The snake eats his own tail

And other tales of the new austerity:

General Electric Co.’s GE -0.27% $18 billion health-care business is being forced to navigate a slowdown in medical imaging—one that in some ways has been aggravated by GE itself.

GE put its 85,000 U.S. white-collar workers on a high-deductible health plan in an effort to stem the growth of its U.S. health bills, which are now running $2.5 billion a year. In the first two years after the plan went into effect, use of advanced imaging including MRIs and CT scans has dropped by as much as a quarter, as covered employees’ overall use of health services fell, according to the company.

That is good news for GE proper, which last year expanded the plan to include its 45,000 hourly and union workers. But it’s bad news for GE’s health-care business, which is one of the world’s biggest makers of MRI machines and CT scanners.

Proposals to move employees to health plans that make employees pay more out of pocket were hotly debated within GE, people familiar with the matter said. Many GE divisions were eager to control their medical costs, but there were concerns about the impact on sales.

GE isn’t alone. A number of other giant employers, including J.P. Morgan Chase JPM -0.91% & Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, are adopting high-deductible health plans, pushing down the use of imaging by privately insured Americans.

Meanwhile, Medicare has been cutting reimbursement rates for medical imaging services. New data out this week show imaging use among Medicare beneficiaries fell 1% in 2011, extending a two-year slide, according to Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance, an industry group.

One for the good guys, sort of

Except the Orange County Commission has announced they have no intention of doing it:

 A Florida judge ruled Monday that a hotly contested paid sick leave measure must be on the ballot in Orange County, Florida during November’s election. The initiative has been lobbied against by businesses in the area and was bumped off the ballot last week by the Orange County Commission. But Monday, a judge sided with paid sick leave activists, ruling that the paid sick leave vote could not be delayed. The law would make paid sick leave compulsory for any business with more than 15 employees.

Via email:

Just hours ago a 3-judge panel ordered Orange County to place the Earned Sick Time measure on the November ballot, which need to happen by tomorrow in order to meet a Federal deadline for printing ballots. But just minutes ago, the Commission said they aren’t going to do it, silencing the voices of the 50,000 people who signed the petitions to qualify the measure for the ballot in the first place.

Today at OWS

NYPD sure lived up to expectations today:

Occupy Wall Street executed a series of complex direct actions intended to disrupt vehicle and foot traffic in Lower Manhattan this morning, turning the Financial District into a churning mass of protesters, police, and people just trying to get to work amid the commotion. The largely peaceful protests were punctuated by periodic bursts of violent arrests, as the NYPD continued its tactic of targeting seemingly random protesters to detain in their attempts to maintain order. As of 11:30 this morning, the NLG reported 104 arrests, including at least one journalist.

A photographer who witnessed the arrest identified the journalist as Julia Reinhardt, and that’s since been corroborated. The photographer stated that Reinhardt was plucked from a crowd, seemingly at random, and arrested, apparently because she lacked NYPD press credentials. She was reportedly wearing her National Press Photographer Association [NPPA] identification at the time.

The first major action we witnessed occurred around 8 a.m. at Pine and Nassau Streets, within view of the New York Stock Exchange. As several hundred protesters clogged the intersection, the police became outnumbered, and the protest’s numbers swelled to nearly a thousand people before a contingent of police in riot gear began shoving protesters back onto the sidewalks, arresting several for obstructing traffic.

As soon as the police saturated the intersection, demonstrators dispersed to form other concentrations, which was part of the plan: to create roving clusters of protesters as opposed to a singular show of force. As protesters roamed the streets, so did massive contingents of NYPD officers, amplifying a bizarre feeling that the only people populating the Financial District were police and people with $2,000 camera lenses.

About an hour later at the intersection of Liberty & Louise Nevelson Plaza, a group of roughly 10 protesters linked arms and sat to form a “People’s Wall” to obstruct traffic. As NYPD officers approached them, they quickly dispersed.

Minutes later, a commotion arose from a group of about 40 people on the south eastern corner of Pine and William Streets, as NYPD officers dove into the crowd to pull out a protester who had be walking two small dogs. It was unclear why he was singled out for arrest. Moments later, a man was tackled to the ground by several police officers, as he continued to swear at them, call them “terrorists,” and kick his legs, before politely asking if he could pick up his glasses that he had dropped.

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