It’s a vertical photo of a semi-vertical post, within a post. Just thinking about that makes my noodle hurt. Photo by Laura Fernandez.

When Nicole Hidalgo sings the National Anthem, it’s not just to honor the nation. It’s not just for her singing career, or the experience of winning. When she sings it, it brings her a little closer to her uncle, Charles “Chuckie” Mendez, a firefighter who died in the September 11 World Trade Center attacks. And now she’s poised to have that experience in front of the largest audience of her life.

Hidalgo, a Gerritsen Beach native,  is one of four finalists competing for the chance to sing in honor of the Stars & Stripes to a crowd of 80,000 before a Jets game. The competition ends tomorrow, July 22, at midnight, and she needs all the help she can get from neighbors to boost her into the spotlight.

Keep reading to find out how you can help.

Followers of Lyndon LaRouche are prattling the day away in front of the Bill Brown Post Office (2628 East 18th Street), collecting donations for their strange political movement and carrying signs with President Barack Obama sporting a Hitler mustache.

The group’s members say they have stationed tables all around the city today, each trying to raise at least $1,000 for LaRouche.

Wondering who LaRouche is? The perennial presidential candidate is often described as an extremist, conspiracy theorist and even a cult leader. He ran for presidency in every race from 1976 to 2004, even commanding political campaigns from behind bars, after being imprisoned for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and tax code violations.

Now the LaRouche followers are asking for financial support and mailing list sign-ups to help. They say they’re attempting to get Obama impeached by the end of the summer, reinstate the Depression-era banking regulations of Glass-Steagall and, well, that’s all they say. When asked where the money goes, they said it was to the publications – which depict Obama embracing Hitler, among other images – and to fund the Worldwide LaRouche Youth Movement. The youth arm formed in 2000, with their first major campaign being in 2003, when it distributed over a million leaflets across the country picturing Arnold Schwarzenegger alongside Adolf Hitler (sense a theme here?). The youth arm is described by critics as a college recruiting arm for the larger organization, that uses high-pressure, strong arm tactics.

Unfortunately, that bit isn’t being discussed at their table outside of the post office, and dozens of residents opposed to the Obama administration donated money based on their claims that it would be used to unseat the president before the end of the summer.

The following op-ed was written by Steve Barrison. Barrison is the president of Bay Improvement Group and executive vice president of the Small Business Congress of New York City. The op-ed was written in response to the Department of Sanitation’s claim that Big Belly automatic solar-powered trash compactors were “very cost prohibitive” and confusing for residents.

Contrary to the Sanitation Department’s statement, Big Belly machines save money and are not regularly confused with mailboxes!

Also, local businesses should be investigated for using street litter baskets illegally. They must have private carters!

The Challenge: Reducing operating costs to balance the budget, while maintaining service levels.

In 2009, The City of Philadelphia was faced with a difficult but common issue. Mandated budget cuts had every department scrambling to figure out how to provide vital public services on fewer budget dollars. As with other departments, the public waste services division was targeted for a budget reduction, but there was also concern that any cutbacks in actual services levels would unleash a flood of public complaints. Still, the imperative to close the budget gap remained.

Find out how Philly did it, and how we can do it, too.

Source: Flickr/ClevelandRob

Telling Tips is a series of articles from local experts to help you save money, make better decisions and plan for a better future.

Yes, the Energy Credit is still available, although in a geriatric state.

For 2009 and 2010 you were allowed a 30 percent credit of up to $1,500 for helping yourself and the environment by installing residential energy efficient improvements to your home for insulation materials, exterior windows and doors, hot water boilers, and several other items. (For more info, see IRS form 5695 [PDF])

Although millions were lost to the U.S. Treasury due to false claims of these improvements (no, the IRS never bothered to request proof), this credit is still here, although drastically modified.

Learn about the limitations, and how you can use these credits.

I can’t help but think of the closing scene from the old show, “The Naked City,” when I look at the above image. Photo by Randy Contello.

Aside from illegal dumping, there’s another culprit in the curious case of Sheepshead Bay’s garbage-strewn streets: overflowing trash bins. With reduced pickup service from the Department of Sanitation, the public garbage cans seen on street corners quickly overfill, with wind blowing litter to-and-fro.

But Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz is seeking a high-tech solution to the problem: automatic solar powered compacting garbage and recycling cans for Emmons Avenue.

The cans are able to pack in about five times the normal amount of waste as a regular trash can, powered by the sun’s rays. When finally full, the Big Belly sends a text message back to officials. The end result is a savings in labor, fuel and maintenance for the Sanitation Department.

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A car stopped short before entering a construction area on Ocean Avenue between Avenue W and Gravesend Neck Road, leading to a three-car pileup near the Avenue W intersection around 1:00 p.m.

The first car received minor damage, but the larger collision appeared to be the rear two cars that saw significant damage to the hood and trunk. No one was injured.

Those involved said they waited in the intersection for more than an hour for police to arrive, and one witness said he went to get a haircut and came back, and authorities still had not arrived to take a report.

Photos by Erica Sherman.

High Class NY's website is still operational, but the phone line is out of service.

Prosecutors unveiled a slew of charges today against a prostitution network named High Class NY, operating along the Sheepshead Bay-Midwood border, and run by a husband, wife, son and step-son.

High Class NY charged between $400 per hour to $3,600 per hour, with clients often spending more than $10,000 in one night, the indictment alleges. In the three years it has been operating, it earned more than $7 million, using billing techniques to mask the nature of their clients’ purchases on credit card statements.

In a press conference this morning, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes slammed the high-price ring as a low-class venture.

“There is no such thing as a high-class pimp, and as we do with all other pimps, my office will prosecute these defendants and seek the maximum sentences available under the law,” said Hynes.

Read details from the case, including a list of charges and names of some of those involved.

THE BITE: We’ve covered Buffalo wings previously on The Bite, but we’ve never taken on “Famous Buffalo Wings” before. So today, we head to the outer reaches of Sheepshead Bay for the “best Buffalo wings on Staten Island. ” No, we didn’t actually go to Staten Island, we drove over to Marine Park. Confused yet? Hold on. It gets worse. I’ll try to explain it as clearly as I can.

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