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Facebook: the Anti-Social Network? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 14:29
Addiction Specialist Offers Tips for Overcoming
Tech Disconnection & Anxiety

Social media sites like Facebook connect users with old friends, new acquaintances and everyone in between. However, studies are revealing an inverse link with online connections and deeper, face-to-face relationships.

Norwegian researchers recently developed a test for networking sites, called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, which likens inordinate amounts of time spent on the networking site to drug and alcohol abuse. The test measures how often people use the site, if they do so to forget their problems and how using the site negatively affects their personal and working lives.

Researchers found the following groups of people most at risk for Facebook addiction:

Women, who are more social than men,
Young people, who are more tech savvy than older people
Anxious or socially insecure people

“Social media, and the new emphasis on the importance of ‘multitasking,’ have helped drive a wedge between family members,” says psychologist Gregory L. Jantz, author of #Hooked: The Pitfalls of Media, Technology and Social Networking (

Ironically, people become less social the more time they spend on social sites, and they tend to get less done while multitasking because they do not focus on completing one task at a time, he says.

“When people abuse drugs and alcohol, they are trying to feel better, yet they are worsening their situation. We’re finding this is also true for those who spend excessive amounts of time on social networking sites,” he says. “Perhaps the hardest hit from social media addiction is the family unit.”

Parents should monitor their own time online to ensure it’s not further limiting the already shrinking amount of time available with their children, Jantz says. And they need to safeguard their children by monitoring their time, as well. Jantz suggests these questions for parents to ask themselves in gauging their kids’ media usage:

• How much time do your kids spend with various forms of media? There are plenty of distractions from homework. Estimate how much time your child spends with the television, internet, social networking sites, cell phone, Blu-rays and game systems. The more time spent with media, the lower a child’s academic performance, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study.

• How much time do your kids spend with you versus online media? Remember, simply being in the same room isn’t necessarily interacting. The less the scales tip in favor of human-to-human interaction, the more likely there may be a problem.

• Do you know how each device works and how it can be used? Familiarity with your children’s gadgets gives you a better perspective of what their habits may be like.

• What are the consequences of their tech habits, and what should be changed? Make a list of the good and the bad consequences of your family’s technology use. After comparing the two lists, consider changes that can turn negatives into positives.

“Technology continues at its accelerating pace, and we are in unchartered territory,” Jantz says. “Increasingly, social networking infiltrates our personal lives, but we need to remember that it is created to serve us, and not the other way around.”

About Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D

Gregory Jantz has more than 25 years experience in mental health counseling and is the founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, near Seattle, Wash. The Center, “a place for hope,” provides comprehensive, coordinated care from a treatment team that addresses medical, physical, psychological, emotional, nutritional, fitness and spiritual factors involved in recovery. He is the best-selling author of more than 20 books on topics from depression to eating disorders.

Iowa hosts Walk for the End of Child Abuse PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Shirley Darsidian   
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 14:06
at The 1,000 Mile Journey

CLINTON, IOWA – June 1, 2012 – The 1,000 Mile Journey is a one mile walk for the end of child abuse going from the Courthouse to Bandshell Park in Clinton, Iowa. This is the inaugural event for Iowa in partnership with The Rainbird Foundation, a 501(c)(3) committed to the end of child abuse in all forms for all children everywhere. (

On Sunday, June 10th, at 1:00 pm Clinton teenager McKenzley Morris and Hanna Roth, Founder of The Rainbird Foundation will be speaking to those walking in The 1,000 Mile Journey. The event is sponsored by Brenton Williams Financial and Ashford University as well as other local businesses. Local non-profits working in the area of ending child abuse will have booths including the Discovery Center, YWCA, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Live music by David Smith and activities for children from the Discovery Center make for a fun day for the kids. Proceeds go to the local participating non-profits and to the local Iowa affiliate of The Rainbird Foundation, a 501(c)(3) committed to the end of child abuse.

“Every step someone takes, large or small towards the end of child abuse matters,” says Walk Director Shirley Darsidan. “We’re asking Clinton, the Quad Cities, and surrounding communities to join us by walking one mile and create a mass of people in our state who care about this issue and Registration for children 12 and under is free, teens are $10, twenties are $20, and adults 30 and older are $30. Each participant has the opportunity to raise pledges and prizes will be given to the top pledge earners. Organizers are asking people to register online in advance at or from 6-8pm Friday the 8th at Riverside Restaurant on 2nd Street. For more information, please contact Shirley Darsidan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Fact-Based Tale of 1700s Virginia Mirrors Contemporary Immigration Challenges PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 13:49
Debut Novelist Says History Remains the Greatest Teacher

Understanding America’s earliest immigration conflicts -- the collision of Native Americans and European explorers and settlers – is an excellent tool for examining some of the immigration challenges and perceptions facing us today.

The two groups, neither with the barest understanding of the other, traded, bartered, bargained and fought over land. By 1700, the settlers’ movement west was at a standstill. Their vulnerability to dangers of the wilderness and the unprotected western frontier made settlement west of the great river plantations too risky.

In researching Dangerous Differences (, a fact-based novel of the time period, author Mac Laird of Williamsburg, VA., began to understand how the two groups both collaborated and sought to protect themselves. In some instances, their efforts were fruitful. In others, they failed miserably.

The cast of fictional characters in the book live through the dangerous differences:  the notion of profit, so dear to one and unknown to the other; and the concepts of private property, fences, and the accumulation of wealth, unknown and unneeded by the tribes, yet fundamental to the settlers. A strong work ethic, honored by the settlers, stood in puzzling contrast to the hunter and warrior fixation of the tribesmen. The English devotion to one all-powerful God faced a similar devotion by the tribes to their various deities.

There seemed to be no end to the differences defying peaceful coexistence. Raids, massacres and outright war inevitably became the solution for both sides until the overpowering numbers and relentless waves of new settlers forced most of the declining tribes and individuals into submission.

Laird illustrates the impact of these troublesome times on both settlers and tribesmen. In just a few years and like most of the Virginia tribes, the Saponi had lost half of their people. Unsure of how to meet these challenges, Laird’s fictional Chief Custoga sends his 13-year old son, Kadomico, to the grammar school at the new College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, the capital of Virginia, to learn the way of the English. The Virginia and North Carolina tribes are facing the loss of their hunting grounds, vicious raids and captivity by the mighty Iroquois and other strong northern tribes desperately trying to keep their own numbers strong.

“As always with history, understanding the perspectives of both the existing population and those seeking opportunity can be enlightening as Americans debate contemporary challenges,” Laird says.

About Mac Laird

After a career in telecommunications with the U.S. Navy, Mac Laird found his niche in America’s South Eastern Woodlands and began to build with the natural materials from the land in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. In time, he started writing about that land and the people. His first book, Quail High Above the Shenandoah (2007) gives a vivid account of building with logs. Dangerous Differences leads the reader through the wonders of the mountains, rivers, and forests of Virginia and North Carolina and introduces the troubling differences between the frontier Indians and settlers of the new world. The author and his wife, Johnnie, now live in Williamsburg, VA.

GAO review of program for foreign students to work in the U.S. PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 13:29

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley has asked the Government Accountability Office to assess the federal government’s management of the Optional Practical Training program, which allows foreign students to temporarily work in the United States in their major area of study for 12 to 29 months after completing their studies.


In a request made today, Grassley said an upward trend in use and little oversight of the program makes necessary an independent review of its effectiveness and security.


Grassley conducts congressional oversight of immigration programs from his position as Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over immigration policy.  The Government Accountability Office is the investigative arm of Congress.


The text of Grassley’s letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro is below.


May 31, 2012


The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro

Comptroller General of the United States

United States Government Accountability Office

441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20548


Dear Comptroller General Dodaro,


I am writing to you regarding my concerns about the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, a Department of Homeland Security program that was created by regulation without the advice and consent of Congress, to give students an opportunity to learn more about their area of study before having to return to their home country.   Unfortunately, there have been reports of abuse in this program, and concerns have been raised about the lack of controls and oversight by the federal government.  I’m seeking the assistance of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to fully investigate the use of OPT, including who uses it and how students are tracked, determine what weaknesses exist, and suggest ways to improve the procedures and policies that govern its administration.


The importance of an investigation can be illustrated by the large number of students that use the program.  According to the Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service approved over 80,000 applications each year between 2006 and 2010.  Combined, USCIS has approved 430,515 applications for OPT within this five-year time frame.  Moreover, the data suggests an upward trend in approved applications.  In fiscal year 2009, almost 91,000 applications for OPT were granted, and in fiscal year 2010, over 95,000 OPT applications were granted.


I am concerned that the Executive branch has not and is not thoroughly vetting the applications from colleges and universities, and that it is rarely denying OPT work authorizations.  According to data provided by the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS has denied very few applications, rejecting, on average, between 2 and 3 percent of applications submitted.


Reports suggest that the OPT program could be full of loopholes with few controls in place to determine if students are actually working, working where they claimed to be, or working in their field of study.  It appears that higher educational institutions ultimately decide if a student should obtain OPT, putting them to work without actually knowing the employer or requiring proof of employment.  I would like to know more about the lines of communication that exist between the various branches within the Department and between the Department and schools who issue OPT to students.


In 2008, the Bush Administration extended the time that immigrant students could stay in the United States under OPT if they had a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).  Just recently on May 11, the Obama Administration announced an expanded list of degree programs that qualify eligible graduates on student visas for an OPT extension.  Some may question whether these degree programs qualify as “STEM” and satisfy the criteria laid out in regulation that limit the program to 1) degrees in a technical field; 2) areas where there is a shortage of qualified, highly-skilled U.S. workers;  and 3) degrees that are essential to this country’s technological innovative competitiveness.


Also, the increased amount of time that one could work in the United States, without wage requirements or American worker protections, may be undermining other visa programs, such as the H-1B visa program.  It may also be disadvantaging American students who are looking for work during these tough economic times.  OPT was meant to be supplementary to one’s studies, not act as a bridge to an H-1B visa or permanent residency.  It should also not be used to allow students to remain in the U.S. until work is available, which creates competition for American students and workers.


In addition to investigating the implementation and oversight of the program, I am interested in the GAO’s perspective on OPT with regard to national security.   It’s difficult to know how many potential terrorists have exploited the OPT program to remain in the United States, but we do know that Faisal Shahzad, a foreign national from Pakistan, used the OPT program prior to attempting to attack citizens in Times Square, New York.  Reports suggest that Shahzad was issued OPT and later applied for an H-1B visa, and eventually citizenship.  It is my understanding that Faisal Shahzad studied general business at the now defunct Southeastern University, and was granted OPT status after claiming employment with a temporary staffing agency.  Using OPT simply to remain in the United States should be a concern to homeland security officials.


Over 14 months ago, the Department of Homeland Security assured me that it was “considering making substantive improvements to the OPT program through future rulemaking, in order to increase Departmental oversight and enhance program integrity.”  I would like to know whether any steps have been taken, whether changes have been effective, and if further improvements are forthcoming.  Furthermore, I would like to know what guidance has been given in the past to colleges and universities with regard to approving OPT, and what restrictions, if any, are placed on the educational institution to verify the request and offer of employment.


Given that employers who employ students who work in the country under OPT status are not subject to wage requirements or other worker protections (which is the case with the H-1B visa program), more insight into the use of this program is warranted.  An investigation would also benefit the homeland security community by assessing the risk posed by students who do not deserve OPT status.


In particular, I would like GAO to address the following questions:


·         What potential risks exist in the OPT program, and is it being administered securely and effectively by the Department of Homeland Security?


·         What measures, if any, has the Department instituted to prevent and detect fraud and abuse in the program, and what steps does the Department take to ensure the success of these measures?


·         What controls has the Department implemented to ensure that educational institutions are complying with OPT requirements, and what actions does the Department take to ensure compliance with these controls?


·         What guidance, if any, does the Department provide to educational institutions regarding their oversight responsibilities in OPT?


·         How do employers identify students in OPT for employment opportunities?


·         What process did the Department undertake when expanding the STEM fields in May 2012 to ensure that it was complying with its own criteria for including new degree programs on the list?


·         Does employment with a temporary staffing agency make a student eligible for OPT, and if so, how is such employment directly related to a student’s area of study?


I appreciate your consideration of this request, and look forward to working with you on this matter.




Charles E. Grassley

Ranking Member

Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Blackhawk Hills Holds Annual Meeting PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Julie Jacobs   
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 12:50

ROCK FALLS, IL – BlackhawkHills Resource Conservation and Development held its annual meeting on May 24, 2012 at the Freeport Country Club. The meeting was open to the public and featured Lynn Feaver of Prospering Together as the speaker.

Two awards were presented at the meeting. The 2012 Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Ron Colson, Sam Newton, and William Tonne for their hard work and dedication to the Northwest Illinois Broadband Opportunities Program. The 2012 Carson DeJarnatt Economic Development Award was presented to Prospering Together and was accepted by Lynn Feaver, Chuck Moen, Della Moen, and Sam Newton of Stephenson County.

Blackhawk Hills would like to recognize the following changes to the council. Ron Colson was elected as President. He previously served as Vice President for the past three years. William Tonne accepted the position of Vice President. He previously served as President for the past three years.

About the Volunteer of the Year Award

This award is presented annually to the person or persons who have shown outstanding dedication to a project or initiative within the six-county region. This award has been presented each year since 1976.

About the Carson DeJarnatt Economic Development Award

The Carson DeJarnatt Economic Development Award is given to a person, organization, or initiative that demonstrates commitment to regional economic development. The award’s namesake, Carson DeJarnatt, joined the Blackhawk Hills council as the Whiteside County Board representative in 1987. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Blackhawk Hills’ Economic Development District in 1992. The council of Blackhawk Hills created the economic development award in his honor after his passing in 1995.

About Blackhawk Hills RC&D

Blackhawk Hills RC&D is a not-for-profit corporation based in Rock Falls, IL, that serves Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, and Whiteside counties in northwest Illinois.  Blackhawk Hills RC&D’s services include community planning, development assistance, natural resources conservation and protection support, and grant writing and administration. Blackhawk Hills RC&D is sponsored by local county boards and Soil and Water Conservation Districts and is overseen by an 18-member council, consisting of three representatives from each of the six counties.

Questions about Blackhawk Hills may be directed to Julie Jacobs at (815) 625-3854 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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