Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Edward Lawrence, Reporter
Bill Heard's Las Vegas Car Dealerships Close

Updated: Sep 24, 2008 05:54 PM

One of the largest car dealerships in the nation has become the latest casualty of the economy. Bill Heard Enterprises closed all of its dealerships nationwide Wednesday. That includes two in Las Vegas: Bill Heard Chevrolet and Vista Chevrolet in northwest part of the city.

At noon Wednesday, without warning, the general manager walked on to the showroom floor and told employees to lock up. They were closing.

The general manager would not comment on the situation, but the main office in Atlanta, Georgia released a statement. It says Bill Heard closed all 13 of its dealerships across the nation, putting 2,700 people out of work.

Read a statement from Bill Heard Enterprises

The statement blames Chevrolet for offering mostly heavy trucks and sport utility vehicles which guzzle gas. It goes on to say rising gas prices, the bad economy, and crisis in the banking and financial markets pushed the company to close. However, reports out of Tampa and Arizona say GMAC pulled financing to the dealership.

Former employees say they did not get any severance or pay checks. They were just told to leave.

"You are sitting there working and someone tells you we are closing the doors, wrap everything up. It's a shock," said former fleet manager Cliff Toosley. "We heard rumors they were closing. They closed the Scottsdale store about two weeks ago. They told all of us that we were ok -- everything is fine. They gave us the pep talk."

Obviously, it was not ok. Toosley has a mortgage and says he will try to keep a positive attitude. He called some contacts at other dealerships and has a meeting set up for a new job.

The spokesman for the company says they have not made a decision on what to do with the new cars on the lot.

All of the cars in the service department were towed and delivered back to the customers.

People are still showing up to buy cars and try to get service, but they are being turned away.

Original Story Here

My take on this:

Apparently the downturn in Las Vegas' economy is cutting far deeper than is we have realized! If one drives around and through residential neighborhoods one cannot avoid the browned lawns and "Foreclosure" signs. The amount of empty commercial space, left by failed small businesses, is becoming painfully obvious when visiting any of our multitude of neighborhood strip malls.

It reminds me of the 1981 - 1982 spring in Portland, Oregon when high interest rates and lack of building activity all but brought commerce to a dead halt. Our timber industry was at a standstill, loggers laid off, lumber mills closed and home prices plummeted.

Auto dealers who had survived the 1970s post oil embargo slump in car sales were forced out of business by sheer lack of customers who could, or would, buy a new car with interest rates near 30 percent. Unemployment was rife and commercial space was available, cheap and empty.

Now twenty-six years later we are seeing Las Vegas, Nevada - long thought recession-proof - suffering a similar fate.

Unemployment - historically and recently - in the very low four percentages, now tops six percent and is still gaining as Autumn starts and we head into the Winter doldrums. For those who don't know: the Las Vegas metropolitan area has a population of approximately 1.5 million people and until very recently anyone who wanted a job could find one.

Fortunately the visitors still come. Unfortunately the numbers are down and slipping lower. Passenger traffic at MacLaren Airport is off about ten percent from last years "same-month" figures. Hotel occupancy is down and several large resort construction projects are on "hold" or are cancelled.

Now, the good news: Folks, Las Vegas is open for business and is still a vacation bargain! If you enjoy bright lights, great restaurants, world-class entertainment and maybe a little gaming, some call it gambling, you will find it here and the hotels are offering reduced prices to help you enjoy it all. If you're getting a little too old for another trip to Disneyland, or just want to try something different: Try Las Vegas!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A day of Remembrance

Dedicated to the men, women and children who lost their lives,
those brave people who gave their lives,
and the heroes who responded to the call on 11 September 2001

And to the hundreds of thousands
of brave and often heroic Americans
who have answered our country's call
since that day

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What's Next? Black Helicopters?

UN threatens to act against Britain for failure to protect heritage sites

    * Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent
* The Guardian,
* Monday September 8 2008

The UN is threatening to put the Tower of London on its list of world heritage sites in danger after its experts accused the UK of damaging globally significant sites such as Stonehenge, the old town of Edinburgh and the Georgian centre of Bath, the Guardian has learned.

Unesco, the UN's cultural agency, has told ministers in London and Edinburgh that it wants urgent action to protect seven world heritage sites which it claims are in danger from building developments, and said in some cases the UK is ignoring its legal obligations to protect them.

Their complaints range from decisions to approve new tower blocks in central London, such as the 66-storey "shard of glass" at London Bridge, to the failure to relocate the A344 beside Stonehenge despite promising action for 22 years, to a proposed wind farm which threatens neolithic sites on Orkney.

For all seven sites, it has asked the UK to write detailed progress reports replying to its concerns by February.

Unesco's world heritage centre in Paris is also sending two teams of inspectors to Edinburgh and Bath this winter to investigate its concerns that new buildings in both cities will damage their "integrity" and their "outstanding universal value."

In its strongest criticism, Unesco's world heritage committee has said it "deeply regrets" the decision by Edinburgh city council to press ahead with a hotel, housing and offices development called Caltongate next to the Royal Mile, despite expert evidence it will ruin the medieval old town's unique form.

In the committee's final report after its annual meeting in July in Quebec, which has just been released, it also accuses the UK of breaching world heritage site guidelines by failing to warn it in advance about the Caltongate scheme. Last month, Koichiro Matsuura, Unesco's director general, told the Scotsman there was growing concern about Edinburgh. "It is crucial that its outstanding features are preserved and protected," he said.

Leading architects and conservationists, including Sir Terry Farrell and Marcus Binney, chairman of Save Britain's Heritage, have said they share Unesco's anxieties. Farrell, appointed Edinburgh's "design champion", told the Guardian the city urgently needed a proper urban design masterplan. "I'm very supportive of Unesco's position," he said.

Binney said: "Heritage has taken a back seat to Cool Britannia and encouraging everything modern, and we're now uncomfortably in the limelight for failing to have proper policies to protect our world heritage sites, and timely criticisms are now being made."

In potentially its most serious conflict with ministers, Unesco has said it could put the Tower of London on its "world heritage in danger" list next year if ministers fail to honour promises to strengthen planning guidelines for the area.

Unesco is worried that the "iconic" Norman Tower and its 13th-century walls will be overshadowed by Renzo Piano's London Bridge tower, the so-called "shard of glass", and a 39-floor tower on Fenchurch Street in the City. It accepts that a new management plan for the area is being drafted but is angry that the new towers are still being approved.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which has lead responsibility for protecting the UK's 27 world heritage sites, says it is introducing a heritage protection bill which will give all sites in England the same legal protection as a conservation area.

It said its delegation to the Quebec meeting had successfully challenged some criticism from Unesco by showing that planners were acting to draft guidelines on protecting several sites and their skylines. "The tone of the meeting was very positive and our delegates came away with a very positive feeling about the likely final outcome," it said. "Nothing has been said or received subsequently to alter this impression."

The UK overturned a proposed warning that the Palace of Westminster world heritage site, which includes the abbey and St Margaret's church, could also be added to the "in danger" list next year if Unesco's concerns were ignored, by citing the heritage protection bill and planning guidelines. But Unesco still "regrets" that the UK has failed to put in a "buffer zone" to restrict damaging developments and draw up a proper "skyline study" to allow planners to rapidly assess development proposals. It accuses the UK of a "lack of clarity" in assessing the conflicts between conservation and development.

Read the rest of this important story here...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rock-solid proof?

A discovery by a former Mineral Wells resident might prove men and dino-
saurs walked the Earth together...

July 28, 2008 09:32 am
By David May

A slab of North Texas limestone is on track to rock the world, with its two imbedded footprints poised to make a huge impression in scientific and religious circles.

The estimated 140-pound stone was recovered in July 2000 from the bank of a creek that feeds the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas, located about 53 miles south of Fort Worth. The find was made just outside Dinosaur Valley State Park, a popular destination for tourists known for its well-preserved dinosaur tracks and other fossils.

The limestone contains two distinct prints – one of a human footprint and one belonging to a dinosaur. The significance of the cement-hard fossil is that it shows the dinosaur print partially over and intersecting the human print.

In other words, the stone’s impressions indicate that the human stepped first, the dinosaur second. If proven genuine, the artifact would provide evidence that man and dinosaur roamed the Earth at the same time, according to those associated with the find and with its safekeeping. It could potentially toss out the window many commonly held scientific theories on evolution and the history of the world.

Finding scholars and experts on evolution, paleontology or creationism to speak about the discovery proved difficult. Some who were contacted said they didn’t want to comment on the prints without a personal inspection or without review of data from scientific tests.

However, Dr. Phillip Murry, a vertebrate paleontology instructor in the Geoscience department of Tarleton State University at Stephenville, Texas, stated in his response to an interview request: “There has never been a proven association of dinosaur (prints) with human footprints.”

The longtime amateur archeologist who found the fossil thinks that statement is now proven untrue.

“It is unbelievable, that’s what it is,” Alvis Delk, 72, said of what could be not only the find of a lifetime, but of mankind.

Delk is a current Stephenville and former Mineral Wells resident (1950-69) who said he found the rock eight years ago while on a hunt with a friend, James Bishop, also of Stephenville, and friend and current fiancee Elizabeth Harris.

The three were searching in July 2000 for Indian artifacts like arrowheads – Delk’s specialty as a hunter and collector since he was 6 years old – when he said a pile of rocks along a creek bank caught his eye.

“I said it looks like something has been washed out of this hole,” Delk told the Mineral Wells Index.

Upon inspection of the pile, he said he saw a dinosaur footprint embedded in a piece of limestone. Delk said he has found and seen dinosaur prints, but now he had one on a piece of rock he could carry off – with Bishop’s help – to keep and add to his collection.

Which is what he did, for nearly eight years. The stone was kept otherwise untouched, stored amongst his other finds, which he said includes over 100,000 Indian artifacts.

A domestic fall from a ladder eight months ago nearly crippled Delk, resulting in surgeries, a long recovery and expensive medical bills. He decided to try and sell some of his archeological treasurers, so he turned to the large piece of limestone, thinking he could clean it up some and sell it to the Creation Evidence Museum located adjacent to Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose.

Two months ago – about the third week of May – Delk said he grabbed a 4-inch brush and began lightly brushing away sediments and deposits from the stone when he noticed something. He began to see another print develop – that of a human – partially beneath the dinosaur print.

“I seen the (human) track coming out and (saw) that it was a man,” Delk said. “I thought to myself, ‘Lord, I’ve been shown man was here when the dinosaur was here.’”

He said he knew what he had to do.

“When I found it, I said this has to get to someone who knows it,” he said. “I took it to Dr. Baugh. He liked to have a heart attack over it. He shed some tears.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A worthwhile effort:

Justin Brashares: Brashares Wildlife Conservation Fund

One of the things about the "World Wide Web" that I like the most is the fact that many "news" articles published stay available for quite a long time.

Of course, newspapers have always had "archives" of sorts. Often just a big cardboard box with a copy of each daily edition tossed in. The past issues of some were available, for a while, in the library, too.

Unless someone happened to know far enough ahead of time to subscribe to a "clipping service", when researching a piece of information, most of what had been written pertaining to the subject was not readily available - if not absolutely untraceable.

With the advent of the web a few years ago, we have begun to have available an almost impossibly huge archive of human (one hopes) thought pertinent to almost any inquiry.

It seems that the "information superhighway" - as it was called a few years back - has also become an "information multi-level parking structure." Which, in the long run, might prove to be more beneficial than mere rapidity of dissemination of data.

Southern California

On the negative attribute list, one must add the unreliability of a great deal of the information which one encounters.

Even so: Opinion, even if devoid of fact, is still information - that's my opinion, anyway.

Like a lot of old people, I don't go out "clubbing" much - so, I spend a lot of time reading. For the past several years my books have had a lot of competition from the internet. I don't "chat" but sometimes I am moved to comment.

Today is one of those times. This morning I saw a reference to a story which stated that there is a traffic in the meat of wild animals being smuggled into Europe and North America from Asia, Africa, and South America apparently for food.

Now, let me state from the outset: I have no knowledge - nor even an opinion - as to the veracity of the article nor of the reality of the alleged traffic.

That purported traffic is not what I'm writing about so if you're interested it can be found at

What started this digression posing as an introduction, is the fact that the article was dated July 19, 2006 and the last comment - before mine - was dated August 28, 2008. Now that is persistence of a news item!

In the course of reading that article I saw a citation referring to "Justin Brashares, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of California, Berkeley and his team."

I was curious as to who Dr. Brashares is and what kind of team was meant. So, I followed the link given: Justin Brashares and found something that I thought to be worth passing along.

What I found is a University Professor, a coterie of post-doctoral researchers, doctoral students and technicians, see: "Who We Are", who are getting beyond (way beyond) the ivy covered halls of academia and working to make a vital contribution to the world.

O.K. That's enough of my blather, now I'll let Dr. Brashares' own material tell the story.

The following information, including pictures, is taken wholly from: Dr. Brashares' websites.

(Dr.Brashares is not responsible for the captions)

Research Summary

The catastrophic global decline of biodiversity is widely recognized as among the most pressing problems we face as a society. The biological, economic and social consequences of depauperate oceans, tundras, savannas and forests remain unclear and in desperate need of study. My research attempts to understand how our consumption of wild animals and conversion of natural habitats affects the dynamics of animal communities and the persistence of populations. Work in my group extends beyond traditional animal conservation to consider the economic, political and cultural factors that drive and, in turn, are driven by, changes in wildlife abundance and diversity. Through these efforts, my group strives to propose empirically-based, interdisciplinary strategies for biodiversity conservation. Much of this work and, specifically, my research efforts in ESPM can be placed within three foci:

* Community and population ecology of wildlife in altered ecosystems
* Causes and ecological consequences of wildlife utilization
* Landscape planning and monitoring for wildlife conservation

Click on a picture for a larger image


Kids in Cameroon

Zebras in the dust

Laundry day: wash hung to dry

Two gentlemen and some cattle

University website:
UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources

Vancouver Is., B.C.

Carrizo Plain

Baboons in Ghana

Nap Time

Visit Dr.Brashares' Website

Thursday, September 4, 2008

How a baby could decide who's next US president

(if conspiracy theorists are right)

Published Date: 04 September 2008
PITY John McCain. For months he struggled to impose himself in an election that was all about Barack Obama. Now the spotlight has finally shifted to his own campaign, but only to focus on a stream of revelations about his vice-presidential choice, Sarah Palin.
The Alaska governor was guaranteed an audience for her first televised address last night, but nothing she was likely to say could match the fascination with a daily diet of fresh disclosures about her colourful life.

First was the embarrassment over her apparent support for the Alaska Independence Movement, motto: Alaska First, which cuts across the Republican convention's slogan Country First.

Then there's Troopergate, in which the state is investigating allegations that she fired Alaska's public security chief because he did not fire a state trooper engaged in a custody battle with Mrs Palin's sister.

Also in the mix is her addiction to "pork barrel" spending, a practice Mr McCain vehemently opposes: as mayor of Wasilla, she raised £15 million in federal funds for the town, population 9,000.

And then there are the polar bears. Mrs Palin has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Alaska, joined by big oil companies, against the US government, demanding that the "endangered species" status of polar bears be lifted to allow new drilling.

In a publicity gem for the Obama campaign, she has intervened to ensure that a commemorative quarter dollar coin issued this week features not a polar bear but a grizzly.

And then there is "Babygate".

Monday's revelation that her daughter Bristol, 17, is five months pregnant by her ice-hockey player boyfriend, Levi Johnston, also 17, is not in itself damaging, but does undermine her claim to back family values.

More damaging is what it says about Mr McCain and his rush to find a VP. The fact she made the disclosure three days after being nominated, and that Mr McCain began vetting her only the day before she was picked, suggests he did not know of the matter.

The blogosphere is, meanwhile, in a frenzy over speculation that Mrs Palin's fifth child, Trig, born last April, is in fact the son of Bristol.

This speculation stems from the circumstances of the birth. By Mrs Palin's account, her waters broke on 17 April while she was at a Dallas conference. Instead of going to a local hospital, she gave her speech and took an 11-hour flight home, all the while suffering contractions, to have the baby in a local clinic.

It was to quash rumours she was covering for Bristol that Mrs Palin went public with the news of her daughter's pregnancy, pointing out that, at five months in, it was impossible for Bristol to have given birth in April.

In other circumstances, these revelations might be water under the bridge. This "baggage" is no heavier than that of either Mr McCain or, arguably, Mr Obama; the only difference being all the revelations have come at once. But they feed into criticism that she is unsuited to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, the more so with revelations that until last year she had never travelled abroad.

"She has zero foreign experience, zero," said David Gergen, a former White House adviser. "When the Republicans had the assertion that Barack Obama had no experience, they were making progress with that argument. Now they have selected someone with even less foreign policy exposure."

None of that fazes conservatives, who see her as one of their own, with a zeal for reform and a delight in the battle. As mayor of Wasilla in 1996, she reduced her own salary, sacked staff and cut taxes by 40 per cent. Elected as governor on an anti-sleaze ticket, Mrs Palin has enjoyed approval ratings of 70-80 percent.

Last night, Mr McCain's team came out fighting. "This nonsense is over," declared senior adviser Steve Schmidt in a written statement. "The McCain campaign will have no further comment about our long and thorough (vetting] process."

The McCain campaign has also scheduled a news conference to defend Mrs Palin's experience, and released a new advert in key states, an indication that advisers are concerned a flurry of criticism may be taking a toll.

How pressure from Republicans' right wing led McCain to make hasty decision

JOHN McCain's controversial decision to pick outsider Sarah Palin as his running mate stems from an abrupt change of direction forced on him by conservatives in his own party.

Mr McCain had built his primary campaign around a liberal social agenda, hoping to win over centrist swing voters at the November election.

Instead, he appears to have caved in to pressure from conservatives who told him to move to the right or they would not campaign for him.

Unable to gain a polling lead over Barack Obama, Mr McCain has done several about-turns.

He has dropped opposition to the Bush administration's tax cuts for the top 1 per cent of the population, and he has joined conservatives in calling for illegal immigrants to be rounded up and deported.

Most significantly, he has dropped his opposition to the official Republican platform, which seeks to ban abortion.

People this is a pretty interesting article - including public comments - in toto.
To read the rest click here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Important! Tire Valve Stem Safety Recall

Serious Consumer Safety Issue

As many as 30 million tires on the road in the United States are at risk of blowing out. Having a tire blow out, while driving at 65 MPH in heavy traffic, can cause a serious,
even fatal accident. It is what we, in the old days, used to refer to as an "E ticket ride".

The issue, this time, is potentially defective rubber tire
valve stems.

It is well known in the industry that "flex cracks" in valve stems are indicative of a weakness in the valve stem which may fail suddenly while driving and in turn can cause tires to
lose air quickly, and such air loss at highway speeds can result in tire failure and a loss-of-control crash.

The valves have been recalled, but in spite of that you may have them on your car.

On November 11, Robert Monk of Orlando, Fla. died when the right rear tire of his 1998 Ford Explorer suddenly failed, causing him to lose control and culminating in a rollover
crash. The cause of the accident, a lawsuit alleges, was a weakened, cracked tire valve which failed prematurely causing a sudden loss of tire pressure.

This is what a TR413 valve stem looks like

TR413 valve stem showing crack

Several models of valve stems

The tire which was installed in the fall of 2006, is alleged to have been installed along with a new Dill TR-413 valve stem manufactured by a subsidiary of Shanghai Baolong
Industries for Dill Air Control Products. In March, the Monk family filed suit against Dill Air Control Products, alleging that the defective tire valve stem
caused the crash.

Dill has told NHTSA that as many as 30 million of the suspected valve stems have been distributed in the North American market. The suspect valve stems identified
by Dill include its TR-413, TR-413 chrome, TR-414, TR-415, TR-418 and TR-423, which were manufactured between August 2006 and November 2006. (The valve stem is a rubber
tube with a metal valve used to inflate the tire with air.)

"If you've had new tires installed after 2005, there's a chance that your tire valves are affected by the recall," said Don Mays with Consumer Reports.

Mays checked cars in the staff parking lot and found more than one with a problem, "This crack leaked air slowly, resulting in a flat tire. But at highway speeds,
you could have sudden air loss, and that can be a serious problem."

So how can you tell if your tire has one of these valves? It's not easy. At a minimum, Consumer Reports says check your tire pressure at least once a month and inspect the
valve for any cracks. Flex the valve out towards the tire and rotate it, looking for any cracks along the stem. A flashlight can be helpful. A good valve has no cracks.
If you do find a crack, go to your tire dealer and make sure all four tire-valve stems are replaced, not just the known defective one.

Most consumers will have a have a hard time figuring out if they have any of the defective valve stems on their vehicle, however. That's because once the valve
stems are installed in the wheels, the only way to check to see if it is one of the recalled stems is to dismount the tire from the wheel and inspect the base of the valve
from the inside of the wheel.

Once they are out of the box there is no tracking for these products so it is unlikely that all owners will be notified of the recall. Any motorist who has had a tire
replaced since January 2006 would be well advised to immediately return to the tire dealer to have their valves inspected for signs of cracking.

Eugene Petersen, program leader for tire testing at Consumer Reports, says the difficulty in identifying the faulty valve stems represents a real problem for consumers.
"I can't imagine tire shops or service centers would have kept any records on any valve stems they may have installed on a vehicle," says Petersen. "That apparently
means the tire will have to be removed from the wheel to identify the manufacturer of the valve stem. That brings you to the question of who will pay for all this."

Your tire dealer is the person to ask that question of. The dealer will know if they have used Dill Valves during the period in question. Also if your valve stems
were replaced it probably, but not certainly, will show on your invoice copy.

Dill Air Controls Products, LLC, a company newly formed in 2005, is located in Oxford, NC. Dill was formerly Air Control Products, a division of Eaton Corporation
in Roxboro, North Carolina and was purchased by the Chinese companies, Shanghai Baolong Industries Co. Ltd. and Zhongding Group Ltd. Dill manufacturers automotive
air valves and valve parts in addition to products for the U.S. Government, NASA, and the aircraft industry.

To learn more about the takeover of Dill,

click here.