April 12th, 2012
LS News Group / Lawrence Sinclair
We received the below embedded voice mail message from LA Coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter at 12:08 PM today in response to our calls seeking an update on the status of Andrew Breitbart’s COD (cause of death). Due to a phone company outage which is affecting a large area here, Sinclair News has been unable to make and/or receive calls most of the day. The below voice message [click link to go to audio] was retrieved from our account online.
Assistant Chief Ed Winter states the Breitbart COD is still pending, the Toxicology and Microscopic test results have not yet been received. Sinclair News will continue to follow-up on the Breitbart autopsy results and will bring them to you as soon as the LA Coroner’s Office releases them.
April 12th, 2012
"Now listen very, very carefully.....to the above video and get your facts straight, please"
And for you liberals out there, the actual number is "50" in case you were wondering......
April 12th, 2012
Graphics from Conservative Refocus
BATH, Maine – An enormous, expensive and technology-laden warship that some Navy leaders once tried to kill because of its cost is now viewed as an important part of the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific strategy, with advanced capabilities that the Navy's top officer says represent the Navy's future.
The stealthy, guided-missile Zumwalt that's taking shape at Bath Iron Works is the biggest destroyer ever built for the U.S. Navy.Adm. Elmo Zumwalt
The low-to-the-water warship will feature a wave-piercing hull, composite deckhouse, electric drive propulsion, advanced sonar, missiles, and powerful guns that fire rocket-propelled warheads as far as 100 miles. It's also longer and heavier than existing destroyers -- but will have half the crew because of automated systems.
'With its stealth, incredibly capable sonar system, strike capability and lower manning requirements -- this is our future.'
- Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations
"With its stealth, incredibly capable sonar system, strike capability and lower manning requirements -- this is our future," concluded Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, who gave the warship his endorsement on a visit last week to Bath Iron Works, where the ships are being built.
It wasn't always this way.
The General Accounting Office expressed concerns that the Navy was trying to incorporate too much new technology. Some Navy officials pointed out that it's less capable than existing destroyers when it comes to missile defense, and a defense analyst warned that it would be vulnerable while operating close to shore for fire support.
Even its "tumblehome" hull was criticized as potentially unstable in certain situations.
The 600-foot-long ships are so big that the General Dynamics-owned shipyard spent $40 million to construct a 106-foot-tall building to assemble the giant hull segments.
And then there's the cost, roughly $3.8 billion apiece, according to the Navy's latest proposed budget.
Including research and development, the cost grows to $7 billion apiece, said Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information in Washington.
Because of cost, the originally envisioned 32 ships dipped to 24 and then seven. Eventually, program was truncated to just three. The first, the Zumwalt, will be christened next year and delivered to the Navy in 2014.
But Greenert told reporters that the ship fits perfectly into the new emphasis on bolstering the U.S. military presence in the Pacific in response to Asia's growing economic importance and China's rise as a military power.
Greenert didn't go into detail on how the new ship could be used. But the Defense Department has expressed concerns that China is modernizing its Navy with a near-term goal of stopping or delaying U.S. intervention in a conflict involving Taiwan. China considers the self-governing island a renegade province.
Defense officials also see a potential flashpoint in the South China Sea, where China's territorial claims overlap with those of other countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.
The Zumwalt's new technology will allow the warship to deter and defeat aggression and to maintain operations in areas where an enemy seeks to deny access, both on the open ocean and in operations closer to shore, the Navy says.
Jay Korman, industry analyst with The Avascent Group, said the warship uses so much new technology that it's viewed by the Navy as a "silver bullet" answer to threats. The only problem is the cost.
"They were looking to introduce so many new technologies at once, and the cost ballooned," he said. "I don't think people have changed their minds that it's a capable ship. It's just too expensive."
Unlike another new ship entering the Navy's arsenal -- the small and speedy "littoral combat ship" -- the Zumwalt will be heavily armored and armed.
The Zumwalt's 155 mm deck guns were built to pound the shore with guided projectiles to pave the way for the Marines to arrive in landing craft, and they're far more cost-effective in certain situations than cruise missiles, said Eric Wertheim, author of the "Naval Institute's Guide to Combat Fleets of the World."
The smaller crew also represents a substantial cost savings, he added.
Down the road, the ship could one day be equipped with an electromagnetic railgun, a powerful weapon that uses a magnetic field and electric current to fire a projectile at several times the speed of sound.
Production will stop after three ships, and the Navy will go back to building tried-and-true Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, 510-foot-long ships featuring a versatile Aegis radar system that's being modified for ballistic missile defense. Even with modifications, the ships will cost far less than the Zumwalt-class ships.
For Bath's 5,400 workers, the Zumwalt has been both exciting and challenging, with a new design and new construction techniques. In the coming months, workers will take delivery of the composite deck house and helicopter hangar, which are being built at the Huntington Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi. Those will be placed on the Bath-built hull.
"If anybody can do it and do it successfully, then I'm confident that's us," said Jay Wadleigh, vice president of Local S6 of the Machinists Union in Bath.
April 12th, 2012
As weather gets biblical, insurers go missing?
BLS Note: Weather cycles in the US have always come and gone. When looking at the insurance industry historically, the total amount of claims paid are exactly level with increases in both world and US GDP. What this story doesn't cover is how much property and casualty insurance carriers pay during intervals of extreme financial hardship and downturn, as is present within the US at this point.
Couple that with the extraordinary number of homes which have become unoccupied and vacant, due to the Community Reinvestment act, which obviates voiding traditional coverage when vacancy is discovered, and you can see one of the few industries within the US that has maintained and even increased its integrity among consumers, despite often horrid US financial conditions overall.
PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - As weather disasters strike with more frequency, homeowners first get hit with the destruction or total loss of property. Many are then hit with the unexpected loss of homeowners insurance policies as insurance companies re-evaluate their financial liabilities.
After a tornado ripped through Springfield, Massachusetts, last year, R. Paula Lazzari's home was badly damaged. The retired teacher found broken windows, missing siding and a damaged roof. Her insurer offered to fund repairs for one broken window and some of the siding. It took nine months -- and mediation services from an independent adjuster and the Massachusetts Division of Insurance -- to get her bills paid, according to the parties involved.
In this era of unpredictable weather patterns, Lazzari's case is not unique. Insurance companies are raising rates, cutting coverage, balking at some payouts and generally shifting more expense and liability to homeowners, according to reports from the industry and its critics.
"Insurance companies have significantly and methodically decreased their financial responsibility for weather catastrophes like hurricanes, tornados and floods in recent years," the Consumer Federation of America said in a statement after studying industry data.
The industry concedes that it is trying to avoid getting trounced by those same punishing weather patterns.
"Last year (2011) was an extraordinary year for natural disasters," said Michael Barry of the Insurance Information Institute (III), an industry trade group. "Insurers have taken a step back to assess whether or not they can absorb severe losses."
STATES LEFT IN THE COLD
Some insurance companies have pulled out of weather-challenged states -- meaning they will not write new homeowners policies and may not renew contracts with current policyholders.
In the wake of Hurricane Irene last summer, for example, Allstate informed some 45,000 North Carolina policyholders that it would not renew contracts that were not bundled with auto insurance.
After a spate of tornadoes last April caused $11 billion of property damage in Alabama, Alfa Mutual Group announced it would not renew 73,000 Alabama property insurance policies.
"The increased frequency and severity of storms over the last decade have highlighted the need for Alfa to review its overall property portfolio," Alfa President Jerry Newby said in a statement.
Florida, where insurers have been dropping coverage since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, is a good example of where this can lead. With an annual average of $1,460 per home, homeowners' premiums there are second-highest in the country (Texas, at $1,511 is first), according to the most recent data available, a 2010 report from the Insurance Information Institute.
"Florida's off the charts when it comes to pricing," said Mike McCartin, an Ashton, Maryland, independent insurance agent.
The state has stepped in to cover some 1.5 million properties via its publicly funded Citizens Property and Insurance Corporation as insurers drop more and more homes.
"You simply have major private insurers that are unwilling to write policies in Florida," said Robin Westcott, the state's insurance consumer advocate.
"It's just a tough market to be in," said Phil Supple, a spokesman for State Farm, which was once Florida's largest property insurer. It stopped writing new homeowners' policies there in 2007.
CHERRY-PICKING OF CUSTOMERS
Even though companies are not abandoning states at will, many opt to drop coverage on individual homes or customers that may seem prone to file claims. Insurers generally work on three-year contracts with homeowners, Barry said. At the end of those contracts, insurers can decide to raise rates or not renew.
When frozen pipes caused flooding in Phil Berger's Ijamsville, Maryland, home last year, he got a $6,000 check from Allstate for the damages -- and a policy review. Berger said an Allstate contractor told him to make $100,000 in repairs to his home at his expense or he would lose his coverage. He refused, and instead found a less expensive policy with a company that required only one smaller repair before covering the home.
"You just need to be on your toes at all times," Berger said.
Allstate declined to comment on Berger's case, but sent an email response to general questions about the company's nonrenewal policies.
"Allstate responsibly manages its risk by opting to not renew policies as warranted," company representative Kevin Smith wrote. "These actions are carefully considered, and help ensure Allstate's continued ability to provide a wide variety of insurance products to consumers at a competitive rate, while remaining financially strong in every community we serve."
PAYING MORE FOR LESS
Even homeowners that renew every year may find new limits buried in their policies. The Consumer Federation report said insurance companies have "sharply hollowed out the catastrophe coverage offered to consumers" by raising deductibles, capping replacement costs, and -- significant for folks in the path of tornadoes and hurricanes -- removing coverage for wind damage if another non-covered event (usually a flood) also occurs.
Industry groups say this misstates the facts.
"The …(CFA) could not be more wrong," said Dr. Robert P. Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute. "Cities such as Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and others are being rebuilt today because of private insurance companies paying losses -- not from ‘hollowed out coverage' policies." Insurers have paid "literally billions" of dollars to "hundreds of thousands of claimants" affected by natural disasters, he said.
Hartwig also defended the practice by some insurance companies of leaving certain states or regions.
"If you tell an insurance company that they can't raise rates despite nine hurricanes in two years, obviously insurers are going to have to reduce exposure," he said.
But homeowners' insurance premiums have been rising sharply. They have increased an average 6.33 percent annually between 2002 and 2009, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). This year, insurers have asked for rate increases of 18 percent or more in 11 states, according to the Consumer Federation.
Robert Hunter, the author of the consumer report, has questioned whether limit-laden policies are worth the rising costs. But mortgage lenders require homeowners insurance, and anyone who has observed a devastating house fire or storm is unlikely to be willing to go without coverage.
So how can consumers, who have little choice but to keep their coverage, do as Berger suggests and keep on their toes?
Hunter tells homeowners to shop carefully. "Go on your state's insurance policy website and look for houses similar to yours to compare prices," he said.
The NAIC provides a map to all state insurance offices on its website, http://www.naic.org/state_web_map.htm), and provides information about consumer insurance complaints.
Hunter also recommends checking comparison websites such as insuranceproviders.com (http://www.insuranceproviders.com) or insweb.com (http://www.insweb.com) for companies with favorable consumer reviews for in your state.
Another step is to get a professional agent to help, said Jim Donelon, Louisiana's insurance commissioner and president-elect of the NAIC.
"I recommend you talk to as many people as you can. Get an independent agent -- someone who's not attached to a specific company -- and get in touch with captive agents but know that captive agents can only represent their company."
The agents can check to make sure no important coverage -- like wind -- has been carved out of the policy.
Compare what the agents offer with what you can find online, said Randy Moses, assistant director with the South Dakota Insurance Department.
Even after getting coverage, consumers may find they need extra help. Lazzari needed both an independent broker and a public adjuster to resolve her case. Her insurer, Norfolk Dedham Insurance, not only initially refused to pay for most of her home repairs, but also planned to drop her as a customer, she said. Francis T. Hegarty Jr., president and CEO of Norfolk & Dedham Group, confirmed her version of events, but said it was not unusual for claims such as Lazzari's to take time to resolve.
Lazzari contacted an independent broker who worked with Norfolk Dedham to successfully complete her home repairs. But the broker said switching insurers would increase her payments 185 percent. That's when Lazzari contacted the Massachusetts Division of Insurance to find a public adjuster, who eventually persuaded Norfolk Dedham to keep her on its rolls.
"We were eventually able to work things out with Ms. Lazzari," said Francis T. Hegarty Jr., president and CEO of Norfolk & Dedham Group. "In these kinds of cases with independent adjusters, the claims tend to get strung out and tend to take longer to resolve than they would otherwise. But cases like case are pretty common and, all in all, we're pleased with how things turned out with her."
(This story corrected title of Randy Moses)
(Editing by Linda Stern and Maureen Bavdek)
April 12th, 2012
UCLA anthropologists asked hundreds of Americans to guess the size and muscularity of four men based solely on photographs of their hands holding a range of easily recognizable objects, including handguns.
The research, which publishes today in the scholarly journal PLoS ONE, confirms what scrawny thugs have long known: Brandishing a weapon makes a man appear bigger and stronger than he would otherwise.
"There's nothing about the knowledge that gun powder makes lead bullets fly through the air at damage-causing speeds that should make you think that a gun-bearer is bigger or stronger, yet you do," said Daniel Fessler, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of anthropology at UCLA. "Danger really does loom large — in our minds."
Researchers say the findings suggest an unconscious mental mechanism that gauges a potential adversary and then translates the magnitude of that threat into the same dimensions used by animals to size up their adversaries: size and strength.
"We've isolated a capacity to assess threats in a simple way," said Colin Holbrook, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar in anthropology and co-author of the study. "Though this capacity is very efficient, it can misguide us."
The study is part of larger project funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research to understand how people make decisions in situations where violent conflict is a possibility. The findings are expected to have ramifications for law enforcement, prison guards and the military.
"We're exploring how people think about the relative likelihood that they will win a conflict, and then how those thoughts affect their decisions about whether to enter into conflict," said Fessler, whose research focuses on the biological and cultural bases of human behavior. He is the director of UCLA's Center for Behavior, Evolution and Culture, an interdisciplinary group of researchers who explore how various forms of evolution shape behavior.
For the study, the UCLA researchers recruited participants in multiple rounds using classified advertisements on the websites Craigslist and MechanicalTurk. In one round, 628 individuals were asked to look at four pictures of different hands, each holding a single object: a caulking gun, electric drill, large saw or handgun.
"Tools were used as control objects to rule out the possibility that a simple link with traditionally masculine objects would explain intuitions that the weapon-holders were larger and stronger," Fessler explained.
The individuals were then asked to estimate the height of each hand model in feet and inches based solely on the photographs of their hands. Participants also were shown six images of progressively taller men and six images of progressively more muscular men and asked to estimate which image came closest to the probable size and strength of the hand model.
Study participants consistently judged pistol-packers to be taller and stronger than the men holding the other objects, even though the experiment's four hand models were recruited on the basis of their equivalent hand size and similar hand appearance (white and without identifying marks such as tattoos or scars).
To rule out the possibility that a feature of any one hand might influence the estimates, researchers had taken separate pictures of each hand holding each object — some participants saw the gun held by one hand model, others saw the same gun held by another model, and so on; they did the same thing for each of the objects. The researchers also shuffled the order in which the photos were presented.
On average, participants judged pistol packers to be 17 percent taller and stronger than those judged to be the smallest and weakest men — the ones holding caulking guns. Hand models holding the saw and drill followed gun-wielders in size and strength.
"The function of the system is to provide an easy way for people to assess the likelihood that they would win or lose in a conflict," said Jeffrey K. Snyder, a UCLA graduate student in anthropology and a study co-author.
Concerned that their findings might be influenced by popular culture, which often depicts gun-slingers as big and strong men, the team conducted two more studies using objects that did not seem to have a macho image: a kitchen knife, a paint brush and a large, brightly colored toy squirt gun. In the initial round, a new group of 100 subjects was asked to evaluate the danger posed by each of the objects (which were presented alone, without hands holding them). They then were asked to pick the type of person most associated with the object: a child, a woman or a man.
Not surprisingly, individuals rated the knife most dangerous, followed by the paint brush and squirt gun. But where the most lethal object in the earlier studies — the handgun — would likely have been associated with men, participants in this study most often associated the most lethal object — the kitchen knife — with women. The paint brush was most often associated with men, and the squirt gun with children.
In the final round of tests, a new group of 541 individuals was shown male hands holding the knife, paint brush and squirt gun and was then asked to estimate the height and muscularity of the hand models. Once again, men holding the most lethal object — in this case, the kitchen knife — were judged to be the biggest and strongest, followed by those holding the paint brush and the squirt gun.
"It's not Dirty Harry's or Rambo's handgun — it's just a kitchen knife, but it's still deadly," Holbrook said. "And our study subjects responded accordingly, estimating its holder to be bigger and stronger than the rest."
More information: Fessler DMT, Holbrook C, Snyder JK (2012) Weapons Make the Man (Larger): Formidability Is Represented as Size and Strength in Humans. PLoS ONE 7(4): e32751. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032751
Provided by University of California - Los Angeles
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