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Venetian Views

Mothers, no need to envy senior citizens their bountiful discounts. Moms now have their own organization offering special deals. ClubMom, which had operated a pilot program in 10 cities, went nationwide in May. Membership is free and comes with a card good for discounts of up to 25% at participating merchants. ClubMom mothers also get coupons by mail and the chance to earn points they can redeem for everything from a set of knives to a Caribbean cruise.

Shopping at the local grocery or Home Depot (HO) might earn a mom one to three points for every dollar spent. These points accumulate and can be redeemed for items in the ClubMom catalog, available online at Those who sign up should understand this is a marketing venture; their names and addresses may be given to participating stores where they shop unless they opt out. How many times have you heard the advice to appoint a health-care proxy to make medical decisions for you should you become too ill to do so on your own? Yet because of a 1996 law that seeks to protect the privacy of medical records, some doctors and hospitals are reluctant to disclose even the basic medical information needed to enable a proxy to act. "We've had hospitals tell clients' proxies that they aren't comfortable talking to them," says Stephen Ziobrowski, a Boston partner at Hartford law firm Day, Berry & Howard.

The solution: Sign a separate document authorizing the release of information covered by the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996. And add such a sentence to your health care proxy too, says Needham (Mass.) estate planning attorney Kenneth Brier. A spokesman for the Massachusetts Medical Society says it's "not a bad idea" to take that extra step -- no matter what state you live in. Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is offering a rare chance to visit its off-limits fourth floor through Aug. 15. There you'll find the "Gondola Days" exhibit that recalls expat life in late 19th century Venice (

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