NEW YORK (AP) — While Joan Rivers lay sedated in a Manhattan clinic, her doctors performed unauthorized medical procedures, snapped a selfie with the comedian and failed to act as her vital signs deteriorated, according to a malpractice lawsuit filed Monday by her daughter, Melissa.

The 81-year-old comedian and star of “Fashion Police” on E! died Sept. 4, days after she went in for a routine endoscopy at Yorkville Endoscopy on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and stopped breathing.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan State Supreme Court paints a picture of a careless, cocky staff of doctors who ran roughshod over Rivers while she was unconscious, and it suggests that she died because of their incompetence. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

Melissa Rivers said in a statement that filing the lawsuit was one of the most difficult decisions she had to make.

“What ultimately guided me was my unwavering belief that no family should ever have to go through what my mother, Cooper and I have been through,” she said, referring to her son. “The level of medical mismanagement, incompetency, disrespect and outrageous behavior is shocking and frankly, almost incomprehensible.”

She said her mother deserved better.

The city’s medical examiner found that Joan Rivers died of brain damage due to lack of oxygen after she stopped breathing during the endoscopy. Her death was classified as a therapeutic complication. The classification is not commonly used; more deaths are certified as accidents, homicides, suicides or natural causes. Negligence was not suspected. Had it been, it would have been listed as a contributing cause.

A statement from Yorkville said it wasn’t appropriate to comment on the lawsuit.

“The Rivers family has, as it has always had, our deepest sympathies and condolences,” the statement said. “The 51 physicians, nurses and staff who currently work at Yorkville remain firmly committed to providing the highest quality of care to their patients.”

The lawsuit alleges that the doctors mishandled the endoscopy and performed another medical procedure called a laryngoscopy on Rivers’ vocal cords without consent. When the anesthesiologist expressed concern over what the procedure would do to Rivers’ ability to breathe, she was told she was being “paranoid” by the gastroenterologist performing the endoscopy, Dr. Lawrence Cohen, the suit said. He has since resigned.

Rivers’ private ear, nose and throat specialist, Gwen Korovin, was introduced as an observer in the operating room but instead performed two procedures though she wasn’t cleared to work at the clinic, the lawsuit said. Rivers crashed during the second — after Cohen snapped pictures of Rivers, and with Korovin, saying later he thought Rivers would want to see them, the suit said. Korovin then left the operating room to avoid being caught, according to the suit.

A message left with Korovin’s attorney wasn’t returned. Calls to her office and Cohen’s office and home rang unanswered.

“To put it mildly, we are not just disappointed by the acts and omissions leading to the death of Joan Rivers, but we are outraged by the lack of care and concern for Ms. Rivers on the part of her treating physicians and the endoscopy center where the treatment was rendered,” said Melissa Rivers’ attorneys, Jeffrey Bloom and Ben Rubinowitz.

An investigation ordered by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found the clinic made several errors, including failing to keep proper medication records and snapping the cellphone photos. It also found the clinic failed to get informed consent for every procedure performed and failed to record Rivers’ weight before the administration of sedation medication.

The clinic submitted a lengthy plan for fixes, but the changes weren’t good enough and the federal agency said it would revoke accreditation unless the clinic was in better compliance by March 2. Yorkville said it was working with the agency.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Marijuana just keeps growing. That’s a weak attempt at a punny metaphor for which I apologize (hey, I could have used some variation such as “growing like a weed,” so I did exercise a little restraint…), but its deeper meaning is that marijuana is actually outgrowing such cheap jokes and entering the realm where it demands to be taken seriously — especially by politicians. Marijuana is now the nation’s fastest-growing industry. The legal marijuana industry brought in $2.4 billion last year, so it’s certainly no longer any sort of laughing matter. That figure represents an increase of a whopping 74 percent in one year’s time, and it is estimated that the total legal market could be worth $11 billion as soon as 2019.

This news is all contained in the third annual “State of Legal Marijuana Markets” report from The ArcView Group, described as “a cannabis industry investment and research firm based in Oakland, California.” The Huffington Post has a good overview of what the report contains, complete with some very interesting charts projecting the size of the possible future legal marketplace. These projections seem just a wee bit optimistic to me, assuming (for instance) that the following states will legalize adult recreational use either this year or in 2016: California, Nevada, Arizona, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maryland. By 2020, the projection adds Montana, Hawai’i, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware to this list. This would make a total of 18 states to fully legalize, which (as I said) may be slightly optimistic.

Optimistic or not, though, it’s hard to argue against at least some of those states ending their own War On Weed within this time period. Whether it happens that fast or takes a slightly different route, though, the destination should be more and more obvious as the legal marijuana industry continues to grow. The end of this road is pretty stunning, just in sheer numbers:

The huge growth potential of the industry appears to be limited only by the possibility of states rejecting the loosening of their drug laws. The report projects a marijuana industry that could be more valuable than the entire organic food industry — that is, if the legalization trend continues to the point that all 50 states legalize recreational marijuana. The total market value of all states legalizing marijuana would top $36.8 billion — more than $3 billion larger than the organic food industry.

So far, this reform effort has taken place at the grassroots level (there I go again with the puns… sorry). All five places where recreational legalization is now on the books (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state, and Washington DC) happened via ballot initiatives. Most of the states now considering the idea are also going to happen by the direct expressed will of the voters, although either Vermont or Rhode Island could become the first states to do so through their state legislatures. This marks a turning point, because it means politicians will be less and less able to either flat-out ignore the issue or treat it as some sort of joking matter.

There is already an established marijuana lobby in DC. This is also a sign of growing up: entering the political process by means of campaign donations. Even when the people are leading on a hot-button issue, politicians think they’re free to dodge the issue until it starts hitting them directly in the campaign chest. Look at the Democrats’ evolution on gay marriage, for instance, and how much more seriously Democratic candidates started to treat the issue once the big gay-rights donors started threatening to turn off the money spigot. You can bemoan the influence of money in American politics all you want from a purist position, but the reality is that any issue with a big lobbying effort is taken a lot more seriously than one with no money behind it. It’s a political fact of life, whether you despise that this is so or not. And the marijuana industry is starting to play this game. It will only become more and more effective at doing so as the industry grows, both in size and in stature.

State-level gains on marijuana reform are one thing, but the real battles which remain are going to have to be fought at the federal level. The first skirmish is already happening, because although the voters in Washington DC voted overwhelmingly to legalize recreational marijuana, Congress may think it can get away with vetoing the will of the voters. It will be interesting to see how many Democrats stand up for District residents on the issue.

Most Democratic politicians at the national level might be charitably described as “reluctant” to support drastically reforming federal marijuana laws. But such reforms are going to be absolutely necessary, and the pressure for them to happen is only going to grow. Democrats old enough to remember the “Nancy Reagan era” of the Drug War know that Republicans will in all likelihood level two charges against any Democrats brave enough to call for changes: being “soft on drugs” and “soft on crime.” Anyone who thinks these aren’t effective political bludgeons probably didn’t live through the 1980s.

But if the number of states which have legalized recreational use reaches double digits (as it could very well do in 2016), the pressure is going to mount for national politicians to show some leadership. The people will be leading, and the leaders will have to eventually follow, to put this in bumper-sticker language.

The remaining hurdle for the marijuana industry might be called “normalization.” Legal recreational marijuana is now (or soon will be) a reality in four states. What is necessary now is the equivalent of the passage of the Twenty-First Amendment. When federal Prohibition of alcohol was overturned, what happened was exactly what is already taking place now for marijuana — alcohol laws were changed state by state (even county by county in many places), and we were left with a patchwork of laws across the nation. It took until 1966 before the last statewide alcohol prohibition law was repealed, in fact (in Mississippi).

But while there are indeed still “dry” counties in America, there is an important distinction between current laws on alcohol sales and current marijuana laws. An American citizen can travel anywhere in the country with a couple of cases of beer in the backseat of his or her car and not risk being arrested for possessing alcohol. As long as it’s for personal use, as long as the driver hasn’t recently consumed any of it, and as long as nobody’s trying to sell it illegally, there is no danger of being locked up or the citizen’s vehicle being impounded. Liquor store owners, as long as they’re legal with the state and county, are allowed to have a business checking account in their local bank. They are also allowed to deduct their business expenses from their taxes. Beer advertisements are allowed to be broadcast even in “dry” counties. While local laws may ban alcohol sales, alcohol possession is not a crime. People growing barley, hops, wheat, potatoes, or any other plant which is made into alcoholic beverages don’t have to comply with any onerous regulations controlling how many plants they may grow, which allows the free marketplace to work as intended. None of that is true for marijuana.

The biggest political step that still needs to be taken on the national level is completely divorcing marijuana from the rest of the ill-fated Drug War. Politicians can indeed manage to do this by taking the stance: “Let’s spend our drug enforcement dollars intelligently and go after crystal meth and heroin abuse instead of wasting it on marijuana.” That is both an effective and a fiscally-responsible argument.

At some point, most likely led by Democrats (although libertarian Republicans could indeed surprise me), it is going to become more of a political liability to fight against marijuana’s mainstreaming than it will be a positive political position to take. This could happen rather quickly, in fact (consider that in the past six years, the Democrats went from timidity to full-throated support for marriage equality, led by Barack Obama’s own “evolution” on the matter). Especially if six or seven states vote to legalize recreational use during a presidential election year.

Beyond politics, however, the normalization of marijuana use continues in American society, and sometimes from unexpected directions. While marijuana activists were amused that last year’s Super Bowl was played between the two teams from fully-legal recreational states (the Broncos and the Seahawks), this year it is even more impressive that ex-stars of the N.F.L. are now publicly calling for the league to change their own rather Draconian attitudes towards marijuana use by their players.

Marijuana users will eventually be as free as beer drinkers in America. That is the end game for marijuana reform. Marijuana may not be sold everywhere in the country, but then neither is alcohol (even eight decades after the repeal of Prohibition). But other than moonshiners, nobody today worries about being arrested for breaking alcohol possession laws. Instead it is treated as a recreational vice with limits on responsible use (drunken driving and public intoxication laws still remain on the books, to put this another way). In a nod to the N.F.L. players’ column, I can end here by defining the ultimate measure of when marijuana will be fully normalized in American society: when an advertisement for weed airs during the Super Bowl. Today, the possibility of seeing a Super Bowl ad for Bob Marley brand joints seems pretty far-fetched, during the most-watched television event of the year (with the most-expensive advertising rates). But the marijuana industry is growing so fast that such a thing may become reality a lot sooner than anyone might now predict. The marijuana industry is indeed growing up, and eventually it’s going to want a seat at the biggest advertising table the country has to offer.

Chris Weigant

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

Ever since I first began composing music, I’ve always felt that building new audiences requires updating the very idea of “the composer” — from some stuffy old dude with a wig and a quill pen, to a collaborator and cultural ambassador who is deeply integrated with the communities he or she serves.

One of the most exciting things about my position as Director of Artistic Programming with Chicago-based music organization Fifth House Ensemble is that I’m able to pursue larger and more complex musical projects than I ever could all on my own. While I’ve partnered before with music ensembles including the Kronos Quartet and Minnesota Orchestra in presenting ambitious programming and community outreach initiatives, being a core member of my own ensemble “family” has afforded me the opportunity to join together with like-minded individuals who are passionate about taking the concert experience to the next level, and to re-imagine what classical programming might be able to provide for 21st-century audiences.

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Reaching new audiences requires reaching outside of oneself, and beyond the conventional way of doing things. So at Fifth House Ensemble, we’re always looking to collaborate with people who bring their own, unique talents to the table. Sometimes that can be a visual artist or animator who can help make the music come alive for our audiences, and sometimes it means working with other musicians who share very different skills and performance experience.

It’s exactly this kind of conversation — where musicians from different sides of the tracks both explore their commonalities and celebrate their differences — that I feel is most valuable to the ensemble as well as our audiences. “What happens if ___?” is my favorite reason for a musical performance, reimagined as playful experimentation rather than the sterile museum-like curation to which classical concerts are so often prone. One of the many reasons audiences flock to bands and rather than classical offerings must surely be the lack of risk in most classical concerts, and lack of any stake in the outcome; and that’s why my major criticism of most classical programs is that no room has been left for something truly unexpected to happen. I want to instead reach out to the audience with this invitation: “We’re going to try something today that’s never been done before, but that might be really cool — would you help us by joining as part of that conversation?”

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Just last week I traveled to Berlin with five of our musicians to initiate just this kind of conversation: a collaboration between Fifth House Ensemble and Mediterranean folk band Baladino in which we’re working to create and present a genre-defying suite of newly composed concert works rooted in Middle Eastern, European, and American vernacular music. With its members hailing from Berlin and Tel Aviv, Baladino brings together instruments and traditions from the wide span of cultures including Sephardic and Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) musical traditions, updating these influences with their own contemporary backgrounds in jazz improvisation and electronica.

Through engagement with diverse cultural organizations representing the US, Israel, Spain, Iran, India, and Germany, and by tapping the shared experience of musical memories, this genre-bending program serves as a catalyst for an exploration of music as an indelible part of cultural identity — with the earliest musical memories that our cultural partners and future audience members share with us providing a thematic undercurrent to the show.

We want the audience’s experience of seeing our two ensembles share in each other’s respective musical traditions enrich the process of reconnecting with their own musical memories. By sharing cherished melodies that become part of new resulting musical work, our participants witness defining parts of their identity reflected in a new work that is actually much larger than a single concert; it’s a process of repeated engagement that build awareness for the project while also sparking conversation between individuals and groups who might not otherwise engage so readily. We’re not quite sure where this conversation is headed, but after an initial rehearsal period and salon concert presentation in Berlin it was clear that letting the audience in the on the creative process was a big part of how music organizations can revitalize relationships with their communities.

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While a defining aspect of my work with Fifth House Ensemble includes cross-genre collaborations and civic practice initiatives, I also think that one of the best ways to let curiosity back into the concert hall is to reimagine past masterpieces in a way that is both faithful to their origins and yet reimagines their meaning in a way that impacts a new generation. This younger generation is increasingly likely to discover music for classical instruments as the soundtrack to films and video games, and our upcoming presentation of Arnold Schoenberg’s epicly-angsty composition Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) at Chicago’s Mayne Stage taps the talents of film and video Chicago film and video artist Adebukola Bodunrin immerses audiences in a captivating interpretation of poet Richard Dehmel’s original text which inspired the composition.

There’s a way to stay true to the integrity of past masterworks and explore their contexts in a serious way, while also bringing in new audiences who might not otherwise have an experience with classical chamber music and presenting that experience to them on the highest artistic level–making art accessible in the age of videogames and YouTube requires using every tool at our disposal to redesign the concert experience.

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When I look at the programming of most major music organizations including major orchestras, I’m struck by how many of their programs leave little reason for even a committed music fan to attend save for the still-significant thrill of seeing a live musician take the risk of playing even a familiar work without a safety net, as it were; what if we realized that it’s this risk that makes live performance so exciting and special, and that what classical music most needs are more ways to make the concert experience special again–and to give us an experience we can’t easily recreate with listening devices and earbuds.

The best part of art is that we don’t have to know what will happen beforehand–and that very not knowing is the point. I’ve got into music because it became a way of expressing my curiosity: about sound and how it can affect listeners, about myself and my own limits, and about the many concepts and experiences I encounter in the wide world beyond music. Art has a way of taking us outside of ourselves to new and wonderful places, and I’m grateful that my work with Fifth House Ensemble allows me to advocate for a vision of classical music where experimentation and accessibility each support the other. By letting curiosity back into the concert hall–and with it the associated vulnerability, freedom, and sense of shared community–we’re making a commitment to a new paradigm in which classical musicians listen just as much as they sound.

Some forecasters have projected a record snowstorm for the Northeast in the coming hours, which isn’t exactly the sort of thing that makes people think about global warming.

But in declaring a state of emergency on Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) noted that this type of monster storm is “part of the changing climate.”

“I’ve only been governor four years. I believe I’ve gone through more emergency disasters in four years than any governor in history has gone through,” said Cuomo. “There is a pattern of extreme weather that we have never seen before.”

Cuomo cited Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which hit New York and New Jersey particularly hard, as well as the 7 feet of snow that fell on Buffalo this past November. “It’s something we have to adjust to, it’s something that’s very costly, and it’s also something that’s very dangerous,” said the governor.

Climate change deniers are gonna deny, but there is increasing evidence that ties atmospheric warming trends to heavier snowfall events.

“We can’t make too big a deal of every single storm and say it is caused by climate change,” climate scientist Don Wuebbles of the University of Illinois in Urbana told National Geographic on Monday. “But what we are seeing today is completely typical of what you would expect to see in a warming climate.”

Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist in the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said that in winter, temperatures are generally colder on land than over the oceans. Climate change is raising ocean temperatures, however, and current sea surface temperatures are more the 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal over much of the area off the East Coast of the United States, he explained to The Huffington Post. Trenberth also said that water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10 percent higher than normal, and about half of this change can be attributed to climate change.

Massive storms, like the one hitting the Northeast, happen when the cold land air collides with the warmer, moister off-shore air. The current storm, said Trenberth, “is in just the right position to tap into the high moisture over the ocean and develop as it experiences the sharp contrast between the continent and the relatively warm ocean.”

That fits with trends identified in last year’s National Climate Assessment from the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The report found that from 1958 to 2012, there was a 71 percent increase in “very heavy” storms in the Northeast.

The heavy storm trend is likely to continue, given the projected atmospheric warming. “In mid-winter, it is expected with climate change that snowfalls will increase as long as the temperatures are cold enough, because they are warmer than they would have been and the atmosphere can hold 4 percent more moisture for every 1 [degree Fahrenheit] increase in temperature,” said Trenberth. “So as long as it does not warm above freezing, the result is a greater dump of snow.”

Other studies have found evidence that global warming is driving shifts in the jet stream. Those changes may slow storms down, giving them more time to drop rain or snow in one place.

“A storm that might have moved across the Northeast in 24 hours may now take 48 hours,” David Easterling, chief of the Global Climate Applications Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, told The Huffington Post.

Indeed, the current storm, named Juno, appears to be slow-moving. “It has a chance to dump a lot of snow as it moves across the region,” said Easterling.

As the climate warms, he said, “you may see more of these bigger storms in the future.”

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A confounding and heartbreaking murder case alleging that a mother purposely poisoned her 5-year-old son with salt and documented his decline on social media began Monday in the New York suburbs.

Lacey Spears, 27, of Scottsville, Kentucky, who presented herself online as a supremely devoted mother, is charged with depraved murder and manslaughter in the death a year ago of Garnett-Paul Spears.

“This mother was intentionally feeding her child salt at toxic levels,” prosecutor Doreen Lloyd said at Spears’ arraignment.

The boy’s sodium levels rose to a dangerous point with no medical explanation, prosecutors said, leading to a swollen brain, seizures and death. They believe his single mother, who was sharing his hospital room at Westchester Medical Center, administered salt through a feeding tube into Garnett’s stomach.

All the while, she was keeping followers up to date with 28 online postings in the last 11 days of his life, noting his death with, “Garnett the great journeyed onward today at 10:20 a.m.” She had tens of thousands of entries over Garnett’s lifetime, many about his doctor and hospital visits.

“My Sweet Angel Is In The Hospital For The 23rd Time,” Spears tweeted on Nov. 9, 2009, adding a sad-faced emoticon. “Please Pray He Gets To Come Home Soon.”

Jury selection began Monday with a pool of 90 potential jurors on hand at the courthouse. Several told the judge they had seen some of the extensive news coverage of the case.

In rulings delivered last week, Lacey Spears’ messages on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace were determined relevant and are likely to be introduced as evidence. Some of the posted photos depict Garnett’s declining health, said acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary.

Neary also found that prosecutors can tell jurors about Internet research Spears did on her iPhone into the dangers of sodium in children and the properties of iodized salt.

In addition, the judge said Garnett’s hospital records from Alabama, Florida and New York are relevant and “inextricably interwoven into the fabric of this case. They provide a history of the child’s medical issues and treatment leading up to his death. They illustrate the defendant’s role as custodian and care giver.”

Prosecutors believe Spears often lied to doctors about Garnett’s health, for example claiming he had celiac disease when he didn’t.

Spears’ lawyers have not publicly detailed a defense strategy and did not return calls seeking comment. Attorney Stephen Riebling said in July that the defense would focus “on the relevant facts, not fiction.”

Spears, originally from Decatur, Alabama, was living in Chestnut Ridge, New York, at the time of Garnett’s death. She moved to Kentucky before her arrest in June and has been jailed since then. A man who says he is Garnett’s father lives in Alabama.

Other evidence in the case includes bags used to feed Garnett which prosecutors say have “extraordinary” concentrations of sodium. The prosecution says Spears tried to cover up by asking a friend to take a feeding bag, “get rid of it and don’t tell anybody.”

The trial apparently will not include any reference to Munchausen by proxy, a disorder in which caretakers purposely but secretly harm children and then enjoy the attention and sympathy they receive. Some experts regard it as a mental illness and a defense to such crimes, while others consider it a motive. Several believe Spears’ case fits the syndrome.

Spears’ lawyers asked the judge to prohibit any mention of Munchausen and prosecutors said they had no plans to bring it up.

The murder charge alleges Garnett was killed “under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life” rather than with intent. It carries the same maximum sentence as intentional murder, however – 25 years to life. The manslaughter count alleges Spears killed her son “while intending to cause serious physical injury.”







The province of Yunnan, stretching over 394,000 square kilometers in the far southwest of the Republic of China, is rich in color, tradition and history. More than 30% of its population of 45 million is made up of over 25 ethnic minorities like the Yi, Bai, Hani, Zhuang, Miao, Mozuo and Dai people. Most of the ethnic minorities live in compact communities with rich customs and traditions that live on despite the recent economic change that takes over the Chinese mainland.

Each time I visited the region for a new photographic adventure I was drawn to capturing the very dominant smoking traditions amongst the different minorities. From he pipes that are passed on through generations, hand crafted with care and art to the large bamboo pipes, to modern day cigarettes, for good or bad, smoking lives on in Yunnan as a tribal tradition.

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By Jack Flanagan

In office communication is key. However, these conversations can take many different forms: people talk in person, over email or text, or online through AIM or Facebook. What’s an office to do to keep all these conversations all in one place?

Enter the office chat app, aka the “enterprise social network”. These apps allow teams to both collaborate in open forums or just casually talk or catch up in private messages, taking away the need for time-killing ‘catch-up’ meetings. These apps are also great at keeping global teams in touch.

Here are the best chat apps to keep your office in sync.

Facebook at work

Amid much fanfare, the Facebook for Work app was released at the beginning of this year for both iOS and Android devices. It is hoped to combat the pandemic of people using Facebook at work. It’s still early days for the app, which has not set a firm policy on either pricing or privacy, yet. What it does do which a lot of other apps don’t is give you detailed profiles for each employee with the idea being that a manager can use the app to find the right person for the job; or they can post about it on what amounts to a business’ personal Facebook feed. The apps also provides a simple messaging feature as well à la the usual Facebook.

Slack

Slack claims to be changing the way teams communicate, and looking at  testimonials, it appears to do just that.  The desktop and mobile allows teams to chat in channels with conversations divided by subjects, and you can chat and share photos, videos and music. So it’s a bit like having an ongoing meeting which you can dip in and out of. Slack is free to download, with Standard, Plus and Enterprise ($49-99/month) options with enhanced features, like Google apps integration and usage stats.

Voxer

Arguably one of the best features of chat champion Whatsapp is that it allows you to conduct conversations using your voice – in easy-to-make recordings – rather than just texting. The mobile app Voxer brings that feature to the office. It describes this as a “push-to-talk” feature, which is then stored in delivered and stored in the cloud. It allows you call colleagues with a tap of their icon on the app, as well as selling walkie-talkies (I know, remember those?) for when you need it hands-free. It syncs across devices and is available in all apps stores. Some users have flagged up possible issues, like being a battery killer.

Instantbird

Although not pretty or pumped full of features, Instantbird is easy-to-use and customizable. It works as an add-on to Mozilla’s firefox. The real beauty of Instantbird is its customizability, like themes, emoticons, plus those on the Add-on website, with which you can set the app in just the way you like it. This might be a little more work than you intended, and positive reviews of the app have been skewed toward the technophile side. This app therefore could be a dream come true for a team or developers; less so one for, say, artisanal coffee makers.

Yammer

Microsoft-owned Yammer has more of the feel of a social network than a chat app. You can post – ideally work-related things – and colleagues can like or reply to a post. It fact, it looks quite a bit like the newly released Facebook at Work app. Prices for the Yammer start at $3/month, and features include mobile sync and language support in 25 languages, which goes some way toward separating it from the crowd of similar apps.

Pie

Pie is a web and mobile app which uses your work email as a login. Once a businesses sign up, teams can login whenever they like. Chats are divided by categories, and the app is available free on browser and mobile. In terms of looks, it’s a bit like Whatapp’s more colorful siblings Line or WeChat, which is handy if you’re talking about something as banal as accounts or bug fixes.

Google Apps

Here, as in many other places, Google benefits from its ubiquity. Gmail (email), Drive (cloud) and Hangouts (conferencing) all have chat functionality, and allows you to collaborate directly on tasks, like writing documents or setting up spreadsheets. Pricing begins at $5 per user per year. Other google apps in the package include Slides, Google+ and Calendar. In other words, the offer is more extensive but, perhaps as a result, not as targeted as apps like Slack.

Is email dead? Inside the office it could be. So, what are you waiting for? Get collaborating.

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Are you married to a man with kids from a previous relationship? I bet you never thought how hard being a stepmom is. In the rush of love, when you see the world through gorgeous love goggles, no one tells you that you’re going to want to ran away or find a place to hide when his kids are visiting.

Whether you are a new or veteran stepmom, you know that the marriage statistics for second marriages are stacked against remarried couples. The odds of success plummet even further with third marriages.

The good news is you’re not alone. There are amazing resources and I want to share with you the six books every overwhelmed stepmom must read.

A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom by Jacquelyn Fletcher

So he proposed! I’m so excited for you. I know what it feels like to have the man of your dreams get down on one knee and propose in the most romantic way and it’s the moment you’ve dreamed of. It’s the moment Lifetime TV makes movies about.

Except… you’ve just said YES to a man with kids from a previous marriage. Now what do you do?

I don’t want to scare you from marrying the love of your life — there’s so much hope and possibility! Fletcher’s book has been one of my top recommendations for single career women who just happen to fall madly in love with a man, his kids, and his ex-tended family.

Fletcher touches on subjects that are all too often not spoken about — money, discipline, privacy, and your sense of grief as you say good-bye to one life and hello to another. I strongly encourage every career girl turned stepmom to add this book to your reading list.

StepCoupling: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today’s Blended Family by Susan Wisdom

This invaluable resource is packed with information, tips, and strategies based on Wisdom’s own StepCoupling experience and her counseling services for divorcing couples and step-families.

StepCoupling revolves around two major ideas:

  • The eventual success of the new family hinges on the quality and strength of the step-couple’s relationship.
  • The success of the stepcouple hinges on the willingness and ability of the partners to grapple with personal and family issues.

Read this book with your sweetheart. It could very well save your relationship or become the go-to resource anytime either of you forgets that your relationship must take priority if you want your relationship to flourish and your marriage to succeed.

Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do by Wednesday Martin

Stepmonster is a go-to resource for any stepmom who’s experienced anger, resentment, or jealousy when it comes to her husband’s kids or his ex-wife.  Martin’s research is impeccable and eye-opening.

From the beginning, Martin tackles the stepmother script and the realities of becoming a stepmother. Martin’s writing is refreshing and honest. She’s upfront when she states, “nobody wants a stepmother and nobody wants to be a stepmother.”

Martin exposes the gory guts of the truth the rest of society would rather ignore: stepmoms and stepkids have one thing in common besides loving the same guy. Between them, there is a “mutual lack of choosing.” In fact, Martin writes “stepkids are as unessential to stepmoms as stepmoms are to them.

According Martin, the more successful stepmothers focused on nurturing and building “an intimate, fulfilling relationship with their husbands and to take better care of their own needs” rather than trying to “bond with or win the approval of their stepchildren.”

The Happy Stepmother by Rachelle Katz

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and burned out from all things stepmom, Rachelle Katz’ book, The Happy Stepmother, will come to your rescue. Katz zeros in on what you can do about all the added pressure that comes from being a stepmother.

Not one to hold back, Katz shoots straight from her heart as she explains in the introduction her most important realization about being a stepmother: I was choosing to sacrifice my time and energy to make others happy before taking care of myself.”

If you just sucked in your breath, exhale.

Does this sound like you? Are you choosing to sacrifice yourself to make others happy? Are you walking on eggshells hoping to not rock the stepfamily boat?

If this is you, then The Happy Stepmother is your cure.

Skirts at War: Beyond Divorce Mom / Stepmom Conflict by Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Jenna Korf

Newcomb Marine and Korf tackle the major challenges that plague “divorce connected” families. They also confront the tricky mind stuff that nearly every divorced mom and stepmom find themselves stuck in.

Let’s face it, young girls don’t think, imagine, or fantasize about becoming a divorced mom or stepmom when they grow up. However, with 1,300 stepfamilies being created every day, there are a lot of divorced moms and stepmoms navigating a “new normal.” Interestingly enough both groups of woman face the same challenging issues but from completely different perspectives.

According to Newcomb Marine and Korf, “divorced moms and stepmoms are often oblivious to their biggest problems with each other:

  • Dual-household relationships trigger our deepest fears
  • Clashing instincts are confusing and wreak havoc upon our psyches
  • Our “emotional authority” prevents us from recognizing any interpretation of reality that differs from our own.”

If you find that you and your husband are arguing about his ex-wife nearly all of the time, this book is a must read.

The Remarriage Blueprint: How Remarried Couples and Their Families Succeed or Fail by Maggie Scarf

With all the complications and confusion that StepLife brings, do you ever wonder if your marriage will succeed or fail?

The Remarriage Blueprint is based on Scarf’s interviews with remarried couples between 1997 and 2011 as well as research from Dr. Patricia Papernow’s Architectural Model for Stepfamilies.

Maggie Scarf has written a thoughtful and superb book for remarried couples. As you read through the pages, you may find yourself identifying with one or more of the couples Scarf interviewed. Make note of the pitfalls that tore a few of the couples apart and pay attention to the success factors that continue to keep the rest of the couples together.

You can read full reviews of each book in the 2014 back issues of StepMom Magazine

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Peggy Nolan is a sacred bad-ass warrior, vanquisher of fear, slayer of doubt and she loves helping others move forward. She’s the mother of two adult chlidren, stepmother to four adult children, and grandmother of two (with two more on the way.) She’s the former host of The Stepmom’s Toolbox Radio Show. Peggy lives in Derry, NH with her husband, Richard.

If you liked this article and would like to live a happier. less stressed life, download Peggy’s free eBook, “30 Ways to Boost Your Positivity and Increase Your Happiness.

It started long before “Deflate-gate”, but that episode of alleged cheating by the New England Patriots — reportedly playing with under-inflated footballs during the AFC Championship game to give the quarterback better grip — only magnifies the hate.

Of course, most of the ire is born out of jealousy. Tom Brady is a Hall of Fame-bound quarterback with Hollywood good looks, a supermodel wife and three Super Bowl rings. I’m sure he wears your scorn as tacit recognition of his gridiron brilliance. Still, there’s something about him that sticks in people’s craw.

One of his defensive opponents once declared; “I don’t like him. He don’t like me. I don’t like his hair!”

Other teams believe the refs coddle Brady. The so-called “Tuck Rule” was used at a critical moment of a playoff game in his favor.

Compounding the problem is Brady’s coach. Bill Belichick is a football savant, who never smiles and when he does speak, barely opens his mouth. He’s got a bit of history of using whatever means necessary to gain an advantage on his opponents.

But at the core of Brady hating is every boyhood insecurity we mere mortals still carry with us into our psychiatrist’s office. We all grew up with a Tom Brady. While you were pining away for that cute girl, he was the handsome jock being fawned over by the object of your affection.

He was like Eddie Haskell, the sneaky friend of Beaver Cleaver’s older brother; “Wally, if your dumb brother tags along, I’m gonna — oh, good afternoon, Mrs. Cleaver. I was just telling Wallace how pleasant it would be for Theodore to accompany us to the movies.”

He was your accomplice in childhood pranks who was never around when the cops showed up. Your mother was convinced he was best behaved of all your friends. He was voted most likely to succeed.

And deep down inside, you secretly wished that one day, all that hubris would lead to the air being sucked right out of his balls!

The northeastern U.S. is awaiting “Winter Storm Juno” with baited breath and terrified tweets.

New York City is expecting two feet of snow over the next two days, in what people have dubbed #snowpocalypse and #snowmageddon2015. Yes, two feet of snow is a lot for New York City, but if you’re online complaining about the impending storm, everybody up north and out west is making fun of you big time.

Hey, at least us New Yorkers can make fun of the way our southern friends would have handled it:

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