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California bars insurance companies from dropping customers in fire-prone zones

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California state regulators on Thursday banned insurance companies from dropping customers who live in fire-prone areas, a move aimed at helping some 800,000 people across the state.

The decision calls for a mandatory one-year moratorium on insurance companies refusing to renew policies in areas at high risk for wildfire.

“This wildfire insurance crisis has been years in the making, but it is an emergency we must deal with now if we are going to keep the California dream of home ownership from becoming the California nightmare,” Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said in a statement. “I am calling on insurance companies to push the pause button on issuing non-renewals for one year to give breathing room to communities and homeowners while they adapt and mitigate risks, give the Legislature time to work on additional lasting solutions, and allow California’s insurance market to stabilize.”

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Hundreds of thousands of Californians in recent years have seen their fire insurance policies increased or cancelled as wildfires across the state — driven by climate change — have become the new normal.

Consumer groups have warned that loss of coverage could lead to declining home values and turn away prospective home buyers.

They also warn that higher premiums for homeowners and businesses will drive people away.

A 2017 California Department of Insurance report noted that homeowners who had been paying $800 to $1000 in annual insurance had seen their policy go up to as much as $5,000.

Insurance companies say the price hikes and decision to drop some customers are necessary given the more than $24 billion in damage claims paid in the last two years as the fires have become increasingly deadly and destructive.

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Russia-linked disinformation campaign fueling coronavirus alarm, US says

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Thousands of Russian-linked social media accounts have launched a coordinated effort to spread alarm about the new coronavirus, disrupting global efforts to fight the epidemic, US officials say.

The disinformation campaign promotes unfounded conspiracy theories that the United States is behind the COVID-19 outbreak, in an apparent bid to damage the US image around the world by seizing on health concerns.

State Department officials tasked with combatting Russian disinformation told AFP that false personas are being used on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to advance Russian talking points in multiple languages.

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2020 Election

‘Trump cheats at golf’: Bloomberg mocks president with billboard

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Las Vegas (AFP) - Democratic White House hopeful Michael Bloomberg mocked Donald Trump with a giant billboard on the Las Vegas Strip on Friday, fueling their feud as the US president visits the city for a rally."Donald Trump lost the popular vote," read one slogan on the world-famous street lined with casinos, while another read "Donald Trump's wall fell over."The giant digital billboard is just two miles (three kilometers) down the Strip from Trump's own hotel, where the president is staying while in Las Vegas.Bloomberg is vying for the Democratic nomination to take on Trump at November's ele... (more…)

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2020 Election

Trump is doing Putin’s bidding by ‘spreading misinformation’ about new Russian election meddling report: Ex-NSC official

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Appearing on CNN on Saturday morning, former National Security Council official Samantha Vinograd stated that Donald Trump attacks on a new U.S. intelligence report showing ten Russians are already meddling in the 2020 election is exactly what Russian President Vladimir Putin would want him to do.

Speaking with hosts Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul, Vinograd accused Trump of spreading misinformation because it helps his re-election chances.

"The key question, though, is on the misinformation and disinformation front," Vinobrad explained. "Christi, you don't fight a Russian campaign with misinformation about the campaign. President Trump calling it a Democratic hoax is exactly what Putin is hoping for from this president."

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