Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

European Diplomats Aim to Curb Iran Actions, Save Nuclear Deal

February 18, 2018

Talks intended to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to preserve the Iran nuclear deal

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MUNICH—European diplomats met with a senior Iranian official Saturday in a bid to curtail Iran’s regional muscle-flexing and meet a key Trump administration demand.

The push by the European diplomats to check Iranian meddling in Yemen, Syria and other parts of the Middle East is aimed at persuading U.S. President Donald Trump to preserve the Iran nuclear deal and show the U.S. that there are other ways to check Iranian aggression.

Mr. Trump has threatened to kill the Iranian nuclear deal in May, when he must decide whether to keep in place sanctions waivers required under the 2015 agreement. He has made Iran’s regional actions a focus of his foreign policy, committing the U.S. to pushing back Tehran’s regional role.

Saturday’s meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference is a new channel of discussions intended to address Iran’s activity.

Chaired by the European Union, it brings together senior diplomats from Italy, Germany, Britain and France—the E4—and Iran, represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi. The focus of Saturday’s discussions was the conflict in Yemen.

The meeting comes as concerns rise about Iran’s role in southern Syria and the possibility of direct conflict there between Iran and Israel.

In Munich on Saturday, U.S. national security adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster said Iran is building a network of proxy forces, like Hezbollah, throughout the region and arming them with increasingly sophisticated weaponry.

“So the time is now…to act against Iran,” Gen. McMaster said.

H. R. McMaster, National security adviser to the US President, delivers his speech on day two of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Feb. 17, 2018. (AFP)

European governments, who have strongly supported the Iranian nuclear agreement, have pledged to work with Washington to address nonnuclear concerns, such as Iran’s missile program and its regional activities. The U.K., France, Germany and the U.S. set up working groups last month to discuss this although people close to the talks say work is at a very early stage.

At the same time, the Europeans agreed in a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif that they would open a channel for discussion of regional issues. Saturday’s meeting was the first one.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

According to officials, European governments are looking to broaden the talks over coming months to cover the conflict in Syria, where Iranian forces and proxies have helped give the Assad regime the upper hand.

Those discussions could include the situation in southern Syria, one of the officials said.

Last weekend, Israel launched attacks on Syrian air defenses and Iranian fighters in Syria after Israel intercepted an Iranian drone fired from Syria. An Israeli jet was shot down during the attacks.

Iran Recruits Afghan and Pakistani Shiites to Fight in Syria

Israel has warned repeatedly it won’t accept an Iranian presence close to its border in southern Syria and said it would strike Iranian built precision missile factories for Hezbollah and other military infrastructure.

On Saturday morning, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned that while the EU would maintain its support for the Iranian nuclear deal, Europe was ready to work with the U.S. against “the destabilizing influence of Iranian policies in the region and to push them back.”

A senior German diplomat said Berlin had warned Tehran after last weekend’s events in southern Syria that Europe could step up pressure if Iran seeks to entrench its presence there.

Most European sanctions against Iran were lifted after the nuclear deal was concluded. France has said Iranian firms or people could be targeted with sanctions over Iran’s missile program.

Iran has refused to enter discussions on ballistic missiles, saying it won’t compromise on its national defense. Iranian officials have said Tehran can’t rein in its missile program when the U.S. is selling arms to regional rivals like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Trump has also pressed European countries to agree to a follow-up agreement to the nuclear deal that would threaten action if Tehran ramps up its nuclear activities once the original limits start to expire. Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear program under the deal.

European governments have said they won’t renegotiate the nuclear deal. Officials warn that they want firm commitments from Washington that if they address their concerns, Mr. Trump will stand by the deal. There is still uncertainty among European governments about precisely what commitments Washington is demanding to stand by the deal.

In Munich on Saturday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said Washington was seeking “a commitment that we can credibly show to the president (that) we’re making progress to address” flaws in the nuclear deal and to counter Iran’s nonnuclear activities.

He said that could eventually lead to direct talks between the U.S. and Iran but “there will need to be significant progress” in Iranian discussions with Europe first.

Write to Laurence Norman at


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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (AP-Hussein Malla)

Aircraft Carrier USS Carl Vinson Operating in the South China Sea

February 17, 2018

ABOARD THE USS CARL VINSON: With a deafening roar, the fighter jets catapulted off the US aircraft carrier and soared above the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), as its admiral vowed that the mighty ship’s presence was proof America still had regional clout.

SHOW OF FORCE An F-18 Hornet fighter jet prepares to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as the carrier strike group takes part in a routine deployment mission in the South China Sea, one hour away from Manila. AFP PHOTO

“US presence matters,” Rear Admiral John Fuller told reporters on board the USS Carl Vinson. “I think it’s very clear that we are in the South China Sea. We are operating.”

The Carl Vinson, one of the US Navy’s longest-serving active carriers, is currently conducting what officials say is a routine mission through the hotly contested waters where years of island reclamation and military construction by Beijing has rattled regional nerves.

Following criticism that the Trump administration’s commitment to the Asian region has been distracted by North Korea, reporters were flown onto the ship Wednesday as it sailed through the sea.

 Related image


In a rapid series of take-offs and landings, F18 fighter jets roared off the deck, traveling from zero to 290 kilometers (180 miles) per hour in a dizzying two seconds.

Fuller, commander of the Carl Vinson Strike Group, said the 333-meter-long ship’s presence was a way to reassure allies.

“The nations in the Pacific are maritime nations,” he said. “They value stability … That’s exactly what we are here for. This is a very visible and tangible presence. The United States is here again.”

Strategic competitor

But the location of the strike group – which includes a carrier air wing and a guided-missile cruiser – is also a very direct message to China, whether US officials admit it or not.

Its voyage comes just a month after the Pentagon’s national defense strategy labeled China a “strategic competitor” that bullies its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea – believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and through which $5 trillion in trade passes annually – and has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the sea.

Manila has also protested China’s naming of five features in the Philippine Rise, also known as Benham Rise, a
vast undersea area within the Philippines’ continental shelf where the country holds sovereign rights.

Compared to the 11 active aircraft carriers in the US Navy, China boasts just one carrier.

But the rising Asian superpower has made no secret of its desire to build up its naval forces and become much more regionally assertive.

Last month Beijing said it had dispatched a warship to drive away a US missile destroyer which had “violated” its sovereignty by sailing close to a shoal in the South China Sea.

Major naval nations like the US, Britain and Australia are determined not to let China dictate who can enter the strategic waters.

They have pushed “freedom of navigation” operations in which naval vessels sail close to Chinese-claimed militarized islets in the South China Sea.

“We will follow what international rule says and we will respect (it), even if there are disputes there,” Fuller said.

Alliances shifting

The nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson – the ship that took Osama Bin Laden’s body for burial at sea – began a regular deployment in the Western Pacific last month.

The carrier is home to 5,300 sailors, pilots, and other crew members as well as 72 aircraft.

Washington has announced plans for it to dock in Vietnam – a first for the communist nation which is rattled by China’s expansionism in the sea and has forged a growing alliance with its former foe the US.

Britain said on Tuesday it would sail its own warship from Australia through the South China Sea next month to assert freedom of navigation rights in support of the US approach.
But alliances are shifting.

The Philippines, a US treaty ally, was once the strongest critic of Beijing’s expansionism in the South China Sea, successfully winning a tribunal case in The Hague over their claims.

But it has changed course under President Rodrigo Duterte in a bid for billions of dollars worth of Chinese investment.

Duterte last week said it was not time to fight China over the row, adding the Philippines should “not meddle” with Washington and Beijing’s competition for superpower status.

In Wednesday’s trip, the USS Carl Vinson hosted top Duterte aides and key Philippine military officers.
Duterte’s communications secretary Martin Andanar described the carrier as “very impressive” and its equipment “massive.”

Asked if Manila welcomed US patrols in the disputed area, Andanar told reporters: “The United States has been a big brother of the Philippines, a military ally.”

PH won’t recognize renamed features

The Philippines was not consulted by the International Hydrographic Organization’s (IHO) Subcommittee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) in renaming several features within the Philippine Rise as proposed by China, and will not recognize these names, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on Thursday.

“The decision of the SCUFN was made without due consultation with the Philippine Government,” Esperon said in a statement.

His statement came days after maritime expert Jay Batongbacal posted on Facebook that Beijing had proposed names before the IHO for several undersea features of the Philippine Rise.

These features include four seamounts and one hill, which are the Jinghao and Tianbao Seamounts located some 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan province; the Haidonquing Seamount located further east at 190 nautical miles; and the Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount that form central peaks.

According to Esperon, the renaming of Jinghao and Tianbao seamounts were adopted in October 2015 while the renaming of Jujiu seamount was approved in September 2016.

The approval of the proposals in naming underwater features, as a matter of procedure, are decided upon solely by the 12-member SCUFN countries: Germany, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Italy and Russia, Esperon explained.

Decisions made by the SCUFN are “deemed as final and non-appealable,” he noted.

“Because of the numerous complaints from many countries regarding its supposed arbitrary and unregulated decision-making process, the SCUFN decided to suspend last year the processing of pending proposals for the naming of undersea features worldwide,” Esperon said.

“Nonetheless our diplomatic posts have been alerted against such future applications in Philippine waters,” Esperon added.

Last month, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced that President Duterte had ordered the Philippine Navy to “chase away” foreign vessels found within the Philippine Rise.

On June 12 last year, the military’s Northern Luzon Command hoisted a fiberglass Philippine flag within the Philippine Rise, to assert sovereignty over the territory.


Anti-fascist protesters rally against racism in Italy

February 11, 2018

Protesters have gathered to denounce racism after an Italian man opened fire on African migrants in Macerata. Immigration has become one of the most important political issues in the run-up to parliamentary elections.

Protesters rally against racism

Thousands of anti-fascist protesters on Saturday took to the streets to rally against racism in the eastern city of Macerata, where an Italian man earlier this month opened fire on African migrants, injuring six people.

Up to 30,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Macerata carrying placards and shouting slogans against rising right-wing extremism. Protesters also gathered in Milan and other cities across Italy.

“We are here because we want to be a dam against this mountain of hate which is spreading continuously, a social hate against migrants and, in general, against the poor,” Francesco Piobbicchi, a protester, told Reuters news agency.

Read more: German-speaking Italy and the legacy of fascism

Tensions reached a fever-pitch on February 3, when Luca Traini, a 28-year-old who ran as a candidate for the far-right Northern League at local elections, went on a two-hour shooting spree targeting African migrants in Macerata.

Traini reportedly told police he was out to avenge the death of Pamela Mastropietro, an 18-year-old Italian woman who was found dead by police. Authorities arrested a suspected drug dealer with Nigerian origins for the murder of Mastropietro.

Police clash with Forza Nuova protestersEarlier this week, police clashed with New Force supporters in Macerata after the far-right supporters gave them a fascist salute during an unauthorized protest

‘Hate, terror and division’

Protesters also decried political parties’ attempts to use migration as a scapegoat for other issues in the run-up to parliamentary elections slated for March 4.

“If there’s unemployment, blame the government, not the migrants,” protesters chanted during the rally. “The political parties are using populism to create hate, terror and division,” said Valentina Guiliodora, who joined the demonstration.

Read more: Italy’s extreme right-wing on the rise

Italy has witnessed a resurgence of far-right activity, including growing support for neo-fascist party New Force (Forza Nuova), in tandem with a wave of migrants reaching Italian shores from North Africa over the past four years.

The Northern League party, which forms part of a right-of-center alliance expected to perform well during the elections, has campaigned on an anti-migrant platform. The far-right party’s leader Matteo Salvini said he was “ashamed as an Italian” for the anti-fascist march in Macerata.

Cryptocurrency Worth $170 Million Missing From Italian Exchange — Francesco the Bomber comments

February 10, 2018

BitGrail says it lost about 17 million tokens of Nano

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Francesco the Bomber

An Italian cryptocurrency exchange called BitGrail said on Friday that it lost about 17 million tokens of a cryptocurrency called Nano, with a market value of about $170 million.

In a note on its website, the exchange said “internal checks revealed unauthorized transactions which led to a 17 million Nano shortfall, an amount forming part of the wallet managed by BitGrail.” It didn’t indicate exactly when the hack occurred.

The exchange said that it has informed authorities, and that it didn’t believe any other currencies it holds were affected. It did say, however, that it was suspending all withdrawals and deposits temporarily. A representative of BitGrail couldn’t be reached Friday evening in New York.

But a person with the Twitter username “Francesco the Bomber,” who appears to run the exchange, made several comments on the social-media site following the announcement. “We are transparent, funds are stolen,” said one. Another said “there is an ongoing investigation by police.”

Image result for BitGrail, Nano, photos

The person posting also said that the exchange couldn’t pay its customers back. He also referenced “unfounded allegations” being made against him.

It was the second large hack of a cryptocurrency exchange this year. In January, Tokyo-based Coincheck reported that hackers vaulted its security measures and stole about $530 million worth of customer assets.

The firm said it would compensate those customers. In December, a South Korean exchange called Youbit shut down after its second hack in less than a year, and another exchange called NiceHash lost more than $70 million worth of bitcoin to hackers.

The most infamous hack in this sector was the $460 million theft from Japanese exchange Mt. Gox in 2014. While other famous hacks, like Equifax or the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, usually involve data, cryptocurrencies offer a very tempting target to hackers. Because they are designed to have inalterable histories, transactions in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can’t be erased. That means once a hacker moves bitcoin from a target’s online wallet to their own, it’s hard to get it back.

The price of a nano fell 6.5% to $10.21, according to coinmarketcap. Nano is a thinly traded currency, with only about $53 million changing hands daily. It trades on only about a dozen exchanges, including BitGrail, none of which are major exchanges.

The hack didn’t affect the prices of other cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin was up 11% at $9,001, Ethereum was up 12% at $902.

Nano was by far BitGrail’s largest currency by volume, with $2.7 million worth of bitcoin traded. The exchange handles trades for eight different cryptocurrencies.

Nano is a newer cryptocurrency, which launched in 2015 under the name raiblocks. The development team just last week announced it was rebranding the token. On Dec. 1 the currency, then called raiblocks, was trading at 20 cents. It surged to a high of $37.62 on Jan. 2, before dipping below $7 on Feb. 6, according to coinmarketcap.

Write to Paul Vigna at

Single-Payer Health Care Isn’t Worth Waiting For (In November an Ontario woman learned she’d have to wait 4½ years to see a neurologist)

January 22, 2018

An orthopedic surgeon challenges Canada’s ban on most privately funded procedures.

When Brian Day opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996, he had a simple goal. Dr. Day, an orthopedic surgeon from Vancouver, British Columbia, wanted to provide timely, state-of-the-art medical care to Canadians who were unwilling to wait months—even years—for surgery they needed. Canada’s single-payer health-care system, known as Medicare, is notoriously sluggish. But private clinics like Cambie are prohibited from charging most patients for operations that public hospitals provide free.

Dr. Day is challenging that prohibition before the provincial Supreme Court. If it rules in his favor, it could alter the future of Canadian health care.

Most Canadian hospitals are privately owned and operated but have just one paying “client”—the provincial government. The federal government in Ottawa helps fund the system, but the provinces pay directly for care. Some Canadians have other options, however. Private clinics like Cambie initially sprang up to treat members of the armed forces, Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers, those covered by workers’ compensation and other protected classes exempt from the single-payer system.

People stuck on Medicare waiting lists can only dream of timely care. Last year, the median wait between referral from a general practitioner and treatment from a specialist was 21.2 weeks, or about five months—more than double the wait a quarter-century ago. Worse, the provincial governments lie about the extent of the problem. The official clock starts only when a surgeon books the patient, not when a general practitioner makes the referral. That adds months and sometimes much longer. In November an Ontario woman learned she’d have to wait 4½ years to see a neurologist.

Single-Payer Health Care Isn’t Worth Waiting For

Some patients would gladly go to a clinic like Cambie for expedited care, paying either directly with their own money or indirectly via private insurance. But Canadian law bans private coverage for “medically necessary care” the public system provides and effectively forbids clinics from charging patients directly for such services. The government views this behavior as paying doctors to cut in line. Doctors who accept such payments can be booted from the single-payer system.

Dr. Day’s lawsuit aims to overturn these provisions. It alleges that the government’s legal restrictions on private care are to blame for the needless “suffering and deaths of people on wait lists.” Dr. Day argues that the current system violates citizens’ rights to “life, liberty, and security of the person,” as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the equivalent of the U.S. Bill of Rights.

Moreover, Dr. Day claims the government has long tacitly approved of patients paying private clinics out of their own pockets. For decades, he argues, conservative and liberal politicians have offered him quiet praise and encouragement even as they publicly defend the single-payer system. It’s easy to understand why Canada’s leaders would talk out of both sides of their mouths. Private clinics perform more than 60,000 operations a year, saving the public treasury about $240 million.

British Columbia’s lawyers know that Dr. Day could embarrass Canada’s double-talking politicians by naming them at trial. This could explain the endless stream of seemingly deliberate delays that have kept the court proceedings moving at a snail’s pace. Dr. Day and his colleagues were supposed to testify in November but may not take the witness stand until February or March at the earliest.

Canadians have suffered long enough under single-payer waiting lists. There shouldn’t be a waiting list for justice, too.

Ms. Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute and author of “The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care,” forthcoming from Encounter.

Appeared in the January 22, 2018, print edition.

Why single payer health care is a terrible option


(CNN) — The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is failing. Without regard for consequences, the law expanded government insurance programs and imposed considerable federal authority over US health care via new mandates, regulations and taxes. Insurance premiums skyrocketed even as deductibles rose; consumer choices of insurance on state marketplaces have rapidly vanished; and for those with ACA coverage, doctor and hospital choices have narrowed dramatically. Meanwhile, consolidation across the health care sector has accelerated at a record pace, portending further harm to consumers, including higher prices of medical care.

Almost inexplicably, even more top-down control — single-payer health care, a system in which the government provides nationalized health insurance, sets all fees for medical care and pays those fees to doctors and hospitals — has found new support from the left. And this despite its decades of documented failures in other countries to provide timely, quality medical care, and in the face of similar problems in our own single-payer Veterans Affairs system.

Scott W. Atlas

Clearly, this moment cries out for the truth about single-payer health care — conclusions from historical evidence and data.
Single-payer health care is proven to be consistently plagued by these characteristics:

Massive waiting lists and dangerous delays for medical appointments

In those countries with the longest experience of single-payer government insurance, published data demonstrates massive waiting lists and unconscionable delays that are unheard of in the United States.
.In England alone, approximately 3.9 million patients are on NHS waiting lists; over 362,000 patients waited longer than 18 weeks for hospital treatment in March 2017, an increase of almost 64,000 on the previous year; and 95,252 have been waiting more than six months for treatment — all after already waiting for and receiving initial diagnosis and referral.
In Canada’s single-payer system, the 2016 median wait for a referral from a general practitioner appointment to the specialist appointment was 9.4 weeks; when added to the median wait of 10.6 weeks from specialist to first treatment, the median wait after seeing a doctor to start treatment was 20 weeks, or about 4.5 months.
Ironically, US media outrage was widespread when pre-ACA 2009 data showed that time-to-appointment for Americans averaged 20.5 days for five common specialties. That selective reporting failed to note that those waits were for healthy check-ups in almost all cases, by definition the lowest medical priority. Even for simple physical exams and purely elective, routine appointments, US wait times before ACA were shorter than for seriously ill patients in countries with nationalized, single-payer insurance.

Life-threatening delays for treatment, even for patients requiring urgent cancer treatment or critical brain surgery

Those same insured patients in single-payer systems are dying while waiting for the most critical care, including those referred by doctors for “urgent treatment” for already diagnosed cancer (almost 19% wait more than two months) and brain surgery (17% wait more than four months). In Canada’s single-payer system, the median wait for neurosurgery after already seeing the doctor was a shocking 46.9 weeks — about 10 months. And in Canada, if you needed life-changing orthopedic surgery, like hip or knee replacement, you would wait a startling 38 weeks — about the same time it takes from fertilization to a full-term human life.

Delayed availability of life-saving drugs


Americans enjoy the world’s quickest access to the newest prescription drugs, in stark contrast to patients in single-payer systems. In Joshua Cohen’s 2006 study of patient access to 71 drugs, between 1999 and 2005 the UK government’s guidelines board, NICE, had been slower than the United States to authorize 64 of these. Before the ACA, the United States was by far the most frequent country where new cancer drugs were first launched — by a factor of at least four — compared to any country studied in the previous decade, including Germany, Japan, Switzerland, France, Canada, Italy and the UK, according to the Annals of Oncology in 2007.
In a 2011 Health Affairs study, of 35 new cancer drugs submitted from 2000-2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved 32 while the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved only 26. Median time to approval in the United States was about half of that in Europe. All 23 drugs approved by both were available to US patients first. Even in the most recent data, two-thirds of the novel drugs approved in 2015 (29 of 45, 64%) were approved in the United States before any other country. And yet, only months ago, NHS in England introduced a new “Budget Impact Test” to cap drug prices, a measure that is specifically designed to further restrict drug access even though the delays will break their own NHS Constitution pledges to its citizens.

Worse availability of screening tests


Despite what some might suppose about a likely strength of a government-centralized system, the facts show that single-payer systems cannot even outperform our system in something as scheduled and routine as cancer screening tests. Confirming numerous prior OECD studies, a Health Affairs study reported in 2009, before any Affordable Care Act screening requirements, that the United States had superior screening rates to all 10 European countries with nationalized systems for all cancers. Likewise, the single payer system of Canada fails to deliver screening tests for the most common cancers as broadly as the US system, including PAP smears and colonoscopies. And Americans are more likely to be screened younger for cancer than in Europe, when the expected benefit is greatest. Not surprisingly, US patients have had less advanced disease at diagnosis than in Europe for almost all cancers.

Significantly worse outcomes from serious diseases


It might be said that the bottom line about a health care system is the data on outcomes from treatable illnesses. To no one’s surprise, the consequences of delayed access to medications, diagnosis and treatment are significantly worse outcomes from virtually all serious diseases, including cancerheart diseasestroke, high blood pressure and diabetes compared to Americans.
And while some studies have noted that Canadians and Germans, for example, have longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates than Americans do, they are misleading. Those statistics are extremely coarse and depend on a wide array of complex inputs having little to do with health care, including differences in lifestyle (smoking, obesity, hygiene, safe sex), population heterogeneity, environmental conditions, incidence of suicide and homicide and even differences in what counts as a live birth.
The truth is that the UK, Canada and other European countries for decades have used wait lists for surgery, diagnostic procedures and doctor appointments specifically as a means of rationing care. And long waits for needed care are not simply inconvenient. Research (for example, here) has consistently shown that waiting for medical care has serious consequences, including pain and suffering, worse medical outcomes and significant costs to individuals in foregone wages and to the overall economy. In contrast to countries with single-payer health systems, it is broadly acknowledged that “waiting lists are not a feature in the United States” for medical care, as stated by Dr. Sharon Wilcox in her study comparing strategies to measure and reduce this important failure of centralized health systems.
What has been the response to the public outcry about unacceptable waits for care in single-payer systems? First, a growing list of European governments have issued dozens of “guarantees” with intentionally lax targets, and even those targets continue to be missed. Second, many single-payer systems now funnel taxpayer money to private care to solve their systems’ inadequacies, just as we now do in our own Veteran Affairs system, and even use taxpayer money for care in other countries.
Instead of judging health system reforms by the number of people classified as “insured,” reforms should focus on making excellent medical care more broadly available and affordable without restricting its use or creating obstacles to future innovation. Reducing the cost of medical care requires creating conditions long proven to bring down prices while improving quality: increasing the supply of medical care, stimulating competition among providers and incentivizing empowered consumers to consider price.
Single-payer systems in countries with decades of experience have been proven in numerous peer-reviewed scientific journals to be inferior to the US system in terms of both access and quality. Americans enjoy superior access to health care — whether defined by access to screening; wait-times for diagnosis, treatment, or specialists; timeliness of surgery; or availability of technology and drugs. As those countries turn to privatization to solve their systems’ failures, progressives here illogically pursue that failed model.
And make no mistake about it — America’s most vulnerable, the poor, as well as the middle class, will undoubtedly suffer the most if the system turns to single-payer health care, because they will be unable to circumvent that system.

Italy’s resurgent eurosceptics plot to subvert monetary union from within

January 18, 2018

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

17 JANUARY 2018 • 9:52PM

Italy’s ascendant populists on Left and Right have shelved their immediate plans to leave the euro. They are plotting instead to subvert monetary union from the inside with parallel currencies and deficit spending in open violation of the Maastricht Treaty.

This is equally dangerous for Germany and for the political construction of Europe, and is far more likely to happen.

The rebel forces jockeying for power in the elections on March 4 currently lead the polls by a wide margin. Between them they command two thirds of the electorate. All view the euro system as a racket run largely in the interests of Germany. They intend to fight back by gaming the EU themselves with matching cynicism and Machiavellian “astuzia”.

The eurosceptic revolt should come as no surprise. Economic recovery in Italy is a relative term. Output is still 6pc below the pre-Lehman peak. The tangible reality for most…

Read the rest (Paywall):

Berlusconi lauds Catherine Deneuve’s ‘blessed words’ on #MeToo — “Women are happy if a man tries to seduce them.” — Bunga Bunga

January 12, 2018



Italy’s former prime minister said that “women are happy if a man tries to seduce them.” The 81-year-old was previously put on trial for sleeping with an underage nightclub dancer.

Silvio Berlusconi (Getty Images/M. Luzzani)

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Thursday he welcomed French actress Catherine Deneuve’s recent denunciation of the “#MeToo” campaign against sexual harassment and abuse.

“Catherine Deneuve spoke blessed words,” Berlusconi said in a television interview. “It’s natural that women are happy if a man tries to seduce them.”

Deneuve and 99 other women signed an open letter in French daily Le Monde on Tuesday criticizing the “#MeToo” campaign as “puritanical” and a “witch-hunt” against men that left no room for what they said was acceptable seductive behavior.

“#MeToo” began after multiple sexual harassment and rape allegations emerged against Hollywood media mogul Harvey Weinstein in October. Women around the world used the hashtag to share their personal experiences of harassment and assault.

Read more: Catherine Deneuve’s attack on #MeToo sparks fury

Bunga bunga

“I don’t have much experience with this [seducing a woman] because it’s always women who try to seduce me,” Berlusconi said. “The important thing is that the courtship is elegant.”

The billionaire resigned as prime minister in 2011 following revelations he had hosted “Bunga Bunga” erotic parties with young women and had sex with an underage nightclub dancer known as “Ruby the Heart Stealer.”

A judge cleared Berlusconi in 2014 of any wrongdoing for sleeping with Ruby after ruling it could not be proved the former prime minister knew her age when he slept with her.

Berlusconi is currently on trial over accusations he bribed witnesses in the Ruby case.

Read more: Silvio Berlusconi to face trial for ‘bunga bunga’ bribe?

Berlusconi has been trying to return to political prominence as the leader of the conservative Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party ahead of parliamentary elections in March.

The party is doing well in opinion polls, but a 2013 tax fraud conviction bars Berlusconi from entering office.

Read more: Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi appeals public office ban in Strasbourg

amp/rc (Reuters, AFP)

Berlusconi could save Italy from ‘Trump-style’ populists: ex-Economist editor

January 6, 2018


© AFP/File / by Ella IDE | Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi cannot run for office owing to a tax fraud conviction in 2013

ROME (AFP) – The former editor of the Economist, an influential UK weekly which once slammed Silvio Berlusconi as “unfit to lead Italy”, said Saturday the ex-premier could stop populists at the upcoming general election.”I’ve not changed my opinion: Berlusconi is still unfit to lead Italy,” Bill Emmott said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera daily, in reference to the three-time leader famed the world over for his “Bunga Bunga” erotic parties.

“But he could be decisive in forming a centrist coalition able to prevent the (anti-establishment) Five Star Movement or (anti-immigrant) Northern League from being the driving force in the new government” at the March vote, he said.

The populist Five Stars (M5S), which was founded in 2009 and supports a hotchpotch of policies from across the ideological spectrum, is the leading single party in opinion polls but is slammed by critics as immature and incompetent.

In a stinging commentary, Emmott said the movement could be compared to the current United States administration.

“It may be a bit unjust to say it would be like (Donald) Trump’s White House, but in some ways it would: it could potentially be just as experimental and chaotic,” he said.

Emmott called on 81-year-old Berlusconi — who cannot run for office owing to a tax fraud conviction in 2013 — to act as centre-right kingmaker, not only to see off the M5S but keep the eurosceptic Northern League in check too.

– ‘Not so bad’ –

The elderly tycoon is seeking to position himself as a pro-European moderate and the only man who can save Italy from the populist wave which has swept the country and Europe in recent years.

“He (Berlusconi) will be an operator behind the scenes, that’s the role we have to judge him in.

“And in that role I don’t think he’d be so bad. His stance is more moderate than (Matteo) Salvini’s or (Luigi) Di Maio’s,” he said, referring to the League’s head and the M5S candidate for prime minister.

The Northern League, which has benefited from voter anger over the number of asylum seekers arriving in Italy, has forged a pre-election pact with Berlusconi’s Go Italy (FI) party and is jockeying for control of the centre-right coalition.

That coalition may be the only political body capable of winning enough of the vote to secure a parliamentary majority.

With roughly 40 percent of the vote needed to govern, many political analysts expect the M5S to be unable or unwilling to form the necessary alliances to rule.

That could make the League the real threat at the March 4 ballot, Emmott said.

The “worst result… would be a centre-right victory with (League head Matteo) Salvini in the lead”.

As for the outgoing centre-left Democratic Party (PD), it may be currently ahead of the right in the polls, but its ambitious leader Matteo Renzi “irritates people” and has “neither friends nor allies”, he said.

by Ella IDE

New year jitters for bond markets as ECB cuts back stimulus

January 2, 2018

There were New Year jitters for the bond markets as the ECB cut back on stimulus. (AFP)
LONDON: Borrowing costs across the euro area shot higher on Tuesday as a cut in monthly ECB asset purchases became a reality, with hawkish comments from a top official and strong data hurting sentiment toward bonds on the first trading day of the year.
Bonds from the bloc’s periphery, the biggest beneficiaries of European Central Bank stimulus, bore the brunt of the selling. Yields in Italy, Spain and Portugal rose 6-10 basis points each, widening the gap over German peers.
But even “core” or top-rated bond markets were left unscathed from the selling pressure, with Germany’s 10-year bond yield hitting two-month highs.
Benoit Coeure, the Frenchman in charge of carrying out the ECB’s bond purchases, sees “a reasonable chance” the 2.55 trillion euro stimulus program will not be extended again when it expires in September, he told a Chinese financial magazine at the weekend.
The comments highlight that the days of extraordinary monetary stimulus are nearing an end given stronger economic conditions and signs of a pick-up in inflation.
Data on Friday showed inflation in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, hit its highest level in five years in 2017. A survey on Tuesday showed euro zone manufacturers ended 2017 by ramping up activity at the fastest pace in more than two decades.
ECB monthly bond purchases, which have long underpinned bond yields, have fallen to 30 billion euros from 60 billion euros.
That cut in purchases from the start of January, unveiled in October, comes just as investors brace for a hefty month of supply — a potentially powerful headwind for bond markets.
Spain said on Tuesday it will issue bonds worth between 3.5 billion euros and 5 billion euros at a scheduled auction on Thursday.
“While the cut in ECB asset purchases is not a surprise, there is some uncertainty as to how the markets will adjust to this in an unusually heavy month for supply,” said Rainer Guntermann, a rates strategist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.
“The more hawkish commentary from the ECB is also weighing on markets.”
Germany’s 10-year bond yields rose 2.5 basis points to 0.46 percent, the highest since late October. German 30-year bond yields jumped almost 5 bps to 1.31 percent , their highest since mid-November, before dropping to 1.24 percent by late trading.
In Italy, where borrowing costs rose last week after the president called a general election for March 4, 10-year bond yields extended their rise to a two-month high above 2 percent, going up nearly 10 bps by the afternoon.
That pushed that gap over German equivalents to around 165 bps, its widest since Oct. 19. Spanish and Portuguese bond spreads also widened against Germany in a sign that investors were reducing their exposure to southern European bond markets.
“The widening in peripheral spreads shows that the market is concluding that the recent spread tightening is inconsistent with a more hawkish ECB,” said Peter Chatwell, head of rates strategy at Mizuho.
Analysts said Portuguese five-year bonds were also coming under pressure from expectations of a syndicated bond deal of this maturity next week.
Most other euro zone bond yields were up 2-4 basis points, with trade subdued after Monday’s New Year’s holiday. There was also some caution ahead of the implementation on Jan. 3 of the wide-ranging EU financial markets directive known as MiFID II.

‘Historic’ turning point in Italy’s migrant crisis

December 30, 2017

Evacuated migrants taken out of detention centers by the UNHCR from Tripoli in Libya, arrive at the military airport Pratica di Mare in Rome, Italy. (Reuters)

ROME: The year 2017 marked what Italian authorities hope was a turning point in the nation’s struggle to manage a chaotic and deadly rush of migrants to its shores.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni this week called it a pivotal moment in Italy’s “historic transition from immigration managed by criminals to controlled, legal and safe migration.”
While migrants who made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean in rickety boats still numbered nearly 119,000, it was a roughly one-third drop over the previous year.
However, Italy’s effort to tackle the issue has not been without controversy, including its moves to enlist the help of powerful militias to curb traffickers’ activity.
Still the situation as 2017 closes, is vastly different than the first half of the year.
Between January and June, Italy saw a nearly 20 percent jump in the number of migrants arriving by sea, while asylum applications exploded as its EU neighbors — France, Switzerland and Austria — had closed their borders.
In just the last three days of June, a total of 10,400 people landed in Italy as its neighbors refused to allow even a single ship of migrants rescued off the coast of Libya to dock.
With legislative elections on the horizon — now set for March 2018 — immigration has been a key issue, particularly for Italy’s right and the populist Five Star Movement (M5S).
Italy has tried to adapt how it handles the migrants on its soil, trying prioritize smaller reception centers believed to help new arrivals get on their feet.
Still tens of thousands of asylum seekers languish in large shelters, feeding into the mutual distrust of surrounding neighborhoods.
But everything began to change in July as migrant boat departures from Libya suddenly dropped. The downward trend continued to the point that sea arrivals over the past six months have fallen by 70 percent compared with the same period last year.
The drop has been attributed to a controversial combination of an Italian-led boosting of the Libyan coast guard’s ability to intercept boats and efforts to seek the assistance of powerful militias.
There have also been moves to tighten Libya’s southern borders, accelerate repatriations directly from Libya and measures to stem the flow of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa through transit states such as Niger and Sudan.
It seemed to pay off as in early December, with the Libyan navy saying a total of 80,000 migrants were rescued or intercepted in 2017.
However, harrowing accounts emerged of desperate migrants throwing themselves overboard in order to avoid being sent back to the chaos in Libya.
Migrants intercepted or rescued by the Libyans are usually held in detention centers to await repatriation, but waiting times are often long and conditions deplorable.
International outrage over the situation was stoked in November by a CNN television report on migrant Africans being sold as slaves in Libya.
It got to the point that the EU’s decision to help Libya intercept migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean and return them to detention centers was condemned as “inhuman” by the UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
Italy has continued to press its contacts in Libya to push ahead with another prong of its migrant policy. It has sought the processing of migrants on-site, in cooperation with UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with a program of repatriating economic migrants and transferring vulnerable people.
Returns increased from 1,200 in 2016 to over 19,000 in 2017. As far as refugees, Italy last week became the first country to welcome a group of 162 Ethiopian, Somali and Yemeni refugees flown in directly from Libya.
Italy’s Interior Minister Marco Minniti says up to 10,000 refugees could benefit from these humanitarian corridors in 2018, provided they can be spread among EU partners.
“There is a reliable path we can take. We would not be pretending that the problem does not exist, but rather managing it humanely and safely” for both Italian citizens and migrants, Gentiloni said this week.
Despite these efforts, crossings remain deadly. According to the IOM, at least 2,833 men, women and children died or went missing off Libya this year, compared to 4,581 in 2016, a relatively constant level of about 1 in 40.