Monthly Archives: May 2015

Smartphone Apps and Your Mental Health

You’d be hard pressed to find a black person who does not own a smartphone. The devices are as common as shoes and basically a handheld computer. We can’t seem to live without these devices. But smartphones can also be valuable tools in maintaining our mental health.

Apps help the average person manage situations and solve problems. There are literally millions of apps available and hundreds of  for monitoring you health. The owner of a smartphone can use the device to evaluate everything from simple Monday morning blues to such complex maladies as bipolar disorder and addiction. The webpage at the Zur Institute lists hundreds of mental health apps.

Using these apps can help you to evaluate your mental and emotional state and lead you to getting help. One of these available apps is known as WhatsMyM3.

mzl.stcspwslWhatsMyM3 is not a new app but instead was formerly known as My Mood Monitor. The app presents to the user a series of questions to determine if they exhibit symptoms of various mental health disorders. The makers claim the app can tell if a user is at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). All of these issues affect African-Americans disproportionately compared to other groups.

WhatsMyM3 does not diagnose the users for a mental illness. The app applies the answers to 27 questions a user gives to a scale. A user whose score exceeds 33 may display symptoms of mental illness and should seek out professional help. A score below 33 may also indicate symptoms of one of the major conditions.

WhatsMyM3 claims to provide users with a reliable gauge to monitor their mood and track their mental health over time. The company says that the three minute survey allows users to take control of their mental health.

Available for both Android and Apple the app costs $2.99. Users can also access the service free at In order to track mood changes and symptoms the WhatsMyM3 app can be used over long periods of time.

Nothing is more powerful than addiction. Be it drugs, alcohol, tobacco, food and even smartphone and Internet addiction. It can take over your life and destroy it. But there are apps that help the average person break free. You can find numerous other addiction recovery apps at

For smokers Men’s Health Magazine  published a list of the five best quit smoking apps including the MyQuit Coach.

My-Quit-Coach-App-LogoLivestrong My Quit Coach-Dare to quit smoking

MyQuit Coach comes with a personalized quitting plan and has been reviewed by smoking cessation specialist. It allows the smoker to either quit cold turkey or gradually reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke daily. Smokers can even track the money they burn up and see how much they saved by not buying cigarettes. Smokers can also earn reward badges for meeting personal goals. And in the age of social media this app connects the smoker to Facebook, Twitter, and to chat with other quitters in an online community to find tips and health facts to strengthen your resolve. This app is free on Apple, Android and Windows phones. For more on these quit smoking apps visit Men’s Health Magazine.

Depression is more than dealing with life’s ups and downs. It’s the relentless feeling that life is not worth living. It can crush a person under a cloud of sadness, anger, hopelessness and lead to suicide. Among the 19 million Americans suffering from depression the Surgeon General reports African-Americans are over-represented and at particularly high risk for mental illness. Statistics show African-American adults living below the poverty line are more likely to suffer serious psychological distress than those living above it. African-American adults are also more likely to suffer feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than are white Americans. Getting help for depression can start with your smartphone and the simple desire to understand what is happening to you.

NIH Depression Information AppThe National Institute of Health offers an informational app for people who are dealing with depression or trying to help a loved one to overcome it. This app is very helpful for every day use. The NIH supplies all the information contained in the app. Included, you’ll find sections on:


  • Symptoms
  • Causes
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatments

You will also find a section on how to get help for yourself or for a loved one who is debilitated by depression. The app is free on Apple and Android.

For more depression fighting apps Technology has a listing of 15 mobile apps.

Violence in America’s cities had been in decline for over a decade. Unfortunately that cannot be said for black neighborhoods. Violent crime in America is down from its peak in 1993. But violent crime in cities like Oakland, Detroit, New Orleans, and Newark NJ, is a constant and growing threat. Shootings and street violence in these cities are common and the per capita murder rates are drastically higher than the rest of the country. America lost 3,500 troops in the eight-years of war in Iraq. Shockingly, within the same time span, 3,113 people were killed on the streets of Philadelphia.

FBI data shows that between 2002 and 2012 Chicago lost more than 5,000 people to homicide. Three times the number of Americans killed in action in Afghanistan. It’s no wonder that blacks in the inner city suffer post-traumatic stress disorder at rates equal to or greater than military members. PTSD is defined as a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or seeing a terrifying event. In the inner city it is not un-common for black people, including children, to witness gang violence and murder on a daily basis. Many have been victims of street violence of some kind and often more than once. Some people are literally prisoners in their homes because of the violence.

For our troops there are resources available for dealing with PTSD. But black people have a tough time identifying and dealing with PTSD. Hospitals are good at closing wounds but not at dealing with wounded minds. Smartphone apps may help get the healing process started.

PTSD CoachOne of the top apps for dealing with PTSD is PTSD Coach. The PTSD Coach is meant for soldiers. However for black people it can educate the user to manage symptoms that often occur long after the trauma. Features of the app include:

  • Reliable information on PTSD and treatments that work
  • Tools for screening and tracking your symptoms
  • Convenient, easy-to-use tools to help you handle stress symptoms
  • Direct links to support and help
  • Always with you when you need it.

PTSD Coach is a free app for Apple and Android devices.

PTSD Coach is considered one of the best apps for managing the effects of daily violence. T2 Mood Tracker is the other and both apps are reviewed by PTSD experts at

Mental health, like many other health issues, is at a crisis level in our black communities. Black people cannot afford to push mental health issues aside. Even the slightest mental health malady can manifest itself in unexpected ways affecting family life, work and relationships. The first step to getting help maybe in your hand right now.

Now you know











App of the Week -TripIt

TripIt_icon_flatSummer has arrived and people and families all over the country are getting ready for that much needed vacation. The process begins with planning and that is why TripIt is the App of the Week.

A vacation involves planning. Car rentals, hotel reservations, flight plans. All can become an overwhelming task if you are not organized. TripIt brings it all together for you.

To begin with TripIt can organize all your reservations regardless of the airline, hotel or car service.  Once the reservation is made you simply forward the confirmation email to and all your reservations are automatically recorded in TripIts’s master itinerary.

TripIt can handle confirmation emails from just about any reservation based service from the moment you leave your home to the moment you return. This includes even railway reservations. Just forward the email and its done. You can also use TripIt on activity planning sites like OpenTable, Evite, Fandango, and StubHub.

You can make changes to any itinerary at will and review your last vacation. TripIt allows you to access your master itinerary on your smartphone, tablet, computer, or other wearable device. Using TripIt you can even access your itinerary offline, while in flight or to avoid roaming charges when traveling abroad.

Other features include:

  • TripIt lets you share all your travel plans with a simple click across social media as well as to the more important people in your life.
  • Sync your travel plans with your personal or private online or mobile calendar automatically. Just sync your trip plans with your calendar of choice. Many different applications support iCal, including Apple iCal (iPhone and iPad), Google Calendar (Android and Gmail), Microsoft Outlook, Sunrise Calendar, and more.
  • Automatically import travel plans from your inbox to your itinerary. No forwarding required.
  • The Traveler Profile remembers everything for you and puts all your important travel documents at your fingertips. The user simply enters all the essential information from your travel documents, like your passport, ID, drivers license, or Global Entry card, for instant access to your documents wherever and whenever your need them.
  • TripIt Traveler Profile centralizes the contacts you need the most like doctors, sitters and other emergency contacts so you can access them while traveling.
  • Traveler Profile lets the user input and store documents for your fellow travelers such as your child’s passport for example. Everyone’s travel information is in one place.
  • All Traveler Profile information is securely encrypted on all devices. A 4-digit PIN is required to access all documents and contacts. More information on TripIt’s security features and policies can be found here.

TripIt is free and available for Apple, Android, Blackberry and Windows platforms



Racist Attack Obama on Twitter and Google Maps

obama-potus-smartphoneIn what has become almost common for racist Americans President Obama has come under attack on his new Twitter account. The president was bombarded by racist and threatening tweets in the first days of his opening his Twitter account.

President uses the Twitter handle @POTUS the acronym for President of the United States. It didn’t take long for the racists to attack him personally using racial slurs and calling for his lynching.

The images and language directed at the President reflect the deep racial hatred that some people feel toward the first African-American president.

One post had a doctored image of President Obama’s famous “Hope” campaign poster. The image showed the president with his head in a noose, his eyes closed and his neck twisted as if broken. It was meant to appear as if he had been lynched. The word “HOPE” was replaced with “Rope.”

The picture was accompanied by the message “#arrestobama, #treason we need ‘ROPE FOR CHANGE.’ ” The message came from a user using the handle @jeffgully49. This was not @jeffgulley49’s first posted image of the president in a noose. His Twitter image shows President Obama behind Bars.  “We still hang for treason, don’t we?” his post said.

@jeffgully49 is Jeff Gullickson of Minneapolis, MN. His posting got him a visit from the Secret Service on Thursday. When reached by the New York Times for comment Gullickson reponded with an email asking how much The New York Times would pay him for an interview.

Another Twitter user posted to the president with just two words: “Black monkey.” another person wrote “Get back in your cage monkey.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that the language directed at the president is “all too common on the Internet.” Earnest said that officials would not spend much time trying to block abusive commenters from the president’s account.

Another Twitter account, @BarackObama, owned by the Organization for Action, a liberal activist group, is regularly targeted by racist attacks.

President Obama is the first president to use the technology of the Internet to communicate his messages effectively. Top advisers to the president consider such hate filled speech as a small price to pay. Twitter, Facebook and other platforms provide the White House the opportunity to target the president’s message directly to the voters.

Dan Pfeiffer, President Obama’s former long time aide and advisor said, “The potential for anonymity allows people to say offensive, horrible things on Twitter that they would never say anywhere else, but we’re talking about a tiny fraction of the community.” Pfeiffer urged the president to engage on social media, including urging White House officials to create Twitter accounts.

Twitter has been criticized for not cracking down on so-called trolls. These are sometimes anonymous people who post abusive or inappropriate comments on the social networking site. Twitter does not police individual users or initiate action against them. But that appears to be changing.

In a note to his employees earlier this year Twitter CEO Dick Costolo wrote that he intended to start kicking trolls off of the platform “right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.”

In April, Twitter updated its abuse policy making it tougher for trolls to flood Twitter with threats and harassment. Twitter’s changes expand the definition of violent threats to include indirect threats and tweets that promote violence. The social messaging giant has gone a step farther and created a tool that automatically flags tweets that seem likely to be abusive based on triggers including the age of the account and content that fits the pattern of previous tweets identified as abuse.

Twitter’s changes  signal a shift in the company’s approach not only to abuse, but to growth. Twitter shareholders are applying pressure on the company to grow its monthly active user base. This left Twitter reluctant to stand up to abuse out of fear of jeopardizing its already declining user base. However over the last year Twitter’s management realized that the company stands to lose a lot more if it continues to let trolls post openly. Management has decided that it’s better to alienate destructive users if it means holding onto the good ones.

Costolo said problems with trolls are driving away the company’s users. “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years,” Costolo wrote in an internal memo. “It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.”

Google is also taking a stand against the racist activity that infects their Google Maps website.  Google has apologized after it was discovered that searches in the Washington, DC area containing the word “nigger” directed users to the White House. Another search of the words “nigger house” or “nigger king”  directed the user to the home of President Barack Obama. Global searches for terms including “niggahouse” also return the White House as the number one search result.

Google explained in a blog post apologizing for the “mess up,”  that the situation was caused because its Maps service uses content from across the web. Most of which isn’t vetted to match searches to locations.  This model explains why a search for ‘failure’ used to serve U.S. President Geoge W. Bush as the top result, before the company implemented a change.  Google said: “Our team has been working hard to fix this issue. Building upon a key algorithmic change we developed for Google Search, we’ve started to update our ranking system to address the majority of these searches—this will gradually roll out globally and we’ll continue to refine our systems over time. Simply put, you shouldn’t see these kinds of results in Google Maps, and we’re taking steps to make sure you don’t.”





ALERT! CareFirst Health Insurance Hacked…Last June ALERT!

carefirstbcbs2color_2According to a Wall Street Journal report Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit health insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield announced Wednesday it had suffered a major data breach…last June! 

The data breach was announced Wednesday, following cyber security firm FireEye completed review of the attack late last week.

Hackers targeted and gained access to the personal information including birth dates, names, email addresses and subscriber information of over one million of its customers. 

“This breach provides further evidence that cyber security defenses in the healthcare industry are still one step behind sophisticated hackers. The first question to ask is: was the compromised database properly encrypted? Encryption is widely recognized as a best practice and it is vitally important for a company like CareFirst, which is handling sensitive patient information. Healthcare companies are prime targets for hackers,” Greg Kazmierczak, CTO of Wave Systems, told DC Inno.

CareFirst, along with Anthem Insurance and Primera BlueCross, becomes the third major health insurer this year to report a data breach. CareFirst has hired FireEye to investigate the breach and mitigate the damage.

“The intrusion was orchestrated by a sophisticated threat actor that we have seen specifically target the health-care industry over the past year,” FireEye said in a statement.

A representative of CareFirst stated that the compromised database “contained no member social Security numbers, medical claims, employment, credit card or financial information.” The insurer also stated that when they first detected the attempted attack last April, they believed they were successful in deflecting the infiltration.

But criticism of CareFirst has already begun. “Not only should the database have been encrypted, but access to the database should have been protected by 2-factor authentication. By having multiple identifying factors, it is dramatically harder for a hacker to gain entry into this type of database. While CareFirst stated that social security numbers and credit cards were not held in the database, access to names, birth dates, and email addresses can lay the groundwork for future intelligence gathering and cyber intrusions. Without strong encryption and access management, expect medical fraud and identity theft to run unchecked,” Kazmierczak said.

Breaking It Down

This is simply another sign of sloppy data handling by a major company. This should have never happened to CareFirst. But what do you expect when you have absolutely poor data security standards in the health care industry. Another sad fact is that the company experienced this data breach last year but is just announcing it now. Thats why we have to have a national data breach standard law and we need it now! CareFirst is trying to make its customer feel better by saying no information such as social security numbers, medical claims, employment, credit card or financial information was in the data base. So what! The information that was there is enough for a cyber criminal to use to hijack an email account, launch a phishing campaign, or even steal an identity. With the information they did get they can get the rest.  As for black people who ask “what does that mean to me?” I just told you.

Researcher Hacks United Airlines Flight

united_continental_logo_detWould you feel safe if you knew that it’s possible to take control of an airliner with laptop computer or maybe just a smartphone app? That maybe exactly what has happened.

According to reports a security researcher was able to commandeer a United Airlines flight control system during a scheduled flight. A warrant application was filed last month for Chris Roberts a security researcher who was was banned from all United Airlines flights after tweeting a joke about exploiting flight control vulnerabilities while on a plane. Upon landing in Syracuse, New York, FBI agents escorted Roberts off the flight and confiscated his MacBook Pro and several thumb drives. FBI officials told Roberts a warrant to search the devices was pending, and filed a warrant application two days later.

This is not the first time Roberts has tampered with a plane in flight. He met with FBI officials in February of this year to discuss vulnerabilities with In Flight Entertainment (IFE) systems. Roberts told agents he was able to exploit vulnerabilities in the IFE systems 15 to 20 times from 2011 to 2014.  According to Roberts its possible to gain physical access to the IFE system through the Seat Electronic Box (SEB) located under seats containing video monitors, according to the FBI affidavit. Roberts was able to connect his laptop to the IFE system, allowing him to overwrite code on the aircraft’s Thrust Management Computer and issue flight commands from his seat.

According to the warrant application Roberts issued the “CLB” or climb command during an actual flight with real passengers. The command caused one of the engines to climb “resulting in a lateral or sideways movement” of the aircraft. Roberts denied the allegations telling Wired magazine that although he was capable of hacking into the IFE system, he never actually commandeered the flight. Roberts claimed he caused a plane to climb during flight, but only during a simulated test. On Twitter, Roberts claims much of the affidavit takes things he said out of context.

FBI agents conducted a search of the plane after the flight discovering SEBs under two of the aircraft’s seats which “showed signs of tampering.” Roberts denied tampering with the equipment saying “Nope I did not. That I’m happy to say and I’ll stand from the top of the tallest tower and yell that one.”

“We believe that Roberts had the ability and the willingness to use the equipment with him to access or attempt to access the IFE and possibly the flight control systems on any aircraft equipped with an IFE system, and that it would endanger public safety,” the affidavit reads.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing said its entertainment systems are “isolated from flight and navigation systems.”

The company  declined to discuss its planes’ design features for security reasons saying; “It is worth noting that Boeing airplanes have more than one navigational system available to pilots. No changes to the flight plans loaded into the airplane systems can take place without pilot review and approval. In addition, other systems, multiple security measures, and flight deck operating procedures help ensure safe and secure airplane operations.”

Airbus has not addressed the incident but has stated before it has security measures, such as firewalls, that restrict access and the company “constantly assesses and revisits the system architecture” to make sure planes are safe.

Roberts is the co-founder of One World Labs which has lost investors as a result of the incident.   Roberts has not yet been charged with a crime.

Breaking it Down

This sh*t ain’t funny no more. What this man did, and has admitted to, is pure terrorism. He admitted to tampering with aircraft 15-20 times between 2011 and 2015. But is still walking around free. Why? Let me say this;  his actions could have had unforeseen consequences such as the destruction of an aircraft in flight. This man has only three possible reasons for tampering with an aircraft in flight. First he intended to do some harm which I pray I am wrong. Or second he was trying to show the airlines that they are vulnerable to this form of attack which is a good thing done the wrong way. Or third he is seeking publicity for his start up company. The common thread to all of these reasons is that all should land him in prison. Keep in mind that Malaysian Airline Flight 370 is still missing.


App of the Week – Grocery Gadget

8022be36-dad3-4574-81a3-16d91b30e02bYou really don’t get busy until you have to manage a family. Many African-American families are trying to manage children, work, school activities and recreation activities. For two parents this is a major job. For single parents the task becomes monumental. Throw in grocery shopping and it becomes an bigger challenge. Thats why Grocery Gadget is the App of the Week.

Grocery Gadget will help families simplify shopping.  The productivity mobile app works along with the online portal to help you save time and money in the home, and at the grocery store.

At home the app saves you time by allowing you to enter your regular grocery items in the app or portal. Input the items and quantities you keep on the shelves or pantry. When you are ready just add the amount you need. Items you don’t need you leave simply leave at zero. You can share this list across multiple devices allowing the family to work as a team.

Other features of the app include;

  • Take photos of the items you need and share them so your spouse won’t pick the wrong thing.
  • Import recipe ingredients – Make sure you have what you need.
  • Compare prices of grocery items – Buy  your groceries at the best possible price. Best store prices will appear in green.
  • Search for coupons – Find e-coupons offers for the items you buy. You can ddd them to your store loyalty card with a single click. Grocery Gadget works with 28 participating chains including Safeway and Kroger.
  • Import data from other apps – Access the portal to import data from other applications such as  CSV, GroceryIQ, Shopper, Groceries, and others.

Grocery Gadget  is available for $2.99  on Apple ,Windows and Blackberry platforms. Android and Nokia are temporarily unavailable. 


Cramming Costs Verizon and Sprint $158M

verizon-sprintVerizon and Sprint are paying a dear price for the mystery charges to their customer’s phone bills. The two cell carriers will cough up a combined $158 million to settle investigations into the unauthorized charges or cramming. With this announcement the Federal Communications Commission has settled cramming charges with all four major wireless carriers. AT&T settled in October for $105 million, and T-Mobile settled in December for $90 million. Of the $158 million, Verizon will pay $90 million and Sprint $68 million.

Most of the money from the settlement will go to setting up refund programs for customers victimized by the practice. The cramming charges came from premium text messaging services like horoscopes or celebrity gossip sent directly to the customers phone and costing about $9.99 per month. Verizon kept 30 percent of the fees, and Sprint pocketed 35 percent. Victims of the practice often didn’t sign up for the services and carriers wouldn’t always offer refunds. When asked for proof that customers had signed up for the service Sprint and Verizon “were unable to prove that these services were ever requested.”

As part of the settlement neither company is permitted to charge consumers for premium text messages. They must also implement systems to ensure they obtain a customer’s informed consent before allowing third-party charges. Both Verizon and Sprint have already begun ending these charges.

In a bizarre statement emailed to  The Verizon stated “Today’s settlement reflects Verizon’s continued focus on putting customers first.” Verizon claims that it “rigorously protected” customers from these authorized charges. Verizon also says that it had a “broad policy” of allowing refunds on premium text message charges.

Sprint was equally in denial by saying “Sprint was an industry leader in enacting rigorous safeguards to protect customers against unauthorized billing by premium SMS merchants,” The statement went on to say  “Sprint always puts its customers’ interests first,” and that it returned “tens of millions of dollars” in refunds long before this investigation began.

Both Verizon’s refund program and Sprint’s refund program are now accepting claims.


United Airlines Launches Half-Ass Bug Bounty



United airlines no doubt has Sometimes the best intentions are only half the job. United Airlines launched a bug bounty to find holes in its computer systems. The idea is to get well meaning security researchers and hackers to find the security flaws in their system before the evil hackers do. The reward for finding the flaws could be as much as one million frequent flyer miles. United Airlines is joining a growing number of companies offering rewards for reports of security vulnerabilities.

United produced a list of systems eligible for the reward. They encourage security researchers and hackers to attack the following websites,, and; the United app; and other third-party applications loaded by or other online properties. All these systems sell tickets and protect customer and company data. But not your life.

Researchers and hackers won’t make any money on the deal. United is only offering award miles for finding the vulnerabilities. For small flaws they offer as much as 50,000 miles up to one million miles for major ones. United, being United, requires participants be members of, or join, their MileagePlus loyalty program to collect.

Here’s the the problem; researchers and hackers hunting for the bugs cannot test aircraft or aircraft systems, including inflight entertainment and Wi-Fi, or conduct vulnerability scans of United servers.

Hopefully United’s position is not that it would not consider such vulnerabilities as being serious, but rather they are loath to having researchers attempting to find flaws in a plane that’s flying at 30,000 ft,” wrote Graham Cluley, an independent security consultant, in a blog post.


Breaking It Down

Someone should tell United Airlines this is a half-ass attempt to show they are pro-active in protecting their systems. But is certainly not of any comfort to the people who are sitting in the seats. United could have scored a major public relations coup by stating they had employed researchers to secure their planes against cyber attack or in-flight hacking. Instead it appears that they have decided to protect the systems that generate profits and not lives. Sad. Maybe United has a plan or action in place to do this. I don’t know so I can’t say they don’t. But it would be re-assuring to passengers if they did talk about it. Aviation security spreads the responsibility around to everyone including the passengers. So if you see something say something. United is not taking their responsibility seriously. They aren’t even dishing out any cash. Instead they are offering frequent flyer miles. In the mean time Malaysian Flight 370 is still missing.




App of the Week: Locavore

locavoreThere is no better combination than getting good healthy food, supporting local farmers and merchants and losing weight in the same app. That is why Locavore is the app of the week. But what is a locavore? A locavore is a person who supports local food suppliers, economies and sustainable food production.

But before we go any further we need to address the need in the black community to eat healthier, lose weight and support local businesses. Black people eat more fast food than any other group. We also have the greatest problem with obesity and diabetes and die much younger than other Americans. Its a tragedy but not without a solution. Eat better, eat smarter!

Locavore eliminates the typical excuses for not eating locally grown produce; not knowing where to get it.  Locavore  quickly finds farms, community supported agriculture or CSAs, and stores local to your neighborhood where you can buy grass-fed meats, free range and drug free chickens, seasonal vegetables, and other staples. Good healthy food and nutrition is the first step to weight control.

You can use the Locavore app to find things like farmer’s markets for in-season fruits and vegetables, and other users of the app in your geographic area. Of course the app has a social media facet.

Locavore allows the user to post information about what they have found in their area for other Locavore users. So black people can share information about healthy foods and even sales. You can invite others to post a picture of their local food find. It also allows you to tag local sellers and food items in your post so that your friends and contacts can find out not only what is in season, but also what other items a vendor might have for sale.

Locavore is free and available for Apple and Android devices.