Members of LFCC’s Class of 2021 will have several opportunities to mark their commencement.
Due to the pandemic, the college held its first-ever virtual graduation ceremony in 2020. A similar ceremony – complete with the National Anthem, an address from LFCC President Kim Blosser, a graduation speech by graduate Faith Dellinger, recognition of the Outstanding Graduates, and more – will be online at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 15. The ceremony will then remain online for at least one year.
In addition to the virtual commencement ceremony, graduates will have the opportunity to participate in a drive-thru diploma walk. They may choose to walk at the Fauquier Campus on Thursday, May 13, or at the Middletown Campus on Friday, May 14.
Each graduate will be allowed to have two vehicles accompany them. The graduate will have a scheduled time to have their name read, walk across the stage, receive their diploma cover and be photographed.
“I am so excited we are able to give our graduates the opportunity to walk across the stage this year and allow their families and supporters to see them graduate,” President Blosser said. “They – and all of our faculty and staff – have worked so hard and persevered through a difficult year, and we are happy to celebrate them.”
For more information about commencement, visit www.lfcc.edu/commencement.
LFCC cybersecurity makes impressive showing in national competition
A cybersecurity team made up of LFCC students ranked in the top 50 among the more than 950 teams competing in the Fall 2020 National Cyber League (NCL) Competition.
Team captain D.J. Joachim likened the competition to a marathon, but with hacking. Each season has four rounds. Some rounds are just for individuals, and others for the team as a whole. Assistance can be sought from coaches in some portions, but not in others.
The individual and team games were each three days long, or “72 hours of straight hacking,” according to Joachim, who graduated in December with a degree in cybersecurity.
“LFCC’s team did phenomenally well,” he said. “There’s been so much development and growth through all of these extra-curricular activities. It’s amazing what you can learn.”
IT Professor Henry Coffman, who is the cybersecurity program manager, said the NCL provides scouting reports for each player. This scouting report is available to employees, who can refer to it when assessing prospective job candidates, Professor Coffman said.
“Students can use the scouting report to get a job,” he said. “It gives them great experience and knowledge of different realms within the cybersecurity industry. The competitions demonstrate a candidate’s thought processes, analysis, and the ability to figure things out. It shows that they’re willing to continue against the odds, and to analyze and try to find a solution to a problem.”
Professor Coffman also finds the reports helpful in showing him areas in which students may need additional help.
Joachim said the scouting report helped him get hired as cybersecurity threat analyst at Navy Federal Credit Union. He plans to continue his cybersecurity education at a German university once the pandemic allows for more travel. In the meantime, Joachim will prepare for the Offensive Security Certified Professional exam.
“I really can’t thank Dr. Coffman enough for pushing me to try harder,” Joachim said. “He’s the one who introduced me to the competitions and encouraged me to take this leap of faith. Also, Computer Science Professor Melissa Stange has been so incredible with her outside-the-box teaching style.”
Learn more about LFCC’s cybersecurity program at lfcc.edu/cybersecurity.
United States Attorney’s Office, FBI warn residents of online dangers facing children
As the world continues to operate in a more virtual environment due to COVID-19 restrictions, Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar and Christopher R. Derrickson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division are reminding people to continue to be vigilant when it comes to keeping your family safe online.
“The worldwide pandemic caused by COVID-19 has changed the way we interact with our community. Many of our school, work, and social events are now conducted online, making the need to be aware of the threats posed even greater,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar said today. “Parents need to be aware of who their children are communicating with, what apps they are using, and whether the games they are playing have a messaging or chat function. Predators can use all of these mechanisms to infiltrate our lives. The United States Attorney Office and our partners at the FBI are doing our part to keep you safe but we want parents, grandparents, and others to have as much information as possible to stay vigilant and protect their families as well.”
FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Derrickson urges parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of the internet and what to do if someone approaches them with an inappropriate request.
“Sextortion is not a crime defined by sex, race, education, geography, or a family’s affluence – any child can be a victim of sexual exploitation. The FBI is fully committed to working with our law enforcement partners to educate adults and children, investigate allegations, provide appropriate victim services, and prosecute predators,” Acting Special Agent in Charge Derrickson said today. “Prompt reporting is key in stopping these crimes, capturing the perpetrator, and preventing further victimization. The FBI relies on assistance from the community, especially in these types of sensitive investigations. Please do not be afraid or ashamed to contact authorities or tell a trusted adult to report suspected or actual exploitation.”
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Bubar, it is an unfortunate reality that individuals contact minors online and attempt to extort them, seeking inappropriate pictures or videos.
Last month in federal court in Roanoke, the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted a Roanoke man who had been communicating with an undercover federal agent he believed to be a 12-year-old. Over the course of several months, the defendant used online messaging apps to communicate with the victim, and several other minors, in attempts to convince them to send him nude pictures and videos of themselves.
Acting SAC Derrickson offered some advice on how parents can keep their children safe while navigating the ever-expanding online world:
Advice for Children:
- Be selective about what you share online.
- Be cautious of anyone you meet online for the first time – block/ignore messages from strangers.
- Know that people can pretend to be anything/anyone online. Images can be altered or stolen.
- Be suspicious if you meet someone on one app and they ask you to move to a different platform.
- Know and assume that any content you create online — texts, photos/images or videos — will be made public, permanently. Nothing “disappears” online, and once sent you have no control over where it goes.
- Be willing to ask for help.
Advice for Adults:
- Maintain active engagement with your children. Open the door and encourage an open and honest conversation about online activity and possible victimization.
- Place limits on internet use.
- Consider shutting down Wi-Fi during overnight hours.
- Review settings on social media and ensure they are set at the strictest level possible.
- Spot check phones and other devices.
- Know what apps are being used.
- Know who is communicating with your child.
- Be aware of what is being downloaded.
- Know passwords to electronic devices.
Most importantly, if you feel you may have been a victim, or have seen something online you believe may be illegal, report it immediately by calling your local police department or contacting the FBI at:
- FBI Richmond 804-261-1044
- FBI Tip-Line, 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324)
- FBI Online Tipline: tips.fbi.gov
Increase in fatal and non-fatal overdoses reported by Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force and partnering law enforcement agencies are warning the public about a recent spike in fatal and non-fatal overdoses. The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force has reported three fatal overdoses and thirteen non-fatal overdoses since last Tuesday. The recent increase in opioid related overdoses is likely a combination of received federal stimulus money and the presence of fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid fifty to one hundred times more potent than morphine. Two milligrams of fentanyl is potentially deadly for the average person. The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force reported a similar spike after federal stimulus money was received by the public in April of last year. Between April 14, 2020 and May 17, 2020, the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force reported that approximately eleven fatal and eleven non-fatal opioid related overdoses occurred during that time.
The most recent deaths include one in Shenandoah County, one in Frederick County, and one in Winchester. In addition, thirteen non-fatal overdoses were reported since last Tuesday; nine in Frederick County, three in Winchester, and one in Front Royal. The total number of reported overdoses in 2021 is twelve fatal, and forty one non-fatal. The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force reported twelve fatal, and thirty nine non-fatal overdoses at this time last year.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force is asking the public to share this information with others to spread awareness. Individuals who are living with addiction are encouraged to seek treatment. The task force is further emphasizing the importance for family and friends to routinely communicate with individuals living with addiction.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force is comprised of law enforcement personnel from Clarke, Frederick, Page and Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Departments, Front Royal, Luray, Strasburg, and Winchester Police Departments and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Culpeper Field Office.
Fauquier Health Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and Villa at Suffield Meadows allowing long awaited family visitations of loved ones
Prior to the holidays on December 11, 2020, Fauquier Health implemented a zero-visitor protocol at the hospital due to the documented increase in confirmed positive cases in our region. In early March of 2021, Fauquier Health was able to move back to a limited visitor policy due to the decrease in the number of confirmed positive cases in the region. Now, after a long awaited time, Fauquier Health has made the decision to allow family members and visitors to visit their loved ones at our senior care facilities. This includes Fauquier Health Rehabilitation & Nursing Center and the Villa at Suffield Meadows.
The Villa at Suffield Meadows, effective March 15, 2021, began allowing approved visitors and family members to start visiting with their loved ones face-to-face. Visitation in resident apartments will be permitted, in addition to foyer and outdoor visits. Visitors must call ahead 540.316.3800 to schedule a one-hour time slot for visitation.
This limited opening is in large part due to the vaccination efforts of the eligible participants as part of Phase 1a and Phase 1b. About 99% of the Villa residents have been fully vaccinated to date, which provides for a feeling of safety and security. Both the resident and visiting parties must continue to wear appropriate masks during all visits. If the resident and/or the visitor is not fully vaccinated, they need to maintain social distancing during the visit. Visitation is not permitted at this time in the common areas, during meals, or during activities.
Fauquier Health Rehabilitation and Nursing Center (FHRNC), which did not suffer any outbreaks during the last year, has also reopened to a limited-visitation policy. About 98% of the FHRNC residents have been fully vaccinated to date. With regards to visitation, a maximum of three approved visitors will be allowed to visit their loved ones face-to-face at one time, twice a week for a 20-minute period. Visits in resident rooms, except in special circumstances, are not permitted at this time. All visits will be in designated areas of the facility. Visitors may include children and each child counts as one of the three visitors, even infants.
Visitors at Fauquier Health Rehabilitation and Nursing Center (FHRNC) must also call ahead to make a reservation ahead of time. Visitors and family members can call to reserve their visit time 540.316.5500 or to inquire about the current visitation policy and details. Visit frequency will depend upon availability.
About Fauquier Health
Fauquier Health is a community health system dedicated to high-quality, patient-centered care in a unique environment that considers the multiple facets of healing and respects the individuality of each and every patient. Located at 500 Hospital Drive in Warrenton, Virginia, Fauquier Health serves the residents of Fauquier and several surrounding counties. It comprises Fauquier Hospital, a fully-accredited, 97-bed hospital; Fauquier Health Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 113-bed long-term care and rehabilitation facility; the Villa at Suffield Meadows, an assisted living facility; the Wound Health Center and a medically supervised Wellness Center offering health and wellness programs. Fauquier Health also operates nine physician’s offices, including primary care and specialties. More information on Fauquier Health is available online at FauquierHealth.org or by calling 540.316.5000.
Senate gets landmark voting legislation, but partisanship poses steep challenges
A House-passed package overhauling voting, improving election security, and reforming campaign finance laws is now in the Senate, where deep partisan divisions spell an uncertain fate for the landmark bill.
H.R. 1, also known as the For the People Act of 2021, is sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, and co-sponsored by every House Democrat. The measure passed the House on March 3 on a 220-210 party-line vote.
Sarbanes wrote in a letter on his website that H.R. 1 was “a once-in-a-generation reform effort to protect and expand the right to vote, clean up corruption in Washington and restore trust, transparency, and integrity in government.”
“Marylanders and Americans of all political stripes are demanding real change and accountability from their elected officials,” the congressman said. “People are deeply frustrated by the state of our political system – where voter suppression, extreme partisan gerrymandering, and big, dark, special-interest money drown out the voices of ordinary Americans.”
Sarbanes’s bill focuses on three major areas: setting federal standards to make it easier to register to vote and to cast a ballot, expanding public financing of congressional campaigns and requiring greater transparency on donors, and increasing accountability for public officials.
The voting section of the act aims to institute automatic voter registration, put an end to partisan gerrymandering and enhance federal support for voting system security.
In terms of campaign financing, the Sarbanes bill would require all organizations involved in political activity to disclose large donors. It also would create a “multiple matching system for small donations,” paid for by a surcharge on government settlements with corporations and individuals found to have violated federal laws.
In its third section, the bill establishes tighter ethical standards for conflicts of interest in the executive branch, requires the development of a code of ethics for justices on the Supreme Court, toughens foreign agents’ registrations, and expands requirements for registering as a lobbyist.
Rep. Andrew Harris, R-Cockeysville, was among a host of Republican critics of the elections measure.
“This bill is a partisan attempt to overhaul elections, and a complete sellout to the swamp, as it will aid embedded politicians by using hard-earned taxpayer dollars to fuel political campaigns,” Harris said in a statement.
Still, over 150 grassroots organizations have endorsed the Sarbanes proposal.
The Declaration for American Democracy is a coalition representing a range of labor, racial justice, faith, women’s rights, and environmental organizations.
“For far too long, special interests, wealthy donors, and vote suppressors have dominated our politics and attempted to silence the voices of everyday Americans, especially in Black and Brown communities,” the group said in a memo. “The For the People Act would help shift power away from bad actors and transfer it to ‘we the people.’”
In pre-taped remarks on Sunday, President Joe Biden said the legislation “is urgently needed to protect the right to vote, the integrity of our elections, and to repair and strengthen our democracy.”
He added that he hopes the Senate “does its work” so he can sign the legislation into law.
That may be a tall order for supporters of the bill, which would require 60 votes for passage. Even if all 50 Senate Democrats embrace the measure, GOP opposition appears nearly unanimous at this point.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, on Tuesday denounced the bill as an “effort to rewrite the ground rules of American elections and seize power from states and localities.”
“It’s quite the recipe for rebuilding public faith in our democracy on all sides — a purely partisan effort to seize unprecedented power for Washington D.C. on a razor-thin majority,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, “a hugely harmful idea at the worst possible time.”
H.R. 1 has yet to be scheduled on the Senate’s legislative calendar. But Democrats are divided over whether to attempt to abolish the filibuster, the 60-vote threshold for cutting off debate to pass major legislation. The filibuster may figure in the future of many House-passed bills facing Senate action – and Republican opposition.
“We’re going to figure out a way,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said in a recent interview with Politico.
“It’s a passion of mine to get (election reform) done when you see what they’re doing in the states to change voting rights,” Schumer said. “Everything’s on the table. We have to. What is not an option is not getting bold things done.”
By JENNIFER MANDATO
Capital News Service Washington Bureau
House clears two gun safety bills, but Senate may be roadblock
The House sent two bills to the Senate Thursday that would implement universal background checks and close the loophole linked to the 2015 mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Gun violence is devastating our communities. Every day, 30 people are killed by someone using a gun, a number that jumps to 100 if you factor in accidents and suicides involving guns,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-California, the sponsor of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 said in a statement.
Thompson’s bill was passed 227-203, with one Democrat voting against it and eight Republicans voting for it. The legislation would expand background checks on all firearm sales, closing the so-called gun show loophole and regulating online private sales.
“Background checks work, and expanding them would only make more people safe from gun violence,” Thompson said.
A second measure, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, passed 219-210, with two Republicans voting for and two Democrats voting against it.
This bill would nullify the “Charleston loophole” in federal law that allows for the sale of firearms to proceed even if a background check has not been completed after three business days. Instead, the new proposal would increase the waiting period from three days to 10.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, the author of the bill, said this “gap” in the law allowed a white supremacist to carry out the 2015 mass shooting of nine people at Mother Emanual AME Church in Charleston.
“These people who were practicing their faith, their faith that taught them to welcome in a stranger, a stranger came to their door and they welcomed into their Bible study, he sat with them for an hour,” Clyburn said on the House floor. “The stranger that they had welcomed in had opened fire and killed nine of them, one of whom was the pastor, a former intern of mine.”
Clyburn said his bill if it had been the law at the time, would have prevented the shooter from getting a gun.
Jason Ouimet, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, said the bills are transparent attempts to restrict Americans’ rights under the guise of addressing the country’s violent crime culture.
“By giving full power to unelected government bureaucrats to indefinitely delay and prevent lawful firearm transfers, (the Clyburn bill) could ultimately destroy the Second Amendment rights guaranteed to every law-abiding American by turning it into a privilege enjoyed by a select few,” Ouimet said in a statement.
He also said that the universal background checks in Thompson’s legislation could not be enforced without a federal gun registry.
Both bills are headed to a contentious Senate where passage will be an uphill battle. Ten Republicans – as well as all 50 Democrats – would need to support the proposals to pass them.
Legislation addressing the “Charleston loophole” left the House in 2019 but was stalled after then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, did not bring it up for a vote.
In a press conference Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said the Senate would vote on the matter.
“Last time it went to Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard,” Schumer said. “The legislative graveyard is over. We will see where everybody stands. No more thoughts and prayers. A vote is what we need.”
Republicans argue that the bills are unconstitutional and inadequate.
Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Pennsylvania, voted against both bills, saying they would threaten the Second Amendment and do nothing to keep Americans safer.
“These bills are being sold to the public as an effort to pass universal background checks, but House Democrats fail to recognize that every commercial gun sale in the United States already has a background check,” Meuser said after the vote. “Once again, Democrat leadership is proposing legislation that would do nothing to prevent criminals from accessing firearms, while greatly restricting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Republicans warn that Americans would suffer from the “ridiculous” criminal penalties that the Democrats’ legislation would put in place.
“For instance, if you loaned a friend a rifle to go hunting, they could face a year in prison and a $100,000 fine,” Meuser said. “The same would be true if you loan an abuse victim a firearm for self-defense. (Clyburn’s proposal) would create arbitrary delays for firearms purchases and could allow the FBI to delay a firearm transfer indefinitely.”
Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-North Dakota, said the two bills punish private citizens and add layers of red tape and delay for those who need immediate access to firearms for protection.
No date has been set yet for discussions to begin in the Senate. Democrats will either have to secure a new wave of bipartisan support or likely deal with a Republican filibuster that would take 60 votes to stop.
Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was among the 20 children and six adults killed in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, said in a statement “we need to put all we’ve got” into passing the background checks measures.
“This is our best chance in eight years to finally make this commonsense reform a reality,” said Hockley, who is with Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund.
By LUKE GENTILE
Capital News Service Washington Bureau