GIVING BACK

August 29, 2015


The data for this post is taken from http://www.forbes.com.  The text is mine.

How much is enough?  At what point do we become “fully funded”?   Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t begrudge those individuals who have amassed a fortune—maybe a fortune plus.   If you really look at what they have contributed to our society you can see their input has been significant.  In some cases, monumental.

One remarkable example of wealth giving back is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Their contribution to improvements in third world countries is truly moving.  The mission statement for their foundation is as follows:

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

“To bring about the kinds of changes that will help people live healthier and more productive lives, we seek to understand the world’s inequities. Whether the challenge is low-yield crops in Africa or low graduation rates in Los Angeles, we listen and learn so we can identify pressing problems that get too little attention. Then we consider whether we can make a meaningful difference with our influence and our investments, whether it is a grant or a contract.

All of our strategies—more than two dozen across the foundation—have emerged through this process of identifying what we want to accomplish for people and where we can have the greatest impact. Once we commit to an area of need, we define our major goals and identify a clear path to achieving them.”

We all know about Mr. and Mrs. Gates but let’s now take a look at the top fourteen individuals giving back to communities, the United States and even the world.   These people KNOW they are very fortunate to have resources and, like Bill and Melinda, they give back in a huge manner.

  • Mark Zuckerberg– The Zuckerbergs regularly top the charts of most giving entrepreneurs. In 2013, they donated $1 billion (yes, with a “B”) to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation via company stock. Known for setting a great example as an entrepreneur and a philanthropist at a young age, the 29-year-olds have been moving Facebook shares over to non-profits for the past several years.
  • Charles Johnson— Head ofFranklin Resources.   Charles Johnson donated $250 million in 2013 to Yale University. A former graduate, the 80-year-old takes giving back to his alma mater seriously. It might not seem “necessary” but private universities including Yale depend largely on the generosity of alums to keep producing world leaders.
  • Sergey Brin–One co-founders ofGoogle, Brin donated $219 million to his own foundation in 2013, which was founded along with his wife (from whom he is now separated). The couple also generously donated to the Michael J. Fox  The Brin Wojcicki Foundation distributes funds to a variety of diverse non-profits.
  • Paul Allen–In 2013, Allen donated $206 million largely to his own foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, but also notably to the EMP Museum. The founder of Vulcan Capital andco-founder of Microsoft, he focuses on culture, education, arts and social services program largely in the Great Northwest. Like Brin, his foundation also distributes funds to other deserving organizations.
  • Mark Cuban–You might know Mark Cuban, the well-known American business man and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, from his appearances on TV’s Shark Tank, but you might not be familiar with his philanthropic work. In 2003, Cuban started the Fallen Patriot Fund to help families of United States military personnel killed or injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Cuban matched the first one million dollars in contributions with funds from the Mark Cuban Foundation, which is run by Mark’s brother Brian Cuban but does not directly operate any charitable activities. Rather, the Mark Cuban foundation supports charitable activities in the Dallas area and throughout the United States. Cuban is also reported to give freely to other charitable organizations across the world.
  • John and Laura Arnold–The Texas couple founded the Laura andJohn Arnold Foundation after Mr. Arnold founded the Centaurus Energy hedge fund company. In 2013, they donated $296.2 million mostly to their own Foundation. It supports K-12 public education, public policy reform, and scientific research. 
  • Stephen RossDonating $200 million to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 2013, Ross is the founder of Related Companies in New York—another real estate tycoon. When he made the massive pledge in autumn 2013, he said it was meant to inspire other alumni to give back and help reach the university’s massive $4 billion fundraising goal. 
  • Michael BloombergIt’s no surprise that Bloomberg donated largely to improving city governments on a global scale, but he also gifted funds to education, arts, public health and environmental groups. In total, he gave $452 million in 2013. The founder of the Bloomberg news and financial group is best known as New York’s mayor from 2001-2013, but now is focusing largely on philanthropy.
  • Phil and Penelope Knight–As co-founder of Nike, Mr. Knight targets Oregon-based organizations. He donated $500 million to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in 2013, after OHSU asked “boldly” for $100 million. After seeing the incredible work being done, he shocked the non-profit teaching hospital by drastically upping the gift.
  • Stephen Scwwarzman–As co-founder and current chairman of Blackstone Group, the investor directed $103 million towards Tsinghua University in 2013. The Beijing University approached him with a pitch for a campaign to attract international students. He seesChina’s economic growth as a great haven for future leaders.
  • David RubensteinAs co-chief and co-founder of Carlyle Group, Rubenstein donated $121.7 million in 2013 largely to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, but also to a number of universities including Columbia and Duke. His goal is to donate to at least 10 non-profits each year.
  • Alfred Mann–As the founder of numerous health-based businesses, Mann is equally committed to charity. He donated $70 million in 2013 to the Nevada Community Foundation, although he has yet to report on which programs his funding will support.
  • Abraham Mitchell–Donating just over $50 million to theUniversity of South Alabama, Mitchell co-founded the Mitchell Company and has always considered charitable giving a staple of his business practice. Specifically, he asked that half of his donation go towards scholarships.
  • Lyda Hill–An entrepreneur from the start, Hill learned her way around business from her grandfather, oilman HL Hunt. She donated $63.2 million to a number of organizations in 2013 including the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and a Nature Conservatory.

ANNUAL SALARIES:

Obviously, there are many philanthropists across our nation who, through hard work and focus, has accomplished more than a weekly paycheck.  I have no idea how much, if anything, they give back and the purpose of this post is not to chastise them if they don’t.  If we look at annual salaries for the year 2014, we see the following:

  • Floyd Mayweather-$300 million
  • Manny Pacquiao-$160 million
  • Katy Perry-$135 million
  • Howard Stern–$95 million
  • Garth Brooks-$90 million
  • James Patterson-$89 million
  • Robert Downey Jr.-$80 million
  • Taylor Swift-$80 million
  • Christian Roualdo-$79.5 million
  • Rush Limbaugh-$79 million
  • Ellen DeGeneres-$75 million
  • Lionel Mussi-$74.5 million
  • Phil McGraw-$70 million
  • Roger Federer-$67 million
  • Calvin Harris-$66 million
  • LeBron James-$65 million
  • Justin Timberlake-$63.5 million
  • David Copperfield-$63 million
  • Sean Combs-$60 million
  • Gordon Ramsey-$60 million
  • Ryan Seacrest-$60 million
  • Beyonce-$54.5 million
  • Kim Kardashian-$52.5 million
  • Shawn Hannity-$29 million

According to Forbes, the most charitable athletes are:

  • David Beckham
  • LeBron James
  • Albert Pujols
  • Eli Manning
  • Larry Fitzgerald
  • Clayton Krenshaw
  • Serena Williams
  • Derek Jeter
  • Jeff Gordon
  • Tiger Woods

OK, how about celebrities.  Who gives back. Let’s look.

  • Prince Harry
  • Jennifer Lawrence
  • Kylie Jenner
  • Emma Watson
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Brad Pitt
  • Madonna
  • 50 Cent
  • Mary J. Blige
  • Susan Sarandon
  • Lady Gaga
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Matt Damon
  • Bono
  • Michael J. Fox
  • Ben Affleck
  • Justin Timberlake

Quite frankly, I’m really impressed that so many “over-achievers” do feel the great need to return something to their communities.  The argument for doing so is found in Luke 12:48– ‘to whom much is given, much will be required’.   Many in the lists above recognize the need to give back and they are putting their significant resources to good use.

As always, I welcome your comments.

SAFETY FIRST

August 22, 2015


Flying remains one of the safest, if not THE safest, modes of transportation when going International or cross-country.  The U.S. Department of Transportation tells us that 815.3 million scheduled passengers traveled on U.S. airlines and airlines coming from foreign countries to the United States in 2012.  This equates to 580,501,000 passenger miles. 2013 numbers approach 600 million.  We have all been in situations where we wish we were “down there”, but those are mostly weather-related and we did survive.   I used to fly two and sometimes three times per month and in the forty plus years in the air there was only one incident where mechanical difficulties or weather took us down.  I was flying from Atlanta to Sao Paulo on business when we lost an engine.  This was over Brasilia.  This pilot, to his credit, was very calm and indicated we needed to make an unscheduled stop.  We landed and deplaned for a four hour wait until repairs were made.  No panic.

If we examine the most-used modes of transportation, we see the following:

AUTOMOBILE:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives us the following statistic:

“In 2010, there were an estimated 5,419,000 crashes (30,296 fatal crashes), killing 32,999 and injuring 2,239,000 individuals.  The 32,479 traffic fatalities in 2011 represented the lowest in sixty-two (62 years) (1949). Records indicate that there have been a total of 3,551,332 motor vehicle deaths in the United States from 1899 to 2012.”  Each year just about the same number of fatalities demonstrates the stark reality that driving is, by far, the most dangerous way to travel.

AIRLINE:

If we look at the total number of airline crashes on a global basis, we see the following.

AIRLINE CRASHES

RAIL:

Transportation by rail is very safe although hundreds of individuals die each year from walking on rails, running barriers when trains are approaching, and other weird occurrences.  The Federal Railroad Administration issued the following news release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Apr. 13, 2015 – Latest safety statistics released by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in April confirmed 2014 was the safest year on record for freight train operations in the United States.

Highlights of FRA freight rail safety data (per million train miles):

Since 2000, the train accident rate is down 45 percent, a new low, and the 2014 train accident rate was down 7 percent compared with 2013.

The track-caused accident rate has dropped 54 percent since 2000 and 12 percent from 2013.

The equipment-caused accident rate has dropped 44 percent since 2000 and 6 percent from 2013.

The rate for human factor-caused accidents has declined 44 percent since 2000 and 4 percent from 2013.

“The freight rail industry is working all out to prevent any train incident, large or small. It is an ongoing 24/7 commitment and our goal remains zero accidents,” said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads. “Freight railroads are always looking to further advance safety and will continue to move forward with safety-focused initiatives and cutting-edge research and development.”

BOATING:

  • In 2012, the Coast Guard counted 4515 accidents that involved 651 deaths, 3000 injuries and approximately $38 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
  • The fatality rate was 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 12.9% decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 6.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. • Compared to 2011, the number of accidents decreased 1.6%, the number of deaths decreased 14.1% and the number of injuries decreased 2.6%.
  • Almost seventy-one (71) percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, almost eighty-five (85) percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket.
  • Almost fourteen percent (14) of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction. Only nine (9) percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from a NASBLA approved course provider.
  • Seven out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length.
  • Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure, and excessive speed rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
  • Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17% of deaths.
  • Twenty-four children under age thirteen lost their lives while boating in 2012. Ten children or approximately forty-two (42) percent of the children who died in 2012 died from drowning. Two children or twenty (20) percent of those who drowned were wearing a life jacket as required by state and federal law.
  • The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (19%), and cabin motorboats (15%).
  • The 12,101,936 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2012 represent a 0.59% decrease from last year when 12,173,935 recreational vessels were registered.

With this in mind, let’s consider the airline industry and what lists represent the best and the worst.  The following lists were taken from http://www.planecrashinformation.com/cause.html.  Very good site and one I keep up with PRIOR to any foreign travel.

We all fly, at least occasionally, so let’s look at the best and worst airlines relative to safety.  This list was provided by the site previously mentioned and CNN. We won’t examine schedule reliability or lost bags at this time, just safety.

THE WORLD’S SAFETIST AIRLINES:

  • QUANTAS
  • New Zealand
  • British Airways
  • Cathy Pacific Airways
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • EVA Air
  • Finnair
  • Lufthansa
  • Singapore Airways

TOP TEN (10) SAFEST LOW COST AIRLINES:

  • AirLingus
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Iceland Air
  • JetBlue
  • Jetstar
  • Kulula Airlines
  • Monarch Airlines
  • Thomas Cook Airlines
  • Tulfly
  • West Jet

THE WORST AIRLINES RELATIVE TO SAFETY:

I’m listing the worst airlines and a very brief bio of each airline. PLEASE NOTE:  Depending upon your final destination, there are other airlines with good to great safety records that will get you there.  It is always recommended you do your research relative to availablility.

  • TARA Air—TARA Air is the newest and biggest airline service provider in the Nepalese mountains. This company has started business with the mission of helping develop the rural Nepal. Accordingly, their service is concentrated in the hills and mountains of the country from the Far East to the Far West.
  • Nepal Airlines— Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) was incorporated on 1 July 1958 through enactment of Nepal Airlines Corporation Act. 2019 with the following main objective:  to provide air transport service to any person, agency or organization who need such service for transportation of men or materials from one airport to another, either within or outside the country.
  • Kazakhstan Scat Airlines— SCAT Airlines, legally PLL SCAT Air Company, is an airline with its head office on the property of Shymkent Airport in ShymkentKazakhstan. It operates services to all major cities of Kazakhstan and to neighboring countries. Its main base is Shymkent Airport, with hubs at Oral Ak Zhol AirportAqtau Airport,Astana International AirportAtyrau AirportKyzylorda Airport and Almaty International Airport.
  • Kazakhstan Kam Air— Kam Air is headquartered in Kabul/Afghanistan. It operates scheduled domestic passenger services and international services to the Middle East, Asian republics and from August 2010 also to Vienna (Austria) and London/Gatwick (United Kingdom) in Europe. Its main base is Kabul International Airport.
  • Malaysia Airlines— Malaysian Airline System  is a major airline operating flights from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and from secondary hubs in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching to destinations throughout Asia as well as a handful of destinations in Europe and Oceania. Malaysia Airlines is the flag carrier of Malaysia and a member of the One-world airline alliance. The company’s headquarters are located on the grounds of Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang, Selangorand Greater Kuala Lumpur.
  • Malaysia Philippines Airlines— Philippine Airlines (PAL), Asia’s first airlines and the national flag carrier of the Republic of the Philippines, showcases the best of the Filipino people and the country – warm hospitality, refreshing smiles, attentive service, and eagerness to help.
    PAL serves 31 destinations in the Philippines and 39 destinations overseas in Southeast and East Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, North America, and Europe from Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Centennial Terminal 2 in Manila and the Mactan International Airport in Cebu.
  • Air India Express— Air India is the flag carrier airline of India owned by Air India Limited (AIL), a Government of India enterprise. It is the third largest airline in India after IndiGo and Jet Airways in domestic market share, and operates a fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft serving various domestic and international airports. It is headquartered at the Indian Airlines House in New Delhi.  Air India has two major domestic hubs at Indira Gandhi International Airport and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, and secondary hubs at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata and Chennai International Airport. The airline formerly operated a hub at Frankfurt Airport which was terminated becauseof high costs. However, another international hub is being planned at the Dubai International Airport.
  • ASKY Airlines— ASKY Airlines is a passenger airline founded on the initiative of West African governments, and has its head office in LoméTogo. It operates across several West and Central African countries, operating out of its hub at Lomé-Tokoin Airport.
  • Avia Traffic Company— Avia Traffic Company is an airline with its head office in BishkekKyrgyzstan.  Its flights operate from Manas International Airport. The airline is on the List of air carriers banned in the European Union. The list of air carriers banned in the European Union is a list of airlines failing to meet regulatory oversight standards of the EU, and which are banned from entering the airspace of any member state.  The first version of the list was published in 2006, on the legal basis of the Regulation No. 474/2006 of the European Commission, issued on 22 March of that year. The current version of the list was published on 25 June 2015.
  • Blue Wing— Blue Wing Airlines n.v. is an airline with its head office on the grounds of Zorg en Hoop Airport in ParamariboSuriname.  The airline started operations in January 2002 and operates charter and scheduled services from Paramaribo to destinations in the interior of Suriname,GuyanaBrazilVenezuela and the Caribbean area. Its main base is Zorg en Hoop Airport.  The airline was on the list of air carriers banned in the EU; however, they were removed from the list as of 28 November 2007. As of 6 July 2010, however, the airline was once again on the blacklist and remains on the blacklist to this current day. In 2014 the airline was ranked as one of the worlds least safe by Airline Ratings.
  • Camair Company— The Cameroon Airlines Corporation, trading as Camair-Co, is an airline from Cameroon, serving as flag carrier of the country, a role which was previously filled by the now-defunct Cameroon Airlines.   Camair-Co is based in Douala and operates out of Douala International Airport.  Camair-co was created on 11 September 2006 by decree of Paul Biya, the President of Cameroon, as a company aimed at replacing Cameroon Airlines, the country’s national airline at that time. Cameroon Airlines was shut down in June 2008, but it took until 2011 for Camair-Co to launch flight services. The inaugural flight from Douala to Paris via Yaoundé took place on 28 March.
  • Cambodian Ankor Air— Cambodia Angkor Air is the national flag carrier airline of Cambodia, headquartered in Phnom Penh. It commenced operations on 28 July 2009. The airline is owned by the Cambodian government (51%) and Vietnam Airlines (49%), the latter allowing for code-share flights. All of its planes are leased from Vietnam airlines
  • Daallo Airlines— Daallo Airlines is a Somali-owned airline based at Dubai Airport Free Zone in Al GarhoudDubaiUnited Arab Emirates.  With its main hub at the Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport, the airline operates scheduled services in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.   Daallo briefly ceased all operations in March 2010, but resumed operations later in the year.
  • Drukair Royal Bhutan— Drukair Corporation Limited operating as Drukair — Royal Bhutan Airlines, is the national airline of the Kingdom of Bhutan, headquartered in the western region of Paro.  Founded in 1981, ten years after Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck gradually began to open up the kingdom from self-imposed isolation, and seven years after welcoming its first foreign visitors, the airline commenced operations in 1983 with flights from Calcutta to Paro utilizing Dornier Do 228aircraft. A switch to BAe 146-100 equipment occurred in November 1988, and in order to meet increased demand, those aircraft were replaced in 2004 with two Airbus A319s.Drukair operates a modest scheduled flight network within the South Asian region from its base at Paro Airport and currently consists of eight destinations in five countries.
  • Fastjet— Fastjet Plc is a low-cost airline aimed to provide a pan-African service. The airline was initially created with the acquisition of Fly540, an airline operating in East Africa, and flights in Fastjet’s own name commenced in November 2012.  Fastjet had been in negotiations to acquire the assets of failed 1time Airline, but those talks were put on hold.  Fastjet had entered into a memorandum of understanding to form a joint venture with JetLink Express, but that, too, was put on hold.
  • Fly 540– Five Forty Aviation Ltd, trading as Fly540, was a low-cost airline which commenced operations in 2006 and is based in NairobiKenya, that operates domestic and international passenger and freight services.  The airline had two subsidiary airlines Fly540 Ghana (suspended in May 2014) and Fly540 Angola (suspended in February 2014) but has since focused its business expansion plans on East Africa.   All of these companies are majority stake-holder owned by the London-based African investment group Lonrho Ltd.  Fly540 was acquired by Fastjet Plc and began operating in November 2012.
  • Iraqi Airways Iraqi Airways Company, operating as Iraqi Airways, is the national carrier of Iraq, headquartered on the grounds of Baghdad International Airport in Baghdad.  One of the oldest airlines in the Middle East, Iraqi Airways operates domestic and regional service. Its main base is Baghdad International Airport.  Iraqi Airways is a member of the Arab Air Carriers Organization.

As you can see, the worst airlines in the world are operated mostly by regional, third-world carriers.  Africa, the Middle East and the Far East seem to operate regional carriers with significant issues; mostly maintenance-related.  Training is also a huge problem with these regional carriers.  If you are traveling and don’t have information regarding the carrier—LOOK IT UP. Get their safety record for the past five, maybe ten years.  Remember—it’s better to be down here wishing you were up there than up there wishing you were down here.

Just a thought.


In recent years I have come to know that the best writers are also prolific readers.   Individuals who study styles of fiction, non-fiction, factual documentaries, technical documents, etc.  They look at sentence structure, punctuation, and general “word-smithing”. The great ones bring readers into the story by developing the characters and plot or plots as each chapter unfolds.  I recently finished reading one of the very best books published in recent years.  I can definitely recommend to you the following:

TITLE:  “All the Light You Cannot See”

WITTEN BY: Anthony Doerr

PUBLISHED BY:  Scribner

COPYRITE: 2014

LENGTH:  544 Pages

This book has won the following prestigious awards:

  • The 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
  • 2015 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
  • Australian International Book Award
  • One of the ten best books of 2014 as noted by the New York Times

The book paints a marvelous picture of survival, endurance, and moral obligation as the characters deal with the atrocities that took place in Western Europe during World War II.  The story actually begins in 1940 and involves Marie Laure and her father.  They live in Paris where he works for the Museum of Natural History. He is the “keeper of the keys”, a very talented locksmith and carpenter.  Marie suffered blindness at the age of six years yet her father compensates for that blindness by constructing a small wooden village with houses, building, roads, signs and other real-life structures for her to memorize.  She carefully touches the model so venturing outside presents little confusion and less panic for someone who is blind.  She navigates by memorizing the number of steps between each landmark.  It takes time but is accomplished.

Werner, along with his sister Jutta, are German children growing up in an orphanage.  They suffer all the indignities orphans experience during wartime, including uncertainties of hunger, advancing Russian and American troops, and ill-treatment by German SS officers and soldiers.  Werner develops a great ability to build, repair and operate radios.  This ability is recognized at an early age and he is conscripted into the German army to locate members of the French underground.  He never fully converts to the German way of thinking relative to French patriots.  In the end, he is totally disillusioned with Hitler and the Third Reich.  He not only sees but feels the total deprivation generated by Hitler.  Werner’s work in trying to discover members of the French resistance is the manner in which he meets Marie Laure.

Doerr develops the story line and the characters in the same fashion an artist paints a masterpiece—one stroke at a time.  He very carefully infuses the plot with colorful characters that definitely contribute to the overall narrative.  These characters bounce into and out of the story giving added definition and insight to the overall plot. They are not always benign or accommodating to the reader and some are downright villainous in nature.   Doerr’s ability to go forward and backward in time to cover important events in the lives of the characters is marvelous, yet takes some getting used to. It’s worth the effort.

This is definitely one book in which you want to read the ending first– DO NOT.  The ending is a “twist” the author forces upon us. One that’s not too pleasing but never the less one that brings finality to the story.

I definitely recommend this book to you.  One of the best books you can buy and read.  Buy it this week.

THE 1%

August 15, 2015


The data for this post is taken from the following sources: 1.) The Atlantic.com, 2.) Bankrate.com, 3.) IRS, 4.) Economic Policy Institute, 5.) Forbes Magazine, and 6.) Global Finance Magazine. The spreadsheets have been developed by this author.

I think we all agree the word “wealthy” is somewhat relative if we use money and assets as our baseline of comparison.  There are those who rely solely on the “almighty dollar” to keep score.  I would hope we all realize there is much more to life than money although covering our expenses and having a little “walking around” money; i.e. disposal income, is not all bad.  I would like to address wealth from a global perspective.

If we look at the world’s poorest countries measured by per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product) we see the following:

INCOME PER DAY

Let’s do the same by region:

INCOME BY REGION

Now, compare this with the average annual U.S. income, stated by Forbes Magazine to be approximately $51,000.00, and you come away with the thought that “working Americans”are truly wealthy compared to the rest of the world.  PLEASE NOTE: I SAID “WORKING AMERICANS”.   We have a huge population unable, for whatever reason, to find gainful employment.  That’s another story for another day.

If we look at the statistics, we find the following:

  • According to the U.S. Census, the median income from 2000 to 2010 has declined by seven percent (7%).
  • The Economic Policy Institute indicates that between 2007 and 2009 the average household wealth for the wealthiest one-fifth of the population has declined by sixteen percent (16%). For the rest of us, the decline is right at twenty-five percent (25%). Granted, this period in our country was one of significant economic decline from which we have never really recovered.
  • According to the IRS, an adjusted gross income of $343,927.00 would put you in the top one percent (1%) of the working population, $159,619.00 in the top five percent (5%), and $113,799.00 in the top ten percent (10%). As we all know, adjusted gross income backs out taxes and allowable expenses.
  • The Tax Policy Center publishes the following for the top one percent (1%): 2009-$503,086.00, 2010-$516,633.00, and 2011-$532,613.00. This does NOT present adjusted gross income.
  • GET READY FOR THIS ONE:  Fifty-seven (57) members of Congress or approximately eleven percent (11%) of the 535 members are considered to be the “financial elite” of this country.  Two hundred and fifty (250) are millionaires in Congress.   In looking at all members there is an average net worth of $891,000.00.  This is nine times that of average Americans.

Now, let’s go “big-time”.  Can you name the top twenty richest people on the planet?  I can as follows:

BILLIONAIRS

Can you imagine a billion dollars? $1,000,000,000.00 How about eighty-six of those billion dollars? To really demonstrate just how far a billion dollars would go relative to the poorest countries, look at the chart below.  What I have calculated, based upon thirty-five billion dollars ($35 billion), is how long that amount would support an individual with a current daily income as given in a chart presented earlier.  The results are absolutely amazing.

NO OF  YEARS

Please don’t misunderstand, I am in no way condemning the wealthy, after all, in comparison with the world’s poorest, we the average American, are tremendously wealthy. Doing the calculation: $51,000/$394.25 = 129.36 years.  This is how long an annual American income would support an individual in the Congo-Kinshasa region. The wealthiest in the world have earned their money by tremendously hard work, focus, intensity, planning the work and working the plan, staying with their dreams and quite frankly sheer old determination. Never giving up, BUT they have developed skill sets and resources to realize their dreams.  This does not include:

  • Watching mindless TV each day.  According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of non-stop TVwatching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.
  • Hours of video games. A nationally representative study found that the average American 8-to-18 years old play video games for 13.2 hours per week. According to a survey of parents, 36% of children ages 0 to 6 years old have played video games. By age 6, the brain grows to 75-90% of its adult size.
  • Never reading a book. In the US,  seventy-five percent (75%) of people sixteen (16)  years and older read at least one book last year; of those people the average number of books read was fifteen (15), but the median, which is more representative of the average American, was six  (6).  This is a little better than I expected.  Hooray for our side.
  • Dropping out of high school.   By the way, the dropout rate is described as follows: Every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone. That’s a student every 26 seconds – or 7,000 a day. About 25% of high school freshmen fail to graduate from high school on time. THIS IS A DIASTER FOR OUR COUNTRY.
  • Involved with drugs and drug addiction.  More than twenty-two  million (22 million) Americans age twelve (12) and older – nearly nine percent ( 9%) of the U.S. population – use illegal drugs, according to the government’s 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  • Drinking to access-– National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.  Prevalence of Drinking:  In 2013, 86.8 of people ages eighteen ( 18) or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month.   Deaths among individuals aged twelve (12) and older, 46.4 percent involved alcohol. … Expanding our understanding of the relationship between moderate alcohol.

Last but not least, one quote from “silent Cal” basically says it all:  “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

PERSISTENCE is one skill set all of the “greats” have.  As always, I welcome your comments. HANG IN THERE—YOU DAN DO IT.

 


I remain absolutely amazed at the engineering effort involving the space probe NASA calls “NEW HORIZONS”.  The technology, hardware, software and communication package allowing the flyby is truly phenomenal—truly.  One thing that strikes me is the predictability of planetary movements so the proper trajectory may be accomplished.   Even though we live in an expanding universe, the physics and mathematics describing planetary motion is solid.  Let us take a very quick look at several specifics.

THE MISSION:

PROJECT

SPECIFICS:

  • LAUNCH:  January 19, 2006
  • Launch Vehicle:  Atlas V 551, first stage: Centaur Rocket, second stage: STAR 48B solid rocket third stage
  • Launch Location:  Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
  • Trajectory:  To Pluto via Jupiter Gravity Assist
  • The teams had to hone the New Horizons spacecraft’s 3 billion plus-mile flight trajectory to fit inside a rectangular flyby delivery zone measuring only 300 kilometers by 150 kilometers. This level of accuracy and control truly blows my mind.
  • New Horizon used both radio and optical navigation for the journey to Pluto.  Pluto is only about half the size of our Moon and circles our Sun roughly every 248 years. (I mentioned predictability earlier.  Now you see what I mean. )
  • The New Horizon craft is traveling 36,373 miles per hour and has traversed 4.67 billion miles in nine (9) years.
  • New Horizon will come as close as 7,800 miles from the surface of Pluto.
  • Using LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) — the most crucial instrument for optical navigation on the spacecraft; the New Horizon team took short 100 to 150 millisecond exposures to minimize image smear. Such images helped give the teams an estimate of the direction from the spacecraft to Pluto.
  •  The photographs from the flyby are sensational and very detailed relative to what was expected.
  • The spacecraft flew by the Pluto–Charon system on July 14, 2015, and has now completed the science of its closest approach phase. New Horizons has signaled the event by a “phone home” with telemetry reporting that the spacecraft was healthy, its flight path was within the margins, and science data of the Pluto–Charon system had been recorded.

HARDWARE:

The hardware for the mission is given with the graphic below.  From this pictorial we see the following sub-systems:

  • PEPSSI
  • SWAP
  • LORRI
  • SDC
  • RALPH
  • ALICE
  • REX(HGA)

The explanation for each sub-system is given with the graphic.   As you can see:  an extremely complex piece of equipment representing many hours of engineering design and overall effort.

 

HARDWARE

GOALS FOR THE MISSION:

The goal of the mission is to understand the formation of the Pluto system, the Kuiper belt, and the transformation of the early Solar System.  This understanding will greatly aid our efforts in understanding how our own planet evolved over the centuries.  New Horizon will study the atmospheres, surfaces, interiors and environments of Pluto and its moons.  It will also study other objects in the Kuiper belt.  By way of comparison, New Horizons will gather 5,000 times as much data at Pluto as Mariner did at Mars.  Combine the data from New Horizons with the data from the Mariner mission and you have complementary pieces of a fascinating puzzle.

Some of the questions the mission will attempt to answer are: What is Pluto’s atmosphere made of and how does it behave?  What does its surface look like? Are there large geological structures? How do solar wind particles interact with Pluto’s atmosphere?

Specifically, the mission’s science objectives are to:

  • map the surface composition of Pluto and Charon
  • characterize the geology and morphology of Pluto and Charon
  • characterize the neutral atmosphere of Pluto and its escape rate
  • search for an atmosphere around Charon
  • map surface temperatures on Pluto and Charon
  • search for rings and additional satellites around Pluto
  • conduct similar investigations of one or more Kuiper belt objects

NOTE:  Charon is also called (134340) Pluto I and is the largest of the five known moons of Pluto.  It was discovered in 1978 at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., using photographic plates taken at the United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station (NOFS). It is a very large moon in comparison to its parent body, Pluto. Its gravitational influence is such that the center of the Pluto–Charon system lies outside Pluto.

HISTORY:

When it was first discovered, Pluto was the coolest planet in the solar system. Before it was even named, TIME that “the New Planet,” 50 times farther from the sun than Earth, “gets so little heat from the sun that most substances of Earth would be frozen solid or into thick jellies.”

The astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh, then a 24-year-old research assistant at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., was the first to find photographic evidence of a ninth planet on this day, February 18, 85 years ago.  His discovery launched a worldwide scramble to name the frozen, farthest-away planet. Since the astronomer Percival Lowell had predicted its presence fifteen (15) years earlier, per TIME, and even calculated its approximate position based on the irregularity of Neptune’s orbit, the team at Lowell Observatory considered his widow’s suggestion of “Percival,” but found it not quite planetary enough. The director of the Harvard Observatory suggested “Cronos,” the sickle-wielding son of Uranus in Greek myth.  But the team opted instead for “Pluto,” the Roman god of the Underworld — the suggestion of an 11-year-old British schoolgirl who told the BBC she was enthralled with Greek and Roman mythology. Her grandfather had read to her from the newspaper about the planet’s discovery, and when she proposed the name, he was so taken with it that he brought it to the attention of a friend who happened to be an astronomy professor at Oxford University. The Lowell team went for Pluto partly because it began with Percival Lowell’s initials.

Pluto the Disney dog, it should be noted, had nothing to do with the girl’s choice. Although the cartoon character also made its first appearance in 1930, it did so shortly after the planet was named, as the BBC noted. While Pluto was downgraded to “dwarf planet” status in 2006, it remains a popular subject for astronomers. They began discovering similar small, icy bodies during the 1990s in the same region of the solar system, which has become known as the Kuiper Belt. Just because Pluto’s not alone doesn’t make it any less fascinating, according to Alan Stern, director of a NASA mission, New Horizons that will explore and photograph Pluto in an unprecedented spacecraft flyby on July 14 of this year.

“This epic journey is very much the Everest of planetary exploration,” Stern wrote in TIME last month. “Pluto was the first of many small planets discovered out there, and it is still both the brightest and the largest one known.”

NASA released its first images of Pluto from the New Horizons mission earlier this month, although the probe was still 126 million miles away from its subject; the release was timed to coincide with Tombaugh’s birthday. Stern wrote, when the pictures were released, “These images of Pluto, clearly brighter and closer than those New Horizons took last July from twice as far away, represent our first steps at turning the pinpoint of light Clyde saw in the telescopes at Lowell Observatory eighty-five (85) years ago, into a planet before the eyes of the world this summer.”

CONCLUSION:

AMAZING ENGINEERING ACCOMPLISHMENT!

GEM OF THE SOUTH

August 5, 2015


In 2008 I traveled to Sweetwater, Texas to attend the 50th Rattlesnake Roundup”.  There were four of us who made the trip, each driving four hours to cover the sixteen hour journey.  Sweetwater, Texas, is not the end of the world but you can see it from there.  The town itself is flat, hot, and dusty with wind blowing thirty-six hours each day.  The population in 2010 was 10,920 people.  For a “ridge-runner” like me, not exactly paradise, although; talking with the really nice folks there, it’s the only place to live. Oil country.  Strategically located in the state.  The best home town on the planet.  I know we all feel that way about our home town and that’s a marvelous testament to growing up in the United States.

I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee more than a few years ago and I also am very proud of my town.  Chattanooga was recently named by “Outdoor Magazine” as THE top “outdoor” city in our country.  AroundMe.com labeled Chattanooga as the second “coolest” city in the U.S.  Here are their comments:

The “coolness” of a town varies by opinion, but for us, these American small and mid-size cities have a lot going for them. Whether they boast historic downtowns, innovative local economies, stunning natural landscapes or awesome cultural diversity, these places feature some of the coolest residents in some of the best areas of the country.

CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE

“A truly beautiful city, Chattanooga sits along the winding Tennessee River amid the stunning cliffs of the Cumberland Plateau. It’s near the Appalachian Trail, which boasts some of the best climbing and whitewater rafting available. It’s also a great place to live economically speaking: Both home costs and property taxes are considerably low, while major companies like Volkswagen and Amazon are still opening offices there. It’s a gem of the South.”  

Well, we think so anyway.  Let’s take a quick look. By the way, all of the JPEGs were taken by me, except the one by Mr. Phil Thach, so feel free to use them as you wish.

Tennessee River Looking South

The AroundMe article mentioned the winding Tennessee River.  It does just that.  All river cities have their beauty, and the river city we call home is certainly no exception.

The Walnut Street Bridge, built in 1890, is shown spanning the Tennessee River.  This bridge was scheduled to be to be torn down due to age but the “city fathers” had another vision.  The bridge was closed to vehicle traffic, completely refurbished at the tune of several million dollars, and opened as a pedestrian bridge only.  Repairs and structural modifications were made into what is now a pedestrian walkway. The Walnut Street Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 23, 1990. The 2,376 foot (720 m) span is one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges and sits near the heart of a massive and recently completed urban renewal project.  On any one given weekend, you see hundreds of residents and visitors walking the bridge.

Tennessee River Looking East

This is another view of the Tennessee River with the very tip of Hunter Museum showing.

The Hunter Museum is located in an area of the city known as the Bluff View District.  I have been told by several individuals from Western Europe, Germany specifically, this area is very reminiscent of small towns and topography found dotting the landscape they grew up in.  The museum’s collections include works representing the Hudson River School, 19th century genre paintingAmerican Impressionism, the Ashcan School, early modernism, regionalism, and post World War II modern and contemporary art.

The building itself represents three distinct architectural stages: the original 1904 mansion designed by Abram Garfield which has housed the museum since its opening in 1952, an addition built in 1975, and a 2005 addition designed by Randall Stout.  The latest addition now serves as the entrance to the museum. With the 2005 expansion, the Hunter was extended towards the downtown area. The Ruth S. and A. William Holmberg Pedestrian Bridge provides a pedestrian-friendly connection to the nearby Walnut Street Bridge and riverfront attractions. The museum is named after George Hunter, who inherited the Coca-Cola Bottling empire from his uncle, Benjamin Thomas.

OLD Hunter (2)

As mentioned earlier there are three prominent buildings to the Hunter Museum but the residents consider the “old” building and the “new” building when discussing the facility.  Both house works of art, drawings, photography and sculpture. The new building is given as follows:

Hunter (New 3)

This past Sunday my wife and I visited the museum to view a Monet exhibit.  Very, very impressive and to my surprise, the facility was absolutely packed.

The picture below was taken from the grounds surrounding the new facility and again shows the Tennessee River.  Notice the condominiums to the left of the Walnut Street Bridge.  There is a great move to go “downtown”.  People are actually selling their homes in the “burbs” and moving back to the city.  This is due to the activity provided by retail and commercial establishments—not to mention the great restaurants now available to residents and visitors.  We also know that several families have purchased condos for their children when they attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Downtown Chattanooga (3)

The digital photograph shown below gives a great view of the glass walking bridge connecting the Bluff View area with downtown Chattanooga.  You will notice a construction site to the left of the bridge.  A private concern is building a “boutique” hotel at this site, which will be completed 2017.  Also notice the triangular spires at the very end of the bridge.  This is the Chattanooga Aquarium.  Two buildings, one with freshwater exhibits and one with saltwater exhibits.  Each year there are well over one million visitors.

Glass Bridge

A much better look at downtown Chattanooga and the aquarium is given below.  You also can see Lookout Mountain in the background.  Lookout Mountain is one emblem on the Seal of Chattanooga.  It is a very prominent landmark and one with great historic significance.  The “Battle Above the Clouds” was fought on Lookout Mountain during the civil war.


TENNESSEE RIVER AND AQUEARIUM

I hope you enjoyed this very brief visit to my home town and certainly hope you will make plans to take time for a real visit.  We would love to see you.

 

IDENTIFY THEFT AND FRAUD

August 1, 2015


I recently completed writing a training module for PDHonline.org.  PDH publishes documents allowing engineers and architects to satisfy their annual requirements for continuing education units (CEUs).  There are thirty-six (36) states requiring CEUs for continued listing as a professional engineer or professional architect.  My newest module is “BIOMETRICS”.   Biometric technology is one possible method for eliminating or lessening theft and fraud.  I was absolutely amazed at the level of fraud each year in our country.

When we consider the number of identity theft and fraud cases each year, we see the following picture.  Add to the numbers below the instances of money laundering and you get a difficult situation hard to believe.  Let’s take a look.

  • Approximately  fifteen (15)  million United States residents have their identities used fraudulently each year, with financial losses totaling upwards of fifty billion ($50 B).  I have personally been the victim three times relative to identity theft.  Not stolen cards, but someone “lifting” my numbers, recreating the card and charging at will.
  • On a case-by-case basis, that means approximately seven percent (7%) of all adults have their identities misused with each instance resulting in approximately $3,500 in losses.
  • Close to one hundred (100) million additional Americans have their personal identifying information placed at risk of identity theft each year when records maintained in government and corporate databases are lost or stolen.  We have just seen this recently with Federal employees.
  • On average, banks charge nineteen percent (19%) for a returned check and fiver dollars ($5.00) to the depositor. Assuming a combined revenue stream to banks of twenty-four dollars ($24.00) for returning a check, with 300 million returned checks, the annual revenue from returned checks is seven billion dollars ($7billion).  Some banks, generally the larger nation-wide banks, charge upwards to $50.00 for a returned check.
  • Ernst & Young reports that more than five hundred (500) million checks are forged annually.   The American Banker, an industry magazine, predicts that there will be a twenty-five percent (25%) increase in check fraud in the 2016 year.
  • Money laundering has increased over the last ten years. As a result, global efforts to combat this crime have increased. While it is extremely difficult to estimate the amount of worldwide money laundering, one model estimated that in 1998 it was near $2.85 trillion.
  • According to Meridian Research, estimated fraud loss for the credit card industry amounts to $1.5 billion annually, of which $230 million is estimated to result from online transactions. MasterCard reported a 33.7% increase in worldwide fraud from 1998 to 1999. During the first quarter of 2000, fraud losses increased 35.3% over the last quarter in 1999. VISA reports similar trends. It is estimated that fraud losses for online transactions may exceed $500 million in 2000. Fraudulent credit card activities include the use of counterfeit, stolen, and never received cards, as well as account takeover, mail order and Internet card-not present transactions.
  • The FBI estimates losses from check fraud total $18.7 billion annually in our country alone.
  • Health care fraud costs the United States tens of billions of dollars a year. It’s a rising threat, with national health care expenditures estimated to exceed $3 trillion in 2014 and spending continuing to outpace inflation. Recent cases also show that medical professionals continue, and may be more willing, to risk patient harm in furtherance of their schemes.  Medicare has no official estimate of the amount of money lost to fraud each year, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation refers to estimates of three to ten percent of all health care billings. In 2011, Medicare expenditures totaled approximately $565 billion. If the FBI percentages are applied to this amount, the cost of Medicare fraud for the 2011 fiscal year was anywhere from $17-57 billion.
  • According to an FBI report on insurance fraud, published on its web site under “The Economic Crimes Unit” section, total insurance industry fraud is $27.6 billion annually. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud breaks the total down across the insurance industry as follows:
    • Auto $12.3 billion ·
    • Homeowners $1.8 billion ·
    •  Business/Commercial $12 billion ·
    • Life/Disability $1.5 billion

Economic crimes in this area include those committed both internally and externally. Internal fraud can manifest itself in bribery of company officials, misrepresentation of company information for personal gain, and the like.

  • In his testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary on March 21, 2000, Chairman Arthur Levitt stated that Internet securities fraud is on the rise. He stated that there will be over 5.5 million online brokerage accounts by year end. The SEC has seen a rapid rise in Internet fraud in this area, with most of it occurring between 1998 and 1999. One recent pyramid scheme raised more than $150 million from over 155,000 investors before it was shut down. Securities fraud takes the form of stock manipulation, fraudulent offerings, and illegal touts conducted through newspapers, meetings, and cold calling, among others. These same scams have been conducted electronically, but are now joined by some newer, more sophisticated fraudulent activity. These include momentum-trading web sites, scalping recommendations, message boards posted by imposters, web sites for day trading recommendations, and misdirected messages. Investors are suffering large losses due to these cyber crimes.
  • The U.S. Secret Service estimates that telecommunication fraud losses exceed $1 billion annually.  Other estimates range from three ($3) billion to twelve ($12) billion.  Subscription or identity fraud involves using false or stolen IDs or credit cards to gain free service and anonymity. It has tripled since 1997, says Rick Kemper, Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association’s (CTIA) director of wireless technology and security, a trend he attributes to criminals favoring subscription fraud over cloning, plus increased industry competition to reach a broader and riskier market. The International Data Corporation (IDC: Framingham, MA) stated that, “Fraud remains endemic to the wireless industry, with estimated loses expected to reach a staggering $677 million by 2002…”   One of the key reasons is the dramatic increase of subscription fraud which IDC estimates will reach $473 million by 2002.17 Telemarketing fraud resulted in losses to victims of over $40 billion in 1998.   In 1996, the FBI estimated that there were over 14,000 telemarketing firms that were involved in fraudulent acts, the majority of which victimized the elderly.
  • Intellectual property theft – in the form of trademark infringement, cyber squatters, typo squatters, trade-secret theft, and copyright infringement – has increased as Internet use and misuse has risen. It occurs across the seven industries detailed here, as well as most other businesses. “According to the American Society for Industrial Security, American businesses have been losing $250 billion a year from intellectual property theft since the mid-1990’s.

These alarming statistics demonstrate identity theft and fraud may be the most frequent, costly and pervasive crime in the United States and on a global basis.  There is also a growing belief that biometrics may be able to lessen to a very great degree identity theft.   Let’s take a look at the “BIOMETRIC SUITE”:

Biometric Suite

The methods used, relative to allowing access to information and location, must be determined by careful consideration of 1.) Cost, 2.) Interface with existing computer equipment and computer code, 3.) Level of social intrusion tolerated, 4.) Ease in maintenance of equipment and 5.) Level of security required by the facility.  You would expect entry into a nuclear facility to be more difficult that entry into an NFL locker room. You get the point.  All of these factors must be considered with converting from existing systems to biometric technology.

I do NOT think anyone would disagree that something MUST be done to lessen identity theft and fraudulent activity.  The FED won’t really do this.  They are much too busy getting reelected, establishing their “brand”, satisfying their “base and securing their “legacy”.  Change must occur through the private sector.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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