Blackhawks deal Panarin and Hjalmarsson, get Saad back

Chicago Blackhawks deal Panarin and Hjalmarsson, get Saad back
FILE - At left, in an Oct. 14, 2016, file photo, Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72), of Russia, plays against the Nashville Predators during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Nashville, Tenn. At right, in a Jan. 17, 2017, file photo, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Brandon Saad works against the Carolina Hurricanes during an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio. The Blackhawks have re-acquired forward Brandon Saad in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, parting with top young forward Artemi Panarin to complete the blockbuster deal.(AP Photo/File)
 

CHICAGO/June 23, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — General manager Stan Bowman promised changes were coming after the Chicago Blackhawks were swept in the first round of the playoffs.

Boy, he wasn’t kidding.

Chicago re-acquired Brandon Saad and parted with Niklas Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin in a pair of stunning trades on Friday, giving the Blackhawks a younger look for their forwards and defensemen.

The Blackhawks won the Central Division last season with a 50-23-9 record, finishing with the most points in the Western Conference. They were considered one of the favorites to make it to the Stanley Cup.

But they were swept by Nashville in the opening series, managing just three goals in 13 periods in an embarrassing performance for a team with three championships since 2010. Bowman angrily called it a complete failure, and then overhauled coach Joel Quenneville’s staff and replaced the coach of the team’s top minor league affiliate.

Turns out he was just getting started.

Bowman traded forwards Panarin and Tyler Motte and Chicago’s sixth-round selection in this weekend’s NHL draft to Columbus for Saad, goaltender Anton Forsberg and a fifth-round draft pick next year. The deal was announced less than an hour after Hjalmarsson, a stalwart for the Blackhawks, was traded to Arizona for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin.

The 24-year-old Saad spent his first four seasons with Chicago, helping the Blackhawks win two Stanley Cup championships. Concerned about their ability to re-sign Saad when he became a restricted free agent in 2015, the Blackhawks traded the rugged winger to the Blue Jackets.

He had 24 goals and 29 assists in 82 games for Columbus last season. His return should help make up for the loss of Marian Hossa, who announced this week that he won’t play next season because of severe side effects from medication to treat a progressive skin disorder.

But the departure of Hjalmarsson and Panarin creates two more holes that need to be filled.

The 30-year-old Hjalmarsson had spent his entire 10-year career with Chicago, where he had 23 goals and 120 assists in 623 career games along with the franchise record for most playoff games played by a Blackhawks defenseman at 128. The Swede had five goals, 13 assists and a team-high 181 blocked shots in 73 games last season.

“Niklas’ contributions to the three Stanley Cup championship teams are well known but his dependability as a teammate, selfless attitude and the way he represented the Chicago Blackhawks on and off the ice are what made him such a beloved member of the organization,” Bowman said in a release.

Panarin teamed with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov to form one of the NHL’s most potent lines the past couple seasons. The 25-year-old Russian had 31 goals and 43 assists in 82 games last season.

“His rookie year will always rank among the best in franchise history and his exciting style of play provided many memorable moments for our fans during his two seasons as a member of the team,” Bowman said.

Panarin agreed to a $12 million, two-year contract extension in December that runs through the 2018-19 season, while Saad’s $36 million, six-year contract runs through the 2020-21 season. The deal with the Coyotes brings back a promising young defenseman in the 24-year-old Murphy, who had two goals and a career-high 15 assists in 77 games with Arizona last season.

Google to stop reading your Gmail to help sell ads

Google to stop reading your Gmail to help sell ads
FILE - This March 23, 2010, file photo shows the Google logo at the Google headquarters in Brussels. Google is going to stop reading your Gmail in search of opportunities to sell ads. The change announced Friday, June 23, 2017 will end a practice that Google has embraced since the company introduced Gmail in 2004, even though it raised concerns among privacy watchdogs and creeped out some users.(AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)
 

SAN FRANCISCO/June 23, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — Google is going to stop reading your Gmail in search of opportunities to sell ads.

The change announced Friday will end a practice that they have embraced since the company introduced Gmail in 2004. The practice has raised concerns among privacy watchdogs and creeped out some users.

To help finance the free service, Google has been scanning through what Gmail users were discussing and then showing ads connected to some of the topics. Someone writing about running, for instance, might see ads for Nike or Asics shoes.

They still plans to show ads within email. But instead of scanning through email content, the company’s software will rely on other signals to determine which ads are most likely to appeal to each of its 1.2 billion Gmail users.

The Mountain View, California, company said it would stop the ad-driven scanning of Gmail later this year.

Google says it’s changing course so its free Gmail service operates more like the subscription version that it has sold to more than 3 million companies. The paid email doesn’t include ads, so the company has never tried to scan the content of those users’ emails for marketing purposes.

Yet some business customers might have believed incorrectly that Google was scanning those accounts as well. By ending all scanning, Google can put such concerns to rest as it tries to sell the service to even more businesses.

It now ranks as the world’s largest email service, an indication that most people didn’t care about Google’s scanning methods. Both Microsoft and Apple have publicly skewered Google for having the audacity to mine users’ emails for ad sales, but those attacks didn’t undercut Gmail’s popularity.

Total solar eclipse casts spotlight on rural Oregon town

Joe Krenowicz - Total solar eclipse casts spotlight on rural Oregon town
Joe Krenowicz, executive director of the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, gestures toward Mt. Jefferson as the sun rises over Madras, Oregon on June 13, 2017. The first place to experience total darkness as the moon passes between the sun and the Earth will be in Oregon and Madras, in the central part of the state, is expected to be a prime viewing location. Up to 1 million people are expected in Oregon for the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in 99 years and up to 100,000 could show up in Madras and surrounding Jefferson County. Officials are worried about the ability of the rural area to host so many visitors and are concerned about the danger of wildfire from so many people camping on public lands. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)
 

MADRAS, OR/June 23, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) Solar Eclipse — Just before sunrise, there’s typically nothing atop Round Butte but the whistle of the wind and a panoramic view of Oregon’s second-highest peak glowing pink in the faint light.

But on Aug. 21, local officials expect this lookout point just outside the small town of Madras to be crammed with people from around the world, all hoping for the first glimpse of the moon’s shadow as it crosses Mount Jefferson’s snow fields. Then, a solar eclipse will throw the entire region into complete darkness for two minutes.

The first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse to cross the continental United States in 99 years will first be visible in Oregon, and Madras is predicted to be among the country’s best viewing spots because of its clear, high-desert skies, flat landscape and stunning mountain views.

Up to 1 million eclipse chasers will descend on Oregon for the celestial event, and officials are bracing for as many as 100,000 of them in and around Madras.

In this vast expanse of ranches and farms, rural, two-lane roads could mean traffic jams of cosmic proportions. Every hotel in Madras is booked, some residents are renting their homes for $3,000 a night, and campers are expected to flood the national forests and grasslands during peak wildfire season.

The state’s emergency coordination center will gear up, and first responders will prepare to respond to any trouble as they would for an earthquake or other natural disaster. Cell towers could be overwhelmed, traffic will be gridlocked, and police and fire stretched to the max managing the crowds.

“Bring extra water, bring food. You need to be prepared to be able to survive on your own for 24 to 48 to 72 hours, just like you would in any sort of emergency,” said Dave Thompson, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation. “This is pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it’s really worth seeing. But you’ve got to be prepared or you won’t enjoy it.”

When the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, the path of totality — meaning total darkness — from the moon’s shadow will begin on Oregon’s coast, then cross the north-central part of the state from west to east.

But as the hype builds, authorities are increasingly worried that people who planned to watch from the notoriously foggy coast could move east at the last minute if the forecast sours. And Oregonians who live outside the path of totality could decide to drive to one of the prime viewing spots at the spur of the moment, creating havoc on the roads, said Cory Grogan, spokesman for the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

In addition, many tourists will be camping in hot, tinder-dry conditions, or even sleeping in their cars. First responders have been planning for months for a worst-case scenario: evacuating tens of thousands of people while trying to get fire engines through gridlocked roads. Cellular towers also may be crippled by the volume of people texting, calling and posting photos, making it difficult for fire crews to communicate.

Federal and local officials will stage engines and other resources at key locations, and firefighters from other agencies and private companies will send extra crews. But it’s impossible to plan for everything, and tourists frustrated with traffic may use forest access roads as shortcuts, further raising fire risk, said Kent Koeller, a recreation planner with U.S. Forest Service outside Madras.

“Just driving off-road – having that contact with a hot muffler or a catalytic converter – could start an ignition,” he said. “And in these fine fuels, it could spread very quickly.”

Lysa Vattimo was hired two years ago to coordinate the town’s planning efforts with more than 50 local, state and federal agencies. She spends her days trying to think of every possible consequence of having tens of thousands of people in a town of just 6,500 — and her nights worrying she missed something.

The town and surrounding campsites have rented nearly 700 portable toilets, including some from as far as Idaho, to meet demand. Sanitation trucks will run almost around the clock, transporting trash to 50-yard-long (46-meter-long) dumpsters before it rots in triple-digit temperatures.

Gas stations are filling their underground tanks in advance, and businesses are being told to use cash only, to avoid bringing down the wireless network. Banks are stocking their ATMs, local hospitals have canceled vacations, and pregnant women close to their due dates are being told to leave to avoid getting stuck.

“What we’ve asked our residents to do is get prepared ahead of time. About a week out, fuel up on propane, gas, whatever fuels they need, get their prescriptions, go to the doctor, do what you need to do,” she said. “And then stay home.”

In Madras, hotels were booked years ago, and spots at 25 campgrounds in and around the town are going fast. Farmers are renting out their land for pop-up campgrounds, and thousands of parking spaces for day trippers are getting snapped up.

The Black Bear Diner, one of the town’s most popular restaurants, expects to serve 1,000 people a day during the week leading up to the eclipse. Owner Joe Davis has ordered five weeks of food for one week of business and will have an abbreviated menu of 10 items to speed service.

“The Black Bear Diner has been here in Madras 18 years, and I’m sure this will be by far the busiest week – and probably double the busiest week – that we’ve seen,” he said.

But amid all the hubbub and anxiety, most residents have kept sight of the wonder.

Darlene Hoffman is one of the few here who watched the last total solar eclipse to touch Madras 38 years ago. Hoffman, 80, recalls how the birds stopped singing and the horses prepared to sleep as the sky gradually darkened and a hush fell over the land.

“It was really something to see. It really was,” she said. “That amazed me more than anything.”

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GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press

MDC Commissioner host annual fishing clinic for Ferguson kids in Pike County

MDC Commissioner host annual fishing clinic for Ferguson kids in Pike County
MDC Commissioner host annual fishing clinic for Ferguson kids in Pike County
 

BOWLING GREEN, MO/June 23, 2017 (STL.News) Fishing Clinic — For a lot of people, a big part of fishing is getting away from it all. 20 kids from Ferguson got a chance to experience a great getaway last Saturday when Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Commissioner James T. Blair IV hosted the group at his farm in Pike County near Bowling Green.

The young anglers were members of the Ferguson Strength and Honor Mentoring and Tutoring Program (SAHMT). The event was part of the annual Ferguson Youth Fishing Clinic, put on by St. Louis region conservation agents. Previously, the event had been held at MDC’s Bellefontaine Conservation Area in north St. Louis County. Thanks to Commissioner Blair’s invitation, this year’s change of venue allowed the group to get a taste of fishing in a more rural setting. The farm is approximately an hour’s drive north of St. Louis.

SAHMT is the brainchild of Ferguson-Florissant School District Science Teacher Albert Harrold. His goal in starting the program was to help make a change in struggling communities by instilling core values important in helping children become effective adults. SAHMT provides positive activities and mentoring experiences that encourage its members to better themselves.

MDC partnering with SAHMT seemed to go together like sinkers and boppers to Conservation Agent Lexis Riter, who has been instrumental in organizing the event.

“These kids deserve a fun day of fishing and discovering nature while having a chance to connect in a positive way with conservation agents,” she said.

With comfortably-warm temperatures in the lower and mid 80’s and a mix of clouds and sunshine mellowed by a calming breeze, the fish seemed anxious to bite. The young anglers caught fish after fish, reeling in a selection of crappie, bluegill, and even a few scale-tipping catfish.

MDC provided the fishing equipment and conservation agents assisted the kids with less glamourous but important tasks of baiting worms and pulling fish off hooks. Blair and his wife, Anna, also joined the kids fishing, entertaining them with the retrieving antics of their dogs Lulu and Rocco.

When the fishing was done, conservation agents threw a fish fry, cooking up mounds of fish and french fries for everyone to enjoy before the group set out to return to St. Louis.

At the end of the day, Riter reflected on the experience.

“I was watching one of the girls pull another fish out of the lake and thought to myself these children are the future of conservation. Seeing their passion for the outdoors renews mine,” she said.

For more on fishing in Missouri, go to https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/fishing.

___

Source: MDC.MO.Gov

How the Senate health bill compares to House, ‘Obamacare’

Susan Collins - How the Senate health bill compares to House, 'Obamacare'
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks amid a crush of reporters after Republicans released their long-awaited bill to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. She is one of four GOP senators to say they are opposed to it as written which could put the measure in immediate jeopardy. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
 

WASHINGTON/June 23, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — The Senate Republican health care bill would guarantee immediate assistance for insurance markets that are struggling in many states. Yet overall it would do the same thing as its House counterpart: less federal money for health insurance and a greater likelihood that more Americans will be uninsured.

The bill’s impact on personal health care costs would be uneven: Premiums would likely go down for younger people, but older people would pay more. Out-of-pocket costs to cover insurance deductibles and co-payments would go up.

For those who believe the government is too involved in health care, the Senate bill stands as an overdue course correction. But those who believe health care is a right will see it as a step back.

How the Senate bill compares to the House bill and to the Affordable Care Act that Democrat Barack Obama signed into law seven years ago:

MEDICAID

Obama law: States have the option to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income adults. Feds pick up a generous share of the cost, no less than 90 percent. Medicaid covers some 70 million people, from newborns to elderly nursing home residents.

House GOP bill: Reduces the generous federal match for expanded Medicaid to the same rate states get for other beneficiaries, starting in 2020. (The basic Medicaid match rate now averages 57 percent nationally.)

More significantly, ends Medicaid’s longtime status as an open-ended entitlement, with Washington paying a share of what each state spends. Places a per-person limit on future federal contributions, starting in 2020.

Senate GOP bill: Stretches phase-out of Medicaid expansion financing. Higher payments would be provided through 2023. Exempts spending on special-needs children from cap on federal Medicaid matching contribution. Uses a less generous inflation adjustment than House bill.

PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

Obama law: People cannot be denied coverage because of pre-existing medical problems, nor can they be charged more because of poor health.

House GOP bill: To be protected, consumers must avoid a break in coverage of more than 63 days. Those who let their coverage lapse pay a 30 percent premium penalty for a year.

States can seek waivers that would allow insurers to charge higher premiums based on health status under certain circumstances.

Senate GOP bill: There is no penalty for having a break in coverage and no waiting period for consumers to use their insurance. States cannot seek waivers that would allow insurers to charge more based on health.

SUBSIDIES FOR PRIVATE INSURANCE

Obama law: Provides two kinds of subsidies for people who don’t have access to coverage on the job. Income-based subsidies help with premiums and with out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and copayments. Premium subsidies keyed to the cost of a midlevel “silver” plan.

House GOP bill: Premium subsidies are keyed to age, not income. Ends cost-sharing subsidies in 2020, while failing to clear up uncertainty about whether they can be paid currently.

Senate GOP bill: Premium subsidies are keyed to income, age and geography, and are more tightly focused on lower-income people. But the benchmark for subsidies would be a bare-bones “bronze” plan. Cost-sharing subsidies are explicitly extended through 2019, an important detail that should help calm insurance markets.

AGE FACTOR

Obama law: Insurers cannot charge their oldest customers more than 3 times what they charge young adults.

House GOP bill: Loosens the age restriction so insurers can charge older adults up to 5 times more.

Senate GOP bill: Generally follows House standard.

MANDATES TO CARRY HEALTH INSURANCE

Obama law: Requires those deemed able to afford coverage to have a policy or risk fines from the IRS. Requires larger employers to offer coverage to full-time workers.

House GOP bill: Repeals coverage mandates immediately.

Senate GOP bill: Same as House.

STANDARD HEALTH BENEFITS

Obama law: Requires all insurance plans to cover services from 10 broad “essential services,” including hospitalization, office visits, prescriptions, maternity and childbirth, substance abuse treatment, rehabilitation, and preventive services, including birth control at no additional charge for women.

House GOP bill: Allows states to seek waivers from the benefits requirement.

Senate GOP bill: Also provides a pathway for states to seek benefit waivers.

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

Obama law: Medicaid expansion has enabled many states to provide comprehensive treatment to people caught in the opioid epidemic.

House GOP bill: No additional money for the opioid epidemic.

Senate GOP bill: Creates $2 billion fund to provide grants to states for substance abuse and mental health treatment. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman had sought $45 billion over 10 years.

TAXES

Obama law: Raised taxes on upper-income people and health care companies to finance coverage expansion.

House GOP bill: Cuts taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, mostly for corporations and the richest families.

Senate GOP bill: Tax cuts very similar to House bill, though some would be delayed.

ABORTION

Obama law: Private health insurance plans sold to people who receive federal subsidies can cover abortion. However, they must collect a separate premium, strictly segregated from taxpayer funds.

House GOP bill: Forbids abortion coverage by private plans sold to people who receive taxpayer subsidies. Defunds Planned Parenthood.

Senate GOP bill: Forbids abortion coverage by plans sold to people who receive taxpayer subsidies. Defunds Planned Parenthood.

However, under Senate rules, there’s a chance abortion restrictions on private insurance plans may be struck down. In that case, Senate leaders plan a workaround. Billions of dollars to stabilize state health insurance markets would be funneled through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which already has strong limitations on abortion funding. The idea is that insurers needing access to the stability fund would essentially have to drop coverage for abortions.

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By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press

The Latest: Trump says GOP thrives with Pelosi in power

Donald Trump - The Latest: Trump says GOP thrives with Pelosi in power
President Donald Trump speaks during the "American Leadership in Emerging Technology" event in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
 

WASHINGTON/June 23, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times local):

6:15 a.m. – President Donald Trump says Republicans benefit as long as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi remains in power.

In an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” that aired Friday morning, Trump said of Pelosi: “I hope she doesn’t step down. It would be a very sad day for Republicans if she steps down.”

Trump, who spoke to the network Thursday at the White House, touted the recent Republican victory in a Georgia special election. Pelosi has been facing questions about her leadership since Democrats lost the hard-fought race.

Trump said the victory “was very big,” adding “I think I helped a lot.”

The president called Democrats “obstructionists,” saying he thought they would do better at the polls if they worked with the GOP.

3:17 a.m. – President Donald Trump has declared that he never made and doesn’t have recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI Director James Comey.
His admission Thursday ended a month-long guessing game that he started with a cryptic tweet and that ensnared his administration in another controversy.

Trump said in his latest tweets that he has “no idea” whether there are “tapes” of the two men’s conversations. But he proclaimed he “did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”

But he largely appeared to close the saga that began in May after he fired Comey, then the head of an investigation into Trump associates’ ties to Russian officials.

Trump’s tweets, old and new, left many perplexed about whether there was motive or strategy behind the whole affair.

Securities Division Seeks Restitution of More than $68,000 From a Kansas City Man’s Fraudulent and Threatening Investment Tactics

Securities Division Seeks Restitution of More than $68,000 From a Kansas City Man’s Fraudulent and Threatening Investment Tactics
Securities Division Seeks Restitution of More than $68,000 From a Kansas City Man’s Fraudulent and Threatening Investment Tactics (Picture property of St. Louis Media, LLC d.b.a. STL.News)
 

JEFFERSON CITY, MO/June 23, 2017 (STL.News) — Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s Securities Division ordered a Kansas City man and his company to cease and desist after the Enforcement Section alleged that the man illegally sold unregistered securities.  Missouri Securities Commissioner David M. Minnick issued a Final Order that found that Michael Burnos and his company, Allied Trading Group (ATG), solicited an elderly man at a flea market to invest in the company, but never provided the man with all of the promised returns.

“Preying on our older citizens and getting them to invest in fraudulent ventures is the kind of activity our Securities Division continues to work to stop,” Ashcroft said.  “My office is working every day to protect Missourians from this and other types of investment fraud.”

The order said that Burnos, acting as an unregistered agent, gave the investor handwritten receipts indicating the purposes of the investment, including “job lot purchases” and a “new business.”  The receipts also promised the investor benefits, including interest and a share of sales profits. In a span of two years, the investor only received money back from a few of the investments.

The commissioner found that Burnos used a majority of the investments for personal use and to repay personal debts and even threatened the investor if he considered discontinuing his investments.

Burnos was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison in 1997 related to charges of fraud and money laundering. In that case, he was ordered to pay restitution of more than $14 million.  U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith said when he sentenced Burnos, “an 87-month sentence seems to be adequate punishment and deterrence to any future criminal conduct.”

“Investors should make sure they know who they are dealing with and what they are buying, and should understand the risks before they part with their money,” Minnick said.  “Beware of fraud, as there are people who will promise you a good return if you just write the check.”

The commissioner ordered Burnos and ATG to cease and desist their illegal activities, and pay $60,000 in civil penalties, restitution of more than $68,000 and investigation costs.

Ashcroft urges all investors to know the risks. If you have any questions about an investment opportunity or wish to check the background and registration status of a financial adviser, please call the toll-free investor protection hotline at 800-721-7996, or go online to www.sos.mo.gov/securities to file a complaint.

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Source: SOS.MO.Gov

Contact: Maura Browning, Communications Director, (573) 526-0949  

Eurozone economy enjoyed ‘best quarter in over 6 years’

Italy Daily Life - Eurozone economy enjoyed 'best quarter in over 6 years'
A woman walks down the staircases of a subway stop, in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, June 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
 

LONDON/June 23, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — The economy of the 19-country eurozone has just enjoyed its best quarter for more than six years, according to a closely watched survey.
Though growth eased slightly in June, financial information firm IHS Markit said Friday that the eurozone’s second quarter overall looks like it will be its strongest since the first three months of 2011. It expects quarterly growth to be 0.7 percent, up from the previous quarter’s 0.6 percent.

The firm said its composite purchasing managers’ index, a broad gauge of economic activity across the eurozone’s manufacturing and services sectors, dipped to 55.7 points in June from 56.8 the previous month. Despite the decline, which was more than anticipated in the markets, the index remains way above the 50 level that marks expansion.

“The latest reading needs to be looked at in the context of recent elevated levels,” said Chris Williamson, IHS Markit’s chief business economist.

The survey, which informs the regular policy discussions at the European Central Bank, is the latest in a long line of evidence showing that the eurozone has moved up the gears over the past few months, amid growing confidence about the future.

That was evident too in official French figures showing that the eurozone’s second-largest economy expanded by 0.5 percent in the first quarter, up from the previous estimate of 0.4 percent. Hopes are high that growth in France, a long-time laggard, will be even higher over the rest of the year. The pick-up in confidence was clear in the fact that capital investment rose pretty sharply in the first quarter and that it was due to private companies and households, not the French state.

Higher French growth should help job creation, one of the key concerns of the new French government of President Emmanuel Macron. Unemployment in France has been falling but remains high at 9.5 percent.

According to IHS Markit, the signs are good for further job gains both in France and the wider eurozone. Its survey found that job creation in the eurozone remained at a near decade-high as order books and business confidence were strong. Eurozone unemployment has been steadily falling and in April was at an eight-year low of 9.3 percent.

“Factory jobs growth remained particularly buoyant, thanks in part to production requirements surging higher on the back of rising exports,” Williamson said.

World shares mixed as investors assess oil, China clampdown

Hong Kong Financial Markets - World shares mixed as investors assess oil, China clampdown
A woman walks by an electronic stock board showing the Hang Seng Index at a bank in Hong Kong, Friday, June 23, 2017. Asian shares are ending the week on a subdued note with most indexes little changed Friday as the price of oil halted its decline, while still hovering near its lowest level in almost a year. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
 

HONG KONG/June 23, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — World stock markets were mixed on Friday as oil prices stabilized and investors assessed Beijing’s moves to tighten up on some Chinese companies as well as the latest survey on eurozone economic growth.

KEEPING SCORE: European shares fell in early trading. France’s CAC 40 shed 0.3 percent to 5,266.34 and Germany’s DAX lost 0.3 percent to 12,761.29. Britain’s FTSE 100 slipped 0.3 percent to 7,418.06. Wall Street was poised to open higher, with Dow futures up 0.1 percent to 21,368.00 and broader S&P 500 futures rising 0.1 percent to 2,435.30.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index finished 0.1 percent higher at 20,132.67 and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.4 percent to 2,378.60. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was practically unchanged at 25,670.05 while the Shanghai Composite in mainland China swung between gains and losses before ending 0.3 percent higher at 3,157.87. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 crept up 0.2 percent to 5,715.90.

EBBING ENERGY: Crude oil’s extended decline this week and the effect it is having on broader financial markets weighed on investor sentiment and dragged down energy shares. Crude prices rose on Thursday for the first time in four days but prices are still near their lowest level since August. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 24 cents to $42.98 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 21 cents to settle at $42.74 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 20 cents to $45.42 per barrel.

QUOTEWORTHY: “Falling oil prices continue to temper sentiment in global macro markets,” said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA. “While the Nervous Nellies take solace as oil prices based overnight, don’t get too comfortable as the oil patch narrative will likely be the primary catalyst in the coming months.”

CHINA CLAMPDOWN: Mainland shares fluctuated as officials tightened up on some companies. Authorities ordered three popular internet services, including Sina Weibo, to stop streaming video after they violated censorship rules on sensitive issues. Adding to the pessimism, reports in the South China Morning Post newspaper and financial magazine Caixin on Thursday said the banking regulator is tightening up scrutiny of companies behind a wave of recent overseas acquisitions by ordering banks to check credit-risk exposure to Wanda, Fosun, Anbang and HNA.

EUROPEAN GROWTH: A monthly survey revealed that economic activity in the 19-country Eurozone slipped to a five-month low in June. However, the IHS Markit composite purchasing managers’ index remained well into positive territory, with job creation and business confidence still strong.

MEDICAL SHARES: U.S. health care stocks rallied after the Senate unveiled its proposal to revamp how Americans get medical care. Investors were betting that overseas companies could also benefit from the bill, with Australian bionic ear maker Cochlear up 1.1 percent and blood plasma maker CSL up 1.7 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 111.24 yen from 111.32 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1181 from $1.1154.

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By KELVIN CHAN, AP Business Writer

Fed: Biggest US banks strong enough to withstand recession

Fed-Bank Stress Tests - Fed: Biggest US banks strong enough to withstand recession
FILE - This Sept. 13, 2014, file photo, shows the Chase bank logo in New York. On Thursday, June 22, 2017, the Federal Reserve said all of the 34 largest U.S. banks are fortified enough to withstand a severe U.S. and global recession and continue lending. The banks undergoing the seventh annual check-up included JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo and Co., which are the four biggest U.S. banks by assets. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
 

WASHINGTON/June 22, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — All of the 34 largest U.S. banks are fortified enough to withstand a severe U.S. and global recession and continue lending, the Federal Reserve said Thursday.

The first round of the central bank’s annual “stress tests” showed that as a group, the 34 big banks have gained strength thanks to a steadily recovering economy. The banks undergoing the seventh annual check-up included JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo and Co. — the four biggest U.S. banks by assets.

The banks were tested to determine if they have large enough capital buffers to keep lending, even if hit with billions of dollars in losses brought on by a financial crisis and severe economic downturn. Capital is the cushion a bank holds against losses.

“This year’s results show that, even during a severe recession, our large banks would remain well capitalized,” Fed Gov. Jerome Powell said in a statement. “This would allow them to lend throughout the economic cycle, and support households and businesses when times are tough.”

The tests were mandated by Congress in the wake of the crisis that plunged the U.S. into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. They were designed to restore badly shaken confidence in the U.S. financial system. During the crisis, the government created a $700 billion bailout fund to stabilize hundreds of banks, large and small, across the U.S.

Nearly nine years on, banking industry profits have been steadily rising and banks have been lending more freely.

The most critical tests for the industry come next week. That’s when the Fed will announce whether it has approved banks’ requests to increase dividends or buy back shares. Those results will be based on how each bank would fare in a severe recession if it took those dividend or stock actions.

In the first round, under the tests’ hypothetical “severely adverse” scenario, the U.S. would endure a catastrophic recession in which unemployment — now at 4.3 percent — reached at least 10 percent, home prices dropped 25 percent, the stock market plunged about 40 percent and market volatility rose sharply. The tests compare the losses projected for each bank with its capital.

The Fed said Thursday that under that scenario, the 34 banks would suffer combined loan losses of $383 billion. That’s down from $526 billion in losses for 33 banks last year. The Fed said the losses would reduce the banks’ high-quality capital from 12.5 percent of its loans in the fourth quarter last year to 9.2 percent at the end of 2017. The 9.2 percent level shows improvement from last year’s 8.4 percent. It’s far above the 4.5 percent minimum capital level and the 5.5 percent that the banks held at the start of 2009, soon after the crisis hit, the year the first stress tests were performed.

Banks coming closest to not meeting the minimum capital ratio were Ally Financial, with a tested level of 6.5 percent; Capital One Financial, with 7.0 percent; Huntington Bancshares, 7.0 percent; KeyCorp, 6.8 percent; and SunTrust Banks, 7.1 percent.

The “severely adverse” scenario showed $100 billion in projected losses from credit card loans for the banks. It was the first time the tests showed losses from credit card loans rising to an equal level with losses from commercial and industrial loans, the Fed said. With $100 billion each, the two categories represent about 52 percent of the total $383 billion in projected loan losses.

All the banks can now amend their plans on dividend payments and stock buybacks to win Fed approval before it announces its decisions on those issues next Wednesday. Increasing dividends costs money and the government doesn’t want banks to shrink their capital reserves, making them vulnerable in another recession.

In last year’s second round, the Fed barred U.S. businesses of two European banks, Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Spain’s Santander, from raising dividends or boosting stock buybacks. It was the third straight year that the Fed rejected the plan of the U.S. division of Santander, which is one of Europe’s biggest banks, and the second straight rejection for Deutsche Bank Trust Corp., the U.S. transaction bank and wealth management business of Germany’s largest bank. The regulators said that, although there have been improvements, the banks continue to show weaknesses in supervision that could harm their capital planning.

CIT was added this year to the banks tested by the Fed. They are: Ally Financial, American Express, BancWest, Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, BB&T, BBVA Compass, BMO Financial, Capital One, Citigroup, Citizens Financial, Comerica, Deutsche Bank, Discover, Fifth Third, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Huntington Bancshares, JPMorgan, KeyCorp, M&T, Morgan Stanley, MUFG Americas Holdings, Northern Trust, PNC, Regions Financial, Santander Holdings, State Street, SunTrust, TD Group, U.S. Bancorp, Wells Fargo and Zions Bancorp.

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By MARCY GORDON, AP Business Writer

Bandura® Systems Receives Prestigious Missouri Bankers Association Endorsement

Bandura® Systems Receives Prestigious Missouri Bankers Association Endorsement
Bandura® Systems Receives Prestigious Missouri Bankers Association Endorsement (Picture licensed to St. Louis Media, LLC d.b.a. STL.News by iStock.com)
 

PoliWall Technology Effectively Mitigates Cyber Risk for Banks

ST. LOUIS, MO/June 22, 2017 (STL.News) – Bandura®, LLC, a trusted Missouri cyber-security innovator and maker of the fast and automated PoliWall® security shield, announced it has been endorsed by the Missouri Bankers Association. PoliWall® deploys threat defenses with great effectiveness and scale as an inline appliance to simplify cyber-security, reduce attack surfaces and mitigate cyber risk.

“As Missouri natives, it is especially meaningful to the Bandura team to provide the PoliWall® technology that far out scales other cyber products in the marketplace to take action against the rapidly growing number of cyber threats,” said Suzanne Magee, CEO of Bandura®, LLC. “Developed in part with the U.S. Department of Defense, PoliWall® is an automated and affordable solution that is plug-and-play ahead of the firewall and keeps data secure and banks in compliance in a challenging regulatory environment. Products are invented, developed, patented and supported in Bandura labs located in Missouri. Bandura looks forward to keeping Missouri banks secure.”

PoliWall® enables organizations to control their exposure to the internet by leveraging vast threat intelligence repositories, precision geo-IP blocking and block-list automation to reduce risk ahead of the firewall by eliminating large amounts of threatening infrastructure from interaction with a client’s environment.

MBA partnerships save significant resources and time for banks that use products and services from companies endorsed by MBA Bankers Service Corporation. An MBA endorsement means bankers can trust the quality products and services of these businesses to enhance their banks’ competitive standing.

“We are excited to welcome Bandura and its robust PoliWall ® security technology,” said Mike Noblett, director of MBA member services. “Conducting business with MBA endorsed partners reaps benefits for the bank and MBA. The bank directly benefits from discounts and product vetting done in advance of endorsement. In addition, support of MBA’s endorsed partners provides resources to the association that support MBA’s advocacy efforts to strengthen the banking industry in Missouri.”

These respected companies have strong relationships with many MBA-member banks and have proven records of success in the Missouri banking industry.

 

About Bandura Systems

Bandura®, LLC is a cyber-security company, maker of the patented PoliWall®, ProACT™ and PoliCloud™ security technologies — the Firewall’s Firewall™. PoliWall® enables organizations to control their exposure to the internet by leveraging vast threat intelligence repositories, precision geo-IP blocking and block-list automation to reduce risk ahead of the firewall by eliminating large amounts of threatening infrastructure from interaction with a client’s environment. PoliWall® takes auto-action in real time on more than 100 million threat indicators ahead of the firewall. Bandura was established to commercialize security technology developed in part with the U.S. DoD and Bandura’s parent company, TechGuard Security LLC. Visit us: bandurasystems.com . Follow us! @bandurasystems.

About Missouri Bankers Association

MBA is a statewide trade and professional organization in Jefferson City that represents the interests of banks and savings and loans in Missouri. In addition, MBA provides educational opportunities, products and services that assist bankers with enhancing their banking operations.

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Source: News provided by Bandura, LLC – Distributed by PR Newswire

A Nation in Pain: Focus on Medicaid – Express Scripts

A Nation in Pain: Focus on Medicaid - Opioid Epidemic - Express Scripts
A Nation in Pain: Focus on Medicaid (Picture property of St. Louis Media, LLC d.b.a. STL.News)
 

ST. LOUIS, MO/June 22, 2017 (STL.News) Express Scripts — Our nation’s unprecedented opioid epidemic has been called the worst drug crisis in American history. To highlight the severity of this issue, consider these few alarming statistics:

Drug overdose now leads the cause of accidental deaths in the United States — more than 15,000 people fatally overdosed on prescription pain killers in 2016 — making drug overdoses the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States.

Nationwide, pharmacies received and ultimately dispensed the equivalent of 69 tons of pure oxycodone and 42 tons of pure hydrocodone. That’s enough to give 40 5-mg Percocet and 24 5-mg Vicodin to every person in the United States.

On an average day in 2016, more than 650,000 opioid prescriptions were dispensed in the United States.

For every person who dies from opioids, 851 are in various stages of misuse, abuse and treatment.

 

Opioids use affects people of all ages and across all socioeconomic backgrounds. However, Medicaid members are 10 times more likely to suffer from addiction and substance abuse than the general population.

As one of the largest providers of PBM services to managed Medicaid plans, Express Scripts analyzed the annual opioid use of 3.1 million Medicaid members across 14 states in 2015, examining age and gender factors as well as usage patterns across enrollment groups. The study, A Nation in Pain: Focus on Medicaid, found nearly one quarter of Medicaid members filled an opioid prescription and nearly one-third of them took opioids for more than 30 days.

Even more alarming, 4.3% of Medicaid members age 19 and under were on narcotic pain medicines.

Additionally, other key study findings from the study also include:

Opioids accounted for 6% of Medicaid prescriptions and 4.1% of plan costs.

Prevalence of opioid use among Medicaid enrollees is 68% higher in women — a 13% higher rate than commercial populations.

Women are also significantly more likely (63%) to fill opiate prescriptions than men (37%).

Members ages 45-64 used opiates the most, with 31.1 % filling an opioid Rx.

The average opioid patient was 41 years old and filled four prescriptions annually.

Members ages 45-64 used opioids at the highest rate, filling 5.4 prescriptions per year.

The study also compared usage patterns across Medicaid enrollment categories. While opioid use was high among Aged, Blind and Disabled (ABD)/Long Term Care (LTC) members,

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) members had the highest rate of opioid use at 6.27% and represented nearly 5% of that population’s plan costs. Children’s Health

Insurance Program (CHIP) members expectedly had the lowest opioid utilization.

Preventing the abuse from every angle

When thinking of how to combat the opioid epidemic, solutions can take a number of forms. One solution is to look at utilization patterns of opioid users — both prescriber and pharmacy utilization as patients abusing opioids tend to seek out multiple prescribers and pharmacies. In fact, more than a quarter of Medicaid members received the same pain medicine from more than one prescriber.

Additionally, the study found the average Medicaid member received prescriptions from 1.8 prescribers, with almost 8.9% using four or more prescribers and utilized 1.4 pharmacies to fill their medications with 3.4% using more than three pharmacies. Patients often go to great lengths, sometimes traveling across states, to find prescribers willing to write excessive opiate scripts. These “pill mills” have led to criminal prosecution, most notably in Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky, but all states struggle with the issue.

In addition to reducing doctor and pharmacy shopping, other solutions include looking at the formulations of opioids. These drugs can be abused in various forms — they can be swallowed, crushed, snorted, smoked, dissolved and injected. New opioid formulations attempt to combat this abuse with mechanisms that prevent altering the dose form. Some products add an opioid antagonist to block the associated euphoric feelings of using an opioid. While intriguing, these new abuse-deterrent medications are primarily brand drugs and are extremely expensive compared to generics forms. Due to their high costs, Medicaid plans typically promote acute and long-acting generic opiates as first line treatment for narcotic pain management, demonstrated by generics accounting for 90.6% of pain medication claims included in the study.

Other solutions may include looking at the types of prescribers writing opioid prescriptions. In the study, the top five prescriber specialties for the majority of opiate prescriptions were Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, OB/GYN and Orthopedic Surgery. Dental providers were the most common opiate prescribers for children.

Federal and state programs and healthcare organizations are committed to turning the tide on opioid abuse and have launched numerous initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic, from the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act to the Surgeon General’s letter on opioids to President Trump’s recent plan.

Individual states are implementing electronic prescribing of controlled substances, enacting first-fill restrictions, imposing quantity and morphine-equivalent dose limits and expanding access to naloxone, a life-saving medication that reverses opioid overdoses.

However, government regulations and initiatives are only a piece of the treatment puzzle. Our nation needs a multifaceted solution that targets abuse and addiction from every angle — at home, at the doctor’s office and at the pharmacy. Only by working together can we put the brakes on the opioid epidemic.

Combating the national opioid epidemic calls for a comprehensive plan, not a bandage.

The drugs driving the Medicaid epidemic

Hydrocodone-acetaminophen continues to lead the list of most prescribed opiates. In an attempt to reduce excessive prescribing in 2014, the Drug Enforcement Agency changed the classification of hydrocodone-containing products from Schedule III to Schedule II, the most restricted class of prescribed narcotics. By changing the schedule classification of these drugs to Schedule II controlled substances, more restrictive dispensing guidelines applied to the drugs – specifically, these drugs can no longer be refilled, requiring a new written prescription each time.

In addition to hydrocodone-acetaminophen being the most prescribed drug, the top five opioid pain medications dispensed for Medicaid members were:

Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen
Oxycodone-Acetaminophen
Tramadol HCL
Oxycodone
Suboxone

Another serious concern highlighted in the report was the number of patients taking potentially dangerous combinations of drugs, such as an opioid and another medication that can help alleviate or reduce pain – such as an anticonvulsant, antidepressant or a skeletal muscle relaxant. When combined with opioids, there is a high risk for adverse reactions, such as additional drowsiness. The combination of these drugs can cause patients to become confused and fall, creating a particularly dangerous combination for frail and elderly patients. Among these medications, anticonvulsants and skeletal muscle relaxants had the highest rates of adjuvant therapy — and 34% of Medicaid members had prescriptions for an opioid and a benzodiazepine and/or muscle relaxant.

A solution that works across the care continuum

For every person who dies from opioids, more than 850 are in stages of misuse, abuse and treatment. Providing care for a huge variety of patients, behaviors and outcomes requires a robust, 360-degree solution with active participation from PBMs, prescribers, pharmacies, employers and opioid users. Affecting change requires influencing behavior at every touchpoint — drug utilization management alone is not the answer — and coordination of care is critical.

Medicaid plans face unique challenges in providing healthcare to our nation’s sickest and most vulnerable patients while managing the risk of potential drug abuse. While there is no single solution to curb the national opioid epidemic, Express Scripts will continue partnering with Congress and state governments, health plans, prescribers and pharmacies to find solutions to America’s devastating opioid crisis.

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Source: News provided by Express Scripts – Distributed by PR Newswire