Later On

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Archive for August 15th, 2019

How to Cancel Your Amazon Prime Membership (and Why You Should)

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Izzie Ramirez writes in Vice Motherboard:

Amazon Prime can sometimes feel like a necessary evil. It has everything you could possibly want, and it can usually be at your door within a couple of days.

Because of its benefits, like free two-day shipping, streaming services, and delivered groceries, Amazon Prime operates at a loss. But it effectively keeps consumers locked into its monopoly of an ecosystem that has dangerous consequences. It has ties to the Department of Homeland Security (and therefore Immigration Customs and Enforcement), encourages a dangerous, racist surveillance state, and continues to have terrible labor practices, despite walkouts and protests.

If you find yourself tired of financially supporting Amazon Prime’s despicable actions or if you’re done paying $119 a year for services you barely use (I personally use it twice a year to buy books for school), there is a way out.

Here’s how to cancel Amazon Prime as quickly and painlessly as possible:

  • First, sign into your Amazon account on your computer.
  • Click the “Account & Lists” tab on the top right for a drop-down menu. There, you should see two columns, one for lists and one for your account info. Click on “Your Prime Membership.”
  • Once you’re on the membership page, you’ll see all the deals, promotions and benefits Amazon tells you have. (Mine suggested a $8.99 safety vest and a music subscription I will never use in my life). To the left, you should see three boxes: one with your plan information, payment method, and membership management. You’re gonna scroll down to the membership management box and click on “End Membership and Benefits.”
  • Amazon PrimeNow, Amazon will take you to the “Are you sure you want to end your membership?” page. Do not be fooled. Do not click on “Click here to see your offers,” “Remind Me later,” or “Keep My Benefits.” Select the button in the middle that says “End My Benefits.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2019 at 6:23 pm

A Kremlin-Linked Firm Invested Millions in Kentucky. Were They After More Than Money?

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Simon Shuster and Vera Bergengruen report in TIME:

Last summer, it looked like things were finally about to change for Ashland, Ky. For two decades, the jobs that once supported this Appalachian outpost of 20,000 people on a bend in the Ohio River have been disappearing: 100 laid off from the freight-rail maintenance shop; dozens pink-slipped at the oil refinery; 1,100 axed at the steel mill that looms over the landscape. Then, on June 1, 2018, standing on a stage flanked by the state’s governor and business leaders, Craig Bouchard, the CEO of Braidy Industries, pointed across a vast green field and described a vision as though he could already see it.

In the little-used park just off I-64, Braidy would build the largest aluminum mill constructed in the U.S. in nearly four decades. The $1.7 billion plant would take aluminum slab and roll it into the material used in everything from cars and planes to soda cans. It would employ 600 full-time workers earning twice the average salary in the region, Bouchard said, and create 18,000 other jobs across the state. Gesturing at the empty space around him, the CEO described an employee health center, a technical lab, a day care and hundreds of employees walking around “carrying iPads.” More than just making aluminum, the plant would help “rebuild northeast Kentucky, and in fact all of Appalachia,” Bouchard told the crowd.

There was just one problem: Bouchard still needed a major investor to make the vision a reality. After months of searching, the only option was problematic. Rusal, the Russian aluminum giant, was tailor-made to join forces on the project. But it was under sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department. Its billionaire owner, Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s, was being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for his potential involvement in the effort to swing the 2016 presidential election. The Treasury sanctions—punishment for the Kremlin’s “malign activities” around the world, including “attempting to subvert Western democracies”—made it illegal for Americans to do business with Rusal or its boss.

So Bouchard faced a dilemma. Keeping his promise to bring good new jobs—a project that had already been touted by the White House—would mean partnering with a firm that had deep ties to the Kremlin. Which mattered more, the economic needs of a depressed region, or the national-security concerns raised by the Mueller investigation? Hundreds of miles from the congressional hearings and think-tank debates over Russian influence in Washington, Braidy Industries and the surrounding community had to weigh whether Russia’s 2016 plot had caused enough damage to American security, or American pride, to spurn a chance at an economic miracle.

Bouchard concluded they had no choice. He knew it could be controversial, if not outright illegal, to work on a deal with Rusal while it was still fighting to free itself from U.S. sanctions, he told TIME in an interview. But after a long talk with his lawyers about the risks of even discussing such a partnership, he traveled to Zurich in January 2019 for what he calls a “meet and greet” with a Rusal sales executive. Over dinner at La Rôtisserie, a restaurant with a view of the city’s 12th century cathedral, the executive told Bouchard that the company was ready to do business. “They said, ‘If we get the sanctions off, let’s meet again,’” he recalls. “And I said, ‘Wow, that’s interesting.’”

By mid-April, an exuberant Bouchard was standing at the New York Stock Exchange, announcing that the Russian company had purchased a 40% stake in the Ashland plant for $200 million. Back in Kentucky, the news was met with celebration and relief. “People who were skeptical are seeing that it’s big time,” says Chris Jackson, a 42-year-old former steel-mill worker. When he enrolled in a training program for the Braidy plant, Jackson recalls, many in the community doubted the jobs would ever materialize. “The Rusal agreement just showed everybody this is legit.”

But to some observers, the story of how a Kremlin-linked aluminum giant offered an economic lifeline to Appalachia is an object lesson of the exact opposite. Critics of the deal, both Democrat and Republican, say it gives Moscow political influence that could undermine national security. Pointing to Moscow’s use of economic leverage to sway European politics, they warn the deal is a stalking horse for a new kind of Russian meddling in America, one that exploits the U.S. free-market system instead of its elections. “That’s just what the Russians do,” says veteran diplomat Daniel Fried, who shaped U.S. policy on Eastern Europe at the State Department from the late 1980s until 2017. “They insert themselves into a foreign economy and then start to influence its politics from the inside.”

What worries national-security experts is not that Rusal, Braidy or Deripaska broke any laws in the deal. It’s that they didn’t. A TIME investigation found that Rusal used a broad array of political and economic tools to fight the sanctions, establishing a foothold in U.S. politics in the process. “You cannot go against them in a policy decision, even though it’s in our national interest, when they have infiltrated you economically,” says Heather Conley, who served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. “They use our laws, our rules, our banks, our lawyers, our lobbyists—it’s a strategy from within.”

To free itself from sanctions, Rusal fielded a team of high-paid lobbyists for an intense, months-long effort in Washington. One of the targets was Kentucky’s own Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who helped thwart a bipartisan push to keep the sanctions in place. Since May, two of McConnell’s former staffers have lobbied Congress on behalf of Braidy, according to filings. Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, one of Rusal’s longtime major shareholders, Len Blavatnik, contributed more than $1 million through his companies to a GOP campaign fund tied to McConnell. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2019 at 4:50 pm

Jeffrey Epstein’s Bodyguard on His Former Boss’s Lifestyle, Cruelty, Suicide

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M.L. Nestel writes in New York:

When Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting an underage girl for prostitution in 2008 and served a 13-month sentence under the cushiest of conditions, it was his bodyguard and driver, former UFC fighter Igor Zinoviev, who frequently picked him up at the Palm Beach jail and shuttled him between the office and various appointments. Zinoviev also trained Epstein in a regimen that included weight-lifting and some light fighting drills. And whenever Epstein jetted around to his various estates, Zinoviev accompanied him, riding along on the pretend billionaire’s Lolita Express.

The mysterious Russian MMA fighter drew some attention from the media after Epstein’s arrest and indictment by federal authorities last month — but he has not made it easy for reporters to find him. There have been — so far as we can determine — no published or broadcast interviews with Zinoviev about his relationship with Epstein.

I spoke on the record with Zinoviev for an unpublished interview in 2015, when I was on staff at the Daily Beast. After numerous attempts in recent weeks, I was able to reach him by phone on Monday, August 12. As before, we spoke on the record. He talked about his response to Epstein’s apparent suicide and his memories of working for the man. A good chunk of the half-hour conversation involved revisiting things he had told me four years ago. To be honest, I didn’t expect that he’d try to back away from the assertions he made in our original interview — but he did. He also seemed, it is safe to say, quite nervous about saying anything at all. Below is a transcript of our conversation this week, with minor cuts and edits for length and clarity. Please note that Zinoviev is not a native English speaker — in places we have left his words verbatim, even when his meaning is not entirely clear, as we have been unable to reach him again by phone to clarify any of his assertions.

Last time we talked, I didn’t realize you were an MMA fighter. 

That’s okay. Oh, yeah.

You were Jeffrey Epstein’s driver? You weren’t just his bodyguard and trainer? 

Yep.

Just going back, how did he find you?

Well, it’s just going back. A friend of mine introduced me to him. Basically, as a friend, you know? After that, he asked me to work with him. But honestly I had a pretty good job, so I’m not looking at any jobs — then he called me and asked if I could [do] some stuff. Like do his driver, do like bodyguarding, and just train him and do other stuff. And I thought, Just time to change something! I said, “I could do that.”

What year was this? 

I can’t remember, to be honest. I would have to look at the paper. I would have to look at the papers for that.

By this time, you had stopped competing as an MMA fighter?

Not really, actually.

You were still competing?

Yes, maybe I stop already. Maybe I stop already, yeah. I was in the Virgin Islands. In Palm Beach, it was, I started working in Palm Beach. I would see him only when, um — where the fuck it is? — um, when he has to go to big jail, actually.

Oh, right. 

That’s when he was at Palm Beach. The first time. I start before working with him in New York and the Virgin Islands.

You were in New York also? 

Yeah.

You drove him in all three places?

In New York, I didn’t drive him. In New York, he had a driver, whatever his name was. He was like old family. I was just training with him in New York and travel with him. And I just drove him here in Palm Beach. Because other places he had different drivers. They’re just personnel, you know, who just drive him. Somebody drive him in New Mexico. Somebody drive him in Virgin Islands, actually. I just drove him here in Palm Beach.

You went with him to all the other properties? Did you go with him to New Mexico also?

Yeah.

You worked with him and traveled with him 24/7 — so that means you were on his plane with him, correct?

Yeah.

You lived in his guest house?

Yeah.

You lived alone in the guest house?

Of course. In Palm Beach — when we stay at Palm Beach, we have a guest house, and there’s a property manager who lived there. He was working there before me. It was a Polish guy, yeah.

Did he have bodyguard abilities like you?

No.

You were introduced to Epstein by a middleman? So how was it when you first met him?

Pretty good. I never heard anything from him that, let’s say, was unproper or rude or something. He was always polite. Always a nice person, basically. He’s always smiling.

When you first talked to him, did he ask you anything about your skills? Or say what he wanted? 

No, I think he already knows that. They probably have reserved people who just check my background and everything. He asked something, and I give him some simple questions: “How I do?” and “How I’m training?” and all other things.

What would you teach him? 

Basic workout. Lift weights. And a little practicing some self-defense stuff.

Like karate?

Like boxing and kicking, knees.

Was he a good athlete?

He’s in pretty good shape. It was how I remember. He’s not the best. But he did all right.

You told me last time we talked you would plan to have a workout but often he would fail to show up and that annoyed you.

He worked out, but sometimes probably a business meeting or something else. It was like I wasted a long time in the gym. He kept me waiting a couple hours — like four hours.

What were some of the places that you drove him to?

I mean, when I used to work here in Palm Beach? Just business meeting, basically. It was mostly downtown, near lawyer’s office. I drop him there and he go upstairs and I waiting in the car. . .

Continue reading. There’s more in that vein. The interview concludes:

. . .  But you and I have a history at this point. One thing you told me, for instance — okay, one thing you told me is he got a heads up when the authorities were going to come to his house the night before.

Listen, what you say is between you and me —

You told me he would get phone calls the night before and eight o’clock the police are going to come. He would get a heads up from local police.

[Silence.]

You told me that, Igor. Want me to read the quote?

Well, you can read whatever you want right now. Don’t just — you can put yourself in big trouble.

You said: “He always do something wrong. There was some nights in question. There was at home arrest and police, before they come to the house, they call him and tell him they coming in at eight o’clock in the morning. It’s all corruption you know. It’s all bullshit.”

Listen, don’t put yourself in trouble. Seriously.

We talked about this. 

I understand we got this.

I’m telling you to give you a chance to remember because we talked about this stuff. I know it’s hard. I don’t know what you mean about “put myself in trouble.”

Let that go. Seriously. Let that go.

Why is it so important? Are you worried about the local cops?

Listen, you’re really smart and I’m not going to offer that over the phone right now, okay? You’re really smart. You have no idea. Please!

What do you mean by that?

I can’t explain you. I can’t explain you over the phone any of this.

You said that last time. And we didn’t talk for years. You can tell the world who this guy was. You were with him for a long time. You know what I mean?

[Silence.]

I totally understand that you think he could have had help committing suicide. 

First of all, I have to go right now. I have another client.

Still training people?

Yes. But just be careful. I’m not kidding.

What’s your email so I can send you —

Don’t do any kind of that stuff. Just don’t play it. Seriously.

Can you tell me why?

I can’t. I can’t.

May I ask you one more question? 

Go ahead.

Have you been talking to anyone in the government, the FBI? Have they come to you?

[Long pause] Um. Great talking to you. Seriously. We talk later.

Really?

Bye.

All right.  

Bye.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2019 at 4:23 pm

This Person Wanted An Insurance Payment. They Got Arrested Instead. They’re Not Alone.

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It’s pretty well known—particularly by anyone who’s used their healthcare insurance—that insurance companies will go to great lengths to avoid paying any claim, since if they can avoid paying the claim that money is pure profit. But insurance companies are now going to extraordinary lengths as corporations take over the running of the American government. Kendall Taggart reports in Buzzfeed News:

When police showed up at Harry Schmidt’s home on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, he thought they were there to help. He was still mourning the disappearance of the beloved forest green Ford F-150 pickup that he’d customized with a gun storage cabinet, and he hoped the cops had solved the crime.

Instead, the officers accused him of faking the theft. The Vietnam veteran was now facing up to seven years in prison.

Schmidt was stunned, but he was even more upset when he found out who had turned him in.

Erie Insurance, one of the nation’s largest auto insurers, had not only provided the cops with evidence against its own loyal customer — it had actively worked with them to try to convict him of insurance fraud.

Erie had even paid part of the salary of the lead detective who knocked on Schmidt’s door that day, as well as that of the prosecutor who went on to charge him with felony insurance fraud. And it would also secretly cover the costs of an expert witness to testify against Schmidt in court.

Schmidt, a grandfather living on disability benefits from his war-related injuries, had no history of theft or fraud. But he found himself the target of an extraordinary alliance between private insurers and public law enforcement agencies — one that transforms routine claims into criminal evidence, premium-paying customers into suspects, and the justice system into a hired gun for a multibillion-dollar industry. It’s an arrangement essentially unheard of in other businesses, and one rife with potential conflicts of interest, as well as grave consequences for law-abiding customers.

“It made me really feel like the law is nothing but another racket,” said Schmidt, who said he had to sell many of his possessions to cover his mounting legal bills and stay out of prison.

A BuzzFeed News investigation has found that Erie, State Farm, Farmers, and other giant home and auto insurers around the country have co-opted law enforcement to intimidate and prosecute their own customers — tactics that can help companies boost their profits and avoid paying claims.

Insurance companies provide financial incentives to scores of police departments, prosecutors, and other public agencies to encourage them to focus on insurance fraud, a crime that has traditionally not been a priority for local law enforcement. In some cases, insurance giants even cover the salaries of dedicated prosecutors, detectives, and investigators whose caseloads consist primarily of referrals from those same companies.

The result is that dozens of premium-paying customers across the United States have faced jail for doing nothing more than filing insurance claims for damages to their property.

State Farm and Farmers Insurance both declined to comment on their companies’ fraud-fighting tactics.

David Rioux, vice president of special investigations for Erie Insurance, said only a small percentage of claims were flagged as potentially suspicious and that he wasn’t aware of any instances where the company had falsely accused someone of fraud. He declined to comment on specific cases, but said the company follows laws requiring it to report fraud to law enforcement and it’s up to those agencies to decide whether to bring criminal charges.

BuzzFeed News examined 27 cases around the country in which people were falsely charged with felonies based in whole or in part on evidence insurers provided to law enforcement. In Indiana, State Farm helped detectives craft an arrest warrant for a contractor who was charged with 14 felonies. All charges were ultimately dropped when the evidence turned out to be deeply misleading — but not before the insurance giant’s allegations had destroyed his business. In Georgia, a local prosecutor relied on lab tests provided by an insurer to charge a woman with arson, resulting in a three-year ordeal in which she ended up homeless, only to drop the charges when the test results proved unreliable. And in Wisconsin, a man spent nearly three years in prison based on now-discredited science used by an insurance investigator until his conviction was overturned.

In these and other instances, law enforcement agencies have outsourced the hard work and substantial expense of building insurance fraud cases to the industry itself — relying heavily on evidence produced by insurers to prosecute their customers. But those insurers have a strong financial stake in the outcome: Criminal charges help bolster a company’s decision not to pay a claim, and serve as a powerful disincentive for others to file claims of their own.

That has led to a culture inside some insurance companies where customers are viewed with suspicion and investigators have been observed openly celebrating when they manage to get them arrested, according to interviews with former employees. In an email reviewed by BuzzFeed News, for example, one of State Farm’s star fraud investigators celebrated one such arrest by circulating a stick figure drawing depicting the man — who it later turned out had been wrongly accused — being raped in prison.

It’s impossible to say how often innocent customers are the victims of false charges, because much of the potential evidence is hidden from public view by the companies themselves. In one case, investigators at State Farm withheld several crucial reports contradicting their fraud allegations from the bundle of evidence they handed over the law enforcement. In another, a Farmers manager admitted under oath that there was an “unwritten policy” within the company to withhold evidence from customers that could help prove their innocence.

Policyholders, meanwhile, often find it difficult and expensive to fight back, leading many to walk away from claims or face pressure to take plea deals for crimes they didn’t commit. And even those individuals who are able to successfully bring lawsuits against insurers are usually obliged to sign confidentiality provisions as part of the terms of any settlement, making it difficult if not impossible for others to find out what happened.

But by reviewing hundreds of court records from around the country, complaints filed with state regulators, and internal company records, and interviewing dozens of former insurance company employees, BuzzFeed News uncovered a system that has ensnared countless innocent people.

In Florida alone, state law enforcement received roughly 14,500 suspected fraud referrals about homeowners and vehicle claims in the past five years — the vast majority of them from insurance companies. Yet authorities determined that in more than 75% of the cases, there was not enough evidence to move forward with a criminal investigation. And regardless of whether fraud accusations turn out to be false, many sit in databases shared among insurers, where they can haunt people if they ever have to file another insurance claim.

These tactics can be applied with impunity, thanks to legislation in all 50 states restricting the ability of customers to sue insurers for wrongly accusing them of fraud — unless the customers can prove the allegations were malicious or made in bad faith.

The legislation was crafted with help from insurers, which worked to get versions of it passed across the country.

But critics say that the way the law has been implemented favors insurance companies’ commercial interests while failing to provide adequate protections for innocent people.

“The whole system got corrupted,” said Tim Ryles, former Georgia insurance commissioner and chair of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Antifraud Committee, who helped pass a version of the legislation.

Insurance fraud is a real problem. Entire organized crime rings are dedicated to staging accidents in order to collect insurance money, for example, and industry groups say phony claims cost insurers billions of dollars a year, much of which is passed along to customers in increased premiums.

Insurers say that funding police and prosecutors, and referring criminal cases to them, is critical to efforts to root out fraud, since many law enforcement agencies lack the resources or expertise to bring complicated cases.

These efforts to fight phony claims have netted insurers at least a sevenfold return on investment since the ’90s, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a nonprofit that receives most of its funding from insurance companies.

That yields a real benefit for policyholders by helping keep rates down, said Dennis Jay, the coalition’s executive director. “Bottom line is that insurers that hurt innocent consumers should be punished severely,” Jay said.

But for people like Schmidt — and other victims of false accusations — the system seems crafted to benefit only the billion-dollar insurance companies and their investors.

Framed

In April 2006, a massive storm damaged hundreds of homes in Indiana, with hailstones the size of baseballs smashing roof shingles, cracking windows, denting cars, and leaving a mountain of costly insurance claims in its wake.

Joe Radcliff, a contractor working in Indiana, started noticing that homeowners with State Farm insurance were having a particularly hard time getting their repairs paid for.

He was hardly the only one crying foul. The Indiana Department of Insurance received 425 complaints from State Farm customers whose claims had been denied following the storm, which generated almost 50,000 claims against State Farm alone.

Radcliff had worked in construction ever since he dropped out of high school to help his family make ends meet. He learned to do everything from cabinetry to roofing to plumbing and eventually launched his own contracting business, which negotiated claims directly with insurers on behalf of homeowners. Over the years, he grew accustomed to arguing with insurance companies about the need for big repairs following major weather events.

But that tension erupted in the fall of 2008, when a group of cops surrounded him on his way to an arbitration hearing related to a disputed claim from the epic hailstorm. The police arrested Radcliff, threw him in jail, and told him he was being charged with 14 felonies, including insurance fraud, corrupt business influence, and criminal mischief.

Although he’d had several run-ins with the law in the past, including a couple misdemeanor convictions, Radcliff had never faced anything like this.

“I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m this angel,” Radcliff said, but these accusations seemed wild. “I’m just a normal everyday guy who was standing up for people.”

When Radcliff’s arrest landed on the front page of the Indianapolis Star, his business took an immediate and massive hit. Suppliers told him they wouldn’t do business with a “criminal,” his referrals dried up, and he was forced to cut his staff from 400 people to just 15.

Eventually, Radcliff learned that State Farm was behind his prosecution. Internal company records show that the insurer began building a fraud case against him in 2007, around the same time it learned he had complained to a local TV reporter that the company had unfairly refused to cover repairs from the prior year’s storm.

“Some of the negative press that has been occurring in Indy has been generated by…questionable contractors in efforts to put pressure on us to simply pay,” an agent in State Farm’s Special Investigations Unit wrote in an email to a media relations executive two days after a segment about the company appeared on the local Call 6 Investigates show. “A good, positive story to indirectly expose some of these practices and help protect consumers would go a long way to helping change the public’s attitudes and perceptions.”

State Farm investigated 10 claims from homeowners who had hired Radcliff. Although other houses in the same neighborhoods also reported extensive hail damage and needed new roofs, investigators determined that some of the ones Radcliff worked on had been intentionally vandalized as part of a fraudulent conspiracy to bilk the insurer.

State Farm tried to pressure at least four of those homeowners into accusing Radcliff of fraud — telling three of them it would pay for the repairs only if they filed police reports alleging that it was the contractor who had damaged the roofs. In another case, State Farm reversed its own determination that a homeowner’s roof was damaged in the storm after it learned Radcliff was involved, locating new experts who now claimed the contractor had vandalized the property.

Some homeowners complained to the Indiana Department of Insurance about the intimidation tactics. One said State Farm even threatened to turn him over to its fraud unit as well unless he accused Radcliff of vandalism.

Despite the complaints, Tom Cockerill, an investigator for the insurer, took the allegations to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, an industry-funded nonprofit that acts as a liaison between insurers and law enforcement. But Cockerill withheld several crucial reports and customer statements that contradicted the company’s allegations.

The NICB passed the allegations on to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Both the NICB and State Farm then worked closely with detectives to build the case, including reviewing the probable cause affidavit leading to Radcliff’s arrest before it was filed in court.

When Radcliff’s case made the local paper and even CNN, Cockerill, the State Farm investigator, celebrated — going so far as to forward a stick figure drawing depicting Radcliff being raped in prison to an NICB investigator. “Enjoy,” wrote Cockerill, who was named “Investigator of the Year” by the International Association of Special Investigation Units for his work on the case. (The association declined to comment. Cockerill, who according to his LinkedIn profile still appears to work in insurance, did not respond to requests for comment.)

But when it was eventually revealed that State Farm had withheld evidence that might have exonerated Radcliff, while key witnesses changed their stories or backed out, prosecutors dropped the charges.

Since then, Radcliff has tried to get several new businesses off the ground, but the accusations still haunt him. “It didn’t matter if I was innocent or guilty,” the contractor said. “They wanted to take myself and my business out.”

A Cozy Relationship

This past April, hundreds of law enforcement agents and insurance company officials gathered in a sprawling hotel in Hershey, Pennsylvania, for the Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority’s annual convention.

The mood was jovial. Enjoying drinks and catered meals, insurance company investigators and police detectives greeted one another as old friends, swapping war stories and trading the latest tips and tricks from the field. Vendors pitched surveillance services and social media monitoring software that allow investigators to covertly track policyholders suspected of fraud. Police officers in business casual attire, mindful of the lucrative investigative jobs open to former law enforcement officers, marveled at how easily insurers were able to obtain the kind of private information that law enforcement can get only with a court order — bank and phone records, for example — thanks to policy contracts that require customers to cooperate with investigations.

Versions of this fraud conference occur across the country. But nowhere is the relationship cozier than in Pennsylvania, where the state Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority not only organizes the annual meeting, but pays the salaries of dozens of police officers and prosecutors. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

I can see that the public must become more involved in government (start with voting: most people don’t bother), rather than giving it over to corporations.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2019 at 2:35 pm

Phoenix Artisan Briar and the reliable Edwin Jagger razor

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I’m starting to see how I lost track of how exceptional is the lather from Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 soaps: the lather from their regular soaps is extremely good, so my soap expectation is reset by still being impressed. My RazoRock Keyhole brush made a really fine lather from Phoenix Artisan’s Briar shaving soap (regular formula). Briar was a one-off, and I don’t find the fragrance particularly distinctive, but it makes a fine lather.

The Edwin Jagger head really is excellent, IMO a significant improvement on the Merkur 37C, though the 37C for reasons I don’t understand continues to be popular. But in side by side comparisons, the Edwin Jagger heard is markedly better, at least for me.

Three passes to a smooth face, and than a good splash of Sant Charles Shave’s Bulgarian Rose aftershave. The day lies before me, and I am ready.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2019 at 8:13 am

Posted in Shaving

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