Saturday, July 16, 2011

Turnabouts fair play? Colorado woman gropes female TSA agent!

Lately all the news has been about TSA officials groping everything from babies to 95-year-olds with diapers. Here’s a rather odd case of the tables being turned: 

“Authorities say a Colorado woman who allegedly groped a female Transportation Security Administration agent at Phoenix's international airport is facing a felony count of sexual abuse.

Phoenix police say 61-year-old Yukari Mihamae is accused of grabbing the left breast of the unidentified TSA agent Thursday at an airport checkpoint.

TSA spokesperson Kawika Riley confirmed the altercation to in a statement: "On July 14 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, local law enforcement arrested a passenger for assaulting a TSA officer during the screening process." 

TSA staff say Mihamae refused to be go through passenger screening and became argumentative before she squeezed and twisted the agent's breast with both hands. Police were called and say Mihamae admitted grabbing the TSA agent and continued to argue with officers before she was arrested.”

And the victor in the great LA bike-vs.-plane race is ...

Faster than a jet plane — that would be the bicyclists of Wolfpack Hustle.

Six bicyclists from the group, a loose collective of L.A. cyclists, were trying to see if they could beat a passenger on a JetBlue flight from Burbank to Long Beach, and they succeeded by a wide margin,the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

The "Carmageddon" challenge was born after JetBlue offered $4 plane rides from Burbank to Long Beach to get around the weekend closure of Interstate 405 in the northern part of the metropolitan area. An online article in Slate helped the challenge take shape.

The bicyclists and a blogger left a North Hollywood intersection at 10:50 a.m. The blogger had to drive to the airport for a 12:20 p.m. flight, then get a ride to the finish line at the Long Beach aquarium.

The cyclists took a route along the Los Angeles River, the Times reported, and made it in one hour and 34 minutes. They arrived at the finish just as the JetBlue flight was taking off — a victory for bicyclists trying to get fellow Los Angelenos to get out of the car once in a while to get some exercise on their commute.

Owl imprint on windshield, exorcists meet to tackle vampires, and say hello to the friendly ‘Fracosaurus’

An imprint of an owl is left on a window pane after the bird crashed  into the window. Sally Arnold returned home to Kendal, Cumbria, and  found the huge imprint complete with eyes, beak and feathers on her  bedroom window. The silhouette was left by the bird’s ‘powder down’ - a  substance protecting growing feathers.
Picture: PA / RSPB

Good Morning Humboldt County!

Grab a cup of Joe while we go through a few headlines this morning:

Ghostly Owl image left on car windshield

An imprint of an owl is left on a window pane after the bird crashed into the window. Sally Arnold returned home to Kendal, Cumbria, and found the huge imprint complete with eyes, beak and feathers on her bedroom window. The silhouette was left by the bird’s ‘powder down’ - a substance protecting growing feathers.

Picture: PA / RSPB

Exorcists meet in Poland, tackle vampires

Vampires, the devil's deceit and mental illness are among the hot topics for some 300 exorcists who flocked to Poland this week from as far away as Africa and India for a week-long congress.

Held at Poland's Roman Catholic Jasna Gora monastery, home to the venerated Black Madonna icon, this year's congress "examines the current fashion for vampirism in Europe and the world-over, schizophrenia and other mental disorders as well as the devil's deceit during exorcism," according to the monastery's radio station.

Gas driller dumps dino-themed coloring book

A natural gas drilling company says it's no longer distributing a children's coloring book featuring a hard hat-wearing dinosaur that's been criticized by a Massachusetts congressman and lampooned by Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert.

Talisman Energy says "Talisman Terry's Energy Adventure" is no longer being distributed following a barrage of criticism.

Critics called the coloring book's depiction of land before and after drilling overly rosy.

 The post-drilling image adds a rainbow and an eagle to the scene where the hydraulic fracturing drilling process took place. U.S. Rep. Ed Markey mocked the depiction of the "friendly Fracosaurus" in remarks last week on drilling safety. Colbert spoofed the book earlier this week.

Time to walk on down the road…

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lighthouse Keepers–a poem by Captain Stetson Turner

lighthouse2 78

Lighthouse keepers have it easy
   All year long their homes are breezy;
Noises don’t disturb their labors,
   For they haven’t any neighbors.
They don’t need big wastebaskets
   For old papers, orange peels, or gaskets;
Just one careless motion
   And their trash drops in the ocean.

They don’t need nine holes or twenty,
   They get exercise aplenty;
One trip up the spiral stairway
   Equals three around the fairway.
Window shades are never needed,
   They can dress or strip unheeded;
Wakeful brats don’t have conniptions,
   Neighbors don’t give long descriptions.

When I’m old and don't need pity,
   I shall leave the sullied city,
Climb a lighthouse, bar the door,
   And trim my wicks forevermore.

                                                                                                                      Photo via Stumbleupon

No surprise to dog owners: study suggest canines/wolves adept at reading people's minds


To anyone who is familiar with the eerily human-like qualities of man's best friend, the news that dogs can read your mind shouldn't come as any surprise.


I’ve suspected my pug Millie (shown here) has been able to read my feeble mind since she was a pup 8 years ago!


The latest research adds to growing evidence that dogs can interpret both human body language and general behavior, and use it to their advantage.

"Dogs and [human-raised] wolves are capable of distinguishing between a person looking at them, someone who's paying attention and someone who's not," said Monique A.R. Udell, lead author of a study published recently in the journal Learning & Behavior. "They're more likely to beg [for food] from someone paying attention to them." More here

Marilyn Monroe statue unveiled on Chicago's Magnificent Mile

It's true, Chicago. The top half of the "mysterious" 26-foot sculpture on Michigan Avenue was unveiled Friday to be Marilyn Monroe.

Friday morning's unveiling of New Jersey-based artist Seward Johnson's new sculpture confirmed suspicions.

Marilyn will strike her closed-eye, classic pose until spring 2012, at which time the artist will put up a new statue.

What a nice salute for this icon of American beauty!


Bracing for ‘Carmageddon’, Shaq turns sports analyst, and watching giant crocodiles jump


Good Morning Humboldt County!

It’s time to check out a few headlines and to have a cup of coffee, or tea. Relax. You don’t have to face the traffic in LA this weekend.

City of Angels braces for its 'Carmageddon'

The City of Angels is on edge as the hours tick off until "Carmageddon" — the shutdown of a 10-mile stretch of one of the busiest highways in the United States, on one of the city's busiest summer weekends.Will it bring traffic to a standstill like a scene out of a summer disaster movie? Or fail to come to pass, like other apocalypse predictions?

Shaquille O’Neal joins Turner Sports as analyst

The calls came as soon as Shaquille O’Neal(notes) decided to retire, all wanting to hire one of the NBA’s greatest entertainers.TNT’s “Inside the NBA” studio show had been O’Neal’s favorite as a player, so the choice was easy.

Get ready for the Big Analyzer, Big Commentator, or whatever other nickname he takes in the next phase of his career. O’Neal agreed Thursday to a multiyear deal with Turner Sports to become an analyst on its NBA coverage, where he will fold his 7-foot-1 frame into the fourth chair on the TNT set alongside Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson.

This monster croc weighs about 2000 pounds and is 18 feet long!


 Jumping Crocs in Australia

The giant croc – his name is Brutus - shown in this video is said to be over 70 years old. He lost one of his front legs in a fight with a shark. He’s 18 feet long, but is not the dominant croc in the area. That honor belongs to the “Dominator” who is over 20 feet long! This is one tourist attraction I’d pass on.

 Time to head on down the road…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Don’t worry boss! I’m on that Foxes scent like flies on feces!

He’s behind you! Meet the world’s worst hunting dog. This beagle failed to spot the fox behind him. The dog had strayed too close to a den containing four fox cubs, but their protective parents stood their ground. Naturalist and photographer Mircea Costina captured the scene in a forest north of Montreal, Canada.Picture: Mircea Costina / Rex Features

He’s behind you!

Meet the world’s worst hunting dog.

This beagle failed to spot the fox behind him.

The dog had strayed too close to a den containing four fox cubs, but their protective parents stood their ground.

Naturalist and photographer Mircea Costina captured the scene in a forest north of Montreal, Canada.

Picture: Mircea Costina / Rex Features

Somewhere under the Moonbow, down a Maui blowhole, and severe erosion along the West Coast

Good Morning Humboldt County!

Grab a cup of Joe and let’s go. There’s always something different like a moonbow:

Somewhere under the moonbow

Here’s something you don’t see every day — in fact, you can only experience it at night. It’s called a moonbow and if you’re at Yosemite National Park this weekend, you might want to consider staying up late to catch a glimpse.

As the lunar equivalent of rainbows, moonbows are created when moonlight shines on droplets of water. And with its abundant waterfalls and clear, artificial light-free skies, Yosemite is an ideal place to watch for moonbows, especially on July 15 during the next full moon.

Tourists saw Calif. man fall into Maui blow hole

Witnesses who watched a Northern California man get sucked into a Maui blow hole to his apparent death say that the tourist was dancing around and frolicking in the sprays of water moments before a wave knocked him down.

In this Saturday, July 9, 2011 photo provided and shot by Rocco Piganelli, Piper Piganelli, Marley Meyer, and Maddie Meyer, lower left, pose for a photo Piganelli says was taken moments before a man, in the spray at right, fell to his apparent death in a blow hole at Nakalele Point in Maui, Hawaii. Piganelli, of La Jolla, Calif., told The Associated Press that he watched the man spiral down the blowhole, pop up briefly before disappearing when the next wave hit. The 44-year-old man, identified as David Potts of San Anselmo, Calif., has not been found since Saturday afternoon. (AP Photo/Rocco Piganelli)

Image: Erosion along San Francisco beach

Battered West Coast a lesson on warming, study finds

Severe erosion along the West Coast during the winter of 2009-2010 offers a look at, and lessons for, a warming world with rising sea levels, a new study finds.

A natural El Nino cycle that warms the Pacific Ocean produced those severe conditions, but computer models suggest that similar damage could come from sea level rise tied to human-caused greenhouse gases.

"If these trends continue," U.S. government and academic experts wrote in their study, "the combination of large waves and higher water levels, particularly when enhanced by El Ninos, can be expected to be more frequent in the future, resulting in greater risk of coastal erosion, flooding, and cliff failures."

Lead author Patrick Barnard, a coastal geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told that the study serves as a platform "to understand the broad coastal impact of conditions we are likely to experience more frequently in the future."

Time to walk on down the road…

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Comments on some of today’s headlines…

I read where a grief-stricken Hamid Karzai climbed into his assassinated brother's grave this morning. I have one observation to make, “Someone should have hurriedly filled it up when he was in thereImage: Afghans pray over the grave of Ahmad Wali Karzai in his family's ancestral village of Karz

I’m not thrilled with the Fed's new money policy: 'Wait and see'

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was on Capitol Hill today testifying on the central bank's latest strategies for getting the economy back on a stronger footing.

Is it just me, or does this sound like a scene out of “Fantasy Island” where everything magically works out by the end of the episode?

File me under,Paranoid to fly these days.” When I see things like Scientists questioning cancer risks from exposure to full-body scanners, I add that to a growing list of concerns.

Budget talks between President Barack Obama and his GOP rivals are at a frustrating standstill, leading a top Republican to launch a long-shot proposal to give Obama sweeping new powers to muscle through an increase in the government's debt limit without the approval of a bitterly divided Congress. If that happens I’ll start believing in the Easter Bunny and The Great Pumpkin.

Watching the Murdoch empire crumble has been the highlight of the week thus far for me. Now investors are asking what might be the broader impact on Murdoch’s global News Corp. empire, which includes the Fox broadcast network, cable channels such as FX and Fox News, television stations, the 20th Century Fox movie studio and newspapers around the world, including The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Sun in the U.K.

"This is going to have ripple effects over in the U.S., too, but it may take a while for it to all play out," predicted newspaper analyst Ken Doctor of Outsell Inc. Republicans throughout the country are probably really concerned their going to lose their “Voice,” on national TV (Fox execs are hiding beneath their desks waiting for the outcome) under the guise of a real news affiliate.

Can you imagine what would happen if Justin tried putting a move on Cpl. De Santis when she wasn’t interested? She’d kick his ass all the way down the Halls of Montezuma!

Not to be outdone, a female Marine wants a date with Justin Timberlake

After Justin Timberlake nudged Mila Kunis into accepting a Marine's invitation to be his date for the Marine Corps Ball, another Marine had a similar idea: put Justin Timberlake on the spot, too. Cpl. Kelsey De Santis, currently serving as the only female at the Martial Arts Center for Excellence at Marine Corps Base Quantico, has made a YouTube video inviting Timberlake to be her date for the Ball, taking place Nov. 12 in Washington, D.C.

Can you imagine what would happen if Justin tried putting a move on Cpl. De Santis when she wasn’t interested? She’d kick his ass all the way down the Halls of Montezuma!

Telecommunication companies takes your bill and ‘crams” it

Senator's probe slams phone firms for murky 'cramming' fees

Mysterious fees and services crammed onto phone bills are a “nationwide epidemic” for U.S. consumers, but a reliable source of revenue for some of America's biggest telecommunications companies, a year-long congressional investigation has found.

A report issued Wednesday by Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., says that three firms -- Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink/Quest -- earned $650 million as their cut of cramming charges levied by third-parties since 2006.

Cramming charges -- such as unwanted $10-per-month voicemail or Web design services -- have been frustrating phone customers for more than 15 years, thanks in part to ill-considered rules designed to enhance competition in local phone markets. Consumers often don't spot the small monthly fees, but even when they do getting refunds can be a nightmare: The telephone provider that sends the bills often refuses to issue refunds, instead referring consumers to the third-party firms, which are often unresponsive.  The Federal Communications Commission estimates that 15 million to 20 million consumers are crammed every year.  Rockefeller’s report says cramming could cost U.S. consumers $2 billion annually.

Congress has been unable to fix the problem for more than a decade.

photo source

Tour a new Children’s Museum, buy the “First Dolt’s” basecard card, and (Déjà vu) lawyer accidently shoots another lawyer while hunting

Image: Egyptian TOMB

Good Morning Humboldt County!

Good to see you this morning. Pull up a stool and sit with me as we wander through some headlines:

Delving into the world's largest children's museum

Welcome to the new "Treasures of the Earth" exhibition here at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, launched in partnership with the National Geographic Society and world-renowned archaeologists, at the largest children's museum in the country, which draws well over a million visitors a year. The museum emphasizes using science, history and artifacts to encourage family learning and offers innovative hands-on activities, which by all accounts, works beautifully.

George W. Bush's baseball card

Now you too can have a baseball card with the “First Dolt” throwing a baseball! Imagine how you can impress your friends with this collectible prize?

President George W. Bush lent his signature to a new Topps baseball card release: For the first time ever, Topps issued autographed trading cards of a former President.

Lawyer sentenced for shooting fellow lawyer while hunting

This story reminds me of Cheney when he accidently shot a lawyer buddy. It wasn’t a fatal wound, but it was another case of where a lawyer couldn’t tell the difference between a deer and another lawyer!

A Pennsylvania attorney who shot and killed a fellow hunter by mistake in 2010 while hunting for deer on his own property was sentenced to up to 25 years in prison on Friday for involuntary manslaughter and gun violations.

David Manilla failed to call promptly for emergency help and tried to hide the rifle that killed Groh. Manilla also fired a shotgun he was carrying in order to claim it was inconsistent with the fatal rifle wound, James said.

Time to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Not the buzz they were hoping for: Truck spills 14 million bees on Idaho highway

Image: Truck spills millions of bees on Idaho highway.

Cleanup crews have finished clearing honey and an estimated 14 million bees that got loose after a delivery truck overturned on an Idaho highway.

Authorities say the semi-truck was hauling the bees from California to North Dakota when the driver veered off the shoulder, tipping more than 400 hive boxes and honey.

Authorities reportedly began receiving 911 calls late Sunday afternoon.

Fremont County Sheriff deputies say several workers were stung during the first few hours of the cleanup Sunday.

According to KPVI, officials had to spray fire foam on the truck and bees before responders could join the effort. The spill, which also unleashed a torrent of honey, reportedly required crews from numerous agencies.

Some observers told The Post-Register they saw a strange black cloud and heard a roaring noise above the spill area before realizing it was a massive swarm of bees.

Crews worked all day Monday before removing all the honey from the roadway, though deputies say a significant number of bees were still buzzing.           source

Tuesday Talk: Spiderphobes studied, Chuacabra spotted, and a pot smoking chimp documentary

Good Morning Humboldt County!

Join me in having a cup of coffee, or tea, and let’s see what’s happening in the world today:

Spiderphobes spot the bugs first, study shows

Picture this: you're sitting in a garden on a pretty summer day, and along comes a butterfly and a bumblebee. Which grabs your attention first?

Evolution would suggest that we're primed to detect threats, so we might pay attention to the buzzing little bee. But butterflies are pretty. And here are some complications: what if we're especially afraid of bees or especially entranced by butterflies? Instead of bees and butterflies, the researchers turned to arachnoids and cult TV: they exposed 72 British subjects to a variety of photos, including some of spiders and characters or objects.

'Chupacabra' rears its ugly head

The chupacabra has been an intriguing urban legend for decades, but one man said he spotted something like it and got pictures of it.

Jack Crabtree said he and a friend spotted the strange-looking creature outside his Lake Jackson home on July 4.

"He said, 'That's the strangest dog I've ever seen,'" Crabtree said. "I immediately said, 'That's not a dog, it's a chupacabra.'"

Crabtree said he's heard of the chupacabra as a mysterious creature with a scary look.

The word "chupacabra" means "goat blood sucker" in Spanish. It was given that name for its reported habit of attacking and sucking the blood of livestock, mainly goats.

Crabtree said what he saw was ugly, skinny and gray.

"Most prominent feature was his ears," he said. "I can see why people would conjure up myths and horror stories associated with something that has that appearance."

Nim: the little chimp that couldn't

"Project Nim," a documentary by Oscar-winning director James Marsh, is a heartwarming and heartbreaking story about a home-bred, pot-smoking, cookie-chomping chimpanzee called Nim Chimpsky. Nim was the star player in a controversial language experiment that failed ... but nevertheless laid the foundations for research into primate communication.

In the early 1970s, Herb Terrace, a Columbia University psychologist, adopted a 2-week-old chimpanzee. Nim Chimpsky (named after linguist Noam Chomsky) was to be the star of an experiment to see if non-human animals could be taught the elements of language. At the time, linguists and psychologists were locked in a shouting match about the true nature of our chatty brains and the origins of human language. Terrace hoped Nim would end the raging debate about how and why human language evolved.

The behaviorists led one camp, and said that language could be taught and learned by other intelligent, non-human species. The opposing camp, led by Chomsky, insisted that language was a human product and there were parts of it that non-human species could never ape.

Terrace, who still does research on primate intelligence at Columbia, had heard stories about another precocious chimpanzee named Washoe, who lived with her scientist "parents" at the University of Nevada in Reno and had been taught to communicate through American Sign Language.

But Terrace wasn’t satisfied with the way Washoe’s feats had been documented. Terrace wanted to raise young Nim among people, just as Washoe had been brought up, but scrupulously log his progress and learning abilities. If chimpanzees could in fact master elements of human language, he wanted to be sure how they did it, and how well they picked it up. "I wanted to have a total record of how Nim signed," Terrace told me.

So, at the age of 2 weeks, Nim Chimpsky was put in the foster care of Terrace's student, Stephanie LaFarge, who lived with her family in Manhattan. LaFarge, who even breast-fed Nim, would be the first of a string of chimp-sitters who tried to teach him American Sign Language. Laura-Ann Petitto, then an undergraduate at Columbia, would be next. She raised Nim from the time he was 3 months old until he was 4 years old.

Monday, July 11, 2011

South California as new state? Campaign is on — again

More than 220 groups/people have tried to propose a split of California since the 1850s…

Now a Southern California Republican says it is time to split California in half.

Jeff Stone, a Riverside County supervisor from Temecula, says he wants 13 of the state's mostly conservative counties to break away and become "South California".

The proposed South California would be made up of Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, Tulare and Riverside counties. That totals about 13 million people.

Riverside County's Board of Supervisors will consider the proposal tomorrow, according to the Los Angeles Times. If the board approves the plan, leaders will create a framework for secession and then host a statewide summit on the issue.

Stone says as it is, California is an ungovernable financial catastrophe that is forcing businesses to flee and crushing taxpayers with welfare programs.

A spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown says this is a laughable political stunt.

"It's a supremely ridiculous waste of everybody's time," spokesman Gil Duran told the Times. "If you want to live in a Republican state with very conservative right-wing laws, then there's a place called Arizona."

NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Analyst Scott McGrew says this deal would probably benefit Northern California more. "Housing prices here have been somewhat more stable," said McGrew. "The state is able to get more money from stock gains here thanks to tech and we have smaller numbers of people in entitlement programs."

story source -- poster source

Sportsmanship fail: Parents charged after youth baseball brawl

Aaawww Summer time! Blazing temperatures and tempers flare during America’s favorite past time, a baseball game. Not a pro game,or a college game, but a youth game. Pre-teens who should be learning sportsmanship instead of World Wrestling moves from their parents, got a taste of hypocrisy that won’t soon go away. 

 CASTLE ROCK, Colo.Police charged three parentsincluding the town prosecutor — with third-degree assault and disorderly conduct after a brawl during a youth baseball tournament put a player in a hospital, a city official said Monday. The fight involved at least six adults during a game for 12-year-olds, and police were still trying to sort out what triggered the brawl and who was involved, KUSA-TV reported.

Newborn may have set record in Texas – he weighed 16-lbs, 1 ounce!

I’ve always been the standard for big babies in the Stancliff clan. I weighed a whopping 10 lbs, 2 ounces when I was born. That family record pales beside the birth of JaMichael Brown. I wouldn’t be surprised if he set a national record, but who knows? Somewhere in this country there may have been a bigger baby born and we just haven’t heard about it yet:

This big boy sure looks at peace doesn’t he? If only he knew what lay ahead!

Baby boom! 16-lb. newborn may set Texas record

“Coming out of the womb weighing more than 16 pounds, JaMichael Brown couldn’t even fit in one of his home state’s famous 10-gallon hats. Even in a place where everything is reputedly bigger, the newborn boy may have set the record for the biggest baby ever born in Texas.

Doctors underestimated just how big JaMichael would be. When he came into the world via Cesarean section a little after 9 a.m. last Friday, he weighed 16 pounds, 1 ounce. JaMichael was born with a full head of hair, measuring a full 2 feet long with a head measurement of 15 inches and a chest measuring 17 inches.”

Monday Musings: marriage goes to the dogs in Peru, thirst for career bums people out, and Free Slurpees today at any 7 Eleven stores

Dogs wear a bridal veil and a groom hat

Good Morning Humboldt County!

Good to see you. Pull up a chair and enjoy a cup of coffee with me while being entertained by today’s headlines. Got some good ones this morning. Enjoy: 

For Better Or Woof: Dog Couples Tie The Knot

Marriage went to the dogs in Peru's capital Lima as multiple canine couples tied the knot.The ceremony was made legal when the canine couples put their paw prints on the matrimonial documents.

Thirst for career happiness is bumming us out

Finding career happiness seems to be what everyone wants these days.

The shelves in bookstores are lined with books on how to find career happiness, and an endless stream of life coaches are trying to help workers attain it. Twitter is rife with advice and corny quotes about finding job joy.

But is happiness a wise career goal? There is growing evidence that our thirst to find happiness, especially during tough economic times, is actually bumming us out.

Free Slurpees = cash in 7-Eleven's coffers

You have to give some to get some. That’s apparently the theory behind 7-Eleven’s campaign to dole out free Slurpees to customers today to celebrate the chain’s unofficial birthday: 7/11.

USA Today reports that 7-Eleven expects to give out 5 million, 7.11-ounce Slurpees, or about 1,000 free drinks per store. No coupon needed.

That’s a lot of Slurpees, to be sure. But the paper says that 7-Eleven has found freebies to be very lucrative. The chain’s vice president of marketing Nancy Smith tells USA Today that the same gimmick last July 11 pushed Slurpee sales for the day up 33 percent.

"Slurpee drinkers are some of the most loyal fans we have," Smith told USA Today. "They come here to have fun." And, she said, many of them spend more on other items.

Thus proving there’s no such thing as a free lunch … uh, Slurpee.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Sunday, July 10, 2011

As It Stands: Shell Corporations: The modern version of the old con game

By Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

Posted: 07/10/2011 02:30:25 AM PDT

“Step right up, folks! It's your lucky day. Pick a shell. A pea is under one of the three. Find the pea and win the prize!”

You've heard of the “shell game.” It's been around since ancient Greece. It's also known as “Thimblerig,” an old Army game.

It's really a “short con” that's easy to pull off and swindle unsuspecting dupes. It's all about sleight of hand. You're never going to pick the right shell unless the operator wants you to. Which leads me to today's topic: A growing niche in the modern business con handbook is called shell corporations.

Like paper-only shells, shell companies are set up to hide the real ownership of assets. Once these secretive business havens were in the Cayman Islands and Cyprus, but that's changing rapidly.

For example, a recent investigation by Reuters discovered a “Cayman Island on the Great Plains.” Located in Wyoming. A single address (2710 Thomas Ave. in Cheyenne) is stuffed with an A-list of corporations. It's headquarters for Wyoming Corporate Services, a “business-incorporation specialist that establishes firms which can be used as 'shell' companies,” according to Reuters. In other words, if you want to hide assets, Wyoming Corporate Services is the place to go.

The company's website gleefully explains how “a corporation is a legal person created by state statute that can be used as a fall guy, a servant, a good friend or a decoy. A person you control... yet cannot be held accountable for its actions. Imagine the possibilities!”

How about that? Creating your own fall guy? You'll be offered a bank account for your shadow identity, and a lawyer as a corporate director to invoke attorney-client privilege. But wait! There's more. You'll have appointed stand-in directors and officers as high as CEO.

Wyoming Corporate Services offers a variety of “shell” companies which come with years of regulatory filings behind them. A solidarity coveted by those interested in hiding their assets.

You, too, can create shell companies like the one set up by online-poker operators to evade a U.S. ban on Internet gambling. Or like the owner of two other firms who was banned from government contracting in January for selling counterfeit truck parts to the Pentagon.

Wyoming Corporate Services offers 700 shell companies for sale in 37 states. The hotbeds of the shell company industry are three states with the lightest regulations: Delaware, Wyoming, and Nevada.

Here's something else to consider: The incorporation industry, overseen by officials in the 50 states, has few rules. Convicted felons can operate firms which create companies, with no background checks.

According to the Reuters investigation, “No states license mass incorporators, and only a few require them to formally register with state authorities.” No states collect the names and addresses of “beneficial owners,” the individuals with a controlling interest in corporations, according to a 2009 report by the National Association of Secretaries of State, a group for state officials overseeing incorporation.

The loopholes in U.S. disclosure of bank-account and shell-company ownership are as numerous as holes in a block of Swiss cheese. The U.S. was declared “non-compliant” in four out of 40 categories monitored by the Financial Action Task Force, an international group fighting money laundering and terrorism finance, in its 2006 evaluation report.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee's Permanent Subcommittee for Investigations, has introduced the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act each year since 2008. The bill would require states to obtain and update information about the real owners of companies and impose civil and criminal sanctions for filing false information.

I'm not surprised that this bill has failed to pass. The 2006 U.S. Money Laundering Threat Assessment, prepared by 16 federal agencies, devoted a chapter to the ways U.S. shell companies can be attractive vehicles to hide ill-gotten funds. I have no doubt that special interest groups have been involved in smothering the bill.

“In the U.S., (business incorporation) is completely unregulated,” says Jason Sharman, a professor at Griffith University in Nathan, Australia. He is preparing a study for the World Bank on corporate formations worldwide, according to an Associated Press story. “Somalia has slightly higher standards than Wyoming and Nevada,” Sharman added.

An estimated 2 million corporations and limited liability companies are created each year in the U.S., according to Senate investigators.

As It Stands, step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and pick a company. Any company. Why pay taxes when you can play the shell game?

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cross-referenced news and research resources about

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US Senate Newswire - Comprehensive Real-Time News Feed for US Senate.


Latest Toys/Games News – scroll down (the 7th headline) strange site if you ask me.


The Federal Circle – Want advise on how to make money? Take a look at this site. The administrators also know how to make money…by bringing you aboard their team. I’m not recommending this site, just sharing it because it carried my column this week.


Blog Break Until Presidential Election is Over

I finally hit the wall today. I can't think of what to say about all of the madness going on in this country right now. I'm a writer...