I've used VOIP for years at both my business and my house - but we still have a landline. Just a few other roadblocks we ran into that weren't mentioned:
I love the flexibility I get with VOIP, I can work from anywhere with a decent internet connection and have all kinds of routing options through my Asterisk server, but we still have our incoming calls defaulting to a POTS line that runs into the Asterisk box. VOIP is constantly gaining ground but it's not there yet.
This story seems to imply that the "man in a white van" was some pedophile or serial killer or whatever.
But there is a 99% or more chance that in fact he was the kid's father, or uncle or something, and that this incident was related to some family drama about child custody or the like.
True, but there's a 99% chance if the mysterious man WAS in fact a relative, he did not have the legal right to take the child. If he DID have the right, and he knew where the child was, there would have been no need to pull up in a van and kidnap the kid when he could have had the courts/police do the same thing.
Yes, I'm aware that our legal system is messed up and takes forever to process such things. However, since we're talking made-up statistics, there's a 99% chance that the man would still face significant consequences for his actions even if he was simply taking the law into his own hands to take the kid back while the police muddled through the paperwork and red tape.
Especially at the start of the school year, this is not at all uncommon. Parents panic, and justifiably so, but the kid is usually found pretty quick when the bus driver finds an extra child on the bus at the end of the route. I wouldn't say it's an everyday occurrence but definitely a few times each year.
Unfortunately the line between the Guard and the US military is very blurry and becoming moreso every day. A large number of the troops currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are National Guard. When I deployed back in 2005 for hurricane relief (after Katrina+Rita) we were on state orders for a few days, but it wasn't long before the federal government picked up the tab (which meant a few extra benefits for us). The various state National Guard budgets receive quite a bit of money from the Federal budget every year and report to the National Guard Bureau.
Not to turn this into a gun control discussion, but I don't think that today's version of the National Guard is really what the founding fathers had in mind as a "well-regulated militia." There are many varying interpretations of that bit of text, but none describe a branch of the military funded and controlled (albeit remotely) by the Federal government.
Unless one lives in an English speaking country outright, school is never going to be sufficient to learn a workable English—there is simply not enough time for practice. That's valid for English and any other language.
Many of my friends have had classes in Spanish either in high school or college. During my high school and college years I spent a lot of time waiting tables at various restaurants. The kitchen staff and bussers were almost invariably Hispanic, mostly immigrants from Mexico or South America. Later I spent a year managing a warehouse where many of the employees were immigrants. I learned quite a bit of Spanish language from them - especially words about food, boxes, trucks and profanity. While my friends can conjugate verbs and correct my Spanish grammar, I can actually communicate with Spanish-only individuals.
Actually, Americans are more likely to tell you that you need to speak English. I can't think of a single store in America where someone's going to try to find you a translator; most people simply don't have time for that level of customer service.
I live in Texas, north of Dallas but south of Oklahoma. We have a pretty big population of immigrants from central and south America. Many times the first generation speaks very little, if any, English. As a result many businesses and stores will have someone on staff who can speak Spanish and communicate with those customers. Many government forms are translated into Spanish. When my wife taught public school, every time she had to send a note home to her class she sent it in both English and Spanish (the receptionist translated). Most of the kids could speak English but often their parents could not. While I can speak a little bit, when I ran my retail store I made a point to have a fluent Spanish speaker on staff. I know that we got several sales from Spanish-speaking customers that most likely would have fallen through if we had to rely on my minimal Spanish vocabulary. At the moment I'm job-hunting and there are many, many jobs out there specifically looking for someone bi-lingual.
Other parts of the country may well be different, but in this area it's par for the course. Some businesses will, out of principle, refuse to translate anything or have a translator on staff. In most cases it's just good business sense to have at least some capability.
With other languages it's a crapshoot. We had some German customers in the store once who were vacationing. I had no way to translate for them, but I think unless you are in a business that deals with tourists from overseas on a regular basis then there's not much reason (from a strictly business perspective) to cater to that.
Unfortunately, many password systems will reject those passwords. I used to use a similar system, but started seeing errors about "your new password cannot use more than x characters from your old password." This of course means that they're saving my old passwords in plaintext or reversible encryption, which is a security risk in itself.
My most recent scheme is to use a pattern on the keyboard (yay for muscle memory). Usually I'll do the pattern once, then hold shift and do the same pattern. This gives you upper and lower case, and if you include a number or two it gives you numbers and punctuation. As long as your pattern is 5 characters long you'll pass 99% of the password rules out there (5 keys, hold shift then the same 5 keys makes 10 digits). When the time comes to change your password, shift the pattern one key to the left or right. This way I can at least guess my password in a few tries if I have to.
My fallback is this:
Stores the passwords on my palm pilot, encrypted. As long as I remember my decryption password and don't lose my palm pilot, I'm golden.
Disc space -- the final frontier!