Thursday, January 29, 2009

Florida stupidity

All states are equal, apparently. Why else ignore that there are higher storm-damage risks there?

State Farm Insurance Cos. said it will drop all its homeowner policies in Florida, a move that could increase the strain on a state still contending with the aftermath of hurricanes in recent years. The nation's largest insurer of cars and homes said it is pulling out of the Florida homeowners-insurance market because it wasn't able to charge high enough rates. Florida regulators rejected State Farm's request last year for a 47% rate rise. "We have to take this serious step to avoid further financial weakening," said Chris Neal, a spokesman for State Farm Florida Insurance Co., the unit that writes homeowners policies in the state.

Florida was ravaged by hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, which caused tens of billions of dollars in damage. As a result, some insurers have stopped writing new policies or are jettisoning existing customers. State Farm's potential impact is far-reaching because the insurer had 703,357 homeowners policies in force in Florida as of Sept. 30, as well as tens of thousands of policies covering condominium units, boats and renters. State Farm has the second-largest share of the Florida homeowners market.

"I was shocked. I'm quite nervous," said Jennifer Bitner, a Tallahassee, Fla., homeowner. She said she has been a State Farm customer for several years, paying more than $1,000 a year for her coverage. Policyholders may now be forced to find new coverage in a state where some other large national insurers have also been seeking to pare their risk, given the potential for large losses due to hurricanes. They also could end up paying higher rates with other companies.

Many State Farm customers could wind up with the state-created insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Citizens has grown in recent years to become the largest insurer of homes in Florida. An influx of former State Farm policyholders could increase the financial pressure on Citizens, which has been trying to shed policies.

Another alternative is likely to be a group of smaller insurers, some of which are relatively new, issue policies only in Florida or haven't been tested by major hurricanes. It isn't clear how many policies those companies could absorb. State Farm, based in Bloomington, Ill., said it will take more than two years to drop all the policies. The insurer will keep selling car and life insurance in Florida.


A new Hitler Jugend for Australia?

OK. That heading is a bit unfair. I think Prime Minister Rudd is a bit misguided but I don't think he is a bad man at all. It is however entirely in keeping that a Leftist would have a scheme to organize the nation's youth into some form of government-run youth organization. There was the Hitler Jugend, Stalin's Komsomol, Putin's "Nashi" and Obama also has proposed something of the sort. Rudd's version, however, seems reasonable enough, though undoubtably socialistic (government-run)

Kevin Rudd wants to recruit an army of young volunteers to help the elderly, feed the homeless, and clean up the environment. In exchange for giving up their time, members of the new Community Corps would get discounts on their university HECS debts. The proposal could attract tens of thousands of volunteers from the 1.3 million Australians with a higher education debt. The average ex-student has a $12,000 HECS debt, which typically takes more than seven years to pay off. The scheme could wipe out students' debts as they accumulate hours of community service, the Herald Sun reports.

The plan, backed by top business minds and embraced by community and welfare groups, emerged from the Prime Minister's 2020 summit. The Government is expected to adopt it within days when it releases its final 2020 summit report.

Mr Rudd, who has pleaded for Australians to pull together to beat the rapidly worsening economic downturn, has described the idea as "a very practical trade". Corps members could deliver meals on wheels, youth and Aboriginal services, become volunteer firefighters, or assist the disabled and elderly. Landcare and water projects could also benefit. It is understood the Corps would operate within Australia, unlike the US Peace Corps, which works on projects across the globe.

The plan is believed to be one of about six big ideas from the 2020 summit to get the green light. After the summit, Mr Rudd said: "We need more volunteering in the community, and students are emerging from university with a whole lot of debt. "The idea . . . where young people would go out and provide voluntary service in the community in exchange for reducing their HECS debt . . . is one we want to consider."

Brotherhood of St Lawrence chief executive Tony Nicholson said there would be plenty for Community Corps members to do. "It could range from assisting with recreational programs to driving a community bus, to assisting disadvantaged people get to the doctor or do their shopping," he said. Mr Nicholson said those with special skills, such as IT graduates, would be particularly useful.

When the idea was floated at the summit, the architect of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, Prof Bruce Chapman, said it would appeal to wealthier students. Poorer students, he said, would probably prefer to enter the paid workforce.


It's happened again! Tiny baby found alone, abandoned and screaming in a closed childcare centre

This is gross negligence on the part of staff. I have always said that the only place for little children is in a loving home but this just reinforces that

A woman broke the window of a Darwin childcare centre with a brick when she arrived to find the building locked, the lights out and her tiny son trapped inside. Yula Williams, 30, said she could hear her eight-month-old baby Xavier "screaming and crying". "It made me terrified to know that my son was inside the centre, locked and in the dark," she said.

Ms Williams had dropped her son off at the centre in the Darwin suburb of Wagaman around 8am (CST) on Tuesday and went to work. She had dropped her car off at a local mechanic and arranged for one of her cousins to collect her son from the centre before it closed at 6pm (CST). But when she arrived home later that night her son was not at the house. "It was just a mother's instinct that I went back to the childcare centre and looked around," she said.

Ms Williams arrived at the centre shortly before 6pm but staff had already left the building. After scanning all the the security screens the frantic mother climbed the back of the building to call Xavier's name through elevated slats. "I couldn't hear him from the outside but when I walked around and called through the vents to the bedrooms I heard him scream," she told ABC radio in Darwin. Desperate to get to her tiny son, Ms Williams then picked up a brick from the garden bed and smashed it through a window. Police arrived at the scene about 7.30pm (CST) after they were called by one of the mother's relatives, who told them a baby was missing.

St John Ambulance officers also attended the centre to ensure the child was in good health. They gave Xavier the all-clear.

Ms Williams said that while she could understand the misunderstanding with her relative over the pickup arrangements, she could not understand how the centre had not called her to let her know that no-one had come to collect her son. Police said they were continuing to conduct investigations into the incident.


More photography madness

"Bordering on the absurd" understates it. This story is from Australia but there have been many similar stories from Britain

A Perth library has declined to display an inoffensive photograph of two toddlers because of fears of a post-Henson backlash. Earlier this month, photographer Nicole Boenig McGrade submitted her picture, Kids in Suburbia, for an exhibition. Concerned that the photo might prompt complaints, the exhibition organiser suggested it be left out and Boenig McGrade agreed. The photographer declined to name the venue yesterday, but The Australian has since confirmed it is the Subiaco Library.

"They're just being cautious and I can understand that because no one wants to be put in a position where they might cause other people to be upset," said Boenig McGrade. But she said she was shocked to think her photo of two children playing on the footpath outside their WA home might be considered offensive. "This is an image of Australian lifestyle -- this is who we are. Children are part of our history and that's how I see my photographs," she said.

The photo, taken in 2006, shows an 18-month-old boy and his three-year-old sister, both with their shirts off. Their parents asked Boenig McGrade, a mother of two, to take the image, and they attended the photo session.

Library manager Colleen Harris is on leave and unavailable for comment, but it is understood that she was also concerned about the Australia Council's new protocols for artists working with children, released on January 1. The protocols, introduced after last year's national furore over Bill Henson's photographs of naked children, do not apply to Boenig McGrade because she receives no government funding.

Executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, Tamara Winikoff, said yesterday the council protocols would hinder artistic freedom. "Because of justified anxiety over the protection of children, what we're seeing here is a complete overreaction which is bordering on the absurd now," she said.

Australia Council chief executive Kathy Keele last night defended the guidelines. "I certainly hope -- and it's been our intention all along -- that this does not exclude children from our arts body of work in Australia," she said. "But we will all have to work hard to interpret what's in front of us, and talk about what it means." [More talk is not what is needed. The deficit is of realism and commonsense]



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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