Officials in China have reportedly been cracking down on the latest trademarked merchandise rip-off in that country: phony Apple stores selling iPads, iPods, iPhones, and other popular “Mac” electronic gadgetry.

The Associated Press reported that an American living with her husband in the city of Kunming, in the southern Yunnan province, “stumbled on three shops masquerading as bona fide Apple stores in the city” in July. “She took photos and posted them on her BirdAbroad blog.” A subsequent blog posting includes a YouTube video walk-through of one of the stores to show the effort that was put into making the counterfeit store seem like the real thing.

The 27-year-old blogger said the phony stores were so convincing that even the employees appeared to think they were working for the real company. “It looked like an Apple store,” she wrote. “It had the classic Apple store winding staircase and weird upstairs sitting area. The employees were even wearing those blue T-shirts with the chunky Apple name tags around their necks.” But, she added, “some things were just not right: the stairs were poorly made. The walls hadn’t been painted properly. Apple never writes ‘Apple Store’ on its signs — it just puts up the glowing, iconic fruit.”

In today’s extremely unsettled financial climate, one can hardly blame Venezuela or its erratic leader, Hugo Chavez, for deciding to bring home the gold.

Oil-rich Venezuela also has the world’s 15th largest gold reserves, most of them squirreled away in Bank of England vaults. Now, Chavez has authorized the return of Venezuela’s gold to Venezuelan soil, fearing that, at some juncture, any overseas assets could be frozen and seized by foreign authorities, as has been done with those of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The clownishly villainous Hugo Chavez has long worn the mantle, once borne by Cuba’s Castro, of America’s official enemy south of the border. His country and regime are now embroiled in a series of international litigations for Venezuela’s nationalizing of certain foreign assets — a Canadian gold mine at Las Cristinas and an American mining operation at Las Brisas, for example. Chavez is obviously worried that Venezuelan gold and liquid assets abroad could be seized and held as collateral.

Like the clichéd stopped clock that twice a day reads the correct time, Chavez’ militantly socialist regime appears to be doing a prudent thing, albeit for the wrong motives.

While unemployment nationwide remains above nine percent in the United States, the State Department continues to bring in foreign exchange students to work for American employers. And at least some of the students aren't happy about it when they get here.

More than 100 student workers walked off the job for the second straight day yesterday and gathered in front of the Hershey Story Museum in downtown Hershey, Pennsylvania, for a protest demonstration over pay and working conditions at the candy maker's Eastern Distribution Center III in nearby Palmyra. About 400 exchange students from as far away as China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Turkey, and Romania are employed for the summer at the plant, at wages ranging from $7.25 to $8.35 an hour. But several of the protestors said lifting heavy boxes in a warehouse all day is not what they expected and that the payroll deductions, including rent for the mandatory company housing, leaves them with barely enough to live on.

"I pick up boxes that are 40 pounds — I weigh 95 pounds," Yana Bzengney, a 19-year-old student from Ukraine, told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. She paid $3,500 for the chance to come to the United States and to see the country and its people and maybe visit New York and Washington, D.C, she said. Instead, she has seen little more than the inside of the warehouse.

With the President’s announcement of higher mileage requirements — to 54.5 mpg on new cars and trucks sold in the United States by the year 2025 — came the usual promises of less dependence upon foreign oil and reduced “greenhouse gas” emissions. Said the White House blog, “Taken together, the standards established under this Administration span Model Years 2011-2015. They will save consumers money, reduce our dependence on oil, and protect the environment.”

Thanks to the standards, consumers will save an estimated $1.7 trillion dollars in real fuel costs of the life of their vehicles.

By 2025, the standards are projected to save families an estimated $8,200 in fuel savings [sic] over the lifetime of a new vehicle, [compared to] the Model Year 2010.

We will need to use less oil. [The standards] will reduce oil consumption by an estimated 2.2 million barrels a day.

Do you remember the mess our economy was in when Ronald Reagan took office 30 years ago? Five years earlier, during the 1976 campaign, Jimmy Carter had hammered away at the so-called Misery Index, the combination of unemployment and the inflation rate. In the summer of 1976, it reached 13.57 percent; and worried voters handed the keys to the White House to the peanut farmer.

Unfortunately, Jimmy did nothing to make things better. By 1980, when he was running for re-election against Ronald Reagan, the Misery Index had climbed to an all-time high of 21.9 percent — more than 61 percent higher. Ouch! As a result, the voters booted him out and decided to give the former Governor of California a chance.

But all Reagan did for the next four years was blame Jimmy Carter for the mess he inherited, while things in the country got worse and worse.

Ha-ha, just making sure you’re paying attention.

It is strangely apt that the stock market this week has been experiencing turbulence, in the wake of Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S credit and fears of a double-dip recession. After all, this week marks the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s removal of the United States from the last vestiges of the gold standard, an action that ushered in 40 years of fiat monetary instability. For four decades we’ve been in a state of almost constant financial crisis, from the stagflationary ‘70s through the savings and loan debacle and stock market crash of the ‘80s to the more recent dot-com and real estate bubbles and their messy aftermaths.

And now this. After 40 years of a “new normal,” the nations of the West are exhausted and bankrupt. Debt in Europe and the United States is spiraling out of control while economies stagnate, and all central bankers can think of is what they’ve been doing since the Nixon years (and, in truth, a lot longer than that): print more money.

I don’t want to sound like Lansberry, the legendary Pittsburgher who walked around town for decades with a protest sign saying that the government was withholding his mail, but I’m missing about 300 pieces of mail.

My problem started in June when I went to my local post office and filled out a mail forwarding card, as I do every year in June, stating that our mail should be re-routed temporarily to our house in Sea Isle, New Jersey, for five weeks.

We probably get an average of 10 pieces of mail a day, not counting the junk mail, so in five weeks that’s about 300 pieces of mail.
 
It worked every year, except this year. Each week, we’d get no mail for four or five days and then one piece would arrive.
 
I checked Sea Isle’s post office and they had no idea of why so little mail was arriving.

I don’t know Peter Gadiel, and he apparently knows absolutely nothing about me. But that hasn’t stopped him from attacking me in a recent article (Influential Conservative is Dangerously Wrong on E-Verify). His article makes some outrageous statements about me, even to presume he can tell you what motives are in my head when I take a position.

Recently, I released an article entitled “E-Verify and the Emerging Surveillance State.” My opposition to E-Verify is that it is a major tool in the creation of a surveillance society; will give the government the power to decide who works and who doesn’t in America; will be a great burden on both worker and business; and will do absolutely nothing to protect us from illegal immigration or terrorism. In short, E-Verify represents another false promise of security and a greater threat to our freedom.

The latest ranking of contractors providing services to the federal government reveals that at least nine of the top 10 are tied to the Department of Defense and took in nearly $70 billion of the government’s money in 2010. Leading the pack as it has for the past 17 years is Lockheed Martin, with $17 billion, followed by Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon, and General Dynamics.

The top 27 contractors each received at least $1 billion in contracts from the government last year, with Number 100 on the list, Teledyne, getting $170 million. This reflects the enormous growth of government spending in general, and on outside vendors in particular, growing from $207 billion in 2000 to $535 billion last year.

Seattle, Washington, is one of 25 communities that received $20 million from the Stimulus program as part of “Retrofit Ramp Up” — an initiative of the Department of Energy in which stimulus dollars are utilized to make homes more energy efficient. The program was touted as one that would create 2000 “green” jobs in the city of Seattle and retrofit at least 2000 homes. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But there’s just one problem. The program is a massive failure.

“Retrofit Ramp-Up,” according to Vice President Joe Biden who announced the program, sought to accomplish the following:

It’s about making our homes and our office buildings more efficient and more comfortable and more affordable, replacing windows and doors. I have visited, along with some of the people in the front row, new window and door factories making incredibly -- incredibly energy-efficient windows and doors, which can save billions of dollars over time. Putting in new air conditioning or heating units that are much more efficient. Sealing up cracks and openings where air can leak into and out of your home.

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