Posts Tagged ‘human health’

China takes global lead in clean energy

January 6, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Marlowe Hood | On Thursday, China announced that it would sink at least $361 billion into renewables by 2020, key to the country’s transition away from polluting coal power

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, outdoor and nature China — A farmer walking through heavy smog on the outskirts of Beijing, early January, 2017. Credit Lintao Zhang-Getty Images

PARIS (AFP) – China’s overseas investment in renewable energy projects jumped last year by 60 percent to a record $32 billion (30 billion euros), marking its leadership in the global market for clean energy, a report said Friday.

In 2016, China finalised 11 foreign deals worth more than a billion dollars each, and is expected to pick up the pace this year, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

On Thursday, China announced that it would sink at least $361 billion into renewables by 2020, key to the country’s transition away from polluting coal power.

“Renewable energy will be the pillar for China’s energy structure transition,” said Li Yangzhe, deputy head of the National Energy Administration, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Overseas investments last year ranged from lithium battery makers in Australia and Chile to an electricity distribution deal in Brazil and the building of a solar cell factory in Vietnam.

China now owns five of the six largest solar module manufacturing firms in the world, according to the report.

On the domestic front, the world’s second largest economy had already emerged as a renewables powerhouse, outstripping the United States.

China poured more than $100 billion in domestic renewable energy — wind, solar, hydro — and related sectors in 2015, more than double the US investment, according Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“The US is already slipping well behind China in the race to secure a larger share of the booming clean energy market,” said IEEFA director Tim Buckley.

“With the incoming (US) administration talking up coal and gas, prospective domestic policy changes don’t bode well,” he said in a statement.

– ‘Hard to compete’ –

US President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to restore America’s flagging coal industry, and has appointed several fossil fuel executives and lobbyists to key posts in his administration.

China’s emerging dominance of the clean energy sector also extends to jobs.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that China holds 3.5 million of the 8.1 million renewable energy jobs globally, compared to less than 800,000 in the United States.

China’s National Energy Administration said the nation’s renewables sector would generate at least 13 million jobs by 2020.

Ulf Moslener, a professor at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, agreed that China has emerged as “the world leader on renewable energy,” with clear advantages over rich-nation competitors such as the United States and Germany.

“Standard solar modules are no long rocket science,” he told AFP. “It will be really hard to compete with China on the cost side.”

The same applies to wind energy.

But US and European entrepreneurs “should still have an advantage” when it comes to high tech, he added, pointing to thin-film solar, and cutting-edge engineering services as examples.

In 2016, China boosted its overseas influence by establishing the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank.

It is also funnelling billions into the New Development Bank, set up by the BRICS nations Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

All the bank’s initial loans were for renewable energy projects.

Add in its established overseas investment banks, and “China is clearly building the financial capacity to drive global mergers and acquisitions,” the IEEFA report concluded.

In 2015, China overtook the United States as the largest market for electric vehicles, and today two Chinese firms — BYD Auto and battery maker CATL — are challenging US firm Tesla for leadership of the sector.

by Marlowe Hood
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India court demands Government anti-smog plan in two days amid “public health emergency”

November 8, 2016

AFP

© AFP | Delhi has been shrouded in a toxic soup in recent days as pollution levels spiked after the Diwali festival

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s top court on Tuesday gave the federal government two days to chalk out a plan to tackle alarming levels of smog in Delhi, the world’s most polluted capital.

An environmental body filed a petition with the Supreme Court earlier this week demanding a review of the government’s previous lacklustre attempts to control the pollution levels, describing it as a “public health emergency”.

Delhi has been shrouded in a toxic soup in recent days as pollution levels spiked after the Diwali festival which is marked by setting off ear-splitting — and highly polluting — fireworks.

The air quality generally worsens with the onset of winter, as farmers in neighbouring states burn crop stubble after the harvest and cooler temperatures trap pollutants in a smoggy haze over the city.

The government on Tuesday asked the court for two days to come up with a plan, which was granted.

“Give me two days. We will have a meeting with the environment secretary and come up with a comprehensive response to the problem of Delhi pollution,” India’s solicitor general, Ranjit Kumar, told the court.

On Tuesday morning, the US embassy showed the concentration of PM2.5 — the fine particles linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease — at a “hazardous” level of 372, lower than Monday’s off-the-charts reading of 778.

Levels between 301 and 500 are classified as “hazardous”, meaning everyone faces a risk of respiratory effects and should stay indoors, while levels above 500 are beyond the official index.

In a separate hearing in India’s environment court on Tuesday, Judge Swantanter Kumar slammed authorities of Delhi and four of its neighbouring states for not taking action sooner to control alarming levels of pollution.

“What did you do when all this smog was going on and the particulate matter reached beyond prescribed limits?” Kumar said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Delhi authorities have so far responded to the smog by including a ban on setting off fire crackers — except at religious events — and driving restrictions earlier this year.

The Delhi government on Monday also shut schools for three days, banned all construction work for five days and temporarily closed a coal-fired power plant.

Authorities are also considering cloud-seeding to produce rain, a technique Beijing used to clear the air before the 2008 Olympic Games.

DR Congo’s second city poisoned by years of mining

August 22, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File / by Bienvenu-Marie Bakumanya | A woman and child break rocks extracted from a cobalt mine in Lubumbashi, the second city of the Democratic Republic of Congo

LUBUMBASHI (DR CONGO) (AFP) – “In this stream, the fish vanished long ago, killed by acids and waste from the mines,” says Lubumbashi resident Heritier Maloba, staring into the murky waters of his childhood fishing hole.

Pollution caused by copper and cobalt mining has not only poisoned the Katapula, a tributary of the mighty Congo River and one of the main waterways in this second city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but has also induced widespread illness.

“High concentrations of toxic metals … cause respiratory disorders and birth defects,” particularly in people living near the mines, said toxicologist Celestin Banza of the University of Lubumbashi.

The damage has spread through acids in untreated waste released into nature, polluting the air, the water, and much of Lubumbashi, a city of more than two million residents in the country’s southeast.

Until recently, Lubumbashi was the capital of Katanga province whose fabulous copper wealth was first tapped by Belgian colonists early in the 20th century.

Last year, Katanga was divided into four new provinces. Mining is prevalent in the two southern ones.

Hindered by neglect during the regime of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko (1965-1997) and in the second Congolese war (1998-2003), the mining industry rose from the ashes of devastating conflict.

Between 2010 and 2014, mineral production led strong economic growth and lifted the country up to the rank of the world’s fifth copper producer and top producer of cobalt.

With demand for cobalt driven by its use in mobile phones and electric car batteries, the trade has come at a dire environmental and health cost for DR Congo.

– ‘Lack of expertise’ –

“Mining pollution in Katanga is an undeniable reality,” admits member of parliament Davon N’Sa Mputu Elima, who served as environment minister in 2012-14.

He says that mining firms put up considerable resistance to a 2009 amendment in the country’s environmental code, which imposed stringent new health and safety requirements.

Such protective measures are often not enforced because of what the MP calls “a lack of expertise” among administrative officials responsible for seeing that mining firms comply.

The public health risks listed by Banza, the toxicologist, also include metabolic disorders, certain tumours, burning sensations in the eyes and the throat, and even “short-term sterility”.

“You get the feeling you’re suffocating as you breathe,” says Viviane Kibwe, a mother of four in a city where mining installations can be located hard by people’s homes, schools and fields.

Plumes of smoke and clouds of dust rise into the air carrying dangerous particles, while used water containing cleaning chemicals and mineral alloys runs off untreated into streams.

A 2012 toxicology study by the Carter Center found that many ailments in the area are indeed the result of prolonged exposure to harmful chemicals.

The foundation set up by US former president Jimmy Carter in 1982 also criticised “several flaws” and “ambiguity” with regard to the treatment of waste in DR Congo’s mining code of 2002.

Eric Monga, chairman of the Katanga branch of the Business Federation of the Congo, counters that sustainable and safe mining practices have become “an ethical rule” observed by companies.

“An approved study on the environmental impact is a requirement before any operations,” he says.

Yet Belgian and Congolese experts carrying out health studies since 2008 find that concentrations of cobalt, copper, lead and even uranium in urine samples “largely exceeded the reference values accepted by the World Health Organization,” Banza says.

This is particularly true among children, according to the professor.

– ‘Nothing has grown’ –

At the Shinkolobwe mine some 150 kilometres (95 miles) northwest of Lubumbashi — the source of the uranium used in the Hiroshima atomic bomb — thousands of people worked for many years without the slightest protection.

Banza told AFP that he plans to publish a new public health report demonstrating that people in the south of the former Katanga are far worse affected by breathing difficulties than people in the north, mainly farmland.

“My colleagues and I have recorded a comeback of cardiac and respiratory diseases, (particularly) among children and women,” says Jean-Marie Kazadi, senior medical expert for the new Haut-Katanga and Lualaba provinces.

Yet many thousands of people work arduous shifts in the mines, desperate to make a living in conditions worsened by a global tumble in copper prices.

The high price of mining is also evident at Kipushi, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) south of Lubumbashi, where savannah abruptly gives way to a broad strip of scorched, barren land where the state mining firm Gecamines used to dump acidic waste.

“For more than 30 years, nothing has grown in this place,” says Mwalimu Kasongo, a retired teacher of 76.

Former minister N’Sa Mputu says several bird species that once thrived in the area have now “disappeared”.

For Lubumbashi resident Maloba, now an unemployed man in his 30s, the childhood fishing expeditions remain a distant memory, with little hope of ever catching anything more in his beloved river.

by Bienvenu-Marie Bakumanya
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Indonesia in haze warning as fires flare

August 19, 2016

AFP

© AFP | Forest fires in Ogan Ilir, Indonesia’s South Sumatra province

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia warned Friday that haze from forest fires was floating over a key waterway towards its neighbours, and that the number of blazes was rising.

The fires and resulting smog are an annual dry season problem in the archipelago, when blazes are started illegally to quickly and cheaply clear land, typically to make way for palm oil and pulpwood plantations.

But last year’s haze outbreak was among the worst in memory, shrouding Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand in acrid smoke. The crisis forced school closures and caused thousands to fall sick across the region.

While this year’s fires have yet to reach the levels of 2015, the number has been rising in recent weeks as Indonesia heads towards its peak dry season in September.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho warned that smoke had Thursday started floating across the Malacca Strait, which runs between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

“Smoke from forest and land fires in Riau (province) has started to enter the Malacca Strait,” he tweeted.

“Let’s prevent and put out the fires.”

Riau, on western Sumatra island, is a major centre of the palm oil and pulpwood industry, and many fires occur there every year.

He also said the number of “hotspots” detected by satellites — areas of intense heat that are either already on fire or vulnerable to going up in flames — had increased in West Kalimantan province, on Indonesia’s part of Borneo island.

A total of 158 hotspots were detected in the province on Friday, up from 106 a day earlier.

The governor of the province, a centre of the palm oil industry, had asked the disaster agency to provide helicopters for water-bombing and “cloud-seeding”, or chemically inducing rain, said Nugroho.

Indonesia has faced intense criticism from its neighbours and the international community over its failure to halt the annual smog outbreaks.

Jakarta has promised tougher action. It has announced a plan to stop granting new land for palm oil plantations, and established an agency to restore millions of hectares of carbon-rich peatlands susceptible to fires.

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Vietnam: Sewage, Household Waste Drains Directly to The Sea Near Da Nang

August 11, 2016

Da Nang is one of the favorite tourism destinations in Vietnam thanks to its beautiful scenery and luxury coastal resorts.

Vietnam sends sewage to the sea at Da Nang, August 10, 2016. Photo by Nguyen Dong, VnExpress

Thanh Nien News

DA NANG – Thursday, August 11, 2016 10:53

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Officials in the coastal city of Da Nang have admitted that household waste has been discharged directly into the sea through a combined sewer system that also handles storm water.
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The disclosure came days after local media reported that a large amount of waste had been discharged straight into the sea, near the outfall gates of the city’s apparently inadequate sewer system.
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Le Quang Nam, director of the environment department, at a meeting Wednesday said that household sewage has been carried directly into the sea through 29 gates along Nguyen Tat Thanh Street and 16 others on Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Streets.
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He said the city uses a combined sewer system, in which household sewage is pumped into the same drains that receive storm water.
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The city has installed a couple of sewage treatment plants to deal with the waste. Theoretically, only storm water will be discharged without treatment, but the system has failed during heavy downpours and overflows.
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“It has been going on for many years,” Nam said, as cited by news website VnExpress.
He does not reveal the amount of sewage that ends up every day on local beaches, some of the most popular in Vietnam and the region.
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People living around Thanh Khe Beach, which stretches 4.3 kilometers with nine outfall gates, said the beach is stinky with all kinds of trash, including dead animals.
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Officials have pledged to come up with a more effective solution to tackle the problem.
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Da Nang is one of the favorite tourism destinations in Vietnam thanks to its beautiful scenery and luxury coastal resorts.
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The city, the third largest in Vietnam, received 1.25 million foreign visitors last year, up 30 percent from 2014.
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Dead fish on the beach in Quang Tri province, May 2016. Photo via Tuoi Tre.

Philippines President Duterte — We will honor Paris climate treaty if it is fair to all

July 27, 2016
President Duterte assured the US government yesterday that the Philippines would recognize the agreement of cooperation reached during the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris, France last year as long as it will be fair to all. File photo/TOTO LOZANO/PPD

MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte assured the US government yesterday that the Philippines would recognize the agreement of cooperation reached during the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris, France last year as long as it will be fair to all.

Duterte conveyed the message to US Secretary of State John Kerry, who paid a courtesy call on the President in Malacañang.

Duterte and Kerry later had a working lunch where they discussed major issues, including ways to strengthen ties between the US and the Philippines through the Enhanced Development Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Kerry cited the importance of the Paris treaty.

“They also touched on climate change and Mr. Kerry was helpful in defining certain issues about the Paris pact and the President also responded appropriately when he said that the Philippines will work out just as long as everything is fair,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said after the courtesy call.

Prior to Kerry’s visit, Duterte said the Philippines could not attain its full development and industrialization if it will commit to the Paris treaty, which limits the carbon emissions of developing countries.

Since he plans to put up industrialized areas, Duterte slammed developed countries for putting a gag on developing countries when they wantonly destroyed the environment on their way to progress.

US aid for crime campaign

The US has vowed to provide $32 million to support the Duterte administration’s intensified law enforcement efforts.

Washington’s support for law enforcement activities was one of the topics Duterte and Kerry discussed.

“The US committed $32 million in training and services,” Abella said in a press briefing.

It remains unclear what specific programs will be funded by the US. There is no information also on whether the training will cover maritime law enforcement in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and other territorial waters.

Abella confirmed that Duterte had also briefed Kerry about his crackdown against illegal drugs and crime.

Human rights protection

Kerry underscored the protection of civil and human rights in ensuring a safe society.

He said the US and the Philippines have broader agenda than just the question on the South China Sea.

The Philippines and the US, he said, continue to work together with other countries in the region on law enforcement, regional security and combating transnational crimes like human trafficking.

“I made very clear that civil and human rights need to be protected even as we work to keep our society safe,” Kerry said in a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. following the Philippines-US Bilateral Meeting held at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Kerry is the first foreign minister to call on Duterte.

The two countries also work together on countering violent extremism.

“Unfortunately, the Philippines is no stranger to the threat of terrorism. This nation has been managing these threats by groups like Abu Sayyaf for some period of time and our nations work very closely in order to counter those threats,” he said.

Yasay said the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty has been a cornerstone of security in the region for decades.

Kerry said the EDCA would not only help to coordinate efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region, but it also allows the US to provide rapid assistance to the Philippines in the event of an emergency. It enables the US to preposition humanitarian relief supplies.

“The EDCA agreement will also expand opportunities for our militaries to train together and that will help modernize the AFP and increase their effectiveness in responding to 21st century threats,” he added.

He said the President committed to Kerry that agreements between the Philippines and the US would be fulfilled and respected. – With Alexis Romero, Pia Lee-Brago

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/07/28/1607454/rody-philippines-will-honor-paris-climate-treaty-if…

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World’s largest carbon producers face landmark human rights case

Filipino government body gives 47 ‘carbon majors’ 45 days to respond to allegations of human rights violations resulting from climate change

Philippines — Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013. Photograph by Erik de Castro, Reuters

The world’s largest oil, coal, cement and mining companies have been given 45 days to respond to a complaint that their greenhouse gas emissions have violated the human rights of millions of people living in the Phillippines.

In a potential landmark legal case, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), a constitutional body with the power to investigate human rights violations, has sent 47 “carbon majors” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination”.

The move is the first step in what is expected to be an official investigation of the companies by the CHR, and the first of its kind in the world to be launched by a government body.

The complaint argues that the 47 companies should be held accountable for the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines and demands that they explain how human rights violations resulting from climate change will be “eliminated, remedied and prevented”.

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/27/worlds-largest-carbon-producers-face-landmark-human-rights-case

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Humans May Be Eating Plastic When They Shop for Seafood

July 6, 2016

Greenpeace notes that rates of tiny bits of plastic waste found in particular along Hong Kong’s western shores are among the highest in the world

By Ernest Kao
South China Morning post

Wednesday, July 6, 2016, 7:07 pm
 

Microplastic pollution in the ocean ends up in more than 170 types of commonly consumed seafood including mussels, lobsters and oysters, according to an environmental group.

In Hong Kong, these tiny bits of plastic waste, measuring at most five millimetres, are most abundant across its western shores, with some scientific studies recording an average of 800 scattered pieces per square metre at sample beaches during the wet season – one of the highest rates in the world.

Greenpeace senior campaigner Kate Lin Pui-yin believed much of the pollution was flushed into the territory from the Pearl River Delta, but local anthropogenic sources could also be contributing to the pollution and ending up in the digestive tracts of fish and invertebrates.

But Lin pointed to an even smaller threat – plastic microbeads – an increasingly common ingredient in facial washes and scrubs. They are potentially even more harmful due to their small size.

“These microbeads do not decompose easily and can be absorbed into the groundwater. They also cannot be properly filtered out by preliminary wastewater treatment,” she said.

A telephone survey commissioned by the green group revealed that more than 85 per cent of 804 adult residents polled did not know these cleaning products contained microbeads, although half of them used such products an average of 4.3 times a day.

The lack of public awareness did not stop there. Eight out of 10 respondents did not know how to check whether the products they used contained microplastics, and although two-thirds knew plastic polluted the ocean, the same number did not realise microbeads posed the same threat.

Products that listed ingredients such as nylon-12, nylon-6, polyethylene, polypropylene, polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) were likely to be polluting, Lin said.

She urged the government to introduce legislation to ban microbeads in products.

 http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/1986226/mussels-lobsters-and-oysters-microplastic
 

Smoke, Haze and Air Pollution Harmful to Human Health: Singapore has served notice on Indonesian companies — “We are going after, to put it starkly, the bad guys that are causing this problem.”

July 3, 2016

AFP

JAKARTA (AFP) – Singapore is refusing to back down in its pursuit of those responsible for haze-belching forest fires in South-east Asia last year, despite struggling to bring the perpetrators before the courts and drawing a sharp rebuke from neighbouring Indonesia.

Forest fires are part of an annual dry-season problem in Indonesia, started illegally to quickly and cheaply clear land for cultivation – particularly for palm oil and pulpwood.

But last year’s haze outbreak was among the worst in memory, shrouding Malaysia, Singapore, and parts of Thailand in acrid smoke and forcing school closures as pollution reached hazardous levels and thousands fell sick across the region.

Singapore has served notice to six Indonesian companies it believes may have cleared land by burning but could target others as investigations continue, according to Singapore’s ambassador to Indonesia Anil Kumar Nayar.

“We are going after, to put it starkly, the bad guys that are causing this problem,” he told AFP in an interview last week.

However, the city-state’s efforts to punish Indonesian companies under its own anti-haze law have become a flashpoint with Jakarta.

Singapore argues that international rules allow states to take action – even if harm is being caused by activities outside its jurisdiction – but Jakarta has questioned how Singapore could pursue Indonesian citizens for prosecution, especially in the absence of a ratified extradition treaty between the neighbours.

The latest sabre-rattling came after Singapore issued a court warrant in May to detain a director of an Indonesian company linked to the haze while he was in the city-state.

Afterwards, Indonesia’s Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said that she would be reviewing her ministry’s cooperation with Singapore on environmental issues.

“Singapore cannot step further into Indonesia’s legal domain,” Bakar told reporters in June. Her spokesman declined to comment further on the matter when contacted.

Nayar reiterated that Singapore wasn’t crossing any line pursuing these companies and was within its rights to enforce its law.

“We are not doing something that is extraordinary. It is not targeting any country, or anybody’s sovereignty,” he said.

The law threatens local and foreign firms with fines of up to S$100,000 for every day Singapore endures unhealthy haze pollution.

So far just two of the companies have responded to the court order, Nayar said, without naming specific firms.

Singapore has repeatedly asked Indonesia for details about companies – such as maps showing who owns what concessions – but says Jakarta has not provided any information.

Singapore would “continue to press”, Nayar said, but added the evidence needed to prosecute these companies could be found by other means.

“We could go that way as well, but at the end of the day this is part of a legal process. We want to be working with the Indonesian government,” he said.

One of Indonesia’s main arguments is that a regional approach to solving the haze crisis would be more effective than individual action.

“They (Singapore) know our view on this, on how we can best address this issue of haze through the Asean mechanism,” ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told AFP.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has an agreement to create a haze-free region by 2020, though it took 14 years to be fully ratified.

Nayar says regional progress on curbing haze has been slow.

Fellow Asean member Malaysia, which also suffers during the haze outbreaks, has expressed interest in adopting its own law similar to Singapore’s to pursue errant companies.

Jakarta has promised tougher action in the wake of last year’s haze disaster, which turned skies yellow in Indonesia’s part of Borneo island and dealt the economy a US$16 billion blow.

The government announced in May it would no longer grant new land for palm oil plantations, and established a new agency to restore millions of hectares of carbon-rich peatlands susceptible to fires.

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Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1.
Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1, 2015. Photo: Getty Images
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Singapore Central Business District, or CBD skyline is covered with a thick haze.
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An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo

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ObamaCare: A Crony Capitalist’s Best Friend — ObamaCare is a costly and unsustainable disaster

May 25, 2016

Congress blocked the law’s bailout of insurers—who are now suing to reinstate the sweetheart deal.

PHOTO: ISTOCK

May 24, 2016 7:14 p.m. ET

The evidence keeps mounting: Six years after being signed into law, ObamaCare is a costly and unsustainable disaster.

Look at what has happened in the past month alone. A federal court ruled that the Obama administration violated the law by spending money on ObamaCare subsidies without an appropriation from Congress.

In Florida, 15 health insurers are seeking an average increase in premiums of 17.7% for 2017. The continued raiding of Medicare Advantage—ObamaCare was projected in 2012 to cut $156 billion from the program over a decade—hurts many seniors in my home state and nationwide.

The health law’s sweeping mandates continue to target faith-based organizations like the nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor. These nuns remain tied up in litigation because they rightfully believe that God and the Constitution’s religious-freedom protections are higher authorities than President Obama and his administration’s unconstitutional and liberal agenda.

ObamaCare is also bringing out corporate America’s worst crony-capitalist impulses. The health-insurance lobby has teamed up with trial lawyers to sue the federal government—through individual lawsuits and a $5 billion class action—for not following through on a sweetheart bailout deal buried in the law. This provision of ObamaCare would have required taxpayers to bail out insurers for losing money on the health-care exchanges.
I was the first person in Congress to take action to stop these bailouts. In late 2013 I introduced legislation to repeal this provision entirely and later another bill to make this so-called “risk corridors” program “budget neutral.” My conservative colleagues and I sounded the alarm about the likelihood of a taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurers (and were mocked as Chicken Littles for it). But we built a coalition to stop the bailouts.

When it came time to pass a spending bill at the end of 2014, we succeeded in making it the law of the land that the ObamaCare bailout program could not cost taxpayers a single cent—which ended up saving taxpayers $2.5 billion. In December of last year, we came back and repeated the feat. Now I am urging leaders in both the House and Senate to make this a priority and stop the bailout a third time.

That the health-insurance companies are suing to try to get their bailout is disgusting. The law—not to mention corresponding legal opinions issued by the federal government—makes clear that Congress must appropriate any net spending by the risk-corridor program.

In fact, one reason it was important to make clear in the law that the risk-corridor program must be budget-neutral was to protect the federal government from this exact kind of lawsuit that insurers have now filed against it. Because payments are being made only using fees paid by the insurance companies, the program is fulfilling its statutory obligation.

This assertion has been affirmed by professional attorneys from the Congressional Research Service, which has also said that the administration’s practice of making other payments to insurers under the ObamaCare reinsurance program “would appear to be in conflict with the plain text” of the law. Thus, the Obama administration should stop trying to figure out a way to bail out the insurers and instead fight back against these lawsuits.

Beyond the legal battle, all this nonsense highlights a startling disconnect between corporate America, in this case the health-insurance industry, and the American people. What these shameless insurers fail to understand is that the bailout promise made to them in 2010 by President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi has been effectively voided by the democratic process and subsequent actions taken by Congress—and yes, signed into law by the same president.

Health insurers can hire all the high-paid trial lawyers they want, but they will run into a constitutional buzz saw: America’s founding document grants Congress the power of the purse, thereby allowing the people, through their elected representatives, to put their money behind what they decide the nation’s priorities should be.

Health-insurance companies need to wake up to the reality that this is not their money, and they are not entitled to it. This money they are fighting for, and that the Obama administration is trying to weasel a way to somehow give them, belongs to taxpayers. Taxpayers get to decide—through me and others in Congress—whether to bail them out. And the people have spoken: No, we will not bail out health insurance companies for ObamaCare’s failures.

I look forward to the day when a conservative president and congressional majorities finally stop the bleeding from ObamaCare by repealing and replacing it with market-friendly, patient-centered reforms that ensure Americans can receive the high-quality health care they need.

Until then, the least we can do—and what we must do again this year—is to stop the bailout, in the courts and through congressional action.

Mr. Rubio, a Republican, represents Florida in the U.S. Senate.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/obamacare-a-crony-capitalists-best-friend-1464131641

Related: Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

Across the globe, the nexus of big money, big government, big insurance companies and human health causing big problems….

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Healthcare has many problems in almost every corner of our world…

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The health services in Britain and the U.S. cannot possibly determine future costs because neither nation knows how many new migrants reside within their borders…. The result is that money and trained medical staff are always in a state of shortage and crisis….

Americans are suffering “the awful legacy of the last eight years,” Bill Clinton said in March.

Global antibiotics ‘revolution’ needed

May 19, 2016

BBC News

Clostridium difficile drug-resistant bacteria

Image copyright SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

A global revolution in the use of antimicrobials is needed, according to a government backed report.

Lord Jim O’Neill, who led the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, said a campaign was needed to stop people treating antibiotics like sweets.

It is the first recommendation in the global plan for preventing medicine “being cast back into the dark ages”.

The report has received a mixed response with some concerned that it does not go far enough.

Superbugs, resistant to antimicrobials, are estimated to account for 700,000 deaths each year.

But modelling up to the year 2050, by Rand Europe and auditors KPMG, suggests 10 million people could die each year – equivalent to one every three seconds.

Global map of deaths

The report brings together eight previous interim reports that recommended:

  • An urgent and massive global awareness campaign as most people are ignorant of the risks
  • Establishing a $2bn ($1.4bn) Global Innovation Fund for early stage research
  • Improved access to clean water, sanitation and cleaner hospitals to prevent infections spreading
  • Reduce the unnecessary vast antibiotic use in agriculture including a ban on those “highly critical” to human health
  • Improved surveillance of the spread of drug resistance
  • Paying companies $1bn (£0.7bn) for every new antibiotic discovered
  • Financial incentives to develop new tests to prevent antibiotics being given when they will not work
  • Promoting the use of vaccines and alternatives to drugs

The review said the economic case for action “was clear” and could be paid for using a small cut of the current health budgets of countries or through extra taxes on pharmaceutical companies not investing in antibiotic research.

Lord Jim O’Neill, the economist who led the global review, said: “We need to inform in different ways, all over the world, why it’s crucial we stop treating our antibiotics like sweets.

“If we don’t solve the problem we are heading to the dark ages, we will have a lot of people dying.

“We have made some pretty challenging recommendations which require everybody to get out of the comfort zone, because if we don’t then we aren’t going to be able to solve this problem.”

Eight years of hell

Emily Morris

It is hoped the measures will prevent more people going through experiences like Emily Morris from Milton Keynes.

She has regular urinary tract infections that do not respond to some antibiotics and could cause kidney damage or even death.

She says: “With every sting and every pain, my heart sinks at the thought of how many antibiotics I have left to use this time.

“I’ve had the struggle of living with a resistance to antibiotics for nearly eight years of my life…there is a clear need for new antibiotics.”

Pharma challenge

Exactly how to encourage the drugs industry to make new antibiotics has been a long running problem – there has not been a new class of antibiotics discovered since the 1980s.

A new antibiotic would be kept on the shelf for use in emergencies so a company could never make back its huge research and development costs.

John Rex, from the antibiotics unit at AstraZeneca, said a new way of paying for drugs, as proposed in the report, was needed.

He argued: “Such models should recognise antibiotics as the healthcare equivalent of the fire extinguisher – they must be available on the wall at all times and have value even when used only infrequently.”

Not enough

But Dr Grania Brigden, from the charity Médecins Sans Frontières, said: “This report is an important first step in addressing this broad market failure, it does not go far enough.”

MSF said infections resistant to drugs were a threat to their work around the world from the war-wounded in Jordan to newborns in Niger.

Dr Brigden added: “The O’Neill report proposes considerable new funding to overcome the failures of pharmaceutical research and development, but the proposals do not necessarily ensure access to either existing tools or emerging new products.

“Instead, in some cases, the report’s solution is simply to subsidise higher prices rather than trying to overcome them.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-36321394