resort to a “defensive” attack against the spreading flames. About 75 firefighters from 17 departments across two states were deployed to combat the fire, which took until about 8:30 a.m. to clear.

Candle fires were responsible for around 9,300 home fires between 2009 and 2013, resulting in 86 deaths, 827 injuries, and $374 million in damage. Authorities say that Auger’s injuries were the only human casualties; about six cats and one dog died in the fire.

The Red Cross will assist the five families displaced by the fire.

New Research Tries to Debunk Fad Diets and Their Power Over Dieters

Obesity is an epidemic all throughout the country as more than two in three adults are considered to be overweight or obese. Consequently, many try to adopt fad diets because they promote fast results, but new research shows this is not the case.

A team of scientists from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School have published a study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine discussing celiac disease and gluten-free dietary trends between 2009 and 2014. They found that a whopping 60% of peopleFit woman measuring her waistline with a tape adhering to this type of diet do not have celiac disease, so their dietary habits are ineffective.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes an extreme sensitivity to gluten. Gluten is a mixture of two proteins that is found in many breads, pastas, and grains. Suffering from this disorder can include problems with the digestive and musculoskeletal systems, and can be extremely painful.

The research team analyzed samples from 22,278 individuals. Each person underwent a blood test for celiac disease and answered questions about previous diagnosis of the disease and dietary trends.

Their results were consistent with nationwide statistics. They found that there were only 106 people in the sample who suffered from the disease, and 213 people were gluten-free despite not suffering from celiac’s. Nationwide, about 2.7 million Americans avoid gluten, while only 1.76 million actually have gluten sensitivity.

Dietitian Judi Adams explains to USA Today that because some people choose the diet when they do not have any systems of gluten intolerance, these diets are not working. Considering the fact that these fad diets are becoming trendy, people are using them for all the wrong reasons and actually gain weight on the program.

Adams says, “Some people choose the diet because of a non-celiac gluten sensitivity or irritable bowel syndrome, but the people who are using it as a cleansing diet or calorie-controlled diet are using it as a fad diet, and as we all know fad diets do not work long-term.”

This false information leads many dieters to eat what they want under the premise of it being healthy. In fact 90% of U.S. households regularly indulge in a sweet, frozen treat, but according to nutritionist Rachel Begun, these desserts are just that — desserts. As reported in USA Today, she breaks it down by saying “A gluten-free cookie is still a cookie, not a health food.”

Unfortunately, fad diets are becoming all too commonplace. Dieters across the world have been following the trends under the promises of becoming leaner and more toned and for short-term weight losses.

To help dieters understand the uselessness of these diets, an obesity doctor and health researcher have paired together in an effort to dispel some of these rumors.

Yoni Freedhoff and Kevin Hall have published an easy to read graphic in The Lancet that shows the true futility of paleo, low-carb, and gluten free diets. Their results are shocking, as all three diets give the same weak results and amount to only a few pounds of weight loss in the long run.

Their graphic says it all. In comparing the low-fat, low-carb, and Mediterranean diet, a dieter will be able to see a a steep drop in weight within the first six months. But then, the weight slowly comes back and plateaus. Once the dieters reach the two-year mark, their results are pretty much the same, as there was only a four pound weight loss difference between low-carb dieters and low-fat dieters.

Additionally, the graph shows how dieters are unable to cope with their energy intake. The overall trend is that they cannot handle such a steep drop in calories, so they slowly eat more until their energy levels plateaus and mirrors their weight loss.

“Crowning a diet king because it delivers a clinically meaningless difference in bodyweight fuels diet hype, not diet help,” write the authors. “It’s high time we started helping.”

Regulators Sue Vanguard Healthcare Over Quality of Care at its Facilities

doctorApproximately 97% of all urgent care centers operate seven days a week, but a full 100% of nursing home facilities must do so. However, one nursing care chain is now facing a lawsuit because of quality of care issues in some of its 13 facilities across the nation.

Regulators are suing Vanguard Healthcare, a well-known nursing care chain follow accusations that the business provided poor patient care to its residents, costing government insurance programs tens of millions of dollars.

The lawsuit, filed by officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, stated that the Tennessee-based company provided a level of care for patients that “caused serious physical and emotional harm to highly vulnerable elderly, disabled and low-income residents at [its] facilities.”

Vanguard Healthcare, which operates facilities in Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia that have a combined capacity of 1,587 patient beds, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

Now, in the midst of new legal issues, government officials are pushing the nursing home operator to repay approximately $56 million in damages to the governmen.

In the court papers, health inspectors stated they found that nursing home staff failed to provide standard infection control, which led to multiple UTIs among residents.

“Residents remained in soiled beds, and without bathing for long periods, among other problems,” the lawsuit stated.

Unfortunately, Vanguard isn’t the only entity providing sub-standard care to its residents.

Combined, the 1,200 nursing homes in Texas have experienced a 20% increase in health-standard violations from 2010 to 2014.

Texas officials working with the nursing homes all agree that it comes down to one thing in their case: money.

The Texas Health Care Association commissioned the report in an effort to highlight what the industry considers a crisis in funding.

“Everyone wants to see quality of care improved,” association president Kevin Warren said in an interview. “And studies show there are costs associated with that. We have to be willing to invest in caring for the elderly.”

It’s a tough time to ask for money, but officials across the state agree that significant and decisive changes need to be made in order to discourage bad behavior from continuing.

While its possible that financial change may be pushed in Texas very soon, it’s unlikely that Vanguard will receive the same kind of support, if any.

Since the filing, Vanguard officials have closed their biggest offending facility in Nashville, Tennessee.

Sustainability is Chic: Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle Your Wedding

It seems that across the globe, recycling is becoming chicer and chicer. It’s now trendy to recycle everything from extra newspapers to wedding leftovers.

Wedding leftovers?
recycle
Lately, more and more couples are choosing to have the leftover materials from their wedding remade into something new, beautiful, and unique to make Mother Nature happy. After all, the Knot’s 2014 Real Weddings Study showed that the average number of wedding guests is 136 people. With that many people, the party is bound to generate a ton of refuse.

Recycling can basically be categorized using the three Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle. These terms classify waste management techniques according to the desirability of each item, and anything from wedding flowers, wedding decor, and
wedding dresses can be put into these three categories.

Wedding planner Jennifer Grove of Ohio sees it all the time. Gorgeous wedding flowers are artfully arranged into flower bouquets and centerpieces, but are then thrown out after the reception. This bothered Grove, who thought there must be a better way to reuse these beautiful blooms. So, she decided to start Repeat Roses.

Repeat Roses reuses wedding flowers and gives the finished products to those who could use a little bit more color and cheer in their lives
. Namely, the elderly in nursing homes and those sick in hospitals.

The way the organization works is simple. During the wedding planning process, brides and grooms call Repeat Roses and express their desire to donate their flowers. Repeat Roses then stops by the wedding at the end of the night, divides the flowers into smaller bouquets, and delivers the arrangements to hospice facilities, homeless shelters, and nursing homes.

Not only does the organization hand-deliver the flowers, they also reclaim the flowers a few days after delivery so the plants can be composted to eliminate as much waste as possible.

“Our goal is to make it easy to incorporate an eco-friendly element to any corporate event or wedding plan while making a positive social impact,” Grove explains to WKYC.com. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a very unique opportunity combining kindness and sustainability in one service — giving back to the community and giving back to nature.”

In addition to the possibility of reusing the flowers, there’s one other factor that couples must consider when choosing their flowers — their color! Traditionally, red carnations symbolize deep love, white represents pure love, and yellow represents rejection. But no matter what color is chosen, they can surely be reused — and best of all, flowers aren’t the only wedding detail that can be reused either!

It’s no secret that wedding dresses are a huge expense for any big day, but not if you use reclaimed materials.

British bride Hester Cox, a print maker, always envisioned wearing something unique for her wedding day. Once she ran into fellow artist Sara Jane Murray, she found exactly what she was looking for: a dress made of World War II escape maps.

Murray owns a business where she makes home decorations out of maps. She collaborated with Cox to make the dress special for Cox’s wedding day. The bride chose maps of significant importance, and because the military maps were printed on silk, Cox was able to design the dress however she wanted. Both artists chose to remodel a 1940s style dress and lined the skirt in turquoise to match the fabric of the silk maps.

Cox told ABCNews that her dress was the hit of the day, saying “A few people didn’t realize it was actually made from real maps and there were a few jokes about me ‘escaping & evading’ my husband. He loves the dress and I intend to wear it again.”

Other brides are choosing to give their traditional white dresses to those in need. A Jacksonville mother who was grieving the loss of her stillborn son founded Tiny Treasures Sewing Club that transforms donated wedding dresses into keepsakes for mourning parents.

Keisha Mosley was struggling with the loss of her son Noah after he was born stillborn at 32 weeks. She didn’t know where to turn and was having a hard time socializing with other parents after her loss. So, she turned to Tiny Treasures as a way to connect with other grieving families. This group of volunteers turns wedding dresses into “angel gowns” that can be used as burial outfits, in remembrance photos, or simply as keepsakes.

Overall, Mosley believes these angel gowns are able to give messages of understanding to other families and can serve as a reminder that someone understands their pain.

“I want them to know they’re not alone,” Mosley told Jacksonville.com. “I know how much that would have meant to me.”

This group of volunteers is comprised of mothers, support group members, and hospital staff, none of whom first knew each other. Now, they serve as a respite for those grieving with personal battles, and have made dozens of angel gowns out of beaded bodices, lace sleeves, and scalloped trains.

Do you know of any other ways to make that special day a bit more sustainable? Let us know!

IRS Fails to Notify Tax Payers That Their Identities Were Stolen, Inspector General Finds

Most know it’s important to take proper care of tax documents to prevent identity theft. You need to install firewalls and security software to prevent hackers from getting your tax information digitally, and shred credit card statements 45 days after they’ve been received. But what’s most unsettling is that even if we do take all these measures to protect ourselves against fraud, the Internal Revenue Service does not notify tax payers that someone stole their identities.

Earlier this week, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a press release explaining that the IRS hasn’t notified approximately 1 million of victims of employment-related identity theft.

According to their press releaseLock on background with HEX-code, this specific type of fraud happens when a person uses a stolen Social Security number when seeking employment.

The TIGTA states that a person may first realize that they have become a victim when they receive a notice from the IRS about a disparity on their tax returns. The IRS uses an automatic system to locate these discrepancies, but they have no procedures in place to actually notify the victims and sometimes these letters do not get sent out.

Between February 2011 to December 2015, the IRS found about 1.1 million victims of employment-related identity theft, and the organization began a program to notify victims. However, the plan was canceled without reason.

Additionally, the IRS has not developed a system to alert the Social Security Administration of fraudulent cases. Shockingly, TIGTA found that the SSA has no records of receiving an IRS notice for a whopping 21% of identity theft cases in 2013.

All in all, the TIGTA projected that the IRS failed to notify the SSA of incorrect wages in 397 cases.

So, what happens now? The TIGTA gave four recommendations to the IRA to fix their shortcomings. First, they recommend that the IRS develop processes and procedures to notify all those whose identities were stolen before January 2017.

The second recommendation was implementing a tracking process to ensure that the forms required to notify the SSA of wages that have been fraudulently reported are completed as soon as a discrepancy is found.

The third was to notify the SS of the specific identity theft cases discovered by the TIGTA in its review, which was completed on July 20, 2016.

The fourth recommendation was withheld from the official statement.

U.S. Drunk Driving Epidemic Continues

The drunk driving epidemic continues in this country. A few decades ago, nearly half of all traffic deaths were caused by alcohol. Since then, we’ve lowered that number to about 30%, but that’s it. It’s been 30% for years and that number is simply not good enough.

In 2015, there were 10,265 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the United States. That’s nearly one-third of all traffic deaths.

“When you look at the fatalities, it’s almost unreliable that, as a country, we’re willing to let it continue to happen,” said Deborah A.P. Herman, president and chief executive of the National Safety Council (NSC).

According to The Huffington Post, more people are dying out on the roads than ever before. The uptick in the amount of drivers on the road, cheap gasoline, and a propitious economy all contribute to the densely populated roadways, but drunk driving is still causing far too many deaths.

One way to significantly lower the drunk driving fatalities in the U.S. is to have stricter government policies on the issue. Universal laws that would require all drunk driving offenders to have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicle would surely lower the number of traffic deaths.

These devices would require a driver to blow into it and if there is any indication that the driver has been drinking, the vehicle will not be able to start.

“There’s a mountain of data now that show interlock laws work,” said J.T. Griffin, chief government affairs officer at Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Although all 50 states have some sort of interlock device law, only 23 require all offenders to use them. West Virginia implemented a stricter policy in 2008, and since then, the drunk driving deaths in WV have plummeted by 50%.

“These laws are really critical for states to pass,” Griffin added.

Interlock laws would be a great step forward, but both MADD and the NSC agree that law enforcement needs to step up its campaigns to successfully identity, pull over, and arrest drunk drivers.

Every day, people drive drunk nearly 300,000 times, but only 4,000 or less are arrested and the average drunk driver drives drunk approximately 80 times before they get arrested.

“You can drive from D.C. to California and halfway back, drunk, before you get caught,” Hersman added.

Annual Mothman Festival Prepares for Record Number of Patrons This Year

mothman statueThe 15th annual Mothman festival is less than a month away, and this year, organizers are expecting the attraction to drawa record number of people to join in on the festivities.

Denny Bellamy, director of the Mason County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said he expects the record number of visitors will be the result of several different factors.

One of those factors is the 50-year anniversary of the first alleged Mothman sighting in Mason County, West Virginia.

He also said that the festival, now in its 15th year, continues to draw larger crowds each year.

“We typically see 5,000 people [at the festival], this year we’re looking at 8,000 to 9,000,” Bellamy said.

According to the festival’s Facebook page, there are already over 13,000 people interested in attending. Parking has been an issue for the festival in the past, but if even half of those interested show up, parking could turn into an even bigger issue.

However, the festival is making plans to expand this year, as they’ve experienced some congestion in the past.

“We want the festival to stretch from one end [of Main Street] to the other, not just be contained to one area,” Bellamy said.

The festival is constantly adding new attractions, as well. They even premiered the inaugural Mothman GeoTrail event this year, which was met with great success.

The geocaching event brought in over 350 people from 13 different states, according to organizer Jacob Farley.

The event was met with so much success that Farley and fellow organizers plan to bring it back next year andmake it bigger than ever.

Farley said he hopes to make it a “mega event,” spanning the course of several days and just prior to the annual Mothman festival.

In an effort to better publicize next year’s event, Farley will be at the Mason County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau booth at the Mothman Festival.

In addition to the geocaching event, the Mothman festival will be featuring activities like inflatables for kids, tram ride tours, and horse and carriage rides. The average carriage ride in Central Park lasts about 40 minutes, but these may turn out a bit shorter for those who want to get back to the festivities right away.

Cosplayers are also encouraged to attend in costume to celebrate over the weekend. A professional Mothman cosplayer will even be available for selfies throughout the festival.

The 15th annual Mothman festival will be occurring from September 17 – 18 this year.