Tis the season of gift giving and we’re getting you organized with a very important app that will help you manage your holiday shopping and keep you on budget. I know it sounds too good to be true but a great little app called mGifts can keep you and your bank account focused through the New Year.
A great app to keep handy at all times of the year, mGifts is especially helpful right now with all of the holiday shopping you’re about to do. It organizes your gift giving by keeping you on budget and managing your gift list to make sure your friends and family get a great gift from you.
Available for iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, the app makes it easy and convenient to see how many gifts you still need to get, how many gifts you have purchased and how much money you’ve spent on each person or group. Groups could consist of family, friends, co-workers, past clients, or even neighbors. You can view your gift list by store, event, group or person helping you stay on budget while giving you the assurance that you’re not missing anyone.
Use the status flags to track the gifting process for each person. These include tags like “needed”, “purchased”, “wrapped” or “shipped”. Just think how accomplished you will feel being able to physically see your progress. You can also take photos of gifts and store them along with notes to remind you of important details about the item or the person you’re giving it to. Easily share your gift list with others via email as well.
mGifts is the perfect Santa’s helper for those looking for the perfect gifts for the special people in your life. Download it for only $1.99 today! Your sanity is worth every penny.
Update: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Urges Payment Processors to Deter Online Copyright Piracy
Thanksgiving is a time to give Thanks and hopefully be able to make a difference and Give back in some way to those we love and those less fortunate than us. We can give by holding a hand, by giving a hug, volunteering, or giving tangible items or money. As much as I love the holidays because I can spend time with my family and friends, it’s unfortunate how commercialized it has become. Heck, now Black Friday has really turned into Black Thursday and Friday with stores opening on Thanksgiving Day and then there is Cyber Monday in an effort to maximize profits. Are you kidding me…is this really what Thanksgiving and the holidays are all about?
One of the things we have always been passionate about at Intero is giving back and making a difference. Not just over the holidays but every day of the year. It doesn’t take much to make an amazing impact and really better the world around us. At the same time it fills our hearts with positivity attracting good things toward us and making us more productive. Who doesn’t want that?
In fact there’s a story behind the Intero Foundation that is just that, giving small and getting BIG! Back in 2002, the Christmas following the launch of Intero, a bunch of us had the urge to purchase a few bicycles and deliver them to local children in need on Christmas morning. Wow, was this one of those moments that almost made you cry. Imagine knocking on the door of a child with no Christmas tree, no toys from Santa, barely jammies on their backs, and then you bring them a bike. Each child lite up as they opened the door and realized what was happening. Joy came over their faces, relief to their little bodies, and amazement came over them. It was more than a bike to them, it was bigger, it was a memory and an experience these children may never forget. We gave a moment of hope.
What did those that gave that day receive? Well I can’t speak for everyone, but I know what came from that day was the inception of a great organization known as the Intero Foundation. Since then, our agents and employees have helped raise more than $3 million dollars and lent support to more than 130 non-profits helping thousands of children in need within the local communities we serve.
Some of the non-profits we’ve recently granted include; Sunday Friends Foundation, YMCA of Silicon Valley, Peer Court, Good Karma Bikes, Jose Valdes Math Foundation, NatureBridge, Grateful Garment Project, Next Door Solutions, TeenForce, The DreamPower Foundation, and the list goes on. The Intero Foundation partners directly with the non-profits it grants to make SURE the dollars given directly impact the children through the purchase of clothing, school supplies, computers, or by simply giving them an opportunity to experience life as all children should.
On Tuesday, December 2nd the Intero Foundation will join an international movement and day of giving back called #GivingTuesday. In the week following Thanksgiving, Americans will spend billions of dollars in the shopping frenzies around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday is a day to remind us all that giving means much more than the exchange of material goods—it means volunteering at a local shelter, helping out a friend in need, and, of course, donating to worthy causes, like our Intero Foundation.
So take this as an opportunity to help us impact a child in your own neighborhood, which may need some extra help. Donate anytime now through December 2nd at www.InteroGives.com and be confident the money is going where the children need it most.
I thank you again for your support.
Worries about running afoul of the Affordable Care Act — also known as “Obamacare” — have forced officials in Ascension Parish to turn the hunt for substitute teachers to a staffing agency to track hours and avoid federal penalties ... "This is really, really a major concern,” said Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association.
The uproar in education circles, as well as other industries nationwide, stems from a part of the law that requires employers to offer health insurance coverage to part-time workers who are employed 30 hours or more per week, or face federal fines of up to $2,000 per person. Superintendents said such coverage is a huge expense for school districts still reeling from five years of a near freeze in state aid for public schools. “Given the cost of benefits, that would be an unbelievable drain on school systems,” [superintendent, Ascension Parish school system] Pujol said. – The Advocate, ObamaCare Forces Louisiana Public Schools to Scramble for Substitute Teachers
In New Jersey, school districts are even being forced to outsource their substitute teaching:
A school district in New Jersey is planning to outsource substitute teachers in an effort to counter rising costs of the Affordable Care Act. Roanoke City Public Schools in January will start using the New Jersey-based company Source4Teachers to supply it with substitute teachers, substitute aides and substitute clerical workers … Officials said they began research into the outsourcing option due to the Obamacare mandate that, as of Jan. 1, employees working an average of 30 hours or more a week must be offered health insurance. – Newsmax, Obamacare Costs Push NJ School System to Outsource Sub Teachers
As has been said time and again, the nation’s students and teachers deserve better. That’s why the House passed with bipartisan support the Save American Workers Act (H.R. 2575), legislation to restore the 40-hour work week. Another proposal would simply exempt schools from the employer mandate, providing relief from one of the law’s most onerous mandates.
As the committee continues to fight for commonsense health care solutions and investigate the challenges facing schools as a result of the president’s fatally-flawed law, please share #YourStory by visiting www.edworkforce.house.gov/YourStory or e-mailing us at TellYourStory@mail.house.gov.
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It’s here! The Holidays. Halloween was the intro, but Thanksgiving is a full court press of the Season!
This is a wonderful time of year, however working with clients, these can be some of the most challenging weeks of the year…late November through January.
There’s travel, shopping, family, friends, parties and FOOD…wonderfully decadent food! We want to be able to kick up our heels, relax on the couch, avoid workouts, sipping eggnog, enjoying homemade pastries, laughing with friends and family and pretending that if we have an abundance of cheese, double servings of stuffing, samplings of every dish made and drink wine instead of water that it is ok.
Well, it is ok, but you might just put on a few pounds. But maybe that’s ok with you! Maybe you worked hard in September and October to allow yourself to put on a few pounds. Maybe you’ve hired a personal trainer (I know some great ones) who will help you burn it off. Or maybe you are like so many who have this happy place called denial and in January you feel puffy, sick, heavy, toxic and have the same 10 pounds to lose that you work on every January.
Here’s a novel thought…you can laugh, enjoy friends and family, relax and still have a great time. You can make this season different…you can start January off with a healthy body, a lean tummy and kidneys which love you!
Here’s the trick. Decide now how you want to feel come January 1st. Decide now if you are willing to make some adjustments (I didn’t say deprivations) which will help you wind up at your destination place in January; feeling pretty darn good!
Let’s say you are at a healthy body weight now and you’d like to be there in 6 weeks. You will need to make some choices now on how and what you will eat and do. How about you decide you will get in 200 minutes of activity a week, any way you can fit it in. Decide that now and calendar it. Invite your family, invite your out of town guests to be active because chances are they, too, are stressed about getting in enough activity! You will be giving them a gift quite possibly.
Then you decide you will eat some out of the box foods, but only those which you might not ever get to try again, or won’t for another year. Decide to fill up your plate with 70% vegetables and then if you want more, you wait 20 minutes and get only 1 item which is “calling” to you.
Decide now you will drink 80+ oz of water a day (I recommend at least 100).
Another consideration is if you are looking at the food options and there’s rolls, potatoes, and pastries, you take a pause and realize you could have those ANY time of the year. They aren’t just available during Thanksgiving, so consider saving those for another occasion.
Think about it this way…when you start buying Christmas gifts, most of us decide on a budget so we don’t end up paying off our credit cards for the next 8 months of 2015 from this time of year. We set our boundaries now and look for the deals. It’s the same way with our health. If we can pay “cash” (so to speak) for our health and not go in to debt in January, we’ll be ahead of the game with our health. What an amazing feeling that will be!
This is a friendly reminder that Christmas is only 34 days away. Scary isn’t it? I’m here to help you knock at least one task off of your Holiday To-Do list. Even do it before Thanksgiving!
Red Stamp, a great little app we’ve previously written about here, will help you quickly and effortlessly design and distribute holiday cards. Once your card is designed, a few clicks allows you to email, tweet, Facebook, Instagram. Even better, Red Stamp will print eco-friendly postcard and deliver them, with postage, to a list of recipients you can upload.
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after President Obama announced his plans to unilaterally change federal immigration laws:
The president's brazen disregard for the rule of law and the constitutional limits of his office continues to divide our nation. To quote the president, this is not how our democracy functions. He has once again put his own political interests before the best interests of the country. The American people made it clear that they want us to end the gridlock and work together. However, this decision will make it even harder to address the challenges facing our classrooms and workplaces. Unless the president changes course, we will lose an opportunity to advance reforms that would make a difference in the lives of students and working families. The president is determined to let that opportunity slip away.
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I am humbled by the opportunity to continue leading this great committee. Significant challenges face our classrooms and workplaces, challenges that have persisted for far too long. Fixing a broken K-12 education system, promoting certainty and flexibility in our nation’s workplaces, and strengthening higher education are all national priorities that will remain at the forefront of the committee’s agenda. The American people want us to end the gridlock and get to work. If the president is willing to engage and the Senate is willing to act, we can advance reforms that will make a difference in the lives of students and working families. I am eager to help lead that effort and look forward to the work that lies ahead.
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by Karen Barbour, The Barbour Group & WCOE, USA Corporate Alliance Chair
Women Contractors Owners and Executives (WCOE) promotes the inclusion of minorities, small business and women owned firms in the construction industry. WCOE embraces the minority business enterprise (MBE) and inclusion goals through the United States and beyond. WCOE understands that many states have MBE goals, in addition to the Federal Government embracing small business goals on large jumbo projects. But what we all need to explore is the treatment that this particular group, an economically disadvantaged group, is facing on the projects that “require” their participation. Access to capital is often an oxymoron for economically disadvantaged contractors. Timely payment of their contract invoices and change orders are critical components of their survival.
Underbillings, or costs in excess of billings and estimated earnings, along with profit fades on projects (especially bonded ones), are the main focus in evaluating the contractor for bonding credit. If the underbillings are the result of change orders, sureties know that collecting the basic costs, let alone the profit on change orders, is a pipe dream at best. Casting these line items to non-current assets in the underwriting process can obliterate any chance of bonding credit.
Maryland, for example, has a 29% MBE goal on state funded projects. Maryland, like most other states, provides contract drawings and specifications to contractors and awards the projects based on lowest bid. The consensus from many contractors is that they are bidding a “legal document” for the most part as the plans and specifications are lacking in project detail. Too often, the state will issue unilateral change orders, request additional work and mandate that the contractor proceed with the work without an agreed upon price. While the funds for this work are to be “available,” they are not appropriated and the determination of the price is negotiated at some later date.
The end result is that MBEs along with other small businesses are forced to perform the work, finance that work, and hope they will get paid for that work. Again, the MBE program is for economically disadvantaged contractors. Is any state with an MBE program unknowingly setting up the MBEs for failure via their current change order process? My guess is yes. As one prominent contractor stated to me, “the change order process in Maryland is broken.” I would assume that would be the case for many other states, too. Are we setting up the MBEs and small business to fail? Are they taking on work to their detriment? Is the current change order process truly enabling their success? Yes, Yes and No would be my answers. For over a year, I’ve been pushing for a Change Order Fairness Act, and I am happy to say that “my bill” is through bill drafting and Associated General Contractors (Maryland Chapter) is providing input. Contractors (prime or generals) are often at odds with their subcontractors over the issue of change order work. The Change Order Fairness Act, if passed, will allow the contractor not to proceed with work until the change order work is approved and certified as fully funded by the State. Provision of the bill allows the subcontractors to receive certification, prior to start of work, as to the exact amount of funding applied to their change order work.
Other provisions and modifications of the bill are under review. For example, I believe the cost of differing site conditions should not be a cost absorbed by the contractor. The land is not owned by the contractor. All costs associated with the correction of the site conditions and delays should be fully compensable by the state. If a project is delayed six months due to differing site conditions, for example, and the drywall contractor now must install drywall in the winter, his/her general conditions will increase. The lucky MBE or small business will have a bank line to tap into to fund the overruns, but many will not. If the MBE has no bank line, the MBE will be defaulted. If they are bonded, they could lose their home.
The Change Order Fairness Act is a good first step to make sure our small and disadvantaged contractors continue to make money, spend money in our communities and hire local labor. Stay tuned for more updates.