Monday, January 31, 2005

Metlife announced on 01/31/05 that they were going to acquire Travelers Life and Annuity from Citigroup. Travelers Life and Annuity is an insurance underwriter. MetLife is a large life insurance and annuities underwriter. MetLife will have to borrow a lot of money to pay for the company, so rating agencies like S&P warn that the AA credit rating of MetLife might be lowered. This would cause the interest rates at which all of MetLife’s debt must be repaid to increase.

Citigroup committed to continue distributing Travelers life insurance and annuities through its Smith Barney stock brokers, Primerica agents, and Citibank branches.

Citigroup was previously known as Travelers Insurance before it bought Citicorp. First the Property and Casualty business of Travelers was spun off, and now the life insurance division has been sold off. This is primarily because insurance underwriters get a lower price to earnings multiple from the stock market because of the cycles and uncertainty associated with the insurance business. Also, having an insurance underwriter and a bank together does not usually create “cross-sell” opportunities, because consumers and businesses almost always buy life insurance and annuities through brokers who have a duty to give them other options. Citigroup will continue to sell insurance through its brokers as before.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a vault containing millions of seeds from all over the world, saw its first deposits on Tuesday. Located 800 kilometers from the North Pole on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, the vault has been referred to by European Commission president José Manuel Barroso as a “frozen Garden of Eden“. It is intended to preserve crop supplies and secure biological diversity in the event of a worldwide disaster.

“The opening of the seed vault marks a historic turning point in safeguarding the world’s crop diversity,” said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust which is in charge of collecting the seed samples. The Norwegian government, who owns the bank, built it at a cost of $9.1 million.

At the opening ceremony, 100 million seeds from 268,000 samples were placed inside the vault, where there is room for over 2 billion seeds. Each of the samples originated from a different farm or field, in order to best ensure biological diversity. These crop seeds included such staples as rice, potatoes, barley, lettuce, maize, sorghum, and wheat. No genetically modified crops were included. (Beyond politics they are generally sterile so of no use.)

It is very important for Africa to store seeds here because anything can happen to our national seed banks.

Constructed deep inside a mountain and protected by concrete walls, the “doomsday vault” is designed to withstand earthquakes, nuclear warfare, and floods resulting from global warming. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called it an “insurance policy” against such threats.

With air-conditioned temperatures of -18 degrees Celsius, experts say the seeds could last for an entire millennium. Some crops will be able to last longer, like sorghum, which the Global Crop Diversity Trust says can last almost 20 millenniums. Even if the refrigeration system fails, the vaults are expected to stay frozen for 200 years.

The Prime Minister said, “With climate change and other forces threatening the diversity of life that sustains our planet, Norway is proud to be playing a central role in creating a facility capable of protecting what are not just seeds, but the fundamental building blocks of human civilization.” Stoltenberg, along with Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, made the first deposit of rice to the vault.

“It is very important for Africa to store seeds here because anything can happen to our national seed banks,” Maathai said. The vault will operate as a bank, allowing countries to use their deposited seeds free of charge. It will also serve as a backup to the thousands of other seed banks around the world.

“Crop diversity will soon prove to be our most potent and indispensable resource for addressing climate change, water and energy supply constraints and for meeting the food needs of a growing population,” Cary Fowler said.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Copenhagen, Denmark – The Danish Integration Minister Rikke Hvilshøj’s car was set ablaze outside her family-home on the morning of Wednesday 8 June. From there, the fire spread to the family’s garage, and further on to the side of the house, damaging the roof above the kitchen and children’s room.

At the same time, an e-mail was sent to several media agencies, where a group calling themselves “Action Group Beate” claimed responsibility, saying it is a “protest against the racist immigrational laws of Denmark”. The police found the computer used for sending the mail within a few hours, and closed down the cybercafé whilst removing the computer.

Throughout the Danish political system politicians from both the ruling party and the opposition have expressed their outrage over the terrorism.

The insurance company is currently assessing the amount of damage done to the home, but so far they have made an estimate of £27.000, just for the house damages.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling announced to a shocked House of Commons today that two password-protected — but not encrypted — computer disks containing the entire Child Benefit database have been lost in transit between the offices of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Washington, Tyne & Wear and the National Audit Office (NAO) in London, in what has been described as “one of the world’s biggest ID protection failures”.

The database contains details of all families in the UK who receive Child Benefit — all families with children up to 16 years of age, plus those with children up to 20 years old if they are in full-time education or training — estimated to contain 25 million individuals in 7.25 million families. Among other items of information, the database contains names, addresses, dates of birth, child benefit and National Insurance numbers, and where appropriate, bank or building society account details.

The discs were created by a junior official at the HMRC in response to a request for information by the NAO, and were sent unregistered and unrecorded on 18 October using the courier company TNT — which operates the HMRC’s internal mail system. When it was found that the discs had not arrived for audit at the NAO, a further copy of this data was made and sent — this time by registered mail — and this package did arrive. HMRC were not informed that the original discs had been lost until 8 November, and Darling himself was informed on 10 November.

The violation of data protection laws involved in the creation of the discs has led to strong attacks on the government’s competence to establish the proposed National Identity Register, when all UK residents will have an identity card. Conservative Shadow Chancellor George Osborne described the loss of data as “catastrophic” and said “They [the government] simply cannot be trusted with people’s personal information”.

The Chairman of HMRC, Paul Gray, has resigned over the affair, and critics are calling for Darling to do likewise.

This is the third data embarrassment for HMRC in recent weeks — earlier this month it was reported that the details of over 15,000 Standard Life customers had been put on disk, and then lost en route from HMRC in Newcastle to Standard Life in Edinburgh — and last month a laptop containing the data of 400 people with high-value ISAs was stolen from the boot of a car belonging to a HMRC official who had been carrying out a routine audit.

US healthcare bill passes Senate vote

September 27, 2016 1:10 am | No Comments

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The US Senate, by a vote of 60 to 39, has decided to begin debate on legislation crafted by majority Democrats to reform the country’s health care system.

The measure, opposed by Republican senators, was voted on Saturday evening. One Republican Senator, George Voinovich of Ohio, was not present and did not vote.

It was not clear until earlier in the day whether the Democrats would have enough votes to bring the bill to the Senate floor for full debate.

During the day, two moderate Democrats announced they would support the move during a rare Saturday session. That gave the Democrats the 60 votes they needed to move the measure forward. The legislation is intended to extend health care coverage to millions of uninsured people, prevent insurance companies from denying benefits, and limit the growth of spending on medical care.

In the rare session, opposition Republicans criticized the bill, saying it would drive up the cost of insurance and add to the nation’s deficit.

While Democrats won the vote to begin debate, passage of the bill is not certain. Some moderate Democrats have signaled strong opposition to components of the bill, including a government-run option to compete with private insurers. However, the Senate version does allow states to opt out of the public option.

Senator Blanche Lincoln, who was one of the Democrats who had wavered on whether to support the bill, decided to vote for it. “Although I don’t agree with everything in this bill, I have concluded that I believe that it is more important that we begin this debate to improve our nation’s healthcare system for all Americans, […]” she said. Two other Democratic senators said they were uncertain about the bill, and did not make up their minds until hours before the vote, adding to the uncertainty.

The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate bill, unveiled on Wednesday, would cost $849 billion over the next decade. Analysts say the plan also would reduce U.S. deficits by nearly $130 billion in the same period. If the bill passes, it would have to be merged with one passed earlier this month by the House of Representatives. The House narrowly approved its bill on a sharply divided vote of 220 to 215.

President Barack Obama has asked Congress to deliver legislation to him for signing by the end of the year.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A former Marsh & McLennan Cos. executive has hit former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer with a $60 million defamation lawsuit over an online magazine article regarding an insurance bid-rigging scandal.

William Gilman, a former Marsh managing director, filed a complaint last Friday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, over allegations Mr. Spitzer defamed him in a Slate article published a year ago. A copy of the complaint was made public on Monday.

Gilman, who had a final insurance fraud charge dismissed in January, said Spitzer acted with “actual malice” by suggesting that he was guilty of crimes of which he was never accused.

Although he wasn’t named in the article, Mr. Gilman complained that Spitzer defamed him by writing that “Marsh’s behavior was a blatant abuse of law and market power: price-fixing, bid-rigging and kickbacks all designed to harm their customers and the market while Marsh and its employees pocketed the increased fees and kickbacks.”

“While Mr. Spitzer’s statements do not refer to Mr. Gilman by name, Mr. Gilman is readily identifiable as the subject of the defamatory comments,” said the complaint. “Mr. Spitzer was well aware of his own allegations as attorney general and the resolution of those allegations in favor of Mr. Gilman and yet, recklessly disregarded these facts.”

In 2004 Mr. Spizter, then the state’s Attorney General, announced an investigation into the practices at Marsh & McLennan, particularly fees paid by insures to brokers who place business with them. Gilman, who worked for the company at the time, was charged in 2005 with 37 counts of insurance fraud. Gilman’s final charge was dropped last January.

“I haven’t seen the lawsuit and so will not comment on it,” said Spitzer. “The illegalities rampant at Marsh & McLennan leading to their fine of $850 million and the multiple judicial findings of illegality are clear from the public record.”

Mr. Gilman is now seeking at least $10 million in compensatory damages; $20 million in general damages, including damage to his reputation; and $30 million in punitive damages.

Swiss reject single health insurance

September 27, 2016 1:10 am | No Comments

Monday, March 12, 2007

24 of 26 Swiss Cantons rejected the proposal for a single health insurance system, in which premiums would be based on income and wealth. The vote on Sunday was the latest in a series of attempts to cut rising costs and ease the financial burden on citizens.

Around 71% of voters rejected the reform. Turnout was at about 46%, slightly above the Swiss average.

As expected, voters in the main German-speaking part of the country turned down the planned reform, which was supported by the centre-left but opposed by the centre-right as well as the business community, parliament and the government.

Opposition in the French and Italian speaking regions was less pronounced. The cantons Jura and Neuchâtel in the French speaking regions voted in favor of the proposed reforms.

Health insurance premiums are higher in southern and western Swiss cantons than in German-speaking areas.

The Swiss Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin said an important part of the Swiss Population appeared to be opposed to “a revolution” in health insurance but he said that he wanted current reforms currently under discussion in the Swiss Parliament to go ahead. He called on all sides, especially health insurers and the cantonal authorities, to make efforts to reduce spending on health insurance and aim for a greater cost efficiency. Currently Switzerland has 87 private insurers providing mandatory basic health care coverage for Swiss residents under a 1996 law. But costs have sky-rocketed. Over 100,000 people are not covered by health insurance due to non payment.

To win the battle of the cost of health care, everyone must place his or her private interests behind the interests of the general public. -Pascal Couchepin at a news conference

Opponents to the initiative argued that a single insurance system would lead to complacency and create a two-tier system, in which the wealthy would be the only ones available to afford to have additional private insurance coverage.

Supporters of the initiative said a single health insurer would increase the system’s efficiency and allow for annual savings of at least 300 million Swiss Francs (about $245 million) in administrative costs. Currently, the funding system is unbalanced, since many clients on low incomes use state subsidies to pay their premiums, according to the Green Party and the Social Democrats.

The initiative to unite all the insurance companies and introduce premiums based on wealth and income was the most recent in a series of attempts over the past ten years to reduce the public spending on health care. A proposal, similar to this recent proposal, to modify the funding system of the health insurance companies was rejected by 73% of voters in 2003.

Switzerland has the most expensive health system in Europe. Switzerland’s expenditure on health care was 11.6% in 2005, in front of Germany and France but behind the United States.

Learn more about Swiss Federal Council and Voting in Switzerland on Wikipedia.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a vault containing millions of seeds from all over the world, saw its first deposits on Tuesday. Located 800 kilometers from the North Pole on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, the vault has been referred to by European Commission president José Manuel Barroso as a “frozen Garden of Eden“. It is intended to preserve crop supplies and secure biological diversity in the event of a worldwide disaster.

“The opening of the seed vault marks a historic turning point in safeguarding the world’s crop diversity,” said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust which is in charge of collecting the seed samples. The Norwegian government, who owns the bank, built it at a cost of $9.1 million.

At the opening ceremony, 100 million seeds from 268,000 samples were placed inside the vault, where there is room for over 2 billion seeds. Each of the samples originated from a different farm or field, in order to best ensure biological diversity. These crop seeds included such staples as rice, potatoes, barley, lettuce, maize, sorghum, and wheat. No genetically modified crops were included. (Beyond politics they are generally sterile so of no use.)

It is very important for Africa to store seeds here because anything can happen to our national seed banks.

Constructed deep inside a mountain and protected by concrete walls, the “doomsday vault” is designed to withstand earthquakes, nuclear warfare, and floods resulting from global warming. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called it an “insurance policy” against such threats.

With air-conditioned temperatures of -18 degrees Celsius, experts say the seeds could last for an entire millennium. Some crops will be able to last longer, like sorghum, which the Global Crop Diversity Trust says can last almost 20 millenniums. Even if the refrigeration system fails, the vaults are expected to stay frozen for 200 years.

The Prime Minister said, “With climate change and other forces threatening the diversity of life that sustains our planet, Norway is proud to be playing a central role in creating a facility capable of protecting what are not just seeds, but the fundamental building blocks of human civilization.” Stoltenberg, along with Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, made the first deposit of rice to the vault.

“It is very important for Africa to store seeds here because anything can happen to our national seed banks,” Maathai said. The vault will operate as a bank, allowing countries to use their deposited seeds free of charge. It will also serve as a backup to the thousands of other seed banks around the world.

“Crop diversity will soon prove to be our most potent and indispensable resource for addressing climate change, water and energy supply constraints and for meeting the food needs of a growing population,” Cary Fowler said.

News briefs:July 27, 2010

September 26, 2016 1:11 am | No Comments

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Regardless of who wins the prize, people all around the world will be able to experience the mission through high-def video-streams.
Saturday, August 28, 2010

Andreas Hornig, Wikinews contributor and team member of Synergy Moon, competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize, managed to interview Senior Director of Space Prizes William Pomerantz of the X PRIZE Foundation about the competitions, goals, and impacts via e-mail for HDTVTotal.com and Wikinews.

By Wikinews,

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Other stories: Science and technology
  • 14 September 2016: Scientists claim decrease in hotness of Bhut Jolokia
  • 19 July 2016: ARM to be bought by SoftBank
  • 6 July 2016: Final panel added to China’s FAST radio telescope
  • 6 July 2016: NASA’s Juno spacecraft enters Jupiter orbit
  • 9 June 2016: IUPAC proposes four new chemical element names

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  • “Japanese probe snatches first asteroid sample” — Wikinews, November 26, 2005
  • “$20 million prize offered in lunar rover contest” — Wikinews, September 13, 2007

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This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.


This article is part of a page redesign trial on Wikinews. Please leave comments or bug reports on this redesign.This interview originally appeared on HDTVTotal.com, released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Credit for this interview goes to HDTVTotal.com and Andreas -horn- Hornig.

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