• Categories

  • Archives

Charities Revealed: 25 Worst Charities, Part I of II

Donation Box, concept of Donation

With the holidays just around the proverbial corner, out comes that big end of year push by the majority of charities to meet their annual  fundraising goals.  Aggressive pursuit of charitable donations is a good, honorable thing – if effective.  Americans, and people worldwide, are known for their big hearts, in times of urgency and in general.  And give we do.  To the tune of nearly a billion dollars annually.  But is this generosity really meeting the needs of the causes we support?

The most accurate measure available to us is that of Return on Donation; ROD –  the comparison of monies raised v. monies spent on solicitation of those charitable contributions.  Below is a list of the nation’s top (worst?) charities as determined by this analysis and as we can clearly see, often the charity is still operating just to exist. The intended recipients of these charities are not benefiting from the monies collected on their behalf.  (America’s Worst Charities is the result of a yearlong collaboration between the Tampa Bay Times and the California-based Center for Investigative Reporting, the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit newsroom dedicated to watchdog journalism. CNN joined the partnership in March 2013.)

THE 25 WORST CHARITIES, RANKED BY MONEY SPENT ON SOLICITING COSTS

Totals from the latest 10 years of available federal tax filings

Rank Charity name Total raised by solicitors Paid to solicitors % spent on direct cash aid
1 Kids Wish Network $127.8 million $109.8 million 2.5%
2 Cancer Fund of America $98.0 million $80.4 million 0.9%
3 Children’s Wish Foundation International $96.8 million $63.6 million 10.8%
4 American Breast Cancer Foundation $80.8 million $59.8 million 5.3%
5 Firefighters Charitable Foundation $63.8 million $54.7 million 8.4%
6 Breast Cancer Relief Foundation $63.9 million $44.8 million 2.2%
7 International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO $57.2 million $41.4 million 0.5%
8 National Veterans Service Fund $70.2 million $36.9 million 7.8%
9 American Association of State Troopers $45.0 million $36.0 million 8.6%
10 Children’s Cancer Fund of America $37.5 million $29.2 million 5.3%
11 Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation $34.7 million $27.6 million 0.6%
12 Youth Development Fund $29.7 million $24.5 million 0.8%
13 Committee For Missing Children $26.9 million $23.8 million 0.8%
14 Association for Firefighters and Paramedics $23.2 million $20.8 million 3.1%
15 Project Cure (Bradenton, FL) $51.5 million $20.4 million 0.0%
16 National Caregiving Foundation $22.3 million $18.1 million 3.5%
17 Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth $19.6 million $16.1 million 0.0%
18 United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association $23.1 million $15.9 million 0.6%
19 Vietnow National Headquarters $18.1 million $15.9 million 2.9%
20 Police Protective Fund $34.9 million $14.8 million 0.8%
21 National Cancer Coalition $41.5 million $14.0 million 1.1%
22 Woman To Woman Breast Cancer Foundation $14.5 million $13.7 million 0.4%
23 American Foundation For Disabled Children $16.4 million $13.4 million 0.8%
24 The Veterans Fund $15.7 million $12.9 million 2.3%
25 Heart Support of America $33.0 million $11.0 million 3.4%

Keep your hearts open – just ensure a viable ROD for your contribution.  To that end, next week in Charities Revealed, we bring you a well-researched list of the top 25 Best Charities, again, in terms of Return on Donation, ROD.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.

 

 

Happy Columbus Day!

columbus day

Special Edition: How Likely Are You To Contract Ebola? Become Informed.

This morning’s death in Texas of Mr. Thomas Eric Duncan,  marks the first death (ever) from Ebola in America.  Mr. Duncan, a Liberian man who had traveled to Texas to visit family, was the first person to be diagnosed with the disease while in the U.S. and became the first person to die of the disease in the U.S.   Before widespread panic sets in, let’s look at the facts.

How contagious is Ebola?

ebola r

Hopefully, the CDC’s optimism is called for in that the congation-effect of Ebola all comes down to something called “R0.”

The reproduction number, or “R nought,” is a mathematical term that tells you how contagious an infectious disease is. Specifically, it’s the number of people who catch the disease from one sick person, on average, in an outbreak.*

Take, for example, measles. The virus is one of the most contagious diseases known to man. It’s R0 sits around 18. That means each person with the measles spreads it to 18 people, on average, when nobody is vaccinated. (When everyone is vaccinated, the R0 drops to essentially zero for measles).

And that brings us back to Ebola. Despite its nasty reputation, the virus’s R0 really isn’t that impressive. It typically sits around 1.5 to 2.0.

Even in the current epidemic in West Africa, where the virus has been out of control, each person who has gotten sick has spread Ebola to only about two others, on average.Why is that?

Many factors contribute to the R0, such as how long you’re infectious** and how many virus particles are needed to make another person sick.

Now at this point, you’re probably thinking, “OK. But an R0 of 2 is nothing to brush off.” You’re right. R0 of 2 means one person infects two people, who then infect four people, then eight, 16, 32 — the numbers go up fast.

But that isn’t likely to happen in a place with a good public health system, a first world country because people with Ebola aren’t contagious until they show symptoms.

Ebola virus disease

Fact sheet N°103
Updated September 2014


Key facts

  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
  • The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests, but the most recent outbreak in west Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas.
  • Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilisation.
  • Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralise the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.
  • There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines but 2 potential candidates are undergoing evaluation.

    Background

    The Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated. Ebola virus disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, one in Nzara, Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

    The current outbreak in west Africa, (first cases notified in March 2014), is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. There have been more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. It has also spread between countries starting in Guinea then spreading across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia, by air (via travelers.

    The most severely affected countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have very weak health systems, lacking human and infrastructural resources, having only recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability. On August 8, the WHO Director-General declared this outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

    A separate, unrelated Ebola outbreak began in Boende, Equateur, an isolated part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

     

    =============================================================================================

    At the time of this article, a second case of Ebola is suspected in Texas.  A sheriff’s deputy, said to have served the warrant (for physical possession of the victim) to Mr. Duncan’s home prior to his death, is now under watch for the deadly virus.  We will keep you posted.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.

Subject Locates: Successful Searches v. Expensive Failures

One of the most common assignments we receive is for a subject locate.  Usually generated from attorneys, insurance companies, financial institutions (as, as you know, we do not work for individuals), we are often asked to locate:

- Adverse Witnesses

- Cooperative Witnesses

- Debtors

- Clients

- Heirs

- Etc.

The difference between a successful locate and an expensive failure is how much attention and care is given to a case.  Obvious, right?  But it has to be the right attention, which is a tight focus, and the proper care; to detail.

The starting point in a successful locate is to gather as much information from the originating requestor as possible:

Name: AKAs, Extensions (Jr., III, MD, Esq…), Maiden form, prior marriage form

Address: Last known contact date at this address, form of contact, (e.g. mail, phone… ), contact outcome, ( i.e. returned mail, no response, etc.).

Phone Number:  Last known phone number, cell, landline, Skype, other  VOIP (internet phone).

Personal identifiers: DOB, SSN, TIN, DL#, Medicare/caid recipient? School i.d.?

Contacts: Family, friends, employers, coworkers

Prior lawsuits: If known.  To include class of involvement (e.g., plaintiff, defendant, petitioner…)

Civil records: Is/was the subject married, divorced? Has s/he declared bankruptcy or have judgments, liens… against him/her?

Criminal records:  Almost every state now allows for an inmate lookup.  (If a person is missing for a considerable period of time, there are only so many scenarios, short of a bizarre abduction, to account for this disappearance: a move, death or incarceration.)

A good investigator will then form a profile of the missing subject and conduct an address history search which will generally yield a pattern.  (We’ll get to that in the next para.)  The address history may not contain the subject’s current address. (All databases, from DMVs to privately held, fee-based information companies operate within the limitations of data input regularity.  The subject may not release his/her most current address to an agency.  P.O. box registration is no assurance of a current address either.  If it is a planned moved, one simply has to apply and receive the P.O. box prior to moving and generate forwarding from the old address.)

Having created the profile, the investigator now looks for the pattern.  Is the subject constantly relocating?  Staying within a certain geographical area?  Is s/he beholden to a mortgage?   Has s/he foreclosed?  An address history search will also almost always reveal family member information.

Once the profile and pattern have been formed and detected, the investigator must decide on a course of action. The approach will determine if the locate will be successful.   Each investigator has his/her own technique but there is a different methodology applied between “friendly” locates and those involving people who’ve intentionally chosen to stay or go off the grid.   A sharp investigator will know how to entice a friendly subject and not tip off an adverse one.   That knowledge comes with experience and skill and a great deal of curiosity.

As a final step, an investigator may have to physically check an address to verify the subject’s address.  By arriving to this point, all other methods of locating have been exhausted but valuable knowledge on the  subject gained. (The location should be thoroughly researched before heading out to the field.  Showing up on a private road on 2 acres of land in the middle of nowhere is usually not going to result in a productive session.  Suggestion: Google Earth.  There should also be an established strategy to observe the location, discreetly,  within a restricted time span of when the subject’s presence is most anticipated.  If covert observation is not possible, the game plan must be thought out prior to, and include at least Plans A, B and C. )   Below; lack of a plan:

Finally, if your investigator returns with an address, ask that it be “verified”.  If there is  no confirmation that the subject is at the reported location, and the requestor is not made aware of the nonverification, a costly situation for the requestor may result, financially and with regard to negotiation stance.   If  the locate results are not verifiable, (and that occurs, although that number should be in the single digits, percentage-wise, in a competent investigator’s record), the requester will at least have that knowledge with which to make decisions.

Our operatives: A step ahead.

As always, stay safe.

Municipal ID Cards: Coming Soon To Your City

Oakland ID card

(Our focus in this piece is on the NYC municipal ID card but as there has been no decision yet as to what it will look like, we are representing the ID image with a generic Oakland muni-card ID, [Oakland City ID].  Interestingly, the Oakland IDs are paired with Mastercard.)

A municipal identification card is a form of ID card issued by a municipality, such as a city, rather than a state or federal government.

Under federal law, cities may issue their own identification cards as they see fit, and do not have to consider the immigration or criminal status of an applicant before doing so.  New Haven, Connecticut issued the first municipal ID cards in the United States, the Elm City Resident Card, in 2007.    San Francisco followed suit in 2009 and now, other cities that issue municipal ID cards include Oakland, California,  Asbury Park, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. (DC One Card).   The municipal ID card is intended to help people to access city services and enter city buildings.

Now jumps in NYC’s Mayor DeBlasio who signed the bill authorizing municipal ID cards in July of this year. The cards are supposed to be available early next year, at which point New York will undoubtedly leapfrog New Haven and San Francisco in having the largest municipal ID program in the country.

NYC officials are negotiating with banks, stores, restaurants and cultural institutions to also recognize the municipal ID cards, but have offered few examples where the card would be accepted.  The  January 2015 roll-out of the NYC municipal cards is anticipated to be utilized by 500,000 immigrants of varying legal resident status.

The program will be run by the city’s Human Resources agency. Applications for the card will be available online as well as at enrollments sites around the city, like the public libraries.

Several questions immediately leap to mind:

1. What is the identification verification criteria and process?

2. Will the NYC muni-IDs be valid outside of the metro NYC area? (E.g.: If NYC follows Oakland’s lead and multi-purposes these IDs to serve as pre-paid debit cards, will they be accepted in outer-borough banking facilities?)

3. Will these muni-IDs be linked to benefits? (Medical, personal welfare programs, education…)  If so, ill they be accepted on a federal level as a form of identification?

I believe it is necessary for all people to have access to financial, social and educational programs;  these days, however, security is also a major concern.   NYC’s municipal identification card agenda bears watching.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.

Yahoo and Google Data Availability to Law Enforcement & For Legal Process

email magnifying glass

 

As we’ve surmised by now, Lois Lerner’s missing emails exist – somewhere.  There’s also now the availability of cloud hosting, a method of saving your email on the net that allows you 24/7  access from any remote location.  So, do you really know what happens to all of your subscription information, emails, attachments, etc., once you shut down an email account?  What if your information is requested by law enforcement or in anticipation of litigation?   What is the legal process in such a case?

We’ve conducted research into data retention by the two major service providers: Yahoo and Google:

YAHOO

yahoo data save

Compliance With Law Enforcement:    PRESERVATION

Will Yahoo! preserve information?

Yahoo! will preserve subscriber/customer information for 90 days. Yahoo! will preserve information  for an additional 90-day period upon receipt of a request to extend the preservation.   If Yahoo! does not receive formal legal process for the preserved information before the end of the  preservation period, the preserved information may be deleted when the preservation period expires.

 

GOOGLE

What kinds of data do you disclose for different products?

To answer that, let’s look at four services from which government agencies in the U.S. commonly request information: Gmail, YouTube, Google Voice and Blogger. Here are examples of the types of data we may be compelled to disclose, depending on the ECPA legal process, the scope of the request, and what is requested and available. If we believe a request is overly broad, we will seek to narrow it.

Gmail
Subpoena:

  • Subscriber registration information (e.g., name, account creation information, associated email addresses, phone number)
  • Sign-in IP addresses and associated time stamps

Court Order:

  • Non-content information (such as non-content email header information)
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena

Search Warrant:

  • Email content
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena or court order
YouTube
Subpoena:

  • Subscriber registration information
  • Sign-in IP addresses and associated time stamps

Court Order:

  • Video upload IP address and associated time stamp
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena

Search Warrant:

  • Copy of a private video and associated video information
  • Private message content
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena or court order
Google Voice
Subpoena:

  • Subscriber registration information
  • Sign-up IP address and associated time stamp
  • Telephone connection records
  • Billing information

Court Order:

  • Forwarding number
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena

Search Warrant:

  • Stored text message content
  • Stored voicemail content
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena or court order
Blogger
Subpoena:

  • Blog registration page
  • Blog owner subscriber information

Court Order:

  • IP address and associated time stamp related to a specified blog post
  • IP address and associated time stamp related to a specified post comment
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena

Search Warrant:

  • Private blog post and comment content
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena or court order

Note about general Gmail retention:  Even if you Purge your Trash email or shut down your gmail account, your email remains available for recovery for 20 days beyond when the mail is deleted or the account closed.

Please feel welcome to contact us with more specific questions regarding data retrieval from these two major service providers (and lesser used ISPs w/unique data product.)

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.

 

 

SPECIAL EDITION: Charity Scams – Spotting Them & Guardian Go-To Info Sites

earthquake
(Given the breaking news, this is a compilation piece, thanks to news coverage and background information from CNN, FOX, AARP and Scambusters. )

After tragedy strikes – as it did this Sunday, August 24, 2014 in California — expect two immediate reactions: Well-intentioned people will want to give donations. And scammers will want to take them.

Within hours of any disaster, charity scams go into full swing. Even before  Superstorm Sandy made landfall, 1,000 new websites with “Sandy,” “relief” or related keyword search terms in them had been registered, many of them by scammers.

Some of the bogus websites seek your credit card number to collect supposed donations, possibly also using that information later for identity theft. Others infect your computer with malware that can ferret out sensitive information, such as your account numbers or passwords.

Fraudsters also do their work by blasting out thousands of spam emails, text messages and phone calls. They get their word out on Facebook and Twitter and even go door-to-door.

“Tragedies inspire people to give,” says H. Art Taylor of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. “After every natural disaster and manmade catastrophe, we see an outpouring of generosity … along with the inevitable scams and frauds. We urge donors to take the time to make sure their donations are going to legitimate charities.”   Here’s how:

1. Check it out

Before donating to a charity, take time to authenticate it. In addition to the Wise Giving Alliance, charity names and reputations can be vetted at Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, Scambusters and GuideStar. You can also contact the agency in your state that regulates charities. Be suspicious of charities not listed or with questionable track records.

2. Don’t let them in

Unless you previously donated to an organization and have already provided your contact information, it’s wise to assume that an unsolicited donation request by email or phone is a scam. Don’t click on links in emails, Facebook or Twitter; they can unleash computer malware.

3. Examine the Web address

When using an Internet search engine to find charities, treat the results pages with caution. Carefully read organizations’ Internet addresses before clicking on them. Scammers often create rogue websites with sly misspellings, tweaks or sound-alike names. Also know that legitimate nonprofit organizations typically end in .org, not .com.

We know your hearts are big.   Certainly, donate if you can and want to but be careful and be smart.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.

Municipal IDs and Illegal Alien Amnesty Making E-Verify Compliance Difficult.

everify

(The sentiment reflected in the above jpeg are not reflective are our views but rather a notice circulating online – and one that does not address the real issues facing employment of undocumented immigrants.)

Currently, employers are required to verify employee work eligibility in regard to the potential new hire’s legal residence in the United States.  Seems like a fairly simple regulation but let’s first identify the inter-related issues of this type verification with the distribution of municipal IDs for undocumented aliens and proposed amnesty for the 11 – 12 million illegal aliens currently residing in the United States.  Below are brief definitions of these three programs/factors and then we pose the question of the real viability for true compliance with E-Verify.

 

E-Verify:

U.S. law requires companies to employ only individuals who may legally work in the United States – either U.S. citizens, or foreign citizens who have the necessary authorization.

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.

Source: E-Verify

Municipal IDs:

“New York City is creating its own official identification card, which is excellent news for immigrants without papers and other New Yorkers who hope to make their city a more secure and navigable place. Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the bill on Thursday (July 17, 2014). The cards are supposed to be available early next year.”

Source: NY Times

Amnesty for Illegal Aliens:

The proposed immigration amnesty would benefit the 12 to 20 million undocumented aliens (illegal immigrants) currently living in the United States. An amnesty for illegal aliens forgives their acts of illegal immigration and implicitly forgives other related illegal acts such as driving and working with false documents. The result of an amnesty is that large numbers of foreigners who illegally gained entry into the United States would achieve legal residency status (Green Card).

Source: USAmnesty. org

Having defined these three factors that are intertwined in the hiring of new employees, let’s explore the inherent compliance issues for employers. 

 – E-Verify requires employers to verify the eligibility of new employees within 72 hours of their first paid work date.

 – The requirements to obtain a municipal ID are still in flux with the ACLU having filed suit in NYS, claiming that illegal aliens will be “outed” by the program if required to present birth records.

 

 – A large amnesty grant presents its own obvious problem for previously undocumented aliens when attempting to gain employment.  There is no mechanism within the E-Verify program to allow for the vetting of those awarded amnesty. 

In our research for this article, we were unable to find any sources of information that addressed these issues.  HR departments, small business owners who employ their own hiring practices and any other entity that is mandatorily obligated to comply with E-Verify have thus far been left completely in the dark as to methods of acceptable employment verification but I’m fairly certain penalties for noncompliance – through no fault of the potential employer’s efforts – will not be waived.

We’ll be monitoring this situation closely and being you updates as available.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe. 

 

Deep Face: FB’s Facial Recognition Software Can- and Probably Will, Follow You Everywhere Online.

deep face

 

 

(We believe our readers will easily make the connection to the uses of  facial recognition capabilities as it applies to law enforcement and the field of law.  For this reason, we sought and received permission to reprint this article in its entirety from ExtremeTech.  This technology has advanced so quickly that its implications for the future are limitless – good, bad or indifferent as these applications resolve.  Read on and draw your own conclusions.) 

 

Facebook’s facial recognition research project, DeepFace (yes really), is now very nearly as accurate as the human brain. DeepFace can look at two photos, and irrespective of lighting or angle, can say with 97.25% accuracy whether the photos contain the same face. Humans can perform the same task with 97.53% accuracy. DeepFace is currently just a research project, but in the future it will likely be used to help with facial recognition on the Facebook website. It would also be irresponsible if we didn’t mention the true power of facial recognition, which Facebook is surely investigating: Tracking your face across the entirety of the web, and in real life, as you move from shop to shop, producing some very lucrative behavioral tracking data indeed.

The DeepFace software, developed by the Facebook AI research group in Menlo Park, California, is underpinned by an advanced deep learning neural network. A neural network, as you may already know, is a piece of software that simulates a (very basic) approximation of how real neurons work. Deep learning is one of many methods of performing machine learning; basically, it looks at a huge body of data (for example, human faces) and tries to develop a high-level abstraction (of a human face) by looking for recurring patterns (cheeks, eyebrow, etc). In this case, DeepFace consists of a bunch of neurons nine layers deep, and then a learning process that sees the creation of 120 million connections (synapses) between those neurons, based on a corpus of four million photos of faces. (Read more about Facebook’s efforts in deep learning.)

Once the learning process is complete, every image that’s fed into the system passes through the synapses in a different way, producing a unique fingerprint at the bottom of the nine layers of neurons. For example, one neuron might simply ask “does the face have a heavy brow?” — if yes, one synapse is followed, if no, another route is taken. This is a very simplistic description of DeepFace and deep learning neural networks, but hopefully you get the idea.

Sylvester Stallone, going through DeepFace's forward-facing algorithm

Anyway, the complexities of machine learning aside, the proof is very much in the eating: DeepFace, when comparing two different photos of the same person’s face, can verify a match with 97.25% accuracy. Humans, performing the same verification test on the same set of photos, scored slightly higher at 97.53%. DeepFace isn’t impacted by varied lighting between the two photos, and photos from odd angles are automatically transformed (using a 3D model of an “average” forward-looking face) so that all comparisons are done with a standardized, forward-looking photo. The research paper indicates that performance — one of the most important factors when discussing the usefulness of a machine learning/computer vision algorithm — is excellent, “closing the vast majority of [the] performance gap.”

Facebook facial recognition fail

Facebook tries to impress upon us that verification (matching two images of the same face) isn’t the same as recognition (looking at a new photo and connecting it to the name of an existing user)… but that’s a lie. DeepFace could clearly be used to trawl through every photo on the internet, and link it back to your Facebook profile (assuming your profile contains photos of your face, anyway). Facebook.com already has a facial recognition algorithm in place that analyzes your uploaded photos and prompts you with tags if a match is made. I don’t know the accuracy of the current system, but in my experience it only really works with forward-facing photos, and can produce a lot of false matches. Assuming the DeepFace team can continue to improve accuracy (and there’s no reason they won’t), Facebook may find itself in the possession of some very powerful software indeed. [Research paper: "DeepFace: Closing the Gap to Human-Level Performance in Face Verification"]

What it chooses to do with that software, of course, remains a mystery. It will obviously eventually be used to shore up the existing facial recognition solution on Facebook.com, ensuring that every photo of you on the social network is connected to your account (even if they don’t show a visible tag). From there, it’s hard to imagine that Zuckerberg and co will keep DeepFace purely confined to Facebook.com — there’s too much money to be earned by scanning the rest of the public web for matches. Another possibility would be branching out into real-world face tracking — there are obvious applications in security and CCTV, but also in commercial settings, where tracking someone’s real-world shopping habits could be very lucrative. As we’ve discussed before, Facebook (like Google) becomes exponentially more powerful and valuable (both to you and its share holders) the more it knows about you.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always; stay safe.

How Do Teens Get Their Info? Let’s Ask One. Introducing the Beacon Bulletin, Jr.!

With this special edition, we launch a new feature of the Bulletin –  Beacon Bulletin, Jr.  As important as it is for adults to have accurate sources of current information, it is perhaps doubly so for the younger members of our society in that  they are now beginning to form their viewpoints, gain perspectives and develop core beliefs.  To that end, please welcome our newest and youngest guest writer, Meghan E. Olden.

meghan olden

meghan olden 2

 

(We couldn’t decide which of the Many Magnificent Looks of Meghan to go with so here are two of our favorites!)

Meghan is a Maryland high school student with the goal of become a professional writer.  Her interests and activities include creative writing, graphics, winter color-guard,  marching band and visual arts.  She lives with her parents and is well protected by her one sibling –  older brother, Eric,  and enjoys the loyal company of her faithful, lovable family dog, Lizzy.

We realize that many of our readers are parents or guardians of children.  (For the purpose of this article, we are focusing on teenagers.) Given the rapid  information site turnover rate in Tech Age 5.0, and the incredible amount of data available to teens today, how and where are they obtaining critical information on which to base their forming perceptions and desire to self-educate?

In Meghan’s own words:
This summer, in wanting to stay healthy, I became more active recently.  I choose an old favorite for exercise – biking.

One of my recent bike rides found me back at my elementary school from which I had graduated 5 years ago.   I eventually found myself sitting on top of the monkey bars of the deserted playground that I had not stepped foot in since I’d moved on to high school. The overwhelming silence brought about reflection after I realized how different it felt. What so long ago felt gigantic – the high bars and enormous space – were now almost too small to fit me.  I was suddenly aware of how much I’d changed since the last time I’d been sitting there and how much more, well, opinionated, I had become.  In elementary school, I, like most children, just accepted what we were taught or had overheard/witnessed in our homes and school environments as gospel.  Young children often parrot their relatives and or friend’s parents without question and with very little understanding of the words/thoughts that they are rote repeating.  (As an example, my five y.o. cousin was recently playing in my living room, with the tv on in the background.  A brief clip of President Obama speaking aired and without lifting his head from his car toy, he called out, “O’Poo-poo head”.   I asked him why he called the President this name and he shrugged his shoulders.  I asked him why he thought that the President should be called this name.  He said he didn’t know. Obviously, he’d heard this comment at home, school, at a friend’s home…)  I know I’m guilty of simply repeating things I’ve heard from others without question but that afternoon, sitting on those now seemingly tiny monkey bars, it occurred to me to question more.  Having advanced to high school, I’m finding myself in the right environment to begin researching interests on my own and from there, develop my own opinions.

High school is a hot bed of differing ideas being brought forth, exchanged, and debated. It’s the time when people my age begin to question what they observe and begin to affirm their beliefs.    In recent years, I’ve started to ask questions. I’ve begun to look at different perspectives, opinions and views. Being exposed to different ideas can be a very enlightening experience. But I also recommend starting with a neutral perspective.  I learned this from watching the same YouTube video two years apart. The first time, I came in with a “this person is completely wrong, I’m sure of it.” view, and I walked away at the end,  quite offended. The second time, it was with a “let’s see what they have to say” attitude and I came out of it thinking, “Hey, they actually have some valid points!”.

This also led me to thinking, we – people my age – have to learn how to find a mix of sources of information so that we can view things from different angles and determine for ourselves our beliefs and positions on important issues.  In a few short years, I will be voting. I should be as informed as possible on what is going on around me, the country, the world… as possible.

To that end, I recommend the following informational sources for teens, and well, just about anyone:

Politics:   http://www.ontheissues.org/default.htm. provides an unbiased presentation of many political leaders and their views on different topics, as well as information on upcoming presidential candidates.

News: http://www.alternet.org

Health and Medicine: http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/health_medicine/ and http://www.mentalhealth.gov/ has you covered. for the blues or anything else like that that may be on your mind.

(Or if you were looking for more of a daily life and nutrition kind of site and less technical there’s http://dailyhealthpost.com/)

Technology:  http://mobile.extremetech.com/?origref=#/latest

Personal safety: The Beacon Bulletin, of course! and (unbiased!)   http://www.ncpc.org/topics/violent-crime-and-personal-safety

- Meghan Olden

Thank you, Meghan, for this well thought-out and presented piece on a teen’s perspective on information gathering and the importance of forming one’s own opinions based on accurate research.    You have a brilliant writing future ahead of you.

(We will be returning to our usual format in next week’s Bulletin with the Jr. edition publishing in timely episodes.)

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy (at all ages!)

As always, stay safe.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 212 other followers