Thursday, August 6, 2020

Youngsters once gathered around radios to hear dramas about the Wild West

The golden horse’s hooves striking the stone floor echoed in the secret cave as the stalwart Indian rode out to combat the outlawry of evil men in the Old West. The Comanche warrior called out to his galloping horse, “Kane-e-e-wah, Fury!”
In the modern West, in the Big Bend country of Texas, a group of cowboys was “riding fast and riding hard. Out in front is the cowboy kid himself riding his golden palomino Amigo.”
Adventures and some humor were ahead.
It would not be long before television killed these and other radio dramas. But in the late 1940s and early 1950s. “Straight Arrow” and “Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders” were two of the favorite shows of youngsters who gathered in front of their radios to listen to them and other shows on the 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday children’s adventure hour on the Mutual and ABC radio networks.
The dramatically written lead in to “Straight Arrow” tells what that show was about:
To friends and neighbors alike, Steve Adams appeared to be nothing more than the young owner of the Broken Bow cattle spread. But when danger threatened innocent people and when evildoers plotted against justice -- then Steve Adams, rancher, disappeared – and in his place came a mysterious stalwart Indian, wearing the dress and war paint of a Comanche -- riding the great golden palomino -- galloping out of the darkness to take up the cause of law and order throughout the West—comes the legendary figure of Straight Arrow.
In the Bobby Benson show, ranch foreman Tex Mason was young Bobby’s guardian. Also serving as Bobby’s protectors and supporters were cowboys Irish, Harka the Indian and Windy Wales, teller of tall tales.
Much greater fame lay ahead for the comic actor who played Windy. He was in his 20s at the time of the radio show. But years later Don Knotts rose to national fame when he played Barney Fife on the “Andy Griffith Show.” His comic skills also took him to starring roles in movies and other popular TV performances.
Howard Culver, who played Straight Arrow, had a long and successful acting career. He was radio’s last Ellery Queen and played ‘Mark’ Dillon in the pilot show for radio’s “Gunsmoke.” Although William Conrad won the lead role as radio’s Matt Dillon, the pilot did not mark the end of Culver’s association with “Gunsmoke.”
He played Howie the hotel clerk in 49 episodes of TV’s “Gunsmoke” during the series’ first 10 years. Culver also had supporting roles in many other TV shows and movies before his death in 1984. He was in Jack Webb’s group of actors and was a regular in Irwin Allen productions in addition to the many other roles he played.
Good accounts of the Straight Arrow and "Bobby Benson" and the B-Bar-B as well as all other radio Westerns can be found in the 2014 book “Radio Rides the Range,” edited by Jack French and David S. Siegel.
Several episodes of “Straight Arrow” and Bobby Benson can be found on old-radio sites on the Internet for free listening and downloading.
Straight Arrow and Bobby Benson are still riding.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The “9PM Routine” Provides Peace of Mind While Protecting Your Home and Valuables

There is a popular newphenomenon sweeping the country that is helping people protect their homes and property. Started in 2016 by the Sherriff’s office in Pasco County, Florida, it’s catching on nationwide because it is simple to do and extremely effective.

Every night at 9:00, everyone in the community is encouraged to lock up their property, turn on lights, and bring in valuables to reduce the likelihood of falling victim to property crimes. This is the new “9PM Routine.”

What to do:

Vehicles

·     Remove keys, wallets, cash, phones, phone chargers, sunglasses, garage door openers, and all other valuables from the vehicles.
·      If you can’t remove items of value, lock them in the trunk or glove compartment.
·      Ensure all vehicle windows are closed and locked.
·      Store your vehicle keys away from doors and windows. Some criminals use scanners to gain the code for your remote key fob. 

Property

·      Don’t leave property in your yard that may be attractive to thieves.
·      Close and lock house and garage doors and windows.
·      Turn on outside lights. Motion activated lights work great!
·      Keep shrubbery around your home trimmed. 
·      Set up a home security system. They are easier to use and more cost-effective than ever.
·      Have a neighbor grab your mail and keep an eye on your house when you’re away.
·      Beware of door-to-door scams.
·      Report all suspicious activities.

Angela DeLeon, a Crime Prevention Specialist at People’s United Bank, likes the 9PM Routine because it’s an easy and engaging way to help people protect their property. Angela also recommends that people make sure all windows are locked in the house, and if they are open for fresh air, to make sure that they are pinned so that nobody can raise them high enough for a person to enter the home. Also, store all ladders outside in a locked garage at night.

Community effort

Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about the 9PM Routine. Call your local police department. Ask if they are participating, and if they aren’t, ask them to join the movement. Commit to the routine seven days a week. And if you are social media-savvy, post, share, and tag! You’ll feel better, and you’ll feelsafer. Who couldn’t use a little feeling better and safer ... particularly now?


                                    





Thursday, July 2, 2020

U.S. CENSUS 2020 AND CORONAVIRUS . . . WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

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 The novel coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on life as we know it . . . or knew it. Those 55 and over have been hit particularly hard. High-risk status and other concerns have led most seniors to choose to hunker down. It’s a great decision health-wise, but it can also lead to less-apparent complications. One of which being an accurate representation of seniors in the U.S. 2020 Census. 
The door-to-door method of collecting census data has been temporarily halted due to the pandemic, giving seniors one less option to participate. Also, with many senior centers and programs closed or suspended due to the virus, plus restrictions on entering nursing homes and skilled-care facilities, there are more roadblocks than ever to achieving accurate representation from seniors.
This is the first time the majority of Americans will fill out their census information online. By now, everyone has received official U.S. Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail. A majority of seniors, however, would rather not complete the census on a computer.
A recent U.S. Census Bureau survey found that 56% of those 65 and older aren’t comfortable with an online response. “The concerns over privacy and cybersecurity will have to be overcome, and those concerns are highest for those over 50,” says Steve Jost, a former Census Bureau official. 
What the census means for you
It is vital to the senior community to have everyone participate in this important decennial process. The data collected by the census determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives (a process called apportionment), and it is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities. That includes money for schools, roads, hospitals—and programs that specifically aid older Americans.
Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people and those age 65 and older, is the largest federal program that uses census statistics to determine funding. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the second-largest program that uses census statistics to allocate funds, and third is Medicare Part B.
In addition, adult day care, community center lunches, home-delivered meals, protection and remedy from abuse—both physical and financial—are mostly funded by Social Services Block Grants. The funding levels for these grants, in part, are derived from statistics produced by the Census Bureau. 
The State of Connecticut receives about $10.7 billion in federal aid based on the census. 
Ask for computer help if needed
If you aren’t as comfortable as you’d like to be using a computer, try to get some assistance from your more computer-savvy family members and friends. If you still have concerns, you can also complete the census by mail or on the phone. The number is 844-330-2020. 

Watch out for scammers
A very small percentage of people who knock on doors claiming to be from the Census Bureau are looking to gather personal information so they can steal from you. Door-knocking is scheduled to resume soon, so keep your guard up. Real census employees won’t ask for your full Social Security number, for money or donations, or for bank or credit card numbers.
Check to make sure that the person has a valid identification badge with his or her photograph, a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date. If you still suspect fraud, call the Census Bureau at 800-923-8282 to speak to a representative.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

New IRS webpages

The IRS has established www.irs.gov/coronavirus to
provide information specifically related to the pandemic.
News releases, statements, and guidance will be collected
there. The initial statement concerned health savings
accounts and high-deductible health plans. “Health
plans that otherwise qualify as HDHPs will not lose that
status merely because they cover the cost of testing for
or treatment of COVID-19 before plan deductibles have
been met.”
The IRS also noted that, as in the past, any vaccination
costs continue to count as preventive care and can
be paid for by an HDHP.
Guidance was also provided for the “Families First
Coronavirus Response Act,” which was signed by
President Trump on March 18. Key elements:
• Paid Sick Leave for Workers. For COVID-19-related
reasons, employees receive up to 80 hours of paid
sick leave and expanded paid childcare leave when
employees’ children’s schools are closed or childcare
providers are unavailable.
• Complete Coverage. Employers receive 100%
reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the Act.
Health insurance costs are also included in the
credit. Employers face no payroll tax liability. 
Selfemployed individuals receive an equivalent credit.
• Fast Funds. Reimbursement will be quick and
easy to obtain. An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax
offset against payroll taxes will be provided. Where
a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as
quickly as possible.
Finally, the IRS created https://www.irs.gov/businesses/
gig-economy-tax-center to collect in one place the links
relevant to self-employed gig workers and those who use
digital platforms in their employment.

The 2020 Report of the Social Security Trustees

In April, the Social Security Trustees issued their annual
report. Their figures and conclusions are based upon last
year’s experience, and do not take into account the effects
of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The report for 2021
will certainly be much worse, because the high unemployment
we are experiencing now must lead to a major drop
in payroll tax revenue. It’s also possible that the pandemic
will cause an increase in disability claims and accelerate
early retirements, increasing the benefit payouts. Finally,
there are serious proposals to suspend payroll taxes for a
period of time, though such proposals usually include a
proviso for a transfer to the Social Security trust fund from
general tax revenue to offset lost collections.
That is all speculative. Here is what we know for certain.

Key findings
Because the American economy was strong in 2019, Social
Security’s reserves increased by $2 billion during the year,
reaching $2.9 trillion. Under the intermediate economic
assumptions, the trust fund will be sufficient to pay full
benefits until 2034. Because disability claims have fallen
sharply since 2010, the disability insurance trust fund
should be sufficient until 2065, which is 13 years later
than last year’s projection. The combined program would
go bust in 2035, at which point payroll taxes would only
be able to cover 79% of promised benefits.
Reserves in Medicare’s hospital insurance fund fell by
$6 billion, to $195 billion at the end of 2019. This fund’s
projected depletion date is 2026.
During 2019, total benefits were paid as follows: $903
billion in Social Security benefits, $322 billion in Medicare’s
hospital insurance, $145 billion in disability payments, and
$463 billion in supplemental medical insurance.

These figures might seem pretty good, but the fact
is that these programs are facing difficult demographic
hurdles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
announced that the year 2019 saw the fewest number of
babies born in the United States in 35 years, just 3.745
million. That is a 1% drop from the year earlier. Except
for 2014, the U.S. birth rate has fallen steadily since 2007.
Accordingly, in their actuarial assumptions the trustees
reduced the expected total fertility from 2.0 to 1.95 births
per woman. That means fewer taxpayers paying into the
system in the future as current workers reach their retirement
age.
At its peak in 2010, the Social Security trust fund was large enough to cover four years of benefits. Now it is less than 3½ years. The downward
slopes in the graph for the years after 2020 is based upon
the current demographics and cost projections, not the
effects of the pandemic. That will only make it worse.

Perspective
The graph also shows that the Social Security trust funds
nearly ran out in 1983. In 1982 it was projected that full
promised benefits would not be payable by July 1983. A
commission was created, headed by Alan Greenspan, to
make recommendations to head off the disaster.
In the spring of 1983, just three months away from
insolvency, those recommendations were turned into a
bipartisan legislative compromise. Key elements included:

• accelerating a previously scheduled tax rate increase;
• phasing in a higher normal retirement age, going
from 65 to 67 (that phase-in is not yet complete);
• requiring government workers to pay into Social
Security; and
• up to one-half of Social Security benefits were made
potentially subject to income tax for higher income
retirees. The thresholds for taxation were not indexed
for inflation, so over time more and more retirees
are making these additional payments to the Social
Security trust funds during their retirement.

The effects of these changes were dramatic, as the
graph shows. Another key change, one not anticipated by
the Greenspan commission, was the boom in women’s
workforce participation in the late 1980s and 1990s. More
women working meant more Social Security taxes collected,
even though the benefit payouts proceeded as projected.
What’s more, there is an underappreciated marriage
penalty built into Social Security benefits for two-earner
couples. Each spouse must choose between his or her own
earned benefit, or the benefits determined by the earnings
record of the other spouse.

On the one hand, given that 1983 rescue plan for Social
Security was achieved with only three months left before
insolvency, one might think that 15 years should be plenty
of time to correct the actuarial imbalances in the current
system. On the other hand, the country was much less
polarized in the 1980s; bipartisanship and compromise
were more regular features on the national political scene.
The 1983 Social Security tax increases followed 1981’s
bipartisan Economic Recovery Tax Act, which had cut
taxes for nearly all Americans. That may well have made
the increases more palatable.

How to keep grandkids safe at beaches and pools this summer

With the recent sad news about the drowning of former Olympic skier Bode Miller’s 19-month-old daughter Emeline during a neighborhood party in California comes a potent reminder that water accidents can happen very quickly.
There’s nothing that kids love more than a day at the pool or beach… and if you suggest a fun-filled, water-logged adventure, your stock may rise in your grandchild’s eyes. But kids are too busy enjoying themselves to think about safety — that’s your responsibility.
“Think about how you will manage things before you allow swimming, and discuss it with your grandchildren before you allow them in the water,” said B. Chris Brewster, a moderator for Water Safety USA, a group of nonprofit and governmental organizations focused on water safety and drowning prevention. “Let them know the rules. Remember, you’re the lifeguard for your grandchildren when you take them swimming.”
If safety is overlooked, a special day can turn tragic, even if lifeguards are present: Drowning is the second-highest cause of unintentional death for children under age 14, with nearly 1,000 kids succumbing annually. Thousands more are rushed to ERs due to near-drownings.
Fortunately, drowning is preventable. Here’s what you should know:

Watch Your Grandchildren Constantly

Designating a water watcher to keep an eye on children at all times can reduce the likelihood of drowning, according to Water Safety USA. A water watcher should be able to rescue someone in distress or alert someone nearby (like a lifeguard) who has the ability to do so.
It’s important to formally designate one water watcher to ensure that someone is doing the job. Take shifts, if need be.
“If everyone is in charge, no one is in charge,” Brewster said. “Reports of drowning accidents often involve lots of parents nearby who were distracted by conversation and other activities.”
When you’re the water watcher, don’t chat with friends or check your smartphone.
“It takes less time to drown than finish a conversation or send a text,” said David Hill, a pediatrician in Wilmington, N.C.

Don’t Over-Rely on Lifeguards

The presence of lifeguards may provide a false sense of security, if you decide to lie back and enjoy the sunshine. You still need to watch your grandchildren constantly.
“Even the best lifeguard cannot see everything at all times,” said Tom Gill, spokesperson for the United States Lifesaving Association. “Distractions such as a medical emergency on the beach, multiple victim rescues, patron questions and incidents, along with massive crowds on some beaches, diminish the ability of the lifeguard to maintain constant vigilance on every swimmer.”

Disregard Drowning Stereotypes

Drowning is almost always a silent occurrence, not the loud splashing and shouting often depicted in the movies and on TV. Children slip below the surface without making a sound.
“If you think, ‘I’m going to look up when I hear them drowning, that isn’t going to happen,'” Hill said. “Kids drown silently and quickly. They go under the water, and they never come up.”
People who are drowning rarely call for help.
“They are too busy trying to keep themselves afloat,” Brewster said. “Non-swimmers and poor swimmers who suddenly find themselves in water that is overhead can submerge immediately and silently.”

Stay Within Arm’s Reach of Youngsters

Wear your bathing suit and get in the water with small children. Sitting in a chair at the water’s edge near an inexperienced swimmer isn’t good enough.
“Children who have limited, or no, swimming skills must be within arm’s reach because they can easily slip into water over their head and quickly, quietly submerge,” Brewster said.
Your close presence is even more important at the beach, where rough waves or undertow may knock a child down.
“Small children should never enter ocean or open water by themselves,” Gill said. “The coasts are incredibly dynamic environments that look safe but may have multiple dangers lurking beneath.”

Older Kids Need Monitoring, Too

Just because your older grandchild can beat you in a race across the pool doesn’t mean he’s exempt from your watchful eye. It’s important to keep tabs on all grandchildren.
“Adolescents who are strong swimmers may be able to safely enjoy the water most of the time, but accidents happen,” Brewster said. “Medical issues, trauma from horseplay and other things may cause even a strong adult swimmer to suddenly become incapacitated.”
Your grandchild may be out of his element in the ocean, so it’s crucial to be vigilant at the beach.
“Children and adults who consider themselves good swimmers are not always prepared for the many variables consistent with open-water beaches,” Gill said. “Rip currents, troughs, wave action and drop-offs are just a few of the reasons to carefully watch children as they swim in the ocean.”

Swim Only When Lifeguards Are Present

Unguarded swimming pools can be dangerous, but unguarded beaches are even more deadly. In 2016, 153 people drowned on beaches without lifeguards on duty.
If you get to the beach after hours, don’t allow anyone into the water, not even up to her knees. Your grandchild may be pulled into the surf without anyone nearby to rescue her.
“Lifeguards are trained first responders,” Gill said. “I doubt [anyone] would live in a community without police or fire protection. Why would anyone enter the water without lifeguard protection?”

Take Group Breaks

When you need to go to the bathroom or make a phone call, get your grandchildren out of the water, so you’re certain they aren’t struggling. Insist they come with you, even if they promise to stay dry until you get back.
“Don’t assume they’re running around the pool, or up and down the beach, and not going into the water because you said they shouldn’t go in the water,” Hill said. “They should be in your sight and in your field of attention at all times.”
By Lisa Fields
Lisa Fields is a writer who covers psychology and health matters as they relate to the workplace. She publishes frequently in WebMD and Reader’s Digest.

Sunscreen Safety Tips for Older Adults

Summer is a season when most families spend a lot of time outdoors. Picnics, baseball games, family reunions, and trips to the beach are fun intergenerational activities. One thing that isn’t much fun is sunburn or sun poisoning.
Older adults grew up in a time when the benefits of sunscreen weren’t widely known. Today we know more about the importance of sun safety. The need for protection is especially true for seniors who often have very fragile skin. Some seniors also take medications that have sun sensitivity as a side effect.
Here are sunscreen basics that seniors and their caregivers should know in order to protect their skin from the summer sun.
Sunscreen Basics for Senior Safety
1. Older adults need sunscreen.
A popular myth is that sun damage that leads to skin cancer occurs during childhood. If a senior grew up not using sunscreen, they might not think they need it now either. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, over half of skin cancer related deaths are people over the age of 65. Because the risk of developing or dying from skin cancer rises each year, everyone needs to use sunscreen.
2. Sun damage can happen fast.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin damage in as little as 15 minutes. So even if you are only running outside to water plants quickly or pick a few flowers, apply sunscreen.
Some UV rays can even penetrate glass. That means if you will be sitting inside near a large window or riding in a car, you likely need sunscreen.
Finally, don’t let cloudy days fool you. The sun’s rays can still affect you. Layer on the sunscreen before going out.
3. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.
A sunscreen’s SPF (sun protection factor) determines how well it can absorb and reflect the sun’s rays. A sunscreen that is labeled SPF 30 absorbs 97% of the sun’s burning rays.
It’s also important to know that wearing sunscreen with a higher SPF does not mean you can stay outdoors longer without applying more. You’ll still need to reapply it to protect your skin.
4. Protect skin from UVA and UVB rays.
When you are purchasing sunscreen, look for one that offers broad-spectrum protection. That will help you stay safe from both UVA and UVB rays.
UVA rays penetrate the lower levels of the skin. They account for 95% of rays. UVB rays make up a smaller percentage of UV rays, but they cause most sunburns and sun damage.
5. Utilize different sunscreen formats.
Research shows there is very little difference in effectiveness between sunscreen sticks, sprays, gels, and creams. Buying several formats can make it easier to protect small or hard-to-reach body parts, such as the back of the ears.
Sunscreen sticks are good for ears and noses, and are also easy to take with you on bike rides and walks. Sprays and creams can cover larger surface areas more efficiently, such as the back, arms, and legs. Gels tend to adhere better on areas with hair, like the hairline and scalp.
6. Follow the directions on the bottle.
A mistake most people make when applying sunscreen is using too little. You should layer it on thickly instead. Also reapply it every two to four hours as directed on the bottle. If you are swimming or sweating heavily, you need to reapply it more often.