Saturday, December 31, 2005

Lawmakers To Study Fuel Cost

WRAL
On Friday, leading lawmakers announced plans for a new committee to look into the rising prices, while the fuel supplier to one-fourth of North Carolina homes announced plans to cut costs.

PSNC Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas, which sell fuel to heat these homes, on Thursday asked for permission to cut natural gas rates by 12 percent, because wholesale prices have taken an unexpected dive. But bills are up 55 percent from a year ago.

So, what impact could lawmakers really have? The legislative committee can only make recommendations. The governor's office said he'd work with legislators to find ways to help those most affected by energy prices in a fiscally responsible manner.

About time they decided to do something. I don't care what Easley says, there is a lot of fat in the NC government that can be cut, the question is will lawmakers and the governor do what is best for NC.

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posted by David at 10:42 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (18) ::

Possible New Port

Wilmington Morning Star
Brunswick port price tag: $1 billion Will dwarf Wilmington facility in size
By Mark Schreiner
Raleigh Bureau Chief

RALEIGH | It takes more than a piece of land to make an ocean port.

The N.C. State Ports Authority will need about $1 billion, the support of Congress and the General Assembly and a moneyed private partner to make its dream of a major new terminal near the mouth of the Cape Fear River a reality.

On Thursday, the authority’s board of directors agreed to negotiate for the purchase of 600 acres of industrial property near the Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal.

Buying the land, said ports CEO Tom Eagar, is just a step in a large and ambitious public project.

The project, he said, was driven by deficiencies at the Port of Wilmington and by recent economic reports that point to an explosion in ship traffic to the United States and overcrowded docksides already unable to handle the load.

“The capability of the Port of Wilmington to grow with the market is limited by its footprint,” he said.

The facility at the end of Shipyard Boulevard is hemmed in by a growing city. It is also 26 miles from the ocean. It seemed unlikely, he said, that Congress could be persuaded to dredge that channel to 50 feet deep to accommodate ever-larger container ships.

“Unless we were able to come with an alternative, we would be basically relinquished to a second-tier port operation,” he said, at a time when ocean-going traffic is expected to grow.

The new port, by some measures, will dwarf the Wilmington facility.

The new port is projected to handle 2 million container units a year. The Wilmington port, after an upcoming round of investment, will be able to handle 530,000 a year.

The new port is set to have a dock 4,000 feet long, enough to accommodate four vessels at once. The berth at Wilmington is 2,400 feet long, enough to accommodate two large ships.

The germ of the idea, he said, came from a 2003 U.S. Chamber of Commerce study on the nation’s ports.

In it, the trade group argued that the nation is behind in developing ocean terminals and the systems that transfer goods from ships to trucks and rail cars.

Increasing international trade will double the amount of cargo passing through East Coast ports by 2020, the report said. But that business is coming faster than railroads can lay track or major port operators can open new berths and warehouses.

Ports at Charleston, Savannah and Norfolk are running at capacity already and with little room to grow, said state Rep. Danny McComas, R-New Hanover.

“We are geographically located better than any of the other ports,” said McComas, who runs a trucking company that moves freight through several Southeast ports. “This new project will have room to grow.”

The ports had been looking at expansion opportunities, he said, but the effort really took off about three months ago when the authority learned that drug maker Pfizer was interested in selling the land it owns near Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal.

While the economic prospects look good, several deals need to be made before it could open in eight to 10 years.

First the land deal with Pfizer must be completed, Eagar said.
Then, a private investor – most likely an international company with experience operating ports – must be found to partner with the ports authority.

“A major investor will be needed, given the magnitude of this project,” he said.

Even then, tax dollars will be needed.

Forty percent of the anticipated $1 billion cost will be to dredge the 9.5 miles between the new port and the open ocean to perhaps 50 feet. Congress, he said, would be asked to pay for much of that cost.

Part of the argument to federal officials will be the benefit to the military of having such a port available to ship out soldiers and materiel.

There will be a request to the General Assembly.

“We will need some state support,” Eagar said.

If built, local roads in Brunswick County will have to be improved to handle the load of trucks. A connection to a nearby CSX rail line will have to be made.

“It’s going to take a lot of work and it’s going to take a lot of money,” McComas said. Some of that will likely be “seed money” from state taxpayers, he said.

Not all agree that the new port is an appropriate project for a state government agency.

“If it is such a growth industry, perhaps we should put the port facilities up for sale instead of making another state facility,” said John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation, a conservative policy institute. “A new port may be a great idea, but it should not be something the taxpayers of North Carolina should be compelled to speculate on.”

Mark Schreiner: (919) 835-1434

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posted by David at 9:56 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (5) ::

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Worst Skip Day Ever

Fox News
U.S. Teen Runs Away to Iraq
Thursday, December 29, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare.

But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.

And he didn't even tell his parents.

Read it the rest of it at Fox News.

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posted by David at 9:42 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Bus From Lake To Downtown Wilmington

The News Reporter
In a rare move of cross-county cooperation, Wilmington Wave Transit and Columbus County Transportation are launching a public bus service from Whiteville to downtown Wilmington.

The Columbus Connector is scheduled to roll Jan. 2, 2006 and is aimed at people who want to work in construction trades in the booming Wilmington market. For $3 per person each way, riders can go from Hill’s Food Center parking lot at Lake Waccamaw to the Wilmington waterfront, where the bus will make a loop before stopping at the downtown bus stop. Transfers to other Wave Transit busses are $1 and the downtown loop trolley is free.

Anyone interested in riding the Columbus Connector or learning more about the program should call Columbus County Transportation at 642-7201 or 641-3929.

Not a bad idea. They are getting a $74000 grant to cover the first years cost.

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posted by David at 9:27 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (4) ::

More On the NC Gas Tax

The News Reporter
Gas tax increase decried

By MIKE HELM

North Carolina’s gasoline tax will have increased 5.3 cents in the past 12 months come New Year’s Day, due to an indexing formula that makes motorists pay more for gasoline when the wholesale price of gasoline increases. State Rep. Dewey Hill and other lawmakers want to put a stop to the increase before it kicks in and are asking for a special session of the House.

The General Assembly considered the issue of capping the gas tax two years ago and rejected the idea. The tax goes into the state’s road-building funds.

The latest 2.8 cents a gallon increase taking place Sunday, Jan. 1, means North Carolina now has the sixth-highest gasoline tax in the nation at 29.9 cents a gallon and that North Carolina motorists will pay more in gasoline taxes than ever before in their history.

Combined with the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents a gallon, motorists in the Tar Heel state will now pay 48.3 cents a gallon in taxes.

Rep. Hill, in a memo to Speaker Jim Black, asked Black to call a special session of the House consider capping the gas tax. Gov. Mike Easley opposes a cap, Hill said, but aides to Easley told him the governor might change his mind if a large majority of legislators support it.

Hill said Black told him he would call a special session if enough lawmakers wanted one. Hill said lawmakers have organized an e-mail campaign urging Black to call the session.

“We have been pushing the speaker to see if we can’t do something about the tax increase,” Hill said. “When the indexing formula was put in place, we didn’t think gas would reach $3 per gallon. We’ve asked all members to contact the speaker.”

AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association (AAA) opposes indexing.

“Gasoline taxes indexed to wholesale prices create additional hardship for motorists when the price of gasoline spikes upward,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas, in a prepared statement.

Seventy-five percent of the gas tax goes to the Highway Fund, designated for repair of existing roads; the other 25 percent goes to the Highway Trust Fund, which is dedicated to building new roads. Each penny in gasoline tax yields about $53 million a year in revenue.

Currently, despite its high gasoline taxes, North Carolina’s Department of Transportation suffers an annual $313 million shortfall in road and bridge maintenance.

Problems compounding the state’s shortfall include:

•Siphoning money from gasoline tax receipts to the general fund for non-highway use.

• Allowing a dozen special-interest exemptions for heavy trucks that cause extra damage more quickly, necessitating accelerated repairs.

• An inadequate response by the state Legislature to the state DOT’s annual funding requests for road maintenance and repair to bring the state’s road infrastructure up to the national average. (Approximately one out of every five miles of paved road in the state is considered substandard.)

“North Carolina, once the good roads state, now has a sub-par highway and road infrastructure due to excessive road damage by special interest heavy trucks, gasoline tax money going to the general fund and under funding of highway needs by the state legislature,” said Parsons.

Motorists in North Carolina will incur additional costs if a plan is approved to place a $5 toll on I-95 at the North Carolina/Virginia border, to be shared by both states. “That means motorists may pay to travel on an interstate built primarily with federal gasoline tax funds but poorly funded for repair and maintenance by the North Carolina Legislature,” said Parsons.

The N.C. Turnpike Authority currently has approval to conduct six projects. An I-95 toll road is not among them.

North Carolina’s gas tax is adjusted twice a year – on Jan. 1 and July 1. The amount is based on the wholesale price of motor fuel during a preceding six-month base period. For the Jan. 1 change, it is based on the average wholesale price of gasoline between March 31 and Sept. 30 – $1.7755 per gallon. During the previous six months, retail gasoline prices at peaked at $3.18 on Labor Day. These prices made this the largest jump in the state gas tax since 1989 when the state gas tax formula was recalculated.

Glad to see Hill try and do something about this. Could it be that this is related to his decision to run for office again?

I first posted on the tax in increase 2005-12-17

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posted by David at 8:55 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Charges Against Reverend Ballard Dropped


Reverend Jonathan Ballard has fought a year-long battle. Last year at this time, allegations of sexual incidents between Ballard and some female members of his congregation surfaced. Wednesday all those charges were dismissed.

"After a thorough investigation and a review of all the information that we have, the state has determined not to go forward with criminal charges at this time," assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan said.

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posted by David at 7:39 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Site Update

I've not had a chance to read up on the happenings of the world today, as I've been updating the template for 1492. It should be finished minus a bit of tweaking here and there.

BTW this is the first post I've emailed in.

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posted by David at 11:00 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Col. Co. To Get New Voting Machines

The News Reporter
The county has been allocated $312,000 to comply with state and federal standards on voting machines that are intended to increase reliability and provide better handicapped accessibility.

All of the county’s optical scanners are obsolete and must be replaced with new ones. In addition, the county has to add touch-screen voting machines at every precinct.

Why are the current ones obsolete? You mark a ballet and slide it in the machine. It counts and keeps your paper ballet. A bit more info here would be nice.
The new machines are one of the reforms required by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which Congress passed after the disputed 2000 presidential election. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately decided that election by stopping the recounting of votes in Florida.

North Carolina had its own problems in last year’s election, which has helped accelerate implementation of the voting machine provisions in HAVA and led to a new state law.

A lot of the problems in Florida and here in NC where with new high tech machines. So fix that problem we are going to get some more new high tech machines. Makes perfect sense.
The Columbus County Board of Elections will decide what to do with its share of the state money. Graham said the money is more than enough to pay for the new equipment.

The board may install one touch-screen machine per precinct. The new machines will be on display during a public forum that is being planned for the last week in January.

North Carolina is already HAVA compliant on two points – provisional voting and development of a statewide registration management database.

OK Jessie so you got more money then needed, whatcha goin to do with the extra?

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posted by David at 12:28 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Vehicle Tax Change for 2009

The News Reporter
Motor vehicle tax scofflaws who haven’t paid their vehicle taxes would soon have a surprise – and for some it will be a big surprise – under a law passed by the General Assembly.

The tax delinquency will show up on Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) computers when new plates or a registration renewal is sought. Residents will have to pay up their past-due county taxes or go home empty handed.

Columbus County bills $2.6 million in motor vehicle taxes each year but collects only 73 percent of that. The new legislation could bring in $500,000 in additional revenue – equivalent to 1.5 cents per $100 assessed value on the property tax rate – cutting the burden on real estate owners.

The new law would take effect July 1, 2009. The biggest hurdle to implementation is updating the DMV’s computer system.

Gore’s office had collected only 73 percent of vehicle taxes by July 1, typical for rural counties. Had the new law been in effect, the collection rate would have been much higher and commissioners might have been able to estimate another $500,000 in revenue – approximately 1.5 cents on the ad valorem rate.

Yes, this is just what we need so the county commissioners can spend more of our money with as little input from the people as possible.

The figures used here may be bloated. The next time you get your tax bill for your car or truck look at what they have it valued at, then go online and search for the true value at Kelly Blue Book. If they have it valued to high call them up and tell, that's what I do and every year they reduce my tax burden.

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posted by David at 12:16 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Room Service At NHRMC

Morning Star
Snuggle under the covers, scan the menu, pick up the phone and room service will be gracing your doorway within 45 minutes.

That’s the vision New Hanover Regional Medical Center administrators conjured after exploring the idea of throwing out the food assembly line trays in favor of room service. So far, the proposal has momentum.

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posted by David at 12:12 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Col. Co. Building New Jailhouse

WECT
Construction Underway for New Columbus Co. Jail
Dec 27, 2005, 08:41 PM

DECEMBER 27, 2005 -- Construction on the new jail in Columbus County should be finished by the end of February.

The multi-million dollar complex will have a hundred more beds than the current jail, which sleeps 67

Crews started construction on the new jail in early October. According to the Whiteville News Reporter, the new jail will be two stories with cells on both levels.

Officials will even have the option to add more beds if the number of inmates increases.

More beds for Chris's fight against potheads.

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posted by David at 12:05 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Spiffy Thing To Do With Gift Cards

WWAY TV 3
What to do with those unwanted gift certificates
Dec 27, 2005, 04:54 PM

If you've landed a gift card as one of your holiday presents and don't know what to do with it, we've got a solution for you.

Several internet sites have sprung up allowing people to sell or swap unwanted gift cards.

On one site called cardavenue.com you can buy, sell and trade pre-owned gifts cards and gift certificates.

Click on eBay and you'll find hundreds of Christmas gift cards on the auction block.

Seller beware: some sites do charge a flat free to list or swap a card.

* cardavenue.com
* certificateswap.com
* giftcardbuyback.com
* giftcardsagain.com
* giftcertificates.com
* swapagift.com

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posted by David at 11:56 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Sad Christmas For Some

WWAY TV 3
A father of four has been found dead in the Intracoastal Waterway. Early Christmas morning, 37-year-old Leland resident Frank Ragavage lost control of his truck and went off the Snow's Cut Bridge.

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posted by David at 11:54 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Hey I've Got a Text Message... Dang I Have To Go To Court

ZDNET
Cell phones to tell Koreans: You're indicted

Reuters
Published on ZDNet News: December 26, 2005, 6:08 AM PT

South Koreans may look at their mobile phones with some trepidation in the new year because prosecutors will start telling people they have been indicted via text messages, an official said Monday.

In a country where about 75 percent of the population carries mobile phones, prosecutors felt it was time to move away from sending legal notices on paper and send them electronically instead, said Lee Young-pyo, an administrative official.

That's one text I hope never to get.

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posted by David at 7:33 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (4) ::

New NC Laws Effective 2006-01-01

North Carolina General Assembly
2005 Legislation ‘Effective January 1, 2006’
The following public law provisions were enacted in 2005 with an effective date of January 1, 2006.

S.L. 2005-36 (HB 707) Amend Star-Rated Licensure/Child Care Fac.
AN ACT AUTHORIZING THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DIVISION OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT, TO STRENGTHEN THE LAWS REGULATING STAR-RATED LICENSURE FOR CHILD CARE FACILITIES.

S.L. 2005-40 (HB 780) Need-Based Nursing Scholarships.
AN ACT TO MODIFY THE PROCESS BY WHICH THE NEED-BASED SCHOLARSHIP LOAN FUND IS ADMINISTERED.

S.L. 2005-75 (SB 763) Notary Public Public Official Recommendation.
AN ACT TO ELIMINATE THE REQUIREMENT OF AN ELECTED OFFICIAL RECOMMENDATION FOR NOTARY PUBLIC APPLICANTS IN COUNTIES WITH MORE THAN FIFTEEN THOUSAND NOTARIES PUBLIC.

S.L. 2005-99 (HB 786) MV Dealer Technical Corrections.
AN ACT TO MAKE TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS TO THE MOTOR VEHICLE DEALERS LICENSING ACT.

S.L. 2005-131 (SB 178) Amend Certain Lic. Reqs/Plumb'g/Heat'g Contr.
AN ACT AMENDING CERTAIN LAWS RELATING TO LICENSURE REQUIREMENTS FOR PLUMBING AND HEATING CONTRACTORS.

S.L. 2005-181 (HB 653) Credit Insurance Changes.
AN ACT TO MAKE CHANGES TO THE CREDIT INSURANCE LAWS TO DEFINE "CRITICAL PERIOD COVERAGE"; CLARIFY THE APPROPRIATE REFUND OF PREMIUMS METHOD WHEN A POLICY OR GROUP CERTIFICATE IS TERMINATED PRIOR TO THE SCHEDULED MATURITY DATE OF THE SUBJECT DEBT; ALLOW CREDIT CARD COVERAGE FROM OUT-OF-STATE FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS; PROVIDE THAT INSURERS MUST ACKNOWLEDGE TO THE CLAIMANT ANY CLAIMS NOT PAID WITHIN THIRTY DAYS; CLARIFY THAT INSURERS CAN REQUIRE REGISTRATION WITH THE STATE UNEMPLOYMENT OFFICE AND PROVISION OF AN OFFICIAL STATE UNEMPLOYMENT OFFICE DECISION LETTER REGARDING THE CLAIM TO QUALIFY FOR CREDIT UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE BENEFITS UNDER THE POLICY BUT CANNOT IMPOSE A TIME LIMIT ON THAT REGISTRATION; AND PROVIDE THE COMMISSIONER OF INSURANCE WITH THE AUTHORITY TO ENFORCE THE LAWS GOVERNING CREDIT INSURANCE CONSISTENT WITH THE COMMISSIONER'S GENERAL ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITY AS SET FORTH IN CHAPTER 58 OF THE GENERAL STATUTES.

S.L. 2005-192 (SB 679) North Carolina Uniform Trust Code.
AN ACT TO ADOPT A REVISED VERSION OF THE UNIFORM TRUST CODE FOR NORTH CAROLINA. [See Sections 1-5 & 7]

S.L. 2005-213 (SB 879) Economic Development - NC Product Preference.
AN ACT TO ALLOW FOR A BIDDING PREFERENCE ON STATE CONTRACTS FOR RESIDENT BIDDERS IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF A RESIDENT BIDDER LIST.

S.L. 2005-223 (HB 737) Health Insurance Changes.
AN ACT TO REQUIRE THAT ASSOCIATION PREMIUM RATES FOR ACCIDENT AND HEALTH INSURANCE BE ACTUARIALLY SOUND AND THAT ASSOCIATIONS BE RATED AS A SINGLE GROUP WHEN THE COVERAGE PROVIDED IS NOT EMPLOYER-BASED, LIMIT AN INDIVIDUAL ACCIDENT AND HEALTH INSURER'S USE OF AN INDIVIDUAL'S OWN CLAIMS EXPERIENCE TO DEVELOP THE INDIVIDUAL'S RENEWAL RATE; EXEMPT A SOLE PROPRIETOR FROM THE FULL-TIME BASIS FOR THIRTY-HOUR WORKWEEK REQUIREMENTS TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR LARGE GROUP HEALTH COVERAGE LIKE THE PROPRIETOR'S FULL-TIME EMPLOYEES; CORRECT AN INADVERTENT CROSS-REFERENCE IN ORDER TO REAPPLY NEWBORN COVERAGE TO A MORE COMPREHENSIVE GROUP OF INSURERS; TECHNICALLY CORRECT AN OMISSION REGARDING PROVISIONS GOVERNING PREEXISTING CONDITIONS FOR LIMITED HEALTH, SUPPLEMENTAL HEALTH, AND SPECIFIED DISEASE POLICIES; DECREASE THE TOTAL NUMBER OF MEMBERS THAT SERVE ON THE SMALL EMPLOYER REINSURANCE POOL BOARD FROM NINE TO FIVE; ALLOW PERSONS RETROACTIVELY ENROLLED IN MEDICARE PART B THE SAME SIX-MONTH OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD FOR MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PLANS AS PERSONS WHO ENROLLED IN MEDICARE PART B WITHOUT A RETROACTIVE EFFECTIVE DATE OF COVERAGE; TECHNICALLY CORRECT THE REVOCATION AND SUSPENSION LAW TO INCLUDE A BENEFICIARY OF A LIFE OR ANNUITY CONTRACT AS A CLAIMANT; AMEND THE UTILIZATION REVIEW LAWS TO CLARIFY THAT SUCH LAWS PLAINLY APPLY TO INDIVIDUAL INSURANCE COVERAGE AS WELL AS GROUP COVERAGE; TO REMOVE FROM THE UNIFORM CREDENTIALING STATUTE AN UNNECESSARY PROVISION; ENSURE THAT COVERED PERSONS RECEIVING EXTERNAL REVIEW KNOW WHAT INFORMATION THEIR INSURER PROVIDES TO THE EXTERNAL REVIEW ORGANIZATION PERFORMING THE REVIEW; AND ELIMINATE EXTERNAL REVIEW OUTSIDE OF NORMAL BUSINESS HOURS. [See Sections 1-4 & 13]

S.L. 2005-224 (SB 626) HIPAA Compliance and Fairness.
AN ACT TO BRING NORTH CAROLINA LAW INTO COMPLIANCE WITH THE FEDERAL HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT; TO PROVIDE SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIODS WITHOUT PENALTY FOR PERSONS ENROLLED UNDER A GROUP PLAN WHOSE COVERAGE IS TERMINATED WHEN AN INSURER DISCONTINUES WRITING A CERTAIN TYPE OF GROUP HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE THROUGHOUT THAT ENTIRE SMALL OR LARGE GROUP MARKET; AND TO PROVIDE CONTINUED GUARANTEED ISSUE RIGHTS TO A PERSON WHO IS HIPAA ELIGIBLE, WHO IS INSURED IN THE INDIVIDUAL MARKET, AND WHOSE INSURER DISCONTINUES WRITING A CERTAIN TYPE OF HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE INDIVIDUAL MARKET. [See Sections 2.2, 3 & 5]

S.L. 2005-234 (HB 655) Better Insurance/Annuity Disclosure.
AN ACT TO REORGANIZE ARTICLE 60 OF CHAPTER 58 OF THE GENERAL STATUTES AND AMEND CURRENT DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS FOR SOLICITATION OF LIFE INSURANCE PRODUCTS AND ANNUITIES; REQUIRE INSURERS TO NOTIFY EMPLOYEES OF THE EXISTENCE OF EMPLOYER-OWNED LIFE INSURANCE POLICIES WITHIN THIRTY DAYS AFTER THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF COVERAGE; AND REQUIRE GROUP ANNUITY INSURERS TO ISSUE INDIVIDUAL CERTIFICATES OF COVERAGE TO EACH ANNUITANT.

S.L. 2005-236 (HB 329) Limit Liability for Agritourism Activities.
AN ACT TO LIMIT LIABILITY ARISING FROM CERTAIN AGRITOURISM ACTIVITIES.

S.L. 2005-274 (SB 517) Account Transfers and Agency Appointments.
AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR ACCOUNT TRANSFERS AND AGENCY APPOINTMENTS BETWEEN AFFILIATED TRUST INSTITUTIONS. [See Section 3]

S.L. 2005-276 (SB 622) 2005 Appropriations Act.
AN ACT TO MAKE BASE BUDGET APPROPRIATIONS FOR CURRENT OPERATIONS OF STATE DEPARTMENTS, INSTITUTIONS, AND AGENCIES, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES. [See Sections 6.12, 9.17, 10.11(m)(2)-(3), 10.21A, 10.21C, 10.22(a)-(c), 10.36, 23A.1(a)-(c) & (e), 33.4(b), 33 .5, 33.9, 33.12, 33.14, 33.20-33.23, 33.34, 43.4(b)-(c)]

S.L. 2005-291 (HB 1243) Manufactured Homes/Longer Termination Notice.
AN ACT REQUIRING A LONGER NOTICE PERIOD FOR A TERMINATION OF A TENANCY FOR THE RENTAL SPACE FOR RESIDENTIAL MANUFACTURED HOMES.

S.L. 2005-294 (HB 1779) Property Tax Paid With Vehicle Registration.
AN ACT TO CREATE A COMBINED MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRATION RENEWAL AND PROPERTY TAX COLLECTION SYSTEM. [See Sections 4, 8 & 13]

S.L. 2005-313 (HB 116) Property Tax Changes.
AN ACT TO CLARIFY PRESENT-USE VALUE ELIGIBILITY, TO AMEND THE PERIOD FOR APPEAL OF A PRESENT-USE VALUE DETERMINATION OR APPRAISAL, TO MODIFY THE TAX YEAR FOR MOTOR VEHICLES THAT ARE TO BE SWITCHED FROM AN ANNUAL SYSTEM OF REGISTRATION TO A STAGGERED SYSTEM EFFECTIVE JANUARY 1, 2006, AND TO APPLY THE SAME PENALTY THAT CURRENTLY APPLIES TO PAYMENTS BY CHECK TO PROPERTY TAX PAYMENTS MADE BY ELECTRONIC PAYMENTS. [See Sections 8, 9 & 11]

S.L. 2005-323 (SB 223) Public Confidence in Elections.
AN ACT TO RESTORE PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN THE ELECTION PROCESS BY REQUIRING THAT THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, THROUGH THE DEVELOPMENT OF A REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL, ENSURE THAT ALL VOTING SYSTEMS GENERATE EITHER A PAPER BALLOT OR A PAPER RECORD BY WHICH VOTERS MAY VERIFY THEIR VOTES BEFORE CASTING THEM AND WHICH PROVIDES A BACKUP MEANS OF COUNTING THE VOTE THAT THE VOTER CASTS; BY PROVIDING STATUTORY GUIDANCE AS TO COUNTING; BY STANDARDIZING PURCHASING OF VOTING SYSTEMS IN NORTH CAROLINA, INCLUDING A REVIEW OF SOURCE CODE FOR SOFTWARE RELATED TO THOSE VOTING SYSTEMS AND AUTHORIZATION TO ESTABLISH THE ROLE OF THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS RELATED TO TRAINING AND SUPPORT OF VOTING SYSTEMS; BY REQUIRING POSTELECTION TESTING OF VOTING SYSTEMS, INCLUDING A PAPER SAMPLE-COUNT; BY EXPANDING THE RIGHT TO A HAND-TO-EYE RECOUNT OF PAPER BALLOTS; AND BY PERMITTING A PILOT PROGRAM TO EXPERIMENT WITH NONPAPER MEANS OF VOTER VERIFICATION AND BALLOT BACKUP. [See Sections 5 & 6]

S.L. 2005-326 (SB 682) Add Agencies to Set-Off Debt Collection.
AN ACT TO EXTEND TO PUBLIC HEALTH AUTHORITIES, SANITARY DISTRICTS, AND METROPOLITAN SEWERAGE DISTRICTS THE SET-OFF DEBT COLLECTION PROCEDURES CURRENTLY AVAILABLE TO COUNTIES AND CITIES.

S.L. 2005-345 (HB 320) Modify 2005 Appropriations Act.
AN ACT TO MAKE TECHNICAL, CLARIFYING, AND OTHER MODIFICATIONS TO THE CURRENT OPERATIONS AND CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS APPROPRIATIONS ACT OF 2005. [See Sections 2 & 14.24(b)]

S.L. 2005-372 (SB 1130) No Tobacco Use in Prisons.
AN ACT TO PROHIBIT SMOKING IN STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS. [See Sections 1, 2 & 5]

S.L. 2005-373 (SB 506) Cancer Registry.
AN ACT TO BRING NORTH CAROLINA LAW INTO COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 107-260, THE BENIGN BRAIN TUMOR CANCER REGISTRIES AMENDMENT.

S.L. 2005-388 (HB 561) Commissions for Personal Representatives.
AN ACT RELATING TO COMMISSIONS ALLOWED TO PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES.

S.L. 2005-400 (SB 319) Workers' Comp. Self-Insurance Security.
AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE NORTH CAROLINA SELF-INSURANCE SECURITY SYSTEM AND CLARIFYING THE PROCEDURES BY WHICH SUBSIDIARY AND AFFILIATE COMPANIES MAY BE LICENSED AS SELF-INSURERS FOR WORKERS COMPENSATION AND TO MAKE OTHER CONFORMING AND TECHNICAL CHANGES TO THE WORKERS COMPENSATION LAWS RESPECTING INDIVIDUAL SELF-INSURERS IN ARTICLE 5 OF CHAPTER 97 OF THE GENERAL STATUTES.

S.L. 2005-401 (HB 1176) Property Exempt From Enforcement Actions.
AN ACT TO AMEND THE CAP ON PROPERTY OF A JUDGMENT DEBTOR THAT IS FREE OF THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE CLAIMS OF CREDITORS, AND TO EXEMPT CERTAIN TYPES OF PROPERTY FROM ENFORCEMENT.

S.L. 2005-409 (HB 1527) Clarify MV Dealer Franchise Laws.
AN ACT TO CLARIFY THE MOTOR VEHICLE DEALER FRANCHISE LAWS. [See Sections 3 & 8]

S.L. 2005-413 (SB 1149) Energy Credit Banking/Selling Program/Fund.
AN ACT TO ESTABLISH A BANKING AND SELLING PROGRAM FOR CREDITS ISSUED UNDER THE FEDERAL ENERGY POLICY ACT IN ORDER TO GENERATE FUNDS FOR THE USE OF ALTERNATIVE FUELS AND ALTERNATIVE FUELED VEHICLES BY STATE DEPARTMENTS, INSTITUTIONS, AND AGENCIES AND TO EXTEND AND EXPAND THE CREDIT FOR INVESTMENT IN RENEWABLE ENERGY PROPERTY. [See Sections 1-3 & 9]

S.L. 2005-418 (SB 518) City/County Planning Clarification.
AN ACT TO CLARIFY AND MAKE TECHNICAL CHANGES TO CITY AND COUNTY PLANNING STATUTES.

S.L. 2005-422 (HB 1541) Homeowner Association Amendments.
AN ACT TO AMEND THE LAWS GOVERNING HOMEOWNER ASSOCIATIONS TO PROVIDE GREATER PROTECTIONS FOR HOMEOWNERS.

S.L. 2005-424 (HB 646) Insurance Company Fee Consolidation.
AN ACT TO CONSOLIDATE VARIOUS FEES INTO THE ANNUAL LICENSE CONTINUATION FEE PAID BY LICENSED INSURANCE COMPANIES, AND TO AUTHORIZE THE DEPARTMENT OF INSURANCE TO HIRE A MEDICARE LOOKOUT PROGRAM COORDINATOR WITH FEDERAL GRANT FUNDING. [See Parts I & III]

S.L. 2005-425 (HB 650) Business Court Cases/Fee.
AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE ASSIGNMENT OF SPECIAL SUPERIOR COURT JUDGES TO HEAR COMPLEX BUSINESS CASES, TO CLARIFY THE PROCEDURE FOR ASSIGNING COMPLEX BUSINESS CASES, TO AUTHORIZE A LARGER FEE FOR COMPLEX BUSINESS CASES, AND TO CHANGE THE DATE DISTRICT COURT JUDGES TAKE OFFICE. [See Sections 1.1, 1.2, 2 & 4]

S.L. 2005-426 (SB 814) Modernize City/County Planning.
AN ACT TO MODERNIZE AND SIMPLIFY CITY AND COUNTY PLANNING AND LAND-USE MANAGEMENT STATUTES. [See Section 11]

S.L. 2005-427 (HB 1493) Pharmacy Quality Assurance Protection Act.
AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE PHARMACY QUALITY ASSURANCE PROTECTION ACT TO FACILITATE THE CONTINUOUS REVIEW OF THE PRACTICE OF PHARMACY.

S.L. 2005-428 (HB 1115) Election Administration Amendments.
AN ACT TO ALLOW POLITICAL PARTIES TO USE "RUNNERS" TO PICK UP VOTER LISTS FROM POLLS; TO PROHIBIT A CANDIDATE FROM BEING AN OBSERVER OR RUNNER AT THE POLLS; TO AUTHORIZE THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS TO PERMIT DIFFERENT VOTING SYSTEMS IN THE SAME PRECINCT; TO ALLOW THE CHANGING OF REGISTERED VOTERS BASED ON ADJUSTED COUNTY LINE; TO CHANGE THE DEADLINE FOR FILING A PROTEST FROM SIX O'CLOCK P.M. TO FIVE O'CLOCK P.M.; TO PERMIT THE SAME KIND OF VOTER ASSISTANCE IN ONE-STOP SITES AS AT VOTING PLACES ON ELECTION DAY; TO EXPRESSLY PROVIDE THAT PRECINCT TRANSFER VOTERS AT ONE-STOP SITES NEED NOT VOTE PROVISIONAL BALLOTS; TO DELETE THE REQUIREMENT THAT ONE-STOP VOTERS BE INSTRUCTED IN HOW TO VOTE MAIL ABSENTEE BALLOTS; TO FIX THE SALARY ON WHICH A FILING FEE FOR AN OFFICE IS BASED; TO REMOVE THE OUTDATED REFERENCE IN THE FILING FEE STATUTE TO OFFICES "COMPENSATED ENTIRELY BY FEES"; TO ALLOW FOR THE CANCELLATION OF A VOTER'S REGISTRATION IN A FORMER COUNTY WHEN THE VOTER REGISTERS IN A NEW COUNTY; TO UPDATE AND MAKE MORE TECHNOLOGY-NEUTRAL THE LANGUAGE IN THE STATUTE PROVIDING FOR ACCESS TO VOTER REGISTRATION DATA; TO EXTEND FOR THREE DAYS THE COUNTY CANVASS AFTER A GENERAL ELECTION IN NOVEMBER OF AN EVEN-NUMBERED YEAR AND CHANGE OTHER RELATED DATES; TO EXPRESSLY ALLOW ELECTRONIC POLLBOOKS; TO CLARIFY HOW WINNERS OF ELECTIONS SHALL BE DETERMINED; TO CLARIFY THAT A VOTER WHOSE NAME HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THE REGISTRATION LIST MAY VOTE UPON AFFIRMING THAT THE VOTER HAS NOT MOVED FROM THE COUNTY; TO PROVIDE FOR THE CORRECTION OF AN OMISSION ON THE VOTER REGISTRATION FORM; TO AUTHORIZE PARTICIPATION IN THE 2010 CENSUS REDISTRICTING DATA PROGRAM; AND TO AUTHORIZE BOARDS OF ELECTIONS TO ALLOW KNOWN VOTERS WHOSE VOTES WERE LOST TO RECAST THEIR BALLOTS DURING A TWO-WEEK PERIOD AFTER THE ELECTION. [See Sections 1, 3-5, 9, 11, 17 & 18]

S.L. 2005-435 (HB 105) Motor Fuel Tax Chgs & Rev Laws Technical Chgs.
AN ACT TO MODIFY THE TAXATION OF MOTOR FUELS, TO MAKE TECHNICAL, CLARIFYING, AND ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES TO THE REVENUE LAWS AND RELATED STATUTES, AND TO ALLOW INTERSTATE PASSENGER AIR CARRIERS A REFUND OF SALES AND USE TAXES ON FUEL. [See Sections 1, 7-9, 16, 18, 23, 56, 59.1, 59.2]

S.L. 2005-454 (HB 1095) Clarify Clean Water Funding and Procedure.
AN ACT TO ESTABLISH UNIFORM CRITERIA FOR DRINKING WATER, WASTEWATER, AND STORMWATER LOANS AND GRANTS, TO CLARIFY AND REVISE THE PROCEDURES THAT APPLY TO THESE LOANS AND GRANTS TO REFLECT THE EXHAUSTION OF THE 1998 CLEAN WATER BOND PROCEEDS, AND TO PROVIDE FOR GREATER COORDINATION AMONG AGENCIES THAT MAKE LOANS AND GRANTS FOR WATER PROJECTS BY ESTABLISHING THE WATER INFRASTRUCTURE COMMISSION.

S.L. 2005-455 (SB 1126) Implement CRFL/Amend Fisheries Laws.
AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COASTAL RECREATIONAL FISHING LICENSE, TO EXEMPT FROM COASTAL RECREATIONAL FISHING LICENSE REQUIREMENTS ONLY THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE UNDER SIXTEEN YEARS OF AGE OR WHO HOLD CERTAIN LICENSES ISSUED BY THE WILDLIFE RESOURCES COMMISSION THAT WERE PURCHASED PRIOR TO JANUARY 1, 2006 , TO PROVIDE FOR A STATEWIDE SUBSISTENCE FISHING LICENSE WAIVER, TO PROHIBIT THE WILDLIFE RESOURCES COMMISSION FROM DISCLOSING PERSONAL IDENTIFYING INFORMATION OF LICENSEES AND OTHERS UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES, TO AMEND VARIOUS STATUTES RELATED TO THE WILDLIFE RESOURCES COMMISSION, TO PROVIDE A SYSTEM OF UNIFIED LICENSES UNDER WHICH INDIVIDUALS MAY FISH THROUGHOUT THE STATE, AND TO AUTHORIZE THE MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION AND THE WILDLIFE RESOURCES COMMISSION TO JOINTLY DISBURSE FISHING LICENSE REVENUES AND INVESTMENT INCOME TO MANAGE THE MARINE RESOURCES OF THE STATE. [See Sections 1.9, 1.10, 1.15, 1.21, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 , 2.4, 2.5, 2 .6, 2.7, 2.8, 2.9 & 3.3]

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posted by David at 2:29 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (5) ::

Inmates Stealing From You

AZCentral.com
Inmates scam IRS big time
Prisoners rake in refunds from phony tax forms; few ever caught, punished

Dennis Wagner
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 25, 2005 12:00 AM

Daniel G. Johnson was serving time at the Marana Community Correctional Treatment Facility near Tucson when he found a new way to make money from behind bars: He started ripping off Uncle Sam.

The 28-year-old forger, who worked in the private prison's library, sent fraudulent tax forms to the Internal Revenue Service seeking refunds of more than $200,000. Although tax schemes are rampant in Arizona's correctional systems, Johnson's case was exceptional because he was caught and prosecuted by the federal government.

This year, IRS officials detected $68 million in false tax refund applications filed by 18,000 U.S. prisoners for the 2004 tax year. That accounted for more than one-seventh of all phony refunds nationwide.

In Arizona, convicts were responsible for roughly half of the $600,000 in fraudulent claims detected by Department of Revenue investigators this year.

Tax-scamming is a longtime pursuit of America's prison denizens. But it has proliferated behind bars so much recently that congressional hearings were conducted during the summer to figure out how the system can be fixed.

Nancy Jardini, chief of IRS criminal investigations, told a House subcommittee that inmate fraud has increased 700 percent in three years.

"There is no question that prisoner refund fraud is on the rise," she said. "Even though prisoner returns comprised less than 1 percent of all individual federal income tax returns filed in 2004, more than 15 percent of false refund returns used prisoner names and taxpayer identification numbers."

By all accounts, the crime is exacerbated by a simple fact: Inmates have little incentive to stop because they seldom face punishment, from the justice system or prison administrators, when they are caught. Law enforcement authorities say they just don't have the resources to investigate criminals who are behind bars. So Daniel Johnson is the only inmate in Arizona to be convicted of tax fraud during the past two years.

The damage is not measured merely in dollars stolen from the U.S. Treasury. Tax fraud also represents a perennial headache for penal institutions, where the crime spreads like a virus from inmate to inmate, bringing money, contraband and violence into already volatile cellblocks.

"Any actual cash in an inmate's possession is dangerous in a prison environment," said Joe Profiri, a criminal investigations manager for the Arizona Department of Corrections. "It's a potential tick up for crime."

During the House subcommittee hearings, an anonymous inmate drove home that point by saying he had filed 700 false returns for $3.5 million worth of refunds. "The money and drugs eventually led to beatings," he said. It was unclear how much money he received.

Afterward, Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., dubbed the practice "Operation H & R (Cell)Block," adding, "It's time we put it out of business."

How it works
By any measure, the government's tax-collecting job seems herculean: IRS workers processed 130 million tax statements last year, and caught $2.2 billion worth of false refund claims.

About 455,000 of those filings came from a U.S. population of 2.1 million people doing time in state, federal, county and private correctional centers.

The typical scheme begins with a convict who has access to the Internet or prison library for IRS forms and to a photocopy machine where papers can be duplicated. The inmate fills out fictitious revenue statements, claiming overpayment of taxes or seeking rebates, then sends the fraudulent papers to the IRS.

"You'll get some that are handwritten and the guys can barely spell," said Sandy Schwartz, an investigations supervisor for the state Revenue Department. "And there are some where it's typed out and really pretty, and they've used a software system."

State and federal revenue agents employ all sorts of firewalls to prevent tax graft. Correctional guards and mailroom workers are trained to watch for bogus tax papers, including a high volume of mail to or from the IRS.

Prisons provide the tax collectors with inmate rosters that can be red-flagged in databases. Government computers are programmed to detect specific addresses and scam techniques, as are processors who handle the paperwork.

But the screening is imperfect and, as Schwartz pointed out, fraudulent filings that go undetected represent a "great unknown."

In fact, inmates have devised dozens of schemes. When one succeeds, it is likely to proliferate within a cellblock, then spread to other correctional centers. Sometimes, ringleaders work out profit-sharing deals with cellmates, using their names and Social Security numbers to file more tax returns. Or they may just steal the information.

Either way, completed forms are sent to an outside accomplice who forwards them to the IRS, often using a post office box as a return address. When refunds arrive, the middleman cashes each check, takes a cut and distributes the rest to inmate prison accounts or associates on the outside. Some of the most sophisticated operations launder money through offshore accounts.

Brad Palmer, an IRS agent, described tax-scamming in Arizona as a "huge" prison enterprise that has infected every type of correctional facility in the state.

"There are a lot of inmates involved. The difficult part is knowing how many of the schemes are all connected," Palmer said. "Once we catch a scheme, they adapt it and find a new system."

Crime goes unpunished
In Johnson's case, the scheme involved claims that he had overpaid taxes on gambling winnings. He apparently was charged because the total refund request of $207,686 was so huge. He admitted guilt as part of a plea agreement, and could add up to five years to his 2 1/2-year prison term.

Profiri, the DOC investigator, said most prison-based tax fraud goes unpunished because of flaws in the system. When prison officials learn of a scam, Profiri said, they interview inmates, conduct cell searches and do other investigative work. Often, they discover photocopied tax forms, lists of Social Security numbers and large amounts of cash entering inmate accounts.

With that evidence, Profiri said, corrections officials notify the IRS, but that's usually the end of the story.

"Sometimes they show an interest, but with the financial disclosure laws the IRS can't share information with us," he explained. "I am unaware of any cases (involving Department of Corrections inmates) that resulted in an arrest or prosecution."

Palmer, the IRS agent, confirmed that, under federal law, he is banned from disclosing taxpayer information to anyone, including prison investigators. When inmates are caught, he said, the IRS blocks them from collecting false refunds. But agents cannot pass on details to prison officials.

Meanwhile, neither the IRS nor the U.S. attorney is likely to pursue charges because the perpetrators are behind bars, and they'll likely get sentences of less than two years. Even when key players are identified, prosecution involves witnesses with low credibility and the challenge of distinguishing conspirators from cellmates who may be victims of identity theft.

"Usually in tax fraud cases, we know who did it and we have to prove the crime," Palmer noted. "Here, we know the crime but we don't know who did it."

Patrick Schneider, chief of criminal prosecutions at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona, said he has been forced to cut back on prosecuting white-collar crimes in general, so it hardly makes sense to go after offenders who are incarcerated.

"We just don't have the manpower to do every fraud case we would do otherwise," Schneider said.

The same is true on the state level, where no convict has been indicted for tax fraud in at least two years. "If someone is in prison and spending years there anyway, what's the point of spending time and resources? said Schwartz, the state investigator. "Are we going to prosecute? No."

Rules not enforced
Back in prison, possession of contraband items, including multiple IRS forms and lists of Social Security numbers, is a breach of conduct. Violators may lose visitation privileges, get transferred or face other penalties.

But, because of another kink in the system, that rule is seldom enforced.

Profiri said DOC officials do not want to interfere with IRS criminal investigations, so they hold off on disciplinary sanctions while federal tax agents investigate inmates for fraud. Because the IRS seldom presses charges and cannot tell prison officials anything about inmate tax investigations, prisoners almost never get punished.

The upshot: No criminal prosecution. No prison sanctions. No reason for felons to think twice about continuing to defraud the government.

As Profiri put it, "If you're able to steal and get away with it, you continue to steal."

This month, IRS officials began considering measures that would allow tax agents to disclose information on inmate scammers to correctional authorities. But the proposal has no formal status.

In the meantime, Palmer agreed that convicts have little incentive to stop violating tax laws. "It's a problem. I'm not going to sit here and deny that there's a hole in the system," Palmer said.

He added that the IRS moved to fill that hole this year by assigning him specifically to prison refund scams, the first time a special agent in Arizona has been given that duty. He said he is working with prison officials, focusing on ringleaders and outside accomplices.

"We're trying to fix it," Palmer said.

The Fairtax would fix this problem for ever. With no tax returns to fill out, they can't fill out a fake return.

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posted by David at 2:03 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Monday, December 26, 2005

Early College

The News Reporter
City reacts to plans for school
By FULLER ROYAL

The Whiteville City Schools Board of Education listened to a presentation about the proposed early college high school during its Dec. 12 meeting.

Southeastern Community College Dean of Business and Technology Al Phillips made essentially the same presentation he had made to the Columbus County Board of Education one week earlier.

The schools, to be housed on the SCC campus and to be known as the Southeastern Early College, will host about 160 students when it is fully running.

Those students, chosen at the end of their eighth-grade year because they might not stay in school long enough to earn a diploma, will be able to earn a high school [diploma] and associate college degree in just five years.

The city board members had plenty of questions for Phillips, who was one of 45 members of a planning team for SEC.

Board member Greg Merritt wanted to know how the school would be presented to the parents of potential students.

“I don’t see a whole slew of kids going into this,” he said.

Phillips said that plan had already been generating interest among parents at the city and county’s middle schools.

“We already have some interest in this,” Phillips said. “Once approved, we will contact all of the schools. I think it will work well. Teachers, principals and sometimes parents know what they’re fixing to loose their kid.”

“The middle schools counselors will be paramount to the success of this,” said Superintendent Danny McPherson.

SCC President Kathy Matlock was present for the meeting. “Students will have their high school diploma and a two-year associate’s degree,” she said. “That’s a tremendous marketing tool.

The early college high school model is designed to attract and retain students who were otherwise “disconnected” from their regular schools. They don’t play sports. They don’t march in the band or sing in the chorus. They don’t participate in any clubs and don’t particularly shine in any class.

Matlock said that Microsoft creator Bill Gates and his wife Melinda are the instigators behind the national early college high school movement.

“Our greatest concern is not to lose the potential of these students,” she said. “We have to compete and we need every single citizen. In China, India and Pakistan every student is studying math and science. In China, every student learns English and Japanese.”

Matlock said the students who attend this school will mostly likely stay in the community.

McPherson said that the schools would have to go out and individually recruit kids into the school.

Merritt asked how Robeson County had started its early college high school.

Phillips said that educators began with all four grades in the high school at once.

SEC will phase in one grade at a time, recruiting rising ninth-graders each year.

“We feel the phase-in is better,” Phillips said.

Board member Larry Hewett asked about the impact of these schools. Phillips said the schools are too new to know for sure what the outcomes will be.

“We won’t know for sure for three to five years down the road,” he said. “Everything that we get is saying that 90 percent of the students in those early college high schools are staying.”

Phillips said that good screening of students for the school would result in more students staying in the school.

Board member Carlton Prince said he was concerned about mixing high school freshmen with first and second-year college students.

Students in early college high schools are able to take college-level courses, starting their sophomore year.

“Students will not go into a college course until they’re ready,” Phillips said. “These will be blended classes.”

Phillips said that there are already 16-year-old high school students dual-enrolled in college level classes at SCC.

The earliest a high school student can take college level work is the second semester of the 10th grade, but we want them to venture out their junior and senior years,” he added.

Prince was also concerned that the “B” average would be too high for all students to be required to maintain.

“That’s just a goal,” Phillips said. “We know realistically that’s not going to happen, but we will shoot for that. A student must have a 2.0 average or better for a college degree. We’re not going to discourage anyone. We’ll encourage and we’ll support.”

Next month, both school boards and the college’s board of trustees must put their stamps of approval on the grant proposal for the school, which would be one of 35 in the state.

SEC students would be given college ID cards, identifying them as early college high school students. With this ID, they would be allowed to participate in college student support services and cultural functions.

SEC students would have access to the college’s academic skills lab for tutoring. SCC plans to offer mentoring services to the high schoolers.

Phillips said that each SEC student would be paired with a faculty member, staff member or an advanced college student.

SEC students will be able to participate in campus clubs and organizations, including SCC’s student government.

This is an idea I like. I've been talking to people for the last 2 years about the need for a school similar to the one proposed.

It looks like a good idea but it still leaves a trouble area in our local schools, kids that can't and/or won't learn. This program will pull out decent keds that just don't quite fit in high school. But the kids that are forced to go and don't give a crap about learning and don't have the decency to shut up and let those that do to do so. A school needs to be set up for them and the ones that are too dumb to learn at a high school level (if that offends you, too bad). At this school they are taught basic laboring to more advance labor type skills (welding, masonry, carpentry, concrete work, cosmetology, land scaping etc). This will leave the regular schools with student populations that can and want to learn

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posted by David at 9:23 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Sunday, December 25, 2005

It's Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS

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posted by David at 9:25 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Hill To Run Again

The News Reporter
Hill to run again
By MIKE HELM

Another one of Columbus County’s powerful senior legislators announced this week that he would seek re-election.

State Rep. Dewey Hill of Lake Waccamaw, who has steadily gained in power and seniority since replacing Leo Mercer in the state House, said he would ask voters to elect him to an eighth term.

State Sen. R.C. Soles Jr. is seeking his 20th term in the General Assembly and 16th in the Senate. Hill now represents all of Columbus and parts of rural western Brunswick County. He survived a tight race with Tabor City lawyer Richard Wright two years ago, losing to Wright in Columbus County, but carrying the election with a large win in Brunswick County.

The issues that caused Hill trouble last election have been settled and a challenger has not yet stepped forward. Filing begins Feb. 12.

Hill chairs the House Agriculture Committee, is vice-chairman of the House Finance Committee and is a member of the powerful Rules Committee, which is the gateway for passing laws.

Hill said he would focus on building agribusiness in Columbus County. He said he is certain that a recently discussed deal to sell the shell building at Southeast Regional Park to a foreign company would happen.

He said state revenues this year have been higher than projected and lawmakers could probably lift the temporary one-half cent sales tax in the short session. The tax generates $500 million per year.

Hill said South Carolina has a lower state sales tax and North Carolina border counties lose a lot of sales, particularly on big-ticket items, to retailers in the Palmetto State.

Medicaid is another issue that Hill said there is a good chance of making inroads on. Columbus County pays $4 million per year on average for Medicaid expenses.

North Carolina is the only state that requires counties to contribute a fixed part of the cost of the federal healthcare program for poor families and children. The General Assembly rejected several bills last session that would have phased out the counties’ contributions.

Hill did not limit himself to one more term and said he would continue to work in the Legislature as long as he was able and the voters were willing.

Hill works non-stop. In an interview before the 2003 election, Hill said work has always been central to his life.

“The only thing I’ve ever known is work,” he said proudly. “I don’t fish, hunt or golf. I don’t ever remember taking a vacation. My father was the hardest working person I’ve ever known. Work is my hobby. I took a family-owned grocery store and with the help of good people, built a 38-store chain. I started a real estate development company that has done a lot in North and South Carolina.”

Hill is proud of his constituent service and said he brings the same work ethic he has in business to his job as a state legislator, making himself available to any resident at his office in Raleigh or Whiteville, plus by telephone and e-mail.

“People have been good to Dewey Hill and I want to be good to people,” he said.

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posted by David at 7:13 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (5) ::

You Get What You Pay For

Wilmington Star News: Opinion Section
Paying cops badly is no bargain

Low pay and the resulting high turnover are hurting the Wilmington Police Department’s ability to fight crime.

City officers make less than their brethren in other area law enforcement agencies, such as the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the N.C. State Highway Patrol. That makes it difficult to recruit and keep qualified officers.

Chief Ralph Evangelous points out that the revolving door drains his department of the experience needed to focus on problems such as the Rankin-Red Cross Street area, where two people were recently murdered.

High turnover can’t get all the blame for crime just up the street from police headquarters, but it undoubtedly plays a role. It also wastes money that could be devoted to hiring, training and keeping good cops.

After all, it’s expensive and inefficient to break in more than two dozen officers a year, as the department finds itself doing.

The City Council should work toward a pay scale that tells officers that they’re worth at least as much as the deputies who patrol beyond the city limits.

And it's worth noting here that Wilmington is considered the State's second most dangerous city.

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posted by David at 6:27 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

If You Are Breaking the Law, Stay Off TV

Wilmington Star News
‘Dr. Phil’ guest denied bond
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE - A Virginia man arrested in Charlotte on a bigamy charge after his case was featured on the Dr. Phil television program remained at the Mecklenburg County Jail on a $25,000 bond Friday.

A judge refused Thursday to lower the bond for Charles Edward Hicks, 61. He has waived extradition to Virginia, where he was indicted earlier this month on the felony bigamy charge. But Virginia authorities are still preparing a governor’s warrant that would take him back to that state, said Elizabeth Trosch, an assistant public defender who represented Hicks in court Thursday.

Hicks was arrested after a woman saw him featured on the show and recognized him as her sister’s boyfriend.

One word... DUMMY

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posted by David at 6:24 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (6) ::

Clumsy

WWAY TV 3
Would-be thief breaks ankle at Best Buy
Dec 22, 2005, 09:54 AM EST

A would-be thief got stopped in his tracks earlier Wednesday night.

An ambulance had to take the man away from the Best Buy store in Wilmington just after 6 p.m. after he tried to make a getaway but tripped over a gumball machine and broke his ankle.

Police say the man tried to steal some video games.

No word on his identity or condition.

Maybe this is a sign to him. Get off you fat butt and do something besides play video games all day (can you tell I'm bitter that I can't sit on my fat butt and game all day). I wonder if the Best Buy is going to add more gum ball machines in all it's stores for added security.

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posted by David at 6:14 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

More Lottery Woes

WWAY TV 3
Potential bidders worry about fairness of N.C. lottery contracts
Dec 21, 2005, 09:10 AM EST

RALEIGH (AP) -- Companies interested in helping run North Carolina's lottery games are concerned that specifications for one important contract are written in a way that allows just one bidder.

The request for bids specifies that whoever wins the scratch-off ticket contract must handle printing, warehousing, distribution and marketing of tickets for the lottery. Georgia-based Scientific Games is the only company that does all those functions on its own. Other companies interested in the contract must team up to make a bid. But in recent, similar cases, Scientific Games has come up the winner.

Other states with established lotteries have sought bids solely on printing, while putting warehousing and distribution into other contracts or separate contracts.

Officials at Scientific Games declined to comment Tuesday. The company is under investigation for possibly violating lobbying laws as the General Assembly considered whether to approve a lottery this year.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

One good thing about Scientific Games is that the paper stock they use to make the tickets is made right here in Columbus County. The Riegelwood IP paper mill also makes lottery stock for a few other companies, but I'll have to check and see if they are in the running for the contract.

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posted by David at 6:09 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Eminent Domain In Brunswick County

WWAY TV 3
Brunswick Co. Commissioners vote to condemn land for public school, park
Dec 22, 2005, 03:55 PM EST

BRUNSWICK COUNTY -- After several years of searching for a site for a county park and also facing a surge in student enrollment, Brunswick County Commissioners voted Monday night to proceed with condemning land in order to build a public school and park.

The new school would be for students pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, said County Attorney Huey Marshall.

The 159.7 acres is located between Stone Chimney and Stanley roads and north of Cedar Grove Road SW, not far from the Holden Beach area.

The county has offered the property owner, Jerry Hailey, of Cary, $1.597 million for the property, or $10,000 an acre.

Jeff Stokley, of Pamlico Creek Partners, LLC and representing the property owner, told commissioners before Monday night's vote, "We are not here to be adversarial. We are here tonight to ask you to hold off on the condemnation of the property."

Commissioners Chairman David Sandifer said, "I, for one, am not interested in stopping the condemnation procedure."

Commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with it.

Sandifer did tell Stokley, "We'd like to sit down and talk with you."

Stokley had suggested that the county would need 30 to 40 acres for a school and 60 to 70 acres for a park.

But Marshall had sent a letter on Nov. 18 stating that the nearly 160 acres would be condemned by the county 30 days from the date of the letter, or last Sunday, Dec. 18.

"After those 30 days pass, the county can file, and possession shifts to the condemner," Marshall explained after the meeting. Then the previous property owner "gets divested of title, and all they argue about then is price."

A jury could decide the final price, he said.

Stokley, whose other two development partners were with him at Monday night's regular board meeting, said Pamlico Partners LLC, of Wilmington, wants to work with the county to develop that and surrounding properties. Pamlico Partners has been working with Hailey for seven months on a plan to develop the property, Stokley said.

"Our partnership is under contract with Hailey to develop houses," he said in a phone interview Tuesday.

"We're going to negotiate with the county and make sure what part of the land they are actually going to use for the park and the school, and then we'll have to plan around it, assuming that we come to a fair and equitable price.

"If we don't come to a fair and equitable price, we would go to court. At this point, I'm hopefully optimistic that they will not push it to that. All we want is a fair price."

Marshall said the county has met once with the developers and will meet again in negotiations.

The county has the power of eminent domain to take private property for a public use.

Marshall said that when the county files, he has to give the clerk of court a check for the amount offered $1.597 million.

During the public hearing Monday night, Varnamtown Alderman Ennis Swain said that he is not totally against the proposed school-park site, but cautioned county commissioners that a full-fledged landfill was on that site and that one of his constituents voiced concern that "a known drug location is not too far away" from the property where the school and park would be built.

After the meeting, Marshall said county officials are well aware of the former landfill.

"We can't use the landfill," he said. "We're going to take it over."

He said it was once a county landfill and probably contains a lot of "dead washing machines and old furniture." The landfill was closed prior to 1974, he said.

"There is a road into the old landfill and the old gravel pit," Marshall said. As for the proposed school and park, "There is access to Stanley Road."

Swain said he farmed the land in 1963 or '64.

"If you're going to put a school in that location, a school and a park is a good choice," Swain said. "It may be the best you can do. This has been ongoing for about four years. Property is running out."

The Varnamtown Board of Aldermen is already drafting a letter to send to county commissioners in support of the school and park in that area, said Mayor Judy Galloway.

"I'm looking forward to it," Galloway said Tuesday. "I want my grandchildren to go there."

I don't like eminent domain but in this case it is following the law as it was written and not as the Supreme Court says it was intended. The good thing about this case is that a school and park are the reason for eminent domain and not a subdivision or office building. Another good thing is that no one is being forced to move out of their home.

Read more!

posted by David at 5:55 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Friday, December 23, 2005

No Drilling In Anwr!!!

I read on Boortz just a few minutes ago that the Senate has killed drilling in Anwr. Way to go Senators! That moose is more important than the American that put your sorry tail in office. These are the things that you need to keep track of come election year for your Senator. Look at all the votes that affected you and your family and see if your needs are being meet.
NO DRILLING IN ANWR

After what has seemed like an eternity, the Senate has killed drilling in the very section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that was set aside for drilling. That's right, this is the land that was set aside years ago for the purpose of drilling for oil...and now we can't drill there. This despite gas prices that are going up because of tight oil supplies.

So why did the ANWR drilling provision get killed? Simple...the propaganda worked. The propaganda from the left and in the media that showed the section of ANWR where the drilling would take place as some sort of luscious, green field with moose grazing. When in reality, the area planned for oil exploration...at this very moment...looks like an iced-over bowling alley parking lot. There's nothing there.

Who killed it? (The provision to allow the drilling...not the moose, by the way.) It was voted down where all good legislation goes to die...the Senate. Why won't there be drilling in ANWR? Because of liberal "Republicans" like Lincoln Chafee and Mike DeWine. They opposed the drilling.

Right now we rely on foreign sources of oil for much of our energy. Many of those countries are Islamic dictatorships or are run by shady characters like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Yet if we want to drive our cars and heat our homes, we have to bow down and kiss their feet...begging them not to turn off the oil spigot.

And who do we have to thank for this? Liberals...both Democrats and Republicans...who won't let us drill for our own oil. Thanks guys!

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posted by David at 10:11 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

More Anti-Christmas Reporting (Winter Closure?!?)

Real Clear Politics
December 20, 2005
Merry You-Know-What
By Thomas Sowell

It was just a small thing but I was taken aback when I received a memo saying that the offices at work would be shut down during "winter closure." Then it dawned on me that "winter closure" was what we used to call "Christmas vacation."

Various colleges and universities have long since stopped calling it the Christmas vacation. A large shopping mall in San Francisco was decked out in all sorts of holiday decorations, including a huge tree, with Santa Claus sitting next to it -- but nowhere was there that now-controversial phrase, "Merry Christmas."

The idea is that any mention of Christmas might offend people who are not Christians -- and that this should be avoided at all costs.

As someone who does not keep track of my friends' religions, I have undoubtedly over the years sent out Christmas cards to people who were Jewish or non-religious. Yet none has protested or seemed to be traumatized.

Christmas is now one of many things that make us walk on eggshells during this supposedly liberated era. Are we all wimps?

Over the years, we have gotten used to the American Civil Liberties Union launching legalistic jihads against recognitions of Christmas, in between coming to the rescue of murderers and terrorists.

The ACLU invokes that famous phrase about a "wall of separation between church and state" -- a phrase found nowhere in the Constitution but somehow considered to be part of Constitutional law.

The Constitution forbad Congress from creating "an establishment of religion" but this was no mysterious concept known only to deep thinking legal scholars.

The people who wrote the Constitution all knew exactly what an establishment of religion was because they had all lived under one -- the established Church of England.

Being established meant that everyone had to pay taxes to support that church, whether they belonged to it or not, and that people who didn't belong to the established church could not be admitted to various institutions or be appointed to certain official positions.

This had nothing to do with Christmas, merry or otherwise.

It is one of the sad signs of our times that we allow the ACLU to bamboozle us, or bully us with lawsuits, over something for which no one ever passed a law.

The ACLU gets away with this not only because of liberal judges who create their own laws out of thin air and call it "Constitutional" law. The ACLU and others get away with spooking us on all sorts of things, even when they don't threaten us with lawsuits, but only with not being in step with the latest politically correct notions.

It is not just on religious issues that the media and the intelligentsia seem determined to suppress the symbols of Western civilization. American flags can be seen on homes in working class communities but seldom on elite college campuses.

Those who banish the symbols of a civilization often undermine that civilization in other ways as well. People who warn us against being "Eurocentric" are often totally Eurocentric when it comes to condemning the sins of the human race as if they were peculiarities of "our society."

These are not just isolated foibles that we can laugh at. No society can survive in the long run without the allegiance of its people. Undermining a sense of the worthiness of a society undermines that allegiance -- and, without allegiance, there is no defense.

In the international jungle, made more dangerous by terrorist networks that circle the globe, anything that it is not defended is in jeopardy -- which means we are all in jeopardy, and so are our children and our children's children.

Those who wage war against the symbols of American society and Western civilization may do so for no wider purpose than moral exhibitionism or just a desire to be in step with fashionable trends. But silliness can be a prelude to tragedy.

Hope you enjoy your winter closure, your merry you-know-what, and -- before it becomes taboo -- a Happy New Year.

This is crazy no where in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights does it state that you have the right not to be offended. But private businesses everywhere are acting like they are going to be sued if they mutter "Merry Christmas" to their patrons. Yesterday I visited a store in Whiteville that had no problem with the saying merry Christmas, that store was the Christian Supply Store.

Read more!

posted by David at 1:29 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Government and Secret Wiretaps

Boortz
EAVESDROPPING

As you know, there has been much gnashing of teeth and rolling of eyes since The New York Times disclosed last Thursday that President Bush ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens after 9/11 --- without first getting a warrant. It is the administration's contention that the eavesdropping orders were only given in cases where there was a clear link with terrorism.

OK .. before we get into this, let's explore a scenario. Some reports over the weekend have suggested that this scenario might be more fact than fiction. U.S. Intelligence agencies overseas discover the phone number of Osama bin Laden's satellite phone. Osama makes a satellite phone call to a U.S. citizen living outside of Chicago. Nobody's home. Intelligence operatives are certain that bin Laden will try to place the call again, but it may be from a different phone. They know that Osama changes phones frequently, so there is no time to waste in mining this resources. Their best chance to intercept bin Laden's next phone call is to place a tap on the U.S. citizen's phone. The next phone call may be in a matter of minutes, or hours. There is no time to go before a court to get a wiretap order. So ... what do you do? Do you put the wiretap in place immediately, or do you take the chance of missing the next phone call from Osama while trying to get a court order? Now, before you answer, imagine that this might have been a phone call from bin Laden to Mohammed Atta an hour before Atta was to board that American Airlines flight in Boston. The call was bin Laden giving Atta the final go-ahead for the attacks of 9/11. Without a court order you intercept the call, discover the plot, and save 3000 lives. Wait for a court order and the 9/11 attacks go forward.

OK .. there's your scenario. You're the president. You've taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and to uphold its laws. Obviously this character living outside of Chicago has some ties to Osama bin Laden. Something may be in the works: another terrorist attack may be just hours away. Do you spend those hours trying to get a warrant? Or do you spend those hours trying to prevent the impending terrorist attack.

Now, with Bush there is, of course, no way he can win on this. In retrospect, if he goes ahead and orders the wiretaps on people who have clear ties to terrorism, he will be assailed by the left for violating the law and ignoring our rights. If it is later discovered that he was aware of someone in this country with direct ties to terrorism but didn't take immediate action to monitor their activities, he will be accused of ignoring clear threats to our country.

If you consider this situation fairly, you will probably come to the realization that you are just happy that it isn't you that has to make the decision as to how to proceed.

Now .. my feelings (as if you cared). From what I've learned thus far I'm not convinced that there was no way to get a court order for these wiretaps. I know that the administration is claiming that these wiretaps absolutely did prevent terrorist attacks in our country, and that they are critical to save American lives. They cite one particular plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. If the laws of this country are not adequate to allow the president and our security agencies to act when a clear threat is present, then those laws should be considered by the congress. First and foremost the United States is a government of law. Everybody, from the urban outdoorsman seeking money for his next pint in Omaha, to the highest officials in our government, including the president, must abide by these laws. If you think that the laws aren't sufficient to allow you to do your job, try to get them changed. But follow the law. This rule-of-law thing is what makes this country so unique and so extraordinary.

Now .. has Bush broken those laws? Don't know. Not enough information yet. It should be looked into though, not in some partisan Washington show, but quietly in talks and discussions between members of the congress and the Justice Department. Oh, and speaking of members of congress. One thing does seem clear. The leading Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate intelligence committees were briefed on these wiretap activities and knew that they were going on. These partisans cannot now step up to the microphones and condemn Bush for his actions. They knew, they are complicit.

In his radio address on Saturday President Bush criticized the media for disclosing the wiretaps. He was wrong. This is exactly what the media should be done[sic]. This is the value of the free press. While The New York Times can certainly be criticized for sitting on this story for a year, this is precisely how the American people are protected from the excesses of government and government officials by an active free press. In countries ruled by despots this news story would never make it to print. Give thanks that it is not so in our country.

I saw this over the weekend and have thought about for a while. The USA is a republic not a democracy. A republic is a government that governers by laws. So if these wiretaps are illegal then Bush is wrong. Today the law may be broken agaisnt a terrorist but whose to say whom the next President may break the law against.

As for Bush bashing the media about releasing this info, I have to agree with Boortz on this one, the media was/is doing their job. By bring these things to the people's attention it keeps the government semi-honest.

Read more!

posted by David at 1:04 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Sunday, December 18, 2005

NC AP Withholding News About Illegal Aliens

ALIPAC
NC Associated Press Wire Censorship Proven. Immigration News blocked.
Posted on Friday, December 16 @ 10:35:12 EST
Topic: Illegal Immigration News in the US

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
12/16/2005
ALIPAC Contact WilliamG@alipac.us

On Thursday of last week, our organization Americans for LEGAL immigration accused the NC AP wire service of censoring critical information about the criminal conduct of illegal aliens in NC and this fact has been proven in the days following our release.

North Carolina Associated Press wire service representative, David Scott (919-833-8687), has denied the charge when contacted by both ALIPAC and journalists from across America. He has stated that the NC AP Wire did cover the Hernandez case twice as a defense.

We never claimed that the NC AP Wire did not cover the Gilberto Cruz Hernandez case at all. We pointed out accurately that they never covered the Amy Milligan tragedy, the Robert Yates Dewy tragedy, or the gang rape of a 37 year old Huntersville woman. In the case of Hernandez, we accused them of not telling the state about his fresh and valid NC license which contradicts many stories they have circulated concerning Democratic lawmakers and administrators claiming our licenses are now secure.

The bias of the NC Associated Press Wire has now been proven, after the story broke last Sunday, that Gilberto Cruz Hernandez had a 44k job and a 123k mortgage backed by US taxpayers through the FHA. This censorship is further illustrated by their refusal to report that the issue has now reached Congress through actions of Congresswoman Virginia Foxx. The NC AP Wire has refused to carry this information to date. No other NC newspapers are carrying this important story at this time.

The clear evidence is available for all to see by viewing the articles on this matter running in the Greensboro News and Record and Winston Salem Journal both of which are members of the NC Associated Press. By comparing these articles to a search on “Gilberto Cruz Hernandez” on the Google News Search engine, all can see the suppression of this information.

You can read the rest of it at the above link.

Here is some info on the creep Giberto:
ALIPAC
The average North Carolina resident probably assumes that local, state and federal governments are better coordinated to fight terrorism today than they were before the Sept. 11 attacks four years ago. But the case of Gilberto Cruz Hernandez -- illegal Mexican immigrant accused in a series of rapes -- suggests otherwise. On his third try at illegal immigration, the 24-year-old Hernandez hit the jackpot in the Piedmont Triad, settling with unnerving ease into the mundane fabric of everyday life. He landed a job at a Greensboro printing company and earned $44,000 a year.

Last year, the same federal government that twice deported him put its financial might behind a $123,000 Federal Housing Administration loan that allowed him to buy a brand-new house in Winston-Salem.

12/11/2005
By Taft Wireback
Staff Writer Greensboro News and Record

Although he was ticketed 11 times for speeding and other driving infractions by the Highway Patrol and police in High Point and Winston-Salem, none of the traffic stops resulted in his detention as an illegal immigrant, a prior deportee or a potential threat to public safety.

That's true even though at least one of his stops in High Point occurred after police officers suspected they'd interrupted a crime in progress when Hernandez pulled out of a closed car sales lot one night in December 2000.

Neighbors in two cities say he didn't arouse their suspicions. Officials at the company that sold him a home in Winston-Salem say it wasn't their job to check his immigration status.

His employer says Hernandez's documentation checked out "absolutely fine," although -- in hindsight -- some might have been forged.

Police now contend that Hernandez's seemingly nondescript facade hid a night burglar, a masked man with a Spanish accent who terrorized women in Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem in a series of eight sexual assaults between May 2004 and Feb. 22, 2005.

Today, Hernandez is in the Forsyth County jail awaiting trial in Forsyth and Guilford counties. Federal immigration authorities also have issued a detainer on him, meaning they want to deport him again once he is either acquitted of the state charges or is convicted and serves prison time.

Read more!

posted by David at 4:13 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Immigration Bill Moves Through the House

CNN.com
House passes immigration bill
No decision on 11 million illegal immigrants in U.S. until next year

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House acted Friday to stem the tide of illegal immigration by taking steps to tighten border controls and stop unlawful immigrants from getting jobs.

But lawmakers left for next year the tougher issue of what to do with the 11 million undocumented people already in the country.

The House legislation, billed as a border protection, anti-terrorism and illegal immigration control act, includes such measures as enlisting military and local law enforcement help in stopping illegal entrants and requiring employers to verify the legal status of their workers.

-

The vote was 239-182, with opposition coming from Democrats and some Republicans upset by the exclusion of the guest worker issue and other Republicans wanting tougher border control measures.

-

Nobody is advocating the deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants, said Republican Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, sponsor of a guest worker measure.

Without a temporary worker program, he said, "We simply won't enforce the law, and that's the dirty little secret here."

-

Bush has proposed that undocumented immigrants be allowed to get three-year work visas.

They could extend those for an additional three years, but would then have to return to their home countries for a year to apply for a new work permit.

-

The most sweeping provision of the House bill would require all employers in the country, more than 7 million, to submit Social Security numbers and other information to a national database to verify the legal status of workers.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups protested this provision as unworkable, while immigrant rights groups said some of the new penalties were draconian.


This is a decent start to the immigration we have. I can only hope that it goes through and that the guest worker provision isn't added to it in the Senate. I also hope that the issue of 11 million undocumented immigrants illegal aliens is handled by the law, and not overlooked. One of the highlights to the bill is below:

It makes drunken driving convictions a deportable offense.

The bill makes unlawful presence in the United States, currently a civil offense, a felony.

This is one issue that has been in the news across North Carolina in recent months.

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posted by David at 12:41 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Saturday, December 17, 2005

State Gas Tax Going Up


State Gas Tax Hike Largest In 16 Years

POSTED: 8:14 am EST December 17, 2005
UPDATED: 8:41 am EST December 17, 2005

Find and share low gas prices on our message board.

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Get ready to pay more at the pump in January-- and you can blame the state for it.

North Carolina is raising its motor fuel tax by nearly 3 cents a gallon.

That's the largest increase in 16 years.

Officials say the tax hike is based -- by law -- on wholesale prices.

The state's tax will be 29.9 cents per gallon.

About 17.5 cents of the current 27 cent tax is a flat rate. There is also a variable rate that increases when the price of gas increases.

It changes every six months, based on the price of gas during that period. That is why the gas tax will jump nearly 3 cents on Jan. 1.

North Carolina has the fifth-highest gas tax in the nation and the highest in the South.

For example, Virginia's gas tax is 17 cents a gallon and South Carolina's is 16 cents a gallon, while North Carolina motorists currently pay 27 cents a gallon.


Thanks NC for taking more money out of my pocket. I drive about 90 miles round trip to work 21 days out of a 28 day cycle. Most people are mad at Exxon for raising prices not me I'll mad about taxes. It's not bad enough that we had higher gas prices in the summer but our state leaders have a tax on the books that penalizes us more because of it. That's the way to look out for the people who put you in office. I do believe I'll send Hill and Soles an email on this one.

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posted by David at 11:54 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Yahoo News
Renewal of anti-terror law blocked in Senate

Fri Dec 16,12:32 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, demanding increased protection of civil liberties, defied
President George W. Bush on Friday and blocked legislation to renew the USA Patriot Act, a centerpiece of his war on terrorism.

On a Senate vote of 52-47, mostly Republican backers of the measure fell eight short of the needed 60 to end debate and move to passage of the legislation.

Good. I don't support the Patriot Act as written, never have and never will. I don't support anything that takes away our rights or limits our freedom.

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posted by David at 2:56 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

The House Honors Tony Stewart. WHAT THE...

Motorsport.com
Capitol reward: Tony Stewart honored by U. S. House of Representatives

Congressional corps sponsors resolution hailing NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Champion

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec 15, 2005) -- During the past few weeks, Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) has been honored by many groups for winning his second career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series title. But as satisfying as those acknowledgements are, none had been written into law -- yet.

That changed Wednesday, when the U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution from U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel of Indiana recognizing Stewart for his 2005 championship. Sodrel, who sponsored the resolution, was joined by other members of the Indiana delegation -- Reps. Mike Pence, Dan Burton, Mark Soder, John Hostettler and Julia Carson -- as co-sponsors. House Resolution 587 passed unanimously.

It's good to know that the House has taken care of all our problems and can now pass meaningless resolutions like this one. You go House of Representatives, don't be afraid to waste taxpayers money and voters dreams of a better US.

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posted by David at 2:52 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (4) ::

Friday, December 16, 2005

Student Reporters Sue School

Bureaucrash.com

School District Sued!

In keeping with the theme of abuses of power by public indoctrination, er, education officials, I present the story of two high school paper editors suing their district over prior review of their paper. It seems they don't believe that they forfeit their First Amendment rights when they arrive on campus.

Apparently, the fuss all started when the paper published a piece about the hiring of the new principal, and how the person hired was the 3rd choice of students on the hiring committee, suggesting that the students voices were ignored (wouldn't be the first time). School officials now want the paper to be subject to prior review before it is published.

Voltaire:

I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

The price of living in a free society is that sometimes someone will say something you don't like. Get over it. If these students have a criticism, and it seems to me like they certainly have a legitimate one, then they have the right to voice it in a public manner. It is not the place of some school official to determine what you can and cannot say. What does this have to do with education, exactly? Are we trying to teach students that you can't criticize authority? It happens in the real world all the time. Isn't that the point of an education? To prepare students for life in the real world? Well, perhaps the point of a real education anyway...

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posted by David at 6:17 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Townhall.com Columns

townhall.com

Is it Harder to Kill Terrorists or Get a Job?

Dec 16, 2005
by Todd Manzi

The position of Democrats seems to be that it is easier to hunt down and kill terrorists than it is to make a living flipping burgers. Democrats are telling us we should withdraw from Iraq, so that the Iraqis will have an incentive to stand up and fight for themselves. When it comes to the War on Poverty, however, Democrats want the federal government to continue assisting the needy indefinitely.

Which is easier, learning how to fight terrorists in Iraq or finding a way to make a living in the United States? Our steady stream of immigrants would indicate the latter, but the rhetoric of Democrats points to the former.


townhall.com

Sam Alito saves Christmas

Dec 16, 2005
by Jacob Sullum

Alito deserves credit not so much for facing down the secular humanists as for fearlessly wading into the murky constitutional waters of government-sponsored religious displays. Confronted by questions like how many cartoon characters it takes to balance a baby Jesus, a lesser jurist would have thrown up his hands. But not Judge Sam Alito.

In 1999, as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, Alito was asked to decide whether Jersey City's display of a creche, a menorah, and a Christmas tree outside city hall, which a different 3rd Circuit panel had declared an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, could be saved by adding Kwanzaa ornaments on the tree, a red sled, and plastic Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman statues. Writing for the majority, he concluded that the new, busier exhibit was "indistinguishable in any constitutionally significant respect" from displays the Supreme Court had upheld.


townhall.com

The "Redemption" of Stanley 'Tookie' Williams

Dec 15, 2005
by Larry Elder

About the death penalty, according to the NAACP's website, the organization opposes it: "The NAACP has long opposed the death penalty because in many states there has been a disproportionate number of African-Americans sentenced to death, particularly when the crime involves a white victim."

But where was the NAACP's opposition to the death penalty back in 2000? The organization ran an ad during the 2000 presidential campaign of then-Gov. George W. Bush. The ad -- with a voiceover by the daughter of James Byrd, the man dragged to death by three men in Jasper, Texas -- attacked Bush for not passing enhanced hate-crime legislation. Bird's daughter, in a dramatic voice, said, "(I)t was like my father was killed all over again." But two of the three men convicted of killing Byrd had already received death sentences, with the third, who testified that he attempted to stop the other two from committing the murder, getting life without possibility of parole.


townhall.com

The Christmas Grinch revisited

Dec 15, 2005
by Burt Prelutsky

Nothing that I have ever written has provoked as huge a response as a piece I wrote recently called “The Jewish Grinch That Stole Christmas.”

In the article, which brought me roughly ten times as much e-mail as I’m accustomed to, I suggested that my fellow Jews were at the forefront in waging war on the values and traditions of Christian Americans.


townhall.com

Why can't I get arrested?

Dec 15, 2005
by Ann Coulter

I'm getting a little insulted that no Democratic prosecutor has indicted me. Liberals bring trumped-up criminal charges against all the most dangerous conservatives. Why not me?


townhall.com

Matthew 10:32-34

Dec 14, 2005
by Mike S. Adams

Nearly 2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth stated, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

As I was re-reading those three verses yesterday, I was reminded of a speech broadcast live (and rebroadcast several times) on television from my school, the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. In the speech, the self-proclaimed religious expert strongly urged the audience to abandon the notion of the deity of Christ. To do so, he claimed, would be to fully appreciate what a great man Jesus really was.


townhall.com

The war on Christmas

Dec 13, 2005
by Rebecca Hagelin

You may know John Gibson as host of the Fox News show “The Big Story,” which airs weeknights at 5:00 p.m. (and is currently the sixth most popular news show). Or perhaps you know him from his crackerjack reporting days at NBC and MSNBC. He’s always stood out as one of the best, an investigative reporter who actually ... well, investigates and reports.

But I like to think of Gibson as the cowboy he is. When not in New York, he spends time on his ranch in Texas, where he escapes the conventional “wisdom” of the big city and keeps connected to what average Americans think. Like his early American counterparts, John has always been the daring, bold sort that cares deeply about his country and its values and traditions.

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posted by David at 3:14 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Good Story

OpinionJournal

Mightier Than the Pen
Why I gave up journalism to join the Marines.

BY MATT POTTINGER
Thursday, December 15, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

When people ask why I recently left The Wall Street Journal to join the Marines, I usually have a short answer. It felt like the time had come to stop reporting events and get more directly involved. But that's not the whole answer, and how I got to this point wasn't a straight line.

It's a cliché that you appreciate your own country more when you live abroad, but it happens to be true. Living in China for the last seven years, I've seen that country take a giant leap from a struggling Third World country into a true world power. For many people it still comes as a surprise to learn that China is chasing Japan as the second-largest economy on the globe and could soon own a trillion dollars of American debt.

But living in China also shows you what a nondemocratic country can do to its citizens. I've seen protesters tackled and beaten by plainclothes police in Tiananmen Square, and I've been videotaped by government agents while I was talking to a source. I've been arrested and forced to flush my notes down a toilet to keep the police from getting them, and I've been punched in the face in a Beijing Starbucks by a government goon who was trying to keep me from investigating a Chinese company's sale of nuclear fuel to other countries.

When you live abroad long enough, you come to understand that governments that behave this way are not the exception, but the rule. They feel alien to us, but from the viewpoint of the world's population, we are the aliens, not them. That makes you think about protecting your country no matter who you are or what you're doing. What impresses you most, when you don't have them day to day, are the institutions that distinguish the U.S.: the separation of powers, a free press, the right to vote, and a culture that values civic duty and service, to name but a few.

I'm not an uncritical, rah-rah American. Living abroad has sharpened my view of what's wrong with my country, too. It's obvious that we need to reinvent ourselves in various ways, but we should also be allowed to do it from within, not according to someone else's dictates.

But why the Marines?

A year ago, I was at my sister's house using her husband's laptop when I came across a video of an American in Iraq being beheaded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The details are beyond description here; let's just say it was obscene. At first I admit I felt a touch of the terror they wanted me to feel, but then I felt the anger they didn't. We often talk about how our policies are radicalizing young men in the Middle East to become our enemies, but rarely do we talk about how their actions are radicalizing us. In a brief moment of revulsion, sitting there in that living room, I became their blowback.

Of course, a single emotional moment does not justify a career change, and that's not what happened to me. The next day I went to lunch at the Council on Foreign Relations where I happened to meet a Marine Corps colonel who'd just come back from Iraq. He gave me a no-nonsense assessment of what was happening there, but what got to me most was his description of how the Marines behaved and how they looked after each other in a hostile world. That struck me as a metaphor for how America should be in the world at large, and it also appealed to me on a personal level. At one point I said half-jokingly that, being 31 years old, it was a shame I was too old to serve. He sat back for a second and said, "I think I've still gotcha."

The next morning I found myself roaming around the belly of the USS Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier museum moored a few blocks from Times Square, looking for a Marine recruiting station and thinking I'd probably lost my marbles. The officer-selection officer wasn't impressed with my age, my Chinese language abilities or the fact that I worked for one of the great newspapers of the world. His only question was, "How's your endurance?"

Well, I can sit at my desk for 12 hours straight. Fourteen if I have a bag of Reese's.

He said if I wanted a shot at this I'd have to ace the physical fitness test, where a perfect score consisted of 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches in two minutes, and a three-mile run in 18 minutes. Essentially he was telling me to pack it in and go home. After assuring him I didn't have a criminal record or any tattoos, either of which would have required yet another waiver (my age already required the first), I took an application and went back to China.

Then came the Asian tsunami last December.

I was scrambled to Thailand, where thousands of people had died in the wave. After days in the midst of the devastation, I pulled back to Thailand's Utapao Air Force Base, at one time a U.S. staging area for bombing runs over Hanoi, to write a story on the U.S.-led relief efforts. The abandoned base was now bustling with air traffic and military personnel, and the man in charge was a Marine.

Warfare and relief efforts, as it turns out, involve many skills in common. In both cases, it's 80% preparation and logistics and only a small percent of actual battle. What these guys were doing was the same thing they did in a war zone, except now the tip of the spear wasn't weapons, but food, water and medicine. It was a major operation to save people's lives, and it was clear that no other country in the world could do what they were doing. Once again, I was bumping into the U.S. Marines, and once again I was impressed.

The day before I left Thailand I decided to do my first physical training and see what happened. I started running and was winded in five minutes. The air quality in downtown Bangkok didn't help, but the biggest problem was me. I ducked into Lumpini Park in the heart of the city where I was chased around by a three-foot monitor lizard that ran faster than I did. At one point I found a playground jungle gym and managed to do half a pull-up. That's all.

I got back to Beijing and started running several days a week. Along the way I met a Marine who was studying in Beijing on a fellowship and started training with him. Pretty soon I filled out the application I'd taken from New York, got letters of recommendation from old professors and mentors, and received a letter from a senior Marine officer who took a leap of faith on my behalf.

I made a quick trip back to New York in April to take a preliminary physical fitness test with the recruitment officer at the USS Intrepid. By then I could do 13 pull-ups, all my crunches, and a three-mile run along the West Side Highway in a little under 21 minutes, all in all a mediocre performance that was barely passable. When I was done, the officer told me to wipe the foam off my mouth, but I did him one better and puked all over the tarmac. He liked that a lot. That's when we both knew I was going for it.

Friends ask if I worry about going from a life of independent thought and action to a life of hierarchy and teamwork. At the moment, I find that appealing because it means being part of something bigger than I am. As for how different it's going to be, that, too, has its appeal because it's the opposite of what I've been doing up to now. Why should I do something that's a "natural fit" with what I already do? Why shouldn't I try to expand myself?

In a way, I see the Marines as a microcosm of America at its best. Their focus isn't on weapons and tactics, but on leadership. That's the whole point of the Marines. They care about each other in good times and bad, they've always had to fight for their existence--even Harry Truman saw them as nothing more than the "Navy's police force"--and they have the strength of their traditions. Their future, like the country's, is worth fighting for. I hope to be part of the effort.

Mr. Pottinger, until recently a Journal correspondent in China, is scheduled to be commissioned a second lieutenant tomorrow. He spent the last three months at Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Va. As of early December, his three-mile run was down to 18 minutes and 15 seconds.

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posted by David at 3:13 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::