White House approves final group of state-run insurance exchanges

Via The LA Times

The Obama administration Thursday cleared a final group of states to open their own health insurance exchanges this fall, advancing a key goal of the 2010 healthcare law to provide Americans with new options to shop for health coverage.

The federal approvals announced for California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont and Utah mean that 19 states and the District of Columbia are on track operate their own exchanges this year.

Exchanges in the remaining states will be run by the federal government or by a state-federal partnership.

Administration officials and many healthcare experts had hoped that each state would operate an exchange, a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act designed to allow consumers who don’t get health benefits at work to comparison shop for health plans, much as they now buy airplane tickets.

[Full article here]

Being moderately overweight might not pose health risk

Via The LA Times

It’s a common medical refrain: Carrying extra pounds raises the risk of ills such as heart disease and diabetes and therefore the risk of a premature death.

But does that heightened risk of early death apply across the board to those who are merely overweight?

A new analysis of nearly 3 million people suggests maybe not.

The finding, published online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., pooled data from 97 studies encompassing adult men and women in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Brazil, India and Mexico.

A total of 270,000 people died of any cause during the studies. When the scientists crunched the numbers, they found, as expected, that people who were significantly obese — with a body mass index, or BMI, of 35 or more — had shorter life spans on average than those who were of normal weight, defined as having a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9.

[Full article here]

Television Review: Downton Abbey, the Middle Class and America

Via The Huffington Post

Season 3 of Downton Abbey — as soapy, dramatic and witheringly funny as ever, and at times shatteringly sad — begins in the spring of 1920, and everything now has a whiff of the modern. Daisy the kitchen maid rides a bike through the village, Mary and Matthew are planning their wedding, Anna is determined to find the evidence that will free Bates from prison, and in the midst of all that comes the real bombshell. Lord Grantham has made a very bad investment, losing most of his American wife’s fortune; they may have to put Downton on the market. Viewers caught in the 2008 economic crisis can relate.

When Robert tearfully apologizes about the loss, Cora reassures him: “Don’t worry about me. I’m an American — have gun, will travel.” Not the most eloquent phrase she ever spoke (and while not technically anachronistic, would Cora have known it?), but the sentiment perfectly expresses how this season flatters both America and that newfangled idea, the middle class.

[Full article here]

U.S. Car Sales Expected to Crack 15 Million Units in 2013

Via The Wall Street Journal

With Europe’s auto industry stuck in a ditch, global auto makers are pinning their hopes on the U.S. market this year with forecasts calling for new car and truck sales to cross the 15 million mark.

New vehicle registrations—a key indicator of auto sales—are expected to climb 6.6% this year to 15.3 million as consumers with more access to loans and leases continue buying, automotive forecasting firm R.L. Polk & Co. said on Wednesday. Since registrations slightly lag sales, the number of new vehicles sold could actually reach 15.4 million.

In contrast, the picture is much gloomier in Europe where new-car registrations tumbled last year and are expected to continue falling in 2013.

The U.S. forecast underscores the buying enthusiasm that auto dealers say lifted sales in the closing months of 2012 domestically. But risks still remain that could threaten further gains in America. Despite last-minute maneuvering to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” questions remain over the future of spending cuts and other government programs that could increase personal and corporate taxes.

[Full article here]

Google FTC verdict live


Via The Telegraph

Google has been accused in both America and Europe of what the Federal Trade Commission calls “anticompetitive conduct”, placing its own search results above those of its rivals.

That means, for instance, Google Maps results always appear above those from rival companies such as Microsoft, but also that companies owned by Google, such as restaurant guide Zagat, get preferential treatment too.

Google denies the accusations. Senior Google executives have argued that the firm’s own services appear high in search results because they are the best available.

“Our challenge is to return the most relevant answers first,” Mr Schmidt said at a Senate hearing in September. “This means that not every website can come on top.”

The firm did not comment on developments in Brussels beyond saying negotiations were ongoing, and confirmed Mr Schmidt was meeting officials.

“We continue to work cooperatively with the commission,” a spokesman said earlier.

[Full article here]