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SBA issues national scam alert

March 7, 2009
By Wayne Sheets, Contributing Business Writer

The U.S. Small Business Administration issued a scam alert last week to small businesses, warning them not to respond to letters falsely claiming to have been sent by the SBA asking for bank account information in order to qualify them for federal tax rebates. The fraudulent letters were sent out with what appears to be an SBA letterhead to small businesses across the country, advising recipients that they may be eligible for a tax rebate under the Economic Stimulus Act, and that SBA is assessing their eligibility for such a rebate. The letter asks the small business to provide the name of its bank and account number.

These letters have not been sent by or authorized by the SBA, and all small businesses are strongly advised not to respond to them. The scheme is similar in many ways to e-mail scams often referred to as "phishing" that seek personal data and financial account information that enables another party to access and individual's bank accounts or to engage in identity theft.

The SBA is working with the SBA Office of Inspector General to investigate this matter. The Office of Inspector General asks that anyone who receives such a letter report it to the OIG Fraud Line at 800-767-0385, or e-mail OIGHotline@sba.gov.

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As we all know, health care takes a bigger bite out of our income every day and our representatives are struggling to find ways of curbing its rising costs. Whether they will be successful or not remains to be seen. In the meantime, here are a couple of sobering facts about health care's rapidly escalating costs.

The report by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services issued on Feb. 24, "accelerates the day of reckoning," said economist John Palmer of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.

"It is bringing home more immediately the problematic dimensions of what we face," added Palmer, who has served as a trustee overseeing Social Security and Medicare finances. "The picture was bad enough 10 years from now, but the fact that everything is accelerating gives greater impetus to be concerned about health reform."

The report found health care costs will average $8,160 this year for every man, woman and child, an increase of $356 per person from last year.

Meanwhile, the number of uninsured has risen to about 48 million, according to a new estimate by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The government statisticians estimated that health costs will reach $13,100 per person in 2018, accounting for $1 out of every $5 spent in the economy.

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Anne Beardslee, a member of the board of directors of the Elkins Depot Welcome Center, has asked me to let everyone know that while the Ramp Festival will no longer be sponsored, organized and executed by the Randolph County Convention and Visitors' Bureau, it will continue to be held albeit under the name of The Ramps and Rail Festival. The Elkins Depot Welcome Center and the Randolph County Development Authority will sponsor this year's event.

"The event will be on April 25 at the town square in the old Elkins railroad yard from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.," Beardslee said. "This year's event will be filled with music, food and crafts. Specific information for vendors and other participants will be forthcoming in a couple of weeks."

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It is hard to imagine when admiring the heavens on a clear night that a phenomenal out-of-this-world industry is in progress up there among the stars. As hard as that may be to imagine, there is a staggering about of money changing hands over our heads - rather than under the table.

According to Project Ploughshares' Space Security 2008 report, the revenue amassed worldwide in 2006 by the global commercial space satellite industry amounted to a staggering $143.31 billion. This includes profits from telecommunications and direct broadcast services. Money isn't the only thing being amassed up there, however - space is also becoming a humongous junk yard.

Since the Russians launched the beach ball-sized Sputnik I on Oct. 4, 1957, the sky has become a proverbial junkyard - not that all those objects "up there" is junk mind you, but aside from those useful objects floating over our heads there are, according to the February 2009 issue of Discover Magazine, an estimated 17,300 pieces of debris larger than 10 centimeters in diameter that are being tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network. The SSN also tracks more than 300,000 objects measuring between 1 and 10 centimeters and billions that are much smaller. The mix of space junk includes unused spacecraft, flecks of paint released by thermal stress, solid rocket engine effluents, and at least one astronaut toolbox.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists' Satellite Database, there are 898 active satellites currently in orbit. The countries that have the most in orbit are the United States with 463, Russia with 90 and China with 48.

One can't help but wonder how, when launching another space vehicle, it misses all those objects already up there.

There are 371 satellites in geostationary orbit at 22,370 miles where the satellites' speed matches the earth's rotation. There are 434 satellites in low earth orbit at 60 to 930 miles and 54 somewhere in between. It would take 30 days for a satellite to fall to earth from a low altitude of 190 miles. Satellites of 250 miles - where the International Space Station resides - would come down in a few years without a boost, says Nicholas Johnson, NASA's chief scientist for space debris. Object in geostationary orbit, those above the dragging effects of earth's atmosphere - could take more than a million years to fall. Perhaps the old adage "what goes up must come down" is still true - it just takes a lot longer for it to happen.

Ironically, NASA announced week before last that a private U.S. communications satellite collided with a defunct Russian satellite 490 miles above the earth last week scattering two large clouds of debris that threatened to intersect with the orbit of the International Space Station. According to the announcement, this was the first time two intact spacecraft accidentally ran into each other, and there have been only three recorded collisions of space junk in the past 20 years.

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The H.W. Daniels American Legion in Elkins will celebrate its 90th anniversary March 13. Social hour will commence at 6 p.m. and dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Tickets are $3 per person. West Virginia's American Legion Commander David Hall will be the keynote speaker. Everyone is invited to come out and join the celebration.

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It is about time once again to enjoy live entertainment at The American Mountain Theater. The theater will open its 2009 season on April 3, and will perform each Friday and Saturday through April. During the merry month of May, the cast will perform each Thursday, Friday and Saturday. In June, July, August and September performances will be on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They will perform every day except Sundays for the entire month of October.

Box office hours are from 9 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and shows start at 7:30 p.m.

Ticket prices are: adults 12 years of age and older, $22; seniors 55 and older, $20; groups of 12 or more, $20 each; children ages 5 to 11, $12; and children 4 years old and younger, free. Prices include 6 percent West Virginia sales tax.

Custom packages can be developed for groups of all sizes. The AMT Package Department will work with you to book lodging, meals and activities that fit your budget and schedule for a single price.

The theater is conveniently located in the historic Elkins railyard next door to the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Scenic Railroad in downtown Elkins.

This is a wonderful group of performers who provide a lively and exciting evening of entertainment - a value far in excess of the ticket price.

Those who have never seen the show really don't know what they've missed.

For more information, call the box office at 304-630-3040 or 800-943-3670. You may also fax your request for information to 304-636-7789, or e-mail them at info@americanmountaintheater.com.

 
 

 

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