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Schrader: Anschutz’s $8 million Colorado lawsuit is everything wrong with billionaire tax breaks

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Schrader: Anschutz’s $8 million Colorado lawsuit is everything wrong with billionaire tax breaks

Philip Anschutz — Colorado’s benevolent billionaire — should have read the mood in the room before he filed a lawsuit retroactively seeking to apply new federal tax law to get an $8 million Colorado income tax break.

Because the mood right now among those eking out a living in this great state is that we are sick of paying our fair share of taxes while the super-rich use clever accounting tricks to avoid or evade their taxes.

ProPublica this summer released secret IRS records that show billionaires like Jeff Bezos, George Soros, Carl Icahn, Michael Bloomberg, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay a relatively small amount in income tax compared to their net-worths, and sometimes nothing.

For example, Bezos paid zero dollars in federal income tax despite reporting an income of $46 million in 2007.

“He was able to offset every penny he earned with losses from side investments and various deductions, like interest expenses on debts and the vague catchall category of ‘other expenses,’ ” the ProPublica report said.

Anschutz’s lawsuit exposes the same types of tax avoidance ProPublica found in its investigation, but what’s worse is that the Colorado tax break Anschutz seeks uses an already generous federal tax deduction for wealthy business owners that was expanded and made retroactive under the guise of COVID relief.

Anschutz, unhappy with the federal tax break, is fighting to also get several years of income tax breaks in Colorado, amounting to $8 million. Judge J. Eric Elliff ruled against Anschutz finding that the state tax authorities had the power to promulgate rules prohibiting retroactive deductions like the one Anschutz seeks. Anschutz has appealed.

The deduction that Anschutz is seeking to apply to past Colorado income tax bills is a business loss or “net operating loss” deduction which allows owners of multiple businesses to double count a loss from one pocket as a loss in another pocket.

This complicated tax deduction is intended to shield small business owners with volatile income from year to year from overpaying taxes, but the wealthy have found ways to use it to avoid fair tax assessments.

Let’s say two spouses work in their own small businesses: one runs a preschool and the other owns a small engineering firm. The preschool operated in the red during COVID and lost $100,000 because it was closed for much of the year and the owner still had to pay rent and other expenses. The engineering firm thrived and the owner took home $100,000 in net profit. The couple on their taxes could pay zero in income tax, rightly, since collectively no income was earned.

But there should obviously be a limit to this. A media mogul or oil baron could also, wrongly, earn millions year after year but only pay a fraction of the taxes required on that income by cleverly deploying losses that are carefully manufactured by accountants.

It’s a double-dip in our tax code and the deduction can be carried forward or backward as needed to zero out taxable income.

The Trump tax cuts in 2017 ratcheted down the net-operating loss deductions to only allow 80% of a business’s losses to be deducted from other income. The law also limited how far back the losses could be applied to old tax liabilities and how far into the future they should be carried forward.

But that good reform was undone as part of the CARES Act temporarily taking the deduction back to a 100% allowable deduction. In their infinite wisdom, federal lawmakers also made the deduction retroactive so folks are double-dipping business losses for a total of eight years.

To be fair, Anschutz’s company, AEG, was hit hard by the pandemic. With concert venues shuttered by the government, AEG laid-off workers, and had pay cuts across the board. There’s no doubt Anschutz suffered losses from that company.

But rather than a good public policy to help business owners during a difficult time, the CARES Act treatment of businesses losses feels like an apology from Republicans for slightly reducing a popular deduction no matter how abused it was.

The final straw is Anschutz then trying to also claim the deduction from Colorado income taxes. Colorado income tax is based on federally calculated “adjusted gross income.” Anschutz is arguing that if his adjusted gross income was changed retroactively, he should be able to refile his Colorado taxes to lower the amount of income he reported as taxable.

The judge ruled in favor of the Colorado Department of Revenue finding that it was appropriate for Colorado tax law to be future-looking only, and not retroactively apply changes to federal tax law after taxes had been filed.

Our tax code is broken both in Colorado and at the federal level.

And the solution is easy if there is the political will to do the right thing.

President Joe Biden is working to overhaul the tax code to pay for a progressive wish list of programs. There’s no doubt that America’s extremely low current tax rates on both corporations and individuals are unsustainable.

But if Biden wants to do what Trump failed to do, he should propose a tax code that treats all income equally — regardless of how it is made or spent — with many graduated tax brackets. The federal government should not care if we make our money through stocks or through digging ditches, nor should it care if that money is spent raising children or buying depressed assets.

In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis is eager for tax reform. His proposal of making the state income tax zero, however, is the exact opposite of what this state needs. Property, automobile and sales taxes are based on how people spend their money and are regressive, punishing those who scrimp and save for years to buy items they need and want only to face steep taxes they cannot afford.

A graduated income tax, without distinction or deduction, is the only taxation system that truly has Americans paying their “fair share.” And yes, for the lowest income Coloradans, their fair share may be zero, or in the case of those who qualify for Colorado’s Earned Income Tax Credit, they may even be a net beneficiary of the state when it comes to income tax to help offset the unequal effect of sales and property taxes, not to mention rising fees on car registration.

This of course is a pipe dream. There is almost no political will for real tax reform, as we saw when Republicans attempted this in 2017 and ended up slashing the corporate tax rate while not eliminating a significant number of tax breaks or loopholes.

Biden is targeting the wealthy and corporations with his tax increases, which after the ProPublica piece seems like a logical place to start fixing this mess. Once the rich start paying their fair share, I’ll start writing more about how my effective federal income tax rate under Trump and Biden has plummeted to nearly zero.

But for now, I think billionaires like Anschutz should stop complaining about Biden’s tax plans and stop stretching for another tax break. Perhaps the ultra-wealthy in America should try being grateful for what they have.

Megan Schrader is editor of The Denver Post’s opinion pages.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.

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St. Paul’s Bix produce warehouse, once envisioned as COVID morgue, to go back on the market

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St. Paul’s Bix produce warehouse, once envisioned as COVID morgue, to go back on the market

Just east of the intersection of Jackson Street and Arlington Avenue, state officials once envisioned the former Bix produce building as a back-up morgue of sorts — a holding facility for up to 5,000 bodies of the victims of the COVID pandemic. Neighbors raised concern about ghosts and evil spirits, and city leaders offered their own objections.

In any event, the planned use never materialized, and the St. Paul Port Authority now wants the building back for future development.

The state purchased the refrigerated warehouse at 1415 L’Orient St. and the five acres of land it sits on from the Port Authority last year for nearly $5.48 million. Under pressure from St. Paul and Ramsey County officials opposed to the idea of warehousing bodies there, the state used the site instead as storage for personal protective equipment. On Tuesday, the board of the Port Authority will meet to vote on whether to purchase the site — which now sits vacant — back from the state for $5.65 million, the property’s current appraised value and the purchase amount required under state statute.

The goal, according to board documents, is to flip the former Bix building as quickly as possible, with the Port Authority looking to secure a letter of intent from a qualified buyer before the end of November. The Port Authority would then finalize the purchase with the state, with a closing scheduled on or around Dec. 1.

The last two major transactions within Port Authority business centers resulted in private storage facilities, which generated little to no employment. Port Authority officials said a produce company, on the other hand, could employ as many as 75 to 100 workers.

“The idea is to find a buyer who will bring jobs to the city of St. Paul,” said Andrea Novak, a marketing manager with the Port Authority. “There is no specific buyer in the wings. We will market this aggressively.”

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Georgia rally marks debut of GOP primary “Trump ticket”

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Georgia rally marks debut of GOP primary “Trump ticket”

PERRY, Ga. — The rewards of an early Donald Trump endorsement were on display Saturday in Georgia when a three-man ticket of candidates he’s backing in 2022 Republican primaries were featured at one of his signature rallies. But GOP opponents of Trump-backed candidates aren’t folding in Georgia and some say the former president’s nod could hurt Republicans in a general election in the closely divided state.

Trump’s endorsement blitz is a frank attempt to keep remaking the party in his image, with Republicans eagerly courting his favor. But like everything else about the former president, it’s a rule-rewriting approach, said Casey Dominguez, a political science professor at the University of San Diego.

“We haven’t seen presidents in recent years try to drive a wedge within their own party, which is what happens in a primary election,” Dominguez said. “He’s playing factional politics in the party.”

It’s easy to see why they might want Trump’s backing. He maintains overwhelming support among Republican voters. Ballotpedia, which tracks Trump endorsements, says candidates he endorsed have won 37 of 43 competitive primaries since 2017.

Trump was joined at the rally in Perry, about 100 miles south of Atlanta by three candidates he has endorsed, including Herschel Walker, who recently launched a Senate campaign. Trump had urged the former football great to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

In one of his first public appearances since entering the race, Walker on Saturday talked about his relationship with Trump, but also urged his listeners to “come together as a people” and not be upset with others “because they disagree with you.”

Also speaking was U.S. Rep Jody Hice, Trump’s choice against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. While Raffensperger refused the former president’s entreaties to “find” enough votes to overturn Trump’s narrow loss to Democratic President Joe Biden in Georgia, Hice objected to Georgia’s electors in Congress.

Completing the trio is state Sen. Burt Jones, an early Trump supporter who pushed measures to overturn Biden’s Georgia win and is running for lieutenant governor.

The rally, though, was all about Trump, who remains the star of his own show as numerous supporters arrived wearing Trump gear.

Despite a lack of credible evidence to support Trump’s allegations of mass voter fraud, the former president has continued to push the “Big Lie” that he won, turning it into a litmus test for GOP candidates. A majority of Republican voters continue to believe the election was stolen, despite dozens of state and local elections officials, numerous judges and Trump’s own attorney general saying Biden won fairly.

Although some primary fields have been winnowed by Trump’s endorsement, that hasn’t happened in Georgia.

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Sheriff’s office: At least 3 killed in Amtrak derailment

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Sheriff’s office: At least 3 killed in Amtrak derailment

JOPLIN, Mont. (AP) — At least three people were killed Saturday afternoon when an Amtrak train that runs between Seattle and Chicago derailed in north-central Montana, an official with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office said.

Dispatcher Starr Tyler told The Associated Press that three people died in the derailment. She did not have more details. Amtrak said in a statement that there were multiple injuries.

The Empire Builder train derailed about 4 p.m. near Joplin, a town of about 200, Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said in a statement. The accident scene is about 150 miles (241 kilometers) north of Helena and about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the border with Canada.

The train had about 146 passengers and 16 crew members onboard, Abrams said.

The train consisted of two locomotives and 10 cars, with seven of those cars derailing, he said.

Megan Vandervest, a passenger on the train who was going to visit a friend in Seattle, told The New York Times that she was awakened by the derailment.

“My first thought was that we were derailing because, to be honest, I have anxiety and I had heard stories about trains derailing,” said Vandervest, who is from Minneapolis. “My second thought was that’s crazy. We wouldn’t be derailing. Like, that doesn’t happen.”

She told the Times that the car behind hers was tilted over, the one behind that was entirely tipped over, and the three cars behind that “had completely fallen off the tracks and were detached from the train.”

Speaking from the Liberty County Senior Center, where passengers were being taken, Vandervest said it felt like “extreme turbulence on a plane.”

Amtrak was working with the local authorities to transport injured passengers and safely evacuate all other passengers, Abrams added.

The National Transportation Safety Board will send a 14-member team, including investigators and specialists in railroad signals and other disciplines, to investigate the crash, spokesman Eric Weiss said.

Five Amtrak cars derailed around 3:55 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time and no other trains or equipment were involved, Weiss said. The train was traveling on a BNSF Railroad main track at the time, he said.

Photos posted to social media showed several cars on their sides. Passengers were standing alongside the tracks, some carrying luggage.

The images showed sunny skies, and it appeared the accident occurred along a straight section of tracks.

Amtrak said that because of the derailment, the Sunday westbound Empire Builder will terminate in Minneapolis, and the Sunday eastbound Empire Builder train will originate in Minneapolis.

____

Associated Press Tom Krisher contributed to this report.

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Tommies beat down Butler in home opener

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Tommies beat down Butler in home opener

In a season that will continue to be fraught with uncertainty and the unknown, the St. Thomas football team began to answer some questions on Saturday at O’Shaughnessy Stadium.

Playing their first game in the Division I Pioneer Football League, the Tommies manhandled Butler, dominating from beginning to end in a 36-0 victory.

Thrilled with the way his team played on both sides of the ball, excited about an enthusiastic turnout (5,051) and humbled by the presence of a approximately 150 former players, Tommies coach Glenn Caruso is downright giddy about one more major happening that took place on
Saturday.

“We were sitting at breakfast this morning,” Caruso said, “and I turned to our coaches and said, ‘Do you know what I am most excited about besides the game? Whatever happens in the game, we get to go home and watch every game that happened in league tonight.’

“We have an actual data point that is countable. It’s just not guessing out of thin air.”

Likewise, the rest of the league can now can see for itself that while the Tommies’ roster is still dominated by Division III recruits, it is a capable opponent.

Butler was picked in the preseason to finish near the bottom of the Pioneer, but the Tommies’ dominating performance surely got some coaches’ attention.

“The diversity of the league, not just by location, but by recruiting because of that location makes it, is so all over the place,” Caruso said. “It’s been a long time around here since we had no clue what to expect.

“There is a novelty and a romance to being uncertain of what is going to go on.”

Senior safety Rian O’Connor, who made his first start due to Luke Glenna having to sit out the first half after getting a targeting penalty last week, said the Tommies’ confidence in their
abilities helps temper any fear of the unknown.

“The mystery is inevitable,” he said. “This was our first home game in two years. On top of that, it was against a new division and a new league against teams we’ve never played against. It would be easy to get nervous about that, but we just focus on ourselves.”

The Tommies had 424 yards of total offense to 278 for Butler. Senior quarterback Cade Sexauer, making his first start, was rock solid. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 194 yards. He
also ran for 31 yards.

Senior running back Tom Loeffler (61 yards) and sophomore Hope Adebayo (75 yards) both ran the ball effectively.

Loeffler’s 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter got the scoring started for the Tommies. Sexauer threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to fullback Josh Komis early in the second quarter, and a successful 2-point conversation game the Tommies a 15-0 lead.

Loeffler’s second touchdown of the game, a 5-yard run, gave the Tommies their 22-0 halftime lead.

Senior tight end Max Zimmerman caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Sexauer in the third quarter. The Tommies closed out their scoring with 34-yard touchdown run by Adebayo.
The Tommies forced two turnovers on defense, a fumble recovery by Seth Beckett and an interception by O’Connor.

Both O’Connor and Caruso praised the job defensive coordinator Walli Kuchinski preparing the defense.

“When you have Coach K in your meetings every week you just feel so confident in the game plan,” O’Connor said. “When you don’t have to think you can play super fast.”

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Sunday Bulletin Board: ‘Hey, lady, do you happen to know this giant white dog outside your house, barking to be let in?’

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Sunday Bulletin Board: ‘Hey, lady, do you happen to know this giant white dog outside your house, barking to be let in?’

Know thyself!

And: Our pets, ourselves

GRANDMA ’GINIA writes: “Subject: Generation gap or natural selection?

“As I grow older and wiser, I’ve noticed that I’m living vicariously through my kid and grandkids. It’s not that I am not having any adventures, but they seem to be receding a bit. An example greeted me this morning when I checked my texts, my lifeline to the family.

“My granddaughter Ellie (name changed just in case) sent me the story of what happened last night at her house.

“Ellie and her friend live in a charming home in a northern suburb. They are quite the entrepreneurs, having ownership in several popular fast-food restaurants. That requires her to be gone for long hours for work and meetings. Yesterday was a meeting day.

“Ellie owns two dogs. They couldn’t be more different. Pig is a Pug, the kind of little black dog whose eyes seem to look in two different directions. He is a sassy whirlwind. Pluto is a Great Pyrenees, a fluffy, white, gentle giant who is so large he could be fitted with a saddle. He was a rescue who had been mistreated and starved in his former life, so he seems eternally grateful to be comfortable and loved. He is so big that a tail wag is potentially dangerous.

“Ellie has arranged for a relative to come in during the long work day to take care of doggie breaks. Yesterday at 10:45 p.m., while still in a late meeting, Ellie got a phone call from the local police to tell her that her giant white dog, who is never let out alone, was outside the house, barking to be let in. She hurried home and found out that the dog sitter had thought the house was getting stuffy, so he had opened an upstairs window to let in some fresh air. Pluto had managed to get out of that window and gone exploring. He was giddy with joy to finally be let back in.

“The police had stayed with him and told Ellie that it had been one of the best calls they had gotten in a long time, because they got to play with Pluto till she got home.

“Once again, I got to enjoy an adventure without any stress or exertion. It occurs to me that with Halloween fast approaching, Pluto should be fitted with a white cone on his face, to go trick-or-treating as a unicorn.”

Then & Now

JOHN IN HIGHLAND writes: “Subject: Were the Gophers ever National Champions?

“Not to put any pressure on P.J. Fleck, but it has been quite a few years since Murray Warmath led the Gophers to a National Championship. Remember Sandy Stephens running that option offense? [Bulletin Board says: Indeed, we do. We’re just old enough to remember Stephens handing it off to Judge Dickson and pitching it out to Bill Munsey.]

1632625611 589 Sunday Bulletin Board ‘Hey lady do you happen to know

“This year’s team is very good. Some of us hope to see a return to the Rose Bowl before it’s too late!”

BULLETIN BOARD NOTES: The 1960 season wasn’t the Golden Gophers’ only national championship.

Believe it or not, the University of Minnesota had the national collegiate football champions in 1934, 1935, 1936, 1940 and 1941. They were the Crimson Tide of their time!

This ’n’ that ’n’ the other ’n’ the other

All from KATHY S. of St. Paul: (1) “Subject: Are you really Sven?

“C-SPAN channels show some interesting videos, which may be accessed via their website. Tonight I saw a ‘Lectures in History’ talk by Saje Mathieu, a professor at the University of Minnesota. The topic is ‘Neutrality and World War I America.’ I learned a lot from it.

“One interesting tidbit: The prof mentioned a time in WWI when it became uncomfortable to have a German name here. She said that Minnesota has an improbably high percentage of people who claim Scandinavian rather than German roots — because their ancestor(s) changed their names during World War I.”

(2) “Subject: Quick Reminder re: Visibility.

“On Sunday, I almost hit a woman walking her dog less than a block from my home. I was driving toward the sun at 5 p.m., which reduced my visibility — even though it was not dark yet.

“She was wearing neutral grayish or tannish clothes, and she and her dog blended into the scenery.

“My mind was on maneuvering into my garage, and I didn’t notice her. She crossed the street, assuming that I saw her — but I did not until she was right in front of my car.

“Angels were at work on Sunday. I am grateful for them.”

(3) “Subject: I am the leader.

“RED’S OFFSPRING described lessons learned re: following directions in high school. Which reminded me of a mimeographed gag list of orders that traveled around — including my grade school — circa 1963.

“Number one on the list of instructions said that we were not to carry out any of the instructions until we had read all of them. I immediately read the last instruction — which said not to follow any other order on the list. So I put down my pencil and killed time by reading the list and watching my classmates ‘follow’ the orders.

“But my younger sister (third or fourth grade?) got swept up in the tasks. Halfway through it she read that, if she was the first one to get that far, she was to stand up and announce that she was the leader in following instructions. And she did — as her teacher laughed and turned red.

“Of course, ‘I am the leader in following instructions’ became a buzzword among those who took the bogus test. To this day, I sometimes explain the phrase to younger folks. And warn them about blindly following orders.”

(4) “Subject: A thought from long ago.

‘Tonight I told friends about a long-ago posting in the Bulletin Board. A woman took a jar outside on a perfect summer day to capture air from it. She closed it and labeled it with data that day, then set it on a shelf in her kitchen so she could see it in the depths of winter — and know that she could always open it.

“We’re heading into fall and winter now, but we’re only partly back to ‘normal’ from COVID. Which is worrisome.

“Maybe everyone should fill jars with air from perfect days, in case we need to borrow some joy.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: The woman who wrote about her jar of perfect-day air was GRANDMA UP NORTH.

She called the Bulletin Board Hot Line (one of many times she called) on Sunday, October 24, 1993. We transcribed her call (we can still hear her voice) and ran it in the Bulletin Board of October 28, 1993, under the heading “Saving the day”:

“We’ve had a weekend that has been, honestly, a miracle — because we live in the North Country, as you know, and to have a weekend like this is so spectacular, so incredibly undeserved. It has been just absolutely marvelous.

“A friend and I were talking this weekend, and she said, ‘Gee, I wish we could bottle it. Put in in a jar.’

“And I thought: Why not? So I cleaned out a jar, the cap and everything, and went out in the back yard. Twirled around three times, to get the air in there really good, and then clamped it shut. I wrote on it: ‘This jar contains beautiful air from a perfect day, Oct. 24, 1993.’

“I told my friend Pat about it, and she said she’d like a jar, too. She said it just in time, because the sun was declining. I rushed out and caught it just in time . . . .

“So this very dark and dreary winter, she’ll be able to take the jar out and look at it, and it will say: ‘Contents: 65 degrees, sunny sky, no wind, perfect.’ I think that’s pretty good.

“And not only that, there’s only two jars in existence.”

Some time later, Grandma Up North’s jar came our way.

1632625611 602 Sunday Bulletin Board ‘Hey lady do you happen to know

1632625611 376 Sunday Bulletin Board ‘Hey lady do you happen to know

In case you wonder: No, we have never opened it. GRANDMA UP NORTH’S perfect day has been perfectly preserved.

May she rest in peace.

Live and learn

BIG EEK of Southeast Minneapolis: “When I was a prospective high-school teacher, the college arranged for each of us to spend two weeks in a nearby small town at the end of spring term, to get some practical experience. Another fellow and I went to W., 80 miles east of the city. As a math major, I shadowed Mr. B., who taught all the math in the school on the outskirts of town. I watched him at his job, and he assigned me lessons to prepare and teach.

“On Thursday, he rushed up to me before his first-period Algebra class. He had given the students all the odd-numbered problems in the new textbook they were using, to do for homework. Number 17 was a monster. It was full of parentheses within square brackets within curlicues. I advised him to start in the middle and work his way out from there.

“Sure enough, the captain of the football team asked him how to do Number 17. Mr. B. put the problem on the blackboard and started in on it. Halfway through, he glanced at me at the back of the room, and I gave him a slight nod. His final answer was 32. Answers to the odd numbers were given in the back of the book.

“Mr. B. pointed to the football player and asked him what the answer was in the back of the book. ‘Thirty-two,’ said the football player. ‘See,’ Mr. B said confidently to the class, ‘you just start in the middle and work your way to the outside.’

“At noon, Mr. B thanked me and treated me to lunch at the school cafeteria. After school, I was walking to my room in the middle of town. Three of the 12th-grade girls walked along with me. The only three options for lunch were to bring a bag, or eat at the Chinese restaurant in town (every town had a Chinese restaurant) or the cafeteria.

“One of the girls asked me where I had eaten. ‘At the cafeteria,’ I said. ‘Ugh,’ she said, making a face. ‘You must have a death wish.’ Lunch had been something I had never eaten before, or since. I think it was called Shepherd’s Pie. It was . . . interesting.”

Everyone’s a (restaurant) critic!

THE DORYMAN of Prescott, Wis.: “Subject: Restau-rant review (channeling Andy Rooney).

“I like a good sandwich. I have several favorites. A Reuben with grated horseradish is probably number one, and egg salad is not too far behind. I get Patty Melts when I can, and Philly Cheesesteaks are always welcome. While a delicious sandwich is a first choice ‘lunch-out’ menu choice for me, I am always wary of the physical demands that usually follow that selection. Apparently if it is composed (and shaped) smaller than a properly inflated, regulation, bisected, NFL football, most restaurants think I will be disappointed. The bread, on the other hand (pun intended), is glowingly described in the menu but rather inconsequential when delivered. Any exotic taste, texture or artisan preparation is usually lost on the bottom slice because of the ‘fall-apart’ sauce for my added enjoyment. If you even attempt to pick it up (which I always think is the whole point of the thing), it takes both hands, and if it holds together during elevation, the first bite usually distributes the fillings everywhere but in your mouth. Am I the only one (ahem, BB) who would willingly pay $14 for a sandwich that has the good old-fashioned, sensible, fit-in-your-mouth ingredients ‘sandwiched’ (get it, Chef?) between two slices of good old-fashioned unsoaked bread . . . and not leave $4 worth of groceries on the table and my shirt? Plus, I don’t want to take the other half home; I had it for lunch! A first-world problem, I know, but hey, I loved my mother’s sandwiches, where less was always more.”

This ’n’ that ’n’ the other ’n’ the other ’n’ the other

All from AL B of Hartland: (1) “As a tour leader, I took many group photos. There are the magic words, words with weight, used to make one smile: I’d say ‘Prunes,’ ‘Say cheese,’ ‘Smile,’ ‘Smile, you’re on “Candid Camera,”‘ ‘Whiskey,’ ‘Lottery winners,’ ‘Cabbageheads’ and ‘Duck snort.’ A duck snort is a softly hit ball that goes over the infield and lands in the outfield for a hit. Chicago White Sox announcer Ken ‘Hawk’ Harrelson popularized the term.”

(2) “A bug zapper participates in an indiscriminate slaughter of insects, many of them beneficial. A University of Delaware study found that 0.22 percent of the kills were biting insects. Research showed that your chances of being bitten by a mosquito increase when you are near a bug zapper. The light is attractive, and so are you.”

(3) “My wife and I walked the county fair. We strolled by the onion-rings stand. We knew from experience those rings were tasty. Their aroma was inviting. ‘Those onion rings smell great,’ said my wife. I love my wife, so we walked past the stand again.”

(4) “This is the time of the year when I think of family reunions. I remember when I had a full roster of aunts. We had a pie table at reunions in those years. Woe be to anyone who brought a store-bought pie. Those good women believed in being fruitful and multi-pied.”

(5) “I’ve learned . . . the inventor of the doorbell didn’t own a Chihuahua.”

Band Name of the Day: The Bug Zappers

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Mike Lynch’s Skywatch: Galactic happenings and clear autumn skies

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Mike Lynch’s Skywatch: Galactic happenings and clear autumn skies

Happy astronomical autumn! Summer switched over to autumn last Wednesday afternoon at 2:21, the moment of Autumnal Equinox. The sun’s daily arc across the sky from east to west will continue to get shorter, shrinking daylight until the first day of winter in December. Selfishly, shrinking daylight is fine by me because nights are longer for stargazing.

A great way to kick off the autumn stargazing season is to make a date to get out under the dark skies of the countryside, if you’re not already living there. Now that last week’s harvest moon is leaving the early evening sky, this will be a great week to head out. The clear autumn skies are more transparent because of much less moisture in the air.

I guarantee that this will be a treat that you’ll remember for a long time, no matter if you’re by yourself or with family or friends. Bring the blankets, binoculars, star charts, snacks and beverages, and be prepared to sleep in the next morning. Even better, turn this into an early autumn overnight campout.

Just for kicks, try to estimate how many stars you can see without the help of binoculars or a telescope. Traditional astronomy textbooks say that you can see about 3,000 stars with the naked eye. Don’t even try to count the stars, or you’ll fall asleep and the show will be over. In the dark countryside, you can’t help but notice the ghostly band of milky light that bisects the sky from roughly north to south. It’s a cosmic artist’s stroke across the heavens. That’s the Milky Way band. Every star you see, including the sun, is a member of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. The Milky Way band comprises the combined light of billions and billions of extremely distant stars that make up the plane of our galaxy. We’re looking edgewise into that plane. It’s the thickest part of the Milky Way.

No one knows for sure, but there may be well over 300 billion stars in our home galaxy, forming a nearly circular disk that’s broken up into spiral arms. There’s a massive globe of stars in the center. The Milky Way is a little more than 100,000 light-years in diameter and, on average, is 10,000 light-years thick. By the way, just one light-year equals nearly 6 trillion miles. Our sun is about 30,000 light-years from the galaxy’s center, located in one of the spiral arms.

All of the stars we see obediently orbit around the center of the Milky Way. Our sun takes over 200 million years to make one circuit. In case you’re wondering, the center of the Milky Way lies in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer in the low southwest sky. Sagittarius’s nickname is “the Teapot” because that’s what it really resembles. The Milky Way band is not all that much brighter around the teapot because there is a lot of dark interstellar gas and dust that blocks the globe of stars at our galaxy’s center. If we could see the Milky Way’s central region unobstructed, that area of the sky would possibly be as bright as a full moon.

Lie back on the ground or a reclining lawn chair and roll your eyes from one end of the Milky Way band to the other. A decent pair of binoculars will greatly enhance the celestial treasures you come across, like bright patches, dark rifts, and star clusters. You might even see a few human-made satellites roaming across the heavens.

While you’re enjoying our galaxy, keep in mind that the Milky Way is only one of millions of other galaxies out there. Astronomers have spotted billions and billions of galaxies more than 13 billion light-years away. It’s a big sky out there for you to enjoy. Don’t miss it!

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and retired broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is the author of “Stars: a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations,” published by Adventure Publications and available at bookstores and adventurepublications.net. Mike is available for private star parties. You can contact him at [email protected]

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The best places to get an oil change

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The best places to get an oil change

(iSeeCars) – Getting your engine oil changed regularly is one of the most important things you can do for your vehicle. Not only does this routine maintenance extend the life of your engine, but it also prevents most powertrain warranties from becoming null and void. There are lots of places that offer this service, but not all oil changes are created equal. What are the best places to get an oil change? We break down the options to help you make this important decision. 

What Does An Oil Change Include?

When you get your oil changed, the engine oil and the filter should both be replaced. While it isn’t a requirement, if you don’t change the filter, the new oil will go in clean and come out dirty, negating much of the point of an oil change. A standard oil change typically includes a chassis lube, new oil, and a new filter, along with draining the old oil and replacing it with new oil, replacing the filter, and lubricating the chassis.

Finding the Best Oil Change: Things to Consider

Quality of Work:

When deciding on the best place to get your oil changed, you should choose a place that does high-quality work. Even though an oil change is a fairly simple process, not all service providers uphold the same standard of quality. For instance, some big-box retailers offer oil changes at a low price. But they certainly don’t specialize in automotive work. Wouldn’t you rather go to a place that employs automotive service professionals? 

Price:

Price is another consideration. Unfortunately, this is the factor that influences the decision most of the time. Many people see a coupon or a flyer for a quick, cheap oil change and take advantage of the offer. While it’s true that price should play a role in your decision, paying extra to have the work performed by a qualified professional is a sound investment. Like many services, the cheapest option is likely not the best option.

Oil and Filter Brands:

The next factor is oil and filter brands, which can be a matter of personal preference or specified by the manufacturer. If the manufacturer specifies an oil type and you want to ensure warranty coverage it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. There are people who swear by certain brands, like Mobile, Pennzoil, or Valvoline. If you’re more comfortable with a particular brand of oil or filter, either choose a shop that uses these particular brands or buys your own oil and bring it to the shop when you drop off your vehicle. Some shops might order whatever brand you’d like from the local auto parts store if you call in advance. There could be an added cost for this level of service.

All the Extras:

The last factor is what we’ll call the x-factor. There are all the additional services you receive can be found at a full-service center. Do they wash your car afterward? Can they have you in and out in a reasonable amount of time? Can you get a free tire rotation and brake inspection if you need it? Do they check your tire pressure, air filter, and top-off fluid levels like washer and brake fluid? These are all questions that can factor into this decision if you want something beyond a basic oil change. 


Type of Oil: Conventional Oil Vs. Synthetic Oil

Regardless of where you get your oil changed you’ll be asked if you want conventional oil or synthetic oil. Synthetic oil is more expensive, but is it a necessary upsell? A synthetic oil change is better for your engine than a conventional oil change. While conventional oil is suitable and provides adequate performance, higher-quality synthetic oil offers better long-term engine protection.

While conventional oil (i.e., mineral oil) can provide adequate lubrication performance, it can’t compete with the overall engine performance and protection provided by synthetics. There’s also the option of a full synthetic or a synthetic blend. Full synthetic oils provide the best protection. 

Another benefit of synthetic motor oil is that it generally lasts longer than conventional oil. However, the recommended intervals between oil changes vary by brand and if you have a new vehicle warranty you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s interval levels regardless of what type of oil you’re using. 

High-Mileage Oil

High-mileage engine oils are designed for vehicles that have at least 75,000 miles on the odometer and have ingredients to help preserve older engines. They have special seal conditioners that can help prevent leaks. While high-mileage oils won’t repair existing leaks or engine problems, it will help keep a well-maintained engine running longer. 

Best Places to Get an Oil Change

1. A Reliable Independent Local Service Center

We all know a place that’s been recommended by a friend or family member for our automotive needs. A small, or sometimes not-so-small, privately-owned service center that is known for high-quality service. If you haven’t found one in your town, you can ask around and look on community forums. This is a shop that basically does all required car maintenance services. These auto repair shops are great because they typically only hire ASE Certified technicians and can still come in lower at price than most dealerships. And since they are privately owned, their tire-and-lube technicians are trained in-house. Owners of these shops know how important word of mouth is for their business, so they are often trustworthy businesses to deal with. But never take a single person or written review as your only indicator. Dig into the shop’s online ratings and comments before you decide to use it. Being a service center, it usually isn’t hard to find one that will include a free tire rotation and brake inspection either, since they do make their money fixing cars and all.

2. Your Vehicle Dealership

In terms of quality, this is usually the top-of-the-line. Not only will your dealership have factory-trained technicians, but there’s no technician more familiar with your particular make of vehicle than someone who works on them all day every day. There’s also the safety of knowing that he/she may be able to tell if there are any other problems with your vehicle through a computer diagnostics check and a short drive around the block that usually comes with a dealership oil change. This can nip unknown problems early before they get to be truly expensive to fix. This doesn’t mean that other service providers can’t use these methods, it’s simply that dealership technicians typically work on the same make of vehicle every day; they will know more about what to look for on certain models than general technicians would. Many dealerships also offer little perks like a free car wash after service, but dealers are going to be the priciest choice on this list. 

3. Big Name Service Station

By this one we mean a place like Sears Auto Service Center or Wal-Mart’s Tire and Lube Express, or any national chain auto shop that isn’t just a quick lube but, instead, offers additional mechanical services. In terms of quality, this one can be hit or miss. Many of these shops have a high turnover rate for technicians and employ young and inexperienced technicians. As for price, this is the middle of the road. The biggest drawback is that many of these chains only use certain types of oil and filters, so if you’re picky about your parts it may cost you extra.

4. Lube Stop, Jiffy Lube, Pep Boys, Valvoline Instant Oil Change, Any Other 10-Minute Oil Change Service

Remember when your mother told you that it’s better to take your time and do something right than to have to do it twice? That still seems like a pretty good rule. Quick-stop oil change stations are convenient, but they also suffer the highest turnover rate and least experienced technicians. Because they specialize in providing quick service, sometimes quality can suffer. Oil filters can get stuck, grease fittings can go bad, and drain plugs strip out. When you’re rushing to get a job done, little problems like these can turn into big problems if they’re dealt with hastily. Unless you’re in a pinch or know someone personally who works at one of these stations whom you can trust to work on your vehicle, the quick-stop oil change stations are not the best choice.

5. Do It Yourself

In terms of cost and quality, this one is all up to you. The big question is, do you have the necessary time and knowledge to DIY? As we said before, an oil change is a simple thing, but problems can occur. Most of these problems can be avoided altogether by doing your own work, but you should know what you’re doing for safety’s sake if none other. If you’re a technician or car junkie, and you can safely perform the oil change on your own, this is the cheapest option, and the quality of work is totally in your hands – as long as you’ve got the time and expertise.

Bottom Line:

When choosing an oil change place, you should always do your research and go with your gut. Whether you’ve had a good experience at an instant oil change service, or have a trusted mechanic to do the job for you, what’s most important is that you change your oil according to your car’s owner’s manual using the correct oil at the right time intervals. Remember that low oil or compromised oil from not changing your car’s oil on a timely schedule could damage your engine and shorten the life expectancy of your vehicle. 

This article, Best Places to Get an Oil Change, originally appeared on iSeeCars.com.

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Are your old video games worth anything?

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Are your old video games worth anything?

(NEXSTAR) – Thinking about unloading your old video game collection for some serious loot? Here’s hoping you remembered to keep those cartridges in mint condition.

Top-quality games of yesteryear are currently selling for big bucks at auction, with such titles as “The Legend of Zelda” and “Super Mario 64” going for $870,000 and $1.56 million, respectively, at auctions earlier this year. Other popular games commonly fetch upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, depending of course on their condition and desirability.

“Interest in collectible video games doesn’t seem to be slowing down,” says Valarie McLeckie, the managing director of video games at Texas-based Heritage Auctions.

McLeckie, a collector herself, has been with Heritage Auctions for as long as they’ve been offering games, overseeing the sales of the aforementioned Zelda and Mario titles, among thousands of others.

“People have been collecting video games since video games have been made,” McLeckie notes. “There are people who have been collecting them to build a library of playable games. But there’s also a community that has been actively collecting sealed games since games have been around.”

It’s the gamers in that second group — the ones collecting sealed games — that are more likely to pay up for certain titles. And that’s become especially true in recent years, now that authentication organizations can certify and grade individual copies for collectors.

An unopened copy of Nintendo’s “Super Mario 64” sold at auction for $1.56 million in July. Heritage Auctions in Dallas said the sale of the 1996 video game broke its previous record price for the sale of a single title. (Heritage Auctions via AP)

WataGames, one of the most prominent video-game grading organizations, does this by assigning ratings based on a 10-point scale, taking into account the condition of the cartridges, the manuals, and the boxes, and whether the games are still factory-sealed or “complete in a box” (CIB), meaning they’ve been opened, but still come with the manual, sleeve, and any other components from the original package. Wata even assigns a grade based on the quality of the shrink wrap on sealed games.

“Their job is whether or not to say whether the game is genuine, or the seal,” says McLeckie, whose auction house utilizes Wata’s ratings when cataloging games.

Certain specific titles, however, are obviously more in-demand than others — sealed or not. But there’s recently been a shift toward more mainstream games, according to McLeckie.

“Prior to this boom in interest in collectible video games, collectors wanted titles that were rare, hard to find. Obscure, even. But with all the recent activity in the market, there’s been an increase in focus on games that have been universally popular, like ‘Super Mario Bros.’”

Games for the Nintendo Entertainment System are among the most coveted, she says, likely because the NES was so universally beloved upon its debut, giving rise to mainstream interest in gaming. But there’s “definitely” interest in games for other consoles, especially original PlayStation titles. In fact, one of the highlights of Heritage’s upcoming video game auction in October is a sealed long box copy of “Resident Evil” released for PlayStation in 1996.  

“A lot of culturally iconic series got their start on PlayStation,” McLeckie explains.

With buyers having such high standards for certain games produced for specific consoles, it’s no wonder that only the top-tier titles — in near-mint condition — make it to the auction block. But that doesn’t mean everything else is worthless.

The online market for old games in the less-than-perfect condition is still strong with collectors. Depending on the title, the right game could fetch hundreds, and sometimes thousands on eBay, according to recent confirmed sales. Just this month, a CIB copy of “Super Mario Bros.” sold for over $240 on eBay, while Wata-graded copies of CIB NES games went for over $1,000. (Loose games, however, were generally selling in the range of tens of dollars.)

“We’re finding that popularity and cultural relevance, combined with a high condition in a sealed state, are generally what buyers in the market are hungriest for,” McLeckie says. “But the interesting thing about collectibles is everyone buys into them for different reasons.”

To her point, McLeckie notes that the most valuable games she personally owns are probably a few CIB titles in the Pokemon series, but her absolute favorite game, and the one that holds a special place in her heart, is “Luigi’s Mansion” for the Nintendo GameCube, which she remembers playing — and beating — with her mother when she was younger.

“I’m getting to the point where I’m trying to get really nice CIBs of games that I played as a kid,” she says.

“And finding a sealed copy of a game is hard,” McLeckie says. “That’s not what these games were designed for. They were made to open and play.”

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Residents fed up with monkey noises, racial slurs being played by neighboring home: ‘It’s disgusting’

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Residents fed up with monkey noises, racial slurs being played by neighboring home: ‘It’s disgusting’

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Several residents in the Virginia Beach neighborhood of Salem Lakes are fed up with their neighbor after they say he’s taunted them from behind his front door for more than a year.

In the past, Jannique Martinez said her neighbor blasted banjo music so loudly that it would shake her home. And recently, after alerting the police about the music, Martinez said her neighbor has retaliated by playing racial slurs and monkey noises.

“Whenever we would step out of our house, the monkey noises would start,” explained Martinez. “And it’s so racist and it’s disgusting.”

Martinez, a veteran of the military, recorded some of the audio on her cell phone. She says the noises and slurs continue even when her school-age children are playing outside.

“My son is terrified of him. Terrified, terrified,” Martinez said about her child. “The N-word situation… They came to me and said, ‘Mom, what’s that?’ I didn’t subject my kids to that. I didn’t think they would ever have to learn what this means.”

Her family isn’t the only one feeling harassed by the neighbor’s antics. Other families in the cul-de-sac have songs played while they’re outside as well.

“He has played music to taunt the entire cul-de-sac,” said Martinez, who explained that her neighbors are antagonized with their own “specific song” as soon as they pull up in their driveways.

In addition to the sounds, neighbors are concerned about the home security cameras on his property.

“We are constantly under surveillance,” Martinez explained. “There are a total of eight cameras that we know of.”

A Virginia Beach police spokeswoman told WAVY that officers have responded to nine complaints about the neighbor’s activity. Seven of those calls were for nuisance complaints, and another three were in reference to parking or traffic complaints. So far, there have not been any criminal charges pressed against the neighbor in question.

Police tell WAVY the complaint would have to match certain criteria before the possibility of criminal charges is on the table.

Still, Martinez feels like nothing has been done to make her, or her neighbors, feel safe at their homes.

“I actually felt helpless a little bit. Because I’ve gone to the magistrate, I’ve gone to civil court, I’ve talked to a lawyer, she said. “I’ve done what I can to do it the right way.”

Neighbors were told there’s a fine line of when police can actually step in — and having a racial slur played over a recording may not meet that line.

According to the law, it’s just a statement or a phrase or he’s not doing enough or bodily harm or threats to my family, said Martinez.

“Why does it have to go that far before something that can be done? People shouldn’t have to live like this. I spent 11 years in the military. My husband is also in the military. We fought for this country, but yet there’s no one to fight for us.”

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Why the Monroe County Undersheriff won’t stop running

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Why the Monroe County Undersheriff won’t stop running

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Undersheriff Korey Brown is running a 5K every day during the month of September to say thank you and help raise money for the C.U.R.E. Childhood Cancer Association.

“As many people know my grandson was diagnosed with cancer on two separate occasions before he was three years old,” Brown said. “C.U.R.E. Childhood Cancer Awareness just was so tremendously helpful. I tried to think of something I could do to give back.”

In September, along with nine other people who work for the Sheriff’s Office run a 5K every day Brown said and then post a picture of a child that day on Facebook and Twitter and ask for donations to C.U.R.E. for the families, they are sponsoring.

Kara Gielenfeldt is Brown’s Administrative Assistant at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. She’s hoping to make a difference too.

“I also work for a company called Usborne Books and More and they do a fundraiser where I can get funds and get a stuffed bear and a book combo to give kids going through cancer Gielenfeldt said.

Undersheriff Brown calls his grandson Joel a walking miracle Brown said when a child is diagnosed with cancer it’s a life-changing moment for everyone in that child’s life.

“If you’ve never gone through it, you don’t really comprehend how life-changing this event is when your child is diagnosed with cancer,” Brown said. “My daughter, I think, spent a total of 10 months living at the hospital.”

Brown says If one parent is living with one child at the hospital and the other parent is at home with the other children, they help with things like getting your grass cut or help with extra payments that you have to make because you’re missing employment, or just giving parking vouchers so when people come to visit you.

“They really fill that gap you don’t even realize exists until you’re there,” Brown said. “They’re coming by constantly just seeing what support you need and how they can point you in the right direction. They really are a light when you’re going through such a hard time.”

Gielenfeldt has witnessed the impact of C.U.R.E.’s kindness. “It’s just nice that they have a support system that’s there and helpful. They’re just really great. I have loved working with them with the Undersheriff because they’re just so helpful and kind people,” she said.

The fundraiser goes through the end of September. To donate visit Korey Brown’s Facebook page, his Twitter @usbrownmcso, or go to curekidscancer.com/donate.

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