Friday, November 30, 2007

Pic of the Day

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2007 at 11:33 PM

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Soapbox: Insurance nightmare

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2007 at 11:00 PM

By Allie Wall

What could be scarier than a serious car accident with a driver who has little or no insurance? Thousands of dollars in medical bills and an insurance company that won’t give you the coverage for which you’ve faithfully paid each month.

In December 2006, Sandy Sloat, a West Georgia College student, survived a major head-on collision caused by an uninsured driver using a friend’s car with $50,000 in liability coverage. Sloat was hospitalized with serious injuries, at a cost of over $300,000.

Sloat’s insurance policy included $100,000 in additional “uninsured motorist” coverage. UM coverage is designed to pay for the medical bills and property damage of a car-accident victim when the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured.

However, Georgia law allowed Sloat’s insurance company to deduct the at-fault driver’s $50,000 liability coverage from their UM policy. Even though the Sloats had faithfully paid monthly premiums for $100,000 in UM coverage, the family was only able to access $50,000 of the policy to put toward the medical bills. Their insurance company kept the rest.

Michael Sloat, Sandy’s father, believes that current state law lets insurance companies exploit drivers who want the extra security of the UM coverage. Why shouldn’t drivers like Sloat receive the full face value of what they’ve been paying when they are hit by an underinsured driver – which is exactly what Sloat was insuring himself against?

Just like Sandy and Michael Sloat, many Georgia drivers would be shocked to learn UM coverage doesn’t “stack,” or add to, liability coverage. Because state law prohibits UM stacking, drivers covered by a UM policy cannot access all of their coverage in certain scenarios, such as when at-fault drivers have the bare minimum of liability coverage.

In fact, Georgia drivers only receive the full benefit of UM coverage if hit by an uninsured motorist.

Nearly two dozen other states – including neighbors Alabama and South Carolina – allow UM stacking when the at-fault driver has minimum coverage. State Farm Insurance, the state’s largest car-insurance carrier, estimates that the cost of UM policies in Georgia would increase on average between $2.50 and $4 a month if stacking were allowed.

According to State Farm’s data, Alabama drivers pay an average $28.75 premium for a six-month policy of $25,000 of UM coverage that will stack on top of an at-fault driver’s liability coverage. For the same UM coverage that doesn’t stack, Georgia drivers currently pay an average $13 premium.

During the 2007 General Assembly, state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, introduced Senate Bill 276, which would authorize stacking in Georgia and give Georgia drivers guaranteed access to every penny of UM coverage they pay for when it is needed for medical bills and property damage. SB 276 easily passed the Senate by a margin of 46-3, and will be eligible for action on the House floor during the 2008 General Assembly.

Allison Wall is executive director of Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy organization.

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Fiction Contest: Y'all are messed up

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2007 at 10:41 PM

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Well, we've heard from you loud and clear, and we here at CL would like to make one humble suggestion to our blossoming literary scene: Get help.

Seriously, y'all are messed up. That's as simple as we can put it, judging from the entries to our seventh annual Fiction Contest — the (extended) deadline of which passed on Wednesday. The theme is "scratch," and let's just say the entrants took the notion and ran with it in every manner possible. There's the scratching of the itch (with images too vivid to recount here), Old Scratch (a particular favorite), scratching on the eight ball in pool, scratch as in money. Now, I didn't read all of them — thank you, thank you, thank you, CL staff — but I don't recall it being used in the racetrack vernacular (as in scratching, or removing, a horse from a race), although I'm sure every other angle was covered. And this stuff was so gothic, so dark, so supernatural, so ... icky ... we just wonder if we've opened some wounds with this one.

Best of all, from rudimentary research, we've learned our submission total of 240 is an all-time best. And our apologies for any confusion caused by the extended deadline, which resulted in a FLOOD of extra entries. Now comes the judging phase; and as we mentioned in a previous PopSmart post, we've got an impressive lineup: Fiona Zedde, Joshilyn Jackson and David Fulmer.

Now, onto the next phase: the party! We're scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 10, at Eyedrum. We're working furiously to set up the appropriate musical and other ambient moods, and of course there will be refreshments aplenty. Mark it on your calendar; it'll be the first cool literary event of the new year, so don't scratch it off your list ...

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Plan your commute accordingly if you're heading to Buckhead this weekend

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2007 at 10:09 PM

Just a friendly heads-up if you're planning to head to Lenox or Phipps to do a little Christmas shopping on Saturday. The city's Department of Watershed Management is conducting some sewer rehab work from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. at the intersection of Roswell, Peachtree and West Paces Ferry roads. Here's the info, courtesy of DWM spokeswoman Janet Ward:

Traffic Advisory: Sewer rehab closes lanes at Roswell-Peachtree-West Paces Ferry intersection

When: Saturday, Dec. 1, 7 am-1 pm

What: Moving closure of one single lane on each street

Where: Intersection of Roswell, Peachtree and West Paces Ferry roads

Comments: City crews will be cleaning and inspecting the sewer lines at the intersection of Roswell, Peachtree and West Paces Ferry roads. Motorists are urged to use caution when traveling through the work zone and to use alternate routes when possible. Traffic control will be provided by uniformed officers and stationary devices.

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World AIDS Day is Dec. 1

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2007 at 9:00 PM

People living with HIV/AIDS in Georgia as of Dec. 31, 2006: 29,254

Georgia’s ranking in number of AIDS cases per 100,000 cases in the United States: 8

Number of persons newly diagnosed with AIDS in Georgia in 2005: 932

Number of persons newly diagnosed with HIV in Georgia in 2005: 1,267

Percentage of Georgians diagnosed with AIDS in 2005 who are African-Americans: 77

Percentage of Georgians who are African-American: 29

Percentage of new HIV infections occurring in people under 25: 50

Number of promising HIV vaccine candidates in testing: 20

Sources: Georgia Department of Human Resources, Georgia AIDS Coalition, AID Atlanta

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Soapbox: Get to know the newcomers among us

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2007 at 8:30 PM

By Nadia Ali

I was talking to a young Turkish student at Georgia State the other day, making light conversation and asking about his experiences here in this country -- and in Atlanta in particular -- and his responses got me thinking. He mentioned many positive things about the United States and about Atlanta, but also compared our city to other big cities in the country -- New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. He noted that Atlanta does have a diverse international community, albeit not as large as some of those other mentioned cities -- yet he also reflected a little sadly on how hard it was to break into any community here other than one's "own" ethnicity. Even among the student population, ethnicities tended to clump together more often than not, though there were exceptions among individuals. While this is true in the other big American cities, it seemed to be particularly true for him in Atlanta.

I can't help remembering that conversation. Maybe because my own father first came to this country in order to go to college, back in the 1960s. He's been here ever since and has given back to his alma mater (his medical school in particular) as well as to his community, ever since. He doesn't need someone to reach out to him anymore, but I imagine he did when he first got here. Or maybe because I've traveled myself a little bit and know how much it can mean to have someone reach out to you when you are somewhere other than where you were born, on those occasions when you can't help feeling like a little bit of an outsider. I do know of one group here in Atlanta, the Atlanta Ministry with International Students Inc., which "provides friendship and hospitality to the more than 5,500 international students from 140 nations studying at colleges and universities in the metro-Atlanta area." Maybe there are other groups here in Atlanta that share that goal and I'm simply not familiar with them. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in college myself, after all. All I know is that it's a good goal, that of welcoming those who come here to study and to live.

One of the things we pride ourselves on here in Atlanta is that we are always growing, the major, most diversified city of the South (Miami not included!). I think it would be worth our while to make more of a conscious effort to get to know those students and other folks who are choosing to make Atlanta their home and help us grow.

Nadia Ali is the co-producer of the WRFG-FM (89.3) radio show "Just Peace."

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Soapbox: Preserve the public-housing safety net

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2007 at 4:57 PM

By Matthew Cardinale

Atlanta Housing Authority's plan to destroy all remaining Atlanta public-housing communities in the city is a massive atrocity that will tragically displace families, destroy communities, decrease Atlanta's affordable housing supply and eliminate a precious safety net we're going to continue needing for some time.

Make no mistake, developers are salivating over this land, and that's what this is all about. AHA's role is to confuse, distract and deceive the people of Atlanta, especially the residents, that somehow tearing down public housing is the best thing, even the only thing, possible.

Most Atlanta residents don't realize that when 5,500 public-housing units are removed from a city's housing stock, those people are either pushed into the low-income rental market – either here or in the suburbs – or into homeless shelters.

That means those of us who are already struggling with housing-cost burden – i.e., monthly fear of coming up short on rent -- due to the critical lack of affordable housing in Atlanta will now have around 5,500 fewer units to compete for.

Yes, you may say, but the new "mixed-income, mixed-use developments" will surely contain affordable housing, won't they? AHA implies this, but its definition of "affordable" comes from a parallel universe.

To most people, affordable means what's actually affordable to working people in terms of how much they earn and what their other costs of living are.

Instead, AHA's Renee Glover calculates housing policy based on the Area Median Income (AMI). For a family in 2000, the Atlanta AMI was over $55,000.

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Waiting for those Redacted protests

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2007 at 4:44 PM

If you’re driving near Midtown Promenade this weekend, be on the lookout for protesters holding signs saying, “Support Our Troops.” You may have to look really hard. Why? Because Landmark Midtown Art Cinema will be showing Brian De Palma’s Iraq war drama Redacted, a fictionalized account of the rape and murder of Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi in Iraq in 2006. Orwellian Big Brother Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has singled out Redacted for picketing for "inciting hatred against the United States."

Frankly, I suspect that any fervor for or against Redacted cooled off over Thanksgiving, with more pop-culture interest focusing on the return of "Project Runway" and whether you can see anyone’s CGI naughty bits in Beowulf. Thanks to the Internet Wayback Machine, however, we can recall the Redacted feud of early November. Primarily it involved volleying insults between Redacted producer/Dallas Mavericks owner/Internet zillionaire Mark Cuban and O’Reilly, who went after Cuban on “The O’Reilly Factor" Nov. 12. Incidentally, note the way an O’Reilly producer uses yellow-journalism tactics along the lines of “Are you still beating your wife?” in the segment. Imagine what they don’t actually put on the air.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/f6Om3oksAPA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

In response, Cuban articulated an answer to O’Reilly and a defense of Redacted on his blog ("Bill O'Reilly just a wonderful, confused guy"), while MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann derided O’Reilly’s fulminations on "Countdown" Nov. 13:

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I have my own criticisms of Redacted and, at any rate, suspect that the conservative protesting bloc is getting more wound up about the anti-religious content in the upcoming fantasy epic The Golden Compass. The fact that O'Reilly is so much more concerned with a low-budget indie film about the Iraq war inciting hatred against America than he is about, you know, the actual Iraq war inciting hatred against America is an irony that will be lost on no one capable of experiencing irony.

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Vick's co-defendants get 18, 21 months

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2007 at 4:01 PM

Quanis Phillips and Purnell Peace — who were two of Michael Vick's closest friends and later turned on him when they agreed to plead guilty to dogfighting conspiracy charges and to testify against him — were sentenced to federal prison this morning in Richmond, Va.

Phillips was one of Vick's childhood friends and later worked at MV7, Vick's marketing company. He received a 21-month sentence. Peace received an 18-month sentence. As part of his plea agreement, Phillips gave a statement that said Vick joined in executing at least eight dogs that didn’t do well in test fights by various methods, including hanging and drowning.

"You may have thought this was sporting, but it was very callous and cruel," U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson told Phillips.

The sentence handed down to Phillips and Peace give an indication of what Vick will face when he is sentenced Dec. 10.

If Vick receives an 18-month sentence in the federal case, the earliest he could return to professional football — if a team will sign him — would be 2009. However, he also faces two state charges in Virginia that have his football career in deeper limbo: Vick could be sentenced to five years in prison on each of those counts.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Soapbox: Only God can make water, right?

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2007 at 10:57 PM

By Bill Crane

There's nothing quite like a drought of the century to focus one's attention on water use, conservation and consumption. As federal, state and local officials grapple with any possible solution to meet the water demands of Georgia, Alabama and Florida, now is the time to begin planning to prevent such a drought from impacting this region ever again. Water covers more than 70 percent of the globe, but 97 percent of that is salt water not fit for drinking, irrigation or most any commercial purpose.

Western states long ago harnessed the Colorado River to help handle the water needs of Las Vegas and Los Angeles -- both without a natural water supply. Today, our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as sailors in the nuclear navy, daily consume desalinated water.

The world's largest desalination plants are logically located near some of the world's largest deserts, including the largest at Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates. Water desalination plants in Saudi Arabia currently account for nearly 25 percent of the world's total desalination capacity. Perth, Australia, now operates a wind-powered desalination plant capable of producing 40 million gallons of clean water per day.

Israel is producing desalinized water at 53 cents per cubic meter, and Singapore is down to 49 cents. Desalination in all forms requires significant energy, to separate and remove the sodium and other sediment from the fresh water. One of the processes most energy-efficient for desalination is called co-generation, combining the use of electricity production and producing heat. This heat is then recovered and re-used. In the Middle East and North Africa, there are co-generation plants that produce both electricity and water, with the combined facility consuming less fuel than would be needed by two separate facilities.

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