Poor economy? Yep, but red kettles set record for Salvation Army

Salvation Army kettle and the Romneys
The folks at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club know how to give. And give. The Salvation Army this week announced that its 2011 Red Kettle Campaign raised a record $147.6 million, up 3.4% over 2010.

And it gave special acknowledgements to some of the folks (and corporate partners) who made it possible. Of the total, 32% came from kettles at Wal-Mart ($41.5 million) and Sam's Club ($5 million), and 9% came from kettles at Kroger ($13.1 million).

JCPenney and Big Lots customers pitched in too, adding $3.3 million and $1.4 million respectively to the coffers.

Salvation Army Commissioner William Roberts said in the charity's announcement: "In troubling times, we are truly grateful for the generosity of the American donor to support the traditions of the campaign and help the Salvation Army carry on its mission."

But there's more than one way to put money in a kettle.

This year, kettles in a few markets accepted credit card donations, specifically aiming for the growing number of folks who carry only credit cards. (You know the type -- young.) And, of course, the campaign accepted online donations as well, through Online Red Kettle. The latter raised $1.7 million.  

"Technology is changing the way charities raise money. Whether through a credit card at a kettle or online, we're making an effort to reach the next generation of donors and make it convenient for people to support the campaign," Roberts said in the statement.

And the only sound associated with online giving is the clicking of the keyboard.

Such a detail likely has special resonance at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif. There, Salvation Army kettle workers had to agree not to ring their bells.

The organization's announcement didn't include donation totals from Fashion Island.


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-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Every bit helps. And last year, it helped the Salvation Army set a new record. In this Dec. 23 photo, Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, talks with a bell ringer as his wife, Ann, puts money into a Salvation Army kettle while they campaigned in Concord, N.H. Credit: Winslow Townson / Associated Press

Eat More Kale? Eat Mor Chikin? Vermont governor chooses kale

Eat More Kale? Eat Mor Chikin? Vermont's governor has weighed in on what most people would never consider an issue. And he says: Eat More Kale.

On Monday, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin stood literally and figuratively beside Vermont artist Bo Muller-Moore and introduced the formation of Team Kale, which he described as a "simple effort to raise money for Bo's defense fund."

"Chick-fil-A get, out of the way, because we're going to win this one," he said.

Muller-Moore had created a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase "Eat More Kale." When the T-shirt proved successful, Muller-Moore decided to trademark his work. This appears to have annoyed fast-food giant Chick-fil-A, owner of the already trademarked "Eat Mor Chikin." (The pair have a history, as it turns out, with Chick-fil-A having warned  Muller-Moore some time ago to knock it off.)

Chick-fil-A, owner of eatmorchikin.com, demanded that Muller-Moore stop using the phrase and to give up his website, eatmorekale.com.

Describing Chick-fil-A's stance as an assault on small business and local agriculture, Shumlin, a Democrat, took a combative stance toward the company, saying: "Don't mess with Vermont, don't mess with kale."

And he offered up what he called a "clear message" to the company:

"Don't interfere with buy local. Don't interfere with our agricultural renaissance -- where we're growing local food and selling it locally because more and more Vermonters care about where their food comes from, what's in it and who grew it .... And don't mess with our effort to create jobs, one job at a time."

Shumlin also assured Chick-fil-A that folks in Vermont are quite clear on the differences between kale and chicken.

The company had expressed concern that the similarities of the phrases might cause confusion among consumers, the Burlington Free Press had reported. Shumlin invited representatives of the company to visit Vermont should they themselves need a lesson.

The Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A seemed unimpressed, vowing to continue its trademark protection fight, according to the Associated Press.

It should be noted that "Don't mess with Vermont" is similar to "Don't mess with Texas," an anti-littering campaign in that state. There was no word from Texas on whether the phrase might cause confusion among potential litterers.


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-- Tami Dennis


Eat More Kale? Eat Mor Chikin? The courts may decide

Eat More Kale artist Bo Muller-Moore
Eat Mor Chikin. Eat More Kale. They’re both catchy slogans, sure, but one is backed by a willing-to-fight fast-food company. The other is backed by a willing-to-fight Vermont entrepreneur. And they're at odds.

Chick-fil-A has trademarked the phrase “Eat Mor Chikin,”using it alongside images of cows. The cows -- they're poor spellers but determined to get their message across -- use the phrase on hoof-painted signs. The cows are trying to spread the word about the delightfulness of Chick-fil-A products, which, quite obviously, are not made of beef. 

Vermont artist Bo Muller-Moore wants to trademark the phrase “Eat More Kale.” He puts it on hand-stenciled T-shirts; he made the first shirt at the request of a kale farmer, the Burlington Free Press reports. The shirts proved so popular that Muller-Moore decided to protect his franchise, filing an official application to do just that.

This did not sit well with Chick-fil-A. The company had warned Muller-Moore once before to stop using the phrase -- which is somewhat similar to the company's trademarked phrase -- but eventually seemed to let the matter drop. 

"They backed down silently," Muller-Moore said in the Free Press article. "They quit responding. I took that as a 'Go for it.'"

Perhaps that was an inaccurate interpretation. Or perhaps Muller-Moore’s attempt to trademark the disputed phrase proved too difficult for the company to ignore.

Now, legal action is ensuing.

Chick-fil-A has considerable experience in this respect, as WPTZ in Vermont reports

Remember “Eat More Goat”? How about “Eat More Yogurt”?  What about "Eat More Catfish"?

Of course not.


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-- Tami Dennis 

Photo: Bo Muller-Moore stands in his home studio in Montpelier, Vt., surrounded by  "Eat More Kale" T-shirts. The shirts, and his attempts to copyright the phrase, have put him at odds with fast-food giant Chick-fil-A. Credit: Toby Talbot/Associated Press


Attention Wal-Mart shoppers (and officers): Drop the pepper spray


Perhaps the pepper-spray attack on Wal-Mart shoppers doing little more than serving as potential competition for an Xbox video game console shouldn't be that surprising. After all, self-made societal observers were arguing on Friday, police used it against Occupy demonstrators doing little more than sitting.

Such were the parallels being drawn in the wake of the Black Friday attack at a Los Angeles-area Wal-Mart.

Reports that Wal-Mart security guards (off-duty police officers, as it turned out) in North Carolina had also used pepper spray against Black Friday shoppers have done little to quell the talk of pepper spray as modern society's altercation-ender of choice.

Said these commenters on an L.A. Times article reporting that police were reviewing the videotape:

Mark Hooper: "Pepper spraying people who won't get out of your way? Hmm....sounds familiar.....it's just not right no matter who's doing it! Pepper spray is for stopping people from attacking you, whether a civilian or not, not for gaining an edge over someone so that you can achieve your goal."

George Neblina: "Hey, there's this guy named Pike up in Davis who indiscriminately pepper sprays people -- maybe the police can review that tape as well..."

Hannah Crum: "it's a direct line from our government's behavior to the behavior of it's citizens. just like children act like their parents."

Mike Kinghorn: "why are police reviewing the tape?for pointers."

The comments on Twitter were similar, if largely pithier:

davidsirota: "Following example of anti-OWS police departments, woman goes on pepper spray spree at WalMart on Black Friday."

markmorford: "Shootings! Pepper spray! Robberies! OWS? Nope. Just another Black Friday at Walmart."

BillArrundale: "To be fair, I've never walked into a Walmart and NOT wanted to pepper spray someone."

None of the comments, of course, answers Nation Now's original "What is it about Wal-Mart and Black Friday" question. 


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-- Tami Dennis


Martin Luther King Jr. memorial warrants a look back in time

Little Rock NineThe  Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is about to be dedicated in Washington, and much will be made not just of the civil rights leader's accomplishments but also of how far the nation as a whole has come. 

President Obama is scheduled to speak at Sunday's dedication, as are Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton.  CBS anchor Dan Rather and members of the King family are scheduled to address the crowd as well.

All the speakers will understand just how much has changed since the civil rights struggles of King's day.

PHOTOS: The civil rights struggle

Many people might not understand.  To them, the hard reality of those days and the fierceness of the fight will likely seem an abstraction, something from the history books.

But the events of that so-called era didn't happen all that long ago. And they didn't happen by accident or luck.

If pictures are worth 1,000 words, take a look back at these photos of America at that time. Amid today's speeches and reflections, they drive home the reality of where the nation has been -- and just how monumental were the accomplishments of King and others.


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-- Tami Dennis


Anita Perry, Rick Perry and that biblical fleece -- explained

Anita Perry's recent reference to a burning bush -- in comments about husband Rick Perry's contemplation of a presidential bid -- probably didn't elicit many puzzled looks. The term "burning bush" is fairly synonymous with "sign from God" for many people, not just the Christian and Jewish faithful.

But her reference to a fleece? Even the faithful may have been unfamiliar with that one.

First the context: In a recent speech at North Greenville University, Anita Perry was describing the  soul-searching her husband went through prior to his entry into the GOP race. As quoted by GreenvilleOnline.com, Perry said: "He threw that fleece out there twice."

The article helpfully points out that the reference is from an Old Testament passage in which a man named Gideon is attempting to divine God's will.

Now for a more thorough explanation: In the biblical chapter Judges, an angel has appeared to Gideon, telling him to head off to battle and save the Israelites. The Israelites, it should be pointed out, have been behaving badly and have gotten themselves into considerable trouble.

Not being a rash man, Gideon wants to make quite sure that God will grant him victory.  (The parallels are not coincidence -- hence, one would assume, Anita Perry's point.)

GospelWeb.net offers the story. In part, it says:

The sign Gideon asked for was, that when he laid a fleece of wool on the ground, if the victory were to be his, then the fleece should be wet and the ground dry. He placed the Wool on the ground, and taking it up the next morning found it wet, although the ground was dry. So he knew God had answered him as he desired. But he was not quite satisfied. He begged God for a second sign. This time the ground was to be wet and the fleece of wool dry. God gave him this sign also: and then Gideon felt sure that the Israelites would be victorious over the Midianites.

For those who want the story in more traditional form, check BibleGateway.com. It offers the Bible and its passages in pretty much every variation. The New King James version, always a favorite, puts it this way: 

So Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said -- look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.” And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.” And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground.

As for that burning bush -- Moses, remember? If you don't, and you follow politics, you might want to consider bookmarking those Bible sites. Election day is still a long way off.


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-- Tami Dennis

Photo illustration: Handout


Reno air races crash: Probe could take up to a year

A P-51 Mustang airplane is shown right before crashing at the Reno air races Friday afternoon.

The death toll in the Reno air crash climbed to nine, officials said Saturday, as the probe began into what turned a festive day of vintage-aircraft racing into a scene of deadly horror.

Speaking at an afternoon news conference, Reno Deputy Police Chief Dave Evans said seven people, including pilot Jimmy Leeward, were killed on the tarmac and two others were pronounced dead when they arrived at area hospitals. On Friday, the toll stood at three killed when Leeward’s P-51 crashed into the tarmac, shooting debris into the stands.

Photos: Reno air race crash

The additional deaths were announced at a briefing by the National Transportation Safety Board, which began its investigation into the incident that shook the air racing world. It was the first time any spectator had been killed since the races began almost half a century ago, though 20 pilots have lost their lives.

Continue reading »

Katia grows into Category 2, could become major hurricane

Hurricane Katia
The somewhat inconsistent Katia has intensified again, this time into Category 2 status, the National Hurricane Center announced. And the storm was showing the hallmarks of becoming a major hurricane by Monday.

About midday Sunday, the storm was in the open Atlantic, north of the Leeward Islands, and moving toward the northwest, the center reported in an advisory posted on its website. It had maximum sustained winds of almost 100 mph, and was expected to grow considerably stronger.

View Forecast paths of Hurricane Katia in a larger map

Katia first achieved hurricane status late Wednesday -- the second named hurricane (after Irene). It was downgraded to a tropical storm on Thursday, upgraded to Category 1 hurricane status on Friday, then downgraded to a tropical storm yet again on Saturday. On Sunday, it pulled itself together and managed Category 2 status. 

Still, no coastal watches or warnings have been issued. As the hurricane center says, in a bit of an understatement: "A lot of uncertainty remains in the three- to five-day forecast. "

So for now, we watch and wait -- and keep an eye on Tropical Storm Lee, currently dumping rain on Louisiana.

And of course, continue the cleanup in the wake of Hurricane Irene.


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-- Tami Dennis

Photo: This NOAA satellite image taken Sunday  shows Tropical Storm Lee about 40 miles southwest of Baton Rouge, La., and Hurricane Katia about 360 miles northeast of the northern Leeward Islands. Credit: Associated Press / Weather Underground

Tsunami alert canceled for Alaska [Updated]

Al A tsunami alert was issued early Friday for Alaska's Aleutian Islands -- and canceled minutes later -- after a sizable earthquake there at 2:46 a.m. Alaska time.

The U.S. Geological Survey had issued the tsunami alert in the wake of an earthquake (preliminary magnitude 7.1), fearing for the coastal areas from Unimak Pass to Amchitka Pass. The areas are remote, but not unpopulated. [UPDATED 2:14 p.m.: The quake was later downgraded to a 6.8 magnitude.]

Evacuations began -- and were soon halted, the Associated Press reports -- adding this quote from Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Homeland Security: “In Atka, they had a little bump of a wave, but nothing of any kind of a destructive power. Just a wave."

"Just a wave" hardly seemed reason for alarm.

Thus this notice posted on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website:

"NO destructive tsunami has been recorded, and NO tsunami danger exists along the coasts of the U.S. west coast states, Alaska, and British Columbia. Local authorities can assume all clear upon receipt of this message."

Just to be clear, it adds:

"This will be the last West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center message issued for this event. To repeat, NO tsunami warning, watch or advisory is in effect for the U.S. West coast states, Alaska, and British Columbia."


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 -- Tami Dennis

Photo: Fishing boats steam out of the Alaska port of Dutch Harbor. An underwater quake occurred about 80 miles from the town. Credit: Jacob Resneck / AFP / Getty Images


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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal

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