Wring out the old year

G.D. Gearino reviews last year’s news and gives his take on memorable events some folks would just as soon forget.
 

“Uh, Doc? I’m gonna need those birth certificates filled out while she’s still groggy.”
After Google announced that it would rewire, at no cost, an entire city with super-duper high-speed Internet service, Raleigh City Council member Bonner Gaylord made this offer on the city’s video pitch: If Google picked Raleigh, he’d name his soon-to-be born twins Sergey and Larry, after Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. He also acknowledged he hadn’t yet told his wife about the offer.

Let’s hope the portable-toilet industry doesn’t get any ideas.
The Bloom grocery chain, a subsidiary of Salisbury-based Food Lion, developed what The Charlotte Observer described as “the nation’s first scented highway billboard.” The sign, which showed a giant piece of grilled steak held aloft by an equally giant fork, used a fan to emit the smell of grilled meat to nearby motorists.

Acronyms! Get yer fresh, hot acronyms right here!
BB&T signed a deal to become the official bank of the Atlantic Coast Conference, replacing Raleigh-based RBC Bank. A BB&T spokesman pointed out that the deal isn’t the Winston-Salem-based bank’s first foray into sports, as it also sponsors a Sprint Cup stock-car racing team. Thus we offer this headline: BB&T KOs RBC in ACC deal, adds NCAA to NASCAR.

We’re gonna take a stab at it and predict that the research will show that people should eat more Cheerios and Wheaties.
General Mills, the Minneapolis-based maker of iconic breakfast cereals, announced that it would open an operation at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, where it expects to study nutrition issues.

Meanwhile, the Central Intelligence Agency suspends its internship program with NCSU.
N.C. State University graduate Gray Powell, an Apple employee, briefly became globally famous after he lost a secret prototype of the next-generation iPhone in a California beer garden where he was celebrating his 27th birthday. The phone ended up in the hands of a tech website, which unveiled its new features and capabilities. The New York Times, Washington Post and Associated Press followed with their own stories — all to Apple’s consternation. Powell’s last act with the phone before losing it was to post an update to his Facebook page saying, “I underestimated how good German beer is.”

“Jim, really, I mean ‘mediocre’ and ‘scruffy’ in the best possible way.”
In a speech to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, Rosemary DePaolo, chancellor of UNC Wilmington, found herself in hot water after she used “mediocre” and “scruffy” to describe the university’s condition before she took over. DePaolo later apologized to the previous chancellor, Jim Leutze, and said her remarks had been taken out of context.

Thanks for expanding us into bankruptcy. Here’s $15.7 million.
Dex One, the Cary-based publisher of phone directories, nudged CEO David Swanson into retirement after the company (then known as R.H. Donnelley) underwent a disastrous growth campaign that left the company bankrupt. As part of his departure agreement, Swanson was awarded a $6.5 million separation payment, a pension valued at $5.7 million and incentive payments worth as much as $3.5 million.

He also wants the government to stop beaming those impure thoughts about Lindsay Lohan into his brain.
Bill Randall, the Republican candidate for the 13th Congressional District, responded to a reporter’s question about a moratorium on deep-water drilling after the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico by speculating that the spill was a conspiracy instead of an accident: “Personally I feel there is a possibility that there was some sort of collusion. I don’t know how or why, but in that situation, if you have someone from a company proposing to violate the safety process and the government signing off on it, excuse me, maybe they wanted it to leak.”

In a related story, President Obama called Bank of America to ask if it could recommend a good accountant.
The Wall Street Journal reported that officials of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York discovered the nation’s largest banks, among them BofA, were routinely using accounting techniques to hide their debt levels at the end of every quarter. The process, which the Journal described as “legal,” involved temporarily reducing short-term debt just prior to issuing financial reports to the public, then plunging back into borrowing early the next quarter.

Nobody turns down Julian Assange for a car loan. You got that? Nobody.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange seems to have a special loathing for Bank of America. In 2009, he declared he had as many as 200,000 pages of internal BofA documents. In November 2010, he told Forbes magazine that documents from “a big U.S.bank” would be released in early 2011, and that “flagrant violations, unethical practices ... will be revealed.” One month later, after BofA announced it would no longer process payments to Wikileaks, the organization urged “all people who love freedom” to close their BofA accounts.

However, the 13-week probationary period at Parris Island is a bit tough.
After hiring Pepperdine University to study 397 metropolitan job markets, Forbes magazine declared Jacksonville, home to a giant Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, to be the No. 1 city in America to find a job.

We take our tar seriously in the Tar Heel State.
Land for Tomorrow, an environmental/preservation coalition, sponsored a contest to determine ‘North Carolina’s Ten Natural Wonders.’ After 3,000 votes from residents were counted, it was determined that the state’s top natural wonder was a strip of asphalt — the Blue Ridge Parkway.

You’re fired! Oh, and Merry Christmas ... or whatever you believe in.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Charlotte-based Belk department-store chain after an employee at a Raleigh store was terminated for refusing to wear a Santa hat and red apron as she wrapped gifts for customers. The EEOC lawsuit said the employee, a Jehovah’s Witness, does not observe Christmas as part of her faith and that Belk should have accommodated her religious convictions.

That’s easy. Just make it the Family Buck-Fifty store.
Billionaire Nelson Peltz, a New York hedge-fund manager, spent $169 million to acquire a nearly 7% stake in the Matthews-based Family Dollar discount chain, declaring that the company is ‘currently undervalued in the marketplace’ and that steps are needed to boost its value.

Much to Tiger Woods’ relief, sexting is OK.
Organizers of the Wyndham Championship golf tournament in Greensboro announced that cell phones, previously banned from the PGA Tour event, would now be allowed — provided users kept them in silent mode and refrained from taking photos or video during play.

A few extra sips here and there, he might have hit 100.
Daniel Fussell, the Rose Hill entrepreneur who founded Duplin Winery and whose sons turned it into a successful operation on the back of a marketing campaign that extolled the health benefits of wine made from muscadine grapes, died one week short of his 97th birthday.

Is that a stock tip in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?
Robert Moffat, a former top executive at IBM’s personal-computer operation in Research Triangle Park, asked for leniency after pleading guilty to participating in an insider-trading scheme uncovered by federal investigators. In papers filed with the court, Moffat said that a female executive at a hedge fund extracted insider information from him by manipulating him into an affair and causing him “to lose sight of the principles that he had lived by.”

Clearly, they’ve taken that healing thing a little too far.
Lenoir Memorial Hospital in Kinston reported a $2 million deficit in July, caused in large part by a 32.5% drop in admissions. A hospital board member explained the dramatic decrease by pointing out that “it could be that people are just healthier this summer.”

Then again, just two years ago, your average investment banker’s bar bill alone would have made NYC No. 1.
Raleigh and Durham both placed among the top 10 in a study measuring household spending by city (exclusive of mortgage and rent). Bundle, a website that tracks consumer trends, said Raleigh households spent $53,398 annually, placing it sixth on the list; Durham earned the No. 10 spot by spending $51,114 per household. New York City households, in contrast, averaged a relatively paltry $37,435, putting it 53rd on the list.

City views! Luxury amenities! Courtesy lawsuit with every unit!
The developers of a high-rise Charlotte condo called The Vue sued four customers who had signed contracts to buy units in the downtown building but walked away from the deal when appraisals for their new homes came in significantly below the contract price. The developers want the court to force the buyers to take custody of the units and pay damages for their “failure to timely perform their obligations.”

But for real fun, go to Youngstown, Ohio. (Really, it’s No. 28.)
Portfolio.com, the online business magazine, named Greensboro as the state’s top Fun City. The list of 100 Fun Cities in America, in which Greensboro finished 47th, also included Charlotte (No. 51) and Raleigh (72). Greensboro also finished ahead of Nashville and Honolulu. The top five were obvious: New York, Chicago, Boston, Miami and Los Angeles.

“Yeah yeah yeah, he’ll get around to fixing it after he burns us all a copy of Avatar.”
After a puzzlingly long delay in overhauling the Employment Security Commission’s computer system — which had chronically overpaid benefits to the unemployed, resulting in a demand from the U.S. Department of Labor that the system be fixed — a state audit of the ESC revealed that a computer analyst had installed DVD-copying software on the agency computer and routinely supplied bootleg movies to his bosses.

And thus the sudden spike in sales of Pepto-Bismol is explained.
The N.C. State Fair, long-renowned for such food oddities as Krispy Kreme cheeseburgers, deep-fried candy bars and turkey legs the size of a caveman’s club, set a new attendance record with nearly 1.1 million visitors to the 11-day event.

“Fined” — a nautical term referring to the mysterious disappearance at sea of an unpopular crew member.
The boat that pulled in the apparent winner in the high-stakes Big Rock Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament forfeited $913,000 in prize money when it was discovered that one of the mates didn’t have a fishing license — which in North Carolina costs $15 a year for residents, $30 for nonresidents. One of the owners of the boat (named The Citation, ironically) told the Jacksonville Daily News, “He’s obviously going to be fined.”

In response, students staged a drunken “Dick Brodhead Party” and posted photos online.
After a series of unflattering reports in the media about Duke University — including a mock thesis by a female Duke student graphically describing her sex life, a fraternity’s Halloween party invitation that encouraged women to dress “slutty” and the discovery of a teenager passed out in a portable toilet at a campus tailgate party — President Richard Brodhead sent an e-mail to all students encouraging them to cease doing things that make “the most boorish student conduct seem typical of Duke.”

To report a power outage, press 1. To report a catastrophic drop in your investment holdings, press 2.
Progress Energy stockholders had a bad day when the share price of the Raleigh-based power company mysteriously plunged from $44.57 to $4.57 in a matter of seconds Sept. 27. New York Stock Exchange officials later described it as a “flash” triggered by computerized trading after a trader mistakenly entered erroneous price information.

Ah, that Blagojevich guy’s a piker. This is how you be a governor.
After enduring a federal grand jury investigation, a State Board of Elections investigation, and a steady stream of newspaper reports that uncovered discounts on a coastal property, financial breaks from pricey golf clubs, unreported campaign gifts, a free car for his son and a high-paying state job for his wife, former Gov. Mike Easley pleaded guilty in state court to one count of violating campaign finance laws — specifically, accepting a helicopter ride from a supporter.

Why is this man smiling?
Easley’s punishment was a $1,000 fine.