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Friday, June 17, 2011

MISSOURI BUDGET WOES: New Bridges Funded by Tolls, Higher Sales Tax ?

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Commissioner Says Toll Bridge May Be Best Funding Source

By Evin Fritschle, Missourian Staff Writer
June 15, 2011
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One county official this week said he thinks adding a toll to the Highway 47 bridge over the Missouri River at Washington is the best way to fund it.
John Griesheimer, presiding Franklin County commissioner and a Washington resident, told a Sullivan radio station Monday morning that the local area will likely need to come up with some way to fund a new bridge in addition to the roughly $750,000 from Washington and Franklin County for preliminary design engineering.
“That’s sort of the sad part with this,” Griesheimer said. “MoDOT should pay for all the engineering fees, but unfortunately MoDOT doesn’t have the money.”
In order to move the project forward, the Washington City Council agreed last year to kick in half a million dollars for design costs.
The county commission voted in favor of spending 5 percent of its road and bridge sales tax in 2012 regularly allocated for grants for cities and road districts to the bridge design.
The expectation, Griesheimer said, is that the state will put forward the remainder of the design costs.
“This will at least get the design phase going and get the plans drawn up,” Griesheimer said.
A new bridge over the Missouri River will cost $57 million, according to the most recent MoDOT estimates.
Griesheimer said there was no way the county and local entities could afford to bankroll the project themselves.
“The cost of the bridge would drain everything Franklin County and Washington have to do it all,” he said. “What is going to have to happen is we’re going to have to figure out a funding scheme which will include either some sort of tax for the bridge, or toll it.”
Griesheimer said the toll route would be nothing new, noting a toll added to pay for a bridge at the Lake of the Ozarks.
“Tolling would probably be the best way to fund the bridge. That way we could use those funds as the mechanism for funding our fair share,” he said. “I think without some kind of revenue source locally, it isn’t going to get funded for some years.”
State, Regional Priority
Replacing the bridge is the only Franklin County project on the East-West Gateway Council of Government’s project list through 2020, Griesheimer noted, but no funding has been allocated.
The roughly one-half-mile-long Washington bridge was tolled for about 15 years following its initial construction to repay a $428,000 loan used to build the bridge.
The bridge cost $803,000 to build in the mid-1930s, bridge committee chairman Bob Zick told the county transportation committee in May.
From the time it opened, travelers paid a toll to cross the bridge, even on foot. The toll ended in October 1951, according to records from the Washington Historical Society.
Zick said getting local entities, including the county, to provide funding could help avoid the need to toll the bridge.
The bridge received federal loans and grants when it was originally built, a prospect Griesheimer said isn’t likely now.
“Those days are over,” he said. “(The lack of federal earmark projects) may be good in some cases, but in some ways it’s bad when you need a project funded.”
About 10,000 cars travel the Washington bridge each day, Griesheimer said, noting that is more than on the Christopher Bond bridge in Hermann.
Zick said replacing the bridge was a better use of taxpayer money.
Griesheimer said the state has said it won’t continue to rehabilitate the bridge like it did in 2009.
That project cost $5.2 million and added eight-10 years to the bridge’s life, Zick said.
“We’re slowly but surely running out of time,” Griesheimer said.

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FBI Top Ten News Stories for the Week Ending June 17, 2011

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Washington, D.C. June 17, 2011
  • FBI National Press Office
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  1. Washington Field: Contractor Sentenced to 37 Months in Prison for Death of Afghan National in Kabul, Afghanistan

    Christopher Drotleff was sentenced to 37 months in prison for his role in shooting and killing an Afghan national while on an unauthorized convoy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 5, 2009. Full Story
  2.  Denver: Denver Kidnapping Fugitive Captured in New Jersey
    FBI agents and local police in North Brunswick, N.J. arrested Bret Lee Luckett Thompson, who was wanted on charges of kidnapping and sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl in Denver.
    Full Story
  3.  New York: President and COO of Money Service Company Sentenced for Fraud
    Robert Egan, the president of Mount Vernon Money Center, and Bernard McGarry, the chief operating officer, were sentenced to 11 and 5 years in prison, respectively, for their roles in defrauding clients out of over $60 million. Full Story
  4. Tampa: Former City Councilman and County Commissioner Indicted for Taking Bribes

    The unsealing of an indictment was announced charging Kevin L. White and George Hondrellis with bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and honest services charges. Defendants face a minimum of five years, and 20 years for each count. Full Story
  5. New Haven: Death Sentence for Drug Dealer for Murdering Three in 2005
    A federal jury in New Haven voted unanimously to impose the federal death penalty against Azibo Aquart, 30, of Bridgeport, for murdering three Bridgeport residents on Aug. 24, 2005. Full Story
  6. Houston: Jacqueline Lebaron Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Obstruct Religious Beliefs
    Jacqueline Lebaron, the last of several members of the LeBaron family and “Lamb of God” religious sect charged for their involvement in a series of murders in 1988 in Houston and elsewhere, pled guilty to conspiracy to obstruct religious beliefs. Full Story
  7.  Phoenix: HSI Nogales Special Agent Arrested During Federal Corruption Investigation
    Jovana Samaniego Deas was charged with computer fraud, theft of government records and making false statements/entries in a 12-count federal indictment issued on April 28 by the U.S. District Court in Tucson. She is accused of abusing her position as an HSI special agent to illegally obtain and disseminate government documents classified as Official Use Only. Three of the counts include felony violations, each punishable by up to five years in prison. Full Story

  8. Miami: Former Memorial Hospital West Facilities Director, Wife of Former Memorial Regional Hospital Team Leader, and Seven Hospital Vendors Charged in Bribery Scheme
    The indictment of nine individuals was announced for their participation in a bribery and kickback scheme in connection with the award of facilities maintenance contracts at hospitals part of the Memorial Healthcare System. Full Story
  9. Minneapolis: Texas Man Sentenced for Hacking into Computer Servers of Local Company and NASA
    Jeremy Parker was sentenced on one count of wire fraud for hacking into computer networks at a Minnesota business and at NASA. Full Story
  10. New Orleans: Baton Rouge Man Charged with Bank Fraud and Money Laundering

    Steve Harold Loga was charged with bank fraud and money laundering, and faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Loga allegedly devised a scheme to defraud Fidelity Bank of more than $1.2 million by using fraudulent invoices to obtain credit advances from the bank. Full Story
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Unemployment and Inflation Combined Rate 28-Year High 'Misery Index'

At least this guy didn't try to blame it all on the last guy!!!
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 June 17, 2011

How Miserable? Index Says the Worst in 28 Years

By: Jeff Cox
CNBC.com Staff Writer

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When it comes to measuring the combination of unemployment and inflation, it doesn’t get much more miserable than this. 

In fact, misery, as measured in the unofficial  that simply totals the unemployment and inflation rates, is at a 28-year high, reflective of how weak the economic recovery has been and how far there is to go.

The index, first compiled during the soaring inflation days of the 1970s by economist Arthur Okun, is registering a nausea-inducing 12.7—9.1 percent for unemployment and 3.6 percent for annualized inflation—a number not seen since 1983. The index has been above 10 since November 2009 and had been under double-digits from June 1993 through May 2008.

The good news, of course, is that the Fed-led Paul Volcker embarked on a highly successful inflation-slaying campaign that brought the level of misery down sharply through the rest of the ’80s recovery decade.

The bad news, of course, is all the bad news.

Put another way, by Paul Dales at Capital Economics:

“The good news is that other measures suggest conditions aren't quite that bad and over the next 18 months the gloom should lift a little,” the firm’s chief US economist wrote in a Misery analysis. “The bad news is that households won't be in the mood to boost their spending significantly for several more years.”

Dales says all the misery may not be as bad as it appears. An alternative measure, put forth in 1999 by Robert Barro, encompasses a wider swath of misery, measuring employment against the so-called “natural rate” and compares inflation against the previous 10 years. The Barro measure also looks at whether gross domestic product is below its “potential” and compares yields on the 10-year Treasury note against the yields of the previous 10 years.

With all that rolled in, Dales says the Barro index is indicating that while things aren't expected to get dramatically better, the level of misery is probably at a peak and should roll back over the next 18 months.

“The upshot is that Americans might not be quite as miserable as the Okun misery index appears to suggest,” Dales said. “And as inflation falls back, some of the gloom will lift.”

Still, the level of misery, whatever the measure, is high, with many unconvinced that inflation is, as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke suggests, transitory, or that the economy is in a mere soft patch that will fade.

Investor sentiment continues to fall. The latest Investors Intelligence survey, a weekly poll of newsletter authors, points to bulls outnumbering bears by just a 37 percent to 26 percent margin. Yes, it does indicate more people believing the market is heading higher than lower, but the bullishness is around financial crisis levels.

The survey includes a smattering of comments from participants.

One of the more common that represents the bearish perspective looks at how much optimism there had been in the market prior to the May 2 highs.

“Frankly, we have been stunned by the disconnect that we see between these optimistic calls over the past six to nine months and the reality of what is occurring in the global economy,” wrote Boston-based Hans P. Black in the Interinvest Review & Outlook.

Conversely, misery is not universal, with Elliott F. Gue’s Personal Finance Newsletter making the case for the optimists that one should not “fall prey to the panic fanned by the usual fear-mongering doomsayers,” a group that presumably includes those unemployed or bewildered by inflation and, thus, in misery.
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Norton Wine: Approaching 200th Birthday some of the best red wine made in United States

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Considering Norton an Age Worthy Wine

June 17, 2011
by Joe Pollack  
palatepress.com
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Norton is the state grape of Missouri, which may sound a little odd for a grape that was first cultivated by Dr. Daniel Norborne Norton of Richmond, Va., in the 1820s. Just short of its 200th birthday, the dark, small berry produces some of the best red wine made in the United States. A dry, rich, deeply hued red, it is probably best compared to a Syrah, and it is also responsible for some excellent, well-aged port-style wines as well.

Not only good, but good for you, as the ads used to say. The grape has high concentrations of resveratrol, an excellent anti-oxidant. For an indigenous American grape, norton has some strange characteristics. It’s neither a labrusca (concord, scuppernong), nor a vinifera (cabernet sauvignon, merlot), but a Vitis aestivalis. That means it does not have the “foxy” flavor that so many of its American relatives display.
Norton has been grown commercially since at least 1830, and its wine has been produced in Hermann, Mo., and at various Virginia sites ever since. In 1873, a Norton from Hermann won a world championship at an international wine fair held in Vienna. Unfortunately, no one remembers the vintage date. The vines, which are resistant to phylloxera and other diseases, might have been among those shipped to California, and to France, in the 1870s, where they helped re-establish the grape industry.
The Missouri wine industry, practically obliterated by Prohibition, started a comeback around the middle of the last century, and the Nortons produced at Stone Hill, Mount Pleasant, St. James, and other pioneer wineries helped lead the way for an industry that has grown to more than 100 wineries across the state.
At the same time, Virginia wineries took an interest in the grape that often went by the names of Virginia seedling and cynthiana. Dennis Horton began making it in his winery near Charlottesville, and had the advantage of rhyme when he talked of Horton’s Norton. Another Virginia winery, Chrysalis, has some major plantings, and the grape is grown in Texas, too.
I’ve tasted the Horton version; it displays excellent fruit but it seems a touch lighter than the Missouri version. It might have been a difference because of a vintage variation, or because of a winemaker’s decision.
Stone Hill Winery (Hermann, Mo.) specializes in Norton, and Dave Johnson, the winemaker since 1978, probably has tasted more Norton than almost anyone. He is also an MC at an annual Stone Hill springtime event, a public tasting of ten years of Nortons, wines made from the grapes picked a half-year earlier to those with considerable age. The date also marks the release of the newest Norton to go on sale. In the most recent, we tasted the 2001 through 2010 wines, including a barrel sample of 2009 and the newly released 2008. The winery has been doing this more than 20 years and I have taken part in almost all of them. I think it is a rather courageous move, offering wines that have been aged in the winery’s cellar rather than expecting consumers to do their own aging.
So just how long should a Norton age? How long can it age?
Talking to three experienced winemakers with lots of time around the barrel, it was a little surprising to hear such unanimity.
Tony Kooyumjian, owner-winemaker at Augusta and Montelle wineries in Augusta, Mo., is a former airline pilot who has won many awards with his wines, and Hank Johnson, owner of Chaumette Winery in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., along with Dave Johnson, shared their thoughts, but were surprisingly unanimous in their thinking. The Johnsons, by the way, are not related.

Stone Hill Winey Cross winner of Best Norton and Best Dry Red from last year’s Missouri Wine Competition.

All three agreed that about 15 years, even under optimum conditions, is about as far as one can go in finding Nortons that still are enjoyable, and while Tony noted he has drunk some twenty year old Nortons that were excellent, he added. “They’re an exception.” They also pointed out that a general change in winemaking style with Norton over the last 10-15 years has given them longer lives. A lower pH, they agree, has given them more stability.
And all thought that well made Nortons improved slowly in bottle for the first five years, then jumped ahead and reached their peak in the next three or four. Hank suggested that a little less tannin benefited some of the Nortons.
I have been drinking Nortons for a long time, too, and I am very fond of the wines. With some good ones, I have blown away wine snobs who decried the grape’s ability to make world class wines. But all the expert commentary, from me, from winery owners, from winemakers, from connoisseurs, is well-meaning speculation, perhaps improved by the sheer numbers of Nortons we have tasted. All vintages are different, all terroir is different, all storage conditions are different, and all palates differ.
I think we can agree, however, on the fact that Norton can be a great red wine, needs 8-10 years of bottle age to reach its peak, holds that level for 4-5 more years, then loses it.

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CORPORATE BIG BROTHER Apple Looks to Disable iPhones at Concerts, Sports Events via LIVE SIGNAL JAMMING

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Apple patent will stop you filming concerts, sports events on iPhone

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  • Software disables camera at live event
  • Could be used at Big Day Out, Grand Finals
  • Seen as attempt to make more money
APPLE wants to stop you from filming rock concerts and sporting events on your smartphone.
The company is working on technology that will automatically disable a person’s iPhone camera when it is used to film a live event.
Apple filed a patent application for the software 18 months ago, according to information obtained by The Times (behind paywall).
The software could stop ticket-holders to the Big Day Out, State of Origin and the NRL and AFL grand finals filming the occasion on their iPhone.
Anybody trying to film an event with their iPhone would attract the attention of infra-red sensors installed at the venue.
The sensors would instruct the iPhone to disable its camera. However, the phone’s ability to make a call or send text messages would not be affected.
The Times reports that the technology is being seen as an attempt to protect the rights of event organisers and TV broadcasters who have exclusive rights to film an event and are upset when phone videos appear on YouTube, allowing people to watch the event free.
The software may allow Apple to negotiate better terms with record labels for selling content though iTunes.
Hans Eriksson, chairman of Swedish tech firm Bambuser, which has built an app allowing people to stream their live recordings on the internet, told The Times: “Apple is smart. I assume Apple is not doing this just to protect against people sharing copyrighted material.
"Hopefully, they see there’s an opportunity to make money here.”
Apple refused to comment on the report.


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