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Woman shocked to find sign with racist slur at gas station

Published: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 @ 4:32 PM

Woman Shocked To Find Sign With Racist Slur at Albuquerque Gas Station

A woman in Albuquerque was taken aback by the sign she said was in the window of a Shell gas station Saturday.

The sign read, "Leave yesterday ... please (N-word)," with the derogatory term written out.

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Maria Meeks told KRQE she went into the gas station to ask employees about the sign. Meeks claims the employee she spoke to laughed and said they posted the sign to discourage a vagrant from hanging out in front of the business.

Meeks contacted Shell's corporate office, KRQE reported. A company spokesperson told KRQE it is investigating the matter and is filing a formal complaint. Shell said the gas stations are independently owned.

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Claire’s Stores files for bankruptcy

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 10:07 AM

Asbestos Contamination Force Claire’s to Pull Makeup

Claire’s Stores Inc., a fashion accessories chain, has filed for bankruptcy.

The retailer and its affiliates have filed bankruptcy in United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The move could help with Claire’s $2 billion debt load. “Claire’s is growing, not shrinking, its business. The company expects its concessions business to grow by more than 4,000 stores in 2018,” the company said in a statement.

» TRENDING BUSINESS NEWS: Toys ‘R’ Us reportedly preparing to close all stores

Apollo paid more than $3 billion to acquire Claire’s from Rowland Schaefer, and began expanding the business — adding about 350 stores between 2010 and 2013. Claire’s expects to reduce debt by about $1.9 billion, after reaching an agreement with creditors including Elliott Management Corp. and Monarch Alternative Capital, which will give the company some $575 million in new capital.

Claire’s has locations at The Greene Town Center, the Dayton Mall, the Mall at Fairfield Commons, Upper Valley Mall in Springfield and the Cincinnati Premium Outlets in Monroe.

» BUSINESS NEWS: Jewelry store company expects to close 200 stores

Claire’s isn’t the only retailer to file bankruptcy. Toys ‘R’ Us also filed for bankruptcy and plans to liquidate all of its stores in the U.S., including its locations in Miami Twp. and Beavercreek. Toys ‘R’ Us, Inc. voluntarily filed for relief under Chapter 11, in September 2017. Toys R Us was $5 billion in debt, as of April 29. At the time of bankruptcy, the company said it would close about one-fifth of its store locations. Closing sales are expected to conclude in April.


• JC Penney cuts 360 jobs in stores, corporate headquarters

• Could Dayton see a hyperloop stop? City included in feasibility study

• Macy’s outlet store to open at shopping center in Dayton area

• Check out this $1 million home for sale in Clearcreek Twp.

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Kroger to halt sales of magazines about assault-style weapons

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 4:43 PM


Kroger will no longer sell magazines about modern sporting rifles, commonly referred to as assault-style weapons.

The grocery retailer announced it would stop selling magazines about modern sporting rifles. The decision comes weeks after the company announced Fred Meyer locations will stop selling guns to people under the age of 21, according to The Wall Street Journal. Kroger sells firearms at 43 Fred Meyer stores in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

» RELATED: 5 retailers taking a stance on gun control

The Fred Meyer company did not share how stores will screen gun magazines for assault rifles.

Other retailers have also taken a stance on gun control after a mass shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, Dick’s Sporting Goods, which owns Field & Stream, announced it would no longer sell assault-style rifles, also referred to as modern sporting rifles. Company officials said they already removed them from all Dick’s stores after the Sandy Hook massacre, but they will now remove them from all 35 Field & Stream stores.


• JC Penney cuts 360 jobs in stores, corporate headquarters

• Could Dayton see a hyperloop stop? City included in feasibility study

• Macy’s outlet store to open at shopping center in Dayton area

• Check out this $1 million home for sale in Clearcreek Twp.

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Insurance companies vying to attract local Medicare users

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 3:46 PM

            Bill Lackey/Staff
Bill Lackey/Staff

Insurance companies are scrambling to attract seniors in the Dayton area with soon-to-be discontinued Medicare Advantage plans through Premier Health.

Premier, which also operates four Dayton-area hospitals, is shutting down its Medicare Advantage insurance business line by March 31.

Now health insurance companies have flooded the region with advertising, trying to solicit the 9,500 people who were with Premier Health and are now searching for a new option.

RELATED: Premier says insurance business didn’t gain enough customers

Chris Reeg, program director for Ohio Senior Health Insurance Program, said her state program has been getting a lot of questions from confused seniors. There are more than 30 Medicare Advantage options in Montgomery County for residents to chose from.

Reeg said residents will need to carefully shop to make sure that they get the plan that’s right for them. Medicare Advantage Ohio — the privatized version of the federal insurance program — now accounts for 37 percent of all Medicare plans in the U.S.

While the percent of Medicare Advantage plans in Ohio only grew about 1 percent, it’s nationally proven to be a growing and lucrative business in the insurance industry.

Gretchen Jacobson, associate director with the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program on Medicare Policy, said people tend not to change their coverage options from year to year so from the insurers’ perspectives, it’s a “ripe opportunity” now that thousands of people have to search for new plans.

“From a business standpoint it makes sense that they are going full tilt into advertising to these beneficiaries,” she said.

LOCAL: Local hospitals penalized for high readmission rates

The percent of local adults on Medicare making these insurance decisions has also continued to grow as the population ages. On an average day in the Dayton region, about 53 percent of hospital patients are paying with Medicare.

Medicare Advantage plans, which are run by private insurance companies, get a fixed rate from the federal government each month for each person they enroll.

These privatized Medicare plans are serving a record number of people this year — about one third of Medicare’s total 59 million members.

Premier Health will stop operating its Medicare Advantage plans effective April 1 and Medicare Advantage members with those plans who do not enroll in another plan before April 1 will be automatically enrolled in traditional Medicare and SilverScript, a prescription drug plan.

Starting April 1, members who are auto-enrolled in traditional Medicare and SilverScript will still have until May 31 to shop and switch to another plan.

Reeg said the state is keeping busy helping residents understand their options because there are trade offs to Medicare and Medicare Advantage.

Medicare Advantage plans typically include drug coverage and most have extras like dental and vision. But Medicare Advantage plans also have limited networks compared to traditional Medicare, which lets seniors go to whatever hospital or doctor they want.

RELATED: Sale of Premier Health’s insurance line falls apart

While there are a host of other Medicare Advantage plans vying for customers, Reeg emphasized that former Premier insurance customers can also always go back to traditional Medicare if that seems like the best option.

Reeg said seniors need to consider what kind of costs are associate with plans, what kind of coverage each plan will give them and how convenient health care will be with each plan.

“We always go back to the three C’s: cost coverage and convenience,” she said.

State residents can get free information about their options from the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program at 1-800-686-1578.

“Our phone lines have definitely picked up. Our counseling appointments in that area have definitely picked up,” Reeg said.

RELATED: High Medicaid, Medicare use in Dayton increases health care costs

Rick Dunlop, UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare CEO of Ohio, said his company has about 80,000 Medicare Advantage members in the state and in about 30,000 in southwest Ohio.

“We’re seeing the numbers increase pretty significantly,” he said.

UHC had more than 6,200 Medicare Advantage policy holders in Montgomery County as of March but expects those numbers to grow because of new customers coming from Premier.

Dunlop said part of the appeal that they promote is that Medicare Advantage looks and feels like employer-based coverage and feels familiar to people just coming out of employment and into retirement. There numbers are also being boosted by an aging population in general and people interested in benefits like pharmacy instead of having to buy a separate part D plan.


PREVIOUSLY: Premier Health previously announced it was discontining its Medicare Advantage plans.

WHAT’S NEW: Insurance companies are scrambling to attract seniors to their Medicare Advantage plans before the deadline.

WHAT’S NEXT: Starting April 1, members who don’t pick a new plan will be auto-enrolled in traditional Medicare and the final deadline to pick a new Medicare plan is May 31. For free information about options from the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program call 1-800-686-1578.

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5 tips on breaking into animated film from an award-winning animator

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 12:58 PM

The following strategies can help fast track a creative career with top animation studios and teams across the nation Networking with successful alumni Putting yourself out there Showing brands you're a problem solver Sticking to your design guns Making them love you and your artistic abilities

If you've seen a lot of animated films and commercials, you might have come across the work of award-winning animator and illustrator Kurt Guard. His knack for creating cutting-edge visual effects for short- and feature-length films, TV campaigns and personal projects is what lands him animation gigs with top-tier brands like BET Networks, based in New York, and Caribbean Broadcasting Network in Hollywood.

»RELATED: Animated shows with Atlanta roots

"I grew up with a drawing pencil and sketchbook in my hand," said the seasoned multimedia animator based in Atlanta. "My gift for seeing something interesting, drawing it with the right amount of detail then bringing it to digital life is what got me into creative media. My precision and consistency is what led to collaborations with big brands and industry names I would have never imagined - and I have a huge imagination."

Kurt Guard is an award-winning, Atlanta-based animator who has collaborated with national networks like BET and with creative genius and director Jai Anthony Lewis Husband of Disney's 'The Lion King.'(Photo by Suhyoon Cho/For the AJC)

At the tail end of earning a fine arts degree at Georgia State University, he came upon an opportunity any art student would dream of: The chance to work with award-winning director Jai Anthony Lewis Husband, who is known for his work on Disney's "The Lion King."

The opportunity jump started Guard's animation career and led to his receiving NAACP Image Awards for best children's program for 2012’s “Kasha and the Zulu King”.

"I couldn't say 'no' to an opportunity to create with Jai," said Guard. "I just couldn't."

Until that big break comes for up-and-coming film artists, Guard recommends the following strategies to help fast track a creative career with top animation studios and teams across the nation:

Networking with successful alumni

"There's something to attending the same university as famous or influential alumni that instantly creates a special bond with them," said Guard. "Sometimes it's as simple as going to class reunions and alumni galas or becoming friends on social media with classmates that will help connect the professional dots of breaking into the industry." Guard knows colleagues who now work on Marvel, Nickelodeon, FX and Tyler Perry Studios productions, but notes, "It's one thing to know these industry professionals, but you also need to know how to gain sincere access to them." 

»RELATED: How to get a job at the Tyler Perry Studios

Putting yourself out there

Right after the artist Prince passed away in 2016, Guard developed a personal piece as a tribute to the musical mastermind. That illustration caught a colleague's attention, who reached out to Guard and got him in touch with award-winning TV producer Marsha Parker of BET's spin-off network Centric (now called BET Her). 

"It happened that fast," said Guard. "She taught me about the importance of staying on top of tight deadlines and ready for roadblocks." 

Guard highly recommends students commit to "passion projects" in order to generate a buzz with colleagues and creative producers.

"Passion projects are your best artwork - that are right up your talent-level alley and showcases your artistic range," he said. "For instance, if you're passionate about pop culture, political cartoons or celebrity pencil portraits, do that often and use social media to push your artwork to colleagues and industry gatekeepers."

Showing brands you're a problem solver

"If you want to work for Pixar, DreamWorks or Warner Bros., you have to do your research," Guard said. "Your work needs to reflect what that brand is producing. Then, you have to figure out what's missing. What's your 'wow-factor' that can amplify their mission and the direction they're heading into." When pitching projects to potential clients, Guard develops original, animated demos that will pique interest but also identify with the brands he wants to collaborate with. "After studying my favorite creative studios, I propose how I can help improve what they're currently producing as if I'm already a member of the team," he said. "That shows hiring executives and producers I'm serious about contributing to something great."

(Courtesy of BET Networks)

Sticking to your design guns

"Once you get that callback from high-profile production companies, you may start to think you have to go way beyond your design capabilities to continue to impress creative employers," said Guard. "You don't.”

Guard advises the talent that got you to the door is exactly what you need at the design table. Even on high-budget, stressful assignments, Guard suggests remaining composed and innovative with ideas to keep the design process flowing. 

Making them love you and your artistic abilities

"Research is so important, which is something students should never take for granted," said Guard. "Before stepping foot onto any production team, understand the organizational structure, office politics and the ones who are the true movers and shakers to get creative projects off the ground." Once that's established, Guard says your design work can shine through much easier. "When you know who and what you're dealing with for projects, it's a breeze to get your part approved and done before deadline," he said. "You have time to factor in design barriers and still turn out your best work. I'm telling you: When you're producing tight work that inspires and makes your team members' job as trouble-free as possible, the high-profile projects will keep heading your way."


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