Morning News Report; March 30, 2012

ADIOS TO BARNES, HENSON … AND MARSHALL

It was a sad day in Chapel Hill yesterday (but a pretty happy one in Durham, Raleigh and Charlottesville) when the trio of Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall declared its intent to head to the NBA.

My take: That group — including graduating senior Tyler Zeller — will go down as one of the most underachieving groups in ACC history. To have THAT much talent and not even make a Final Four is pretty embarrassing.

While I wasn’t that surprised by Barnes or even Henson leaving, gotta admit I was shocked by Marshall’s defection. He’s going to make someone a pretty damned good NBA point guard — and I hope he ends up playing for my Boston Celtics or Charlotte Bobcats.

And before ABCers start dancing in the streets, remember there’s a heck of a lot of talent still on the Hill — including our own Reggie Bullock, who (IMO) becomes the focal point of the Carolina offense next season. Would anyone be surprised if he averages 15-17 points and 4-6 rebounds a game in 2012-13?

I’ll say this, though — it’s setting up nicely for N.C. State, who’s bringing in three McDonald’s All-Americans. If C.J. Leslie stays (or even if he doesn’t), the Wuffies might be the ACC favorites next year.

WELCOME HOME, JEFF STEPHENS AND ASHTON BRINSON!

Jeff Stephens and Ashton Brinson were among five Lenoir Countians and 100 area servicemen to return from an eight-month tour of duty in Afghanistan yesterday.

My take: Gotta admit — this was one of those stories that’s just fun to write. If you see Jeff, Ashton, Jason Slavin, James Simmons or Jerry Harris, give them your sincere thanks for helping keep us free. THOSE guys are heroes.

BEST BUY CLOSING 50 STORES, RETHINKING STRATEGY

Remember when Best Buy was THE store to go to for CDs, electronics and cool stuff. Eh … not so much anymore. The company announced yesterday it is closing 50 stores and laying off 800 employees in an attempt to keep from going under.

My take: Just like Circuit City before it, Best Buy is having a really hard time in this economy — and changing consumer habits.

Customer service is a big reason for its failure, too — and that’s being overlooked here. Remember when BB was the king of customer service? That’s gone by the wayside, too.

The iPod shuffle

Magic Bus — The Who

Polly — Nirvana

The Great Gig In The Sky — Pink Floyd

I Can See For Miles — The Who

Whoomp! (There It Is) — Tag Team

Morning News Report; March 29, 2012

RESTAURANT OWNER: MY GUN WILL WORK NEXT TIME I’M ROBBED

Put this down as one of the coolest stories of the past few weeks — the owner of the Chinese restaurant that was robbed Tuesday night on Vernon Ave. attempted to shoot the man who robbed him. However, his gun wouldn’t fire.

The restaurant owner — Min Feng Chen — said it won’t happen next time, ’cause his gun WILL work.

My take: Reminds me of the story about Calvin Tso at the old China King getting robbed — and Mr. Calvin popped a cap in the robber and killed him (tried to find the link on Kinston.com and came up dry).

Listen, I have ABSOLUTELY NO problem with someone defending their property, business or family with a gun. That’s the beauty of our country — mess with a man’s property, business or family and like Mr. Calvin did — you might be carried off by the coroner’s office.

Do your thing, Mr. Min Feng Chen.

1 IN 88 CHILDREN ARE AUTISTIC

The CDC reports one in every 88 children has autism — a number that is almost double what it was just 10 years ago. In boys, autism is more pronounced, as one in 54 have it.

My take: That news staggers me. I have a few friends, including FOB Randy Capps, who have children with autism — and I admire those parents greatly who do such a great job with their kids with autism.

Why is autism in children increasing? We hear the numbers and read the stories about the children, but why — in 2012 — can’t we solve this?

Again, my hat is off to Randy and his lovely wife Shanna, who are simply awesome parents to Ethan — and to all those parents who are helping their children with autism.

APPLE SUED OVER SIRI FALSE ADVERTISING

Apple faces a class-action lawsuit about its’ Siri function — a false advertising suit claiming the voice-activated feature doesn’t do what it’s advertised to do.

My take: I’ve still got my year-old iPhone 4 without the Siri function — but even when I played around with some friends’ 4S, I realized it wasn’t what was advertised. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with this case.

The iPod shuffle

Say Say Say — Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney

Beautiful Day — U2

While You See A Chance — Steve Winwood

Here Comes The Sun — The Beatles

All The Above — On The Rocks

P.S.: Really looking forward to taping this week’s Free Press Radio Program with Jon “Music Elitist” Dawson and Justin “The Kid” Hill this afternoon — we’re going to each share our top 10 pop music acts in history. Dawson’s criteria for the lists includes most original, scope of influence and staying power. Of course, Dawson’s list is going to include seven acts you’ve NEVER heard of … but that’s how he’s earned his “music elitist” title!

Hint: you might see U2 in my list. I’ll post mine here later this afternoon, along with the link to the podcast so you can hear what Dawson and Hill think.

P.P.S.S.: I had a great morning at Seymour Johnson AFB welcoming home Jeff Stephens and Ashton Brinson, who are home after spending eight months in Afghanistan. I’m writing a story for tomorrow’s FP and I’ve got some extra pictures I’m going to share here on the blog.

I’m sure I’ll say this later, but let me say this here: Jeff and Ashton are HEROES — true heroes who put their lives on the line to make sure we still have our freedoms. If you know either of them, please welcome them home!

Let’s help a Ranger’s wife (UPDATED with photo of T-shirt)

From FOB (and former Army Ranger) Zack Liles, a former LCC and North Lenoir baseball star:

One of my good buddies was killed in action last Oct 1 2010 on our last deployment together. His name is SFC Lance Vogeler and by far one of the best guys I have ever known.We both served in 1st Ranger Battalion as mortar men!! He left behind a wife who was preganet at the time of his death and two other children from a previous marriage (she gave birth to their son on 29 Nov 2010 Colin Patrick Vogeler).

His wife Melissa is doing a Golf tournament on 3 Oct 2011 in Savannah GA in his honor and they have started a Lance Vogeler Memorial Fund and they have came with a T Shirt for the Memorial Fund and I have sent out various emails to everyone that I know in the surrounding Kinston area asking to please order a T shirt in his honor.

All the proceeds go directly to his family so I feel that we should all give back to the ones who paid the ultimate sacrafice for our Freedom. Im going to attach a pic, of all of us and a pic of the T shirt!! I also am attaching his website that I had created in his honor (http://www.sfcvogeler.com/). It was done by a College computer tech Class at Nash Community College that gladly took on the task in completing it as a class project!!

I was hoping that you could post this on your blog in honor of Lance and hopefully getting the word out to the community to help with this Awesome Memorial Fund. Im also working with his Father on doing a softball tournament in his honor in Kinston and we are just trying to pin down a date that works for his family!!

I really appreciate your time and hopefully we can get the WORD out thanks Brother!!

My take: Zack — put my order in for a XXL T-shirt. Bloggees — let’s help this wife and family of a TRUE American hero.

I’m also going to have one of my reporters do a story on this next week. PLEASE do what you can to help this family.

UPDATE 4:40 P.M.: Here is a photo of the T-shirt –

This is the best I could do with it — it’s as big as I could make it.

MNR follow-ups…

Stuff I couldn’t fit in today’s MNR:

  • Got an e-mail back from Zack Liles and he said he’s an infantryman stationed with the 1st Ranger Battalion in Savannah, Ga. I can send you his e-mail address if you’d like to write to one of the true heroes from this area.
  • Happy birthday to arguably this blog’s most faithful follower: Heelatious (B.J. Davis). Although he’s a Carolina fan and has a crazy brother, he’s still a pretty good guy and one of my favorite people in Lenoir County. Happy birthday, dude!
  • And another happy birthday to one of our long-timers — Jeff Howard! Ol’ Jeffrey recently became a grandfather, but he doesn’t look a day over 30. Good genes, I guess, and the great way he takes care of himself. Happy birthday, dude!
  • Our good friend Randy Capps posted this last week and I forgot to put it on here – but it is an awesome anecdote about his wonderful son. Last year, the HB and I were part of Ethan’s Angels and we’re also a part of the team again this year; I’m going to set up a donation page next week and I’m likely going to give away two tickets to the sold-out N.C. State-ECU football game as a prize for donating. When I get the details ironed out, I’ll post ‘em next week.

Red Cross dinner to honor volunteer firemen

We’ve had a few articles about this (and Mike Parker wrote an outstanding column), but I didn’t think it’d hurt to throw it up here, too: the local Red Cross chapter is hosting a fundraiser at King’s Restaurant on Saturday in which the volunteer firefighters of Lenoir County will be honored.

Tickets are $25 and all monies raised will be used to help the Red Cross. If you’d like more information — or if you’d like to buy a ticket for you or your family – contact Rita Spence at (252) 523-6454.

Will Jewell at Snowball Express

I wrote about Will Jewell in last Sunday’s Free Press — here are some pictures of him in California:

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These photos are courtesy of our sister paper in Anaheim, California — the Orange County Register. Josh Sudock is the awesome photographer who took these photos — thank you!

Again — if you’d like to donate to Snowball Express, click here. I can’t think of a better charity you could donate to this holiday season.

An unforgettable boy, an unforgettable organization

This is sort of a departure from our typical merriment on the ol’ blog, but I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read my story and my Sunday column about 9-year-old Will Jewell of Deep Run. He lost his father in a helicopter crash in the Anbar Province while fighting in the War on Terror in August 2007.

He’s an amazing young man — the grandson of Vickie Wessell and the nephew of former South Lenoir star pitcher Caleb Wessell — who has already been through a lot.

But he’s going to have an unforgettable few days beginning Tuesday, thanks to a California organization named the Snowball Express. The SE is bringing together 1,500 children of fallen heroes to Southern California for a five-day experience that is going to include trips to Disneyland, Universal Studios and other fun places.

The best part is this: it’s free to the child and his family. The whole organization, from the top down, is volunteer and everything is donated.

Check out the organization’s site at http://snowballexpress.org.

I hope you are as impressed with the organization as I am — and that if you’re in a position to donate, you could send them a few bucks this holiday season.

I also hope that if you see Will, Vickie, Caleb or Will’s great-grandfather (his other legal guardian, including Vickie), you’ll wish Will a great trip!

A true American hero

This was too good not to put here on the blog: our good friend John Johnson sent me this picture of a true American hero.

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From JJ’s e-mail:

This is Infantry Sergeant Daryl Williams of the United States Army.

A hero.

Here, he’s taking the oath of enlistment from his hospital bed at the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, July 9, 2008. This man refuses to allow his combat wounds to deter him from continuing to serve our nation. Notice the tattoo – a Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB). He’s been there before and he’ll be back there again.

Sergeant Williams is assigned to the Scout / Sniper Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad.

Thank you, Sgt. Williams.

My take: Amen, JJ, amen.  

As a sports guy, I spend way too much of my time idolizing and idealizing these overpaid chumps who get paid millions of dollars to play a freaking game on a field or court.

But you see a REAL MAN AND HERO like this, who loves his country so much that — despite his injuries — he is going to continue to defend it.

Guys and gals, this is a hero. God bless America and those men and women who protect her for us so we can look at Eye Candy and post stupid things on a blog without the fear of being censored or thrown into jail.

P.S. Here’s a set of press releases on the story; FYI, it’s in PDF form.