Choosing Drug Rehab Centers

April 12th, 2014 No comments

cdrcThe advancement of recent technology has simplified the search for the best drug rehab centers all over the world. Today, having a computer that is connected to the internet is enough to make a good search anywhere in the world. All you need is a reliable search engine. The search engine has the ability to offer a list of all the drug rehabilitation centers in your region. Take time to go through each one of them carefully before making your decision.

Another source of information is your family and friends. Do not hesitate to inquire about them. Drug addiction does not only affect you and your patient. A situation should be handled by the community. Hospitals are also a good source of information since most of them are connected to rehabilitation centers. A great site to check out for this is the National Institute on Chemical Dependency. Your physician has the ability of offering you the best options for a drug rehab center in your region. They also have knowledge of the accredited centers and friends who could be working in them. Lastly, make use of your health insurance company. This is a very good source of information. A health insurance company works with many institutions that revolve around the health of an individual and the community.

Factor To Consider Before You Choose A Drug Rehab Center

It is very important for you to choose a drug rehab center wisely. Currently, many people are opening up rehab centers simply to make money. It is therefore, very essential that you go through the profile of any rehab center very carefully so that you may register your patient in a place that is reliable.

First, ensure that the rehab center is registered with the local authority. This calls for you to pay the Center a visit to confirm this with the administration. Secondly, is the place spacious enough? Is there enough space for patients’ accommodation? How big are the rooms? All these factors need to be considered seriously. As you know, you will have to leave your patient in a place where he or she can have some ample time for recovery. It must also be very clean. Cleanliness simply gets rid of unnecessary ailments.

You also have to consider the level of professionalism of the drug rehab center. Does it have qualified staff? Take time to go through each of the staff profiles. Do not assume this process. Their professionalism level will play a big role in determining whether your patient will win this addiction battle or not.

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Seeking Professional Help For RAID Repair

March 2nd, 2014 No comments

sphfrrRAID or redundant array of independent disks is a set of hard drives that is incorporated in the computer system in order to reduce the chance of data loss. RAID repair is often necessary whenever this hard drives are not functioning well or if it has been affected by certain calamities like fire, flood, earthquakes and so on. Restoring the lost files is quite difficult to accomplish, especially if you are not a computer expert. Some people really attempt a RAID repair because they think it can be easier for them to recover the files. However, positive outcomes are not expected at all times. Once you start pressing any button, there is no turning back. If you fail to enter the necessary commands, it will not make the repair possible. Thus, it is highly recommended to seek professional help when the RAID system is corrupted.

An experienced computer technician will automatically assess the severity of the condition and try to fix it with the basic solutions. If damages are severe, he will perform a number of solutions or tests to completely repair the redundant array of independent disks. Most of the time, expert computer technicians are successful with any RAID repair.

Who Can Recover Promise RAID Arrays?

Right now, the Promise brand of RAID hard drives are working on a new and improved way to recovery their RAID 5 arrays. They want the next improvement to be about the privacy of the files and folders in the hard drive. There are a lot of instances where the hidden folders become exposed after they are recovered but most of the time, file recovery fails and this is on other thing that frustrates the users. That is why they are urging the creators of RAID to create a better version of recover promise RAID because privacy is what most people need.

The RAID is currently working on an improvement for this that focuses on the customer’s privacy where the hidden folders will remain hidden even after recovering the files. The only way for you to tell if the hidden file is in, there is to view the properties and change the visibilities. However, this kind of improvement is still not developed and the Promise RAID Company is currently working on this. If ever they develop this, this maintenance system will most probably be RAID 6 in the close future. Although, the users with the latest RAID hard drive version (RAID 5) will not be able to use the new version (if ever there will be new improved maintenance system soon).

How Do We Prevent Having To Use RAID 5 Recovery And Losing Files?

In this article, you will learn how you can prevent file corruption since RAID 5 recovery isn’t installed in most times. One thing that causes file corruption is unplugging the USB (universal serial bus) connector without ejecting it. If you simply unplug the connector without ejecting, then you might need RAID 5 recovery in the future since you can expect your files to be corrupted. Ejecting the connector is safe to do all the time since it make sure all the files you have opened in the desktop or laptop will be closed or unused before you remove the hard drive from connection.

Another reason why the hard drive gets corrupted is when it becomes infested by viruses. This occurs when the user does not scan the hard drive or the laptop (or desktop) for any virus before plugging it in or connecting it via USB cable. There are different types of viruses that cling onto one file to another. When a virus infests a folder or a file, there is a possibility that you will never retrieve the corrupted files. Most viruses do that. While it is slowly spreading, it eats the file, making it corrupted, until the whole hard drive is filled with virus and the files are no longer accessible.

Are Skin Tags Harmful?

February 14th, 2014 No comments

asthSkin tags are growths that are small and usually soft occurring on the skin. Usually, there are a number of parts of the body where they grow and these include eyelids, armpits, groin and even the neck. They are more prevalent in people with obesity perhaps because many folds of their skin get to rub against each other. Nonetheless, it is important to note that they can occur in almost any person. When they do grow, they do not necessarily come with any harm to the body. As a matter of fact, skin tags are not painful. They will usually just become irritated when interfered with for example when an individual twists them constantly. When they begin to grow, you may notice it as being just another small bump. However, with time, they grow to pretty much significant sizes. It is at such times that people choose to use skin tag removal products to get rid of them.

There are a number of methods that may be employed in removing them. Cutting, suturing and application of creams are all methods of getting rid of them. Before you choose to purchase skin tag removal products, you ought to be sure of its safety by reading reviews.

Flawless Skin Is The Reason Why People Prefer To Remove Skin Tags

Skin tags grow on the eyelids, under your breasts, neck, groin and armpits without any encouragement whatsoever. These are growths, which are common in obese people but may develop in any person. They do affect both men and women in almost a similar fashion. Sometimes, they may not grow to more than just a few millimeters above the skin whereas other times, they develop to be a little larger. When you are sure that the growth on your skin is a tag, you have no reason to worry a lot. This is because skin tags are not harmful to your health and they will not affect you in a big way. When you choose to use skin tag removal products, it is merely because their presence on your body robs you of flawless skin.

Skin tag removal products come in different forms. There are those products, which are sold online and even by your chemist over the counter. Whereas most of these products may be over-glorified, some of them actually do work safely. If going to the hospital to get skin tags frozen or cut is a bit of a challenge, you will need to choose a safe formula to apply onto the skin tag and get rid of it. Sometimes, it will fall off on its own.

Hyperspectral Imaging And Anthrax – Early Detection?

January 28th, 2014 No comments

hyperspectral-in-spaceFortunately for the world, there have really been no serious and wide ranging anthrax attacks (that we know of, anyway) in quite some time. This is certainly not to say that the threat of it is gone – in fact, if there’s one thing that is known about the terrorist mind, it’s that the more the public ignores or forgets about a threat, the more terror organizations embrace it. This is something I fear a lot lately, as biological weapons seem to have taken a back seat in the mind of the public. Instead, what we get are NSA reports claiming overreach, despite the fact that we do not really know or understand just how many attacks have been stopped or avoided because of this system.

Is Early Detection Possible?

One of the things that always interests me is early detection. I will admit that the NSA has clearly made massive strides in terms of overall “intent detection”, in its grand net of cell phone calls, emails and texts, I often wonder if it is possible to detect significant amounts of anthrax, particularly from space using satellites. I mean, satellites can do a lot more than they could a mere five years ago, so why not fit them with some kind of device that could actually detect large amounts of anthrax. What’s more, does this device exist?

Well, the answer is, yes. That device is known as hyperspectral imaging – or a hyperspectral imager, if you want to know the name of the actual device that does the detection. See, what hyperspectral imaging does is analyze the electromagnetic field of an object (or objects, sometimes collected over a large section of land, as an example), and of course detect a signature (these devices do far more than that, but for our purposes, this works). Every compound is going to have its own identifying signature, of course, and naturally anthrax does as well.

The result here is that rogue governments that are attempting to hide large amounts of bio-weapons should probably give up the game right now – we’re on to you. There are no doubt hundreds of military satellites that could be equipped (if they aren’t already) with hyperspectral imagers looking for dangerous weapons right now.

Of course, it’s an interesting thought. Definitely something to think about and be aware of.

Anthrax Attacks: A Study In Panic

August 14th, 2013 No comments

aaResearchers examining SARS in Toronto learned that in a systematic crisis, where multiple agencies are involved, it is important to recognize your organization’s strengths early on. For Sunnybrook & Women’s, the hospital had a unique ability to respond quickly to crises at all levels of the organization–from doubling the capacity of isolation rooms literally overnight to working to contain the spread of the illness through strict adherence to infection control protocols.

According to DuHamal, the role of the public affairs department was to highlight these wins early and often through every available communication vehicle with internal and external audiences. The CEO was the person positioned at the helm of the crisis, but he would call upon members of the SARS management team to answer staff questions about everything from human resources to financial issues about protective equipment. It is important to have a wide variety of people communicating and carrying a similarly themed message–multiple faces add credibility when communicating with multiple audiences.

From SARS to the Anthrax attacks, crises, by their very nature, are unpredictable and varied. Newsom, Scott and Turk tell us you should always anticipate the worst thing that could happen to your organization and be prepared to deal with it. (10)

Since September 11, a national survey of public relations professionals found that companies give higher priority to updating their crisis communications plans and seek faster ways to communicate with all employees during an emergency. (11) The survey of 150 companies found that 46 percent of companies have increased their focus upon crisis communications planning in the wake of 9/11. “Companies re-evaluated their crisis communication plans and determined that the top priority is to communicate quickly and effectively with all employees.” (12)

But when information is conflicting, an even bigger crisis can occur. Remember Three Mile Island. Although the accident was unique, years later, some scholars have suggested that the accident could be seen as a classic example of the clash between technology and the media. (13) With Three Mile Island, neither the utility nor the National Regulatory Commission had emergency public information plans in place. Consequently, their responses were confusing, conflicting and disorganized. Finally, the White House stepped in. The federal government demanded that communication be centralized and limited the number of people who could speak about the accident. In fact, a task force later concluded that a major communications breakdown occurred due to lack of planning by Metropolitan Edison, the NRC and the Media. (14)

Did a similar clash occur after 9-1-1–this time between the biological scientists, the federal government and the media? So, who were the sources of the media coverage of the first days of the anthrax incident? While the media have the power to set the public’s agenda (15), it is the sources of that information that are critical in the communications process and the public understanding of scientific issues.

Methodology

To explore the sources behind the anthrax incident, the researcher examined national media coverage of the first days of anthrax including three major national newspapers. The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and the major networks including ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN.

Using LexisNexis, the researcher found relevant newspaper stories. Vanderbilt Television News Archives, which houses network news stories, was used to duplicate network TV news stories during the first days of the anthrax attacks as well.

To determine first and second sources behind the anthrax coverage, a content analysis was conducted on stories between October 4, 2001 (TV news), October 5, 2001 (newspaper) through October 18, 2001. During that time period, when the first victim died of inhalation anthrax to the closing of the Hart Senate Office Building and the Longworth House Office Building in Washington, D.C., the story drew national attention.

A total of 222 print stories were carried in all three nationally circulated newspapers and 39 network TV news stories were analyzed during the selected time period.

Findings

faOf the 222 print news stories, first and second sources cited in the articles were extremely diverse. Basically, no ONE individual was seen as “the source” for news regarding Anthrax.

Interestingly, members of the Bush administration (27) were cited the most as a first source. Of those 27, there is a diverse group that in the article was associated with the Bush Administration. For example, the President’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, was cited seven times followed by President George W. Bush who was cited as a first source six times. The Attorney General was cited as a first source three times. The Vice President was cited three times. Ari Fleisher, the White House Press Secretary, was cited twice as a first source. Others cited as a first source once were a State Department Spokesperson, the First Lady, a spokesperson for the President, a “Government Office,” a Bio-terrorist expert at DHHS and a Director of the Center for Drugs at the FDA.

Interestingly, all other first sources of the newspaper stories were again quite diverse.

Local and state officials were cited 20 times as a first source. Of those, for example, then New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani was cited 4 times, the Governor of Nevada was cited twice. Governor of Florida Jeb Bush and his Lt. Governor were each cited once as well as the spokesman for the state comptroller of Maryland. Other various state government employees were cited as a first source. Of the 20 state and local officials cited as a first source, seven served as either a health department employee, the director of public health or an emergency management officer.

Not surprisingly since media outlets were targets of the anthrax attacks, the media were cited 25 times as a first source. Of those 25, cited the most as a first source were NBC Nightly News Anchor Tom Brokaw (three times) as well as the President of ABC News (three times). Others cited as a first source the AC Nielson ratings (5), the editor of health meds.com, media/news reports (with no one individual as source) (3), an AMI employee, an AMI mailroom employee, American Media chairman. Fox news anchor Brit Hume, the Star gossip editor, the National Review editor, a spokesman for the tabloids, the editor of the Oregonian paper and the Washington Post.

Like the media, members of Congress were also targeted in the anthrax attacks when Senator Tom Daschle’s aide opened an anthrax-laced letter. Senator Daschle was cited as a first source in two of the 222 print stories. Other Senate and House members and their staffs from Louisiana to California were cited as first sources ten times.

Postal service employees and economic sources were cited as a first source, each eight times. Officials/authorities (with no particular name and/or title) were cited ten times, experts were cited six.

Pharmaceutical sources from Cipro’s manufacturer to a local pharmacist were cited as a first source six times; the Centers for Disease Control representatives were cited five times. Others cited as a first source included a bio-weapons expert, who was cited one time as a first source, a germ warfare advisor to the Pentagon was cited once, infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists were each cited twice. University researchers and professors of medicine were cited as first sources only a total of seven times. In addition, terrorism/anthrax experts from universities were cited a total of five times.

Second sources in the anthrax print stories fell along similar lines. Again, second sources were quite diverse. Contrary to first sources, as a second source, the media were cited the most (26 times) followed by Bush Administration officials a total of 22 times. Of those, DHHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, once again, of the Bush Administration was cited the most (7) followed by the President (5), John Ashcroft (4) and others including the Federal Reserve Chairman cited twice, the Vice President, 1; a Bush campaign advisor, 1; a State Department Spokesman, 1, and “U.S.” 1. Experts (the word expert was used in the story with no explanation of exactly who that expert was) were cited five times as a second source.

Local/state officials were cited as a second source 15 times with all but four sources coming from their public health, emergency management areas. The CDC was cited as a second source six times. Police and fire department individuals were cited as second sources seven times.

TV Network News Stories

During October 4, 2001 to October 18, 2001, a total of 39 TV news stories related to the anthrax attacks were shown on the three evening network newscasts, ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN as recorded by Vanderbilt Archives using the key term “anthrax.” (Since news stories first appeared on TV on October 4, the researcher included October 4 news stories).

Interestingly, in 13 of the 39 TV stories (33.3%), there was no first source. The individual cited the most as a first source in the TV stories was US Attorney General John Ashcroft (3). DHHS Secretary Tommy Thompson was cited twice as a first source as well as an NYU Medical University physician. Other first sources ranged from Alan Greenspan to Ari Fleischer to biochemical weapons specialists to postal workers.

As a second news source, Attorney General Ashcroft again was cited the most (2), Tom Daschle (2), the Postmaster General and Dr. Jill Trewhella of the Los Alamos National Laboratory were each cited twice in this category. (See Table 4)

Conclusions

When examining simply the sheer number of stories on the anthrax attacks, 222 in three major national newspapers and 39 on the TV networks, October 4 through October 18, it is apparent that this story was drawing national attention.

Yet what is not so apparent is who was controlling the message regarding the anthrax attacks. When examining sources of both the print and electronic news stories, of the 222 print news stories and 39 TV news stories, basically no ONE individual was seen as “the source” for news regarding anthrax.

Cited the most as a first source in both print and TV news stories were members of the Bush Administration. For print, DHHS Secretary Tommy Thompson was cited seven times and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft was cited the most (3 times in the TV news stories). DHHS Secretary Thompson was cited two times as a first source in the TV news stories. Yet, still the sources were numerous and varied from the President himself to the Attorney General to bio weapons experts.

It is not surprising that the media were cited in print stories as a first source 25 times, right behind members of the Bush Administration, since media outlets were targets of the anthrax. However, the media were NEVER cited as first or second sources in the TV news stories. In fact, there were NO first sources in 13 of the 39 TV stories.

Overall, there were no sources cited as both first or second sources in a far higher percentage of the TV stories than print stories. Nearly thirty-six of the TV stories had no first source compared with nearly seven percent of the print stories.

Second sources in the anthrax print stories fell along similar trends as first sources; however, the media jumped to the highest category with the majority of second sources. Of the TV news stories, Ashcroft again was cited the most as well as Tom Daschle, the Post Master General and a Los Alamos National Lab spokesperson. Interesting again, when examining second sources, no ONE individual appeared to be singled as the source for the anthrax attacks.

It in interesting to note that DHHS Secretary Thompson labeled the first death as an “isolated case.” As time would tell, the anthrax death was anything but isolated, yet this statement was coming from the top health official of the United States while bio-terrorism experts were saying the case was deliberate.

While this study reveals such a diverse cast of characters as sources of the anthrax attacks, and noting the conflicting information of the sources, the data suggest that such could lead to confusion from the public. Who was to be believed? The United States’ top health official or a top bioterrorism expert?

This research may very well suggest the chaos of the anthrax attacks was comparable to the misinformation and chaos that led to the same confusion of Three Mile Island. Only in that case, the government had to step in to begin to clear the confusion. Furthermore, did the conflicting information about the anthrax attacks even lead the media to search for even more diverse sources to attempt to get correct information or to at least let the public decide exactly who to believe? This study did not attempt to answer those questions; however, even in its limited timeframe of the attacks, public relations practitioners can take note.

What Can Practitioner’s Learn?

While sources of the news stories were trying to spread calm, the inconsistency of the sources themselves may have helped to spread fear. Who was to be the source for anthrax? Was it the government? Health officials? Biological science experts? Bio-terrorism experts? This study suggests there were NO main sources, which may have contributed to the panic itself. And when there was more than one source, often responses from US governmental officials differed from any experts in the same report.

In essence, have we not learned from our cases like Three Mile Island in the past where a major communications breakdown occurred due to lack of planning? This study perhaps suggests that a model more similar to communicating SARS in Toronto should be examined where the notion of challenging one contact was explored. Instead, scholars learned that a wide variety of people communicating with a similarly themed message added credibility when communicating with multiple audiences.

This study of the first days of anthrax may well suggest to public relations practitioners that the basics of crisis communications should be adhered to. That is, communications must occur at the very birth of a crisis. Yet, to receive a more accurate and thorough picture of the crisis, perhaps a team of experts including government and scientific experts should come together as one voice with one message.

It appears, at least from this research, that no one ever quite got a grip on who was to control the anthrax message and even what the basics of what that message should be to create calm instead of panic. And while practitioners may still adhere to the “one voice” message, perhaps one voice may have to come together as several individuals as one team of experts.

The Aftermath Of A Hurricane: Grim Witness Reports

August 5th, 2013 No comments

tamohHigh up on the unusually brown sand, I come upon the remnants of a woman’s rust-red sweater. Someone has discovered it before me and has weighted it down with a two-by-four. Citizens have been asked to mark recovered materials in that way so that official investigators can examine them. The lightweight merino wool fabric is worn thin from being in the salt water. About half the sweater has been ripped away. What remains is one complete sleeve and part of the front, but there is enough here to suggest that the woman who wore it was small.

The sweater is enmeshed in a dark cluster of seaweed and reeds, so its off-red color looks especially bright in contrast. John Millington Synge wrote that the most beautiful thing in the world is a red rag on a hedge–a fragment of human life clinging like a memory to nature, or vice versa. The picture created by this juxtaposition, he said, was of “the splendid desolation of decay.”

I recall the quotation as a kind of intellectual reflex, but feel only sorrow. On Friday afternoon, I met, in a stationery store in East Moriches, a man who was at the end of his rope. He was one of the first to get out to the crash site on Wednesday night. A construction contractor in his early 50s, he had a fine open face, though his blue eyes were full of grief.

He and a friend had gone out in a whaler ahead of the Coast Guard. He confessed that the two of them were almost exhilarated at the prospect of pulling survivors out of the dark water. “We saw floating bodies, two or three,” he said, “but we let them pass. We were looking for the living. After awhile, we knew that nobody had made it, so we started pulling in the dead. I brought up a woman whose legs were missing. I’ve seen dead people before, but nothing like that.

ahThe Coast Guard sure hadn’t seen anything like it. Nobody says this, but ‘the Coast Guard’ means 18- and 19-year-old kids. When they came upon the bodies they were screaming into their radios for help.” He said he didn’t know why, but he couldn’t stop talking about what he saw out there. He said that his friend hadn’t slept a minute since Wednesday. “We found two more ladies. They were naked.” He spoke with both a hushed respect and puzzlement.

“It was not like their clothes were burned off,” he said. “But they were naked. How does that happen?”Since Wednesday night, the people of this area have either watched the news or become part of it. All have been affected by it. A bulky man who runs the liquor store in East Moriches told me that he would be enraged if it turned out that the downing of the plane was the work of terrorists, but said that all he could feel at the moment was a sadness so inexpressible it brought him to tears.

Like most everyone in East Moriches, Center Moriches, Speonk and the other towns in the middle of Long Island, he is an ordinary working-class American. But his despairing tone of voice is no different from members of the more pampered vacationer class in Westhampton, Quiogue and Quogue. Everyone feels a kinship with the victims, and perhaps suddenly with everyone else. “I cannot bear to watch the families anymore,” said a woman who lives here. “The bodies are so badly decomposed they are unrecognizable. They say they recovered over a hundred, but who are they? That man who lost his wife and daughters. That man who was about to be married in Paris….”

Tire tracks run the full length of the Quogue beach, creating a highway of pebbles and broken shells between them. Flags at the beachfront houses fly at half-staff. The water is the dark silver-gray color of oceans in war movies–an ominous, undulating field. I study the rust-red sweater one more time before I move on. I reach down and take a small section of it between my thumb and index finger, rubbing it the way a child rubs a security blanket. The fabric is worn so thin, it nearly comes apart to the touch. Held up to the fierce sunlight, the stitching becomes a spider web, a gauze, a lattice-work wall. The end of the sleeve catches my eye, and I hold that for a while, my hand enveloping the point where the sweater embraced a wrist. I look at it without thought, and let it drop. This is the picture here at the end of the week: sand, ocean, the detritus of a disaster and people walking up and down, nodding to one another as they pass.

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Disaster Insurance: A Popular Investment (Gamble)

July 18th, 2013 No comments

Securitized insurance risk is attracting greater interest from insurers and investors, though it will have to expand beyond the current property catastrophe-related products to develop as a market, several experts say.

dtrDespite soft reinsurance market conditions, the number of securitization deals is growing as sellers and buyers become more familiar with products like exchange-traded catastrophe options, cat bonds and contingent capital deals, experts said last week at a conference sponsored by the CNA Re unit of Chicago-based CNA Financial Corp.

Open interest in PCS catastrophe options on the Chicago Board of Trade has grown steadily since 1995, in recent months reaching nearly 20,000 contracts. The number of cat bond issues and swap deals, meanwhile, also has picked up this year, with one issuer – San Antonio-based auto insurer United Services Automobile Assn. – oversubscribed for a second hurricane bond issue in July after completing a successful first issue in 1997.

Investors are more interested in cat bond issues for several reasons, noted Anthony Chiarenza, chief executive officer of Hedge Financial Products Inc., a CNA securitization unit.

For one thing, the financial performance of cat bonds is uncorrelated with traditional investments such as stocks, bonds and commodities, allowing investors to diversify their portfolios. While interest rate-sensitive stock and bond markets fluctuate with every speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, for example, cat bonds are not similarly affected, Mr. Chiarenza said.

“If you are sitting on a one-year cat bond, it doesn’t matter what he says,” Mr. Chiarenza observed. “The point is, it’s a non-correlated risk.”

Investors can’t get similar diversification by investing in insurance and reinsurance company stocks, he added, because they are still affected by market fluctuations and factors other than the insurance risk itself.

In addition, risk-adjusted rates of return have so far been higher for cat bonds than for a number of other traditional stock and bond funds, including the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, he said.

To gain acceptance as a distinct “asset class,” though, securitized insurance risk must grow to encompass casualty and other risks besides cat exposure, Mr. Chiarenza said.

“If we are going to develop this market, we need to create a real asset class” that includes eight to 10 independent or “low correlation” types of risk, he said. “We clearly need something else. The catastrophe business (alone) is not going to do it.”

He offered several candidates for securitization, including:

ar* Agricultural risks, where deals could cover damage to crops caused – for example – by Midwest drought. The cost of catastrophic weather-related damage to agriculture is now borne largely by government entities and could be shifted to the private sector, he said.

“There is $10 billion, $15 billion, $20 billion of risk here that could be securitized,” Mr. Chiarenza said.

* Aviation risks, where coverage might be triggered by number of lives lost in air crashes; and marine risks, where bonds or swaps might cover specific oil rig losses. Securitizing these risks would be tough because traditional insurance markets are now so competitive, he observed.

* Pollution events, which could be covered in deals triggered by the number of barrels of oil spilled, for example.

* Insurers facing a risk of being clobbered by losses on long-term disability policies by higher-than-expected nursing home utilization rates.

* Weather-related events, such as losses or additional costs suffered by utility companies in heat waves.

* Casualty exposures, such as directors and officers liability, errors and omissions or workers compensation.

The problem securitizing liability lines, experts at the meeting agreed, is that losses are less predictable than in property lines, and it is therefore tougher to develop loss indexes needed to standardize a capital markets product.

Securitized transactions to date have included cat bonds, contingent capital deals and exchange-traded products like the CBOT’s PCS options, noted Debra L. McClenahan, executive vp and senior financial officer of CNA Re.

In a typical cat bond deal, an investor’s return is contingent on a catastrophic event. Payments to an issuing insurer can be triggered by a variety of things, including the insurer’s own losses, industry losses or the occurrence of a specific event. A 1997 deal covering Tokio Marine & Fire Insurance Co., for example, is triggered by Tokyo earthquakes exceeding magnitude 7.1 on the Richter scale.

The deals can be structured so that investors’ interest alone is at risk, their interest and principal or a combination of the two. USAA’s 1997 bond issue, for example, consisted to two “tranches” of bonds, one in which only interest was at risk and the other in which interest and principal were at risk.

In contingent capital deals, an insurer secures a commitment of a capital investment if a triggering event like a hurricane occurs. These deals allow an insurer to set the terms of a capital infusion when it is in relatively strong financial condition rather than after a catastrophic loss, when it is in a less favorable bargaining position, Mr. McClenahan noted.

The “option premium” an insurer pays for a contingent capital commitment is typically less than the cost of traditional reinsurance, she added.

The other category of capital markets products is exchange-traded instruments, which – in addition to the CBOT’s products – include catastrophe swaps available through the New York-licensed CATEX facility and products on the Bermuda Commodities Exchange.

Rather than competing with capital markets, traditional reinsurers can play a large role in risk securitization, Ms. McClenahan said.

Reinsurers have underwriting, pricing and auditing expertise to support securitization deals and can facilitate them by pooling ceding insurer clients to create a “critical mass” for securitized products, she said.

Reinsurers also can continue their traditional role, assuming ceding company risks that are not encompassed by securitized transactions.

“These core competencies make reinsurers the natural distribution channel for securitized risk,” she said.

Richard Sandor, chairman of Hedge Financial and an early proponent of securitization, noted that the concept is following predictable stages of development that have previously marked nascent markets for commodities, such as wheat, or financial products, such as collateralized mortgage obligations.

The first stage is a structural change in a market that creates a demand for capital. This happened in the insurance industry, Mr. Sandor said, in the wake of Hurricane Andrew and the Loma Prieta earthquake, when insurers recognized that huge property values had become concentrated in cat-exposed areas like California, Texas, Florida and Long Island in New York and that they were not prepared for the potential loss.

Succeeding stages in the market’s evolution led to the development of organized futures and options markets and later in a proliferation of over-the-counter markets, he said.

The test of risk securitization will come when a huge loss hits the initial group of investors in cat products. Rather than kill demand for the products, though, Mr. Sandor predicted the first mega-loss will fuel demand, as insurers seek more capital and new investors jump in to supply it.

A Curious Look At Species Extinction

June 5th, 2013 No comments

Scientists know that five mass extinctions have occurred since our first prokaryotic ancestors appeared more than three billion years ago.

Now you can make that six.

Nobody knows precisely how many species there are in the world, but fossil evidence and other data suggest that we’re losing species at a rate more than a thousand times faster than at any time during the past sixty-five million years. Why? Stresses and strains on natural resources from too many of us. The earth’s human population has more than doubled in the last fifty years and wilt likely exceed eight billion by the year 2025,

According to Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, Homo sapiens is “the greatest destroyer of life since the ten-kilometer-wide meteorite that landed near Yucatan and ended the Age of Reptiles sixty-five million years ago,”

As many as 25 percent of the species on earth are likely to be extinct or endangered by the year 2025–and 75 percent by the end of the next century.

“Such losses would destroy humanity’s ability to use these organisms and their genes in any way for human benefit,” says botanist Peter Raven. “The hope that science and engineering will save us is not a hope shared by scientists and engineers,”

The Leonid Meteor Storm

tvbMark your calendar–November 17,1998. About every thirty years, earth passes through the densest part of the debris cloud trailing comet Tempel-Tuttle. This time around, orbiting with us are about five hundred high-priced, sensitive satellites that: we depend on for paging doctors, transacting international business, receiving TV broadcasts, using ATM machines, and pumping gas. These satellites generate $20 billion per year in worldwide business, and this November they’re going to be virtually sandblasted.

Just how intense is the Leonid cloud? Typically, in mid-November; meteors are visible at a rate of about twelve per hour, but in 1966, the last time our orbit took us through this part of the Leonid storm, meteors rained at a rate of 150,000 an hour.

The Leonid cloud is basically just dust and sand, yet these particles have a velocity sufficient to give a speck of sand the energy of a ,22-caliber bullet. As John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists puts it, “Satellites just aren’t designed to have small sticks of dynamite tossed at them.”

Several years ago, a much less intense Perseid meteor storm knocked Europe’s flagship communications satellite, Olympus, permanently out of commission,

The World’s Most Explosive Gas Tank

As many as two hundred billion more barrels of oil re* serves have just been opened to development–a 10 percent increase over the current world total, Even at today’s depressed oil prices, this represents about $4 trillion–by far the largest known undivvied chunk of wealth in the world.

The bad news is that this oil is in one of the most politically chaotic and America-unfriendly regions on earth: the tinderbox of former :Soviet republics Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan. The region is also rife with bloody tribal rivalry, which has led some to the area a Bosnia with oil.

According to Daniel Yergin, energy expert and author of The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, “You have thousands of years of accumulated religious and ethnic tensions throughout the region, combined with large geopolitical uncertainties,”

The U.S. is already arm-wrestling with Russia over pipeline routes, and the least problematic route out is through Iran, where Uncle Sam is still known as the Great Satan.

Our Chemical Castration

ccSome studies have shown that male reproductive disorders and infertility are on the rise, sperm counts are down, proportions of abnormal sperm are up, and semen volumes are on the decline. If the trend continues, the researchers say, most men will be effectively sterile by the middle of the next century,

For years, scientists have been investigating the effects of certain man-made chemicals (such as dioxin, DDT, and PCBs) on humans. Some chemicals can mimic natural hormones and disrupt endocrine processes. Laboratory and wildlife studies have shown clear links between so-called environmental hormones and reproductive anomalies in animals,

“I am totally convinced that endocrine disrupters have adverse effects in animals, and therefore I’m very concerned about the potential effects on humans,” says Fred vom Saul, a developmental endocrinologist at the University of Missouri,

The Environmental Protection Agency is concerned enough to have begun considering chemicals’ effects on reproductive health when drafting federal safety guidelines, and the National Academy of Sciences has convened a committee to produce a report on the subject later this fall.

The Next Ice Age

Global warming, it turns out, is just the tip of the iceberg. Higher temperatures could actually wind up precipitating drastic worldwide cooling. As temperatures rise, weather patterns change, meaning more high-latitude rainfall. Rising temperatures also melt ice at the earth’s polar caps. Recent research has revealed evidence of a disintegrating West Antarctic Ice Sheet

All of this dumps more freshwater into the oceans, altering water density and thereby disrupting the massive North Atlantic conveyor-belt current that distributes heat to Europe. This great current, more powerful than a hundred Amazon Rivers, is a key to our temperate climates, and sometimes it shuts down–it has many times, in fact, during the last hundred thousand years. Ice-core and pollen core samples reveal that past disruptions in these currents have caused abrupt and dramatic changes in climate. These sudden changes have occurred fairly frequently–drops of 20 degrees in just a few years.

Even relatively moderate reductions in worldwide temperatures could trigger a chain of events that would lead to ice-age conditions in the Northern Hemisphere–subarctic waters chilling the southern California coast, irish green replaced by Siberian gray, fertile European fields returned to tundra. As Science warned recently, “Reykjavik would be bulldozed into the sea by the iceland Ice Cap.”

The Risks Of Extreme Weather

May 22nd, 2013 No comments

iiThe insurance industry is still reeling from our most recent natural disasters, exemplified by the Iowa storms, the Mississippi Valley floods and the Florida wildfires. It is increasingly clear, however, that catastrophic risk involves much more than such great natural disasters, the dramatic news of which flashes across the airwaves into our nation’s living rooms.

Less publicized events can be just as disastrous to individual businesses and business owners. This includes everything from fires in a distribution center to an angry employee scorching a company’s computer records; from an out-of-control truck that rams a nearby power transformer to a major embezzlement.

In this era of extraordinary claims exposure, the insurance industry is re-examining its underwriting policies and seeking alternative methods to protect itself against loss. At the same time, individual businesses are adopting formal catastrophe planning in greater numbers.

For example, many companies – sensitized to a loss in the case of their computer data systems – are now taking the next step to have a complete catastrophe plan. Until now, it was mostly large companies that recognized the need for planning ahead, even though they were perhaps better able to weather business losses than a midsize or undercapitalized company. However, all midsize companies now are quickly becoming aware of their inept, pre-loss preparation and realize they should move to a better position themselves.

A catastrophe plan identifies and quantifies the physical and financial resources necessary to maintain operations after a catastrophe. The plan will set forth the specific steps required to appropriately avoid, reduce or transfer loss exposures. As part of the process, insurance recovery will be carefully analyzed under various loss scenarios. This catastrophe planning bridges insurance industry concerns and practices with the specifics of a given business. Long-term risk planning makes businesses better consumers of insurance.

Should catastrophe strike, the insurance policy – a business owner’s most important but least-read document – does become the executive’s most critical document. It is too late, however, to assure that coverages are adequate. Without prior planning, business recovery is always difficult and sometimes impossible.

Catastrophe planning secures the type of insurance coverage required to meet the range of reconstruction and business interruption scenarios that often occur after a loss. Speed and enforcement are essential. In a competitive world with few loyalties, customers lost temporarily soon are lost permanently.

It is to your company’s benefit and peace of mind to hire your own consultant. This professional will assist in developing a catastrophe plan, which will allow you to immediately restore operations in the event of a catastrophe while having the type of insurance coverage that will reimburse all of your post-loss recovery expenses.

Having a public adjuster represent your interest is now even more necessary as the insurance industry changes and becomes more regionalized. When disaster strikes, the insurance company will send out its own team of adjusters, appraisers, forensic accountants and consultants. They will comb through the site and company records. Your claim will not be handled by your agent or broker, but by the impersonal professionals dispatched directly from the insurance company.

A public adjuster has the expertise to recover damage losses in an expeditious manner. Companies can perform admirably under trying circumstances. With the proper coverage and representation, some companies end up expanding business after a catastrophe, having so impressed both customers and competitors.

Catastrophe planning should be an ongoing process. Typically, it would be as simple as an informal checklist to determine if any significant changes are to take place. Often, paperwork is easily forgotten once a business is set into motion and begins to grow. This planning is no different from a family’s periodic reviews of its financial plan.

iwfCatastrophe planning is also a team effort that can include risk managers, business owners, insurance brokers and agents, public adjusters and claims consultants, accountants and attorneys. It begins with contemplation of the unknown, and ends by addressing practical, everyday legal, financial, personnel and competitive issues.

Business planning is a process that sets out a specific course of action for various marketplace scenarios. A catastrophe plan is no different.

The first step in catastrophe planning is a thorough evaluation of the existing business and future business forecasts.

Insurance companies are rigidly enforcing their policies, even with longtime clients. Tough claims practices seen during the recent run of major disasters only highlight a well-established trend, where insurance companies attempt to offset competitive premiums with more restrictive interpretations of coverage.

In many instances, public adjusters or attorneys are engaged to help find ways to fit a company’s loss “into” the pre-existing insurance policy coverages. With proper catastrophe planning, the insurance policy is tailored to your potential exposures. Surprisingly, this does not necessarily mean higher insurance premiums, just a better distribution of coverages to meet your actual needs.

This process may include: purchase of additional types of insurance, such as errors and omissions liability policies; changes in rating plans or premium payment plans; elimination of unnecessary coverages; consolidation or amendment of policy limits and conditions; reconsideration of methods of valuation; and changes in practices regarding insurance and hold-harmless requirements from lessors, suppliers or other contractors.

The catastrophe plan considers both interim and long-range strategies. Factors might include whether to relocate temporarily or outsource to fill existing orders; whether multiple locations should be consolidated; whether equipment and facilities could be modernized or expanded; even whether the business should move to a new location. This is also the time to confront competitive issues that have been mounting up, such as the need to revamp products and services or make adjustments in the workforce.

Without the proper type of coverage, businesses will be exposed to unrecoverable losses, as demonstrated by the standard business insurance forms. And, without an adequate recovery plan, it is impossible to know what you are insuring against.

Consider a manufacturer with a plant that burns down. In some cases, this manufacturer may be able to arrange production and shipment from another location; or it may have sufficient inventory on hand so no potential sales are lost. An insurer might claim no income loss had occurred, as sales never stopped.

Although sales at the time of the disaster may not be lost, the plant later realizes a decrease in forecasted income or inventory. In addition, the plant incurs a reduction of efficiency to maintain operations after the disaster. This type of spending by companies to stay running after a catastrophe is not always recognized by insurance companies as a collectible loss, or by an owner as recoverable under a business interruption claim.

Companies are encouraged to establish partnership agreements that secure assistance in the event of a business interruption. It doesn’t make sense to go to a competitor when faced with contract penalties or the loss of a major client. On the other hand, when negotiated in advance from a position of mutual strength, such arrangements are increasingly successful and even welcomed within industry groups.

Business owners must understand that insurance policies do not provide complete protection, unless they are modified to meet the specific needs of the company. Unless refined, policy exclusions or limitations will prevent complete indemnification.

Consider another example: Disaster strikes; the risk manager pulls out his catastrophe plan, then calls his insurer. Coverages have been carefully tailored to a catastrophe plan, but now the risk manager must work with the insurance company’s professional adjuster from its regional headquarters. Now that a loss has actually occurred, the adjuster does not agree on the “intent” of the existing coverages. Unfamiliar with the policy, the home office is bureaucratic.

Thus, an important step in catastrophe planning is to establish, in writing, that the policies can actually be enforced as intended. This supplement, kept on file by both the policyholder and the insurer, helps bridge the gap between the specific needs of a business and the structured language of most standardized insurance policies.

Now the risk manager knows that satisfactory coverage and an action plan for recovery are in place. This helps deflect the initial emotional trauma of a loss, lessening stress during the recovery process. Although the business owner knows how to respond to the disaster, there are two major obstacles to overcome: restoring the business and the preparation of a claim in accordance with the insurance contract. The risk manager must work with the insurance company’s team of professionals to assure proper damage assessment and claim evaluation. Rarely do companies employ individuals with the expertise to match that of the insurance company’s claim specialists. Public adjusters are commonly retained by a policyholder to prepare recoverable damage claims, consult on available options or alternatives and to recover losses after the disaster.

Here are a series of questions to answer before disaster strikes:

* Where would you relocate? Can you relocate? Could you consolidate locations? How long would it take to set up a temporary facility?

* Would you need extra help or have to lay off employees? Would you work more overtime, incurring extra expenses?

* How would you replace your inventory? How quickly could you replace it? Would there be extra costs? Or is it seasonal and likely to be irreplaceable?

* How long would you be out of business? Consider that costs to operate would likely increase as overall efficiency decreases.

* How would you deal with your customers? Do you have any of their property on your site? Are you contractually obligated for delivery dates? Are there penalties for non-compliance?

* What type of advertising or promotion would be needed to maintain business?

* Could you use outside contractors to outsource production?

* Would you have any union problems at a temporary facility?

* Are your sales or services seasonal? If you missed your season, what would you do?

* Do your book values differ from your actual values on hand?

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