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Archive for May, 2016

31 May
Comments Off on Car insurance rates skyrocket in Florida as crashes mount on busy roads

Car insurance rates skyrocket in Florida as crashes mount on busy roads

Premiums have risen 14 percent statewide since Jan. 1 of last year — nearly the exact opposite of the ubiquitous TV commercials offering savings of 15 percent or more on car insurance.

People are driving more, said former state Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, and accidents have increased commensurate with that number.

On McCartys watch, which ended May 2, the Office of Insurance Regulation approved dozens of rate increases in the past year and a half. The average for the 25 companies that write most car coverage in Florida is a 13.8 percent increase.

They constantly raise my rates, said Donna Dugan, 67, of St. Petersburg, a claims-free customer of State Farm for 35 years whose policy just went up by $120 a year.

Thats a lot of money, especially when you are on Social Security that did not get a raise this year, she told Gov. Rick Scott in an email. When is anyone going to help the consumer or care about them?

Scott regularly touts Floridas low cost of living when talking about population growth or higher education, but the car insurance numbers tell a different story.

Since 1972, Florida has required all drivers to carry $10,000 of personal injury protection, or PIP, to cover minor accident claims, regardless of who was at fault.

Known as no-fault insurance, it was an attempt to clear the courts of accident-related lawsuits and get payments to victims faster.

Four years ago, Scott and the Legislature retooled the law to attack rampant PIP fraud, especially in Tampa and Miami, that was blamed for increasing premiums.

But after rates fell in the first two years after the bills passage, PIP premiums have risen by nearly 15 percent since Jan. 1 of last year. One major carrier, Allstate Fire amp; Casualty, has raised PIP rates 40 percent.

PIP accounts for about one-fourth of a total premiums cost, the state has said.

Lynne McChristian, the Florida representative of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group, said the average no-fault claim in the fourth quarter of 2015 was $8,280, nearly matching the figure of $8,520 in 2011 before the new law took effect.

McChristian said car insurance rates are rising all over the country, especially in the Southeast, and she cited the drop in the unemployment rate as the main reason why crashes are increasing. Its an unintended consequence of low unemployment, she said. You have more people with jobs to go to.

The state is commissioning a $125,000 study as it renews a perennial debate over whether no-fault should be repealed as it has in most other states.

Its time to look at other options, said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. He filed a bill in the 2016 session that would have replaced PIP with higher bodily injury coverage, but it never gained traction.

Brandes said abolishing no-fault is complicated in Tallahassee because it involves three very powerful competing interests: insurance companies, lawyers and the medical industry.

As Floridas population gets bigger every year, more people are driving and state data shows they are driving more than ever. They drove a record 551 million miles each day in 2014, the most recent data available.

Across the state, car accidents rose last year by nearly 9 percent from the year before, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which promotes safe driving with outreach campaigns such as Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April.

Crashes increased by 14.6 percent in Broward, 12.7 percent in Hillsborough and 9.5 percent in Pinellas. Miami-Dade, cited in numerous surveys as the home of some of the worst drivers anywhere, reported a modest 5.4 percent spike in accidents.

Theres just more traffic, said Detective Alvaro Zabaleta of the Miami-Dade police. The more time you spend on the road, the more likely you are to have an accident.

Crashes caused by distracted driving also are on the rise, even after passage of a new law in 2013 that made texting while driving illegal.

More accidents means more claims, which insurance companies use to justify higher premiums.

State Farm, the dominant insurer in Florida with $2.4 billion in premiums last year, said its losses have been climbing for several years.

Weve seen an increase in claims costs, company spokesman Michal Brower said. We must appropriately match our rates to the amount of risk were insuring.

According to insure.com, Floridas car insurance rates were fourth highest among all states at an average of $1,742 in 2015. Only Michigan, Montana and Louisiana were higher.

In a recent filing with the state, Allstate Fire amp; Casualty proposed the use of a mileage rating system, similar to what it uses in New York state, to link premiums more closely to how much its customers drive.

Risk is highly correlated to the number of miles you drive each year, Allstate spokeswoman Cathy Mayo said. This change will allow us to rate more accurately for a risk.

Florida has a taxpayer-funded consumer advocate who looks out for policyholders, but Sharon James, who works for Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, has not questioned a car insurance rate hike. She has only intervened in homeowners and workers compensation rate cases.

Asked why by the Times/Herald, she said she will pay closer attention to car insurance rate filings.

That is something we may do moving forward, James said. We will definitely be taking a closer look at it.

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263. Follow @stevebousquet.

31 May
Comments Off on Doom is the Mad Max: Fury Road of video games

Doom is the Mad Max: Fury Road of video games


Thats not to say that Doom is unimaginative or one-note. Fury Road would have been a pretty boring movie were it not for Millers direction and John Seales phenomenal cinematography, and so it is with Dooms dedication to the mechanics of its particular medium, Ids sprawling level design in particular is exemplary, and its approach to combat is unlike anything else.

In its most frenetic moments, Doom feels like a rhythm game; with a brilliantly dynamic system that sees you stagger enemies with weak shots before finishing them off with melee attacks that garner a brief burst of invulnerability and a small health top-up, driving you on to the next demon. Doom isnt the only first-person shooter in recent years with a fixation on 90s-style action, but its the first to make it feel truly fresh in the 2010s.

Its approach to combat is unlike anything else

Although Doom is a smart game that may win the affections of some turned off by modern first-person shooters, it’s unlikely to have the surprisingly wide appeal of Fury Road. It is, after all, still incredibly violent, and its later narrative perhaps veers a little too far into the esoteric for its own good. Fury Road, on the other hand, tells a simple story with strong characters after establishing its screwed-up world, and is all the better for it. For all that Doom makes its competitors seem bloated, its narrative could have used some slightly tighter editing.

But the result is still one of my favorite games of the year so far, which is remarkable for a project that I could not have considered less likely to appear on that list a few months ago. Doom is fast, raw, and laser-focused on what it does best. And it marks a stunning return to form for Id Software — it’s by far the most exciting thing the studio has made since 1999’s Quake III Arena, and a surprise every bit as pleasant as Fury Road was last year.

Oh, and they even fixed the box art.

Doom is available now on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

31 May
Comments Off on Opioid Prescribing by Dentists After Tooth Extraction Found Likely Excessive

Opioid Prescribing by Dentists After Tooth Extraction Found Likely Excessive

Among the leading prescribers of opioids for pain relief, a new study has found that dentists prescriptions for opioids after tooth extractions are often for too long and for too many pills.

The reason a lot of people go to the dentist is because they have pain or they undergo a procedure that causes some pain, for which the dentists are responding, said study co-author Brian Bateman, MD, associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, in Boston. But I believe we have gotten away from thinking about opioids as dangerous medications. Dentists may not be as conservative as they need to be with respect to using these medications, and reserving them only for patients with truly severe pain for which other treatment approaches are not adequate.

The study found that the median amount of opioids prescribed corresponds to 24 tablets of 5 mg of hydrocodone, so half of the patients are getting more than that, Dr. Bateman said. The study also found that 61% of adolescents filled a prescription for opioids.

31 May
Comments Off on Power Report: Don’t fall for cut-rate car insurance

Power Report: Don’t fall for cut-rate car insurance

But by the time you have the keys in your hand, you have probably jumped through hoops at the bank to secure a loan to finance it and bargained hard with the salesman for metallic paint at no extra charge.

So the last hurdle – obtaining competitive car insurance – probably gets the least attention and time. Big pity.

Many first-time car buyers seeking insurance cover are young and financially inexperienced. Theyre also more prone to allowing emotion and impatience to cloud their better judgment. Lets face it, insurance is the least exciting part of the experience.

Insurers, however, can wash their hands of the clients rash choices – as long the company can show it has properly disclosed all contract terms.

30 May
Comments Off on We can all finally know who’s funding Modi government

We can all finally know who’s funding Modi government

For sometime now, the BJP and those affiliated to it, obvious or behind-the-scene, have been asking the question whos funding you? They put this question to Kanhaiya Kumar on his plane tickets. Arnab Goswami opened the famous February 9 episode of his show by asking Umar Khalid who was funding him, and several NGOs like Greenpeace have gone hoarse trying to answer innumerable people voicing this sinister question.

Foreign agents, we are made to believe, are funding these NGOs and anti-national leaders for their nefarious anti-Indian agendas. The capital buys them influence in policy-making is the prevalent argument, and it is true, but the good news is that the government is levelling the playing field. Thanks to its tweaking of the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) passed as a money bill in the last budget session, one can finally ask all political parties, including the BJP and Congress, who is funding them.

As it stood before the amendment, the FCRA prevented political parties from receiving funds from any company with more than 50 per cent FDI – that is, if more than half of the company is held by foreign sources.

In practice, though, the issue came to the limelight when civil society organisation Association for Democratic Reforms and EAS Sarma, a retired Indian Administrative Service officer and former Union secretary, filed a public interest litigation in the Delhi High Court in 2014 alleging that both the Congress and the BJP had accepted political funding from Sesa Goa and Sterlite – daughter companies of the Vedanta Group based out of the UK, qualifying as a foreign source, between 2004 and 2012.

The Delhi High Court found both parties guilty in March 2014, and they have since filed a joint appeal in the Supreme Court which is still pending, bringing us back to the amendment passed in the last budget session.

Ostensibly, the proceedings were initiated when Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley received a letter from at least 22 corporates including Axis Bank and Infosys in 2014 about difficulties in spending their mandatory two per cent corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore because of limitations imposed by the FCRA in its existing form.

However, after passing the amendment as a money bill, bypassing the Rajya Sabha in the process, and much subsequent dilly-dallying, the government – specifically minister of state (home) Kiren Rijiju – admitted earlier last week that the new FCRA amendment allows foreign companies to donate to political parties in the name of CSR spending.

The amendment put in place changes the definition of a foreign source, which earlier implied any company with more than 50 per cent FDI, essentially, to any company listed in India regardless of its present shareholding pattern.

Moreover, this amendment is to be retroactively implemented, thereby absolving the BJP and Congress both from their conviction by the high court, since by the new definition, Vedanta would not be a foreign source.

This may explain why the Congress – opposed to the GST Bill – is supporting the government on this one. However, much more worrying are the governments own erstwhile concerns about the consequences of foreign funding to NGOs or the anti-nationals. By the governments own logic, capital buys influence, and the influx of foreign funds into our political parties would also come with favours and the said party would then owe the corporate.

Experts, including Sarma, believe the introduction of foreign funds will fundamentally alter the nature of Indian politics. What the new direction would look like is easily visible from the trajectory of American politics and especially the Republican Party, which receives unlimited funding from corporate sources, and its current presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Also at present, the subsidies and tax cuts already being provided to multi-billion dollar enterprises are only going to get worse, since such corporate lobbies will have excessive influence on the government and policymaking, and given the BJP governments strong affinity to free market and large corporates, the party is likely to be the biggest beneficiary of such funding.

The process by which the amendment was introduced in the first place is, however, being questioned in court. A Business Standard editorial described it as legislative impropriety, while Janata Dal United leader KC Tyagi attacked the government for bringing the amendment through the money bill route, saying it endangered democracy.

Also of importance is the governments crackdown on the funding for NGOs such as Greenpeace, which has been severely curtailed citing the same FCRA that the government is evading.

This begs the question of how foreign funding for an NGO is unjust if it is just for political parties, but such a question of equality seem to be unanswerable in Indias current political scenario.

How political outfits plan to evade the downsides remains a puzzling question, but the bill, meanwhile, has already been in effect for two months now.

It makes one wonder who is funding the government, doesnt it?

30 May
Comments Off on Special Olympics Provincial Spring Games in pictures (14 photos)

Special Olympics Provincial Spring Games in pictures (14 photos)

Special Olympics Provincial Spring games was in full swing at five locations in Guelph and one in Cambridge Friday.

Bowling, swimming, basketball, powerlifting and rhythmic gymnastics were all part of the activities.

Events wrap up Saturday followed by the closing ceremonies.

30 May
Comments Off on Cost of car insurance in every state

Cost of car insurance in every state

Every car insurance company claims they can save you money on your monthly rate, but there are more forces at work here than your flawless (or not so flawless) driving record or credit score. Even the state where you live can impact your annual car insurance premium, so take the claims of those countless ads with a grain of salt.

30 May
Comments Off on Should you purchase extra rental car insurance?

Should you purchase extra rental car insurance?

WATCH: Car rental companies may pressure you to buy insurance, but do you really need it? Anne Drewa explains what you need to do for the best protection, before its too late.

30 May
Comments Off on 5 Samsung Gear VR games you need to try right now

5 Samsung Gear VR games you need to try right now

If you think you need to spend $600 on an Oculus Rift or $800 on an HTC Vive to enjoy seriously good virtual reality (VR) games, think again. All you need is a $100 Samsung Gear VR headset and a compatible Galaxy smartphone.

Make no mistake: Ive tried the higher-end stuff, and its awesome. But I continue to find new and amazing games for the Gear VR, to the point where thats my go-to headset — especially when I want to blow the minds of visiting friends and family members. (Here, you gotta try this!)

Eve: Gunjack

Arguably the showcase game for Gear VR, Gunjack ($9.99) is a stunner. The premise is familiar: blast wave after wave of incoming aliens from your fixed-position turret. Lots of games work similarly, including many for Google Cardboard.

30 May
Comments Off on 5 Colleges Where The Tailgates Are Even Better Than The Football Games

5 Colleges Where The Tailgates Are Even Better Than The Football Games

Ah, college football. Its the greatest time of the year for sports. It combines the love for Americas most beloved sport with the passion fans have for their school. Fans get to show off their school pride and enjoy one of the greatest sports of all during the games themselves, but what is a football game without a good tailgate?

While students and alumni all love the game, tailgates are a timeless game day tradition sending fans flocking to the tailgating fields by 9 am for a 8 pm kickoff. Why so early? Why, to start drinking, of course. Its the favorite American pastime. As much as people love watching the games, they crave the tailgate.

Some university tailgates are infamous. These fans dont kid around and will pull out all the stops out with food, music, games and drinks. Some families even make tailgating a bonding experience by visiting their kids on game day, simply to chug some beers and hang out with them and their drunk college friends.

Although everyone agrees nothing goes better with football than a nice beer, tailgating is all about bringing the community together to rally around the team. Its a special time where students, alumni and fans can all hangout and get excited for the game.

Its time we honor those schools who truly know the importance of tailgating:

University of Texas

Texas is known for doing everything bigger, and tailgating is no exception. With deep football history, its really no surprise one of the best schools to tailgate is the University of Texas.

Down in Texas, football is not just a sport — its a lifestyle. And tailgating is part of that lifestyle choice. These fans are passionate about the team, BBQ and drinking on a Saturday.

All the passion the Longhorns have is maximized at the tailgates. Theres UT pride everywhere you look, with each group trying to out-tailgate each other. Some of the best parts of any tailgates are the food, and Texas takes just as much pride in food as they do their love for football.

With the Longhorns, they truly show that everything in Texas is bigger and better. Theres plenty of food, beer, live animals and most importantly, Longhorn pride.

University of Wisconsin

Representing the Big 10 schools, Madison, Wisconsin is one of the best college towns in the north. The fans are always buzzing with game day excitement, and are always showing off their school pride before the game. The streets are packed with students, and the bars are full to capacity with red and white.

For those students not going to the game, the bars in the town all go nuts for the Badgers. Places like the The Red Zone, Luckys and Jordans Big 10 Pub all are legendary places to tailgate if you want to watch the game on the big screen.

With Wisconsin, theres a tailgate for everyone. Since the nature of the Wisconsin people is hospitality, its a place where whether you know them or not, youre inviting them to the tailgate. Known as a top party school, the red and white treat tailgating like its a holiday specifically celebrating football and beer all around Camp Randall.

These fans dont just show energy during Jump Around, as soon as the morning hits on game day, its time to tailgate.

Notre Dame

Although the weather isnt ideal, Notre Dame fans are some of the most loyal and die-hard fans around. They dont just love the Fighting Irish, they live for them. And they want to honor that pride with some tailgating.

The campus is absolutely beautiful enough before adding the proud student atmosphere. The entire university has great some truly great scenery to check out on your walk to the game. Additionally, its the only college known for having a touchdown Jesus, which is the start of the notorious player walk to start every game.

The Fighting Irish are full of football traditions. From the Friday night pep rallies, to the post game Alma Mater, theres plenty of tradition that sinks into these tailgates.

Although Notre Dame isnt the craziest of schools, what makes the tailgates unique is the perfect combination of crazy, passionate fans, and the historic tradition of excellent athletics. Drunk or sober, the school demands attention for its dedication to their game day rituals.

Penn State

Another Big 10 school, the Penn State Nittany Lions in Happy Valley treat every game day like national a holiday. The entire town shuts down to celebrate the boys in blue, and the fans have no problem waking up and shotgunning a beer to start their mornings.

The pride of Penn State fans is unmatched. They love the team and will stand by them no matter what (quite literally, seeing that they stand for the entirety of the game, with the exception of halftime). They take tailgating very seriously and are always down to celebrate their school pride with others.

Also, lets not forget to mention Beaver Stadium is one of the best football stadiums to play in, with space for 108,000 fans and foes alike. In fact, its one of the biggest college football stadiums in the country.

With Penn State having one of the largest student and alumni associations in the US, what separates a Penn State tailgate from the rest is the fact that rain or shine, Happy Valley is flooded with fans on game day. Its been proven that on game day, State College becomes the third most populated city in Pennsylvania (following Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) and thats simply due to all the fans gathering around Beaver.

With such a large alumni group and student body, students past, present, and future always share the pride of the blue and white on game day to create an experience unlike any other.

University of Mississippi

Football is the pride and joy down south, and Ole Miss is no exception. These fans know how to throw down a tailgate and make sure they look their best while doing so.

The Grove is famous in the of world college football, and rightfully so. Its an absolute stunner, and on game day its flocked with fans all ready for Rebels.

Ole Miss takes tailgating so seriously, its sometimes more important than the game. Better yet, its the best social gathering of the week. These students put on their game day best attire and proudly show off their school pride.

At the end of the day, every university in the country has their unique way of celebrating their team. What matters most is we all make the most of these memories, since its a far too proven fact that college doesnt last forever.