A Look Back at FAIR

fair-logoSeveral years ago, I worked for a small non-profit in DC called FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform). I thought it was a typical conservative group wanting secure borders, enforcement of immigration laws, etc. – and, for the most part, that’s what it was. I was brought in to manage the Web team (my first management job). I thought I did a good job of leading the team, launching the Immigration Reform blog, and reducing costs of my department by 30% (by moving over to free, open-source platforms, eliminating waste, etc.).

The actual work was fine. I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the people in the office. However, there were two things that I hated: the 2-hour commute each way and the business attire. If you’ve ever worked with me, you’ll know that those are now the two biggest factors in any job offer I accept (short commutes and casual dress).

After several months, the long commutes were killing me. I was also finding that I didn’t necessarily share the same ideology as the FAIR organization. I was all for immigration law enforcement – heck, why do we have laws if we don’t enforce them? Rule of law was important to me. But, as a Christian, so was grace. And I didn’t see any grace coming from FAIR. To me, the son of an immigrant father, I would like to see laws obeyed, but also grace (a simple path to citizenship) for immigrants who are persecuted and are looking to achieve and earn a better life in America. FAIR’s hard line against illegal immigrants didn’t always sit well in my gut.

After about six months working there (and the toll of the 4-hour daily commute), I was offered another job close to my house at AOL. It was a no-brainer. I accepted.

I haven’t thought much about FAIR since leaving, though I knew they would be pleased with the election of President Trump and all that he’s done since taking office. When I heard that former FAIR executive director Julie Kirchner was joining Trump’s administration, I was very pleased for her. Julie is a nice, mild-mannered person, who I enjoyed interacting with. Of all the people I regretted leaving, Julie was at the top of the list. I wish her all the best.

This morning, I read an incredibly in-depth feature article on FAIR (prompted by Julie’s recent appointment). While the article is obviously slanted against FAIR (and cites the similarly slanted Southern Poverty Law Center and its bogus “hate group” label), the article reveals the origins of FAIR and its founder John Tanton.

Article exerpt:

“Tanton was a radical environmentalist, though he worked with mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club. His environmentalism coincided with a keen interest in population control; he founded local chapters of Planned Parenthood and served as the president of Zero Population Growth, a group that pushes to make contraceptives and abortion services more accessible.”

Had I known the background of FAIR’s founder, I would not have worked at FAIR. I am completely against abortion (except when the mother’s life is physically in danger) and all forms of eugenics. I think population issues from unwanted pregnancies are a symptom of a society that normalizes extra-marital sex and doesn’t promote abstinence. You fix society’s view on sex, and you don’t have an abortion problem.

So, the eugenics background of FAIR’s founder (surprisingly driven by environmentalism) would have been a deal-breaker for me, while FAIR’s views on immigration, for the most part, were not. Let’s hope, as the group gains more exposure and influence in this country, they’ve left much of its founder’s ideology in the past.

Do This Before Connecting to a Public WiFi Hotspot

wifi-securityWhen you’re on the go – traveling for work, or telecommuting from your local, cozy coffee house – public WiFi hotspots are a lifesaver. At restaurants, hotels, and even the car repair shop, WiFi Internet access has become ubiquitous and, quite frankly, expected by patrons.

Connecting to a public WiFi hotspot is so easy and convenient; the decision to connect has become automatic. We connect without a second thought, and hackers know this.

The Dangers of Public WiFi

When you walk into an establishment with public WiFi, you can usually connect without a password. Don’t do it.

An open, public WiFi hotspot is unsecured. Anyone can access it and easily monitor the data passing through the WiFi router. Anytime you browse a password-protected website, like your email or social media account, your login credentials pass through the WiFi router. Anyone with easy-to-obtain listening software can capture that data and read it clear as day.

Additionally, anybody could walk into a business and set up his own rogue hotspot with the same name as the business’ WiFi hotpot. Unsuspecting patrons connect to the rogue hotspot and compromise their data.

For example, when you see one WiFi network that’s password-protected and one that’s not, you might be tempted to connect to the open one. It’s easier and free. However, you could be connecting to a rogue hotspot – one that appears to be legit, but isn’t.

Even in your own office, you need to be sure to only connect to your password-protected office WiFi LAN and not a rogue hotspot set up to appear like your office’s WiFi network. Many offices provide open WiFi hotspots for guests, which can easily be spoofed.

Password-Protection Doesn’t Mean Secure

So, are all password-protected WiFi hotspots, such as those found in hotels, secure? It depends on what type of encryption is being used. Password-protected WiFi hotspots use a variety of encryptions, such as WPA, WPA2, or WPS. The WPA and WPS security settings can be cracked in minutes. Only connect to hotspots with WPA2 encryption. You can typically see a hotspot’s encryption settings on your device prior to connecting.

HTTPS is a Good Start

When exchanging sensitive information over a public WiFi network, such as credit card info or login credentials, be sure the URL of the page you are entering this information on starts with “HTTPS” – the “S” standing for secure. If you access your email from a desktop client like Outlook or Apple Mail, make sure your accounts are SSL encrypted.

Ideally, when connected to public WiFi, you should only browse sites that are secure (https). However, not all website use security certificates. And, even though the data on secure web pages is encrypted, someone listening in or “sniffing” the WiFi network can still see what sites you are visiting – information that could be used to profile you.

VPN is the Solution

The safest and easiest way to make sure your device and data are safe when connecting to a public WiFi hotspot is to use trusted VPN (virtual private network) software provided by your company or a third party VPN service (check out Lifehacker’s Five Best VPN Service Providers).

VPN software encrypts all of the data passing to and from your device and anonymizes it. You don’t have to worry about what kind of encryption the WiFi hotspot uses, or only browsing HTTPS pages. VPN is a one-solution-fits-all option that makes connecting to WiFi on the go simple and stress-free.

So, when you’re on the go, it’s easy to take shortcuts with your data security. Don’t. Before you connect to a public WiFi hotspot, be sure to activate your VPN software, or take the precautions detailed above.

Was this information helpful? If so, share it with your friends, or tweet it now!

Christian Filmmakers Offer Free 1-Day Bootcamp in Chantilly

film-boot-campOn Saturday, May 30, 2015, Chantilly Bible Church will host a FREE 1-day Christian Filmmaking Boot Camp sponsored by NoVA Christian Film. The speakers are experienced film & video professionals in the northern Virginia area who love Jesus. They will cover essential aspects of independent filmmaking, such as acting, directing and screenwriting — and will end the day with an actual video shoot you can participate in or watch!

Register Now!

This boot camp is perfect for any Christian interested in learning how to make low-budget films, pursue a career in film or television, or discover ways to impact Hollywood with the message of Jesus Christ.

If you have a desire to be behind or in front of the camera, please join us for this one-day filmmaking boot camp taught by experienced Christian professionals!

SCHEDULE (w/ Speakers*):

09:00 Welcome & Introduction (CBC Pastor)
09:15 Keynote (Brad Russell)
09:45 Producing (Panel: George Escobar, Christa Geno, Nina May, Paula O’Neal)
10:15 Crowdfunding (Ron Newcomb)
10:45 BREAK
11:00 PROMO: Advent Filmmakers (George Escobar)
11:15 Acting (Panel: Josh Murray, Chuck Paris, Jim Holland)
11:45 Cinematography & Lighting (JD Medlock)
– Acting (Josh Murray)
– DSLR Filmmaking (JD Medlock)**
– Producing (George Escobar)
01:45 PROMO: Hollywood Prayer Network (Chuck Paris)
02:00 Screenwriting (Michael Tolosa)
02:30 Directing (Gary Voelker)
03:00 Sound (TBD)
03:30 PROMO: NoVA Christian Film (Michael Tolosa)
03:45 BREAK
04:00 Film Shoot
07:00 End

Free pizza & bottled water will be served for lunch. You’re welcome to bring something else to eat/drink, if you wish.

Please feel free to bring head shots, business cards, DVDs or other marketing materials to give away during the event. We will have a networking/marketing table specifically for this.

For more information on NoVA Christian Film, please visit novachristianfilm.com or join the Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/novachristianfilm.

*Speakers and topics are subject to change.
**Feel free to bring your own DSLR to learn on, or just watch.

Register Now!

Are You Ready for Small Business Saturday?

[This article originally appeared on Time Warner Cable Business Class in November 2014.]

Couple Surfing the WebCan your small business handle the influx of traffic on Small Business Saturday? Don’t get left in the cold! Here are 3 ways to leverage the increase in post-Thanksgiving consumer spending.

Small Business Saturday, founded in 2010 by American Express, is a day to encourage people to shop at small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Every year, more and more people are taking part.

Black Friday tends to drive a lot of attention to big retailers, so Small Business Saturday is a way to remember and support small businesses during the holiday shopping season.

According to Twitter, 95% of consumers said they plan to shop smaller retailers in 2014 and spend $3 out of every $10 they have budgeted with small business retailers and e-commerce sites. Additionally, 8 in 10 consumers want to support small businesses during the holidays.

With all this focus on small businesses, the last thing you want is to be caught unprepared. Time Warner Cable Business Class offers you these three tips to make sure your small business runs smoothly on Small Business Saturday and during the holiday season…

1. Increase Your Internet Speed
Increased web traffic could slow your site down to a crawl. Get more bandwidth to meet your e-commerce needs.

2. Add a Phone Line
Do a health check on your business’ phone lines, listening to voicemails, hold music, etc. If necessary, add a phone line to better handle customer inquiries.

3. Secure Your Data
Protect your business data and provide a safe and secure shopping experience for your customers.

Taking these three easy steps will help ensure a stable and rewarding Small Business Saturday for your business.

Give us a call at 1-877-818-9321, if you’d like some help.

Filmmakers Tackle Sex Trafficking

trafficked_01During the first week of September — at a quiet industrial park in Springfield, Virginia — members of Avellino Studios, a small Christian film company in northern Virginia, shot a short film called “Trafficked: A Model Story.” The film draws a connection between sex trafficking and the porn industry, showing how an aspiring fashion model quickly finds herself descending down a slippery slope of compromise.

“We all know what we think about human trafficking,” said director Arel Avellino, “but a lot of people don’t go to the next step and attach that to what’s going on in the porn industry. This story is taking a very real situation and shows just one of the ways these two industries collide.”

The studio raised a little over $1,000 in the fundraising campaign to produce the film, which they plan to post online soon.

For more information on “Trafficked: A Model Story,” check out their fundraising video, and watch the trailer below…

Update: You can now view the entire Trafficked: A Model Story short film on Vimeo.

Fighting for Liberty in Paris

liberty-farmOn September 1, members of NoVA Christian Film gathered to help Greg Letiecq of NOVA Digital Films create a short video highlighting the recent restrictions Faquier County officials have placed on local farmer Martha Boneta’s Liberty Farm. The county has started charging her fees for holding Bible studies and birthday parties on her property.

It was a beautiful summer day in Paris, Virginia, so we setup outside on Martha’s property and asked some of the children who regularly visit and enjoy Liberty Farm what they thought about the controversy. Check out their responses in this video.

For more information on the controversy (including the outlandish claims of a certain special interest group), check out this article. To help Martha in her fight, please visit Virginia Farm & Food Freedom.

“Settled” Screened at Gideon Film Festival

gideon-festival-2013NoVA Christian Film’s Settled was screened at the Gideon Film Festival in Orlando, Florida today. The short film was nominated for Best Film, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, and Best Production Design, but unfortunately did not win in any of the categories.

Several members of NoVA Christian Film were in attendance, including founder Michael Tolosa, George Escobar and Meagan Motley of Advent Film Group, Sandra Hope, and actor Josh Murray.