Archive for March, 2015

Look Before You Share; some websites are not what they seem.

Social media has emerged as one of the most important tools of communication. What you communicate on social media says a lot about you. The things you share, your post, and even comments you make come together to create your digital personality. Any and all information posted or shared by you gives others a glimpse into who you are, what you do, what you stand for, and what you react to.

OuoteIf you think nobody’s looking at your profile, you better think again. In addition to your friends and family, others may also be reading your profile. Sometimes privacy settings aren’t that private, some agencies have authority to override them. You can also give access to your social media profile without even realizing it. When you sign on to a site using your profile; you also give that organization full access to everything about you. If you’ve applied for a job there may be a chance the employer you’ve applied to reviewed your profile during the employment screening process. Police can also access social media profiles. Evidence from social media has been used in court to prosecute criminal and civil cases. The internet in general does provide certain anonymity but social media does not.

What ever you say says a lot about you and where you get your information you share is key. This tells people what type of media outlets you go to for news, facts, and how you get the facts that help you form opinions about what is important to you. There are some questions you need to ask yourself when you see something you’re thinking about sharing. Is this information accurate? Who is saying this and are they a credible source? You have to do some filtering. This step can clarify information for you and possibly spare you embarrassment.

POST“Things are not always what they seem” is an old adage that has more meaning now than ever before. These words describe about 70 percent of content on the internet. You may see some slick websites or post that look legit, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. Anybody can say anything on the internet and look believable doing it; especially if they package themselves as an objective and reputable news organization. Often you will see zealous organizations that make false and outrageous claims, but they market that information as a news story and it looks creditable. All it takes are flashy headlines, some slick pictures, and information presented in a news format. The picture in the left margin is a perfect example; a ridiculous claim but packaged in a professional format.

While browsing websites we see things we laugh at, things we’re concerned about, and things that are important. You owe it to yourself to check that website for authenticity because once you gather facts they will become your knowledge. Closely examine who is giving you these facts. Who are the sources they cite? Are they good sources? Look at other articles or claims the website makes. Is this news or propaganda? Before you share from that website, especially if you’re a first time visitor, make sure what you share is true. When you do share, you’re telling people this is what you believe.

If you notice on most social media websites any article posted or shared has a website address in the lower left hand corner. This is where the filtering starts. That website address tells who is publishing this information. Before you share what they’re saying, go to that website and check it out to make sure what their saying is correct. Is this a place you want to get your information and how true is it? Keep in mind by and posting sharing information, you are giving information to others that will also have an opinion. You can spare some yourself some criticism if the information is the truth.

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Most Californians Don’t Know What a Water District is; as the drought gets worse they soon will.

Winter months are when California gets the majority of rainfall it needs to replenish the state’s water supply. That hasn’t happened this year. Both the State Water Project Resources and Colorado River Resources are reporting record low numbers of water for this current rain season. And there’s little hope of catching up as this rain season is coming to an end. The Northern Sierra Snowpack is at 4.30 inches, only 19 percent of what it should be.

State statsIt would be hard to find a climatologist or research scientist who would claim this drought is going away any time soon. According to recent studies published by Scientist at Stanford University, this drought will be around for a while and will get worse.

It’s not just a matter of no rain. Something else is happening in California that is not causing the drought, but will certainly contribute to it, and that’s the state’s increasing population.  The State of California already has the highest population of all western states and it’s increasing at a steady rate. According to California’s State Department of Finance the state’s population will increase in fifteen years by 14 percent to an estimated 44 million people. This increase in population will mean an even higher demand on an already dwindling water supply.

garden GraphicIf you did a poll and asked Californians what a water district is most wouldn’t know. But that’s about to change real fast. These agencies will soon be featured on evening news reports and documentaries. Many Californians will soon begin contacting or even protesting water districts.

A simple definition of a water district is a municipal organization that provides water to customers in a service area. With the exception of rain, water districts supply all water used in cities, on farms, in manufacturing, and water for residential use. This is why water districts may not have much significance to Californians now but they soon will; these are the agencies that control water and as that water becomes scarcer, these agencies will become more important to Californians.

car wash graphicAs the current drought situation worsens, and that’s inevitable, Californians are sure to be faced with things like statewide mandatory water conservation. If mandatory conservation doesn’t work these water districts, the municipal organizations that have jurisdiction over all water use, will have no choice but to start rationing water. This could mean that when Californians uses their rationed amount of water; they’ll turn on a facet and see nothing. Once this happens many will be forced to purchase bottled water for personal consumption, cooking, personal hygiene, even flushing a toilet. They’ll also be paying a premium price for that bottled water.

This scenario may sound like a script from a movie but the truth is; it could start happening very soon. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is already considering water rationing by the summer unless conditions improve. A recent Op-ed article in the Los Angeles Times calls for state wide water rationing because Californians have about one year of water left.

 

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A Matter of Circumstances; giving spare change may not help the homeless

defAccording to the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) the federal definition homelessness is a person who sleeps in a place not meant for human habitation. This includes people who sleep on the streets, in a car, in a park, and also includes people sleeping in emergency shelters and transitional housing. In an effort to identify the severity of homelessness and determine the amount of federal funds needed to address this issue, HUD compiles statistics each year to prepare a report for Congress. The latest report determined in January 2014, there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness on a given night. Most (69 percent) were staying in residential programs for homeless people, and the rest (31 percent) were found in unsheltered locations. Nearly one-quarter of all homeless people were children under the age of 18 (23 percent or 135,701). These statistics also include 49,933 homeless veterans who served in Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Homelessness in the United States is a complex problem with a wide range of causes. These causes include mental health issues, loss of employment, fleeing from domestic abuse, addiction, returning military veterans, and victims of natural disasters. Regardless of cause, those who are homeless suffer one of two different situations: chronically homeless and temporary homelessness.
faceChronically homeless is defined by HUD as a person who has been homeless for twelve consecutive months or has had four episodes of homelessness in the past three years. The majority of these people have become chronically homeless because of a disabling condition. HUD defines a disabling condition as a diagnosable substance abuse disorder, a serious mental illness, developmental disability, or chronic physical illness or disability, including the co-occurrence of two or more of these conditions. In addition, a disabling condition limits an individual’s ability to work or perform one or more activities of daily living. Many chronically homeless individuals either don’t have the resources to bath, or because of a mental health issue, are not concerned about hygiene. Due to their appearance the chronically homeless have become the face of homelessness in the United States.
graphicTemporary homelessness is an episode of homelessness that doesn’t last more than twelve consecutive months. HUD defines an episode of homelessness as a separate, distinct, and sustained stay on the streets and/or in a homeless emergency shelter. These are people who have suffered some type of setback or tragic event like loss of employment, foreclosure, loss of a loved one, or a medical condition that has depleted all their funds and could no longer pay rent or buy food. One of the toughest challenges for this homeless population is making every attempt to not look homeless. They must make extra efforts to do laundry, practice good hygiene, and maintain a presentable appearance. This includes bathing in a restroom sink at a library or gas station to prepare for job interviews or other important appointments. If they are successful in these attempts individuals experiencing temporary homelessness to do appear to be homeless.

Current statistics published by HUD indicate some progress has been made in America’s attempt to address homeless causes and issues. Chronic homelessness among individuals declined by 3 percent (or 2,164) over the past year, and by 30 percent (or 36,197) between 2007 and 2014. Homelessness among veterans declined by 33 percent (or 24,117) between 2009 and 2014
subThere is something you can do to help the homeless in your area and it may sound strange; do not give money to homeless people who are panhandling. If you want to help you might be doing more good by volunteering or making a contribution to an organization in your city that serves homeless populations.

Not giving money to homeless individuals may seem like a lack of compassion, but addiction is a leading cause of homelessness. Giving money, even spare change, could actually be causing more harm than good. If that individual you gave money to is suffering with addiction issues chances are the money you gave could go toward the purchase of drugs or alcohol and not food. Also if you engaged in dialogue with an individual suffering from a mental health issue, there is a possibility their behavior could be unpredictable and could put you at risk.
childrenYou may think charitable acts of giving money to homeless individuals are good intentions that help reduce the problems that confront them, but this may not be the case. Assisting an organization that serves homeless populations is a much more effective and safer way you can help. People who work at social service agencies are case managers, social workers, nurses, and doctors who deal with homelessness on a daily basis. They’re aware of the causes, issues, and challenges of homeless individuals and families. They know what issues are the most acute, and know how to deal with unpredictable behavior that might be the result of a mental health issue.

When you volunteer or make a contribution to a social service agency you’re getting more bang for your buck. This will accomplish more than just giving money to homeless who solicit in public places.  Your efforts will increase the resources trained professionals need to effectively identify causes and help homeless individuals and families with food, programs, and resources.

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