This is a four minute video produced by the White House which shows President Obama talking to various people about what he should do in the two years he will be living in DC after he leaves the Presidency. This isn’t political and the advice people give him is very funny.
Dora, heaviest cannon of World War Two fired 48 times
Before the German attack on Sevastopol, Hitler sent his commander on the scene, Erich von Manstein, the heaviest cannon in all of World War Two which they Germans called “Dora”. She fired an 80cm caliber shell and her barrel was thirty-two meters long. Moving Dora to her specially prepared location thirty kilometers (18 miles) outside of Sevastopol required sixty railway cars. Once in place and reassembled, the cannon sat on a double set of railroad tracks. Dora could fire a high explosive shell weighing five metric tonnes (five and 1/2 US short tons) a distance of forty-seven kilometers.
The cannon fired forty-eight shells during its existence.
Herr Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein
Erich von Manstein remains an enigmatic figure decades after the end of World War Two and of his death in 1973. The only scholarly biography of von Manstein is titled Janus Face. The most revealing and fascinating book about him continues to be: Bounden Duty: Memoirs of a German Officer, 1932-1945 by Alexander Stahlberg. I’ve read this book five or six times over the years and I give it five stars because it is the only one of its kind. Stahlberg served from 1942 until the end of the war as von Manstein’s adjutant or personal orderly officer as it translates from German. His memoir is the best and only primary source about von Manstein since von Manstein’s family will not release his papers.
Unquestionably, Field Marshal von Manstein was a military genius and the best German commander of World War Two. Had Hitler put him in overall command of the Eastern Front the Russians would have paid even a higher price than they did pushing the Germans out of their country.
According to Stahlberg, von Manstein had several opportunities to murder Hitler but chose not to. While he was acknowledged by the other Field Marshals as “first among equals” and they would have followed his lead he just would not kill Hitler. Von Manstein was a great general, perhaps one of the great captains of history. But he could have been a great man and he threw that chance away to the detriment of the world.
Sources: Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler’s Defeat in the East, 1942-1943 by Joel S. A. Hayward &
President Barack Obama greets Armanii Chisholm, age 3, as his grandmother, Chief Religious Program Specialist Tameca Brown, looks on during a tour with wounded warriors and their families in the Cross Hall of the White House, July 25, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama meets with Amy Pope, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, who briefs him and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on the potential cases of non-travel related Zika announced by the Florida Department of Health earlier today, in the Oval Office, July 27, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico walk through the Blue Room before a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House, July 22, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama smells a rose given to him by Sophia Ahmadi, 2, as her parents, Zainab Ahmadi and Mohammad Ahmadi, look on during the Eid al-Fitr reception in the East Room of the White House, July 21, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama takes the stage as he is introduced by Strive Masiyiwa during the White House Summit on Global Development at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., July 20, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama and Tyler Oakley greet family pets Bo and Sunny in the Library of the White House, following the Beating the Odds Summit , July 19, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
President Barack Obama talks with retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Charles Kettles, center, and his guests, former brothers-in-arms from Vietnam, in the Blue Room following the Medal of Honor ceremony for Kettles at the White House, July 18, 2016. Then-Major Kettles distinguished himself in combat operations near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam, on May 15, 1967, and is credited with saving the lives of 40 soldiers and four of his own crew members. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Jürgen Wattenberg, Kapitan zur See
During my research for my first novel, An Honorable German, I corresponded in 1980 with Jürgen Wattenberg because he had served as the Senior Navigation Officer of the German “pocket battleship” Admiral Graf Spee. He was not an easy man to correspond with and he held to the view that Germans were more victims of World War Two than instigators. (A common view among many German war veterans and the older generation in the decades after the war).
Panzerschiff (translated means ‘armored ship’) Admiral Graf Spee (photo courtesy German Federal Archives) in 1936
There is no evidence that Wattenberg was an an active supporter of the Nazi Party and as a member of the military he could not have been a member of the Nazi Party since neither officers nor men in the German armed forces–known as the Wehrmacht (defense forces)— were allowed to join political parties. This seems odd, I know.
However, exceptions were made and many high ranking officers were given party membership as an “honor.” The Nazi leadership had a contentious relationship with the German Army which was by far the largest of the armed services and commanded a very high prestige in German life. Had several stronger and more honorable men been Chief of the German Army General Staff in the first year when the Nazis came to power they could easily have executed a coup d’tat and simply shot Hitler and his gang.
Unfortunately, they did not. However, deep opposition to Hitler remained in the General Staff and to their credit conspirators in the German Army (as well as the Abwehr—sort of the German CIA), made numerous attempts on Hitler’s life, the most famous being the bomb set off at Hitler’s field headquarters in Prussia on 20 July 1944.
Caption and photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum: 17 May 1937 WARSHIPS AT THE SPITHEAD FLEET REVIEW OF 1937. (Held in honor of the coronation King George VI). The German heavy cruiser ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE anchored off Spithead for the 1937 Fleet Review. In the background are the battleship HMS RESOLUTION and the battlecruiser HMS HOOD.
As recounted in my novel, An Honorable German, the “pocket battleship” Admiral Graf Spee was badly damaged in December of 1939 in the Battle of the Rio Plata. The Captain later blew up the ship.
As to Wattenberg, like many of Graf Spee’s officers, he had effected his escape from internment in Argentina and returned to Germany whence he was given command of U-162. About 45 years old at that time, he was a little old to hold command of a U-Boat but there was a shortage of trained and experienced sea officers in the German Navy and Wattenberg was certainly an experience sea officer (offizer zur see). Jürgen Wattenberg,
Wattenberg was in the Caribbean, a dangerous assignment because the water is shallow and even when the u-boats were underwater they were visible. But there was “good hunting” in the Caribbean, particularly tankers proceeding to the United States and other countries from oil refineries in Trinidad. (Oil was discovered in Trinidad in 1857 with commercial production beginning in 1913 according to the report “100 Years of Petroleum in Trinidad and Tobago” issued by the government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago).
(the steel drum music originated from people playing on the empty 55 gallon barrels left after the war was over).
Although this would usually be something a U-Boat commander would have avoided unless he had no other choice, in September of 1942 off the Bahamas, Wattenberg fired torpedoes at a British destroyer which wasn’t the smartest thing to do. U-162 was quickly sunk by three Royal Navy destroyers. Most of the crew including Wattenberg survived.
Like all captured U-Boat officers he was first taken to an interrogation facility known as Ft. Hunt just outside of Washington DC. There, German speaking US navy officers interrogated the German officers over a series of days. I’ve read transcripts of many of the interviews and they are boring. The men were treated to the letter of the Geneva Convention of 1929 on Treatment of Prisoners of War.
From the minute he arrived at Ft. Hunt, in late September of 1942, he started to complain and complain. In 1980, when I first began to research my novel, I corresponded with him. He was a jerk. His main complaint: while being repatriated after the war ended, American GIs stole his scrapbook. Aw, too bad. The Nazis had just murdered millions including most of European Jewry and he was pissed because some American soldiers took his scrapbook? Yes, he was.
I was able to get his declassified information from the time in which he was a POW from the National Archives and one of the items in the stack was a letter of complaint in English he had sent to the Swiss. As something of a cottage industry, the Swiss government was appointed as the protecting power by the Germans, the Americans and the British and representatives of the Swiss Red Cross inspected all POW camps. Wattenberg, like many German naval officers of the time, was fluent in English. (I sent copies of all his POW records to him.)
Wattenberg wrote in a complaint to the Swiss:
Wattenberg was within his rights under the Geneva Convention. Officers retained their authority and could not be compelled to do anything such as clean their rooms. This was for their orderly to do.
Nonetheless, this seems a harsh complaint to make that on his first day of being a POW or PW as they were known at the time. Many of the men who served as sentries in POW camps in the US were often men who were extremely young or much older and didn’t meet the physical or IQ requirements to be sent into the US Army fighting overseas.
All prisoners of war in the United States in World War Two were in the custody of the Provost Marshal of the US Army–that is the general commanding the military police and all prisons and stockades for the US Army in the US. (Military police in the US Army overseas came under the authority of the respective provost marshal in their higher echelon command. Hence they reported outside the chain of command so officers who were not in the military police could not countermand their orders).
Wattenberg was released at the end of the war and returned to Germany. He eventually became the manager of the St. Pauli Girl Brewery in Bremen.
18 December 1939: Admiral Graf Spee in the Rio Plate off Montevideo after being blown up and scuttled by Captain Hans Langsdorff who shot himself two days later.
A Conversation with Cannon Retirement Account Expert Larry Divers
Professing shock and dismay at this escape, Chief Buttonwood of the SEC Retirement Security Police, urged the public to chill. “We will quickly round up these miscreant acronyms. I’m pleased to report we have already taken the frozen Keogh into custody, although he couldn’t walk very fast, I’ll admit.”
Part of the difficulty in dealing with this issue, the Chief explained, is that many people have no idea what these acronyms mean and might approach one in a friendly way only to be zapped by the IRS. “Let’s face it, when it comes to annual income limits when making a deductible or non-deductible contribution to an IRA, who really knows the difference between MAGI (modified adjusted gross income) and AGI (adjusted gross income) especially if MFJ (married filing jointly)?”
To protect the retirement savings of Americans, the Chief announced he had appointed Larry Divers, Cannon Executive Vice President and Retirement Services Expert, as temporary Senior Investigative Agent. His mandate? Capture these acronyms and return them safely to the joint custody of the IRS and the Employee Benefits Security Administration.
Good move. I’ve known Larry for years and he can talk for hours about the arcania of retirement plans—even when you don’t want him to. He makes his way through the scrum of reporters shouting for his attention and comes over to me. “Larry, what is your greatest fear at this moment?”
He mops his brow with a handkerchief. “People combining pre-tax and post –tax contributions into the same IRA rollover. These acronyms may look innocent but they can cause unsuspecting investors a terrible headache.”
Larry pauses to take several aspirin then continues, “investors need to understand that their contributions to a QRP such as a 401(k), or other QRP-type plans such as 403(b) and 457 plans are pre-tax. Additionally, beginning at age 70 ½ you must begin to take your RMD based on your life expectancy which you compute using the Single Life Table, or, if married, the Joint and Last Survivor Table as published in Treasury regulations, Section 1.401(a)(9).”
“Sounds great, Larry. Thank you. But what do you mean?”
“In plain English, if you’re in a QRP, or a qualified retirement plan, or a similar type plan, once you turn 70 ½ you must annually begin to take a sum of money known as the Required Minimum Distribution. If you do not take your RMD you will pay a 50% excise tax plus income tax on the amount you should have withdrawn but didn’t. Example, if you are in a 30% tax bracket and should have taken a distribution of $10,000 and didn’t do it, the penalty is $8,000. Yes, that’s right, the IRS takes 80%.”
The amount you take annually is based on your life expectancy using tables published by the IRS. “From the time you take your first distribution to the last, you must include that amount in your gross income for the year in which you take it and pay ordinary income tax,” Larry says.
“Ouch! So even if you don’t need it, you’ve got to start taking it? Is there an exception? I live in Washington, DC and I have noticed that every rule has an exception.”
Larry lights up a cigarette.
“I thought you quit?” I ask him.
“I’m so stressed out, this is an exception,” Larry says, “like the QLAC. Heard of that?”
“Maybe during duck hunting season.”
Larry shakes his head. “QLAC is pronounced ‘queue—lack’ not ‘qualack’.”
“Sorry. Go ahead.”
“QLAC is a Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract.”
I nod ‘yes’ even though I haven’t the slightest idea what he is talking about.
“It works this way. Just prior to turning 70 ½, you can take the lesser of $125,000 or 25% of the total funds in your qualified plan, and purchase a deferred income annuity. By doing this, you are able to exclude that sum of money from the Required Minimum Distribution until you reach age 85 when you must begin to withdraw that money according to the standard RMD calculation. You can also make a onetime tax-exempt transfer from a QRP to an HSA (Health Savings Account) based on certain conditions.”
To summarize: putting money into a retirement account is far easier than taking it out.
To learn more about this topic, register for our Retirement Plan Services I course.
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Like many businesses, the luxury passenger liner business needed a little bit of help from the government. So lucrative contracts to carry mail were given to the fastest passenger steamers which helped them make a profit. Hence a ship contracted to carry the Royal Mail was known as a “Royal Mail Steamer” abbreviated as “RMS”.
Ned Parfett, best known as the “Titanic paperboy”, holding a large banner about the sinking outside the White Star Line offices in London, April 16, 1912.
The last lifeboat successfully launched from the Titanic photographed from the Cunard Liner RMS Carpathia, on April 15, 1912. (Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21)
RMS Titanic leaving Belfast for her sea trials on 2 April 1912
RMS Titanic during sea trials
Titanic at Southampton docks, prior to departure
Third Class ticker or steerage class, the cheapest ticket you could buy. Had you been on the Titanic you would have had a much better chance of surviving if you had a First Class Ticket. 61%of First Class passengers survived while only 24% of Third Class or steerage passengers survived. I’m sure this is a quirk and has nothing to do with the First Class passengers being wealthy. J. Bruce Ismay was the managing director of the line and was aboard the Titanic. He pulled rank to get into a lifeboat. Upon returning to England he resigned his posts and lived in seclusion in his castle in Ireland for the rest of his life.
From Titanic Facts Net:
“Are any Titanic survivors alive today?”
“No. The last living survivor died on 31 May 2009. Elizabeth Gladys ‘Millvina’ Dean, who sailed with her parents as a third-class passenger, was just 8 weeks old when Titanic sailed. Shed died, aged 97, at a nursing home in Hampshire, England. Millvina Dean had become the last living survivor on 16 October 2007, when Barbara West Dainton died, aged 96.”
The RMS Titanic in Southampton after almost colliding with the SS New York. April 10th 1912
The first International Conference on the Safety of Life at Sea, which was convened in London on November 12, 1913, legally established the International Ice Patrol. Since that time, the patrol has been conducted solely by the United States with other nations paying their share to the US Government on an annual basis.
According to the website of the US Coast Guard: uscg.mil/history/articles/
“Beginning in February of 1914, February 7, 1914….. the International Ice Observation and Ice Patrol Service. Each year since then, with exception of the wartime years, a patrol has been maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.
That the Ice Patrol has maintained broad-based international support for over seven decades despite changing operational and technological factors is a tribute to the soundness of the basic concept. As of 1993 the governments contributing to the Ice Patrol included Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Poland, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States of America.”