Major Health Insurer Drops Obamacare In Most Markets

Aetna Inc, the No. 3 U.S. health insurer, on Monday said that due to persistent financial losses on Obamacare plans, it will sell individual insurance on the government-run online marketplaces in only four states next year, down from the current 15 states.

Aetna’s decision follows similar moves from UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Humana Inc., which have cited similar concerns about financial losses on these exchanges created under President Barack Obama’s national healthcare reform law.

Aetna is also trying to buy Humana and is currently fighting a U.S. government lawsuit aimed at blocking the $34 billion deal.

Aetna, which earlier this year said it was too soon to give up on the exchanges despite its challenges, this month signaled it was reconsidering. On Aug. 2, the company said it would not expand in 2017 and would review all its individual business.

Many insurers last year had said they expected to profit on the exchanges, but now say more exchange rules must be changed for it to be sustainable. Only about 11 million people have signed up through the exchanges, about half as many as expected.

Larry Levitt, healthcare economist at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that if enrollment stagnates, small technical fixes likely will not be enough to bring big insurers back. “More healthy people need to be encouraged to sign up,” Levitt said by email.

Aetna said that the current risk adjustment system, in which the government balances out the costs of sicker than typical populations through payments to insurers, is not adequate.

Aetna said that it had a second-quarter pretax loss of $200 million on the individual business and has lost $430 million since the plans first went on sale in 2014.

Kevin Counihan, Chief Executive of the U.S. government-run individual marketplace, said that the risks of the customer pool is improving.

“It’s no surprise that companies are adapting at different rates to a market where they compete for business on cost and quality rather than by denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions,” Counihan said in a statement.

Aetna on Monday said it would continue to sell plans on the exchanges in Delaware, Iowa, Nebraska and Virginia in 2017. The plans, which are eligible for income-based government subsidies, will be sold in 242 counties, down from 778 counties this year. States it is exiting include Florida and Ohio.

It will continue to sell individual plans that meet the law’s requirements – such as not denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions – outside of the exchanges where it does now, the company said.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Diane Craft)

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From regeneration to homelessness: The blessing and curse of London’s Olympic legacy

(CNN)Perhaps more than any previous Olympic Games, London 2012 was sold on the promise of a glorious legacy.

“The Olympics will bring the biggest single transformation of the city since the Victorian age,” said Ken Livingstone in 2003.
    This was, according to the then Mayor of London, a unique opportunity to pump billions of pounds into a neglected, poverty-stricken corner of East London, for the benefit of local people.
    Four years on, a transformation is undeniably underway.
    Once contaminated, industrial fields have been converted into the 250-hectare Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, stylish, modern apartments are opening in the former athlete’s village, and the first of several new schools is making use of the grand Aquatics Center.
    But the regeneration is not without controversy.
    House prices in surrounding areas have sky rocketed, gentrification has pushed out many locals, and homelessness is on the rise, leading many to ask: was hosting the Olympics a good thing for London?

    Next phase

    Cranes dominate the park skyline.
    They are testament to the 8,000 homes the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) claims will be built on the site, and a further 16,000 in the local area, over the next 15 years.
    The 2.4 billion ($3.1 billion) International Quarter will provide office space and business facilities for 25,000 workers.
    The Cultural and Education District will host museums and two new university campuses.
    Peter Tudor, director of visitor services at the LLDC — the government body charged with managing the transition — estimates that around 40,000 jobs will be created on-site, from gardeners to building contractors.
    “Our focus is on sustainability and making sure there are provisions for things like doctor surgeries and education,” he says. “We are making sure it’s not just houses and offices, that we are providing the infrastructure so people can really live here.”
    The transformation also extends to the surrounding area. Newham borough is now home to the largest mall in Europe, and local transport links have received major upgrades — with the 27 billion Crossrail 2 project still to come.


    Public backlash

    Few host cities have land available for a vast Olympic Park.
    “You can either take land that nobody wants,” says Gold. “Or you have to evict people.”
    Evictions have become practically become an Olympic tradition.
    More than two million people were displaced between Seoul 1988 and London 2012, according to the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions. The trend has continued in Rio with tens of thousands forced out, in often-brutal favela clearances.
    The displacements, combined with the vast public expenditure, have fostered widespread Olympic skepticism. Anti-Olympic protests were held in London, followed by larger demonstrations in Rio, where police used tear gas to disperse angry crowds.
    The growing Olympic backlash has seen Stockholm, Munich, and St. Moritz dropping their bids to host the 2022 Winter Games, the latter two cities after a public vote.
    Boston and Hamburg have pulled out of the race for the 2024 Games.
    “The IOC has a real problem, unless they can find more hosts in totalitarian states,” says Brownill. “They may not be able to stage them anywhere else.”

    A new model

    The IOC is aware of the need to reduce the burden on host cities, says Emilio Fernndez Pea, Director of the Olympic Studies Centre at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and a consultant of the IOC.
    “The importance of creating a more sustainable Olympic Games is clearly a big issue — it is one of the key concepts of the IOC’s Agenda 2020,” says Pea. “The Olympics must be more sustainable and demonstrate they are useful for society in general.”
    An alternative approach would be to abandon the idea of using the Olympics to regenerate cities, and instead stage them in handful of megacities that already possess the necessary infrastructure.
    “My forecast is it will only be the big capital cities that host the Games in future,” says Gold. “They will be repeated in cities like London and Los Angeles.”

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    Audi to sell cars that talk to traffic lights

    Select models sold in US will show countdown to signals turning green and warn when its too late to beat a red

    The German carmaker Audi is rolling out technology that will allow its vehicles to communicate with traffic lights.

    Audi of America, which is owned by Volkswagen, said select 2017 Q7 and A4 models built after 1 June 2016 would be equipped with the system.

    Audis version of technology known in the industry as V-to-I, or vehicle to infrastructure, displays a countdown before a red light turns to green, with a countdown also appearing when it is too late to get through an approaching signal before it turns red.

    This is our foray into V-to-I, said Pom Malhotra, general manager of Audis connected vehicles division. This is designed not as a safety feature but a comfort and convenience feature.

    The display would disappear a few seconds before the light turned green so the driver could pay attention to the intersection, said Malhotra.

    Future versions could be it linked to a cars navigation system or its stop/start functions, or traffic signals could advise a vehicle to keep to a certain speed in order to match the flow of lights, executives said.

    Audi said it planned to roll out the capability in five to seven US cities in 2016, with cities to be switched on one by one. The company would not disclose which cities would be first.

    Carmakers are trying to bring in the technology alongside vehicle-to-vehicle communications (V-to-V) allowing cars to talk to each other to reduce accidents and relieve traffic congestion, as manufacturers move towards greater automation on the road.

    But the systems require secure communications infrastructure as well as cooperation with municipalities and transportation agencies.

    With Reuters

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    Russia may cut crew on International Space Station

    Cosmonaut contingent could fall from three to two, with Nasa flagging concerns it might put remaining astronauts and station itself at risk

    Russia may cut down its crew on the international space station from three to two as Moscow reviews its future involvement in the programme.

    Typically six crew members live at the space station, which is meant to stay in operation until at least 2024.

    Asked during a news conference about media reports that Russia was considering reducing its staff to two, Nasas Kenneth Todd said the ISS partners which include Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency were aware of the proposal.

    They are exploring the option of going down to two crew on the Russian segment, said Todd, International Space Station operations integration manager.

    They have made that known to the partnership.

    Russian media reports have quoted a Roscosmos official as saying the proposal comes as Russia is sending fewer cargo ships to the ISS and could be a cost-cutting measure.

    The United States is ramping up its supply missions to the orbiting lab, with US astronauts preparing to install a commercial docking adapter for use by private spacecraft.

    Todd said the ISS partners were aware that Russia had committed to the ISS programme at least through 2024.

    There is no doubt they are keeping that in mind as they work through whatever challenges they have with their system, Todd said.

    We will look at it, as we do with all these kinds of things. We will trade it against whatever risk that might put into the programme first and foremost the risk to our crew on board and the station itself.

    Todd said the international partners would see what we can do as a partnership to try to either accommodate it, or help them realise why that is a bad thing.

    It is strictly a proposal they have put on the table and we will look at it.

    The first section of the ISS station, called Zarya, or Dawn in Russian, was launched into space on 20 November 1998.

    From two modules the space station has grown to 15, occupying a space the size of an American football field and representing around $100bn in investment.

    Since 2000 the station has been continuously occupied by a rotating staff of astronauts who typically stay for six months at a time before returning to Earth.

    With Agence France-Presse

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    Hedge Funds Make Record Bearish Pound Bets on Brexit Pessimism

    Hedge funds have made their biggest bearish bet on the pound before U.K. data due this week that will show the early effects of the nations decision to leave the European Union.

    Sterling reached a one-month low Monday ahead of reports on inflation, retail sales and unemployment benefit claims for July, which will provide more detail on how the economy is faring after the June 23 referendum. The pound had its worst day on record when the vote for Brexit became clear, while losses deepened this month following the Bank of Englands decision to cut interest rates and boost its stimulus plan.

    The pound fell to as low as $1.2901, a level unseen since July 11, before trading at $1.2931 as of 11:19 a.m. in Tokyo, 0.1 percent higher than last weeks close. It reached a three-decade low of $1.2798 on July 6 in the wake of the referendum result. Sterlings 12 percent slump this year makes it the worst performer among 31 major currencies against the dollar.

    The pound has broken through some key psychological and technical support levels, said Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at IG Ltd. in Melbourne. If, as expected, we see further evidence of the U.K. heading into technical recession, its difficult to think of any scenario other than further BOE easing.

    Most Bearish

    Hedge funds and other large speculators raised net bearish wagers on the pound to 90,082 contracts in the week to Aug. 9, the most in Commodity Futures Trading Commission data to 1992.

    The pound rose 0.1 percent to 86.28 pence per euro from Friday, when it set a new post-Brexit low of 86.53, a level unseen since August 2013.

    While surveys since June 23 have shown contractions in construction, manufacturing and services, this weeks figures will provide more concrete evidence of the votes impact on the economy. The data are forecast by economists to show jobless claims increased in July, while retail sales barely grew.

    The BOE on Aug. 4 cut interest rates to a record-low and restarted its quantitative easing program, spurring a three percent slide against the dollar.

    The U.K.s deteriorating economic outlook is reinforcing expectations of more BOE policy easing, which will continue to weigh on the pound, Elias Haddad, a senior foreign-exchange strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney, wrote in a client note. Given the deterioration in business and consumer sentiment, U.K. retail sales risk underwhelming.

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    Asian Stocks Decline as Japanese Shares Retreat After GDP Report

    Asian stocks fell, retreating from a one-year high, after U.S. shares pulled back from records and as a report showed Japans economy expanded at a slower pace than forecast.

    The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 0.4 percent to 139.40 as of 9:07 a.m. in Tokyo. After a choppy start to the year, the Asian benchmark gauge climbed 24 percent from a February low through Friday, shrugging off the effects of Britains vote to leave the European Union as central banks unleash further monetary easing. Wagers on the Federal Reserve hiking borrowing costs this year linger below 50 percent.

    The road ahead may be bumpy but Asian equities ex-Japan are relatively undervalued, under owned and under appreciated, Vasu Menon, vice president for wealth management research at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. in Singapore, said by phone. It could do better than other regions over the next few years once we see greater stability in China and greater clarity with Fed policy.

    Japans Topix index dropped 0.2 percent. Gross domestic product expanded by an annualized 0.2 percent, less than the median estimate of economists for a 0.7 percent increase, as business spending contracted. Officials in Asias second-largest economy are struggling to ignite price growth, with the central bank running negative rates and an unprecedented asset-purchase program, and the government also bolstering fiscal stimulus.

    Australia, China

    Australias S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.2 percent. New Zealands S&P/NZX 50 Index gained 0.1 percent. Markets in South Korea and India are closed, while those in China and Hong Kong have yet to start trading.

    Futures on the FTSE China A50 Index fell 0.3 percent in most recent trading, while those on the Hang Seng Index lost 0.1 percent. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland shares traded in Hong Kong surged 1.4 percent on Friday, extending gains for a seventh day, as investors shrugged off weaker-than-estimated Chinese economic data. The Shanghai Composite Index jumped 1.6 percent, while the Hang Seng Index climbed to the highest level since November 2015.

    Futures on the S&P 500 Index rose 0.1 percent. The U.S. equity benchmark index slipped 0.1 percent on Friday as lackluster data offered little incentive for investors to push equities higher after the three main benchmarks reached records on Thursday. A report Friday showed sales at U.S. retailers were little changed in July as Americans flocked to auto dealers at the expense of other merchants.

    West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose as much as 0.6 percent in early Asian trading after posting the biggest weekly increase since April. The contracts climbed 6.4 percent last week as Saudi Arabia signaled its prepared to discuss stabilizing markets at informal OPEC discussions next month. Venezuelas oil and foreign ministers will visit producer countries to lobby for price increases ahead of the talks.

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    New York Heat Overburdens Utility as Authorities Urge AC Use

    The heat wave in New York is so bad that the local utility provider is having a hard time coping with surging electricity demand as air conditioners roar at full blast. Authorities are recommending New Yorkers keep them on.

    The citys high may reach 96 degrees Fahrenheit (36 Celsius) this Sunday, 13 above average, but humidity will make it feel as bad as 108 degrees, AccuWeather Inc. data show.

    Consolidated Edison Inc. is asking New Yorkers to use fans instead of air conditioning as it struggles with electrical problems in several areas after demand reached a weekend record of 11,855 megawatts on Saturday. The National Weather Service, which put New York and other areas across the northeastern U.S. on an excessive-heat warning, has a different message.

    Use air conditioning to stay cool at home or go to a place that has air conditioning, the weather service said in a warning to New Yorkers on its website. Check on vulnerable friends, family members and neighbors.

    U.S. natural gas futures climbed Friday, bouncing back from a six-day decline, on forecasts the heat would stoke demand for the power-plant fuel. Gas demand for power generation has reached record levels.

    Gas futures rose 3.5 cents, or 1.4 percent, to settle at $2.586 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Friday.

    The New York Road Runners club warned members on its Facebook page not to try to complete their training runs this weekend. The group told members to run indoors or skip their long weekend runs.

    Persistent Yogis

    The heat wasnt enough to stop some yogis in Long Island City, more than a dozen of whom were out on the pier overlooking Manhattan for a 10 a.m. class when the temperature approached 90 degrees.

    Some businesses around Time Square were telling employees to turn off any unnecessary computers or electronic devices.

    Ahmed Khan, a hot-dog cart vendor in Midtown Manhattan, will spend 12 hours out in the heat. This afternoon he plans to sell a lot of water, Gatorade and hot dogs, a light meal for people whove lost their appetite to the heat, he said. One customer buying a bottle of water from Khan said shes not going to let the heat stop her from getting her New York shopping done while visiting from Hong Kong.

    “It will be a difficult day, but business will be good,” Khan said.

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    Sharp Extends Gain After Foxconn Completes Capital Injection

    Sharp Corp. climbed in Tokyo after completing the sale of a stake to Foxconn Technology Group, ending a four-month wait for the cash-strapped Japanese maker of flat panel televisions.

    The shares jumped as much as 17 percent as of 10:18 a.m. in Tokyo on Monday. The stock has risen as much as 39 percent in the past two days, the biggest two-day gain on an intraday basis since Nov. 24. The Osaka-based company also received a 300 billion yen ($2.96 billion) commitment line from its lenders.

    Sharp agreed to a rescue package from Foxconn, choosing the Taiwanese company over a rival bid from the state-backed Innovation Network Corp. of Japan in a take over battle that spanned four years. President Kozo Takahashi stepped down, to be replaced by Foxconns Tai Jeng Wu. Sharps liabilities no longer exceed assets after the 289 billion yen infusion, the company said.

    With the risk of insolvency removed, the shares have a strong upward momentum, said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute in Tokyo. How far they climb will depend on how Foxconn will choose to restructure Sharp. Its not enough to optimize and cut costs, there needs to be a credible strategy for future growth.

    While Foxconn and Sharp agreed to the deal in April, it wasnt until last week that antitrust authorities in China cleared the acquisition.

    Sharp last month reported its seventh straight quarter of losses on shrinking sales of TVs and panels for smartphones and tablets. Display revenues plunged 38 percent in the three months ended June 30, while those from consumer electronics declined 24 percent.

    The Japanese company has bet big on large-size screens, investing 1 trillion yen to build factories in Kameyama and Sakai. As liquid-crystal display prices fell and the currency rose to a post-World War II high, Sharp shifted attention to smaller sizes for high-end smartphones and tablets. It managed to capture Apple Inc. as a customer, but orders were cut after it struggled to consistently deliver volumes.

    Joining the worlds largest contract manufacturer will allow Sharp to invest in and actively develop new technologies in areas including communication, the Internet of Things, display, smart homes, solar energy and business solutions, the company said.

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    Japans Economic Growth Slows as Business Spending Slumps

    Japans economy grew less than forecast in the three months through June 30 as business spending contracted for a second-straight quarter and exporters struggled with the resurgent yen.

    Key Points

    • Gross domestic product expanded by an annualized 0.2 percent in the second quarter, less than the median estimate of economists for a 0.7 percent increase.
    • Business spending declined 0.4 percent from the previous three months (estimate +0.2 percent), according to the data released by the Cabinet Office on Monday.
    • Private consumption increased 0.2 percent over the same period (estimate +0.2 percent).
    • Net exports subtracted 0.3 percentage point from GDP.

    Big Picture

    Policy makers are struggling to find a strategy to produce consistent growth, with the economy oscillating between slight expansion and contraction. Businesses and consumers have been reluctant to spend, resulting in negative GDP numbers in five quarters over the past three years. The data keeps pressure on the Bank of Japan to consider more monetary stimulus at its September meeting while increasing the need for the government to tackle structural obstacles to growth.

    Economist Takeaways

    • “With gains in the yen and declines in stocks, companies are holding off their spending,” said Atsushi Takeda, an economist at Itochu Corp. in Tokyo. “The yens gains are hurting exports when overseas demand remains weak.”
    • “Looking ahead, public works spending will be the only support for the economy as the fiscal stimulus package will be carried out later this year,” said Takeda. “But theres no change to the picture that the economy lacks a strong driver to boost growth, so we cant really expect a solid recovery.”
    • “The Bank of Japan will probably have no choice but to take some easing action at its September meeting, he said.

    The Details

    • Measured quarter on quarter, GDP didnt budge (estimate +0.2 percent)
    • Private inventories contribution to GDP was zero.
    • The GDP deflator rose 0.8 percent from a year ago.
    • Purchases of regular cars was firm while that of mini cars was weak
    • Spending on televisions contributed to growth
    • There was a decline in eating out
    • Purchases by non-residents, an indicator for consumption by foreign visitors, fell for first time since the final quarter of 2012

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    Slumping Suicide Squad Holds Box-Office Lead a Second Week

    Suicide Squad led the North American box office for a second weekend, even as sales for the Warner Bros. superhero film slumped amid competition from three new releases.

    The DC Comics-based movie, which features Will Smith and Margot Robbie, collected an estimated $43.8 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters, ComScore Inc. said Sunday in an e-mailed statement. The R-rated animated feature Sausage Party from Sony Corp. placed second, while Walt Disney Co.s Petes Dragon placed third and the Meryl Streep film Florence Foster Jenkins from Paramount Pictures landed in eighth place.

    Suicide Squad, which introduced fans to a new crew of super-villains, fell 67 percent from last weekends $133.7 million after breaking the August record for an opening. A mauling by critics may limit the potential run for the film after its big start. The picture is a key plank in efforts by Time Warner Inc.s film division to build its superhero movie business.

    Suicide Squad was expected to generate $38.5 million this weekend, according to analysts at, a 71 percent drop from the opening. Warner Bros. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice fell 69 percent in its second weekend earlier this year.

    Anthropomorphic Food

    Sausage Party opened with sales of $33.6 million, beating the forecast of $30 million of Critics praised the movie with 83 percent of the reviews positive at the website The film features the voices of Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig as anthropomorphic food items seeking the truth about their existence.

    Petes Dragon, a live-action re-imagining of the 1977 Disney film, garnered $21.5 million. The studio was expecting a first weekend tally of about $25 million, while Doug Stone of Box Office Analyst was projecting $29 million to $33 million and a total domestic box-office haul of as much as $120 million through its full run.

    Disney spent about $65 million making Petes Dragon, according to The studio secured subsidies from New Zealand, where the film was made, according to a government statement.

    Petes Dragon scored well with critics, with 85 percent positive reviews. The story of the orphan Pete and his pet dragon Elliot features Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard.

    Florence Foster Jenkins, the third new release, features Streep in the role of a real-life entertainer famed for singing badly. Critics gave the release from Viacom Inc.s Paramount studio 87 percent positive reviews. It generated $6.58 million of sales, in line with the $6.59 million projection at Hollywood Stock Exchange.

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