SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Alsco Inc., the premier linen and uniform rental services company, recently joined the Eskaton Foundation’s Philanthropic Partner Program to better support senior citizens as they age, helping  them remain independent, but also provides volunteer opportunities and education forums about the aging experience for Alsco employees.

Seniors are an often overlooked demographic when it comes to charitable giving. In fact, in the United States, only two percent of all giving is directed to senior causes.

“Our donation allows us to support seniors through the innovative health, housing and social services the Eskaton Foundation provides to seniors,” says Mark Kotsios, general manager, Alsco Sacramento.

Eskaton, which means “the dawning of a new day,” is a community-based nonprofit whose mission is enhancing the quality of life of seniors to transform the aging experience. Eskaton Foundation supports the needs of seniors in the greater Sacramento area.

Alsco is a fourth-generation family owned and operated business, founded in 1889, that was recognized by the prestigious Hohenstein Institute for having invented the linen and uniform rental industry. Celebrating 129 years of business, Alsco provides linen and uniform rental services to customers that include restaurants, healthcare, automotive industry and industrial facilities. With over 180 locations, Alsco provides world-class service to over 355,000 customers in 14 countries. Learn more at http://www.alsco.com

Oakmont Founders Celebrate with New Neighbors

By MPG Staff  |  2018-02-07

Rina Younan, Sr. Regional Executive Chef (in brown apron) and heather Younan, Executive Chef (in green apron) served up a fantastic spread for all their guests. Photo by Paul Scholl

FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) – When it comes time for any of us to move to a new home meeting our new neighbors is always at the top of the list. The staff at Oakmont of Fair Oaks helped make that a celebration for all the founding members of their new location in Fair Oaks at their grand opening tour.

Steve Weinroth, Executive Director, opened the festivities with a warm welcome, inviting all the founders in attendance to get to know each other while enjoying the super-fantastic food prepared by their on-site chefs.

Tours were provided by the Oakmont staff from morning to afternoon of the newly completed rooms. Four completed and fully furnished model units were open for viewing, including a studio suite, an open one bedroom/companion, a large one-bedroom and a two-bedroom suite. This new facility is now 85% reserved.

“We are the first new full-service retirement community that has been built in Fair Oaks in over a decade,” said Weinroth, “We are excited to offer this premier retirement option to local seniors and offer attractive new employment opportunities to the residents of Fair Oaks.”

Oakmont of Fair Oaks is a luxurious option for active seniors in search of resort-style amenities and continuing care services and is just minutes from Lake Natomas, Folsom Lake and the American River Parkway.

To meet the diverse demands of vibrant and refined seniors, the community’s amenity package for all residents includes gourmet meals served anytime 7am to 7pm in a restaurant-style dining room, with a full menu designed and prepared by a five-star executive chef and culinary team. It also includes on and off-site recreational and social activities, a library, movie theater with plush seating, full-size fitness center with exercise classes and activity rooms with scheduled social events, games, arts and crafts, an onsite salon, private dining room, flower and vegetable garden, walking paths, garages, covered parking and a pet park. Chauffeured transportation and concierge services are available to make daily tasks even easier.

Oakmont of Fair Oaks offers specialized care services that promote continued wellness, including a nurse onsite 7-days a week, 24-hour care staff, and a Concierge Physician Program that will allow participating residents to see their doctor without leaving the community. Additionally, Oakmont of Fair Oaks will provide comprehensive memory care services for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Care options are customized to the needs of each resident and will include medication management, housekeeping, health monitoring and assessments, grooming assistance, dietary guidance, diabetic programs, escort services to offsite appointments and activities, appointment coordination and temporary in-home care.

Located on 3.65 acres near an abundance of shopping and dining options, Oakmont of Fair Oaks will be an 84,613-square foot community featuring 50 Assisted Living and 34 Memory Care apartment homes. Floor plans can be viewed via appointment or by visiting the Information Center, located at 8484 Madison Avenue. The Information Center is open seven days a week, from 9am to 5pm. For more information, call 916-584-9499 or visit www.OakmontOfFairOaks.com.

Headquartered in Santa Rosa, CA, Oakmont Senior Living is an award-winning developer of premier, resort-style senior communities and has 23 communities throughout California. Family owned and operated, Oakmont is recognized for quality of craftsmanship and excellence of care and services. Oakmont is dedicated to creating high-quality communities that enhance the world of retirement living and offer peace of mind for families. For more information about Oakmont, visit www.oakmontseniorliving.com.

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Sutter Health Opens Walk-In Care Clinic in Citrus Heights

From Sutter Health  |  2018-01-24

Photo courtesy of Sutter Health

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) – Sutter Health opened their newest Walk-In Care clinic in Citrus Heights today, expanding their capability to offer quick, convenient care for everyday illnesses and health needs in easily-accessible, stand-alone storefronts. 

The newest clinic is a service of Sutter Medical Foundation and is located at 5406 Sunrise Blvd.

“Consumers are actively seeking quick and affordable solutions for their immediate healthcare needs,” said Don Wreden, M.D., Sutter Health senior vice president, Patient Experience. “Many people need high-quality care beyond the standard work week, and we’re innovating to make care even more convenient – all while maintaining the personal level of support people have come to expect from our pioneering team.”

Sutter Walk-In Care offers an innovative approach to healthcare:

  • Nurse practitioners or physician assistants provide treatment for common illnesses, health screenings, vaccinations and wellness services such as smoking-cessation support.
  • Each location is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, with reduced hours on most major holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas Day are the only days when Sutter Walk-In Care clinics are closed.
  • Patients can call ahead or visit the Walk-In Care website to save their spot, or simply just walk in to the location.
  • Sutter Walk-In Care locations offer a comfortable lobby with outlets to charge laptops or phones, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi, fruit, coffee, tea and fruit-infused water.
  • Sutter Walk-In Care is available to adults and children 18 months and older – patients do not need to be an existing Sutter Health patient.
  • Sutter Walk-In Care accepts most major insurance plans, and patients would be responsible for their standard co-pay or co-insurance. For those who prefer to pay out of pocket or have not yet met their deductible, pricing is clear and simple, with a standard office visit at a flat rate of $129.

“We are excited to bring our Walk-In Care to Citrus Heights,” said Kelly Foss, Sutter Medical Foundation’s Walk-In Care manager. “By offering easy, extended-hour and same-day access, we can help with everyday illnesses, vaccinations, and sports/camp physicals to make it easier for our patients to get back to their lives feeling their best. People really appreciate being able to come in before heading to their office, after picking up their kids from school, or any other time that’s convenient for them.’’

Walk-In Care clinics have the potential to relieve pressure on overcrowded emergency rooms.

“We want to reserve emergency departments for serious and life-threatening illnesses, rather than having people with minor medical problems going there because they have no other option,” said Jessica Sawyer, physician assistant for Walk-In Care. “At the same time, allowing patients to receive non-urgent care and vaccinations quickly, near where they live or work, should help free up doctor-office visits for those with more serious issues.”

While Sutter Walk-In Care provides a wide variety of healthcare services, patients with serious problems or illnesses that require more immediate attention, such as severe cuts or broken bones, should visit an urgent care clinic, or their nearest hospital emergency department.

More Sutter Health Walk-In Care clinics are opening in Northern California. The Citrus Heights clinic is Sutter Health’s fourth location in the greater Sacramento Valley, joining three others in El Dorado Hills, Elk Grove and Roseville that opened in 2016. Six more clinics are in the Bay Area, including sites in Petaluma, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Dublin and San Ramon. The latest Bay Area location opened last month in San Jose.

To learn more about Sutter Walk-In Care, please visit www.sutterhealth.org/walk-in or call 1-800-972-5547. 

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‘Healing for Veterans’ at the Rancho Cordova Library

By Margaret Snider  |  2018-01-24

Chris Lambert, right, is with his wife and a South Vietnamese officer at the Hue City battle/massacre annual ceremony in Sacramento.

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) - The program at the Rancho Cordova Library from 2-3:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 3, is titled Healing for Veterans. But it is meant to help anyone who’s had trauma or extreme grief in their life, and everyone is welcome to come. Admission is free and no registration is necessary. “If you just want to talk, or share, or are ready for a big change in your life, come meet Chris Lambert,” the program brochure states.

At the age of 18, in 1968, Lambert volunteered for the Marines during the Vietnam War. By the time he was 19 he had been wounded three times and was discharged. When he returned home, Lambert said, “If you just did something that in my perception you were in any way trying to go against me, I could turn on you in a heartbeat and hurt you.”  Married when he went into the service, his wife eventually divorced him, saying, “I married a sweet, kind, loving young man and you turned into an animal.”

For 12 years he lost himself in alcohol and drugs. He learned to help others with their problems when he went into recovery, but didn’t address his own combat issues until he retired. “I tucked Vietnam into a little private box after I got sober and I didn’t open that box for anybody,” Lambert said. Now 60 years old, married and retired with grown children, he may volunteer 50 hours a week, and presents his program around the country, all on a volunteer basis.

Though the primary function is for combat trauma, his program is not only for veterans. It includes others who have experienced guilt and terrible trauma, who need to forgive themselves and start the healing process. A lot of traumatized people want to run away when they see the doors opening within them. “But the longer you keep it in, it’s going to pick up more momentum in the negative area and the harder it’s going to be,” Lambert said. “Kind of like avoiding a cavity in your tooth, it just gets bigger and hurts more.”

Groups tend to be more effective than one-on-one therapy, Lambert said. His goal is to let people see that they have opportunities for a better quality of life. He likes to keep his program down to an hour and a half. He has a break within that time, with an eight-minute movie in the middle about the combat experience. “If I do a good job we’ll laugh and we’ll cry, and you’ll learn a bunch,” Lambert said.

He focuses on combat veterans because many of the young kids today have never had any kind of adversity. “We’ve been so busy not hurting their feelings that they have no skills,” Lambert said. “So you take a kid that for 21, 22, or 23 years has virtually seen almost no negative consequences. Then you train them for five, six, seven months, then you throw them into the worst place you could possibly be. And ask them to kill people.”  Worst of all is that there is nothing more exciting than a fire fight. “I think Winston Churchill said, ‘The most exciting thing in the world is being shot at, as long as you’re not hit.’ Then you come home and that high is really hard to replace,” Lambert said. “ . . . You’re with a great team, and all of a sudden you don’t have a team.”

Evelyn Figeroid, who helped open the Rancho Cordova Veterans Resource Center, discovered Lambert at a monthly meeting of Volunteers of America where he was presenting information about his program for veterans. Figeroid has since retired, but Rancho Cordova Library Branch Supervisor Jill Stockinger said of Lambert, “He’s considered like a national treasure and he goes across the United States doing these talks. People say he is truly amazing. He really helps people heal.”

Family members and friends are invited, as well. “In fact, it doesn’t have to be about a war if you’ve got a trauma or you’ve got a pain,” Lambert said. “I will talk about that when I start the presentation. Because we all have our own personal war.”

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Free Tax Help Available Through United Way

By Kristin Thébaud  |  2018-01-16

Diana Clay of United Way California Capital Region helps a local family prepare taxes through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program led locally by United Way. Photo courtesy United Way

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Local households throughout the Sacramento region that earned $54,000 or less in 2017 can receive free tax help in person through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) effort led by United Way California Capital Region with support from Citi Community Development. The program will kick off at the first Super Saturday event on Jan. 27 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Grant Union High School in Sacramento, where IRS-certified volunteers will provide free basic tax return preparation with electronic filing. For more Super Saturday events and weekday sites available during tax season, call (916) 498-1000 or visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/FreeTaxPrep. Sacramento residents can call 2-1-1.

“We want to make sure more Sacramento-area households are financially healthy, and that starts with not spending unnecessary money on tax preparation and making sure they receive all of the refunds to which they are entitled,” said Stephanie Bray, United Way California Capital Region president and CEO.   

Through VITA, the national IRS program that offers free help to people who make a limited income and need help preparing their tax returns, local IRS-certified volunteers will help Sacramento-region households claim tax credits, including federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and Cal EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. This year, more households are eligible to earn up to $6,500 in federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits, including those who are self-employed. Many Cal EITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to low income, however if they do file, they can claim the state and federal credits for which they are eligible. Those who file for EITC, Cal EITC or Child Tax Credit should plan for their refund to be delayed until Feb. 27. 

“We want to encourage people to plan ahead for this delay instead of using refund advance products that can end up being very costly in the long run,” Bray said. “And don’t pay a preparer if you qualify for free VITA services. You won’t receive your refund sooner.”

Local households that made $66,000 or less in 2017 can file state and federal taxes online for free at MyFreeTaxes.com, sponsored by United Way Worldwide. The site provides households with free tax help they can trust so they can maximize refunds and credits. As with VITA, the site helps people save an average of $200 in preparer fees, guiding users through federal and state filing with software powered by H&R Block. Users need a valid email address, income forms and Adjusted Gross Income from 2017.

Funding support from Citi Community Development will enable United Way California Capital Region to increase capacity and reach of the local VITA program to meet additional need and demand over the next two years. The funding will help expand the number of sites offering free tax preparation and increase the number of volunteer tax preparers. 

“Nearly 20 percent of households in the Sacramento region are living on low incomes, and nearly half lack the savings to sustain an unexpected shock to income,” said Vicki Joseph, Northern California market manager for Citi Community Development. “By expanding access to free tax preparation services, United Way is enabling more families in need to benefit from this vital tax credit and help build their financial resiliency.”

Other sponsors of United Way’s 2018 free tax preparation programs include U.S. Internal Revenue Service, SAFE Credit Union and SMUD. For a list of collaborating partners, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/VITA

United Way California Capital Region is leading these free tax preparation programs as part of its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of local students who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. Household financial well-being is a key factor in student success. Through nine decades of work and research across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties, the local United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones for success in college or career. To donate or volunteer, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org

Citi Community Development leads Citi’s commitment to financial inclusion and economic empowerment for underserved individuals, families and communities across the U.S. Through innovative collaborations with municipalities, community groups and leading nonprofit organizations, the group harnesses Citi’s expertise, products and services to help expand opportunity for all. For more information: CitiCommunityDevelopment.com, @Citi on Twitter, YouTube.com/Citihttp://Blog.Citi.comFacebook.com/Citi and LinkedIn.com/company/citi.  

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Phone Directory Scam Returns to Four Counties

Source: Better Business Bureau  |  2016-06-08

Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning business owners of a well-known invoice scam that is making its rounds throughout the region once more.

Businesses are receiving solicitations via fax, demanding fees ranging between $499 and $1,999. The invoices are being sent from various names and locations. Businesses have reported receiving the solicitations in Butte, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties.

They closely resemble solicitations that circulated the area in Nov. 2014. However, rather than luring companies with phone directory advertisements, they are hoping to reel victims in with social media.

The solicitation identifies the product name as “Facebook and Twitter Features,” and includes a warning that reads: “LAST CHANCE TO PROTECT YOUR CREDIT SCORE IN GOOD STANDING!”

According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), a business may not send an unsolicited advertisement via fax unless they have an established relationship with the recipient. The advertisement must also inform the recipient of their right to opt out of future solicitations, and must contain information about how to do so. No such information was found on the solicitations.

Tips for business owners:

  • Do not respond. If you receive a fax or phone call from a company asking for payment, verify that you employed their services.
  • Do not be fooled by fake logos and company names. Scammers will often use logos and names of legitimate businesses as an attempt to gain your trust and reel you in.
  • Do not rely on caller I.D. Scammers have the ability to spoof a legitimate phone number, and it may look like you are receiving a call from a trusted organization or business.
  • Train your staff. Keep your employees updated on potential scams, and encourage them to flag suspect invoices for review.
  • Report scams to the BBB Scam Tracker. Contact your local Better Business Bureau and report scams at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.
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Governor Brown Issues Order to Continue Water Savings as Drought Persists

Source: Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.   |  2016-05-09

Moving to bolster California’s climate and drought resilience, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. recently issued an executive order that builds on temporary statewide emergency water restrictions to establish longer-term water conservation measures, including permanent monthly water use reporting, new permanent water use standards in California communities and bans on clearly wasteful practices such as hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscapes.

“Californians stepped up during this drought and saved more water than ever before,” said Governor Brown. “But now we know that drought is becoming a regular occurrence and water conservation must be a part of our everyday life.”

Californians have responded to the call to conserve water during the drought by dialing back sprinklers, replacing lawns, fixing leaky faucets, and installing more efficient toilets and washing machines. Between June 2015 and March 2016, Californians reduced water use by 23.9 percent compared with the same months in 2013 — saving enough water to provide 6.5 million Californians with water for one year.

While the severity of the drought has lessened in some parts of California after winter rains and snow, the current drought is not over. For the fifth consecutive year, dry conditions persist in many areas of the state, with limited drinking water supplies in some communities, diminished water for agricultural production and environmental habitat, and severely depleted groundwater basins. The executive order calls for long-term improvements to local drought preparation across the state, and directs the State Water Resources Control Board to develop proposed emergency water restrictions for 2017 if the drought persists.

California droughts are expected to be more frequent and persistent, as warmer winter temperatures driven by climate change reduce water held in the Sierra Nevada snowpack and result in drier soil conditions. Recognizing these new conditions, the executive order directs permanent changes to use water more wisely and efficiently, and prepare for more frequent, persistent periods of limited supply.

These new actions will help achieve a top priority in the Governor’s Water Action Plan — to “Make Conservation a California Way of Life.” The administration will seek public input in the coming months on new water conservation and efficiency standards called for in this executive order.

The following is a summary of the executive order issued by the Governor today:

Use Water More Wisely

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the State Water Board will require monthly reporting by urban water suppliers on a permanent basis. This includes information regarding water use, conservation and enforcement. Through a public process and working with partners such as urban water suppliers, local governments and environmental groups, DWR and the State Water Board will develop new water use efficiency targets as part of a long-term conservation framework for urban water agencies. These targets go beyond the 20 percent reduction in per capita urban water use by 2020 that was embodied in SB X7-7 of 2009, and will be customized to fit the unique conditions of each water supplier.

The State Water Board will adjust emergency water conservation regulations through the end of January 2017, in recognition of the differing water supply conditions across the state, and develop proposed emergency water restrictions for 2017 if the drought persists.

Eliminate Water Waste

The State Water Board will permanently prohibit wasteful practices, such as hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscapes, washing automobiles with hoses not equipped with a shut-off nozzle, and watering lawns in a manner that causes runoff. These temporary prohibitions have been in place since emergency water conservation efforts began in July 2014.

The State Water Board and DWR will take actions to minimize water system leaks across the state that continue to waste large amounts of water. DWR estimates that leaks in water district distribution systems siphon away more than 700,000 acre-feet of water a year in California – enough to supply 1.4 million homes for a year. Audits of water utilities have found an average loss through leaks of 10 percent of their total supply.

Strengthen Local Drought Resilience

In consultation with urban water suppliers, local governments, environmental groups and other partners, DWR will strengthen standards for local Water Shortage Contingency Plans, which are part of the Urban Water Management Plans that water districts must submit every five years. Under new strengthened standards, districts must plan for droughts lasting at least five years, as well as more frequent and severe periods of drought. These plans must be actionable, so that districts can turn to them to guide their drought response.

 

For areas not covered by the Water Shortage Contingency Plan, DWR will work with counties to improve drought planning for small water suppliers and rural communities.

Improve Agricultural Water Use Efficiency and Drought Planning

DWR will update existing requirements for Agricultural Water Management Plans so that irrigation districts quantify their customers’ water use efficiency and plan for water supply shortages.

Current law requires agricultural water districts serving 25,000 acres or more to file such plans. The executive order increases the number of irrigation districts who must file water management plans by lowering the threshold to irrigation district serving 10,000 acres or more. DWR will check the plans to ensure they quantify conservation efforts and adequately plan for water shortages.

DWR will work with the California Department of Food and Agriculture in seeking public input on the updated standards, with a public draft made available by the end of this year.

To ensure compliance with these new targets and water management plan requirements, DWR, the State Water Board and the California Public Utilities Commission will work together to develop methods which could include technical and financial assistance, regulatory oversight and enforcement mechanisms.

The full text of the executive order can be found here.

To learn more about the state’s drought response, visit: Drought.CA.Gov. Every Californian should take steps to conserve water. Find out how at SaveOurWater.com.

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Birds of Saudi Arabia Topic at Next Audubon Meeting

Source: Sacramento Audubon Society  |  2016-05-09

Grey Hypocolius. This enigmatic species is the sole member of the genus Hypocolius, closely resembling the Bombycillinae (waxwings) in many aspects, but the taxonomy is controversial. Males have a distinctive black face mask extending to nape and white-tipped blackish primaries; a most distinctive species. Photo by Ian Boustead

If you’re curious about the birds of Saudi Arabia, the best — perhaps the only — place to see them is at the May 19th meeting of the Sacramento Audubon Society.

Tourist visas are not issued by the Saudis, and few birders live or work there, according to Speaker Lou Regenmorter, who spent most of his spare time birding while working as an engineering consultant on a flood control project in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom, five times the size of California, is not just a big desert, he points out. It has acacia savannahs, mountain juniper forests, rocky escarpments and plateaus, and expansive coastal areas.  Fresh water is scarce, but there are a few reservoirs, farming operations, and wastewater wetlands that provide an additional bit of man-made habitat.

And there are  lots of birds.  In the three and a half years he was there, Regenmorter tallied 340 species, and that’s still short of what could be found, he notes.

Resident birds include at least 10 species found only on the Arabian Peninsula, he reports.  There are migrants and winter visitors from Europe and Asia, summer residents from Africa. Other special birds found in the kingdom include large populations of resident Crab Plovers and wintering Grey Hypocolius, and  a number of wintering Sociable Lapwings, a critically endangered bird.

The public is invited to the 7 p.m. meeting at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Ancil Hoffman  Park (For directions, see sacnaturecenter.com).  

There will be no charge for the program, and no park entry fee.

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Switzerland’s Unique Travel System is the Best in the World

By Judy Zimmerman  |  2016-05-06

Bernina Express. Photo courtesy  www.swissrailsystem.com

You can set your clocks by Swiss trains, along with its postal busses, lake steamers, and city bus lines. All are connected in a dense travel system that is synchronized for amazingly easy and prompt connections that is an unforgettable experience.

Although Switzerland’s unique paradise is only 216 miles from north to south and 137 miles from east to west, it encompasses four diverse cultural regions where the people speak different languages: German – 64%, French – 23%, Italian – 8%, and Romansch – 1%.

After landing at Zurich’s airport, it's an easy walk to the airport’s own train station.  From here the route travels through eastern Switzerland to the Europe’s largest Rhine Falls and the city of Schaffhausen, with its landmark Munot fortress.

You pass Lake Constance which shares its shoreline with Germany and Austria, and in about an hour arrive in the university city of St. Gallen, founded in the seventh century. A popular attraction is the Abbey Library, which houses some 170,000 rare books and manuscripts.

The best way to discover all the delights of Switzerland is by taking its “Grand Train Tour” — eight inter-linked rail routes which bring together the highlights of Swiss public transport, placing the emphasis on must-see attractions. This wonderfully diverse journey will whisk you through spectacular scenery as you lean back, rest, and relax in comfort.

One of the most popular train routes is the famous Glacier Express which links the Alpine resorts of St. Moritz and Zermatt that is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and the majestic Matterhorn. The train crosses no fewer than 291 bridges, passes through 91 tunnels and travels along seven valleys. The journey from Canton Valais to the Engadine takes about eight hours, winding past glistening glaciers and crystal clear lakes.

The Glacier Express travels through the glorious Goms region with its typical timbered dwellings. The sunny valley of the Upper Goms is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Switzerland.

It then continues through the rugged splendor of the Rhine Gorge (the “Grand Canyon of Switzerland”).  From Chur, the route extends to the famous holiday resort of St. Moritz which became the birthplace of Alpine tourism in 1864.

The “Grand Train Tour of Switzerland” also includes three other panorama trains — the Bernina Express, the Golden Pass, and the William Tell Express.

The Bernina Express is one of the most unforgettable routes in Switzerland, offering breathtaking views of the Morteratsch Glacier, Lake Bianco, and the Poschiavo Valley in Italian-speaking Switzerland.

The Bernina Express Bus, the Palm Express, runs year-round past a cluster of quaint villages and Lake Como enroute to the palm trees that line Lugano's lakefront.

The Golden Pass Line links German-speaking central Switzerland with the French language part of the country.  This route passes countless lakes and waterfalls, including world-renowned destinations such as Lucerne, Interlaken, Gstaad, and Montreux on Lake Geneva.

And then there is the William Tell Express, which takes travelers to sun-kissed Canton Ticino with its Mediterranean-like magic.  The first part of the journey is by boat across Lake Lucerne, followed by the first class train trip in panoramic railcars along the wonderful historic Gotthard route, an outstanding engineering achievement that was opened in 1882.

The Swiss Travel Pass, valid for 3, 4, 8, or 15 days, is a single all-in-one ticket that covers travel by the Glacier Express, Bernina Express, Golden Pass Line, and William Tell Express. The only extra is the surcharge for a mandatory seat reservation (not required on the Golden Pass Line.)  For more information and to purchase a pass, visit www.swisstravelsystem.com

The Swiss have also created a perfect system for baggage transportation. Visitors from abroad can hand in baggage at any departure airport worldwide and have it delivered directly to their Swiss destination. With selected airlines, the system operates in the opposite direction when travelling back from Switzerland. And while traveling within Switzerland, visitors can also have their baggage forwarded from one destination to another. To find out more on this, visit www.SwissTravelSystem.com/baggage.

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Recent revelations by the Pentagon’s inspector general indicates that U.S. Central Command, which bears responsibility for military operations in the Middle East, altered intelligence analyses to support the Obama administration’s contention that limited air strikes have “contained ISIS.” If so, that’s unfortunately nothing new. Politically skewed intelligence has a history.

In November 1967, President Lyndon Johnson ordered Gen. William Westmoreland, Military Assistance Command for Vietnam (MACV), home for a public relations tour. Facing re-election in 1968, Johnson needed another term to implement his Great Society. He needed Westmoreland to reassure a war-weary public and bolster his upcoming re-election campaign.

Starting in 1966, MACV conducted massive ground sweep operations compiling impressive “quantitative” victories; these victories focused on obtaining body counts of 10-enemies-to-one-American. Numbers of enemy dead, wounded, and captured, plus compilations of weapons and rice caches captured, along with expanded secure areas within South Vietnam, were all considered indications of progress.

During his “victory tour,” Westmoreland told a joint session of Congress that the war would be won by 1970. He repeated the story on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Assured by Westmoreland that there was “light at the end of the tunnel,” Time magazine named Lyndon Johnson 1967’s “Man of the Year.”

Two months later the Viet Cong—backed by North Vietnamese forces—launched attacks in 38 of South Vietnam’s 44 provincial capitals. During the Tet Offensive, the enemy struck American and South Vietnamese military headquarters in Saigon and broached the U.S. embassy outer compound. The North Vietnamese Army captured the ancient imperial capital at Hue, holding if for a month. Almost 4,000 American soldiers and Marines, along with 5,000 South Vietnamese troops, were killed in the fighting. An estimated 15,000 South Vietnamese citizens also died. The administration’s optimistic assertions heightened the devastating impact on the public’s will to continue the struggle.

On March 31, 1968, rather than lose the Democratic nomination to Robert Kennedy, LBJ withdrew from the campaign. Johnson’s dreams of a “Great Society” died, along with American soldiers—needless victims of intelligence skewed to satisfy Johnson’s domestic political agenda.

During the 1968 presidential campaign, Republican Richard Nixon touted a “secret plan to end the war” during his first term. After eeking out a close victory, Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger unveiled “Vietnamization,” a plan to slowly turn the war back to the South Vietnamese while withdrawing U.S. forces. American air power, including secret bombing of Cambodia and intensification of the bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos, Operation Command Hunt, would cover the withdrawal.

Nixon feared another Tet-style offensive might jeopardize withdrawal. In May, Nixon ordered U.S. troops into communist sanctuaries in Cambodia where they stayed for two months. Vietnamization continued. Then in February and March 1971, U.S. air power supported an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) invasion of Laos to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Operation Lam Son 719 was a debacle that cost half the lives of half the 15,000-man ARVN invading force, 108 U.S. Army helicopters shot down, and 289 American lives. Nevertheless, Nixon dubbed Lam Son 719 “South Vietnam’s greatest victory so far.” Vietnamization continued and so did skewed intelligence.

To support the Nixon administration’s Vietnamization policy, U.S. Air Force intelligence depicted Commando Hunt as an air-power success with 85 percent of enemy supplies and troops entering the Ho Chi Minh Trail never reaching South Vietnam. Air Force and the Defense Intelligence Agency claimed Commando Hunt destroyed thousands of North Vietnamese trucks. These were lies to support the efficacy of Vietnamization.

Things looked so good by late March 1972 that the American ambassador to South Vietnam, Ellsworth Bunker, was in Nepal spending Easter week with his wife, the ambassador to Katmandu. MACV commander Gen. Creighton Abrams traveled to Bangkok to celebrate Easter Sunday with his family.

Air Force intelligence—chocked full of optimism—didn’t tally when on Wednesday, March 29, 1972, ten North Vietnamese and two Viet Cong Divisions (mostly composed of North Vietnamese) invaded South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese military, massively backed by U.S. air power, eventually contained the invasion during Operation Linebacker, the most effective aerial interdiction operation of the war.

In January 1973, the warring parties signed a treaty allowing the withdrawal of U.S. remaining forces. North Vietnam released 591 American prisoners of war. Two years later, in less than three months, a North Vietnamese invading force reunited Vietnam under a communist regime.

It took a generation after all of this to rebuild trust in the U.S. military.

Today, false claims that limited air strikes are working on ISIS track with the facile assertion that an Internet video prompted the September 11, 2012 Benghazi murders of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other heroic Americans. Lying in matters of national security, especially to support partisan political ends, can be deadly and is worsened by its callously self-serving nature.

 

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