Posted by: coastcontact | April 7, 2018

Alzheimer’s Disease

Personally this is a difficult topic for me.  My mother had advanced Alzheimer’s Disease in the last two years of her life.  It was so bad that she could not speak. She could not recognize me.  She could not recognize my sister.  Basically she was a vegetable.  She died two months before her 96th birthday.  Until that loss of cognizance she had a very wonderful life.

Looking back on her senior years I knew something was wrong when she drove her car into cupboards in the garage.  She refused a pill organizer box my sister bought her. She was actually angry that the box was bought.  Small memory problems became apparent about 10 years before those horrible last two.  Never overweight and very well educated her favorite games were Bridge and Mahjong.  She did not suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other diseases common to the elderly.

Most recently there have been articles posted and printed recommending more exercise as a way of reducing the chance of dementia.  There was also an article saying most elderly have the bodies of 40 year olds.  Wouldn’t that indicate we are being careful of what we eat and are obtaining adequate exercise?  If that is accurate then what would additional exercise do for our minds?

Forget Prevagen.  The Federal Trade Commission and New York’s attorney general charged Quincy Bioscience, maker of Prevagen, with fraud for selling a memory supplement based on a glowing jellyfish protein.  Prevagen isn’t FDA approved.

Mayo Clinic posts this on their web site: Scientists believe that for most people, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time. Less than 5 percent of the time, Alzheimer’s is caused by specific genetic changes that virtually guarantee a person will develop the disease. Your risk of developing Alzheimer’s appears to be somewhat higher if a first-degree relative — your parent or sibling — has the disease. Scientists have identified rare changes (mutations) in three genes that virtually guarantee a person who inherits them will develop Alzheimer’s. But these mutations account for less than 5 percent of Alzheimer’s disease.

People with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) have memory problems or other symptoms of cognitive decline that are worse than might be expected for their age, but not severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia.

There’s no lifestyle factor that’s been definitively shown to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

However Mayo Clinic says some evidence suggests that the same factors that put you at risk of heart disease also may increase the chance that you’ll develop Alzheimer’s. Examples include:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Poorly controlled type 2 diabetes
  • A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables

These risk factors are also linked to vascular dementia, a type of dementia caused by damaged blood vessels in the brain. Working with your health care team on a plan to control these factors will help protect your heart — and may also help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

It does not appear there is any specific cause of dementia.  With an aging and older population the world is in for many more cases of this disease.

My mother died from the disease.  My father lived to 86.  He was sharp as a tack until he had a stroke. He had high blood pressure for years.  I don’t have that disease.

I think I have chance of living to my mid 90s without a stroke or dementia.

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Posted by: coastcontact | April 3, 2018

Can Trump Send the Military to Guard the US Border?

Donald Trump’s dream of a Fascist dictatorship.  Shut down the media, stop freedom of the press, make the congress a rubber stamp body, end the judiciary, and president for life.

Can the president deploy troops to the southern border of the United States to stop illegal immigrants from entering?  The answer is NO!

The military can be deployed for ‘support’ services, which mostly would mean various kinds of surveillance or possibly building things. But if soldiers see people trying to get across the border they have to report that to Border Patrol because only Border Patrol can try to stop them.

The reason is because the Posse Comitatus Act makes two things clear. 1) Soldiers and other military personnel can’t enforce US laws within the United States and 2) They can’t detain or search people or do most of the things that usually go along with police authority in the United States. There are other things they can’t do. But those are the key ones relevant to the border.  Congress would have to pass a law specifically authorizing the military to act as border guards.

In 2006 6,000 national guard troops were sent to the border to assist the border patrol with non-enforcement duties.  Those actions included surveillance, communications, intelligence, analysis, and administration.

The law should not be changed.  If it is it would be the first step towards a Gestapo.  The definition of Gestapo was the German Secret Police during Nazi rule. Gestapo were Secret military police that would come and take away people who opposed the Nazis.

I believe this is part of Trump’s plan.

Posted by: coastcontact | April 1, 2018

April Fool’s Day and Biblical Nonsense

Is it a coincidence that April Fool’s Day and Easter are on the same day or nearly the same day every year?

Religion is all about faith.  Most people have surrendered to believing the stories and tales and instructions described in the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, the Vedas, or other holy scripture.

Many of you reading this posting may call me an atheist or perhaps an agnostic.

In my view it is all well-meaning stories and guiding ideas that will take us to heaven.  Heaven is an imaginary place where we will live forever.  That is our dream because most of us cannot accept the reality that life is not infinite and we will die.

The two most outrageous stories that I am aware of is that 1) the Red Sea opened so that the escaping Jews could leave Egypt.  Then the sea returned killing Egyptian soldiers that were chasing the Jews. 2) A man named Jesus died and then came back to life.  In both instances Christians and Jews believe these stories.

It is written in a book so it must be true.

So the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years before arriving in Canaan. If one looks at a map of the region between Egypt and Israel, the question of why it took 40 years to travel a straight-line distance of only about 240 miles.

Most Christians believe Jesus to be the Son of God and the awaited Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.  The evidence is lacking but the people dreamed of someone coming to promise them a place that they will live forever.  Jews as well as Christians want to believe they will live forever even if their bodies fail.  To this day religious Jews believe the Messiah is still to come. 

The other fairy tales are just as ridiculous.

Noah’s Ark is the vessel in the Genesis flood narrative (Genesis chapters 6–9) by which God spares Noah, his family, and a remnant of all the world’s animals from a world-engulfing flood. According to Genesis, God gave Noah instructions for building the ark Seven days before the deluge.  God told Noah to enter the ark with his household and the animals. The story goes on to describe the ark being afloat for 150 days and then coming to rest on the Mountains of Ararat and the subsequent receding of the waters.  Searches for Noah’s Ark have been made from at least the time of Eusebius (c. 275–339 CE) to the present day. There is no scientific evidence of a global flood, and despite many expeditions, no evidence of the ark has been found.

Jews celebrate Hanukkah every year (usually occurring near the end of November to the end of December).  The eight-day celebration commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors.  There was always to be an eternal light in the Temple but the Greeks had contaminated the oil for the light.  One jar of oil that could last for only one day burned for eight days.

Oh and then there was God Tests Abraham’s Faith. When Isaac (son Abraham) had grown older, Jehovah tested Abraham’s faith. He called: ‘Abraham!’ And Abraham answered: ‘Here I am!’ Then God said: ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, and go to a mountain that I will show you. There kill your son and offer him up as a sacrifice.’  Then at the last minute God sends an angel to tell Abraham you have shown your faith.  Don’t kill your son but sacrifice a sheep from the nearby bushes.

And finally God created heaven and earth in six days and rested on the seventh. How long is a day?  This was a story to explain the world to children.

April Fool!  It is all a fairly-tale.

Posted by: coastcontact | March 26, 2018

American Bison in Yellowstone National Park

The American bison was once nearly extinct in North America, but this iconic symbol of the American West has largely recovered through the efforts of various public and private agencies. Many herds thrive in national parks and preserves, like the one here making its way through a snowy Yellowstone National Park. The bison endure food shortages in winter only to gorge on spring and summer grass as they fatten up and prepare for another year.

If you have not visited Yellowstone National Park you have missed on of the most spectacular places in the world. The Buffalo (American Bison) are everywhere in the park. You may see them as you are waiting to see Old Faithful spew its water jet or you may see them walking along side of the road you are traveling. If you are planning a trip contact me.  I have been there three times and would willingly go along for another trip.

Posted by: coastcontact | March 25, 2018

The Ultimate Tone Deafness – No New Gun Control Legislation

Hundreds of thousands of young Americans marched around this country demanding action to reduce gun violence. What has been the response?

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said “Kids should learn CPR instead of rallying for gun laws.”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said “many other Americans who do not support a gun ban” because they view it as a threat to the Second Amendment. Rubio has an A+ rating from the gun rights group for supporting NRA-friendly legislation. According to the New York Times, he has received $3.3 million from the group.

Some other Senators and House representatives made remarks about supporting new legislation but their responses were vague.

If you think there is a likelihood of new laws imposing restrictions on gun ownership in the United States consider this report from Fortune magazine this past February. Here is a list of the top recipients of NRA contributions.

Top 5 Senators That Benefited the Most From NRA Funding
John McCain (R, AZ) – $7.74 million
Richard Burr (R, NC) – $6.99 million
Roy Blunt (R, MO) – $4.55 million
Thom Tillis (R, NC) – $4.42 million
Cory Gardner (R, CO) – $3.88 million

Top 5 Representatives That Benefited the Most From NRA Funding
French Hill (R, AR) – $1.09 million
Ken Buck (R, CO) – $800,544
David Young (R, IA) – $707,662
Mike Simpson, (R, ID) – $385,731
Greg Gianforte (R, MT) – $344,630

The United States is ruled by Gun Culture!

Posted by: coastcontact | March 24, 2018

Lowering the Cost of Living

The average Social Security check is only $1,413.08 in 2018, making it hard to get by in the United States. Some retirees look to other countries, where living expenses can be lower, to make their Social Security checks stretch further.

A recent GOBankingRates survey found that more than half of people ages 55 and older have less than $10,000 saved for retirement — and a whopping 34 percent have nothing saved at all.

As the tough economic times continue in the U.S., many people are looking to cut down on their expenses by moving to more affordable cities and towns.

Or is the answer moving to another country where the cost of living is far less than the United States.

southamericaliving.com lists workable budget of $1000 – $1200 USD and up, affording more luxuries such as eating out regularily, shopping excursions, larger apartment or house. The following countries have the lowest cost of living: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Chihuahua, Mexico and Guadalajara, Mexico are two of the lowest cost cities in Latin America.

Inexpensive healthcare is often touted as a reason to retire abroad. You become eligible for Medicare at age 65. However, you can’t use this government health coverage overseas.

The annual cost to own and operate a sedan in the U.S. is $8,588, according to AAA. When you retire abroad, you might not need a car because public transit is more common and reliable.

Rent in Mexico is 4.33% lower than in United States. In Santa Ana, Costa Rica a 3-bedroom single family home currently costs about US$212,000.  The cost in other Costa Rican cities housing costs are similar to Santa Ana.  Consider those housing costs in your destination city.  The cost per square meter of a home in Jakarta, Indonesia is $2,120 USD. The cost per square meter of a home in Richmond, Virginia is $2,128 USD.

If you think you’ll lower your tax bill by retiring overseas, think again. You still have to pay U.S. taxes. Even if you move your assets to accounts in your new country, you will be required to file an annual tax return, according to the U.S. Department of State.

If you retire abroad, you still can collect Social Security benefits, said Sally Hurme, author of “Get the Most Out of Retirement: Checklist for Happiness, Health, Purpose, and Financial Security.” In many countries, you can even have your check directly deposited into an account, she said. The Social Security Administration has a Payments Abroad Screening Tool you can use to see in which countries you can live and still receive your check.

You might also have to pay taxes in your new country, Hurme said. The U.S. does have treaties with some countries — including Canada and Mexico — that prevent double taxation. But the country you want to retire to might not.

If you own property or have assets in your new country, you’ll likely need to hire an attorney in that country to help draft an estate plan, Hurme said. That’s because any documents that you had drafted in the U.S. — such as a will, trust or power of attorney — might not have any effect overseas.

The alternative to moving to a“low cost” country is considering moving to a low cost city in the United States.

I found a survey of those low cost cities. Actually they are mostly towns that you are not likely to visit let alone move to. Excluding those small towns (less than 100,000 population) the least expensive small city is Brownsville, Texas with a Population of 180,000 and a Cost of Living 14.9% below U.S. average. Indianapolis, Indiana has a population of over 800,000 people and a Cost of Living 13% below U.S. average.

How comfortable will you feel living in another country? Your family and friends will be thousands of miles away. Visiting San Jose, Costa Rica may be fun but living there should at least cause you to wonder about the downsides.  Think through the entire process before moving to another country rather than living in a country where you were born and feels like home.

Posted by: coastcontact | March 22, 2018

The Largest U.S. Trade Deficit Is With China

Why is President Donald Trump imposing tariffs on China?

More than 65 percent of the U.S. trade deficit in goods was with China. The $375 billion deficit with China was created by $506 billion in imports. The main Chinese imports are consumer electronics, clothing, and machinery.

America only exported $130 billion in goods to China.

As this graph indicates this is not a new phenomenon. It goes back to the late 1900s.

China currently assembles the majority of Apple’s iPhones in its Shenzen, China, location by Foxconn. That company maintains factories in countries across the world, including Thailand, Malaysia, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Singapore, and the Philippines. A second company, Pegatron, is a relatively recent addition to the iPhone assembly process also in China.

High End clothing brands we all lust after really have to work hard to minimize the production costs while keeping their products “luxurious” and “high end”. China is their go to manufacturing location. Who are they?
1. PRADA
2. COACH
3. ARMANI
4. BURBERRY
5. MULBERRY
6. MARC JACOBS
7. D&G

Chinese factories manufacture winter coats, gloves, mittens and hats for consumers around the world. These factories also produce maternity clothes and infant clothes as well as wedding dresses and tuxedos. Underwear, T-shirts and slips are among the items exported from China to consumers around the world. Sports caps are also produced in China as are belts and bras.

Luggage, machinery, and furniture are also made in China.

The consequence of the outsourcing of all that manufacturing has resulted in a major loss of good paying blue collar jobs in America.

Trump is correct when he points out that both political parties stood by and did nothing as the jobs left the country.

We couldn’t stop the outsourcing but our government did nothing to train people in new jobs that are needed in the 21st century.

While Trump has accurately identified the problem he does not appear to understand the needed solution. His solution of applying tariffs will only harm the American economy by raising the cost of consumer goods.

Article I of the US Constitution vests the power to set tariffs in Congress. The president has the power to impose tariffs at his discretion only because Congress has passed laws granting him that power. If Republicans in Congress think Trump has a bunch of dumb, destructive ideas about trade, they could pass new laws that strip him of that power.

Congress is in total grid lock. They won’t do anything to counter the new tariffs.

We are headed for a trade war. The last time that happened was 1930. Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, formally United States Tariff Act of 1930, also called Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act, U.S. legislation (June 17, 1930) that raised import duties to protect American businesses and farmers, adding considerable strain to the international economic climate of the Great Depression.

Wall Street bankers are not given to grovelling. But in June 1930 Thomas Lamont, a partner at J.P. Morgan, came close. “I almost went down on my knees to beg Herbert Hoover to veto the asinine Hawley-Smoot Tariff,” he recalled. “That Act intensified nationalism all over the world.”

Posted by: coastcontact | March 16, 2018

Toys “R” Us and the Leveraged Buyout

This is capitalism at its worst.

Corporate raiders were the final straw that ended Toys “R” Us.  Bain Capital was founded in 1984 by Bain & Company partners Mitt Romney, T. Coleman Andrews III, and Eric Kriss, after Bill Bain had offered Romney the chance to head a new venture that would invest in companies and apply Bain’s consulting techniques to improve operations.  Those techniques destroyed companies but made Bain a success for its owners.

The Toys “R” Us collapse is not a new phenomenon. It has made buyers of companies rich and destroyed the target company. Blame the private equity firms Bain and Company, KKR & Co. L.P. and Vornado Realty Trust for the bankruptcy. Toys “R” Us was taken private by KKR, Bain and Company, and Vornado in 2005, it took on a lot of debt, leaving the company with repayments that have crippled it in a period of declining sales.

A leveraged buyout, commonly referred to as an LBO, is a transaction that companies use to acquire other businesses. The buyout involves a combination of equity from the buyer, along with debt that is secured by the target company’s assets. The deal is structured so that the target company’s assets and cash flows are used to pay for most of the financing cost. The main disadvantage of this financing is that, once the deal is completed, the target business is very leveraged. This scenario allows for little margin of error. A problem with liquidity, such as the loss of a few key customers, could put the business in serious distress.

Rolling Stone magazine reports that of the 25 companies that private equity firms bought in the 1980s that borrowed more than $1million in junk bonds, half went bankrupt.

Do you remember Mervyn’s department stores?  It was an American middle-scale department store chain based in Hayward, California, and founded by Mervin G. Morris. It carried national brands of clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, electronics, and housewares.  Mervin G. Morris founded the first Mervyn’s store in San Lorenzo, California on July 29, 1949.  By 1978 the company had grown to a chain of more than 50 stores in three states,[7] and Mervyn’s was acquired by the Dayton Hudson Corporation (now Target Corporation). Mervyn’s kept its separate identity as a Dayton Hudson subsidiary. In September 2008, Mervyn’s sued the private equity firms involved in the leveraged buyout of the chain, alleging that the deal had stripped the retailer of its real estate assets, forcing it into bankruptcy. Mervyn’s said in the suit that Cerberus Capital Management and its partners had used the increased rent to finance the buyout.

31,000 Toys ‘R’ Us employees: No job and no severance

Posted by: coastcontact | March 14, 2018

The United States is not the Happiest Country in the World

You probably already intuitively knew this data but here it is.  The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network evaluated 117 countries by the happiness and well-being of their immigrants. The United States fell to 18th place from 14th last year.  The United States was 11th in the first index and has never been in the Top 10.

Europe’s Nordic nations, none particularly diverse, have dominated the index since it first was produced in 2012. In reaching No. 1, Finland nudged neighbouring Norway into second place.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada at No. 7, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia.

The least happy country in the world is Burundi.   I will leave it to inquiring minds to locate that country on the map.

As to the “happiest place in the world” just Google it and you will see that Disneyland and Disney World do appear as possibilities.   Was that a commercial insertion on my computer?  Well I never met anyone saying they had a bad time visiting a Disney amusement park.

Then again these people lounging at the beach in Malibu California seem just as happy as a picture of people lounging in Helsinki’s Esplanade Park.

Posted by: coastcontact | March 12, 2018

Japanese Gardens in Los Angeles

I have visited these garden three times.  The garden has creeks and large man-made lakes and ponds.  The 6½ acre (2.6 ha) park uses the reclaimed water from the adjoining Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant.

The water from the reclamation facility can only be used for irrigation and is not cycled into the general water supply.  The facility purifies waste water, removing it from the sewer system. This reclaimed water from the West San Fernando Valley is also used to fill Lake Balboa in the adjoining park as well as providing year round water to the LA River.

The reclamation facility has also been used as a backdrop in films and TV, including Star Trek‘s Starfleet Academy and Soilent Green.

More photos of the garden at https://www.flickr.com/photos/coastcontact/

or click here

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