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Quick Picks: Iraqi Refugees in the U.S.

Quick Picks focuses on a select few of the day's stories from "Breaking on the Web."

  • On Sunday, the Salt Lake Tribune published the first story in a series about Iraqi refugees adjusting to life in the U.S. Rabeh Morad, who lost his legs working as an interpreter for the U.S.-backed Coalition Provisional Authority, says he hasn't exactly gotten the welcome he'd hoped for. AIG, which managed the claims for the contractor that employed Morad, offered him $112,000 in compensation after he lost his legs. Morad says he "knew he was getting a bad deal" but took it anyway. Things remain bad for him: Financial assistance from the government is about to run out, and a Utah state worker's idea of help was to suggest that he beg for money at the local church. Morad asks, "Is this America? Is this what I gave my legs for?" AIG responds -- AIG spokesman Joe Norton told ProPublica that it's a tragic situation, but, “We do pay those claims as quickly as we can, and they're very complex. Policies only cover certain things." He later said the Tribune's assertion that AIG has "approved fewer than 1 percent of the injured workers it covers for PTSD treatment" is wrong. One percent is the number of all Defense Base Act claims received that have a PTSD component. AIG has paid more than 90 percent of claims received. He also adds that the $112,000 was based on the average weekly wage in the country in which he was hired, Iraq.
  • An upcoming Senate hearing on last month's coal ash spill in Tennessee has prompted a slew of reports about the poorly regulated system for disposing of waste from coal-fired power plants. The New York Times reports that better air pollution rules are partly to blame for the spill. Because those rules limit the waste that can spew out through smokestacks, it gets compacted into solid form and is usually dumped in wet ponds, like the one in Tennessee. When that pond ruptured, it dumped a billion gallons of toxic waste -- laced with arsenic, lead, and mercury -- across 300 acres and into rivers downstream. Studies have shown that the toxic cocktail in coal ash can cause cancer and birth defects (not to mention toothless tadpoles and crippled fish). McClatchy notes that after the EPA's conclusion in 2000 that coal ash isn’t hazardous, regulation has been left to the states, where it varies widely and is often voluntary.

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Update: AIG spokesman Joe Norton said the Tribune's assertion that AIG has "approved fewer than 1 percent of the injured workers it covers for PTSD treatment" is wrong. One percent is the number of all Defense Base Act claims received that have a PTSD component. AIG has paid more than 90 percent of claims received. He also adds that the $112,000 was based on the average weekly wage in the country in which he was hired, Iraq.

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