Living Today: Issues of modern living

By United Press International
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With mind-numbing frequency, federal authorities are issuing warnings to the public to be on alert, yet millions of Americans haven't the foggiest idea what that means, says a veteran security expert.


Neal Rawls, a 30-year law enforcement professional and corporate security director, says "vague statements to be 'on alert' only confuse the public and the public needs to know what to be alert for."

Rawls offers advice in his new book, "Be Alert, Be Aware, Have a Plan."

He advocates following instincts. He says people who survived the World Trade Center attacks did so because they trusted their gut-level instincts.

Rawls says terrorists are like any other thugs. "They use intimidation and violence to get what they want." Most protection techniques can be used to deflect all types of criminals, from burglars to terrorists, because it's based on based on being alert, aware and having the knowledge to formulate a plan to deal with whatever might occur.


"We're often taught as children to discount our gut-level instincts, but it is those instincts they can help us to survive," Rawls says.

Awareness is a powerful antidote to fear because it helps people formulate a plan, Rawls says. The most basic of plans is escape and he says everyone should know where emergency exits are when they enter a building.

Rawls offers the following questions to test safety awareness:

"When you enter a convenience store at night, do you look around before barging right in? Do you stay out if you don't see the clerk? Do you always take a quick survey of your surroundings before leaving your car? Do you take shortcuts through parks? Do you vary your route each day when you run or bike?"


College students who graduated expecting to find challenging fulfilling and well-paying careers, are finding they may have to turn down their preferred job for a better-paying one to be able to pay off college loans.

In a survey released by Collegiate Funding Services, one out of five former students reported being surprised by how much the monthly payments on their student loans were and how the payments affect their lives.


The survey found 21 percent of adults paying some college loans reported being surprised by the dollar amount of their monthly payments.

The unexpectedly high payments made 20 percent accept a different, higher-paying job offer than the one they preferred. In fact, 19 percent indicated they were not prepared to make their monthly payments.

Among those currently owing money, men were paying an average of $222 per month on an average remaining balance of $12,900, while women reported paying $141 per month on an average remaining balance of $10,300.

Among those with children ages 12 to 17, only 27 percent said they would be totally responsible for their children's education costs. In all, 47 percent said they plan to pay some or all of the costs from savings, investments, and/or loans in the parent's name.

The majority listed other options for offsetting their children's college costs. A third expect their children to qualify for scholarships and grants, while 23 percent expect their children to obtain student loans, and 4 percent said their children would participate in work-study programs. Another 4 percent would look toward other family members, such as grandparents, for help in offsetting college costs.

All interviews were made by telephone with people selected at random by RoperASW of Princeton, N.J. The survey was conducted May 1 to 11 and has a margin of error of plus/minus 4 percentage points.



A new legal portal has been launched, at where hundreds of legal resources are available for easy and convenient access by lawyers and by the public.

The Web site offers the public options on: how to find a lawyer, where to register a complaint, the latest information about class actions, employment, eldercare, child custody, defective products, pollution, a true crime bookstore, as well as legal resources such as access to state criminal and civil codes, legal forms and lawyer directories.

The legal community has access to new cases, a unique lawyer-to-lawyer referral service, legal software, expert witnesses, legal marketing resources, a law bookstore, legal news, research resources, lawyer recruitment, legal forums and class action information including possible and pending cases, settlements and verdicts.

Owned and operated by Online Legal Services Ltd., World Justice has been built on the material at, where people daily register their complaints ranging from chemical exposure to credit card fraud, and on, an Internet-based lawyer-to-lawyer referral program.


By 2010, consumers will see attractive, affordable vehicles powered by fuel cells generating electricity from hydrogen without harmful emissions, according to automakers.

Speaking at the Future Car Congress 2002, senior executives from General Motors, Ford, Toyota and BMW laid out some of the challenges facing fuel-cell car development.


"It will take about 20 years to replace a worldwide generation of cars ... I can envision a world where we (replace) the internal combustion engine at a significant rate," says Larry Burns, GM's vice president of research and development planning.

By eliminating the space constraints imposed by today's engine, transmission and control systems, GM's future chassis designs will resemble a skateboard more than anything else, he says.

Such simplicity could support interchangeable passenger compartments, which could enable chassis that people could "mortgage," altering the body over time.

Storing hydrogen fuel is the immediate challenge, and though the industry has reduced the cost of doing so tenfold in the past three years, an additional tenfold drop is needed, according to Burns.

If countries decided to separate hydrogen from water using renewable energy, along with extracting it from natural gas, the resulting consumer cost would be comparable to today's European gasoline prices.

However, there are still glitches. For example, freezing temperatures can block a fuel cell's exhaust, which is almost all water vapor.

(Thanks to UPI Science reporter Scott R. Burnell.)

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