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FREE Weekends at National Parks

The 147 National Park Service sites across the country that charge fees for entry will waive these entrance fees during the weekends of June 20-21, July 18-19, and August 15-16, 2009, Salazar said.
Meanwhile, many park partners including tour operators, hotels, restaurants, gift shops, and other vendors will offer additional discounts and special promotions on those dates. More information on the fees and discounts can be found at .

Visiting Ohio for the first time as Secretary, Salazar also highlighted the $23 million the department is investing in the Buckeye State under President Obama’s economic recovery plan. This includes more than $7 million at Cuyahoga Valley National Park to repair the park’s historic railroad and tackle deferred maintenance projects that have been on the shelf for years.

“The investment we are making in Ohio will create jobs,” he said. “For example, here at Cuyahoga, we are improving a park that already attracts two and a half million people a year, pumps $38 million annually into the local economy and supports 1,000 jobs.”

Most Americans live less than a day’s drive from a park, the Secretary noted. Nationwide, parks last year attracted more than 275 million recreation visits. Spending by non-local visitor provided $10.6 billion for local economies, supporting more than 213,000 jobs, not counting National Park Service jobs.

“Tourism income helps America’s economic recovery,” Salazar said. “National park sites in the Great Lakes states, for example, attract 8 million recreation visits a year that bring $211 million into the local economies. Spending by visitors from out of the area supports 4,400 local jobs. So these areas need to maintain and expand this vital tourism.”

The entrance fees being waived at the 147 sites that usually charge for admission range from $3 to $25. The 244 other parks do not charge entrance fees. The waiver does not include other fees collected in advance or by contractors—such as fees charged for camping, reservations, tours and use of concessions.

The National Park Service website provides information to help the public plan their park adventures at
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Getting Robocalls Promising to Lower Their Credit Card Interest Rate

BBB warns Consumers of Robocalls Promising to Lower Their Credit Card Interest Rate

Not only are the calls a nuisance and violate U.S. and Canadian Do-Not-Call laws, but some companies behind the calls are ripping off consumers by charging large up-front fees to negotiate lower interest rates with credit card companies—something consumers can do on their own for free.

According to figures cited by the White House in January, credit-card debt increased 25 percent in the past 10 years, totaling $963 billion – with per household credit card debt at nearly $9,000 now. Knowing that so many families are drowning in debt, telemarketers offering suspect financial assistance are taking full advantage of the situation. Consumers have reported receiving calls as early as three in the morning and on both their cell and home phones even when they have registered the numbers with federal Do-Not-Call lists. Consumers also tell BBB that, despite their requests to the telemarketers to stop calling, the calls continue to come.

“Similar to telemarketing calls claiming your auto warranty is expiring, calls offering to lower credit card interest rates also seem to have complete disregard for federal laws,” said Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson. “These telemarketers are not forthcoming about the company they’re calling on behalf of, but BBB has identified some offenders by working with consumers who, unfortunately, paid for assistance in reducing their interest rate.”

“Cell phone spam may not be the biggest problem we have to deal with, but we got the FTC to shut down the car-warranty robocalls and now it’s time they shut down the other robocallers as well,” Schumer said. “These calls cost consumers hundreds in wasted cell phone minutes or much, much more if they get caught in the trap being laid by these unscrupulous companies. The perpetrators behind the credit card interest rate calls have also found a way around the Do Not Call List. The FTC has to track them down and then shut them down to put an end to this nuisance once and for all.”

BBB has received numerous complaints about two Orlando-based companies, CSTR Solutions, Inc. and Genesis Capital Management, and one Tacoma-based company, Mutual Consolidated Savings. All are behind at least some of the robocalls and are promising to save people anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000 by negotiating lower interest rates with credit card companies.

Robocalls generally begin with recorded messages that include statements like: “There are no problems currently with your account, however it is urgent that you contact us concerning your eligibility for lowering your interest rates to as little as 6 point 9 per cent.” or, “This is our final attempt to reach you since you've not responded to our other calls to discuss your credit card debt.” The automated message invariably does not include the name of the company, but may claim to be with Card Services or Card Holder Services. Complainants note to BBB that they now believe the calls were designed to deceive them into thinking their credit card company was contacting them.

After the initial recorded message, consumers must dial another number to be connected to a live person. The live “operator” usually starts the sales pitch by asking for the consumer’s credit card number and whether the consumer is interested in lowering their interest rates. From there, callers begin closing the sale, asking if the consumer is willing to pay – usually from $700 to $1,000 - to have their firm contact the credit card company and negotiate lower rates.

“The ‘negotiation’ undertaken by these companies can be as simple as calling the customer service number listed on the back of the consumer’s credit card and asking a customer service representative to lower the interest rate,” added Cox. “Consumers are fully capable of talking to credit card companies on their own, for free, and getting similar results. Consumers simply don’t need to pay any company a thousand dollars to negotiate lower rates on their behalf.”

According to BBB complaints, companies are failing to uphold money-back guarantees and not refunding money in cases where they are unsuccessful in lowering rates.

BBB offers the following advice for consumers who receive robocalls from companies offering to lower their interest rate:

• Never give personal information, including Social Security, bank or credit card numbers, over the phone to an unknown telemarketer. Always research the company first by reviewing its Reliability Report at

• When considering any company offering any type of financial assistance, insist on getting a contract in which all terms and conditions are clearly explained before signing up or providing credit card or other payment information.

• U.S. consumers can place their home phone number on the federal Do Not Call list by visiting If the consumer’s number is already on the list but continues to receive telemarketing calls—or is receiving robocalls on a cell phone—he or she can use the same Web site to report the incident to the FTC. Canadian consumers can learn more at

For more information or to schedule an interview with a BBB spokesperson, contact Alison Southwick at 703-247-9376.

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How to Grill Steak

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Nothing beats a perfectly done steak grilled straight from your backyard. The key to making the best steaks in the world is how you cook it. The steaks should be perfectly seasoned to fit your discriminating taste.


  1. Choose a nice cut of steak from the butcher or local supermarket; cuts from the tenderloin or rib are best. Excellent cuts include T-bone, rib eye, club, porterhouse, N.Y. Strip, Chateaubriand, and filet mignon. Choose the best grade you can afford: In the USA, that is: Prime (best), Choice (very good), Select (average). Prime grade can be difficult to find, so call several butchers to locate. Be prepared to pay at least USD$15 to USD$25 per pound for Prime. Aged Prime is superior, but aged meats aren't for everyone.
  2. Remove steak from refrigerator about 90 minutes before cooking. The steak should be at room temperature before it touches the grill.
  3. Peel a clove of garlic and crush lightly to release juices.
  4. Rub crushed garlic clove onto all sides of the steak.
  5. Coat each side of the steak with fresh ground black pepper and salt. Gently press spices into the flesh.
  6. For inexpensive cuts, squeeze the juice of half a lemon or lime on both sides of the steak. It may also be necessary to brush some corn or vegetable oil on the steak to prevent it from sticking to the grill. This will help tenderize the tougher steaks.
  7. A marinade can help less tender cuts, such as flank. It can improve the taste and tenderize select grade steaks as well.
  8. Do not marinate aged choice or prime beef, or you will ruin the steak!
  9. Preheat gas grill on high for 10 to 20 minutes. If you pay close attention, you will not overcook your steak. Be prepared to douse flare-ups with water.
  10. Grill steak on high for four minutes with lid closed. The key to a great steak is very high heat, so make sure your grill is on the highest setting possible.
  11. Flip steak using tongs or spatula, do not use a fork as you will lose juices.
  12. Grill on high for another four minutes with lid closed. Your steak will be about medium rare, depending on thickness.
  13. Remove steak from grill and immediately place on a warmed platter.
  14. Allow steak to rest for a full five minutes before cutting. This allows the juices and full flavors to develop.


In this video from the Summer Kitchen, learn how to prepare a delicious Tuscan T-bone steak: an easy recipe you can make on the grill.

Alternate Method

  1. Use these ingredients instead: Fresh ground pepper, salt, lime, beer, flank or skirt steak, and chili powder. Feel free to add more spices depending on your preference and taste.
  2. Transfer beer into a bowl (big enough to contain the steak and marinade so that the marinade covers enough of the meat to tenderize it) and season it with chili powder.
  3. Get half of the lime, squeeze some to the marinade sauce.
  4. Soak the beef in the marinade for around 30 minutes inside a refrigerator.
  5. Before setting it off to be grilled, give the steak a good rubbing of fresh ground pepper and salt.
  6. Let the steak sit in a prepared sauce some 20 minutes or even as long as 6 hours. This would ensure that all the good flavors of the ingredients would be absorbed by the meat.


  • Keep some freshly prepared marinade on the side if you're going to apply while cooking - Never allow marinade that has come in contact with raw meat to be applied during cooking - it not only increases unhealthy bacteria, but also tends to destroy the flavor of a good cut of meat.
  • If you have a small brush, apply the extra marinade from dish to steak while cooking or brush your steak with your favorite HP or Teriyaki sauce while cooking.
  • How do you know when your steak is done? Here are some tips using a 1" cut of meat as an example...
    • Rare (all red in the middle) 120-125 degrees, feels roughly like the flesh between the thumb and the forefinger of a relaxed hand
    • Medium Rare (all pink in the middle - but only the middle!) 125-140 degrees
    • Medium / Medium Well (some pink in the middle/mostly gray) 145-155 degrees, feels roughly like the flesh between the thumb and the forefinger of a straightened hand
    • Well Done (no pink), >160 degrees, feels roughly like the flesh between the thumb and the forefinger of a clenched hand

  • Fool-proof method for getting perfect medium steaks: Leave the steak to cook on one side (do not touch!). When you see blood rising on the upper side turn over and cook the other side for almost as long as the first side.
  • In a shallow dish, mix the following:
    • 1 cup of olive oil with 1/2 cup of soy sauce or teriyaki sauce
    • freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
    • juice of 1/2 lemon
    • 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard or chili sauce
    • spices (i.e. 1 tsp cumin, 1 tbsp cilantro)
    • 1 tbsp brown sugar and beer to taste
    Marinate the steak for at least 3 hours to a full 24 hours. Note: do not do this for tender cuts like rib eye.


  • Do not overcook steak.
  • Optionally preheat for 5 minutes on high, all burners. Open grill and leave all burners on high! Add steak. Close grill lid. Cook on first side, depending on steak thickness and desired style (med rare, med, well) for 4 minutes, flip, and cook on the other side for 4 minutes.
  • Never, ever poke holes in your steak. It will lose valuable juices.

Things You'll Need

  • Steak - 100% Canadian "AAA" Beef if available, or USDA Prime or Choice U.S. beef or well trimmed Black Angus
  • Garlic Clove
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • Soy sauce or Teriyaki sauce
  • A Lemon or Lime
  • Dijon mustard or Chili sauce
  • Spices: Cumin, Cilantro, Salt, and Pepper
  • Brown sugar
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Black Pepper

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Grill Steak. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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How to Barbecue Safely

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Barbecued food is delicious and a key part of an outdoor lifestyle. And just like any form of cooking, it is important to follow good food preparation practices. This article provides some pointers on safe barbecuing.


Barbecue Food
  1. Keep food cool. It is important to keep the food refrigerated until you cook it. This means that it is better to barbecue in batches rather than leaving meat and other barbecue foods sitting out waiting in the open, uncooked. Bring each new batch for cooking direct from the fridge to the barbecue every time it is ready to be cooked.
  2. Cover food. Cover the cooked food to keep the insects landing on it.
  3. Cook thoroughly. Ensure that all meats are cooked through. In particular, ensure that pork and chicken are properly cooked. It can be a little deceptive sometimes to see a charred outer casing of the meat, only to have uncooked flesh inside. Follow the cooking times suggested for each meat type.
  4. Keep foods separated during preparation. It is important that you keep raw foods and cooked foods apart from each other. In particular, raw poultry, raw pork and raw eggs should be handled very carefully on separate boards or workspaces and kept on separate dishes in readiness for cooking. Always clean preparation areas and items thoroughly before using with other food.

Barbecue Area
  1. Be well lit. At night time, don't barbecue in the dark. It is important to be able to see what you are doing. Keep the area well lit; if necessary, bring out a cord and floodlight, making sure to hang up or tape down the cord so that nobody trips over it as they walk around. The light will ensure that you do not burn items, that you can tell when they are adequately cooked and that you do not burn yourself by misjudging where to place your hands and utensils.
  2. Keep the barbecue area safe. If you have small children or children are coming as guests, ensure that they cannot reach the barbecue area, or if they can, that there is always somewhere there to supervise and tell the children to move away.
  3. Keep pets away. Pets near the barbecue can be a hazard. You may trip over them and an over-enthusiastic pet might try to grab a free meal of the the grill and get burnt in the process.

  1. Stay with a cooking barbecue. During ignition and cooking, always remain with a barbecue. If you need to leave it, have a guest watch over it in your absence. A barbecue should never be left unattended; fat may catch on fire and spark outwards, a child might wander over and touch the hot elements or the food may burn.
  2. Get the tools right. The right tools are barbecue tools. They have longer handles, longer tongs or tines and they enable you to move the food about with the least potential for harm to either yourself or the food by ensuring better grip and dexterity. Don't be stingy on this; the results of owning good barbecue tools will definitely outweigh any costs.

  1. Use only the appropriate fuel. Use the fuel that is recommended by the manufacturer only. If you try to substitute with another type of fuel, you may risk damaging the barbecue or causing a fire or melt down of the barbecue.
  2. Clean regularly. A clean barbecue will function better and is healthier for you. An unclean barbecue will increase the potential for carcinogenic build-up to enter your food. Always clean after a barbecue and it'll be easier and you'll be less tempted to barbecue over the burnt on bits that way!


This video will show you some tips on barbecuing safely.


  • If you have vegetarian guests, it is helpful to use a different part of the barbecue to prepare their food and to avoid contact with meat items. Many barbecues come with special vegetable compartments nowadays, like the one shown in the photograph heading this article. Another great alternative is to purchase a Japanese hibachi barbecue just for the vegetarian items and to located this on a table next to the main barbecue. These are cheap and very easy to use and you can easily cook both foods at the same time, or ask the veggie guests to help out with their good.


  • It is prudent to keep a fire blanket or fire extinguisher in close proximity to a barbecue; alert any guests helping out as to its whereabouts should the unthinkable happen.
  • Always read the manufacturer's instructions before using a barbecue. They are provided for a reason and the safety precautions are important.

Things You'll Need

  • Barbecue
  • Good, safe, well-lit location for barbecue
  • Appropriate barbecue tools

Related wikiHows

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Barbecue Safely. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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