May 29, 2011

Locally Speaking

SkyWheel Debuts In Myrtle Beach

Neal Gilstrap of Atlanta slid into the temperature-controlled gondola on the SkyWheel on Friday ready to be the first to take a spin on downtown Myrtle Beach's newest attraction.

"This has come a long way since the Ferris wheel with lap bars across you," he said as the gondola's doors closed.

Minutes later, "wows" and "whoas" filled the gondola as it climbed to its 187-foot peak, swayed a bit, then continued around three more times - with the thrill-seekers pointing out landmarks such as the Pavilion site, the boardwalk and even where one rider had parked his truck.

"Wow. It's awesome," said Gilstrap, who took the SkyWheel's inaugural trip Friday morning with his wife and daughter.

Gilstrap was among the hundred-plus - including locals, tourists who drove to town just for the opening and others who stumbled upon the event - who gathered in downtown Myrtle Beach near Mr. Joe White Avenue on Friday morning to christen the $12 million SkyWheel and Jimmy Buffett's LandShark Bar & Grill, both of which debuted after officials ceremoniously cut the ribbon and popped the tops of LandShark beer cans during a 10 a.m. ceremony.

Some came hours early determined to be among the first to ride, others just wanted to witness the big opening - snapping photos to capture the moment - but had no intention of riding it.

"We wanted to see it. We want to be where the action is," said Bob Morris of Myrtle Beach, who said the attraction was a long time coming. "They needed something different."

Officials say the attraction - debuting a year after the mile-long boardwalk in the same area - will be a key to bringing downtown Myrtle Beach back, giving it an iconic feature to compete with other tourist hubs in town. Downtown has struggled to find its place since The Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park shut down in 2006, and some locals and tourists said the SkyWheel - while it can't replace the Pavilion - will bring back some of that amusement feel.

"It's going to be huge," Myrtle Beach City Councilman Randal Wallace said. "It's the beginning of like a whole new era, rebirth of the whole area."

Officials touted what the ride could do for business and heralded the 150 jobs the ride and restaurant created.

Riders, though, were all about soaking up that bird's-eye view. The first 100 folks in line got to ride for free. A ride on the SkyWheel, which lasts about 12 minutes, costs $12 for adults, $8 for children ages 3 to 11.

"It was unbelievable," said Tony Rossi, who moved to Surfside Beach with his wife, Lori, about two weeks ago. "It's worth whatever they charge. What a great experience."

Mark and Misty Mills left their house in Belmont, N.C., near Charlotte, about 2 a.m. to get to Myrtle Beach in time to get in line. The repeat visitors to Myrtle Beach, who were in town last month, came just to ride the SkyWheel, and planned to leave by about 7 p.m. Friday. So was the ride worth the four-and-a-half-hour trip, one way?

"Every bit of it. It was well worth it," said Misty Mills, adding that she was a bit startled when the ride started swaying when stopped at the peak. "The view was spectacular."

But the debut didn't go off without glitches.

Misty Mills said she would have liked to have some music in the gondola, some beachy tunes to help set the tone. Music is supposed to play in the gondolas - a mix of rock hits - but wasn't working, officials said. Some riders said speakers in their gondolas repeated a line over and over saying the ride was ready to start, while others said the same song played repeatedly. Other gondolas didn't have any recorded instructions or music, as they should.

And some of the gates for passengers to pass through to get in the gondolas wouldn't open. The kinks were being worked out Friday, officials said.

Crews had scrambled until the last-minute getting the attraction ready, and officials had to shut the ride down from noon to 5 p.m. Friday to tweak the neon lights on the wheel's spokes, which will offer a nightly light show. Some of the lights weren't lighting Thursday night, as crews tested the ride using water-filled barrels in the gondolas as weight.

On Friday, as LandShark servers gave mini hot dogs and other samples to waiting riders, workers scurried around pouring concrete for sidewalks, watering freshly laid sod and tinkering with other pieces of the attraction.

"They were still doing construction yesterday," David Busker, president of Koch Development, which brought the attraction to Myrtle Beach along with Pacific Development, said Friday. "There are still a few things, finishing touches."

Stacie Smith, who is from California but owns a condo in Myrtle Beach, was more excited about the LandShark Bar & Grill - and its oceanfront deck - than the SkyWheel, which she said she wasn't planning to ride.

"No, never," she said after taking photos of the ride before the ribbon cutting ceremony. "I don't think I'll ever get on that thing. Looks kind of scary. ... I'm thrilled to see some oceanfront dining. I've always wondered why there wasn't more oceanfront dining."

Liz Authier of Surfside Beach won't get on the ride until Sunday, when she will be the first to get married on the SkyWheel.

"He just threw it out there thinking it would be funny," Authier said. "And I said yeah. ... We said, 'What the heck, let's do it.'"

Authier and Tom Zimpleman, who met on Match.com in October, had planned to get married, but couldn't come up with a place they both liked. They nixed the usual places: church, beach, a little chapel.

"We didn't want anything like formal or really big," Authier said. "It's different. I just wanted to do something different, not run of the mill."

About 400 people had taken a ride on the SkyWheel by about noon Friday, SkyWheel officials said, including Terry Smith of Myrtle Beach, who was the first rider to step into a gondola.

"It's awesome," he said while looking over the ocean as the wheel slowly moved. "My family is going to be, like ... aw, how'd you get the chance to do this?" -Sun News

Ragbag Headliners

U.S. Supreme Court upholds Arizona law punishing businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

The 5-3 ruling is a victory for supporters of a crackdown on illegal immigration. Opponents of the law, including the Obama administration, say it steps on traditional federal oversight over immigration matters. –CNN Reports

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Strapped States Trying To Trim Jobless Benefits

Some of the states that have drained their unemployment insurance funds are cutting the number of weeks that a laid-off worker can count on those benefits. Legislators are trying to limit tax increases for businesses to replenish the pool and are hoping the federal government keeps stepping in when the economy slumps.

Michigan, Missouri and Arkansas recently reduced the maximum number of weeks that the jobless can get state unemployment benefits. Florida is on the verge of doing so. Unemployment in those states ranges from 7.8 percent in Arkansas to 11.1 percent in Florida.

The benefit cuts come as legislatures deal with the damage that the recession inflicted on state unemployment insurance programs. The sharp increase in the number of people who lost their jobs drained the reservoir of money dedicated to paying out benefits.

About 30 states borrowed more than $44 billion from the federal government to continue payments to laid-off workers. Many states hastened the insolvency of their funds by keeping balances at historically low levels going into the downturn.

The burden of replenishing the funds and paying off the loans will fall primarily on businesses through higher taxes, but the benefit cuts are an effort to limit the tax increases.

States usually provide up to 26 weeks of benefits to laid-off workers. Michigan and Missouri have cut that to a maximum 20 weeks. Arkansas went to 25.

Florida is considering a more complex change that would link the duration of benefits to the strength of the economy. The cap would range from 23 weeks during periods of double-digit unemployment to as low as 12 weeks during periods of extremely low unemployment. The Florida Legislature approved the changes, but the governor hasn't signed the bill.

Once state benefits are exhausted, laid-off workers often are eligible for 13 weeks to 20 weeks of extended benefits. States and the federal government usually split the cost for that program. During recessions, Congress typically takes the aid a step further, providing several more months of emergency benefits entirely paid for by the federal government.

The actions taken by legislatures apply specifically to state benefits, but also will reduce future federal benefits because the changes affect the formula used to calculate them.

Allen McClendon, 40, of Kansas City, Mo., said he lost his job as a mechanic in August 2010 and has been getting unemployment benefits in Missouri since February. He said the payments allow him to buy food, make payments on his pickup truck and pay for gas and auto insurance. He is worried about what will happen if his state and federal benefits run out before he lands a job.

Before that happens, he hopes to get training from a Missouri employment center that would allow him to get a commercial driver's license or to repair heating and cooling units.

"If they run out before I've completed my schooling and I have not got a job, then I'm really in trouble," he said. "I'd so much rather be working than dealing with this," he said.

Benefits vary from state to state, but average about $300 a week, or about one-third of a recipient's previous wages.

In good economic times, most of the unemployed find a new job before their benefits expire. But in times of high unemployment, states have come to count on extra help from the federal government. Some say that reliance is playing a role in the bills to cap benefits.

"A lot of states are basically saying, 'Hey, why are we paying for these benefits when, in a recession, the federal government will step in?'" said Steve Woodbury, an economics professor at Michigan State University.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said relying on the federal government to keep up the cash flow is risky. She said last year's fight to extend unemployment benefits was difficult, with Democrats barely able to generate the votes necessary to pass a bill.

"I think it would be an error in judgment to assume that the Republican House would extend unemployment benefits," she said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Congress in the future might worry that repeated extensions of unemployment benefits would serve as a deterrent to finding a job.

"There's some truth to that" concern, said Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the program.

Employers pay both state and federal taxes for unemployment insurance. States collect the taxes that pay for basic benefits. The federal taxes help pay for administering the program and providing the federal government's share of extended benefits. State tax collections will have increased about 44 percent since 2009, according to the Department of Labor.

Still, as a percentage of wages paid, unemployment insurance taxes are at historically low levels, less than 1 percent. When the unemployment insurance program began in 1938, the tax rate for unemployment insurance averaged about 2.7 percent of wages.

Nevertheless, higher taxes in tough economic times are challenging businesses. States apply their highest tax rates to those industries with the most worker turnover. Those often are the same industries that are hardest hit by recession, such as manufacturers.

In Florida, the minimum tax that is applied to businesses with low employee turnover went up from about $25 per employee to about $72 this year. The maximum tax for businesses with high turnover remained at $378 per employee.

Companies could use that tax money to keep their doors open or to expand and hire more workers, said Teye Reeves, a policy director for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

"For our economy to thrive again, we need businesses to be strong," Reeves said. "They want to have more employees. They want to open new stores. ... They've got to have the capital to be able to provide those jobs."

But Rick McHugh, of the National Employment Law Project, argued that legislatures should not shore up their unemployment insurance programs by making workers share the pain.

"It's not a shared-sacrifice situation because, certainly in most states, employer organizations lobbied to keep the programs from being properly funded in advance of the recession," McHugh said. "Now, they're saying the program is broke so we have to cut benefits"

McHugh said he's worried that more states will seek to limit benefits when legislatures return to work next spring. Most have adjourned for the year.

"It's really a threat to the vitality of the safety nets because each state feels pressure to go to that lowest common denominator," McHugh said. –MSNBC

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Defense: Caylee Drowned In Her Grandparents' Pool

Two-year-old Caylee Anthony was not murdered by her mother as prosecutors maintain, but drowned in the family's pool in June 2008, Casey Anthony's defense attorney told jurors during opening statements Tuesday.

Casey Anthony and her father, George Anthony, panicked upon finding the child, Jose Baez said. Anthony found her father cradling Caylee's body the morning of June 16, 2008, he said, and George Anthony yelled at his daughter, "Look what you've done. Your mother will never forgive you." He told her she would go to jail for child neglect, Baez said.

"This is a tragedy that snowballed out of control," Baez said. "This is not a murder case. This is not a manslaughter case ... this is a tragic accident that happened to some very disturbed people."

Anthony is accused of killing Caylee in 2008 and lying about it to investigators. The Orlando trial, which comes after nearly three years of legal twists, turns and delays, has garnered interest nationwide. –Read more at CNN Justice

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Square Seeks To Replace Cash Register With Revamped App

Like countless others, Jack Dorsey thinks cell phones can replace wallets.

But the Square co-founder, who also invented Twitter, is introducing an unusual system for accomplishing that task -- one that looks more like Foursquare than the popular tap-and-pay model.

Square's new system works through its updated app, available for iPhone, Android and iPad. Tap on the icon, check into a store from a list of nearby locations and take your items to the register. The cashier finds your name in the list, and payment is taken from your account, which is linked to your credit card.

Under the system, you no longer need to tap your phone against a scanner or swipe your credit card through Square's little plastic reader. Once you're signed up, you don't even need to carry a credit card.

Square announced the new version of its mobile application Monday at a news conference at its office in the San Francisco Chronicle building here. It's available for free from the Apple and Google app stores. –Read more at CNN Tech

A “Doctored” Fake Document

It is amazing and fascinating what one can do with a computer. For instance, one can alter documents and photographs, and make them "look like" they are "original, authentic, and true", when in fact they are fake. However, one who is computer savvy can detect whether [or not] a document or photo had been altered and "doctored", and how it was altered and "doctored". For a classic example, watch the video below.

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Obama Birth Certificate
Faked In Adobe Illustrator
Official Proof 1 (Layers)

2011 Myrtle Beach
Harley Davidson Spring Rally
(Pics From Sun News)

A Texas Midget

A Texas midget went to see the doctor. He complained of pain in his groin area whenever he walked.

The doctor told him to climb onto the examining table, stand on the table, and drop his pants so he can take a look.

The midget did exactly as requested. The doctor then started to examine him.

"Hmmmm ... " the doctor mumbled.

Then, putting one finger under the midget's left testicle, the doctor told the midget to turn his head and cough---the usual method to check for hernia. Next, the doctor put his finger under the right and asked the midget to cough again.

"Aha!" said the doctor, and reached for his surgical scissors.

Snip-snip-snip-snip on the right side...and then snip-snip-snip-snip on the left side.

The midget was so scared, he was afraid to look, but noted with amazement that the snipping did not hurt at all. The doctor then told the midget to get off the table and walk around the room to see if the pain was still present.

The midget was absolutely amazed and delighted as he walked around to discover that the pain was completely gone.

The doctor asked, "How do you feel now?"

The midget replied, "Perfect, Doc, and I didn't even feel any pain while you were doing the snipping. What did you do?"

The doctor replied, "I cut two inches off the top of your cowboy boots..."

Author Unknown
“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon,
but that we wait so long to begin it”


~ W.M. Lewis ~

There Is Something Terribly Wrong!

While there have been recent extensive radio, TV and front page newspaper coverage about the puerile behavior and conduct of:

 > Charlie Sheen, age 45, the movie and TV star, who is also a known substance abuser and sexually promiscuous adulterer;

 > Lindsay Lohan age 24, another movie and TV star, who is also a known drug addict, repeated parole violator, and thief; along with

 > many other drug and sex addicts, criminals, free-loaders, knuckleheads, and social parasites, there has been hardly any mention (if at all) in the news media about:

> Justin Allen, age 23;
> Brett Linley, age 29;
> Matthew Weikert, age 29;
> Justus Bartett, age 27
> Dave Santos, age 21
> Jesse Reed, age 26;
> Matthew Johnson, age 21;
> Zachary Fisher 24;
> Brandon King, age 23;
> Christopher Goeke, age 23; and
> Sheldon Tate, age 27 ... 

the U.S. Marines, who, like many thousands of men and women in the military, have sacrificed their lives so that, in full freedom, every American, including the above-mentioned Hollywood celebrities and social liabilities and misfits, can personally engage in the pursuit of happiness.

There is something terribly wrong with the present priorities and values in the USA and in the World!

There is something terribly wrong when the bad elements in society have become the main focus of attention and the ruling power(s), while the good elements have been almost completely, [if not altogether], ignored.

There is something terribly wrong when the world's reigning Superpower allows cheaters, liars, tax evaders, thieves, and violators of the U.S. Constitution to be its national, state, and local leaders.

There is something terribly wrong when the news media allow themselves to be bribed and/or threatened by a person or a group to lie, skew reports, and cover up the truth.

There is something terribly wrong when the majority of voters allow themselves to be blinded by party loyalty, ignore the truth, and elect to office a head of state who is a liar and willingly support his and his cohort's lies.

Author Unknown

Sunday, May 22, 2011
Joplin, MO … Deadly Tornado
(Pics by Yahoo News)

We Honor You For Honoring Us
Happy Memorial Day

May 22, 2011

This Weeks Sound Off

$2M Michigan Lottery Winner Defends Use Of Food Stamps

Detroit News
Ron French, Detroit News staff writer

A Michigan man who won $2 million in a state lottery game continues to collect food stamps 11 months after striking it rich.

And there's nothing the state can do about it, at least for now.

Leroy Fick, 59, of Auburn won $2 million in the state lottery TV show "Make Me Rich!" last June. But the state's Department of Human Services determined he was still eligible for food stamps, Fick's attorney, John Wilson of Midland, said Tuesday.

Eligibility for food stamps is based on gross income and follows federal guidelines; lottery winnings are considered liquid assets and don't count as income. As long as Fick's gross income stays below the eligibility requirement for food stamps, he can receive them, even if he has a million dollars in the bank.

Food stamps are paid for through tax dollars and are meant to help support low-income families.

"If you're going to try to make me feel bad, you're not going to do it," Fick told WNEM-TV in Saginaw on Monday.

Wilson said Fick told the DHS officials he'd won $2 million but was told he could keep using the Bridge Card issued to him to buy groceries.

Fick could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Al Kimichik, director of the office of inspector general for DHS, said the department could not comment on individual cases but that it this week began the process of requesting a waiver from the federal government to close the lottery loophole. If it is granted, assets would be counted in determining food stamp eligibility.

Though the food stamp program is federal and states must follow U.S. guidelines, states sometimes request waivers of rules. Michigan was granted a waiver recently to stop college students from qualifying for food stamps.

"For Leroy Fick to continue to use a Bridge Card, paid for by the taxpayers, after winning the lottery, is obscene," said Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge. "What a waste of taxpayer money."

Jones contacted DHS officials Monday about Fick's case, and was told the department's hands were tied by federal regulations.

"There is no liquid asset requirement for getting food stamps," Jones said. "The department is asking the federal government for an immediate change (in policy). They're hoping this case will help the federal government act."

Until then, Fick can collect food stamps and keep his lottery winnings in the bank.

"I am not going to sit and debate the ethics of this," Wilson said. "But from his standpoint, he did what he was supposed to do -- he informed the state, and the state said he could keep using the card. The problem is with the state." -Yahoo News 

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Leroy Fick, you’re an idiot and no better than undocumented aliens taking advantage of the system. If you’ve used any of the food stamps since winning, I hope the state takes their money back. Taking benefits from American’s who need it most, you in particular, should be ashamed, even for winning $2 million dollars. I’m just saying!

Locally Speaking

NOAA Forecasters Predict Above-Normal Hurricane Season

Coastal residents living along the Atlantic Ocean can expect to see an above-normal hurricane season this year, according to the seasonal outlook issued by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

NOAA forecasters predict there will be 12 to 18 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher and of those six to 10 could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher. Of those hurricanes, forecasters predict three to six major hurricanes, which are Category 3, 4 or 5 and have winds of 111 mph or higher.

Each of these ranges has a 70 percent likelihood, and indicate that activity will exceed the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes, according to forecasters in a release.

"The United States was fortunate last year. Winds steered most of the season’s tropical storms and all hurricanes away from our coastlines,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “However we can’t count on luck to get us through this season. We need to be prepared, especially with this above-normal outlook.”

In the release officials said climate factors considered for the outlook include:

The continuing high activity era. Since 1995, the tropical multi-decadal signal has brought ocean and atmospheric conditions conducive for development in sync, leading to more active Atlantic hurricane seasons.

Warm Atlantic Ocean water. Sea surface temperatures where storms often develop and move across the Atlantic are up to two degrees Fahrenheit warmer-than-average.

La NiƱa, which continues to weaken in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, is expected to dissipate later this month or in June, but its impacts such as reduced wind shear are expected to continue into the hurricane season.

“In addition to multiple climate factors, seasonal climate models also indicate an above-normal season is likely, and even suggest we could see activity comparable to some of the active seasons since 1995,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlook does not predict where and when any of these storms may hit, according to forecasters. Landfall is dictated by weather patterns in place at the time the storm approaches.

“The tornadoes that devastated the South and the large amount of flooding we’ve seen this spring should serve as a reminder that disasters can happen anytime and anywhere. As we move into this hurricane season it’s important to remember that FEMA is just part of an emergency management team that includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal governments, the private sector and most importantly the public,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said.

“Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to get your plan together for what you and your family would do if disaster strikes. Visit ready.gov to learn more. And if you’re a small business owner, visit www.ready.gov/business to ensure that your business is prepared for a disaster,” Fugate said. –Sun News

Ragbag Headliners

Supreme Court OKs More Warrantless Searches 

The U.S. Supreme Court has made it significantly easier for police to force their way into a home without a warrant. On Monday, the court, by an 8-1 vote, upheld the warrantless search of an apartment after police smelled marijuana and feared that those inside were destroying incriminating evidence.

The Constitution bars warrantless searches except in certain circumstances — for example, when police fear that evidence of a crime is being destroyed. The question in this case was whether police, by themselves creating such emergency circumstances, unconstitutionally evade the warrant requirement.

The case came from Lexington, Ky., where police pursuing a drug suspect banged on the door of an apartment where they thought they smelled marijuana. After loudly identifying themselves, police heard movement inside, and suspecting that evidence was being destroyed, kicked in the door. There they found Hollis Deshaun King, smoking marijuana. Police also found cocaine inside the apartment.

As it turned out, King was not the suspect police had been looking for, but the drug evidence in the apartment was more than enough to charge him with multiple crimes. King was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

But the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the drugs found in the apartment could not be used as evidence because the only emergency circumstances were those created by the police loudly alerting those inside. The state court said that instead of banging on the door and letting the inhabitants know the police were there, the police should have requested a warrant, a procedure that usually takes only a matter of minutes.

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, disagreed with the state court. The justices said that the Fourth Amendment bars unreasonable searches, and here the police acted reasonably. Writing for the court majority, Justice Samuel Alito noted that when occupants respond to a police knock on the door, they are not required to grant police permission to enter their homes. But, he said, if there is no response, and police hear movement inside that suggests destruction of evidence, they are justified in breaking in.

Criminal law experts said the ruling will undoubtedly lead to more warrantless searches like this one. In practice, says George Washington University law professor Stephen Saltzburg, the decision means that "whenever the police have suspicion that there is drug activity going on in a particular apartment or house and they knock and they hear movement inside and any reasonable delay in opening the door, they are going to break it in."

Saltzburg, author of a leading text on criminal law, says the decision resolves conflicting decisions in the lower courts. "It provides greater clarity to the police as to what they are permitted to do, and it provides less protection for homes and apartments than a lot of people thought they had and think they should have," he says.

Philip Heymann, former head of the U.S. Justice Department's Criminal Division and now a professor at Harvard Law School, says the standard laid out in Monday's decision will be very tempting for law enforcement officers to abuse — namely, allowing police to break in and search without a warrant when they knock on the door and hear sounds suggesting destruction of evidence. "That is a very fuzzy, indeterminate, easily faked — if the policeman wants to — test, when drugs have afterwards been found," says Heymann.

And that, says University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt, will mean a different set of police imperatives. "Once there is probable cause to believe that there are drugs in a home — and in this case the probable cause was the smell of marijuana emanating from the home ... the police no longer need to stop and think about whether they should get a warrant."

These and other criminal law experts said that under Monday's ruling, police could go door to door in an apartment complex where there is known drug activity, and if they smell marijuana, bang on the door and if they hear noises that suggest the destruction of incriminating evidence, they can break in and seize evidence in plain sight.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the lone dissenter from the court's ruling, accused the majority of "arm[ing] the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement in drug cases. In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate," she said, "police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant." -NPR 

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Japan's Economy Falters, Country In Recession

Japan's economy, sputtering since the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, has fallen into recession, according to government figures released Thursday.

The country's gross domestic product fell by an annualized rate of 3.7% in the first quarter of the calendar year, according to the government, a much steeper fall than Japanese economists had predicted.

Comparing the first quarter to the previous year, according to Japan's cabinet office, the GDP fell 0.9%. In the fourth quarter of 2010, the GDP fell 0.8% as compared to the same quarter of the previous year. Thursday's GDP figures show a second consecutive quarterly drop, which fits the economic definition of a recession.

Industrial output in March was down 15.3%, the worst monthly drop in the country's history.

Businesses in the region affected by the tsunami were hit hard, with 10,000 of 24,000 businesses affected and 600 expected to close.

The figures, which did not include data from tourism or trade, underscore the fact that the natural disaster of March has become an economic disaster. –CNN World

America's New Threat: China's Spies

He had been a seemingly all-American, clean-cut guy: No criminal record. Engaged to be married. A job teaching English overseas. In letters to the judge, loved ones described the 29-year-old Midwesterner as honest and caring — a good citizen. His fiancee called him "Mr. Patriot."

Such descriptions make the one that culminated in the courtroom all the more baffling: Glenn Shriver was also a spy recruit for China. He took $70,000 from individuals he knew to be Chinese intelligence officers to try to land a job with a U.S. government agency — first the State Department and later the CIA.

And Shriver is just one of at least 57 defendants in federal prosecutions since 2008 charging espionage conspiracies with China or efforts to pass classified information, sensitive technology or trade secrets to intelligence operatives, state-sponsored entities, private individuals or businesses in China, according to an Associated Press review of U.S. Justice Department cases.

Of those, nine are awaiting trial, and two are considered fugitives. The other defendants have been convicted, though some are yet to be sentenced.

Most of these prosecutions have received little public attention — especially compared with the headline splash that followed last summer's arrest of 10 Russian "sleeper agents" who'd been living in suburban America for more than a decade but, according to Attorney General Eric Holder, passed no secrets.

Contrast that with this snapshot:

—In Honolulu, a former B-2 bomber engineer and one-time professor at Purdue gets 32 years in prison for working with the Chinese to develop a vital part for a cruise missile in a case that a high-ranking Justice Department official said resulted in the leak of "some of our country's most sensitive weapons-related designs."

—In Boston, a Harvard-educated businessman is sent to prison, along with his ex-wife, for conspiring for a decade to illegally export parts used in military radar and electronic warfare systems to research institutes that manufacture items for the Chinese military. The Department of Defense concluded the illegal exports "represented a serious threat to U.S. national and regional defense security interests."

—In Los Angeles, a man goes to jail for selling Raytheon-manufactured thermal imaging cameras to a buyer in Shanghai whose company develops infrared technology. The cameras are supposed to be restricted for export to China because of "their potential use in a wide variety of military and civilian applications," according to court documents.

—And in Alexandra, Va., there is Shriver, who told the judge quite simply: "Somewhere along the way, I climbed into bed with the wrong people."

All five of these defendants were sentenced over just an 11-day span earlier this year.

In Shriver's case, when once he asked his Chinese handlers — "What, exactly, do you guys want?" — the response, as detailed in court documents, was straightforward.

"If it's possible," they told him, "we want you to get us some secrets or classified information."

Despite denials from Beijing, counterintelligence experts say the cases reveal the Chinese as among the most active espionage offenders in America today, paying more money and going to greater lengths to glean whatever information they can from the United States.

Just after the New Year, at an airfield in Chengdu, the Chinese military unveiled its first prototype stealth fighter jet: A radar-eluding plane called the J-20, which made its maiden test flight even as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Beijing on a rare visit.

If most Americans paid little attention, U.S. defense analysts were watching closely. And they were caught a bit off-guard.

Gates would later acknowledge that the flight came six months to a year before intelligence estimated it might happen.

So how did the Chinese do it? Was it reverse-engineering from parts taken after an American aircraft was shot down over Serbia in 1999, as some Balkan military officials alleged in interviews with The Associated Press?

Or was some of the technological know-how obtained through a U.S. engineer who spent several years working illegally to help the Chinese develop stealth technology?

A federal prosecutor raised the possibility of a link between the activities of Noshir Gowadia, once a key engineer on America's B-2 bomber program, and the faster-than-expected development of Chinese stealth aircraft designs. The comments came just before Gowadia was sentenced to prison in a Honolulu court in January on espionage charges. He was convicted of 14 counts, including communicating national defense information to aid a foreign nation and violating the Arms Export Control Act.

"China aggressively seeks U.S. defense technologies, and the People's Liberation Army are now shown to have been actively working on stealth aircraft designs, most certainly during Gowadia's visits there," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson wrote in a court filing, noting Gowadia worked in and with China for two years developing a stealth engine nozzle design.

In an interview, Sorenson said he couldn't comment on any evidence of a link but added that "when an expert of that quality lands on your shores, and you're interested in developing stealth technologies ... don't you think it's reasonable to assume that to some degree he's assisting them in overall development? That is the kind of stakes we talk about when we talk about the transfer of these U.S.-born military technologies."

For years, U.S. counterintelligence experts have cited a growing espionage threat from China, the product of an ever-more competitive world in which technology is as vital as political intelligence — but a sign, too, of China's increasing prosperity, persistence and patience.

Recent cases reveal not only a high level of activity but also signs of changing tactics and emboldened efforts. In one case, a convicted spy managed to convince not one but two U.S. government officials to pass him secret information, telling them it was going to Taiwan when he instead passed it to a Chinese official.

The recruitment of more non-Chinese, such as Shriver and Gowadia (an India-born, naturalized U.S. citizen), also represents a shift, said Larry Wortzel, a former Army intelligence officer who serves on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. In the past, said Wortzel, China preferred to deal with those "assessed as sympathetic to China or with ethnic Chinese."

And then there are the so-called "espionage entrepreneurs," motivated simply by money.

When asked about the recent cases, the Chinese Foreign Ministry questioned the statistics, responding in a faxed statement: "To speak of the Chinese side's so-called 'espionage activities' in the United States is pure nonsense with ulterior motives."

However, Joel Brenner, who served as the U.S. National Counterintelligence Executive from 2006 to 2009, said: "The Chinese espionage threat has been relentless recently ... we've never seen anything like it. Some of it's public. Some of it's private. And some of it lies in that ambiguous area in between."

Today's "agents" are professors and engineers, businessmen exporting legitimate products while also shipping restricted technology and munitions, criminal capitalists who see only dollar signs. While some may be acting at the direction of a government handler, others supply information to firms for either private enterprise or state-sponsored research — or both.

Driving all of this, U.S. officials said, are China's desire to develop a modernized military and its burgeoning wealth; last year China surpassed Japan as the world's second-largest economy, behind only the United States.

"They have more money to pay for things," said Steve Pelak, a deputy chief of the Justice Department's counterespionage section who points to the amounts given to Shriver before he was ever in a position to access, much less pass, secrets.

Still more money is going to private firms to help develop and build China's military technology, sometimes through parts obtained illegally from U.S. manufacturers.

Indeed most of the Justice Department cases reviewed by the AP involve the illegal export of restricted defense-related parts or so-called "dual-use" technology, which can have commercial or military applications. These are items such as integrated circuits for radar systems, high-power amplifiers designed for use in early-warning radar and missile target acquisition systems, and military grade night-vision technology.

But that only scratches the surface. Other cases involve the theft of trade secrets by individuals once employed at major U.S. corporations, including Boeing, Motorola and Dow. In some instances, the secrets were computer source codes or, in cases still awaiting trial, related to the development of organic pesticides and telephone communications technology.

Stolen information about the space shuttle and technical data about the capabilities of the U.S. Navy's nuclear-powered submarines have also been passed along, as has simulation software used to help train fighter pilots.

While export cases and economic espionage comprise most of the China-related intelligence prosecutions in recent years, there have been a few notable instances of more traditional espionage — among them the Shriver case and that of Tai Shen Kuo, a Louisiana businessman born in Taiwan who obtained information from two federal government employees that he passed to China.

It all fits into what some experts call China's "vacuum cleaner" approach to information-collection: Catch whatever you can.

"It's a little like ... the cancer that you don't know your body has. You don't know that you're in trouble until it manifests itself in ways that really, really hurt you," said Michelle Van Cleave, another former National Counterintelligence Executive who served under President George W. Bush.

She points to revelations that surfaced throughout the 1990s regarding China's procurement of U.S. nuclear secrets. The public controversy came to a head in 1999, when a select congressional committee was named to investigate Chinese espionage and security concerns at U.S. weapons labs.

Then came the government's bungled handling of Wen Ho Lee, the former scientist once identified as the focus of a probe into the theft of nuclear secrets at Los Alamos National Laboratory who wound up pleading guilty to a single count of downloading sensitive material.

Intelligence assessments later concluded that China's successful nuclear espionage effort dated back to at least the late 1970s, and reports blamed everything from foreign visitor and scientific exchange programs to espionage on the part of scientists such as Peter Lee, another Los Alamos researcher who did share classified information with Chinese scientists.

But as Van Cleave points out: The exact methods used to acquire those secrets may never be known.

"We know they have them," she said. "We just don't know how they got them."

Today, with ever more cases being prosecuted, we do know more — not only about what's being pursued, but how and why.

"If you have customers in mainland China, please let us know if we could be of any help. In China, it seems impossible for most companies to buy directly from US. We can act as middleman for you."

It was 1996 and Zhen Zhou "Alex" Wu, a one-time schoolteacher in his native China who later studied at Harvard, was e-mailing a firm to pitch his new business: A company dedicated to selling electronics components to Chinese customers. Based in Shenzhen, China, the company, Chitron, opened a single U.S. office in Waltham, Mass., to acquire and ship desired technology.

The Massachusetts firm, federal authorities now say, was merely a front to facilitate the export of defense technology from U.S. manufacturers to Chinese military-related institutes. And Wu now sits in a federal prison after being sentenced in January to eight years for conspiring to illegally export restricted technologies.

According to the Department of Defense, the exported items are "vital for Chinese military electronic warfare, military radar, fire control, military guidance and control equipment, and satellite communications." Also included: parts "that the People's Liberation Army actively seeks to acquire."

The use of front companies, or private firms that may also do legitimate business, is a common way that China seeks information, said Pelak, who in 2007 was appointed the Justice Department's first national export control coordinator, focusing on illegal export of munitions and sensitive technology. Prosecutions have since gone up, and today two-thirds of federal illegal export cases involve either China or Iran.

"Those private firms, in China and operating elsewhere, they're paid money to do this and they have great incentive to be doing it," said Pelak.

Take the case of William Chi-Wai Tsu, a naturalized U.S. citizen and electrical engineer serving a three-year prison sentence for illegally shipping several hundred thumbnail-size integrated circuits to a Beijing company called Dimagit Science & Technology. Investigators said the circuits have a variety of potential applications, including use in sophisticated communications and military radar systems.

Dimagit's catalog, according to court records, displayed images of Chinese military craft and promised: "We unswervingly take providing the motherland with safe, reliable and advanced electronic technical support to revitalize the national defense industry as our mission. Ride the wind and cleave the waves, and set sail to cross the sea."

Among Dimagit's clients: a research institute affiliated with the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

Court records reviewed by the AP describe how Tsu went about acquiring restricted parts: He created a fictitious company called Cheerway Trading and used the California address of a friend for shipping. He then provided false end-user statements to American electronics distributors, promising that the parts he sought were not for export but for domestic use — specifically a project with Cisco Systems. If a distributor pressed Tsu, he would claim that nondisclosure agreements prevented him from providing more detail.

Similar tactics were used in a case still awaiting sentencing in Seattle. Lian Yang, a former software engineer at Microsoft, pleaded guilty in late March to attempting to buy restricted technology for a "partner" in China — specifically 300 radiation-hardened programmable semiconductor devices that are used in satellites.

Yang told a confidential FBI source that he had old school friends in China who'd made money importing electronic components from the United States. He suggested creating a fake U.S. company to list as the end-user for parts that would, in actuality, be exported to China.

"Say we need it (the parts) for R and D," he said, meaning research and development, further suggesting that the informant be listed as the company contact because that individual had a non-Chinese name. "And I will be the secret shareholder," said a laughing Yang, according to a court affidavit.

Yang was arrested last Dec. 3 after he handed $20,000 to undercover agents in exchange for five of the semiconductor devices. He later confessed that he intended to drive to Canada and then fly to China to deliver the parts himself. His sentencing is set for June 30.

"Boiled down to its essence, the defendant's offense amounted to a form of espionage on behalf of the People's Republic of China," prosecutors argued in court papers.

However, some defense attorneys counter that these export cases aren't espionage at all or even deliberate attempts to circumvent U.S. laws — but rather an outgrowth of confusing policies and, perhaps, overzealous prosecutors.

In the Chitron case, appeals lawyers for Alex Wu insist U.S. export regulations don't make clear enough what can and cannot be legally exported.

"Wu and others at his firm were not equipped and did not have the training needed to understand this country's extremely complicated export control laws," said his lawyer, Michael Schneider.

Stephanie Siegmann, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, responded that evidence clearly showed that Wu did understand the export restrictions. One spreadsheet found on his computer was titled, "GP (Gross Profit) for USA Restricted Military Parts." In e-mails he repeatedly instructed an employee, "Do not say you export parts. Just say you are broker."

To get around export laws, court documents said, Chitron workers identified defense-related parts as "electronics components" classified as "No License Required" and falsely listed freight forwarders in Hong Kong (where U.S. export policies are more lenient) as the end-user.

Among the parts exported: phase shifters used in military radar systems.

"With such equipment," the Department of Defense's Defense Technology Security Administration concluded, "China could defeat U.S. weapon systems."

Earlier this year, retired FBI agent I.C. Smith gave a speech called "China's Mole" at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. It was about a man who landed a job with the Central Intelligence Agency and later turned out to be a spy for China.

As Smith told a rapt audience: "The intelligence community had been penetrated."

He was referring to one of the most damaging Chinese espionage cases of all time: the infiltration of Larry Chin, a naturalized U.S. citizen who in 1986 admitted to spying for China during his almost three decades with the CIA. As a former Chinese counterintelligence supervisor, Smith helped investigate Chin, who later committed suicide.

Smith was stunned to learn of the 5½-year recruitment of Glenn Shriver and China's "run at the front door" of America's pre-eminent intelligence agency.

"The Chinese," Smith said, "still have the capacity to surprise."

How did they do it in Shriver's case? Standing before a federal judge on a blustery day in January, Shriver tried to explain how he went down the path to betrayal.

"It started out fairly innocuous," he recalled. During a college study-abroad program in Shanghai, he was taken with Chinese culture and became proficient in Mandarin. After graduating from Grand Valley State University in Michigan in 2004, he returned to China to look for work.

Shriver was just 22 years old when, in October 2004, he first met a woman in Shanghai who would introduce him to the Chinese intelligence officers who persuaded him to consider turning against his own country. According to court documents, he'd responded to an English-language ad looking for scholars of East Asian studies to write political papers.

He met several times with a woman called "Amanda," delivered to her a paper about U.S.-China relations regarding North Korea and Taiwan, and was paid $120.

She later asked Shriver if he'd be interested in meeting some other people — two men he came to know as "Mr. Wu" and "Mr. Tang." Over the next several years, they would meet at least 20 times.

As outlined in court documents and Shriver's own statements, the conversations, at first, focused on developing a "friendship." The men asked Shriver what type of work he was interested in and said that if he planned on seeking a job with a U.S. government agency, "we can be close friends." Had he ever thought about working for the U.S. State Department or, perhaps, the CIA? "That would be pretty good," they told him.

"Only one time was I told that they would like secrets," Shriver told the judge.

Six months after first meeting "Amanda," Shriver applied for a job as a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department. Though he failed the foreign service exam, the intelligence officers paid him $10,000. A year later, in April 2006, he took the exam a second time but again failed. He was nevertheless paid $20,000.

Then, in June 2007, Shriver applied for a position in the clandestine branch of the CIA. A few months later, he asked the Chinese intelligence officers for $40,000 for his efforts.

During all this time, friends and family — Shriver's mother, especially — thought he was just trying to figure out what to do with his life. He moved for a while to Los Angeles, and talked about becoming a police officer or joining the Peace Corps. Eventually he returned overseas, this time to Korea, where he taught English and got engaged to a girl named Yumi.

No one knew he was continuing to communicate with his Chinese handler, "Amanda."

In June 2010, Shriver underwent a series of final security screening interviews at the CIA in Virginia, during which he lied in response to questions about any previous affiliation with foreign intelligence officers. A week later, he was arrested — U.S. officials wouldn't disclose what led them to him — and his clandestine life unraveled.

"Nobody knew. Nobody," said his mother, Karen Chavez. "He was a good kid. Worked, earned money, was respectful. ... I don't know what he was thinking."

The closest her son came to an explanation was when he told the sentencing judge: "I think I was motivated by greed."

In a telephone interview from prison in April, Shriver tried to expand on that.

"When you're 23 years old living in a very fun city, you almost get addicted to money and you just kind of have it on tap," he told the AP. "After a while it's kind of like: OK, I'm kind of up on what these guys are doing. But by then it's just money getting thrown at you. I'm just like ... I can apply to this, get some money and then just continue on with my life."

Even now he wonders aloud: "What, exactly, did I do that was so illegal?"

Shriver pleaded guilty to conspiracy to communicate national defense information and is serving a four-year prison term.

It's true that he was, after all, never in a position to actually do any spying. No harm done? That may depend on how you look at it.

"This case shows an aggressive attempt by (China) to recruit an American citizen and attempt to place him in one of the nation's premier intelligence agencies," said Neil MacBride, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, whose office has handled a number of China-related intelligence cases.

"Foreign intelligence services are watching," he said, "and they're looking for any weakness they can identify and exploit."

__________________________

Pauline Arrillaga, a Phoenix-based national writer for The Associated Press, can be reached at features(at)ap.org. –NewsMax

Ariz. Sheriff: Feds Order Release Of Illegals To Phony Up Numbers

WHO INSIDE the federal government and which non-govermental organization (NGO) is behind the ORDER (in Arizona and other states) to "RELEASE illegal immigrants" in order to give a FALSE picture to the general public that "things are improving and OK" when compared to what is ACTUALLY happening about the USA's illegal immigration issue.
The U.S. Border Patrol has told its agents to stop arresting illegal aliens crossing the border from Mexico to keep the illegal immigration numbers down, Arizona Sheriff Larry Dever tells Newsmax.

He also charges that Attorney General Eric Holder is “holding hands with the ACLU” to protect illegal aliens from prosecution, says illegals are committing “heinous crimes” across America every day, and calls claims that the federal government should be solely responsible for controlling illegal immigration “balderdash.”

Dever is sheriff of Cochise County, which shares an 83-mile border with Mexico, and he says his Border Patrol sector is responsible for half of all illegal aliens caught trying to enter the country and halt the narcotics entering the United States.

Read more on Newsmax.com: Ariz. Sheriff: Feds Order Release of Illegals to Phony Up Numbers
Important: Do You Support Pres. Obama's Re-Election? Vote Here Now!

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, he was asked about the Obama administration’s bragging that the border is more secure than ever.

“For the secretary of homeland security to say the border is more secure than ever, well, I’ve been there forever and there was a happier time than what it is today. We have a long, long way to go.

“Don’t drink the Kool-Aid and buy into 'this border is secure' nonsense.

“There’s a bad element in the mix of the aliens that are crossing that border and they don’t stay there, they move into communities throughout the country. And every day there are travesties and heinous crimes being committed by those people. If we don’t stop it at the border, it’s just going to continue to grow.”

Dever recently told Congress that in one district in Texas, illegals are allowed to be caught crossing the border 14 times before being charged with a felony, and federal smuggling charges are not considered unless at least six illegal aliens are being smuggled into the country.

“It doesn’t surprise me because we’ve been seeing that every day in Arizona, with artificial thresholds for narcotics, for human smuggling,” he tells Newsmax.

“For that to be issued as a written solid order, it’s outrageous.”

He also explains how he has heard that the Border Patrol has told officers to stop arresting Mexican illegals to keep official illegal immigration figures down.

“That comes from agents on the ground, who have told me, told my deputies, told citizens in the area.

“They have in the past been instructed to scare people back or turn them back south versus arresting them.”

Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher’s has denied that agents have been told not to arrest Mexican illegals. Dever responds: “I tend to believe there is no written order to that effect. But if your agents on the ground have that perception and that understanding, then you need to go back and change it.

“If they’re lying, shame on them, and shame on me for bringing it up. But frankly, my staff, when they heard this, they said what’s the big deal? We’ve been hearing this forever. And people who live in my county say the same things.

“So something’s going on and it needs to be rectified and fixed so these people are brought to justice.”

Dever tells Newsmax that the Mexican drug cartels are freely operating many miles from the U.S.-Mexican border.

“You can go up to 70 miles north in Pinal County, which isn’t even a border county, and the Bureau of Land Management put up signs on public land warning people not to travel there because of the threat from drug cartels.

“If you travel into the recreational areas in my county, those same signs are up warning people they could encounter drug and human smuggling. I think we ought to point the signs south and tell the folks who are coming here that this is not a safe place for you to come.”

Referring to “roadblocks” Eric Holder has been erecting against Arizona’s attempts to deal with the immigration problem, Dever says: “He’s the guy who sued us, sued the state of Arizona, holding hands with the ACLU. It doesn’t do any good to arrest people if all you’re going to do is kick them back. If they’re not going to be prosecuted and held accountable, where’s the teeth in the enforcement effort?”

When Arizona passed its tough anti-illegal immigration legislation last year, the ACLU “sued every Arizona sheriff and every Arizona county attorney independently to enjoin us from enforcing the law should it pass constitutional muster,” Dever adds.

“Then the Department of Justice sued the state of Arizona. Here’s what’s absolutely bizarre and hypocritical: The Department of Homeland Security since Sept. 11, 2001, has been on an outreach effort to empower and partner with state and local law enforcement to help defend and protect our homeland.

“When it comes to gun-running, money-laundering, kidnapping, murder, all those border-related crimes that we have, they wrap their arms around us and say let’s go get these guys. When it comes to illegal immigration, they sue us. They say back off, that is our sole responsibility. And I say balderdash.”

Dever encourages Americans to “keep pressure on your congressional representatives” to deal effectively with illegal immigration. “It’s beginning to work. It’s beginning to take hold.” -NewsMax
Daylight Savings Time

The New Governor Of The State Of Maine

For nitpickers and semanticists, who take email forwards seriously instead of "just for fun", below is an article [whose author is ??] whose accuracy has not been checked with either Snopes.com or FactorFiction.com. However, whether it is true or not, it is quite an interesting piece. 

In case you haven't heard about the new Governor of Maine, his name is Paul Le Page.
Governor Le Page makes New Jersey's Chris Christie look like an enabler. He isn't afraid to say what he thinks. And his comments every time he opens his mouth have caused his popularity to rise. Below are a few examples:

>He brought down the house during his inauguration when he shook his fist toward the media box and said, "You're on notice! I've inherited a financially-troubled State to run. Observe the following: cover what we do, but don't whine if I don't waste time responding to your every whim for your amusement."

> During his campaign for Governor, he once talked to commercial fishermen who were struggling because of burdensome federal fisheries rules. The fishermen complained that Obama brought his family to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park for a long Labor Day holiday and found time to meet with union leaders, but wouldn't talk to the fishermen. LePage's comment was: "I would've told him to go to hell and get out of my State." While the mainstream news media crucified LePage for his statement, his pre-election poll jumped 6 points higher!

> Another incident was during the 2011 Martin Luther King Day, which was a political sandbag which brought him national exposure. While the mainstream media crucified him, yet people's reaction on the street was very positive. During that incident, the NAACP specifically demanded LePage to spend MLK Day visiting black inmates at the Maine State Prison. He told the NAACP that he would meet with all inmates, regardless of race, if he were to visit the prison. The NAACP then put out a news release claiming falsely that he refused to participate in any MLK events. When he read the NAACP comment in the local newspaper the next morning while being driven to the MLK event, he went ballistic. When he arrived at the MLK event, his comment in front of a TV camera was: "If they (the NAACP) want to play the race card on me, they can kiss my ass!" He then went on to remind the NAACP as well as the general public and the news media that he has an adopted black son from Jamaica and that he has attended the local MLK breakfast every year when he was the Mayor of Waterville! He then stated that there's a right way and a wrong way to meet with the Governor, and he put all special interests on notice that press releases, media leaks, and all demonstrations would prove to be the wrong way. He also added that ". . .any other group which acted like the NAACP could expect to be at the bottom of the Governor's priority list! After having said the above, his popularity increased even more.

> After taking office early this year, the State employees union complained because he waited until 3 P.M. before closing State offices and facilities and sending non-emergency personnel home during the last blizzard. [The prior Governor often closed government offices for the day when there was a forecast of snow, even before the first snowflakes fell. Each time the State government offices closed for snow, it cost taxpayers about $1 million in wages for the government's having done absolutely no work in return.]

LePage who was the CEO of the Marden's chain of discount family bargain retail stores before his becoming governor, had noted that many State employees residing in his city, who were allowed to get off work early because of snow forecast went shopping instead of going home. So, after he was elected Governor, he announced to State employees that, ". . .If Marden's is open, Maine government offices will be open!" He also told the State employees: "We live in Maine, for heaven's sake, so we live in a State where we know how to drive in a snowstorm in the dead of winter; otherwise, you can apply for a State job in Florida!"

Governor LePage symbolizes what America needs---politicians and government workers who are not self-serving and who exhibit plenty of common sense!

Wouldn't it be great if LePage could be cloned several times over, so that all government workers and "public servants" could be like him --- ones who can act, behave and think like him in every state and federal government office?

Author Unknown
AFP's "Common Sense"
Around the World on $69 Million in Welfare Funds

The Wrong Bitch

The story was … as World War II just ended, the train from Paris to London was quite crowded, and a U. S. Marine walked the entire length of the train looking for a seat. There seemed to be one next to a well-dressed French woman, but when he got there, he saw it was taken by the woman's poodle. The war-weary Marine asked, "Ma'am, may I have that seat?"

The French woman sniffed and said to no one in particular, "Americans are so rude. My precious little Fifi is using that seat."

The Marine walked the entire train again, but despite his efforts, the only seat available was occupied by the French woman's dog. "Please, ma'am. May I sit down? I'm very tired."

She snorted, "Not only are you Americans rude, you are also arrogant!"

This time the Marine, without saying a word just picked up the little dog, tossed it out the train window, and sat down.

The woman shrieked, "Someone defend me! Put this American in his place!"

An English gentleman sitting nearby spoke up. "You Americans have a penchant for doing the wrong thing. You hold the fork in the wrong hand. You drive your automobiles on the wrong side of the road. And now, you threw the wrong bitch out the window."

Author Unknown

May 15, 2011

Locally Speaking

The Columbus replica ships, the Pinta (L) and the Nina docked at Bucksport Marina, Wednesday for an overnight stop on their way to Beaufort, NC for the Maritime Festival.

The Nina is 65 feet long, has a beam of 18 feet, a draft of 7 feet and 1.919 square feet of sail area. The replica was built in Valenca, Brazil using hand tools by Portuguese craftsmen who using the techniques of construction from the 15th century.

The Pinta is 85 feet long, has a beam of 24 feet, a draft of 7 feet and 4,000 square feet of sail area. The replica was built in Valenca, Brazil. –Captions and Photos by Sun News


<><><>*<><><>

Myrtle Beach Puts Hope In SkyWheel

Yaakov Morovitz sat outside his store off Ocean Boulevard on Tuesday watching the progress on the SkyWheel, with crews scurrying around spinning the wheel, installing decking and putting down landscaping.

"I hope it is going to help us," Morovitz, owner of Good Vibes store beside Plyler Park, said as he held up crossed fingers for luck on both hands. "I hope it is going to be a big push in this area."

The debut of the $12 million SkyWheel and Jimmy Buffett's LandShark Bar & Grill next week is the latest step for downtown Myrtle Beach's efforts to pull out of the post-Pavilion slump that hit the area when that landmark amusement park shut down after the 2006 season. The area got a jolt last summer when the mile-long boardwalk opened, and officials expect another one with the SkyWheel, which is on schedule to open after a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. May 20.

Officials aren't hinging all of their hopes on the new 200-foot-tall attraction, but say it will draw people downtown and could spark other property owners to spruce up their places. It gives downtown an iconic feature that will help restore it as one of the places such as Broadway at the Beach or The Market Common that tourists have to see when they come to the Grand Strand, said Dave Sebok, executive director of the Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corp.

"Downtown is taking its rightful place back along with the other attractions," he said. "It's further evidence that downtown is re-establishing itself as one of the major, got-to-see areas when you come to Myrtle Beach." -Read more at Sun News

The Middle East & The Palestinians

Dennis Miller is a comedian who has a show called Dennis Miller Live on HBO. Although he is not Jewish, he recently has the following to say about the Middle East situation---particularly, the "Palestinians and their agenda".

Here we go:

The Palestinians want their own country. There's just one thing about that: there are, historically and in reality, no Palestinians. It's a relatively brand new made-up word. Today's State of Israel and original home of the Jews was called Palestine for two thousand years. Like "wiccan", the word "Palestinian" sounds ancient, but is really a "modern invention", and did not come to being until after the modern State of Israel was established in 1948.

Before the Jews were driven out of their original homeland---biblically known as the land of Palestine, and were scattered all over the world for about 1,500 years, and before the Israelis won back their original lands in 1948, and once again in the 1967 six-day war, Gaza was claimed by Egypt, and the West Bank was claimed by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, but there were literally no "Palestinians" and since time in immemorial and to this very day, there has never been any nation on God's Earth known as "Palestine" or "State of Palestine".

In 1948, as soon as the Jews were given back the land which was originally theirs, and even more so after the Jews have made their section of the desert bloom and they started to grow oranges as big as basketballs, what do you know? Suddenly, the world was introduced to and expected to say "hello" to the Palestinians, who are now "weeping for their lost land and nation".

So, for the sake of honesty, let's not use the word 'Palestinian' any more to describe these delightful folks, who dance for joy at certain people's death until someone points out that they're being taped. Instead, let's call them what they really and truly are: "other-Arabs-who-can't-accomplish-anything-in-life-but-would-rather-wrap-themselves-in-the-seductive-melodrama-of-eternal-struggle-and-death".

I know and fully realize that it would be quite a bit unrealistic to expect to see or hear the unwieldy term on CNN. So, how about "adjacent-Jew-haters" then?

Okay, so the adjacent-Jew-haters want their own country.

Oops, just one more thing: the truth is, NO---they really don't . Why? Simply because they could've created their own country---and Palestinian State---anytime and long before 1948 when the Jews were in still diaspora, but they did not! And then, if they have their own country, they have to have traffic lights and garbage trucks. And Chambers of Commerce, and, even worse, their citizens actually have to figure out some way to make a living. That's no fun.

No, what they really want is what all the Arabs and other "Jew-haters" want: the total annihilation of Israel. With all the empty land in the Middle East and North Africa, they could have created a Palestinian State long long ago. But no, they specifically want the very tiny sliver of land that is now called the modern State of Israel. They also want a big pile of dead Jews, of course, because that's where the real fun is -- but mostly they want the territory called Israel . Why? For one thing, trying to destroy Israel - (or 'the Zionist entity' as their textbooks call Israel) -- for the last fifty years has allowed the rulers of Arab countries to divert the attention of their own people away from the fact that they're the blue-ribbon most illiterate, poorest, and tribally backward on God's Earth, and if not for the Brits and Yanks developing the oil industry in the Middle East, the area would still be nothing but dry, barren desert inhabited by a smattering of nomadic Bedouin living in tents. And if you've ever been around God's Earth, you know that's really saying a lot!

It makes me roll my eyes every time one of our pundits waxes poetic about the "great history and culture of the Muslim Mideast". Unless I'm missing something, the Arabs haven't given anything to the world since algebra, and, by the way, thanks a hell of a lot for that one!

Chew this around and then spit it out: 500 million Arabs; 5 Million Jews.

And in your mind, consider the following picture: the Middle East with the Arab countries as a football field, and Israel as a box of matches sitting in the middle of it. And now these same folks swear that if Israel would just give them half of the matchsticks inside the match box, they would be satisfied and everyone will be pals. Really? Wow, what neat news!

Hey, but then when the Arabs are asked: What about the string of wars to obliterate the tiny country and the constant din of rabid blood oaths to drive every Jew into the sea and wipe Israel off the face of the Earth? Their answer is: Oh, that? We were just kidding!

Kidding? Yeah, right!

My friend, Kevin Rooney, made a gorgeous point the other day. Just reverse the numbers and the picture. Imagine 500 million Jews and 5 million Arabs. I was stunned at the simple brilliance of it. Can anyone picture the Jews strapping belts of razor blades and dynamite to themselves? Of course not!

How about Jews marshaling every fiber and force at their disposal for generations to drive a tiny Arab State into the sea? Nonsense!

Or Jews dancing the hora for joy at the murder of innocents? Impossible!

Or Jews spreading and believing horrible lies about the Arabs baking their bread with the blood of children? Disgusting!

No, as you know, left to themselves in a world of peace, the worst the Jews would ever do to people would be to debate them to death.

However, in any big-picture strategy, there's always a danger of losing moral weight. We've already lost some. After September 11th, G. W. Bush, our then President, told us and the world that he was going to root out all terrorists and the countries that supported them. Beautiful. But then, today and ever since the new "President" took over, whenever the Israelis, after months and years of having the equivalent of an Oklahoma City every week (and then every day) start to do the very thing Bush proposed, the present US "President" tells them to show restraint.

If America were exactly where Israel is, and were being repeatedly and almost daily attacked with an "Oklahoma City" equivalent, we would all very shortly be screaming for the Obama administration to just be done with it, and kill everything and everyone anti-American south of the Mediterranean and east of the Jordan.