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July 03, 2010

The secrets of the for-profit obituary industry

The Great Legacy.com Swindle After reading Jessica Mitford's "American Way of Death" I shouldn't find it shocking when people capitalize on grief, but this is still sort of shocking.
Since we have for-profit undertakers, it seemed tacky but not unusual that there should be a business in online guest books for dead people. Knowing a bit about the economics of online services, and what kind of a profit margin that $79 represents, it was perhaps a little galling. But legacy.com pays moderators to check death notices and screen posts, so they can certainly argue they're providing some kind of value. Things got decidedly sketchier a few weeks later, when legacy.com decided to email me a reminder that the guest book (which I had only posted to, not created) was about to meet a fate very similar to the person it was honoring if I didn't act promptly to renew, which, legacy.com suggested, would be the perfect way to show my support to a grieving family in a difficult time. When you are mourning someone, any automated reminder about their death from a website that wants your money is going to cause what you might call a negative customer experience. It doesn't matter whether you entitle it "A gentle reminder from legacy.com" or "DEAD FRIEND'S NAME IN ALL CAPS Guest Book" (although guess which one they went with). I decided to see what the other end of this operation looked like. As an experiment, I visited the obituary section of the New York Times website and followed the steps to submit my own online death notice, stopping only at the final confirmation screen.
*Thanks, Jeff*

July 02, 2010

Mel Gibson? Still classy.

Joe. My. God.: Quote Of The Day - Mel Gibson
"You're an embarrassment to me. You look like a fucking pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of niggers, it will be your fault." - Mel Gibson, in a voice mail recorded by the mother of his love child, Oksana Grigorieva.

July 01, 2010

Democratic Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) blocks millions from receiving unemployment

With Millions Losing Benefits, Ben Nelson Blocks Extension Of Unemployment Insurance | TPMDC
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) last night prevented his fellow Democrats from finally passing legislation to extend needed unemployment insurance benefits to out of work Americans. It was the third time the legislation, which has been repeatedly pared down and reshaped in the hunt for votes, has failed to overcome a filibuster. But it was the first time that success or failure rested on a single deciding vote. And because Nelson, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, joined Republicans and blocked the bill, it will likely not pass until mid-July, after the Senate returns from Independence Day recess. By then Robert Byrd's replacement will be seated, and Dems will have the votes they need to pass their jobs bill. Here's what happened. The Senate was by all accounts done for the day, and any further attempts to extend unemployment insurance would have to wait another day. But at about 8 pm, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to give it one more shot and called the vote, which had to be held open to allow Senators caught unaware to reach the chamber. When it was all said and done, the final vote was 58-38 with three Republicans not voting. Of course, it requires 60 votes to break a filibuster, meaning Democrats were two votes shy. So why does this fall on Ben Nelson? When a cloture vote fails, the Majority Leader often switches his vote from yes to no. But he's not joining the filibuster. It's a parliamentary maneuver that allows him to bring the issue back to the floor easily at a later time, without having to go through the longer process of filing for cloture again. That's what happened last night. With the death of Robert Byrd, Democrats have 58 voting members.

Poison Katrina trailers now being used to house oil spill cleanup workers

Banned Trailers Return for Latest Gulf Disaster - NYTimes.com
The trailers were discovered to have such high levels of formaldehyde that the government banned them from ever being used for long-term housing again. Some of the trailers, though, are getting a second life amid the latest disaster here — as living quarters for workers involved with the cleanup of the oil spill. They have been showing up in mobile-home parks, open fields and local boatyards as thousands of cleanup workers have scrambled to find housing. Ron Mason, owner of a disaster contracting firm, Alpha 1, said that in the past two weeks he had sold more than 20 of the trailers to cleanup workers and the companies that employ them in Venice and Grand Isle, La. Even though federal regulators have said the trailers are not to be used for housing because of formaldehyde’s health risks, Mr. Mason said some of these workers had bought them so they could be together with their wives and children after work.