Archive for May, 2013

Captain Rick: U.S. entitlement programs are going broke. Disability will be broke by 2016, followed by Medicare by 2024 and Social Security by 2035. These sobering projections were made by the U.S. Social Security Administration. This report presents an in-depth study of the U.S. Disability program.

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Disability recipients in jeopardy
Nearly 11 million people depend on federal disability payments.
Unless changes are made, beginning in 2016, the revenues coming in would not be sufficient to cover all of the disability payments.
Unless taxes are increased, disability benefits will have to be cut or the number of claimants reduced.

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Disability soared 27% since the beginning of the Great Recession
The number of people collecting federal disability has soared to nearly 11 million, up from 8.7 million in April 2007.
The federal government spent nearly $250 billion in 2011 paying more than 23 million Americans some type of disability claim. That’s about 7% of the overall population, and 16% of the workforce.

Causes for the Disability Program Increase
The Great Recession pushed many people into the disability program because it was a safety net to save them from economic disaster.
The aging of the baby boomer generation is one of the primary drivers. Workers typically enter the disability program in their 50s.
Disability claims among veterans are up 28% since 2008, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
With better surgical techniques and body armor, soldiers are ten times as likely to survive today’s wars, according to the Veterans Administration. But soldiers often come home with severe injuries. The recent decision to recognize post traumatic stress disorder as a disability has also lifted the number of benefits claims. The Veterans Administration noted that illnesses tied to the cancer-causing chemical defoliant Agent Orange used in Vietnam are also now viewed as a disability.  
More women have entered the workforce in recent decades, making them eligible for the program should they become disabled.

Americans are abusing the system because of the ease of entering the program. It’s morphed from a program that pays benefits to stroke victims and cancer patients to people with mental illness and chronic pain.

Prognosis for a Disability Program Solution
The disability program … the smallest of the three, will be the first that Congress has to deal with.
There is not much consensus about entitlement reform on Capitol Hill these days. Attempts to rein in Medicare spending have gone nowhere recently.

Disability Program Solution Possibilities

Solution 1
Congress could authorize increasing the amount of payroll tax supporting the disability program from its current 1.8%. An increase paid by workers and employers by 0.2% each would keep the program solvent for 75 years. But there’s little appetite among lawmakers to raise taxes these days.

Solution 2
Congress could authorize increasing the share of Social Security payroll tax going toward disability, instead of Social Security. Currently, the combined rate paid by employers and workers is 12.4%. The disability program’s rate is 1.8%, while the retirement system’s rate is 10.6%. Congress could authorize increasing the share going toward disability payments to 2.6% for two years and then slowly cut it back to 1.8% by 2030. This would keep the disability fund solvent until 2033, but it would shorten the retirement system’s predicted lifespan by two years, to 2033.

Solution 3
Congress could take the most controversial approach by raising the bar for eligibility for disability benefits.

Captain Rick’s Disability Solution Preference: I believe Solution 3 is the most intelligent solution … but considering how welfare-oriented the U.S. Congress is becoming, I do not hold much hope for this solution. I believe Congress will take the most cowardly path … Solution 2 … and rob money from Social Security to pay the rapidly expanding crowd who are abusing Disability. Do you agree/disagree? I welcome you to comment below.

I welcome your comments, likes, shares and following of my blog! (If not visible, click the red title above)

Associated ATRIDIM NEWS JOURNAL Report Categories:

Entitlement Reform: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/entitlement-reform/

Medicare: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/medicare/

Social Security: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/social-security/

Medicaid: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/medicaid/

Tax Reform: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/tax-reform/

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Captain Rick: Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces … protecting the liberty enjoyed by Americans.

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Traditional observance of Memorial Day
On Memorial Day the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.
The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.

The National Memorial Day Concert takes place on the west lawn of the United States Capitol. Music is performed, and respect is paid to the men and women who gave their lives for their country.
For many Americans, the central event is attending one of the thousands of parades held on Memorial Day in large and small cities all over the country. Most of these feature marching bands and an overall military theme with the National Guard and other servicemen participating along with veterans and military vehicles from various wars.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service.
Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.

History of Memorial Day
Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the 600,000+ soldiers who died in the Civil War (1861-1865).
Records show that the act of decorating the graves of soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War occurred as early as 1861 throughout the North and South.

On May 5, 1868, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans’ organization for Union Civil War veterans, General John A. Logan issued a proclamation calling for "Decoration Day" to be observed annually and nationwide.
It was observed for the first time that year on May 30; the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle.
According to the White House, the May 30 date was chosen as the optimal date for flowers to be in bloom.

By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.
"Memorial Day" became common after World War II and was declared as the official name by Federal law in 1967.
On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend.
The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. All 50 states adopted Congress’ change of date within a few years.
The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May, where it remains today.

Captain Rick: To my fellow Americans: I hope you have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day … and you reserve a few moments to honor those that gave their life to protect your liberty.

I welcome your comments, likes, shares and following of my blog! (If not visible, click the red title above)

Associated ATRIDIM NEWS JOURNAL Report Categories:

America: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/america/

United States: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/united-states/

Captain Rick: Bridgestone Corporation broke ground on a biorubber process research center in Mesa, Arizona. It will investigate innovative ways to better produce large quantities of natural rubber from a native southwestern shrub … the guayule. Latex from the guayule is hypoallergenic.

The site, which covers 10 acres, will include an 8,400-square-foot office and lab building, a four-platform, 3,500-square-foot shrub prep building and a 3,100-square-foot mechanical and electrical building. At completion, the center will have a staff of 40 researchers and technicians. The first rubber samples should be ready by mid-2015. Bridgestone has also begun construction on an agricultural facility in Eloy, Ariz., to grow the guayule for the Mesa research center.

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What is Guayule?
Guayule (pronounced: gua-you-lay in Spanish), is a flowering shrub in the aster family, that is native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. (Photo above left).
Its bark and roots can be used as an alternate source of latex to make natural rubber.

Latex is used to make rubber. Where does it come from? Where is it used?
Latex is the milky fluid inside 10% of all flowering plants. (Photo above right).
Most of the 20,000 species of plants that produce latex are not suitable for commercial use.
The most common source of latex used for commercial rubber production is from the hevea (rubber tree).
Other sources are from the poppy, mulberry, fig and asteraceae plant families. The latter shows the most promise for an alternative supply for commercial scale production. Guayule is in the asteraceae family.
Latex can also be made synthetically from petroleum products, though products do not stretch as well as natural latex from plants.
Latex is used to make mattresses, gloves, swim caps, condoms, catheters and balloons.

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Why use Guayule to make rubber? One huge reason…its hypoallergenic!
While Hevea-derived rubber contains proteins that can cause severe allergic reactions in a few people, guayule does not.
With the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, the surge in rubber glove usage revealed how many people were allergic to latex (about 10% of health care workers, according to OSHA), and thereby created a niche market for guayule.
There are synthetic alternatives for medical device products, but they are not as stretchable as natural rubber.
Guayule performs like Hevea but contains none of the proteins that cause latex allergies.

History of Guayule used as a commercial rubber latex source
In the 1920s, the shrub saw a brief and intense amount of agricultural research when a rubber company in California
produced 1400 tons of rubber after leaf blight decimated the Brazilian rubber industry.
Guayule again become a replacement for Hevea tree-produced latex during World War II when Japan cut off America’s Malaysian latex resources.
The war ended before large-scale farming of the guayule plant began, and the project was scrapped, as it was cheaper to import tree-derived latex than to crush the shrubs for a smaller amount of latex.
That scrapped vision from decades ago is coming to life today in Arizona.

I welcome your comments, likes, shares and following of my blog! (If not visible, click the red title above)

Associated ATRIDIM NEWS JOURNAL Report Categories:

Technology: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/technology/

Arizona: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/arizona/

Corporations: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/corporations/

Captain Rick: Flickr, the world’s top photo site with 6 billion photos and 50 million members, has an awesome new look.

A glimpse of my Flickr Photostream with the awesome new look appears below. I present all of my photos in HDTV Widescreen format. They are are available for viewing in Blu-ray quality for my Flickr Friends.

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Yahoo purchased Flickr in 2005, when Webshots was the king of photography on the internet. I was a Webshots member in those days with views of my photos surpassing 1 million. Webshots ranked me as the top photographer in the ‘Arizona category.’ My photography also achieved a top 10 spot in the categories of Oregon, Washington, Montana and Utah.

In 2006 I began to see lots of problems surfacing with Webshots and brought it to the attention of their management with no avail. I launched intensive research to find a new site to post my photography. I discovered Flickr when it was ‘still in diapers’…before most of the world had even heard of it. I liked what I saw. My thought was that one day Flickr will become the new world leader in photography. I joined Flickr in early 2007. A week later, I was so impressed that I became a paying ‘PRO’ member and have been ever since. To me, no other photo site on planet earth comes close to the excellence projected by Flickr. This enhancement helps ensure continued success for years to come. I made a wise choice back in 2007 and remain a proud Flickr PRO member today.

Webshots continued its decline and ultimately executed its remaining membership by deleting all member photos unless they signed up for what they called ‘Smile’. I called it ‘dead on arrival’, as did most of the other members.  All of my photos were deleted. Lots of hard work to end in such a death. I convinced many of my Webshots friends to ‘come on over’ to the ‘brighter side’ and post their photos on Flickr.

I created several Flickr photo groups, all of which are very unique in that I personally scan every photo of a members photostream in search of ‘photos of excellence,’ which I then invite to be added to the groups photo pool.

Captain Rick’s Flickr Photostream and Photo Groups:

Captain Rick’s Photostream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/atridim/

A Virtual Journey: http://www.flickr.com/groups/virtualjourney/

16×9 Widescreen (Flickr’s Top Group for HDTV quality photos): http://www.flickr.com/groups/16x9widescreen/

A Virtual Journey – Level 2 (photos receiving sufficient awards from members): http://www.flickr.com/groups/virtualjourney2/

Captain Rick: A global rally in stocks came to an abrupt halt Thursday with a 7% plunge on Japan’s Nikkei index … the biggest one-day drop since the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster.
European markets fell by 2% with Germany’s DAX down 2.4% and France’s CAC 40 down 2.1%. This was preceded yesterday by U.S. markets dropping about 0.8%.

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What caused this? Investors were rattled for three big reasons:

Japan: The Japanese rally had gone too far too fast. The Nikkei has surged by more than 70% over the last 12 months, far outpacing other markets.
‘Abenomics’, Japan’s version of ‘Quantitative Easing,’ has pumped massive amounts of money printed with red ink into the economy to create an image that the economy is doing good, when it is not.
The Bank of Japan’s policies can’t sustain the rally indefinitely, and Japanese companies will have to start reporting better earnings to bolster investment confidence.

U.S.: The Federal Reserve released minutes from its latest policy meeting revealing that some members of the monetary policy committee were looking to taper off the ‘Quantitative Easing’ bond-buying program as early as June. That is bad news for investors who have been energized by the Fed’s $85 billion of phony red money being pumped into the American economy each month to make it look like the economy is healthy, when it really is not.

China: Weak economic data. The latest numbers from China showed the country’s manufacturing sector contracted in May, contrary to expectations for expansion, reinforcing concerns about slowing growth in the world’s second biggest economy. This is a reality that is beginning to come to light because America, Europe and most of the world have economies that are actually in decline once we strip away the façade of programs like ‘Abenomics’ and ‘Quantitative Easing’.

World Stock Market gains in past 12 months
Japan: 69% (after todays huge loss)
Eurozone: 33%
England: 27%
Australia: 23%
Hong Kong: 21%
U.S.: 18%
Canada: 10%.
Mexico: 8%
Brazil: 3%
China: – 4%

Captain Ricks Analysis: Which markets are likely to go up … or down?
The stock markets in the countries at the bottom of the list (less than 15% gain) are on the strongest footing and are more likely to go up than down.
The stock markets in the countries at the top of the list (more than 40% gain) are significantly over invested with highly inflated values and face significant potential for decline.
The stock markets in the countries in the middle (15% – 40% gain) are in uncertain territory with over investment and inflated values, especially those in the upper half of this range. These markets are more likely to decline than rise, especially those in the upper half of this range.

I welcome your comments, likes, shares and following of my blog! (If not visible, click the red title above)

Associated ATRIDIM NEWS JOURNAL Report Categories:

Japan: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/japan/

China: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/china/

Stock & Bond Market: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/stock-bond-market/

Fiscal Cliff 101: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/fiscal-cliff-course-101/

U.S Debt Crisis: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/u-s-debt-crisis/

European Debt Crisis: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/european-debt-crisis/

All Reports: https://atridim.wordpress.com/

Captain Rick: The 17-nation Eurozone economy contracted for a record sixth consecutive quarter, making this the longest period of recession in the Eurozone’s history. The recession has depressed business confidence, sent unemployment to record highs, inflation to record lows and blown attempts to cut government record debt.

Gross domestic product in the Eurozone fell by 0.2% in the first quarter. The GDP estimate was worse than economists were expecting, largely due to disappointing growth in Germany and could increase pressure on the ECB to take further action to try to stimulate activity.

Unemployment continues to hit new record highs. Unemployment broke through 12% for the first time in March, meaning 19.2 million people were without work in the Eurozone, 1.7 million more than a year ago.
Youth unemployment rose sharply, hitting 24% and leaving 3.6 million people under 25 looking for work.

Prices slumped and inflation has fallen way below the central bank’s target. Inflation posted its biggest monthly drop in four years in April. It fell to 1.2% and touched its lowest level since February 2010.

Eurozone debt hit 8.6 trillion euros, a record 90% of GDP, last year and is forecast to rise to 95% in 2013. As bad as this is … in contrast, U.S. debt to GDP ratio is 107%, trumping it as the worlds worst. One has to wonder if America is next in line to experience the hardships facing those in the Eurozone.

Future Concern: Economists are becoming increasingly concerned at the growing divergence between France and Germany, historically the twin motors of the EU economy and political integration.

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France: French President Francois Hollande (shown above) who was elected a year ago after campaigning to put growth before austerity and introduce higher taxes on the rich, has seen his approval ratings fall sharply as unemployment continues to climb. In recent months he has begun to reform labor markets and pensions, and announced plans to cut capital gains tax. But he is moving too slowly for some, and his government continues to send mixed messages.

France, the Eurozone’s second-biggest economy, slipped back into recession. Its output fell by 0.2% for a second consecutive quarter as it suffered from weak exports and falling investment.  France faces a heavy financial burden from its labor unions and pension systems.

Italy: The pace of contraction eased. GDP shrank by 0.5% in the quarter.
Italy, the region’s third largest economy, nominated a new prime minister. Enrico Letta is a pro-European from Italy’s center-left. He wants Europe to ease up on austerity.

Spain: The recession deepened in the first quarter. The economy contracted by 2% compared with the same period a year ago, and by 0.5% compared with the final quarter of 2012. Spain has been stuck in recession for 21 months. It has been given two more years to bring its budget deficit to below 3% of gross domestic product. In contrast, the U.S. deficit ratio is 6.5% of GDP … more than twice as bad. One has to wonder if America is next in line to experience the hardships facing those in the Eurozone.

The number of unemployed in Spain broke the 6 million barrier during the first quarter, a new record. The unemployment rate rose to 27.2%, tied with Greece for the Eurozone’s highest. For Spaniards aged 16 to 24, the unemployment rate is 57.2%.

Greece: The jobless rate was 27.2% for January, tied with Spain for the Eurozone’s highest. In Greece, 34.2% individuals aged 25 to 34 are unemployed. It’s even worse for younger workers — 59.3% of Greeks aged 15 to 24 are out of work.

Portugal: Portugal was able to slow the pace of contraction to 0.3% from 1.8% in the fourth quarter.

I welcome your comments, likes, shares and following of my blog! (If not visible, click the red title above)

Info from previous reports:

European Debt Crisis: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/european-debt-crisis/

Europe: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/europe/

France: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/france/

Germany: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/germany/

Greece: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/greece/

Italy: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/italy/

Portugal: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/portugal/

Spain: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/spain/

Home page (all reports): https://atridim.wordpress.com/

Captain Rick: The Gilbert Arizona Town Council is set to eliminate study sessions that precede each council meeting. As a viewer of every Gilbert council meeting since 1997, I shared my concern with our council.

A copy of my email to the Gilbert Town Council on May 11, 2013:

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Mayor Lewis and Council,

As a viewer of every council meeting and study session televised since 1997…and frequent council commentator, you know I am an avid supporter of council study sessions. They often contain info that is more meaningful and educational than that presented during the ‘show biz’ council meeting.

I know all of you have a busy schedule and your time is precious. Mine is also…so I understand. From council study discussion on 4/30, it sounds like most are in favor of ending the study sessions.

I have one simple request to make that I hope every member of council will honor. Please ensure all staff presentations, that have been a vital part of the study sessions, will become part of the regular council meetings. To me, they are a vital contribution to the process.

I encourage all to consider Ben Cooper’s remarks concerning the probable increased need to postpone council decisions…should more investigation and research be needed.

My ‘Proper Vote’ will always go to those who get it right the first time…not those who were the first to ‘jump on a popular ship headed for nowhere’. I urge all to slow the pace and get it right the first time. We did not elect you to be ‘speed demons’ or ‘show biz artists’. We elected you to represent our great town of Gilbert, Arizona with wisdom.

Captain Rick

I welcome your comments, likes, shares and following of my blog! (If not visible, click the red title above)

Associated ATRIDIM NEWS JOURNAL Report Categories:

Gilbert Town Council: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/gilbert-town-council/

Gilbert Council Proper Vote Scorecard: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/gilbert-council-proper-vote-scorecard/

Gilbert Arizona: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/gilbert-arizona/