WE THE PEOPLE

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Moe Berg: A second-rate baseball player but a first-rate spy.

Moe Berg:  A second-rate baseball player but a first-rate spy.

When baseball greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig went on tour in baseball-crazy Japan in 1934, some fans wondered why a third-string catcher named Moe Berg was included.

The answer was simple: Berg was a US spy. Speaking 15 languages—including Japanese—Moe Berg had two loves: baseball and spying.

In Tokyo , garbed in a kimono, Berg took flowers to the daughter of an American diplomat being treated in St. Luke’s Hospital--the tallest building in the Japanese capital. He never delivered the flowers.The ball-player ascended to the hospital roof and filmed key features: the harbor, military installations, railway yards, etc.

Eight years later, General Jimmy Doolittle studied Berg’s films in planning his spectacular raid on Tokyo .


Catcher Moe Berg

Berg’s father, Bernard Berg, a pharmacist in Newark, New Jersey, taught his son Hebrew and Yiddish. Moe, against his wishes, began playing baseball on the street aged four. His father disapproved and never once watched his son play. In Barringer High School , Moe learned Latin, Greek and French. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton—having added Spanish, Italian, German and Sanskrit to his linguistic quiver, During further studies at the Sorbonne, in Paris, and Columbia Law School he picked up Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Arabic, Portuguese and Hungarian—15 languages in all, plus some regional dialects.

While playing baseball for Princeton University , Moe Berg would describe plays in Latin or Sanskrit.

Tito’s partisans
 
During World War II, he was parachuted into Yugoslavia to assess the value to the war effort of the two groups of partisans there. He reported back that Marshall Tito’s forces were widely supported by the people and Winston Churchill ordered all-out support for the Yugoslav underground fighter, rather than Mihajlovic’s Serbians.

The parachute jump at age 41 undoubtedly was a challenge. But there was more to come in that same year. 
Berg penetrated German-held Norway , met with members of the underground and located a secret heavy water plant—part of the Nazis’ effort to build an atomic bomb. His information guided the Royal Air Force in a bombing raid to destroy the plant.



The R.A.F. destroys the Norwegian heavy water plant targeted by Moe Berg.

There still remained the question of how far had the Nazis progressed in the race to build the first Atomic bomb. If the Nazis were successful, they would win the war.

Berg (under the code name “Remus”) was sent to Switzerland to hear leading German physicist Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Laureate, lecture and determine if the Nazis were close to building an A-bomb. Moe managed to slip past the SS guards at the auditorium., posing as a Swiss graduate student. The spy carried in his pocket a pistol and a cyanide pill. If the German indicated the Nazis were close to building a weapon, Berg was to shoot him—and then swallow the cyanide pill. Moe, sitting in the front row, determined that the Germans were nowhere near their goal, so he complimented Heisenberg on his speech and walked him back to his hotel.


Werner Heisenberg—he blocked the Nazis from acquiring an atomic bomb.

Moe Berg’s report was distributed to Britain’s Prime Minister,

Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and key figures in the team developing the Atomic Bomb.
 Roosevelt responded: “Give my regards to the catcher.”

Most of Germany ’s leading physicists had been Jewish and had fled the Nazis mainly to Britain and the United States .

After the war, Moe Berg was awarded the Medal of Merit— America ’s highest honor for a civilian in wartime. But Berg refused to accept, as he couldn’t tell people about his exploits. After his death, his sister accepted the Medal and it hangs in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown.

The Most Honored Photograph



The Most Honored Photograph

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Doesn’t look like much, does it? But, depending upon your definition, this photograph, a team effort by 9 men, is the most honored picture in U. S. History. If you want to find out about it, read on. It’s an interesting tale about how people sometimes rise beyond all expectations.

It takes place in the early days of World War II, in the South Pacific, and if you’re a World War II history buff, you may already know about it.

The Screwed Up Pilot

First, let’s get this out of the way. Jay Zeamer wasn’t a photographer by trade. He was mostly a wanna-be pilot. He looked good on paper, having graduated with a degree in civil engineering from MIT, joining the Army Air Corps, and receiving his wings in March, 1941. He was a B-26 bomber co-pilot when World War II started.
His classmates all rapidly became lead pilots and squadron leaders, but not Jay. He couldn’t pass the pilot check tests despite trying numerous times. He was a good pilot, but just couldn’t seem to land the B-26. Landing, from what I’ve read, was considered one of the more important qualifications for a pilot. Stuck as a co-pilot while his classmates and then those from the classes behind him were promoted, he got bored and lost all motivation.
Things came to a head when co-pilot Zeamer fell asleep while his plane was in flight. Not just in flight, but in flight through heavy anti-aircraft fire during a bombing run. He only woke when the pilot beat him on the chest because he needed help. His squadron commander had him transferred to a B-17 squadron in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea where he was allowed to fly as a fill-in navigator and occasionally as a co-pilot. He was well liked and popular — on the ground. But no one wanted to fly with him.
Zeamer finally managed to get into the pilot’s seat by volunteering for a photoreconnaissance mission when the scheduled pilot became ill. The mission, an extremely dangerous one over the Japanese stronghold at Rabual, won Zeamer a Silver Star – despite the fact that he still hadn’t qualified to pilot a B-17.

The Eager Beavers

Zeamer become the Operations Officer (a ground position) at the 43rd Air Group. Despite his lack of qualification, he still managed to fly as a B-17 fill-in pilot fairly often. He had discovered found that he loved to fly B-17s on photoreconnaissance missions, and he wanted to do it full-time. There were only three things standing in his way: he didn’t have a crew, he didn’t have an airplane, and oh, yeah, he still wasn’t a qualified pilot.
He solved the first problem by gravitating to every misfit and ne’er-do-well in the 43rd Air Group. As another pilot, Walt Krell, recalled, “He recruited a crew of renegades and screwoffs. They were the worst — men nobody else wanted. But they gravitated toward one another and made a hell of a team.”
The plane came later. An old, beat-up B-17, serial number 41-2666, that had seen better days was flown into their field to be scavenged for spare parts. Captain Zeamer had other ideas. He and his crew decided to rebuild the plane in their spare time since they weren’t going to get to fly any other way. Exactly how they managed to accomplish their task is the subject of some debate. Remember, there were so few spare parts available that their ‘plane’ was actually brought in originally to be a parts donor.
But rebuild it they did. Once it was in flying shape the base commander congratulated them and said he’d find a new crew to fly it. Not surprisingly, Zeamer and his crew took exception to this idea, and according Walt Krell the crew slept in their airplane, having loudly announced that the 50 caliber machine guns were kept loaded in case anyone came around to ‘borrow’ it. There was a severe shortage of planes, so the base commander ignored the mutiny and let the crew fly – but generally expected them to take on missions that no one else wanted.
The misfit crew thrived on it. They hung around the base operations center, volunteering for every mission no one else wanted. That earned them the nickname The Eager Beavers, and their patched up B-17 was called Old 666.
The Eager Beavers: (Back Row) Bud Thues, Zeamer, Hank Dominski, Sarnoski (Front Row) Vaughn, Kendrick, Able, Pugh.
The Eager Beavers: (Back Row) Bud Thues, Zeamer, Hank Dominski, Sarnoski (Front Row) Vaughn, Kendrick, Able, Pugh.
Once they started flying their plane on difficult photoreconnaissance missions, they made some modifications. Even among the men of a combat air station, the Eager Beavers became known as gun nuts. They replaced all of the light 30 caliber machine guns in the plane with heavier 50 caliber weapons. Then the 50 caliber machine guns were replaced with double 50 caliber guns. Zeamer had another pair of machine guns mounted to the front of the plane so he could remotely fire them like a fighter pilot. And the crew kept extra machine guns stored in the plane, just in case one of their other guns jammed or malfunctioned.
As odd as all this sounds, the South Pacific theatre in the early days of World War II was a chaotic area scattered over thousands of miles with very little equipment. Having a plane with an apparently nutty crew who volunteered for every awful mission not surprisingly made the commanding officers look the other way.

Buka

In June, 1943, the U. S. had secured Guadalcanal in the southern Solomon Islands. They knew the Japanese had a huge base at Rabual, but were certain there were other airfields being built in the Northern Solomon Islands. They asked for a volunteer crew to take photographs of Bougainville Island to plan for an eventual invasion, and of Buka airfield on the north side of the island to assess for increased activity there. It was considered a near-suicide mission — flying hundreds of miles over enemy airspace in a single, slow bomber. Not to mention photoreconnaissance meant staying in level flight and taking no evasive action even if they were attacked.
Credit: World Factbook
Credit: World Factbook
The only crew that volunteered, of course, was Jay Zeamer and the Eager Beavers. One of the crew, bombardier Joseph Sarnovski, had absolutely no reason to volunteer. He’d already been in combat for 18 months and was scheduled to go home in 3 days. Being a photo mission, there was no need for a bombardier. But if his friends were going, he wanted to go, and one of the bombardier’s battle stations was to man the forward machine guns. They might need him, so he went.
They suspected the airstrip at Buka had been expanded and reinforced, but weren’t sure until they got close. As soon as the airfield came in sight, they saw numerous fighters taking off and heading their way. The logical thing to do would have been to turn right and head for home. They would be able to tell the intelligence officers about the increased number of planes at Buka even if they didn’t get photos.
But Zeamer and photographer William Kendrick knew that photos would be invaluable for subsequent planes attacking the base, and for Marines who were planning to invade the island later. Zeamer held the plane level (tilting the wings even one degree at that altitude could put the photograph half a mile off target) and Kendrick took his photos, which gave plenty of time for over 20 enemy fighters to get up to the altitude Old 666 was flying at.
The fighter group, commanded by Chief Petty Officer Yoshio Ooki, was experienced and professional. They carefully set up their attack, forming a semi-circle all around the B-17 and then attacking from all directions at once. Ooki didn’t know about the extra weapons the Eager Beavers had mounted to their plane, but it wouldn’t matter if he had; there was no way for a single B-17 to survive those odds.
During the first fighter pass the plane was hit by hundreds of machine gun bullets and cannon shells. Five crewman of the B-17 were wounded and the plane badly damaged. All of the wounded men stayed at their stations and were still firing when the fighters came in for a second pass, which caused just as the first. Hydraulic cables were cut, holes the size of footballs appeared in the wings, and the front plexiglas canopy of the plane was shattered.
Zeamer was wounded during the second fighter pass, but kept the plane flying level and took no evasive action until Kendrick called over the intercom that the photography was completed. Only then did he begin to move the plane from side-t0-side allowing his gunners better shots, just as the fighters came in for a third wave of attacks. The third pass blew out the oxygen system of the plane, which was flying at 28,000 feet. Despite the obvious structural damage Zeamer put the plane in an emergency dive to get down to a level where there was enough oxygen for them men to survive.
During the dive, a 20mm cannon shell exploded in the navigator’s compartment. Sarnoski, who was already wounded, was blown out of his compartment and beneath the cockpit. Another crewman reached him and saw there was a huge wound in his side. Despite his obviously mortal wound, Sarnoski said, “Don’t worry about me, I’m all right” and crawled back to his gun which was now exposed to 300 mile an hour winds since the plexiglass front of the plane was now gone. He shot down one more fighter before he died a minute or two later.
The battle continued for over 40 minutes. The Eager Beavers shot down several fighters and heavily damaged several others. The B-17 was so heavily damaged, however, that they didn’t expect to make the several hundred miles long flight back home. Sarnoski had already died from his wounds. Zeamer had continued piloting the plane despite multiple wounds. Five other men were seriously wounded.
Flight Officer Ooki’s squadron returned to Buka out of ammunition and fuel. They understandably reported the B-17 was destroyed and about to crash in the ocean when they last saw it.
The B-17 didn’t quite crash, though. Zeamer had lost consciousness from loss of blood, but regained it when he was removed from the pilot seat and lay on the floor of the plane. The copilot, Lt. Britton, was the most qualified to care for the wounded and was needed in the back of the plane. One of the gunners, Sergeant Able, had liked to sit in the cockpit behind the pilots and watch them fly. That made him the most qualified of the crewman, so he flew the plane with Zeamer advising him from the floor while Britton cared for the wounded.
The plane made it back to base. (Britton did return to the cockpit for the landing.) After the landing, the medical triage team had Zeamer removed from the plane last, because they considered his wounds mortal. Amazingly, the one thing on the plane not damaged were the cameras and the photos in them were considered invaluable in planning the invasion of Bougainville.

Epilogue

All of the wounded men recovered, although it was a close thing for Captain Zeamer. In fact, a death notification was sent to his parents somewhat prematurely. He spent the next year in hospitals recovering from his wounds, but lived a long and happy life, passing away at age 88.
Both Zeamer and Sarnovski were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for the mission, the only time in World War II that two men from one plane ever received America’s highest medal for valor in combat. The other members of the crew were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor as an award for bravery.
So, somewhat surprisingly, the most decorated combat flight in U. S. history didn’t take place in a major battle. It was a photo-reconnaissance flight; the flight of ‘old 666′ in June of 1943.

About the author: Roger Cicala is the founder of LensRentals. This article was originally published here.

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The Kings Proposal

ObamaMobile... Manure Spreader!









Monday, October 28, 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sticker Shock: Obamacare deductibles

By Chicago Tribune 
Adam Weldzius, a nurse practitioner, considers himself better informed than most when it comes to the inner workings of health insurance. But even he wasn't prepared for the pocketbook hit he'll face next year under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
If the 33-year-old single father wants the same level of coverage next year as what he has now with the same insurer and the same network of doctors and hospitals, his monthly premium of $233 will more than double. If he wants to keep his monthly payments in check, the Carpentersville resident is looking at an annual deductible for himself and his 7-year-old daughter of $12,700, a more than threefold increase from $3,500 today.
"I believe everybody should be able to have health insurance, but at the same time, I'm being penalized. And for what?" said Weldzius, who is not offered insurance through his employer. "For someone who's always had insurance, who's always taken care of myself, now I have to change my plan?"
Many Illinoisans buying health coverage on their own next year will face a similar dilemma spurred by the health care overhaul: pay higher monthly insurance premiums or run the risk of having to shell out thousands more in deductibles for health care if they get sick.
To promote the Oct. 1 debut of the exchanges, the online marketplaces where consumers can shop and buy insurance, Obama administration and Illinois officials touted the lower-than-expected monthly premiums that would make insurance more affordable for millions of Americans. But a Tribune analysis shows that 21 of the 22 lowest-priced plans offered on the Illinois health insurance exchange for Cook County have annual deductibles of more than $4,000 for an individual and $8,000 for family coverage.
Those deductibles, which represent the out-of-pocket money consumers must spend on health care before most insurance benefits kick in, are higher than what many consumers expected or may be able to stomach, benefit experts said.
By comparison, people who buy health insurance through their employer have an average individual deductible of just more than $1,100, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Although millions of Americans will be eligible for federal assistance to help offset some of those costs, millions will not, underscoring one of the trade-offs wrought under the law's goal to ensure most people have access to health insurance.
"It's been major sticker shock for most of my clients and prospects," said Rich Fahn, president of the Northbrook-based insurance broker Excell Benefit Group. "I'm telling (clients) that everything they know historically about health plans has changed. They either have to pay more out-of-pocket or more premiums or both. It's an overwhelming concern."
Plans with the least expensive monthly premiums -- highlighted by state and federal officials as proof the new law will keep costs low for consumers -- have deductibles as high as $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families, the highest levels allowed under the law.
Because the federal website that runs the Illinois exchange remained largely inoperable as of late last week, the Tribune used data from websites of four of the five insurers that will offer plans in Cook County on the marketplace. One insurer, Coventry Health Care, did not have plans available on its website last week but provided data to the Tribune.
Insurers say the price and cost hikes result from new benefit mandates, additional taxes levied as part of the law and a requirement that they can no longer deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
The vast majority of insurance plans for 2014 must include a list of 10 essential health benefits, some of which, like maternity care, weren't necessarily included in all health plans a year ago.
The law also includes mandatory coverage of mental health and substance-abuse treatment, prescription drugs and rehabilitative care. All preventive care, including annual physicals and routine immunizations like flu shots, must be covered at no cost.
Further, insurers are required to take all applicants, regardless of whether they have pre-existing medical issues that may have locked them out of coverage in the past. And they're prohibited from charging their oldest, sickest members any more than three times as much as their youngest, healthiest members, causing premium prices to rise for many younger people.
Costs associated with those mandates are passed along to all members of a health plan.
Considering those factors, "the rates are actually quite reasonable," said Kelly Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Illinois health insurance marketplace.
Under the law, most of the estimated 15 million Americans who bought plans individually this year, like Weldzius, will have to choose new insurance coverage that meets federal guidelines.
Because of the myriad changes to most plans, "it's hard to know whether you're really going to be able to compare like policies" from year-to-year, said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow with the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.
The health care law established four broad categories of coverage -- platinum, gold, silver and bronze -- for which premiums vary based on the amount of out-of-pocket health care expenses consumers are required to pay. Bronze plans have the lowest monthly premiums, but they cover only 60 percent of projected medical costs. Platinum plans have higher premiums but cover 90 percent of medical costs.
State officials expect most consumers to select either bronze or silver plans because monthly costs are lower.
To develop the new plans that meet the federal coverage levels, insurers in Illinois took two distinct routes.
Land of Lincoln Health, a new nonprofit insurer, opted to design most of its bronze and silver plans with lower annual deductibles in exchange for higher monthly premiums. All of its plans also offer a broad range of providers, though certain discounts are available for using a selection of them.
"When we sat down and looked at how to design our plans, we felt it was very important for consumers to not be afraid to use their health coverage," said Dan Yunker, Land of Lincoln's chief executive. "We can't have people not using their health plan because they can't afford it when it's time to use it."
Meanwhile, the state's dominant insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, was able to offer plans with lower monthly premiums by crafting narrower networks of doctors, specialists and hospitals.
The least expensive "Blue Choice" plans offered by Blue Cross, which carry the lowest monthly premiums in Cook County, contract with 4,100 primary care providers in the Chicago metro area. That compares with about 15,775 providers in its largest preferred provider network, according to company data.
The "Blue Choice" network includes 57 acute-care hospitals versus 213 in the larger network. In addition, two of the region's five large academic medical centers -- University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System and Loyola University Medical Center -- are in network, while Northwestern Memorial Hospital, University of Chicago Medical Center and Rush University Medical Center are out.
People who choose to go to an out-of-network hospital or physician will foot the entire bill, in most cases, and those expenses typically are not applied toward annual deductibles.
The network "was created to offer a most cost-effective and affordable network of physicians and hospitals without compromising quality," said Steve Hamman, the insurer's senior vice president of network management.
Company data show that patient outcomes are actually slightly better in its narrower network, he said.
Some plans offered by Humana Inc. and Coventry also have narrow networks.
Insurers and brokers recommend people carefully study narrow-network plans to ensure their preferred doctor and hospital are included.
"You have to be very careful about choosing a plan with a smaller network ... or there will be some big surprises," Fahn said.
Insurance brokers and health care experts also urge caution for consumers who choose plans with higher deductibles.
"Yes, rates are really low, but that's like saying, 'Here's a free car,' but if it costs you $500 a month to run, it's not really a free car," said Dave Stumm, executive vice president at Stumm Insurance, a Chicago-based brokerage.
Fahn calls the bronze plans "smoke-and-mirrors catastrophic plans," which don't provide benefits until and unless something bad happens -- a car wreck, a major surgery or a chronic illness.
For many low-income Americans, the law offers some help, though how much will vary by the individual.
The vast majority of the uninsured -- an estimated 80 to 90 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office -- who buy coverage on the exchanges will qualify for federal subsidies in the form of tax credits. Those who make up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (about $46,000 for an individual and $94,200 for a family of four) will be eligible for the subsidies to help offset the cost of premiums.
Further, people with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level (about $28,700 for an individual and $58,900 for a family of four) will qualify for cost-sharing subsidies that will reduce deductibles, in some cases substantially.
Brokers say they worry most about people who qualify for lower subsidies or none at all. Those with more modest incomes might not have enough in savings to pay for medical expenses.
They "could get slammed if they get sick," said Pollitz, of the Kaiser Family Foundation. "They just won't have the money. They just won't."
A potential consequence could be that some individuals may not seek medical care beyond routine office visits when they should, dissuaded by the specter of having to pay for it out of pocket.
"They'll just live without," Pollitz said, "kind of like they do now."
HOW TO BE A HAPPIER AND HEALTHIER HUMAN BEING

Ø NEVER TOUCH ANYTHING WITH HALF YOUR HEART
Ø BE IN THE PRESENT
Ø ENDLESSLY LOVING AND COMPASSIONATE TOWARD OTHERS
Ø CONFRONT ANY CHALLENGING SITUATION WITH A DEEP BREATH
Ø WANDER AND ENJOY THE JOURNEY
Ø BEFORE REACTING – UNDERSTANDING
Ø FIND THE FACES IN THE FLOWERS
Ø REMEMBER WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU
Ø GET TO KNOW YOURSELF
Ø BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF AND OTHERS IN ALL YOUR DEALINGS
Ø TAKE THINGS AT YOUR OWN PACE
Ø NEVER BE EMBARASSED TO FEEL, LAUGH, CRY, SING OR LOVE
Ø REMEMBER THAT WHAT’S RIGHT FOR SOMEONE ELSE MAY NOT BE RIGHT FOR YOU
Ø NEVER BE ASHAMED OR AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP OR GUIDANCE
Ø OFFER HELP WHEN YOU SEE AN OBVIOUS NEED
Ø LOOK FOR THE GOOD IN PEOPLE AND BE A FRIEND TO THOSE IN NEED
Ø DO WHAT YOU LOVE REGARDLESS OF WHAT OTHERS MAY THINK
Ø REMEMBER, YOU ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE
Ø DON’T EVER BE AFRAID TO SAY “NO”
Ø FIND THE JOY IN ALL YOU DO
Ø DON’T BE AFRAID TO SHARE YOUR FAILURES AS WELL AS YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Ø DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY SOMETHING NEW
Ø TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS – LISTEN TO YOUR LITTLE VOICES
Ø REMEMBER, KEEP GOD IN YOUR LIFE AND TRUST HIM IN ALL THINGS
Ø REMEMBER TO SMILE AND ENJOY THIS THING CALLED “LIVING”
Ø DON’T FORGET TO EAT BREAKFAST

Monday, October 7, 2013

FAILURE

What Does It Take To Overcome FAILURE


     Fortitude – Strength of mind that enables you to overcome adversity.
     Accountability – Willingness to accept responsibility for your actions.
     Integrity – Honesty, adherence to rules and values.
     Listen and Learn from your mistakes.
     Understanding – What is expected and what is required to achieve your goals.
     Respect – Consideration and respect for yourself and others.
     Example – Show yourself as a positive example to all those around you.

     Reverend Joe A. Sondrup
         josondrup@wsd.net

         rev.joesondrup@gmail.com