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No one from Aviva was immediately available to comment on the report.Aviva, Ireland’s largest general insurer and a major player in the country’s life insurance sector, has been reviewing its Irish operations.
Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said the private owner of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Office Properties, decided late on Thursday to delay the cleaning, which had been slated to begin at 7 a.m. (1100 GMT). He offered no reason for the delay.Protesters celebrated the postponement at the publicly accessible park, where the mood was festive.However, at least seven people were seen being arrested when several hundred people left the park and marched through the downtown financial district. A spokesman for the New York Police Department confirmed there were arrests but did not say how many or provide any details.Many protesters had feared the cleaning would be an attempt to shut down the movement that has sparked solidarity protests in more than 1,400 cities. There were plans for global rallies on Saturday in 71 countries, according to Occupy Together and United for Global Change.Protesters are upset that the billions of dollars in U.S. bank bailouts doled out during the recession allowed banks to resume earning huge profits while average Americans have had scant relief from high unemployment and job insecurity.They also believe the richest 1 percent of Americans do not pay their fair share in taxes.Roughly 1,000 protesters were on hand early on Friday at the New York park, where many had been up all night cleaning it themselves.Throughout the park, big buckets were filled with brooms and mops. Many protesters had packed up their belonging in preparation for the clean-up.”We clean up after ourselves. It’s not like there’s rats and roaches running around the park,” said Bailey Bryant, 28, an employee at a Manhattan bank who visits the camp after work and on weekends.Some at the park feared a clean-up was still in the works as a ploy to evict them.”It’s almost too good to be true,” said Sofia Johnson, 17, a high school student from Brooklyn, of the postponed clean up.”I think it’s still a possibility and in a climate like this, letting your guard down completely seems like a naive thing to do,” she said.Brookfield has said conditions at the park were “unsanitary and unsafe,” with no toilets and a shortage of garbage cans. Neighbors complained of lewdness, drug use, harassment and offensive odours from the protesters, Brookfield said.Brookfield did not immediately respond to calls for comment on Friday morning.CONSISTENT WITH PARK REGULATIONSBrookfield representatives, escorted by police, handed out notices to the protesters on Thursday to tell them that the park would be cleaned in three stages and would reopen for public use consistent with park regulations.But the rules ban camping, tents or other structures, lying down on the ground, placing tarps or sleeping bags on the ground, and the storage of personal property — everything the protesters have been doing since they set up on September 17.In announcing the postponement, the deputy mayor said in a statement that Brookfield was “postponing their scheduled cleaning of the park, and for the time being withdrawing their request from earlier in the week for police assistance during their cleaning operation.”“Brookfield believes they can work out an arrangement with the protesters that will ensure the park remains clean, safe, available for public use and that the situation is respectful of residents and businesses downtown, and we will continue to monitor the situation,” he said.Hundreds of people have been arrested at rallies in New York, and dozens have been arrested in the past couple of weeks from Boston and Washington, D.C., to Chicago, Austin and San Francisco.Solidarity rallies have also sprung up at more than 140 U.S. college campuses in 25 states, according to Occupy Colleges.
The bank told Reuters that it is rolling out a new insurance approach next year that will give employees accounts to help cover medical expenses. They can either put their own pretax dollars in the accounts, or pay higher insurance premiums and have the company fund the account.If employees opt to put their own money into the accounts, they are on the hook for more of their medical expenses if they get sick. If they stay healthy, they benefit from lower premiums.These types of accounts are believed to be useful in encouraging consumers to think more about how they are spending healthcare dollars.For most employers, these accounts are one option among many for health insurance, said Alexander Domaszewicz, a principal with human resources consulting firm Mercer.Only a handful of other companies, including General Electric Co and JPMorgan Chase & Co, are going the same route as Wells Fargo and offering only account-based healthcare plans.”It still isn’t common for very large firms,” Domaszewicz said in an interview this week.But other companies may follow suit. Account-based health plans can cut employees’ and companies’ premium costs by 15 percent, according to Mercer.Other employers often follow big companies like Wells Fargo when it comes to benefits, Domaszewicz said.In materials sent to employees recently, Wells said it was making the change “because rising health care costs and the impact of federal health care reform require us to take a new approach to managing costs together.”Studies are mixed over whether the new U.S. healthcare law will drive up employers’ healthcare costs, but overall U.S. health insurance premiums have surged over the last decade.A study last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average annual premium for family coverage through an employer increased 9 percent to $15,073 in 2011 from the year before. Since 2000, premiums have risen 134 percent.Employers pay nearly three-quarters of that premium, a rate that has held fairly steady for the last 10 years, according to the foundation’s data.”This is one of the fastest-growing expenses employers have,” said Randall Abbott, a senior consultant at healthcare consulting firm Towers Watson.Cost-cutting is particularly crucial in the financial sector, where the mortgage crisis, low long-term interest rates, and weak loan demand are depressing revenue. San Francisco-based Wells Fargo is looking to shave $1.5 billion from its quarterly operating expenses by the end of 2012 under a program known as “Project Compass.”Wells earned $7.3 billion for common stockholders in the first half of the year, up from $5.3 billion in the first half of last year.A Mercer survey found that health benefits costs on average will rise 5.4 percent in 2012, the smallest increase since 1997, because employers have been so aggressive about cutting these expenses.”We view this as effective use of healthcare services, not as cost-cutting measures,” bank spokesman Ancel Martinez said on Wednesday.LESS BARGAINING POWERU.S. employers began widely offering healthcare coverage after World War Two to get around government salary controls.With 275,000 full- and part-time employees, Wells Fargo is the 12th-largest employer among public companies, according to Fortune Magazine.About one-third of the bank’s employees already use some sort of account-based plan. Wells will still offer traditional plans in California and other states where switching would force too many employees to change their doctors.Under the bank’s program, employees can have a “health reimbursement account,” which Wells funds, or a “health savings account,” which workers fill with their own pretax dollars.Both accounts will help cover out-of-pocket expenses until a deductible is met.After that, Wells will cover between 80 and 90 percent of medical expenses, with the employee picking up the rest. After an employee reaches an out-of-pocket maximum, Wells covers 100 percent of additional expenses. An insurance company administers the claims.Eligible preventive care, such as routine checkups, annual screenings and immunizations, is covered 100 percent. Employees can earn money to put into their accounts through participating in health and wellness programs.A Wells employee in North Carolina covered on an individual basis would pay a premium of about $23 per two-week pay period for the health savings account option, compared with $48 for the health reimbursement account plan.An employee in an individual plan can put up to $3,100 into a health savings account under IRS rules next year. The deductible in that plan is $3,000.In the health reimbursement option, the company can put between $200 and $1,000 in an employee’s account. The deductible is $2,000 for individual coverage. Employees must pay $25 for a primary office visit, which is less than the full cost. There are also co-pays for generic prescription drugs.Employees who use health savings accounts can roll their money into the next year if they do not use it all and take it with them if they leave the company.
Christophe de Margerie, Chief Executive of France’s Total SA , said his company, which has a project in the former British colony, would like to play a bigger role in the country, formerly known as Burma, but had to see concrete signs of increased democratisation before this was possible.Western trade sanctions have been in place since the military crushed a 1988 student uprising isolating Myanmar’s army dictatorships but in March, the army nominally handed over power to civilians after elections in November. The process was ridiculed at the time as a sham to cement authoritarian rule behind a democratic facade.It was followed by other overtures such as calls for peace with ethnic minority guerrilla groups, some tolerance of criticism and more communication with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released last year from 15 years of house arrest.On Tuesday, state television said 6,359 prisoners would be freed on Wednesday and political detainees are expected to included.”We decided that… it was important to be in Myanmar but that we will not invest until things are getting better… I do hope that will happen,” Total’s de Margerie told reporters on the sidelines of the Oil and Money conference in London.Total leads the $1 billion Yadana gas project in the Andaman Sea, and the CEO said he would like to back additional exploration and production investments.U.S. oil major Chevron is a partner in Yadana but Washington banned new investments in Myanmar by U.S. companies in 1997 and barred imports.New investments by western oil companies could be a boon for the companies which build and supply their facilities but Andrew Gould, chief executive of the world’s largest oil services company, Schlumberger , said it was too soon to tell the implications from the recent political easing.Myanmar’s crude oil reserves are estimated at 3.2 billion barrels, the energy ministry has said. This compares with China’s proven oil reserves of 14.8 billion barrels, Malaysia’s 5.8 billion, Vietnam’s 4.4 billion and Indonesia’s 4.2 billion barrels, at the end of 2010, according to the BP Statistical Review.The country’s proven gas reserves tripled in the past decade to around 800 billion cubic metres, equivalent to more than a quarter of Australia’s, BP Statistical Review figures show.Malcolm Brinded, Executive Director for Upstream International, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Ali Moshiri, President, Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production Company all declined to talk about possible new investments in Myanmar.