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7/24/17

USA: A history of why the US is the only rich country without universal health care - by Annalisa Merelli

So why does the US, the only industrialized nation without universal health coverage, also have not only the highest health-care spending in the world—both in absolute terms and as a share of GDP—but also one of the highest levels of government spending on health care per person? And how did it come to be this way?

The answer is that the lack of universal coverage and high costs are intimately linked—both economically and historically.

Single-payer health-care (in which the government pays for universal coverage, typically through taxes) helps keep costs down for two reasons: It means that the government can regulate and negotiate the price of drugs and medical services, and it eliminates the need for a vast private health-insurance bureaucracy.

Currently, the US spends two to three times as much per capita on health care as most industrialized countries.

Click heren to read the complete report : Health care in the US: Why universal health care never happened — Quartz

Turkey Withdraws Blacklist to Ease Tensions With Germany - by Rainer Buergin and James Regan

Turkey withdrew a list of accusations against German companies, seeking to de-escalate tensions that flared last week between the two NATO allies.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere spoke with this Turkish counterpart Monday, and was told the almost 700 accusations involving German companies were a “communication problem,”

Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said in Berlin. Turkey’s interior ministry said no German company is being investigated by Turkey and last week’s complaint was a misunderstanding that has now been cleared up.

German federal police on Friday declined to investigate the claims, saying the Turkish list didn’t contain anything concrete enough to warrant follow up. German media reported some items included allegations of working with local entities linked to terror organizations.

The detention of a German human-rights activist in Istanbul last week, led to a war of words between the two countries, the culmination of months of discord over NATO troop visits, imprisoned journalists and Turkish Nazi references. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s veteran finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, on Friday compared Turkey to the former communist East Germany, while Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country wouldn’t give in to threats or “blackmail.”

Read more: Turkey Withdraws Blacklist to Ease Tensions With Germany - Bloomberg

Global Economy: IMF cuts 2017 growth forecasts for UK and US - by Larry Elliott

The International Monetary Fund has cut its growth forecast for the UK economy this year after a weak performance in the first three months of 2017.

In its first downgrade for the UK since the EU referendum in June last year, the IMF said it expected the British economy to expand by 1.7% this year, 0.3 points lower than when it last made predictions in April.

The Fund raised its forecasts for the UK after the Brexit vote as a result of the much stronger than envisaged activity in the second half of 2016. In October 2016, it pencilled in growth of 1.1% for 2017, raising this forecast to 1.5% in January this year and to 2% in April.

Maurice Obstfeld, the IMF’s economic counsellor, pointed to a marked change in early 2017. He said the UK’s growth forecast had been lowered based on its “tepid performance” so far this year, adding: “The ultimate impact of Brexit on the United Kingdom remains unclear.”

The IMF left its growth forecast for the UK in 2018 unchanged at 1.5% but said one key risk facing the global economy was that the Brexit talks would end in failure.

It contrasted its gloomier outlook for the UK with a rosier forecast for the rest of the EU, with 2017 growth upgrades for the four biggest eurozone countries – Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Germany has been revised up by 0.2 points to 1.8%, France by 0.1 points to 1.5%, while Italy and Spain have both been revised up by 0.5 points to 1.3% and 3.1% respectively.

The Fund produces a world economic outlook in April and October to coincide with its spring and annual meetings, but provides updates in January and July.

Launching the report in Kuala Lumpur, Obstfeld said the IMF had left its global growth forecasts unchanged at 3.5% in 2017 and 3.6% for next year, noting that the stronger performance by the eurozone, China and Japan had been offset by weaker performances elsewhere.

“The recovery in global growth that we projected in April is on a firmer footing; there is now no question mark over the world economy’s gain in momentum,” Obstfeld said.

He added that Donald Trump’s failure so far to push through his promised package of tax cuts had dampened US growth prospects.

“From a global growth perspective, the most important downgrade is the United States,” he said.

“Over the next two years, US growth should remain above its longer-run potential growth rate. But we have reduced our forecasts for both 2017 and 2018 to 2.1% because near-term US fiscal policy looks less likely to be expansionary than we believed in April.”

Read more:IMF cuts 2017 growth forecasts for UK and US | Business | The Guardian

Poland: EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto - by Eszter Zalan

Andrzej Duda decided to veto two of the controversial draft laws, which would put the judiciary under political control, but the EU executive is awaiting details before deciding on whether to launch legal probes on Wednesday

The commission's spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said the EU executive is “following the events and situation in Poland very closely".

"Things are changing even as we speak," Schinas told reporters only two hours after Duda's announcement.

He confirmed that the college of EU commissioners will discuss the situation in Poland on Wednesday, and decide on the next steps.

"All developments, and all the changes that are going on will be addressed by the commission on Wednesday,” he said.

"This is a political commission, this is up to the political masters to discuss," he added, but declined to call Duda’s veto a positive development.

Read more: EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto

7/23/17

IMF conditions weaken labor rights, World Bank labor policy inconsistent - Bretton Woods Project

A March IMF policy paper on Labour and product market reforms in advanced economies: fiscal costs, gains, and support postulated that, “persistently sluggish growth has led to growing policy emphasis on the need for structural reforms that improve the functioning of labour and product markets in advanced economies”. Amongst the reforms considered are “lower entry barriers for firms” and “reducing the level or duration of unemployment benefits where particularly high” during weak cyclical conditions.

Its main findings included that such reforms can raise output and thus strengthen public finances, for example, “unemployment benefit reforms improve fiscal outcomes both indirectly and directly through lower spending.” In line with IMF policy, the report makes a case for temporary fiscal stimulus but only where there is “available fiscal space” (see Update 55), although “a strong commitment to reforms is an essential prerequisite.”

Commenting on the paper, Cambridge University political scientist Bernhard Reinsberg found that “it is laudable that the IMF acknowledged that fiscal stimuli may be necessary not only to stimulate the economy after a financial crisis but also to facilitate structural reform.” However, he questioned the study’s assumption that labor market reforms are necessary to unleash growth. He cautioned that “labor regulations are vital to the protection of worker interests in marginalised places of the global economy. The results presented in the IMF staff note thus cannot be applied to the majority of countries around the globe.”

Read more: IMF conditions weaken labour rights, World Bank labour policy inconsistent - Bretton Woods Project

US Government: Republicans are in full control of government — but losing control of their party - by S.Sullivan and R.Costa

Six months after seizing complete control of the federal government, the Republican Party stands divided as ever — plunged into a messy war among its factions that has escalated in recent weeks to crisis levels.

Frustrated lawmakers are increasingly sounding off at a White House awash in turmoil and struggling to accomplish its legislative goals. President Trump is scolding Republican senators over health care and even threatening electoral retribution. Congressional leaders are losing the confidence of their rank and file. And some major GOP donors are considering using their wealth to try to force out recalcitrant incumbents.

“It’s a lot of tribes within one party, with many agendas, trying to do what they want to do,” Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) said in an interview.

Read more: Republicans are in full control of government — but losing control of their party - The Washington Post

Social Media: Protect your privacy and ward off trolls on social media - by David Nield

On social media, you get to catch up with old friends, make new connections, and coo over cute baby photos. Although you're supposed to enjoy these visits to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, a persistent commenter or obnoxious "friend" can ruin your experience. That's why these services provide ways for you to fight back. Here are the steps you can take to protect your privacy and slay trolls on three of the world's biggest social networks.

Unlike Twitter and Instagram, which we discuss below, Facebook doesn't make your posts visible to the whole internet by default. So other users will only see your photos, links, and other information if you have chosen to friend them. You can adjust this extra layer of protection every time you post by choosing to make the update public or to restrict it to only a certain number of friends.

You can select who gets to see your own posts, but that doesn't stop your friends from tagging you in public posts. To prevent people from posting on your timeline or tagging you in photos, you can limit this activity from your Timeline and Tagging settings page. One of the options lets you review any tags you're mentioned in before they appear in your News Feed.

If you've friended someone, but they start giving you unwanted attention, you can easily cut off their access: Head to their profile page and clicking on the Friends button to find the Unfriend option. That person won't get an alert that they've been unfriended, but they might notice if they load up your profile and see the Add Friend option.

For the complete report go to: Read more Protect your privacy and ward off trolls on social media | Popular Science

7/22/17

US Opioid Crisis: How The US Can Contain And Reverse The Epidemic-by Denisse Moreno

While President Trump’s national opioid commission, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, failed to meet its second deadline last week, a report released this month recommends various measures federal, state and local officials should take to tackle the epidemic.

The report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, requested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said it will take years of “sustained and coordinated efforts” to “contain and reverse the harmful societal effects of the prescription and illicit opioid epidemics,” which go hand-in-hand and continue to spiral.

Read: More Than Half Of US Opioid Prescriptions Go To People With Mental Disorders, Researchers Find

About 90 people in the U.S. die of an opioid-related overdose every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of 2015, at least 2 million people across the nation have an opioid addiction, while nearly 600,00 have an opioid use disorder involving heroin. The number of opioid-related overdose fatalities, which includes prescription opioids (such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone) and heroin, has quadrupled since 1999. At the same time, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled since that year.

Read more: Opioid Crisis: How The US Can Contain And Reverse The Epidemic

EU Citizenship Has Its Obligations: ′You belong here,′ Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel tells Germany′s Turks

Less than 48 hours after announcing a major shift in policy towards Turkey, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Saturday sought to calm fears among Turkish nationals living in Germany that they are not targets in an ongoing political row.

Gabriel penned an open letter, published in German and Turkish in the mass circulation newspaper Bild, where he called the friendship between Germans and the estimated 3 million Turks living in the country a "great treasure."

His message followed a further week of wrangling between the two countries following the jailing by a court in Istanbul of several human rights activists - including German national Peter Steudtner - accused of what Germany says are the trumped-up charges of being linked to a terrorist organization.

Note EU=Digest: Very true.This also goes for immigrants to any country in the world. You can't have your cake and eat it too! In case you do prefer your home country over the one where you immigrated to, nothing stops you to go back from where you came. It must also be noted that Governments of  former citizens, who immigrated to other countries, and became citizens there, also have no right to claim authority or any rights over these former citizens.  

Read more: ′You belong here,′ Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel tells Germany′s Turks | News | DW | 22.07.2017

EU - Polish relations: Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU - by Eric Maurice

The Polish parliament adopted a controversial reform of the Supreme Court on Thursday (20 July), stepping up a showdown with the EU.

The law, which puts the Supreme Court under government control, was passed with 235 votes against 192 and 23 abstentions, just a day after the European Commission had called on Polish authorities to suspend the bill or face a rule of law procedure that could lead to sanctions.

"We are coming very close to triggering Article 7," the EU executive vice president Frans Timmermans warned on Wednesday, referring to a rule of law procedure.

The vote led the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who is a former Polish prime minister, to publish a statement calling for a solution to a "very serious situation".

Tusk said that he proposed a meeting with Polish president Andrej Duda to try to avoid "bleak outcomes which could ultimately lead to the marginalisation of Poland in Europe."
He said that the reforms carried out by the Polish government were a "dangerous tendency".

Read more: Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU