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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bringing Authors and Readers Together

Imagine being able to talk to the author of a book at the very moment you are reading it. Unless the author is your uncle sitting next to you at Thanksgiving dinner, the scenario seems unlikely. With today's cool technology, however, now it's a reality!

Amazon's new feature @author, allows readers to ask questions directly from their Kindles which are sent to the author's Twitter account, as well as to the writer's home page at Amazon! Amazon's cool new technology is aimed at creating a reader community online, focusing on Kindle titles.

While publishers worry that they will be cut out of the connection, authors are cheering for a chance to improve their brand and build a stronger fan following. If you've ever tried to write to an author through the publisher's contact information, you know that messages and questions to authors rarely get passed on. Now the relationship can be more intimate and even instant. Some publishers are still furious that anyone can sell their independent books online and make a fortune without their help. Amazon is truly changing the publishing industry.

John Locke (not the bald guy from "Lost", but a businessman who started writing Kindle novels and is the first author to sell more than a million ebooks online), recently signed an unusual contract with Simon & Schuster, which allows him to continue selling his ebooks while the publisher handles marketing and sales of the print versions. This unique deal is a perfect example of how the balance of power in the traditional publishing world has shifted, creating a need for both authors and publishers to adapt to new changes.

The @author feature is an expansion of Amazon's social-networking-style program for Kindle which invites readers to "follow" other readers and see which books they like and have commented on. Amazon is hoping that readers will answer questions for the authors as well and create a virtual hang-out on their site. Technology continues to bring together readers and authors in new ways. Any time more people are reading and talking about books is always a good thing!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Are You Prepared?

Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere. We're seeing devastating catastrophes all over the world.  September is National Emergency Preparedness Month.  Now is the time to gather some emergency supplies and create 72 hour kits for each family member and each car.  After serious disasters, you may be on your own until help arrives.  In case of evacuation, you'll need food, clothing, camping equipment, cash, medicine and personal identification.  Supplies can simply be kept in a backpack near your garage door or closet for quick access.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said “Iencourage everyone to take a few minutes and discuss what you would do in caseof an emergency or disaster. The public is the most important member of ournation’s emergency response team and the more the public does to be prepared,the more successful this team will be.”

We can livefor three weeks without food, but only three days without water.  Finding clean drinking water, therefore,becomes a top priority during a disaster.  Because city water may become contaminatedduring a disaster or completely cut off, you need to have a back-up plan.  Experts recommend storing at least threegallons of water per person per day for fourteen days.  Water can be stored in glass or durableplastic, refreshing the contents every year. Never store water in metal, vinylplastic or in containers previously used for chemicals or hazardous material.

You’ll alsowant to store water treatment supplies, such as unscented bleach, tools forboiling water, and a water filter. Before drinking uncertain source water,you’ll need to disinfect and filter it. History reveals that more people die AFTER a disaster from water-bornediseases than died because of the initial disaster.  The deathly spread of cholera in Haiti after their devastating earthquake is a perfect example of that.  Even a “Boil Water Alert” from your localcity after a simple water main break can feel like a disaster if you’reunprepared.

Thefollowing are some steps to treating water to make it more safe for drinking.
1.     Clarify: Remove debris.  If there are a lot of leaves, dirt or otherparticulate matter in the water source, run the water through a coffee filter, cheesecloth, or piece of fabric.

2.     Disinfect: Harmful bacteria canbe killed by boiling or by chemical disinfection, but both treatments may stillleave harmful contaminants, so filtering is required as the final step.  Bring water to a boil for five minutes (addone minute for every 1000 feet above sea level).  Another way to kill bacteria is to addhousehold bleach to the source water, about 1/8 teaspoon (10 drops) per gallon.Never use scented bleach, and double the amount if your bleach is older than ayear.  Allow the bleached water to standfor an hour or more before filtering it. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines if using Chlorine tablets instead.Iodine tablets are not recommended anymore.

3.     Filter: Once your water hasbeen clarified and disinfected, you’ll need to filter it to remove harmfulhealth contaminants, as well as to remove the chlorine taste.  Purchase a good NSF certified solid-activatedcarbon filter.  The filter could be youreveryday filter or a portable one you could take with you during anevacuation.  

Beingprepared brings peace of mind for you and your loved ones.  Spend some time with your family talkingabout how to be better prepared for various emergency scenarios, as well aspracticing the actions you’ll take. Print out the instructions above and keep them with your water treatmentsupplies.  For moreinformation, visit

Monday, September 12, 2011

Protecting American Authors


After a hard-fought battle to ensure the protection of American authors and publishers from extortionate foreign libel judgments, one New York-based scholar and researcher has secured the passage of the first law to achieve unanimous Congressional support this term.

Initated and promoted by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act (SPEECH Act) protects Americans from the enforcement of foreign libel judgments that do not meet American standards of constitutional protection for freedom of speech.

Faced with an internationally-publicized suit against her by a notorious libel tourist in 2004, Dr. Ehrenfeld was the first author to stand up against the phenomenon of libel tourism, a practice by which foreign libel plaintiffs sue American authors and publishers abroad solely in the attempt to suppress free speech in the United States.

Dr. Ehrenfeld’s initial efforts resulted in the passage of protective legislation in New York and in six other states, and have now reached her ultimate goal of extending those protections nationally.  Thanks Dr. Ehrenfeld!