BC-US--Business Features Digest, US

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Columbus CEO

The business news enterprise package planned through Sept. 1. For comments or questions, call 212-621-1680. For questions about photos, call ext. 1900. For questions about graphics, call ext. 7636. Repeats of stories are available from or the Service Desk, 1-800-838-4616.



Insurers can no longer reject customers with expensive medical conditions thanks to the health care overhaul. But consumer advocates warn there is still too much wiggle room that insurers are using to discourage the sickest — and costliest— patients from enrolling in their plans. Insurers are excluding well-known cancer centers from some of their coverage networks; requiring patients to make large, initial payments for HIV medications; and delaying participation in states' health exchanges. Advocates say these practices dissuade the neediest from signing up and make it likelier that the patients these insurers do serve will be healthier — and less expensive. By Tom Murphy. SENT: Wednesday, 1,300 words, photo.


NEW YORK — For decades, kids have gathered in living rooms to marvel at how others master video games like "Street Fighter II" and "Super Mario Bros." But today there's Twitch, the online network that attracts millions of visitors each month, mostly to watch others play video games. The young, mostly male viewers have made a top source of global Internet traffic. Amazon is paying nearly $1 billion for Twitch because it sees opportunity in the service through its loyal fan base and revenue streams from ads and channel subscriptions. Here's a look at the gaming culture that gave rise to Twitch. By Barbara Ortutay and Ken Sweet. SENT: Wednesday, 830 words, photos.


NEW YORK — Women still have a hard time getting small business loans and Sen. Maria Cantwell is determined to close the gap. The chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, introduced legislation in July that would make it easier for women-owned companies to get loans and government contracts. The Washington state Democrat sees lending to small businesses as key to job creation because loans give companies the means to expand. SENT: Wednesday, 770 words, photos.


MESA, Ariz. — Inside a nondescript garage-like workshop nestled between restaurants, a flower shop and jewelry stores along Main Street, ideas are taking shape. At HeatSync Labs, the tables are littered with computer chips, pens, pads and tools while the room is abuzz with the chatter of would-be inventors hoping to change the world — or just make cool things. They are part of a growing global movement of so-called hackerspaces. By Emaun Kashfi. SENT: Wednesday, 670 words, photos, video.


It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how technology has changed our television-viewing habits. Americans are increasingly engaging in a practice known as television binge-watching — going through several episodes in a single stretch, rather than one a week, as was common before the advent of digital video recorders and Internet streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. I know what I'll be doing this Labor Day weekend. So why aren't I happy about this new way to watch TV? By Anick Jesdanun. UPCOMING: Wednesday, 900 words by 2 p.m., photos.


WASHINGTON — Economists appear to be of two minds about the Federal Reserve. They agree with the Fed that the job market still isn't healthy. Yet the latest Associated Press survey of economists finds that most fear the Fed will wait too long to raise interest rates and thereby risk stoking inflation or creating asset bubbles. The duality of their views underscores the perils of the Fed's policymaking. By Christopher S. Rugaber. SENT: Tuesday, 1,000 words, photos, graphic.


Families of passengers who were on the Malaysia Airlines plane shot down over Ukraine are starting to sort through the long process of gaining compensation for their loss. Officials in the Netherlands, where the majority of Flight 17 victims lived, say that Malaysia Airlines has been making $50,000 payments to the families without admitting any wrongdoing in the crash. Such payments may create goodwill, lawyers say, but they are not likely to discourage some families from seeking more than the amount promised under an international treaty — about $174,000. But for some relatives of those on Flight 17, the pain is still too raw to decide whether to go to court. By David Koenig. SENT: Tuesday, 1,100 words, photos.


BEIJING — This weekend's raid by authorities to shut down an independent film festival in Beijing was the latest sign that China's leadership under Xi Jinping is tightening the screws on the kind of expression it opposes. Filmmakers say such harassment and censorship is stifling the creativitiy of the country's documentary film industry, but that they're determined to keep trying to bring an independent voice to the medium. At the same time, Chinese state media companies are spending more than ever on documentaries to flood the airwaves with the kind of content they support — such as a series on regional cuisines— partly in hopes of stealing eyeballs from dating, game and reality programs seen as frivolous Western imports that need to be curbed. By Louise Watt. SENT: Tuesday, 920 words, photos.


NEW YORK — Forget bad weather, traffic jams and kids asking, "Are we there yet?" The real headache for many travelers is a quickly-growing list of hotel surcharges, even for items they never use. Guaranteeing two queen beds or one king bed will cost you, as will checking in early or checking out late. This year, hotels will take in a record $2.25 billion in revenue from such add-ons, 6 percent more than in 2013 and nearly double that of a decade ago, according to a new study. Nearly half of the increase can be attributed to new surcharges and hotels increasing the amounts of existing fees. By Scott Mayerowitz. SENT: Monday, 1,200 words.


ISLAY, Scotland — It's said that Scotch tastes of the place where it is made, so Bruichladdich Black Art single malt would offer a touch of barley and a whiff of the sea from the island of Islay, west of Glasgow. That taste takes a long time to produce, with top-rated Scotch aged for decades. To do so, distilleries have to have long-term plans for investments and financing — all of which could be thrown into turmoil in a single day, Sept. 18, when Scotland votes on whether to leave Britain. Whisky makers and other businesses are worried about the risks involved in finding themselves in a new country with, among other things, a different currency. By Martin Benedyk and Danica Kirka. SENT: Monday, 1,050 words, photo.


WASHINGTON — They are the outsized force in modern American politics, the best-known brand of the big money era, yet still something of a mystery to those who cash their checks. They're demonized by Democrats, who lack a liberal equal to counter their weight, and not entirely understood by Republicans, who benefit from their seemingly limitless donations. These are the Koch brothers, and perhaps the first thing you need to know is that there are four of them. By Nancy Benac. SENT: Monday, 2,100 words, photos. Abridged version, 850 words, also moved.


AQUINNAH, Mass. — On the western tip of Martha's Vineyard, bright clay cliffs and a red brick lighthouse draw visitors as they pile out of cars and tour buses and head up to this town's scenic overlook. But the leaders of the Aquinnah Wampanoags, the federally recognized American Indian tribe whose ancestors first inhabited the island, envision a new destination. They've proposed transforming an unfinished tribal community center a few miles inland into a high-stakes bingo and poker hall filled with electronic betting machines. By Philip Marcelo. SENT: Monday, 900 words, photos.


Some of the newest incarnations of fantasy football look a lot more like gambling than intricate, outsmart-your-opponent strategy games. Since 2011, the billion-dollar fantasy market has been infused with dozens of daily and weekly games. Those games allow players to win huge prizes quickly, sometimes in one week, sometimes in just one night. With players betting thousands or even tens of thousands a night, legal experts believe it's time to review the section of the 2006 federal law that was written specifically to protect fantasy sports from being banned the way online poker was. By Eddie Pells. SENT: Monday, 930 words.