Gas Prices Jump At Pump Across St. Louis Region and Nationwide
Graphic of gas prices across the nation, courtesy AAA/FuelGaugeReport.AAA.com
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), February 5, 2013 - Today's national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $3.52, according to AAA' Fuel Guage Report. This price is 17 cents more expensive than one week ago, 22 cents more than one month ago and five cents more than the average price one year ago.
In a release, Michael Green, manager, AAA public relations, noted that "Today's price is the highest on record for this calendar day. The national average has exceeded the year-ago level and set a new daily record for five days in a row."
The 17-cent increase since last Monday is the most dramatic one-week spike in nearly two years and the twentieth largest weekly increase of the 21st century. The last time the national average increased more rapidly was Feb. 25-March 4, 2011, when violence in Northern Africa and the Middle East, most notably in Libya, sent oil and gasoline prices dramatically higher on fears of supply disruption.
The most dramatic one-week increase on record was Aug. 28-Sept. 4, 2005, when prices rose 46 cents in the days following Hurricane Katrina. The recent price surge has been largely the result of higher crude oil prices and the "rubber-banding" of midcontinent retail gasoline prices, which fell dramatically to end the year and are now swinging back to the upside.
The national average began 2013 at $3.29 and 17 days into the new-year was virtually unchanged. Since Jan. 17 the price at the pump has jumped 23 cents per gallon and increased for 18 straight days. This is the longest streak since prices rose for 21 consecutive days July 28-Aug. 18.
While prices in every state have increased over the last week, the increase was most dramatic in the Midwest, California and Colorado, led by jumps of more than 30 cents per gallon in both Indiana and Michigan. Eleven states have posted a monthly increase of at least 30 cents, and motorists in Indiana (47 cents), Minnesota (46 cents) and Michigan (44 cents) are all paying at least 40 cents more than one month ago. These regions have seen the most dramatic price increases because of higher regional crude prices and production concerns as refineries prepare to make the conversion to making summer-blend gasoline.
Despite these dramatic regional surges, the most expensive gasoline in the continental U.S. is still found in California and the Northeast: Calif. ($3.91), N.Y. ($3.87), Conn. ($3.85), Vt. ($3.72) and Maine ($3.71). The cheapest prices remain in the Mountain States: Wyo. ($2.94), Mont. ($3.04), Utah ($3.13), N.M. ($3.16) and Colo. ($3.17).
Great Central U.S. ShakeOut Takes Place February 7
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), February 3, 2013 - This Thursday, February 7, marks the 201st Anniversary of Magnitude 7.7 1812 New Madrid SZ earthquake.
This earthquake was one of at least three magnitude 7 or greater events that struck in the winter of 1811-1812, and forever changed the landscape of the region. Were they to happen today, their effects could be disastrous and they would affect millions of people.
At 10:15 a.m. CST, join Missourians and citizens across nine states to participate in this important earthquake exercise. During the ShakeOut, people across the central U.S. will "Drop, Cover and Hold On" for 60 seconds. Last year more than 12.5 million people were registered in ShakeOut drills worldwide.
This year, organizers are working to have 3 million participate in earthquake safety, preparedness, and mitigation activities.
WHAT TO DO IMMEDIATELY WHEN SHAKING BEGINS
Your past experience in earthquakes may give you a false sense of safety; you didn't do anything, or you ran outside, yet you survived with no injuries. Or perhaps you got under your desk and others thought you overreacted.
However, you likely have never experienced the kind of strong earthquake shaking that is possible in much larger earthquakes: sudden and intense back and forth motions of several feet per second will cause the floor or the ground to jerk sideways out from under you, and every unsecured object around you could topple, fall, or become airborne, potentially causing serious injury. This is why you must learn to immediately protect yourself after the first jolt... don't wait to see if the earthquake shaking will be strong!
In MOST situations, you will reduce your chance of injury if you:
DROP down onto your hands and knees (before the earthquakes knocks you down). This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won't fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.
For more information, visit: www.shakeout.org/centralus/
Whistleblower's Tip Led to Settlement with Dental Clinics for Overcharging
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), February 3, 2013 - Attorney General Chris Koster has announced that his office has awarded $8,239 to a Medicaid fraud whistleblower who alerted the state to fraudulent billings by a group of dental clinics. The award money is 10 percent of $82,000 that the dental provider is paying in restitution and penalties to the state of Missouri, as allowed by Missouri law.
"Medicaid fraud tips are an important part of our efforts to investigate and punish Medicaid fraud," Koster said. "We encourage anyone who suspects a health care provider is engaged in Medicaid fraud to contact our office so we can investigate."
Koster said the whistleblower contacted his office in January 2011 with concerns about Ozark Family Dentistry, and the clinics' owner, Dr. Arrash Ahmadnia. Dr. Ahmadnia, based in Rolla, owns dental clinics in Rolla, Thayer, Osceola and Springfield.
The whistleblower, who worked briefly at one of the clinics, alerted the Attorney General's Office that Dr. Ahmadnia had instructed him to perform unnecessary work on patients, presumably to bill the costs to Missouri Medicaid. The Attorney General's investigation found that the clinics had billed Medicaid for treatments under the code for dental fillings, but had actually performed different procedures - preventative resin restorations - which are not covered by Medicaid. The investigation also found some instances of double billing and billing for ineligible adults.
Under a settlement, Dr. Ahmadnia is required to pay more than $208,000 in restitution and penalties to the state and federal Medicaid programs. He is also required to immediately stop submitting reimbursement claims to Medicaid for the preventive resin restoration treatments. The agreement is a compromise of disputed claims and does not contain an admission of wrongdoing by Dr. Ahmadnia. The Attorney General's Office is continuing to review billing procedures at the clinics.
Regional Arts Commission Hands Out Innovation Grants
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), February 3, 2013 - The Regional Arts Commission (RAC) awarded its first-ever Innovation Grants, totaling $466,000, to nine St. Louis organizations that focus on culture and the arts.
The RAC created the grant program to address the changing environments facing the arts today economically, socially and technologically. Jill McGuire, executive director of the RAC, said the new grant category will fund organizations that would not be funded through traditional grants.
Of the 86 letters submitted, 44 applicants were invited to submit full proposals. The proposals were reviewed by RAC staff and a panel of RAC commissioners, and the final nine grants were approved by the full commission.
The nine organizations to receive the Innovation Grants include:
Arts Saint Louis - $50,000: to create a digital market place for visual artists to display and sell their work
Contemporary Art Museum - $100,000: to create video installations outside
Craft Alliance - $50,000: to create an online art studio
HEARding Cats - $18,000: to create a project that develops instruments designed to resonate underwater to produce an underwater concert, with video projected to the surface of the water
Metro Theater Co. - $80,000: to create a program that promotes professional theater for young audiences
Openly Disruptive - $50,000: to create a website where the public can create interactive collages
Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis - $25,000: to create an international website for all things Shakespeare
STAGES St. Louis - 43,000: to create a division focused on making American musical productions
The World Chess Hall of Fame - $50,000: to create a community outreach initiative to prevent youth violence through integrating arts, chess and hip-hop culture
The Regional Arts Commission is the St. Louis area's largest annual funder of the arts. Last year, the commission awarded 186 grants totaling more than $2.9 million.