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Paypal founder puts education-industrial complex in the cross hairs

College; an increasingly risky investment

The problem is that “in our society the default assumption is that everybody has to go to college,” says Peter Thiel, who earned billions with his hi-tech investments. “Students today are taking on more debt, and recently tightened bankruptcy laws make it more difficult to shake that debt,” Paypal co-founder and early investor in Facebook Thiel says, “and those factors make higher education a risky investment. If you get this wrong, it’s actually a mistake that’s hard to undo for the rest of your life.”

Besides that he says that by the time many leave college with our without a degree, their innovative “juices” have been transformed into the ordinary and acceptable, which is one of the reasons this country is losing its edge. His Thiel Foundation announced last week that it was giving 24 people under 20 $100,000 fellowships to drop out of school for two years to start a their own companies. Now before everyone climbs onto a high horse and engage in name calling, it should be noted that Thiel’s track record is impeccable and that he is just expanding on something the Donald does on a TV show called “the Apprentice”. Yet even the almighty New York Times calls him “contrarian” and “libertarian” because he is challenging the authority of the present and the familiar.
It just underscores how afraid we are as a society to explore new ways.

In a press release the Foundation claims that the Fellows will pursue innovative scientific and technical projects, learn entrepreneurship, and begin to build the technology companies of tomorrow. During their two-year tenure, each Fellow will receive $100,000 from the Thiel Foundation as well as mentorship from the Foundation’s network of tech entrepreneurs and innovators. The project areas for this class of fellows include biotech, career development, economics and finance, education, energy, information technology, mobility, robotics, and space.”
Sounds like an innovative way to find a more balanced educational future in my opinion, something Texas billionaire Mark Cuban has been successfully experimenting with for several years now.

That education for the sake of education has been put on an unacceptable pedestal in this country, should be clear to anyone pulling their head out of the sand, and to put the value of higher education even more into perspective the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that with tuition rising and a weak job market everyone seems to be debating the value of a college degree. Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, says talking about the bachelor’s degree in general doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because its financial payoff is heavily affected by what that degree is in and which college it is from. For the first time, researchers analyzed earnings based on 171 college majors and the differences are striking: For workers whose highest degree is a bachelor’s, median incomes ranged from $29,000 for counseling-psychology majors to $120,000 for petroleum-engineering majors but data (download the entire study here whatsitworth-complete ) also revealed earnings differences within groups of similar majors.

Within the category of business majors, for instance, business-economics majors had the highest median pay, $75,000 while business-hospitality management earned $50,000. The study concludes that while there is a lot of variation in earnings over a lifetime, all undergraduate majors are worth it, even taking into account the cost of college and lost earnings with the lifetime advantage ranging from $1,090,000 for Engineering majors to $241,000 for Education majors. ‘The bottom line is that getting a degree matters, but what you take matters even more,’ concludes Carnevale.

There are obviously valid points being made on both sides of the debate on higher education. Personally I would feel better about skipping a formal post-secondary education in favor of vocational and creative intuitive teaching, if high school graduates had better critical thinking skills and a deeper understanding of history. Education is not just about making money, it is also about being a knowledgeable world citizen who can spot historical revisionism and people who twist the truth.

If higher education was actually education it would be different. In the past 20 years I have seen a multitude of college graduates that were functional illiterates. Poor reading skills, non-existent math skills, and a complete lack of ability to solve problems (critical thinking). Higher education in about the dollars and sports. There are however some very brilliant young people that will get an education in spite of the system. They will make the grade with or without college. I have been giving selected college courses and symposiums at undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate level for almost 35 years. The primary skills in obtaining an education is interest and the ability to solve problems (think out side the box, and avoid social Drone-ism). Peter Thiel just made some of his money available to potentially find new ways, possibly better geared towards the future than most of what present day colleges seem to teach.

Time for High School Graduations

Time for High School GraduationsThis time of the year we receive graduation annoucements from friends and relatives whose children are graduating high school.

Graduation marks an important passage in the life of a teenager. It is the end of childhood and the beginning of something new. If they are heading off to college, boot camp or otherwise leaving the home, I’ve learned the separation anxiety is as difficult for the caregiver as it is the student.

Even the kids that will still live at home to pursue future interests have a new sense of freedom and we can only hope we have taught them well.

The invitations that arrive have been embossed with school logos and usually include a picture of the graduating senior. Some are colorful, some are elegant and some are simple, but they all come with a proud message of completion.

An invitation received from a Fernandina Beach student included such details as the class flower, song, and motto by an unknown author, “A bend in the road is not the end of the road… unless you fail to make the turn.”

This is an exciting time for these young men and women and we wish them the very best as they go out into the world and follow their own dreams!

Here are some of the local high school graduation dates:

Hilliard High School
Graduation Ceremony: Thursday, June 2, 2011, 7:00 PM, Florida Theater

Yulee High School
Graduation Ceremony: Friday, June 3, 2011, 6:00 PM, University of North Florida

Fernandina Beach High School
Baccalaureate Ceremony: Thursday, June 2, 2011, 7:00 PM, Fernandina Beach High School Multi-purpose room.
Graduation Ceremony: Sunday, June 5, 2011, 3:00 PM, University of North Florida Arena.

West Nassau High School
Graduation Ceremony: Monday, June 6, 2011, 7:30 PM, University of North Florida

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Early June Chamber Music Fest Concerts

Early June Chamber Music Fest ConcertsMouth of Amelia has announce three more concerts of the tenth season of the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival.

Grass Roots Song and Dance: a Hoedown!

WHEN: Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 7:00 PM

WHERE: Amelia Island Plantation; exact location and directions provided to ticket holders.

WHO: Jay Ungar and Molly Mason Family Band!

COST: Tickets are $30.00 per person

“Since joining forces in the late 1970s, Jay and Molly have become one of the most celebrated duos on the American acoustic music scene with their repertoire of Appalachian, Cajun and Celtic tunes, Civil War classics, sassy songs from the golden age of swing and country walzes.” Join us for a bit of Americana, hoedown style!

An Evening With Gabriela Montero

WHEN: Saturday, June 4, 2011 at 7:30 PM

WHERE: Amelia Plantation Chapel, 36 Bowman Road, Omni Amelia Island Plantation

WHO: Gabriela Montero, piano

COST: Tickets are $40.00 per person.

Venezuelan-born superstar pianist Gabriela Montero has been called the “queen of improvisation.” This program will include her signature improvisations on the music of several Latin American composers in the form of tangos, milongas and swinging dance rhythms, as well as music from other well known classical composers.

David and Julie

WHEN: Sunday, June 5, 2011 at 7:30 PM

WHERE: Memorial United Methodist Church, 601 Centre St. FB

WHO: David Coucheron, violin; Julie Coucheron, piano; Christopher Rex, cello.

COST: Tickets are $25.00 per person.

Brother and sister, David and Julie Coucheron, have performed as a duo around the world. David, concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, has soloed with many of the world’s leading orchestras. Julie has won first prize in all the national competitions she has attended and has toured throughout the US, Europe, South America and Asia. They will perform music by Grieg, Kodaly and Beethoven.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION on these and future concerts in the season and to listen to a taste of beautiful chamber music, visit www.aicmf.com or call 904-261-1779.

Xtreme Business Success

Xtreme Business SuccessXtreme Business Success is a two-hour, high-energy workshop designed to help you succeed in your business in this new economy.

Six dynamic speakers will address topics that matter to every business in Northeast Florida.

• Personal Power Networks by Cindy Coates, Coates Connects
• Google: Friend or Foe? by Chuck Hall, Web Marketing of North Florida
• 4-Step GUTS FORMULA for Success! By Deb Cottle, World on a String
• Names and Faces: Memory Training for Networking and Sales by Matthew Barrett, Brain-Trainers
• Top Ten Tax Tips by Jim Mainwaring, CPA
• Five Easy Ways to Put $$$ Back in the Business Owners Pocket by Ashley Berg, CEO Bottom Line Plus, LLC

This is your opportunity to meet local professionals, leaders and business owners and hear some solid advice and refreshing tips to help you succeed in business.

You will walk away from this workshop with real business tools that you can use, a greater awareness of your ability to dominate your market, and earn far more than you do today.

On June 8, 2011, from 5:30 to 7:30 PM, these powerful presentations will show you aspects of your business that you have never considered.

There will be free information, products and consultations for all attendees. Refreshments will be served. This seminar is sponsored by The Back Office

Special Offer – Anyone who purchases a ticket online or purchases a paper ticket and RSVPs online can bring a friend along AT NO CHARGE! Your friend must register online and reference your name. This offer only available to the first 25 who register, so ACT NOW!

This exciting evening takes place at Wingate by Wyndham Mayo Clinic located at 4791 Windsor Commons Ct. (JTB & Hodges behind Ruby Tuesday), in Jacksonville, Florida.

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Hurricane Safety Tips From Paul Davis Emergency Services

Hurricane Safety Tips St. Marys, GA – June is National Hurricane Preparedness Month and marks the beginning of hurricane season. According to forecasters, the Atlantic basin is facing a busy hurricane season with an estimated 12 to 18 named storms this year including six to 10 that will become hurricanes. As a public service, Paul Davis Emergency Services, a leading provider of fire and water damage clean up and restoration services for residential and commercial properties, is offering these tips for hurricane season to help keep families safe.

According to Rana Killough, Paul Davis office owner, hurricane preparedness includes:

Pre-hurricane season preparation:

•Put together a plan for your family and go over it with them.
•Know your evacuation routes.
•Put together an “Emergency Ready Kit” to include proper tools, supplies and first aid kit.
•Have plenty of batteries and flashlights and at least a 3-day supply of water and non-perishable foods.

When a hurricane watch or warning is issued:

•Leave low lying areas.
•Protect windows with plywood boards or storm shutters.
•Secure outside objects.
•Make sure you have plenty of fuel and water for several days.
•Evacuate if instructed to leave.
•Be ready to put your plan and preparation to action.
•Pay attention to local weather reports on radio, TV or the Internet.
•Make sure all your tools, supplies, first aid, food, fuel and personal items are ready for use.

What to do during the storm:

•Stay in a secure room and away from windows.
•Don’t use the telephone or candles.
•Monitor weather and civic service bulletins on regular or NOAA weather radio.
•Have supplies on hand.
•Remain indoors when the eye of the hurricane moves over your area, the storm will resume shortly.

What to do after the storm:

•Make sure everyone is safe and accounted for.
•Monitor the radio for information from emergency management.
•Before venturing outside, ensure the storm has completely passed.
•Report downed power lines and stay away from them.

If you experience property damage after a storm or hurricane, Killough recommends contacting a restoration professional that specializes in water damage clean up and restoration with technicians who are certified from the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification. Call (912) 342-2220 or visit the website at www.pdescamden.com.

Floppy the Pissed Off Seagull

The Elegant Tern, my favorite bird on our beach.

It was an absolutely picture perfect glorious Sunday at the beach. Sunny and warm, nice breeze, no humidity or at least not something I could feel, water was warm and clear and lots of friendly activity. Not even a Chamber of Commerce could wish for a better beach day on Amelia Island.
We took in some rays, read our books, put the umbrella up and looked around at a magnificent picture of peace and family happiness on a beach.

A flock of gulls (I am trying to avoid calling them seagulls, since that is apparently incorrect in the greater scheme of things according to the purists), was being crumb fed by a couple of women a little ways off, and we found ourselves intensely staring at the scene. Then we laughed because we realized we were both checking if Floppy the Pissed Off Seagull was anywhere to be seen.
We baptized him “Floppy the Pissed Off Seagull” last year (for all we know her could be a her) because he had one wing flopping on his side as he hobbled around…but frankly he was the meanest son of a gun we’d ever laid eyes on as far as laughing gulls (his species) are concerned, hence the addition “the pissed off seagull”.
He was a cranky, catankerous, and supposedly old bird, intimidatingly chasing off every competitor for a piece of bread or cracker, and usually within 30 seconds he established who was boss when a “herd” of gulls and terns questioned his territorial rights. Obviously he had no friends in the seagull community and on rainy or colder days as the winter approached, we often saw him sitting by himself in a secluded area, away from the rest.

We haven’t seen Floppy this year, which is why we called Google to the rescue with the search: lifespan of seagulls. Well, besides learning that there is no such thing as Seagulls, just Gulls living near the sea and that there are some 23 different species in North America alone, many of which live deeper inland, we also learned that there is a lot of confusion regarding the lifespan of these scavengers. The average lifespan is reportedly between 7 – 10 years, although the potential lifespan (without predators and enough supply of food) may be as high as 100 years.  The Life Extension Institute in Palm Springs California claims that  seagulls are known to live as long as 100 years also observing that older seagulls move as fast and function as well as young seagulls. When the life span of a seagull is up, it simply falls into the ocean and dies. No seagull has ever suffered from arthritis, stroke, heart attack, or angina. Yet others claim that depending on the particular species, a 20 year old is still young and many species of sea gulls and terns live to be 40 to 50. A Seafood diet , lots of beach fresh air and an active life style are attributed to this impressive lifespan.

Since we live on the beach and have seen most of the birds nightfall movements in this area, we also learned that these gulls sleep mostly on Bird Island to the South of us in Nassau Sound. Gulls that live in coastal areas may sleep on the beach, on rocks, on islands, or even bobbing along on the water and eat fish and other seafood – everything from clams and mollusks to snails and shrimp. They will also scavenge any dead animals they come across. Gulls that live inland live almost totally as scavengers, frequenting dumpsters and parking lots where people discard food, or landfills.

We also learned that medical science quite often refers to seagulls as the example of nature that defies the universal aging process, the process that involves gravity of the body and the loss of agility when getting older. Witnessing Floppy during last year’s antics, we could definitely vouch for his speed, agility and pure meanness, keeping the others seagulls away from what he claimed his. We’ll be looking out this summer to catch a glimpse of Floppy.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers

Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers

Image found at ArlingtonCemetery.mil

Memorial Day is the time to think about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Arlington National Cemetery is the only cemetery in the nation that performs gravesite burials and renders full military honors. In addition, Arlington National Cemetery hosts over 3,000 special ceremonies and wreath ceremonies per year. Visiting dignitaries often come to Arlington to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns before meeting with Washington officials. Arlington is also the host to over 4 million visitors who come each year to pay their respects and explore its rich history.

Arlington, VA – This Memorial Day, visitors to Arlington National Cemetery will have a special way to remember and honor a loved one or a fallen hero thanks to a generous donation of 10,000 long stemmed roses.

The American and Ecuadorian Flower Growers donated the roses for Memorial Day as a way to show their appreciation and gratitude for the sacrifices made by the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

“This thoughtful donation will aid in enriching our visitors experience on Memorial Day and serve as a tangible symbol to honor and remember those interred at Arlington National Cemetery,” said Kathryn Condon, executive director, Army National Cemeteries Program.

Visitors are encouraged to take two roses – one to place on the grave of a loved one and one to take home in memory of that person.

Roses will be distributed at two locations at Arlington National Cemetery: the Visitors Center located at the entrance and Section 60, one of the burial sections for the fallen heroes of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Tomb Guard Rumors

There are many rumors surrounding those who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns, called Sentinels, such as why they wear wet gloves, how long a shift lasts, whether they are allowed to swear in public and how long they must commit. The Tomb has been guarded 24/7 since 1937 and you can find the answers to all of your questiongs by visiting www.TombGuard.org.

Here is a FOX News interview about the duties of those who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XiuZRb_4UU&feature=related

Flags-In

For the past 40 years, the 3rd U.S. Infantry of the United States Army (The Old Guard) has honored our fallen heros by placing American flags in front of more than 260,000 gravestones and another 7,300 niches at the cemetery’s columbarium for cremated remains. Additionally, 13,500 flags are placed at the Soldier’s and Airmen’s Cemetery. All of this is completed in about three hours just before Memorial Day weekend. Old Guard soldiers spend the weekend at the cemetery to ensure all flags remain at each gravestone. After Memorial Day, the flags are removed before the cemetery opens to the public.

A Refresher Course to Keep me on my Toes

Make a Family Disaster Plan

The only thing I love more than learning is a refresher lesson that keeps me on my toes. That’s why, as George Orwell put it in his classic book 1984, the best books are those that tell you what you already know.
Learning, relearning, and motivation are like eating: You have to do them every day.

For me, spontaneity is not a necessarily a healthy way to fill one’s needs, but even I manage to slip every once in a while and do something impulsive, probably just often enough to keep the adrenaline on a roll. Most of the things I do require some form of preparation, to the point of building routines and schedules. I learned a long time ago for a sailor buddy that preparation is golden, especially when you plan to sail around the world. My friend Shaun Harrell has a manual worked out for passengers coming on his PowerCat and even though I teased him about it, I can very much relate to being prepared just in the event that something goes wrong. And on and around water, a lot can go wrong and will at unexpected moments.

I wrote about families needing a disaster plan that includes “reconnection points” in case families get separated in natural disasters, yet I also realize that millions of people live by the philosophy “Let it all hang out” and “Live for the moment.” With a onslaught in tornado action this year and presumably quite an unpredictable hurricane season at our front door, you may want to re-visit the chapter Family Disaster Planning.

What works for me is avoiding impulsive action and relying more on my intellect. I like to check and double-check the facts, and at least think that I may have some control over events rather than allowing events to control me. At a minimum I like to guide when, where, and how things are going to happen.

None of these traits detract from my being an action-oriented person. On the whole, I move pretty fast, but I like to give myself the benefit of some educated thought prior to taking action.
It may have come with age, although looking back, I knew I always marked preparation high on my agenda. In his book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Deepak Chopra lists a daily personal routine and regular work routine as two factors that retard the aging process. Nice to know.

Send a Thank You Note

Send a Thank You NoteThe competition for available jobs is tough these days. If you are one of the lucky ones that is able secure an interview, be sure to follow-up afterwards. Sending a thank you note can make you stand out from all other applicants.

If possible, get a business card from the interviewer during the interview, or call back to get the interviewer’s name and job title. Send the note right after the interview and make sure to keep it brief and professional. Basically you want to thank your interviewer for taking the time to speak to you and to express, again, how interested you are in the position as well as how excited you are about the prospect of working for the company. Sending a personalized note shows follow-through and a professionalism that simply can’t be beat.

Keep the note short (two to three lines at most) and hand write it. Nothing seems more impersonal than a computer generator form letter. Finally, sign the letter ‘Sincerely’ and you will have a heartfelt thank you that will keep your name on top of the stack of candidates.

The hardest part of job searching is waiting for a positive response from a potential employer. You can do nothing about the situation, except wait. Be patient. Sometimes the other party needs time to think it over before either rejecting you outright or deciding to continue the process.

Remember that although rejections are disappointing, at least they give clarity and closure and can compel you to keep going with your job search. Try to take it in stride and realize that it was a good learning experience.

It is so important to keep a gracious and positive attitude throughout this daunting and tedious process. Sending a thank you note after an interview will make you stand out from the crowd and is sure to put you ahead of the competition.

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Light Sunday Humor

Light Sunday HumorSundays are special days and it is always exciting when I run across a piece of light humor to share with our SearchAmelia readers.

This one came from my 91 year old grandmother, who loves to share her wisdom. Relationships can be tough to manages, especially if an overly suspicious woman is involved. The original author is unknown.

Sometimes women are overly suspicious of their husbands. When Adam stayed out very late for a few nights, Eve became upset.

“You’re running around with other women.” She told her mate.

“Eve, Honey, you’re being unreasonable.” Adam responded. “You know you’re the only woman on earth.”

The quarrel continued until Adam fell asleep, only to be awakened by a strange pain in the chest. It was his darling Eve poking him rather vigorously about the torso.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Adam demanded.

“Counting your ribs,” said Eve.

What does fair have to do with it?

Asteroid impacts happen. Is it fair?

The word “fairness” used to mean something to me and for most of my life people around me thought I was very fair in my opinions, judgments and actions. That was however a different FAIR they were referring to. Because really, “Fair” is necessarily an arbitrary and contentious word.

This morning a flock of crows was loudly communicating in the sky over our house. We noticed this because crows usually get attacked by vicious BlueJays when they reach our latitude in comparison to the beach. We usually smile when we see the much bigger crows cowering back inland. This morning however the crows came for revenge and one of them got away with a newborn, snatched from the nest while the other crows were distracting the parents. Favoritism aside, it puts a different spin on what is fair and what is not.

You think it’s fair to the antelope when the lion eats it? Was it fair to the mighty dinosaurs when Mother Nature wiped them out? Or how about this: is giving everyone an equal share of something fair, if some simply worked for it harder than others? The guy who benefits because he studied and knows something because he keeps his ear to the ground at all times has not taken anything from unwilling or just uninformed hands.

People have to make decisions with varying amounts of uncertainty all the time. You can’t regulate uncertainty or the uneven spread of information out of existence any more than you can regulate the capacity to intuit the significance of information into every human skull. Not only is it impossible to do, it’s ethically wrong to try. If you’re no good at a certain game, don’t play it. Find another one. Life’s not fair. Get over it.

Calls for “fairness” often wind up with the ends justifying the means. We can demand “level playing fields” all we want, that still does not mean that all factors are equal for all parties playing. There’s no way to truly level any playing field. It’s an impossible ideal and therefore a destructive goal. Expecting fairness is tantamount to putting yourself in harm’s way and therefor stupid or at least counter-productive.

I’ll be the first one to assuage the plight of people who struggle through life because of forces they can’t control, not because it appears noble or fair, but because good fortune should create gratitude towards humanity. But this is not to be mistaken for fairness.  People expecting fairness are looking to alleviate their jealousies.
Fact is that the world is full of people with different levels of knowledge, ability and need, and the more important differences – in understanding and insight.

Now if an unfair advantage is created through lies and cheating, fairness becomes the victim of fraud and a civilization needs enforceable laws to counteract this, but that again has little to do with fairness. Nature never created fairness and neither did we. For example it’s impossible for everyone to hear of relevant news at the same time. Some get it early because of professional reasons, some get it by pure luck and some never get it until it’s too late.

As soon as we are deceived into thinking that we can accomplish fairness and as a result feel protected, we are set up for a trip to the slaughterhouse.

This whole essay is based on government institutions such as the SEC, telling people it’s making sure everything’s fair, thus luring the lambs to the slaughter. The world, especially the investment world, is full of sharks, and it always will be – all the SEC does is lower the average guy’s defenses, which really does encourage swindlers. Just look at Bernie Madoff and more of his cronies as perfect examples. The SEC has never prevented a fraud, to my knowledge. Rather, by making everyone think they’re protected, it makes a fraud much easier to perpetrate.

California Convicts Catch a Break

I wonder who really runs this land with such a thoughtless hand

My eye this morning caught on a story that blamed a computer in California for the release of some 450 potentially violent prisoners from incarceration.
The following was a part of that reporting:

According to California prison inspectors, an ill-equipped computer system has allowed the release of 450 inmates who are considered to have a “high risk of violence.” The mistake originated in a computer program designed to organize the release of low-risk prisoners parole-free, and keep the facilities from wasting time and taxpayer dollars on those who pose no threat to society.
Unfortunately the criteria the system was using when it determined the release dates for 10,134 inmates last year failed to take into account convictions and disciplinary actions for over half of the state’s entire prison population. Using only arrest information, which on paper can make even the most violent criminal appear to be a minimal threat to society, the system ordered the parole-free release of violent felons, gang members, and rapists.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Well first of all a computer program is a human product. Someone, usually even called  “an expert” wrote the guidelines for the programmer, but apparently nobody checked on these guidelines, nor did anybody check on the functioning of the software and apparently nobody cared really as prisons in the state are now dangerously overcrowded, and a federal mandate has given officials 2 years to cut the inmate population by 33,000 individuals.

Secondly officials are now hiding behind a computer program that was meant to help with this process, but without accurate records, it won’t do much good.  And thirdly to make things even worse: Law enforcement has made no attempt to track down the erroneously freed felons at this time, and officials say that the legal system states that they can only be returned if they are caught committing a crime.
Anyone planning to move to California in the near future?

Yet, the actual picture is much grimmer and more widespread than just California.
Sadly, one of the few things the U.S. still leads the world in is the number of people incarcerated. Just imagine that despite having just 4.5% of the world’s population, the United States has nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Stronger yet, the U.S. ranks first in the world in total prison population, at about 2.3 million, and in prison population rate, at 756 per 100,000 persons, according to data maintained by the International Centre for Prison Studies. China, with more than four times as many people as the U.S., is a distant second in total prison population with 1.6 million.

And it’s no secret that this huge prison population is stressing the prison system. Many of the prisons around the country are bursting at the seams and running at 150% to 200% of designed capacity. How about this, just this week, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered California to release tens of thousands of its prisoners to relieve overcrowding, saying that “needless suffering and death” had resulted from putting too many inmates into facilities that cannot hold them in decent conditions.

So let’s first look at the reasons why there are so many people locked up in the U.S. Are Americans really so much more criminally inclined than the rest of the world to warrant such high prison population rates or could it be that lawmakers have built such a mountain of laws that practically everybody commits crimes on a daily basis. Hopefully California won’t just release more than 30,000 inmates randomly based on the same computer program that is now faulted for last years mistake releases. Of course California officials have promised to find a solution to the state’s overcrowded prisons in the next two weeks. It’ll be interesting to observe which route they will take, considering that the state does not have money for a complicated release structure.

So why not address the issue to legalize soft drugs and release all prisoners who are in jail on nonviolent drug-related offenses that didn’t involve selling to a minor. And before you start calling me a left winger with a bleeding heart, who smokes pot whenever he can get his hands on it… even though I was born and lived in Holland (yes Amsterdam) for the first 30 years of my life, I never touched, smoked, inhaled, injected any drugs. It is a habit that I, and millions of Dutchmen like me, never developed a craving for.
And one thing I have learned over the years; just because it becomes legal does not mean that everyone turns to drugs.  Believe me when I tell you (sounds like a line from a Beatles’ song) that per capita drug use in the Netherlands is only a fraction of what goes up in smoke in this country.

In the US Nationwide statistics show that as much as 20% to 30% of the prison population fall squarely into the category described above (non violent, often recreational users). Think about that. Possibly some 700,000 across the nation are incarcerated because authorities do not know how to deal with oppressive moralities and fiscal realities.
Now, you’re free to disagree with me on moral grounds even though I actually think the laws that got these guys locked up in the first place are immoral. But leaving that fight for others more involved in the direct consequences, such as Meaghan Cussen and Walter Block in their paper, Legalize Drugs Now! (PDF file), my approach is pragmatic and practical: 700,000 prisoners who essentially do not form a threat against society, cost the taxpayer somewhere in the neighborhood of $35 – $40 billion annually.

Again, you can disagree with me on moral or religious reasons, whichever suits you best, but at least give it a thought. $35 billion may not seem like much of a saving in these days of inflationary pressures, but it still calculates to $120 in taxes for every man, woman and child in this country.

Yellow Fly Bites are Nasty

Yellow Fly Bites are Nasty

(UF\IFAS\File Photo)

May and June seem to be the busiest time of the year in Northeast Florida for those nasty yellow flies. You may not notice when they land on you, but you will notice when they bite! I am on a personal mission to reduce the population of these pesky blood-suckers.

I must be allergic to their bites as each time they snack the area swells to the size of a bread plate, turns red, is hot to the touch and I get nauseated. After the swelling goes down, the bites itch like crazy!

These flies, from the Tabanidae family, congregate under the shade of my oak trees along the green belt which is in my backyard. They tend to be most active in the late afternoon and make going outside a risky endeavor this time of the year.

I found this home remedy on Walton Outdoors, courtesy of the South Walton Mosquito Control and they claim it not only provides bite and sting relief from a yellow fly bite, but also mosquitos, chiggers and jellyfish bites.

Ingredients:
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup ammonia (Windex is mostly ammonia)
1/3 tsp. papain (meat tenderizer)
1 crushed aspirin

Directions:
Mix thoroughly and store in refrigerator (be sure to label container). When needed, shake well and apply with cotton swab, and rub briskly.

2011 Weight Watchers Walk It Day Video

2011 Weight Watchers Walk It Day VideoApproximately 300 people participated in the 2011 Weight Watchers Walk It Day to benefit Warrior Vacations.

Fort Clinch’s canopy of trees was a perfect morning setting to get in a 5K before the day grew too warm. Children handled passing out cups of water at the water-stop while Pirates passed out beads to participants as they walked, ran, jogged and strolled past.

Volunteers from organizations such as Amelia Island Runners, Road Runners Club of America, Weight Watchers and the Fernandina Pirates Club pitched in and created a delightful morning.

Here is the video:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuloTCZSUS0

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Redneck Church Service Photo Hangs in Celebrity’s Home

Redneck Church Service Photo Hangs in Celebrity's Home

Image by Wayne Howard, Photographer

By: Wayne Howard

We were traveling via motorhome in late 2008 when we came across a Redneck Festival in Weissport, PA, about ½ way between Scranton and Philadelphia. Maybe the last place I’d look for a Redneck Festival.

The Redneck Festival included timed trash-loading-in-your-pickup-truck, toilet bowl races, etc. The festivities were being held in Weissport, PA along the banks of the Lehigh River. Across the street from the central park was a church, Jacob’s United Church of Christ. It was an eye-catcher. In addition to the two red doors, the bulletin board announced: Redneck Sunday.

I always thought it was funny, amusing in fact. I included it in several of my photography shows. Many folks found it humorous, some didn’t understand it (go figure!).

Anyway, when A.C.T. announced they wanted art submittals depicting RELATIONSHIPS, I thought, “What better than Rednecks vs ‘regular society'”? The photo was selected.

On April 9, 2011, I received a call from Vicki Grethe. She is buying the photo for her daughter’s birthday, who lives in Atlanta. Ms. Grethe said she is always on the lookout for “redneck” stuff because her daughter is married to the world’s #1 Redneck, Yup, Jeff Foxworthy!

So I now have a photo hanging(?) in a TV star’s home! Ta – Da!