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ZOMBIELAND: You Are Soaking In It

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TIME: In the race between a bunch of zombies and three stars who are also directors — Ricky Gervais, Michael Moore and Drew Barrymore — the humans never stood a chance. The horror-comedy Zombieland won the weekend in North American theaters by scaring up $25 million, according to early studio estimates, which is more than the $23.6 million it cost to shoot the thing.

1. Zombieland, $25 million, first weekend
2. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, $16.7 million; $82.4 million, third week
3. Toy Story 3-D and Toy Story 2 3-D, $12.5 million, first weekend
4. The Invention of Lying, $7.350 million, first weekend
5. Surrogates, $7.344 million; $26.4 million, second week
7. Capitalism: A Love Story, $4.850 million; $5.2 million, second week MORE

VANITY FAIR: Why did Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story underperform in theaters this weekend, despite an aggressive marketing campaign and seemingly perfect timing? It took in a respectable $5,000 per screen, but that’s only half as much as Sicko did back in 2007. While I’d like to believe that Americans from coast to coast read my review and decided that the film sounded a bit too simplistic to spend two hours on, I have the numbers to prove that supposition wrong. What I’d prefer not to believe is that the film’s lackluster showing is a function of our collective stupidity—the fact that, as Ben Steverman of Businessweek put it, “When it comes to financial matters, Americans are functionally illiterate.” […] There is a modicum of populist rage out there. But it’s being directed all over the place, because too many of us are unclear about what the heck happened. Rich guys screwed the rest of us, we get that, but which rich guys? Did they plan the whole thing, or was it an accident? Was what happened a once-in-a-lifetime “black swan” or is it an innate part of how Wall Street—and, by extension, free-market capitalism—operates? MORE

BALTIMORE SUN: Moore emphasizes that the U.S. dominated the world economy because the Second World capitalism_love_story1.jpgWar wrecked much of Asia and Europe, but even that sweeping generalization fades before his jolly view of growing up Amurrican in the 1950s and early 1960s. It’s as if the Eisenhower-Kennedy eras were a time when everyone didn’t worry and was happy. It’s as if only capitalist greed and obfuscation have prevented our return to that state of innocence. “Capitalism” tries to expand that impressionistic personal history into an attack on American plutocrats. For Moore, it’s absurd for citizens to think that the free market is a panacea for financial well-being at a time when relatively few organizations run America’s economy, slippery bankers and brokers fund it, and a gulf yawns (or maybe screams) between the executives on top and everyone underneath them. MORE

WALL STREET JOURNAL:  It’s well known that the rich have an outsized influence on the economy. The nation’s top 1% of households own more than half the nation’s stocks, according to the Federal Reserve. They also control more than $16 trillion in wealth — more than the bottom 90%. Yet a new body of research from Citigroup suggests that the rich have other, more-surprising impacts on the economy. Ajay Kapur, global strategist at Citigroup, and his research team came up with the term “Plutonomy” in 2005 to describe a country that is defined by massive income and wealth inequality. According to their definition, the U.S. is a Plutonomy, along with the U.K., Canada and Australia. […] Of course, Kapur says there are risks to the Plutonomy, including war, inflation, financial crises, the end of the technological revolution and populist political pressure. Yet he maintains that the “the rich are likely to keep getting even richer, and enjoy an even greater share of the wealth pie over the coming years.” All of which means that, like it or not, inequality isn’t going away and may become even more pronounced in the coming years. The best way for companies and businesspeople to survive in Plutonomies, Kapur implies, is to disregard the “mass” consumer and focus on the increasingly rich market of the rich. MORE

skeleton_praying.jpgMSN: Right now, your company could have a life insurance policy on you that you know nothing about. When you die — perhaps years after you leave your employer — the tax-free proceeds from this policy wouldnt go to your family. The money would go to the company. Whats more, the company might use this policy to pay for retirement benefits and other perks not for you or your fellow workers, but for your companys top executives. Sound outrageous? Such corporate-owned life insurance is also big business:
•    Companies pay a whopping $8 billion in premiums each year for such coverage, according to the American Council of Life Insurers, a trade group.
•    The policies make up more than 20% of the all the life insurance sold each year.
•    Companies expect to reap more than $9 billion in tax breaks from these policies over the next five years. The policies are treated as whole life policies. So, companies can borrow against the policies (though the IRS won’t let them write off the interest). And the death benefits are tax-free.
Hundreds of companies — including Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney and Winn-Dixie — have purchased this insurance on more than 6 million rank-and-file workers. These policies, nicknamed dead janitors or dead peasants insurance, soared in popularity after many states cleared the way for them in the 1980s. Congress recently tried to crack down on the practice, to the howls of the insurance industry — which earlier this year managed to derail reforms. MORE

DEAD PEASANT INSURANCE.COM: Which employers bought policies on the lives of employees?Because a company’s purchase of insurance policies is not a public record, it is virtually impossible to know every company that invested in policies on employees’ lives. The following companies, however, are believed to have been named as the beneficiary of life insurance policies on employees. MORE

RELATED: Dan Buskirk’s Review Of Capitalism: A Love Story

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LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE OF The Simpsons

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