The Watering Hole: October 26th – Marital Bliss

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Reuters: If you’re married and you’d rather be in the slammer than at home, chances are you are not going to stay married for much longer. A Sicilian man was sent back home to his nagging wife, after he showed up at the police station and asked to be put back in jail, rather than suffering through a house arrest.

Health Insurance Not So Profitable, Article Says

“Profits [for health insurance companies] barely exceeded 2 percent of revenues in the latest annual measure. Health insurers posted a 2.2 percent profit margin last year, placing them 35th on the Fortune 500 list of top industries.”

However, according to the article, “The industry’s overall profits grew only 8.8 percent from 2003 to 2008, and its margins year to year, from 2005 forward, never cracked 8 percent.”

Ok, so what’s the difference? Well, for one thing, the industry may have lost a bundle in it’s investment portfolio, along with everyone else.

But another, not mentioned in the article, yet certainly affecting the bottom line: spending over $1 million per day lobbying against reform.

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The Watering Hole: October 25 – USS Tang (SS-306)

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On this date in 1944 the USS Tang was sunk by an errant torpedo that it had fired itself. At this point in time, torpedoes were equipped with metal detecting sensors, but, friend or foe devices were not available. The USS Tang is credited with sinking 31 ships in five patrols, totaling 227,800 tons. It also damaged two others of 4,100 tons. No other US Navy submarine has even came close to equaling this record.

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Angelina Jolie, the Tailor and the Mafia

I am considering myself as someone who is going through life with open eyes and knows a little about the underbelly of capitalism. But yet, when I heard the words “designer fashion” and names like Valentino or Dolce&Gabbana, well lit studios used to come to my mind where the nimble hands of highly professional and well paid seamstresses turned silk and satin into gorgeous clothes.

Roberto Saviano’s book “Gomorrah – Italy’s other Mafia” put an end to my naiveté.

The production of clothes in a price range that’s far beyond the means of a middle class person is auctioned out to sweat shops in Italy where the salary level is pathetic and where sometimes even child labour is found.  The sweatshop owners get presented with the original fabric and the design and will then state the price and the timeframe for the production of  a given number of clothes. Three to five bidders get the chance to make good on the promise and the fastest and cheapest sells it’s production. The rest of them can market their output in the grey area of semi-fakes. Of course, the fakes, which are still made with the original fabrics are sold with the knowledge and silent consent of the fashion brand. The control of the business is, as expected, in the hands of the Camorra.

The specific tailor, who actually made the white tuxedo-style suit actress Angelina Jolie wore at the Oscar ceremony in 2001, saw the pictures on tv and broke down crying, as Roberto Saviano, who was researching undercover for his book at that time, witnessed.

Whenever I see a gorgeous robe now, I see a dimly lit sweatshop where underpaid, often illegal, immigrants to Italy spend most days of the week to produce luxury for a world oblivious to their existence.

Read the review of Saviano’s book here and if you have the time read the whole book. It’s worth it, if only because the courageous man who wrote that book, now lives in costant fear for his life.

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The Watering Hole: October 24 – Going Ballistic

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On this date in 1957 the US Air Force initiated the Dyna-Soar program.

Dyna Soar - Concept Image

Dyna-Soar - Concept Image

In the simplest description of the program a piloted ballistic missile war head would deliver a 1000 pound payload to a target anywhere in the world and return to a friendly base anywhere else.

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