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Driver's license to kill hikes insurance rates

Let's put it this way--the applicant's driving record isn't exactly stellar.

But given who the applicant is, you might be surprised at how relatively reasonable his personal automobile insurance premium would be.

The star in question is James Bond, and London-based Virgin Car Insurance calculated that it would cost the fictional super spy £7,108.50--or $13,460.66--to insure the Aston Martin DBS V12 he drives in "Casino Royale," which was released Nov. 17.

Virgin Car Insurance underwriters took into account Mr. Bond's age--38--and occupation--export consultant--as well as his driving record and automotive accessories such as ejector seats and rockets in calculating his premium. They also took into account six previous losses involving crashes as in "Goldfinger," explosions in "For Your Eyes Only" and a car being driven off a roof in "Tomorrow Never Dies."

In a statement announcing the insurer's calculations, a Virgin Money spokesman said, "it just goes to show that even drivers with an action-packed driving record don't have to be Goldfinger to get great car insurance." And that's without a good driver credit, either--let alone a multiple-driver discount. It's enough to make even "M" smile.

Court wraps up argument over sandwich

It took a court ruling, testimony from both a chef and a high-ranking federal agriculture official, talks about culinary history and a precise dictionary definition to set the legal precedent that (gasp) a burrito is not a sandwich.

The contrary was the argument made by the St. Louis-based Panera Bread Co., which took the landlord of a shopping center in Shrewsbury, Mass., to court for leasing space to Qdoba Mexican Grill Inc., according to wire reports.

The cafe and sandwich chain invoked a clause in its lease with White City Shopping Center that forbids the property owner from renting space to another sandwich shop.

But, according to a Superior Court judge's ruling in Worcester, Mass., two pieces of bread--not a tortilla--are what make a sandwich, wire reports stated.

Insurance fraud not fun and games

Video games, which have long been criticized for promoting violence and glorifying criminal behavior, have now drawn the ire of the insurance world.

That's because the game Saints Row rewards players for perpetrating insurance fraud, according to the U.S. Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a nonprofit watchdog group based in Washington.

"They're young and growing up, getting ideas for how to commit insurance fraud," said a spokesman for the coalition, which he said is "disgusted" with the game, released in September by Agoura Hills, Calif.-based THQ Inc.

The video game features gang members engaging in car theft, violence, prostitution and, as the CAIF spokesman pointed out, a doctor telling players how to fake an injury for an insurance claim.

Players also can make their characters jump in front of cars to get injured and collect money. The bigger the accident, the larger the payout.

The game is rated M, or mature, by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which means it is intended for individuals age 17 or older.

Calls to THQ for comment were not returned.

Promoting higher education

Workplace accommodations have reached a new high with two university professors in Canada recently winning the right to smoke pot at work.

The University of Toronto's Trinity College and nearby York University both said they recently have allowed professors to smoke medical marijuana at work to relieve chronic ailments. Under Canada's Marihuana Medical Access Regulations, citizens suffering from certain serious conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, or spinal cord injuries can obtain pot from Health Canada, a government agency.

Health Canada provides an authorization process and dried marijuana or seeds for those wanting to cultivate their own. It charges just enough to cover production costs, or $20 plus tax for a packet of 30 seeds or $5 a gram plus tax for the dried stuff.

The agency provides a toll-free number and purchasers can order a month's supply at a time, based on an approved daily dosage. According to Health Canada, 1,492 people have been authorized to possess the product.

One item on a list of frequently asked questions provided on Health Canada's Web site addresses whether private insurers will cover invoices for marijuana. "You will need to contact your private insurer," the answer states.

While Canada has allowed authorized medical marijuana use since 2001, the two professors each met resistance from their employers when they first attempted to smoke marijuana at work to relieve the symptoms of their ailments.

The employers eventually relented.

The professor at York University suffers from degenerative arthritis. The Trinity College professor has kept his particular ailment private. But the university reportedly has provided him with a ventilated basement smoking room.

Contributing: Roberto Ceniceros, Louise Esola, Mark A. Hofmann