Hump Day Art

Robert McGinnis (left) was born in 1926 in
Cincinnati, Ohio and was raised in Wyoming. He studied art at Ohio State University

After a brief career in Merchant Marine and advertising, he apprenticed at Walt Disney Studios. 

He then went to work for Dell publishing in 1958 at the peak of paperback boom and never looked back.

His work has appeared in diverse publications such as Playboy, Argosy, Saturday Evening Post, Time, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal and Woman’s Home companion.

He has painted over 1400 paperback covers- a stunning achievement. His contributions for the sale of these pulp novels should not be underestimated. 

Produced at a rate of one a month, often sold from magazine outlets and petrol stations, candy shops the attraction of the beautifully rendered female form to the young teen audience and adult readers must have had a significant impact on the sales.

China Island Romance

Located in the tropical area at the southern end of China, Hainan is warm all year round and has no winter. Besides, it boasts soft beaches and beautiful tropical scenery, which make it a famous holiday resort in China. 

Its administrative regions are Hainan Island, Xisha archipelago, Zhongsha archipelago and Nansha archipelago. The whole province occupies a land area of 35,000 square kilometers (13,510 square miles) and a sea area of 2,000,000 square kilometers (772,000 square miles). 

The main island, Hainan Island, which is shaped like a giant elliptical pear, is China's largest island after Taiwan. The capital Haikou City is situated in northern part of the island. It is the political, economic, cultural and transportation center of the whole province. The other prefecture-level city of the province is Sanya, which is a hot destination for tourism.

Belonging to the northern part of the tropics and virtually at the same latitude as Hawaii, Hainan has a tropical monsoon climate and is known as the 'Eastern Hawaii'. Its average annual temperature is 23-25°C while the average temperature of the coldest February ranges between 16-20°C and the hottest August between 35-39°C. 

When northern China is full of snow, local people are able to swim in the sea and enjoy the warm sunshine on the beach. In addition, the island has beautiful soft beaches and tropical scenery such as Holiday Beach, Dongzhai Harbor Mangrove Natural Reserve Area, Dongjiao Coconut Plantation, Asian Dragon Bay and Wuzhizhou Island.

 All these help to make the island a holiday hot spot in China, especially in winters and for newly-married couples. A special mention must be made here of the fact that since 2008, the government has been making a great effort to develop this tropical island province into an international tourism destination. 

On December 30, 2010, the first high-speed rail of the area, Hainan Eastern Ring Rail was put into service. Now people can travel easily between the northern point of the island (Haikou) and its southern point (Sanya) in just 1.5 hours. Another effort made by the government is the tax rebate program for tourists introduced from January 1, 2011.

Foreign Drivers to Pay

Germany has announced plans to tax the millions of foreign motorists who use its roads, including the famous autobahn motorway, from 2016 forwards.

The Autobahn is the federal controlled-access highway system in Germany.

The official German term is Bundesautobahn, which translates as "federal motorway". The system started to be constructed and started in 1925-26 under the Weimar Government and began to be highly developed by the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler.

German autobahns have no federally mandated speed limit, although limits are posted (and enforced) in areas that are urbanized, substandard, accident-prone, or under construction. In case of bad weather, speed limits come into play and are frequently enforced. On speed-unrestricted stretches, an advisory speed limit (Richtgeschwindigkeit) of 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph) applies.

In 2008, an estimated 52% of the autobahn network had only the recommended speed limit; 15% had temporary speed limits due to weather or traffic conditions and 33% had permanent speed limits. 

In 2014, the ruling coalition of Saxony confirmed its rejection of a general speed limit on autobahns, instead advocating dynamic traffic controls where appropriate.

Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said the levy should raise 2.5bn euros (£1.98bn) over four years.

Vehicles will be issued with badges, costing between 10 euros for 10 days and about 100 euros for a year-long permit.

Critics of the planned toll say it violates EU anti-discrimination laws.

While vehicles registered in Germany will also have to pay the charge, their owners will be compensated by an equivalent reduction in a separate car tax.

Austria and the Netherlands have complained about the planned tax, the AFP news agency reports.
However, Mr. Dobrindt has insisted that the law - due to be passed this year - does not violate EU rules against discrimination.

His conservative Christian Social Union party campaigned for a toll in last year's elections.

The party's base is in the southern region of Bavaria, where residents have long complained of having to pay to use roads in neighbouring Austria and Switzerland, while motorists from those countries pay nothing to drive in Germany.


Between Oceans

The Nicaraguan government has plans to build a canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.  

See below:

It would stretch 278km (173 miles) from Punta Gorda on the Caribbean through Lake Nicaragua to the mouth of the river Brito on the Pacific.
Environmentalists have expressed concerns about the plans to build a canal to rival that of Panama.

Nicaragua says it will break ground on the $40bn (£23bn) project this year.

Engineers for the Hong Kong-based HKND Group said the canal would be between 230m and 520m wide and 27.6m deep.

HKND Group is a Chinese-backed infrastructure development firm incorporated in the Cayman Island. In partnership with the government of Nicaragua, the group is focused on the development of the Nicaragua Canal and Development Project – a major infrastructure project with the potential to make Nicaragua a pivotal hub for transportation and logistics. 

HKND is fully owned by Hong Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment, which traces back to Wang Jing, the president of Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group, a telco group with interests in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua said it had chosen the route so it would avoid areas of great biodiversity, indigenous territories and environmentally protected lands.

But environmentalists are still concerned about the effects it may have on Lake Nicaragua, Central America's largest lake and an important source of fresh water.

The commission in charge of building the canal said environmental and social impact studies would be carried out on the route and changes would still be possible.

It said it expected construction to begin in December and to be finished within five years.

Sceptics point out that it took the United States 10 years to build the Panama Canal, which at 77km is less than a third of the length of the planned canal through Nicaragua.

But Nicaragua insists engineering and construction techniques have moved on since 1914, when the Panama Canal was completed.

Nicaraguan officials say their waterway would "complement" the Panama Canal rather than be in direct rivalry to it.

They say a bigger canal is essential to allow for increased global trade and ever larger tankers, many of which are too large for the Panama Canal, even after its current expansion.

They are confident the project will help lift the country out of poverty.

Vanishing Tunnel Trains

Eurostar passengers face further cancellations on Tuesday after a train broke down in the Channel Tunnel.

Eurostar is a high-speed railway service connecting London with Paris and Brussels. All its trains traverse the Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France, owned and operated separately by Eurotunnel.

The London terminus is St Pancras International, with the other British calling points being Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International in Kent. Calling points in France are Calais-Fréthun and Lille-Europe, with trains to Paris terminating at Gare du Nord. Trains to Belgium terminate at Midi/Zuid station in Brussels. In addition, there are limited services from London to Disneyland Paris at Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy, and to seasonal destinations in southern France in summer and the Alps in winter.

The service is operated by eighteen-coach Class 373/1 trains which run at up to 300 kilometres per hour (186 mph) on a network of high-speed lines. The LGV Nord line in France opened before Eurostar services began in 1994, and newer lines enabling faster journeys were added later—HSL 1 in Belgium and High Speed 1 in southern England. 

The French and Belgian parts of the network are shared with Paris–Brussels Thalys services and also with TGV trains. In the United Kingdom the two-stage Channel Tunnel Rail Link project was completed on 14 November 2007 and renamed High Speed 1, when the London terminus of Eurostar transferred fromWaterloo International to St Pancras International.

Hundreds of passengers had to be evacuated from Monday's 06:20 BST Le Shuttle train from Folkestone, which stopped a quarter of the way to France.

Eurotunnel said a fault with the overhead power lines in the tunnel caused the problem.

Eurostar said four trains on Tuesday morning - two in each direction - have been cancelled
In a statement on Monday night, the firm said: "Eurotunnel engineers are working to resolve the issues and restore full power to the affected section of the tunnel.

"As a consequence of the ongoing loss of power, Eurotunnel has informed Eurostar that some further disruption should be expected to services tomorrow morning.

"In anticipation and in order to safeguard the majority of services for the remainder of the day, unfortunately it has become necessary to cancel four Eurostar trains."

The Le Shuttle train affected by the power supply fault had stopped about seven miles into the 30-mile journey. Passengers were evacuated into the middle service tunnel, which runs between the two main tunnels and is designed to allow people to escape from halted trains.

Another train was brought from France along the other main tunnel and parked alongside the stopped train to allow passengers to board it and be carried to France without their cars.

The affected train eventually reached France at 17:15 BST on Monday and passengers were reunited with their cars.


Leaving India

Carrefour, one the world's largest retail chains, is shutting its business in India less than four years after it opened its first store in the country.

Carrefour S.A. is a French multi-national retailer, headquartered in  Boulogne Billancourt, France, in Greater Paris. It is one of the largest hypermarket chains in the world (with 1,452 hypermarkets at the end of 2011), the fourth largest retail group in the world in terms of revenue.

Carrefour operates mainly in Europe, Argentina, Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but also has shops in North Africa and other parts of Asia, with most stores being of smaller size than hypermarket or even supermarket. Carrefour means "crossroads" and "public square" in French. Previously the company head office was in Levallois-Perret, also in Greater Paris.

It currently operates five cash and carry wholesale stores in India.

The French retailer has been exiting under performing markets, including Singapore, Malaysia and Greece, under chief executive Georges Plassat's three-year revival plan.

It has said it wants to focus on key markets in Europe, China and Brazil.

India opened up its multi-brand retail sector to foreign firms in 2012.

But it has put preconditions, including those on local sourcing and infrastructure investment, and has also left the final decision on whether to allow foreign companies to open stores to individual state governments.

Many analysts have said the pre-conditions have deterred foreign companies from entering the sector.

The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) - which has recently formed a new government in India - had opposed the move arguing that the arrival of big name supermarkets may hurt the small retailers in the country.

Russian Tram

Tank and train maker Uralvagonzavod, or UVZ, has unveiled its next-generation Russia One tram, which may provide a flash Gotham chic to those Russian cities that have not yet torn up their tram rails.

Already dubbed the "iPhone on rails" and the "Batmobile," the prototype Russia One, or R1, was unveiled at the Innoprom-2014 industrial expo in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg, not far from UVZ's sprawling industrial complex in Nizhny Tagil.

Alexei Maslov of industrial design firm Atom, which participated in tram project, waxed lyrical on its virtues: "It takes the form of crystal — a priceless stone in a metal shell. And crystal because it reflects the city in which it moves, meaning the tram will assimilate into any landscape — forest, industrial zone, any sort of modern buildings," Maslov was quoted as saying in an UVZ news release on Thursday.  

The overhanging nose is another innovation, Maslov added. The tram's average speed of 24 kilometers per hour negates the need for super aerodynamics, and the tilt gives the driver a 30 percent wider view, minimizing the risk of running over pedestrians, he said. 

The R1 will hold from 190 to 270 passengers, and the chassis uses 100 percent Russian parts. The tram makers even promise that the advanced design will allow it to travel smoothly on Russia's often less-than-perfect Soviet era rails.

Alexei Nosov, head of Uraltransmash, the subsidiary of UVZ that built the R1, said mass production  could start in 2015, and that "Batmobiles" would populate Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Volgograd, according to the news release.

The Soviet Union loved trams, but over the last two capitalist decades many cities lost part or all of their track systems as local authorities covered lines with tarmac. Thousands of kilometers remain, however, and plenty of rolling stock needs replacing.

But UVZ's sights are set not only on Russia. Maslov said the design had taken stock of the latest offerings of France's Alstom and Canada's Bombardier and could compete with both companies, naming Eastern Europe and South America among target markets.

Goodbye Maverick...

The son of an Oklahoma carpet layer, James Garner (born James Scott Bumgarner) dropped out of high school at 16 to join the Merchant Marines. He worked in a variety of jobs and received 2 Purple Hearts when he was wounded twice during the Korean War. He had his first chance to act when a friend got him a non-speaking role in the Broadway stage.

Read more about the actor by clicking here... 



T. G. I. F. Solitude

    Me   There...

Foreigners Buy Up US

Overseas buyers scooped up $92.2 billion of U.S. real estate last year, driven mainly by wealthy Chinese looking for a safe haven for their families and fortunes.

Click on image to enlarge

According to a new report from the National Association of Realtors, sales activity from international buyers surged 35 percent in the 12 months ended in March. While international buyers represent only 7 percent of total existing-home sales nationally over the period, their buying is highly focused on high-end homes in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona.

"Foreign purchasers are interested in U.S. real estate for a variety of reasons: as a place to live for those relocating in the U.S., for a job or for children going to college, for investment and portfolio diversification, and for vacation purposes," according to the NAR report.

Buyers from five countries accounted for over half of international transactions, the report said. Chinese buyers were far and away the largest foreign buyers measured by dollar volume. Sales to Chinese buyers jumped 72 percent over the 12-month period to $22 billion.

Chinese buyers now account for 24 percent of all sales made to overseas buyers, measured by dollar volume. Canada ranked a distant second as a source of foreign buyers with $13.8 billion in deals, followed by the United Kingdom and India, each with $5.8 billion. 

A handful of states accounted for the bulk of the purchases. Florida attracted 23 percent of international deals, followed by California with 14 percent, Texas with 12 percent and Arizona with 6 percent.

Overseas buyers tend to pay all cash and prefer higher-end homes. Fully 60 percent of all purchases by foreign buyers were by cash, up from a third in 2007.

The mean price for sales to international buyers was $396,180 for the 12 month period, compared with $247,417 for all U.S. existing-home sales. Over a third of homes sold to international buyers were for more than $500,000.

I think the “key” here is the fact these foreigners pay CASH.  And, while receiving interest payments is still financially lucrative, sellers with all the money upfront can invest the money in other ventures without having to wait.  These foreigners make IDEAL BUYERS…  and soon, America will no longer belong to Americans…


Germany Spies Back

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is planning to scrap a no-spy agreement Germany has held with Britain and the United States since 1945 in response to an embarrassing US-German intelligence service scandal which has deeply soured relations between Berlin and Washington.

The unprecedented change to Berlin’s counter-espionage policy was announced by Ms Merkel’s Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière. He said that Berlin wanted “360‑degree surveillance” of all intelligence-gathering operations in Germany.

The intelligence services of the Allied victors, the United States, Britain and France, have hitherto been regarded as “friendly” to Germany. Their diplomatic and information-gathering activities were exempted from surveillance by Berlin’s equivalent of M15 – the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

But Mr de Maizière told Bild that he was now not ruling out permanent German counter-espionage surveillance of US, British and French intelligence operations. 

His remarks were echoed by Stephan Mayer, a domestic security spokesman for Ms Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats. “We must focus more strongly on our so-called allies,” he said.

The plan is in response to the scandal resulting from last week’s arrest of a 31- year-old BND “double agent” who spent at least two years selling top-secret German intelligence documents to his US spymasters in return for cash payments of €10,000 (£7,940) per document.

Chancellor Merkel interrupted a current trade visit to China on Monday to describe the scandal as a “very serious development”. She added: “It is a clear contradiction of the notion of trustworthy co-operation.” German politicians have been shocked that the Americans not only failed to report the “double agent” but recruited him.

Several German MPs on Monday demanded the expulsion of the American agents in Germany who recruited the “double agent”. Hans-Peter Uhl, a leading conservative, told Der Spiegel: “ It goes without saying that the [US] intelligence official responsible should leave Germany.”

The double agent is reported to have simply emailed Berlin’s American embassy and asked whether officials were interested in “co-operation”. He subsequently downloaded at least 300 secret documents on to USB sticks that he handed to his American spymasters at secret location in Austria.

Companies Get Billions From Taxpayers

American manufacturer Ingersoll-Rand Co. (IR) forged the tools that carved the Panama Canal and shaped Mount Rushmore. When it shifted its legal address to Bermuda in 2001 to reduce taxes, the maneuver sparked bipartisan outrage in Congress.

“These corporations have turned their back on their country,” Nevada Democrat Harry Reid fumed from the Senate floor, adding that his father, a hard-rock miner, had wielded an Ingersoll-Rand jackhammer. “There is no reason the U.S. government should reward tax runaways with lucrative government contracts.”

Over the next dozen years, Congress passed law after law to prohibit American companies that reincorporate overseas from doing business with the federal government.

Those laws haven’t worked. 

Benefiting from loopholes and a cooperative Obama administration, the companies avoid the ban on federal contracts as effectively as they avoid U.S. taxes.

Ingersoll-Rand continues to score federal work worth hundreds of millions of dollars, touting projects for the Army and Navy in sales brochures. The company’s strategies have even included trying to piggyback on the eligibility of other companies, according to two former Ingersoll-Rand employees.

Even as Ingersoll-Rand reaped the tax benefits of its foreign address, it took steps to expand its U.S. government business. In December 2007, two weeks before the first government-wide contracting ban took effect, Ingersoll-Rand agreed to buy Trane Inc.

Ingersoll-Rand is one of more than a dozen large U.S. companies that have shifted their tax addresses offshore yet still earn federal business, a Bloomberg News investigation has found.

In all, these companies are collecting more than $1 billion a year from the government, even as their tax-avoidance techniques have deprived the Treasury of untold billions of dollars in revenue.

Regulators rely on the companies to police themselves for compliance with the prohibition. At least three companies -- Xoma Corp., Cooper Industries Plc and Foster Wheeler AG (FWLT) -- have acknowledged they were subject to the ban and yet have said in a federal database that they’re exempt.