A Flood of Controversial Semantics Over Fire-Related Losses

Last Friday, we posted an Open Thread with some videos that helped teach American Sign Language. Did anyone give it 'em a shot? They're reposted, below the fold. Today, this morning's Open Thread about Net Neutrality -- check it out.

Thiis piece, meanwhile, is nothing so educational or informative -- we're going to make note of a wonderful new way an insurance company is attempting to avoid paying out on a policy.

You might want to sit down for this.

From The Houston Chronicle (hat-tip DWoods12), insurance provider Great American Insurance Company is attempting to argue in a federal court that the smoke that killed three people in a 2007 fire in Houston was "pollution" and that surviving families shouldn't be compensated for their losses since the deaths were not directly caused by the actual flames:

Great American Insurance Company is arguing in a Houston federal court that the section of the insurance policy that excludes payments for pollution — like discharges or seepage that require cleanup — would also exclude payouts for damages, including deaths, caused by smoke, or pollution, that results from a fire.


Great American has asked U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal to find that the deaths caused by the smoke, fumes and soot from the March 2007 fire set by a nurse working in the building will not be covered by the policy because there is a specific exclusion for pollution and it mentions smoke, fumes and soot.

The insurance company that carries the primary $1 million policy hasn't made this argument.

Aside from the story itself, it is curious to note the last name of the reporter who wrote this story for the Chronicle -- "Flood." A woman named Mary Flood (mary.flood@chron.com) wrote a story about an insurance company trying to get out of paying a claim on a fire insurance policy. Talk about ironic.


The videos below were posted last Friday, 12 Dec 2008, in this Open Thread; did anyone give 'em a shot?

ASL: Finger Spelling
(the Alphabet)

ASL Lesson: Basic Vocab 1

ASL Lesson: Signing Pronouns
(Prenominal Reference)

ASL Lesson: Signs Relating
to Time

I've started, but have a long way to go.

How 'bout you?


No votes yet


He, men have the forehead and we have the mouth!!! Who figured that one out, sounds just a tad like a steriotype don't you think?

I was puzzled why in the first tape the letter "G" dropped out, also there don't seem to be signs for "ch" or "th" and I guess "h" is considered silent.

I think it is quite interesting. Kind of like dance. You could see how using some of the signs and speaking might be interesting.

Some years ago I was going to Japan and also meeting Japanese scientists (in the course of reporting on cold fusion) and I picked up bits of the spoken language. It really isn't too difficult if you overlook the variations conventional for expressing deference or subordination and different manners of expression of men and women. I tsuspect that things are moving in the direction of a more uniform language these days. AT the time my use of the vocabulary was rudimentary to have it matter-- things like "Is so and so available to come to the phone?" were my speed. I was pretty good at speaking telephone Japanese that way but unfortunately I couldn't understand the answers which would be in Japanese,  I got so I switched to always using English.

The problem I faced with the language was how extremely different their written language was from hours. They usetraditional  Chinese characters and a simplified phonetic wirttine language and a different way of writing (also using characters) for transliterating foreign words. I think with computers they also used the alphabet. But looking at the characters was fascinating.
For example the character to indicate the word "discord" was a shematic version of two women in a house (two vertical lines with a horizontal above). Very poetic to us. I asked a Japanese friend if when he wrote in Japanese he thought of these associations that were embodied in the written "signs" and he said no, not at all. He said that writing using Japanese characters (which actually are interspersed with their phonetic written language these days) is faster than writing in English using our alphabet. By the way children first learn with the phonetic language and then begin picking up the characters.


I might have to start -- right after I get conversant in ASL. :)

Well if it is a Japanese person who is hearing impaired it should be easy.