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The changes coming to nine Manassas crosswalks you might never have noticed

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Memorial Day service planned for Quantico National Cemetery

From a press release: 

On Memorial Day, May 28, 2018, our country honors our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who have fallen, fighting for our nation.the ones who gave all, and those who are still unaccounted for. This year, plan to attend the Memorial Day Ceremony at Quantico National Cemetery (QNC).

Major General Niel Nelson, USMC, will provide the keynote address. Maj Gen Nelson is currently the Deputy Commanding General Quantico Marine Base, VA. The Chairman of the Potomac Region Veterans Council, Charles P. “Chuck” Wilson, Colonel USAF Ret., is the Master of Ceremonies. Wilson is also the Commander VFW District 10 Virginia.

The U.S Marine Corps Band will begin playing a musical prelude at 10:30 AM with the ceremony starting promptly at 11:00. The Ceremony is planned to last 45 minutes.

The Potomac Region Veterans Council (PRVC) has conducted both Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies dating back to 1983. PRVC represents 26 Veteran Service Organizations and as many as 15,000 veterans across Northern Virginia.

Without the MISSION Act, millions of veterans will lose access to care

Since the Veterans Administration (VA) scandal broke in 2014, Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) across the country have worked with Congress to ensure greater accountability, transparency, and efficiency in delivering quality care to our veterans.

The current VA Choice Program is one of those opportunities. With over two million veterans using the Choice Program to schedule over 39 million essential appointments, it is in danger of running out of funding by the end of the month. Without funding, millions of our nation’s warriors will lose access to the care they desperately need. 

The MISSION Act, supported by over 38 National VSOs—a staggering and unified number—strengthens the VA’s ability to deliver efficient and immediate care to our veterans. It does so by providing over $5 billion to prevent disruptions of care in the Choice Program, modernizing VA healthcare, creating integrated networks of high-performing providers to support the VA, creating a commission to review current VA facilities, and making it possible for World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf War veterans with severe combat-related disabilities to receive comprehensive caregiver assistance. 

Last Wednesday, 70 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives voted against the MISSION ACT and voted for political games over improving healthcare for those who served our country.  Without immediate passage of the bill in the Senate, veterans could lose a critical support line to receive the care they require—and will again be forced to face long waiting periods to receive treatment.

Such waiting periods have led to veteran deaths in the past, and we cannot let a single veteran die waiting for the care they need simply because of Congressional delays.

As one who wore an Air Force uniform for 30 years and later chaired the Joint Virginia House-Senate Military and Veterans Caucus that is the legislative clearing house for bills on behalf of 800,000 Virginia veterans, I know first-hand that the MISSION Act is crucial.

I strongly encourage those reading this letter to call Senators Warner and Kaine, urging them to support this bill that ensures that our nation’s heroes receive the care they deserve.

In Manassas, across the commonwealth, tourism spending is on the rise

Governor Ralph Northam today released 2017 preliminary state economic impact data from U.S. Travel Association. This information depicts the impact tourism and domestic travel has on the economy.

Local impact data is not yet available for Manassas; however, the preliminary numbers indicate another record year for tourism spending as consumers seek out more experiential opportunities.

Tourism is an essential part of our local economy. Few localities have experienced such seminal events as Manassas did during the Civil War. The Manassas National Battlefield Park, Liberia Plantation and Manassas Museum continue to serve as key attractions.

Increasingly, visitors are also drawn to the charm of Historic Downtown, its specialty shopping and dining, and crowd-pleasing events.

In 2017 over 369,000 people attended one of the city’s many popular events: 1st Friday’s, Bands, Brews and Barbeque; Wine and Jazz Festival, Farmer’s Market (VisitManassas.org).

According to the Virginia Tourism Commission (VTC), tourists spent more than $68 million in Manassas last year and generated $1.8 million in local tax revenues; not including indirect or multiplier impacts.

Data breaches: How to keep your digital information safe

Digital data breaches go well beyond debit or credit card theft. In fact, it is fair to say that debit and credit card theft is the least of your worries.

Chris Albright

Your bank and credit card companies have safeguards in place to return your funds to you, but most other data cannot be retrieved once breached. Even when stolen data is recovered and new security is put in place, the breached information is in the hands of the hacker.

With the increasing amount of private, sensitive and business-critical data stored digitally, this can be detrimental. Chris Albright of CMIT Solutions of Centreville has some tips for minimizing your risk of a data breach.

Understand the Need for Security

Many businesses and everyday individuals severely underestimate their level of risk. You might be a small or mid-sized business, but the data you store digitally can be a hacker’s goldmine. Take a look at some of the major organizations who have been breached in the last couple of years.

  • The Pennsylvania hack of the Department of Education’s website compromised the information of 360,000 employees.
  • The City of Atlanta’s recent ransomware attack halted essential municipal services, leading to ATL airport shutting down their Wi-Fi.
  • Due to deceiving third-party agreements, 50 million Facebook users unknowingly had their posts, private messages, and data accessed without their consent.
  • The 2016 Banner Health cyberattack exposed the private health information of 3.7 million patients in 27 locations across the nation. This type of data can sell for 10 times more than credit card information.
  • The Equifax credit reporting bureau was breached in 2017 leading to 147.9 million Americans’ personal information being leaked, placing all involved at higher risk for identity theft.
  • The 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack was the largest in history and affected thousands of businesses and individuals from around the globe.

If these organizations can be breached, many of whom must comply with strict industry digital data storage regulations, SMBs and everyday online accounts are vulnerable as well.

Reducing Your Risk

First and foremost, there is no way to 100 percent guarantee that your data will never be breached. but there is much you can do to reduce the likelihood:

Passwords: Change your passwords at least twice a year. Use strong passwords, preferably with a password manager that encrypts your passwords. Password protect all electronic devices, as many of them autologin to all the accounts you’ve logged into. Also, upload a lockout feature so that if your device is lost or stolen, passwords are erased.

Delete: Delete old digital accounts that you no longer use, or you may forget about them and the information they contain. Also, create a list of all online accounts and mobile apps that require logins. Even a one-time purchase to an e-commerce site can lead to a data breach, from a place you don’t even remember ordering from.

Be mindful of what you share: Your Facebook profile alone shares information such as where you were born, where you went to school, your kids’ names, your pets’ names and more. These are often the answers to three-factor authentication designed to improve your security. Never ever share, electronically or in person, your login information. Look through your Facebook messenger feed, you may be surprised at the amount of personal information you share there. You may want to reconsider going forward.

Never open suspicious emails: It’s easier said than done as hackers are good at sounding legitimate. This is particularly challenging at work where you won’t know everyone who sends you an email. If you open something that feels fishy, follow your company’s procedures to scan your device. If at home, run a security scan on your own.

Improve your security: Upgrade to newer software and technology, such as from a magnetic strip debit card to an EMV card if it’s available. Upgrade your website with an SSL Certificate. Perform all software and app updates ASAP, as they contain security patches and updates. Encrypt your data. Restrict remote login. Set up automated alerts for abnormal activity, such as on your debit card when you travel or make an unusually large purchase. Have a digital security professional scan your network and devices for security risks and set up an automated system for determining a hack or data breach.

Stay up to date: Online security is constantly evolving, so you must keep up. What minimizes your risks today may not be relevant in a year or less.

We are at a point at which we don’t think twice about our most private and personal information being stored digitally. For example, you may even communicate with your physician via email or use health and fitness apps in which you store in-depth health information. Just a decade ago we would have been a bit more mindful, but the convenience and functional factors have become of such great benefit that we will continue to store more information digitally, not less. This means data breach security must be top of mind for personal use, professional use and even for the kids in our family.

CMIT Solutions of Centreville provides a strategic approach to IT consulting that improves the performance of your business technology in the most cost-effective way possible. Assisting businesses across Northern Virginia, CMIT Centreville can help you achieve the fastest return on your technology investment. Call 703-881-7738 today to see how CMIT Centreville can help your business stay in business.

Stafford officials keep Cox which promises discounts for lower-income families

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Merrimac Farm is looking for volunteers for their next workday

Good Morning Prince William – Northern VA Family Service has a fun volunteer opportunity for next weekend.  Volunteers are needed on Friday May 25th from 5-7pm to load up merchandise at the Clock Tower Thrift shop in Centreville for the their huge yard sale on Saturday May 26th at the SERVE Shelter. Volunteers can select any of these shifts on Saturday to help at: 7-10am, 10am-2pm or 2:30-4:30pm. Please email Annie at aarroyo@nvfs.org to learn more.

·         Brain Injury Services is looking for volunteers who like to fish to take survivors for outings throughout the summer.  Please call Michelle at (703) 451-8881 ext. 232 to learn more.

·         Merrimac Farm is looking for volunteers for their next workday on June 2nd, 9am-12pm. It’s the perfect opportunity to get your hands dirty. Please call (703) 490-5200 for more info and to RSVP.

·         The Manassas Senior Center is looking for a volunteer to teach crafts to the members of the center each week.  Come share your love of knitting, crocheting, painting, ceramics and such with others. Please call Jan at (571) 292-5307 for more info.  They also would love a volunteer to teach Sign Language class as well.  It’s a great way to share your skill. Please call Sue at 703-792-7154 to learn more.

·         ACTS in Dumfries needs handy volunteers to help with sprucing up around the Food Pantry and Hunger prevention Center. It’s a great get your hands dirty project that will help them immensely. Come join the folks at ACTS by filling out the volunteer registration form on the website: actspwc.org or email Tamika at: tmartin2@actspwc.org to learn more.

·         Computer Core offers low-income adults across Northern Virginia computer skills and career development skills. Volunteers are needed at their Bailey’s Crossroads site as computer instructor, teaching assistants, keyboard instructors and Saturday morning tutors.  Please call Jenny at (703) 931-7346 X 101 to learn more.

·         Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center is having their next volunteer orientation on June 12th from 10am-12noon at their center in Manassas.  Come see all the ways you can help them.  Please visit their website at: voice4life.org to learn more.

·         Youth for Tomorrow is looking for volunteers to share hobbies and interests with the kids on weekends. If you have a little time please bring your interest to share with them such as sewing, gardening, cooking, golf, arts & crafts, jewelry to name just a few.  Please fill out the volunteer application with your resume at: youthfortomorrow.org.

·         The Greater Prince William Medical Reserve Corps needs both medical and non-medical volunteers to join their ranks.  These volunteers are trained to respond to public health emergencies as well as day to day health department activities.  They offer tons of training topics to build your skillset.  Please call Isabella at (703) 792-7341 to learn more.

·         CASA Children’s Intervention Services invites you to attend a volunteer information session at The Bull Run Library on May 24th from 6-7pm.  Learn how you can make a difference in the life of a child suffering from abuse or neglect.  Please visit their website at: casacis.org or email Suzanne at smitchell@casacis.org to learn more and other information events.

·          Community Services and the Prevention Alliance is looking for a graphic designer and/or website designer to create a logo and internet presence for the coalition.  The Prevention Alliance’s mission to promote mental health and reduce substance abuse in the greater community.  They are a committed group with a big vision and would greatly appreciate your time and talent.  Please call Heather at (571) 641-7019 or via email at: hmartinsen@pwcgov.org to learn more.

·         Manassas Parks, Culture and Recreation is looking for volunteers to serve as instructors or assistants for a basic tech class for seniors. The curriculum includes navigating the internet, online banking, reading emails and attachments as well as basics of Microsoft Word.  Please call Jean at (703) 257-8451 to learn more.

If you are looking for other opportunities, please don’t forget to call my wonderful team at Volunteer Prince William. Jan can help you with the Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSVP) opportunities at (703) 369-5292 ext. 1, Shelley can help with any individual or group projects and send you weekly updates if you’d like. Shelley is at (703) 369-5292 ext. 2, and Bonnie can help you with opportunities available in Disaster Preparedness at (703) 369-5292 ext. 3. Please visit our website at www.volunteerprincewilliam.org.

Thanks so much for all you do in our community.

Call to Action is a column written by Volunteer Prince William Director Mary Foley.

Memorial Day getaway: What to expect on the I-95 E-ZPass Express Lanes and when to travel

From a press release: 

D.C. area drivers should expect heavy traffic on the 95 Express Lanes later this week, according to Transurban, operator of the 495 and 95 Express Lanes, as travelers take to the road for the Memorial Day holiday.  The start of the summer travel season will also bring a new change to the I-95 corridor: Beginning Thursday, May 24, the 95 Express Lanes and I-395 HOV lanes will start the weekday reversal at 10 a.m. instead of 11 a.m.

The early reversal will allow southbound drivers to enter the 95 Express Lanes around noon, relieving congestion on the regular lanes which starts to build earlier in the day during the summer months.  Overnight weekday reversals will continue to take place from about midnight to 2 a.m.  The schedule will be in place throughout the summer.

What to expect on the Lanes and when to travel

To avoid crowded Express Lanes, and the resulting higher tolls, drivers should avoid travel on Thursday or Friday afternoon and evening.

  • Beginning the early afternoon of Thursday, May 24, through the evening of Friday, May 25, drivers traveling along the 95 Express Lanes corridor should expect heavy traffic and increased demand requiring higher toll prices to best manage the traffic on the Lanes.
  • The busiest travel times on the regular I-95 lanes and the 95 Express Lanes before Memorial Day weekend in 2017 were Thursday and Friday between noon and 6 p.m.  Delays were worse on Friday.  Those periods are expected to again face the heaviest travel this year.

95 Express Lanes Memorial Day weekend reversal schedule:

  • Thursday, May 24: Southbound reversal begins one hour earlier at 10 a.m. due to anticipated traffic
  • Friday, May 25: Southbound reversal begins one hour earlier at 10 a.m. as summer reversal schedule goes into effect
  • Saturday, May 26: Normal weekend reversal – Lanes reverse to northbound at 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 27: Northbound Lanes will close around 5 a.m. to support Rolling Thunder.  The Lanes will re-open around 9 a.m.
  • Monday, May 28: Express Lanes northbound all day
  • Tuesday, May 29: Southbound reversal begins around 10 a.m. with Lanes opening by about noon 

Remember these tips when traveling on the 95 Express Lanes:

  • A southbound extension of the 95 Express Lanes opened in late-2017. The Lanes now span to just north of Courthouse Road in Stafford County.  Drivers can use the extension at no extra cost
  • Travel advisory signs in the southern part of the Express Lanes will provide drivers with information about any congestion on the Express Lanes
  • Express Assist crews will be available to help drivers who run into issues on the Lanes
  • Riding with family or friends?  If you have at least three total people in your car, don’t forget to put your E-ZPass® FlexSM in HOV mode for a toll-free trip

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