Health-Care Tips for the New Year

The start of a new year is the ideal time to take an audit of your health.

“The start of the new year is perfect because it’s a forward looking time,” says Chandra Torgerson, senior vice president for quality improvement at UnitedHealthcare. “Individuals are looking to make changes in their life.”

Health-care experts advise making 2014 the year you take a preventive approach to health care instead of being reactive. After all, the most common causes of chronic diseases and death can be prevented, says Michael Smith, chief medical editor for

“Prevention is what everyone should focus on,” says Smith. “Incorporating a healthy diet and regular exercise into our lives isn’t easy, but it’s a must if you want to not only live a long life, but a healthy, thriving life.”

But being proactive doesn’t mean hitting the gym five days a week or dropping 30 pounds in six month, Smith recommends making short-term reachable goals like adding one day of exercise to your weekly routine.

Another idea: eat a salad in place of your normal dinner for one meal a week. “These are tangible goals that feel reachable. The chance for success is high,” he says. “As you reach that goal, you can step it up a bit–baby steps.”

Experts also suggest making sleep a top priority in the new year.

Getting age-appropriate screenings should also be on your schedule in 2014, and here’s some good news: many of the preventive screenings will be free under the health-care reform act, says Torgerson. She suggests asking your doctor which screenings and tests you need and to start making the appointments.

 While your age and health will dictate what screenings and tests are needed, even adults in their 20s should look into the preventive screenings for their age group. “We’re seeing more health problems often due to lifestyle issues, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes in young adults,” says Smith. If these issues go undetected they can cause long-term damage. “We often call high blood pressure the silent killer but that name could apply to any of these conditions…that’s why simple tests are so important.”

Smith says starting at 18, people need their blood pressure checked every two years and that at age 20, cholesterol blood tests should be added at least every five years. At age 45, he suggests people get a fasting blood sugar test to detect diabetes.

“Early, aggressive treatment is key to preventing the potentially devastating complications from diabetes.”  Once you hit 50, Smith says everyone needs to start getting screened for colon cancer and mammograms should start for women at age 40 or 50 and then every year or two after that.

In addition to lining up your screenings and committing to a healthier lifestyle, medical experts say the beginning of the year is an ideal time to get your medical documents in order to make sure you haven’t missed any important tests or screenings.

Chief Medical Officer of, Dr. Todd Rosengart, recommends making a list of each family member’s doctor along with their insurance and contact information.

You also want to review your plan to see if there are any changes to your deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance in the new year. Rosengart says it’s also a good idea to jot down all the medications each family member is taking including the name and dosage in case you need to reference it in an emergency.

New Year’s Eve: Global revelers begin ringing in 2014

Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Cities around the world welcome 2014 with fireworks.

Launch slideshow

The global party to welcome the new year has hit its stride, with millions of people gathering to celebrate and an out-of-this-world fireworks show claiming headliner billing.

Dubai, the Persian Gulf city known for glitz, glamour and over-the-top achievements like the world’s tallest skyscraper, sought to break another record by creating the largest fireworks show to ring in 2014.

The dazzling 30-minute show was capped off with six minutes of fireworks that engulfed the city’s man-made, palm-shaped island, with its fronds and trunk shimmering in thousands of lights. 

Kicking off 2014 in style, The United Arab Emirates’ city of Dubai attempts for the largest-ever fireworks display, by shooting off 500,000 fireworks in five minutes.

Organizers had promised that the fireworks would form a flying falcon, sunrise and United Arab Emirates flag. It was not immediately clear if the promised designs or world record had been achieved.

In total, the extravaganza was slated to include half a million fireworks from 400 firing locations synchronized by 100 computers, said Barrett Wissman, co-chairman of IMG Artists, which was managing the event. The company also organized the grand fireworks for the Atlantis hotel opening on Dubai’s Palm island in 2008.

Fireworks also featured heavily in celebrations in Sydney, Australia, where a massive fireworks display lit up the sky around the city’s famed Harbor Bridge and Opera House, and in Hong Kong. 

In London, organizers were adding edible banana confetti and strawberry mist to the mix, accompanying a fireworks display along the River Thames. 

Other celebrations were more subdued. 

As a crowd of roughly 1 million gathered around Times Square, the New York City Police Department was working to ensure a safe and secure night. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

On Kiev’s main square, at least 100,000 Ukrainians sang their national anthem in a sign of support for integration with Europe. The square has been the scene of massive pro-European protests for more than a month, triggered by President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to ditch a key deal with the European Union.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis used his year-end prayer service of thanksgiving to urge people to ask themselves: Did they spend 2013 to further their own interests or to help others?

The pontiff asked people to reflect if they used the past year to make the places where they live more livable and welcoming. Citing Rome as an example, Francis said the city is full of tourists, but also refugees.

In Japan, thousands of locals and visitors, prayed, rang bells and tossed coins as offerings wishing for health, wealth and happiness for the traditional ceremony. Temple bells will ring the customary 108 times, for the 108 causes of suffering according to Buddhism, and welcome in the Year of the Horse.

In New York City, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, will lead her native city’s 60-second countdown and push the button to start the dropping of the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball, where more than one million revelers are expected to gather in celebration.

Scotland’s Hogmanay celebrations begin in Edinburgh with a torchlit procession involving more than 8,000 people.

A regular at the ceremonial New Year’s bash, outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that he will not be attending the event for the first time in a decade and will instead spend the evening with friends and family.

His successor, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will ring in the new year by being sworn into office by former U.S. President Bill Clinton at a private ceremony at 12:01 Wednesday morning. 

Watch live coverage of the Times Square celebration from

In San Francisco, one of the last places in the world to see the clock strike midnight, some 200,000 people were expected to gather on the waterfront for a fireworks display illuminating the city’s world-famous Golden Gate Bridge.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


This story was originally published on

Health Plan Changes for Humans Put Pet Health Insurance in the Spotlight

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Where your pets are part of our family

We really hate to see necessary veterinary care or services postponed or skipped because of financial constraints,” reports Dr. Bach. “Pet health insurance can help.”

Temecula, CA (PRWEB) December 30, 2013

In light of the recent changes to human health plans caused by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, it’s no surprise that many pet owners are also considering new health insurance options for their pets.

Dr. Isabelle Bach of Pet Medical Center in Temecula reports an increased level of interest in pet health insurance among her clients. “I have had quite a few pet owners ask about pet health insurance recently, and I do think it has something to do with insurance being top of mind for many people over the past few months. We even had one owner jokingly ask when they were going to pass an Affordable Care Act for pets when his dog was in our veterinary hospital for a surgery recently.”

While Dr. Bach does not recommend any one particular pet health insurance provider or plan, she does endorse the concept of pet health insurance, especially for older pets that may require constant medication or special surgical procedures. However, she cautions owners to remember that pet health insurance providers will not accept a pet with prior conditions. Waiting for your pet to develop a condition requiring special veterinary care and then purchasing pet health insurance is not a valid strategy.

Pets can develop medical problems at any age, but it is true that older pets are more likely to have certain chronic conditions. Therefore, Dr. Bach urges pet owners to give serious thought to pet health insurance for pets reaching the midway point of the life expectancy for their breed. Of course, pets of any age can suffer accidental injuries or suddenly and unexpectedly develop a medical problem. Pet health insurance can help ensure that these pets receive the care they need.

“We really hate to see necessary veterinary care or services postponed or skipped because of financial constraints,” reports Dr. Bach. “Pet health insurance can help, but it doesn’t necessarily cover everything.”

Pet Medical Center offers wellness plans to help pet owners afford necessary services that pet health insurance may not cover. These wellness plans are basically bundled services that allow pet owners to purchase all their scheduled veterinary services at a discount. Several different wellness plans are available, enabling pet owners to choose the bundle of services that is right for their pet. In addition, any additional products or services that may be required due to illness or accident may be purchased from Pet Medical Center at a 5 percent discount.

About Pet Medical Center

Pet Medical Center is a full-service veterinary clinic for dogs and cats providing expert care in a professional, friendly, and compassionate environment. Dr. Isabelle Bach and uses state of the art diagnostics to provide individualized treatment for pets of all ages to ensure high quality of life. Preventative care as well as pet surgery, dentistry, emergency care, and pet boarding is available.

Contact Information:

Pet Medical Center

40150 Winchester Road, Suite 4

Temecula, CA 92591

(951) 676-3531

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'Iron Man' tops record year at the box office; Carly Rae Jepsen does Broadway; more

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The entertainment news dominating Monday
includes Beyoncé’s big weight loss, Carly Rae Jepsen on Broadway and a big
year at the box office.

No more marathons and repeats. Television premiere dates for
your favorite shows this January and February have been revealed.

In her new documentary, Beyoncé reveales that she weighed 195
pound during her pregnancy and worked hard to eventually lose a whopping 65

With the New Year almost upon us, U.S. box office for 2013
is about to hit the $11 billion mark, which would be a new record, beating last
year’s total of $10.8 billion thanks in large part to films like “Iron Man 3,”
“Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Despicable Me 2.”

Singer Carly Rae Jepsen of “Call Me Maybe” fame will make her
Broadway debut
in the title role of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” on
Feb. 4.

Jordan Belfort, the notorious Wall Street guru played by
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” may get his own reality show
where he helps others seek redemption for their wrong doings.

Kayo Redd, brother of Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka Flame, has
. Early reports say there is no foul play suspected. As of mid-afternoon
Monday, unconfirmed reports suggest Redd took his own life.

Tom Cruise Drops $50 Million Lawsuit Against Bauer Media After Claims He "Abandoned" Daughter Suri

Calling it a day. Tom Cruise has dropped his $50 million lawsuit against Life Style’s publisher, his rep confirms. The dispute came to an end in a California federal court on Friday, Dec. 20.

PHOTOS: Tom and Suri’s cutest moments

Cruise, 51, initially sued Bauer Media Group back in October 2012 after one of its magazines, Life Style, claimed the Oblivion actor had “abandoned” Suri, his now 7-year-old daughter with ex-wife Katie Holmes.

The publishing group released this statement after the Hollywood heavyhitter dropped the lawsuit: “Tom Cruise’s lawsuit against Bauer Publishing, In Touch and Life Style magazines has been settled. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed and remain confidential. Bauer Publishing, as well as In Touch and Life Style magazines, never intended to communicate that Tom Cruise had cut off all ties and abandoned his daughter, Suri, and regret if anyone drew that inference from anything they published.”

PHOTOS: Suri’s fabulous life

The claim arose after Cruise and Holmes, 35, famously ended their five-year marriage in June 2012. During the one-year court battle, Cruise asked for details about the tabloid’s sources behind their story.

PHOTOS: How Katie transformed during marriage to Tom

“Tom doesn’t go around suing people,” his attorney, Bert Fields, said in October 2012. “He’s not a litigious guy. But when these sleaze peddlers try to make money with disgusting lies about his relationship with his child, you bet he’s going to sue.”

Fields added at the time to THR: “Tom is going to want to push this one all the way.”

World in turmoil: Seven countries to watch in 2014

The world will face countless challenges in 2014, but a few nations in flux stand out in the crowd. NBC News correspondents and writers explain how the outcome of wars, negotiations and elections in these countries could have a deep impact on their own populations and regions, and sometimes the world. 

Noorullah Shirzada / AFP – Getty Images

Schoolchildren take lessons in an open classroom at a refugee camp in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, on Dec. 1.

With the Taliban resurgent as most American and other foreign troops get ready to leave in 2014, desperately poor Afghanistan is a country riddled with fear and uncertainty.

“The mood is not good,” said Wadeer Safi, who has been a professor of political science at Kabul University for 25 years. “Without Western support there will be chaos … there is even potential for civil war.”

Many believe that key to the country’s future is a U.S.-Afghan security agreement that would allow some American troops to remain in the country beyond 2014 and open the door to billions of dollars in foreign aid.

President Hamid Karzai has not signed the pact despite the unanimous endorsement of it at a recent meeting of tribal elders and other dignitaries.

The climate of uncertainty is taking a toll on the economy. Prices for food and fuel have rocketed, and unemployment is rampant. Foreign investment has stalled and with the economy almost entirely dependent on foreign aid, business confidence is very low. 

There are even doubts that national elections scheduled for April will actually take place. Observers and Western diplomats are concerned that there will be delays, and agree that there will almost certainly be a run-off.

“We had war, we had brothers killing one another, and I don’t want that to be repeated,” said 44-year-old Kabul tailor Faiz Mohammed. “If the people in charge don’t change, ordinary Afghans will suffer.”

– Kiko Itasaka

Fabio Rodrigues-Pozzebom / Reuters

Soccer balls marked with red crosses float after being kicked into the fountain in front of National Congress by protesters in Brasilia on June 26.

All eyes will be on Brazil as 32 teams and thousands of fans roll into the country for the soccer World Cup in June. And with viewership set to run into the billions, the event will bring extra scrutiny to Latin America’s most populous nation and the world’s sixth largest economy.

While the soccer euphoria will surely boost the government’s performance leading up to national elections in October, the possibility of turmoil at home will eventually determine the future of President Dilma Rousseff’s left-of-center government.

“If [the Brazilian team] loses, she would still be the front runner, but it’s not guaranteed,” said Dr. Jeff Garmany of the King’s Brazil Institute in London. “There’s an informal correlation between the two.”

Authorities will surely be keeping close tabs on rising dissatisfaction among Brazil’s growing middle class. In 2013, thousands routinely took to the streets across the country to protest against extreme and growing income inequality, official corruption, teachers’ pay and even bus fares.

And many are furious that billions are being spent on soccer stadiums instead of schools, hospitals and social programs.

Last year protest groups like the Black Bloc snarled up routes into the stadiums during games, preventing fans from entering and resulting in thousands of empty seats. The group has threatened to do the same for the World Cup.

So will Brazil’s leaders manage to appease the population enough to ensure the population tunes into the games, and doesn’t again take to the streets?

“What Brazil does well is improvisation,” Garmany says. “So we’ll have to wait and see.”  

– Henry Austin

Feng Li / Getty Images

Paramilitary policemen patrol in front of Tiananmen Gate on Nov. 17, in Beijing, China.

In his first year in charge of the world’s second largest economy, China’s President Xi Jinping made achieving the “Chinese Dream” a key goal. According to The New York Times, this dream means “national rejuvenation, improvement of people’s livelihoods, prosperity, construction of a better society and military strengthening.”

The Communist Party’s global ambitions carry with them raised expectations at home and abroad on how the country will handle issues ranging from the environment to regional rivalries.

Nearly a month of near-apocalyptic levels of air pollution in northern China in 2013 forced Beijing to acknowledge the toxic air plaguing much of the mainland. The government’s sudden willingness to address the environmental crisis shows the power of China’s growing urbanized middle classes, who are more aware of their rights than the country’s rural population.

Personal rights will still be on the agenda. Even with China’s much lauded announcement last month that “re-education through labor” camps would be abolished, a report from Amnesty International suggests that dissidents and activists will simply be railroaded into other existing forms of criminal detentions, like “black jails.”

Intimidation looks set to be part of China’s foreign policy toolkit. Carefully cultivated soft power appears to have gone out the window with Beijing announcing an Air Defense Identification Zone, infuriating neighbors Japan and South Korea, and forcing the U.S. into the debate over sovereignty in the East China Sea.

The introduction of more military hardware in response to regional ultra-nationalist tensions and virtually nonexistent rules of the sea contribute to the potential powder keg.

So having promised prosperity at home and power abroad, China will have to carefully navigate the suspicions of its neighbors, and its people’s blossoming expectations in 2014. 

– Ed Flanagan


Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, attends a graduation ceremony of army cadets in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 5.

Will the Islamic Republic of Iran re-enter the mainstream of world affairs in 2014?

The answer to this question won’t only impact Iran’s future but that of the entire Middle East, where it is stuck in a struggle for pre-eminence with Saudi Arabia.

As part of that power play, Iran has been a sponsor of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, and has reportedly sent military advisers to Syria to help prop up the regime of President Bashar Assad, which is fighting a vicious war with rebel forces.

Iran took a massive step toward rapprochement with the United States and the West in 2013 when it signed a landmark agreement to curb its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of bruising sanctions.

If that stopgap deal unravels, Iran would be left struggling with more sanctions and possible turmoil at home. The worst case scenario could see the military intervening in the government, which could send ripples of unrest through its neighbors.

What would be ideal for Tehran is if it convinces the West that it isn’t building a bomb, and can keep most of its nuclear program. This way, it would get rid of most the sanctions and keep American influence at bay while averting strikes. The risk here is that Israel – which sees Iran as an existential threat – might take military action on its own.

Iran could go all the way and hand over its nuclear program in exchange for a complete lifting of sanctions.

The consequent influx of Western money and influence could produce Iran’s version of perestroika, the Soviet movement of reform that led to revolutions in Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. Similar “openness” would surely spell surprises for Iran’s current leadership.

– Ali Arouzi

Yuri Kadobnov / AFP – Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin waits for heads of state at the start of the G20 summit on Sept. 5 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Russia will kick off 2014 on the ultimate high note as the host of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

“Putin came up with the idea of the Olympics as a massive project to show Russia has gotten up from its knees,” said political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin, referring to the turbulent times in the 1990s when the Soviet Union broke up.

As a PR project it may be working at home: Despite cost overruns and the alleged exploitation of migrant workers during construction of the installations, an estimated two-thirds of Russians support Russia hosting the Olympics.

Russia looks set to continue flexing its muscles on the world stage, too. 

Following Moscow’s calls for the handover of chemical weapons in war-torn Syria, the government has worked with international authorities make sure they are handed over and destroyed. Moscow has also pushed for a resolution of Iran nuclear conflict – and the end of the U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

But while it is trying to project a strong image, the country is still plagued with problems at home and abroad. 

Complaints about official corruption and human rights violations are top of the list. Even after Putin announced the release of jailed Russians on Dec. 19, including former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, two members of the convicted Pussy Riot punk group and dozens of Greenpeace activists, government’s critics still languish in jail.

Furthermore, the new year is also likely to see tighter control of the media and further suppression of criticism, as indicated by the recent liquidation of respected state-run news agency RIA Novosti and the creation of a new agency “Russia Today.” The state-controlled television channel by the same name is seen by many as a foreign-oriented propaganda tool for the Kremlin.  

“Russia, and I think more generally Vladimir Putin in particular, cares more about prevailing in important international issues such as Syria or the issue of Edward Snowden or the issue of Ukraine,” said Maria Lipman, analyst of the Carnegie Endowment in Moscow. “President Putin constantly sends signals that he will not accept any criticisms.”

– Albina Kovalyova

Ian Langsdon / EPA

Flag-waving mourners line up along the road to wait for the cortege carrying the remains of Nelson Mandela traveling between Mthatha and Qunu, South Africa, on Dec. 14.

With the death of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, one of Africa’s most powerful economies and a beacon for the region marks the end of an era.

National elections in the spring will provide a test for the young democracy, with major issues like official corruption and economic inequality crippling Mandela’s dream of a “rainbow nation.”

Mandela’s reputation for integrity has not transferred to many political successors. President Jacob Zuma, ever-visible during the period of national mourning, was humiliated in front of the nation and visiting heads of state when he was booed at Mandela’s memorial.

Allegations that Zuma spent about $20 million in taxpayer funds on security upgrades to his private home is just one example of what’s wrong with the African National Congress (ANC), which Mandela once led. A leaked report by the top public corruption fighter said that Zuma had derived “substantial benefits” from the modifications.

“I don’t think I will vote ANC next year,” said Thabo Mosalo, a 19-year-old student who never knew apartheid. “The important question is what they are doing today, not what they did 30 years ago.”

Thabo isn’t alone. A survey for Johannesburg’s Sunday Times newspaper showed that 51 percent of registered ANC voters want Zuma out.

Poverty remains a major issue for the majority of black South Africans. The country has “one of the highest inequality rates in the world,” with blacks making up nine out of 10 of those in poverty, the World Bank says. A quarter of the population is unemployed, and a whopping one of every two people under 25 is without a job.

How the ANC grapples with economic and social challenges ahead without their symbolic leader is yet to be seen.

– Rohit Kachroo

Bassam Khabieh / Reuters

A boy walks near a damaged site after what activists said was heavy shelling by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Duma, Damascus, on Dec. 22.

When Syrian President Bashar Assad first vowed to remain in office and maybe run for another term in 2014, few outside took the statement seriously. Since the beginning of the uprising, many analysts have seen it not as a matter of if the president will fall, but when.

Now Assad looks poised to have the last laugh, appearing stronger than at any point in the nearly three-year civil war. Not only is he set to run for another term, 2014 could be the year that defines the outcome of the civil war.

As extremist rebel groups gain ground in Syria, the United States and its allies are showing signs that they are suddenly reluctant to see Assad go.

“Our Western friends have made it clear … that Assad cannot be allowed to go now because they think chaos and an Islamist militant takeover would ensue,” a senior member of the Syrian opposition recently told Reuters.  

Once sworn enemies, the regime and more moderate opposition rebels may find themselves huddled around a table trying to agree and end the fighting. Success may have little to do with the Syrians in the room and more to do with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Russia and the U.S., each of which are backing their own horse in the war with weapons, money and diplomatic cover.

Even if the violence were to stop on Jan. 1, it would take years for Syria to recover from the human catastrophe the war has triggered in the country and across the region. And if the humanitarian disaster wasn’t enough, the world will watch nervously as inspectors finish their task of dismantling and destroying Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons.

Ayman Mohyeldin 

NBC News’ Petra Cahill and F. Brinley Bruton, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Tom Cruise Settles $50 Mill Lawsuit With ‘Life & Style’

Tom Cruise filed a lawsuit against Bauer Media Group over defamation last October for the tune of $50 million dollars. The lawsuit was due to a report published in Life Style about Cruise being a neglectful father and abandoning his youngest daughter Suri. What once looked like a long legal battle between the publishing company and Cruise, has reportedly been dropped.

According to The Wrap, Cruise’s lawyer Bert Fields said in a statement that the Oblivion actor’s defamation lawsuit has been settled.

“Tom Cruise’s lawsuit against Bauer Publishing, In Touch and Life Style magazines has been settled. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed and remain confidential. Bauer Publishing, as well as In Touch and Life Style magazines, never intended to communicate that Tom Cruise had cut off all ties and abandoned his daughter, Suri, and regret if anyone drew that inference from anything they published.”

The original report about Cruise’s role as a father had claimed that he had abandoned Suri after Katie Holmes filed for divorce.

Cruise’s lawyer had made a statement about the serious nature of the lawsuit back in February:

“Tom doesn’t go around suing people. He’s not a litigious guy. But when these sleaze peddlers try to make money with disgusting lies about his relationship with his child, you bet he’s going to sue.”

In addition to the lawsuit, Cruise’s representation requested that Bauer give up the identities of the “sources” that spoke with Life Style as well as the communication trail. At the time it was reported that Bauer would attempt to protect the identity of the sources by using the journalistic shield law.

Currently Suri lives in Manhattan, New York with her mother Katie Holmes, and Cruise has extensive visitation rights as agreed upon when their divorce was finalized on July 9, 2012.

Back in June Tom Cruise treated Suri to a vacation at a luxury resort in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, so it seems like the actor is making an effort in getting to spend time with his daughter, despite his busy schedule.

[Image credit: Helga Esteb /]

Okinawa approves relocation of controversial US military base

The governor of the Japanese island of Okinawa has approved a controversial plan to relocate a US air base to a less populous location, but still wants the base moved off the island altogether.

The decision in Okinawa, long a reluctant host to the bulk of US military forces in Japan, is an achievement for the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who has promised a more robust military and tighter security ties with the United States amid escalating tension with China.

Sceptics, however, said it remained far from clear whether the relocation – stalled since the move was first agreed upon by Washington and Tokyo in 1996 – would actually take place given persistent opposition from residents, many of whom associate the US bases with crime, pollution and noise.

The approval came a day after Abe visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, seen in parts of Asia as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism. The visit infuriated China and South Korea, and prompted concern from the US about deteriorating ties between the Asian neighbours.

The Okinawa governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, told a news conference he had approved a central government request for a landfill project at the new site, on the Henoko coast near the town of Nago. His approval for that project, required by law and a first step to building the replacement facility, was the last procedural barrier to eventually replacing the US marines’ Futenma air base in the crowded town of Ginowan.

“The government has recently met our requests in compiling a plan to reinvigorate Okinawa. We felt that the Abe government’s regard for Okinawa is higher than any previous governments,” Nakaima told a news conference.

He added, however, that he still believed the quickest way to relocate the Futenma air base would be to move it to an existing facility with runways outside Okinawa.

About 2,000 people gathered in front of the Okinawa government building to protest against the decision, with a few hundred staging a sit-in in the lobby of the office building, Jiji news agency said.

The US and Japan agreed in 1996 to close the Futenma base but plans for a replacement stalled in the face of opposition in Okinawa, which hosts more than half of the US forces in Japan. Okinawa was occupied by the US after Japan’s defeat in the second world war until 1972.

The Futenma base has been a lightning rod for criticism because of its location in a densely populated area.

Activists living in tents have been staging a protest near the site of the proposed Henoko base for almost 10 years and have promised demonstrations if Nakaima approves construction.

In April, the US and Japan announced a plan to close Futenma as early as 2022.

Abe said the government would study whether that plan could be accelerated and would begin negotiating an agreement with the US that could allow for more local oversight of environmental issues at US bases.

That would address Nakaima’s call to revise the bilateral Status of Forces agreement that has applied to US military in Japan since 1960 but has never been officially revised.

Abe’s government has earmarked 348bn yen (£2bn) for Okinawa’s economic development in the draft budget for the year from April, a 15.3% increase from this year.

Hartz helps you and your pet celebrate the holidays safely

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Hartz, Hartz Mountain, Hartz UltraGuard, Hartz Flea, Hartz Flea and Tick, Hartz UltraGuard Flea and Tick

Though these dangers can pose a serious threat to your pets’ health, a watchful eye and proper planning will pay off in the end so that your entire family, furry friends included, can enjoy the holidays together.

Secaucus,NJ (PRWEB) December 18, 2013

The holidays are fast approaching, which means savory food will be around the house for your dog or cat to potentially snack on. Hartz® is eager to help pet owners determine which holiday foods should and shouldn’t be given to their animal companions. While it may be tempting to offer your pet a taste of that turkey, its digestive system probably will not be thanking you later. To make sure that you and your pet make it through this holiday season in good health, let Hartz guide you in what to share and what not to share with your cat or dog.

To meat or not to meat

Chances are, you’ll be serving meat for at least one of your main holiday meals. Fatty foods, meats in particular, are a no-no for pets. Pancreatitis, an inflammatory disease of the pancreas, may develop as a result of excessive fat consumption. Turkey, ham and roasts all contain some fat, so be sure that these meats only enter the mouths of your guests. Raw and undercooked meat should also stay away from the feeding bowl, as they can contain harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. Hartz offers many meat-flavored products, so if you want your dog or cat to experience the holiday flavors, try one of these yummy treats instead.

Avoid onions and garlic

These two foods can be used in large quantities during your holiday cooking, but should be kept away from cats and dogs at all costs. Onions and garlic in any form can lead to red blood cell damage and anemia when ingested.

Skip dessert

And finally, the pies, cakes and other sweets covering your dinner table should not be offered to pets. Though you may be tempted to sneak a piece to your dog or cat, this is not advisable. Dogs and cats can experience serious illnesses from certain ingredients. Chocolate in particular will increase pets’ heart rate, cause tremors and overly excite cats and dogs. Nuts are also risky, especially the macadamia variety. These nuts can lead to weakness, tremors, depression, and vomiting. Additionally, raisins and grapes provoke kidney failure mainly in dogs and possibly in cats. Uncooked dough should never be fed to dogs since it can expand inside the body, the effects of which can be deadly.

Though these dangers can pose a serious threat to your pets’ health, a watchful eye and proper planning will pay off in the end so that your entire family, furry friends included, can enjoy the holidays together.

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