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!

World, meet Colton Matthew Herman!

Ryan Herman’s little boy was born yesterday at 7:05 p.m. Colton Matthew Herman was 7 pounds, 13.8 ounces and 20.5 inches tall. Here’s the first photo of Baby Hermanator:

Click on the photo for a better view. Please join me in sending congratulations to Ryan and Jaclyn!

Also, Justin “The Kid” Hill is covering for Herman over the next two weeks, so if you have any suggestions or ideas, hit him up at jhill@freedomenc.com.

Morning News Report; March 28, 2012

Bloggees: before I get started, I want to send a sincere thank you to all of you who took the time to write, call, email, Facebook and tweet me and our Free Press family while we mourned the loss of our friend and coworker, Charles Buchanan.

We’ve had several columns and tributes to the man, including my Sunday column, Jon Dawson’s column yesterday and even a poignant letter to the editor from former Free Press City Editor Jennifer Shrader.

We miss Charles. It’s been awful at the office this week without him … I keep waiting for him to poke his head in my office and I can’t pass his office without getting a lump in my throat.

We lost a good one, y’all — and it’s going to be very hard for The Free Press to recover from this loss.

CELL PHONE USE BY DRIVERS BANNED IN CHAPEL HILL

The town of Chapel Hill became the first in the nation to ban the use of cell phones by all drivers in its city limits. The ban is for traditional and hands-free phones.

My take: Thanks, Big Brother. We, as humans, are too stupid to make our own decisions, so it’s nice we have a government (at least in Chapel Hill) that cares enough to take care of us.

Sarcasm intended.

DODGERS SOLD FOR $2 BILLION

The L.A. Dodgers are set to be sold for (gulp!) $2 billion by a group that includes Magic Johnson.

My take: Wow … just wow. And we wonder why it costs $300 for a family of four to go to one of 81 home games a year for a MLB game. Jeez.

MEGA MILLIONS HITS $476 MILLION JACKPOT (OR MORE)

After no one won the Mega Millions jackpot last night, Friday’s estimated total is (gulp!) $476 million. There were three-hour waits last night for tickets in some areas.

My take: Yep … I’m not a big lottery ticket buyer, but I’ll be one of those idiots buying $5 worth of tickets for Friday’s drawing.

The iPod shuffle

The Tide Is High — Blondie

Electric Avenue — Eddy Grant

Damn Girl — Justin Timberlake featuring will.i.am

The Electric Co. — U2

Always Be My Baby — Mariah Carey

Rest in peace, Charles Buchanan

This is a tremendously sad day at The Free Press, where we have lost our co-worker, our dear friend and the most talented photographer I have ever worked alongside in Charles Buchanan.

Charles was the most professional photojournalist I’ve ever known. He was ethical to his core — if he was covering an event, he was NEVER late and he treated every single assignment as if it was the most important assignment he was ever going to shoot.

He had an eye for shots the average person couldn’t see — until they were on my desk (and later in your paper or on your screen).

Please join me and our Free Press family in praying for the love of Charles’ life, his beautiful wife Patsy.

Afternoon News Report; March 22, 2012

GET A HAIRCUT, HELP THE SPCA

Just got back from Tonya Sessoms Adam’s Beauty Box, where I got a haircut and the HB got a pedicure. Today, Adams’ business is donating 50 percent of all proceeds (she’s personally donating ALL her personal proceeds) to the SPCA.

My take: Please check it out — you can call Tonya at 252-522-3939 to set up an appointment. And if you can’t make it today, make a call and buy a gift certificate. Additionally, if you bring dog or cat food by, you can get a free gift certificate.

The SPCA does a tremendous job helping animals in our area — a mostly thankless, tough job. Please help them if you can.

SAINTS COACH SUSPENDED FOR A YEAR

The NFL punished New Orleans head coach Sean Payton by suspending him for a year — costing Payton $7.5 million in the process. The Saints also lost draft picks, paid a fine and the principal figure behind the mess (Gregg Williams) is suspended indefinitely.

My take: Pretty harsh, but not unfair in my opinion. If the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell was trying to send a message, I’d say it’s been delivered. Now, if only MLB, the NBA and the NHL had similar strong commissioners, they might be better off, too.

TEBOW AND THE JETS

Tim Tebow was traded from the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets yesterday.

My take: Very, very curious — simply because the Jets already have a franchise quarterback to whom they recently paid a lot of money. I just don’t see how this is going to work — is Tebow going to play four to 10 plays a game (which I’ve heard mentioned)? Is he going to play in a fullback-type position? Again, just a curious move by the Jets.

The iPod shuffle

Cat Scratch Fever — Ted Nugent

Big Me — Foo Fighters

Electrical Storm — U2

A Man And A Woman — U2

Hold It Now, Hit It — Beastie Boys

Afternoon News Report; March 21, 2012

CHERRY POINT GENERAL APOLOGIZES FOR LOW FLIGHTS OVER KINSTON AIRSPACE

The Cherry Point Marine general whose helicopters flew over Kinston airspace last week without notifying residents apologized to the city of Kinston at this week’s City Council meeting.

My take: It was a very gracious act by the general, albeit unnecessary. Like many of you, I appreciate the hard work our military does to protect us.

But it’s this simple: the general knew his Marines did something wrong by causing a public stir — if residents had known this was going to happen, there wouldn’t have been a problem at all. But when an entire city is wondering why there are “unmarked” helicopters hovering over their heads and 911 lines are burning up with no answers, that causes a problem. The general knew it and he more than rectified the situation.

And anyone who says, “We should allow the military to do whatever they need to do to protect us” or that we shouldn’t question what our military does, go ahead and bury your head in the sand. Those reasons could be used for a multitude of things — and our constitution protects us from them.

IMAGE OF SLAIN UNC PREZ BEING USED IN INDIAN ADS

In one of the most disturbing stories of the day, the photo of slain UNC student president Eve Carson is being used in billboard ads in India.

My take:Insane. More insane is that there is no one to answer questions or to take her pictures off the billboards.

HINES WARD RETIRES

After being cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers, wide receiver Hines Ward announced his retirement yesterday instead of signing with another team.

My take: Pretty classy — especially since there were a handful of teams ready to sign him. It’s refreshing in this day and age of free agency to see a professional athlete THAT dedicated to a city and franchise.

The iPod shuffle

Pinball Wizard — Elton John

If You Could See — Tonic

Discotheque (Hexidecimal Mix) — U2

Not Afraid — U2

Ante Up (Robbin-Hoodz Theory) — M.O.P.

Want two State-ECU baseball tickets? (updated with winner)

Just realized I have two N.C. State-ECU baseball tickets in my possession. The game begins at 6 p.m., so the first person to email me at bhanks@freedomenc.com gets ‘em.

You need to be able to come by TFP office by 5:30 p.m. to collect them.

UPDATE 4:50 P.M.: Congrats to Reid Rouse for winning the tickets! Listen — I have tickets to every home game, so if I forget to throw them up here for a giveaway, remind me to start a contest!

Morning News Report; March 20, 2012

Before we get started today, allow me to wish Darrell Hanks — my awesome little brother — a happy birthday. He’s about the coolest person I know — seriously (even cooler than Jon Dawson? Yes!) – and arguably the best dad out there. Want to wish him a happy birthday, too? Check out his blog by clicking here. Happy birthday, Darrell!

And now … your MNR:

PEYTON TO THE BRONCOS

A press conference has been called by the Denver Broncos this afternoon to allegedly announce the signing of Peyton Manning to their roster.

Of course, this means the Broncos have two starting quarterbacks on their team — remember Tim Tebow? — meaning Denver is probably looking to trade the Chosen One.

My take: Gotta admit — I’m surprised because I figured Peyton would end up with Miami or Arizona. He’s 38 35 (thanks, Paul Thompson!), has a creaky neck and has ALWAYS played his home games in a dome. He DOES know it gets cold in the Mile-High City, right? Wondering how he’s going to do in December when it’s 10-below at game time.

That’s why I thought warm weather locales like Miami and Arizona (and even San Francisco, who got involved over the weekend) would be better fits. But hey, he knows best, right?

As for the trainwreck known as Tim Tebow, can’t wait to see what franchise he wrecks next. Probably Jacksonville, where his cult followers will sell out that ratty-ass stadium that has had to black out home games for several years now, although Miami is also listed as a possible destination (although the Dolphins signed former ECU QB David Garrard yesterday).

ILLINOIS HOLDS PIVOTAL GOP PRIMARY TODAY

All eyes are on Illinois today as GOP front-runner Mitt Romney and underdog Rick Santorum battle it out for valuable delegates in one of President Obama’s home states.

My take: Admittedly, Santorum is making this a race worth watching, although the experts say he is merely forcing Romney to spend more money to win a nomination that is probably already Romney’s.

One argument I’ve heard against that though, is this: it didn’t hurt Obama when he and Hillary Clinton went head-to-head in 2008 … and that’s a pretty damned good argument. They kept their names in the news during what would’ve been meaningless primaries while John McCain ran away with the GOP nomination.

SOUTHERN NASH STUDENT STABBED

A female student had her throat stabbed this morning at Southern Nash High School by another female student.

My take: Yikes. Justin “The Kid” Hill and I spoke to a group of sixth-graders at Woodington Middle School last month and we ate in their lunchroom. I was shocked to learn that you couldn’t get a real knife, spoon or fork — you could only get one of those in the plastic variety.

Seriously? I had yummy Salisbury steak that day and nearly broke my plastic knife and plastic fork trying to eat it.

But it’s stories like this that make me realize that yes, it’s 2012 and we can’t allow kids to have silverware because they’ll stab each other with it. Wow.

The iPod shuffle

Millionaire — Kelis featuring Andre 3000

Your Love Is My Drug — Ke$ha

Megablast — Public Enemy

Union Of The Snake — Duran Duran

Live Your Life — T.I. featuring Rihanna

Morning News Report; March 19, 2012

HOW’S YOUR BRACKET?

Mine’s not too shabby, as I have 10 of the Sweet 16; I still have seven of the Elite Eight and three of the Final Four (my decision to have Murray State as a surprise Final Four participant has blown up in my face).

Lots of intriguing storylines from the first two rounds (I refuse to call the First Four games the first round — yes, I’m a rebel that way), including the unfortunate breaking of Kendall Marshall’s wrist, Duke’s early exit and N.C. State’s first Sweet 16 appearance in a decade.

My takes: For all those who thought Tyler Zeller, John Henson or Harrison Barnes was UNC’s most important player and worthy of first-team All-ACC status over Marshall … now you’re going to find out. I think the Tar Heels will have enough to get past Ohio, but that Kansas game is a hell of a lot tougher without Marshall.

Like many of you, I was frankly shocked by Duke’s performance on Friday. I didn’t have any allusions of the Blue Devils going to the Final Four, but I thought they could make it past Lehigh. What this tells me is that Mike Krzyzewski did a hell of a job coaching this team. What this also tells me is that he needs to recruit a little better or Duke is truly falling behind.

And congrats, Wuffies — you’re at least one and maybe two years ahead of schedule. With one of the top recruiting classes coming in next year, it’s not inconceivable to think State could make a run at the Final Four next year.

KEVIN WILSON FOLO

As announced here last week, South Lenoir football coach Kevin Wilson formally announced his retirement from coaching last week. His decision was family-based and he’ll remain on staff as a teacher.

My take: Yes, it’s a true familial-based decision, but there might not have been a better time for Wilson — a man I truly respect and admire — to get out. There was so much infighting and bitterness in Deep Run this past season, I don’t know how anyone could’ve put up with it.

My unsolicited advice to Lisa Smith, Steve Saint Amand and the Blue Devils — make a decision and make it soon. This does not need to linger over several months. You have the best fan base and financial support in Lenoir County and that fan base expects some results.

EARLY VOTING: DON’T BE SKEERED

My Sunday column was on Lenoir County being approved for Sunday voting during the primary — and the fact that folks shouldn’t be afraid of it.

My take: I love how people in hushed tones — and looking around to see if anyone is listening to them — say things like, “You know THOSE churches encourage their people to vote a certain way.” Replace THOSE with any adjective you’d like — black, urban, country or white — and that’s what is implied.

Good grief — go vote. Anything that gets more folks into a voting booth is a good thing.

And I meant what I said in the column: if you have proof that your minister, preacher, priest or rabbi is encouraging you to vote in a certain way, please let me know.

The iPod shuffle

Just Like A Woman — Bob Dylan

Touch Me — The Doors

Crazy Train — Ozzy Osbourne

Johnny Ryall — The Beastie Boys

Let It Rock — Bon Jovi