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Archive for March 6th, 2012

Attorney General Madigan, FTC, BBB & advocates warn consumers to phone bill scam

Posted by Admin On March - 6 - 2012 Comments Off on Attorney General Madigan, FTC, BBB & advocates warn consumers to phone bill scam

CHICAGO, IL – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined with the Federal Trade Commission, Chicago Better Business Bureau and consumer advocates to warn Illinoisans about a scam known as phone bill ‘cramming’ that has hit hundreds of thousands of consumers and businesses with bogus charges on their phone bills.

“Phone bill cramming is one of the most pervasive scams today,” Attorney General Madigan said. “Scam artists use consumers’ phone numbers like credit cards, racking up charges for things they never ordered and don’t want, and profiting to the tune of $2 billion each year. Only a statewide ban on third-party charges will put an end to this scheme.”

Joining Madigan in Chicago to recognize National Consumer Protection Week were Steven Baker, director of the FTC Midwest Region; Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the BBB of Northern Illinois and Chicago; David Kolata, executive director of Citizens Utility Board; Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois director; and Lynda Delaforgue, co-director of Citizen Action/Illinois.

Phone bill cramming is a scheme that has persisted across Illinois and the country in which third-party vendors use phone numbers much like a credit card. The vendors add charges to phone bills for bogus products or services, such as identity theft protection, website design or email service, that consumers and businesses never asked for or wanted – and never used.

Estimates indicate that telephone companies place at least 300 million third-party charges on their customers’ bill each year. According to a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee report, third-party billing generates at least $2 billion annually. 

“In today’s computerized fast moving world, account numbers represent who and what we are and what you will be charged for. For better or for worse, it’s a fact of modern life and cramming is an insidious method of stealing or redirecting your personal information just as much as your credit card account numbers or your social security number,” said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Consumers and businesses alike must check their invoices, and question changes or unexpected charges immediately to mitigate potential cost or service changes brought on by these cramming activities.”

This year, Madigan is working with state Rep. Kelly Burke and Sen. David Koehler to pass and implement House Bill 5211 that would put an end to cramming. The bill would ban cramming – all billing by a third-party company – but include limited, common sense exceptions for legitimate services.

To date, the Attorney General’s Office has filed 30 lawsuits against crammers, representing more than 200,000 Illinois businesses and residences who were victim to these phone billing schemes. Apparently no one is safe from crammers. Take, for example, Madigan’s 2009 lawsuit, which showed US Credit Find Inc., a Venice, Calif.-based operation, crammed, among other targets, a Springfield public library’s dial-a-story telephone line.

Phone cramming scams originally were perpetrated primarily through telemarketers, especially before the Do Not Call registry was established. More recently, however, the scam has flourished online. Internet users report simply submitting their phone number, among other personal information, for online prize drawings, surveys or free recipes. Weeks or months later, consumers find charges on their phone bills for unauthorized services.

Attorney General Madigan has previously advocated for a nationwide ban on phone bill cramming, testifying last July before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee and the Federal Communications Commission.

MWRD selects disinfection technologies for the Calumet and North Side Water Reclamation Plants

Posted by Admin On March - 6 - 2012 Comments Off on MWRD selects disinfection technologies for the Calumet and North Side Water Reclamation Plants
Chlorination, ultraviolet irradiation offer best alternatives at least cost
Using a triple bottom line approach that considers economic, environmental and social criteria, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) has completed its evaluation of available disinfection technologies and has recommended the optimal technology for disinfecting the North Side and Calumet Water Reclamation Plant effluents.
The processes selected are chlorination/dechlorination for Calumet and ultraviolet irradiation (UV) with low pressure high output lamps for North Side. The estimated capital costs for construction at the two plants totals just over $109 million, less than 50 percent of the anticipated cost.
This announcement comes eight months after the MWRD Board of Commissioners made a policy decision to implement disinfection at the two plants.  An internal task force, which included staff from the departments of Monitoring and Research, Engineering, and Maintenance and Operations, systematically evaluated all available disinfection technologies and reviewed academic research and industry practice literature. The task force also performed bench scale studies, monitored existing plant effluent, reviewed site conditions, and contacted industry experts, manufacturers and suppliers, and other large wastewater treatment agencies. In addition, the task force gathered data about design parameters, operational needs, maintenance requirements, and annual and capital costs.
David St. Pierre, MWRD Executive Director, said that once the Board of Commissioners made its policy decision to proceed with disinfection, the task force worked swiftly to ensure disinfection will come online at the same time as the Thornton reservoir to maximize the water quality impact for the Cal-Sag channel.
According to St. Pierre, differences in existing infrastructure and hydraulics at the two plants require that a combination of methods be implemented as the basis of final design and construction of the facilities.
To fund the new projects, the MWRD restructured its Capital Improvement Program and adjusted operational efficiency goals to reserve $240 million in the budget for construction; however, based on task force results, the estimated costs for capital is roughly $109 million.
“The task force reviewed combinations of technologies to treat baseline and peak flows to maximize our use of resources and as a result, we are able to do what is needed for less than half the cost of the original estimate,” said St. Pierre.
“We looked at the most economical processes so the MWRD can provide excellent customer service at the least cost,” said Commissioner Cynthia M. Santos, Finance Committee Chairman. “Now that the best disinfection alternatives have been selected for the two plants, the projects will proceed to the design phase.”
The Board’s next steps will be to hire an engineering consultant to do the design work so that construction can start in 2013 or early 2014. “We want to have construction completed by December 2015 and disinfection in service for the 2016 recreational season,” said Commissioner Santos.
Agreements with design consultants for each plant will be submitted to the Board of Commissioners for award in April 2012, and final designs will be completed by March 2013.  A contract for construction will be awarded by October 2013.
Concurrent with the design phase, pilot testing of the proposed UV system for North Side will be conducted for at least three months. Not only does the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency approve design criteria based on pilot testing, important information regarding appropriate UV dosing over a range of hydraulic conditions will be documented.
More information about the MWRD can be found at www.mwrd.org.

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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