City leaders remember the devastating earthquake in Haiti one year later.


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ORLANDO – For Marjory Sheba, the images were so strong and horrific, so quick to scar the psyche, that she recalled them through words of poetry.

“Three-hundred and sixty-five days and counting,” Sheba said.  “Our people are suffering.  They’ve suffered before, but now their hearts are tearing.”

Wednesday marked the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that caused so much damage, destruction and death in the nation of Haiti. It was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake, with an epicentre near the town of Leogane, about 16 miles west of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Price.  It happened on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010, and by Jan. 24, at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater had been recorded. It’s been estimated that three million people were impacted by the quake, with up to 234,000 killed.

“The Earth shook and swallowed us in,” said Sheba, a resident of Haiti who su

People attending the "Remembering Haiti ... The Earthquake" one year commemoration brought along donation goods for the victims.

rvived the devastation, and was in Orlando on Wednesday to take part in a ceremony marking the one year anniversary date.

“Massacred our loved ones and families,” she said.  “Help did come from distant shores. Ninety days – billions raised.  But we died in massive numbers, still.”

Sheba was one of several speakers who took part in “Remembering Haiti … The Earthquake,” a commemoration ceremony sponsored by Orlando City Commissioner Samuel B. Ings, and held in the main rotunda of Orlando City Hall.  It was an event that featured Haiti food, music, dancing, and an continued effort to collect donations for the people of Haiti, with a list of recommended items that included toiletries, new and gently used clothing, school supplies, sporting goods, and more.

Dominique Mathurin sings the Star Spangled Banner while Monica May, host of the "Remembering Haiti ... The Earthquake" ceremony looks on at Orlando City Hall.

But it was also a time to solumnly mark the terrible loss of life in that nation, and the challenges that face ongoing relief efforts for the victims of the quake.

“This time last year at approximately 4:15 p.m., the first foundations were torn across borders in Haiti,” said Monica May, the host of the Tom Joyner Morning Show and news/community affairs director at STAR 94.5 COX Radio station in Orlando.  “A sound like none we have ever heard was heard at this time in Haiti.  We are here tonight to remember Haiti, to remember the lives that were lost, to remember the families that were lost.”

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, whose district includes parts of Orlando, said she got a congressional briefing last week about the situation in Haiti, and it continues to frustrate members of Congress that “billions of dollars was allocated to the people of Haiti, and they’re still waiting.”

Brown blamed that on the disputed Nov. 28 Haitian presidential election.  The results have been held up due to allegations of fraud, and there have been calls for a new election to be held.

“It’s an example of when the government doesn’t work, the people suffer,” Brown said.  “There’s still over a million people in tents – in tents, still.  Not acceptable.”

Sheba described her people as being “sick from the corruption clutching our airs,” and said it was deplorable that a year later, they’re still waiting for so much of that help to arrive.

“The reason why we’re waiting still – just inexcuable,” she said.  “We cry out for justice.” 

Judeson Jean Juste, a survivor the earthquake in Haiti, sings the Haitian National Anthem at Orlando City Hall.

But there was also a sense of hope at the event, a feeling that people could be inspired to join in the relief effort, and come together as an extended family.

“We thank our family – those of you who are in the seats here with us,” May said, while Brown added, “Hopefully this is going to be a new beginning.”

Ings noted that the ceremony was “a cultural event that celebrates the Haitian culture while bringing awareness of the continued needs of the people of Haiti.”

And while he thanked those who made donations, and those who showed up to demonstrate their support for the people of Haiti, he also urged the guests at City Hall to enjoy the music, entertainment, and especially the food that was being provided there.

“The reception line is open,” Ings said, shortly before the speaking program started.  “So you’re welcome to all the food here.”

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Gun rights group lashes out at Congress for proposing new gun control laws after the Tucson shooting.


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ORLANDO – The tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona that killed six people and critically injured a member of Congress could have been averted if someone in the audience had been carrying a concealed weapon, the president of Gun Owners of America says.

“How sad that in a state that has very friendly gun laws, among the 40 people there to see the congresswoman, none was armed,” said Larry Pratt, national president of Gun Owners of America, a nonprofit organization based in Virginia that’s committed to preserving the Second Amendment and the right to own and bear arms.

Did the Tucson shooting prove that tougher gun control laws are needed to keep us safe in public -- or demonstrate that more people need to be armed and ready to defend themselves?

This morning, Pratt was a call-in guest on “The Guetzloe Report,” commentator Doug Guetzloe’s daily radio talk show on the PhoenixNetwork.US station.

Guetzloe had invited Pratt and Mike Hammond, the organization’s chief legal counsel, to call in and talk about last Saturday’s shootings at a supermarket in Tucson, where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was meeting with constituents.  A suspect, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, shot Giffords in the head at point-blank range and killed six other people before two people tackled him and he was arrested.

Giffords is now recovering after brain surgery, while Loughner has been charged with two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and a count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress.

”It has been a real tragedy, and from tragedy comes choas,” Guetzloe said.  He noted that supporters of gun control, which Guetzloe opposes, are already exploiting this incident to push for stricter gun laws.

That includes Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY, who ran for Congress in 1996, three years after a gunman killed her husband and injured her son in a 1993 shooting on Long Island.  Noting that the pistol used in the Tucson attack had an extended magazine that allowed the gunman to take at least 20 shots at the crowd, McCarthy proposed legislation to restrict the use of these magazines.

In a statement posted on her congressional website, McCarthy said, “One of the greatest privileges of being an American is the freedom to peaceably assemble in public.  One of the greatest pleasures of being an elected official is meeting with constituents in their communities in order to help them.  As someone who’s experienced senseless gun violence firsthand, I’m praying for my colleague Rep. Giffords, the others shot with her and all their families today.  This is clearly an illustration of why we must all work together to fight gun violence in America and keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of the wrong people.”

But Guetzloe countered that her proposal would do nothing to make people safer, and would only punish law abiding gun owners.

“We must resist any and all efforts to restrict our freedoms,” he said.  “I was trying to remember throughout history the societies and nations that have survived invasions without weapons.  They just don’t exist.  Our founding fathers recognized we need to have heavily armed civilians in order to maintain order.”

Hammond agreed, noting that laws against murder don’t deter criminals, so gun control laws won’t, either.

“It’s actually against the law to kill people,” he said.  “That didn’t seem to have any impact on Jared Loughner.” 

Are people being targeted even when they're at crowded public events? Or is the freedom to own a gun now being targeted?

Hammond said he expects that as a result of this high profile case, “There’s going to be three anti-gun provisions that are going to be put forward.”

Legislation by McCarthy and U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., he said, would restore a ban on automatic, high capacity clips like the ones Loughner used.  He also expects legislation that would require the organizers and operators of gun shows to tell everyone who walks in the door about the restrictions that apply under the Brady Act, which requires that background checks be conducted on individuals before a firearm can be purchased from a federally licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer.

“If even one person gets in without hearing about that, you and every other promoter can be sent to jail for two years,” Hammond said.  “The net effect of that is to ban all gun shows.”

Hammond said he also believes some in Congress want to give the Obama administration the ability to expand who gets on a government “Watch List,” including people who belong to gun rights organizations like his and the National Rifle Association.

“You know how these watch lists work,” he said.  “They don’t need to tell you why you’re on.  It’s almost impossible to get off.  Obama could create a new watch list of NRA members.”

Pratt said McCarthy’s proposal to limit the size of gun magazines is misguided because people carrying rifles with long multiple round magazines have made themselves safer in dangerous urban neighborhoods.

“For the anti-gunners to do this is consistent with their philosophy that self-defense is not a good thing and shouldn’t be left to mere citizens,” Pratt said.

The bottom line, Pratt added, is nobody should assume the government can protect them when they’re out in public – unless they take steps to protect themselves.

“That’s just a great tragedy that people just assume, ‘We’re in a nice part of town, nothing can go wrong,’ “ he said.  “Abraham Lincoln was in a theater – what can go wrong?”

Pratt urged opponents of gun control to click onto Gunowners.org and sign up for bulletins about what’s happening in Congress.

“You can be a part of the fight, and it’s cheap and easy,” he said.  “They (Congress) need to hear from us.  They don’t need to slide into a little hermetic cocoon without being reminded of why we voted them in.”

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Small business owner offers tips on starting and growing a successful company.


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The Orlando Public Library has free services for people who want to start and grow a small business.

ORLANDO – Looking at the nation’s Gross Domestic Product – the amount of goods and services produced in the United States each year – R. Brek Dalrymple noted that it amounted to $14 trillion before the nation plunged into a steep recession.

Dalrymple, a small business owner who operates The BrekGroup, was meeting with a group of people at the Orlando Public Library who either had just started their own business or were thinking about it.  Dalrymple asked the crowd to guess just how far the nation’s GDP had fallen since the recession started.  The answer, he said, might surprise everyone.

“In our terrible economy,” he said, “we dropped to $13.9 trillion.” Even in what many would consider the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, he said, the drop was relatively small.

The bottom line, he added, is that even in a bad economy, there’s still plenty of money that people have to spend – even if they’re more guarded about what they buy.

“There is a crapload of opportunity out there still, even when the economy is bad,” Dalrymple said.  “The good news is there’s money to be made.”

With Central Florida facing a double digit unemployment rate and the number of jobless still high, an alternative for some job seeking may be to create their own business, even they have the skills to offer a viable product to the public.

But before anyone jumps into becoming an entrepreneur, Dalrymple said, it’s important to know what to do first – and what not to do.

“When you go to start your own business, the first thing people are going to talk to you about is a business plan,” he said.  “My thought is to forget all of that.  Your business plan should be one page.”

Business plans are usually required by banks before a loan can be approved, but Dalrymple noted that following the bank crisis and the subsequent tight lending standards that it produced, “a bank isn’t going to loan you any money.”

Instead, he added, people need to start by looking in the mirror and asking themselves some tough questions.

“It’s managing your emotions,” he said.  “You don’t have anybody else to help you.  If you’ve been depressed – and it will happen – and if you’ve been beaten down – and it will happen – you have to remember that for the ones who succeed, they’re really, really determined.  They don’t quit.  For some reason, they have a burning desire not to quit.”

If that’s you, Dalrymple said, you’ve got the potential to operate a small, and perhaps one day thriving, business.

“If you can just keep going, chances are you can be successful,” he said.  “How are you going to convince me to buy something if you’re feeling crappy about yourself?  But if you’re the kind of person who can control rejection and handle chaos, that’s a sign that you can make this happen.”

On Wednesday, the Orlando Public Library hosted a program called “Small Business Help,” an opportunity for business owners and those considering starting their own company to learn about the free library resources and services available there to help them.

It was the brainchild of Librarian Kris Woodson, who said far too many people don’t know they can tap into assistance at the downtown library.

“This is a program I’ve wanted to do for a long time now,” she said.  “Those resources are free for you to use.”

They include an online Virtual Library that offers an e-guide to starting and growing a business.

The Orlando Public Library has a Virtual Library that contains an e-guide explaining how to start a business.

“It’s just a wealth of information, and I encourage you to explore it,” Woodson said.  “It will take you through everything you need to know about starting your own business.”

Woodson also invited Dalrymple to host a program on helping small business owners and entrepreneurs.  Dalrymple said he understands from past experience what it takes to become a small business owner.

“I’ve worked for companies that employed six or seven people, and I’ve worked at companies that have employed 40,000 people,” he said.  “I’ve flipped burgers for a living while working my way through college.”

He started The BrekGroup three years ago, he said, because, like most other entrepreneurs, “I wanted to be able to control my own destiny.  But the problem with people with small businesses is they don’t like to take advice – and I count myself among them.  We all have our ideas of how our life is going to go.  What I’ve found is it doesn’t work that way.”

Dalyrmple said any small business owner needs to begin with a firm idea of what they can do – but they should also keep learning, and researching, and reaching out to others for help and ideas.  Be aware, he added, of what it is that other people want.

“I’ve found that if you can tune yourself in to what your friends are talking about, you’ll find some opportunities there,” he said.  “You have to find a way to think like your client.  That’s really, really hard.  It’s not easy to do.  You’ve got to figure out how to deliver your message quickly.  That’s a big challenge when you run your own company.”

It helps, he said, to avoid pretending to be something you’re not.

“One of the things I see a lot of small companies do is try to pretend you’re a really big company,” he said.  “Your being small is your strength – which is you’re adaptable, as long as you have a product that has something unique to it.”

In addition to talking to friends and family about their ideas, Dalrymple said business owners should also talk to their competition – a lot.

“If you’re going to open your own business, you have to know your competitors,” he said.  “How do you beat your competitor? If you go into your business, know about your competitors.  Call them.  I’ve done that.  That’s really important.  You want to be able to differentiate yourself.  Know your competitors’ pricing.  What are they good at and what are they bad at?  Then figure out what you’re good at and what you’re bad at.”

A big mistake that small business owners make, he said, is to assume that if they lower their prices compared to what competitors are charging, they’ll have a clear advantage.  It doesn’t work that way, he said.  Instead, stay competitive with other prices in the field, but offer better service, better delivery, better results.

“There are 10,o00 businesses out there that will cut down your price by a nickel,” he said.  “Don’t focus on price, number one.  I don’t want you doing that as a rule, because you won’t be in business for very long.  Small companies know that there are people out there that don’t know what they’re doing, and they underprice to get the job.”

The public library is one of several places to get free help on starting a business.

There are some other local resources available to people starting a business, he added.  The Small Business Administration has an office near Lake Eola in downtown Orlando, where entrepreneurs can take a business plan seminar and meet with a business counselor.  The University of Central Florida has a business incubation program.

“Most of the resources, I’ve found, I’ve been disappointed with,” he added.  “I don’t belong to any networking groups because the ones I went to just wanted to sell me insurance.”

But he also said business owners shouldn’t be afraid to go it alone, at least in the beginning.

“The right time is never going to come, so if you want to do it, just do it,” he said.

Most of all, he said, remain determined to succeed, no matter how many road blocks you stumble over in the short run.

“The reality of the world is you’re going to get a lot of rejection,” Dalrymple said.  “Tell yourself, ‘I’m not going to go into the black hole of despair.  If you think you can do it, if you have passion for it, then you can do it.  Pick the best thing you’ve got, pick something you’re passionate about.  Be different.  Be unique.  Status quo is death.”

To learn more about Dalrymple and The BrekGroup, call 407-841-3391 or email BrekD@BrekGroup.com.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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