Katrina Networking

I am using my networking and marketing skills to pass along vital information to organizations, volunteers and survivors of the 2005 hurricane season. Grants, networking, advocating, assistance resources, articles and more. Updated regularly to better assist you.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Discussing Effects of Temp Housing On Children

Rapid assessments of temporary housing camps for hurricane-displaced children and families
INTRODUCTION Transitional housing for Hurricane Katrina evacuees presents a variety of physical and social hazards for the children who live there. And, despite the temporary housing label, it will long remain a risky and disruptive environment unless action is taken now to remedy the situation. In addition, current policy must change so that displaced populations are not simply given shelter but are provided with safe and protective communities that promote recovery after a disaster.
Housing as many people as possible on the space available with little regard for the needs of children has become the de facto standard operating procedure, dating back over six presidential administrations and continuing through Hurricanes Andrew (2002), Charley (2004) and Katrina (2005). However, mass-displacement camps are some of the most dangerous and unhealthy places in the world for people to live. As Save the Children knows from decades of experience, poorly planned camps will lead to a deterioration of social conditions and put already vulnerable children further at risk.
In February and March 2006, Save the Children conducted a rapid assessment of conditions in 20 camps in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama that raised a variety of concerns and reinforced our understanding of how best to protect children in post-crisis situations. Since then, efforts have been made to correct some problems in temporary camps. However, more can be done to ensure that children displaced by the hurricane have a safe place to live, a nurturing environment to learn and a true community within which to thrive.
Rapid assessments are snapshots: They reflect the stories, concerns, priorities and reality of daily life in the camps as communicated by residents. The assessments are not an exploration of the U.S. system of emergency management and human services, nor are the findings meant as indictments against any agency or organization. Rather, they allow for insight into conditions and provide the opportunity to address unmet needs.
This summary includes recommendations to mitigate risks to children and their families now and in future U.S. disasters.
Not all people displaced by Hurricane Katrina were impoverished. It is simply the impoverished who have the greatest difficulty recovering from such an event. And it is the women, disabled, elderly and the children who are most vulnerable and who ultimately suffer most.
As of September 14, 2005, residents of 76 counties and parishes in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama were designated eligible for federal assistance — a basic guideline for determining areas most severely affected by the storm. FEMA reports that 36,504 individuals were affected by flooding alone. Countless others were affected by sustained high winds, rain, flooding and hurricane-related tornados.
At the time of the storm, according to the U.S. Census Bureau:
- In the 10 Alabama counties designated disaster areas, an average of 26 percent of the under-18 population lived below the poverty level; countywide poverty rates were as high as 36 percent;
- In the 19 Louisiana parishes receiving the designation, an average of 23 percent of the under-18 population lived below the poverty level while countywide poverty rates were as high as 34 percent;
- In the 47 Mississippi counties designated disaster areas, an average of 27 percent of the under-18 population lived below the poverty level, and countywide poverty rates were as high as 36 percent.
Physical Environment
- Throughout the 20 sites, housing density was a consistent complaint of both children and adults. Residents attributed rising tensions within the camp community, in part, to overcrowding. They also cited cramped living conditions as a major stressor that led to conflict within the family.
- Transportation is one of the greatest challenges for Katrina's displaced families. Many camp residents have either never owned or needed a vehicle or have since lost their car. They are dependent on public transportation to get to work, health facilities and other services. The not atypical Cash Point RV Park outside of Bossier City, La., is located 7.8 miles from the nearest marked bus stop and approximately 7.5 miles to the nearest hospital or major grocery store.
- Commercial sites generally offer more green space and recreational area, and trailers tend to be less densely situated. New families are integrated with other residents rather than isolated. Newly formed group sites, however, are often bleak and unwelcoming. For example, Zirlott Park (Alabama) is dominated by broad roads and is without vegetation. The children have no playground but can see a ball field through a recently installed chain-link fence.
- Community can play an important role in improving the camp environment and relationships with host populations, but community is noticeably absent. Only three of 20 sites provide a tent or space for communal gatherings, programs or activities for children or religious services. The lack of communal space limits interaction among community members and hinders the ability to organize and attract services, thereby adding to the further deterioration of quality of life for and the safety and security of children.
- Renaissance Village (Baton Rouge, La.), still the largest of the post-Katrina trailer camps and home to about 300 children displaced by Hurricane Katrina, exemplifies many problems inherent in camps built for evacuees. It is characterized by insufficient pedestrian-scale lighting; the presence of debris and other hazards; an absence of community centers and other safe spaces for social interaction and after-school programming; wide passages that facilitate dangerous driving and put children at risk; a lack of defined pedestrian areas; and the existence of especially unsafe areas, such as unlit wooded areas and outlying laundry rooms that may provide opportunity for sexual predators.
Child-Protection Issues
- Many children are not attending school. Parents cited treatment by school officials and other students, unfamiliarity with the neighborhood and difficulty related to relocations as reason for non-attendance. Transportation problems and difficulties with peers also were contributing to non-attendance.
- The hurricane and its aftermath separated children from their parents in 11 of 20 sites. In Picayune, Miss., two residents reported sending their children to live with relatives elsewhere due to conditions in the camp. Anecdotally, camp residents said that many people are separated from their children for reasons that include: transportation, quality of life, separation during rescue and sheltering after the storm, post-storm divorces and inaccessibility of medical care.
- Children are vulnerable to crime and physical and sexual abuse. Drug abuse and dealing were reported in nine sites. A feeling of tension and reports of violence were registered in seven and eight sites, respectively. Theft and prostitution were reported in six sites. Alcohol abuse, domestic violence and poor relationships with the local community were reported at five sites. Interviewees at five sites said they were concerned about suspicious neighbors. Residents at four sites reported sexual assaults/rapes; and, residents at three sites report having known sexual predators living at their site.
- Residents from across the camps reported changes in their children's behavior. Parents cited apparent boredom in seven sites, fighting in five sites, and crying and irritability in four sites. Depression, weight change, "acting out" and a change in school performance were each reported in three sites. Change to sleep patterns was reported in one site.
Creating a positive and protective environment for children
The lack of a community leaves children and their families at risk and vulnerable. Building trust in temporary communities creates a safe environment for children but also nurtures self-help for adults. People who have met and know each other can work together on commonly identified goals that benefit the community. This type of trust building needs to occur both inside the camps as well as between the camp residents and local towns. Encouraging adults to integrate into the local community and learn about job training, transportation, economic opportunities and educational opportunities for children will ultimately expedite their transition out of temporary housing communities.
Issues of overcrowding, unsafe environments and alienation from surrounding communities put children further at risk. However, safe and protective communities are still possible for Katrina evacuees if they have support and are enabled to help themselves, and if a number of important measures are taken, including:
- Creating a meeting space for parents and children. Residents of temporary housing camps need a meeting area—for adults to gather as well as for children's clubs and, potentially, for child care. Ideally, this would entail a double-wide trailer with accompanying tents for children's activities during the summer and after school. Communal space should also be available for the host community to meet with camp residents. Job boards, camp/school notices and other information posted there would ultimately help residents to help themselves.
- Ensuring the provision of basic activities. Parents and children need productive social activities. Individuals within the community and local community groups could provide these services. Children should be provided with games and materials for child play and to encourage activities between children and adults. These activities support children's development but also encourage expression, exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
- Improving the physical environment. Having been moved many times, many displaced people do not feel they have control over their lives or environment. Small grants should be made to communities to allow residents to address issues such as lighting, ramps, signage for children, playgrounds, flowers, murals and social events. All of these would increase the security of the camps as well as give residents control over their environment. Other grants could be given to youth groups to undertake similar activities.
- Linking residents with state and local resources. Residents feel cut off from public resources that could facilitate their recovery. A focus on connecting them with these resources is critical. • Addressing transportation concerns. A key concern for many in the rural displaced communities is the lack of transportation to the nearest city. Many residents have no vehicle and cannot address basic needs (e.g., laundry, grocery shopping, post office and medical appointments). Residents cannot find and retain employment without transportation.
- Facilitating integration into local communities. Local officials and nonprofit organizations should facilitate activities between the displaced and host communities. Ideally, these would focus on addressing problems common to both communities. Strengthening the bonds between two communities could support the displaced and allow for local assimilation. Youth-serving organizations should facilitate young people gathering together for positive activities such as sports or music events.
- Improving school integration. Schools are often sources of tension for the children of host and displaced communities. To address this situation, qualified nonprofits should work with children, teachers and principals and identify appropriate solutions, for example: tolerance education programs, integration programming and support for teachers.
Implementing change and building community now
In July 2006, Save the Children will begin working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on the "Safe and Protective Communities" project. Starting with a pilot project in one Louisiana temporary housing settlement, Save the Children will launch proven programs to improve the living environment for children and their families. Among planned activities are: establishing safe play areas for children and a meeting space for adults; facilitating community meetings; collaborating with local private and public organizations to address the recovery and social needs of camp residents; and identifying and funding youth-focused community projects. Plans are to replicate this model in other camps in Louisiana and Mississippi over the coming year. In each area, Save the Children intends to partner with local governments and service providers.
Planning ahead for future disasters
Children are among the most vulnerable members of society, especially during a crisis. While addressing the needs of children who live along the Gulf Coast is an immediate priority, this is also the time to ensure that they are not lost in the process the next time the United States faces a major disaster.
Emergency plans should integrate children's issues—from their basic security and well-being in temporary shelters to the continuation of their education—and should include programs that protect children and assist them through the aftermath of a crisis, into recovery and back to stable communities. The roles and responsibilities of federal, state and local government agencies, as well as local organizations, should be well-delineated.
At the federal level, government agencies should develop specific posts and working groups to address the needs of children in emergencies. Such agencies would include FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Also, internationally accepted standards for humanitarian assistance should be recognized and used to guide the U.S. response to disasters. These include the SPHERE Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response and the INEE Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies, Chronic Crises and Early Reconstruction.
In assessing the range of camp situations, Save the Children visited 20 sites across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The sites had a combined estimated population of 2,595 households and ranged in size from as few as 12 to as many as 600 occupied trailers. Sites were located in both urban and rural settings: Some were located in the heart of town and formed an integral part of the surrounding community, while others sat miles from communities and services. We visited sites just beginning to fill with residents, those at maximum capacity with no indication of slowing, and others near closing. Whenever possible, we visited sites of different types within a single area, for purposes of controlled comparison.
The assessments consisted of two phases. The first was an appraisal of the built environment and other physical components, based on observation. Each site was surveyed, the activity of residents noted. Among factors investigated were: housing density and layout, level of debris/trash, availability of green space and recreational areas, safety of units (e.g., whether they were on blocks, had straps, etc.), lighting, sewage services, security, thoroughfares (and the safety thereof) and the availability of public transportation. The status of children was a primary focus. When not prohibited, photographs of the sites were taken.
The second phase consisted of one-on-one and group interviews and discussions with camp residents and others. We interviewed primary informants at length. In internally displaced person (IDP) and refugee situations abroad, humanitarian workers have greater access to the populations at hand and gather focus groups to rapidly assess camp life. For a range of reasons—lack of community space, distrust, absence of community leaders and general inaccessibility to community members, especially children—this proved difficult in the post-Katrina context. Instead, we most often turned to serial in-depth interviews with people from many segments of camp life. Those interviewed included residents charged with caring for children, site administrators, security guards, providers of on-site services (e.g., cafeteria workers), social workers, children and government representatives. Security guards in particular proved invaluable through their constant presence and observation of the community. With a mix of one-on-one and group interviews, we were able to readily detect trends in camps.
Save the Children staff often spent entire days in camps. We were invited into homes and could observe living conditions and their implications. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) Priority Issues for Refugee Children was used as a baseline for interviews.
This report was principally researched and written by Shane Townsend of Save the Children and Nathalie Dajko of the Tulane University Department of Anthropology.

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Cancer Article

This is the one and only non-recovery article I'll be posting. But it's far too important to be ignored.
Of course, the research is happening in a country other than the US - no money in it for any industry. Forget the welfare of the citizens...

New Scientist has received an unprecedented amount of interest in this story from readers. If you would like up-to-date information on any plans for clinical trials of DCA in patients with cancer, or would like to donate towards a fund for such trials, please visit the site set up by the University of Alberta and the Alberta Cancer Board. We will also follow events closely and will report any progress as it happens.
It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their “immortality”. The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe.
It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.
Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells. Tumours in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks.
DCA attacks a unique feature of cancer cells: the fact that they make their energy throughout the main body of the cell, rather than in distinct organelles called mitochondria. This process, called glycolysis, is inefficient and uses up vast amounts of sugar.
Until now it had been assumed that cancer cells used glycolysis because their mitochondria were irreparably damaged. However, Michelakis’s experiments prove this is not the case, because DCA reawakened the mitochondria in cancer cells. The cells then withered and died (Cancer Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2006.10.020).
Michelakis suggests that the switch to glycolysis as an energy source occurs when cells in the middle of an abnormal but benign lump don’t get enough oxygen for their mitochondria to work properly (see diagram). In order to survive, they switch off their mitochondria and start producing energy through glycolysis.
Crucially, though, mitochondria do another job in cells: they activate apoptosis, the process by which abnormal cells self-destruct. When cells switch mitochondria off, they become “immortal”, outliving other cells in the tumour and so becoming dominant. Once reawakened by DCA, mitochondria reactivate apoptosis and order the abnormal cells to die.
“The results are intriguing because they point to a critical role that mitochondria play:
they impart a unique trait to cancer cells that can be exploited for cancer therapy,” says Dario Altieri, director of the University of Massachusetts Cancer Center in Worcester.
The phenomenon might also explain how secondary cancers form. Glycolysis generates lactic acid, which can break down the collagen matrix holding cells together. This means abnormal cells can be released and float to other parts of the body, where they seed new tumours.
DCA can cause pain, numbness and gait disturbances in some patients, but this may be a price worth paying if it turns out to
be effective against all cancers. The next step is to run clinical trials of DCA in people with cancer. These may have to be funded by charities, universities and governments: pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay because they can’t make money on unpatented medicines. The pay-off is that if DCA does work, it will be easy to manufacture and dirt cheap.
Paul Clarke, a cancer cell biologist at the University of Dundee in the UK, says the findings challenge the current assumption that mutations, not metabolism, spark off cancers. “The question is: which comes first?” he says.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Going Without Heat

I wrote about this problem about a month ago, sent a letter off to God and everybody - and it's just being noticed.
Talk about voiceless. I can't imagine being in the position these people are in!
How difficult - to tell anyone who will listen that things are BAD and nothing happens. Absolutely nothing happens.
This is where I'm going to get pissed at all of the volunteers. I write these letters for everyone to send. I don't write them for MY health. I write them for the survivors! We are their voices - so speak up! Shout! Use the letters I write - send them to the people I suggest, plus any YOU think of. It's the only way things will continue to progress.
It takes and extreme action to produce a moderate reaction within our society. So start screaming!

Trailer residents complain of cold
Many can't afford propane, activist says
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
By Ed Anderson
BATON ROUGE -- Hurricane victims, living in FEMA trailers near Baton Rouge for more than 17 months, told a legislative panel Monday that some residents are going without heat in near-freezing weather because they cannot afford to pay for propane for their temporary homes.
Wilbert Ross, president of Katrina Rebirth Promise Land Inc., an organization that represents about 3,500 residents dislodged from their New Orleans homes by Hurricane Katrina, said the federal government last April cut off a food service and vouchers to pay for propane to heat the trailers, cook food and heat water for people living in the Renaissance Village trailer park in Baker.
With temperatures that have dipped below freezing recently and are expected to hover in the 30s this week, Ross said, the state should help pay for the propane. On average, he said, the 3,500 people his organization represents buy two propane tanks about twice a month at a cost of $20 per tank.
He said that when residents moved into the trailers after the hurricane they were told shelter, propane and food would be provided. Now, Ross said, residents at times have to make a choice between spending money on heat, food or baby supplies like diapers.
Speaking to members of the Joint Senate Committee on Local and Municipal Affairs and the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs, Ross said the propane problem is especially acute for elderly people on fixed incomes, single parents who cannot leave their children alone to work, those who have exhausted other benefits and residents who want to work but do not have the transportation to jobs.
Collecting cans
He said church and community groups have pitched in to help, and park residents collect and recycle cans to buy propane.
"We have got 10,000 needs and not enough money to address those needs," said Andy Kopplin, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the state's chief hurricane recovery oversight agency. The authority has allocated about $15 million to the Louisiana Family Recovery Corps to provide social services and mental health counseling for hurricane victims. He said he will talk to corps Chief Executive Officer Raymond Jetson about the food and heating problems.
"These are survival issues as opposed to long-term construction or planning issues," Kopplin said. He told residents of Renaissance Village that much of the grant money has stiff criteria that prevents using it on propane.
Jetson told the panel that besides the LRA's allocation his agency has received $32 million from the federal Temporary Aid for Needy Families program that can be used only for people who meet certain income levels with children.
Of the money the corps has received, Jetson said, about $3.5 million is not restricted. He said his office has used some money to help pay for propane and feeding programs for residents of the village. "We have less than $2 million left and some of that is earmarked for other needs," he said.
Jetson said last month that he would seek $100 million from the state to finance the programs his office wants for resettling and caring for displaced citizens.
Jetson estimated about 15,000 families living in trailers at about 400 sites around the state could benefit from the program.
Politicians pitch in
"If I could get out of here today without leaving someone behind, I'd get out of here running," said Ross, a dishwasher and former Lower 9th Ward resident. "Even if we had a portable kitchen (to cook meals) that would be better."
"If it is not morally wrong, it is on the verge of criminality if you let our citizens suffer when they were put in a condition that they cannot control," said Sen. Heulette "Clo" Fontenot, R-Livingston, to LRA and other state officials in the audience.
"It will be shame on us if people are freezing and going hungry," said Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, chairman of the Senate panel. Sen. Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans, pointed out to Kopplin and others that the federal government is still paying for housing and utilities for hurricane victims, and the least it can do is pay for to heat the trailers of displaced citizens.
Sen. Tom Schedler, R-Slidell, said he was going to donate $1,000 from his campaign fund to buy propane for some residents, and Bajoie said she will kick in $300 to $400 to buy baby food and diapers for families who are struggling. Bajoie said she will make telephone calls to others to solicit contributions.
"That is the most deplorable thing I have heard," Schedler told Ross of the conditions he described. Schedler said that government should find a way "to heat these trailers and feed these people" or "private corporate America" should do so with donations.
"You are going to embarrass FEMA and HUD (the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development)," he said. "If you have to embarrass people into it, so be it. We as a state are sitting on $2.5 billion (in past and projected surpluses); we should be embarrassed."
. . . . . . .
Ed Anderson cane be reached at eanderson@timespicayune.com.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State Farm Settles

Judge Denies Motion For New State Farm Trial POSTED: 5:07 pm CDT May 13, 2007
UPDATED: 5:09 pm CDT May 13, 2007

JACKSON, Miss. -- A federal judge on Friday denied State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.'s request for a new trial in a Hurricane Katrina case that could cost the company more than $1.2 million.

Judge L.T. Senter Jr. said he saw no reason to grant a new trial to State Farm, which lost a January jury trial in a lawsuit brought by Biloxi residents Norman and Genevieve Broussard.

Senter presided over that trial. He took part of the case out of jurors' hands and ruled that State Farm is liable for $223,292 in damage to the Broussards' home.

Senter said State Farm failed to prove that Katrina's storm surge was responsible for all the damage to the Broussards' home.

Jurors in that case awarded $2.5 million in punitive damages against State Farm, but Senter later reduced the award to $1.2 million.

A State Farm spokesman said the company is not surprised by the ruling.

The company plans to appeal the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

3/12 Lawyers Withdraw Request For Judge To Approve State Farm Settlement
On Monday, however, Scruggs' legal team said in court papers that they are withdrawing their request for Senter to sign off on the deal, citing a legal "stalemate."

3/1 Senter weighs options Settlement must protect class' rights
U.S. District Court Judge L.T. Senter Jr. told a packed courtroom Wednesday he will approve a class-action settlement of State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.'s Hurricane Katrina claims only if he is assured policyholders receive "substantial benefits" the current proposal lacks.

2/15 State Farm retreats in Gulf (Allstate is in MD too - per Gary)
Updated 2/14/2007 11:01 PM ET
By Kathy Chu, USA TODAY
State Farm's decision Wednesday to stop writing new home and commercial policies throughout Mississippi could prompt other insurers to retreat further from the Katrina-battered region, industry groups and legal experts say.
State Farm — which insures about one of every three Mississippi homes — is the first company since Hurricane Katrina to stop offering new policies throughout a state in the Gulf Coast area. Its move underscores the precarious nature of the region's insurance. Since the hurricane, insurers have cut back on homeowner policies in affected coastal areas.
The decision Wednesday is one State Farm came to "reluctantly," says company spokesman Phil Supple, partly because of the torrent of lawsuits and rulings in Mississippi since Katrina and the uncertainty of pending legal battles. The move doesn't affect existing policyholders, at least for now. State Farm is the largest insurer of homes in the USA, as well as in Mississippi. Last year, the company wrote about 29,000 new homeowners policies in the state.
The insurer's "extraordinary step" could affect companies facing similar legal issues, says Robert Hartwig of the Insurance Information Institute. "I can't rule out that other insurers might make similar legal decisions."
Mike Siemienas, a spokesman for Allstate, another large insurer, says his company "can't speculate on what we'll do," but when it makes coverage decisions, "we review the entire situation" in the state.
Insurers are still grappling with thousands of homeowners' lawsuits related to Katrina damage. At issue is whether homes reduced to slab were damaged by wind or water. Homeowners policies cover wind damage, but only federal flood policies cover flooding.
In Mississippi, State Farm has agreed to settle 640 individual lawsuits and to pay at least $50 million to reopen up to 35,000 hurricane-related homeowners' claims. A federal judge, though, has suspended part of the settlement in question, seeking more information. A hearing on the settlement is set for late February.
Matthew Steffey, a professor at Mississippi College School of Law, believes the timing of State Farm's announcement — weeks before the federal court hearing — isn't coincidental. "I think the message is if we can't settle these cases favorably, then we will quit doing (new) business in your state, and the fear is that other insurers" will pull out, he says.
Supple, of State Farm, notes, "There is no good timing for this announcement."
The bad news for homeowners, says Birny Birnbaum of the Center for Economic Justice, a consumer-advocacy group, is that "other insurers are probably going to follow suit (in pulling back on homeowners' coverage in the region) because they want to apply political pressure" like State Farm

2/12 "We Didn't Plan for That" Jackson, Miss. Reporter: Wendy Suares

State Farm Insurance got nailed for failing to pay claims from Hurricane Katrina. Checks have been sent to more than 600 Mississippi policy holders who sued the insurer, as part of an $80 billion settlement. And a separate $50 million settlement for thousands more policy holders is under a judge's review. Insurers are reeling from the storm and it could mean changes for homeowners statewide.
"We didn't plan for that. Policy holders didn't plan for that, and governments by and large didn't plan for that," said Mike Fernandez, public affairs vice-president for State Farm.State Farm is facing hundreds of hurricane damage lawsuits on the Mississippi coast. Fernandez says the outcome will shape the company's future here. Other companies have pulled out of certain areas completely.
"We've seen a lot of other players literally pull out of markets, cut back, and we shaved off a little, not too severely in Alabama, but you have to look at the particular market risk you're dealing with," Fernandez said.
And that risk has pushed up premiums for many Mississippi policy holders. State lawmakers are tackling the issue, passing legislation to shore up the state wind pool and allow companies to recoup some of their losses. Fernandez says that action is helping secure the market.
"We feel good about that movement even while we're uneasy about some of the movement in the courts," he said.
Companies like State Farm say they're uneasy, yet they're posting record profits. Industry officials expect profits this year to reach $60 billion.
"If you look at it over a period of time, there were three years when we had losses and at some point, you have to build up those reserves so you can meet that next natural disaster," said Fernandez.
A federal judge has scheduled a hearing later this month to clarify terms in the proposed $50 million State Farm settlement that would resolve disputed claims of thousands of policy holders who didn't sue.

2/9 State Farm policyholders will have a chance to weigh in
on two proposed class-action cases aimed at resolving Hurricane Katrina claims en masse.
U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. on Thursday ordered two hearings for Feb. 28 to consider the proposals. Property owners or their representatives can fill out forms attached to the orders to participate if their insured property was a total loss or suffered more than 90 percent damage. The forms are attached to Senter's orders posted at sunherald.com or on the federal court Web site, http://www.mssd.uscourts.gov/.
State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. is requesting a class-action settlement negotiated with the Scruggs Katrina Group of attorneys on behalf of up to 35,000 Coast policyholders. At the 1:30 p.m. hearing, Senter expects attorneys to address 10 areas of concern he has about the settlement.
A letter Senter sent to 108 attorneys Feb. 2 said, "While the proposed class action is currently limited to State Farm policyholders, any procedure the court approves as an alternative to litigation would likely serve as a de facto model that would apply to similar claims against the other major insurers, Allstate and Nationwide."
The second proposal would certify the case of Ocean Springs homeowner Judy Guice as a class-action lawsuit representing hundreds of State Farm policyholders whose homes Katrina swept away. Senter had rejected class-action certification for the Guice case, but said he will reconsider at a 10 a.m. hearing, also on Feb. 28.
Guice's attorneys are asking Senter to extend his ruling in a previous case, Broussard v. State Farm, to other policyholders with slabs. In Broussard, Senter ruled State Farm must prove the excluded peril of water caused a loss in order to deny coverage. The policyholders' only burden, he said, is to show they suffered an accidental, direct physical loss.
That is what Guice has argued all along and is the guideline the proposed Guice class-action case would follow. Her attorneys seek full coverage for those whose claims, like the Broussards, State Farm denied without proving the policy's water exclusion applied. Policyholders also would have the right to pursue punitive damages, designed to deter bad behavior, from State Farm.
The Broussards have been awarded $1 million in punitive damages, but it could be years before they collect and only if Senter's ruling is upheld through appeals.
State Farm opposes class-action certification for Guice's case. Company spokesmen say each policyholder claim is different and needs to be evaluated on its own merits. The company maintains it owes nothing under policies when wind and water damage are inseparable.
Under the class-action settlement with the Scruggs group, State Farm is willing to offer payments as a compromise. The company has agreed on slab claims to pay at least 50 percent of policy limits for structure and contents, less any wind or flood payments already received. Those with less damage would receive lower payments.
Policyholders who accept settlement checks would forfeit any right to file lawsuits or seek punitive damages.
State Farm has said the Broussard ruling probably will be appealed. Meanwhile, the company continues to follow its policy regarding separate wind and water damage, according to a claims manager forced to give sworn pre-trial testimony in the Guice case.
The State Farm claims manager, Dannye Smith, said the company's top claims executive, Susan Q. Hood, visited the Coast after the Broussard verdict and told employees the company was proud of them. Smith also said he was unaware of any procedure the company has adopted to review claims files that were not adjusted according to Senter's ruling in Broussard.

1/31 Judge Rejects Part Of State Farm Settlement
State Farm Katrina suits back in court
By BENNIE SHALLBETTER Jan 31, 2007, 09:20

Federal Judge L.T. Senter Jr. denied a motion "without prejudice" for a class action settlement proposed by State Farm, Attorney General Jim Hood, and a host of attorneys. The declaration allows lawyers to go back to the table with State Farm to negotiate a new settlement that satisfies the judges concerns.Local attorney Zach Butterworth, who filed the first claim against State Farm in Hancock County, says he and others have confidence that the kinks will be worked out in the settlement involving some 35,000 policy holders who did not file a suit against State Farm. Conference calls, meetings, and negotiations between the parties continued all weekend and were still continuing at press time."It's all very complicated," Butterworth said Tuesday. "But I just can't believe that State Farm would let it all blow up again after all the work."Though the terms of an agreement are complicated, each case seeking settlement being totally different, Butterworth said, the bottom line of the negotiations is simple: State Farm wants to keep money and negotiators want to get it.Policyholders involved in the Scruggs suit, more than 100 in Hancock County, should begin receiving their checks as early as Monday, Butterworth said. After months of negotiations seeing people able to go on with their lives is all the reward he wants, he said.Some of Senter's objections to the settlement include no guaranteed minimum for some categories of damage, no information to determine the extent of class claims or coverage or number of class members, State Farm and others would be released from the threat of punitive damages. Should negotiations break down at this point for other policy holders, it could mean years of litigation for those who choose to pursue claims. And apparently "good neighbor" State Farm has both the time and the money to spend years in the legal process. After eight years of litigation 70 homeowners in Oklahoma, whose homes were destroyed by tornadoes in 1999, have yet to see a penny from the company, Butterworth said.But State Farm is not the only bad neighbor in the insurance business, he said. A 1996 investigation found that Prudential defrauded more than 10 million life insurance customers in claims totaling more than $2 billion, said the American Association for Justice website.According to the Los Angeles Times insurance companies made a record $44.8 billion in 2005 and increased industry surplus by more than $427 billion, even after accounting for the claims of policyholders wiped out by Katrina.
© 2005 Bay St. Louis Newspapers, Inc.
State Farm reaches $500 million settlement
An historic agreement with State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. means up to $500 million in payments to policyholders previously dissatisfied with their Hurricane Katrina insurance settlements.
Attorney General Jim Hood said Wednesday afternoon that State Farm will pay 50 percent of policy limits to certain homeowners left with only slabs. State Farm previously had denied those claims, maintaining water led to the destruction and the company was unable to find any separate wind damage covered under its policies.
The two sides signed a settlement agreement filed today in Hinds County Chancery Court, which also brings an end to the lawsuit Hood filed shortly after Katrina to seek coverage for policyholders whose homes were subject to tidal surge.
"It's not the best thing since sliced bread," Hood said. "I wanted to get everybody 100 percent. This is a settlement option primarily for the 8,000 people hit by storm surge who don't have lawyers."
Hood said State Farm has about 800 slab claims on the Coast and about 9,000 policyholders whose homes were hit by storm surge. The company, by its own count, had a total of more than 32,000 Coast Katrina claims filed as of February 2006.
He later summed up what he sees as the benefits of the settlement. "This is just an option. It will get some money on the ground quick. It will stabilize the insurance market and it will help in our economic development. We've got to rebuild our homes and the people's lives."
State Farm released a statement that read, in part, "We believe this is in the best interests of our policyholders and State Farm, and the effort to rebuild Mississippi.
"Basically, we'll work with out policyholders to review claims in the three counties - Harrison, Hancock and Jackson."
Under the settlement, State Farm has agreed to review the claims of any Coast policyholder who opts in. The settlement also gives policyholders the right to see their State Farm file. If a policyholder is dissatisfied with State Farm's offer, they can go to binding court arbitration with the company.
Policyholders who are suing the company, or who reached an agreed settlement with State Farm in mediation, are not eligible to participate. The Scruggs Katrina Group, representing 640 policyholders, also has reached a settlement of its cases with State Farm, but those terms are undisclosed.
Hood said he hopes to reach agreements with other insurance companies. As part of the agreement, he will drop a civil lawsuit that he filed shortly after the storm to seek coverage for policyholders and put on hold a criminal investigation into State Farm's claims practices.
Hood said, however, that he has been assured Congress will pursue an investigation of how the industry reacted to Katrina.
Read more on the settlement as developments happen at sunherald.com and in Wednesday's Sun Herald.

For More Information

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

MS State of The State

Article taken from the Clarion Ledger

In a speech with few surprises but plenty of campaign hints in an election year, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on Monday praised the state's economic progress since Hurricane Katrina while pledging more money for schools and fighting crime.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the future of Mississippi is brighter than it has been in our history," Barbour said in his State of the State address. "As strange as it might seem, that awful catastrophe Katrina is part of the reason."
Barbour began by pausing in memory of Rep. Leonard Morris, who died Friday, as well as other lawmakers who died in the past year, including Rep. May Whittington and Sens. Bunky Huggins and Billy Harvey.
Segments of his speech are sure to be heard on the campaign trail this year. He boasted about the state's legal climate after tort reform passed the Legislature in 2004 and the rising number of jobs since he took office. The speech lasted less than 40 minutes and was interrupted roughly 20 times by applause.
State revenues are higher than anticipated thanks to south Mississippians buying new washers, cars and clothes after Katrina hit in August 2005. But, Barbour warned, the money will not keep rolling in.
"These purchases won't occur every year," he said. "So we mustn't spend it on recurring expenditures."
More than $500,000 in donations has been raised to plan a civil rights museum in Mississippi, he said. He wants state and private donations used to plan and build the museum.
"It is overdue, and it needs doing," he said. "Many, many people want to get to be part of making this happen."
One couple, Democrats from Yazoo City who watched the address from the House gallery Monday evening, praised the governor for his willingness to fully fund public education.
"I was quite, I guess, elated and impressed with the idea that he is continually funding it more and more to reach the level that he thinks that's required," said Clarence Brown, 70, who attended with his wife, Marjorie. "We feel very good about what we heard tonight."
Brown, a parole board member, also commended the governor for recognizing the problems crystal methamphetamine has brought to the state. Barbour asked the Legislature to increase the number of narcotics agents by 50.
"I see people who violate the law because of crystal meth, and it's a devastating drug," he said. "I think we need to clamp down as much as possible on that and other, of course, drug abuse."
A request to increase the punishment for felons caught with guns was perhaps the most popular of Barbour's proposal as he was interrupted by applause after each sentence.
He wants a longer mandatory prison sentence for felons who commit crimes with a gun and a longer sentence for felons possessing guns.
"These changes will give prosecutors better tools to punish criminals who use guns to commit crimes," Barbour said.
He said he expected to sign a bill supporting the more than $2 billion school-funding formula that pays for teacher salaries and other needs in March. The House approved a bill funding public schools and giving teachers a 3 percent pay hike last week.
"More importantly, I expect that formula to be funded consistently at 100 percent in the years to come," Barbour said.
Weeks ago, Barbour had called the funding formula "artificial" and had said that fully funding it could hurt other parts of the state budget.
Some Democrats thought Barbour waited too late in his term to say he supports the formula.
"I wished these had been his priorities for the last four years," said Rep. Jamie Franks, D-Mooreville. "Now in an election year, he wants to fund public education."
Barbour said the Department of Education's budget has increased during his tenure - though not all the money went to the school formula.
He asked again for an early childhood development program that works with private day cares and federal Head Start centers. The Legislature created the program last year but left out the $5 million to start it.
House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, said the money will be there this year.
"We need to do better in our public schools, and we're making a great effort," he said.
And while House Speaker Billy McCoy praised the governor for his comments on public education, he made it clear Barbour's position has been the House's position all along.
"We're very appreciative of the governor's attitude on that now as opposed to a few weeks ago," McCoy said after the speech. "It seemed like he wasn't ready to do it then."
Barbour's statement in favor of fully funding education came after state Department of Education officials revealed they had reduced by $33.9 million the amount of money they originally said was needed in the fiscal year starting July 1.
House Democrats helped lead a rally on the Capitol steps last week for full funding of public education, a movement that included a $50,000 media campaign launched by the Mississippi Association of Educators.
When asked whether he thought the battle was for nothing, McCoy said no. "I think that the efforts of the House are paying off," he said.
Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck also said after the address that the Senate hopes to fully fund education, once it's clear the revenue estimates indicate there is enough money.
The speaker would say little else on the content of Barbour's address. "It's the governor's night ... and I don't want to be ripping into what he said," McCoy said.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Deuce Working For MS Burn Center

Deuce says Mississippi needs burn center
New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister is endorsing a plan to establish a center to treat fire victims in Mississippi, more than a year after the state's only burn unit closed.
Bill Kehoe, who handles public relations and special projects for McAllister's Nissan dealership in Jackson, told a legislative committee that McAllister has been working with the Mississippi Firefighters Memorial Burn Association to gather information about what it would cost to establish and operate a burn center in the state.
McAllister, who grew up in Mississippi and has a home and several business interests in Jackson, is "very, very concerned" about the lack of a burn center, Kehoe said Thursday.
"This will be his home when he quits caring for football. So he wants Mississippi, central Mississippi, Jackson to be the best places they possibly can be," Kehoe said. "And providing total and comprehensive health care for all its citizens is one thing that would make this state better."
House Public Health Committee Chairman Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said he appreciates McAllister's concern.
"If brother Deuce would lay about a (million) on the table, we might name the sucker after him," Holland told Kehoe, who remained noncommittal.
The committee voted to establish what would be the state's only burn unit at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Even if the proposal clears both chambers of the Legislature and is signed into law by the governor, it could be more than 18 months before a unit could be open, officials said.
The Mississippi Firefighters Memorial Burn Center in Greenville, which had been the state's only burn unit, closed in mid-2005 because of budget and staffing shortfalls. It had been open 33 years.
Since then, Mississippi burn victims have been sent to other states for treatment. Among them were two women and three children sent to Georgia for treatment after being severely burned when a gas leak triggered an explosion at a Lee County home Dec. 5. One of the victims, 3-year-old Natetreuna Hunt, died Dec. 23.
The bill -- which now moves to the full House for more debate -- would give UMC $10 million to finish a floor of the critical care unit to be used for burn treatment. The bill also would give UMC money each year to run the center, which likely would treat large numbers of uninsured patients.
If the bill passes the House, it will go to the Senate.
Dr. Dan Jones, the head of UMC, told the House committee that the hospital would welcome a burn center if it's properly funded. It already handles a large number of uninsured patients.
"If you give us too little money for doing this, we won't be able to provide the care we need to provide," Jones said.
Amanda Fontaine, executive director of the Mississippi Firefighters Memorial Burn Association, said burn center directors in other states have told her it's often a hardship to make room for Mississippi patients.
"They're all pretty much resenting us right now," she said.

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Reducing Debt and Payments


Trust me when I say, I've been in position to have used all of the following suggestions and headaches.

You have debt. You don't make enough money. You'd pay if you could. You just don't have it to pay. How do you deal with it all? It's so stressful.

If you have a regular job where you can pay SOME, but not all on your bills, you will go about it differently than if you don't have a regular job.

Budget. Look realistically at your bills. You need to pay for food, gas, electricity, phone and insurance; rent or mortgage, car payment, clothes (most people forget this); medicine. If your money will go this far, then you can start looking at managing your credit card debt.

Food - Stretching Food Budgets
Gas - combine trips to save both gas and time. Even if all you are saving is the gas to pull in and out of your driveway, you're saving money.
Make sure your tires are at the right pressure. It sounds wild, but it's true that correct tire pressure can save up to 10% of your gas consumption.
Tune up - make sure air filter is clean. If the car is running rough, put fuel injector cleaner in to help optimize your engine's ability. Use AC as little as possible.
Speed Limit - going no faster than 65 mph will give you ultimate mileage. Start up slow from stop signs or red lights - it takes less gas.
Don't idle. Don't leave the cars running for more than 1 minute without shutting it off.
Electricity - Keep lights, TV's, radios, computers, monitors, printers, etc. OFF when not in use.
Unplug all appliances that don't need to run constantly when you aren't using them. These 2 things alone can save you 10%.
Turning your heat down 1 degree can save 2% on the heat portion of your bill. Turning your AC up 1 degree can do the same thing. Use insulated curtains to hold indoor temperature steady.
Phone - use a calling card for long distance. Most have charges of 3.4 cents per minute now - very cheap! Don't get the all in one packages that are being sold by cable companies. Unless everyone you talk to on a daily basis lives out of town, you're wasting money.
Consider getting rid of landline if you have a cell. Don't pay for both, especially if you don't talk on the phone a lot.
Cable - get rid of it. Read books or put the money toward internet access. You get the same information online for less. DSL through the phone lines is cheaper than cable internet.
Insurance - You have to have car insurance. Talk to your agent and ask them what you can get rid of. Check around for cheaper rates, but really look. Sometimes the savings is less than 2% and can go up for a simple traffic violation. Be cautious when changing carriers.
Health Insurance - If you don't have any, start a small account and put some in it every month. Mine is in my sock drawer - not that I advocate that AT all. But, I have my reasons. And, it keeps me honest and keeps me putting the money in.
Rent - there is very little you can do to change this number. Don't even try. If you have a mortgage - you can try renegotiating the terms. It's similar to refinancing, but isn't.
Car Payment - you can do the same as with the mortgage. If you're tight on cash, you can ask for a renegotiation. You'll pay longer, but if you ever get to a better spot financially, you can pay more down per month to finish the debt sooner.
Clothes - you need clothes. Budget so you can buy at least one article of clothing per month, then shop the sales as often as possible. Don't buy anything at regular price. There's no need, especially with all of the discount stores out there now.
Medicine - You need even aspirin on occasion, no matter how healthy you are. Put a reasonable amount in per month for over the counter meds, and again, buy on sale and buy generic. If you have prescription meds, please refer to this link for more assistance:
Medical Resources

Again, if you money covers all of these things and you still have some left over, then start looking at your credit card debt.

Credit Cards - If you can pay some on all of your cards, then call the companies to negotiate a decent interest rate. Most will probably deactivate the account if you can't pay their minimum payment, but it won't look as bad on your credit report than defaulting on one or more.
Most advisors urge people to pay the highest interest rate off first. I suggest you pay the lowest balance off first, then go to the highest interest rate. You need cash flow now. As cash frees up, increase your payments on all by even as little as $5 a month, while putting the lion's share toward the highest interest rate. This shows good faith to all of the companies while reducing your balance on all and mostly on the worst one.
Close all but 2 or 3 of the accounts. Remember the average American has 7.

If you can't pay on all of them, then choose 1 for emergencies only, pay the debt off this one and stop using or paying all others.
Being in the crisis mode like this makes life far different than it once was. You will most likely be unable to keep your credit record clean, so don't try.
Call the credit card company you will be keeping the account open with and negotiate an interest rate reduction with a promise of paying X amount per month to pay the debt off.
After being in default on the other cards for at least 30 days, call the companies to ask for their hardship program. Negotiate a payment you can handle and they will most likely give you a reduced interest rate. The account will be deactivated so you can't use it until you are back in good standing with the company.

Become a "Cash Only" person. If you don't carry your credit cards, you will be less likely to use them. You buy only what you have cash for. And if that's only food, then that's the way life is right now. You need to get your debt under control or at least out of crisis. It can and will bury you if you don't take the steps necessary to regain control of your life. Keep the one credit card for emergencies only - such as ER visits, the car breaking down, a new necessary medication. There are very few reasons to use the credit card - so don't use it!

This takes discipline, focus, determination and patience. It won't come easy or fast, but it will come.

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Stretching Food Budget

Reducing Food Bills
I know it is virtually impossible to store any food in a FEMA trailer or small apartment. This makes it especially difficult to keep food bills to a minimum. However, you might be able to incorporate some of the ideas here and reduce your bills even a little bit.
Coupons – besides what you get in your Sunday paper, try these
http://www.wow-coupons.com/ http://www105.coolsavings.com/
Food Pantries. Many only allow you to use them monthly, quarterly or even only once ever 6 months. Don’t let that discourage you. Social Services should have a list to send.
Community Meals. Many churches and civic organizations serve community meals for little or no money. My area has at least 2 every day in a 15-minute radius of each other. Few will be breakfast; some will be lunch and some dinner. Many organizations also have very inexpensive meals - cheaper than you could buy the ingredients to make yourself. Social Services should have a list to send you.

Menu Planning. This takes a little time to learn, but becomes easy and is worth the effort.

Chicken – buy a whole chicken. Roast it for one meal. Pull the meat off the bones and boil the bones for broth. Use half of the broth and 2/3 of the meat to make chicken and gravy for on biscuits or unsweetened French toast. Use the other half of the broth and the rest of the chicken to make soup. This gives you at least 3 meals to work with on just 1 chicken. Plus, a whole chicken is less per pound than cut pieces.

Roasting Chicken – rinse off, pull giblet pack out of cavity. Lightly salt and season skin if you want. Roast at 325 for 70-90 minutes. When juices run clear out of a cut near the thigh, it’s thoroughly cooked.

Boiling chicken bones – pull most of meat off bones. Put bones in large saucepan. Add onion, garlic, tomato, celery for flavor. Cover with water and slowly bring to boil. Skim foam off – this is what makes broth go from good to great. Slow boil for up to 2 hours. Strain bones and pieces with colander and or cheese cloth.

Making gravy – chicken gravy takes more flour than beef gravy. Heat broth to rolling boil. Mix water and flour to a very thin paste. Mix into broth while stirring constantly with a whisk. Boil for 2 minutes to cook flour completely.

Making soup – Great way to clean the refrigerator of leftovers! Large saucepan, 2 T of oil, brown everything going in – chicken meat, raw vegetables, rice, barley. Add a bit of tomato paste, soup, sauce, juice for depth of flavor. Add broth. Add any leftovers to the soup. Cook for a half hour. Let set for an hour before cooling rapidly to store. Or reheat and serve.

Beef – Buy roasts. They are more expensive initially, but you can do the exact same thing for roasts as you do for chickens.
Chuck roast would be the most economical for this use. Brown the meat heavily with salt and pepper before covering it with water to slow cook. Cover with at least an inch of water to have more broth. Cook onions, potatoes and carrots with the meat for the initial meal.
Use 1/3 of broth for first meal for gravy.
Use 1/3 of broth and any gravy left from prior meal to make gravy for hot beef open-faced sandwiches (Add previous gravy at the end of the cooking of the new gravy).
Use 1/3 of broth for soup. Leftovers are again utilized very well in this soup. So is cut up spaghetti, spaghetti sauce and any pork meat you might have. Add previous gravy at the end of cooking to get a very hearty stew.

Shepherd’s Pie - Uses ground beef, is nutritious and goes a long way. Again – you can use left over vegetables to help fill, use mashed potatoes for the top or biscuit dough, or even cooked pasta.

Chili – with at least a 1:1 ratio of beans to ground beef, along with a good portion of other vegetables, this is inexpensive and nutritious. Make it go further by serving over rice or pasta.

Corn/Potato Chowder – easy, fast, cheap, nutritious. Fry cut bacon. Add chopped onion, carrot, potato and brown in bacon grease. Add about 1C water (or broth) – just enough to cover vegetables. When potato and carrot are tender, add corn and milk to make a thick soup. Mix some flour and water for thickening if desired. Bring soup to boil and rapidly stir thickening in. Boil for at least 2 minutes to cook flour thoroughly. Northern beans go great in this to make it even more nutritious.

Leftovers – A friend of mine has a container in her freezer that she puts all leftovers in: Vegetables, meat scraps, leftovers from dinner plates, etc. When the container is full, she makes soup. It allows you to utilize every bit of what you cook as well as reduce the number of storage containers in your refrigerator.

Making extra broth. Ask your meat counter for both pork and beef bones to make more broth from. Brown or roast them prior to boiling for better flavor.

Vegetables – for soup, ask your produce section for deals on veggies they can’t normally sell. You can cut the bad parts out and use the good parts for soup.

Breakfast – Oatmeal is by far the cheapest and most nutritious meal you can make for breakfast. Get containers rather than prepackaged. Get the quick cooking rather than the instant. Cook it milk for more nutrition. Add sugar, peanut butter, nuts, and dried fruits all during cooking for a more flavorful meal.

Lunch – Make leftovers; Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; Soup.

Remember what my grandmother always said, “What won’t fat will fill.” You may get sick of the stuff, but it’ll keep you going, healthy and make eating more affordable.

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FEMA Dedication to MS

3/10 Mississippi recovery efforts to date:

Individual support continues with more than $1.16 billion to individuals and families:

* 216,483 individuals and families have been approved for Housing Assistance totaling more than $849 million;
* 134,202 Mississippi survivors have been approved for more than $319 million in Other Needs Assistance;
* As of Mar. 2, 2007, there were 27,837 temporary housing units (travel trailers and mobile homes) in service. Nearly 16,000 units have been returned to FEMA.

In communities across the state, approximately $1.18 billion has been approved in the following Public Assistance (PA) categories:

* $353 million for emergency protective measures;
* $425 million to repair public buildings;
* $303 million to restore public utilities;
* $61 million to restore public recreational facilities such as state parks;
* $38 million to repair roads and bridges;
* $1.9 million to repair water control devices such as reservoirs and irrigation channels.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency administers the funds. To date, MEMA has disbursed more than $1 billion to PA applicants for rebuilding projects including bridges, public buildings and utilities.

*More than $683 million obligated for land-based debris removal.
* More than 45 million cubic yards of eligible land-based debris has been removed from public and private property throughout the state.
Approximately 30 million cubic yards of debris have been removed in the lower three counties.
* Removal of land-based construction and demolition debris in the inundated areas of the three coastal counties has been extended to June 30.
Standing dead trees are eligible for removal from all parts of Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties through June 30. Property owners must complete right-of-entry form available at their local building department by the deadline set by their local jurisdiction.

An inter-agency campaign, directed by FEMA, has been working to clean up Mississippi's coastal and inland waterways.

* The U.S. Coast Guard has cleared more than 63,000 cubic yards of marine debris from the water since marine cleanup began last September and six of 16 marine debris removal contracts are complete.
* Approximately 224,785 cubic yards remains in the inland waterways and another estimated 247,208 cubic yards remain to be removed offshore.
Marine debris removal will be 100 percent federally funded until May 15, 2007.
* Nearly $237 million has been obligated for marine debris removal.

BILOXI, Miss. -- The recovery effort remains strong throughout Mississippias families rebuild their homes, communities and lives. In partnership with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), theU.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA) has obligated more than $9.4 billion in disaster aid to Mississippias of Jan. 12, 2007.
Approximately $1.1 billion has been approved in the following Public Assistance (PA) categories (not including debris removal). To date, more than $990 million has been disbursed to PA applicants for rebuilding projects including bridges, public buildings and utilities. MEMA administers the funds.
The $1.1 billion approved for PA includes:
* $326 million for emergency protective measures;
* $415 million to repair public buildings;
* $301 million to restore public utilities;
* $58 million to restore public recreational facilities such as stateparks;
* $30 million to repair roads and bridges;
* $1.6 million to repair water control devices such as reservoirs andirrigation channels. Approximately $1.16 billion to individuals and families:
* 216,448 individuals and families have been approved for Housing Assistance totaling more than $845 million;
* 134,097 Mississippi Hurricane Katrina survivors have been approvedfor more than $318 million in Other Needs Assistance.
More than $1.3 billion has been approved for debris removal including nearly$222 million for marine debris and $790 million for land-based debris.
* Approximately 45 million cubic yards of eligible land-based debrishas been removed from public and private property throughout the state. In addition, nearly 26 million cubic yards of debris have been removed in the lower three counties.
* The six-month extension for the removal of land-based debris in theinundated areas of the three coastal counties ends February 28, 2007.
* The U.S. Coast Guard has cleared nearly 47,000 cubic yards of marinedebris, and has completed four of 16 marine debris removal contracts. Marinedebris removal will be 100 percent federally funded until May 15, 2007.
Other assistance:
* FEMA paid nearly $2.5 billion through its National Flood InsuranceProgram to 17,170 policy holders;
* FEMA paid nearly $3 billion to other federal agencies to complete specific tasks or mission assignments during response and recovery, such asemergency medical assistance and debris removal;
* As of Jan. 16, 2007, there were 30,141 temporary housing units(travel trailers and mobile homes) in service. These units are being returned to FEMA at an average of 250 units per week. In addition, more than $2.6 billion in U.S. Small Business Administrationloans have been approved for Mississippians.
* Nearly $2.1 billion in loans to 31,086 homeowners and renters;
* More than $534 million to 4,334 businesses;
* More than $19 million to 328 small businesses for working capital. The above figures were compiled as of Jan. 12, 2007. The Hurricane Katrina Mississippi Recovery Update will be released on amonthly basis. FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any nationalincident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New MS FEMA Director

Acting director named for FEMA's Miss. recovery office
BILOXI - Jeff Byard, who recently oversaw FEMA's Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts in Alabama, has been named the acting director of the FEMA-Mississippi Transitional Recovery Office in Biloxi.
The appointment was announced by Gil Jamieson, deputy director for Gulf Coast Recovery for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Jamieson said in a statement that Byard "knows state and FEMA programs inside and out. He brings many years of experience working with FEMA, and has a commitment to customer service to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina that is exemplary."
Before working with FEMA in Alabama, Byard had served as recovery branch chief for Alabama's Emergency Management Agency for four years.

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Americorp Jobs

Hands On Gulf Coast is currently seeking AmeriCorps Members!
Through a grant from the Mississippi Commission on Volunteer Service, Hands On Gulf Coast is launching a large AmeriCorps program to help us address the ongoing recovery needs of the Mississippi Gulf Coast region. We are currently seeking volunteers interested in returning to Biloxi by February 15, 2007 and committing 9 months of service to the region. Positions are available in a variety of areas, including: construction, case management, education, public health, green space redevelopment, and community outreach. Positions are also available for later start dates with durations of 4.5 months, 3 months, and 1.5 months. All include a biweekly living allowance, and an Education Award upon completion of service term.
This is a great opportunity for anyone looking for a way to make a significant contribution to the recovery of the Gulf Coast! As a Hands On Gulf Coast volunteer, we're asking you to consider joining this exciting program, and to pass the word along to any of your like-minded friends and family members who may be interested in serving with us!
Please visit our website at www.handsongulfcoast.org for more information.
Inquires and applications can be directed to Hands On Gulf Coast at:

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Compassion Extreme

Going To MO to help clean up from Ice Storm

Hey everyone!

We are leaving Tuesday morning at 8:30am departing from 145 N. Telemachus, New Orleans, LA 70119

From what I am being told, we need the following:

-gas containers (we will have to fill up well outside of the area as most gas stations are shut down, only a few remain open)
-winter clothing; coats, gloves, caps, boots, etc. – this is for volunteer use and families
-dry goods
-canned foods

We plan on helping out with the following:

-tree removal
-canvassing neighborhoods and checking on families, keeping track of the location of each house/family and their needs
-delivering meals for the Red Cross

We are going to be working with:

-Christian County Emergency Team
-MO Disaster Relief Team
-The Red Cross

We have the local newspaper lined up to meet us on site at the church and we will be calling for a press conference encouraging local residents to volunteer their time, resources and supplies to help the less fortunate.


I am originally from Springfield, MO.

I don’t know if you have read the news lately or have heard what is going on in the area; however Springfield is 65% without power and many neighborhoods have been without power since Friday evening. The entire area was hit by a horrific ice storm that concludes this evening. The entire state has been declared a “state of emergency” and there are a total of 400 National Guardsmen in the city removing debris and assisting families.

I was on the phone today with several churches and those I was able to get through are now Red Cross Shelters housing 100 families each and a few “warming centers” have been set up as well. There have also been other places of business coordinated as shelters only for the power to go out.

Relief Spark has been fortunate enough to have been contacted by a church in Nixa, MO (a neighboring town) that can house our volunteers – up to 50. There is a shower, kitchen facilities and classrooms that will be available for our use. There is also a large parking lot for delivering of relief supplies and distribution.

Our plan is to drive to Nixa, MO this evening and meet the local press to deliver our plan on TV. I know well enough that we can attract local volunteers that will have access to supplies such as chainsaws, winter gear, blankets, propane and camping gear – not to mention food to prepare and deliver to families in need.

What we need is YOU.

Do you have volunteers that would be interested in joining us on our trip or meeting us there later?

We will be in the Springfield/Nixa area until Saturday at which point we will be returning to New Orleans.

Here is some information that you may forward or pass out (along with the email above) to any and all interested parties:





OFFICE: 417.725.4949
CELL: 417.848.8607





















Sidney Ray
NOLA Operations Director

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

MS Alternative Housing

Housing program criteria being set
Selection criteria are being established for Mississippi Gulf Coast residents interested in replacing their FEMA travel trailer or mobile home under the state's Alternative Housing Pilot Program.
The program, which consists of three housing designs- Park Models, Mississippi Cottages and Green Mobile units - was granted more than $280 million in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Governor's Office is hosting meetings this week with local and state officials from Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties concerning the program. Once the selection criteria have been created, current temporary housing tenants will be notified.
Announcements also will be posted on www.governorbarbour.com/recovery.
The designs can be viewed online at

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Aussie Modular Homes Being Built

New Modular Housing Offers Storm Resistant Homes
An Australian company known as "Force 10" has developed a type of modular housing that is hurricane, cyclone, earthquake, and fire resistant. After building in 30 countries, it has a pretty good track record.
Simon Willis is Vice President of Business Relations for Force 10 USA. He says, "We've built probably world-wide, over 5,000 of these homes in the last few years, and not one has been lost to the elements at all."
A galvenized steel frame wrapped in hardy board, enables the home to withstand incredible wind speeds of up to 185 miles an hour. According to state representative Michael Janus, that's good news for coast residents looking to build back stronger, and faster.
"I'm pretty excited. Obviously, as you know if you look at the numbers, 70,000 homes were destroyed from Katrina. We still have 35,000 people living in FEMA trailers (In Biloxi area). In a good year, we build about 1500 homes in the gulf coast, so obviously it would take many, many years to get people back in their homes."
Janus does some private consulting work in Australia. That's how he first learned about Force 10 Homes. Now, he's partnering with others to bring the company to Biloxi.
"And as the construction goes on we encourage people to drive by and watch, because really in about three weeks this is going to go from what you see today, to a house that's roughed in," says Janus.
The finished product will be an example for coast residents, of the new affordable and durable modular housing.
A roughed in home would cost about 70 dollars a square foot. That wouldn't include plumbing or electrical. By the way, some of these homes are already built in Hawaii and the Virgin Islands. Those homeonwers get up to 50 percent in insurance reductions, because their homes are so strong. Also, FORCE 10 hopes to build a manufacturing plant right here in south Mississippi. It would be the first in the U.S.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Syphilis on Rise

State sees syphilis spike
JACKSON - Cases of syphilis in Mississippi spiked in 2006, especially on the Gulf Coast.
Health officials issued a warning to doctors, but not the general public, about the increase in the potentially fatal, but easily curable sexually transmitted disease, said Craig Thompson, director of the Department of Health's Bureau of STD/HIV.
Figures released show reported syphilis cases jumped nearly 75 percent in the past year, more than doubling on the coast.
The increase in syphilis - often a harbinger of a rise in the spread of the virus that causes AIDS - comes as the Health Department already faces criticism for failing to warn the public about an increase in cases of West Nile virus before it reached a record level in Mississippi.
In a written response to questions, Thompson said no public warning has been issued "to allow additional epidemiological studies (e.g. greater targeted syphilis screening) to take place and to develop and train specific community partners."
The health department also has been criticized for failing to have enough health professionals assigned to stem the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
On the Gulf Coast where the increase in syphilis is greatest, the department is down to two disease-intervention specialists to help track the spread of the sexually transmitted disease, including making contact with each infected person's sexual partners.
"That's outrageous," Patricia Kissinger, an epidemiologist at Tulane University, told The Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson. "They are the primary tool for controlling that kind of epidemic."
Thompson had warned higher-ups in the Health Department nearly three years ago that the issue of STD/HIV workload "requires senior management attention," according to documents.
Two years later, the Health Department actually had fewer disease intervention specialists, and Thompson's office made similar staffing recommendations "to improve the quality of field work."
The department still has not increased staffing.
Last month State Health Officer Brian Amy narrowly survived a vote by the State Board of Health to oust him. But the state has added only one more person to STDs and HIV, bringing the total to 34.
Untreated, syphilis can lead to serious health problem and can be fatal, but it can be cured with a simple penicillin injection. More troubling is that the upsurge in syphilis cases across the state may presage a future increase in HIV infections.
HIV infection often follows closely behind syphilis because the broken skin caused by syphilis assists in the transmission of the deadly virus that causes AIDS
Syphilis is often called "the great imitator" because so many of the signs and symptoms are indistinguishable from those of other diseases. Many infected people do not have any symptoms for years, but they are at risk for late complications if they are not treated.
Transmission appears to occur from persons with sores who are in the primary or secondary stages of the disease, but many of these sores are unrecognized.

Facts about Syphyilis Taken From CDC FAQS

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It has often been called “the great imitator” because so many of the signs and symptoms are indistinguishable from those of other diseases.

Syphilis is passed from person to person through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. Transmission of the organism occurs during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Pregnant women with the disease can pass it to the babies they are carrying. Syphilis cannot be spread through contact with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils.

Many people infected with syphilis do not have any symptoms for years, yet remain at risk for late complications if they are not treated. Although transmission appears to occur from persons with sores who are in the primary or secondary stage, many of these sores are unrecognized. Thus, most transmission is from persons who are unaware of their infection.

Primary Stage
The primary stage of syphilis is usually marked by the appearance of a single sore (called a chancre), but there may be multiple sores. The time between infection with syphilis and the start of the first symptom can range from 10 to 90 days (average 21 days). The chancre is usually firm, round, small, and painless. It appears at the spot where syphilis entered the body. The chancre lasts 3 to 6 weeks, and it heals without treatment. However, if adequate treatment is not administered, the infection progresses to the secondary stage.

Secondary Stage
Skin rash and mucous membrane lesions characterize the secondary stage. This stage typically starts with the development of a rash on one or more areas of the body. The rash usually does not cause itching. Rashes associated with secondary syphilis can appear as the chancre is healing or several weeks after the chancre has healed. The characteristic rash of secondary syphilis may appear as rough, red, or reddish brown spots both on the palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet. However, rashes with a different appearance may occur on other parts of the body, sometimes resembling rashes caused by other diseases. Sometimes rashes associated with secondary syphilis are so faint that they are not noticed. In addition to rashes, symptoms of secondary syphilis may include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue. The signs and symptoms of secondary syphilis will resolve with or without treatment, but without treatment, the infection will progress to the latent and late stages of disease.

Late Stage
The latent (hidden) stage of syphilis begins when secondary symptoms disappear. Without treatment, the infected person will continue to have syphilis even though there are no signs or symptoms; infection remains in the body. In the late stages of syphilis, it may subsequently damage the internal organs, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. This internal damage may show up many years later. Signs and symptoms of the late stage of syphilis include difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, and dementia. This damage may be serious enough to cause death.

A blood test is a way to determine whether someone has syphilis. Shortly after infection occurs, the body produces syphilis antibodies that can be detected by an accurate, safe, and inexpensive blood test. A low level of antibodies will stay in the blood for months or years even after the disease has been successfully treated. Because untreated syphilis in a pregnant woman can infect and possibly kill her developing baby, every pregnant woman should have a blood test for syphilis.

Genital sores (chancres) caused by syphilis make it easier to transmit and acquire HIV infection sexually. There is an estimated 2- to 5-fold increased risk of acquiring HIV infection when syphilis is present.

Syphilis is easy to cure in its early stages. A single intramuscular injection of penicillin, an antibiotic, will cure a person who has had syphilis for less than a year. Additional doses are needed to treat someone who has had syphilis for longer than a year. For people who are allergic to penicillin, other antibiotics are available to treat syphilis. There are no home remedies or over-the-counter drugs that will cure syphilis. Treatment will kill the syphilis bacterium and prevent further damage, but it will not repair damage already done.

Because effective treatment is available, it is important that persons be screened for syphilis on an on-going basis if their sexual behaviors put them at risk for STDs.

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College Financial Aid

Taken from AOL article...

1. Apply Now
Don't procrastinate. Financial aid is doled out on a first come, first served basis. So don't put off filling out those forms until after your child is already accepted into school. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/) can be submitted as early as January. Also make sure to check with the individual schools your son or daughter is applying to. They will often have additional paperwork that needs to be filled out, including the Profile (https://profileonline.collegeboard.com/index.jsp), a financial-aid application form used by many private universities. (Click here for a calculator [http://www.smartmoney.com/college/finaid/index.cfm?story=need] that will help you figure out how much aid you're entitled to.) Even if you think you won't qualify for any aid, you should fill out a FAFSA anyway. Why? Last year eight million students missed out on aid, including 1.5 million who would have qualified for Pell Grants (money that doesn't need to be repaid), simply because they didn't bother with the forms, according to the American Council on Education. Filling out the FAFSA is also the first necessary step for qualifying for many non-need based loans, such as Stafford Loans, which have lower interest rates than private loans.

2. Check With Your State
The federal government isn't the only source of aid. Individual states have deep pockets too. During 2004 to 2005 (the most recent available data), students received $7.9 billion in financial aid from state coffers, according to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (http://www.nassgap.org/). Grants and scholarships are available based on both need and merit. To apply, students first need to fill out a FAFSA and then follow up with the appropriate state forms. Click here to find your state's programs (http://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/Programs/EROD/org_list.cfm?category_cd=SHE). More good news: Attend a school close to home and most states will offer students additional financial aid. New York State, for example, gave out $273 million in grants through its Tuition Assistance Program to residents who studied at one of New York's private institutions.

3. Beg for More
Can a piece of paper really describe your situation? Often the answer is no. If money is tighter than it appears on your FAFSA, let the decision makers know. Melissa Diana, a financial aid consultant who runs the Web site Tuition Physician (http://myoptinpage.com/?pid=1683505), recommends writing a letter to the financial aid office detailing any situation, such as a future hospital stay, which will affect your budget in the following year. Since FAFSA forms are based in part on last year's income taxes, there's no way for financial aid officers to know what expenses are headed your way. Even after you receive your financial aid letter you can still appeal your case. The schools have an incentive to give you more money once they know your child is accepted and is considering attending. Schools are particularly sensitive to parents who lost jobs or have fallen ill since filling out the FAFSA forms. While there is always the chance that the school's coffer is empty, Diana says many colleges hold a little money back in a reserve fund for just such situations. Click here for help comparing financial aid offers
(article http://www.smartmoney.com/college/finaid/index.cfm?story=offers2005).

4. Look for Scholarships
Yes, the majority of financial aid is made up of loans and grants. But don't forget about scholarships. You'd be surprised how much free money is out there for the taking. According to Sallie Mae, there is more than $15 billion available. But you'll never get any of it unless you apply. While there are plenty of online database searches students can surf, experts also recommend parents check with their employers, unions and trade organizations. Read our story for more assistance finding a scholarship. (http://www.smartmoney.com/college/investing/index.cfm?story=20020829)

5. Shop for Best Loans
Nearly half of financial aid consists of loans. Although these are guaranteed by the federal government, loan programs do vary. If parents and students aren't careful they could end up selecting a loan that costs thousands of dollars more in payments than they would otherwise have to pay, says Kalman Chany, author of 'Paying for College Without Going Broke.' Also, keep in mind that a school's preferred lender may not offer the most competitive loan, he says. Compare the loans side by side to make sure you find the best source of money. While interest rates won't vary, you can save by looking for lenders that offer discounts for on-time payments and ones that pay the government service fees for you, says Martha Holler, financial aid expert with Sallie Mae. Click here for more on student loans. (http://www.smartmoney.com/college/finaid/index.cfm?story=demyst)

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