Friday, January 30, 2009

30 JAN 09: Oil Slick

You probably realize plenty of people are desperate for income right now. Thursday's news brought word of 105 layoffs at the Columbus Cessna plant, with promises of more new jobs put on hold. I never thought of Cessna as a fly-by-night company....

So is someone taking advantage of a recession to flim-flam people? Another story on the Thursday news raised that question. Someone is going up to property owners along U.S. 80 in Russell County, offering to drill for oil. Come to think of it, didn't some people on U.S. 80 try to make money years ago selling emu oil?

The oil patch pitch is not confined to Russell County. An Opelika landowner says Roy Dent came to him, promising to double a $3,000 "investment" in 60 days. This makes several assumptions - one of them being that people still have $3,000 to invest in anything, after the stock market's slide.

Roy Dent reportedly tells potential investors there's plenty of oil beneath the ground of Russell and Lee Counties. Really now - I don't think that's why Ladonia and Auburn tend to have lower gas prices than Columbus.

At least one Russell County landowner apparently has accepted Roy Dent's offer, and leased some of his land. In fact, that landowner says Dent is living on the land from time to time. If Dent keeps coming to the door asking to borrow flour and sugar, be careful....

But there may be big problems with this dream of making east Alabama look like west Texas. For one thing, Dent received a "cease and desist" order from the state of Alabama two years ago -- and he was asking for leases to drill for oil then. I don't think oil is how the "black belt" area gained its name.

(One of Roy Dent's companies was called Spirit Resources, and was based in Troy. But one listing shows the company had only two employees. Recalling my years in Oklahoma, I think you need more than two people to drill an oil well - but my understanding of oil admittedly is crude.)

On top of that, the evening news discovered Roy Dent doesn't have a license to offer investments in Alabama. And he doesn't have a state permit to dig oil wells. Governor Bob Riley simply hasn't reduced state government enough for this man.

We did a little online research of our own Thursday night, and found a Roy V. Dent published a book four years ago. We don't know if it's the same man - but the book happens to have the title "Fool's Gold." If they're two different people, one of them may have the perfect subject for a sequel.

If Roy Dent knocks on your door offering an oil lease deal, I'd suggest being at least a little skeptical. My older brother was taken for several thousand dollars years ago, in an investment scheme involving pineapples. No, the scam artist did NOT suggest you could grow them in Kansas during winter.

Besides, one Alabama state geologist says rural Lee and Russell Counties are unlikely hiding places for oil. If you want to search for hidden moonshine stills, that could be another story....

This isn't the only unusual investment story we've heard lately. A woman reportedly walked around the parking lot of a Columbus supermarket, telling people she could turn their 20-dollar investment into $20,000 overnight. I don't know the woman's name - or where she buys her lingerie for strip club dancing.

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: We're asking for words and phrases which are distinctive to the Columbus area. And that request brought this, in color....

How about


Uhhhhh - maybe we should be more specific here. We're talking about Columbus, Georgia. This is NOT Ohio. We're not into Blue Jacket hockey, but Jordan Red Jacket basketball -- as long as the players don't grow addicted to Red Jacket ale from the Cannon Brew Pub.

-> Our other blog gets visitors from Columbus to Europe. Read about poker and life at "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Legacy - whose Legacy?

Richard, Since Mr. Jones, the owner of Legacy Chevrolet, was on TV bragging about exceeding his sales goals for his first month in business (150 vehicles vs. 200 sold) it makes me wonder why he has written the President asking for bailout money for minority car dealers. And I also wonder if he realized that act in itself would cause some prospective customers to shop elsewhere.

Now, now - one good month does NOT a full recovery make. Not even three good months might ensure that. Ask any Alabama football fan....

Sports takes the spotlight in our review of Thursday's news:

+ The University of Georgia fired men's basketball coach Dennis Felton. The Bulldogs' loss to Florida Wednesday night put their record at 9-11. Hmmmm - coincidence?

(This comes only days after Alabama's head coach resigned. Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo is wondering whether he should feel superior, or start pricing moving companies.)

+ ESPN announced former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville will be part of their "Signing Day" coverage next week. Tuberville probably will practice all weekend, to make sure he doesn't say "resigning day" by mistake.

+ Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson visited Auburn, and said he hopes to return to major-league action in August. This leaves six months for President Obama to fly to Georgia, and persuade Hudson to forfeit most of his 2009 salary.

+ WLTZ reported the Fort Benning Commandant will move to a temporary office in April, due to base realignment construction. Huh? You mean that new hotel being built on Victory Drive isn't for him?

+ The Georgia Senate approved the "Zero-Based Budget Act," for planning future funding of state agencies. But some Republicans were disappointed, because the bill doesn't actually reduce the agencies' budgets to zero.

+ Instant Message to the U.S. Postmaster-General: Yes, I know I should be sending a post card. But that's an interesting cost-cutting idea you have - reducing mail delivery service to five days a week. Which WRBL employee suggested that?

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: A local event which could get its organizers in a lot of trouble....

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,555 (+ 61, 4.1%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

29 JAN 09: Combo for Harp

So GPB Television's "Lawmakers" did an online poll on tobacco taxes -- and only 11 people voted in it. Isn't this a program shown throughout the state? Does this blog have more readers than GPB does viewers?

But it was thanks to "Lawmakers" that we heard State Senator Seth Harp introduce a controversial proposal Wednesday. Harp wants to merge four state colleges into two - only two of the four are HBCU's. No, that does NOT refer to universities with high book counts....

Seth Harp says two "historically black colleges and universities" should be combined with more diverse state colleges, to save money. One pairing would merge Armstrong Atlantic State with Savannah State -- but I'm not sure how many students would want to wear sweatshirts with the initials for Armstrong Savannah State.

The other proposed college merger would bring together Albany State University and Darton College. This is a bit personal for Seth Harp, since he says he lived in Albany in the late 1960s. As we all know, he moved to a city that's much more sophisticated and cultured -- you know, Midland.

Seth Harp recalls when state universities began in southwest Georgia, Darton was put in a "white area" of Albany. But Albany State was "relegated to a river bottom." Why a rowing team didn't develop to take advantage of this, I have no idea.

(The placement of Albany State led to extensive damage when the Flint River flooded during the 1990s. But the last time I was in Albany, the campus was overflowing with something else - so many cars that I couldn't find a place to park anywhere on campus.)

Seth Harp says two universities obviously were created in Albany to "perpetuate segregation." You may not realize Columbus has something similar to this - as Columbus State University is secular, while Beacon Seminary isn't.

Seth Harp explained a merger of four colleges into two will make African-American schools more likely to survive. But critics of his proposal fear the history of those schools will be.... well, uhhhh.... they can't quite bring themselves to say it'll be whitewashed.

Seth Harp added he's motivated by money, as well as the mixing of ethnic communities. He says the Georgia Board of Regents don't seem to grasp the state's budget problems. For instance, they could have saved the state money by canceling the lousy Georgia and Georgia Tech basketball seasons.

But uh-oh - I can hear the critics of Seth Harp now, suggesting he start the "merger-mania" in his own backyard. They would note he's NOT calling for a merger of Columbus State University's two campuses. Bring the downtown artists back to University Avenue where the business majors are, and end the left wing-right wing separatism.

The critics also might say Seth Harp should practice what he's preaching. They would point to his two-attorney law practice in downtown Columbus, and ask why he hasn't merged it with an African-American law firm nearby. The way law offices divide and expand, you'd think every attorney in Columbus handled divorces.

But Seth Harp says his college merger proposal will "make lemonade out of lemons." Calling Albany State University a lemon doesn't sound like much of a compliment - and if he's not careful, the Fountain City Classic football game will decide Macon is a sweet peach of a city.

BLOG UPDATE: We strolled around Peachtree Mall Wednesday - and sure enough, it is NOT closed. But there are two new noteworthy departures. The Jewelers Touch has shut down, to move to Columbus Park Crossing. The story I'm hearing is that the mall rent touches too hard in the wallet.

But I didn't realize until Wednesday that the Taco Bell stand has closed in the Peachtree Mall food court. I suppose the owner is making one of those "runs for the border" - in this case the Harris County border.

-> Our other blog is getting visits from downtown Columbus to the Middle East. Read about poker and life at "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: One good mention of Hurtsboro apparently deserves another....

"Sir" Richard:

I'm miffed!! It seems you converse often with others in "Hurt'sboro; but you never call me!! My phone number is - (334) XXX-XXXX

Furthermore I would like to remind you of some things about our working relationship.

#1- I deal in facts not allegations. #2 - I'm not camera shy or hesitant about signing my name to my media submissions. #3 - I refuse to rebut the ridiculous claims made against me.#4 - I avoid any reference to race or religion. So be it!

As to your run down on the impossibility of providing police protection in "Hurt'sboro. Let me remind you that; it was Tapley - not I - who promised 24/7 security. You would think they would be intelligent enough to cover the "hot" spots like the stores and bank when they open and at closing time. That's when the danger is greatest.

As to the assumptions made by the City Clerk - they are erronious. But, they have resulted in a physical confrontation between myself and her father and grandfather. This is nothing new. - They have meddled in my personal affairs before.

Oh Yes! About the question marks? You will just have to wait and see.

Constable R.J. Schweiger????

We are NOT posting Robert Schweiger's phone number, because it is NOT listed in the Hurtsboro phone book and we want to protect him from harassing calls. But really now - we don't have to call Schweiger. He e-mails us so often....

Mayor Rayford Tapley may have promised "24/7 security" in Hurtsboro, but surely Robert Schweiger realizes a small police department cannot be at all businesses at all key times of the day. Hasn't he seen that movie about the "Mall Cop?"

It somehow doesn't surprise me that Robert Schweiger has had "physical confrontations" with some residents of Hurtsboro. Who knows, there could be more - if the Hurtsboro Book Club can arrange for a pro wrestling troupe to visit for some fund-raising matches.

Before we tap out for the day, let's check other news items of interest....

+ Radio web sites reported the Columbus Clear Channel stations fired their Operations Manager and several salespeople last week. Apparently no on-air personalities were dropped - so Richard Hyatt won't have to go spinning CD's on Rock 103, after appearing on the WDAK Morning Show.

+ Emanuel Jones of Legacy Chevrolet told WXTX "News at Ten" new car sales in his first month beat the goal of 150. There's an easy explanation for this. Die-hard Chevy drivers had a few weeks to save money for a down payment.

+ Arnold Middle School was closed, due to what the Muscogee County School District web site called "major sewage problems." Someone simply must teach our children to dispose of their gum in trash cans....

+ The Georgia men's basketball team was flattened by Florida 83-57. Somewhere in Alabama, Mike Gottfried prepared a resume to mail to Athens -- and a cover letter pointing out his moving expenses would be relatively small.

+ Instant Message to Columbus High School: Isn't that going to be hard this year? I mean, what your sign on Cherokee Avenue says - the "Open House February 29."

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,494 (+ 48, 3.3%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

28 JAN 09: Five-Dollar, So Long

Nearly six months after a series of public hearings, Columbus Council received an "Integrated Waste Rate Study" Tuesday. Finally, there's a plan to throw around the trash cans of white people and African-American people with equal abuse.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley presented a report of more than 80 pages, at a Columbus Council work session. Considering it calls for mandatory recycling by 2012, we hope the report was printed on environmentally-friendly white paper.

The big news in the report is that the City Manager recommended Columbus city garbage fees go up five dollars. That's a switch from the hearings last summer, when Isaiah Hugley and his staff preferred a cut to one trash pickup per week [8 Aug 08]. Hugley apparently is following President Obama's example about spending money to get out of a recession.

But Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer reports Columbus Council decided on an option mentioned at public hearings, which was NOT in the waste study. The mayor and council chose to do nothing, and keep things as is. So does this mean the rate study goes in the garbage - or in a recycle bin until next year?

Mayor Jim Wetherington apparently opposes any rate increase right now because we're in a recession, and voters already approved the sales tax for public safety. Maybe Columbus Council will get back to it in 2011, and call it a "BRAC Tax."

Right now Columbus residents pay 14 dollars a month for trash collection, which is added to their water bill. The City Manager wanted that increased to 19 dollars a month, or a hike of 36 percent. It's like we suddenly have a garbage cartel called OPERC -- Operation to Protect the Environment, by Raising Costs.

Isaiah Hugley explained to the evening news that the costs of trash collection keep going up. That means everything from personnel and equipment, to landfill closure and "post closure." I assume that last part refers to what happens after the current landfill is full -- and not a shift of all Fort Benning personnel to Texas.

The proposal to reduce trash pickup from twice a week to once a week was popular at the hearing I attended last summer, but it's now in second place on the city's suggestion list. Once again, singles have a reason to feel slighted....

City officials hinted last summer that once-a-week trash pickup might be possible with no fee increase. But Tuesday's study included one - with monthly fees going up to $17.25. So you'd pay more for less service, following the long-term trend of gasoline stations.

The third option on Isaiah Hugley's list is the split schedule for trash pickup: once a week during the winter, twice a week during summer. But fees would go up to 18 dollars a month, anyway - so you couldn't really give this a label of "Daylight Savings Time."

There's one big question left unanswered, in this "trash talk." What did the people who attended last summer's public hearings prefer? They were asked to fill out a short survey, ranking their preferences. But then again, people had the savings accounts last summer to pay five dollars a month more.

The City Manager was openly skeptical last summer about going to mandatory recycling in Columbus. But apparently enough people suggested it at public hearings that it was added to his plan. Don't set aside recyclable glass, and you may find it's a pain in.... well, you know....

BLOG UPDATE: Will whomever started the latest rumor about Peachtree Mall please stop it? It's spreading so fast that Pam at the mall office knew what it was Tuesday, before we even mentioned it. No, the mall is NOT about to close. No, it's NOT being sold to Columbus State University. And no, Ruby Tuesday does NOT plan to change its name every day of the week.

I asked Pam about the latest wave of Peachtree Mall speculation. "When did these rumors start? Do you know?"

"About 30 years ago."

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: We're asking for your help in a new project, listing slang words and phrases which are distinctive to the Columbus area. Here's the first suggestion:

You can't get any better than the slang for ruined - RUINT. I don't know if the spelling is write, but that happens with slang.


I'm old enough to remember when that word referred to a short guy, and that.... oh wait. That's a "runt."

E-MAIL UPDATE: The InBox also has this invitation....


As you know my wife and I are on The Board Of Directors for Georgia PTA, That is why along with School Board Member Ms. Brenda Storey, as well as Dr. Arnold at Shaw High School, we are having at meet and greet with the New Superintendant at Shaw High School at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday night January 29. Everyone is welcome. Thanks pal for ALL you do for our community.


Charles Law hon

So here's your opportunity to meet Dr. Susan Andrews before she starts her new job next week - and before she goes into hiding in the superintendent's office, coming out only for school board meetings.

One of our short Sunday items has a reader asking for more:

+ Which local church pastor said in the middle of a sermon that "the solution to the Palestinian problem" is for Israel to destroy all the Palestinians, since they're "vile?"

Are you kidding me? Are you going to say who? That would have to go on my "make sure you don't attend" list.

Enjoying the blog,


Uh-oh - I think you caught me. This is a pastor who's asked to be notified whenever I mention him on this blog, because he's a bit sensitive about what we post about him. So I kept his identity vague, to avoid notifying him - which also might protect me from being kicked out forever.

The verses cited by this pastor to make his point came from Deuteronomy 7. He's not the first to notice those verses. Some use them to argue Israel was right to move troops in Gaza. Others twist them to claim some Jews are racist. It may come down to whether you think Palestinians can be considered Pal's.

We thank all of you who take time to write us - and now let's wrap up other Tuesday headlines:

+ The high temperature in Columbus was 72 degrees F. That's a nice change from last week's cold spell - or as they might say after walking outside in Oklahoma and Arkansas, a cold spill.

+ Which area military officer is claiming 80 percent of the people expected to move to Columbus from Kentucky due to base realignment have decided NOT to come? Maybe those people heard the only horse race in this area is the Steeplechase every November....

+ Jerry White with the National Infantry Museum told WLTZ the museum's new parade grounds will have soil from many major battles in U.S. history. But how will soldiers know which battle soil is which? Aren't they supposed to face forward toward the commander at all times?

+ WRBL warned of a local telephone scam involving juries. Someone calls you at home claiming you missed jury duty and face arrest, then asks for your Social Security number and address. If you get a call like this, maybe you should invite the scammer to stop by with handcuffs - and tell him a friend will help by bringing a shotgun.

+ Chasity Hardman returned to Columbus, after finishing as first runner-up at the Miss America pageant. What's that - you didn't notice her arrival? If she had won the crown, half the single men in Columbus would have escorted her car down Interstate 185.

+ Troy University dedicated a new building for the College of Education. It's named after Troy Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr. - which is the clearest sign yet he's running for Alabama Governor, because most colleges don't name buildings after you until you retire.

+ TMZ showed former President Jimmy Carter outside the studio of "The Daily Show," signing someone's guitar. Perhaps someone plans to set Mr. Carter's poems to music -- because I really don't think people want to hear a song based on that "malaise speech" from the late 1970's.

+ Instant Message to everyone who thinks President Obama is a socialist: Then why hasn't he seized all those coin sets with his picture on them, to help pay for his stimulus plan?

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,446 (+ 64, 4.6%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

27 JAN 09: Store This Away

It had been a long time since I'd heard about the Fort Benning "off-limits" list. In fact, I don't recall anything being added while General Walter Wojdakowski was commander. Maybe the general was a closet liberal, like General Paul Eaton is turning out to be....

But Monday, Fort Benning issued an updated list of places and businesses which are off-limits to soldiers. The list is relatively short, has only three locations in the Columbus area - and it shows how times are changing in the Army, as no clubs known for nude dancers are listed at all.

One new location on the "Benning ban" list puzzled me. It's "Able 2 Stor" Self Storage on Victory Drive. Could the generals really be upset with a business that can't spell its name correctly?

A Google search for the business's name gave no clue about why Able 2 Stor was put on Fort Benning's list. And the Columbus Better Business Bureau has no listing for the storage business at all. So what's the problem here? Did some boxes with papers on base realignment get wet, when a unit leaked during a storm?

Your blog called the listed phone number for Able 2 Stor Monday afternoon seeking a comment, but our message was not returned by post time. Either this business is hiding something, or it's already shut down and pawned the belongings of soldiers somewhere else on Victory Drive.

Only one nightclub remains on the new Benning ban list: the Majestic Club on Cusseta Road. You may remember it better as the Boom Boom Room - a notorious name which has been restored recently by the women in the Fireworks Outlet commercials.

The old Boom Boom Room was known for police calls and gunfire in the parking lot. I haven't heard about that much crime recently at the Majestic Club. But with a name like "Majestic," I also haven't heard of any senior proms being held there.

The other off-limits location actually is rather wide - the area around the 13th Street Bridge. You wondered why the Bradley Theatre and Tedi's SweeTreats are shut down, didn't you?

No wait - this ban involves the Chattahoochee River UNDER the 13th Street Bridge, as well as the riverbanks on either side. This actually took effect four years ago, after a Fort Benning soldier went fishing on rocks in the middle of the river and drowned [2 Jun 05]. Save the rock climbing for somewhere safer - like the wall of a gym, or the Afghan countryside.

Four other out-of-state businesses remain on the Fort Benning off-limits list. One is the "3 Hebrew Boys," a South Carolina investment group charged with dozens of mail fraud counts. If they stay on the list much longer, the suspects could call rename themselves "Boys 2 Men."

The off-limits list at Fort Benning seems to make a difference. We reviewed the original list from five years ago [30 Jun 04], and found practically every business mentioned either has closed or been resold. And people still claim our Army is weak, and has lost its clout....

-> We went to TWO local poker tournaments last past week. One turned out much better than the other. Read about it at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Uh-oh, here we go again - the humor blogger is being asked to play crime reporter. And it's thanks to a public servant who's now out of office. He wrote us first on Friday....

"Sir" Richard:

I cannot resist! I toooold them so! When Tap dancin' Tapley ran for mayor and made all those promises;I predicted that things would disinigrate even further than in the past. Yes! I Tooold them so!

I based my assumption on my experiences with the old rascal when he was Municipal Court Magistrate. His admitted policy of "outcrooking them" carries over into his actions today.The one thing that disturbs me most, is his handling of the police department. It is no secret that we had a series of renegades toting badges here in "Hurt'sboro. It's also well known, that we relied on Russell County to respond when a crime occured. The system worked fairly well - 911 calls were answered directly by the Russell County sheriff and our local yokels were bypassed. Now the calls are directed to our "Chief" if he can be found. This gives the wrongdoers plenty of time to go on the lam!

I wrote to you a few days ago about a break-in that was interupted by a citizen. Now another incident has occured. A local convenience store fell victim to an armed robbery last night. Two masked men with pistols walked in grabbed the cash register and left. No police officer in sight!

Several months ago our grocery store closed, because the owner had nearly been gunned down on two occasions. It has reopened since, under new management,and unless adequate law enforcment is provided there is always the danger of more gunfire in their parking lot.

The bank is another example. In the past,I stood guard at closing time and until the bank employees were safely off the property. Now, the "Chieff" has assumed that duty at leasr part of the time!

I hope that some sense of reason will prevail soon; and that the Russell County Sheriff can take over the town. I hope that this happens before someone gets killed and can only say "I Tooold you so.!"

Constable R.J. Schweiger???

We never received the first e-mail about a Hurtsboro break-in. We even checked our bulk mail file -- unless we missed it, and Robert Schweiger is selling "Slim Easy Shakes" now.

But is Robert Schweiger suggesting Hurtsboro police officers should be on duty at convenience stores all night long? What if a criminal decides to do that break-in three blocks away? There ARE trees in Hurtsboro, which can block an officer's view....

There clearly "is always the danger" of more gunfire in Hurtsboro parking lots. But the only way to avoid that danger is to put law officers in EVERY parking lot. But not even 100 new Columbus police officers will accomplish that. Maybe someone needs to come to our area, offering a bulk discount for installing security cameras on every street light.

Robert Schweiger wrote us again on Sunday, with more crime news:

"Sir" Richard:

The bandito's have struck again! There were two home invasions Saturday night, with the usual result - the bad guys are unidentified and still at large!

Hmmm, now lets see. I think that totals four incidents within the week. Jot that down on your police blotter and I will let you know if "Andy" Baxley and "Barny" Pinto ever figure out where to be (other than in hiding) so they can nab these hoodlums.

Checking on Town Hall; I find that Tap Dancin' Tapley has finally had one of the inoperable police cars taken in for repair. It now sits beside the Town truck (over $2,000.00 in parts and labor) which is still being renovated.

I understand the squad car's engine has been removed and they are tossing a coin to see if it needs a new motor. My! My! how the Shekels are flowing! It's all part of our Tap-Dancin' mayor's stimulus plan.and Bubba Dozier appreciates the business.

While we are on the subject of stimulus plans; I'm being told that the old Tap Dancer is relying on a million dollar bail out ala Oboma. Talk about "pie in the sky!" Next we will be hearing that, "He's traveling to Washington DC in his private jet - to appear before Congress!

It could only happen in "Hurt'sboro!

Constable R.J. Schweiger???

We tried to contact the Hurtsboro Police to confirm these crime reports, but all we could do was leave voice-mail messages. Perhaps Chief Jim Baxley is in that police training program - or in a hospital for rest, after completing all the exercises.

Hurtsboro Town Clerk Kimberly Key has talked with us before, so we called her at City Hall Monday. She admitted several crimes had occurred recently -- but Key said the number of home invasions is something "we keep confidential." Either city officials are trying to avoid a public panic, or a guessing game is coming up to win a turkey.

We also felt compelled to ask the Hurtsboro Town Clerk about the latest "snail mail" from the mysterious Russell C. Ounti. He wrote us claiming Kimberly Key, her mother and maternal grandmother all "have had problems requiring medication." So?! For all I knew, they could have been taking arthritis pills.

Kimberly Key admitted she took some medicine for "post-partum depression" after having her daughter - but she's now feeling "ten times better." So if Russell C. Ounti prefers she use herbal supplements, he should tell us which ones he recommends.

As far as we know, the mother and grandmother are NOT public officials in Hurtsboro -- so we're going to respect their medical privacy and NOT post that information here. Mr. Ounti should send those things to a more appropriate news source. I believe the National Enquirer is still located in Lantana, Florida

Kimberly Key seems 100-percent sure of whom Russell C. Ounti is. She thinks it's Robert Schweiger, and she hinted she plans to do something about the messages about her. Can using a "pen name" get you put in the Alabama pen?

But anyway: if Hurtsboro city officials are keeping quiet about crime, how did Robert Schweiger get all these scoops? Does this explain the question marks after his name? He's not in the Constable's office anymore. But it doesn't look like he's been hired to write stories for "The Citizen of East Alabama."

We've been very busy for a couple of days, so we need to catch up on plenty of news:

+ The evening news reported President Obama's stimulus proposal would provide about $30 million to Muscogee County schools. But the money would be used to convert schools to solar energy. Hopefully the portables needed due to base realignment will be made like greenhouses.

+ Aflac's stock dropped another 20 percent in value, closing below 20 dollars a share for the first time in nine years. Several market analysts remain concerned about the company holding "hybrid securities." I thought Aflac was sponsoring a NASCAR driver this season, not some college student with a solar panel.

+ Six SOA Watch protesters appeared in federal court, for trespassing onto Fort Benning last November. Five of the six will spend two months in prison. The sixth will spend six months under house arrest - and perhaps be required to recite his lengthy court statement over and over again before a mirror.

+ Toomer's Corner in Auburn was covered with toilet paper, after the Lady Tigers' big Sunday win over Tennessee. More than 12,000 fans filled Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum - which I think tops some crowds for commencement day in May.

+ Mike Gottfried resigned as Alabama men's basketball coach. The Crimson Tide is 12-7, the same as Auburn -- so Gottfried found a way to out-wimp Tommy Tuberville.

+ Instant Message to Dr. Susan Andrews: What's this I'm hearing about you being unavailable for interviews until you become Muscogee County Superintendent next week? Didn't I hear you on WDAK radio LAST week? Did that line about "knowing where to sit on the bus" bring a protest from African-American board members?

COMING SOON: An e-mailer wants us to name names.... but should we?....

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,382 (+ 24, 1.8%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

26 JAN 09: Valley-Speak

After living in Georgia nearly 25 years, I've learned some of the proper regional lingo. Some of them even surprise Columbus natives when I mention them. You realize, for example, people don't step on the gas pedal in the South - you MASH it.

Yet it was my late stepmother in Kansas City who taught me one Southernism. I knew people are supposed to say "y'all" instead of "you." But she taught me the plural form of that "you" - "all y'all."

Yet I've found there are certain words and phrases which are special to the Columbus area, and not really known anywhere else. The first one I learned was the "scrambled dog" - and how it had nothing to do with a Georgia quarterback trying to run from defensive linemen.

Today we launch a new BLOG SPECIAL EVENT, to compile some of those Columbus-area slang words and phrases. I've learned a few new ones only in the last few weeks:

+ "Walking mall." A woman used that phrase to describe Columbus Park Crossing. And she has a good point - because it's quite a long walk from one end to the other, except when shuttles run in December.

(But here's the thing - the woman who said that worked at the departing Hallmark store in Peachtree Mall. If that's not a "walking mall," what is it? I don't see adults checking out strollers to roll through it.)

+ "Burned to ashes." Sad to say, this phrase was used by a woman to talk about the death of her brother in a house fire. She made it sound like even the bones didn't survive - and all that was left was a picture from a Daffy Duck cartoon.

+ "European bank hybrid debt securities." Oh wait -- that's the problem Aflac supposedly has.

What other words and phrases are unique to the Columbus area? Please e-mail us your ideas, and we'll put together a list of them. There might not be enough to make a "Fountain City Dictionary." But we might send copies to places that could use them - such as the WLTZ news anchors in Iowa.

COMING THIS WEEK: New accusations from Hurtsboro...

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

25 JAN 09: Down and Out in Ladonia

The Saturday night run on the Riverwalk was OK, but nothing great -- 1.7 miles non-stop. Did I really eat THAT many chocolate chip cookies, while I stayed inside during the cold wave?

After the run, it was time to get dinner. This weekend's drive took me out U.S. 80 to Ladonia, which still seems to have the lowest gas prices in metro Columbus. Several stations were down to $1.67 a gallon Saturday night - although none had stooped so far as to call it a "three for five dollars" sale.

The drive led us to Quizno's Subs, and a strange sort of dinner. It started with a woman standing outside the front door, holding it open and talking to someone. We waited for her to finish - and it happened when she made a startled turn, to show her Quizno's outfit and a cigarette. Yes sir, that's smoked ham on the menu....

The woman excused herself, and let us come in - then went behind the counter to prepare sandwiches. I didn't pay close attention, to see if she washed her hands after smoking a cigarette. But the oregano added to my sandwich didn't look or taste that unusual.

Quizno's competed with Subway for awhile in the "five dollar foot-long" game, but that wasn't the case this weekend. Instead, it's promoting 20 "lower-priced" sandwiches for less than five dollars. But it also offers three sizes of sandwiches, with some of them costing more than five - and there's not even a "value menu" for home-baked cookies.

Quizno's posted a bar graph-style chart showing how long a small, regular or large sandwich is. We pulled out a business card, attempting to measure each one. This probably shows I'm NOT a real "man's man" - because that sort of man would have a tape measure in his pocket, in case he passed a hardware store on the way.

The woman who held the door open for us wound up preparing our sandwich. She saw our measuring, and offered some help. "I think the small is about 5.5 inches." Hmmmm - that's less than the Subway six-inch sandwich. The Quizno's staff must include the same people who shrank cans of tuna to five ounces.

So I settled on something small. "Turkey and cheddar, please."

"We're out of cheddar. I can do Parmesan or mozzarella." Which seemed strange, because Quizno's doesn't sell pizza. Why Subway sells small pizzas, I still don't quite understand -- but have you noticed it provoked Domino's Pizza to start selling sandwiches?

"We're also out of lettuce," the woman noted. "And we don't have any white bread." Now this was strange. An ingredient shortage on a Saturday night -- and they don't even start racing cars again at East Alabama Motor Speedway for about two months.

At least another option was on the "Deli favorites" menu, at the lowest price. "Then I'll have a small tuna melt."

The woman laughed a bit, as her jaw dropped halfway to the floor. "We're out of tuna, too." I wasn't laughing now. Instead, I was wondering if Bill Heard had moved into the restaurant business.

"What else are you out of?" I didn't want this turning into a game of 20 sandwiches, 20 questions.

"Bacon," the woman replied. That's no big loss for me - but the remaining "deli favorites" items had meats I don't eat, or were questionable. For all I knew, the "Primo Meatball" might contain lower-priced pork rinds.

The Quizno's shortage essentially forced me to a different part of the menu, with sandwich prices about a dollar higher. I settled on a "Turkey Ranch and Swiss." That's ranch as in salad dressing, not a place in Texas where the turkeys are kept....

"Would you like oregano on that?" the woman asked me.

"Yes," I said quietly. "If you have it." The woman laughed a bit. I still didn't. After all, a Winn-Dixie store for buying ingredients was only a short drive away.

The small sandwich was posted at $4.39, but then came the one nice surprise of the trip. "I'll give you a two-dollar discount, since you couldn't get what you wanted." Huh?! If I had known a markdown was coming, I would have ordered a "regular" mid-sized sandwich for a better deal.

The only other good news of the evening was that Quizno's allows you to comment online about your visit. I reported there almost everything you've read here. The survey offered to have someone from the company call me, but I turned it down. Beyond an online form with a chance to win gift cards - well: Quiz? No.

-> We went to TWO local poker tournaments this past week. One turned out much better than the other. Read about it at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: A reader offers more on the proposed Phenix City pay raise....

Here is something I found on the Citizen web page. It is Mark Clark's column called "It's my view." It runs each week. This guy is funny, but also telling the truth about how things work in Phenix City. I wonder why no other news media have jumped on this subject. It seems this would be a hot topic. Please withhold email address if you decide to use any of this.

Mark Clark's column of 17 January concerned the raise for Phenix City mayor and council. We wanted to read the column online last weekend, but the Citizen web site has yet to send us a confirmation for our password. The staff really doesn't have to line up advertisers for our personal IP address.

This e-mailer passed along the full text of Mark Clark's column. Without risking a copyright suit, it confirms the Phenix City mayor and council would receive salaries equivalent to the Russell County Commission. And now we know how the city will pay for it - by hiring a new low-cost police chief.

Let's see what else has been brought to our attention this weekend....

+ Which local church pastor said in the middle of a sermon that "the solution to the Palestinian problem" is for Israel to destroy all the Palestinians, since they're "vile?" If this pastor ever meets Usama bin-Laden, the clash could rival any Ultimate Fighting Championship.

+ Columbus's Chasity Hardman was named first runner-up at the Miss America pageant. Hardman's mother and father were in the audience - both of them pastors of the Impact Center on Victory Drive. What do they do in response to this result? Do they pray for the new Miss America to have a drug or sex scandal?

(Hardman competed as Miss Georgia, and lost the crown to Miss Indiana - which may only the Miss America pageant is as corny as ever.)

+ WALB-TV in Albany reported inspectors at the Peanut Corp. of America plant in Blakely found traces of salmonella in two locations. One was in a crack on the floor, which could inspire a new saying -- Food from a crack, sick right down your back.

+ Auburn stunned Arkansas in men's college basketball 73-51. The Tigers won in Fayetteville, showing folks from Alabama can smoke hogs almost anywhere.

+ Instant Message to Swain and Sons Custom Exhaust on Veterans Parkway: Please note today's date. I think it's now safe to stop showing the "Merry Christmas" sign.

COMING MONDAY: We announce a new Blog Special Event, which will need your input....

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,358 (- 38, 2.7%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

23 JAN 09: B.O.-mbs Away

"Are you going to shoot off fireworks tonight?" I asked a neighbor at my complex after a Thursday afternoon jog. And no, it was NOT a double-edged joke - because I hardly ever see women visiting his apartment.

"No," the man answered. That was good news for me. I didn't want to come under fire after officially ending my run, and explosions as I headed to poker night would have thrown me off my game.

We mentioned a few weeks ago that this neighbor shot off fireworks on two separate occasions, during New Year's weekend [4 Jan]. Since then, he's fired a few explosives shortly after dark on several evenings. Not every evening - it's a "hit or miss" thing, and thankfully the fireworks haven't hit anybody.

"Why???" is the question I've asked myself when the neighbor shoots off explosives. On a couple of occasions, I took the next step and called 911. But amazingly, the fireworks stopped as soon as I made the phone call - as if my neighbor is wearing earphones linked to the apartment complex's phone lines.

I don't really know what happened once police showed up at the apartment complex, or even if they arrived at all. The last time I called 911, I was told if the fireworks started again after police stopped by, I would have to file a complaint by name. Posting details here the next morning apparently doesn't count.

One afternoon, I happened to see the neighbor's brother visiting the apartment. I asked him about the fireworks, but he knew nothing about it. So much for the theory that the two men are sending smoke signals to each other.

But Thursday afternoon was my first opportunity to talk to the neighbor directly - without any fireworks around to become a threat, that is. "May I ask why you've been shooting them off?"

"For Obama," he answered. Aha, my hunch from three weeks ago was right -- although it seems like something a Republican redneck would be more likely to do.

But that question reminded my neighbor of a mistake he made this week. He admitted he was going to set off fireworks on Inauguration Day -- "but I totally forgot." Sometimes we should all be thankful for the things other people forget....

No, I did NOT reveal to my neighbor that I'd called police about him. And I did NOT remind him of the strict Georgia laws regarding fireworks. I walked inside, assuming Barack Obama's inauguration will end the explosive celebration. But then again, he might decide to stage a "make-up" show on Presidents' Day.

If the fireworks had gone off Thursday night, I was prepared to try a different tactic on my neighbor. I've placed a small U.S. flag on a chair near my front door. The moment an explosion went off, I'd step outside with my flag and start waving it. Maybe then he'd realize how silly his celebration is.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Here's a question that crossed our minds several months ago, and may have crossed yours....

Richard, Just wondering if the Bill Heard Hall at the RiverCenter will keep it's name (in light of the Bill Heard bankruptcy, etc.)? Do you recall how much money he (or his company) donated to the RiverCenter to have the "Hall" named after him? Just Wondering

The name "absolutely" will stay, RiverCenter Executive Director Enoch Morris told your blog Thursday. He said Bill Heard's financial difficulties "after the fact" are NO reason to remove his name. And you know, they didn't remove the name after those accusations of bad business practices.

Enoch Morris noted Bill Heard made a "major gift" to have the RiverCenter several years ago. How major? "About five million dollars." And this was before a stripped-down basic Cadillac cost $40,000.

By the way, has anyone else noticed what I just realized about the RiverCenter? It has Bill Heard Theatre - and also Legacy Hall, as in the name of the new Chevrolet dealer. Enoch Morris didn't realize that until I mentioned it. But he offered this clue for the future - there's also a Studio Theatre.

Enoch Morris added things are going well at the RiverCenter. The two-night tour of "Ain't Misbehavin'" had a good turnout this week, but he suggested there was room for more. With a title like this, residents of Youth Development Centers might have learned something.

Now for our quick song-and-dance about the Thursday news:

+ Aflac's stock price dropped 37 percent, falling to a nine-year low. It happened after a market analyst warned Aflac was exposed to "European bank hybrid debt securities." And all this time, I thought hybrids were a good "green" thing....

+ Synovus confirmed it has cut 651 positions, after losing $584 million for the year. The company also announced it will NOT offer executive bonuses for 2008 - so the place to be for "happy hours" may move from the River Club to Sonic Drive-Ins.

+ Former Muscogee County School Board Fife Whiteside began posting reports on board meetings for Common Cause of Columbus. His first report reveals the new administration building is costing $2.5 million LESS than projected. Wow - extra money to spend on that private commode for the superintendent.

+ WRBL reported two "Maid Brigade" employees were arrested in Harris County on burglary charges, and a third is wanted for arrest. The suspects reportedly took items from homes they were hired to clean. Maybe they'll use the old "out-of-control vacuum cleaner swallowed the diamonds" excuse.

+ Alabama basketball player Ronald Steele denied reports he's leaving the team due to a foot injury. But he wouldn't tell the Birmingham News exactly why he's leaving. Hopefully former Phenix City Councilor John Storey will reveal the details on tonight's evening news.

+ Instant Message to all Columbus abortion opponents: Where have you gone? You used to hold marches and rallies downtown, to mark the anniversary of that Supreme Court decision. Now all you can do is gather a small group outside a Catholic church?! Have 4-D sonograms put the local women's clinics out of business?

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,396 (+ 57, 4.3%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

22 JAN 09: In-cop-etent?

Some people simply can't stay away from politics, even when they're out of office. A former official stepped back in Wednesday, and put an ordinary-sounding retirement in a very different light. And amazingly, it had nothing to do with Bush administration officials griping to Sean Hannity.

Former Phenix City Councilor John Storey went to WRBL and claimed Police Chief Brian McGarr isn't really retiring of his own choice in March. Storey says McGarr was forced to retire -- implying he really was fired. It's almost like Storey's middle name is "Developing."

On top of that, Chief Brian McGarr reportedly has turned in his police badge and gun. They're pretty tough in Phenix City, aren't they? If McGarr worked in security for Muscogee County schools, he might be given back his weapon at retirement.

John Storey also claims Chief Brian McGarr is being thrown under the paddy wagon proverbial bus because he was considered "incompetent." I'm not sure what that means. Was McGarr supposed to find some kind of crime at Broad Street Blues, before it closed?

John Storey clearly wanted to speak up in Brian McGarr's behalf - saying the police chief was NOT incompetent. If Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington wants to make some extra money, he can go to Phenix City and personally study this.

(But then again, maybe Phenix City Manager Wallace Hunter already consulted someone about questions of competence. Hunter was a fire chief, like Columbus's Jeff Meyer still is.)

Phenix City Mayor Sonny Coulter says the police chief is using up several weeks of vacation time right now, before retiring 1 March. Come to think of it, Brian McGarr may have postponed his vacations for a reason. Prior Phenix City councils tried to do away with the City Manager's office, after Bubba Roberts went on National Guard duty.

WRBL contacted Brian McGarr, but he didn't want to talk "on the record" about his future. Hmmm - has he already talked with the official attorney in charge of suing Phenix City?

The bad news for Phenix City is that it's losing a 29-year police veteran in Brian McGarr. But McGarr probably won't have to worry about finding a job. Columbus has 65 police openings waiting for him....

-> We tried for a big win Wednesday night at the poker table. Did we succeed? Find out at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of Phenix City, here's a reply to our Monday topic on proposed pay raises. We've had to edit this message a great deal, because the writer wants to remain anonymous:

Please do not use my name, however I will provide it....

A legal ad has already run the required 4 times and will be ready for a vote by the 5 member legislative delegation when they convene in Alabama. Once they pass it, the council will be able to vote on it. The first part of the bill calls for an increase in pay to equal that of the Russell County Commission. Their annual salary would go from $9,000 to $21,500 and the mayor's salary from $12,000 to $35,000. This would go into effect next term. The second part of the bill allows them to receive an undocumented expense check in the difference of the two salaries until the new salary goes into effect. This would go into effect on the first day of the next month after the bill has passed. I guess Jimmy forgot to tell you about that.

There are so many things wrong with this situation. Wetzel is lying when he puts this on Lesley Vance. The council discussed this in a work session and the legal ad was drafted 5 days later.

Did I mention that no additional duties are required of the mayor, contrary to the allusion that Wetzel makes?

Did I mention that the legal ad that ran never mentions Phenix City by name?

I admit that I am a little more than ticked that this situation is taking place. If you are interested in knowing what this council has been doing in their first 3 months I would be glad to discuss this further.... I appreciate what you do and that you have the guts to put your name on what you do.... Let me know if you are interested in more information, all documented.

Jimmy Wetzel mentioned something in passing about an "expense check" when I talked with him, but I wasn't quite sure what he meant. For all I knew, the Phenix City Council members might be sharing their own black Ford Expedition.

The way this e-mail explains it, at least there would be an election before Phenix City Council members could receive their big raise. But wow - a $2,000 "expense check" for the mayor every month? He could make trips to South Korea every other month, to lobby for more Kia suppliers.

It's also nice to know the Phenix City Council had a "work session" to discuss this big raise. If the members didn't work for it at all, citizens really would be in an uproar....

I won't get into whatever "guts" I have to put my name on this blog. I'm trying to reduce that part of my body - but the discount sales on chocolate chip cookies lately simply have been too tempting.

Let's hurry back to Columbus, for some other Wednesday headlines....

+ The morning low was 19 degrees F., matching the lowest temperature of the winter. When you're at the gas pump and you hear a "crunch" when you reach for the window wiper, don't worry -- it's simply ice in the container. The plastic wiper blade has NOT shattered in pieces.

+ Which man was overheard at a Columbus nightclub saying, "If I see one more person shedding tears over fr**kin' Barack Obama...."? Maybe he should go to the Ledger-Enquirer, where they're smiling over the extra newspaper sales.

+ Richard Hyatt's web site reported security officers in Washington barred Columbus Councilors Jerry Barnes and Mimi Woodson from attending the inauguration. That'll teach Barnes for taking needles with him, to offer free diabetes screening.

+ The Chamber of Commerce confirmed DongNam will NOT build a floor mat factory for the Kia plant at the Columbus Technology Park after all. Hmmmm - who looks like the doormat now?

+ The parent company of WRBL and the Opelika-Auburn News announced it will suspend matching contributions to 401(k) retirement plans. Phil Scoggins might have to update his resume one more time after all....

+ Georgia Lottery President Margaret DeFrancisco visited Columbus Technical College. But no reporter seemed to ask her the question that's been on my mind for months - why did they drop host Glenn Burns from the nightly drawings? Does he really need that much extra time to prepare Atlanta weather forecasts?

(About 70 percent of the students at Columbus Technical College are there thanks to lottery-funded HOPE scholarships. And then people wonder why college students love President Obama so much - they know all about the audacity of HOPE.)

+ Kentucky cut down Auburn in men's college basketball 73-64. The way area teams are playing this season, the Columbus resident with the most recruiting offers in March may be Sam Mitchell -- not to play, but to coach.

+ Instant Message to Disney Theme Parks: In a way, I'm glad to hear you're offering buyout packages to top corporate executives. Laying off one of the seven dwarves simply wouldn't seem right - although Sleepy probably deserves to go.

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,339 (+ 31, 2.4%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

21 JAN 09: Curtain Down, Curtain Up

A co-worker told me Comedy Central was presenting special "Change-Fest" coverage Tuesday night. But I was more interested to see if Fox followed the lead of so many people across the country - and named Barack Obama the 2009 American Idol.

While you may have focused on what some have dubbed "Obama-nation," a couple of major local changes were noteworthy Tuesday. The big surprise came from Carmike Cinemas, which announced Michael Patrick no longer is President and Chief Executive Officer. But he'll remain on the board of directors, to advise against putting movie theatres downtown.

A statement from Carmike Cinemas did not say why Michael Patrick is giving up the President and C.E.O. titles. And curiously, the statement calls it a "departure" and not a resignation -- as if he's taking a job with Columbus Metro Airport.

The show business journal "Variety" declared Mike Patrick was "removed" by the Carmike Board of Directors, effective last Monday. You don't think he suggested showing inaugural balls in theatres, with people wearing 3-D glasses and tuxedos?!

Mike Patrick has spent more than 25 years in leadership positions at Carmike Cinemas. He was there in 2000, through the bankruptcy filing. He was there last year, as the stock price dropped to around three dollars a share. He was - well, uhhhh - maybe the other two explain why he's not there anymore.

Revenue apparently has dropped so much for Carmike Cinemas that some theatres lowered their ticket price to one dollar. Maybe that price was too low, because a theatre in North Carolina needed extra police officers this past weekend to stop rock-throwing by young people. You're near Greensboro, not Gaza City....

Two Patricks remain on the Carmike Cinemas board - Michael and Carl Jr. But this "departure" clearly raises questions about the company's future. Billionaire pro basketball owner Mark Cuban recently bought more than nine percent of Carmike's stock. Maybe he can set up hoops inside theatres, so bored youngsters can throw things through them.

Despite this change of title, Michael Patrick probably won't be lacking for income. He's on the staff of speakers with Xcel Leadership, the mentoring program run by Cascade Hills Church Pastor Bill Purvis. Is it only coincidence that the current featured lesson on Xcel's web site is titled, "How to Know When It's Time to Go"?

Another change of power quietly is underway about two miles from the Carmike offices. Susan Andrews says she was at the Muscogee County School District office Monday, preparing to become Superintendent. Yes, she was there on Martin Luther King Junior Day - but I haven't heard whether she helped John Phillips load a moving truck.

Dr. Susan Andrews told WDAK radio's "Viewpoint" Tuesday she went to the Muscogee County School District office on a holiday, so she can be ready to start 2 February. With an attitude like that, no one can call her a "Lazy Susan."

In the most extensive interview I've heard since Susan Andrews accepted the Muscogee County Superintendent's job, she admitted it was risky to have public forums for the finalists. But Andrews said the Harris County School Board trusted her. Wow - can the Muscogee County board bring those members in, too?

Susan Andrews noted local schools are often a "perfect mirror of the community." So when a kindergarten teacher can't spell simple words correctly, her neighborhood may need emergency intervention by the Literacy Alliance.

Susan Andrews agreed with Viewpoint host Mike Gaymon that it's important to put the right teachers in the right schools within a district. She put it in terms of "not only getting on the bus, but knowing where to sit on the bus." On the day that Barack Obama became President, I'm not sure busing was the best analogy to use.

Susan Andrews realizes Muscogee County will need a lot of money to build new schools, because of base realignment. She said the challenge will be to think "outside the box" to find that money. So much for selling boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts door to door....

(The Muscogee County School Board tried one idea Tuesday night. It approved a resolution asking for an exemption from state budget cuts. But I think alternative plans already are underway. Is that why the city bought out a mobile home park recently - to use the trailers for classrooms?)

Susan Andrews revealed the Muscogee County School Board will hold a retreat at the Cunningham Center 31 January, on the weekend before she becomes Superintendent. If she can persuade this board to hold hands and sing "Kum Ba Yah," I want to see the pictures.

Education tops our review of other Tuesday news:

+ The Growing Room opened a new "Christian Academy" for school-age children near Northside High School. This has to be a difficult time to open a new private school. After all, the big giveaways of pens and notebooks took place five months ago.

+ State Senator Ed Harbison was honored by Fort Middle School at an inauguration day program. A giant drawing of Harbison was displayed, which appeared to be done in pencil. But on one wall of the assembly room I saw the word "FIRED" - so a few of Josh McKoon's friends must be there as well.

+ WRBL reported Phenix City Police Chief Brian McGarr will retire in March. If this doesn't earn him the Grand Marshal title at the St. Patrick's Catholic Church parade, I don't know what will.

+ The touring company of "Ain't Misbehavin'" opened a two-night stand at the RiverCenter. The musical stars "American Idol" champion Ruben Studdard - and after seeing him on TV, I concluded the tour is NOT sponsored by Weight Watchers.

+ Richard Hyatt's web site speculated Sam Mitchell might replace Dennis Felton as Georgia men's basketball coach. Now this doesn't seem fair! For one thing, Georgia Tech is now 0-5 in conference play.

+ Instant Message to Columbus Cottonmouths captain Craig Stahl: What do you mean, the hockey season is "a marathon, not a race"? From what I've seen, marathons ARE races. They're a little longer than those Olympic speed-skating contests, but still....

COMING SOON: An expensive question about the RiverCenter....

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,308 1,251 (+ 57, 4.6%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

20 JAN 09: Report to Barack's

Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Today is Barack Obama's Inauguration Day. So what did the Mildred Terry Branch Library do for a special event Monday afternoon? It held a program on Great Britain. Really. On WHAT?!? Wouldn't this have made more sense when Rhodes Scholar Bill Clinton became President?

Don't ask me what the Mildred Terry Library staff was thinking, with a British program on King Day. But it's not quite on the level of what Columbus High School came close to doing. Richard Hyatt's web site reports there were plans for a field trip to Montgomery today - to see a play about Bear Bryant. As if he was related to school principal Susan Bryant?!

But the plans were changed in plenty of time, so a group of Columbus High School students is in Washington for today's presidential inauguration. In fact, it seems like half the people from our area is in Washington. If MLK Day was a "day on," this is the day off.

Consider the big names from our area who reportedly are in Washington for the inauguration....

+ City Manager Isaiah Hugley. Columbus needs all the base realignment money it can get, you know.

+ Thomas Wiese, this area's best-known Catholic priest. If he calls Barack Obama a "messiah," I might have to give it a second thought.

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. The rumors of him returning to the Democratic Party will start all over again.

+ Pastor Johnnie Robinson, who runs Phenix City's House of Restoration. If Mr. Obama could speak at that 2005 fund-raiser for the House of Mercy, he can make a return trip.

(Boy, am I embarrassed. I reviewed the 22 Feb 05 blog entry on that appearance Monday night - and not only did I misspell the last name as "Osama" twice, I called him an "immigrant-turned-U.S. Senator." Of course, right-wing conspiracy theorists still consider that last part correct.)

Columbus community activist Karl Douglass also is in Washington, and filing reports on the trip for WRBL. He said Monday the security presence is increasing, as the inauguration draws near. This shows how times have changed - because 40 years ago, someone in the crowd would have thrown rocks to spark a street battle.

Karl Douglass is providing inaugural updates through Facebook and Twitter. And he says his second-grade daughter is keeping a personal journal on the events in Washington. In fact, you may be able to buy her book at Barnes & Noble this summer....

Have you noticed all the books on sale in local stores about the new first family? Add to that all the Barack Obama T-shirts, and the infomercials selling special coins and plates. The people who claim our new President is socialist need to explain all these old-fashioned capitalist sales.

Some churches plan to keep Barack Obama in their prayers over the coming months. In fact, Rivertown Church held a night of "prayer and fasting" for the new President two weeks ago - even though the pastor openly admitted voting for John McCain during a service [2 Nov 08]. Can any members tell me how quickly he repented?

The inauguration wasn't even mentioned this past weekend at the congregation I'm attending. Instead, the pastor summarized a two-week trip to Europe -- where he gave one sermon, made a ministry visit to a widow, and determined the Czech Republic has better beer than the Netherlands.

I mentioned the change of presidents in passing to a man before the worship service, and he took the topic in a surprising direction. He openly wondered how the big crowd in Washington will (ahem) use the restroom today. Come to think of it, you can't spell "inauguration" without "urination."

I noted 5,000 portable bathrooms were set up near the inauguration site. But the man seemed unimpressed by this, and predicted men will be forced to "urinate anyplace they can find." He almost made it sound like another "day of service" should be declared Wednesday to clean everything up.

The man also speculated things in the U.S. might turn so bad in the coming months that Barack Obama could decide to "throw in the towel." Aw, c'mon - the only President who ever did that was Richard Nixon. And he probably would have choked some Democrats with that towel, if he could.

Have you stopped to wonder what Republicans plan to do today, while a Democrat becomes President? After all, they can't all appear on Fox News Channel at the same time offering new accusations....

We asked that question to Muscogee County Republican Chair Josh McKoon the other day. He e-mailed us this response:

Like most Republicans, I will be at work, trying to earn enough money to pay my taxes which I expect will be going up significantly in 2009 to pay for this "stimulus" I keep hearing so much about.

But seriously, I plan on either watching the inaugural address in my office or I will watch the C-SPAN replay after work.



Aha - so he's one of those upper-class wealthy Republicans.

You don't have to be alone in your office to watch the inauguration. Viewing parties are planned at Columbus State University and the Trade Center downtown. And for the Republicans who have the day off - hopefully you know which restaurants have a "Rush room" for Mr. Limbaugh's analysis.

BLOG UPDATE: National Public Radio played a clip Monday of President Franklin Roosevelt's first "fireside chat" from 1933. Do you realize he used the phrase "you people" during that radio address? If Al Sharpton had been around then.... well, voters probably would have ignored him and elected Mr. Roosevelt three more times, anyway.

Now for other interesting items from a four-day holiday weekend:

+ An employee of Loco's Bar and Grill told me her "great-uncle five times removed" was Robert E. Lee. But she had no idea Alabama was celebrating Robert E. Lee Day, along with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Truly there ARE advantages to joining the Daughters of the Confederacy.

+ Former football coach Wallace Davis revealed to WRBL he helped stop a "race riot" at Hardaway High School in 1971. Students were ready to rumble outside the building, but Davis says he persuaded several football players to walk back inside before fighting started. If he mentions this to the Crime Prevention Commission, a mass meeting could be upcoming outside the Civic Center.

+ The Opelika-Auburn News reported the Russell County Red Cross chapter is losing its building, because it can't pay the expenses. Does this organization really need a building, anyway? It's become used to operating out of tents and trailers at disaster sites....

+ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue took out two big loans for farm businesses he owns, and now has 21 million dollars in personal debt. There's no better time for Mark Taylor to remind Perdue about that Florida land he owns, and offer some kind of deal.

+ Georgia Power employees marked a "day of service" by filling boxes of food for the Second Harvest food bank. That's a very selfless thing to do - because they could have handed out electric heaters in mobile home parks, then raked in extra revenue.

+ The Atlanta Hawks topped Toronto 87-84. I wonder if former Raptor coach and Columbus native Sam Mitchell went to this game at Philips Arena - with a resume.

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,251 (+ 55, 4.6%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

19 JAN 09: A Gift of Any Size

Alabama schools are in the middle of proration. Unemployment is at its highest rate in years. And yet there's a move to give Phenix City's elected officials a pay raise. You've noticed how well the new city council has done over the last two months, haven't you?

We finally were able to get a Phenix City official to comment Sunday on an e-mail we received several days ago. We wanted to make sure it was accurate, before posting it:

How about the new mayor of Phenix City who believes his job should be full-time and the pay increased substantially. He's wanting that done now. Didn't he just run for the office a few months ago? Why did he run for mayor if he didn't like the pay? It's hard for anyone to believe he didn't know much about the job since he has served as mayor for three full terms previously. Didn't the people of Phenix City vote "No" to raising the salary of mayor recently? And doesn't the city of Phenix City have a very well paid City Manager to take care of running the city on a daily basis?

But it's not just the mayor -- the city councilors want their pay raised substantially also. Three of the 4 new councilors were just elected at the end of 2008 and the 4th just reelected.

And all of this when many residents are losing their jobs and small businesses in Phenix City are closing on an almost daily basis. Many folks would consider their present salaries very lucrative for these part-time jobs. Greed - that's one of the reasons this country is in the "mess" it's in now.

And voters thought they were getting a "change" when they got rid of the former mayor and 3 council members. Guess they need to be careful about what change they wish for.

This is NOT exactly the way Councilor Jimmy Wetzel explained it to us. For instance, he says State Representative Lesley Vance suggested starting the pay-raise process. And unlike the guys who suggest you play the lottery, he probably doesn't want a cut of the winnings.

Jimmy Wetzel provided a little history of the pay structure in Phenix City government. He noted the mayor and council have had NO raises since 2001. About the only other people who could make that statement are retired pro athletes.

The mayor of Phenix City is paid $1,000 a month, while council members earn $800. This admittedly was one detail which was very difficult to ask Jimmy Wetzel about - since my mother taught me long ago you DON'T ask other people about their salaries.

But anyway: Jimmy Wetzel says a Phenix City "Charter Review Committee" recommended raises for the last Phenix City Mayor. Remember the proposal to pay Jeff Hardin $50,000 a year? [6 Dec 06] I don't know if Hardin is earning that now by making motivational speeches or not....

Jimmy Wetzel says the Alabama Legislature has to approve a change in the Phenix City charter, so elected officials can receive a raise. But he claims local lawmakers never introduced the proposal during the last local administration. History can repeat itself, you know - if enough e-mailers complain to the right people.

So Rep. Lesley Vance plans to offer a bill in the Alabama Legislature next month, to change the Phenix City charter and allow raises. We checked the state web site Sunday night, and the bill has NOT been filed yet. So we don't know if Vance will propose a fourfold raise for Mayor Sonny Coulter, in honor of his fourth time in office.

Jimmy Wetzel noted the Phenix City Council did NOT recommend how much to raise their pay, when it approved a charter review. Don't you like that sort of attitude? We don't care how big a gift you give us - it's the thought that counts.

I read Jimmy Wetzel the section of our e-mail complaining about this proposal. Wetzel thought for a moment, then said he didn't consider $800 a month a "lucrative" part-time salary. But he added the critic "might be making only five dollars an hour." We know it's only enough to offer us story tips - not the financial kind.

As for the Phenix City Manager: Jimmy Wetzel said the last Charter Review Committee proposed moving part of his duties to the mayor - the part dealing with economic development. The new city manager might be skilled in bringing a fire extinguisher company to town.

-> Our other blog has found a way to combine thoughts on poker with today's holiday. Read what we mean at "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: This is either a late submission for our last set of Burkard Awards, or a very early submission for the next one. For "Joke of the Year"....

Mark Lajoye

The e-mailer did NOT sign a name. But this is about the number of words former Sheriff Ralph Johnson might have used.

Now let's check other Sunday discoveries:

+ The "Morning of Praise" telecast on WRBL found Fourth Street Baptist Church Pastor J.H. Flakes preaching against stealing. He revealed his church has security cameras everywhere - and as detailed as his sermon was, someone needs to return a hymnal to a third-row pew very quickly.

+ The Auburn women's basketball team remained unbeaten, by assailing Arkansas 70-61. The Tigers are now 18-0 - but I still don't think Coach Nell Fortner will be asked to help with the football team next fall.

+ Kentucky clobbered Georgia in men's basketball 68-45. You know things are bad when the Bulldog radio announcers celebrate topping the 40 points scored against Vanderbilt.

+ Several local football players reached the Super Bowl, when Arizona felled Philadelphia 32-25. Defensive back Rod Hood went to Carver High School. Tight end Leonard Pope is from Americus. And former Auburn University linebacker Karlos Dansby may be pressured to find a spare ticket for Tommy Tuberville.

+ Instant Message to everyone in Alabama: What am I supposed to wish you today? A happy Martin Luther King Day? A happy Robert E. Lee Day? Both, since the state marks both? Or should I appeal to a higher authority, and wish a happy Inauguration Eve?

SCHEDULED TUESDAY: Inauguration thoughts which may not have crossed your mind.... such as bathrooms....

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,196 (- 37, 3.0%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

18 JAN 09: Can We All Get Along?

The RiverCenter downtown hosted two big events Saturday night. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra had a concert in Bill Heard Hall, which featured Gustav Holst's "The Planets." The smaller theater had a forum on racial diversity - and viewers discovered local racial communities are NOT on different planets after all.

A televised and web-cast OneColumbus town hall meeting on diversity brought out a wide range of local leaders - from the police chief to the incoming school superintendent to the Chamber of Commerce President. And amidst all their comments, African-American people spoke as well....

Statistics shown at the beginning of the forum reminded you of how diverse Columbus is. The population is now 48-percent African-American, 44-percent white, 6.6-percent Hispanic - and scoffers would say the remaining people are running motels and Chinese restaurants.

Several people sent e-mail comments, which were shown at the forum. One accused "professional agitators" of stirring racial tension, citing the "Ku Klux Klan and NAACP." That doesn't seem quite right to me -- because the Klan often comes across as rank amateur.

Columbus NAACP President Bill Madison was NOT at the diversity forum. Margaret Jenkins spoke for the civil rights group, denying it's a "radical organization." She added the NAACP "takes on the personality of its leader" - which may explain why it's never hosted a "Comedy Jam."

Margaret Jenkins added a bit of history I never knew. Did you realize the NAACP was founded 100 years ago by "Southern whites?" That's what she said. I'm not sure exactly when so many of them fled to the Urban League....

The town hall meeting examined all sorts of local issues, from crime and education to employment. But several key points kept coming up from speakers, including the importance of the family. Parents should teach their children about everything from tolerance to language -- while hopefully not teaching intolerant foul language.

A former chaplain at Rutledge State Prison put it simply during the forum: "Prejudice is not inherited. It's learned." Wow - do you mean babies in the South are NOT automatically born with red necks?

Another frequent topic at the "Building Bridges" town hall was the so-called "Macon Road divide" between North and South Columbus. Sad to say, there's only one bridge over Macon Road -- and drivers go so quickly on Interstate 185 that they never stop to talk.

Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley spoke on tape, saying the new skateboard park and soon-coming ice rink at South Commons will help the "Macon Road divide" disappear. If that doesn't work, we might make the "Aflac Outdoor Games" a year-round affair - and invite young people to come saw firewood for free.

But other speakers at the town hall said the divisions of Columbus are NOT drawn down Macon Road. They're matters of economics, social upbringing - and even of the heart. The last one certainly divides the single guys from the married ones....

Mike Gaymon of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce said people tend to discount years of improvements in Columbus South - from the Civic Center to RoadAmerica, and even the main library on the south side of Macon Road. And as we all know, the library won't be truly appreciated until the asphalt behind it is turned into pastureland.

Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren told the forum his department has to "address a lot of black-on-black crime." But a white police investigator took offense to an e-mail claim that "out-of-control" African-American youth lead to racial tensions. She said youth of ALL backgrounds are out of control - which could make this a big week for sales of home security systems.

Police statistics shown during the town hall indicate larceny in Columbus is most likely to happen in an area between Warm Springs and Miller Roads. But NO local numbers could be tracked down, showing crime percentages by ethnic group. And let's face it - criminals of all backgrounds are equally likely to wear black hoodies or ski masks.

When it comes to economic equality, Mikell Fryer of the Columbus Career Center said during the web-only hour of the forum it's NOT a matter of race. As he put it, "Most people are not ready to go to work." So get out there during this holiday weekend, and buy a nice new tie.

But some of the most insightful comments during the town hall came from an unexpected person - a resident of Elizabeth Canty Homes. Tiffany Stacy said any divisions in Columbus are because "the dividing line is on the inside." This was reinforced during Friday's "Oprah Winfrey Show," with those funny drawings of male and female brains.

Tiffany Stacy added some people are surprised when they meet her and say, "You don't act like you're from the projects." How is she supposed to act? Some residents choose to spend their limited incomes on food and basics, as opposed to gold teeth and rotating hubcaps.

OneColumbus presented several awards during the two-hour forum. An Excellence Award was given to Judge John Allen, who said during the web-only hour many prisons have become mental health institutions and "baby-sitting cells." Some of us can remember when that latter title was applied to middle school study hall.

Many more interesting comments were made during the diversity forum, but let's quickly summarize several things which stood out:

+ Former Muscogee County School Superintendent Guy Sims emphasized the importance of education. "I'm not employed," Sims added - to which the police chief would have noted he's still trying to hire 65 new officers.

+ Barbara Moushon with the Literary Alliance also focused on education. She said children should know 5,000 common words by the time they enter kindergarten. Then they can memorize the 25,000 others in the dictionary, which will help them win spelling bees.

+ Alfonza Whitaker introduced himself as Chief Assistant District Attorney - and also a church pastor. If he starts getting a bit personal in his sermons, it could be his way of extracting a confession.

+ Whitaker and another speaker noted the number of prison beds is figured by the reading level of a community's fourth-graders. If that isn't stunning enough, consider this - to do that figuring, you probably have to be smarter than a fourth-grader in mathematics.

While the RiverCenter had all that star power, other things are making news this weekend as well....

+ The Saturday morning low in Columbus was 21 degrees F., after the dew point Friday dropped as low as nine below. At that level, I think it becomes a don't point.

(The last few nights have reminded me that winter coats have multiple uses. When you're inside, lay it on the floor next to the north door to keep cold air from leaking in.)

+ Columbus Water Works suspected ice-cold weather caused a two-inch water main to break on Harbison Drive. But word did NOT spread fast enough about this, because no youth hockey players showed up for a street game.

+ The annual "MLK Unity Parade" was held in downtown Columbus. It was held in the afternoon this year, which allowed for warmer weather - but it was still chilly enough to require a coat on, and not a coat off.

+ The Port Columbus museum announced it has received the donation of a Bible from the Confederate ship "Water Witch." With a name like that, I would have expected the Bible to look much more worn-out than it is.

(The Water Witch is the ship Port Columbus staff members are reconstructing along Victory Drive. It should be ready for tours in April - right on time for Southern rednecks to stage a Confederate Memorial Day sit-in.)

+ Pro Bull Riding completed its annual two-night stand at the Columbus Civic Center. We mentioned two weeks ago that it's a minor-league tour - so any bull which didn't buck its rider might have been dropped off outside Longhorn Steakhouse.

+ Auburn outplayed Alabama 85-71 in men's college basketball. But did you notice what I did - empty seats at Beard-Eaves Coliseum? The paid attendance of 8,788 was down 1,700 from last winter. I didn't realize so many Auburn fans are staging a boycott, until the new arena is built.

+ Instant Message to Gold's Gym: About those billboards showing a good-looking woman's head above water - is her body not showing because it's the "before" picture?

The number of unique visitors to our blog has doubled since 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,233 (+ 39, 3.3%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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