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Equifax Victims: What is the Best Identity Theft Protection?

2 hours 48 min ago

According to Bloomberg.com, credit card numbers sell for about $10-$20 on the dark web, the collection of Internet forums and fronts where cybercriminals hang out to trade tricks of the trade. And an underground hacker market is selling dossiers of identities — social security numbers, addresses and other pertinent details — beginning at $10. So what is the best identity theft protection for Equifax victims?

The fact that the Federal Trade Commission confirmed it is investigating the notorious Equifax breach, and that Congress is talking about placing tighter reigns on the credit bureaus beyond the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau doesn’t mean that lawmakers’ scrutiny will result in any further protection of personal information the bureaus hold. A recent bill actually proposes further deregulation of credit bureaus, according to the LA Times.

Equifax lawsuits may not either, though Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey became the first of the top state consumer protection officials to file suit against the credit firm. According the CNBC story, the Massachusetts filing claimed Equifax exposed half its population. Expect to see further lawsuits because it’s possible that 44 percent of Americans are now vulnerable to consumer identity theft, thanks to Equifax.

Equifax victims can however take action to protect themselves from the unsavory results of consumer identity theft. There are four key strategies, each with steps: pay for protection, avoid the spate of scams the Equifax breach has spawned, establish a personal credit monitoring plan and file your taxes as soon as possible each year.

Paying for Protection

At some point, the scrambling public affected by the breach are going to get official letters from Equifax informing them, but for now most identity theft experts are cautioning that every American should just behave as if their data was stolen and freeze their credit.

While Equifax is offering all those that may have been exposed their credit alert service free for a year along with foregoing its normal credit freeze fees, many are critical the company is using the exposure to profit:

Why should we have to pay Equifax for service to fix problem Equifax caused? I sent a formal letter but could @Equifax answer on twitter?

— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) September 11, 2017

Also suspicious, according to Fortune, Equifax purchased ID theft protection company ID Watchdog in August, about two weeks after it discovered the breach and about a month before public disclosure.

Equifax is not paying for credit freezes over at TransUnion and Experian credit bureaus, so consumers that want to freeze their credit would have to pay the other credit bureau companies to do so. And, Equifax’s free credit alert monitoring is as of now only free for a year, so there could be monitoring costs incurred in the future in order to continue the service. It also does not offer identity theft liability protection — those products propose additional costs to Equifax victims.

To most credit protection and financial experts, freezing credit offers the best identity theft protection, but the credit bureaus may try to offer you something else. Finance columnist Teresa Dixon Murray on Cleveland.com cautions consumers not to be bullied:

Don’t be scared into not freezing your credit. For example, TransUnion is working hard to discourage credit freezes. If you contact them online or by phone, TransUnion will try to convince you to ‘lock’ your credit instead of freezing it. They gush that it’s free and easy, while cautioning that freezes can be a hassle and cost money. I think all of the bureaus may start pushing some kind of “lock” instead of a freeze because freezes are regulated by law, locks aren’t. Plus, if you’re file is frozen, the bureaus won’t be able to sell your information to creditors and other companies for those pre-screened credit offers and other marketing purposes. If you want to freeze your credit, then do it. Don’t be talked out it by a pushy credit bureau.”

Equifax Victims Should Guard Against Scams

Equifax victims are not only wondering about the long-term effects and costs of protecting their personal information that may have been stolen, and could be sold at any point in the future, but they need to watch out for scam artists taking advantage of the confusion. It also doesn’t help that Equifax pushed out a spoof scam site via their own social media channels. Here are the types of scams consumers should to watch out for.

#1 Email Scams

Any links sent via email or social media that claim to help figure out whether your social security number was compromised in the Equifax breach is a hoax. It’s low hanging fruit for data theft rings, but people are trying it. MoneyWatch cautioned that the more information a thief has about you, the more sophisticated the email phishing scam becomes. If you download malware that copies the keystrokes you use to log into your retirement account, they could attempt to steal the funds.

#2 Telephone Calls from Equifax

Someone pretending to be from Equifax or a third-party could call to verify your information. Don’t verify it. They may also claim they are calling to fix a problem with your credit. Get a name and a case number, and call back the official Equifax or credit monitoring company offering assistance.

#3 Typo Scams

Typosquatting is when a Web address or telephone number is similar to the real McCoy, but it’s actually a scam. Look closely, is the URL spelled “Eq1fax,” or does it go to a country Web extension like, .uk, instead of .com? Don’t just judge by the website appearance — identity thieves can recreate very official looking websites. Just ask Bank of America, it’s still dealing with a email phishing scam that brings their customers to a fake website log-in.

All Consumers Should Develop a Credit Monitoring Plan

The best identity theft protection for Equifax victims, and other security breach victims, might be the victims themselves. Consumers do have cost-effective resources — the Federal government, their creditors and the credit bureaus themselves.

#1 Freeze Credit

Paying for credit protection to Experian, TransUnion and Equifax in the form of freezing your credit, as well as unfreezing and then refreezing it when you actually need your credit, discussed above, seems to be all the credit and security experts’ best identity theft protection method.

#2 Stagger Official Free Credit Reports Every 120 Days

Brian Krebs’, a journalist that investigates security issues, advice to anyone concerned about identity theft — second to pursuing credit security freezes at all the major credit bureaus — is to periodically order a free copy of your credit report only at Annualcreditreport.com. All big three credit bureaus are mandated by law to each offer one free credit report per year to consumers though this website.

The best way to take advantage of this right is to make a notation in your calendar to request a copy of your report every 120 days, to review the report and to report any inaccuracies or questionable entries when and if you spot them. Avoid other sites that offer ‘free’ credit reports and then try to trick you into signing up for something else.

By staggering requests to each of the three credit agencies, a consumer can perform a comprehensive review of all lines of credit associated with their social security number. If you find something foreign on a credit report or an alert, call the creditor listed right away to register a fraud claim and continue to follow up with the company until the fraudulent item no longer appears on your credit report.

Learn more about how to use the Annualcreditreport.com government website on NerdWallet.

Note that most credit and security experts say this is the only place to get your official credit report from the three bureaus safely — never use a third party with a similar Web address advertising free credit reports, and never pay for a credit report.

#3 Review Free Credit Monitoring Opportunities

In between, credit monitoring programs can send alerts whenever your identity is used for credit that would trigger a credit check. It’s not just Equifax that is offering free credit monitoring, numerous other companies — from clothing retailers to health insurers — that have had data breaches are also offering free credit monitoring programs. Check the list on the California Attorney General’s website to see where else your identity might also have been stolen from.

#4 Opt Out of Consumer Credit & Insurance Offers

Krebs and other credit experts suggest opting out of credit and insurance offers. There are two options — opt out for five years, or opt out permanently — at Optoutprescreen.com. Without these offers, the chances of your credit being tainted with goes down.

Shred any portion of these mailed offer that contain your personal information.

#5 Check All Credit Card Statements Every Month

As part of the Equifax breach, more than 200,000 credit card numbers were also stolen, according to Brian Krebs. Call credit card companies right away to flag fraudulent purchases you find on monthly statements, reissue a credit card account number and file a fraud claim. Continue to follow up to make sure the fraudulent activity does not appear on your credit history.

Equifax Victims Should File Taxes Early

In the last two years, there has been a rise in the number of fraudulent tax returns filed. The person who uses your stolen identity to get a refund check from the Internal Revenue Service in your name may cash it before you have even made your annual appointment with a tax preparer.

All the experts, including CBSNews MoneyWatch, recommend filing early. If an identity thief already filed taxes in your name, IRS will tell you that more than one return was filed in your name, that you owe additional tax or that IRS records indicate you earned more than the amount of wage you reported.

If you are a victim of tax fraud, MoneyWatch advises file a police report, a fraud report with the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 877-438-4338, and complete IRS form 14039, the Identity Theft Affidavit. Consumers can also call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.

3 Ways Cities Can Help People Become Credit Visible

The post Equifax Victims: What is the Best Identity Theft Protection? appeared first on EfficientGov.

London Ends Uber, Cites ‘Greyballing’ of Law Enforcement

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 16:20

Transport for London (TfL) will not renew Uber London Limited’s license to operate when it’s current license expires on September 30th, citing the company’s approaches to pubic safety. At issue for TfL is how Uber reports serious criminal offenses by drivers, obtains medical certificates and manages background disclosure checks. And, for greyballing its law enforcement officers.

While these issues are not new to most cities, London citint the company’s use of software to target and block law enforcement and government regulators, according to the press release, is a new twist in the tenuous relationship Uber has with cities:

.@TfL says #Uber “can continue to operate until any appeal processes have been exhausted.”https://t.co/cjHZwaUXBj pic.twitter.com/tN0lPgyc9l

— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) September 22, 2017

Greyballing the Bobbies

The software can figure out if a device containing the hailing app is used by law enforcement or used often near government buildings via geolocation tools, and analysed if the credit card associated with an account had ties to a police union. Once the software greyballs a user, the user’s Uber app will show fake cars or no cars on the app, according to the Independent.

If the user did manage to book an Uber before being greyballed, the company would call the driver and cancel the ride.

The greyball tool is part of a Violation of Terms of Service software Uber created to root out users targeting the service — such as law enforcement looking to trap drivers in cities where its not authorized to operate — according to the New York Times report that uncovered Uber’s use of the software.

However, Uber’s legal team approved operational use of the tool, and it’s been used in cities like Boston, Las Vegas and Paris and in countries like Australia, China and South Korea. So, the company has prepared for municipal reaction.

It’s already appealed London’s decision, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and mobilized on social media with a #SaveYourUber and an online petition that’s gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures already. London has nearly 40,000 Uber drivers and 3.5 million people use the app once every 90 days.

But it’s not the only company that was ready. MyTaxi, an app used by London’s famous black cabs, owned by Daimler, is offering 50 percent off fares:

50% off fares now, we are undercutting UberX on the news that they are not fit and proper to operate. Discount applied automatically.

— mytaxi uk (@mytaxiuk) September 22, 2017

MyTaxi lets you users save their black cab drivers, who undergo background checks and more.

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Praetorian Digital Acquires EVALS Expanding Online Training for Public Safety

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 11:50

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Praetorian Digital, Inc., the leading digital media company in the public safety and local government market, today announced it has acquired EVALS, the leader in tracking skills development and field training in fire departments and EMS organizations nationwide. EVALS will immediately be added to Praetorian’s online training portfolio, which includes the FireRescue1 AcademyPoliceOne AcademyEMS1 AcademyCorrectionsOne Academy and LocalGovU.

The combination creates the first complete training management solution for public safety that combines online learning content, training workflow and training event manam gement with skills development tracking. Departments and academies will be able to address the full spectrum of their training needs, from online course delivery and credential tracking to managing their field training with video accountability and mobile app-based forms and task books.

EVALS will be immediately available to Praetorian’s online learning clients at a special rate through single sign-on (SSO) functionality, with further integration planned. EVALS customers will likewise have the option to add Praetorian content and LMS features. The acquisition also further enhances the depth of tools and services Praetorian offers first responders through its industry-leading news and information sites FireRescue1.comEMS1.comPoliceOne.com and CorrectionsOne.com – the top websites in the world for first responders, with more than 1.5 million members and 5 million online visitors per month.

Fire, EMS and Police departments nationwide have increasingly been requesting tools to manage and track their field training – a significant pain point that continues to be managed through paper-based solutions in many agencies. We are thrilled to expand our ability to meet their needs with the addition of EVALS to our platform,” said Alex Ford, CEO of Praetorian Digital.

“Along with the EVALS team, we’re committed to delivering high-quality training tools and content that help departments and their personnel be fully prepared, better protect their communities, and come home safe.”

EVALS will be immediately available to Praetorian’s online learning clients at a special rate through single sign-on (SSO) functionality, with further integration planned. EVALS customers will likewise have the option to add Praetorian content and LMS features. The acquisition also further enhances the depth of tools and services Praetorian offers first responders through its industry-leading news and information sites FireRescue1.comEMS1.comPoliceOne.com and CorrectionsOne.com – the top websites in the world for first responders, with more than 1.5 million members and 5 million online visitors per month.

“Fire, EMS and Police departments nationwide have increasingly been requesting tools to manage and track their field training – a significant pain point that continues to be managed through paper-based solutions in many agencies. We are thrilled to expand our ability to meet their needs with the addition of EVALS to our platform,” said Alex Ford, CEO of Praetorian Digital. “Along with the EVALS team, we’re committed to delivering high-quality training tools and content that help departments and their personnel be fully prepared, better protect their communities, and come home safe.”

About Praetorian Digital

Praetorian Digital is the leading digital media company in the public safety and local government market, with a suite of properties dedicated to the distribution of trusted information that helps first responders and government officials better protect and serve their communities. We run a robust network of media sites dedicated to providing up to date news, analysis and training information, including PoliceOne.com, FireRescue1.com, EMS1.com, CorrectionsOne.com and EfficientGov.com.

Praetorian Digital also has a thriving Online Learning division, which provides critical training to departments, agencies and other organizations via PoliceOneAcademy.com, FireRescue1Academy.com, EMS1Academy.com, CorrectionsOneAcademy.com and LocalGovU.com, with more Academies in the works for 2017 and beyond.

Praetorian also operates a Grant Services division that works closely with departments and companies in the public safety and local government markets. To date, the division has assisted in more than $100 million in secured grant funding for departments.

For more information on Praetorian Digital, visit www.praetoriandigital.com.

About EVALS

Founded in 2013, EVALS was developed out of necessity within the fire service when firefighter Matt Cole paired up with a longtime family friend, software developer Jake Toolson, to help develop a smarter training tool. They started with the idea that there is a better way to administer training in a more transparent and consistent fashion and built the EVALS software into a dynamic skills based Learning Management System. EVALS now works with hundreds of fire, EMS and police as well as public utilities.

For more information on EVALS, visit www.EVALS.net

Contact Information:
Amanda Champion
Director of Marketing & Business Development
415.735.2986
Amanda.Champion@praetoriandigital.com

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CTO Download: 24/7 Police Service is Life or Death

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 10:38

The Regional Municipality of Durham located outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has a population of more than 645,800 people. The police force serves eight local municipalities across 970 square miles. Christine Robson, IT Manager of the Durham Regional Police Department knows all too well that technology interruptions or outages could mean the difference between life and death for her constituents and officers.

In your opinion, how has IT in government evolved over the last decade?

Robson: The process of just keeping the lights on is no longer just the main priority. With the Internet of Things, essentially information technology now manages anything that has a plug, as everything is connected.

Users, expect all technology to be operational 24/7 and when something goes down either through a planned or unplanned outage the general user is not overly sympathetic.

For example, managing a 911 system and all the interfaces that are connected is critical for our front-line officers. Having any type of outage could mean a life or death situation especially now that we have all our data within a call.

A 911 call will have all information related to the address, known victims, accused’s criminal history, weapon history etc. When an officer goes on scene they are prepared and know the risks before they take that call. When a 911 system or related system goes down the officer can be going in blind and thus having business continuity/disaster recovery sites are essential in this business.

As an IT civic leader what are some technologies that interest you?

Robson: The trends in technology in a policing environment are not that much different than in the private sector to some extent. Cybersecurity is critical, and we are investing a considerable amount of operating funds in this area to ensure we don’t get hit with ransomware, or any other known threat or vulnerability.

As much as we hate to admit it, most of us in policing have been hit with some type of threat and it takes a serious threat or hack to start investing funds in this area. We no longer can be reactive but look at being proactive and risk adverse to mitigate these threats.

Mobility is now the norm not the exception and the majority of our sworn officers carry smartphones to do their job. We have apps that can assist with:

  • Accessing the 911 system
  • Providing mugshots of the accused
  • e-ticketing
  • Emergency alerting
  • Radio call
  • GPS tracking
  • Missing persons
  • Command call outs

Basically, the smartphone is now an officer’s mini laptop with similar functionality to what they had in the cruiser but now all mobile, with the ability to be viewed anytime anywhere with no more boundaries.

Digital evidence is now at the forefront for most policing services across Canada. In fact, we have so much digital evidence that questions arise of how to store it, manage it and then share it with other jurisdictions.

Self service is everywhere as people tend to want to do things themselves online vs physically coming to a location to pay bills, report crimes etc. We have changed the way we do business in policing as we are now providing more online services to our citizens. Online reporting of crimes such as, thefts, complaints, minor accidents, mischief, property lost or stolen, can all now be reported and you don’t have to come to a station or call 911. Service is quick and efficient and all done online.

We also provide our citizens the ability to add a registered person with autism, form of dementia, mental act deficiencies, elderly person or Alzheimer’s on our system so the officers know critical information about a registered person. The more information the officer knows before he or she goes to the call is essential to how they respond.

We also are starting to provide more smartphone apps to the general public, any type of critical alert such as a missing person can now all be on any citizen’s smartphone.

What are some innovative examples of your agency utilizing technology?

Robson: Innovation examples would be hosted and online services that we are providing to our citizens. Every project that gets implemented has some type of technology component. Fast, efficient and economically feasible is how we do business now. We must be agile and quick and the old traditional methodologies of taking 2 or 3 years to implement a project or system are now months not years.

When implementing or adopting new technologies what challenges have you had to overcome?

Robson: One of the biggest challenges is trying to implement all the projects that our members want but having the funds and resources to do so. Budgets are tighter and scrutinized so priority of projects is critical.

The other issue is once the project is implemented we need to consider maintenance, warranty costs and resources to support it. Keeping the lights on is still essential but every time we implement a project, IT is assumed to support and maintain it after.

As civic and technology leader what keeps you up at night?

Robson: First and foremost is that all systems are operational with minimal downtime. We would all like to be a Six Sigma at 99.9996 percent but in reality, where we have to rely on so many other vendors a more realistic target is around 99.9 percent.

In this day and age, IT needs to build partnerships among other municipalities, public sector agencies and private sector organizations. It’s no longer just a policing service on an island by itself but an entire village of multiple groups helping each other.

At Durham Regional Police we pride ourselves on being leaders in community safety, diversity and helping each other. Something we are very proud of, but not something we have done alone.

 

EfficientGov’s CTO Download column highlights the work of civic IT leaders that achieve notable, forward-thinking technical solutions that change the game for their local governments. Who they are, what they believe and their approaches advance cities governing under limited resources.

Civic technology leaders who would like to participate in CTO Download should email editor@efficientgov.com.

Read more from CTO Download:

CTO Download: Improving the Speed of Government Services

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5 States Could Stay on Medicaid Under Graham-Cassidy

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 17:02

POLITICO

By Jennifer Haberkorn

The Senate’s Obamacare repeal bill may protect Alaska and up to four other sparsely populated states from major cuts to Medicaid through 2026, a potential boon to the home of pivotal GOP swing vote Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

The plan from Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) allows a limited number of states to opt out of its new Medicaid financing system, which would give states set sums to run their programs and do away with the open-ended entitlement that exists today.

Murkowski helped kill the GOP’s “skinny” repeal bill in July and is being heavily courted by Republicans to support the latest repeal effort.

Continue reading the story on Politico’s website.

Leaders from states that expanded Medicaid programs are critical of the bill that would eliminate funding:

The outright purchasing of votes. Everyone involved in this moral and intellectual monstrosity should be ashamed of themselves. https://t.co/A5ylD4CFhZ

— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) September 21, 2017

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker told National Public Radio Graham-Cassidy ignores the cost of wages. “How you can say that there’s one cost of health care per service delivered for the entire country and make that work?” he said. As of February this year, healthcare expenses in Massachusetts account for about 40 percent of the state’s budget.

Kansas Reverses Funding Cuts to Medicaid Providers

Caregivers are Already Watching Medicaid Get Meaner

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Can Water Coolers Reduce Binge Drinking on Campus?

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 16:20

At Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., the Patterson Court Council and the Student Government Association are hoping that water coolers shared with campus apartment party hosts might curb binge drinking, according to the Davidsonian, campus news.

Student body leaders came up with the idea after they met with the council after binge drinking during the first week of the school year led to a spate of medical transports for students that had blacked out from alcohol poisoning.

If it works, the school will reimburse the student body for the water coolers’ expense.

Campus Drinking Norms

A survey administered to Davidson students every two to three years since 1996 looks at alcohol consumption patterns within the student population. Last year’s survey indicated that 58 percent of Davidson students used alcohol one to three times per week within the last year.

“The people that are drinking way over that tend to see that and start to slowly adjust down and the people that are in that range feel reaffirmed that they’re in the majority, that it’s okay to be this moderate drinker,” said  Georgia Ringle, faculty who conducts the survey.

Jason Shaffer, director of student life and associate dean of students, is concerned that excessive drinking behavior must be addressed before it becomes too deeply entrenched in the current student population.

“There is a substantial population of students who are making low-risk choices most of the time, and there is a small but impactful population of students who are making high-risk or very high-risk choices,” he said.

Shaffer cited how students, particularly the freshmen, perceive campus drinking norms as critical.

The more [blackouts] become celebrated, the more they become institutionalized within the culture as acceptable, sought-after behavior,” he said.

The campus has also hired a counselor to assist students and has convened a body composed of students, faculty and administration to look at campus drinking policy.

Read the original story on Davidsonian.com.

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A Bike Lane Promises Improved Mobility in Mobile

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 13:02

After two attempts, the city of Mobile, Ala., was approved for a $14.4 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recover (TIGER) grant in 2016 to renovate portions of their downtown district, which includes the addition of a bike lane.

Federal Funding Comes Through

The TIGER grant funds, which are awarded to projects that increase the safety and reliability of transportation in communities, will be used to reorganize the car lanes in the Beauregard Street and Broad Street corridor to I-10. The project calls for making the car lanes smaller, and adding a bike lane on either side, turning the area into complete streets, which are streets accessible by everyone — motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Creating more bike lanes and sidewalks across the city has been a priority of this administration since taking office and was identified as a priority by our citizens during the Map for Mobile long-range planning process,” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson told The Lagniappe Weekly. “To be a family-friendly city, we need to be a pedestrian-friendly city.”

Complete Streets Lead the City Towards its Goal

The planned bikeway project funded by the TIGER grant is one component of a larger vision that connects five miles of pedestrian-friendly roads to recreation areas on the Three Mile Creek Greenway. Construction is slated to begin in 2018.

Once completed, we will provide safe, pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly access, beautify the streetscape and stimulate economic activity throughout Mobile,” Stimpson said in a statement.

 

Image: Mobile County Bicentennial Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan

Read how the city of Philadelphia used TIGER funding to implement a bikeway and other EfficientGov bike infrastructure resources:

TIGER Grant Funding Travel and Recreation Infrastructure in Philly

Pushing the Bike Lane Agenda

Bike Sharrows Found to Implicate Cyclist Injuries

 

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Is DACA Trump’s Immigration Reform Straw Man?

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 12:12

THE HILL

By Rafael Bernal and Mike Lillis

Democratic leaders fighting to enact the DREAM Act this year are taking fire from a surprising group: liberal immigrant-rights activists. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sounded off last week after top Democrats cut a tentative agreement with President Trump to pair a version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act with tougher immigration enforcement measures.

More recently, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was heckled in her own district over the deal, with a group of young advocates urging Democrats to pass a “clean” Dream Act while protecting the other 10 million undocumented immigrants living in the country. 

The episodes suggest the coming debate over immigration reform — a perennial headache for Republican leaders — will also be no small challenge for the Democrats. Complicating matters further, the immigration activists are a multi-faceted force with their own internal disagreements.

Continue reading the story on The Hill’s website.

Though he ended DACA, here is what President Trump recently tweeted about the registered dreamers:

Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2017

What Could Happen to Dreamers After DACA Dies?

The Fate of DACA: A Bill & A Lawsuit

 

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6 Pet Safety Tips for Emergencies

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 15:30

In the week leading up to Hurricane Irma’s landfall on the Florida coast, state officials were urging residents to solidify their emergency evacuation plans, not only for themselves, but for pet safety, as well.

Pet safety is sometimes forgotten in the chaos of a disaster, but by preparing well in advance, the threat to their lives can be mitigated.

#1 Find Pet-Friendly Accommodations

Every family should have a plan in place in case of an emergency that also includes their pets. Planning to stay with friends in the event of a hurricane? Make sure they can accommodate your four-legged family members as well. Opting for a hotel to wait out flood waters? Find out which ones in your planned area will accept pets. Hoping to utilize a shelter if the situation arises? Be aware which allow pets and what is required for them.

To find pet-friendly travel lodging, visit PetFriendlyTravel.com which offers a search function by location to find hotels that accept pets, as well as a state-by-state list of available evacuation shelters for pet safety during emergencies.

#2 Microchip and Collar Your Pets

Even the best laid plans can sometimes come undone, and if that happens, you want to be sure you have a way to reunite with your pet. Microchipping consists of a small, scannable chip placed under the skin of your animal that allows shelters to access your contact information in the event you are separated from your pet.

By collaring your pet with a tag that includes your phone number, you may be able to retrieve your pet sooner than waiting for them to be taken to a shelter and scanned, if they are rescued by another resident.

#3 Have a Backup Plan

If disaster strikes or evacuation orders are issued when you’re away from your home, have a plan in place with a trusted neighbor who will look after your animals until you can return for them. Choose someone your animals trust, particularly since emergency situations put stress on pets, just as they do humans, you want them to feel as secure as possible in your absence.

If you know you won’t be able to look after your animals during an evacuation, plan ahead for them to stay somewhere they will be safe. Contact your local veterinary clinic or kennel for boarding opportunities and to find other options.

#4 Gather Emergency Pet Supplies

Just as with other members of your families, make sure you have enough food and water for your pets when hunkering down during a storm in case the weather renders travel impossible. Canned food will stay safe from water and other contaminants better than dry, and you should have bottled water specifically for your animals’ hydration.

Your supplies should also include any medications or treats your pet is used to, as well as toys or lovies that will help keep them calm and distracted during an emergency, as pet safety includes emotional health.

#5 Calm Their Anxiety After a Storm

The aftermath of a storm can change the familiar smells your animal is used to, and make them paranoid about their surroundings, along with any damage sustained to their home. Because of this, they may act strange, or become stressed, even after the danger has passed. Be aware of their behavior and do what you can to reassure them.

#6 Do Not Abandon Your Pet Before, During or After an Emergency

As authorities combed the streets of Florida before the destructive Hurricane Irma hit, they found many dogs tied to trees or left in pens, which would ultimately prevent the dogs from escaping flood waters or hurricane winds once they began.

Florida State Attorney Dave Aronberg said they would prosecute any individual who deliberately prevented their animal from surviving.

 This is a prime example of animal cruelty,” Aronberg said. “We will find you, and we will prosecute you.”

If extenuating circumstances prevent you from properly caring for your pet during an emergency, seek out pet safety options like shelters or rescues that can house them during the storm, and then adopt them out in the aftermath. Hundreds of dogs were adopted out across the country after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

FEMA PSA: Preparing Pets & Farm Animals Left Behind During Storm Evacuations

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Transportation Funding: Why It’s Still Toll Roads Versus Public Transit

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 15:15

Transportation planning is deeply connected to economic development, but there in any agreement about transportation funding among government leaders often ends.

Parag Khanna, a senior public policy in Singapore and author of “Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization,” summarized the political divide over transportation planning like this: “America is increasingly divided not between red states and blue states, but between connected hubs and disconnected backwaters.”

But division that stymies transportation planning goes further. Government leaders have always been divided in a third way, on what kind of transportation they want to develop. Two Maryland projects — one a recently-completed toll road and the other a new light rail line — illustrate that what transportation funding should be for is still an argument of toll roads versus public transit.

Two Tales of Transportation Death & Resurrection 

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan recently dedicated the Intercounty Connector (ICC), also known as Route 200, an 18.8-mile toll road, which runs outside the Beltway and was first envisioned back in the 1950s, to former Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.. Ehrlich’s predecessor, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, stopped the expensive road project, calling it “an environmental disaster” based on studies that concluded the road would significantly impact woodlands, streams and wildlife. But Ehrlich replaced Glendening in 2003 and revived the project.

At the same time, Ehrlich also tried to kill a 16-miles east-west public transit project, now known as the Purple Line, linking Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, according to recent coverage by Maryland Matters. Hogan also recently dedicated this public transit project. He was with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao last month at groundbreaking, where she announced a Trump Administration pledge of $900 million in Federal aid for the project.

Hogan, ironically, expressed skepticism about the Purple Line project while campaigning, according to the story.

The Purple Line has seen an amazing number of twists and turns since it was first proposed in the 1980’s — endless debate at the federal, state and local levels, funding fights, lawsuits, expensive lobbying campaigns, political treachery and so much more. The drama has touched every prominent Maryland politician of the past three decades, with a changing cast of heroes and villains,” wrote Maryland Matters author Josh Kurtz.

According to Kurtz, the Purple Line project carries potent symbolism and national as well as local political implications.

Fighting Sprawl with Public Transit

Glendening made the Purple Line rail project a priority in the late 1990s despite opposition. In 2003, after he left office, he became president of Smart Growth America’s Smart Growth Leadership Institute. In a 2003 article about New Urbanism on the Smart Growth website that heralded his achievements, fighting sprawl became the new charge of several governors, from places like Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Utah.

Glendening in his new role expressed a need for shift in government investments, chiefly toward transit-oriented development. “The government policies are generally anti-transit and pro sprawl…In terms of governmental policy, roads are generally free but transit is increasingly expensive. So in federal and local policy we [have to be] really committed to transit and a transit-oriented budget for transportation,” he said then, noting that about 80 percent of the budget is spent building roads and 20 percent for mass transit. Glendening prescribed an even split — 50 percent in highway investment and 50 percent in mass transit.

What we need are two things: one is a change in land use so we won’t continue to go forward [in the same direction] and be in need of more transportation, and the second is a much better balance between transit and road building…The fact is that we need to greatly reduce road building in America, and transfer the majority of the money into building state–of-the-art train systems like in Europe. A rational well-used mass transit system is key to our strategy,” he said, noting that such a transition would take several decades.

Transitioning Federal Transportation Funding 

In 2009, former President Barrack Obama provided stimulus for high speed rail, envisioning state-of-the-art trains systems that would rival highways. “Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination,” Obama told the nation. After two terms, Obama’s plans for high speed rail went largely unfulfilled with several states concerned about how to pay for ongoing operations and unwilling to build.

However, the Obama-era FAST Act, though it emphasized highway and road development, made transit-oriented development projects like rapid rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, bus rapid transit and ferries eligible for funding, too. The new transportation law also made it possible for the cities that received funding to design streets more friendly to bikes, pedestrians and transit users — and differ from their state’s official road design standards.

There were also several U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) funded initiatives, like Safer Streets and Smart Cities Challenge, that came out of its thinking, summarized in its vision Beyond Traffic: 2045. The latter competition resulted in at least 78 cities thinking and developing a transportation vision for the future. Plans that might serve their future funding requests.

Transportation Funding Today: Show the Fed the Money?

Back in Maryland at the Purple Line groundbreaking, Secretary Chao said DOT would fund the project after the state and local governments, and the private sector, demonstrated their commitments.

The administration’s comprehensive infrastructure plan seeks this innovative approach,” she said.

What types of projects federal transportation funding will favor under the Trump Administration has yet to be decided, however.

Looking at Infrastructure Investments to Boost Economic Growth

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Google Proposes Circular Economy Creates Urban Sustainability

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 13:00

GOOGLE BLOG

By Kate Brandt, Lead for Sustainability

The process of digging up materials, turning those materials into a product, and shipping it to an “end user” (who eventually tosses it in the trash) is called the “linear” economy, and it’s depleting our world of resources faster than they can be replenished. We need to ditch this old model and move to a “circular” economy. Instead of using raw resources (think timber and ore) to create new products, the circular economy keeps materials in circulation for multiple uses, whether they are maintained, reused, refurbished, or recycled.

Today, 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas accounting for 75 percent of natural resource consumption, 50 percent of global waste production, and 60-80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. So, the concept of the circular economy is especially relevant in cities.

Digital technology helps city leaders and citizens gather, refine, and analyze data to create cities that are circular by design. Today we published a white paper with our partners at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that explores how digital technology and a few of Google’s existing efforts can enable more circular cities. Google has captured insights across cities, from the quality of the air people breathe to the amount of solar power people could put on their roof at home. Google Cloud Platform allows for global-scale data sharing and provides the foundation for collaborative projects between public and private organizations, such as the Waze Connected Citizens Program.

Continue reading the article on Google’s blog.

According to Google’s new research, a circular economy relies on three principles:

1. Designing systems that work, eliminating waste and pollution
2. Keeping products at their highest value and in use
3. Regenerating natural resources and restoring finite materials to be used again

Access Cities in The Circular Economy here:

Cities in the Circular Economy the Role of Digital Technology by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Learn more about people who work to bridge the environment and the economy in our previous coverage:

Women’s History: Beattie Worked to Bridge Economy and Environment

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FBI Seeking Victims of PayPal Fraud Case

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 12:36

RENO, NEV. — The FBI, United States Secret Service, IRS, United States Postal Inspection Service and the Reno Police Department have conducted an investigation on stolen identities used to open PayPal accounts between 2012 and 2017. Last week, a Reno resident was indicted in federal court in the PayPal fraud case.

Kenneth Gilbert Gibson, 46, allegedly engaged in a $3.5 million fraud scheme involving over 8,000 fraudulent PayPal credit accounts, bank accounts and prepaid credit and debit card accounts he created with stolen identities, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Federal investigators are requesting anyone who believes their identity was stolen and used in a fraudulent PayPal transaction during this time period complete a questionnaire.

FBI announced that any PayPal fraud victims that come forward will be sent notifications as the case develops.

Access the original announcement on the FBI’s website.

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$1 Billion in TIGER Funding Announced Through 2018

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 11:31

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced $500 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER funding) for the 2017 fiscal year, as well as $550 million for the 2018 fiscal year.

The Consolidated Appropriates Act, 2017 authorizes $500 million for national infrastructure investment projects that will have an impact on a region, metropolitan area or nation. Special consideration will be give to programs that address reliability and safety issues in rural areas.

In an effort to reject the current White House administration’s plan to scrap TIGER funding, the bill provides provisions for projects through the 2018 fiscal year, with $550 million allotted. The funds will help local communities:

  • Improve reliability and safety
  • Fix freight bottlenecks
  • Shorten commutes
  • Expand access to jobs
  • Generate economic development

Applications are due Oct. 16, 2017.

Access DOT’s series of webinars for the 2017 TIGER application process.

Apply online for TIGER funding at Grants.gov. 

Check out the DOT website for more information on the types of projects eligible for TIGER funding.

For examples of projects funded by past TIGER funding, see our previous coverage:

TIGER Grant Funding Travel and Recreation Infrastructure in Philly

Milwaukee Streetcar Lakefront Line Awarded $14.2M TIGER Grant

USDOT: $10M TIGER Grant for New Orleans Canal Street Ferry

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4 Strategies to Address Weed Smoking in City Parks

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 17:17

Currently, recreational marijuana is legal in eight states, Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, and the District of Columbia, but weed smoking in public is still unlawful. What about city parks?” some may ask. The short answer is, pot can’t be consumed in city parks, either.

Several major cities have struggled to enforce the rules. Here are four ways cities are working to address weed smoking in all public areas, with mixed results.

Local Ordinances Reinforce Private Weed Smoking Limits

“Washington state law protects private marijuana use, so you can consume openly in a residence as long as the property owner allows it,” reads a marijuana FAQ page on Seattle’s city website. “Marijuana cannot be consumed in public view, such as on streets or sidewalks or in public parks.”

In addition, Washington state’s Smoking in Public Places law prohibits smoking of any kind in public places and places of employment, further criminalizing public marijuana use.

Smoking in public parks is also illegal in Boston. In 2013, Boston’s city council passed an Ordinance to Promote Clean and Healthy Parks put forth by its late Mayor Thomas M. Menino. It criminalized “inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other lighted or vaporized substance in any manner or form including marijuana used for medical or any other purposes.” The fine for smoking in a Boston park is $250.

That year, organizers and attendees of the Boston Freedom Rally were concerned about a proposed fine increase for smoking medicinal or recreational marijuana in Boston Common during the annual pro-marijuana event. The rally, also known as Hempfest, has now been running for 28 years.

Enforcement of marijuana laws led to a spike in 2016 arrests in Washington, D.C. According to the Washington Post, arrests for public weed smoking in the District nearly tripled in 2016. More than 400 people were arrested in 2016 for public consumption of marijuana. That compares with 142 people in 2015, the year marijuana use became legal in the city. Marijuana arrests are expected to remain high this year, as almost 80 have been arrested between January and April.

Reno Sets the Weed Smoking Stage with Public Engagement 

The proactive Reno Police Department reminded residents with a press conference and online release of recreational marijuana rules in late June, before recreational pot became legal in Nevada on July 1.

The FAQ guide answered many questions users may have with new, relaxed laws.

“Marijuana cannot be consumed or smoked in any public place, including parks, sporting events, moving vehicles, casinos, hotels, concerts, festivals, marijuana facilities or while you’re walking down the street,” according to the department’s website. “People who smoke or consume marijuana in public can be fined $600 for the first offense.”

The guide details the age threshold for buying recreational pot (21); lists the amounts of people can legally carry in public (28.3 grams of marijuana, and 3.5 grams of concentrated pot or edibles) and details the laws about growing marijuana plants at home.

Additionally, the page lists what people are not permitted to do under the influence of marijuana, like possessing a firearm or driving.

If a driver is suspected of being under the influence of marijuana, law enforcement can test the driver’s blood to determine if he or she is under the influence,” according to the guide. “It is unlawful to drive if you have more than 2 nanograms per milliliter of marijuana in your blood or 5 nanograms per milliliter of marijuana metabolite in your blood.”

Denver Tries Targeted Park Use Bans

In 2016, Denver Parks and Recreation Department issued a temporary directive banning suspected drug dealers and users from downtown parks and the Cherry Creek Greenway for 90 days, according to Denverite.com.

“The Cherry Creek bike trail has become a hub for drug sales and use, jeopardizing the public’s ability to safely enjoy one of Denver’s signature amenities in our outdoor recreation system,” city officials said in a press release. “The purpose of the directive is to protect public health and parkland, increase safety and improve the overall experience for trail users.”

In February, according to a story in the Denver Post, a county judge issued a rebuke to the city’s parks and recreation officials, saying the policy violated the due-process rights of Troy Holm, who was charged with trespassing and banned from Commons Park for 90 days. Attorney Adam Frank of the American Civil Liberties Union represented Holm.

By authorizing police to issue so-called suspension notices that immediately made it a crime to enter a public park, Denver attempted an end-run around the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU legal director in a prepared release. “The court’s ruling affirms a bedrock principle of due process: the government cannot take away our rights without first providing, at a minimum, notice of the accusation and a fair opportunity to defend against it.”

San Francisco Offers Limited Public Weed Smoking Permits

This spring, for the first time, the city of San Francisco gave an official OK for a long running pot party held annually in the city’s counterculture Haight District on April 20.

“The city issued a permit to a handful of Haight Street merchants and local cannabis businesses to oversee the event,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The sponsor businesses would be responsible for trash and security, things that were overlooked in the past.

“It will be much more organized having people take responsibility for this,” Joey Hafner, general manager of retail for Diamond Supply Co., a Haight Street clothing store, was quoted in the Chronicle story. “We don’t expect it to get too crazy. We’ve really set up the infrastructure for it.”

A “group smoke” on Hippy Hill in Golden Gate Park, while more regulated than in past years with a 21-plus rule, resulted in no arrests for weed smoking in public, compared to eight in 2016.

New Mass. Recreational Marijuana Law to Let Locals Decide

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Increasing Inmate Education & Jail Safety with Tablets

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 13:03

Reprinted with permission from the .

The debate over prison reform seems sharply divided between those who want to see stricter sentencing and harsher punishment and those who want to move toward a more rehabilitative system. Despite very real differences between these two philosophies, there may be one issue that both sides can agree on – inmate tablets.

Inmate tablets are the most effective inmate management tool I have seen in my 25 years as a corrections professional. There are positive effects inmate tablet programs have on both a correctional facility’s ecosystem and the surrounding community’s. Inmate tablets present a proven, cost-effective way to make our jail staff safer and prepare inmates to live productive lives upon release.

A Boon for Jail Safety

Although some would argue that inmate tablets are a luxury offering that criminals don’t deserve, but the results we’ve seen at in Pima County, Ariz., speak for themselves.

Since implementing the tablet program, our suicide attempts and ideations are down 66 percent and our successful suicides are down 100 percent. Staff assaults are down 60 percent, and our inmate-on-inmate assaults are down 40 percent as well.

Overall, inmate behavior has improved, partially because inmates are aware they will lose permission for use of their tablet for behaving badly. It is a simple matter of providing the proper incentives for good behavior.

The ability for inmates to make phone calls to their families from their cells, instead of waiting to be let out and rushing to one of the limited wall phones, has drastically reduced stress on the inmates. This has, in turn, radically reduced tensions between detention staff and the inmate population.

Making Connectivity Part of Inmate Education

Our tablets provide inmates access to anger management programs, education services, employment training – all programs that have been proven to reduce the recidivism rate.

We don’t do this to coddle our inmates. We do this to equip them with the skills needed to face life outside of prison.

The fact is at some point these inmates will re-enter our communities. It is a question of what kind of person we want living in our neighborhood – a criminal, or someone who can contribute to our society? By promoting technology skills, we are helping inmates learn how to navigate the contemporary world, which involves constant connectivity.

Reducing Contraband Coming In

The other benefit to providing education programs is that it’s proven to save taxpayers money. A study from Lois Davis of the RAND Corporation found that for every dollar spent on inmate education programs, between four and five dollars are saved on reincarceration costs.

Take just one feature the tablets provide in Pima County: electronic messaging. Before implementing the tablets, three people were tasked with sorting through letters to look for contraband, and our facility could receive thousands of pieces of mail a day.

Electronic messaging means less snail mail, which frees up our staff to focus on keeping the jail safe. It also enhances security staff’s ability to gain intelligence regarding inmate communications by allowing staff to search for code words and easily monitor all incoming and outgoing correspondence.

Furthermore, any inmate with access to electronic messaging who is still receiving postal mail on a regular basis is marked as a red flag, because it could indicate someone is trying to sneak contraband into our facility.

Inmate Education Tablet Precautions

There are certain guardrails that must be put in place when implementing tablet services in a corrections environment. If a tablet program is to be implemented, it must be done so across the entire facility. You can’t create a have and have-not scenario in a corrections environment because it causes tension amongst the inmates.

Moreover, facilities must ensure that their tablets are secure. At my facility, there is no internet access available – inmates are utilizing an on-site server with carefully curated content.

About the Author

Sean Stewart is the Corrections Captain at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department in Arizona.

Access the original story on the Washington Examiner

Grant-Funded Computer Coding Program for Female Inmates

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Why All Local Governments Must Prepare for Mobility-as-a-Service

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 16:31

The mobility-as-a-service market will grow rapidly, mainly due to the high adoption of online mobility-on-demand services, through 2023, according to a recent Market Research Future report. Lyft, Car2Go, Uber, Ridepal and others are at the forefront of creating an on demand transportation system that is better suited to growing urban densities.

That’s because mobility-as-a-service provides an alternative way to move more people and goods, one that adds more variability into the supply side of transportation. By transforming a relatively inflexible transportation system to one where supply is more evenly aligned with demand, cities can explore opportunities to improve transportation access and serve groups that have difficulty with traditional modes of public transit.

Cities should adapt, according to McKinsey partners writing for the Harvard Business Review. The company’s analysis suggests that by 2030, developing, average-size cities could realize $600 million in annual societal benefits from mobility advances that reduce traffic accidents and their related injuries and fatalities.

Officials might do better to envision what mobility ought to look like five to 15 years from now and devise policies to bring about that future sooner than it might otherwise arrive. Doing so will allow policy makers to play a more proactive role in shaping what that future looks like. Officials who hope to maximize the benefits of advanced mobility might think about several core strategies,” they wrote.

Those core strategies are:

  1. Tailoring new mobility approaches to a city’s specific challenges
  2. Developing integrated mobility systems that combine public transit with car sharing, autonomous vehicles and smart solutions that reduce traffic congestion or create a seamless mobility, where users rely on an array of transportation opportunities

Cities that take a wait-and-see approach miss out on the opportunity to shape the complex dynamics of mobility-as-a-service, instead creating reactive public policies to address things like too many curbside pickups and fee-starved public transit systems in need of upgrades.

City leaders, as well as local government leaders in widespread areas, that get a head start on developing integrated mobility plans put their communities in a better position to reap the benefits of better service, lower costs and increased efficiency and safety. For example, they:

  • Designate zones for pickups and drop-offs to ease the flow of vehicles
  • Consider other ways to better use parking spaces that become more commonly available as vehicles are used more efficiently
  • Engage groups that tend to be poorly served by public transit, such as the elderly
  • Provide low-cost access to a variety of vehicles and retire low-usage public transit routes

Door-to-Door for Rail Travelers

They can also take advantage of rideshare partnerships that create seamless transportation opportunities, such as the one between Amtrak and Lyft that promises to provide 97 percent of Amtrak riders with door-to-door transportation service.

Customers use the Amtrak mobile app to access Lyft, and request a ride. New Lyft users receive $5 off each of their first four rides with the promo code AMTRAKLYFT.

Reducing Ambulance Costs in the City

In Fort Worth, Lyft has partnered with MedStar Mobile Healthcare to reduce the strain on ambulances by transporting lower priority patients. The cost to dispatch an ambulance is $450.

MedStar triage nurses will recommend a Lyft if a patient does not immediate care. The Lyft bill for nearly 38 MedStar rides to the hospital was less than $450.

On Demand Rural Transportation

Pelivan Transit, owned and operated by Grand Gateway EDA, a council of governments serving northeastern Oklahoma, manages more than 700 trips per day, including access to healthcare appointments, commuter routes and more.

The agency uses a One-Click/One-Call on demand response solution to improve services for 2.7 million passengers per year. The streamlined system also helps improve reporting to 13 different funding agencies.

5 Mobility Apps that Increase Access to Healthcare

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4 Key Steps Communities Take for Drought Survival

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 13:16

Unlike other natural disasters, droughts don’t have a definite endpoint. For hurricanes and tornadoes, the storms that produce them will fizzle out, and while the cleanup efforts may take weeks, months or even years, the natural disaster itself is over.

Droughts, however, often have a long-lasting financial, economic, social and physical impact on the affected area and its occupants — animals or humans. The key to drought survival for an area depends on people willing to find alternatives to excessive water usage, and their ability to get creative when it comes to their basic needs.

Droughts occur when precipitation levels drop below average for an area, forcing residents to become conscious of their water-usage habits as the resource becomes scarce. Communities typically follow a drought plan that requires residents to increasingly limit their water usage, such as designated lawn-watering days during a mild drought to suspending business at local carwashes for severe drought survival.

#1 Conserve Water with Daily Tasks

Household water use is much greater than many people think, which they often don’t realize until they’re faced with a drought that puts limits on that use. On the plus side, there are small changes that can be made that, when added up, make a big difference in the amount of water used.

Turn off the faucet. Whether you’re washing your hands, your teeth or your face, turn the water off when you’re not actually using it. Leaving the faucet running while brushing your teeth uses an average of five gallons of water that could be saved.

Take shorter showers. While relaxing under the warm water may be a beloved morning ritual, those wasted minutes are gallons down the drain. Resolve to spend your time in the shower doing only what needs to be done, and shut the water off as soon as possible, including while shaving.

Use the trashcan. Many people have a habit of flushing things they shouldn’t, or that aren’t necessary to flush. When using tissues to blow your nose, or touch up makeup, throw it in thrash instead of the toilet, eliminating the need for an extra flush.

Run only full loads. When using the dishwasher or washing machine, make sure to load it with as many dishes or clothes as possible to cut down on multiple loads.

#2 Invest in Technology to Reduce Water Usage

For a more permanent and environmentally-friendly solution, consider investing in home improvement technologies that focus on reducing water waste for drought survival.

  • Installing low-flow faucet aerators on your bathroom sinks and shower head can save up to 45 gallons a day per household.
  • Dual flush toilets reduce the amount of water used per flush and make a big difference, considering a family of four uses 881 gallons of water per week just by flushing.
  • Consider installing a system that reuses greywater — water leftover from baths, showers, washing dishes and laundry machines — for irrigation purposes.

Lower water usage also results in less energy usage, as well. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if 1 percent of American homes upgraded to a WaterSense labeled toilet, the country would save more than 38 million kilowatt-hours of electricity – which could power 43,000 households each month.

#3 Capture Rainwater

While precipitation may be scarce during a drought, be sure to make the most of it when it does fall. Rain barrels make it easy to catch rain without using complicated system of spouts, and can even be substituted by plastic children’s pools.

In 2015, Colorado proposed a plan that would utilize the melting snow from its mountains, two-thirds of which is spoken for through treaties by lower states and countries that Colorado’s rivers run through. The final third, however, is a key ingredient for the state as the West becomes drier. The plan encouraged better options for water storage, including the construction of dams and reservoirs to adequately capture their share of the water.

#4 Work as a Community

Water is a necessity for sustained human existence, but is also a non-renewable resource, which means it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure we’re conserving our use for future generations. For drought survival, this means every member of a community needs to be on board with water-saving limitations.

Ask your neighbors if they need help installing low-flow faucets or dual flush solutions in the bathroom. Offer to install and transport water collected in a rain barrel for elderly residents. Every step to limit water usage and conserve is useful.

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Is Denver, Louisville or Pasadena Home of the Cheeseburger?

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 12:51

National Cheeseburger Day is September 18th, and it’s is not to be rivaled by National Hamburger Day on May 28th. That’s because 39 percent of the time an American eats a hamburger, it’s a large one with cheese, according to Beef2Live.com.

So, which city actually invented the cheeseburger?

Louis Ballast of Denver, Colo., was awarded the “cheeseburger” trademark in 1935. Downtown Denver has a stone marker at the site of the Humpty Dumpty Barrel, Colorado’s first drive-in, that claims Ballast created the beef-and-cheese sensation there in 1935. But according to the Van Alstyne Leader, there’s several legal claims against Denver’s cheeseburger stake.

The popular National Day Calendar website notes many theories on the dawn of the cheeseburger, dating back to the 1920s:

  • In 1926, Lionel Sternberger tried dropping a slice of American cheese on a sizzling hamburger while working at his father’s Pasadena, California sandwich shop, The Rite Spot.
  • The 1928 menu at O’Dell’s in Los Angeles listed a smothered chili cheeseburger for 25 cents.
  • Kaelin’s Restaurant in Louisville, Ky, boasts inventing the cheeseburger in 1934. It closed in 2004, but a recent report teases a restaurant regaling the site’s cheeseburger legacy will reopen by next summer.
  • Gus Belt, founder of Steak n’ Shake, also applied for a trademark on the word “cheeseburger” in the 1930s.

We’re not sure in which city cheeseburger truth lays, but we do believe that the city of Albuquerque officially invented the green chile cheeseburger. Mayor Richard J. Berry recently declared June 16th Albuquerque Green Chile Cheeseburger Day

The hot green burger is “one of the truly iconic culinary aspects of this community,” said Berry.

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National Emergency Opioid Funding: New MAT Grants & More

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 15:24

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced an additional $144.1 million in grants to prevent and treat opioid addiction in support of President Trump’s commitment to combat the opioid crisis. The new grants for national emergency opioid funding will be administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), according to HHS.

The funding will help expand treatment and recovery services to pregnant and postpartum women struggling with substance abuse, fuel first responders with the training and supplies they need to effectively use the overdose reversing drug naloxone and increase medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and long-term recovery sources.

While some funds were already authorized under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016 Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), received an increase in funding for opioids in the fiscal year 2017 Omnibus Appropriations bill.

On our nationwide listening tour, we have heard how critical federal resources can empower [local communities] efforts to meet the challenges of substance abuse and addiction, especially with the opioid crisis,” said HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D. in the announcement.

The following funding will be distributed to 58 recipients, including states, cities, healthcare providers and community organizations.

  • First Responders – CARA – $44.7 million. The purpose of these awards is to provide training and medication for emergency treatment of opioid overdose.
  • State Pilot Grant for Treatment of Pregnant and Postpartum Women – CARA – $9.8 million. The purpose of these awards is to support family-based services for pregnant and postpartum women with a primary diagnosis of a substance use disorder, including opioid use disorders.
  • Building Communities of Recovery – CARA – $4.6 million. The purpose of these awards is to increase the availability of long-term recovery support for substance abuse and addiction.
  • Improving Access to Overdose Treatment – CARA – $1 million. The purpose of these awards is to expand access to approved drugs or devices for emergency treatment of opioid overdose.
  • Targeted Capacity Expansion:  MAT – Prescription Drug and Opioid Addiction – $35 million. The purpose of these awards is to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for persons with an opioid use disorder seeking treatment.
  • Services Grant Program for Residential Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women – $49 million. The purpose of these awards is to expand services for women and their children in residential substance abuse treatment facilities, among other services.

Intervention for Pregnant Women with Opioid Use Disorder Shows Results

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$318 Million in FAA Airport Improvement Grants Awarded

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 14:45

Recipients of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) infrastructure grants through its Airport Improvement Program (AIP) were released earlier this month, with Texas coming out on top with the most funding awarded.

The airport improvement grants are used to fund restoration and repair projects at the nation’s busiest airports, with larger amounts dependent on passenger volume.

The Airport Improvement Program helps to maintain our aviation infrastructure and supports safety, capacity, security and environmental improvements,” said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a press release.  “This is an important investment in these airports and the economic vitality of their respective communities.”

The largest grant was awarded to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Texas, and the $52.2 million will be used to upgrade terminal aircraft parking apron lighting as part of a move towards energy efficiency, and repairing Runway 17C/35C, the primary runway at the airport.

Texas, and Dallas specifically, is seeing an increase in home values and employment growth, making DFW one of the busiest airports in the state.

The FAA can also supplement airport improvement infrastructure grants with discretionary funds based on airport capital. To date, the FAA has awarded $2.8 billion in 1,580 additional grants this year, funding 646 runway projects and 557 taxiway projects nationwide.

View the full AIP recipient list on the FAA website. 

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