12/29: On digital currency; Warranty scam; Middle class and tax plan

GwinnettForum  |  Number 16.73  |  Dec. 29, 2017

LIGHTHOUSES OF COASTAL GEORGIA are essentially wrapped in history. Here’s the Cockspur Lighthouse that marks the South Channel of the Savannah River.  (Photo courtesy National Park Service.) For more in Georgia lighthouses, see Georgia Tidbit below.
TODAY’S FOCUS: Here’s a Short Tutorial on the World of Digital Currency
EEB PERSPECTIVE: Here’s Another Scam Attempt, This Time on a Warranty
ANOTHER VIEW: Tax Plan Means Middle Class Pays More and Income Inequality Grows
SPOTLIGHT: The Gwinnett Stripers
McLEMORE’S WORLD: Debt Ceiling
UPCOMING: McGinnis Ferry Road To Get Full Diamond Interchange Eventually
NOTABLE: PCOM’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program Moves Forward
RECOMMENDED: The Fractured Republic by Yuval Levin
GEORGIA TIDBIT: Here’s History on Three More Georgia Coastal Lighthouses
TODAY’S QUOTE: Ever Wonder Why The Ignorant Are So Confident?
MYSTERY PHOTO: Not Only Where, But of What Use Is Today’s Mystery Photo?
CALENDAR: Retired Brigadier General To Speak in Peachtree Corners

NOTE: The next date for publication of GwinnettForum will be Jan. 5, 2018.–eeb


Here’s a short tutorial on the world of digital currency

(Editor’s Note: with all the stories about digital currencies, perhaps readers can feel a little more informed after this comment by this writer. However, we recognize that much of the following is above the heads of many of us.–eeb)

By Joe Edlhuber, Maker Space Teacher, Greater Atlanta Christian School  |  By now, most of you have heard about Bitcoin. We’re probably all regretting not getting in on the action when we could have bought it for $3 a coin. Currently, that “coin” is valued around $15,000. A $25 investment in 2009 would net you around $800,000 today! Although Bitcoin is still the dominate player in the cryptocurrency world, it is quickly losing its share of market cap towards other, lesser known coins.


Right now, the hunt is on for the next Bitcoin. Who wouldn’t want to turn some of grandma’s Christmas money into $1,000,000 in four years? There are two main players in the second and third place spots of the crypto world: Ethereum and Litecoin…..but what one out of the hundreds of others are looking for their place at the top?

Ethereum is a blockchain technology that is being quickly adopted. Blockchains use a network of computers (nodes) to form a massive worldwide computer. When you buy Ethereum (ETH), you purchase blocks in the chain to allow code to pass through. Ethereum is an open-sourced decentralized digital currency that is aiming to change the way our money moves from one place to another. Instead of my bank communicating with your bank in order for a transaction to be completed, I could send you money through Ethereum’s blockchain in as little as 15 seconds and the transaction would be complete. The current price for one ETH = $753.

Litecoin was developed to be Bitcoin’s silver. Unlike Ethereum, Litecoin is simply a new peer-to-peer digital currency. There are 84 million Litecoin’s in supply compared to Bitcoin’s 21 million. The transaction time for LTC is roughly two minutes compared to 10 minutes up to a few hours for BTC (because of high trading volume). The current price for one LTC = $282.

What is shaping before us now is a new way to think about money. New companies are forming every day with new technologies and how their currency (coin) will be used in the future. For example, you can now purchase “Zaps,” which are energy coins that you might someday pay your electric bill with in Australia. One POWR = $0.94. A privacy coin, Verge (XVG), is hoping to take the place of money with Verge loaded on debit cards to pay for your daily needs. One XVG = $0.15. Other “Alt coins” to keep an eye on are Request Network and ChainLink.

If you are interested in getting in on the action, I recommend buying Ethereum to start with (transaction fees are much lower than Bitcoin and are also much faster). Of course, tread lightly into this field. Many people expect to get rich quick, but it is a very volatile and wild ride! Do your research and only buy into what you believe in. This isn’t for day trading, this is looking at the future and trying to see how currency will be working in 5-15 years.

You can buy your Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Litecoin at this web address: www.coinbase.com.

Once you have your digital currency, it can be transferred to an exchange to purchase “Alt Coins” at www.binance.com.

If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to contact me at any time at  jpedlhuber@yahoo.com. Otherwise, I find https://coincentral.com/ to be a great resource.


Here’s another scam attempt, this time on a warranty

By Elliott Brack, editor and publisher  |  Watch out. Those scammers are always at work. Here’s the latest. Don’t fall for this one.

When the letter came in, addressed to me, it looked official, similar to a government-generated letter. It said at the top:




Then it started giving detail, such as the address, then the vehicle code number, make of vehicle, and suddenly a deadline.  I had to answer by December 13 for the “Program Term Deadline.”

The notification then warned me: “IMMEDIATE RESPONSE TO THIS NOTICE REQUESTED,” followed by the make of my automobile again.

Here’s the main contents of the letter:

“Our records indicate that you have received multiple notices and have not contacted us to upload your auto file.

“You are receiving this notice because your factory warranty will expire or may have already expired based on the mileage and age of your vehicle. If you have updated your coverage, please call to verify.

“By neglecting to replace your coverage, you will be at risk of being financially liable for any and all repairs after your factory warranty expires. However, you still may have time left to activate your service contract on your vehicle before it’s too late. No vehicle inspection will be required.

“No other notices will be sent for this office. This will be our only attempt to contact yo about your expiring factory warranty.”

Then a clincher:

“Your file on this vehicle will be deleted and you may no longer be eligible for this offer after 12/13/17.” In other words, they were pushing me to respond, pushing hard.

Then there was information on me sending them from $25 to $175, I guess depending on the “quality” of warranty I wanted.

On the back of the letter was various activity of some automobile’s service record, showing in an eight month period a total service repair cost of $12,914.  No telling who’s automobile this was, but I certainly didn’t have any work of that magnitude done on that Chevrolet of mine during that period.

Obviously, the information was there to make a person realize the many repairs that could come to a vehicle are costly. But the info was true fiction, for I had not had such work done on any vehicle over an eight month period.


Why is this a scam?  For one aspect, I have not owned this automobile for two years. And the car was totaled when I motored slowly into a closed gate, so I had to buy a new one.

Not only that, but most service warranties are notoriously questionable.

Yet the letter looked official, like it was from a state-sanctioned agency, and trying to intimidate me into buying a questionable warranty.

Fat chance. No warranty for me, especially on an automobile I no longer owned.

Give the scam artists an “A” for effort.  But give them a “F” for credibility, especially since the vehicle was no longer mine.

So, stay alert. No telling what the next scam might offer, a new type of warranty on the water line from the road to your house.  A better way for health insurance. Or even waterfront property in Florida or perhaps in San Juan.

Stay alert.


Tax plan means middle class pays more and income inequality grows

By George Wilson, contributing columnist  |  If you are one of the people that perceive that the wealthy and large corporations are going to get much larger benefit from the Republican tax plan than you…….you are correct.

Some 80 percent of taxpayers will see an increase of less than two percent in their after-tax income. It is not until you get to the 95th percentile that the after-tax income benefits are much greater.

Roughly four dozen Republican House and Senate members who voted for the bill stand to reap a windfall thanks to the loophole inserted at the last minute that reduces the tax rate on “pass-through” income derived from real estate. Even deficient hawk Senator Bob Coker had a “Come to Jesus” moment when he realized that this would benefit him by millions. Consequently, he then voted for this monstrosity.

By repealing the individual mandate, the Republicans now own the healthcare mess.

“I shouldn’t say this,” Trump said at a White House, “but we essentially repealed Obamacare.”

Now, as insurance premiums sky rocket and 13 million Americans lose health care, you know who to thank.

Accordingly, nearly all large companies have vocally supported the GOP bill. Many say at least some of the extra money would probably go to shareholders via higher dividends and stock buybacks.

Some other plans for the additional cash include: looking for other companies to buy and paying down debt. Only two — AT&T and CVS — have made explicit promises to hire workers. Apple and Kroger executives have made vague statements that they would probably hire more people. Not a single company has said it will raise wages.

Finally, the Trump family will benefit substantially from this unfair law in all kinds of ways: through the pass through provisions, and the slow repeal of the inheritance tax.


The Gwinnett Stripers

The public spiritedness of our sponsors allows us to bring GwinnettForum.com to you at no cost to readers. The newly rebranded Gwinnett Stripers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, return for their 10th season of play in 2018. The Stripers open the season on the road, playing at Norfolk on Friday, April 6. The 2018 home opener at Coolray Field is set for Thursday, April 12 at 7:05 p.m. vs. Rochester.

The full 2018 schedule is available now at the team’s new website, GoStripers.com. For information on 2018 ticket packages, call 678-277-0340. Follow the Stripers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at GoStripers.


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Debt ceiling

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McGinnis Ferry Road to get full diamond interchange eventually

The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners on Tuesday awarded a design contract to begin the engineering of a full-diamond interchange on Interstate 85 at McGinnis Ferry Road.

The Federal Highway Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation approved the project earlier this year. The County is responsible for the engineering and right of way and the Georgia Department of Transportation will manage construction. It anticipates relief for the heavily congested Lawrenceville Suwanee Road interchange. The project is expected to take several years to complete.

Atkins North America, Inc. was the highest-scoring firm on the request for proposals. Their contract amount is not to exceed $3,177,604.68. This project is funded by the 2014 SPLOST program.

New Norcross officials to be sworn in on Jan. 2 at 6:30 p.m.

The City of Norcross will be holding a Swearing-In Ceremony and Reception for Mayor-Elect Craig Newton and Council Members-Elect Dan Watch and Chuck Paul on January 2nd at 6:30 p.m. at the Norcross Cultural Arts and Community Center.

Gwinnett funds expansion of Club Drive Park

Gwinnett commissioners have approved a million dollar contract to start construction on an expansion of Club Drive Park near Lawrenceville, funded from the 2014 SPLOST program.

Commissioner Jace Brooks explained that Phase Two is on 2.3 acres of county-owned land across the street from the current 35-acre park at 3330 Club Drive. The property is on the east side of Rolling Ridge Road and extends from Club Drive to Sweetwater Creek.

The project will include a new parking lot accessed from Rolling Ridge Road with 35 parking spaces and a half-acre lawn space surrounded by a paved walking loop. Amenities will include three swing sets, a bike rack, a picnic shelter with tables and grill, two adult swings and an overlook deck with seating.

A walk and boardwalk aligned with the existing pedestrian crossing on Club Drive will take pedestrians to the walking loop from the Club Drive sidewalk. Drainage from the parking lot will flow through a landscaped retention pond before being released into the Sweetwater Creek drainage basin.

The site will also serve as a trailhead for a planned future greenway south along Sweetwater Creek.


PCOM’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program moves forward

Working with the Doctor of Physical Therapy program are, front row, Robert Friberg, Professor and Director of Faculty and Student Development and Phillip B. Palmer, Professor and Chair of the Department. Between them are Kimberly Frazier, Administrative Assistant, and on the back row are Jennifer Wiley, Associate Professor and Associate Director for Clinical Education; and Carol A. Miller Professor and Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Georgia Campus – Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (GA-PCOM), is another step closer to reality as the Application for Candidacy has been submitted.  The program is now eligible for further review. According to Program Chair Dr. Phillip Palmer, candidacy reviewers will conduct a site visit in January.

In addition, the admissions process is moving forward with the admissions committee meeting to review applications, interview candidates and offer seats to the inaugural class members who will begin their studies in June 2018 pending accreditation approval.

The three year Doctor of Physical Therapy program is being established at GA-PCOM in response to a national need for physical therapists, especially in the Southeast. The curriculum includes both coursework and experiential training in a variety of settings which effectively trains students in critical thinking and evidence-based practices.

With highly experienced faculty members, both in physical therapy practice and education, the program provides a wellness orientation and opportunities to practice and serve in community settings. Along with the doctorate degree, graduates will have a strong foundation in ergonomics and wellness training.

Speaker names Rep. Tim Barr to chair House code revision


State Representative Timothy Barr (R-Lawrenceville) has been named Chairman of the House Code Revision Committee by Georgia Speaker David Ralston.  Rep. Barr will also serve as a member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and on the Health and Human Services, Motor Vehicles and Natural Resources and  Environment committees. Representative Barr represents District 103, which includes portions of Hall and Gwinnett counties. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 and currently serves as the Chairman of the Code Revision Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee.

Rep. Hilton joins House Majority Caucus as deputy whip


State Representative Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners) has been appointed to serve as a member of the House Majority Caucus Deputy Whip team. Rep. Hilton was appointed to serve on the Whip Team by House Majority Whip Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville). His appointment is for a two-year  term. Members of the Deputy Whip team are responsible for monitoring legislation as it moves through both chambers of the General Assembly and helping their fellow House members understand the details of bills and resolutions. Representative Hilton represents District 95, which includes portions of Fulton and Gwinnett counties. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2016, and currently serves on the Education, Health and Human Services, and Intragovernmental Coordination


The Fractured Republic by Yuval Levin

Reviewed by John Titus, Peachtree Corners  |  What impressed me about this book was the humility with which the author approached the subject. It is an essay as it gropes and grasps. He lays the blame for our polarization on the parties trapped by their own nostalgic views of America and the attempts to return to them. For the Democrats, it is the mid-60s and the Great Society. The Republicans look back to the Reagan years. Levin argues that this politics of nostalgia is failing us in the 21st Century. Our country has become fractured by four major transformations: globalization, automation, immigration and consumerization. Levin believes we need to base our responses on this new reality. Our solutions need to avoid the extremes of consolidated statism and radical individualism. While you may disagree with the solutions he proposes you will find his analysis of the problem insightful. For both liberals and conservatives, this book will make you think.

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Here’s history on three more Georgia coastal lighthouses

(Continued from previous edition)

During the early 19th century, the small seaport of Darien was a major shipping center. A deed signed and dated in 1808 by plantation owner Thomas Spalding showed that Spalding sold a small tract of land to the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment for a sum of one dollar for building a lighthouse on Sapelo. The government then contracted with Winslow Lewis of Boston in 1820 for the construction of a 90-foot brick tower, topped by a 15-foot iron lantern. A fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed atop the tower in 1853.

Photo by Andy Brack.

The lighthouse was abandoned in 1862 by retreating Confederate forces stationed on the island. They removed the lens and destroyed the reflector system but left the rest of the facility intact. It was repaired and reactivated by the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1868. In 1877 a cast-iron beacon, part of the range light system, was placed east of the main tower.

A severe hurricane in October 1898 seriously undermined the foundation of the Sapelo Lighthouse. A district inspector recommended extensive repairs or a new tower. In September 1905 a new lighthouse—a 100-foot steel pyramidal tower with a kerosene-lit flashing light—was activated and a new third-order lens was installed. By 1934 shipping traffic had become nonexistent and the Sapelo station was deactivated. Today, the lighthouse is fully restored and open to the public.

Built by James Gould in 1810, the first St. Simons Lighthouse stood 75 feet high. For economic reasons, most of the material used in the construction was tabby, a local mixture of oyster shell, lime, sand, and water. Gould, appointed by U.S. president James Madison, was also the first lighthouse keeper. In 1857 a third-order double-convex lens was installed.

Confederate troops destroyed the lighthouse before evacuating St. Simons Island in 1862, so that Union troops could not use it as a navigational aid. In 1867 the government ordered the construction of a second lighthouse placed north of the first. The 104-foot brick tower and adjacent keeper’s house was designed by the Irish architect Charles B. Cluskey, who died of malaria in 1871, a year before the lighthouse was completed. The head light keeper, his assistant, and their families shared the dwelling.

The lighthouse was electrified in 1934. It was completely automated in 1953. The original third-order Fresnel lens is still in operation. The station, maintained by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society, is open to the public.

Little Cumberland Island lighthouse

The Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse is located on the northern tip of Little Cumberland Island in St. Andrew Sound. The tower, built in 1838 by John Hastings of Boston, measures 22 feet wide at the base, tapering to 11 feet wide at the top. Although rarely used during the Civil War, the lighthouse on Little Cumberland escaped the devastation experienced by some of the other Georgia lighthouses at the time. In 1867 it was reactivated after being fitted with a third-order Fresnel lens.

Nine years later, workmen began to shore up the lighthouse tower foundation, which had been undermined by ocean tides. Active until 1915, Little Cumberland Island Light is now owned and preserved by a private foundation.


Not only where, but of what use is today’s Mystery Photo?

Today’s Mystery Photo may surprise some readers as to its use. See if you can figure out this mystery, and if you do, send your idea to elliott@brack.net.

Three people recognized the recent Mystery Photo. George Graf of Palmyra, Va. was first in, not unusual, as he figured out that the photo was at the The Port of Honfleur, France. He adds: “The village and its little port are the backdrop that inspired Eugène Boudin; it is even said that the impressionist movement was born there. Honfleur is known for it’s ancient heritage and small museums.  The old harbor created by Colbert under the reign of Louis XIV is a painting in itself. Right at the mouth of the harbor is the smallest museum in France. A visit to the small Musée Alphonse is a curiosity where a collection of inventions and bizarre objects are on view in two rooms over two floors. Among them are black earplugs for people in mourning who do not wish to be disturbed by noise; the blue, white and red starch to stiffen the French flag; a machine to make drinkable water impure; the skull of Voltaire aged 17; an authentic piece of the false cross, and a special left-handed cup.’

Also getting the identification correct were Susan McBrayer of Sugar Hill and Alan Peel, San Antonio,Tex., who says: “If you look very closely at the top of the mast on the boat in the center of the image (the boat facing the viewer), you can barely see what appears to be a French flag (the flag may actually be on the building behind the boat). In any event, this provided a critical clue as to where this photo was taken. Honfleur is a port and fishing town on the coast of Normandy, in northern France, sitting on the mouth of the Seine River and directly across from La Havre. Honfleur is noted as one of Normandy’s most picturesque and historic coastal towns. The first written record of Honfleur is a reference by Richard III, Duke of Normandy, in 1027. By the middle of the 12th century, the city represented a significant transit point for goods from Rouen to England. Despite its antiquity, Honfleur’s waterfront is still a working marina and continues to enjoy the atmosphere of a legitimate fishing village.’


AUTHOR VISIT: Meet Brig. Gen. (retired) A.J. Tata Saturday, January 6 at 7 p.m. at Prototype Prime, Suite 100, 147 Technology Parkway, Peachtree Corners, presented by Gwinnett County Public Library. General Tata’s latest novel, Direct Fire, is the fourth novel in his Jake Mahegan thriller series.  He served 28 years in the military before retiring in 2009.  Among his many accomplishments, General Tata was awarded the Combat Action Badge and Bronze Star. The event is free and open to the public.  RSVP is requested, not required, by emailing events@gwinnettpl.org.


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