Are the new cigarette warning labels a good idea?

June 23, 2011 – By September, all cigarette packaging will contain a new and larger warning label clearly depicting what cigarette smoking can do to your health.

The Food and Drug Administration released some of the graphically disturbing images yesterday that they say will take up at least half the space on the cigarette packaging, making the first change to the warning label in 25 years.

Some smokers are up in arms with the new FDA law, already feeling under attack because the places they are allowed to smoke are becoming fewer each year and the high taxes they have to pay to buy cigarettes. Others say they don’t have a problem with the new regulations.

Will this new campaign work? Will these images help people to quit smoking?

Most people who smoke probably started as teens when they believed they were infallible. Chances are it won’t stop this segment of the population from starting, and once your addicted, it’s a difficult habit to break. Still, if it motivates even a few teens to stay away from smoking, it may be good idea.

On the other hand, smokers already know it is bad for your health, probably have seen graphic images already, yet according to a 2008 national survey, 28.4 percent of the U.S. population still smoke.

Results from the U.S. News & World Report shows that 81.25% percent of those surveyed overwhelmingly agree that the new graphic warnings are a good idea. The survey, however, doesn’t break down the number of smokers v. non-smokers who participated.

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Baseball has been very very good to me

June 22, 2011 – It happened 39 years ago today.

No, not the famous Chico Escuela skit from Saturday Night Live, but the day I attended my first Phillies game.

I sat in the stands off of right field with my family, and with Phillies right fielder Mike Anderson playing in front of me wearing number 22. I remember thinking it had to mean something important because it was June 22 and the right fielder was wearing number 22. Then I was blown away when I opened my Phillies program and saw that June 22 was also Mike Anderson’s birthday. The stars were aligned that night, I was sure of it.

Taking in the crowd at Veterans Stadium I remember thinking how lucky we were to have such a magical place in our city. I had never really paid attention to baseball before, but live and in person it was thrilling. There was lots of entertainment in between innings and the crowd was mesmerizing.

That was the first of many games that year for my family and me. We’d pack homemade hoagies and a cooler filled with Kool-Aid and head to the stadium. The Phillies had an awful record that year, but won practically every time Steve Carlton pitched, so those were the games we tried to attend.

I have no idea what became of Mike Anderson, but I think of him every June 22 because he played a significant role in helping that 12-year-old girl in the stands become a baseball fan.

Happy birthday, Mike, wherever you are. And go Phillies!

Shop for a home the sensible way

June 21, 2011 – Wouldn’t it be easier to know how much you can afford to pay for a home before you begin to shop?

With a credit pre-approval program offered by many mortgage lenders, you can find out what you may be eligible to borrow so you can shop in the right price range. Not only will it put your mind at ease that your credit has already been reviewed, but a pre-approval decision also lets sellers know that you are a serious buyer and that a sale shouldn’t be held up by mortgage problems down the line.

At the time you apply for credit pre-approval, a loan officer will collect any necessary documents to verify your income and assets. Final loan approval will be subject to a completed sales contract, a satisfactory appraisal of the property, updating the information you have provided and any other commitment conditions of the mortgage company you choose.

Before you begin to search, ask your real estate agent or loan officer about a credit pre-approval program. It’s guaranteed to make the entire mortgage process a whole lot easier.

Employment and the background check

June 20, 2011 – It’s standard practice for many companies to conduct a background search on potential employees before they begin a new job, but if you’re like me, you probably wonder what they’re looking for or what they hope to discover.

Although each company may approach the background check differently, they can find information regarding past addresses, past places of employment, education, credit history and any lawsuits filed against you. They can also uncover if you have a criminal history, your driving record, or if you have any lawsuits pending. Most companies also prepare identity checks by running your social security number or driver’s license number and your date of birth.They won’t take for granted you are who you say you are.

The type of search ordered is usually dependant upon the position you are applying for and how much they want to spend. If you’re looking for a senior executive position, for example, companies may hire investigators to conduct further research and may even contact former colleagues, friends or neighbors. If it’s a less senior position, chances are they won’t go that far.

A company cannot conduct a background check without your signed permission, and if you fail to get a job because of information found on a background check, you have a right to ask for a copy of the report. Like a credit report, information on most background checks covers only the last seven years.

The bottom line is that background checks are now routine, and with technology making it easy to uncover little white lies such as dates, college degrees or employment gaps you try to fudge on your resume, it’s always best to be honest.

Songs about dads that say it all

June 19, 2011 – Every year on the third Sunday of June we celebrate Father’s Day to commemorate the contribution that fathers and father figures made in our lives.

To honor that special man, here my top five songs about dads. They’re dedicated to my father, to all of the other wonderful fathers celebrating today, and to those fathers who left us too soon.

Happy Father’s Day!

Leader of the Band – Dan Fogelberg
This song actually reminds me of my grandfather since he was the musical one. But he was a dad too!

Father and Son – Cat Stevens
A touching song that makes me cry.

Father and Daughter – Paul Simon
Paul Simon always says it right.

Oh My Papa – Eddie Fisher
This is one of my dad’s favorites; he used to sing it to his dad at every family party.

Daddy’s Little Girl – Al Martino
My dad used to sing this to me and my sisters. Why don’t they play this at weddings anymore?

Would a soda tax really be that bad?

June 18, 2011 – Last year Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter proposed a 2-cents-per-ounce soda tax to generate funds for the very needy public school system. The plan instantly became controversial and was voted down by the city council.

Mayor Nutter once again proposed the plan earlier this month, and city council vetoed it again, and instead opted to raise property taxes by nearly four percent.

While opponents call the soda tax unnecessary, and fear it would cost hundreds of jobs in the beverage industry, isn’t it a little scarier to raise property taxes on already cash strapped citizens? After all, soda is a luxury, and housing is a necessity.

Soda and other sugary beverages aren’t the healthiest of drinks and should be consumed in moderation. It wouldn’t be so bad to pay a few extra cents on the occasion you treat yourself. City council should have left the choice to the people. They can decide not to buy a soda. There is no choice with higher property taxes.

Where’s the logic?

Extra! Extra!

June 17, 2011 — Over the past month my mother has been hospitalized, and for most of that time she was in a drug-induced coma, breathing on a ventilator, trying to fight off a lung infection.

Thankfully, she seems to be on the road to recovery and was discharged on Wednesday to a rehabilitation facility where she’ll spend a few weeks regaining her strength.

When I visited her yesterday, we had the first coherent conversation since the start of her illness. She asked me a simple question, yet one with no easy answer … “So, what’s going on in the world?”

I laughed when I thought about the headline news over the past month and wondered what I should say. Should I try to explain Weinergate? Or discuss Arnold Schwarzenegger, his mistress and their love child? Perhaps she’d be intrigued about John Edwards’ recent indictment for using illegal campaign funds to help cover up his affair, or his happy mugshot. And to think these are among the political headlines – and not stories torn from gossip rags or TMZ.

Instead I told her that nothing worth mentioning happened while she was sleeping and that we were just glad to have her back.

She’ll find out the rest of the awful truth soon enough.