Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kachumbar “chopped” salad

While this recipe originates in India, it veers far from its Indian heritage. In doing so, the resulting salad provides a unique twist on the
This salad is a riff on a salad that is common in northern India. Kachumbar salad is traditionally cucumber, tomato, onion, chili, and lemon juice. It is served with many meals as a side dish. Kachumbar is a Hindi word that literally means cut into small pieces. In fact, according to my friend and co-worker Surabhi who is from India, if someone has had a particularly hard day they may say “Aaj Kachumbar ban gaya” loosly translated means that the day chopped me up.
This version of Kachumbar adds tropical fruit for a Hawaiian twist. It keeps for several days in the refrigerator. You can vary the fruit depending on the season.
Kachumbar “chopped” salad
1 large tomato, chopped (1/2”)
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
4-5 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeƱo, finely chopped
1 mango, chopped
1/2 fresh pineapple, chopped (or 2 cups canned)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2-1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper                                                                 
juice from 1 lime

Combine all ingredients.

Compliments of Carolyn Dunn
Department Head, Professor and Nutrition Specialist
Youth, Family, & Community Sciences

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yellow Jackets

Labor Day often signals the end of the summer is near and so many insects are also beginning to wind down their activity. Yellow jacket colonies likely peaked back in late July or early August but they are still quite active and even aggressive in foraging for food.  So, while people are outdoors celebrating this weekend at parks, the beach or just in their own backyard, more than just their invited guests will be waiting for hot dogs, burgers and other items come off the grill.  The inclination is swat the unwanted visitors are they try to taste what sitting on our plates.  That can trigger an aggressive response by the yellow jackets.  Another piece of advice to give people - drink from cups rather than cans.   While we're busy sitting at picnic tables talking, we may not notice a yellow jacket sipping soda from the top of the can or crawling inside to investigate this sugar (or beer) gold mine.  Pour the beverage into a cup.

Trash and recycle receptacles will also be wasp magnets and can also pose a problem in parks, athletic fields and other recreation areas and they need to be emptied before the overflow with trash or beverage bottles/cans.  A lot of people try those yellow jacket traps that are sold are hardware stores.  We still haven't seen data that shows that they are effective.  If yellow jacket nests can be find, treating them with a Wasp & Hornet spray is the best choice.  Use a product that propels the chemical 10+ feet so you have a running head-start when the wasps start streaming out of the nest.  Some of these products are foams which help envelope the opening to the nest.   I would suggest treating late in the evening because it's unlikely that you'll kill all of the wasps and the survivors may return in search of their now-unusable home.  Also, discourage people from using home remedies such as gasoline.  While it may be viewed as entertaining, it's obviously hazardous and environmentally unsound.  Some people place bowls or rocks over the opening figuring that this is a "low impact" alternative to chemicals.  However, I have reservations about this approach particularly if there are "inquiring little minds" that might investigate this situation and move the object with the obvious unintended consequences.   Another technique some people try is to pour boiling water down into the hole.  That may seem "safer" than a pesticide but consider that you have to carry the water over to the nest and pour it down the opening and hope some of the occupants don't emerge to "encourage" you to go elsewhere.    Yellow jackets are actually quite valuable as predators and so if the nest doesn't pose a health hazard to you or family family members or friends, "Let it be"....

Michael Waldvogel, PhD
Extension Assoc. Professor & Specialist, Structural & Industrial Pests
North Carolina State University
Dept. of Entomology, Box 7613, 100 Derieux Place
Raleigh, NC USA 27695-7613

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

IRS Repeats Warning about Phone Scams

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration continue to hear from taxpayers who have received unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS.

Based on the 90,000 complaints that TIGTA has received through its telephone hotline, to date, TIGTA has identified approximately 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams. 
"There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”
Additionally, it is important for taxpayers to know that the IRS:
  • Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
  • Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations
  • Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies. 
Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.
Other characteristics of these scams include:
  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.
The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to
For more information or to report a scam, go to and type "scam" in the search box.
More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website,

Promises of Debt Relief Meet Privacy Concerns

Why shouldn't you share your government-issued PIN (username and password) with student-debt relief organizations?

Because .... "Your PIN is the equivalent of your signature on any documents related to your student loan," Ms. DeMoss wrote. "If you give your PIN away, you give others the power to perform actions on your student loan on your behalf."
Increasingly, fraud schemes are directed at individuals with student loan debt, including data mining of national databases to obtain Personally Identifiable Information (social security numbers, etc.).  See the link below the excerpt for the entire story. 

Two weeks ago, the Education Department issued a warning to borrowers about student-debt relief companies. The department cautioned borrowers against trading personal information for private-sector assistance with student-loan consolidation.An investigation by the department’s inspector general found that some borrowers were sharing their federal student-loan personal-identity numbers with companies in the loan-service industry. According to a September 2013 report describing the inspector general’s findings, PIN sharing can create an opportunity for bad actors "to change and misuse the students’ personal data." Under the most-optimistic scenario, a debt-relief sales agent can use a borrower’s PIN to log into the student-loan database, assess an individual borrower’s debt burden, and provide the borrower with options for consolidation and repayment.
Read the story here:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mosquito Update - Chikungunya Virus

Mosquito activity will continue to rise as populations in rain-filled breeding sites mature and emerge as adults.  The recent media coverage about Chikungunya virus has sent many people into a frenzy buying all sorts of  traps or repellent devices for "controlling" mosquitoes.  There are a lot of products and homemade remedies being pushed as *the* fix to mosquito problems and so it's a good time to remind people of that well-worn adage about "If it sounds too good to be true.....".    For example, there is one product (that I won't mention in the interest of avoiding confrontation) whose website talks about its natural ingredient and how university-based research demonstrated that it repels mosquitoes.  The point to note is that they don't talk about their *product* being university-tested and proven to be effective. They leave it to the reader to assume that showing the chemical works means their product works similarly (which is not always the case).  So, people need to be smart consumers and read the website or product package (if they buy it locally) before they purchase one of these kinds of products.  We strongly recommend personal protection in the form of repellents, but we also recommend using a product with proven efficacy AND using it according to the product label.  We have a list of common products on our web page:     

A little about repellents - they keep mosquitoes from biting you but they don't do anything to get rid of mosquitoes.  Think about mosquito repellents like a highway detour.  You exit the highway, grumble a lot about it in the process, but inevitably you get to your destination and you may have actually found some place to stop and eat during the detour.  So, while wearing a repellent keeps you from getting bitten, the mosquito will likely detour and feed on someone else (or some other animal such as a bird, squirrel, etc.) and then lay eggs in some source of standing water.   This brings us back to the same list of suggestions that we tell people every time we talk about mosquito *management*: 

- Get rid of standing water wherever possible
- Be careful when treating mosquito resting/landing sites on foliage, lawns, etc., particularly when plants are in bloom and bees are out there visiting flowers.
- When using outdoor area foggers, avoid chemical drift.  Remove (or at least cover)  food prep equipment such as grills, as well as children's toys (and the children) along with your pets and their food/water bowls. Do not allow chemical to drift onto other people's property.

Why is Chikungunya virus less of a threat at this time?  Some people assume that it's similar to Ebola virus which has garnered much attention because it is a highly contagious and usually lethal disease that is spread directly from person to person.  In contrast, Chikungunya virus has to be transmitted by a mosquito.  So, a mosquito has to bite an infected person  and acquire the virus (which doesn't necessarily happen), then lay eggs before it bites another person and transfer the virus to them.  So,currently (and fortunately) there is a limited supply of infected people in the US for the mosquitoes to bite and most of those people have sought medical treatment for the disease.  This disease cycle is also different from the more common mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile Virus (WNV) because WNV usually resides in a ready supply of "reservoir hosts" - birds, which keep the virus present in areas of the country.  So, when a mosquitoes bite infected birds and subsequently bite people (and not all mosquito species feed on both birds and people), we see infection rates climb.

The bottom line is that Chikungunya virus is not a major threat in North Carolina but that does not mean people should neglect protecting themselves from mosquito bites because we have other diseases present and I expect that we'll hear of a few cases of LaCrosse Encephalitis (likely in western NC) or EEE showing up in horses within the next 2-3 weeks and likely in southeastern NC (but hopefully my prediction will be wrong).

Michael Waldvogel, PhD
Extension Assoc. Professor & Specialist, Structural & Industrial Pests
North Carolina State University
Dept. of Entomology, Box 7613, 100 Derieux Place
Raleigh, NC USA 27695-7613