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When pondering global military confrontations, the Spratly Islands are probably not at the top of your list or even on the list for that matter. Yet, this archipelago in the South China Sea continues to fester as a potential flashpoint for war, or, as it is now called – “kinetic military action.”

The Spratlys are located about halfway between Vietnam and the Philippines. While the 750 or so islands and coral reefs encompass a nautical area around a 160,000 square miles, the actual combined land mass is less than 2 square miles. I bet my Chevy Aveo is bigger than some of those “islands.” Despite its diminutive size, no less than six countries lay partial or complete claim to this island chain. The lucky contestants are China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.


Sometimes ideas circulating around the Legislative Building provoke both laughter and scorn.

So it was with legislation that moved through a state House committee recently which would fund government by tax form check-off.

The proposal from House Republicans was ingenious really. If you want to give all or some of your state tax refund to the universities, just check a box. If you decided to designate that refund for the state's entire general operating fund, you could do that too.


It turns out that thousands of teachers, teacher assistants and other rank and file state employees won’t be the only people laid off by the Republicans in the General Assembly this year.

A few members of House Speaker Thom Tillis’ staff soon may be looking for work too. Tillis told the News & Observer recently that he plans to reduce his staff in the next few weeks and that his final payroll costs for the year will be roughly 17 percent less than his predecessor, Democrat Joe Hackney, spent in his last year in office.


Who would have thought that you could qualify for a public pension and not be a public employee?

Some goings-on during the final days of this year's regular session of the North Carolina legislature exposed that fact, although certainly a few state government insiders were aware of it.

A provision appeared in a piece of legislation that would have added the employees of the N.C. Sheriff's Association to the state's Local Government Retirement System, the pension fund that pays retirement benefits to local government workers.


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