Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What does legalized pot mean?

Changes in marijuana policies across states legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use suggest that marijuana is gaining greater acceptance in our society. Thus, it is particularly important for people to understand what is known about both the adverse health effects and the potential therapeutic benefits linked to marijuana.

Because marijuana impairs short-term memory and judgment and distorts perception, it can impair performance in school or at work and make it dangerous to drive. It also affects brain systems that are still maturing through young adulthood, so regular use by teens may have negative and long-lasting effects on their cognitive development, putting them at a competitive disadvantage and possibly interfering with their well-being in other ways. Also, contrary to popular belief, marijuana can be addictive, and its use during adolescence may make other forms of problem use or addiction more likely.

Whether smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana has therapeutic benefits that outweigh its health risks is still an open question that science has not resolved. Although many states now permit dispensing marijuana for medicinal purposes and there is mounting anecdotal evidence for the efficacy of marijuana-derived compounds, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved "medical marijuana." However, safe medicines based on cannabinoid chemicals derived from the marijuana plant have been available for decades and more are being developed.

Courtesy: NIDA

Learn more about it.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Trump declares epidemic. Get the facts on opioids here.

Sample free e-pub. Click here.

Overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. Only 1 in 4 Americans with opioid addiction are getting the treatment they need. The national opioid addiction crisis is poised to get even worse as new synthetic drugs are introduced. The consequences affect the foster care system greatly, and in particular, gay youth in foster care.

Presented in clear, non-complicated language to help the lay reader

To empower participants, coverage in this book includes a basic coverage of how addiction works in the brain and body. Substance abuse topics include: How the brain works; Why is addiction a brain disease? Opioids/heroin; Methamphetamines, cocaine; and Alcohol and marijuana. A related podcast covers support topics for parents, educators, social workers and clergy: Positive parenting as a prevention tool for drug abuse; Communication, encouragement,and negotiations; Setting limits; supervision, and knowing your child's friends. This program is presented by Fred Elia, MS, president of A Thousand Moms, and David Balog, author, Dana Foundation’s Sourcebook of Brain Science and Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and Development.
Contributions are encouraged to support the ongoing work of A Thousand Moms. All contributions are tax deductible.
Supporters who can contribute $20 or more will receive a hardbound copy of the book. An e-pub version is available for $2.00.
Please make contributions at www.athousandmoms.org.
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Founded in 2009, A Thousand Moms builds community support for LGBT/Q youth in foster/adoptive care. It is a program of the National Association of Former Foster Children, a registered 501(c)3 organization.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Paying with our health: 4 tips to financial recovery

It’s official: Money is stressful. 

For the seventh year in a row, the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey found that money is the top source of stress for American adults. More than a quarter of Americans say they feel stressed about money most or all of the time. Only 30 percent rate their financial security as high (8, 9 or 10 on a 10 point scale where 1 is not at all financially secure), and more than two-thirds believe that more money would make them happier.

People deal with stress in many different ways — sometimes healthy, often not. People commonly deal with anxiety by avoiding whatever it is that makes them anxious. Unfortunately, if you avoid dealing with your finances, you’ll likely create more financial problems, and more anxiety, in the long term.

Money matters are too important to ignore. Financial illiteracy is linked to money mismanagement and to debt. Debt, in turn, is associated with lower self-esteem, lower productivity and greater stress. Unsurprisingly, research has also linked financial strain to depression.

If you’re struggling with financial avoidance or financial denial, you can take action to get your money matters back on track.

Warning signs

How do you know if you’re avoiding reality when it comes to finances? Here are some of the clues:

  • You try to put money and finances out of your mind.
  • You avoid talking about money with family and friends.
  • You avoid opening bank statements or credit card bills.
  • You don’t know what your credit score is.
  • You don’t know your net worth.
If you can relate to any of these feelings and behaviors, it may be time to take a hard look at your relationship with money.

Beliefs and attitudes

We develop our beliefs and attitudes about money early in life. Often, we aren't even consciously aware of what our beliefs are, let alone where we learned them. If you’re dealing with financial avoidance or financial denial, it can help to think critically about the money beliefs you learned in childhood. Think about what your parents taught you about money. Talk to family members about their money beliefs. Then try to challenge your existing beliefs about money.

Many people feel embarrassed about their debt, ashamed that they let bank statements pile up unread. But that shame keeps you stuck. Try to move past the self-blame so you can take some concrete steps toward financial health.

Take action

  1. Keep tabs. Tracking your income and your spending is critical to healthy finances. If you’re not tracking money coming in and money going out, you don’t know if you’re spending your resources on the things that really matter to you.
  2. Develop a spending plan. For some people the word “budget” like the word “diet,” calls to mind feeling deprived. Instead of figuring out where to cut back, think about what you want to spend. If going to concerts or sporting events is really important to you, you might decide to spend more money on those outings and less on dining out or cable television. By making such decisions more intentional, you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
  3. Make it easy on yourself. Use automated systems as much as possible. Arrange to have a portion of your paycheck automatically deposited into your savings account and your retirement account. Set up automatic reminders to alert you when a bill is due. It’s a lot harder to make a bad decision when the decision is out of your hands.
  4. Use tools. Technology makes it easier than ever to stay on track financially. A variety of software programs and apps can help you track spending and set spending and saving targets.

Seek professional help

It’s not easy to challenge your deeply held beliefs or to change ingrained behaviors. No matter how good your intentions, change is difficult. Psychologists are experts in helping people make lasting behavior changes. Research has shown that psychological treatment programs can reduce distress and anxiety and improve financial health among people with problematic financial behaviors.

Source: APA.org/helpdesk

Learn just how money stress affects your brain and health.

In the New York Capital region? 1. Get my book here or on Amazon.com. Healing the Brain: Stress & Money. 2. Contact me, David Balog, a licensed financial representative, for a free consultation. Call 646-667-4254 or email dbalog99@gmail.com.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Money Stress: Paying with Our Health

Money doesn’t buy happiness. Just try living without it, though.

We use money every day. It runs our daily lives--pays for food, clothing, and shelter; educates our children; supports us in retirement; and everything in between.

Americans are extremely concerned over their finances. Surveys show money and personal finances to be the number one cause of stress in America.

In this book about the brain, we look at stress and trauma and how they affect the brain and subsequently our health. Insomnia, migraines, ulcers, high blood pressure, and more are triggered by money stress, according to Corporate Wellness Magazine--and any doctor who sees patients every day.

The treatment and cure for money worries doesn’t come in a pill or physical therapy. Only basic knowledge about money and how it works can ease our fears and help build a sound financial house.

Think about it: We go to school. We get courses in English, Science, Math, History...what course don’t we get? Has anybody taken a course called My Money, Money 101, or Building Personal Wealth?

So do we learn about money at work? At home?

The answers are almost always no.

This information deficit has become more critical because over the past decade, culminating in the Great Recession, the economic world of middle-class Americans shifted under our feet.

In these pages you will find information on topics that have proven important in talking to people about their finances. Folks working two and three jobs to make ends meet. People working in what they call “their retirement job.” Those trying adjust to the “new economy.”

Healing the Brain: Stress & Money gives readers a view of the remarkable human brain, its capabilities, and its vulnerabilities. A brain compromised by stress and trauma diminishes our health and yet the brain is slowly yielding its secrets to science and medicine.

Order the book by making a secure contribution to our organization, A Thousand Moms. Book cost $7.95 plus $3.50 shipping and handling, total $11.45. Order the e-pub for only $2.00. Please provide your email address on the order form.

Praise for Healing the Brain Series:

"Provides comfort and learning to the reader. Flows easily from one topic to the next and knits tidbits of information together in a unifying mosaic. Easy to read. Difficult to put down." --Michael J. Colucciello, Jr., New York State Dept. of Mental Health researcher, retired.

"Wonderfully written by Mr. Balog. A book that can help medical professionals as well as the general public, Mr Balog has tackled a subject that is complex and he makes it quite approachable. It has added and enriched my own practice of medicine by making me more aware of issues not often discussed in medical circles."--Peter Paganussi, MD, Virginia

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Alcohol: The Forgotten Drug of Abuse

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

University of Adelaide
Fewer Australian teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Aussie students, based on the findings of the latest study.

Fewer Australian teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Aussie students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

The results of the study, now published in the journal BMC Public Health, provide a snapshot of the prevalence of alcohol consumption among students, and the factors that most influence their drinking behaviour. This research has been supported by Cancer Council SA and SA Government.

"Harmful alcohol use is a serious problem in Australia, and drinking patterns are often first set in adolescence," says lead author Jacqueline Bowden, behavioural scientist and Manager of Population Health Research at SAHMRI, and researcher with the School of Psychology, University of Adelaide.
"With alcohol contributing to four of the top five causes of death in young people, and a leading cause of cancer in our community, it's important for us to better understand drinking behaviour among young people so we can help to prevent or delay it.
"One of the major messages from our study is that parents have more influence on their teenagers' decisions regarding alcohol than they probably realise. Parental behaviour and attitudes towards alcohol really do make a difference, and can help prevent children from drinking at an early age."
The study found:
  • By age 16, most students had tried alcohol
  • A third of students reported that they drank alcohol at least occasionally
  • Only 28% of students were aware of a link between alcohol and cancer
  • Across all ages, students were less likely to drink if their parents showed disapproval of underage drinking
  • Those aged 14-17 were less likely to drink if they knew about the link between alcohol and cancer
  • Smoking and approval of drinking from friends were more likely to result in drinking
  • Once young people have become regular drinkers, the main predictor for drinking is the perceived availability of alcohol
  • Cashed up students are more likely to drink.
Lincoln Size, Chief Executive Cancer Council SA, says: "The evidence is clear that alcohol use is a cause of cancer. Any level of alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer; the level of risk increases in line with the level of consumption.

"This latest evidence highlights the need to educate young people about the consequences of alcohol consumption and for parents to demonstrate responsible drinking behaviour. We need to get the message through that what may be considered harmless fun actually has lifelong consequences.

"We know that alcohol causes cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, bowel in men and breast among women. There is also probable evidence that alcohol increases the risk of bowel cancer in women, and liver cancer.

Ms Bowden says we need to address the issue of supply to teenagers. "Many parents believe providing their children with alcohol in the safe environment of their home teaches them to drink responsibly. However, the weight of evidence suggests that this increases consumption, and is not recommended.

"Our results also found that those adolescents who thought they could buy alcohol easily were more likely to drink regularly. The issue of availability -- including price -- and marketing of alcohol in the community is a major hurdle to be overcome.

"Alcohol is more affordable in Australia than it has been in the past 30 years, and the number of premises selling alcohol in Australia has increased substantially in the past 15 years. Throw advertising and sports sponsorship into the mix and we have some very strong messages that alcohol is the norm," Ms Bowden says.

"Our evidence shows that that parents have a significant and substantial role to play, to help their kids develop a healthier relationship with alcohol early. Parents can set the boundaries and create clear expectations."
Ms Bowden says parents should:
  • Discuss alcohol use with their children, and the fact that not everyone drinks
  • Get to know upcoming activities, such as parties, and set expectations for behaviour
  • Reconsider drinking in front of children, as most alcohol is consumed by adults at home
  • Have alcohol-free events
  • Avoid binge drinking
  • Don't buy alcohol for adolescents or provide it at parties.
"We often forget that alcohol is the most widely used recreational drug in Australia and has an enormous cost on families. It is important that parents set the right example," Ms Bowden says.

Story Source:
Materials provided by University of Adelaide.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Communication: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse


Are you able to communicate calmly and clearly with your teenager regarding relationship problems, such as jealousy or need for attention?

Good communication between parents and children is the foundation of strong family relationships. Developing good communication skills helps parents catch problems early, support positive behavior, and stay aware of what is happening in their children’s lives.

Relationship Problems and Clear Communication

  • Negative example: Mom gets defensive
  • Positive example: Mom is understanding

Before you begin:

  • Be sure it’s a good time to talk and you can focus one hundred percent on communicating with your child.
  • Have a plan.
  • Gather your thoughts before you approach your child.
  • Be calm and patient.
  • Limit distractions.

Key communication skills include:


The kind of information you receive depends a lot on how you ask the question.
  • Show interest/concern. Don't blame/accuse. For example, instead of, "How do you get yourself into these situations?" say, "That sounds like a difficult situation. Were you confused?"
  • Encourage problem-solving/thinking. For example: Instead of, "What did you think was going to happen when you don't think?" say, "So, what do you think would have been a better way to handle that?"

Listening and observing

  • Youth feel more comfortable bringing issues and situations to their parents when they know they will be listened to and not be accused.

Extra Tips

  • Be present and tuned in.
  • Show understanding.
  • Listen with respect.
  • Be interested.
  • Avoid negative emotions.
  • Give encouragement.

Reducing Emotion

Sometimes, talking with children brings up strong feelings that interfere with clear thinking. Following the CALM steps can help a parent keep the conversation moving in the right direction:
  • Control your thoughts and your actions.
  • Assess and decide if you are too upset to continue.
  • Leave the situation if you are feeling too angry or upset.
  • Make a plan to deal with the situation within 24 hours.

Practice Skill

Video: Active Listening

When listening to your child, remember:

  • Show understanding.
  • Repeat back or summarize what your child said.
  • Practice patience.
  • Emphasize positive behaviors and choices.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Positive parenting prevents drug abuse

Encouragement promotes a strong sense of self because it sends three main messages to your child:

1. You can do it! Youth believe they can do things if parents:
  • help them break a problem down into smaller parts
  • remind them of their strengths and past successes
  • encourage them by sharing how they have dealt with challenges
2. You have good ideas! Youth believe they have good ideas if parents:
  • ask them to share their opinions and feelings
  • listen to what they have to say
  • ask them for input concerning family plans and events
  • ask them for ideas to solve family problems
3. You are important! Youth know they are important if parents:
  • remember what they have told them
  • make time for them each day
  • attend school functions and extracurricular activities
  • let them know that they are thinking about them when they can’t be with them
  • display things they have made and recognitions they receive from school or the community

Examples of Encouraging Words

  • "I know that wasn’t easy."
  • "You did such an awesome job."
  • "Keep on trying."
  • "You are very good at that."
  • "You are learning a lot."
  • "I like the way you did that."
  • "I can tell you’ve been practicing."
  • "It’s great to see you working so hard."
  • "I’m so proud of you."

Practices That are Discouraging

  • Being sarcastic or negative about a child’s ability to be successful
  • Comparing a child to brothers and sisters
  • Taking over when a child’s progress is slow
  • Reminding a child of past failures 
  • Source. NIDA.gov

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Contact Dave Balog @518 952-1257
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ritalin and Cocaine: The Connection and the Controversy

Ritalin and Cocaine: The Connection and the Controversy

Since the mid-1950s, doctors have been using Ritalin (also called methylphenidate) to treat a variety of conditions including depression, fatigue syndrome, and narcolepsy. Ritalin gained FDA approval for treatment of hyperactivity in children in 1961.

Ritalin is the most commonly prescribed medication for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). This treatment has helped thousands of people control their symptoms. But because Ritalin is a stimulant like cocaine, it may cause undesirable changes in the brain over time. It also has the potential for abuse, and because it’s a legal prescription drug, many wrongly assume that it is not dangerous.

So what are the benefits of Ritalin, and what are the risks?

Ritalin is currently prescribed to approximately six million people in the US. 75% of these are children, with boys receiving Ritalin about four times more often than girls.

Order your copy today and learn about the brain!

ADHD: The Benefits of Ritalin

People with ADHD have difficulty concentrating, and they can be hyperactive or impulsive. They also have lower levels of the brain chemical dopamine.

Dopamine helps people control their behavior, so having the right level of dopamine in the brain is important. Ritalin increases dopamine levels, helping those with ADHD to focus, filter out distractions, and make decisions based on reason rather than emotion.

Students in Library

Ritalin is Similar to Cocaine

Ritalin Synapse

Research shows that 10-30% of cocaine addicts have ADHD.
30-50% of adolescents in drug treatment centers report abusing Ritalin.

There can be unintended consequences when an adult uses cocaine to control their ADHD. --Dr. Glen Hansen
Like cocaine, Ritalin is a powerful stimulant that increases alertness and productivity. Ritalin and cocaine also look and act very much alike. They have a similar chemical structure, and both increase dopamine levels in the brain. They do this by blocking a dopamine transporter protein, which normally takes up dopamine from the synapse.

ADHD children are typically taken off of Ritalin when they reach adulthood. Interestingly, these individuals seem to be more prone to cocaine addiction. Why is that? Because Ritalin and cocaine are similar drugs, it's possible that ADHD adults are unknowingly using cocaine as a replacement for Ritalin. In other words, it may be an attempt to self-medicate. Cocaine may help individuals with ADHD focus and feel calm and in control.

Ritalin and Cocaine 
Ritalin (left) and cocaine (right) share a similar chemical structure and mechanism of action.

Is Ritalin Addicting?

Ritalin is not addictive when prescribed by doctors and taken as directed. Why this difference between Ritalin and cocaine? Ritalin is a pill that you swallow, so the drug takes longer to reach the brain. Cocaine is taken in high doses by injection or snorting. It floods the brain quickly with dopamine, which makes it dangerous and addictive.

Unfortunately, Ritalin is quickly becoming a drug of choice for teens. It's relatively cheap and accessible. And because it's a prescription drug, it's perceived to be safe. But if Ritalin is abused (taken in high doses) or taken improperly (by injection or snorting), it can be just as addictive as cocaine. This is because drug delivery methods can influence the addictive potential of a drug.
Is Ritalin a “gateway drug”? Studies show that proper Ritalin use does not lead to drug abuse. --Dr. Kelly Lundberg

The Consequences of Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis of ADHD is a common problem that complicates the Ritalin controversy. Some say that Ritalin is now over-prescribed, and that it may cause undesirable changes in the brain over time.
Recent animal studies suggest that children who are mistakenly diagnosed with ADHD and treated with Ritalin may be more likely to develop depression as adults. This can be explained by Ritalin's effects on the reward pathway.

We know that Ritalin increases dopamine levels in the brain. But an unnecessary increase in dopamine during childhood may change how the brain develops. The brain may become desensitized to natural rewards like food, romance, and social interactions, leading to depression.
However, failing to diagnose has ADHD has its problems too: Kids with untreated ADHD are four times more likely than normal to abuse drugs.
Kids with untreated ADHD are four times more likely than normal to abuse drugs. --Dr. Glen Hanson

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Depression among young teens linked to cannabis use at 18

Seattle-focused study suggests earlier intervention with depressed youths could reduce rate of cannabis-use disorder

Young people with chronic or severe forms of depression were at elevated risk for developing a problem with cannabis in later adolescence, found a study looking at the cumulative effects of depression in youth.

A study looking at the cumulative effects of depression in youth, found that young people with chronic or severe forms of depression were at elevated risk for developing a problem with cannabis in later adolescence.

Researchers used data from annual assessments when students were ages 12-15 and then again when they were 18. The results were published in the journal Addiction.

"The findings suggest that if we can prevent or reduce chronic depression during early adolescence, we may reduce the prevalence of cannabis use disorder," said lead author Isaac Rhew, research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

According to researchers, during the past decade cannabis has surpassed tobacco with respect to prevalence of use among adolescents. Cannabis and alcohol are the two most commonly used substances among youth in the United States. They pointed to one national study showing increases in prevalence of cannabis use disorder and alcohol use disorder in the United States, especially among young adults.

Longitudinal studies looking at the link between depression and later use of alcohol and cannabis, however, have been mixed. Some show a link. Others don't. But most studies have assessed adolescent depression at a single point in time -- not cumulatively, said the researchers. Further, there have been differences in how substance use has been measured ranging from the initiation of any use to heavier problematic forms of use.

The study oversampled for students with depressive and/or conduct problems. The researchers were surprised to see that the prevalence of cannabis and alcohol use disorder in this study was notably higher than national estimates with 21 percent meeting criteria for cannabis use disorder and 20 percent meeting criteria for alcohol use disorder at age 18.

What effect the easing of marijuana laws in Washington state had on the youth is unclear. Researchers said it would be informative to conduct a similar study in a state with more strict marijuana laws to understand whether the relationship between depression and cannabis misuse would still hold in areas where marijuana may be less accessible.

Story Source:
Materials provided by University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine. Original written by Bobbi Nodell.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Why do people take drugs?

Join us for our Network of Support!

Here's a preview:
Why do people take drugs?

In general, people begin taking drugs for a variety of reasons:

  • To feel good. Most abused drugs produce intense feelings of pleasure. This initial sensation of euphoria is followed by other effects, which differ with the type of drug used. For example, with stimulants such as cocaine, the “high” is followed by feelings of power, self-confidence, and increased energy. In contrast, the euphoria caused by opiates such as heroin is followed by feelings of relaxation and satisfaction.   
  • To feel better. Some people who suffer from social anxiety, stress-related disorders, and depression begin abusing drugs in an attempt to lessen feelings of distress. Stress can play a major role in beginning drug use, continuing drug abuse, or relapse in patients recovering from addiction.
  • To do better. Some people feel pressure to chemically enhance or improve their cognitive or athletic performance, which can play a role in initial experimentation and continued abuse of drugs such as prescription stimulants or anabolic/androgenic steroids.
  • Curiosity and “because others are doing it.” In this respect adolescents are particularly vulnerable because of the strong influence of peer pressure. Teens are more likely than adults to engage in risky or daring behaviors to impress their friends and express their independence from parental and social rules.

Over time, if drug use continues, other pleasurable activities become less pleasurable, and taking the drug becomes necessary for the user just to feel “normal.”

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Join our conversation on the drug epidemic and families

Image showing lethal doses of Heroin and Fentanyl

The amount of drug that can kill. Fentanyl threatens to greatly worsen our addiction crisis.

A social worker in a small upstate New York town told me that in order to shoot up with meth, teens in his town used the only private space they could find: their family car. They shot up in the most secluded place they could find--empty downtown areas, WHILE DRIVING.

A mental health worker in Vermont told me that they're on the verge of giving up on today's youth and trying to prevent children from becoming the next generation of addicts.

Doctors in emergency rooms give families devastating news about their children, anywhere from the limited, compromised futures they face to the crushing news of their deaths.
Former President Bill Clinton gave a speech recently saying that the opioid epidemic will destroy this country.


A Thousand Moms, which has produced a series of books entitled "Healing the Brain," will hold a four-week conference-call series entitled "Network of Support: Addiction and Our Families." 

Made possible by a donation from a concerned supporter, A Thousand Moms’ four-part information series for educators, parents, social workers, other concerned individuals is now free of charge. Dates for Network of Support: The Addiction Crisis are Tuesdays, July 18/19, July 25/26, August 1/2 and August 8/9. (Original presentations are repeated on the following day for the convenience of participants. Times: Tuesdays at 11:00 am EDT., Wednesdays at 7:00 pm EDT. 
Calls last one hour. CONF CALL #: 605 475-6333  ACCESS CODE: 2456474

Presented in clear, non-complicated language

To empower participants, coverage in this series will include a basic understanding of how addiction works in the brain and body. Each session will combine addiction facts with practical strategies for coping with current or potential substance abuse by a loved one. Substance abuse topics include: How the brain works; Why is addiction a brain disease? Opioids/heroin;  Methamphetamines, cocaine; and Alcohol and marijuana. Support topics include: Positive parenting as a prevention tool for drug abuse; Communication, encouragement,and negotiations; Setting limits; supervision, and knowing your child's friends. 
The conference call programs are presented by Fred Elia, MS, president of A Thousand Moms, and David Balog, author, Dana Foundation’s Sourcebook of Brain Science and Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and Development.
First call: Tuesday, July 18, 11:00 AM EDT
CONF CALL #: 605 475-6333  ACCESS CODE: 2456474