Archive for the ‘Rip-off’ Category

This is Jocelyn Lam. She is a fifth grade student at Camino Grove Elementary school in Arcadia, Ca. Arcadia is about 10-15 miles away from downtown Los Angeles, and one of many communities that is close to where I personally live. Jocelyn is a sweet, caring, generous young woman who should be looked to as an inspiration.

Here’s her story:

As is happening in public schools and districts across the country, influential teachers are “teaching” their students about the current budget issues in the state. Jocelyn’s teacher, Todd Weber, said something that caused Jocelyn to donate her entire life savings of $300.00 dollars. Incidentally, her brother also donated $177.00, and other students are also donating money to the school. Jocelyn included a letter with her donation:

Dear Super Indendant (sic) and Board Members,

Hi. My name is Jocelyn Lam. I’ve heard that 65 positions will be laid off and ten of them are from my school! This really breaks my heart. Those teachers had taught me a lot. They guided me to fifth grade. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here right now writing this letter. They changed my life.

I save all this money I earned from chores and high grades. Now I want to donate all this money to save the teachers. I really hope this $300 will help save the teachers who are about to be laid off. I also hope that this is enough to save more than one teacher. PLEASE put this money to good use. I beg you! SAVE THE TEACHERS!


Jocelyn Lam

As a teacher, this act of kindness and charity from a student is inspirational. To think that this child is willing to give up every bit of money to her name in an effort to save the teachers she so obviously loves and treasures really pulls at the heart-strings. It is a reminder of why we do what we do. Quite honestly, if this doesn’t affect you, you are heartless. On the other hand, the adults involved remind me of why I personally do this blog, and why I personally teach the way I do, and why I stand against the unions that control many of the teachers. I’m left with many questions. Here are just a couple big ones.

Just what did Mr. Weber tell his students that motivated them to donate everything they have?    I’m not going to try to put words in Mr. Weber’s mouth here. I will say that I don’t teach the politics of the union, the teachers, or the school district to my kids. I will answer direct questions in an honest manner, making sure that I do not try to convince my students that my opinion is fact. I will give both sides of the argument, explain my position as well as the opposing position, and clearly tell the kids that both sides have merit. For example, if a student asked me about teacher lay-off’s, I would tell the student that the state is constitutionally required to spend certain percentages of revenues (taxes) on schools. Since the recent budgetary crisis, which started really impacting life about five years ago, the actual dollar amount that goes towards public schools has decreased. The districts have to adjust to the lesser income; much like many families have had to do, and make changes to how they spend the money they have, again like many families have done. Some of the possible solutions are unpleasant to certain groups involved in the decision-making process. The unions, the district, and the state government are all debating the best way to proceed. I don’t make a values judgment on either side. I think that any teacher who does otherwise is acting under a conflict of interests. These teachers need to understand that their job is to teach impressionable children first and only. The adult political stuff has no place in the classroom.

Did Mr. Weber use Jocelyn’s misguided generosity as a teachable moment for thrift, savings, and prudent investment?    Again, I don’t know what Mr. Weber said or did beyond what is in the news story. I can only say what I would do in his position. I would thank her for her donation, send or take it to the office, and have her money returned to her parents. Then I would talk about the importance of budgeting, living within that budget and establishing an emergency fund. Since Jocelyn provided the catalyst, we could have a great question on these issues that would be tailored to a fifth grade level. It appears that the school accepted the donation which opens up several cans of worms for them if they are perceived to be selling grades, favored status, or anything else of value to Jocelyn, or if they are indeed soliciting money from students by virtue of indoctrination and intimidation, which seems to be the case.

Look, at the end of all of this, Jocelyn’s $300.00 won’t even pay for the large pinky-ring of a union leader. It is a sweet gesture, and Jocelyn should be applauded, but the gesture was misguided. I know that many parents have talked about donating to their school to help protect the teachers’ jobs. I’ve heard parents talk about it. They ask me about it. I don’t think that’s the best way for parents to spend their money. Parents have a lot to spend their money on already, and this is not their responsibility. We all pay for public school already, the stakeholders just need to learn to work within the budget, just like you do, just like I do, and just like little Jocelyn will in a very short time.

And now, a few words on the reality of the situation from union member sean combs.


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During these last days of summer and into fall and winter, many families turn their attention towards buying a car for younger drivers.  This is the time when a lot of young people learn (the hard way) how important it is to not make mistakes in purchasing that first car.

I’ve bought a few cars in my time, and I’ve helped my wife when she was buying her last car.  But the most exposure to car buying mistakes comes from when I was a banker and had to deal with families at all stages of the car buying experience.

When I was starting the process of researching and writing FINANCE FOR YOUTH: THE BOOK, I knew the chapter that most young people would be interested in would be the one on buying a car.  That’s fine with me, because this is going to be the biggest purchase most people make before they buy a home.  In the chapter on buying a car, I’ve included a lot of important information that benefits young people especially, but also anybody who is going to buy a vehicle.  I’m including a few tips here to help anybody who is looking to buy a car without making costly mistakes.

  • Especially for first-time drivers, stay away from new cars.
    • Aside from the off-the-lot cost differences, new cars also have additional insurance requirements, lose value immediately upon driving off the lot, and are more expensive to repair if needed.  No matter how good a driver you are now, you will be better with a few years of experience—save your money for a new car until then.
  • Avoid dealerships that won’t tell you the actual price of a car.
    • There are a few of these that specialize in financing for those who can’t finance a car using normal methods.  They over charge, and their cars are no better than anybody else’s.
  • Be prepared to invest a little money up-front.
    • Before you sign any paperwork or give the seller any money, take the car to an ASE certified mechanic that your family knows or trusts.  The mechanic might charge up to $100.00 to give your car a good inspection, but that is a small price compared to buying a lemon.
    • Don’t forget the Carfax®.  Dealers should be able to provide you with a Carfax report.  If they can’t, keep looking.  If you are buying a car from a private party, you can get 5 reports for under $50.00 from WWW.CARFAX.COM.
  • Dealers aren’t the only place to find cars for sale.  Check around your neighborhood, around local shops, in publications like Auto Trader or Pennysaver.  Even family members might want to sell a car for a fair price.  Sometimes these are better deals because you aren’t paying for dealer salaries.
  • Always travel in packs!  Young people should shop for cars with older adults who are familiar with buying cars.  Even if they don’t do anything, their mere presence makes unscrupulous sellers think twice.
  • Drive the car.  Never buy a car that you aren’t able to look at closely for defects or one that you can’t test drive.
  • Be willing to walk away without the car.  Never fall so much in love with a car that you ignore your gut feelings that tell you something is wrong.  Worst case scenario, you look for another car.

That last point is probably one of the most important.  There are a lot of cars out there.  None of them are going to be so good a deal that you will hurt yourself by passing them up.   

For more tips, including a list of things you should look at whenever buying a used car, go to AMAZON.COM  and read FINANCE FOR YOUTH: THE BOOK.  You can also find it on BARNESANDNOBLE.COM

In addition to tips on buying cars, F4Y:TB also has information on getting a job, keeping a job, making a budget, choosing a financial institution, balancing a checkbook and other topics that are important to teens and young adults as they start their journey on the way towards financial literacy.

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I have always loved this song.  The band, OINGO BOINGO, led by DANNY ELFMAN has been my favorite band of all time.  These guys were so good, I even go to see tribute band, DEAD MAN’S PARTY whenever I can.  But back to this song.  I know that the song is “Who do you want to be today” and not “Who do you want to be when you grow up”, but I always think of the last question when I hear the song.  I used to ask young people what they wanted to be when they grew up.  I used to ask adults who were in a job they didn’t like the same question.  Back then, the question made sense.  At one point in our history, young people had the choice to determine what they wanted to do.  Did some people waste the opportunity?  Absolutely!  For years, I wasted the opportunity with reckless abandon.  In fact, wasting the opportunity of choosing what you want to do in the future has been, for many years, a hallmark of being young.

As much as I personally hate them, student loans have been there for many young people who didn’t want to wait to pay for school the old-fashioned way.  A young slacker could get some student loans, go to school part-time, pay for some upgrades to their car, and get out six or seven years later with a degree in general education.  That same person might grow up a little during that time and decide what they want to with their lives.

With the signing of the National Health Care law, President Obama also took student loans off the table in the private sector.  The Federal Government is now the main (sole) distribution channel for these loans.

What’s the big deal about this?

Well, now the Feds have the power to tell you what you are going to be when you grow up if you get student loans.  Personally, I’m of two minds about this.  On one hand, I’m glad for anything that might influence more people to not get student loans.  On the other hand, as a teacher, I’ve heard counselors, other teachers, and principals tell students that they need student loans in order to have a chance at a “better” life.  They are, of course, lying to the kids who have been conditioned to trust these people.

I don’t like the idea of a politician telling my children that we need more nurses, so he has to go to nursing school if he wants a student loan.  I don’t like a politician telling my child who wants to be a lawyer that we don’t need more lawyers (although to be fair, we probably don’t), so she should instead become a scientist focused on green energy.

In short, I don’t like the idea of government controlling the knowledge.  For years, I taught Martial Arts.  I knew plenty of instructors who would hold back just a little knowledge because they wanted to make sure the students always knew who was better.  I never cared for those “Masters”.  Later on, when I was a banker, I used to teach my employees and coworkers how to do everything that I knew how to do.  I knew other managers who would try to hide something so that there would always be a reason for their existence.  Now imagine that the government can steer people away from studying certain things because that knowledge would be politically damning for them.

  Phil Jones:  This is the “scientist” that is basically responsible for the whole “Global Warming” debacle.  In a nutshell, he did some investigating, cherry-picked the data that supported his ideological beliefs, and repressed all other data to the contrary.  When presented with the UK’s version of Freedom of Information Act requests, Jones conspired to delay, delete, and deprive any information on his “method”.  This, along with a lot of actual scientific information, puts the whole “Climate Change” (which had to be changed from Global Warming after it was figured out that the earth wasn’t warming anymore) thing on really shaky ground.






Al Gore:  Al Gore built his career on the bogus “science of Phil Jones.  His book, “An Inconvenient Truth” scared the crap out of politicians around the world.  Many of the nuisance laws (I call having to spend $4 dollars for a .50 cent lightbulb a nuisance) that are in various stages of passage are due to the former Vice President and current Windbag.





When the government controls the information and the knowledge, there is nobody left to question when they are trying to get one over on you. 

What can young people do about this?

Well, the simplest answer is to start making wise financial choices.  If you don’t yet know what you want to be when you grow up, that’s okay.  Many students, both in high school and in college, have no clue what they want to be.  In fact, many people who do have a plan wind up doing something completely different from that plan.  There is nothing wrong with getting a job and working for a while.  In fact, as someone who has done it, I suggest it. 

  1. You can save money and make enough to avoid having to get a loan
  2. Because you are paying for it with your own money, school will be that much more meaningful and important for you
  3. You can use the time working to try out jobs that you might like as a possible career
  4. You can get a cheaper taste of the way the world really works, making mistakes now that are no big deal, but which might be big massive deals later on

The next step would be to start thinking before voting.  As I’ve said before, many people were bamboozled by a slick suit and some empty platitudes.  Now, in November, and in the future, vote with the following in mind:

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

Get to know those who would try to control your destiny.  Decide whether you are willing to give your freedom to them, or whether you want something better.

Another step you could take is to start questioning everything that anybody with any power or influence over you have to say.  When a teacher tells you something that just doesn’t make sense, question them.  Ask for a second opinion.  When I tell a student something, I always give them the out to verify what I say.  Sometimes, I’ll even tell them to ask somebody that I know will disagree with me, just so the student is given the correct tools to make their own decisions.

As of today, going to college only makes sense when you can afford to do so without the interference of the government.  That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but you, as young people, need to realize that the time you spend working and doing things outside of college can still be educational and will definitely be beneficial as long as you choose it to be.

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Just a few minutes ago, 60 OLD MEN AND WOMEN have told young people that their voice isn’t important.  These old men and women have told generations of young people to go to hell.  Today, these old men and women have moved one step closer to passing what they call insurance reform.

Some people might be reading this thinking that health care reform is a good thing.  They might be thinking that people won’t have to die now due to lack of insurance coverage.  That is exactly what these old men and women want you to think, but once again, they are lying to you.  So who does win here?

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, has sold his principles for a pay-off.  Senator Nelson, who had principled objections to federal funding of abortions, decided that it was more important to make sure that Nebraska was permanently exempted from increases in Medicare prices. 

Let’s make sure we understand what is going on.  Medicare, which is an unsustainable federal program (which means it will go bankrupt), is in place to help seniors with medical care.  As the price of this care rises, 49 states will have increases.  1 will not.  The 49 other states’ premiums will necessarily go up even higher to make up the difference.  This will mean much larger tax increases to workers.  Especially younger workers.

But Senator Nelson isn’t the only person who sold out his values, sold out the American people, sold out young people for a political victory.

Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, and a favorite of big banks, Wall St., big mortgage lenders who don’t want to follow the rules, and a favorite of Bernie Madoff.  He was never an issue.  He was always going to vote for this F-You to young people.  But he did make sure he got a new hospital for his state. 

He believes that getting a new hospital will make the people forget that Dodd got special treatment from Angelo Mozilo and Countrywide, who were instrumental in causing the current economic problems we are facing today.  Good job, Chris.  Is it too much to ask that after being voted out in November, he is forced to work in his shiny new hospital?

Senator Harry Reid, from the great state of Nevada, shown here responding to the question, of what advice he would give to young people.  He’s another one who not only wanted this, but actively fought for it.  His only goal is to be re-elected and maintain a position of power that a failed boxer from Searchlight NV would never have.

This is not the only thing.  He has also worked out a way to exempt his state from Medicare increases.

Mary Landrieu, from the great state of Louisiana, sold her vote for $300,000,000 (Three Hundred-Million dollars).

There are others, but these are some of the bigger ones.  Why is this bill such a bad thing?  I can give you many reasons, but I’ll stick to a few right now.  Let’s look at what we are saying for the first time in history.  In order to be a legal citizen of the United States, young people (along with older people), have to purchase a product.  Young people are going to be paying more than older people for a product that they will have no access to the benefits of , since Medicare will be bankrupt by the time they are old enough to apply for it.

Reid and others have tried to paint this debate in terms of the Civil Rights debate.  So in Harry Reid’s mind, forcing people to purchase a product that they feel unneccessary is equivalent to unequal treatment based on race.  Bravo to one of the whitest men in government (douchebag).

Another issue is bringing up the name of this man.  The late Senator Edward “Teddy” Kennedy, from the state of Massachusetts was for public (increased taxes) funded health care.  It is bothersome that a member of one of the riches families in America wanted you to spend your money on a product to help insurance companies make even more profits.  If only the late Senator would have been for the health care of Mary Jo Kopechne.  Instead of driving her off a bridge and walking away from the scene to protect his political future, she might have lived.


Killed so that Ted Kennedy
Could fight to take your money
from the grave.

I’ve heard the argument that we already have to pay for car insurance, so what’s the difference?  Not everyone has to pay for car insurance.  Only those who drive a car need this insurance.  Pedestrians, bicyclists, and skaters don’t need it. 

While we are on it, young people have always had access to the best medical care available.  Emergency rooms are not able to refuse service.  That is the beauty of America:  Sure, medical care is expensive, and in most cases, you have to pay for the services you use.  But if you are sick or injured, or if you can’t pay, nobody is kicking you out into the streets for emergency care.  That won’t change, but now you will have to pay for coverage whether you can or not.

This isn’t over yet, but it soon will be.  There may be nothing that you can do about this for now.  But there is one thing that you can do in the future.  Whenever groups like Rock the Vote treat you like stupid, horn-dogs who can’t get past your genitals to see the truth, like the do in this video:

Next time they think you are that shallow, do the research and follow both the money and the logic.  The RTV people promise to never F you?  But they want you to go on lockdown until the government gets a chance to?  No thanks, RTV.  Most intelligent people can get it without blackmail.



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Ordinarily, I don’t care when big companies get screwed by other big companies. It didn’t bother me that Bank of America had to cut the salary for several of their executives. Hey, they screwed Americans for years, making huge bucks for it. I also don’t get too bothered when Walmart is pushed out of a community. Maybe I’ll care more when they start paying a living wage to their employees or stop undercutting American manufacturing industry.

But when two big industries try to wring out that last buck in such a way as the individual gets screwed- where the only choice is hard or harder- and when they use the government to accomplish this, I get really peeved.

Case in point: Right now, many of you have debit cards from your bank or credit union. I remember my first Visa branded debit card, and I still believe these are the best things to come out of financial institutions. For those who don’t use these cards (and I know a few), here’s how they work. You put money in your checking account (like normal). Instead of having to write out physical checks, you can use these cards wherever you would use a credit card with the same branding. The money comes out of your account. Easy peezy. So you go to Walmart to buy something, and use your debit card just like you would use a credit card.

On the back-end, your bank or credit union charges Walmart a few cents for each transaction using a debit card. Walmart agreed to this because there is no downside for them. These transactions are cheaper for the company, more secure, and quicker to process than checks are. They are saving tons of money on this. And because Walmart doesn’t do anything that doesn’t make Walmart money, they increase their prices to compensate for the fees they are charged.

Recently, some genius at Walmart, and other companies, have figured that they can make even more money by jumping on the populist bandwagon and piling on the financial institutions. They have gone to Congress to ask that banks and credit unions lose the ability to charge companies these fees. They say that they are trying to help the people, who have to pay more money because of these fees. Make the financial institutions charge these fees directly to the customer, and all will be better.

See, this is where I get really annoyed. These fees aren’t for PEOPLE who want to use a debit card instead of checks. There is no bad side for a consumer who wants to be more environmentally friendly, more secure, and more technologically advanced, and the financial institutions don’t want to shift this interchange fee to the consumer. This is part of doing business. But Walmart, and others, are trying to get one less fee charged to them, without lowering prices for the consumer. So where does that leave you and me? We get crushed. If this plan is accepted by Congress, banks will shift that fee to us. Except instead of being a few cents out of every purchase (I think it works out to a quarter per purchase, but don’t quote me), we will have a monthly usage fee for using our debit card.

Is there anything we can do about it? Well sort of. Right now, Congress has gone ape—t wild on punishing banks and screwing any of us little guys that get in the way. It seems as if Congress members, many of whom have never had to work outside of high paying government jobs, don’t care about those of us who do have to worry about little things like excess fees and higher prices. But you should at least have your voice heard. Go to your financial institution and ask to speak to the manager. He or She is best equipped to put you in contact with the correct representative for your area. Many local institutions already have an advocacy program in place.

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First, a little news and an unsolicited plug.

I’ve mentioned on Facebook that my computer was dying. I liked that computer, but it had a bad motherboard and it had gotten a really bad virus. So it had to go. I think we’ve all seen the commercials for Apple where the cool “hipster” in jeans is talking with the “square” in the brown suit who is less cool. One claim that Apple lovers make is that Apples don’t get viruses. I don’t know how true any of that is, but they are able to charge a premium over PC’s, partially based on the claim of being more reliable. I thought briefly of going with Apple this time, but our previous computer (before the recently departed) was an Apple, and I was not terribly impressed by it. Our last one was a Dell, because both my wife and I use Dells at work. Additionally, because my school has an agreement to allow alumni to get a discount, I was pretty much sold. Based on the amount of stress and heartache I had to deal with, I hope Dell goes back to their “Dude, you gotta get a Dell” slogan. It was simple and painless. We ordered the computer on one Saturday, and it was delivered the next Saturday. So now I have a new computer that is awesome! That’s the news.

The plug. If you are a student, and you are planning to get a new computer, or are planning on upgrading, you have to take advantage of



This is a full version of Microsoft Office, including full versions of the following:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Outlook
  • One Note
  • Groove
  • Publisher
  • Access
  • Info Path

All this for the price of $55.95.  As far as I know, the only requirement is that you are a student with a valid .edu email address.  This saves about 91% off the regular price.  If you can take advantage of it, you should.


Now for the post of today.  I spent a lot of time reading some of the other popular blogs out there since getting my new computer, and I saw a trend that concerned me a little.  When I was in a branch, advising individuals, I was careful to provide options, and not to dictate terms whenever possible.  My belief is that people have circumstances in their lives that they won’t tell some people.  For the most part, those circumstances were none of my business.  Other advisors would say, you have to do this, or you can’t do that, and would put conditions on their customers becoming successful. 

I see the same thing among many of the “big” PF people.  My favorite PF expert to hate, Robert Kiyosaki, frequently tells you that you simply cannot become rich outside of his system.  I’ve seen some popular bloggers doing the same thing.  I’m not going to name names, but we’ve all seen them. 

Look.  The truth is, there are many paths to becoming wealthy.  There are many definitions of the word wealthy.  For any one person to tell you that the only way to become wealthy is simply wrong.  Whenever you hear someone tell you that you have todo something in order to reach the result of wealth, stop listening.  Pull up a google list of finance blogs and pick another one to listen to.  Personally, I prefer a google or yahoo search of “youth finance”, and take the first couple of entries (of course, that might be because my sites are in those spots, but whatever).

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So right now, the focus of the news is on universal health care. Some will say that this is a good thing because everybody will be covered for medical care where they are not today. This is a great ideal, but the reality is that the quality of health care will suffer for those covered, and millions of people will not be covered at all.

Here’s how the system works today:

My wife works for a company that subsidizes health care for employees. When the employee is married or has dependents (kids), the employee is charged a small amount of money to cover their family. The company, with lots of employees, makes a deal with an insurance carrier to provide a discount to the company for health coverage. The idea behind this is that most employees will not use the insurance to the point where money is lost by the insurance company. This is similar to auto insurance. In this case, the insurance company is betting you will stay healthy, and you are betting that you will get sick.

Last week, I got sick. I went to work, finished my day, and suddenly became sick hours later. I had an idea of what was wrong, and I knew it wasn’t the biggest deal in the world (I didn’t think I would die in the next few hours), so I didn’t call 9-1-1 or go to the Emergency Room. Our carrier has what is called Urgent Care, which is less urgent than an emergency, but more urgent than waiting the week or so before you see a doctor. That is the road I took.

The way our insurance works, in addition to the small amount taken out of my wife’s check every pay period to pay for coverage, we pay a whopping $10.00 whenever we use the services. This is called a co-pay. In theory, if I saw a doctor for acne, one for a physical, and a third for my arm that hurts after going to the gym, I would pay $30.00 to see all of them. Not a bad deal.

Now here is the difference between health care today and the proposed “universal” health care being discussed in Congress:

I waited less than ten minutes (on a Friday, in the evening, when it seems that EVERYBODY is off work) to be seen. The doctor felt that my case was severe enough to administer medication through I-V (inter-venous fluid) and that I needed to go to the Emergency Room immediately. An ambulance was called, and I was taken to the ER where I was seen by another doctor. I was seen and treated by the ER staff immediately. I was seen by a doctor late that evening and admitted to the hospital. Over the weekend, (I got out of the hospital on Sunday) I was given more I-V medicine, meals (such that they were! I’ll agree that hospital food sucks.), and I was stabilized. On Sunday, I as prescribed some medicine and sent on my merry way. On the way out, I stopped at the pharmacy, paid another $10.00, and picked up my approximately $150.00 worth of medicine.

So let’s take stock.

  1. Friday afternoon, I get sick.
    1. Early Friday evening, I go to Urgent care
  2. Friday evening, I am sent by ambulance to Emergency Care
  3. Late Friday night, I am checked in to hospital.
  4. Sunday, I am released on my own recognizance and given a prescription.

Total cost: $20.00

Now compare this to “universal” health care, and I still wouldn’t have been seen by a doctor.  I would have gotten progressively worse, and may not have been able to tell my tale.  Some where in California, there would be a grave stone with the Finance For Youth logo on it because my symptoms didn’t sound like they were serious.  Without having a doctor look at me and do several tests, I would have stayed home and taken a lot of aspirin until I was gone.

I’ve been asked why my postings have been taking an increasingly political bend when my target audience might not be able to actually do anything about the problems.  Here’s the answer to that question.  You do have a lot of power, but only if you understand the situations presented to you.  Many of my readers are over 18 (voting age) or will be by the time of the next elections.  You can contact your local Congress persons and let your voice be heard.  If those in power refuse to listen to you, you have the power to replace them the next time around.  Most importantly, you have the power to make sure none of this ever happens again.

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