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Buffalo Niagara sends contingent to global BIO convention

A contingent including representatives from 12 area life-sciences companies and the major institutions on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is in Chicago this week for the BIO International Convention.

The delegation is attending the convention for the first time under the “Buffalo Niagara BIO” brand after taking part for the past five or six years as a member of the larger “New York Loves BIO” group.

The convention, which began Monday and runs through Thursday, is the largest international event for the biotech industry and typically draws 20,000 people and company representatives, offering important networking and business opportunities, according to Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, one of this year’s participants.

In addition to the BNE, local convention attendees include representatives of the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute and companies such as Empire Genomics, QuaDPharma and Immco Diagnostics.

-- Stephen T. Watson

Comics as an international mirror

Ever wonder what the rest of the world thinks about current events in the United States?

A fun way to keep tabs is to have a look at political cartoons from around the world.

For example, want to know what folks elsewhere thought when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act?

Here is what Chinese artist Luojie offered in China Daily:

Rainer Hachfeld published this in Germany's Neues Deutschland:


In Sweden, Olle Johansson created this:


How about our economy?

Paresh Nath, illustrating for The Khaleej Times in the United Arab Emirates, sees it this way:


How about the upcoming presidential election?

Arend van Dam published this from the Netherlands:



And finally, Yaakov Kirschen of Israel:



The lighter side of the health care issue...

With the Supreme Court's decision on President Obama's health care plan looming, let's take a look at the issue through the eyes of some editorial cartoonists.

Here's one from the Washington Post's Lisa Benson:


Jeff Parker's take:


Here's one from Walt Handelsman:


David Fitzsimmons from the Arizona Daily Star has a go:


Here's one from Dana Summers at the Orlando Sentinel:



Birmingham News' Scott Stantis weighs in:


One from Rome News Tribune's Mike Lester:


And how about two from Tom Toles?


And two:


How health care changes will affect you...


There's an interesting Q&A in today's Business section explaining some of the finer points of what the passage of so-called "Obamacare" might mean for owners of small businesses.

Bill Frist, a heart surgeon writing in The Week magazine describes how the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare will affect every American citizen:

If you are poor, the ruling may decide whether or not you have coverage. If you are not poor, it will impact how much you pay for health care. If you own a small business, it might determine if you must purchase health insurance for your employees. And if you work for a large business, it may determine whether you still receive your insurance from your employer. If you're a doctor, it will likely affect your reimbursement. If you're a patient, it will determine your benefits . . . . This one is worth following. It will be a game-changer. And not just for the politicians and pundits in Washington. It's a game-changer for you, too.


In a blog on the U.S. News & World Report Web site, Phil Moeler describes how Obamacare might affect seniors:

Older Americans in their 50s and early 60s who are too young to qualify for Medicare often face enormous challenges—and costs—finding private health insurance. Losing the individual mandate could hurt their health insurance prospects, depending on whether the court also rules on related provisions of the act.

Beyond the individual mandate, the law's most significant shift is its requirement that insurers must sell policies to anyone who applies, and can no longer refuse to insure a person because of preexisting health conditions. It is hard to imagine the court invalidating the individual mandate while still forcing private insurers to approve all applicants. Again, the impact on seniors of these provisions affects non-Medicare coverage.

In a blog on, Avik Roy talks about how passage of the bill might affect young workers:  

Many of the people who go uninsured are young people. The young are just entering the work force, and therefore typically have below-average incomes. In addition, the young are healthy, and have much less use for expensive health insurance.

Obamacare forces insurers to charge their eldest beneficiaries no more than 3 times what they charge their youngest ones: a policy known as “community rating.” This, despite the fact that these older beneficiaries typically have six times the health expenditures that younger people face. The net effect of this “community rating” provision is the redistribution of insurance costs from the old to the young.

Also on, David Whelan and Brian Wingfield talk about how Obamacare might affect those with different types of insurance.

SurgeryFor those who buy their own private insurance, they predict:

The market for individual and small business insurance plans is where health care is the most dysfunctional and the root of the swelling ranks of uninsured. There's a lot of good news here. If you suffer from a pre-existing condition that prevented you from getting an affordable policy in the past, those days are over. Also, individuals and families buying coverage through the state-run exchanges in the Senate bill may be eligible for large subsidies if they make less than four times the federal poverty level. Otherwise, buying insurance for one's self will likely be similar, though perhaps cheaper because the private exchanges will cut out expensive middleman brokers.

In the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Scott Gottlieb opines about how Obamacare will affect doctors:

While the public option is meant for the uninsured, employers will realize it's easier -- and cheaper -- to move employees into the government plan than continue workplace coverage . . . . As patients shift to a lower-paying government plan, doctors' incomes will decline by as much as 15% to 20% depending on their specialty. Physician income declines will be accompanied by regulations that will make practicing medicine more costly, creating a double whammy of lower revenue and higher practice costs, especially for primary-care doctors who generally operate busy practices and work on thinner margins.

This tool from the White House allows you to select the situation that best describes you and purports to explain how Obamacare will affect you personally.

First Niagara deal gets approval

From Business Today:


The last step has been completed toward making First Niagara's purchase of HSBC's New York State branches official. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has approved the acquisition, which is set to be complete May 18. First Niagara has begun sending out letters to HSBC customers to keep them informed about the transition.


The New York State Health Foundation has given grants of $100,000 each to two local health clinics. Neighborhood Health Center/ Northwest Buffalo Community Health Care Center in Buffalo will use the money to expand its management infrastructure, while Southern Tier Community Health Center in Olean will use its grant to expand services in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Sugarland is coming to the Fallsview Casino Avalon Theatre in Ontario tonight:


Jobs and great supermarkets.

UnemploymentFrom Business Today:


Unemployment levels in the Buffalo Niagara region are at their second-highest since the 1980s. The local unemployment rate remained at 9.1 percent for February. That rate is actually higher than it was last year during that month, when it registered at 8.8 percent. Our local unemployment rate is lower than the state's 9.2 percent rate, but higher than the national rate of 8.7 percent.



Wegmans and Tops have both landed on a Consumer Reports list of rankings compiled through an extensive study of shopper satisfaction. Wegmans topped the list, with the highest overall shopper satisfaction reading of all 52 stores included in the survey, while Tops landed six spots from the bottom. Despite its poor showing, Tops didn't receive any poor ratings, and even received a good rating for cleanliness.

Republic Steel's Lackawanna bar mill is set to benefit from the ratification of a new labor contract and an investment in the company's Ohio plant. The labor contract, which affects 262 workers in Lackawanna, includes lump-sum cash payments, wage increases and a continuation of fully paid health care coverage. An investment in a new furnace at the company's Ohio plant means more work will be shifted here.


Christopher C. Booth will succeed David Klein as CEO of Lifetime Healthcare Companies, the parent of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in Rochester and Univera Healthcare in Buffalo. Booth has been president of the Excellus health plan division since March 2011. He was named executive vice president and chief operating officer of the entire company in January 2010. He joined the company in 2004 as chief administrative officer and general counsel, and was promoted to executive vice president for commercial markets and health care affairs in January 2009.

 Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Linsanity takes hold at New Era Cap Co.

From Business Today:


New Era Cap Co. is getting in on the Jeremy Lin action. The Buffalo-headquartered hat maker began selling licensed "Linsanity" caps Tuesday, planning to meet the explosive demand for merchandise featuring the breakout New York Knicks basketball player. The company had to order another batch of the special-edition cap after selling out during the first day.


Western New Yorkers heading to New York City may find it a bit easier to find a flight. Delta Airlines has announced it will begin offering non-stop service to New York's LaGuardia Airport. It will give Buffalo Niagara International Airport 42 percent more capacity to New York City.


APP Pharmaceuticals on Grand Island has received a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration saying it has failed to address several serious violations the government agency found during a 2011 inspection. APP has said it will address the problems and that remedying the problems should not affect production or profits.


The longtime CEO at Lifetime Healthcare Cos. has announced he will retire. David H. Klein will step down as CEO of the Rochester-based parent company of Univera Healthcare by the end of this year. He has been in the healthcare industry for 40 years.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Happy Leap Day!

Car buyers take a breather

From Business Today:


Local new car sales were down in January, according to the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association. Auto sales dropped 5.1 percent compared to the same month last year. Dealers reported selling 2,810 units during the first month of 2012. That's down from the 2,964 with which they kicked off 2011. Ford sold the most cars--688 of them--followed by Toyota, Honda and Jeep.


New York State is getting ready to examine health care insurance premium rates in the state. Regulators will conduct an audit to make sure the data insurance companies use to calculate rates are accurate. Regulators will be looking to make sure insurers are allocating administrative costs and commissions properly, among other things, and look for ways costs might be better controlled.


Moog Inc. is getting a piece of a new jet being built by China's state-owned aircraft company. The Elma motion-control equipment maker will supply major flight-control systems for Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China's Comac C919 jetliner. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Moog said the contract represents a key opportunity for the company.


Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, a Syracuse biker hangout turned food pilgrimage destination, may soon open its doors in Buffalo. The restaurant's CEO said Wednesday that he is looking for a spot within the city of Buffalo for his next location. Deals haven't been finalized, so CEO John Stage was mum on details, but he did say he has been trying to make a Buffalo location happen for the past two years.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Here's a little taste of Dinosaur BBQ winning "Best BBQ in America" on "Good Morning America":


The public debates hydrofracking, insurance rate hike documents go live and more

From Business Today:


The state's Department of Environmental Conservation held the first of eight public comment sessions on its rules for hydrofracking in New York. Much controversy surrounds the method of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region using hydraulic fracturing. More than 850 people appeared in Dansville for the chance to voice there opinion for or against hydrofracking.

Supporters believe hydrofracking would bring money and jobs into the region, while critics fear the method could pollute the finger lakes and spoil the water for future generations to come.


If you're curious about the details behind insurance companies' rate hike requests, you can now pore over the supporting documentation submitted by insurers. State regulators have posted the documents online.

It's part of an effort toward increased transparency. Past and projected financial information, assumptions and other data submitted by insurers when requesting rate hikes can now be found on the state Department of Financial Services Web site.


 The Public Policy Institute of New York State has put out a report saying New York State should rank much higher in the competition to encourage the growth of life sciences companies because of the state's size and financial strength.

Despite the state's unique abilities and potential in the field, the state still struggles to compete against other states and is losing out on opportunities to create jobs. To remedy that, the report says the state should push for more investment in life sciences firms.


In the Town of Tonawanda, members of the business community met with high school students to shed light on entrepreneurship and what it takes to be successful.

About 25 students from the Charter School for Applied Technologies met in small groups with local small business owners to chat about the perks and pitfalls of owning a business, and what is needed to do it right.The event was coordinated by the school and UB's Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week.


There's more trouble for Amherst law firm Stephen J. Baum PC. First, Freddie Mac put a ban on sending any more business its way. Now, Fannie Mae is barring them, too.

Fannie Mae's newest retained attorney list notes the local firm is "not eligible for new referrals."


A bankrupt Jamestown furniture maker has filed notice with the state that it will close its manufacturing plant in February. The filing comes just two months after Crawford Furniture said it would close its retail stores to focus on manufacturing. Company representatives said it hopes the plant's closing will be temporary while the company ramps up its network of independent retailers to sell through nationally. But if its attempts at securing more national retail channels fails, the plant will close for good and 101 workers will lose their jobs.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Here's one take on health care insurance companies, courtesy of some very famous comedians:


Regional Council names top priorities and more

From Business Today:


The Western New York Regional Development Council has prioritized a list of local projects for which to seek $40  million in state funding. Of the Council's 12 recommended projects, three of them have to do with the Medical Campus and three are work force development programs. Also making the list is the Niagara Experience Center, a museum and visitors center in Niagara Falls, as well as revitalization projects targeting Olean's and Buffalo's business districts.

Drilling Rig

New York's ban on hydrofracking may actually end up benefitting the drillers it is currently keeping at bay. That's because natural gas prices have dropped by 17 percent--the lowest they've been in nearly nine years. Supplies of natural gas are plentiful, and releasing more through hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale Region would only bring them down more.


The State Department of Financial Services is directing 11 health insurers to issue refunds to consumers and businesses for overcharges in coverage. The Department found that the insurers overcharged 573,748 people a total of $114.56 million in excess premiums. Among those insurers are HealthNow New York and the parent of Univera Healthcare. They are accused of overcharging customers for coverage in 2010 and spending less than required by law on paying for medical care.

Profits at HSBC Holdings sank 35 percent in the third quarter. The huge drop in core pretax profits is attributed to lower corporate and investment banking revenues and higher bad debt charges. It reported an underlying pretax profit of $3 billion, down from $4.6 billion during the same quarter a year ago. The London-based parent of HSBC Bank USA is selling its entire upstate New York retail branch network as part of a global restructuring.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

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