The Tres Reyes Hotel in Bariloche, Argentina-A Part of My Life for 25 Years

Everyone the Tres Reyes Hotel has a lot of memories for me. Exactly 25 years ago I was here with a woman from South Africa named Elsje Johanna Prasch. We had a wonderful time and the relationship did not work out. I had a broken heart for a while. In life it is so hard o find a good partner I had to wait 10 years after Elsje and I were here to find my wonderful partner in life-Elena.

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Reflections On My Last Day In Rio de Janeiro and My First Night In Buenos Aires

Yesterday was my last day in Rio De Janeiro. I’m a lover of and collector of Brasilian music. I found an incredible shop called (ironically) Bossa Nova. I got some incredible new music. I relaxed on the beach and then had to leave to fly first to Sao Paulo. (The international terminal is incredible, by the way). I flew to Buenos Aires. That airport was disorganized. After clearing customs and immigration, I hired an excellent ramiss (upscale taxi driver) named Jose G. Arenas. As we left the airport, we got on the highway going to downtown Buenos Aires. We road was clogged with traffic and not moving. We first thought that a major traffic accident had happened. Closer observation showed that the main highway was closed off due to bon fires being set to shut down the highway. This was done by protestors unhappy with the Argentina economy and government. My driver was a very competent and honest man. He took me around all sorts of back roads with police cars everywhere with their lights flashing. Things were tense. I made it to the Hilton Hotel in Puerto Madero. I got checked in. I went downstairs to have dinner. It was a surreal feeling in the dining room. I felt like some British person dining at Raffles Hotel in Singapore in late 1941 or early 1942. I was having great food and wine. I was listening to beautiful music. Not faraway were some 140,000 Japanese soldiers who soon would end the privileged colonial life of the English there.

Dr. Robert Zubrin Talks About How Scientifically Accurate The Movie The Martian Is

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How Scientifically Accurate is The Martian?
Robert Zubrin / Interview
The Guardian (UK), October 6, 2015

Overall it’s a very good movie, and while there are mistakes in it, it is the first genuine Mars movie. It is the first movie that attempts to be realistic and that is actually about human beings grappling with the problems of exploring Mars, as opposed to various movies set on Mars that are essentially either shoot ’em ups or horror films. It does not engage in fantasy: no monsters, no magic, no Nazis. However, there are a number of technical mistakes.

The storm
This is the only thing I noticed that was completely impossible, as opposed to improbable or sub-optimal. The Martian atmosphere is only 1% as thick as Earth’s, so a Mars wind of 100mph, which is possible although quite rare on the surface, would only have the same dynamic force as a 10mph wind on Earth. You could fly a kite in it, but it wouldn’t knock you down.

The spacecraft
The diameter of the torus and the rate of rotation on the Mars Orbiter spacecraft looked about right to create an artificial gravity level somewhere between Mars and Earth, so that was OK. It’s just that the ship was so big and elaborate and expensive-looking. Going to Mars is not about realising the vision of a giant science-fiction spaceship, it is about sending a payload from Earth to Mars that is capable of supporting a small group of people, and then sending that or a comparable payload back. There’ll be ships like that someday, just like there were ocean liners a few hundred years after Columbus made his voyage. But if Columbus had waited for ocean liners, or even clipper ships, he never would have gone anywhere.

Gravity
Mars has about one third the gravity of Earth, which is an asset to explorers because you’re wearing a heavy space suit, but it doesn’t feel that heavy. If you’ve got a 150lb person with a 150lb suit, that’s going to feel like 100lb on Mars – lighter than the person alone on Earth. As far as I can see they didn’t bother with that in the movie. Even climbing the ladders in the initial scenes, they seem to be exerting themselves.

Making water
Matt Damon’s character took hydrazine from the rocket fuel and dissociated it into nitrogen and hydrogen, which you can do, and he burned the hydrogen with oxygen to make water. That’ll certainly work, but if I was stranded on Mars I would just make water out of the soil. Water is available in its natural state on Mars as ice, permafrost, or soaked into the soil. Martian soil is about 5% water by weight at low latitude, and up to 60% water near the poles. Martians are not going to get their water by importing hydrazine from Earth and burning it with precious cabin oxygen, they are going to bake it out of the soil.

The toilets
This was a little odd. The easiest way to deal with waste is to bag it, seal the bags in something and then burn them once a day. We do something like that with Arctic exploration. But it’s more productive to recycle the waste, using greenhouse systems or physical chemical processes, and turn it into fuel, water and oxygen. Would they really seal them individually and label them with the astronauts’ names for later scientific study? I can’t imagine anyone wanting to bring that stuff back to Earth, or study it on Mars. You’re not on Mars to study your fecal waste, you’re there to study Mars.

The nerd-genius solution
One thing in the movie that is possible, and perhaps the producers knew the story, is the character of the nerd (played by Donald Glover) who comes up with the gravity-assist trajectory that rescues the mission. It may appear to be a Hollywood device, but in fact there is a basis in history for such a person. His name is Michael Minovitch. He was a trajectory analyst at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1960s and he came up with the idea of the gravity assist that became the basis of the Voyager programme to go to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Initially no one believed him. He was a very junior person, somewhat analogous to the character in the movie. The managers making the decisions are typically people who were once engineers but haven’t done it in a while and perhaps are not so good at maths any more. So Minovitch had to get out the chalk and walk them through it and convince them that it would actually work.

Removing the windows from a rocket
Would you need windows in a rocket to survive a launch from Mars? It’s an interesting question. The atmosphere is very thin, so can you get high enough that the atmosphere becomes irrelevant before you’re going fast enough that the atmosphere is a threat? It depends on the thrust profile. The question is, at what altitude do they reach 1km per second? Let’s figure it out: OK, so 1,000 metres per second squared, divided by … [Zubrin mutters some equations to himself] … you want to go slow in this case, so let’s say 1G. Let’s try [more muttering] … 50 kilometres. So, with a slow acceleration of 1G taking off from Mars you’d get to 50 kilometres before you’re travelling at 1km per second. So I’d lean towards yes, it’s possible.

Nasa communications
Would Nasa not tell the other astronauts that Watney [the Matt Damon character] was still alive? Well let me put it this way: they didn’t tell the Columbia astronauts everything [the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry in 2003, killing all seven crew members]. And it was unfortunate, because they didn’t give those astronauts their best shot at potentially solving the problem they had. I don’t know if those astronauts could have saved themselves if they had all the info, but they should have had all the info. What was unrealistic to me was that you had the whole Earth knowing that Watney was alive, but the crew on the interplanetary spaceship did not. That’s impossible right now. The crew on the International Space Station can email you. Not all of their communications go through mission control, so they can be in touch with their loved ones at home. It’s tremendously useful to have the crew be able to directly access people on Earth. If they’re exploring Mars and they come across a very odd-looking mineral, say. To be able to access a professor at some university somewhere and say is this a fossil? A mineral? What do you think? Or, how do I reboot my computer, it’s locked up? If you have all this going through one person at mission control, it isolates the crew much more than is necessary.

Conclusion
The U.S. space programme today is frozen in its tracks. Nasa talks about sending humans to Mars in 2043, but that’s just postponing it for another generation. We’re much closer today to being able to send people to Mars than we were to sending people to the Moon in 1961. If Barack Obama’s successor were to commit the nation, in the spring of 2017, with the same kind of courage and determination that JFK did in 1961, we could be on Mars before the end of his or her second term. It’s a question of political will to me. That’s the real positive message of The Martian. It’s saying, “we can do it. If we use our minds, we can take on all these challenges”.

Dr. Robert Zubrin is an aerospace and astronautics engineer and an advocate for manned exploration to Mars. He is founder and president of the Mars Society and co-author of Mars Direct, a strategy for manned expeditions to Mars that has been broadly adopted by Nasa (and replicated in The Martian).

Dr. Robert Zubrin was speaking to Steve Rose.

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According To “Mish” Shedlock The US Government Has Lost $1 Trillion Due To Fraud.

Fraudulent Medicare, Medicaid, EITC, Tax Refunds, etc. Total $1 Trillion Since 2003
A huge chunk of your tax dollars every year goes straight into the pockets of crooks. Nearly one in three earned income credits (EIC) is fraudulent. And the numbers keep getting bigger every year according to the Government Accountability Office.

Please consider GAO: Feds Made Nearly $1 Trillion in Overpayments Since Fiscal 2003.
Government waste took a significant turn for the worse in fiscal 2014, rising dramatically to $124.7 billion from $105.8 billion in fiscal 2013.

Since fiscal 2003, “cumulative improper payment estimates have totaled almost $1 trillion,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a new report.

U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro testified Thursday on the GAO’s new findings (http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-92T) before the Senate Finance Committee.

The GAO said three programs were most at fault: Medicare, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

The Earned Income Tax Credit program was the worst offender.

The Internal Revenue Service estimated that the program erroneously handed out $17.7 billion worth of “improper” payments. That amounts to a whopping 27.2 percent of the total $65.2 billion in EITC refund checks that the IRS sent out in fiscal 2014.

Medicare was nearly as bad. The program, which covers about 54 million elderly and disabled beneficiaries, incorrectly doled out $59.9 billion in fiscal 2014, which is about a tenth of its $603 billion budget.

So, one out of every $10 that Medicare spent last year was erroneous, the GAO found. Medicaid made $17.5 billion in mistaken payments out of its $304 billion budget, for a nearly 6 percent error rate.

Besides the EITC program, the federal programs with the highest reported error rates for fiscal 2014 included the School Breakfast program (25.6 percent) and the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act Programs (23.1 percent).
GAO Report

The GAO Report is called Addressing Improper Payments and the Tax Gap Would Improve the Government’s Fiscal Position

Inquiring minds may wish to take a look.

Correct Term is Fraud

Writer Elizabeth MacDonald labeled this as “Overpayments” or “Waste”. The GAO labels this as “improper payments”.

Let’s be more accurate, it’s theft of taxpayer money via fraud.

Moreover the GAO numbers are dramatically understated. Disability fraud, not part of the GAO report, is rampant.

States’ Incentive to Promote Disability Fraud: States Have an Incentive to Promote (Not Stop) Disability Fraud; So How Much Fraud Is There?
14 Million on Disability: Unwilling to Work; 25% in Hale County AL Collect Disability, 14 Million Nationwide; A Simple Solution
Why Work?: Why Work for $7.25 When Welfare Pays $15.00 in 12 States and $8.00 in 33 States? Is a Low Minimum Wage the Problem?
Puerto Rico Fraud: Puerto Ricans Get U.S. Disability Benefits for Inability to Speak English; Disability Deal Explained
Police and Fire Fraud: 102 Police and Firefighters Caught in Disability Scam
Claims Hit Record: Disability Fraud Holds Down Unemployment Rate; Jobless Disability Claims Hit Record $200B in January

Clinton Ends Welfare “As We Know It”

Want to understand the huge spread in disability fraud? Look no further than Bill Clinton as explained in detail in link #1.

This all goes back to 1996 when president Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it”. Clinton did indeed do just that, and fraud is the result.

Why?

The federal government pays disability, but states pay part of welfare costs. This creates a huge incentive for states to actively promote disability fraud (simply to get people off state-sponsored welfare programs).

And that they have done. A primary example pertains to Hale County (see link #2).

25% of the people in Hale County Alabama collect disability. They are all tied to Hale county’s Dr. Timberlake.

Dr. Timberlake asks a simple question to all his patients. “What grade did you finish?” If you claim “back pain” and do not have a degree, Timberlake believes you are disabled.

The GAO says “Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance” claims are only 0.4% improper. Taking the above into consideration I would be shocked if the real percentage is under 33%. Indeed, 67% fraud is probably more like it.

And if so, what’s the real dollar total?

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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Fraudulent Medicare, Medicaid, EITC, Tax Refunds, etc. Total $1 Trillion Since 2003

Posted by Michael Shedlock at 2:49 PM

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16 Years Ago I Started Work At Telewave, Inc.

16 years ago it was a cool and a dark fall morning in the Willow Glen section of San Jose. I got up at 5:30 in the morning and dressed out. I was broke and barely paying rent. Both of my Triumph TR-7’s were broken down and in the shop. My bicycle even had a flat tire. On my first day at work at Telewave, Inc. I was going to have to walk to work. I was thrilled at my starting salary of $38,000 per year. It seemed like a fortune. I left my apartment and walked several blocks to San Jose Diridon Station. I boarded a train heading for San Francisco. I got off at the Mountain View, California station. I walked several blocks in the dark to the two-building complex of Telewave, Inc. I reported to my new boss Bill. Like any company, I had to fill out a lot of paper work. I was taken to my desk and introduced to my co-workers including Dave Ramirez, Caje Remedios, Bob Fall, Clif Fraser, Bill Kubicki, Aces Dulos, Carlos Mendez, and Tom Chu. My first day was dull and uneventful. At the end of the shift at 3:30 PM, I walked back to the train station and took the train back to San Jose and walked to my apartment.

Eight years ago on this day in 2007, it was my last day at Telewave, Inc. Over those years I had sold some $13 million in telecommunications products all over the world. My only write-off had been $4,400. I had married Elena. We owned two houses and two nice cars. We were headed for a great retirement. My life had taken a dramatic change for the better. I was better off financially and had so much faith in myself because of what I had accomplished.

Telewave is still in business today as it has been since August 8, 1972. The job that I started that day 16 years ago made all of the difference in the world in my life. It was “the hand up” that I needed to get out of poverty.

There is an object lesson here. One job, regardless of how humble, can make all of the difference in the world in someone’s life.

Each Morning I Awaken And Give Thanks

The month of October begins. Elena has the day off and is sleeping late. The house is quiet. I think back 27 years ago to 1988. I was employed by the non-profit Mary Lind Foundation in Los Angeles. This is a wonderful alcohol and drug treatment program with residential facilities for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. The head of all physical education programs was a very tall and funny man originally from Chicago. His name was John Webb. At 10:00 each week day morning he would lead residents at one treatment center or another in an hour of physical exercise. He always began the workout with the following words: “I had a good night last night. Think about all of the people who did not wake up this morning.”

Each morning that I awaken and see beautiful Elena next to me I think of his words. I give thanks to God for one more day of life with hope.