WORD TO THE WISE: Animal wellness plans and pet insurance may help take bite …

Nurturing and caring for your pet may be easy, but paying for quality veterinary care over the course of your pet’s life might not always be quite as easy. Most pet owners are able to cover the costs of routine vaccinations and yearly checkups out of pocket, but what about unforeseen injuries or illnesses? Some pet hospitals, veterinary clinics and other animal organizations now offer wellness plans or insurance plans to help pet owners manage costs as well as the health of their pets. The Better Business Bureau is reminding people to be sure they’re clear on the differences between the two types of coverage.

Both pet wellness and pet insurance plans offer benefits to consumers as well as their pets. The key is investigating your options and deciding if one or both is the best choice for you.

Wellness plans are generally for proactive, preventative care. Pet hospitals and veterinary clinics refer to them as “discount membership” programs for pet owners to receive discounts on routine services pets typically need. These often include office visits, physical exams, vaccines and screening for illnesses. Plans like these usually require a one-time annual payment or 12 monthly payments. There are no deductibles with wellness plans, but they do not cover unexpected health issues or emergency situations. Consumers should be sure to ask if their wellness plan renews automatically, how they can opt out of their plan and if any cancellation fees will apply.

Pet insurance plans generally cover treatment for animal illnesses or injuries. These plans require monthly premiums and cover a large portion of the cost of diagnosis and treatment for emergency situations; however, there may be exclusions as well as caps on your claims. Ultrasounds, X-rays, blood work and surgeries are just a few of the services that would likely be covered under an insurance plan, but not a wellness plan. Some plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions or chronic issues such as kidney failure, diabetes or arthritis. Certain breeds or dogs of a certain age might also be exempt from some types of insurance coverage. As with other insurance plans, deductibles and co-pays may apply.

The BBB provides the following tips for pet owners interested in health plans for their pets:

Not all plans are created equal. Compare the insurance and wellness plans offered by different pet hospitals and animal organizations to understand the differences in coverage and options available to you.

Make sure you’re clear on the effective date of whatever plan you purchase. Your coverage may not begin on the date you sign the contract and you could end up being charged more than you expect if an office visit becomes necessary or an emergency occurs before the coverage’s starting date.

Keep a copy of your wellness plan or pet insurance coverage on hand. Make sure you’re clear on what is and what isn’t covered.

Most importantly, ask your veterinarian. They should be able to answer any questions you have about your pet and help you select the coverage that they accept and that’s best for you.

Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at 478-742-7999, www.bbb.org or by emailing info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org.

Campus cooking: three cheap and healthy dorm room recipes

When I went away to school at Emerson College in Boston, the cafeteria initially seemed exciting. There was always pizza, always ice cream, and always (always!) sugary cereals in seemingly never-empty bins. When I lived with my parents, Lucky Charms were only a part of our lives when we went on vacation; at college, I could have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I wanted.

Obviously, I quickly discovered that eating cereal all day long was not a plan with long-term viability, so I began to explore cooking in my dorm room.

I bought a set of dishes, a small pot, a hot plate and a microwave, and would fill zip-top bags with the cafeteria salad bars’ fresh vegetables. There, in my room, between classes, study sessions and parties, I learned how to make myself satisfying, enjoyable meals – and not only were they tasty, they were a heck of a lot healthier than what was available in the dining hall.

Read on for a few of my quick, nutritious, and very inexpensive dorm room recipes – and share your favorites in the comments!

Vietnamese spring rolls

These may seem complicated and hard to make, but they’re actually very simple. Better still, they don’t require any cooking, and the possibilities for fillings are endless. Look for the wrappers at natural food grocery stores or Asian specialty markets. Nearly all the fillings and sauce ingredients can be pilfered from your dining hall (or purchased for very little money at a grocery store). These also have the benefit of being very portable. I would often eat them wrapped in a paper towel, on my way to class.

Serves 1-2

How to deal with a resource-guarding dog

Does your dog growl when you attempt to take away his food? Does Fido snap at you when you go near his bone? Does he bark and growl at anyone attempting to come near you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your dog may be displaying signs of resource guarding, a fairly common behavior owners of problem dogs experience. It can be very dangerous to other household pets and humans, and if not handled correctly, it can lead to euthanasia of the dog. Pet owners can take steps, though, to prevent and eliminate the behavior.

The problem

Dogs may become possessive of objects when a new member of the family is added to the home. Some are possessive because of a learned behavior from their youth. Food, toys, treats, bones, furniture, humans, yards, kennels and the home are examples of some of the things dogs like to protect. Dogs can quickly develop negative associations when their valuable resources are taken away from them.

Each time another dog or human attempts to take a resource away from them, it can represent a significant conflict in their mind. When this conflict arises, dogs tend to send warning signals before they attempt to bite. A bite is usually a last resort for most pets. Let’s say the dog is possessive about a bone. The first signal a dog will display as soon as he perceives a threat is to stop chewing the bone. He will stare and wait for the threat to turn away.

If those signals do not work and the threat continues to approach, the dog’s entire body will become tense and he will lower his head closer to the bone. The staring will become significantly more intense and pupils will become dilated. The next warning signal is a growl and/or displaying of teeth when the threat is too close. At this point most threats turn away and the dog learns how far he needs to go before moving perceived threats away from his valuable resource. If none of these warning signals work, he may snap and bite to protect the bone.

Once a dog learns that biting will work to keep the valuable resource to himself, he will rehearse the same behavior any time he feels the resource is in danger. Some dogs will even move on to protect more than one resource once they learn they can protect resources.

Prevention

Preventing a dog from resource guarding is valuable to both his life and yours. When puppies are young, it is vital they learn that it is okay for things to be taken away from them. Play with your puppy’s food while he eats. Take some food out of his dish and hand feed it to him. Do the same thing with a bone or toy. When he receives these fun objects practice taking them away by trading them with another object or yummy treat. High value treats tend to be the best option to trade. This helps create positive associations in the dog’s mind at a young and impressionable age. The same can be done with an older dog that has had no history of resource guarding.

Dogs that already display signs of resource guarding need to be worked with very carefully. They should lose the privilege of taking that valuable resource whenever they please. Food should be fed piece by piece from your hand and all bones/toys should be put away until you can consult with a professional to solve those issues. Never attempt to forcefully take an object away from your dog because it may lead to a severe bite and build more conflict in the dog’s mind. To get an object away you will need to trade the object with something extremely valuable to the dog. Trading will be the safest way to get that object away until you can work on the resource guarding problem. Trading can still be dangerous because you may not understand how close you can get to your dog’s resource.

If your dog displays any of these negative behaviors, contact your veterinarian or a behavior specialist as soon as possible. Proper communication between you and your pet will make your home a safer place.

NC attorney wins $55M verdict against insurance companies

A Nevada County attorney was part of the legal team that recently won a multi-million verdict against a group of insurance companies that tried to deny coverage to a Pennsylvania-based company.

A California jury awarded more than $55 million to pipe-joining company Victaulic Co. in its suit accusing three American International Group Inc. units of denying coverage of dozens of suits against Victaulic in bad faith.

After a six-week trial, the jury gave Pennsylvania-based Victaulic $9.3 million for the insurers’ breach of contract and $46 million in punitive damages, reportedly the largest verdict in Alameda County Superior Court in nearly a decade.

Victaulic was represented by Craig Diamond of Diamond Baker Mitchell, and Joseph D. Jean, Colin T. Kemp and Jeffrey A. Kiburtz of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

Victaulic was founded during World War I and supplied water and fuel to the front lines — hence its name, an abbreviation of the slogan “Victory Through Hydraulics,” Diamond said.

Diamond has represented Victaulic for more than 30 years. But because the AIG suit promised to be “incredibly labor-intensive,” a larger law firm was brought in, with Diamond working to keep the litigation on track.

Even though AIG no longer insures Victaulic, the win was important because the statute of limitations can be very long, Diamond explained, adding that in California the statute of limitations for some defects can be 10 years.

So even though AIG last provided insurance coverage for the company in 2012, they potentially could cover claims until 2022.

Victaulic had been facing claims of cracked pipes and water damage in several suits brought by condominiums, a hospital and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, and anticipated more than a dozen more suits.

But the insurers — National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, the Insurance Co. of the State of Pennsylvania and American Home Assurance Co. — denied coverage of those claims, and AIG sued Victaulic for declaratory judgment in Pennsylvania court in 2012.

That suit was dismissed, and Victaulic filed a suit of its own in California, calling the insurers’ conduct “despicable” and “oppression.”

After the trial, the jury found that the defendants had not only breached their policies in bad faith but also acted with “malice, oppression or fraud,” which served as the basis for the sizable punitive damages.

According to Diamond, the trial was “quite a ride,” with three contempt claims still pending against the insurance companies.

“One of the claims directors took the Fifth on the stand,” he said. “It was something … I’ve never seen that before.”

During the trial, Diamond said, it was revealed that the insurance companies were “slotting” claims — taking claims out of one policy year and moving them to another so the deductible would never be met.

“It’s very rare to get punitive damages at (that) level … in a commercial litigation case,” Diamond said, citing evidence of conscious disregard for the rights of others. “Clearly, the jury found their behavior egregious.”

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

Surgeon sues company for ‘cooking £200000 wine collection’

A retired Australian surgeon who spent decades building up a cellar containing
some of the world’s finest wines is suing an air conditioning firm which he
claims cooked his £200,000 collection.

Spero Raptis said the contractor left a humidifier running after maintenance
work on his large cellar, ruining the wine and knocking 75 per cent from its
value, The Adelaide Advertiser reported.

He said he discovered the damage last year after his wife noticed condensation
seeping from under the cellar door. When Dr Raptis tried to enter, he was
driven back by heat and a large amount of steam.

His

Chinese stocks go on wild ride as economic gloom deepens

SHANGHAI/BEIJING Chinese stock markets took a wild ride on Wednesday, tumbling and soaring in a session that made little sense other than to highlight that investors have almost no faith in a month-long government effort to stabilize them.

The Shanghai and Shenzhen markets fell 3 percent in morning trade, taking their losses to more than 8 percent since investors stampeded without warning on Tuesday.

But state-backed buyers later rushed in, enabling stocks to finish the day more than 1 percent higher.

It is a pattern that has been repeated several times since Beijings national team, a coalition of state-backed financial institutions and regulators, went into action early last month with instructions to halt a crash in share prices.

Investors say Chinas stock markets – which were never for the faint of heart – have become dysfunctional since the governments massive and unprecedented rescue effort.

Prices move sharply on speculation about the national teams activities as investors focus on making quick trading profits by pre-empting its next move.

Late in the afternoon on Wednesday, a slew of companies announced state funds had bought stakes in them, which investors took as a sign that the government was signaling its continued support for the market. As of early evening, around 20 firms had made such announcements.

Long-term investors are staying well to the sidelines, moving their cash into bonds and the money market, as roller-coaster markets and a gloomy stream of economic news heighten their anxiety over the worlds second-largest economy.

We advise strapping in for a bumpy ride, said Tim Condon, head of Asia research for ING Bank in Singapore.

The Commerce Ministry added to that anxiety on Wednesday, saying exports could continue falling in coming months, after an 8.3 percent plunge in July, their biggest drop in four months.

The economy is already under threat of deflation and policymakers are struggling to revive bricks-and-mortar investment. Beijings official growth target is 7 percent for this year, but some economists estimate current levels are closer to half that.

Combined exports and imports for the first seven months of 2015 fell 7.2 percent from the same period last year, compared with Beijings full-year target of 6 percent growth.

The possibility of exports to see year-on-year decline in some months could not be ruled out. But we will still see export growth for the whole year, Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang told a regular monthly briefing.

For the whole year, the foreign trade will face more severe situation than we expected.

Only last month, the ministry predicted exports would improve in the second half of this year from the first half.

CENTRAL BANK INJECTS LIQUIDITY

The Shanghai market closed up 1.2 percent and Shenzhen jumped 2.2 percent. The benchmark CSI300 index .CSI300, comprising blue-chip stocks from both markets, rose 1.6 percent.

The rebound followed news the central bank would offer more medium-term funds to banks, in addition to a 120 billion yuan ($19 billion) injection of funds into money markets on Tuesday.

The central bank confirmed later in the day it lent 110 billion yuan of six-month cash to help maintain sufficient liquidity in the market.

Sources familiar with the medium-term funding plan said this would help offset the drain on liquidity caused by Chinas unexpected devaluation of the yuan last week.

The prospect of further weakening has prompted investors to swap yuan into US dollars.

Capital outflows from China are expected to increase as investors grow more pessimistic over the outlook for the currency and the economy, and calls are growing for the Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) to roll out support measures more swiftly and aggressively to shore up growth.

Highlighting growing anxiety, money-market interest rates ticked higher on Wednesday, despite the fresh fund injections from the central bank. The weighted average benchmark seven-day repurchase agreement rate rose four basis points to 2.53 percent.

The PBOC devalued the currency on Aug. 11, within a few days of the poor July export data and other official figures showing factory-gate prices continued their three-year slide in July, touching a six-year low.

A week later, the central bank is still struggling to control the fallout. Though it insists the yuan has no reason to fall further, most economists believe there is political pressure to let it slowly slide, which will put more competitive pressure on Chinas export-reliant Asian neighbors.

The yuan has fallen 3 percent against the dollar since the eve of the devaluation, but that marks only a partial reversal of its gains over the past 12 months, especially against currencies of major trading partners Japan and the euro zone.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch said on Wednesday the yuan could be allowed to depreciate to 6.5 to the dollar by the end of this year and 6.9 by end 2016, from around 6.40 now.

The devaluation last week triggered falls in other Asian currencies such as those of Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan, fuelling fears of a currency war.

On Wednesday, Vietnam devalued the dong for the third time this year as authorities sought to support a languid export sector facing fresh challenges from the Chinese devaluation.

(Additional reporting by Xiaoyi Shao in BEIJING and Kazunori Takada in SHANGHAI; Writing by Mark Bendeich; Editing by Kim Coghill)

A YouTube Talent Manager Shapes the Internet’s Hottest Stars — and Maybe the …

Its an industry thats dominated by children and inexperienced people, says Naomi Lennon, who runs a YouTube talent management company. It hasnt been good for all the stars. Theres a lot of exploitation. Theres a lot of mismanagement of careers. Theres a lot of false promises.

Mandich, Lennon and a few others are among a small cohort of independent managers who work exclusively for YouTube stars. Like managers in any other entertainment field, they take a commission based on a clients income. Its only in the last few years that revenues have grown enough to make managing YouTube stars a viable business.

The cleanest way to do it … is to represent them independently, says Sarah Weichel, another manager. Its time for the industry to mature.

In part, a managers job is to play matchmaker between the talent and the brands that want to advertise on YouTube. But the job is also to be a confidant and a life coach, helping clients shape their careers.

Its a hard business, Anthony says. Its talent. You gotta be there with them. Theyre needy. You gotta earn their trust.

Mandich, he says, is the best at what he does in the business.

Mandich met iJustine while working at the Collective, a management company with clients in the music industry and on YouTube. Mandich, then 22, had studied music management at USC before joining the company. He and iJustine formed a close bond.

We just hit it off, Mandich says. We had a good understanding of her brand, and what she needs to build her business.

iJustine was already one of the biggest stars on YouTube. She had been posting videos for years, developing a persona as a tech-obsessed Apple fangirl. One of her early breakout hits was a video in which she pores over a 300-page iPhone bill. She was clever about it. Shes playing a ditz, but shes in on the joke.

She was incredibly marketable, says Richard Frias, who was her first manager. And as opposed to traditional Hollywood talent, she was self-sustaining. She could create and market her own content.

At first Frias would struggle to put together endorsement deals for just a few thousand dollars. But by 2010, YouTube was becoming a bigger business. ATamp;T paid iJustine and a few other YouTube stars to make videos across the country to demonstrate the firms nationwide network.

After a year, the Collective invested more heavily in YouTube, launching its own multichannel network. A trio of managers at the company, who did not want to be part of an MCN, left and founded an independent management company, Addition.