ATT: Patients of Dr. Sara Lynn Christiansen

 Got a call today that Dr. Christiansen has gone M.I.A. after “voluntarily” giving up her license. She’s under investigation for something or other…not much info.

Anyway, her patients can’t access their records and since Doc can’t be found…I know some folks are feeling rather desperate right now.

Here’s what to do:

Christiansen handed over the documents to Bruce Rains. Here’s his contact info:

Mr. Bruce Rains

1442 Military Cut Off Road Suite 24, Wilmington, NC 28403

Fax # (910) 256-8886

If you do not receive records within 30 days of contacting him…call the medical board at: 1-800-253-9653.

 

Dr. Armitage…a great friend of ours here at the station…he’s taking over her patients.

His contact info is:

910.792.1001

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Swine Flu vs. Seasonal Flu

Swine flu has certainly hit a media fever pitch. ALL over the web. ALL over the network news. ALL over the newspapers.

Who DOESN’T get a sick feeling in their stomach (no pun intended) upon hearing that something that’s killing people in Mexico…is now popping up across the U.S.?

By the very nature of our on-the-go society, it wouldn’t take long for a disease or virus to spread by air…by rail…by car…by ship. Wilmington is extra special because not only are we the *Port* city, but we also have an airport in our backyard.

But should swine flu cause much more terror than seasonal flu? Maybe, maybe not. Here are some interesting tid-bits…

Seasonal flu kills 36,000 people in the U.S. EVERY year.

Since January, 13,000 people have died from seasonal flu.

Swine flu? 1 person in the U.S.

Just something to ponder….

 

Now….some real news…from the BBB…..Scam Alert.

The real virus in this world – online scammers – are pumping out emails and websites with all sorts of creative subject lines like: “Madonna Has Swine Flu!!”

I hope these will end up in your Junk box. The ones that worry me are those who are hustling “emergency” safety products like the “Swine Flu Survival Guide” for $20 at www.noswineflu.com.

Wow…can you believe THAT domain name wasn’t already taken?

Others are selling online vaccines for swine flu. Note: there is no such thing as a vaccine for swine flu. Any and all medical related info to this issue should be directed to the Center for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/swineflu  

The only medicine you need here is an update to your anti-virus software.

 

“Green” Things That Are A Waste Of YOUR Green

Happy Earth Day.

Today we all pledge to turn off the lights, put that can in the recycling and use less paper…in hopes that it makes up for the other 354 days in the year that we blasted the air conditioner, used quadruple-ply toilet paper and left the car chugging in idle….

Not to say that Earth Day isn’t an important reminder that we all life on one gigantic, non-renewable resource…our planet.

Its fantastic that being “green” has become trendy and that more people are (or at least consider themselves…) aware of eco-friendly choices. However, marketers have their money-making pulse on trends and its easy to see the proliferation of “green” on the shelves. You will often pay more for those planet-loving products but they may not be that much better than the standard option.

Today there was an article by Amy Tennery, The Big Moneyon MSN. Amy used some information off of sinsofgreenwashing.org to help shed a healthy dose of skepticism on some of these buys….below is the condensed version:

 

Clorox’s Green Works products

Green Works is touted as Clorox’s answer to the call for eco-friendly home-cleaning products. Several of these products contain corn-based ethanol. Sounds great…corn…nature! But ethanol has been criticised as being an expensive and environmentally deleterious product.

 Other items contain sodium lauryl sulfate, which the company describes as a “coconut-based cleaning agent.” Ah! Coconut! “Au natural! Nope….

The American College of Toxicology says SLS is a known skin irritant. Many people…including yours truly…experience allergic reactions to this additive. SLS is a fascinating thing…you’ll be *amazed* at how many of your home products its in. Check your laundry detergent…its there. Now check your shampoo bottle…its in there as well.

Also included are synthetic dyes. I’m pretty sure synthetic dyes do not grow in the great outdoors.

Still, Clorox received an endorsement from the Environmental Protection Agency. They’ve also partnered with the Sierra Club (who receives an “undisclosed sum” for its association with the products (its logo is featured on the bottles). The amount of money Clorox donates each year to the Sierra Club is said to be based on sales…last year Sierra received $470,000 from Clorox.

To their credit, Clorox clearly identifies all ingredients on product labels and on their Web site. They’ve also altered products to meet EPA standards.

Amy says a better choice is Seventh Generation products out of Burlington, VT. They make everything from light bulbs to cleaners.

 

Gas-saving magnets

These little gems promise to reduce your gas consumption with powerful neodymium “rare earth magnets.” (Also can be used to help you get through green lights…see a few posts ago…). Apparently you put them on the fuel line…it ionizes the gasoline…the fuel passes through the strong magnetic field…hydrocarbon groups or clusters are broken up…the fuel is now easier to vaporize…and you save on gas. Wow…TMI. 

So will you really save up to 20%? Is it worth the price tag of $29.95?

Apparently…no.

These magnets are incapable of “ionizing” gas. There’s no science to back up the claim.

 

Sephora’s ‘natural standards’

“Green cosmetics”…whodda thought…

Big time beauty maker Sephora ($$$) calls these products “naturally gorgeous”…and they slap a green seal declaring their “high internal standards” for using the “purest, most efficacious ingredients Mother Nature has to offer”…to prove it to you. Efficacious? That’s serious stuff!! brands with the “Naturally Sephora” seal.

That word…”natural” is not regulated by the FDA…so this “standard”…is Saffora’s “standard.”

So should it be yours?

Dozens of their products are said to contain high levels of harsh chemicals and cancer-causing agents according to the Environmental Working Group (these are the folks I worked with on my “Fragrance” piece).   Their website lists every cosmetic under the sun and assesses their safety on a 1 to 10 scale. Check out some of the products you use here….its interesting to see where the things you lather on everyday fall on the harm scale….

Some of their “natural” products scored 5’s and 6’s…not much better than the conventional stuff on the shelf at CVS (…for 1/4 of the price…).

Sephora admits that the term natural isn’t regulated but they don’t outline how much “green” product they are using that actually makes it BETTER than everything else.  Its easy to throw around words like, “antioxidants, botanicals, essential oils, fruit extracts, marine bioactives, minerals and vitamins”….consumer advocates are demanding they DEFINE them…and QUANTIFY them.

 

 

More On A Story Airing This Weekend…

Avoid Getting Left At The Altar By Your Vendor

 

(I worked on this today but it will air this weekend….tis the season for weddings after all…)

Commercial bankruptcies are on the rise because of the weak economy. You might want to say, “I Do” to wedding insurance.

 

The BBB has had complaints filed about bridal boutiques and venues that suddenly closed up shop leaving engaged couples in a bind. According to Travelers Insurance, more than 40 percent of all Travelers’ wedding insurance claims filed during the past two years involved unforeseen problems with vendors and venues, some of which went bankrupt in the worsening economy.

 

“Considering that the average wedding costs more than $28,000, soon-to-be newlyweds have a significant amount of money on the line and a vendor’s ‘Going out of Business’ sign can be far worse than rain on their wedding day,” said Kathy Graham, President/CEO of the BBB of Coastal Carolina, Inc. “Wedding insurance can provide peace of mind for a couple that their money will be recovered if a vendor or venue falls through at the last minute.” 

 

To illustrate the seriousness of the situation, last summer, the BBB serving Charlotte received a flood of complaints from desperate brides about a local bridal shop, La Bella Sposa, which recently filed bankruptcy after deceiving many of its customers. According to complaints filed by brides, the shop took their money, ordered the dresses, but did not pay the designers, so the dresses never arrived. La Bella Sposa was allegedly taking orders for new dresses, but passed off the floor samples as original dresses. One jilted bride paid the shop more than $10,000 for a gown and 13 bridesmaid dresses, but the shop closed its doors taking her money with it two weeks before her wedding. Another bride was devastated to learn four days before her wedding that, while she thought her dress was undergoing final alterations, the bridal shop had allegedly sold the dress to another bride.

 

Aside from the gown, wedding insurance can provide a variety of coverage for many mishaps that might affect a wedding including vendor no-shows, foul weather, military deployment, and health issues affecting key participants. Most insurance won’t cover cold feet, however.

 

BBB offers the following advice on purchasing wedding insurance:

  • Always research insurance companies first with BBB by reviewing BBB Reliability Reports free of charge online at www.bbb.org
  • Shop for wedding insurance before paying deposits on any wedding services to make sure all expenses are covered.
  • Comparison shop and pay close attention to the fine print. According to the Insurance Information Institute, insurance will cost between $125 to $400 depending on the amount of coverage. Like any insurance plan, there are limits on claims and deductibles that must be met.
  • Avoid purchasing overlapping coverage. Some vendors might already be insured or coverage might be provided by the credit card company.
  • Keep good records and all receipts for the insurance company in order to justify any reimbursements.

 

For more advice on planning a consumer-savvy wedding, go to www.bbb.org.

Here are some more links to help out:

https://www.protectmywedding.com/contact.html 

 

https://www.protectmywedding.com/pls/wpp/app_wpp.wpp.Go

 

 

Thanks to Kathy Graham and the Coastal Carolina BBB!

Have a great weekend everyone!

 

Food Labels Are…COOL

As of yesterday…the COOL (Country of Origin Labels) came into effect. Now when you go to the grocery to pick up your beef, lamb, pork, fish, “perishable agricultural commodities (…I think this is the government’s way of saying ‘fruits and vegetables’ ??) and peanuts…they should all have a sticker telling you which part of the globe they came from.

 

This decision has been delayed and rehashed since 2002. In last year’s Farm Bill they made some additions….you will also benefit from knowing where your chicken, goat meat, ginseng, pecans and macadamia nuts come from.

 

Phew. I’ve always wanted to know where my goat meat came from. Life’s unanswered questions….

 

One might ask….”Well, who cares?”

 

If there is a contamination problem…lets say….the FDA sends a warning that all Serrano peppers from Mexico turn your eye balls inside out…then the Serrano peppers on the shelves can be sorted out and traced back to their origin…faster. It also allows foodies to exercise their particular prefrences. For instance…perhaps you will only eat lamb from New Zealand.

 

Or you can take out personal gripes…..like….I can’t eat food from Sweden or Canada….because they beat the US in the 2006 hockey Olympics. Over the years that mild grudge from the ice has turned into a downright allergic reaction!

 

I haven’t been to the grocery yet this week…but word from the FDA is that the labels are on the shelves now…would someone let me know? I’m interested to see how “global” my food is. I wonder if I can add some status to conversation now…letting people know…”Well….I really have a strong predilection for Holland tomatoes….only.”

 

Another benefit for some folks…who are jumping on the “local” revolution….if you are trying to eat near your zip code (for environmental/health/economic/anti-“The Man” reasons or what have you…)…this will certainly help your efforts.

 

Chow down everyone.

 

And here’s to better luck NEXT Olympic hockey season.

“HTTPS” What?

Yesterday’s phone call with Boswell Capital (…see yesterday’s 5 & 6pm….”Boswell Capital” on web…) was probably the most outrageous I’ve had.

When I first called and introduced myself as “Casey Roman from WECT”…the representative’s first question was, “Do you know Dave Reynolds?”

Well…yes I do….he’s a reporter from Star News.

 

I asked “Why?” The representative said that, “That was just something they have to ask people.” Turns out Dave was hot on their trail too…..I thought the question was rather interesting!

Huh? You mean EACH caller gets a Q&A as to whether or not they know Dave? When I shared this with Dave…we both couldn’t help but laugh.

The Representative said that all media inquiries had to go to Customer Service. When I called that agent, we engaged in twenty minutes of back and forth questioning about the validity of his company…and the security of their website.

Kathy Graham of the Coastal Carolina BBB told me the site was NOT secure (www.boswellcapital.net). I asked her how she knew.  That’s when she told me about “https.” I’ve never heard of this before but what she shared with me will change how I view and participate on web pages.

Here’s more:

HTTPS = “HyperText Transfer Protocol with Secure Sockets Layer” (say THAT…one time fast….)

Its a web protocol used with encrypted information (encryption is a a data conversion that ensures the safest method of information transfer). If ever you are using a site and providing your credit card information, social security number…or really ANY critical identity information…be sure to look for the “HTTPS” in the search bar where you would more commonly see “http.” You’ll also want to look for a little “lock” icon (it literally looks like a lock in the search bar.

The more common HTTP sends your information over the internet in what’s known as “plain text.” Plain text can be intercepted by hackers using a “packet sniffer.” A packet sniffer is basically evesdropping software used on a computer network. When your credit card information or SSN goes on the site…and you hit enter…you could be broadcasting your identity.

 

So before you go online shopping…or before you input your ID…take a quick look in the browser for these clues that your identity is safe.

 

When I asked Boswell why they were asking for SSN’s on an unsecured site, they told me that OF COURSE the data was secure! They asked me if *I* was personally able to see other people’s account information…I explained, “NO, because I’m not a hacker..using hacker software.” They said that because *I* could not do it from my desktop..that proved their point that the site was safe. Despite my efforts to explain…it didn’t do any good. They had no idea what “https” was…

 

So look for the “s” to make sure you’re secure!

Getting “Slammed”

I received a phone call this morning from a man in Rocky Point concerned about a phone scam. He says a bill has started showing up in his AT&T bill from a company called USBI. AT&T gives them FREE long distance…but USBI was charging them FOR long distance. Huh?

If you type in USBI into a Google search…you’ll see a long list of “scam” complaints.

So whats going on? I made some calls…..

USBI is a “third party long distance phone service bill consolidator”…that means….the big service carriers..AT&T, Quest, etc….the government wont allow them to dominate the phone lines…they have to agree to allow small independent companies to compete. Those small companies…like Consumer Telecom…they all work under USBI who sends out their bills to consumers.

The person I spoke with at USBI actually played me the telephone conversation that their representative had with this mans mother…who AUTHORIZED the change. The sales pitch was fast, slick and somewhat confusing…but in the end…she said “Yes.” That negates the “scam” complaint. If you agree to something……well…..you agreed. They have the recorded conversation to prove it.

But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes these changes in your long distance provider can occur WITHOUT you knowning…its called “slamming.”

Slamming is when you DONT give permission. Here’s more from the FCC:
 

What Can I Do If I’ve Been Slammed?

If your telephone company has been changed without your permission:

  • If you choose to call the slamming company to request that the problem be fixed, and you have not yet paid, tell the slamming company that you will not pay for the first 30 days of service.
  • Call your authorized company (local or long distance) to inform them of the slam. Tell them that you want to be reinstated to the same calling plan you had before the slam. Tell them that you want all “change of carrier charges” (charges for switching companies) removed from your bill.
  • File a complaint with the appropriate government agency.
  • North Carolina
  • North Carolina Utilities Commission

    Consumer Services Division, Slamming Section
    Public Staff
    4326 Mail Service Center
    Raleigh NC 27699-4326
    (919) 733-9277
    (919) 733-4744 fax

    e-mail:
    none

    On-Line Complaint Form or Consumer Information:
    Slamming Complaint Process

    Documentation Needed:
    No fee. Must supply name on account, telephone numbers involved, name of unauthorized and preferred carriers, name of LEC, copy of pages of telephone bill containing unauthorized charge.

If you still have questions:

Contact the FCC’s Consumer Center at 1-888-CALL-FCC (voice) or 1-888-TELL-FCC (TTY).

And please everyone…be careful what you agree to over the phone…if the sales person is talking fast…if you have questions…if it FEELS wierd….ASK those question…ask for more time to make a decision. ASK FOR DOCUMENTATION. Slick phone sales callers will capitalize on your wanting to get off the phone (and get rid of THEM) by trying to get you to say ‘yes, yes, yes, goodbye’…..you saved time….but you just bought yourself more trouble.

Here’s another little nugge:

All the big phone providers like AT&T KNOW abou these providers and they make money off the arragement…thats what the folks at Consumer Telecom told me. If you have a “bundle” package with a big provider and suddenly agree for someone else to take over your long distance….the big provider will break up your bundle and start charging you separately (and at a higher rate) for each service.

 

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