Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’

Former Catalan MP to spurn Spain court summons in Switzerland

February 20, 2018

Reuters

MADRID (Reuters) – A former member of Catalonia’s parliament who fled to Switzerland after Madrid blocked the region’s bid to separate from Spain says she will not attend a Spanish court summons over her alleged role in a declaration of independence last year.

Anna Gabriel, a member of the far-left Catalan party CUP, told the Swiss newspaper Le Temps that she planned to stay in Switzerland and would not travel to Madrid to face Supreme Court charges which include rebellion and sedition.

Image result for Anna Gabriel,, catalonia, photos

Anna Gabriel

“Since I will not have a fair trial at home, I have looked for a country that can protect my rights,” Gabriel told the newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday. CUP confirmed her comments.

She is due to appear before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

No one at the court was available for comment on what the consequences might be if she failed to show up.

Several prominent members of the former Catalan government have been arrested and released on bail or are awaiting trial on remand after organizing an independence referendum Oct. 1 and later making a unilateral declaration of independence.

A court ruled that the attempt by the wealthy northeastern region to split from Spain was unconstitutional, prompting Madrid to dismiss the Catalan government and take control before calling a new regional election.

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont fled the country shortly after the independence declaration and remains in self-imposed exile in Brussels with four members of his previous cabinet. All face similar charges as Gabriel for their part in the independence push.

Three Catalan independence leaders — currently on remand after bail applications were denied — have lodged a complaint with the United Nations against their detention.

The Catalan independence drive has taken Spain to the brink of its worst political crisis since the transition to democracy in the mid-1970s and has prompted thousands of companies based in region to relocate to avoid potential fallout.

Following the regional election in December, pro-independence parties continued to hold a narrow majority in the Catalan parliament, though attempts to reinstate Puigdemont as head while residing abroad have failed.

The central government plans to remain in control of the region until parties can decide on a government.

Reporting by Paul Day and Raquel Castillo, additional reporting by Tom Miles in Switzerland, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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UNRWA chief slams ‘political dimension’ of US aid cut to Palestinians

January 30, 2018

 

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl speaks during a news conference at a UN-run school in Gaza City. (Reuters)
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GENEVA: The head of the UN agency for Palestinians criticized on Tuesday the “political dimension” of a US decision to dramatically slash funding to the organization, warning this could lead to rising instability.
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Pierre Krahenbuhl said the US decision to reduce funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) this year by $300 million “has a political dimension that I think should be avoided.”
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He made these comments while issuing an emergency appeal for more than $800 million in funds to provide additional assistance to Palestinian refugees in Syria, Gaza and the West Bank.
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The US, which for years has by far been UNRWA’s largest donor, announced this month it will be contributing just $60 million to the organization’s 2018 budget, down from $360 million last year.
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“It is very clear the decision by the US was not related to our performance,” Krahenbuhl said, pointing out that he had a “positive” meeting with US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner last November and had been left with the impression Washington would maintain its funding levels.
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Krahenbuhl said the cuts were clearly linked to the Palestinian leadership’s decision this month to freeze ties with Trump’s administration after its controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, adding that Washington could no longer be the main mediator in talks with Israel.
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The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
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Krahenbuhl stressed the “imperative to preserve and ensure that humanitarian funding is preserved from politicization.”
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“The whole point of supporting communities in very difficult conflict environments is that one doesn’t have to agree with anyone’s leadership. One is concerned with the well-being… of communities.”
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He underlined that UNRWA provides essential services to some 5.3 million Palestinian refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including running 700 schools and 140 health clinics.
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“It is not the first time in our long and proud history that we face challenges of this nature, but it is in financial terms the most serious financial crisis ever in the history of this agency,” he said.
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Cuts to these and other services for populations often already in dire need and lacking any possibilities to move or to improve their situations could be a recipe for disaster, he warned.
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“There is no doubt that if no solution is found to the shortfall… then there will be increased instability,” Krahenbuhl said.
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“Cutting and reducing funding to UNRWA is not good for regional stability.”
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Following the US move, UNRWA last week launched a global fundraising campaign, titled “Dignity is Priceless,” to help fill the gaps.
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And Krahenbuhl said other donor countries were rushing to provide their donations early to ensure services could continue while the organization works to bring in more cash.
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Denmark, Finland, Germany Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland had already provided their annual donations in full, while Belgium, Kuwait, Netherlands and Ireland had vowed to do so “very soon,” he said.

 

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
PHOTO: ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES

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.

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/single-payer-health-care-isnt-worth-waiting-for-1516566456
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Why single payer health care is a terrible option

CNN

(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.
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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.
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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.
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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

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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.
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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

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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.
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Significantly worse outcomes from serious diseases

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Storm Eleanor forces swathes of Europe to hunker down

January 3, 2018

AFP

© AFP / by Joseph Schmid | Part of the scaffolding was torn off a building in Paris on Wednesday as winter storm Eleanor whipped across northern France

PARIS (AFP) – 

Winter storm Eleanor swept into France, Belgium and the Netherlands on Wednesday after tearing through England and Northern Ireland, cutting power to tens of thousands while forcing airports and train services to halt operations.

Heavy winds led the airports in Strasbourg and Basel-Mulhouse on France’s border with Germany and Switzerland to close after gusts of more than 110 kilometres per hour (70 mph) were recorded, France’s civil aviation authority told AFP, before they were reopened shortly after midday.

Nine people were reported injured in France — four critically — and another in the Netherlands after a tree fell on a person in the southern village of Heesch.

At Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, 60 percent of departures were delayed Wednesday morning, as were a third of arrivals, while a handful of flights had to be rerouted before the winds eased back a bit.

The winds were also wreaking havoc with train services in several French regions as officials issued severe weather warnings for 44 departments until early Thursday.

About 200,000 homes across northern France were without electricity, while “particularly intense” flooding was expected on the Atlantic coasts.

The Eiffel Tower, which attracts six million visitors a year, was closed until at least Wednesday afternoon, while worries about falling tree branches prompted Paris officials to close all city parks for the day.

– ‘Woken people up’ –

Eleanor barrelled into continental Europe after whipping across England, Northern Ireland and Ireland, with the Thames Barrier, one of the largest movable flood barriers in the world, closed as a precautionary measure to protect London from swelling tides.

“We have seen some heavy showers push through across the south of the UK along with hail, loud thunder and lightning, which has woken people up,” said meteorologist Becky Mitchell.

Gusts of 160 kmh were recorded at Great Dun Fell in Westmorland, northwest England, while overturned vehicles and trees caused closures of major motorways.

In Ireland, power supply company ESB said electricity had been restored to 123,000 customers, while 27,000 remained without power.

Streets around the docks in Galway on the west coast were flooded after high tides breached the sea defences, prompting the deployment of about two dozen troops to support flood defence efforts.

– Flooding and flight delays –

Belgium was also put on “orange” alert, the third of four warning levels, with officials urging people to exercise caution when venturing out, in particular because of falling tree branches and other objects.

Although the winds eased toward midday, rescue workers in Brussels were kept busy with about 70 calls across the city, mainly after trees were knocked down, and several parks were closed.

In the Netherlands, 252 of about 1,200 flights were cancelled at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, a main European hub, as weather alerts were issued for several regions.

Several main roads and train lines were also closed as officials rushed to prepare flooding defences.

Flights were also disrupted at Frankfurt’s airport in Germany, where the storm has been baptised Burglind, and at Zurich airport, as Swiss officials urged hikers to avoid forest walks.

RTS television reported that about 14,000 homes were without power in several Swiss cantons.

Eleanor is the fourth major storm to hit Europe since December.

Eleanor is now heading for the French Alps, where several ski areas have shut down lifts, and Corsica, where meteorologists are warning of “violent” gusts that could reach 200 kilometres per hour on the island’s northern tip.

Austria is also in its path, where the avalanche risk was expected to be raised to four on a scale of five in several areas Wednesday afternoon.

by Joseph Schmid

Malaysia’s 1MDB settles debt owed to Abu Dhabi with China backing

December 27, 2017

Workmen are pictured on site at the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 1, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

By Leslie Lopez
The Straits Times
December 27, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR – State-owned 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) has made the final settlement of US$602.7 million ($S810 million) in debt obligations to Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), by divesting its stake in two companies to buyers linked to Chinese state-owned enterprises.

The payment, the second tranche to a US$1.2 billion dollar loan IPIC extended in July 2015 to the troubled 1MDB, was made on Friday (Dec 22), ahead of the end-December deadline that both parties agreed to in early April this year.

IPIC confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that “it has now received all the funds required to be paid to it under the Settlement with the Minister of Finance (Incorporated) Malaysia and 1MDB and the Consent Award made on 9 May 2017”.

“The process to pay is being initiated early because the funds are in place and 1MDB wants to avoid any administrative trip-ups that could result from the banking holidays at the end of the year,” one Malaysian government official familiar with the settlement said.

The first tranche was settled in August.

The second instalment will be paid with funds raised from the sale of investments in financial instruments held by the Malaysian investment company and stakes held in two 1MDB-related entities that own tracts of land in the northern Penang state and another 318-acre real estate parcel around Port Klang, the sources said.

Malaysian government officials declined to identify the buyers in the real estate transactions but one financial executive close to the situation said that the equity interests in the 1MDB real estate entities were acquired by “concerns ultimately controlled by Chinese state-owned enterprises”. The executive declined to elaborate.

1MDB did not respond to requests for comment.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, 1MDB said that all funds were paid from proceeds of its on-going rationalisation programme.

Opposition MP Tony Pua had previously questioned how 1MDB was funding these repayments, and alleged that the Ministry of Finance’s refusal to answer indicated that 1MDB had help from the government.

For the first tranche, 1MDB had said in April that it would use investment units owned by 1MDB subsidiary Brazen Sky Limited to fund the payment.

In June however, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) said these so-called fund units are “relatively worthless”.

The DOJ has filed several lawsuits seeking to seize dozens of properties and luxury assets that it claimed were purchased with funds misappropriated from 1MDB amounting to over US$3.5 billion. The ongoing probe is one of several worldwide relating to 1MDB. Investigations have also been carried out in Singapore, Switzerland and Hong Kong.

The dispute between 1MDB and IPIC revolves around the IPIC loan and another US$3.54 billion in cash advances 1MDB claimed it made to several Abu Dhabi-controlled entities as part of obligations under a May 2012 bond arrangement.

IPIC claimed that it never received the monies from 1MDB, triggering the dispute.

IPIC declared 1MDB in default after the state investment fund refused to honour an interest instalment of US$50.3 million, a move that exposed the Malaysian government to billions more in claims.

Days before the arbitration process was to begin in April this year, both governments reached a settlement.

Under that confidential agreement, sources familiar with the deal said that Malaysia declared that it would honour all its financial obligations to its international bond holders and make full settlement on the US$1.2 billion dollar loan to IPIC before end-2017.

The settlement of the loan this week would also set in motion the second limb in the overall resolution to the dispute.

According to financial executives familiar with the situation, Abu Dhabi will begin negotiations in January 2018 with 1MDB regarding the outstanding US$3.5 billion that remains in dispute.

Separately, Malaysian government officials said 1MDB’s president and chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy, whose contract expires later this month, will continue in office. It is believed that Prime Minister Najib Razak, who chairs 1MDB’s advisory board, will decide on a new role for him after the country’s general election, which is widely expected in the first half of next year.

Mr Arul, who has been central in resolving 1MDB’s debt troubles, has been identified as a contender for the top job at state-owned strategic investment fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysias-1mdb-to-settle-debt-owed-to-abu-dhabi-with-china-backing

Switzerland’s President calls for referendum on EU relationship

December 25, 2017

The call comes after a recent decision by Brussels on Swiss stock exchange access to the EU infuriated Swiss leaders. President Doris Leuthard said a vote would help clarify the country’s relationship with the EU.

Swiss President Doris Leuthard talks from behind lecturn.

Swiss President Doris Leuthard told a newspaper on Sunday that a national referendum on Switzerland’s relationship with the European Union would help clarify the country’s relationship with the free-trade zone.

Tensions between Switzerland and the EU have increased in recent days after the EU granted Swiss stock exchanges access to EU markets for only one year. The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and Regulation (called MiFID II/MiFIR), will come into force on January 3. Swiss officials slammed the decision to allow access for only a year, calling it discriminatory, and threatened to retaliate.

Switzerland is not a member of the EU but the current feud comes as Britain is negotiating its withdrawal from the EU. Those talks will include redefining their mutual trade relationship.

‘s president  says  is acting to weaken the Swiss financial centre.https://euobserver.com/foreign/140391 

EU angers Switzerland over stock market access

The European Commission granted Swiss stock exchanges access to EU markets for just one year, calling for progress in talks on a institutional agreement.

euobserver.com

By contrast Switzerland and the EU have been engaged in “framework” treaty negotiations for some time as Brussels seeks to replace more than 100 bilateral trade agreements which regulate its relationship with Switzerland.

“The bilateral path is important,” Leuthard told the Swiss newspaper Sonntags Blick. “We therefore have to clarify our relationship with Europe. We have to know in which direction to go. Therefore a fundamental referendum would be helpful.”

Talks on the far-reaching agreement advanced last month after the Bern government agreed to increase its contribution to the EU budget.

Read more: Switzerland — The most stable place on earth

The deal

The deal was intended to ensure that Switzerland adopts relevant EU laws in exchange for enhanced access to the bloc’s single market, which is crucial for Swiss exports.

But the deal faces opposition from the anti-EU Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which is currently the largest voting bloc in parliament.

Leuthard, who steps down from the rotating presidency at the end of the year, said the latest row had not overshadowed her year in the rotating office.

“Of course, the differences with Brussels are now in focus,” she said in the newspaper Blick. “Here our attitude is clear – for the EU to link such a technical thing like stock exchange equivalency with a political question like the framework treaty that is not possible.”

“We do not accept such a power play!” she added. “But it’s part of politics, we have to endure that.”

Leuthard said she understood Swiss suspicion towards the EU, but said there is no alternative to reaching an agreement with the bloc that generates about 66 percent of Swiss trade.

“We can strengthen the cooperation with India and China, but the EU remains central,” she said. “We need a mechanism and regulated relationship with the EU that would also prevent political games like we are having at the moment.”

bik/aw (Reuters, AFP)

http://www.dw.com/en/switzerlands-president-doris-leuthard-calls-for-referendum-on-eu-relationship/a-41923697

Norway first country to switch off FM radio

December 13, 2017

AFP

© NTB Scanpix/AFP | Authorities say the transition to digital allows for better sound quality and more channels

OSLO (AFP) – 

Norway on Wednesday completed its transition to digital radio, becoming the first country in the world to shut down national broadcasts of its FM radio network despite some grumblings.

As scheduled, the country’s most northern regions and the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic switched to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in the late morning, said Digitalradio Norge (DRN) which groups Norway’s public and commercial radio.

The transition, which began on January 11, allows for better sound quality, a greater number of channels and more functions, all at a cost eight times lower than FM radio, according to authorities.

The move has however been met with some criticism linked to technical incidents and claims that there is not sufficient DAB coverage across the country.

In addition, radio users have complained about the cost of having to buy new receivers or adapters, usually priced around 100 to 200 euros ($117 to $235).

Currently, fewer than half of motorists (49 percent) are able to listen to DAB in their cars, according to DRN figures.

According to a study cited by local media, the share of Norwegians who listen to the radio on a daily basis has dropped by 10 percent in one year, and public broadcaster NRK has lost 21 percent of its audience.

“It’s a big change and we have to give listeners time to adapt to digital radio,” the head of DRN, Ole Jorgen Torvmark, said in a statement.

“After each shutdown (in a region), we noticed that the audience first dropped but then rose again,” he added.

The transition concerns only national radio channels. Most local stations continue to broadcast in FM.

Other countries like Switzerland, Britain and Denmark are due to follow suit in the coming years.

U.S. seniors struggle more to pay for healthcare compared to other countries

November 16, 2017
By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay News  |  Nov. 15, 2017 at 9:57 PM

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 15, 2017 — A new report finds the availability of health care for U.S. seniors lags behind that of other affluent nations.

Access to insurance isn’t an issue, because all Americans 65 and older are covered by Medicare. But America’s seniors are still sicker than the elderly in other countries — and are more likely to go without essential care because they can’t afford it, according to the Commonwealth Fund study.

“Our Medicare is not as generous as comparable insurance in other countries,” fund President Dr. David Blumenthal said during a media briefing on Tuesday.

In other countries, government health insurance is not restricted to the elderly, but covers everyone, he said.

The United States is complacent about the value and benefits associated with Medicare, even though it’s a universal system, Blumenthal said.

“We do know that we, as a country, do tolerate higher levels of inequality. That’s most evident in the fact that we underinvest, compared to other countries, in social services and overinvest, despite the lack of generosity of our insurance, in health care,” he said.

Providing more social services to the elderly might help reduce the inequality of care, Blumenthal said.

For the study, researchers surveyed older adults about their health care. Participants came from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Almost one-quarter of U.S. seniors didn’t go to a doctor in the past year when sick or they didn’t get a recommended test or fill a prescription because they couldn’t afford it.

In France, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, no more than 5 percent of older adults skipped care because of costs, the researchers found.

In the United States, 22 percent of seniors spent $2,000 or more on out-of-pocket costs during the past year. The only country with higher out-of-pocket costs was Switzerland, with 31 percent spending more than $2,000 out of pocket.

Among all the other countries, less than 10 percent of seniors spent $2,000 or more, researchers found.

Among U.S. seniors, 25 percent said they worried about having the money to buy food or pay rent or bills for heat or electricity or medical care.

However, in France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, only 10 percent or less said they had these concerns.

Seniors in many countries who suffered from several chronic health problems or had trouble with the basic activities of daily living reported being dissatisfied with the quality of their care.

For example, in Australia, 41 percent were somewhat or not at all satisfied, compared with 26 percent in the United States and 21 percent in Switzerland, the country rated the best in satisfaction.

Cost was also a concern for the sickest. In the United States, 31 percent skipped health care due to costs, compared with 2 percent in Sweden. Additionally, almost a third of the sickest U.S. seniors worried about having enough money for meals, rent or other bills, researchers reported.

The sickest seniors in other countries struggled as well, with about 25 percent of those in Australia and Germany also saying that they worried about paying for food, rent or other bills.

Many of these seniors also suffered from anxiety or depression, which can lead to poorer health and higher costs, Blumenthal said. Social isolation was also a problem faced by a number of seniors, particularly in European countries, the study found.

Access to care, especially after hours and on weekends, is another challenge seniors face.

Fifteen percent of U.S. seniors and 11 percent of Canadian seniors went to the emergency room for a condition that could have been treated by a regular doctor or clinic had one been available. In other countries, that figure is 8 percent or less, the researchers said.

U.S. doctors did well when it came to counseling seniors on diet, exercise and the risk of falling. Only doctors in Australia and France were similarly likely to discuss falls with their patients, the researchers found.

Dr. Ken Brummel-Smith is professor emeritus of geriatrics at Florida State University College of Medicine, and a spokesman for Physicians for a National Health Program. He said that providing more home care, social services and after-hour doctor and clinic times could help improve the care of the elderly.

“What older people really need are the support systems to manage themselves,” Brummel-Smith said. “Everyone wants to live independently if possible, but we aren’t set up to do that.”

The report was published Nov. 15 in the journal Health Affairs.

More informationFor more on elder care, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2017/11/15/US-seniors-struggle-more-to-pay-for-healthcare-compared-to-other-countries/3621510800695/?utm_source=fp&utm_campaign=ls&utm_medium=3

U.S. Treasury Declines to Label China a Currency Manipulator

October 18, 2017

Nation remains on formal Monitoring List, along with Japan, South Korea, Germany and Switzerland

Related image

The U.S. Treasury again declined to label China a currency manipulator, though it continued to criticize Beijing for its large trade surplus and restrictions on foreign investors.

“Treasury remains concerned by the lack of progress made in reducing the bilateral trade surplus with the United States,” the department said of China in its semiannual report on international exchange rates. “China should take concrete steps to level the playing field for American workers and firms.”

The Treasury Department’s report, released Tuesday, is the document in which Washington could formally criticize Beijing for manipulating the yuan lower in an effort to boost its exports. As a candidate, President Donald Trump said he would label China as a currency manipulator, but this is now the second of the semiannual reports in which his administration has declined to make the designation, a label that may have led to a deepening trade confrontation. The U.S. also is trying to encourage China to work with it in cracking down on trade and finance flows to North Korea.

The U.S. gave China credit for allowing the yuan to rise this year and noted that China’s trade surplus has been narrowing.

The report kept China on the Treasury’s formal Monitoring List, which is what the U.S. uses to place countries on notice that the government considers their currency and other economic policies to be putting the U.S. at unfair disadvantage.

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Since the spring, the Treasury has removed Taiwan from its monitoring list. It has continued to keep Japan, South Korea, Germany and Switzerland on it.

In removing Taiwa n from the watch list, Treasury cited the progress Taiwan has made in reducing the scale of its foreign-exchange interventions.

Placement on the list can trigger sanctions if the countries satisfy three criteria: persistently intervening in currency markets, running a significant trade surplus with the U.S. and running a large current account surplus overall. None of the countries met all three criteria.

The five countries remaining on the watchlist—China, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Switzerland—all trigger some of the criteria.

In blaming China for currency manipulation during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump may have been fighting the last battle: China’s visions are far more potent and complex. Photo: Getty

The report faulted China for running the largest bilateral surplus with the U.S., and faulted Germany, Japan and South Korea for its U.S. surpluses and overall surpluses. Germany now runs the world’s largest current account surplus. Switzerland has a large current account balance and intervened heavily in its exchange markets, but runs a relatively small trade surplus with the U.S.

“The administration remains deeply concerned by the significant imbalances in the global economy,” the report said. “More broadly, current account surpluses in several major trading partners have not only been large but unusually persistent over the last decade.”

The report also added criticism of India, saying that there has been “a notable increase in the scale and persistence of India’s net foreign exchange purchases.”

Although it didn’t formally add India to its monitoring list, it said “Treasury will be closely monitoring India’s foreign exchange and macroeconomic policies.”

Write to Josh Zumbrun at Josh.Zumbrun@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-treasury-declines-to-label-china-a-currency-manipulator-1508284141

Russia-tied hackers can gain control of power network: report

September 6, 2017

AFP

© Getty/AFP/File | In the past year the Dragonfly 2.0 cyber-espionage group has become “highly focused” on energy systems, the security firm Symantec said, and its hacking attempts accelerated in the first half of this year

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A Russia-linked cyber-espionage group has hacked into the controls of electricity distribution networks in the US and Europe, raising the risk of malicious, remotely-caused blackouts, computer security firm Symantec said Wednesday.Symantec said the group, dubbed Dragonfly 2.0, gained access to the operational systems in a number of energy operations in the United States, Turkey and Switzerland, “to the extent that the group now potentially has the ability to sabotage or gain control of these systems should it decide to do so.”

Symantec did not link Dragonfly 2.0, which has been around for several years, to any specific country. But other cyber security analysts and the US government say Dragonfly, also dubbed Energetic Bear, has Russian roots and links to the Russian government.

It said Dragonfly 2.0 had been known to target Western infrastructure in recent years, attempting to access computer systems to install its own backdoor entryways through phishing ruses.

But in the past year it has become “highly focused” on energy systems, Symantec said, and its hacking attempts accelerated in the first half of this year.

“This is clearly an accomplished attack group,” Symantec said.

“The Dragonfly group appears to be interested in both learning how energy facilities operate and also gaining access to operational systems themselves, to the extent that the group now potentially has the ability to sabotage or gain control of these systems should it decide to do so.”