Safe ways to deal with sinus pressure

Sinuses are bony, hollow, air-filled cavities inside the face and skull. They are located in the low-center of the forehead, behind the eyes and in bones behind the nose. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center says the sinuses lighten the skull and produce a mucus that moisturizes the inside of the nose. Unfortunately, when colds or the flu strike, sinuses may become one of the first spots affected by these illnesses. When the sinuses are working properly, mucus will drain into the nasal passages or out the back of the throat. Most of this drainage goes unnoticed. However, the American Sinus Institute says that factors such as allergies, illness, weather changes, dehydration, and dry air can make the sinus mucus thicker and drainage more difficult. This is when problems like infection, stuffiness or throat irritation may occur.

In order to combat sinus congestion and drainage concerns, people may try certain strategies that include flushing the sinuses and thinning the mucus. It is imperative to use safe flushing methods to keep the sinuses healthy. Neti pots are among the more popular methods to flushing sinuses. These small teapot-like devices with elongated snouts have become a fixture in many medicine cabinets. Because they are drug-free alternatives, they can be handy for those worried about antihistamines making them drowsy or reacting with other drugs. Neti pots and other nasal irrigation systems use saline to moisten and clear out nasal passages to promote drainage of sinus cavities.

However, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, using these devices improperly can increase one’s risk of infection. CBS News says that neti pots have even been linked to the deadly Naegleria fowleri, which is otherwise known as the “brain-eating” amoeba. The key to preventing infection is to only use previously boiled, sterile or distilled water to irrigate. Tap water is not adequately filtered, says the FDA, and may contain low levels of organisms that can stay alive in nasal passages and potentially cause serious infections. Those who are concerned about nasal irrigation safety may be wise to skip neti pots and use pre-packaged, sterile saline solutions that are bottled for the purpose of alleviating congestion. However, when prepared water is used in a clean neti pot or other device, these methods can be perfectly safe. Sinuses can get clogged for many reasons. To free up breathing, people are urged to consult their physicians to learn more about how to safely irrigate their nasal passages.

Ask Rusty about Social Security

Dear Rusty: I’m in a bit of quandary trying to decide whether I should take my Social Security now at 62, or wait until some later time, like maybe when I’m 66. I know that I’ll get less money by taking it now, but I also know that my check will be bigger if I wait longer. I’m in pretty good health and don’t really need the money right now, but I’m just unclear about whether it’s best to wait, or just take the money and run. Signed: Wondering

Dear Wondering: You’re asking, of course, one of the most common questions we receive – should I collect now, or wait until later? Social Security is designed so that, at least theoretically, you get the same amount of money either way. If you claim early your checks are smaller but you get more of them; if you claim later, your checks are bigger but you don’t get as many. Again, that is theoretically. In reality, whether or not it is to your financial advantage to wait to apply for benefits depends nearly entirely on your health and expected longevity. Of course, no one knows how long they will live, but if you examine your health, your living habits and your family history, you can make an educated guess at whether you’ll meet the current average longevity, which for men and women today is their early to mid-eighties.

To help with your decision, you may benefit from doing a breakeven analysis, which shows what your total received Social Security income would be in a couple of different scenarios. You can easily look to see how long you would have to live to collect the same amount of money if you claimed at, say, age 66 compared to what you would collect if you didn’t wait and instead started benefits at age 62. It goes like this: Get a Statement of Benefits from Social Security (you can do this online), which shows your estimated benefit at age 62, at your full retirement age (e.g., 66) and also at age 70. Using those numbers, first add up the total amount you would collect between ages 62 and your full retirement age by multiplying your monthly age 62 benefit times the number of months until your full retirement age (48 months in this example). Now subtract your age 62 monthly benefit amount from your full retirement age monthly benefit; use the product of that subtraction and divide it into the number from the previous calculation (the total you would collect between 62 and 66). The result will be the number of months from your full retirement age you would have to collect in order to get the same total amount of money as if you claimed at age 62. In the simple example I just used, you would need to collect about 12 years beyond your full retirement age, or to age 78, before you have collected the same amount of money as if you claimed at age 62. You can do the same exercise using age 66 vs. age 70 and you’ll find that you breakeven at about age 81. If you live beyond your breakeven age, you’ll collect more in total benefits by waiting. These numbers may vary slightly depending upon what your true full retirement age is and what your actual estimated benefits are, but this will give you a pretty close idea of when you would break even financially. Yes, it’s a roll of the dice because no one knows how long they will actually live, and your current financial needs and health must always be part of the equation, but doing a breakeven analysis can be an important exercise to help you decide.

The information presented in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The opinions and interpretations expressed are the viewpoints of the AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory staff, trained and accredited under the National Social Security Advisors program of the National Social Security Association, LLC (NSSA). NSSA, the AMAC Foundation, and the Foundation’s Social Security Advisors are not affiliated with or endorsed by the United States Government, the Social Security Administration, or any other state government. Furthermore, the AMAC Foundation and its staff do not provide legal or accounting services. The Foundation welcomes questions from readers regarding Social Security issues. To submit a request, contact the Foundation at ssadvisor@amacfoundation. org, or visit the Foundation’s website at www.amacfoundation. org.

Can schools discipline students for protesting?

Dear Editor,

The American Civil Liberties Union produces 10 to 20 pieces of opinion journalism each week. Please feel free to reprint our articles online or in print free of charge. Please email us at when you publish our material and please let us know if you decide to trim the body of the text. Below is a piece we published this week that we believe will interest your readers. A photo of the author is available on our website. Can Schools Discipline Students for Protesting? By Vera Eidelman, William J. Brennan Fellow, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project

Students around the country are turning last week’s heartbreaking school shooting in Parkland, Florida, into an inspiring and exemplary push for legislative change. In the last few days, many people have asked whether schools can discipline students for speaking out. The short answer? It depends on when, where, and how the students decide to express themselves. Plans for coordinated student walkouts have been making national news and have already engendered disciplinary threats from some school administrators. Since the law in virtually all jurisdictions requires students to go to school, schools can typically discipline students for missing class, even if they’re doing so to participate in a protest or otherwise express themselves. But what the school can’t do is discipline students more harshly because they are walking out to express a political view or because school administrators don’t support the views behind the protest. In other words, any disciplinary action for walking out cannot be a response to the content of the protest.

Before deciding whether to join a political walkout, students might want to find out what policies govern discipline for absences in their state, school district, and their particular school so that they’re aware of the potential consequences. They should also know that in addition to walkouts, there are actions they can take for which schools cannot legally impose punishment. For example, during school hours, students cannot be punished for speaking out unless their speech disrupts the functioning of the school. This is because — as the Supreme Court recognized in a 1969 decision upholding the right of Mary Beth Tinker to wear an armband to school in protest of the Vietnam War — students do not lose their constitutional rights “at the schoolhouse gate.” This makes sense given the educational purpose of our school system. As the court held in an earlier decision finding that students cannot be obligated to salute the flag, students’ speech rights must be “scrupulously” protected if we are to have any hope of “educating the young for citizenship” and teaching students not to “discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.”

While what qualifies as “disruptive” will vary by context, courts have typically held that students have the right to wear expressive clothing that doesn’t target fellow students or disrupt class. Outside of school, students enjoy essentially the same rights to protest and speak out as anyone else. This means that students are likely to be most protected if they organize, protest, and advocate off campus and outside of school hours. Some schools have attempted to extend their power to punish students even for off-campus, online expression, and courts have differed on the constitutionality of such punishments. There is clearly a lot to learn from the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their peers nationwide. Their activism inspires confidence in the future of our democracy, and their schools should be proud of them. Schools should recognize that even when they are within their right to discipline students for protests, it doesn’t always mean they should.

Fight illness with elderberry

The next time symptoms of a cold appear could be well worth it to reach for elderberry syrup, lozenges or supplements. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, elderberry, or elder, has been used for centuries to treat various ailments. Elderberry can be applied to the skin to relieve wounds, and it also is effective when taken orally to treat respiratory illnesses like cold and flu. Some evidence suggests that elderberry may help reduce swelling in the mucus membranes and sinuses to help relieve nasal congestion. WebMD says elderberry may help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation to relieve pain throughout the body. Some people also rely on elderberry for allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and as a laxative. Even though elderberry is an all-natural alternative to medicine, its use should be discussed with a doctor to ensure no contraindications.

Five effective ways to alleviate stress


Stress affects everyone at some point in their lives and does not discriminate based on gender, nationality, ethnicity, economic status, or age. The American Institute of Stress says job-related stress costs businesses millions of dollars each year due to unanticipated absences. In fact, work is the foremost source of stress for many adults. Although not all stress is bad and stress responses can motivate people to perform more effectively, repeated stress is a problem. The National Institute of Mental Health says routine stress that becomes chronic can suppress immune system functions, disrupt digestion, adversely affect sleep, and cause abnormal changes in reproductive systems. People who have chronic stress are often prone to frequent and severe viral infections, like colds and the flu. Repetitive stress may be the most difficult to recognize because it often becomes a part of daily life. Managing stress and anxiety involves finding techniques that work for each individual. While not every approach works for everyone, the following are five effective means to managing stress. 1. Exercise: The American Psychological Association says research continues to confirm the benefits of exercise in regard to combatting stress. Regular exercise has long-term benefits, but even a 20-minute exercise session during a stressful time can produce an immediate effect that lasts a few hours. 2. Deep breathing: Mindful breathing can be effective and only takes 10 minutes. Men and women battling stress can sit in a comfortable position with their eyes closed and imagine themselves in a relaxing place while slowly breathing in and out. 3. Take a break: Removing oneself from a stressful situation for a little while can be helpful. A brief break of 15 to 20 minutes can provide a sense of calm. 4. Cognitive-behavioral therapy: Harvard Medical School defines cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, as a process of changing unhealthy thinking in order to change emotions. Therapists will identify negative thinking patterns and help patients learn to automatically replace them with healthy or positive thoughts. 5. Support network: Simply having someone to talk to can help tame stress. People should surround themselves with others they trust who are good listeners. These can be friends, family members or professional therapists. Talking oneself through stressful situations can provide relief. Stress is a growing problem that can adversely affect one’s health in various ways. Relieving stress involves identifying the stressor and taking a proactive approach before symptoms of stress worsen.

Knowing when to ask for help

Knowing when to ask for help

Knowing when to ask for helpFor most of us, asking for help can often be difficult. Yes, asking for advice on planting your garden is easy. But for a serious issue, such as our mental health, we may find that we don’t want to admit to the problems we’re facing. t’s not hard to understand why we may be reluctant. Admitting that we’re struggling or feeling overwhelmed is like we’re admitting we’re weak or inadequate. Most of us learned as children that it’s important to be independent, strong and self-sufficient. That background makes it difficult to tell someone else that we’re really not okay. The result is that people often decide to just try and do the best they can by themselves. In some cases things might just turn out fine, though there are no guarantees. But going it alone could involve considerable amounts of stress and anxiety, and may even lead to bigger and more serious problems. Another common option is to turn to family or friends. This can be a good idea if those we trust with our problems and fears are truly understanding and are able to offer meaningful support and help. Sometimes they can, but often times they just can’t. If you’re facing a difficult time or situation, something that’s causing depression, high stress and anxiety, and is making it difficult or impossible for you to enjoy life, it may be time to seek out professional help. Doing so can be a difficult choice, since it means asking for help from a stranger, and usually will involve a fee. However, realize that a professional counselor is someone who has gone through extensive training and has many tools to help those feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to go on. Despite the way it’s often portrayed on TV, counseling is not something just for “crazy” people. Most counseling assists perfectly normal people who are simply facing issues and problems that are negatively affecting their lives. Professional counselors specialize in numerous areas. Check with your local mental health association or visit the American Counseling Association website at (click the “Find A Counselor” tab at the top) to locate professional counselors in a variety of specialties. Asking for help is never a sign of weakness but rather of the strength to recognize when your problems are real and that you need help to do something about them. Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at

New benefits and insurance options you can expect in 2018


(StatePoint) Ever wondered whether your insurance policy was actually working for you? You may be in luck, as your insurance plan may start to follow the same trends being adopted in other industries: simpler, more convenient and personalized products – all supported by the latest mobile technology. This year, Stephanie Shields, a product marketing and development expert from Aflac, (Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York) says that policyholders can expect these “value-added services” to become less of a nice-tohave and more of a given:

• Telemedicine: Consulting with a physician and getting treatment online offers greater flexibility and may become essential to busy people.

• Fraud protection: Identity theft is likely top of mind for policyholders and businesses. Expect to see better fraud protection, including ongoing internet monitoring and full identity restoration after a data breach.

• Bill negotiation: The everchanging health care system is often confusing to navigate. Ongoing education, as well as help understanding medical bills, can ultimately mean greater access to efficient, affordable care. Transformed Benefits Insurance providers will likely shift the customer experience to follow that of retailers and other industries. In 2018, expect to see insurers such as Aflac offer more cohesive insurance policies that combine multiple benefit types into one plan. Beyond the Basics You may find things that were once luxuries, such as 401K matching, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and even annual bonuses, are not as successful in meeting the expectations of today’s employees. As those expectations grow, successful businesses can continue to close the gap with such services as:

• Health advocacy: Access to round-the-clock personal health advocates who can answer health care and insurance-related questions. • Financial and legal fitness: Access to financial and legal advisors who can educate consumers on the preparation of wills and other legal documents.

• Collegeadvisory services: These might include resources to help lower college costs and navigate the admissions process.

• No more “one-size-fitsall”: Communications from benefits providers may be more tailored to individual needs.

• Bite-sized communications: Concise information about workplace benefits, tips for using benefits to help protect financial security and better explanations of coverage combinations that are appropriate at various life stages.

• New format: While some benefits information will still be delivered in the typical booklet format, more businesses may consider using online articles, digital signs, brown-bag luncheons and town halls.

• Frequent communications: Employers may communicate about benefits throughout the year, or time communications to coincide with life events, such as employee anniversaries.

Time Spent Smarter
In 2018, employers who have not yet adopted online platforms to manage benefits may do so. Advantages include year-round, convenient access to pertinent information and one-page views of all benefits options and selections, enabling you to identify any holes you may have in coverage.

More voluntary benefits, such as accident, critical illness/cancer, hospital indemnity, life and disability insurance, are on the horizon. According to the 2017 Aflac WorkForces Report, 81 percent of employees see a growing need for voluntary insurance benefits, and 90 percent consider voluntary insurance at least somewhat part of a comprehensive benefits program.

Thanks to a tech-driven world and the growing demands of consumers, 2018 may see insurers expand their services to offer even more convenience and personalization

Help kids get the most out of music education

(StatePoint) As the list of known benefits of music education grows, you may be wondering how you can help your kids get the most out of their efforts. Here are five ways to help make music education a success.

1. Be encouraging. Learning music is hard work, but it shouldn’t feel that way. Keep it positive and be encouraging. Fostering a love of music is only possible if a child enjoys practicing and playing. If your child is taking lessons, be sure that is or her teacher practices a similar philosophy.

2. Get practical. Incorporate practical engagement and games to make it fun. For example, learn new musical words with body actions like clapping and stomping, so students can better understand the rhythm and music through movement.

3. Be contemporary. Many kids will prefer playing what they already know and love. If your child is learning to play piano or keyboard, consider a new digital instrument that makes learning the latest tunes easy, such as Casio’s LK- 265 keyboard. Outfitted with lighted keys, a voice fingering guide and a Step-up Lesson System, beginners are able to learn built-in songs at their own individual pace. The instrument can also connect to Casio’s Chordana Play app — a free app that displays the correct keyboard position for both hands in real-time. The app is expandable through downloadable MIDI files, so students can customize lessons to their taste.

4. Pace yourself. Every child has his or her own musical aptitude and passion for learning. To ensure that your kids are neither overwhelmed nor bored, discover the pace that works best for each individual and don’t pressure anyone into rushing or slowing down.

5. Set goals. Whether it’s working to perfect a particular song, or it’s practicing for a talent show, setting achievable goals can be a great motivation for budding musicians.

Investing in America’s veterans

By Phil Roe, M.D.
U.S. State Representative
1st District of Tennessee

One of the greatest privileges I’ve had since coming to Congress is chairing the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Over the last year, we’ve made great strides toward reforming the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), but there is still hard work ahead. One of the most important items on our agenda is ensuring veterans get access to timely care, regardless of whether that care is at a VA hospital or a facility in the community. As the Committee works to improve the quality and timeliness of care that veterans receive, my priority is ensuring benefits are never delayed, dismantled or reneged upon. With that said, reforms that ensure timely access to care are not without cost, which is why I am in the process of closely examining the president’s budget request.

Last week, I held an oversight hearing with VA Secretary David Shulkin to review the budget request for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 19). In his budget proposal, President Trump requested $198.6 billion in funding for the department, an increase of nearly $12 billion – which is 6 percent over FY 18. While this number seems rather large, it’s even more striking when compared to the growth in VA’s budget compared to overall federal spending and the economy. Since 2006, the VA budget is up 175 percent. This significant level of investment easily debunks the notion that Congress is trying to privatize the VA. Our only mission – shared by both Republicans and Democrats – is to ensure the men and women who serve have the benefits and care they have earned and deserve.

VA will take action on many important items in FY 19. Some examples include implementation of the Forever GI Bill; appeals modernization; and the start of what will undoubtedly be a costly and lengthy replacement of VA’s electronic health record – to name a few. It is my top priority to ensure VA wisely utilizes resources to provide veterans with better quality care and more timely services.

In order to achieve these goals, one of my priorities – shared by Secretary Shulkin, Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) and my Senate counterparts – is making it easier for veterans to access timely health care. VA has been partnering with community providers since the 1940’s to provide care outside the department. The committee has heard from veterans, VA employees and industry leaders about the many obstacles that prevent VA from effectively partnering with community providers to augment in-house health care services. Consolidating community care into one cohesive program that truly serves veterans is a key investment for the future that will make every dollar spent go further, and I was pleased to see President Trump call for this consolidation in his budget proposal.

Another important priority is the establishment of a VA asset and infrastructure review process to help the department repurpose or dispose of underutilized buildings, allowing dollars to be spent where they make the most impact. As we have discussed many times, modernizing VA’s physical infrastructure is a crucial prerequisite to ensuring the future success of the VA health care system, and I was glad to see President Trump’s infrastructure plan specifically mention VA assets. Last, but certainly not least, is the implementation of a modern, commercial electronic health record. While the EHR modernization effort is necessary, it is very expensive. The contract with Cerner alone has a price tag of about $10 billion, and that doesn’t even include the costs of updating infrastructure to accommodate the new EHR, implementation support or sustaining VistA up until the day it can finally be turned off.

VA’s mission and responsibility is to serve those who served our country. VA is entrusted with significant resources, outpacing those of nearly every other agency to carry out that mission. But with substantial resources comes substantial responsibility to expend dollars wisely. I look forward to continuing my work with VA, and both President Trump and Secretary Shulkin, to take care of our active duty servicemembers, their families and veterans.

Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.

Hastings shares an essay on stopping mass shootings

Dear Editor: Please consider this thoughtful and helpful essay by author Rivera Sun. She asks us to stop blaming, start imagining, and get active where we are. For PeaceVoice, thank you, Tom Hastings

~~~~~~~~~ Stopping Mass Shootings: Less Finger Pointing, More Action by Rivera Sun

In the wake of yet another school shooting, everyone from ordinary citizens to pundits to politicians seems to be engaged in one of our favorite and least effective responses: finger pointing and passing blame. It’s like a toxic and deadly game of hot potato. The NRA shrieks and throws the blame onto mental health. Mental health advocates holler and toss it toward schools and parenting. Teachers and parents reel in grief and horror and throw the issue at politicians. Legislators try to drop the issue as their donors and lobbyists screech at them – or they lob it at their opposition like a political weapon.

Shirking our responsibilities on this issue is negligent, egocentric, and at this point in our crisis, utterly shameful. Mass shootings do not have silver bullet solutions. There is no single change we can make that will end this tragic horror that haunts our communities. School shootings – and other mass shooting events – arise amidst a toxic storm of potential causes. In some way or another, they are all related. Instead of pointing fingers, every industry, social sector, agency, and organization that has even the remotest connection to the problem should step up to resolve their piece of the puzzle.

Here are just a few ways the tangled web of causes underlying school shootings could be unraveled by all of us. Imagine a world in which:

· Politicians, valuing our children more than the NRA, supported at least another moratorium on assault weapon sales (like we had from 1994-2004) until it is shown that there is no connection between these weapons and mass shootings. Or, seeing the success of nations that banned assault weapons (such as Australia), our politicians found the moral courage to defy the NRA and give it a try.

· The NRA, eager to demonstrate their points with solid data, supported the politicians in the moratorium, and went even further to address and resolve the underlying issues that compel people to pick up guns and commit murder. Funding programs to address violence, mental health, anti-bullying, and more, they actively worked to show that if “guns don’t kill people; people do,” then they want to be a part of the effort to make sure people don’t use assault weapons for mass shootings.

·Campaign donors refused to donate to politicians who aren’t actively working to end mass shootings, like Republican donor Al Hoffman, Jr. just did.

· Gun sellers refused to sell automated assault weapons, instituted store policies of longer wait periods and better background checks. Major corporations followed in Walmart’s footsteps and stopped selling assault rifles altogether.

·Legislators, seeing the wisdom in the teachers’ call to support our youth’s social, emotional, and psychological needs, voted to give our teachers and schools the broader resources and funding they have requested.

· Pharmaceutical companies, on the off-chance that their psychiatric and anti-depressant drugs are triggering mass shootings, recalled their products that include known side effects of violent urges, or funded better follow-up with patients to prevent violent episodes.

· Schools and students, recognizing that bullying causes isolation, alienation, and aggression in youths and has been connected to several school shootings, mobilized broader support and engagement with anti-bullying programs, specifically reaching out to students who are being alienated.

· Parents, counselors, and others, identifying a connection between domestic/dating violence and many school shootings, launched intervention programs that successfully taught youth other ways to handle conflict than violence. ·Video game companies, appalled at the possible connection between violent games and youth assaulting other youth, shifted their gaming concepts dramatically.

· Hollywood, likewise concerned about their role in the glorification of violence, sought out scripts and directors who used less violence in movies.

· Mental health professionals, knowing both the uses and limits of their field, came together to help communities strategize an effective approach for dealing with the challenges we face.

· The military, concerned by the chance that JROTC programs indoctrinate and train people who become mass shooters, enacts a moratorium on their programs in K-12 schools.

· The military industrial complex, recognizing the potential connection between militarization and the culture of violence, and between weapons manufacturing, the NRA, and domestic weapons sales; became a voice for demilitarization.

· Our communities as a whole identified the many manifestations of the culture of violence and joined movements and campaigns like Campaign Nonviolence that seeks to shift the United States to a culture of peace and active nonviolence.

·White supremacist groups, acknowledging that adherents to their beliefs have perpetrated horrific crimes, actively worked to de-escalate the violence of their ideologies. Meanwhile, the rest of us, recognizing that supremacy is a form of violence and that these groups use physical violence as a form of supremacist terror, pushed adherents of these beliefs to connect with campaigns like Life After Hate which helps people leave hate groups.

·Parents, Men, and Supporters, seeing how toxic masculinity connects to extreme violence, take active steps to unravel the beliefs and worldviews, replacing them with constructive alternative narratives.

· Citizens, seeing the broad systemic crisis of alienation, despair, and isolation that a hyper-capitalist society can create, work in numerous ways to reweave the fabric of community and build more meaningful, connected ways of life.

· Politicians, judges, and citizens, recognizing the lives lost due to lack of political action on this issue, worked together to overturn Citizens United, getting money out of politics and returning political power back to the people. A functional democracy responds to the needs of its citizens, not the greed of its lobby groups.

These are just some of the ways we could be addressing the tragedy of school shootings. Many of these groups or individuals are pointing the finger elsewhere, and trying to cast off any culpability in these tragedies. Instead, we could all step up to the plate and take responsibility. If there is even the slightest shadow of possibility that our industry or profession is connected, our love for our children and fellow human beings should be great enough to take action to change.

If we are committed to ending these shootings, we don’t need to argue about which one of these is the way to fix the problem. Our children – and fellow human beings of all ages – are worth shifting gears and working in diverse ways toward the common goal. Wherever we see a possibility of connection, we can work to fix that part of the problem, applying our energy to solutions. The silver lining is that each and every single one of these issues is a problem in-and-of itself. Addressing them all increases the health and well-being of our whole society. Find a point of intervention and go to work.

The health benefits of singing


A person need not be auditioning for the next season of “American Idol” or “The Voice” to start belting out a favorite tune. According to the singing advocacy group Chorus America, more than 32 million American adults sing regularly in groups nationwide. Millions of children enjoy music education as part of their school curriculum as well.Although many people may restrict their singing to the shower or when no one is around to hear them, there are some surprising health benefits of singing frequently – and encouraging others to do so as well.

Singing and stress

Scientists say that singing can have a calming but energizing effect on people. Singing can help tame stress but also lift the spirits. Singing is a natural antidepressant. According to information published in Time magazine, singing may release endorphins associated with feelings of pleasure as well as stimulate the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is found to alleviate anxiety and stress. Prevention magazine notes that choir singers, who often report feeling happy and free of significant anxiety, may notice their moods improving when they start to sing.

Singing and immune system function

Singing can be a form of exercise that works the lungs and other parts of the body required to project one’s voice. Singing may lead to a stronger diaphragm and stimulation of circulation due to the greater amount of oxygen needed to carry a tune. Research conducted at the University of Frankfurt found that professional choir members who had their blood tested before and after an hour-long rehearsal displayed a greater amount of antibodies called immunoglobulin A after the rehearsal. These increases were not found in the choir members who simply listened to music. In the study, titled “Singing modulates mood, stress, cortisol, cytokine and neuropeptide activity in cancer patients and carers,” researchers found higher levels of cytokines present in the blood of those who sung for an hour in a choir, and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Singing and snoring

Singing may help alleviate snoring.A 2008 study published in the journal Sleep Breath found that the prevalence and severity of snoring among semiprofessional singers and nonsingers indicated that singers scored lower on the snoring scale. Singing strengthens muscles in the airway that can help reduce snoring. Furthermore, the breathing required to sustain a song may help improve lung function and reduce symptoms of mild asthma.

Singing and memory

Singing may help improve mental alertness by delivering more oxygenated blood to the brain. For those with dementia, singing can improve concentration and memory recollection. The Alzheimer’s Society has a “Singing for the Brain” program to help people with dementia maintain their memories.

Singing and social connections

Singing with a group can reduce loneliness by bringing together like-minded people engaged in the same activity. Websites like can help people find choir groups near them. Singing can boost confidence, improve mental function, help with immune response, and be a form of cardiovascular exercise.

Tennessee home garden vegetable calendar available for 2018

Home gardeners and growers across the state have the opportunity to enjoy a new resource available in 2018 free from the University of Tennessee Extension.  The Tennessee Home Garden Vegetable Calendar has been developed by the UT Extension Fruit and Vegetable Workgroup to help users create a comprehensive plan for home vegetable gardens.   Natalie Bumgarner, UT Extension plant sciences expert, says, “We are excited about this new calendar because it can support both new and experienced gardeners with schedules, tips and information on vegetable varieties for the garden.”  The calendar includes tips for scheduling planting, harvest and general management.  It is formatted like a regular calendar, and you can print and display the calendar in a convenient area or use it on your computer throughout the year.  Also included in the calendar are monthly tasks for growers and an area for taking notes about that month’s weather and crop observations.  The calendar is area-specific as well, with suggestions for East, Middle and West Tennessee.

The Tennessee Home Garden Vegetable Calendar is available for download from the UT Extension website, and the final pages of the file include management templates for crops, climate, pests and diseases.  The file also includes fillable boxes that enable it to be used as an electronic record keeping system for gardeners who do not wish to print the file.    To download your copy of the 2018 Tennessee Home Vegetable Garden Calendar, go to the following website: and in the search box type “2018 calendar”.  Dr. Bumgarner also points out the PDF file also contains links to connect readers to other UT Extension gardening resources, denoted by green text throughout the calendar.   For more information about gardening, contact your local county Extension office.  Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.

Beef cattle nutrition: Four most frequent asked questions


By Rick Thomason

Beef producers ask experts lots of questions designed to improve production, so to help them start 2018 with the best practices, University of Tennessee Extension Beef Cattle Specialist Jason Smith answers the four most frequently asked questions of 2017.  According to Smith, “These topics are not more important than others, but the frequency of these questions suggests there is quite a bit of confusion or inconsistent information available to beef producers.”  Smith hopes these answers assist beef producers in having the information they need to start 2018 in the right direction.  Here are the top four questions of 2017, in no particular order:

Q: Why are first-calf heifers so hard to get bred back?   First-calf heifers are still growing, so they are going to be a bit different than the other, more mature cows in the herd.  First-calf heifers have protein and energy requirements about 10-15 percent higher than mature cows, and so should be managed separately from the mature cowherd.  To ensure reproduction doesn’t suffer, make sure to feed first-calf heifers enough to meet their needs, with either 10-15 percent more feed overall, or with feed that’s 10-15 percent higher in protein and energy.

Q: Is it true that you shouldn’t feed pregnant cows very much during late gestation? Won’t this cause the calf to get too big?   No, or at least not to the extent that it will decrease calving difficulty.  Restricting a cow’s nutritional intake restricts the developing fetus, but not the birthweight.  Restricting nutrition simply inhibits the calf’s immune system and potential for growth, efficiency and reproduction.  It will also set the cow up for failure during the upcoming breeding season, as she is likely to go into it at a nutritional disadvantage.  Don’t be afraid to feed cows to meet their requirements and calve in an adequate state of body condition—just don’t make them obese.  Ideally, cows should be managed to go into the breeding season at a body condition score of 5 to 6 to maximize the chance that calving and the following breeding season will be successful.

Q: Do I really need to feed high-magnesium mineral?   Yes, at least for a portion of the year, which is generally early in the spring and late in the fall when we see green-ups and rapidly growing forages.  Some could benefit from supplementing an elevated level of magnesium year-round, but intake must also be considered.  Cows need a balance of minerals, and producers should note that feeding a low-consumption traditional high-mag mineral year-round may lead to sub-clinical deficiencies of other important minerals during times of need.

Q: When cows are eating too much mineral, can I cut it with white salt to decrease consumption?   Yes, but it is not recommended unless a nutritionist has suggested to do so, or the label specifically states to provide an additional source of salt.  To a small degree, cattle do adjust their mineral consumption in order to meet their demands for certain minerals.  When provided with a complete free-choice supplement, their intake will change as the demands of their bodies change (dry vs. lactating) and as forages mature (growing vs. dormant).  When salt is added to an already salt-limited mineral supplement, we limit the animal’s natural ability to regulate consumption and we change the formula of the mineral.  The simplest solution to mitigate over-consumption is to move the mineral feeder farther away from areas where cattle are spending a considerable amount of time.  If cattle are under-consuming, just move the mineral feeder closer to these areas.

N.A.P accepted

The Johnson County Farm Service Agency will be accepting applications for the Noninsured Assistance Program (NAP) through March 15, 2018 for beans, sweet corn, cantaloupe, cucumbers, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, sorghum, soybeans, squash, tomatoes, and watermelon. February 28, 2018 is the sales closing date for sunflowers. The sales closing date for nursery is May 1, 2018. Coverage will be for the 2018 crop year. The NAP program covers commercial crops produced for food and fiber, except livestock, for which Catastrophic Crop Insurance is not available. Limited resource producers may request a waiver of the service fee. NAP provides coverage based on the amount of loss that exceeds 50 percent of expected production at 55 percent of the average market price for the crop. For 2018 additional coverage levels ranging from 50 to 65 percent of production is available at 100 percent of the average market price. Producers who elect additional coverage must pay a premium in addition to the service fee.

FSA uses acreage reports to verify the existence of the crop and to record the number of acres covered. May 31 is the acreage reporting date for nursery. For most other crops the acreage reporting date is July 15, 2018. If a crop is affected by a natural disaster the producer must notify the FSA office within 15 calendar days of the disaster occurrence or when losses become apparent. Further information on the NAP program is available at the Johnson County Farm Service Agency at 119 S Murphey Street, Mountain City, TN or by telephone at (423) 727-9744. Information is also available on FSA’s website at

Swift says 1938 was an interesting year

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

The title of this column says it and I believe it. The year 1938 was a year of many changes and innovations and it was also the year I was born. Sometimes I enjoy looking back to see what was going on besides my entering the world. Few, if any, saw by events that unfolded in 1938 that a second world war was on the horizon. President Woodrow Wilson had declared World War I (sometimes called the great war) as the war to end all wars. That was not to be. The beginning of World War II is said to be when Germany invaded Poland in late 1939. The end came in 1945. The United States entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan in 1941.

A significant feature of 1938 was a radio program titled “War of the Worlds.” The program was thought by many to be a real Martian invasion and panic ensued when it aired resembling authentic news broadcast.
Eight million folks were reportedly out of work in 1938. The Minimum Wage was set at 40 cents per hour. Kate Smith was a popular songstress in 1938. She introduced the song “God Bless America” that became an enduring song of patriotism that has become a standard in the music business.
A few of the songs that were popular then included “Jeepers Creepers,” “Love Walked in,” “Flat Foot Floogie With a Floy Floy,” “A Tisket, A Tasket,” and “September Song.”

In sports the New York Yankees won the World Series, the New York Giants won the National Football League championship. In the Kentucky Derby, Lawrin ridden by Eddie Arcaro came in first place. Joe Louis was the man of the hour in the boxing category as he defeated Nathan Mann, Harry Thomas and Max Schmeling — all by knockouts. In 1938, the average income was $1,731, a brand new car could be had for about $860 and a gallon of gas was ten cents per gallon. Life Expectancy was around 60 years of age.

Recently I saw an advertisement for a Willy’s auto. I knew that Willy’s made a Jeep at one time, but I never knew they made an auto. The motto of the company was “Half the gas… twice the smartness.” The ad featured a man who testified that he got 35.3 miles per gallon with his Willis. In that same book was an advertisement for a LaSalle automobile. That is one brand of car I remember.

A few thoughts on camera

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

As an employee of the Tomahawk newspaper for over 30 years, I came to realize early in my time at that newspaper the importance of the camera as a tool in the production of newspapers from day to day. While I learned the rudiments of the camera as a great tool of the trade, there was much I lacked as far as the history of that now familiar and brilliant invention is concerned.
I was sports editor for most of my time at the Tomahawk, and my camera was used often to record some of the action in football, basketball, baseball, tennis and volleyball. Of course I took many pictures outside of sports. I suppose one of my greatest efforts was when I took pictures of the late Ronald Reagan at Dobyns – Bennet High School in Kingsport as he was seeking the office of U. S. President.
Anyway, the first of my encounters with the camera was when there was (if I remember correctly) a 4-car wreck on Highway 67 just out of Mountain City. I had only been an employee of the Tomahawk a few weeks; I tried but my effort produced somewhat less than desirable results.
Early on I used a Yeshika camera with a viewfinder. After a while, I began to use a Minolta with a through-the-lens view both of those brands were film cameras as digital cameras either hadn’t been invented or had not gained popularity. The change from film to digital cameras was quite a jump. With that change, you could see on a small screen on the back exactly what would be in the picture. Of coarse that was a great advantage over the use of film. The digital camera I began to use was an Olympia I believe. Now I own and use a Kodak digital camera and get good results.
To come to what the camera is now has been a long line of improvements. There were many steps from Camera Obscura that used a pinhole to make an image on a flat surface to the magic of digital cameras. A few people who contributed to the inventions and improvements include Louis Daguerre, Henry Fox, George Eastman, Thomas Wedgewood, Johann Heinrich Schultze and John Herschel.
My first knowledge about a camera was with a Brownie manufactured by the Kodak Company. It was a point-and-shoot type that was used by a great number of folks and some I think are still in use today.

Christmas is gone, but memories remain

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian


Well, Christmas 2017 is history. It was a time of happiness for a myriad of people across this great globe that we live on. It comes only once a year, but it is a date that we look forward to each year.
Although it is highly commercialized, Christians celebrate it as a memorial to Jesus, the Messiah, whom God sent into the world to be a propitiation for sin. For the church universal, there are a number of orders-of-worship and activities shared by the individual churches that make up the universal church.
Anyway, aside from the religious aspect of Christmas which I believe should be paramount, many folks celebrate that very important day on the calendar as a time to exchange gifts and cards, family get-togethers, attending church services etc.
While as I understand it, the exact date of Jesus’ birth is not known, I believe it is proper to set aside a certain date to recognize and celebrate his coming into the world as a baby with all the awe and wonder it entails.

During my years growing up in the Swift Hollow section of Johnson County and subsisting on the small acreage that was our farm, we didn’t have a great deal of extra money, but we usually found a natural tree on our property and decorated it with lights, ornaments and colorful garland. In an earlier time threaded popcorn might have been used.
Many Christmases were bitter cold, and sometimes there was snow blanketing the ground. And of course, family and friends often came by to share in that special day and the festive atmosphere of it. Presents were exchanged.
Christmas 2017 was a great time for my wife Mary and I. Mary’s sister Carol shared Christmas dinner with us and we exchanged gifts. I have a niece who lives in Sherman, Texas and a nephew who lives in Powell, Tennessee near Knoxville. Every year we send a box of gifts to my niece and she and her family sends us a box of gifts as well. My nephew and his family visited us on the evening of Christmas day and we exchanged gifts.
So, our Christmas was very merry this year. It was fun to open our Christmas cards and send them too. Now a new year is upon us. What will we do with it? I hope you have a happy and prosperous 2018.

Comic strips lend a bit of humor to life

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

Newspaper comic strips are very enjoyable to me. I have read the “funnies” for a long time, since I was a young child as a matter of fact. My uncle always subscribed to the Knoxville Journal newspaper through the mail and since I ambled over to his house almost every day, I started reading the comics in the Journal and have remained a fan of them since then.
Some of them apparently just haven’t stood the test of time because there are many that I enjoyed early on that are no longer featured in newspapers — at least the ones that I’m knowledgeable about. Some of the strips that ran in the Journal when I was little were Terry and the Pirates, the Phantom, the Lone Ranger, Mark Trails, Lil Abner, Gasoline Alley and a host of others.

I read nearly almost all of the strips that I have access to but I do have my favorites. One of my all-time favorites is Blondie. I can identify with Dagwood, Blondie’s husband in some ways. That comic strip was originally drawn by cartoonist Chic Young, who had also drawn some other comic strips before he created the Blondie comics. The strip was launched in 1930. Young died in 1953. Following his death, creative control passed to his son Dean Young who continued to write and draw the strip.

The strip has remained popular. According to reports it has appeared in more than 2,000 newspapers in 47countries and translated into 35 languages.
In the strip, Blondie’s husband Dagwood Bumstead likes and makes tremendous sandwiches from food he often finds in the refrigerator in the middle of the night. He works in the office at the J. C. Dithers Construction Company. He is often found at a not-so appetizing diner for lunch. He and the across-the-counter owner always have amusing banter.

The Bumsteads’ next door neighbors and friends are Herb and Tootsie Woodley. Blondie and Tootsie never know what their respective husbands will be up to next. Herb borrows tools and other items and it seems he never gives it back until Dagwood goes after it. Sometimes a fight ensues. The Bumstead’ have two children: Alexander and Cookie. And they are typical teenagers. Other characters in the strip include Mr. Beasley their postman. Elmo is the kid next door. Their dog Daisy is constantly by Dagwood’s side. So, there’s no doubt that the comic strip Blondie is a bright spot for many folks as they read the newspaper and have that first cup of coffee.

Basketball is a very popular sport with a humble beginning

By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian


With Basketball in full swing this season, I thought I would share in this column some interesting information about the game both from the view of its local existence as well as its recognition as being one of the most popular sports in the world. It began simply as a man’s effort to design an indoor sport to fill in for times when outdoor sports could not be played due to weather or other reasons.
This game that has become so popular had a rather humble beginning. And it is one of few, if any, that can be called Strictly an American sport. Plus its beginning and inventor can be marked accurately. In 1891, Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian-American sports teacher, invented basketball. Although the number of players to make up a team has varied over the years, the modern basketball team consists of five players on each team. As probably everyone knows, Basketball is a team sport and to be successful players must work with their teammates to be successful.
When Dr. Naismith invented the game, he was a physical education instructor at the International Training School of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Springfield, Massachusetts. The basic rules laid out by Dr. Naismith are much the same in some ways, but the rules have been changed and amplified a good deal. Basically his idea was to toss a ball into a basket. Courts were set up on each end of the indoor gymnasium or similar building. Dr. Naismith attached two old peach baskets to the ends of the gym balcony and established some basic rules. Since then, basketball has come a long way.
At first a ladder was used to retreve the ball. Later a cord or rope was used to get the ball back after each goal.
The roster for the Johnson County High School team for the 1922 season included Raymond Phillippi, Jack Shoun, Rod Hawkins, Charles Dillon, Earl Rambo, Milas Shoun, Frank Hawkins and Ross Fritts. John Pierce was JCHS Principal Some of us remember those folks. If I remember correctly, Milas Shoun went on to play semi-pro basketball. Fritts had a very successful career as an educator, serving as superentendent of education for several terms. Anyway, basketball has been a popular sport for spectators as well as for athletes. Fans crowd gyms all across the world to see their favorite players display their athleticism and skills, hoping for a victory for their team.


Swift reflects on women who have changed the course of history

By:  Jack Swift

I try to feature the subject of history in many of my columns. As I read and write history, I often read about women who have changed the course of history. One woman in particular who stands out as a genuine heroine is Nancy Ward. She is buried a few miles from Benton, Tennessee. Her gravestone has a plaque that reads “the Pocahontas of Tennessee.”
With what I’ve learned about her, she was truly a brave person who risked her life trying to bring Native Americans and the settlers together. She opposed war viewing it as a no-win situation for her people. Among many of her exploits was fighting beside her husband Kingfisher, a noted war chief, during the Battle of Muskogee in the Cherokee-Creek war of 1755. During that battle, Kingfisher was killed and she took up his rifle and fought side by side with the warriors.
She was respected and looked up to because of her bravery. Accounts differ about who her father was but her mother was Tame Doe, an important person who was related to many of the important Cherokee figures of her time. She was known as “Beloved Woman” and as so had the right to sit with the tribal council. Her power in the tribal council enabled her vote on whether or not to engage in war, as well as to life or death for captives. And she could choose the method of torture. She saved the life of Lydia Bean after she was captured during the raid on Fort Watauga in July of 1776.
As white settlers began to take Cherokee land, several Cherokee women married Euro American men. Nancy’s second husband was Bryant Ward, a British trader. She believed coexistence and compromise, rather than violence, was best for her people. Nancy Ward was born in ca. 1738 in Chota, Monroe County, Tennessee. She died in 1822 near Benton, Tennessee. By 1819, the land she grew up on was sold. She then returned to Chota and spent her final years running an inn. She was considered a heroine by the Daughters of the American Revolution and in 1923, The Nancy Ward Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution built a monument to her near her grave near Benton, Tennessee. She was just one of the many women who have had a very important role in history.