Thursday, November 21, 2019

Real Food - By Reem Abdulrahman Jassim Al-Muftah

By Reem Abdulrahman Jassim Al-Muftah
I am constantly asked ‘what food is best to eat’ and ‘how to manage one’s body weight when it comes to eating,’ but what I’m rarely asked is, ‘what kind of food should I be eating to increase my nutritional intake?’ That’s why I hope you all to start thinking about the types of food and the corresponding quality of each food item you purchase, use and eat. So, what is the ideal diet for increasing your nutritional intake, ensuring you are consuming a well-rounded and balanced diet and improving your overall health? Focusing on ‘real food.’ So what’s real food? When food is:1- Close to its original source as possible.2- Grown or raised in conditions that maximize nutrient density.3- Fresh produce and in season, not grown offseason with intervention.4- Food is minimally processed and looks as close as possible to its natural form.5- When it comes to dairy and meat, grass-fed is ideal or the most original state the animals graze or feed.6- Fewer labels, fewer preservatives, less chemical ingredients, and more real ingredients. According to many nutritionists, real food is basically food made with the simplest of ingredients, close to its natural state and form as possible and not processed in a way that strips the food of its nutrients. I’ve talked about how people follow fad diets or follow certain food lifestyle trends and how that is not the best way to find your custom and ideal diet or to be aligned to your biology, lifestyle, and goals. Think about it, what does real food really mean in terms of food quality and ingredients… Here’s a general list:1- Fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables2- Organic, grass-fed meat (poultry, meat, seafood)3- Organic eggs4- Nuts and seeds5- Legumes6- Whole and non-stripped grains7- Raw ingredients now stop and look at the list you just read, think about the food you eat on a daily basis and compare. Do you feel that you are on the right track or do you feel that maybe you have gone in a different direction with your diet choices and maybe need to get back on the track of real food? It’s all about mind over matter and of course, prioritization. If you are in tune with yourself and are continuously thinking of your health then you make the time for it, including physical activity but most importantly, taking the time to make sure you are eating well. Get back on track by actively engaging your mind when making your next food decision. What does that mean? Start internally discussing these matters with yourself as you make these choices. For example, when grocery shopping, make sure you’re increasing your options of the natural food sources and options that are less processed. Actually, look at the ingredients and nutrition facts. While ordering food, go for the meals that include fresh and in-season fruits and veggies, less processed ingredients and more natural raw ingredients that will still have their nutrients fully intact. Try to stay away from processed grains such as flour and refined sugar. Most importantly, keep real food snacks around, to munch on between your meals, that follow the criteria of the same list. Let’s keep in mind that many people have allergies, intolerances or medical conditions in which they cannot eat certain foods, which is completely normal. Some people don’t have the acquired taste for certain flavors, but as humans we are special, we have the ability to adapt and train our minds and our bodies. Eating real food might not be your best or favorite option but it is definitely the backbone of the ideal diet and I definitely suggest customizing and aligning the diet to your needs, depending on what your body tells you. In any case, always keep in mind that real food is how our ancestors lived strong and healthy lives and maybe we should be going back to those simple, real ways. The author is a wellness advocate and influencer @keys2balance.

Food for Thought: Preserving SNAP for Families in Need

This post was co-authored with Anna Markowitz, Ph.D., and members of the CUESI Lab—Kristina Brittenham, J.D., Katherine Griffin, Ph.D., Taylor Hazelbaker, M.A., and Lindsey Nenadal, Ph.D.
The holiday season is just around the corner—for many of us, a season of family get-togethers around well-stocked tables. Yet for many families, this time of year can be less than wonderful. Food insecurity, or insufficient access to the quantity or quality of food needed to support a healthy life, is an unfortunate reality for far too many Americans. Food insecurity affects one in six American households with children. In 2018, about 12 million children lived in food-insecure households.
That so many children in a country as wealthy as the United States experience food insecurity should be alarming, especially given robust scientific evidence of the harmful effects of food insecurity on children’s development. At every developmental stage, experiencing food insecurity adversely affects development. Prenatally, poor maternal nutrition can result in reduced intake of essential nutrients (such as calcium, iron, and folate) critical for normal fetal development, and is associated with an elevated risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Results from a nationally-representative study of children born in the U.S. indicate that food insecurity during infancy and toddlerhood is associated with poorer cognitive and socioemotional school readiness. Several studies link food insecurity to school-age children’s academic and socioemotional skills, as well as their physical and mental health.
Food Insecurity is insufficient access to the quantity or quality of food needed to support a healthy life
Government social safety net programs are designed to buffer the effects of poverty for children and families, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) in particular has targeted food insecurity. In 2018, nearly 40 million individuals received SNAP benefits.
Research suggests SNAP is effective at reducing food insecurity and supporting development, and in turn, child poverty. A recent study of over 145,000 third through eighth-graders showed that when children take achievement tests shortly after their family receives their SNAP benefit (as compared to a few weeks later, when food may be running low), they perform better on end-of-grade math and reading achievement tests. SNAP has also been shown to increase children’s birth weight and cognitive development, and decrease children’s ER visits and absences from school, likely through increases in food spending and access to healthier foods.
Food assistance programs like SNAP are not large enough to cover a low-income family's entire food budget, but still, make a meaningful difference in food security. Beginning in 2018, however, the Trump administration has proposed several rounds of cuts to SNAP that would severely restrict access to benefits for many low-income individuals, including families with children. Proposed changes include increasing work requirements for adults without dependents who rely on food stamps, cutting benefits for people who have savings or assets, and categorical changes to eligibility requirements—in a program with a fraud rate of just 1 percent. Another round of proposed cuts would limit standard heating and cooling utility allowances, placing an additional 8,000 households at risk for losing their SNAP benefits due to restrictions in eligibility requirements.
These changes are marketed as aiming to increase government efficiency and incentivize work, but what often gets lost is that such changes jeopardize children’s health and wellbeing. Thirty-five percent of SNAP spending goes to families with children; cutting SNAP is undercutting children’s food security.
And these changes may have the consequence of disrupting the free-and-reduced-price school lunch program as well. An analysis by the Urban Institute showed that the proposed SNAP eligibility changes would affect students’ access to school lunch via the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which provides free lunches schoolwide based in part on the proportion of SNAP-receiving children in a school. All told, these changes are likely to result in over one million students losing access to free-or-reduced-price meals. Children’s development should not be compromised because of entrenched stereotypes about the poor lead to blame-oriented policies that strip benefits from their parents.  
So, what can you do? Anyone interested can submit their comments regarding the proposed cuts to SNAP through the Food Research and Action Center. The comment period for the latest round of proposed changes is open until December 2. Comments don't have to be limited to the latest round; no final rulings have been issued yet on any of the possible cuts. It's also possible to contact elected representatives in the Senate (call: 202-224-3121) or the House of Representatives (call: 202-224-3121). 
Public input and action can be a powerful force. With over a million children at risk, we hope you will take a moment this holiday season to channel gratitude for the food on your table into action for those whose tables may soon be empty.
Author Bios: Anna is an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Psychology in the Department of Education at UCLA. Her research focuses on how policy shapes the developmental contexts children spend time in, with a particular focus on early care and education and food insecurity. Lindsey’s research addresses teachers and focuses on the development and implementation of the social justice curriculum for elementary school students and teachers’ social class beliefs. She is an Assistant Professor of Child Development at California State University, Chico. Katherine is a recent graduate of UCLA and her current research involves a community-based partnership with a local non-profit to address the role of stigmatization in families’ experiences of benefit receipt from non-profit and government organizations. Taylor and Kristina are graduate students in the Human Development and Psychology program in the Department of Education at UCLA.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Java Still Has a Place, Even in Microservices

two men working side by side on computers
PHOTO: Annie Spratt
When I mention Java to young developers, including my own son, I typically get a look similar to the one I gave my father when he talked about Cobol. I might as well be discussing hieroglyphics. At technology conferences, there is a constant stream of Go, Python, Rust and other newer languages, but little mention of Java.
That worked fine when only new, digital-forward companies were adopting the next generation container-based microservices architectures. These companies were starting from scratch and could adopt whatever language was fashionable or that developers were excited about it.
That’s all changing as microservices, Kubernetes-based architecture begins to penetrate the mainstream. Now more traditional companies in industries such as manufacturing, banking, and healthcare that have decades of IT systems in place are retooling using microservices to meet the needs of modern business. Many of these companies are Java houses with years invested in Java systems, release toolchains, and knowledge. Ditching all of that investment is the needless disruption that makes the cost of migrating to microservices more expensive than they can justify. The solution is simple: build microservices with Java. Unfortunately, implementing that solution is not simple.
Java for Microservices Challenges
Using Java for microservices poses problems, especially in containerized environments. Java stacks tend to be big with a large amount of memory utilization. Using these macro-stacks for microservices, especially in container systems, is highly inefficient. One of the advantages of containerized environments for microservices is they make scale-out much easier and more automatic. Java applications, however, can take too long to instantiate, making spinning up new containers impractically time-consuming.
GraalVM, Quarkus, and MicroProfiles aim to reduce the size of the Java stack, lower memory utilization and speed up instantiation so Java fits better in container environments. These dovetail nicely with other technology, such as SpringBoot 5.2, which produces the type of language extensions needed to build microservices. This basket of technologies is setting the stage for migrating existing Java applications to microservices while building out new containerized applications in the language.
The bigger problem with Java and microservices emerges from system design. Java systems, like many traditional systems, are not designed as a series of small services. Instead, they tend to be monolithic. This isn’t much of a problem for greenfield applications but that describes very few environments. In most cases, coarse-grained n-Tier applications need to be deconstructed into small components. These components then have to be rebuilt, Lego-like, into the original application.
While databases and messaging queues, typical components in Java environments, are already available in containerized forms, the bulk of in-house business logic is not. Until the technology becomes available that can analyze and break apart monolithic Java applications automatically into microservices, the process will be laborious. Pulling out one common piece of code into a microservice, and then another and another is a common methodology for making this type of transition. It works, but it’s time-consuming.
Don't Write Off Java Just Yet
There is nothing inherently wrong with Java as a language for microservices. The bigger problems arise out of the structure of traditional Java applications and the evolution of the Java stack. The latter is being addressed now with new technology that enables developers to build microservices out of the Java language. The problem of past design choices can be managed through new design patterns and methods. In the future, technology will take on more of a role in the migration to microservices.  
Java is not dead, it’s not even sick. 

How to run Java preview features such as JDK 13 text blocks

With each new Java platform release, the stewards of the language always include a few new preview features that can be toyed with only if a developer knows how to unlock the capabilities at runtime.
Let's explore how you can enable preview features in Java 13 and subsequently demonstrate how to use a multi-line string literal in your code. This Java preview feature is known as the JDK 13 text block.
Step 1: Install the JDK
If you want to play around with a Java preview feature, you'll first need a Java Development Kit. Here's how to install JDK 13 on Ubuntu and set the all-important JAVA_HOME variable.
Step 2: Write code that uses a Java preview feature
The Java preview feature I'd like to test is the JDK 13 text block semantics. Java text blocks allow developers to write Java Strings that span multiple lines of code. JDK 13 text blocks are delineated by three consecutive double-quotes. A simple example of an executable Java class that uses this Java preview feature would be:
Java text blocksCode that uses the JDK 13 text blocks Java preview feature. Step 3: Compile the Java preview feature code
If you attempt to compile this code with the standard semantics of the javac command-line tool, you'll encounter a compile-time error that states "text blocks are a preview feature and are disabled by default."
Java preview errorA compile-time error caused by the compilation code that uses a Java preview feature. Java preview compile-time switches
To eliminate this compile-time error, just add a few switches to the javac command, which indicates that you are well aware that the code you want to compile uses features that may or may not be supported in the future. Those switches are:

  • --release 13
  • --enable-preview
  • -Xlint: preview

  • The command line code looks like this:
    jdk13@preview:$ javac --release 13 --enable-preview -Xlint:preview
    Step 4: Ignore the compile-time warning
    When the code compiles, the Java compiler will generate a warning message that looks disconcertedly like an error message. The warning message reads:
    warning: [preview] text blocks are a preview feature and may be removed in a future release.
    Despite the warning, the code has successfully compiled, and bytecode has been generated on the file system. You can ignore this warning and move on to the next step.
    Step 5: Run the Java preview feature code
    With the code compiled, you can execute it by adding the --enable-preview switch to the java command:
    jdk13@preview:$ java --enable-preview EnableJavaPreviewFeatures
    When the code runs, the content of the JDK 13 text block will output to the terminal window.
    JDK 13 programSuccessful compilation and execution of code that uses a Java preview feature. Steps to run Java preview features
    In summary, the five steps involved in the compilation and execution of source code that uses a Java preview feature are:

  • Ensure the JDK of interest is installed.
  • Write code that enacts the Java preview feature.
  • Compile the code using the required switches.
  • Ignore the preview feature compilation warning.
  • Run the code using the -- enable-preview switch.

  • And that's all there is to know about how to use Java preview features such as JDK 13 text blocks.
    Example source code
    The code used in this example is:
    public class EnableJavaPreviewFeatures {    public static void main(String[] args) {       /* JDK 13 Text Blocks example */       String textBlocks = """          <html>            <body>               <h1>Text Blocks</h1>               <p>A Java 13 Preview Feature</p>            </body>         </html>""";    System.out.println(textBlocks);    } }

    How vets can better adapt skills to civilian life, each and every day

    I first met Rebeka when she attended one of Manpower's WorkPath Veteran's training programs on a scholarship provided by SDG&E.
    Raised in San Diego, she was a seven-year Army veteran who had been stationed in Kentucky, El Paso, and South Korea as a human resources specialist.
    Talking with her, right away I sensed her undeniable love of meeting new people, her desire to bring people of different cultures together, and her pride in serving her country through the U.S. Army. She reached the rank of sergeant.
    After high school, Rebeka went into the Army to gain work experience, see the world and put the military's education benefits to good use. All of which seemed difficult to achieve unless she had made her decision to enlist.
    Returning home, she assumed that all kinds of career opportunities would be open to her. She completed the required courses and certifications in human management and later managed a small staff in career counseling where she was stationed.
    We all know there are countless military skills and specialties that make it difficult for veterans to easily transition to private-sector jobs.
    It's also true that some employers tend to regard veterans as being rigid or prone to anger and PTSD issues.
    Yet one of the smoothest and easily transferable skills, one would think, are Human Resources. It's all a matter of interviewing people and placing them in new positions, right?
    Not so fast.
    Some 18 months out of the Army, despite her valuable training, experience, and smarts, Rebeka was still looking for a job when we met.
    Their next chapter for success in the private sector
    Too often, we hear the story of veterans having a difficult time transitioning from the rigid structure and strict discipline of the military to the private sector.
    A few years ago, a Navy admiral based here in San Diego told me straight out: "The federal government pays me to keep America safe and fight wars. It does not give us money for outplacement services for the 15,000 military folks who end their military careers every year in San Diego."
    To combat that reality, the military's Transition Assistance Program, a mandatory five-to-seven-day program, was launched about a year ago to serve as a "reverse boot camp." That's a good start. So is offering tax credits to businesses that hire vets.
    And the USO recently added a fourth pillar of service, that of preparing for the veteran's next career as a civilian.
    In my view, the process of transition needs to include basic language re-training, moving soon-to-be vets away from relying on too much military jargon or using odd acronyms that very few of us non-military types understand.
    It can be as simple as getting out of the habit of answering all questions with "yes, sir/madam" and "no sir/madam." At its best, a civilian job interview is a fairly relaxed conversation, not a military tribunal.
    Companies are hiring her, not her past team
    Wisely, Rebeka took a "can-do" approach. She learned how to re-adapt to civilian culture by following the equally wise advice of her professional counselors and coaches at WorkPath.
    · She talked about her own personal skills and achievements and not we, my team or us. Companies are hiring her, not her past team.
    · She shared clearly how her skills and experience were relatable to specific private-sector companies.
    · She re-wrote her resume and removed all military lingo jargon.
    Already bright, self-assured and poised, she soon became a more savvy interviewee and promptly landed a temporary-to-hire job through Manpower that went permanent and has since been promoted four times in four years.
    Research – to which I can personally attest -- shows that companies smart enough to hire qualified veterans have a higher retention rates, plus benefit from greater potential for leadership roles.
    Employers, I encourage you to reach out to veterans when they apply for your jobs, each and every day. And we need to beef up veteran transition training to make it more meaningful.
    Twitter: @PhilManpowerSD
    ©2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune
    Visit The San Diego Union-Tribune at
    Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

    Tuesday, November 19, 2019

    Growing Potash Mines Is Not A Case Of Just Add Water

    By Tim Boreham, Editor, The New Criterion

    The problems faced by the Australian heavyweight backers of a proposed multi-billion potash mine in Yorkshire show that the ‘feed the world’ theme alone is not enough to get such projects up and running. But progress is being made.
    Potash is a crucial ingredient of fertilizer, which is why the Gina Rinehart-backed, London-listed Sirius Minerals thought it was on a winner after it won approval for its plans to mine the stuff deep below the Yorkshire Moors.
    The project is now struggling for funding after failing to raise $US500 million in a bond issue, which in turn would have crystallized a $US2.5 billion financing facility.
    The country’s Brexit-related political upheaval doesn’t help; nor does the complex nature of the project that included a 37-kilometer underground conveyor belt.
    In Spain, meanwhile, Highfield Resources ((HFR)) hasn’t exactly found the road to approval a streamlined affair, but recently the company won environmental consent for its €540 million Muga potash project in the country’s bullfighting north.
    This consent initially was expected in late 2015, with a view to starting mining in 2018. When developed, Highfield’s Muga project in the country’s north will be Europe’s biggest source of the coveted fertilizer ingredient.
    While the company still requires mining and construction approval, the environmental paperwork was the key obstacle given the green concerns about the project (fly-by-night miners have given the industry a bad reputation there).
    CEO Peter Albert says the process was made more complex because the mine not only needed the consent of Madrid’s central government, but it straddles two districts (Navarra and Aragon) with 60 different authorities involved.
    But Albert maintains the process was always administrative rather than political. “They [the authorities] came up with a solid document that clearly articulates the conditions and the monitoring plans we need to have in place,” he says.
    Armed with the paperwork, Highfield is turning its attention to funding the mine, as well as securing offtake deals for the expected out of around one million tonnes of potash annually. In its first offtake deal, the Swiss-based agri-firm Ameropa AG has agreed to take 250,000 tonnes a year.
    Highfield produces more of potash (potassium chloride), which is the most economical of the potassium fertilizers and therefore the most commonly used.
     n the funding side, Highfield previously arranged a €185 million debt facility with a syndicate of banks. But the company expects that with tumbling interest rates, improved potash pricing, and the bank’s de-risked status, this can be renegotiated favorably.
    With a net present value of €1.97 billion, Muga is expected to generate €310 million of EBITDA annually at full production. Broker Canaccord Genuity expects a funding need of $700m, with a 20 percent equity component
    Albert says Muga’s proximity to the European market is a case of being in the right location: farmers rely on output from Russia and Canada and because of this Muga will enjoy a material freight advantage.
    As with any commodity, the price will fluctuate on short term supply factors, but the longer-term demand-supply dynamics are clear given the rising population and shrinking arable land.
    Potash is a crucial ingredient for maintaining the water retention of plants and improving yields.  It’s not interchangeable with phosphate fertilizers, although the two ingredients can perform similar functions.
    Currently, the world consumes about 67mt a year and Albert expects that when Muga is producing in earnest in 2023 demand will have risen to 75mt.
    The potash story is not lost on BHP Group ((BHP)), which owns the Jansen project in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. The world’s biggest miner is spending $US2.7 billion on two shafts, merely as a prelude to making a decision on whether or not go ahead with the $20bn venture.
    In the meantime, two potash mines in England and Germany have closed.
    The progress at Muga makes for an endurance award for Highfield’s patient long-time shareholders, notably mining legend Owen Hegarty who chipped in $10m of foundation capital in 2012.
    Hegarty’s EMR Capital accounts for 28 percent of the company, while Australian Super has increased its holding beyond the 5 percent threshold.
    Albert pledges in the blood – his own and not a bull’s – that the remaining requisite approvals will be won and the mine will go ahead.
    But while Highfield’s Pamplona-based management prides itself on community involvement, this did not extend to participating in July’s annual Running of the Bulls.
    “I would not do that in a pink fit,’’ says Albert, who watched the gore-fest safely from the sidelines.
    Fertoz ((FTZ))
    On the phosphate side, the $17 million market cap minnow Fertoz has taken a different tack to the conventional providers by focusing on the organic farming market, which demands strict traceability around the origins of the product.
    Conventional fertilizers also don’t pass the purity test as they contain heavy metals and other contaminants. Fertoz ensures it passes the key organic certification while adding some useful elements such as gypsum along the way.
    Handily, Fertoz has got its paws on North America’s biggest mined phosphate stockpiles, based on a 100,000-tonne mountain of the stuff in Montana acquired by way of a marketing agreement with a third party in late 2018.
    “We have essentially located all the high-quality phosphate in the western US and Canada and attempted to tie that up,” says executive chairman Pat Avery.
    Fertoz also has rock phosphate permits in Canada, notably the Wapiti prospect in British Colombia which contains 1.54 million tonne resource.
    Through a web of 60 distributors, Fertoz sells to around 5000 organic farmers, mainly in the US.
    The company estimates a base of 18,000 producers in the US and 5000 in Canada, many of whom are not aware of a certified product even exists. “With more than 80 percent of organic farmers using little to no inputs, the scope for growth through education is significant,” it says.
    Fertoz clocked up $878,255 of revenue in the half-year to June 30, 2019, compared with $1.45m previously, the result of unfavorable weather in the US that included both severe floods and spot droughts.
    Despite the lower turnover, Fertoz narrowed its loss to $682,000 from a $1.05m deficit previously.
    While Fertoz’s sales to date have been slower than expected, the company has the benefit of being the first mover in a sub-market that other players have ignored as a fringe sector.
    The malaise is also reflected in the share price, which has fallen -40% over the last six months.
    Aguia Resources ((AGR))
    Meanwhile, Aguia Resources has won environmental approval for its “well advanced” Tres Estradas phosphate project in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil.
    A key advantage is that the deposit is in an intensive agricultural region that’s fully reliant on phosphate imports. Cost at $US84 million to develop, Tres Estradas contains a 100,000 tonne-plus resource.
    Aguia’s progress was hampered by a board coup that saw four directors resign on the eve of a scheduled vote at a June EGM, with only managing director Justin Reid remaining.
    But with new management now in place, Aguia shares have been on a nice run since.
    The Aguia story has been enhanced by some promising copper strikes on its turf, with management seeking to “monetize” this side of the business.
    Growing Potash Mines Is Not A Case Of Just Add Water
    Disclaimer: Under no circumstances have there been any inducements or like made by the company mentioned to either IIR or the author. 

    Canadian HFR: From Proposal to Project

    Canadian HFR: From Proposal to Project

    Written by David Thomas, Canadian Contributing Editor

    Vernon Barker will head VIA’s High-Frequency Rail project. Photo courtesy the Manchester (U.K.) Evening News.
    VIA Rail’s proposed High-Frequency Rail (HFR) network of dedicated passenger right-of-way linking Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto have moved from the plan to project with the appointment of a British railway expert as team director.
    The Toronto Globe and Mail reported on Nov. 6 that Vernon Barker, formerly with Siemens Rail Systems and FirstGroup in the United Kingdom, will be charged with assembling a full-scale project team as the funding pitch for the C$6 billion electrified lines is readied for presentation to managers of Canada’s huge public pension funds.
    Barker’s appointment was enabled by C$71 million in “pre-procurement” funding announced last June by VIA Rail and Canada’s young Infrastructure Investment Bank.
    Investment bank CEO Pierre Lavalée said at the time the pre-procurement stage would very likely progress to a flurry of tender calls to rail industry suppliers.
    A cheaper C$4 billion alternative would see diesel-driven trains ply the route, but that would be inconsistent with Canada’s climate change commitments. The HFR corridor runs through deep-green Quebec and heavily industrialized southern Ontario. The overhead catenary is the obvious environmentally sound choice. Quebec enjoys substantial surpluses of renewable electricity—a legacy of the province’s prescient 1970s binge in building massive hydropower stations in its mid-north.
    Canadian HFR: From Proposal to ProjectCanadian HFR: From Proposal to ProjectCanadian HFR: From Proposal to ProjectCanadian HFR: From Proposal to Project

  • November 07, 2019
  • Class I, Commuter/Regional, Freight, High Performance, Intercity, Intermodal, Light Rail, M/W, News, Passenger, Rapid Transit, Regulatory, Safety, Short Lines & Regionals, Switching & Terminal
  • Women in Rail 2019

    Tuesday, November 12, 2019

    How to secure WordPress website from hackers

    In spite of WordPress being so secure, the question that comes to our mind is – What makes WordPress website vulnerable and how to secure your WordPress website from Hackers?
    Any WordPress website that you access in your web browser has multiple working components that include – hosting, WordPress core, themes, plug-ins, and more. From a security standpoint, a breach can occur at any of these working components. The below Pie chart will help you understand the key vulnerable areas and what you need to focus on in order to achieve optimum security.
    Percentage of attacks on different levels

  • 40% of the websites are hacked by vulnerabilities in their hosting platform
  • 30% due to insecure theme
  • 21% due to vulnerable plug-ins
  • 9% due to the use of weak passwords

  • So let’s dive deeper into each aspect and learn how you need to prevent your WordPress website from hackers.

    Hosting company

    Always be super cautious while choosing your website hosting company. Never opt for cheap hosting services just because they suit your budget. Choose a hosting company keeping in mind your long term goals and how serious you are about your business. When it comes to hosting services you would want to check on the following points.

  • Check if your website is hosted on Shared Server
  • In case you are hosting your personnel blog as a hobby and not looking for serious commercial returns then an unmanaged shared hosting service may work well for you. But if you are hosting a business website then you should always look for managed hosting services. Look for hosting providers who provide you with complete hosting solutions that take care of the followings:
  • Hosting
  • Backups
  • Regular Updates
  • WordPress (Core, Theme, and Plugins) Updates
  • Security checks
  • And last but not least provides some sort of reports on a regular basis
  • Uptime guarantee
  • Support is very important both Chat & Phone. Specially check the promptness of the support, you would not want to keep listening to that Symphony for a long time.
  • Backup and Security
  • Reviews and Ratings

  • Once you have the right hosting provider in place, it’s time to look into inner areas of WordPress Software which is its most important selling point but at the same time to look at very carefully from security standpoint which is Its themes and Plugins.

    Never use Nulled Themes

    If you are unsure of what that means then check with your developer/company provided you the website that they have not used any Nulled Theme to create your website. The way to check this is to see if your website was built by using some readymade/premium theme and check if your site uses the proper license key for the same. This will ensure your website has all the best codes in it and will also help developers of the theme to continue doing good work after all it’s not that costly even to buy a license for such premium themes.

    Why not go after Nulled themes?

    Though It may look tempting as it can save a few dollars in the first place but forever avoid downloading/using null themes as it can cause big harm to your website. Premium themes look additional skilled and have additional customizable choices than a free theme. Premium themes are coded by extremely virtuoso developers and are tested to pass multiple WordPress checks right out of the box. There are not any restrictions on customizing your theme. Most of all you may get regular theme updates. But, there are some sites that offer nulled or cracked themes. A nulled or cracked theme could be a hacked version of a premium theme, on the market via illicit. They’re additionally terribly dangerous for your website.

    Themes & Plugins check themes:

    If you are not using any of the default WordPress themes or have not purchased one from premium marketplaces and someone has developed a custom WordPress theme for you then it becomes really essential for you to check that your WordPress theme is clean and follows all the standards laid out by WordPress community. Prior to making your website live you should always have a local or live development environment and have done a few basic following checks, this will ensure your site was developed by reliable hands.

  • It should not have any deprecated code/function neither from WordPress and from PHP
  • It should have checked by enabling WP_Debug mode
  • It should have WP_DEBUG_LOG enabled and checked periodically to ensure its smooth functioning.
  • It should have been tested with WP’s Theme unit test data to ensure the theme doesn’t get a break with a heavy load of content, comments, images or any other type of content when added.
  • For more deep checks you can try steps mentioned on the WordPress theme development standards page.

  • Plugins:
    Through Plugins, you can really take your WordPress website to the next level. For example within a few clicks, your simple website can turn into a fully functional eCommerce store. Having said that after themes plugins are the third most important place you should always be careful of. For a hacker, a weak coded plugin can easily give them a key to your website, database and sometimes it can infect other sites hosted as well. Paying attention to a few of the following points will help you make the right choice from a security standpoint.

  • You should avoid downloading plugin from external sources unless it’s paid one and coming from reputed developers like Gravity Forms or some paid stores…etc.
  • some of the points such as:
  • No of active downloads
  • No of stars received
  • Last updated
  • Compatible with your WordPress version
  • Most importantly google if that plugin or its version doesn’t contain any known vulnerabilities.
  • Compare other similar plugins providing the same functionalities

  • In general:
    Always keep your themes, plugins and WordPress core updated with its latest versions.

    Hide login page

    It’s a good idea to change the default WordPress login URLs. This gives some extra security against brute force attacks. It also helps in preventing spam user registrations, If your site allows users to create a free subscription account.

    Login lockdown feature

    You can make unlimited failed login attempts by default but this feature can expose your site for brute force attacks. By implementing a lockdown feature to your site, you can restrict users for a given interval of time after a number of failed login attempts.

    Don’t use a weak password

    I would recommend implementing a strong password policy in place for your WordPress site because weak passwords and login data are chargeable for an honest range of hacks. This is very true for brute force attack that permits them to check uncountable login combos during a short quantity of your time. As stupid as this sound, it works!
    You can check the list of most common passwords on Wikipedia
    As the first line of defense, adhere to the following best practices for WordPress login information:

  • Avoid using the “Admin” as username (which used to be the default in older WordPress versions and is therefore often targeted first)
  • Create a strong password
  • Oblige other users to do the same Force strong passwords.
  • Disable directory listing with .htaccess
    Add following snippet to .htaccess

    Options All -Indexes

    Disable trackbacks and pingbacks
    WordPress introduced Trackbacks and Pingbacks to enable blogs to send a notification saying they have been linked. Today it is mostly being used by spammers to spam the sites, therefore, Disabling it is a good idea.

    Add Recaptcha to forms

    Google Recaptcha or any type of captcha will ensure that your forms are being submitted by actual humans. It will save you from Spam submissions and for poorly custom coded forms from SQL Injections as well.

    Disable XML-RPC in WordPress

    Xmlrpc.php file allows you to post content remotely. Example from your mobile devices, but lately this feature is mostly being used by hackers to execute mass attacks on your website. Therefore if you are not utilizing this feature of WordPress then it’s a good idea to disable it altogether. It will take down your resource usage up to a great extent.
    Check directories & files permissions are set correctly
    This belongs to the most important checks, it becomes more vulnerable if your site is hosted on shared hosting. As a best practice, all your directories should have “755” and files should have “644” level permissions.
    Change the default database prefix
    Changing default database prefix from WP_ to something difficult to guess gives protection against SQL Injections.
    Setup SSL and have proper redirects in place for SSL
    Adding an SSL Certificate to your website not only adds great security but also provides SEO benefits to your website. Having SSL with proper redirects will ensure your site is served from port 443 and not port 80 which is not an encrypted port.


  • That all must go to
    Note: Your site falling back to www or non-www is your preferred choice, nothing better here.
    Consider protecting your site against DDoS attack
    In DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack your site becomes unavailable, mostly multiple infected sites get used to targeting one site so that it becomes unavailable. You can subscribe for a free Cloud flare account they sit between the Client browser and your server and provides great protection from this type of attack.

    Saturday, November 9, 2019

    Questions You Should Ask Before Buying an Insurance Policy

    Think Many Times Before Buying an Insurance Policy

    Insurance protects you from life's calamities. You want to make sure you have the right coverage so an accident, illness, or other disaster doesn't lead to financial ruin -- but how exactly can you figure out what policy is the right one? 

    No matter what kind of insurance you're buying -- whether it's health, home, auto, renter's or life insurance -- there are a few key things you should look at to be sure the coverage you're getting is well-suited to meet your needs.
    In particular, here are four key things you'll want to know about any insurance policy you're thinking about purchasing.
    A person holds a tablet with the words health insurance at the top of the screen.

    1. What are the premiums?
    Insurance companies charge you for buying coverage. The charges you pay for your policy are called the premiums. Premiums may be charged monthly -- which is common for health and auto insurance -- or you may pay annually, which is more common for homeowner's insurance coverage. 
    The amount of your premium is determined by many factors, including your deductible, coverage maximums, and the type of policy you're buying. Typically, the more comprehensive your insurance coverage, the higher your premiums. 
    You'll need to know what the premium cost is before you commit to an insurance policy and make sure you can afford to work the premiums into your budget. And weigh the trade-off you're making. If you're highly likely to use the coverage, it may be worth paying a higher premium to get your insurance to pay for more services -- but if you're unlikely to end up making a claim, you may want a skimpier insurance policy that offers you less protection but that costs less. 
    2. Is there a deductible?
    Many types of insurance have a deductible, which is a set amount of money you have to pay for covered services or covered losses before your insurer pays out benefits. If you get into an accident and your auto insurance has a $500 deductible, for example, you'd be responsible for covering the first $500 in repair costs for your vehicle. 
    Sometimes, the policy will provide some coverage even if you haven't yet met your deductible. Your health insurer may pay for preventative screenings if your deductible hasn't been met, or your auto insurer may not apply the deductible to glass-only incidents and so may pay to repair or replace your windshield without your incurring any out-of-pocket expenses. And some policies, such as life insurance coverage, may have no deductible at all. 
    But it's always important to find out if there is a deductible, how much it is, and what if anything your insurance will pay for. If your deductible is very high, you'd be on the hook for a big bill if you need covered services, which could be hard for you to afford. If that's the case, you may decide to try to lower your deductible -- although this would usually result in higher premiums. 
    3. What's your maximum coverage limit?
    Most insurance policies have payout limits. If you buy life insurance, for example, your policy will pay a set death benefit but no more. Auto insurance will pay only for the costs of your car's repairs or the vehicle's fair market value, and it will cover your liability for losses only up to policy limits if you cause a crash. And homeowners insurance also caps the coverage available to you based on the market value or replacement value of your covered home and possessions. 
    Health insurance, however, is the exception. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, lifetime coverage limits on Obamacare-compliant insurance policies are no longer permitted. That means an insurer must pay for the covered care you need even if the policy has already paid out millions. 
    For any policy with maximum coverage limits, you need to know what the limitations are and make sure you have enough protection. If you have $25,000 in coverage and you cause an auto accident that results in millions of dollars in damages, you could personally be held liable for losses your insurance won't cover. 
    4. What limitations on what's covered apply to your policy?
    In addition to the policy limits, it's also important to read the fine print and find out what your policy excludes from being covered. For homeowners insurance, for example, you may have no coverage for floods, while your health insurance policy may not provide payment if you see an out-of-network doctor. 
    By closely reading the terms of any policy you're considering, you can make sure that the coverage restrictions aren't so extreme that you're all but prevented from using the coverage at all. 
    An accident or illness could devastate your finances or your family's finances if you don't have insurance on you, your home, your vehicles, or on your expensive possessions it would be too hard to replace. Always make sure you have protection for life's big losses, as paying insurance premiums is well worth the investment to avoid hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in bills when the worst occurs. 

    How to donate blood to support troops overseas


    A blood drive is happening Monday morning at Fort Carson to provide blood for wounded warriors overseas.

    It's part of the Armed Services Blood Program, which serves as the sole provider of blood to places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
    If you'd like to donate, you can make your way out to Fort Carson's special events center to donate.
    All you need to do is make sure you are a DOD cardholder or visit with a DOD cardholder.
    The blood drive kicks off at 9 a.m. and goes through 4 p.m.
    Fort Carson received a record-breaking amount of donations last year when more than 250 people showed up.
    Organizers are hoping to top that again this year, with the goal set at more than 300 donations.
    "One donation can save up to three lives, which is huge," said event organizer Captain Corrine Brown."So last year, actually Fort Carson led the way for blood donations across the entire nation."
    All the blood collected here today will be delivered to them within four days.
    While most folks are healthy enough to donate, there are a few exceptions.
    You can find all the guidelines and requirements here.

    How to Get Customer Support From YouTube TV, Hulu, and Other Streaming Services

    We’ve heard from many of you who have taken Team Clark’s advice and cut the cord with your cable company in order to save money by getting your favorite TV shows from the big streaming services.
    But what happens if something goes wrong and you need customer support from YouTube TV, Hulu or one of the others?
    Sometimes it’s not as simple as picking up the phone and calling an 800 number. That’s why we’ve done the research and compiled this list of the best ways to reach customer service at your streaming provider.
    The Best Ways to Get Customer Service From Your Live TV Streaming Provider
    Quick Links:
    The various live TV streaming services all have a number of ways to help you problem-solve if you’re having an issue.
    Sometimes it might be as easy as typing your question into a search box and getting the answer from the company’s Frequently Asked Questions library. Other times you may have an issue that requires the help of a real live person.
    Either way, between all of the options below you, should be able to get your issue resolved. Here are the best ways to get support from each of the major live TV streaming companies.

    YouTube TV

    YouTube TV
    YouTube TV is money expert Clark Howard‘s favorite live TV streaming service, but they don’t necessarily make it easy to get help if you run into an issue.
    As you would expect from a company owned by Google, much of YouTube TV’s support network is web-based. You may have to do some searching to get your answer.
    If you can’t find what you need online, there are a couple of other options that may get you help from a real person.


    If you’re having an issue, the first thing to do is to head to this YouTube TV Help page. There, you can type in your issue to see if it can be resolved online.
    YouTube TV Help
    On this page, you will also find the answers to frequently asked questions about available channels, supported devices, billing and more.
    If you still can’t find your answer, you can contact YouTube here to get further help.
    YouTube TV Help
    Once you let YouTube know what your specific issue is, you will be given options for how you would like to be contacted.
    YouTube TV Help
    As you can see, the options are phone, chat or email. YouTube does not let you reach out to them via these methods. They will reach out to you instead.


    Google advertises a Customer Support number online, but it is not staffed. You will need to let them call you if you would like to speak to someone.


    Same here — you will need to let a chat agent reach out to you.


    Again, you will need to let Google/YouTube email you if you would like to communicate this way.

    Social Media

    We did find one other option for potentially getting YouTube TV support.
    The official YouTube TV Twitter account says you get support for YouTube TV from the Twitter account linked above, although it appears that Twitter account is mostly focused on the original YouTube product, so your mileage may vary.


    Hulu, a joint venture of Disney and Comcast, is a bit more straightforward than YouTube TV when it comes to getting customer service.


    You can get answers to most questions about Hulu and Hulu + Live TV here.


    You can reach Hulu support at (888) 265-6650. 


    You can chat with “Hulubot” by clicking this icon on the lower left of the Help page:


    You can reach Hulu customer support by emailing

    Social Media

    Hulu also offers support on Facebook and Twitter.

    Sling TV

    Sling TV
    The most popular live TV streaming service also offers several convenient ways to get customer support.


    You can get answers to most questions about Sling TV here.


    You can reach Sling at (888) 363-1777. The number works 8am-1am ET, seven days a week.


    You can open a chat with a “virtual assistant” here.


    It does not appear that email is a valid way to contact Sling TV for support.

    Social Media

    Sling TV offers a few different options for getting support via social media.

    AT&T TV Now and AT&T WatchTV

    AT&T TV
    AT&T has several options for getting customer support for its live TV streaming services.


    Click here to get answers to your questions about AT&T TV Now and AT&T WatchTV online.


    You can reach AT&T phone support at (800) 288-2020. The billing & account department is open every day from 8am-midnight ET. You can get technical support anytime.


    You can open a live chat here every day from 7am-1am ET by clicking the Chat Live button.
    AT&T Live Chat


    It does not appear that email is a valid way to contact AT&T for streaming support.

    Social Media

    AT&T suggests that you can reach out to them on Facebook and Twitter.
    Finally, streaming service Philo also offers some different support options.


    You can click here to get answers from their online Help Center.


    Philo offers phone support at (855) 277-4456. Help is available every day from 10am-midnight ET.


    Philo offers a support bot here. Just click this button on the lower right to begin.
    Philo Support Bot


    You can email Philo with your questions here.
    Social Media
    Philo offers support via Twitter, as well.
    If you are unhappy with your live TV streaming service or just want to see what else is out there, check out our picks for the best services available right now.
    You can also compare channel lineups for all of the top services here.
    Thank you for reading

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