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College students: Beware of identity thieves

News you can use


After attending a special summit this summer at the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department Training Academy, I published a series of columns about identity theft. In my first piece, I wrote, “Senior citizens are prey for identity thieves for many reasons according to Ivey. Susceptible seniors are intimidated by, and therefore refuse to use computers. Some are senile, too gullible, too trusting. They are affluent and have nest eggs, and because identity theft is a crime driven by greed, seniors are desirable targets. The thieves know all too well that when victimized, seniors are much less willing to pursue the case fearing involvement and possible retaliation. So their crimes go un-reported.”

However, the main presenter at the summit, Special Agent Wayne Ivey of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement cautioned that “No one is immune.” That includes the young.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) reports that during 2009, young people aged 20 to 29 nationwide filed the highest number of identity theft complaints. The department is concerned about young victims, especially college students, and rightfully so.

The 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report released by Javelin Strategy & Research discovered that 18 to 24 year olds are the slowest to detect identity fraud. The report states, “Millennials (consumers aged 18 to 24 years old) take nearly twice as many days to detect fraud, compared to other age groups, and thus are fraud victims for longer periods of time. Millennials were found to be the least likely group to monitor accounts regularly and take advantage of monitoring programs offered by financial institutions.”

“Identity thieves don’t care if you’re a struggling student and don’t have a penny to your name. Sometimes all they want is to exploit your clean credit record,” says Angie Barnett, President and CEO of the Greater Maryland Better Business Bureau.

School is back in session. College students away from home share living arrangements in dormitories. Not all personal belongings are under lock and key. It’s a perfect scenario for identity thieves.

The Wisconsin DATCP urges college students to take precautions to avoid becoming victimized.

Check your credit report on a regular basis to see if there are any unexplainable debts or creditors. Free credit reports can be obtained from any of the three credit reporting agencies:  Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion by calling 1-877-322-8228 or online at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Your mail is critical, one of the easiest and most popular targets of identity thieves. Shred or dispose of mail in a safe manner. Open all junk mail before disposing. A pre-approved credit card offer could be filled out by someone else in your name. Want to opt out of getting pre-approved credit card offers? Call toll-free 1-888-5OPTOUT (567-8688) or by go to www.optoutprescreen.com.  

Have sensitive mail sent to your parents’ home or a PO Box.

Review your bills and bank statements immediately for unauthorized expenditures or withdrawals. Report them immediately to your bank or credit card company. If you pay bills online, check your account periodically.

Do not leave written personal numbers, user names, or passwords where someone can steal them. Retaining this information to memory is best.

Beware of phishing scams used by thieves attempting to get you to divulge personal information over the telephone. Special Agent Ivey gave this advice at the identity theft summit. Ask yourself, why would a company I do business with every day suddenly need my private information? DATCP warns, “Never give out personally identifiable information unless you are the one who initiated the contact.”

Place firewall, virus, spam, and spyware protection on your computer. Never leave your computer on unattended. The 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report found that “Millennials were the most likely group to take action such as installing anti-malware software when they discover fraud.”

For more information about identity theft, visit www.privacy.wi.gov.

Mother help me

Nanny State, Free market, New York, One Idiot is Offended, Patriotism, School Board


The Nanny State is alive and well -

  • In Cincinnati, the Reds are in trouble for smoking victory cigars (in violation of Ohio's state indoor smoking ban) in the clubhouse after clinching their first playoff berth in 15 years.
  • In San Francisco, city officials are in discussions about an ordinance to ban toy giveaways in fast food meals.  The proposed ban may really be a push to get fast food companies to change their offerings.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires substantial testing of products designed for children 12 and under.  This likely eliminates science and chemistry kits.  Inquiring minds want to know, just wait until you are 13.
  • In Florida, there is a proposal to drop chocolate milk in the schools as a way to fight childhood obesity.  Apparently not offering an alternative to those (like me) who despise white milk is OK, although the snub of white milk would cause a different kind of health problem.

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Widespread disease....

 

When pondering diseases we face within the United States and abroad, many come across my mind.  HIV, alcoholism, drug addiction, STD’s and many others which steamroll at times.   Each year a new strain of the flu or cervical cancer pops up.  I could go on and on, but prefer to touch on something rarely discussed. 

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Making Wisconsin's economic disaster even worse

State budget


For the past few months, Wisconsin’s structural deficit has been pegged at over $2.5 billion. Our debt dilemma keeps exploding.  Last month, I blogged:

According to U.S. Census Bureau data obtained by the Wheeler Report, state employment accounted for 70,457 full time employees during 2009, up from 69,019 during  2008. Local government employment was 222,214 during 2009, up from 214,332 during 2008. 

Nationally, the 89,526 state and local government units employed 16.6 million during 2009. The Census Bureau describes the figure as ‘statistically unchanged from 2008.’ The same holds true for part time employees that number 4.7 million during 2009, approximately the same number as 2008.

The Census Bureau detailed specific areas of employment for state and local government employees.  Most, 8.9 million, work in education. Another one million work in hospitals. Other areas include police protection (963,139), and corrections (759,513). Wisconsin is bucking a national trend. The Census Bureau reports most states showed declines in local government jobs.

Keep in mind that during the 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Jim Doyle promised he would eliminate 10,000 state jobs by 2010. WisGOP.org reported during May 2009, ‘
To date, the administration has actually taken on an extra 3,000 jobs since Doyle took office’.”

State statutes require budget requests by the various state agencies be submitted to the State Budget Office not later than September 15 of each even-numbered year.

The Wisconsin Associated Press reported July 9, 2010:

Outgoing Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, ordered state agencies to continue holding open vacant positions and freezing compensation for employees. He said they should develop their budget requests not expecting any increase in revenue, and develop plans to cut their core budgets by 10 percent by Nov. 8, only a few days after the election.”

Governor Doyle’s agency leaders weren’t paying attention, didn’t listen, or both.

The Wheeler Report, a news agency that covers the state Capitol, has been crunching the numbers of the agency budget requests that have trickled in thus far. It discovered that agency budget requests are at least $1.1 BILLION over current approved spending.  Here are the numbers.

Needless to say these enormous requests are unacceptable. The next Governor and Legislature must produce a budget in line with current household and business economies.

UPDATE: Toolkit to Surviving Road Construction on Janesville Road


A special meeting has been scheduled Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at William's Supper Club to discuss the reconstruction project on Janesville Road. Here are more details:

Toolkit to Thriving During Road Construction
Informational and Planning Meeting 
 
Oct. 6th
5:30 pm
William's Supper Club

S76 W17745 Janesville Rd. 


It's Your Business - Be There!

View Toolkit Here

Questions:
Keith Hammit (414) 840-7207
Kathy Chiaverotti (414) 422-1155 x 111

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Election Day is November 2....let's vote today


“Never mind that October is filled to the brim with televised debates, advertising pitches and eager anticipation from candidates waiting to see if they win the endorsement of their local newspaper’s editorial page. These old political rituals take place after millions of voters have already selected their candidates.

 

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Unelected tax and spenders need to be accountable

Taxes


A blistering article about the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was stunning. However, it was not surprising. The newspaper reports:

Milwaukee Area Technical College is heading for a financial crisis, according to a new report released by a nonpartisan government watchdog group. Part of the crisis is tied to the economic downturn, which is squeezing the college's finances while increasing demand for its services, according to the report by the Public Policy Forum. MATC is largely dependent on property tax revenues, which make up about 60% of its operating funds, at a time when a lagging real estate market is hitting property values. At the same time, fringe benefits and salary increases have spiraled to a level that arguably puts MATC at the top of the nation among peer institutions.”

The Journal Sentinel 
also reports, “MATC already sets its property tax rate at the maximum amount allowed, and other revenue options are limited.”

The MATC Board is in the process of formulating next year’s budget that assuredly will include a property tax increase with the question being, the amount increase.

MATC is one of the state’s 16 technical colleges. C
onsider the total tax levies for the schools. According to the non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the technical college tax levies have increased from $251 million during 1992-'93 to $622 million during 2005-'06. That’s an increase of almost 150 percent compared to a 75 percent increase in overall levies during the same time period. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports property tax levies for the technical colleges increased to $680.6 million during 2007-08.

Technical college property tax hikes are considered by, voted on, and approved by unelected technical college boards that are free to raise tax levies leaving powerless taxpayers without recourse. The process is the perfect example of taxation without representation.

I support making unelected technical college boards with taxing authority elected bodies that are accountable to voting taxpayers. I also support extrapolating that concept to other unelected boards in the state.

Audit: Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan Authority

Audits


The Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) completed a statutorily-required financial audit of the Wisconsin Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan (HIRSP) Authority for 2009. The report a) examined financial statements and b) made a recommendation about internal access to the Authority’s pharmacy records.

The HIRSP Authority offers medical and prescription drug insurance to individuals unable to obtain private insurance or who have lost their group coverage provided by an employer. Participants must be Wisconsin residents that are not eligible for employer-sponsored group insurance, Medicaid, or Wisconsin’s BadgerCare Plus standard plan. They must meet certain criteria to be eligible for any of the six plans offered by the Authority that provide the same coverage. However, they differ on the amount of premiums and deductibles.

Policyholder premiums, financial assessments on health insurance companies that do business in Wisconsin, and reduced reimbursements to health care providers pay for the program costs. Tax dollars are not used to fund the programs. Policyholder premiums, by law, provide 60 percent of operating and administrative costs. The remaining 40 percent comes equally from insurers and health care providers.

HIRSP enrollment continues to increase this year. As of August 31, 2010, there were 17,944 policyholders. Increasing enrollment is attributed to reduced premiums, increased income limits for subsidies, and individuals that have lost employer-sponsored coverage exhausting their COBRA benefits.

The LAB reports the HIRSP Authority has kept a sound financial position with a total net asset balance at the end of 2009 of  $27.5 million. Helping the HIRSP Authority remain strong has been a transition to higher-deductible plans, an increased use of generic rather than brand-name drugs, and reduced utilization. The LAB surmises this could be the result of improved health of the policyholders.

 

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New light bulbs not so green after all


Traditional, incandescent light bulbs Americans have been using for years are being phased out. Taking their place: fluorescent bulbs that have been mandated by the federal government. Part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 approved and signed into law during 2007 calls for the elimination of traditional light bulbs beginning in 2012 leading to an all-out ban in 2014 in favor of energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs or CFLs that contain mercury. When broken, the bulbs leak mercury into surroundings, requiring extreme caution and care.

According to Governing Magazine, 
the problems associated with CFLs will only get worse. The first supplies of CFLs that were purchased during 2008 will start to lose their life during 2011. Certainly many consumers will simply dump them in the garbage and their next stop will be local landfills all across the United States.

Recycling programs for CFLs, so far, have not caught on with the public.  To work, consumers must change their routine of tossing CFLs in the trash and actually make a trip to a location that collects the burnt-out CFLs.  The campaign to urge consumers to run out and buy CFLs was probably more expansive and successful than the future public relations effort to get them to travel to a collection site.

One bulb contains but a tiny amount of mercury, but it is estimated that 290 million CFLs were sold during 2007.  As Governing Magazine reports, “Once mercury reaches a landfill, the risk of its being released remains forever.”
  Landfill operation failures could result in mercury being released into groundwater and the air.

A more recent analysis questions the green claims made about LEDs or light-emitting devices. A study was conducted by the highly-regarded Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico .  Researchers at the Sandia facility recently developed a device that propels a blade of water capable of penetrating steel that U.S. troops in Afghanistan will use to disable improvised explosive devices. Sandia’s study on LEDs suggests a re-examination of products that advertise energy savings. A Sandia news release reports:

“Solid-state lighting pioneers long have held that replacing the inefficient Edison light bulb with more efficient solid-state light-emitting devices (LEDs) would lower electrical usage worldwide, not only ‘greenly’ decreasing the need for new power plants but even permitting some to be decommissioned. But, in a paper published in the Journal of Physics D, leading LED researchers from Sandia National Laboratories argue for a shift in that view. ‘Presented with the availability of cheaper light, humans may use more of it, as has happened over recent centuries with remarkable consistency following other lighting innovations,’ said Sandia lead researcher Jeff Tsao.”

Here is the Sandia release. 

In Washington D.C., Representatives Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, and Marsha Blackburn want to repeal the ban on traditional light bulbs. Representative Burgess told the blog, Power Line, “Thousands of American jobs have been shipped overseas as a direct consequence of this light bulb provision in the Democrats' 2007 energy bill. Further, I have stated all along that exposing our citizens to the harmful effects of the mercury contained in CFL light bulbs, which are being manufactured in China, is likely to pose a hazard for years to come.”

Representative Barton said, “The unanticipated consequence of the '07 act - Washington-mandated layoffs in the middle of a desperate recession - is one of many examples of what happens when politicians and activists think they know better than consumers and workers, From the health insurance you're allowed to have, to the car you can drive, to the light bulbs you can buy, Washington is making too many decisions that are better left to people who work for their own paychecks and earn their own living.”

I wholeheartedly concur.

Want to reduce poverty? Say "I do"

Economy


Poverty tightens its grip on America.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports poverty increased to 14.3 percent during 2009 from 13.2 percent the previous year. The percentage of Americans living in poverty is the highest level since 1994.

The Census Bureau reports one in seven Americans or 43.6 million people lived in poverty during 2009, up from 39.8 million during 2008. The poverty threshold for a family of four during 2009 was set at $21,954 by the federal government.

So what are the solutions? Certainly, more jobs and more Americans staying in school and finishing their education come to mind.

How about strengthening families and the institution of marriage? Marriage is directly linked to poverty. A new study by the Heritage Foundation calls marriage America’s number one weapon against childhood poverty. Conventional wisdom is that two-parent families have less susceptibility to poverty than a single-parent family. The Heritage Foundation study that relied on data from the U.S. Government, U.S. Census Bureau, and National Center for Health Statistics provides proof.

According to the study, during the launch of the War on Poverty in 1964, a mere 6.3 percent of children in the U.S. were born out of wedlock. Fast forward to 2008 and four out of 10 births occurred outside of marriage. The study notes, “The War on Poverty led to the creation of more than three dozen welfare programs to aid poor persons. The government has spent $16.7 trillion on means-tested aid to the poor since 1963.”

Odds are clearly stacked against single-parent families with children that are nearly six times more likely to be poor than married couples. Factors working against single-mother families are lower education levels of the mothers and lower income due to the absence of fathers.

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DNR wants public input on condition of WI waters

News you can use


Residents statewide are encouraged by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)  to submit data they have personally collected about Wisconsin waterways that will be used to identify waters failing  to meet water quality standards.

Information can be submitted now through December 31, 2010 that will help the DNR compile a list of the state’s impaired waters as part of the biennial water quality report required by Congress. The DNR reports about 1,000 lake volunteers and another 2,000 stream volunteers are actively involved in water monitoring programs.

The goal is to help state officials pinpoint lakes and rivers in need of clean-up and allocate scarce resources to those areas.

Here is more information.

Spending remains out of control

Economy, State budget


Stunning news from the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper picked up on a huge story that was missed by most, if not all other media.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) unveiled preliminary figures for fiscal year 2010. The big spending machine in Washington is in full throttle.

The Wall Street Journal 
reports, “Spending rolled in for the year that ended September 30 at $3.45 trillion, second only to 2009's $3.52 trillion in the record books. What did Washington spend more money on? Well, despite two wars, defense spending rose by 4.7% to $667 billion, down from an annual average increase of 8% from 2005 to 2009. Once again domestic accounts far and away led the increases. Medicaid rose by 8.7%, and unemployment benefits by an astonishing 34.3%—to $160 billion. The costs of jobless insurance have tripled in two years."

CBO calculates that during the two-year period from 2008 through 2010, federal spending increased by a whopping 21.4 percent. From the Wall Street Journal:

“The 21.4% federal spending increase in two years ought to put to rest any debate about the nature of America's fiscal problem. The Pelosi Congress has used the recession as an excuse to send spending to record heights, and its economic policies have contributed to a lousy recovery. The solution is to stop the spending and change the policies.”

The same holds true for state government.
The current 2009-11 state budget increased spending 9.4 percent according to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. And that was during a recession. I am pretty confident few households in Wisconsin have increased  their personal spending by almost 10%.

The Wall Street Journal’s solution for the nation’s capital should also be applied at the state Capitol:

“Stop the spending and change the policies.”

R.I.P. my "love"...

Alright, the title of my work may have been a bit drastic.  Chances are, you are wondering, “who passed away”.  Let me tell you, it wasn’t who that passed away; it was WHAT that passed away.

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It's a little chili out there


Recently, while attending Should've Brought the Invasion's birthday party at Taylor & Dunn's Public House in Mequon, my gaze was transfixed by a sign that said "3rd Annual Cool Beans Chili Cook Off".  I was intrigued, and inquired further (expecting to come to eat chili) and before you know it, I had signed up to bring a batch to be judged.

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New Online Catalog Format

Countycat

If you've stopped by the library in the last week, you might have noticed that our online catalog, CountyCat, has changed its format.  Along with an easier to use format, CountyCat has two new features.

1. You can now choose a username for logging into CountyCat instead of always entering your library card barcode.  To set up a username go to the MODIFY PERSONAL INFORMATION link from within your personal CountyCat record or stop by the check-out desk and we can set it up for you. (Note: If you choose to set up a username, all items held for you on our Self Hold Shelf will be listed under your new username.)

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New Health Care Program From the Obama Administration

 I've been reading much about the new health care program and what will take affect as it progresses.  So far, I feel it may only add more costs to the already burdened middle class.  Many of you out there are very knowledgeable.  Please let me know if you think the new healh care program under the Obama Administration is good and if so, why?  If not, why?  Who do you feel it will benefit, in the long run?  Thank you.

Smoking Patio Revisited

Some of you may recall when the bar near my home decided to build an "outdoor dining patio," (a.k.a. smoking patio).  I shared my concerns with Mayor Devine and Alderman Narlock.  My impression was that I couldn't do anything to stop the construction and that the City would make sure to impose restrictions and rules under which the bar could conduct activities on the patio.

Since it didn't seem I had any say in the matter (not my single voice alone, anyway), I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this really wouldn't be the quality of life issue I was convinced it would become. Maybe I was over-reacting.

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The New York Yankees get it


For years, I have tried to impress upon the dozen or so readers of my blog that The Star Spangled Banner is NOT a love song.  Implied in that statment is that God Bless America isn't, either.

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I am not white...

and you, my friend, are not black, brown, pink or yellow…

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Photo of the week


Sometimes, I even impress myself. 

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