Console & Hollawell Blog
A Good Diet May Prevent Alzheimer’s
Do you worry about aging? A good many people say “I’m not afraid of growing old; I’m afraid of losing my memory.” Of course Alzheimer’s disease is far more serious than simply “losing your memory,” but here’s the question – can this disorder be prevented?
Research seems to suggest that if you adopt a healthy lifestyle, you can stave off a lot of diseases, even Alzheimer’s. Nutrition may be the key, and in a way, it makes sense. Your muscles and organs respond favorably to a good diet. Your brain is an organ, so why wouldn’t it also respond?
You’ve no doubt heard fish described as “brain food,” and that’s not just an urban legend. Fish, especially fatty fish, contains Omega 3 acids that are believed to improve brain function. You can get Omega 3 from salmon, sardines, and tuna. If you’re not overly fond of fish, you can take a fish oil capsule to get the same benefits. Dark berries like blueberries, cranberries and raspberries are also believed to improve brain function because they’re rich in antioxidants. Soy and ginger are also beneficial.
Have a Cup of Tea!
Almost any type of tea is also antioxidant-rich. Green tea is the best, but black and red are also beneficial. And if you’re one of those people who just can’t manage without a cup of java in the morning, there’s more good news – coffee isn’t quite as rich in antioxidants as tea, but it’s still pretty powerful.
Don’t Forget to Exercise
Your doctor has probably been on your case about getting enough exercise, and with good reason. The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation has conducted research that suggests that regular exercise can cut your risk of Alzheimer’s by a whopping 50%!
Is It Too Late?
If you or someone you love is already experiencing cognitive deterioration, take heart. A diet that is rich in Omega 3 and antioxidants can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. And even if you’ve neglected your health, and been fairly sedentary, it’s not too late. Start eating right, and go for a walk once in a while. Keep in mind, too, that even everyday tasks like gardening or housework will provide a bit of exercise.
The Final Word
Until there’s a cure, you should take all possible measures to prevent Alzheimer’s and to slow its development. Get active, eat right and stay healthy!
In 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama began advocating for changes to nutrition labels on packaged beverages and food. The FDA is now considering changing labels to show added sugars and other nutrients, along with the total calories. Some applaud the initiative, while others feel that it goes too far, involving the government in the way we eat.
Americans love living in the “land of the free,” but is “the home of the brave” coming to mean being brave enough to stand up to an ever-increasing nanny state? Of course we need laws, but some people fear (perhaps justifiably) that the regulations with which we are required to comply are becoming overly oppressive. This view may not be entirely without merit – this January alone, more than 40,000 new laws came into effect.
In the face of new laws being enacted on almost a daily basis, you might be justified if you’re thinking “I’m not a criminal right now, but sooner or later, the law is going to make a criminal out of me.” You do your best to try to lead a decent life, and do what is right, but then you hear about laws like these:
- In many states you are not permitted to collect the rain that falls in a barrel or other container. You could be harmed by bacteria.
- Further restrictions on things that you like to drink: all across the country it is illegal to sell milk from your cow to your neighbor. Milk must be regulated so that people don’t sell or buy tainted milk.
- Federal law prohibits the operation of a train that does not have an “F” painted on the engine’s front. Otherwise, one would assume, you won’t know if you’re looking at an oncoming train.
- Nation-wide, kids are being prohibited from operating lemonade stands because they don’t have the proper permits. One wouldn’t want to consume nasty lemonade, would one?
These are just a few examples, and you have to wonder if these laws are really for our protection, or if it’s just a matter of a nanny state gone wild? Are our lives better when they’re regulated over every little thing?
Of course laws are intended to regulate our behavior. But legislating to the lowest common denominator isn’t the answer, and it opens up the possibility of horrendous infringements on our rights and freedoms. Most dictators start out with good intentions – in fact, Muammar Gaddafi started out with good intentions, and believed that his people loved him right up until the day they killed him because they couldn’t trust him with their freedoms and their right to liberty.
The final word, in our opinion, is that our founding fathers almost certainly didn’t intend a nanny state.
As US citizens, it’s our duty to obey the laws of the land – even the ones that aren’t to our personal liking. Some laws, however, simply defy common sense. Here are 14 unbelievable laws, covering various areas of our lives. If you break them, then you are in violation, but we doubt you’ll ever be prosecuted.
- In Rhode Island, retailers are prohibited from selling both a toothbrush and toothpaste to the same customer on Sunday. Other days of the week, you can even throw in dental floss if you like.
- In Texas, it is illegal to sell your eyeballs. This is presumably the case on any day of the week.
- In North Carolina, it is against the law to sing off-key.
- Also in North Carolina, bingo games can’t last any longer than five hours. We imagine that if you’re singing off-key at a six-hour bingo game, you’re really in trouble.
Our Animal Friends
- In Wyoming, you require an official permit in order to take a picture of a rabbit in the months of January through April.
- If you asked a chicken in Quitman, Georgia, why he or she crossed the road, the response might be “Because I’m a scofflaw.” The town prohibits chickens from crossing roads.
- In Paulding, Ohio, police officers are permitted to bite dogs, but only if they think such an action will have a calming effect on the animal. Sure, that could work.
- In Indiana, citizens are prohibited from using public transport or attending public events within four hours of eating garlic or onions. Actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea!
- In Gainesville, Georgia, the only lawful method of eating fried chicken is with your hands.
- It is illegal to drive a red car down Lake Street in Minneapolis.
- In Waynesboro, Virginia, a woman can’t drive a car down Main Street unless her husband precedes her, waving a red flag. We don’t know what the law requires if the woman is single.
- If you’re driving into Washington, DC and you intend to commit a crime, you have to stop at the city limits, phone the chief of police and let him/her know what you’re planning. Pedestrians, we suppose, are on the honor system.
What the Heck?
Finally, two that just seem to defy categorization.
- Back to Washington, DC again – you can be arrested or fined if you harass Bigfoot.
- In Arkansas, it is illegal to pronounce “Arkansas” incorrectly.
Is Too Much Screen Time Harming Your Family Relationships?
It is a common sight to see people focused on their phone or tablet in public settings, and you can often see children pacified with digital media in the car, at the doctor’s office, at the grocery store, and at home. As a parent, are you creating an environment where your kids are hooked on electronic media?
Pros and Cons of Digital Media
The digital world is beneficial in many ways, but too much screen time is having a negative impact on face-to-face relationships. Children and teens spend their days zoned out sending text messages or playing video games, instead of interacting with their friends and family in the real world.
It is convenient to be able to talk with someone immediately over text message or email, and these tools can be powerful when used in the right setting. The problem is that too much screen time can actually impair a child’s growth, on an emotional, social, and intellectual level.
Addictive Nature of Screen Time
In a world that demands instant gratification and unlimited information at our fingertips, it’s hard to imagine life without a smartphone or laptop. The constant pull of the online world can have an addictive nature though, and some people find it hard to go 10 minutes without glancing at their phone.
If parents aren’t proactive with family rules for screen time, it is easy to let your children slip into this addictive behavior.
Tips for Managing Screen Time
Setting household rules can be an effective way to help you manage screen time for yourself and your family. Here are a few suggestions that you might use in your home:
- No televisions or computers in the bedroom. Online surfing shouldn’t be a private activity.
- Smartphones should be silenced and put away during diner. Dinnertime is an opportunity to talk and connect with the family.
- Laptops, tablets, and phones need to be turned off and stored for safekeeping at bedtime.
- Set a certain amount of time that your children can have screen time each day. Enforce the limits, and remind them that screen time is a privilege.
Keep in mind that these addictive habits are applicable for both adults and children, so it is important to monitor your own screen time in order to set a good example for your kids.
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The Key to Longevity is Age Management—And You’re in the Driver’s Seat
When it comes to living a longer, more youthful life, people will try just about anything, from deep-freezing themselves, to hormone boosts, to IV therapy. Gerontologists like Aubrey de Grey—who has said that the first person to live to 1,000 is already alive today—are well-funded by venture capitalists hoping to cure old age.
It’s a worthy cause. By 2029 the U.S. Census expects that every American baby boomer will be at least 65 years old, accounting for more than 20 percent of the total population. A cure to aging would eliminate a lot of health problems, many of which stem from the degenerative processes of aging. It’s no surprise the field of longevity and age management is being explored on many fronts, including genomics and stem cell therapies.
While it might be tempting to follow the lifestyles of the rich and famous and try some oxygen therapy or hormone boosts, many of the treatments are not backed by much—if any—science. Yet. As research is done and the age management field expands, there just might be anti-aging storefronts alongside hair salons or built into day spas. Getting cryotherapy—sitting in a sub-zero chamber for three minutes—may one day be as common as going for a massage.
But science is not there yet. The possible side effects of some of treatments are daunting, and the prices are not in everyone’s budget. Besides, some of the best age management tools are 100 percent backed by science and are 100 percent free. Start each of these today and you’ll be building up anti-aging stamina that is guaranteed to point you in the direction of longevity.
How to Look And Feel Younger Starting Now. Anti-Aging Secrets Revealed:
- Sleep. We all wish for more sleep but it’s the first to go when our schedules are packed. That’s a mistake our health can’t afford. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that getting less than 7 hours of shut-eye is linked to serious medical conditions like heart disease, and wellness practitioners say too little sleep actually speeds up the aging process. Make time for your zzz’s and you’ll get a boost to your immune system, your memory, your creativity and more.
- Eat. Gaining weight as we age is so common, it seems like a guaranteed side effect that we wake up with one day. But it doesn’t have to be, and for anyone trying to manage their own aging process, this hand-to-mouth issue is a key component. Health can’t be achieved by skipping meals and living on processed foods. Look up a healthy diet. You’ll be amazed by how much food you’ll have to eat everyday. You’ll be too full for junk food. WebMD reports what has become almost commonsense: the best anti-aging foods are piles of produce, lean protein and Omega-3 rich fish.
- Meditate. The brain never gets to rest—not even during sleep. Meditation shuts off the incessant chatter in our heads and the resulting calm is said to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and boost mood, among other positives. Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, found that meditating for only 8 weeks significantly changed the brain’s grey matter—a major part of the central nervous system associated with processing information, as well as providing nutrients and energy to neurons. The research on the health benefits of meditation is just starting but it’s all positive, all a boost to wellness and longevity.
- Move. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), lack of exercise can lead to increased hospitalizations, more trips to the doctor, and lots of medications to treat multiple illnesses. Further, the NIH indicates that exercise not only helps prevent numerous diseases, but also is an effective treatment for many chronic conditions like heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. Study after study documents improvement in cognitive function; better stress management; decreased depression; increased energy; and even improved sexual activity and function. See your doctor, then get moving. There are movement opportunities for everyone.
Perhaps the age management pioneers and longevity entrepreneurs will devise ways to reverse aging and the nasty side effects that go with it. But no matter what they devise, the time-tested, commonsense tools of proper sleep, food, meditation and movement will always be the gateway to the fountain of youth.
These five dangers could threaten your family’s Independence Day fun.
With Independence Day rapidly approaching, there’s an endless array of barbecues, parades, pool parties, and firework displays on the way. Visitors from across the state and across the nation will make a massive pilgrimage to the shore, clogging up highways, filling the sidewalks with swarms of inattentive pedestrians, and crowding boardwalks and amusement parks to full capacity. And with the national holiday falling on a Saturday, many people have extended weekends off from work – and plans to celebrate the Fourth all weekend long.
There are so many things to love about Fourth of July celebrations, but there are also dangers that could put your family’s safety at risk. Here are the top five hazards that threaten to turn your festive holiday into a red, white, and blue catastrophe.
Drunk Driving Dangers
There’s nothing wrong with adults of legal age having a couple drinks at a barbecue – as long as they’re not driving, that is. After numerous anti-drunk driving campaigns like “driver sober or get pulled over,” you might think drivers would have gotten the message by now that the dangers of driving impaired far outweigh any possible benefit.
Yet statistics show that Independence Day remains among the deadliest holidays of the year in terms of drunk driving accidents. In 2013 – the last year for which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has complete data – 199 people died in accidents involving drunk drivers during Fourth of July weekend. Statistics like this make the celebrations seem a little less festive, don’t they?
Obviously, choosing not to drive while under the influence of alcohol can prevent you from causing a crash. You also need to know that even though you’re making the right choice, the unfortunate reality is that other people on the road might not be.
- If you encounter a fellow driver behaving erratically – swerving, speeding, ignoring traffic signs and signals, or doing anything else that seems like a red flag – put plenty of distance between yourself and the unpredictable motorist.
- If you can do so safely, either by pulling over or having a passenger do it for you, call local authorities to report the dangerous driver. You might just save a life.
The Risks of Fireworks
Few things say “summer celebration” or “American patriotism” like fireworks displays. In fact, Americans have been celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks for as long as there’s been an Independence Day to celebrate – since the first anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, way back in 1777.
Just as there’s a long history of fireworks to commemorate the holiday, there’s also a long history of people getting hurt by them. Victims of fireworks accidents suffer third-degree burns on their hands. They lose their vision, or even entire eyes. In a single year, more than 10,000 Americans get hurt using fireworks – and as many as 65 percent of them get hurt in the month surrounding the Fourth of July, according to the United States federal government.
- Going to a professional display is by far the safest way to enjoy fireworks, but make sure you stand far enough away to avoid being in the danger zone. (How close is too close to a fireworks show?)
- Use plenty of caution if you’re handling consumer fireworks in a place where it’s legal to do so – and realize that “legal” doesn’t translate to “harmless.” Even though the law may allow you to light consumer fireworks in your state, playing with explosives is still dangerous.
- For your own sake, please, don’t ever attempt to light consumer fireworks illegally. Not only can you receive hefty fines and potentially even jail time (depending on the state), but you could hurt yourself or someone else in your efforts to keep the celebration secretive. State laws banning fireworks exist for a reason – because they’re dangerous.
Burning More than the Burgers
Your favorite cookout food comes with an unasked-for side: the risk of grill fires. Burning the main course is enough to ruin your barbecue, but the bigger dangers include accidentally setting your home on fire or causing an explosion.
Here are the top tips you should follow to avoid a dangerous grill fire:
- Inspect propane grills for any leaks before you attempt to light them. A gas leak could turn your celebration into fiery chaos.
- Make sure your grill is clean and the tray is free of leftover grease.
- Don’t leave the grill unattended during use. Besides watching the food to make sure it doesn’t burn, you should also be aware of your (and the grill’s) surroundings. Are potholders or paper wrappers too close to the heat source? Are children or pets running around nearby, where they could accidentally get burned?
For a safer, tastier cookout, check out our six tips for a better BBQ.
If your family’s Independence Day plans include a pool, ocean, or waterpark, it’s essential that you know the basics of safe swimming and drowning prevention.
- Every member of your family should know how to swim – if not for the joy of taking a dip in the pool, for their own safety.
- You should also set – and follow – rules about what not to do in the water, like swimming alone or trying to fight a rip current.
- Always supervise children when swimming.
- Learn first aid. Hopefully, you will never need to use what you learn – but if you do, that knowledge can mean the difference between life and death.
- If you personally own a pool, keep it secured to prevent unauthorized access.
Falling on the Fourth
It may sound like an unlikely, or at least a minor, risk, but fall injuries are among the leading causes of unintentional injuries and deaths. You might be surprised how many Fourth of July risk factors could raise your risk of a fall:
- Wet floors in indoor pool facilities and in the hotels, bathroom and shower facilities, and restaurants and retail stores near pools, waterparks, and the ocean
- Flip flops and other summer shoes that don’t provide a lot of traction or stability
- Uneven walking surfaces, like boardwalks and poorly-maintained stairs
- Crowds that can make it harder to see where you’re going or avoid a safety hazard – there are sure to be plenty if you spend Independence Day at a parade, beach, or amusement park
- Heights – like the stairs at an amusement park or from the boardwalk to the ground below – that could translate to more serious injuries than if you just fell on the floor or ground directly beneath you
- Overindulging in alcohol, which can affect coordination, vision, and memory, making it more difficult to notice and avoid the safety hazards that can lead to a fall
The Fourth of July doesn’t have to be dangerous. Declare your independence from the risks by knowing the hazards most likely to threaten your celebration and following these easy safety tips.
From all of us here at Console & Hollawell, have a fun, festive, and safe Independence Day!
Avoid an Independence Day disaster with these Firework Safety Month tips.
With Independence Day on the horizon, it won’t be long until fireworks light up the night sky across the nation. There may be few things more American than watching the rockets’ red (and blue, green, and gold) glare, but remember that even the smallest sparklers are still explosive – and dangerous – pyrotechnics.
It doesn’t take much to suffer accidental burns from carelessly setting off fireworks, or even watching them from the wrong vantage point. In honor of it being Fireworks Safety Month, here are some tips to make sure your family’s summer firework viewing doesn’t go down in flames.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.
Finding a Fourth of July Fireworks Display Near You
There are plenty of cities throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania that plan to celebrate Independence Day with a fireworks display. Within a few miles of our office, you’ll find events in:
Find firework displays near your location here.
Many of these events are free. With the shows starting as early as July 2nd, you can get your fill of Independence Day fireworks throughout the long weekend.
8 Tips for Fireworks Safety
1. Leave the fireworks displays to the professionals.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.
This is the single most important thing you can do to prevent fireworks accidents. Explosives shouldn’t be a do-it-yourself project. The stakes are too high. In states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the safety hazard is only one part of the problem. Many – if not all – consumer fireworks are illegal.
New Jersey laws currently permit no consumer use of fireworks, the American Pyrotechnics Association reported. (New York, Delaware, and Massachusetts have similar laws.) New Jersey specifically prohibits consumer use of a long list of fireworks types, including firecrackers, torpedoes, and even sparklers.
Pennsylvania law allows consumers to use “ground and hand-held sparkling devices,” “novelties” and “toy caps,” according to the American Pyrotechnics Association, because they “are not considered Consumer Fireworks under Pennsylvania Law.” All other consumer fireworks are illegal in the state. If you live in or will be celebrating in Pennsylvania, make sure to check your local fireworks laws, too, since some municipalities have additional rules.
Pyrotechnicians – the professionals who set up and set off fireworks displays – know how to safely use explosives. They also have to get the right gear, licenses, permits, and insurance. While a sparkler might seem harmless, any mistake lighting it could leave you with third-degree burns or start a fire that could spread wildly.
(In fact, sparklers cause nearly one-third of all fireworks injuries, more than any other kind of fireworks, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.)
Your best bet is to leave orchestrating the display to the professionals, sit back, and just enjoy the show.
2. Watch from a safe distance.
Photo Credit: Corbis Images.
Just how close is too close to a public fireworks display? You want to make sure you’re at least 500 feet away from where the explosives are being fired, the American Pyrotechnic Association warned. Otherwise, you could be in danger.
The good news is that when it comes to fireworks, a close-up view isn’t necessarily a better view, anyway. What really matters is that you have an unobstructed view of the sky.
3. If you are handling fireworks, read the directions first.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.
First of all, see tip #1.
If for any reason you are handling fireworks – legally, I hope – then it’s essential to read the directions first. Unlike building a shelving unit or setting up a new electronic device, you could do some pretty serious damage making even minor mistakes when it comes to handling fireworks.
Seriously, it’s frighteningly easy to lose an eye (which is why professional pyrotechnicians know to wear safety goggles) or sustain a burn serious enough that you need to be hospitalized. Read the directions to avoid blinding or burning yourself – or someone else.
4. Know where it’s safest to light fireworks.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.
There’s a reason firework displays are always outdoors. You don’t want a stray spark hitting the ceiling and igniting a building full of spectators. It’s also a bad idea to set off fireworks in wooded areas that could easily catch fire.
Never attempt to light fireworks in indoor or enclosed spaces, and don’t go to see a fireworks display at a questionable location, even if you’re just watching. You could still be in the danger zone, especially if you’re too close.
5. Don’t light more than one firework at a time.
Photo Credit: Corbis Images.
Granted, a finale wouldn’t be all that grand if it was just a series of single fireworks. Again, though, professional pyrotechnicians painstakingly set up their displays with caution. If you’re standing in a backyard in Pennsylvania (where it’s legal) and trying to light sparklers three at a time, the outcome probably won’t be pretty. Do your face and hands a favor – if you must light legal consumer fireworks yourself, only light one at a time.
6. Always have plenty of water handy.
Photo Credit: Corbis Images.
Even professional pyrotechnicians take precautions. If a firecracker goes out of control, there needs to be enough water immediately available to contain the fire and minimize the damage and the danger to others. The same goes for legal consumer fireworks. Make sure you have a hose or bucket of water in easy reach if you need to put out an unexpected blaze.
7. Never let small children handle fireworks.
Photo Credit: Corbis Images.
It’s no wonder many children love fireworks: the bright, sparkling colors and the booms and whistles of the explosions. Letting your young children set off even a small consumer firework, though, is about as good an idea as putting them behind the wheel of a real-life racecar. They can easily hurt themselves or others if they make even the slightest mistake.
If you wouldn’t let your children play with fire, don’t let them play with fireworks.
8. Keep fireworks as far away from your body as possible.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.
It sounds obvious, but it’s apparently not. Some amateur firework starters believe that covering the lit firework with their bodies will “protect” it from the wind. In effect, they’re using themselves as human shields for inanimate objects – not the smartest move.
Fireworks safety is about knowing how to minimize risks and making good choices when it comes to viewing or handling pyrotechnics. Think you know your stuff? Take the quiz!
For more fireworks safety tips and laws by state, visit the American Pyrotechnics Association.
Taking a cruise this summer? Here’s everything you need to know about cruise ship disappearances.
A man vanished during his honeymoon, never to be seen again. Investigators found bloodstains in his cabin and more streaks of blood down the side of the ship.
When a woman traveling with relatives didn’t return to the cabin as planned, her travel companions assumed she was out enjoying herself. Only as the ship neared the final destination of the cruise did they realize she was missing. Back home, her apartment had been burglarized.
It took the mysterious discovery of their shoes left abandoned on the deck for relatives to realize that an elderly couple married 50 years was nowhere to be found.
A woman disappeared just two days into a week-long cruise, but the cruise line neglected to alert her family – instead, it donated her possessions.
A young crewmember was last seen having a distressing phone conversation. Then, suddenly, she was gone.
These are just a few of the more than 250 people Cruise Junkie says have vanished onboard cruise ships in the past two decades. Already, this year alone has seen another 12 incidents –putting 2015 on track to surpass the annual average of 19 to 20 “man overboard” events.
Would it surprise you to learn that men are more likely to disappear on cruise ships than women, or that the average age of a missing cruise passenger is 44? Photo Credit: Pixabay.
Without a Trace?
It’s as tragic as it is unbelievable that many of these individuals who disappear or go overboard are not saved. Sometimes search and rescue missions bring back their remains, so their families can at least get some closure and give them a proper funeral or memorial service.
In too many cases, though, even extensive searches come up empty. Bodies are never found. There may be clues left behind – bloodstains, shoes and remnants of clothing, scraps of video surveillance footage that often raise more questions than they answer.
Every cruise passenger and crew member who has disappeared has a story, and every single one should be heard. Often, sharing the story is the only chance the family members of the missing have of ever getting answers. This is just one of the hundreds of stories of the missing. You can find more of their stories at International Cruise Victims.
A Deadly Honeymoon
George Smith IV was 26 when he married Jennifer Hagel in June 2005. The Greenwich, CT, man and his new bride took a two-week Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. On the evening of July 4th, as the ship sailed the waters between Greece and Turkey, the couple apparently got separated in the onboard casino. Jennifer “would later say she had no recollection of the events of that night,” The Greenwich Post reported.
George Smith disappeared from the Brilliance of the Seas, above, a decade ago – but the cruise ship is still in service today. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Investigators know some of the facts surrounding the disappearance – enough, at least, to lead them to suspect foul play. Yet in the decade since George disappeared, his family has yet to see anyone face justice for the presumed murder.
They know that four men, Josh Askin, Rusty Kofman, Gregory Rozenberg, and Zachary Rozenberg, walked George to his cabin that night, The Greenwich Post reported.
They know that neighbors heard what sounded like an argument, after which they recalled seeing only three individuals leave the cabin. Those same neighbors remembered hearing the noises of cupboards closing, furniture moving, and finally – around 4:30 in the morning on July 5 – what they described in The Greenwich Post as a “large, horrific thud.”
The morning of July 5th, a teenage passenger taking photographs from her balcony captured a disturbing detail: “a huge bloody stain on the lifeboat canopy,” The Greenwich Post reported. More blood was found on the bedsheets in George’s cabin.
Then there’s the video footage. Not of the presumed murder, but of three of men who had walked George to his cabin that night “commenting about George’s death in a very callous way,” according to The Greenwich Post. On tape, the men joke about George’s assumed wealth. One comments about “George going ‘parachute riding’ off his balcony.” And one ends the tape with the words, “Told ya I was gangsta” – “almost as if he’s bragging about having done something to George,” the Smith family’s attorney characterized the statement.
Last year, CBS’s 48 Hours aired the story on television, and George’s family offered a $100,000 reward for information. The prevailing theory is that George died as a result of a robbery. More details about the disappearance of George Smith can be found in this Greenwich Magazine article.
Where Did They Go?
When a passenger or crew member vanishes, where do they go? Even the most massive ships are finite spaces. It should be easy to find a missing person if they’re still on the boat – or, if something unfortunate or even sinister happened, to find evidence. Yet too often, searches on the ship, and in the ocean, turn up nothing. No one is ever charged. Justice is never served.
For loved ones of the missing, not knowing what happened means never getting closure. Photo Credit: Pixabay.
Sometimes foul play is suspected, but evidence is hard to come by. Other times, families receive unsatisfactory answers – reports of unlikely suicides or implausible “man overboard” accidents – or no answers at all. These cases can remain “under investigation” for years, and the families of the missing receive precious little information. There have been rumored cover-ups and conspiracies, unsubstantiated reports of strangers seeing victims in far-off places, and persons of interest who later inexplicably vanish themselves.
4 Crucial Cruise Safety Tips
If you’re planning to take a cruise, knowing the risks is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself. You don’t have to be paranoid, but you do need to know the risks.
People on cruise ships go missing. They get robbed, and sometimes physically harmed in the process. They suffer physical and sexual assaults. For you, this cruise is a vacation – but for some predators out there, a cruise is little more than a new crop of unsuspecting people to victimize.
- Don’t leave drinks unattended. Victims have been known to be drugged so the perpetrators could more easily commit the crimes. Protect yourself by watching your drinks to make sure no one tampers with them.
- Use a buddy system. Avoid walking alone. Sure, you could make plans to meet up with your group later on, but that won’t keep you safe in the meantime. By the time you miss the meeting and your travel companions realize something is wrong, it could be too late.
- Keep valuables in the safe, not on your person, unless you really need them. Don’t unnecessarily “flash money.” It’s thought that the wrong people having the perception that George Smith had money – whether or not there was, in fact, money to steal – led to his death.
- Stay away from the edge. Many cruise ship disappearances are dismissed as accidents early on – even when there are details that could suggest foul play. Be aware that accidental “man overboard” situations can happen, even with protective railings and walls around the ship.
While the technology to alert operators of passengers falling overboard exists, cruise ships aren’t legally required to have these sensors and alarm systems, Travel Weekly reported. Instead, many ships just use video monitors – which makes it possible that a fall, jump, or push overboard will only be noticed after the victim is already reported missing (and possibly, too late to help them).
For more cruise ship safety tips, check out ABC News and NBC News.
You’re Not in Jersey Anymore
If something happened to you or a family member while on a cruise, what would you do? You might be surprised to learn that your legal options are more limited than you might think.
“When you step on board a cruise ship you are stepping onto foreign soil,” a former cruise ship crewmember who suffered a sexual assault onboard warned on Cruise Junkie. Would a United States entity step in to investigate a crime against you or your family, or would that investigation fall to the coast guard, the government of the nearest port city, or a foreign country under whose flag the cruise ship sails?
Too often, even the cruise ship industry professionals and local law enforcement agencies don’t know the answer when it comes to individual cases. It’s one of the reasons that families receive the runaround and investigations are delayed.
As if this question about who’s responsible for investigations isn’t enough of a problem, there’s also the question of which court system will handle the legal cases. Often, the fine print on your cruise tickets limits where and even if you can go to trial. Are your legal options limited to arbitration? Will you have to pursue the case in Florida, even if you live in New Jersey? Most cruise ship passengers honestly don’t know – and they’ll only find out if and when it’s too late.
If you’re planning a cruise, know the risks before you go. Be aware of what legal rights you agree to sign away and what the implications might be if something unthinkable happened, like a boating accident or the sudden disappearance of a travel companion. Most importantly, follow safety tips to protect yourself and your family. You may not be able to control dangerous individuals or conditions on the ship, but you can take steps to make yourself less likely to become a victim.
Frivolous lawsuits aren’t exclusive to the U.S. – as evidenced by a Chinese lawsuit against an actress with an intense stare.
People like to talk about “sue-happy” America, but the United States certainly isn’t the only country where people can misuse the legal system. Want to hear about a truly frivolous lawsuit? Read on.
Can a Stare Literally Be Intense Enough to Cause Harm?
Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported on a recently filed Chinese lawsuit that will leave you shaking your head. A man from Shanghai is suing “one of China’s biggest and richest movie stars,” Zhao Wei, because she “stared at him too intensely through his TV set.” So intensely, in fact, that he suffered “spiritual damage” because of it.
You can’t make this stuff up.
If this claimant really felt he was suffering “spiritual damage” from the actress’s gaze, wouldn’t a simpler solution be to change the channel or turn off the TV? Photo Credit: Corbis Images.
Now, I know that there’s often more to a case than meets the eye. Facts get twisted. Subtle but important details go ignored. It’s the reason so many people believe there are far more frivolous lawsuits than there really are.
Find out why the infamous “hot coffee” case wasn’t as frivolous as you think (warning – post contains graphic images of third-degree burns).
In this case, though, there are no nuances that make the case more legitimate than it first seems. In fact, one higher-level employee for the China Supreme Court’s case filing chamber publicly pointed to the story as “an example of citizens abusing their right to file lawsuits,” the Associated Press reported. “It’s not necessary to waste our judicial resources on cases like these,” he stated.
One Change in Regulations, One Million Lawsuits
Until recently, a claim this frivolous would never have made it into the court system. In the past, China’s strict regulations allowed the legal system to easily reject and obstruct cases – not just those that seemed absurd, but those that were unpopular. It was difficult for members of the public to bring cases against the government, no matter how much merit they had.
This is a major problem. If the people of any nation can’t use their country’s legal system to hold the government accountable for negligence or wrongdoing, what other options do they have to create change? How can people who suffer legitimate damages – physical injuries or otherwise – get what they deserve?
China changed its regulations on May 1st. Now, cases go through a registration system that “requires courts to accept legitimate lawsuits when they are filed or clearly state the reasons for rejecting them,” the Associated Press reported. If the court does reject a claim, the claimant now has the right to appeal that decision. Since implementing this registration system, China has seen a 29 percent jump in lawsuits that pushed the total number of cases to upwards of 1,000,000, according to the Associated Press.
Striking a Balance
In any legal system, striking a fair balance is massively important.
Making it too easy and consequence-free to get civil claims into the court system can allow ridiculous cases to clog up the courts, wasting time and money (much of it taxpayers’).
If regulations are too strict or arbitrary, though, then the system can fail to offer any real hope of justice to people who have been wronged – especially by those in power.
Not every obstacle to pursuing a claim revolves around government regulations. In the United States, a big factor that prevents some lawsuits – both those that are frivolous and those that have merit – is the financial cost.
Contrary to popular belief, pursuing a civil claim isn’t cheap. In personal injury cases, for example, medical experts and other expert witnesses can add thousands of dollars of fees to a claim – but the reports and testimony they provide are an important part of the evidence that makes a case successful.
The financial costs can help deter people from pursuing claims that have no merit. While personal injury firms usually front the costs for the case, no respected attorney wants to invest time and resources in a case that has little chance of succeeding or that would cost more to pursue than it’s actually worth. Even so, the system isn’t perfect.
One of the biggest complaints I hear is from people who have sustained harm that’s legitimate – something much more justifiable than “spiritual damage” – but just doesn’t cost enough. Their injuries cost them a fair amount of money and caused some pretty serious changes to their lives, but it would cost more money to pursue a lawsuit than they could realistically expect to get back. I see this particularly in the cases of victims of relatively minor medical or dental malpractice, and it’s frustrating that these victims have such limited options.
A Lawyer’s Take on Frivolous Cases
A lot of people are fed up with frivolous lawsuits – and as an attorney, I get it. In fact, I’m frustrated with these cases, too. Frivolous lawsuits really do hurt the people with serious claims. They poison potential jurors against even the most deserving claimants. They delay the resolution of cases that really matter, making true victims suffer longer without compensation as they wait to finally have their day in court.
There’s something at once laughable and exasperating about cases as outrageous as this one – but at the end of the day, what they do to the legal system isn’t so funny.
This Man Is the Reason Insurance Companies Can Take Money From You (Again!)
My job is to protect accident victims from the overreaching insurance companies who try to wriggle out of paying victims what they deserve. This guy has the opposite claim to fame: he “protects” insurer’s profits at the expense of injured victims.
After all, in his own words, “Why isn’t this money going back to who it belongs to?”
George Rawlings is, as Bloomberg dubbed him, “the lawyer who invented a way to take cash from accident victims.” I’m not talking about a doctor or attorney who provided medical or legal services to injured individuals, and who deserves a paycheck for that work. Rawlings pioneered the industry of helping health insurers take a cut out of accident victims’ legal settlements. The enterprise targets injured individuals to pad the pockets of what’s already a multi-billion dollar industry.
If you have to reimburse your health insurer for covering your medical bills, how did you benefit from purchasing insurance in the first place? Photo Credit: Corbis Images.
How it’s Supposed to Work
You pay insurance premiums so that if something happens – a covered event, be that a car crash covered by your auto insurance or an injury covered by your medical insurance – the costs become your insurer’s responsibility.
Insurance is a gamble, really. You agree to pay a set amount of money now for the promise that you won’t have to face a massive financial fallout later on, if that event ever happens. The insurance company takes your money with the understanding that they owe you nothing unless a covered event occurs – but if it does occur, the company must provide the economic protection it promised.
Here’s the thing. If you go your entire life without being in any kind of car accident, you don’t get back the money you paid all those years for auto insurance. Same thing for health insurance – if you never go to the doctor or hospital all year, you generally don’t get a refund. You paid for the promise of coverage, not for the services you actually received.
In theory, the insurance industry should be on the same terms. If an insurer has to pay out on a claim, the company knew the risk. It simply lost the gamble.
How Insurance Actually Works
Many of these insurers are changing the rules of the game, thanks in large part this growing industry. If these health insurers have to actually pay for your medical bills after an accident – which is, after all, their sole function and the reason you pay them thousands of dollars a year in the first place – then they want their money back out of your settlement. This is called healthcare subrogation, and yes, it’s legal.
If a clause in the contract you agreed to when you purchased insurance allows an insurer to do this, it doesn’t matter how much you need the money or how badly you’ve been hurt. Even in cases like paralysis, where there’s nowhere near enough insurance coverage to offset the costs of treating permanent injuries, the insurer can come in and take from the already insufficient funds, shrinking a settlement even smaller.
It was Rawlings who “invented a way to identify” personal injury claims and track down claimants, he told Bloomberg. He reported getting 20 percent of whatever he collects on behalf of major health insurance companies – enough money that his once small company swelled to 1,100 workers. While it’s not uncommon for auto insurers to all but stalk claimants, the lengths that the subrogation services firm’s employees go to is startling. “Motivated by cash bonuses tied to how much they recover, they dig through court filings, scour newspaper articles and search Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for clues about how people were injured,” Bloomberg reported.
Does it seem unfair that you can never get your premiums refunded, but your insurer can take money from you? It does to us. And it’s getting worse.
The View from the Front Lines
“When I started out, companies didn’t come after this money or they at least would consider the human element,” Bloomberg reported one attorney as saying. But times have changed. Today, “it is just all about the money.”
As personal injury lawyers, my colleagues and I have seen this firsthand. After all, we’re on the proverbial front lines of the fight with insurers, and we’ve seen plenty of foul play. Perhaps the worst thing about it is that there’s little that policyholders can do to protect themselves or prevent this from happening to them. Insurers increasingly add subrogation into the fine print of their contracts.
How Lawyers Handle Healthcare Subrogation
If it’s not possible in many cases to avoid health-care subrogation, what can you do? Your best bet is to have an attorney on your side after an accident. We’re prepared for the possibility of subrogation from the start, and we always make sure you get the largest settlement you can – especially if we know that you’ll be stuck paying some of your money back to a health insurer.
More importantly, personal injury lawyers typically negotiate with the health insurer to bring costs down. Bloomberg cited the example of a case where the attorney’s negotiations shaved off more than half of the $33,000 the insurer insisted it was owed. The victim had to pay just $15,000 and got to keep the other $18,000 where it rightfully belonged – in his pocket. At our office, we’ve repeatedly saved individual clients thousands or tens of thousands of dollars – and sometimes more – just by negotiating how much they owe.
An attorney can minimize the damage, but there’s still nothing fair about one set of rules applying to the insurance industry and another applying to the rest of us.
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