31 July 2010

i hope wikileaks can obtain another 90,000+ documents

As I understand it, having received a nationally standardized grade school education like most everyone else, it is the people of the United States that hold the real power over the federal government, not these smarmy politicians we elect to warm the seats of power in Washington D.C.  Says so right in the fine print of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.  I know it because I've read it.  We the people... do ordain and establish. Not the government, not rich folk, not politicians and certainly not foreign nationals be they Rupert Murdoch or Benjamin 'Nut'anyahu.

So say it loud and say it proud you soft, morbidly obese, tv addicted masses:  We the People do Ordain and Establish!

So if this government is of the People, by the People, for the People then what's with all this secrecy going on in the halls of power?  Maybe that seems a bit naive of a question on the surface but consider we Americans didn't even have classified information before World War I and that we were so secure in our ways that we were ready to disband the Army.  It was in all the papers if you bother to look, a little reminder from history of where we were going as a country until the rich captains of industry bribed the federal government through King Calvin Coolidge's administration to intervene in Europe because of all the profits to be made.  This is where the secrecy starts. 

Thus, with the aid of the new British propaganda division, a new kind of America is born that leads us to the present where secrets are bartered and traded simply to pad the wallets of the very wealthiest of Americans or satisfy another man's drea of gold while we the masses wallow in a virtual slavery we have brought upon ourselves, begging for handouts so our kids won't go hungry another night.  That is our reward for selling our birthright.  We are the Esau's of the present all because we allowed ourselves to be used by covetous men.  And these covetous men never go away.  Like bats they hang in the halls of power, shitting on the floors of Congress and White House alike always searching for an opening to use to their advantage so they might best exploit the situation at hand for maximum benefit to themselves or their corporate cause.  It's all about the ducats baby!

When the Bush people allowed 9/11 to happen, they knew what they were doing and probably knew they'd never be called to justice (which they still haven't).  Had we Americans demanded to see all the documents instead of buying into the whole "national security" crap, George Bush, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney (and many others) would have been executed or jailed forever for crimes against this country, but we as a nation drank the Kool-Aid and valuable evidence lost.  We are now trapped in a so called "post 9/11 world" of Rovian design because we allowed our power over the vultures in Washington to lapse into a very different past where no Army or "state secrets" was even needed.

So, when I voted for Obama I had no false hopes of ending secrecy in government because men of power with something to hide classify anything as secret.  That's just how it is; the nature of the beast.  When a man has a guilty conscience or doing something he knows is wrong or is ashamed of, he will hide it as best he is able.  They all do it and all the hope and change in the world won't change that.  I suppose it could have but our President has taken another road, the old one that lead to ruin. 

Afghanistan was George Bush's 1st war of choice, a field test to see how American's would take to invading sovereign nations.  Because of its test status, this theater of war was neglected in favor of the Iraq war, the jewel of the neo con Republikkkan crown.  National security is ALWAYS trumped by money making schemes in Washington.  Having done nothing to win the war, Bush boldly proclaimed it was for the next President to figure out, he, Bush, did his part by getting us stuck there.  Bastard!  By the time Obama appears, Afghanistan is a cluster fuck.  Opium flows freely, the Taliban is aided by the Afghans and Pakistanis and our fighting men and women are fish in a mountainous barrel, caught between a rock and a hard place.  They are told to maintain a rediculous set of rules for engagement while their enemy has no such restraint.  Unable to differentiate friend from foe, mistakes happen and civilian women and children die in the name of empirical hubris.

Of course we weren't told any of this.  The leadership in Washington classified it all so we the People could remain ignorant of the truth and keep accepting these wars as a Patriotic duty.

Thank heaven for Wikileaks then.  Now the evidence is irrefutable and we Americans can no longer play dumb about the facts.  We are fighting a war we cannot win.  Each military death is a wasted life, another murder on George Bush's head.  President Obama is trying in vain to save the whole misguided enterprise, but it was broke to begin with.  It is we the People who Ordain and Establish and we can end this war.  It is our voices, our protests, our letters to elected officials, our courage that will bring our fighting men and women home where they belong.  The Wikileaks makes it a moral imperative.  We can trust and believe the rich fat cats of Washington or  we can trust and believe in our common sense.  And we need some common sense in America today, not the rabid frothing of the lunatic fringe the GOP seems to love and adore so much.

PFC Manning is an American hero and I pray there are thousands like him out there ready to show the ugly truth when needed because as a country we sleep too much when we need to be at the wheel and driving.  But it may be too late.  My government is considering putting a hit on Julian Assange as well as having him arrested so who knows if there is anyone brave enough to take up Assange's cause if anything happens to him.  Still, I hope he continues to do exactly what he is doing: lighting fires under the asses of the ruling elite who answer to no one. 

29 July 2010

Who Is Behind the 25,000 Deaths In Mexico? | The Nation

Who Is Behind the 25,000 Deaths In Mexico? | The Nation

With at least 25,000 people slaughtered in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón hurled the Mexican Army into the anti-cartel battle, three questions remain unanswered: Who is being killed, who is doing the killing and why are people being killed? This is apparently considered a small matter to US leaders in the discussions about failed states, narco-states and the false claim that violence is spilling across the border.

President Calderón has stated repeatedly that 90 percent of the dead are connected to drug organizations. The United States has silently endorsed this statement and is bankrolling it with $1.4 billion through Plan Mérida, the three-year assistance plan passed by the Bush administration in 2008. Yet the daily torrent of local press accounts from Ciudad Juárez makes it clear that most of the murder victims are ordinary Mexicans who magically morph into drug cartel members before their blood dries on the streets, sidewalks, vacant lots, pool halls and barrooms where they fall dead, riddled with bullets. Juárez is ground zero in this war: more than one-fourth of the 25,000 dead that the Mexican government admits to since December 2006 have occurred in this one border city of slightly over 1.5 million people, nearly 6,300 as of July 21, 2010. When three people attached to the US Consulate in Ciudad Juárez were killed in March this year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the murders "the latest horrible reminder of how much work we have to do together."
Just what is this work?
No one seems to know, but on the ground it is death. Calderón's war, assisted by the United States, terrorizes the Mexican people, generates thousands of documented human rights abuses by the police and Mexican Army and inspires lies told by American politicians that violence is spilling across the border (in fact, it has been declining on the US side of the border for years).
We are told of a War on Drugs that has no observable effect on drug distribution, price or sales in the United States. We are told the Mexican Army is incorruptible, when the Mexican government’s own human rights office has collected thousands of complaints that the army robs, kidnaps, steals, tortures, rapes and kills innocent citizens. We are told repeatedly that it is a war between cartels or that it is a war by the Mexican government against cartels, yet no evidence is presented to back up these claims. The evidence we do have is that the killings are not investigated, that the military suffers almost no casualties and that thousands of Mexicans have filed affidavits claiming abuse, often lethal, by the Mexican army.
Here is the US policy in a nutshell: we pay Mexicans to kill Mexicans, and this slaughter has no effect on drug shipments or prices.
This war gets personal. A friend calls late at night from Juárez and says if he is murdered before morning, be sure to tell his wife. It never occurs to him to call the police, nor does it occur to you.
A friend who is a Mexican reporter flees to the United States because the Mexican Army has come to his house and plans to kill him for writing a news story that displeases the generals. He is promptly thrown into prison by the Department of Homeland Security because he is considered a menace to American society.
On the Mexican side, a mother, stepfather and pregnant daughter are chased down on a highway in the Valle de Juárez, and shot in their car, while two toddlers watch. On the US side, a man receives a phone call and his father tells him, "I'm dying, I'm dying, I'm dead."  He hears his sister pleading for her life, "Don't kill me. No don't kill me." He thinks his niece and nephew are dead also, but they are taken to a hospital, sprayed with shattered glass. The little boy watched his mother die, her head blown apart by the bullets. A cousin waits in a parking lot surrounded by chainlink and razor-wire on the US side of the bridge for the bodies to be delivered so that he can bring them home. The next day, the family takes to the parking lots of two fast-food outlets in their hometown of Las Cruces, New Mexico, for a carwash. Young girls in pink shorts and T-shirts wave hand-lettered signs. They will wash your car and accept donations to help bury their parents and sister, to buy clothes for two small orphans. "This was just a family," says cousin Cristina, collecting donations in a zippered bag. She says they are in shock, the full impact of what happened has yet to sink in. So for now, they will raise the money they need to take care of the children. An American family.
Or, you visit the room where nine people were shot to death in August 2008 as they raised their arms to praise God during a prayer meeting.  Forty hours later, flies buzz over what lingers in cracks in the tile floor and bloody handprints mark the wall. This was the scene of the first of several mass killings at drug rehab centers where at least fifty people have been massacred over the past two years in Juárez and Chihuahua City. An evangelical preacher who survived the slaughter that night said she saw a truckload of soldiers parked at the end of the street a hundred yards from the building and that the automatic rifle fire went on for fifteen minutes.
Or you talk with a former member of the Juárez cartel who is shocked to learn of a new cabinet appointment by President Calderón because he says he used to deliver suitcases of money to the man as payment from the Juárez cartel.
The claim that ninety percent of the dead are criminals seems at best to be self-delusion. In June 2010, El Universal, a major daily in Mexico City, noted that the federal government had investigated only 5 percent of the first 22,000 executions, according to confidential material turned over to the Mexican Senate by the Mexican Attorney General.  What constituted an investigation was not explained.

On June 21, Cronica, another Mexico City paper, presented a National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) study that examined more than 5,000 complaints filed by Mexican citizens against the army. Besides incidents of rape, murder, torture, kidnapping and robbery, the report described scenes like the following: "June 1, 2007, in the community of La Joya de los Martinez, Sinaloa de Leyva: Members of the Army were camped at the edge of the highway, drinking alcoholic beverages. Two of them were inebriated and probably under the influence of some drug. They opened fire against a truck that drove along the road carrying eight members of the Esparza Galaviz family. One adult and two minors died...The soldiers arranged sacks of decomposing marijuana on the vehicle that had been attacked and killed one of their own soldiers, whose body was arranged at the crime scene to indicate that the civilian drivers had been the aggressors and had killed the soldier."

The CNDH also names the army as responsible for the shooting deaths of Martin and Brayan Almanza Salazar, aged 9 and 5, on April 3, 2010, as they traveled to the beach in Matamoros with their family. The only thing noteworthy about these cases is that they ever became public knowledge. Many more victims and survivors remain silent—afraid to report what has happened to them to any Mexican official or news reporter.
Such incidents pass unnoticed in the US press and apparently do not capture the attention of our government. Nor does the fact that in the midst of what is repeatedly called a war against drug cartels by both the American and Mexican governments and press, Mexican soldiers seem immune to bullets. With over 8,000 Mexicans killed in 2009 alone, the army reported losses of thirty-five that year. According to Reporters Without Borders, a total of sixty-seven journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, while eleven others have gone missing since 2003. Mexico is now one of the most dangerous places in the world to be reporter. And possibly the safest place in the world to be a soldier.
When there is a noteworthy massacre, the Mexican government says it proves the drug industry is crumbling. When there is a period of relative peace, the Mexican government says it shows their policy is winning. On the night of July 15, a remote-controlled car bomb exploded in downtown Juárez, killing at least three people—a federal policeman, a kidnap victim dressed in a police uniform and used as a decoy and a physician who rushed to the scene from his private office to help dozens of people injured in the blast.  A graffiti message attributed the blast to the Juárez cartel and claimed it as a warning to police who work for the Sinaloa cartel.
On July 20, the Mexican ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, minimized the Juárez bombing, saying that it was not aimed indiscriminately at civilians and that it did not indicate any escalation in violence. He parroted the declaration of Mexican Attorney General Arturo Chávez that the motivation for the bombing is economic, not ideological, and that "we have no evidence in the country of narco-terrorism." US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual also indicated that this violence in Mexico, which also included a grenade attack on the US Consulate in Nuevo Laredo a few months ago, “is disturbing but has not reached the level of terrorism. We are supposed to believe in their evidence that 90 percent of the dead are criminals, but that they have no evidence at all of narco-terrorism? This, despite numerous incidents of grenades and other explosives being used in recent attacks in the states of Michoacan, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Sonora and many other places in Mexico. And that “armed commandos” dressed like soldiers and wielding high-powered machine guns are witnessed at the scenes of hundreds of massacres documented since 2008.
No one asks or answers this question: How does such an escalation benefit the drug smuggling business which has not been diminished at all during the past three years of hyper-violence in Mexico? Each year, the death toll rises, each year there is no evidence of any disruption in the delivery of drugs to American consumers, each year the United States asserts its renewed support for this war. And each year, the basic claims about the war go unquestioned.
Let us make this simple: no one knows how many are dying, no one knows who is killing them and no one knows what role the drug industry has in these killings. There has been no investigation of the dead and so no one really knows whether they were criminals or why they died. There have been no interviews with heads of drug organizations and so no one really knows what they are thinking or what they are trying to accomplish.
It is difficult to have a useful discussion without facts, but it seems to be very easy to make policy without facts. We can look forward to fewer facts and more unquestioned and unsubstantiated government claims. Such as the response by General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, commander of the Joint Operation Chihuahua, to a 2008 report by El Diario de Juárez that one out of three Juárez citizens believed the army occupation of the city had accomplished little or nothing. "Those who feel this way, it is because their interests are affected or because they are paid by the narco-traffickers," he said. "Who are these citizens?"
General Jorge Juárez Loera, the first commander of the Joint Operation Chihuahua, put it this way: "I would like to see reporters change their articles and instead of writing about one more murder victim, they should say, 'one less criminal.' "

Fallen Soldiers' Families Denied Cash as Insurers Profit - Bloomberg

Fallen Soldiers' Families Denied Cash as Insurers Profit - Bloomberg

The package arrived at Cindy Lohman’s home in Great Mills, Maryland, just two weeks after she learned that her son, Ryan, a 24-year-old Army sergeant, had been killed by a bomb in Afghanistan. It was a thick, 9-inch-by- 12-inch envelope from Prudential Financial Inc., which handles life insurance for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Inside was a letter from Prudential about Ryan’s $400,000 policy. And there was something else, which looked like a checkbook. The letter told Lohman that the full amount of her payout would be placed in a convenient interest-bearing account, allowing her time to decide how to use the benefit.
“You can hold the money in the account for safekeeping for as long as you like,” the letter said. In tiny print, in a disclaimer that Lohman says she didn’t notice, Prudential disclosed that what it called its Alliance Account was not guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its September issue.
Lohman, 52, left the money untouched for six months after her son’s August 2008 death.
“It’s like you’re paying me off because my child was killed,” she says. “It was a consolation prize that I didn’t want.”
As time went on, she says, she tried to use one of the “checks” to buy a bed, and the salesman rejected it. That happened again this year, she says, when she went to a Target store to purchase a camera on Armed Forces Day, May 15.
‘I’m Shocked’
Lohman, a public health nurse who helps special-needs children, says she had always believed that her son’s life insurance funds were in a bank insured by the FDIC. That money -- like $28 billion in 1 million death-benefit accounts managed by insurers -- wasn’t actually sitting in a bank.
It was being held in Prudential’s general corporate account, earning investment income for the insurer. Prudential paid survivors like Lohman 1 percent interest in 2008 on their Alliance Accounts, while it earned a 4.8 percent return on its corporate funds, according to regulatory filings.
“I’m shocked,” says Lohman, breaking into tears as she learns how the Alliance Account works. “It’s a betrayal. It saddens me as an American that a company would stoop so low as to make a profit on the death of a soldier. Is there anything lower than that?”
Millions of bereaved Americans have unwittingly been placed in the same position by their insurance companies. The practice of issuing what they call “checkbooks” to survivors, instead of paying them lump sums, extends well beyond the military.
Touching Americans
In the past decade, these so-called retained-asset accounts have become standard operating procedure in an industry that touches virtually every American: There are more than 300 million active life insurance policies in the U.S., and the industry holds $4.6 trillion in assets, according to the American Council of Life Insurers.
Insurance companies tell survivors that their money is put in a secure account. Neither Prudential nor MetLife Inc., the largest life insurer in the U.S., segregates death benefits into a separate fund.
Newark, New Jersey-based Prudential, the second-largest life insurer, holds payouts in its own general account, according to regulatory filings.
New York-based MetLife has told survivors in a standard letter: “To help you through what can be a very difficult, emotional and confusing time, we created a settlement option, the Total Control Account Money Market Option. It is guaranteed by MetLife.”
No FDIC Insurance
The company’s letter omits that the money is in MetLife’s corporate investment account, isn’t in a bank and has no FDIC insurance.
“All guarantees are subject to the financial strength and claims-paying ability of MetLife,” it says.
Both MetLife, which handles insurance for nonmilitary federal employees, and Prudential paid 0.5 percent interest in July to survivors of government workers and soldiers. That’s less than half of the rate available at some banks with accounts insured by the FDIC up to $250,000.
Bank of New York Mellon Corp. handles the paperwork and monthly statements for customers with MetLife “checking accounts.” The insurance company, not the bank, most recently reported holding about $10 billion in death benefits, in 2008.
The “checkbook” system cheats the families of those who die, says Jeffrey Stempel, an insurance law professor at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who wrote ‘Stempel on Insurance Contracts’ (Aspen Publishers, 2009).
‘Bad Faith’
“It’s institutionalized bad faith,” he says. “In my view, this is a scheme to defraud by inducing the policyholder’s beneficiary to let the life insurance company retain assets they’re not entitled to. It’s turning death claims into a profit center.”
Prudential’s Alliance Account is helpful to families of soldiers, says company spokesman Bob DeFillippo.
“For some families, the account is the difference between earning interest on a large amount of money and letting it sit idle,” he says. Prudential follows the law, he says.
“We fully and regularly disclose the nature and terms of the account to account holders,” DeFillippo says. “We make it clear that the money can be withdrawn at any time by simply writing a draft.”
Metlife spokesman Joseph Madden says his company’s customers are very happy with the Total Control Account.
‘Overwhelmingly Positive’
“The feedback from TCA customers has been overwhelmingly positive,” he says. “The TCA affords beneficiaries security, peace of mind and time to make an informed decision -- while earning interest in the interim.”
Madden says the company was paying some survivors 0.5 percent in July while some others got 1.5 percent or 3 percent, depending on the age and origin of insurance accounts. The accounts don’t violate any laws, Madden says, and are authorized by New York state insurance law.
Insurers are holding onto at least $28 billion owed to survivors, according to three firms that handle retained-asset accounts for about 130 life insurance companies. There are no public records showing how much companies are holding in these accounts.
The “checks” that Cindy Lohman wrote, the ones rejected by retailers, were actually drafts, or IOUs, issued by Prudential. Even though the “checks” had the name of JPMorgan Chase & Co. on them, Lohman’s funds weren’t in that bank; they were held by Prudential.
Federal Bank Law
Before a check could clear, Prudential would have to send money to JPMorgan, bank spokesman John Murray says.
Insurance companies -- in addition to holding onto the money of survivors, paying them uncompetitive interest rates and giving them misleading guarantees -- may be violating a federal bank law. A 1933 statute makes it a felony for any company to accept deposits without state or federal authorization.
That means only banks or credit unions can accept deposits, says Arthur Wilmarth, a professor at George Washington University Law School in Washington who has testified before Congress about banking regulations.
If a prosecutor pressed an insurance company, retained- asset accounts could be outlawed because insurers say they deposit money into these accounts and don’t have bank charters or banking regulation, Wilmarth says. MetLife also offers its own version of certificates of deposit.
“If it swims, quacks and flies like a duck, the court could decide that it is indeed a duck,” he says. “You then potentially could have a criminal violation.”
Potential Bank Run
This unregulated quasi-banking system operated by insurers has none of the protections of the actual banking system. Lawrence Baxter, a professor at Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina, says the potential exists for a catastrophe.
If one insurer is unable to meet its obligations on retained-asset accounts, people could lose faith in other companies and demand immediate payment, triggering a panic, says Baxter, who has consulted with federal agencies on financial regulation.
The government established the FDIC in 1933 after frantic depositors tried to pull their money from banks. The federal government has no such program for death-benefit accounts.
“There’s more than $25 billion out there in these accounts,” Baxter says. “A run could be triggered immediately by one insurance company not being able to honor its payout. The whole point of creating the FDIC was to put an end to bank runs.”
No Federal Regulation
The sweeping financial regulatory legislation signed by President Barack Obama on July 21 doesn’t address retained-asset accounts. It creates a new federal insurance office, which won’t be a regulator. It will collect information, monitor the industry for systemic risk and consult with state insurance regulators.
An industry with $19.1 trillion in potential liabilities will remain unregulated by the federal government. In 2008, insurers approved claims totaling $60 billion in death benefits, according to the life insurance council.
The federal government doesn’t even regulate the life insurance it supplies, via MetLife, to its own employees in a program called Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance. As the VA does for soldiers, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sends handbook to nonmilitary government workers -- some 4 million active employees and retirees.
The handbook says their life insurance policies automatically pay out death benefits in the form of a “money- market-account checkbook.” The 217-page handbook omits that the money isn’t FDIC insured and will stay with MetLife until someone writes a “check.”
‘Unfair Advantage’
This lack of disclosure is unconscionable, says Harvey Goldschmid, a commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from 2002 to 2005.
“I can’t imagine why bank regulators haven’t been requiring a prominent ‘no FDIC insurance’ disclosure,” says Goldschmid, who’s now a law professor at Columbia University in New York. “This system works very badly for the bereaved. It takes unfair advantage of people at their time of weakness.”
The closest relative to retained-asset accounts may be money-market mutual funds, which are pools of cash invested in short-term debt securities.
Money Market Rules
The SEC requires fund companies to warn investors that money market funds don’t have FDIC insurance. It also mandates that fund managers provide a prospectus, that they invest in specific types of safe debt and that they post a detailed schedule of their investments monthly on their websites.
Insurers’ retained-asset accounts have none of those regulatory protections.
A June 2009 MetLife standard condolence letter to survivors leaves out that accounts aren’t in a bank and aren’t federally insured. In June 2010, 25 years after MetLife invented retained- asset accounts, the company released a customer agreement that does disclose that retained assets aren’t in a money market account nor in a bank and that they have no FDIC insurance.
“The assets backing the Total Control Accounts are maintained in MetLife’s general account and are subject to MetLife’s creditors,” the agreement says. That language contradicts the federal employee handbook, which says survivors get a money market account.
Gerry Goldsholle, the man who invented retained-asset accounts, says MetLife makes $100 million to $300 million a year from investment returns on the death benefits it holds. A former president of MetLife Marketing Corp., Goldsholle, 69, devised the accounts in 1984. He’s now a lawyer in private practice in Sausalito, California.
‘This Is Crazy’
Goldsholle says he pondered the billions of dollars of death-benefit proceeds the company paid out each year.
“I looked at this and said this is crazy,” says Goldsholle, who left the firm in 1991. “What are we doing to retain some of this money? It’s very expensive to bring money in the front door of an insurance company. You’re paying very large commissions and sales expenses.”
So he came up with a way for MetLife to hold onto death benefits.
“The company would win because we would make a nice spread on the money,” Goldsholle says, while customers would earn interest on their accounts. MetLife, he says, can earn 1 to 3 percentage points more from its investment income -- mostly from bonds -- than it pays out to survivors.
The accounts Goldsholle invented have spread much faster than the ability of state regulators to track them -- or even to understand how they work. Ted Hamby, North Carolina’s deputy insurance commissioner for life and health, says he believes retained-asset accounts have FDIC protection.
“Whatever money is on deposit in that checking account will be insured, up to the limits of the FDIC,” he says. He’s wrong. No retained-asset accounts have FDIC coverage.
In Connecticut, where 106 insurance companies are based, state insurance department manager for market conduct Kurt Swan also says that retained-asset accounts are kept in banks, with FDIC coverage.
“I think they’re just trying to offer some flexibility to the beneficiary,” he says. Swan and his colleague, William Arfanis, the department’s principal financial examiner, both say the insurers don’t profit from the retained-asset accounts. That too is wrong. The companies do earn investment gains on death benefits.
Some Rules
Just six states had any rules for retained-asset accounts as of July 2009, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, North Carolina and North Dakota require insurers to disclose fees and interest rates and to tell survivors they may withdraw all of the money by writing a single check.
Maryland, which isn’t on the NAIC list, also has rules.
Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario, whose state has no rules for retained-asset accounts, says he has asked his staff to prepare a regulation forbidding insurance companies from using such accounts as the default method of paying a death claim.
“I haven’t heard a plausible argument about why these accounts are better for the consumer,” Ario says.
If state insurance regulators have paid scant attention to retained-asset accounts, state bank regulators have taken an even more hands-off approach.
‘Not Drawn Attention’
“Quite honestly, we deal with issues that our members want us to deal with,” says Michael Stevens, senior vice president for regulatory policy at the Washington-based Conference of State Bank Supervisors. “This is not one that has drawn their attention.”
Three companies have not only noticed but have also profited by handling retained-asset accounts for insurers. Open Solutions Inc., based in Glastonbury, Connecticut, oversees 400,000 accounts for 67 insurance companies.
Open Solutions sends out “checkbooks,” prints periodic statements and computes accrued interest for accounts with total deposits of $10 billion, says Jay Woldar, director of sales and account management at Open Solutions.
One of its competitors, Bank of New York Mellon, administers more than 500,000 retained-asset accounts holding a total of $14 billion, including MetLife’s retained assets. Chicago-based Northern Trust Corp. handles about $4 billion in 125,000 accounts, spokesman John O’Connell says.
Survivors generally don’t touch these accounts immediately.
Accounts Stay Opened
“About 40 percent of the money stays in for more than a year,” Woldar says. Insurers can have use of survivors’ money for years, even decades, says Randi Lichtenstein, a product line manager at Bank of New York.
“They can stick around for quite a while,” she says. “There are accounts that all insurance companies have on these platforms that go back 10, 15, 20 years.”
MetLife’s Madden says most of its customers’ retained-asset accounts are closed within one year. About 28 percent of survivors of soldiers and veterans keep their retained-asset accounts open for more than two years, the VA says.
During a routine audit completed in 2004, the New York State Insurance Department found that 1,476 retained-asset accounts, worth a total of $33.5 million, at Hartford, Connecticut-based Phoenix Life Insurance Co., had been dormant for more than three years.
In New York, funds in an account that remains dormant for more than three years may be turned over to the state. Phoenix spokeswoman Alice Ericson says the company now has a policy of sending letters to people whose accounts have been inactive for two years.
Inactive Accounts
Almost one-third of the 6,890 retained-asset accounts run by Mony Life Insurance Co. were inactive for more than three years, New York auditors found in 2002. Mony is now owned by Axa SA, Europe’s second-largest insurer by market value.
A few people have sued insurers over the use of retained- asset accounts. Prudential won a lawsuit in 2009 in which a survivor complained about the Alliance Account. MetLife has a case pending in which a survivor says that she was cheated by the retained-asset account. In court-filed papers, MetLife denies any wrongdoing.
There has been only one ruling by a federal appellate court on the substance of such accounts -- and it went against an insurance company.
After a federal judge in Boston dismissed a policyholder suit claiming that Chattanooga, Tennessee-based insurer Unum Group was stealing account earnings from survivors, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit overruled the lower court in 2008. It reinstated the case.
‘Euphemistically Named’
“The euphemistically named ‘Security Account,’ accompanied with a checkbook, was no more than an IOU which did not transfer the funds to which the beneficiaries were entitled out of the plan assets,” the three-judge panel wrote.
Unum spokeswoman Mary Clarke Guenther says retained-asset accounts are a commonly accepted practice in the industry. The case is pending.
Absent regulatory or legal intervention, bereaved family members like Cindy Lohman will continue to find death benefits going into retained-asset accounts. Her son, Ryan, posthumously received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal for sacrificing his life to save fellow soldiers in Afghanistan in August 2008.
He had ordered a Humvee to swerve to avoid an explosive device, exposing himself to its deadly blast.
‘Accept The Reality’
Three days after learning of her son’s death, Lohman says, an Army casualty assistance officer came to her home, explaining that Ryan had a life insurance policy and that her signature was needed to release the money.
“By signing that, it forced me to accept the reality that he was dead and not coming back,” she says.
Since 1999, the VA has allowed Prudential to send survivors “checkbooks” tied to its Alliance Account. In 2009 alone, the families of U.S. soldiers and veterans were supposed to be paid death benefits totaling $1 billion immediately, according to their insurance policies. They weren’t.
Prudential’s VA policies promise either a lump sum payout or 36 monthly payments. About 90 percent of survivors, including Lohman, choose to receive the full amount upfront. When they do, they don’t get a check; they get a “checkbook.”
Under a 2008 law, survivors covered by Prudential’s VA policy are allowed one year to put death benefits into a Roth IRA, allowing them to earn investment gains for the rest of their lives tax-free. Prudential never informed Lohman, she says.
‘If They Had Told Me’
“I definitely would have done that if they had told me,” Lohman says.
Even Stephen Wurtz, deputy assistant director for insurance at the VA, who has overseen the insurance program for 25 years, has been kept in the dark by Prudential.
“Prudential runs the program on a cost-reimbursement basis only,” he initially said, referring to the $4.2 million in fees the VA paid Prudential in 2009. “They’re really good guys. They do it patriotically. They don’t make any money from the Alliance Account.”
Wurtz, 62, said he had believed that the Alliance Account money went into a bank. After he learned that the payouts actually stayed in Prudential’s general fund, Wurtz says, he asked Prudential how much money the insurance company made from these accounts and how many dollars it held in retained assets.
Prudential declined to answer, saying that information was proprietary, Wurtz says.
‘Maybe I Didn’t’
Prudential, which has had the insurance contract with the VA since 1965, pitched the checkbook payout to the VA in 1999 as an added benefit to survivors, Wurtz says. The government agency accepted Prudential’s offer, he says.
“Maybe I didn’t ask enough questions,” he says.
Printed on each “check,” next to “Prudential’s Alliance Account” is the name of JPMorgan, the second-biggest U.S. bank by assets. JPMorgan spokesman Murray declined to say how much the bank is paid for its role with Prudential.
The way Prudential has set up the “checks” implies that JPMorgan stands behind the accounts and that they are thus backed by the FDIC, Duke’s Baxter says.
“That’s misleading the beneficiaries,” he says.
“We disclose the roles of all companies involved in administering these accounts,” Prudential’s DeFillippo says. JPMorgan’s Murray declined to comment.
Prudential’s general account earned 4.4 percent in 2009, mostly from bond investments, according to SEC filings. The company has paid survivors 0.5 percent in 2010.
‘It’s Shameful’
“It’s shameful that an insurance company is stealing money from the families of our fallen servicemen,” says Paul Sullivan, who served in the 1991 Gulf War as an Army cavalry scout and is now executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington. “I’m outraged.”
Sullivan, a project manager at the VA’s benefits unit from 2000 to 2006, says he was never told Prudential kept money and earned investment gains from soldiers’ insurance payouts instead of sending it to survivors.
“There shouldn’t be secret profits,” he says. “This should be transparent. The lack of oversight is appalling.”
It’s not much different for the 4 million nonmilitary U.S. government employees and retirees -- including staff of the FDIC -- covered by MetLife policies. That program, begun in 1965, averages more than $2 billion in death benefits claimed every year, the government says.
Payouts are handled by the Office of Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance. That makes it look like the government is taking care of its employees’ insurance coverage. It isn’t. That “office” is a unit of MetLife.
MetLife Holds the Money
Edmund Byrnes, a spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees MetLife’s federal employee contract, says MetLife segregates death benefits into beneficiary accounts after it approves death claims.
“Once MetLife transfers the funds to the Total Control Account, the monies are no longer under MetLife’s control,” Byrnes says.
MetLife spokesman Madden says something different.
“The assets that back the liabilities on all the TCAs are placed in MetLife’s general account,” he says.
Back at the Veterans Affairs office, Deputy Assistant Director Wurtz, who’s a civilian employee, says he now understands for the first time that since he’s covered by the federal insurance program, his own wife could receive a MetLife “checkbook” someday.
‘Ripping Off Their Own’
“Uncle Sam is ripping off their own,” Wurtz says. “My wife would get the money, and they would blood-suck some of it out of her.”
It took Wurtz, who’s been working with insurers for most of his career, more than a decade to understand how retained-asset accounts work. Companies like MetLife and Prudential have never told millions of Americans with insurance policies that when they die, the insurer plans to hold their family’s money in its own account to make investment gains from the death benefit.
“It’s outrageous that somebody’s profiting off other people’s grief,” says Mark Umbrell of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. His 26-year-old son, Colby, an Army Airborne Ranger who earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, was killed in Iraq in May 2007. Umbrell was among those who got a “checkbook” account.
“I think we’re being taken,” he says.
The question for Umbrell, Lohman and a million others with these accounts is whether anything will change. State bank regulators say if there are to be any reforms, they should be made by insurance departments. Officials at those state agencies often say they don’t even understand what a retained-asset account is.
“It’s flown under the radar,” professor Stempel says. “Regulators have not done their job.”
Until public officials wake up, the bereaved will remain a secret profit center for the life insurance industry.

28 July 2010

CAIR: Tea partiers to ‘harass’ Muslims with dogs at anti-mosque protest | Raw Story

CAIR: Tea partiers to ‘harass’ Muslims with dogs at anti-mosque protest | Raw Story

By Daniel Tencer
Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 -- 7:54 pm

CAIR slams 'KKK tactics,' says Tea Party changing focus to 'promotion of Islamophobia'

'Islam is not a religion,' declares anonymous protest organizer

The Council on American-Islamic relations has condemned plans for a Tea Party protest outside a southern California mosque, whose organizers are urging protesters to bring dogs with them because Muslims "hate dogs."

A recent series of unsigned emails and anonymous Web postings has called for a protest during Friday prayers outside the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley, in Riverside County. Protest organizers are upset at the Islamic group's plans to build a new mosque to replace its current makeshift mosque.

One of the emails, obtained by CAIR, declared: "Islam is not a religion. It is a worldwide political movement meant [sic] on domination of the world. And it is meant to subjugate all people under Islamic law...."

The email goes on to say that Muslims "hate dogs. ... Tennessee was able to stop the Mosque so bring your Bibles, flags, signs, dogs and singing voice on Friday."

The reference to Tennessee evidently has to do with a controversy over the planned construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which has drawn opposition from some residents. Contrary to the email, planning for the mosque has not been halted.

The identity of the protest organizers "remains a mystery," reports the Los Angeles Times, but the organizers "appear to be associated with a southwest Riverside County political group affiliated with the 'tea party' movement."

In a press release, CAIR declared that the protest was being organized by the Southwest Riverside County Tea Party. Protest supporters "are being told to bring dogs to harass Muslim worshipers," CAIR said.

With the city of Temecula soon to determine whether the proposed mosque can go ahead, opposition to its construction has been growing more vocal. Opponents told the L.A. Times last week they feared the mosque would turn the area into "a haven for Islamic extremists."

That's a charge denied by members of the Temecula mosque, who point out their current mosque has been operating in Riverside County for more than a decade.
"Californians of all faiths should repudiate those who would target a house of worship using tactics specifically designed to cause offense," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles branch of CAIR. "National and state Tea Party leaders should explain why their movement has apparently deviated from its agenda on fiscal responsibility and limited government to the promotion of Islamophobia."

CAIR also notes that the organizers' assertion that Muslims "hate" dogs is wrong. "Many Muslims believe the saliva of dogs invalidates the ritual ablution performed before prayer. For this reason, it has become a cultural norm for individuals not to have dogs in their houses -- not because the dog is 'hated,'" CAIR stated.

Political opposition to the construction of mosques has grown in recent weeks, primarily on the back of the controversy over the construction of a mosque several blocks away from the Ground Zero site in New York City.

A planning commission hearing to determine whether the city will allow the Temecula mosque to be built was scheduled for August 18, but it has been pushed back to November.


No To Oligarchy | The Nation

No To Oligarchy | The Nation

Florida Church planning to burn Qurans on 9/11 | Tom Mendelsohn | Independent Editor's choice Blogs

A Florida church is planning to burn a stack of Qurans on 11th September this year, in a tasteful effort to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centre.

The Dove World Outreach Center, a non-denominational church in Gainesville, is charmingly trying to rebrand 9/11 as International Burn A Koran Day. If you’re interested, there’s a Facebook group for it. The info tab has a succinct little mission statement, which you may find illuminative:
Mission: To bring to awareness to the dangers of Islam and that the Koran is leading people to hell. Eternal fire is the only destination the Koran can lead people to so we want to put the Koran in it’s place – the fire!
The Dove Center, which describes itself as ‘a New Testament Church – based on the Bible, the Word of God’, has a bit of a history of making, shall we say, provocative statements about Islam. Its pastor and proprietor Dr Terry Jones recently published a sober treatise entitled Islam Is Of The Devil, while he also has a history of opposing things like homosexuality, same-sex marriage and abortion. If anyone is in Gainsville on 2nd August, for instance, you might like to swing by the City Hall at lunch time and join in the fun at the church’s ‘No Homo Mayor’ protest.
And in case anyone else was wondering what they really felt, they also have a massive sign outside their church, also saying ‘Islam Is Of The Devil’:

It’s all deeply unpleasant, of course, and easy to mock, but unpleasant anti-Islam sentiments like these really do seem to be on the rise in the US. There’s a huge battle going on in New York over whether an entirely benign Muslim community centre – which would also contain a mosque – can be built near Ground Zero, for instance, while a mosque in Jacksonville, also in Florida, was firebombed earlier this year. It’s getting easier to draw parallels between the rise of the religious right and these kinds of tensions, and I really wouldn’t like to say we’ve reached their height, either, not by a long shot: brace yourselves for a good deal more of this unpleasantness as the new American right grows its fangs.
The Dove World Outreach Center, meanwhile, was subjected to an expose about the way it pays its taxes last year in The Gainesville Sun, while they were investigated for potential financial impropriety in March this year. It hasn’t really taken the wind out of their sails, however. You’ll note that, in the picture above, Dr Jones has a picture of himself flanked by Abraham Lincoln and George Washington – a little detail I’ll let speak for itself. His Youtube channel – named, without even a pinch of hubris, the Braveheart Show – is worth a watch if, like me, you relish the demagoguery of hateful maniacs.
Florida Church planning to burn Qurans on 9/11 | Tom Mendelsohn | Independent Editor's choice Blogs

26 July 2010

catching up

i've been with my girl for 4 years now and until recently she didn't know that i liked the show "my name is earl".  no reason she would know.  i never talked about it and when asked what i thought about the show, i'd reply it's alright for what it is.  don't know why it hasn't happened, that we've seen the show together i mean, especially during those long nights of boring, blustery winter.  i mean, there's usually crap on tv anyway, the dumber of my fellow countrymen slash zombies.  still wouldn't recommend earl when nothing was on.

recently, i decided to quit paying for cable and to settle for the hd local channels.  sure, i'll miss my shows like "caprica" or the pro hockey.  i thought why pay rich corporations to get richer when they show us mainly crap?  or better, why pay corporations for anything at all?  ah but you silly monkeys!  you thrice damned apes!  gotta have starbucks, ipods, verizon, hd etc.  why?  if you could join with your fellow countrymen and stop giving away your money to those who are everyday plotting new ways to abuse your sorry ass, wouldn't you just do it?  don't you want a better day for our nation?  don't you want prosperity for you and yours?  stop feeding the beast and the beast will come to you for terms.

meanwhile, i'm watching "my name is earl" because i enjoy jason lee and i think jaime pressly is just the cat's meow.  catching up while there's still time.  i imagine that with the protests coming over the afghan war our stupid military leaders may decide to go for it and invade iran.  or arrange another 9/11 style attack.  after all, it worked the 1st time.  

PFC Bradley Manning, patriot.

Whistleblower's leaked US files reveal state of Afghan war - Americas, World - The Independent

 so the lid is off the kettle.  sure us "outsiders" have been saying the nation is being lied to with how the war effort is going for a long time now, but, when you live in an information vacuum the average american citizen are forced to endure on a daily basis and the only available news outlets keep parroting fraudulent facts given to them by the leaders in washington, well you can't always blame the yokels of america for being undereducated and stupid.  blame the government and an increasingly sedentary life style.  it was their idea anyway because a stupid people can be led by the nose to do almost anything, even if it is against their own self interests.

afghanistan is as unwinnable today as it has been for centuries and the only reason we are there in the first place is because of the criminal actions of george w. bush, dick (and i can't emphasize 'dick' enough) cheney and karl rove, an unholy and blasphemous trinity (or axis of evil, if you prefer).  these criminals are not in jail and will never face any charges.  they have literally gotten away with murder.

today, the wars thrust on this nation slog on, fought now by a whole new leadership that are equally duplicitous as their predecessors.  they lie, they obfuscate, they tell all of us everything is fine, just fine.  meanwhile our children are being slaughtered everyday and for what?  yet even as these debacles in iraq and afghanistan continue, the leaders in washington may not be through.  obama speaks of widening the war into pakistan and an attack on iran is still on the stove so that rich men can get richer and arms dealers can pad their accounts.  fuck our kids.  fuck 'em!  if they get killed, a new generation of 18 year olds just graduated.

bradley manning did the right thing and is an american patriot.  he looked into his soul and his conscience and decided the safety and well being of his country was more important than cover ups and conspiracies.  sure, he technically broke the law, but he showed his nation the ineptitude of their leadership (both democrat and republican), the war crimes performed in the name of their freedom and the needless deaths of our fighting sons and daughters.  good job, son.  if only more people had your courage and audacity.

25 July 2010

dr. hunter s. thompson is a bad inluence on me.

it's hard to talk about myself and i don't aim to start now. but here i am in YOUR country america.  you certainly can't blame me for this shit.  but that's not entirely true.  when did i vote before '96?  but this is your country, america.  and i'm just livin' in it as best i'm able. 

but it sucks.  seriously?  this is the best you can do?  why didn't you assholes stand up when Bush and fiends stole the most sacred position in our land?  Not just that, but how could you let that lawbreaking cocksucker walk free for crimes against his country????  Ugh!  stupid, stupid, stupid americans!  now we are locked into it, aren't we?  bullshit!  how many more have to die before you realize you were conned, used and fucked?  all this blood upon george bush's hands.  that he isn't called to justice means you share in that blood, america.  that he insn't called for justice means YOU share in that blood, america.

yeah?  seriously, this is the best you can do? 

21 July 2010

Sen. Hatch wants unemployed to face mandatory drug tests - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Sen. Hatch wants unemployed to face mandatory drug tests - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

By Michael O'Brien - 06/15/10 04:57 PM ET
Welfare and unemployment beneficiaries would have to pass a drug test to qualify for programs under an amendment offered Tuesday by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Hatch introduced an amendment to the tax extenders bill that would require those who are applying for some of the benefits in that bill, including unemployment and welfare benefits, to pass a drug test in exchange for the benefits.

"Drugs are a scourge on our society — hurting children, families and communities alike," Hatch said in a statement. "This amendment is a way to help people get off of drugs to become productive and healthy members of society, while ensuring that valuable taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted.”

Under the Hatch amendment, individuals who fail to qualify for benefits because they failed a drug test wouldn't necessarily be jailed, but would be enrolled in a state or federal drug treatment program.

16 July 2010

World simmers in hottest year so far | Reuters

World simmers in hottest year so far | Reuters

WASHINGTON | Fri Jul 16, 2010 2:53pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The world is enduring the hottest year on record, according to a U.S. national weather analysis, causing droughts worldwide and a concern for U.S. farmers counting on another bumper year.
For the first six months of the year, 2010 has been warmer than the first half of 1998, the previous record holder, by 0.03 degree Fahrenheit, said Jay Lawrimore, chief of climate analysis at the federal National Climatic Data Center.
Period of a El Nino weather pattern is being blamed for the hot temperatures globally.
"We had an El Nino episode in the early part of the year that's now faded but that has contributed to the warmth not only in equatorial Pacific but also contributed to anomalously warm global temperatures as well," Lawrimore said.
Abnormally warm temperatures have been registered in large parts of Canada, Africa, tropical oceans and parts of the Middle East.
Northern Thailand is struggling through the worst drought in 20 years, while Israel is in the middle of the longest and most severe drought since 1920s. In Britain, this year has been the driest since 1929.
Also, Arctic sea ice has melted to its thinnest state in June.
However, as cooler temperatures may set in later this year, it remains to be seen whether 2010 will overtake 2005 as the hottest year overall.
"This year the fact that the El Nino episode has ended and is likely to transition into La Nina, which has a cooling influence on the global average temperature, it's possible that we will not end up with the warmest year as a whole."
The record-warm weather globally hasn't translated into the same in the United States, where June was only eighth hottest to date.
"For the U.S., January to June, this is only slightly warmer than average," Lawrimore said.
What may tip the scale is the development of La Nina, possibly coming in July and August, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Although La Nina means cooling globally, the transition commonly brings hotter and drier weather to the farming belt of the U.S. Midwest region.
"It's going to be pretty warm across eastern Nebraska, Iowa, western portions of Missouri, mid to upper 90s (F)," said Donald Keeney, senior agriculture meteorologist with CROPCAST Ag Services.
The hot temperatures will especially hurt corn pollination, while dry weather will affect soy bean crops, Keeney said.
Drought is developing in some parts of the Mid-Atlantic states, Lawrimore said, but for now it's moderate and contained in 8 percent of the country. For comparison, 15 percent of the contiguous United States was in drought last year at this time, 27 percent in 2008 and almost half in 2007.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Army sees worst month for suicides ever - Stripes Central - Stripes

Army sees worst month for suicides ever - Stripes Central - Stripes

Bad news from the Army this afternoon; more soldiers killed themselves last month than any other month on record. There were 21 active-duty and 11 reserve soldier suicides.
This news comes just weeks after Gen. Peter Chiarelli told Congress the Army was encouraged by there being 30 percent fewer suicides among active-duty soldiers so far this year than last. Although he said there was more to do, he thought the decrease showed their prevention efforts were working. But with this latest data, the trend seems to be frustratingly more of the same.
Through the first six months of 2009, 88 active-duty soldiers committed suicide. For this year, that number is 80. The trend is most troubling among reserve component soldiers; those numbers jumped from 42 to 65.
The June numbers for active duty brought the Army back to January of 2009, which was the first of two alarming months that sent the Army scrambling to create the Suicide Prevention Task Force and then to hold a service-wide stand down. Col. Chris Philbrick, director of the task force, said there were no plans for another stand down.
Today the Army did release a new suicide prevention video - one they hope goes over better than their first attempt. The task force put out a video to go with last year's stand down. "I'd love to tell you it was a hit, but it wasn't," Philbrick said. The feedback they got from soldiers? "It sucked."
For starters, some of the "soldiers" talking were really actors, and it didn't go unnoticed. Philbrick watched the video in a dining facility with about 300 soldiers, and nearly all "laughed their way through it," he said. Overall with the typical Pentagonese tone, "it just didn't resonate."
The second generation features testimonials from soldiers - all actually in the Army this time - who struggled with suicide ideations. One particularly powerful story involves a soldier who put his rifle to his chin and pulled the trigger. Only it didn't go off because a fellow concerned soldier had taken the firing pin out of the gun.
You can view the 18-minute suicide prevention video here.

15 July 2010

Vegetarian Pamela Anderson is proving that all animals have the 
same parts and encouraging people to ditch meat. In this sexy ad for 
PETA, she shows some serious skin and looks as if she's been tagged by a
 butcher, making it clear that humans and animals are composed of 
identical parts.

Vegetarian Pamela Anderson is proving that all animals have the same parts and encouraging people to ditch meat. In this sexy ad for PETA, she shows some serious skin and looks as if she's been tagged by a butcher, making it clear that humans and animals are composed of identical parts.

Photograph by: Handout, PETA


i mourn that my country has lost its way, its pioneer spirit.  and for what?  a few extra dollars, a little more security.  i get it.  my country is traumatized and suffering from an en masse ptsd.  too much war, too much bloodshed, too much death hanging over our heads everyday has killed something precious within the quintessential american psyche.  the common man believed that with the fall of the soviet empire, we were finally free to slash our war budgets and take care of america for a change rather than the whole world. 

that's how it should have been anyway but the men who make and sell weapons could not abide how peace was putting them out of business.  the politicians (particularly fundamentalist christian republicans) could not abide peace either.  to them the idea of an america that yields back its ulitmate power over the world was unthinkable; sharing world responsibilities with other nations was anathema.

so 3 men born here in america decided to sell the soul of their nation for a few extra dollars.  karl rove, dick cheney and george bush are guilty of serious crimes against my country and no one in power will do anything about it.  and so the illegal president gets away with creating this whole new "post 9/11 world" where americans must again fear for their lives from some foreign devil overseas, where we are beset on all sides with enemies and business for the merchants of war and death couldn't be better.

everyone at the top is getting rich while here at the bottom, more soldiers are killed everyday, their lives wasted.

the american spirit may never recover and in my heart i know that until justice comes to this land and holds those responsible into account, the america i knew, the america of daniel boone, davy crockett and abe lincoln, is dead.   

14 July 2010

BBC News - Fossil links humans and monkeys

BBC News - Fossil links humans and monkeys

Fossilised remains of a 29 million-year-old primate called 
Saadanius hijazensis The primate had some features that are shared by Old World monkeys and apes
Researchers have discovered the skull of a 29 million-year-old animal that could be a common ancestor of Old World monkeys and apes, including humans.
It indicates that apes and Old World monkeys diverged millions of years later than previously thought, say the scientists.
The discovery was made in Saudi Arabia by researchers from the University of Michigan.
They described the primate, Saadanius hijazensis, in the journal Nature.
Dr William Sanders from the University of Michigan, who led the research, said this was "an extraordinary find".
The skull of this previously unknown species had some features that are shared by Old World monkeys and apes, including humans, today
"Saadanius is close to a group that eventually led to us," said Dr Sanders.
Timeline of primate evolution
"If we knew something about the time period and the condition this animal was living in, we might be able to discover what brought about the changes that led to [the evolution of] apes and humans".
Dr Sanders explained that Saadanius might even have been the common ancestor that linked humans to Old World Monkeys.
"But there could have been a suite of creatures at the time that were very similar and one of them became our ancestor," he said. "We need to get out in the field and get more data before making bigger claims."
The fossilised remains indicate that the primate looked very much like a modern new world monkey, such as a capuchin. But it was probably slightly larger - about the size of a gibbon.
It would have used all four limbs to run around in the trees. When resting, the scientists say, it probably lay in the trees rather than sitting upright on the ground.
The discovery suggests that the divergence of apes and Old World monkeys happened much later than the 30-35 million years ago that genetic studies have suggested.
The new date, of 29 million years ago, fits more closely with what the researchers would have expected and is not surprising from a palaeontological point of view.

13 July 2010


think and do more less
hurry slowly astonished
in simplicity.

nhl 2k10-- a parable of american government

so, lately, i've been playing the hell out of 2k sports nhl2k10 for the playstation.  unfortunately the game is a complete piece of crap with a ton of glitches, bad voice overs and clunky controls.  the only reason i play it is because there's nothing better out there and like any nhl fan, i like to pretend i'm pavel datsyuk, matt stajan or zack parise winning a stanley cup.
now, i'm playing on the pro setting and the computer just keeps hammering me it seems after early success.  i went from averaging 5 goals a game to maybe 2.  did my play get worse or did the cpu up the challenge a bit?  i know the cpu makes my players crappy when it's about to score.  so i'm getting frustrated but tommorow i'll be at it again, cursing the nhl for allowing such a lousy product to bear its seal of approval but playing anyway knowing the game is broken, it can't be improved and that it's rigged to defeat me and anyone else who plays it.  

12 July 2010

Bill Kristol will protect Israel with attack ads against Democrats - Israel - Salon.com

Bill Kristol will protect Israel with attack ads against Democrats - Israel - Salon.com

The revolutionary liquid armour suit that is made from bullet-proof 'custard' | Mail Online

The revolutionary liquid armour suit that is made from bullet-proof 'custard' | Mail Online

Scientists have created a liquid body armour suit that hardens and absorbs shrapnel on impact using a substance  that has been nicknamed 'bullet-proof custard'.
Researchers have produced a secret chemical formula and combined it with traditional Kevlar to create the 'super armour'.
The suit works using a viscous compound which, when attached to traditional Kevlar, absorbs the force of a bullet and responds by becoming thicker.
It is hoped the compound will used to make much lighter, more flexible and effective armoured vests for soldiers on the front line.

Experts have nicknamed the liquid 'bullet proof custard' because the molecules lock together and 'thicken' in the same way that dessert custard dose when stirred.
The pioneering technology has been created by a team of scientists at the global defence and security company BAE systems in Filton, Bristol.
Stewart Penney, Head of Business Development for Design and Materials Technologies at BAE Systems, said: 'It's very similar to custard in the sense that the molecules lock together when it's struck.
'The technology is best explained by the example of stirring water with a spoon.
'In water you feel little resistance to the spoon. Whereas with 'liquid armour', you would feel significant resistance as the elements in the fluid lock together.
Bullet proof custard super armour
Bullet proof custard super armour
'The faster you stir, the harder it gets, so when a projectile impacts the material at speed, it hardens very quickly and absorbs the impact energy.' 
The technology uses 'shear thickening' fluids which 'lock' together when subjected to pressure and enhances material structures like Kevlar.
Troops currently struggle with heavy and bulky body armour which can restrict and inhibit movement, causing problems in hot war-zones like Afghanistan.
But the liquid armour requires less material, meaning it is smaller and lighter, which allows a wider coverage of the body and greater manoeuvrability.
The technology can be integrated into standard Kevlar body armour to offer increased movement and reduce the overall thickness by up to 45 per cent.
Scientists tested the material by firing a ball bearing-shaped at over 300 metres per second into two test materials - 31 layers of untreated Kevlar and 10 layers of Kevlar combined with the shear-thickening liquid.
Bullet proof custard super armour
The liquid armour dissipates the force from the bullet over a wider area
Mr Penny added: 'The Kevlar with the liquid works much faster and the impact isn't anything like as deep.
'In standard bullet-proof vests, we use thick, heavy, layered plates of Kevlar that restrict movement and contribute to fatigue.' 
When added to Kevlar, the fluids in the liquid armour restricts the motion of the ball-bearing, dispersing the impact energy over a surface area.
Experts hope the research could also be rolled out to other lines of defence.
Mr Penny added: 'In addition to increasing the ballistic performance of combat body armour there is potential for developing a version that could be of interest to police forces and ambulance crews.'