News for Saturday, March 18, 2006

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Howard Flowers

Howard Inman Flowers, age 80, of Snellville, GA , died Friday, March 17, 2006. Arrangements are pending with the Bill Head Funeral Homes and Crematory, Lilburn/Tucker Chapel, 770-564-2726.

Winifred Plocher

Winifred Marie Snyder Plocher, age 64, of Duluth, GA, joined her parents and her husband's parents after a very brief illness on Friday, March 17, 2006. Funeral Services will be ...

Maria Desantiago

Maria Esther DeSantiago, age 92 of Snellville, Georgia, died March 17, 2006. Memorial services will be held at a later date. The remains have been cremated. Tom M. Wages Funeral ...

Students gather in Gwinnett for annual robotics competition

DULUTH - The players thrashed their way across the field, grabbing balls and scoring as many baskets as they could before the buzzer rang. Made of wood, plastic, metal and wires, they demonstrated their remote-controlled athleticism.

SUV strikes Lawrenceville building

LAWRENCEVILLE - For the third or fourth time in recent months, a sport utility vehicle veered off the road in downtown Lawrenceville on Friday and slammed into the brick exterior of a historic building. In the process, the SUV mowed down a brick pillar, several bushes, a lamppost and two flower pots.

Suwanee wants to annex 270-acre island

SUWANEE -- Herb and Mitzi Godfrey bought their home in Morningside subdivision in 1998 because they wanted to be in Suwanee's city limits.

Herb Godfrey had spent decades acquiring land for airports and working with zoning boards, and he was eager to put that experience to work for the city. Although their home stands within spitting distance of Suwanee Elementary School and city limit signs, the Godfreys were surprised to find they actually lived outside Suwanee's boundaries, in unincorporated Gwinnett County.

Water, water everywhere; it's only $1 a bottle

Am I the only one amazed at this whole bottled water phenomenon? Seriously, how many of you would ever have believed that we would ever buy bottled water at a dollar a shot? Me either, but we do and are glad to get it at that price.

Bottled water is everywhere. I am not sure if it outsells soft drinks yet, but I'd be willing to bet that the day is coming - and soon.

Letters to the Editor

We should apologize for selling out nation

We have outsourced millions of jobs to other nations. Thanks to NAFTA, CAFTA and other one-sided, job-draining deals, millions of jobs have left our borders.

Fifteen million illegal aliens have invaded our nation, swamped our social services and devastated wages and benefits, but our U.S. Senate is poised to grant them amnesty. Unprecedented massive legal immigration based on family relations and millions of questionable work visas have drained off jobs once held by Americans.

Police Reports

Man robs store with knife

•NORCROSS - The Metro PCS store at 6090 Jimmy Carter Blvd. was robbed Tuesday by a man with a knife.

Officer shoots, kills fleeing suspect

LAWRENCEVILLE - A Gwinnett County police officer shot and killed a fleeing suspect armed with a handgun Friday in a business park adjacent to Interstate 85 South in Duluth.

Local Briefs

Hi-Hope fundraiser gala to be tonight

•DULUTH - The Hi-Hope Service Center will hold its 27th Annual Gala today in Duluth.

The gala is the largest annual fundraiser for the Hi-Hope center, a Lawrenceville nonprofit group that provides services to adults with developmental disabilities. The proceeds typically cover about 6 percent of the organization's annual operating expenses, the group said.

County completes economic development department hiring

LAWRENCEVILLE - A former state business recruiter will join Gwinnett's economic development ranks.

Bill takes heat before committee

ATLANTA - A proposed crackdown on sex offenders in the General Assembly would score political points for lawmakers without seriously addressing crimes that victimize children, two convicted sex offenders said Friday.

Nature center featured on television program

BUFORD - A little piece of nature between the interstate and a mall could be an outdoorsman's dream.

Battle of the bots

Bottom line bites BellSouth

Well, knock me over with a rotary-dial telephone! My alma mater, BellSouth, has been purchased by "The New AT&T," aka SBC, aka Southwestern Bell, one of the seven original regional holding companies, created at the divestiture of "The Old AT&T" back in 1984.

Plans are to move the headquarters of the company to San Antonio, Texas, although Gov. Sonny Perdue says he is going to visit AT&T and try to talk them into moving to Atlanta. Good luck with that pipe dream.

Why would AT&T want to move to Atlanta? San Antonio has the Alamo, Riverwalk and the NBA champion Spurs. All Atlanta has is a catchy jingle, the Atlanta Hawks and a sewer system crumbling faster than warm cornbread.

I must admit I was shocked to learn of the $67 billion transaction not from the company, but on the Sunday evening news. I, along with other retired officers and directors, received an e-mail on Monday saying the announcement was made on Sunday because of "media speculation in the electronic press."

I'm not quite sure what an "electronic press" is, unless newspapers have discovered a new way to print papers electronically. I think the company meant "television," but I'm not going to ask because at this point it doesn't matter. Sold is sold.

Is the old Bell system monopoly being re-created? No. There is too much new technology around and too many competitive players for that to happen again.

Cable companies are now in the telephone business. So are Internet companies. The telecommunications companies are getting into television. Where it is all headed, no one knows. I only know that the days of a telephone monopoly are gone forever. And, alas, so is BellSouth.

What makes all of this ironic is that I was part of the team that helped create BellSouth. My little band of warriors designed the current BellSouth logo, created a financial information program for Wall Street - we had to sell stock, you know - and positioned BellSouth as "The right company in the right place at the right time."

It worked. The company hit the ground running as the 13th-largest corporation in America.

In spite of doing everything for the first time as a publicly owned company, we did it pretty well. Our management team was bright. Our network was technologically advanced. We were in one of the fastest-growing areas of the country, and we gave good service.

For seven years in a row, Fortune magazine named BellSouth the "Most Admired" company in the telecommunications industry.

Southwestern Bell wasn't a blip on our radar in those days. Somewhere along the line, the company caught fire and grew like kudzu. It bought PacTel, Ameritech and the old AT&T.

At the same time, Verizon merged Bell Atlantic with NYNEX and bought GTE and MCI and became a formidable competitor in the marketplace as well. BellSouth suddenly found itself the odd man out. Quite a comedown from those heady days in which we were the telecommunications Pied Piper and everyone was following us.

BellSouth's CEO Duane Ackerman is getting kicked around in the media for being too cautious in an industry that requires bold leadership and a fair amount of risk taking, and for getting outmaneuvered by his counterpart at AT&T, Ed Whitacre.

I suspect there is some truth to the charge. I don't know anyone who would classify Ackerman as a visionary. Don't cry for Ackerman, however. His timidity will earn him about $49 million.

Lost in all the hoopla are some 10,000 staffers - many in Georgia - who probably will lose their jobs as a result of the sale. These are hard-working people whose only sin was to be in the wrong company in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe Ackerman will share some of his largesse with them, but I wouldn't count on it.

Am I sad that my old company is riding off into the sunset? Not much, because corporations like BellSouth don't engender the kind of loyalty they used to.

Today, it is all about the bottom line, and the bottom line in this case is that BellSouth is no more. End of story.

Contact Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net or at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139. Visit his Web site at www.dickyarbrough.com. His column appears on Saturday.