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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Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger

Source: Willie Henderson, Carmichael post office food drive coordinator, Nalc branch 4494  |  2016-05-02

Participating in this year’s Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is simple: just leave a non-perishable food donation in a bag by your mail box on Saturday, May 14th and your Letter Carrier will do the rest. Photo courtesy United States Postal Service

Saturday, May 14th marks the 24th anniversary of one of America’s great days of giving: the National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

Letter carriers walk through the community every day, often coming face to face with a sad reality for too many, hunger. So each year on the second Saturday in May, Letter Carriers across the country collect non-perishable food donations from our customers. These donations go directly to local food pantries to provide food to people in Sacramento who need their help.

Last year they collected over 71 million pounds of food nationally, feeding an estimated 30 million people. Over the course of its 23-year history, the drive has collected well over one billion pounds of food, thanks to a postal service universal delivery network that spans the entire nation, including Puerto Rico, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands.

The need for food donations is great; currently 49 million Americans (one in six) are unsure where their next meal is coming from. Sixteen million are children who feel hunger's impact on their overall health and ability to perform in school. And over 5 million seniors over age 60 are food insecure, with many who live on fixed incomes are often too embarrassed to ask for help.

This food drive’s timing is crucial. Food banks and pantries often receive the majority of their donations during the Thanksgiving and winter holiday seasons. By springtime, many pantries are depleted, entering the summer low on supplies at a time when many school breakfast and lunch programs are not available to children in need.

Participating in this year’s Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is simple. Just leave a non-perishable food donation in a bag by your mail box on Saturday, May 14th and your Letter Carrier will do the rest. You are invited to join in America’s great day of giving and help fight to end hunger.

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Public Library to Shake Taboo on Death

Source: Sacramento Public Library  |  2016-04-29

In her memoir, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Doughty helps to demystify death by sharing her experience working in a Bay Area crematorium. Photo courtesy The Order of the Good Death

Sacramento Public Library will shake the taboo off of death during the second session of its new community discussion series called “Let’s Talk About.”

The discussion will focus on why our society doesn’t openly talk about death. Facilitating the discussion will be author Caitlin Doughty and local law enforcement Chaplain Jenny Ebinger.

In her memoir, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Doughty helps to demystify death by sharing her experience working in a Bay Area crematorium. Today, as a modern mortician, she has founded the death acceptance collective, The Order of the Good Death, and reaches nearly 75,000 people with her “Ask a Mortician” YouTube series.

Chaplain Jenny Ebinger helps local families to acknowledge and cope with death. As an active law enforcement chaplain volunteer, she supports local officials, families and victims as they deal with death.

The discussion takes place on Sunday, May 15th from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria located at 828 I Street in Sacramento. Seating is limited. Register for the event at www.letstalksacramento.org.

Sacramento Public Library’s new discussion series called, “Let’s Talk About” is designed to engage the local community in the lost art of conversation. It’s a meetup for your mind.

The series addresses topics society doesn’t often discuss and provides resources for people to educate themselves on those topics.

Sacramento Public Library will provide a respectful environment for the discussions to take place. The community is invited to join the discussion as an observer or a thoughtful contributor.

For more information, visit www.letstalksacramento.org.

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