Category Archives: Culture

Blood Donations and Sickle Cell Anemia

Those with Sickle Cell Disease need frequent blood donations, sometimes as often as every few weeks to survive. The most compatible blood transfusion for a DSC_0533critically ill patient with SCD is most likely to come from someone with the same ethnic, racial and genetic background as the patient.

While high rates of Sickle Cell Anemia is prevalent in black communities, statistics show people of color currently donate less than one percent of the country’s blood supply.

Be a hero in your community, make a pledge to donate blood and save the life of someone with Sickle Cell Disease.

Please send us a picture of yourself donating blood to the Heart of Gold Foundation: The Sickle Cell Foundation of Northern Virginia FB page at and encourage everyone you know help the 80,000 people in the U.S. living with Sickle Cell Disease.

If you or someone you know has Sickle Cell Disease and live in the Northern Virginia area please reach out to the Heart of Gold Foundation: The Sickle Cell Foundations of Northern Virginia  so we can keep you informed about programs and services near where you live.

For information about donating blood check out the links and video below:

Blue Moon Rising!

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(Photo: Mark Roy for Wikipedia) Read more at:

Being a moon child (July baby)  I love the way a full moon lights up a night sky . . . So it’s no surprise I’m  excited about tonight’s rare blue moon sighting.

If you are lucky enough to be in an area away from the light pollution of a city, it should really be a fabulous site!

I have a friend who occasionally liked to belt out a verse from the song “Blue Moon.” We hadn’t talked in years, so it was ironic she called last night on the eve of this blue moon.

If you get outside tonight and get a few good pictures, please share. I’d love to see them. In honor of  tonight’s blue moon and my very talented friend, I’m sharing  a few of my favorite renditions of the famous old song.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Oh, I also added another “moon song.” See if it is one of your favorites too.




Romance Fraud and Seniors

By Marzena Stykowska, CSR – re-post News Channel 8

Published: June 19, 2015

(WTNH) — Romance fraud robs Americans of more than $80 million each year. The AARP Fraud Watch Network is calling on the online dating industry to better protect its users. Here to share tips for how to spot and avoid online dating scams is Nora Duncan, state director of AARP in Connecticut and Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris.


How Media Hype Fuels Inaccurate Laws

How Media Hype Fuels Inaccurate Laws

The Fairfax County Animal Shelter’s very own Kristen Auerbach interview with  Reason TV on the topic of Pit Bulls.

Women Are Sports Fans Too!

Earlier this month, Men’s Health Magazine took us back a few decades with its article “The Secret to Talking Sports With Any Woman.” The article, which has since been deleted, suggested that a woman couldn’t possibly care about sports because there are no storylines to follow and that they simply “just don’t care about stats.”

Female football playerIt didn’t take long for social media users to attack the magazine, causing a major stir and invoking the need for some serious damage control, and I can see why.

Assuming that women need to be emotionally invested in something to take an interest in it is stereotypical, misogynistic and quite frankly, a load of crap.

According to BuzzFeed, one in three sports fans are women. I’ve been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and trust me, it has nothing to do with any players’ wife, kids or how good his butt looks in football pants.

Sports have always been a part of my life, whether I was playing, attending games or spending Sunday in front of the TV.

Yes, I can spot a false start before the ref throws the flag and no, I don’t fill out my March Madness bracket based on mascot or jersey color.

I, like anyone else, am perfectly capable of understanding the concepts behind sports and actually enjoying them. Regardless of my gender, I can root for my teams and talk trash, and I should be able to do so without being quizzed on the team’s history or naming five players from the starting roster.

It’s no secret that there’s a division between men and women in society, but where do we draw the line? It’s bad enough that women barely have a say in their own reproductive rights and make a mere 77 cents per every man’s dollar; now we’re being told what activities we do and do not like.

It wasn’t until 1920 that women began to have a say in anything regarding their own lives by gaining the right to vote, but other things such as participating in higher education, having a job or choosing whether or not to have children?

Forget it. While the women’s rights movement has progressed since then, articles like “The Secret to Talking Sports With Any Woman” are prime examples of how women are still seen as inferior and unable to take part in “male activities.”

Accepting women as serious sports fans is a step in the right direction toward gender equality, because believe it or not, women are people too.
Men shouldn’t feel intimidated by a woman who is knowledgeable about sports, and should instead appreciate the fact that they can watch a game with their female friends without having to think twice about it.


IMG_2823Ashleigh Balsamo is a junior at JMU in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Her major is media arts and design with a concentration in journalism, minoring in women and gender studies.

Ashleigh loves writing and design and was editor of her high school yearbook and literary arts magazine. She is currently a contributing writer for JMU’s newspaper, ‘The Breeze’ and student-run magazine, ‘Port & Main.’ 

After graduation, Ashleigh would like to work for a national newspaper or magazine, particularly one that focuses on women’s issues.
Her dream job ?  editor- in-chief at Cosmopolitan magazine.

Consumer Alerts: Tax Scams

irs-scamIRS fraud phone calls are out of control. I’ve received two in less than 6 months! The Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration  warns that scammers posing as IRS officials are contacting people claiming they owe taxes. The caller demands a prepaid debit card, wire transfer or a credit card number for payment. If the person doesn’t comply, the caller threatens to arrest or deport the target, or take away their driver’s license or business.Vee Johnson, Community Outreach Liaison for Consumer Affairs, Department of Cable and Consumer Services for Fairfax County offers this advice:

Why are IRS scams so prevalent?  “The IRS is a favorite target for scammers.  Each year, the IRS publishes the “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams that start with tax season but flourish throughout the year.   Check out this list so you will be prepared and know what to do when scammers contact you by phone, mail, or mobile devices.To report an IRS impersonation scam, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or call 1-800-366-4484.”

How can you tell if it’s a scam and not the real thing?
“You can never be sure if a call you receive is the real thing or a scam.  Remember that you are not obligated to listen or talk when you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming they are from a government agency or when they have some information about you.   The IRS and other government agencies never initiate contact with us by phone, email, text, or mobile devices to demand money or personal information. If you are curious about the call, hang up and contact the IRS direct using the information they provide to get reliable, accurate information. “

Is it ok to return a phone call if you’re not sure it is a scam? “When you return a call to a scammer, they will demand that you send money right away.  While they will take a credit card number, they prefer a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.  Unlike a credit card, that leaves a financial footprint that can be traced or tracked, a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer is like giving away cash.  They leave no paper trail to find or stop the fraud from continuing.  Millions of dollars lost to scams are never recovered.”

What can be done if you receive an  unsolicited threatening call from an “agency” demanding money?”

Vee: “When you receive an unsolicited call from an aggressive, demanding, threatening caller, don’t expect honesty or truthfulness.  Take a deep breath.  Don’t engage the stranger with answers, questions, or comments.  Scammers know the power of words and will try to use our phones as a weapon to make us feel vulnerable or intimated so they can get our money or personal information.  Keep control of your phone and do whatever makes you feel good to hang up quickly. Tell others about the scam so they know what to do if they become a target.  Report the scam and congratulate yourself on not becoming the victim of this pervasive scam. “

VF Johnson-703-324-5959
Community Outreach Liaison
Consumer Affairs
Department of Cable and Consumer Services
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 433
Fairfax, Virginia 22035

Best Views in the US Virgin Islands

Best Views in the US Virgin Islands.

Call From the DEA and Consumer Warning

Last week I was shocked to receive a phone message from a DEA agent demanding I return his call because my name had come up several times in the investigation of illegal pharmaceutical drugs being smuggled into the U.S.


My heart raced and my first thought was to call and get this mistake straighten out right away. . . Then I remembered hearing about consumer scams in which fake federal agents try to scare consumers to return phone calls, so I decided to first have a chat with Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Investigator Vee Johnson to get the scoop and I’m glad I did.

Me:Vee, You heard the phone message I received from a man pretending to be a DEA agent. How common is this kind of scam in which the caller knows your name?”

Vee Johnson: “With our personal information everywhere, it’s easy for everyone to know our name.  Scams are perennial. Scammers know that when they say our name, we will listen, and the longer we listen, the more they scheme to draw us into their web of deception.  Scammers come at you gently with flattery to gain your trust or rough and tough like your caller who used scare tactics to get your attention.  If you get a call like this, hang up and report it to the DEA<;.  It is a violation of federal law to impersonate a federal agent.”

Me: “What happens if a person calls back a phone number?”

Vee Johnson:If you call back a number you don’t recognize, you risk being charged for an international call plus minutes.  This can quickly add up to $20+.  When you call back, it encourages the scammer and they will keep on calling. It’s okay to be curious, but not when strange numbers and voices are involved.”

Me: “What is an example of another type of phone scam people receive this time of year using a scare tactic to trick people into calling back?”

Vee Johnson: “Scammers impersonating the IRS are calling in full force.  They know that taxes are on everyone’s mind so they threaten and demand that you send money using a pre-paid debit card, credit card, or wire transfer.   Don’t be intimidated. The IRS won’t initiate communication with you or me by phone. If there is something we need to know, the IRS will contact us by mail.  If you receive a call, hang up and report it to the IRS<;.”

Me: “What should people do if they receive this type of phone call?”

Vee Johnson: “If you receive a call from a number you don’t recognize, or a voice that doesn’t belong to a family member, friend or colleague, hang up.  Don’t let your curiosity cost you $$$$$.  No one can protect our personal, financial, and confidential information better than you.  You best defense is a hang up!”

In Fairfax County Consumer protection matters are handled by the Consumer Protection Division, which investigates and mediates consumer complaints and tenant-landlord disputes to determine whether consumer protection laws have been violated.

Office: 703-222-8435 (8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday)
Fax: 703-324-3900

Talk Your Way to Free Lodging in Spain

During these tough times many people aren’t thinking about spending money on a nice vacation.  If you have the urge to travel but your budget is holding you back, then check out a unique volunteer program in Spain through Vaughn Systems.  


A friend did this a few years back and had a wonderful experience.

Participants from all over the world exchange conversation with Spaniards and in return for their time and their input, have their full board and lodging covered by the program.


Volunteer participants can choose from four (4) picturesque venues: Puerta de Gredos (Avila), Hotel Spa Villa de Alarcón (Cuenca), Valdelavilla (Soria), Santa Maria de El Paular (Rascafria), and El Rancho de la Aldegüela (Segovia).

There is absolutely no catch. Vaughn Systems recruit people from all kinds of backgrounds (not English professors nor linguistic experts) to volunteer six days of their time to have conversations with Spanish professionals.

You pay for your flights to and from Madrid and any accommodation before and after the program. Vaughan Systems provides accommodation and three meals a day in any of the venues, transfers to and from the towns from Madrid and accident insurance during the course of the program.

Over 9,000 volunteers from all over the world have come to Spain to take part in this cultural holiday program: writers, doctors, social workers, backpackers, executives, musicians, students, etc… The variety is endless: participants from more than 12 different countries, between ages 18-80.

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