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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Brexit : Britain between a rock and a hard place: First EU response to article 50 takes tough line on transitional deal - by Daniel Boffey

"Brexit and the Mouse that roare": sorry to see you go Britain
Britain will not be given a free trade deal by the EU in the next two years, and a transition arrangement to cushion the UK’s exit after 2019 can last no longer than three years, a European parliament resolution has vowed, in the first official response by the EU institutions to the triggering of article 50 by Theresa May.

A leaked copy of the resolution, on which the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has been a close conspirator, lays bare the tough path ahead for Britain as the historic process of withdrawing from the trade bloc begins.

Across 11 pages of clauses, May is warned that the EU will stridently protect its political, financial and social interests, and that the position for the UK even during the transition period will not be as positive as it is today.

A withdrawal agreement, covering financial liabilities, citizens’ rights and the border in Ireland, will need to be accepted by a qualified majority of 72% of the EU’s remaining 27 member states, representing 65% of the population. The agreement would then need to be approved by the European parliament, voting by a simple majority.

Barnier has said that any free trade deal, to be struck after the UK leaves, would be a “mixed agreement” requiring ratification by the national parliaments of the 27 states, plus consent by the European parliament.

Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s permanent representative to the EU, delivered a letter to the European council president, Donald Tusk, at 12.30pm notifying the EU of Britain’s intention to leave, as May stood up in the House of Commons to make a statement to MPs.

Addressing a press conference half an hour later, Tusk said: “There is no need to pretend that this is a happy day, neither in Brussels or in London. After all most Europeans, including almost half the British voters, wish that we would stay together not drift apart.”

Tusk said that Brexit would bind the remaining 27 member states together, and that the council and the European commission had a strong mandate to protect the EU’s interests. But he added: “As for me I will not pretend I am happy…”

One positive development following Brexit. It brought the other 27 member states  of the EU with a population of close to half a billion people closer together with no one of its present leaders ready to call a referendum or announce they would be leaving the EU 

EU-Digest

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

US Economy:Renewable Energy Industry Creates Jobs 12 Times Faster Than Rest of US

The solar and wind industries are each creating jobs at a rate 12 times faster than that of the rest of the U.S. economy, according to a new report.

The study, published by the Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) Climate Corps program, says that solar and wind jobs have grown at rates of about 20% annually in recent years, and sustainability now collectively represents four to four and a half million jobs in the U.S., up from 3.4 million in 2011.

The renewable energy sector has seen rapid growth over recent years, driven largely by significant reductions in manufacturing and installation costs. Building developers and owners have been fueled by state and local building efficiency policies and incentives, the report explains.

But, these gains are in contrast to Trump's support for fossil fuel production, his climate change denial and his belief that renewable energy is a "bad investment".

 "Trump's current approach is basically ignoring an entire industry that has grown up over the last 10 years or so and is quite robust," Liz Delaney, program director at EDF Climate Corps, told Business Insider.

Note EU-Digest President Trump, however, who does not believe in scientifically proven evidence that Carbon Dioxide Emissions caused by fossil fuels and a variety of other factors are the main cause for global warming, has today signed several sweeping executive orders taking aim at a number of his predecessor's climate policies,  Thereby turning back the clock of American advantages in the alternative energy sector for many years. It will also jeopardize America's current role in international efforts to confront climate change.

Renewable Energy Industry:  Creates Jobs 12 Times Faster Than Rest of US | Fortune.com

Monday, March 27, 2017

Health Care USA: The “Dis-location” of U.S. Medicine — The Implications of Medical Outsourcing — by Robert M. Wachter, M.D.

When a patient in Altoona, Pa., needs an emergency brain scan in the middle of the night, a doctor in Bangalore, India, is asked to interpret the results.

Spurred by a shortage of U.S. radiologists and an exploding demand for more sophisticated scans to diagnose scores of ailments, doctors at Altoona Hospital and dozens of other American hospitals are finding that offshore outsourcing works even in medicine. .

Most of the doctors are U.S.-trained and licensed — although there is at least one experiment using radiologists without U.S. training.

Until recently, the need to take a patient's history and perform a physical examination, apply complex techniques or procedures, and share information quickly has made medicine a local affair.

Competition, too, has played out between crosstown medical practices and hospitals. Although there have always been patients who chose to travel for care — making pilgrimages to academic meccas for sophisticated surgery, for example — they were exceptions.

This localization was largely a product of medicine's physicality. To examine the heart, the cardiologist could be no farther from the patient than his or her stethoscope allowed, and data gathering required face-to-face discussions with patients and sifting through paper files.

But as health care becomes digitized, many activities, ranging from diagnostic imaging to the manipulation of laparoscopic instruments, are rendered borderless. The offshore interpretation of radiologic studies is proof that technology and the political climate will now permit the outsourcing of medical care, a trend with profound implications for health care policy and practice.

Skyrocketing health care costs are increasingly seen as unsustainable drains on public coffers, corporate profits, and household savings. Concern about these costs has led to wide-ranging cost-cutting efforts, often accompanied by attempts to improve quality and safety.

In other areas of the economy, a similar search for cost savings and value has created a powerful impetus for outsourcing. Although corporate globalization has been controversial, when the forces of protectionism have butted up against the demand of consumers for decent products atlow prices and the desire of shareholders to maximize returns, outsourcing has usually triumphed.

Although outsourcing is often motivated by the desire for cost reduction, health care's version may offer substantial advantages for patients.

For example, many hospitals now purchase interpretation services from outside companies, whose interpreters often speak a range of languages that individual hospitals cannot match. Outsourcing could also provide patients with access to specialized care that would otherwise be unavailable. A group of mammography experts, for example, could read remotely transmitted mammograms obtained at community hospitals, replacing less specialized radiologists. Herzlinger praised the “focused factory” in the predigital era, using examples (such as the “hernia hospital”) that required the physical presence of patients. 

In a “dis-located” world, patients may benefit from some of the quality advantages of focused factories without the burdensome travel.

Outsourcing is often initially endorsed by local providers, since the off-site professionals begin by doing work the locals are happy to forgo, such as nighttime reading of radiographs. (Most of today's overseas teleradiology is designed to capitalize on time differences — Indian radiologists read films while U.S. radiologists are sleeping.) If the arrangement meets its goals (whether these are saving money, getting a late-night dictation into the chart by morning, or allowing a radiologist a full night's sleep), its scope is bound to grow, as administrators consider other candidates for outsourcing — analysis of pathology specimens or reading of echocardiograms and even colonoscopies. By severing the connection between the “assay” and its interpretation, digitization allows the assay to be performed by a lower-wage technician at the patient's bedside and the more cognitively complex interpretation to be performed by a physician who no longermneeds to be in the building — or the country.

For the completereport go to : The “Dis-location” of U.S. Medicine — The Implications of Medical Outsourcing — NEJM

Sunday, March 26, 2017

EU′s Juncker unveils post-Brexit vision for bloc


Presenting five options to the European Parliament on Wednesday, Juncker said it was time for European Union members to once again become "pioneers" to carve out a new future for the EU at 27, referring to the bloc's 27 remaining members after the UK withdraws.

His speech comes just weeks before British Prime Minister Theresa May is due to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, to begin the country's official divorce proceedings from the EU.

The former Luxembourg prime minister insisted that "as painful as Brexit will be, it will not stop the EU as it moves to the future."

Juncker laid out five "pathways to unity" for EU leaders to consider at a special summit in Rome on March 25 to mark the 60th anniversary of the bloc's founding treaty.

Another option would see Brussels pull back from many areas, including regional development, health, employment and social policy. Alternatively, the bloc could maintain the status quo, Juncker said, with limited progress on strengthening the euro single currency and limited defense cooperation.

The fifth option would involve a more federalist approach, "sharing more power, resources and decision-making across the board."

During his speech, Juncker hit out at "permanent Brussels bashing" by populist politicians all over the bloc, insisting that the EU was not responsible for each country's problems.

But he conceded that Brussels had often been put on a pedestal, and had failed to keep many of its ambitious promises, for example, addressing the bloc's high unemployment rate.

Looking to the future, Juncker said: "Our task will be to say clearly what Europe can and cannot do."

He called for EU states to respond to his suggestions by the end of the year, and decide on a course of action by the European Parliament elections in June 2019.

Read more: EU′s Juncker unveils post-Brexit vision for bloc | News | DW.COM | 01.03.2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

EU: Rome summit tries to restart EU momentum - by Eszter Zalan

The EU 27 leaders recommitted their vows to European integration in Rome on Saturday (25 March) amid warnings that the bloc's unity remains fragile.

The heads of state and government met in the same Renaissance-era palace where the six founding countries signed the Treaty of Rome on 25 March, 1957, to establish the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).

Read more: Rome summit tries to restart EU momentum

Friday, March 24, 2017

USA: Trump's obsession with 'all things big' could be dangerous: by Rosemary Westwood

Some questions, you’d think, shouldn’t need to be asked.

For instance, “Is America’s military big enough?”

And yet, the New York Times this week dutifully asked the question, since the president of the United States not only considered it — or perhaps, overheard it on conservative talk radio — and answered yes.

As it is, the U.S.’s $596 billion military budget is greater than the next seven countries combined, more than double China’s and roughly nine times Russia’s. Past presidents have beefed up military spending for actual wars. Donald Trump appears happy to beef up spending for imagined ones, or for posturing, or, perhaps, just to make the military bigger.

Enter his recently released “skinny” budget, which is, you understand, an old Washington term related to a lack of detail, and not, you understand, a reference to its lack of muscle. It’s very robust. Extra tough. Super strong(™).

The New Yorker dubbed it his “Voldemort” budget. Budget director Mick Mulvaney deemed it “compassionate.” And it would, among other things, defund Meals on Wheels, cut support for affordable housing in cities, shrink the Education Department’s budget, throw pretty much every federal arts program out the Air Force One window, and thrust an extra $54 billion towards military spending.

In the same breath, the White House is hoping to “compassionately” relieve 24 million Americans of their health care coverage under its proposed American Health Care Act.

Trump is not, it turns out, simply “doing everything he promised,” because that included making life better for many of his devoted voters, and, at one point, promising a health care plan that would cover every single American.

Instead, with now trademark-inconsistency, he’s coated a dovish American-First rhetoric around the exact opposite: a hyper-militarized vision of the country, complete with walls, and no doubt, if it was en vogue, a giant snaking moat.

Under Trump’s leadership, “Is America’s military big enough?” becomes a rhetorical question of the Tim-the-Toolman-Taylor variety, with the same mindless worship of size.

Trump is nothing if not obsessed with all things big.

He’s lied about the number of floors in Trump buildings, so they appear taller. He exaggerated the size of his electoral win, and then exaggerated his inauguration day crowd. “Big league” is a favourite phrase. His 2008 book was called “Think Big.” The London terror attack was “Big news” and the day before his health care bill faced a vote in the house of congress was a “Big day.”

He even wants to appear, physically, big. Since Trump took office, many have missed not only Barack Obama the man, but also his taste in suits, compared to Trump’s ‘80’s era shoulder pads tailoring reminiscent of a tent.

Perhaps Trump, as man, is so devoid of elegance because he has no concept of proportion (in suits, hairstyles, or otherwise). Slinging around outlandishly vulgar insults, stalking his election opponent Hillary Clinton around the debate stage, responding to critical media coverage by calling it “fake news,” and reportedly suing a San Francisco teenager for creating a website where you can make kittens punch Trump in the face: This is not a man well-acquainted with the concept of degree. And that is very bad news for America.

If Trump gets his way, and there are big cuts to health, education, arts, and programs supporting the elderly, disabled and poor, and a big old boost to military spending, something else is bound to be big: the damage.

Read more: Trump's obsession with 'all things big' could be dangerous: Westwood | Metro News

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Is the new World order dead? The Geopolitics Of Chaos - by Javier López

The new world disorder is under way while speculation about what President Trump would do has given way to a spate of executive orders. The cocktail of reactionary withdrawal from previous commitments (Trump + Brexit is imposing a change of guard on international relationships, leaving the northern hemisphere turned upside down.
 
The neoliberal economic and geostrategic consensus has broken down and left in its wake an ocean of uncertainty. The Trump administration has shown itself hostile to European integration and has moved close to Putin. Xi Jinping “saved” the Davos forum and has become the standard-bearer of globalization. A wave of protectionist nativism could lead to trade wars with serious consequences. 2017 is the year with the greatest political risk since the end of World War II (Ian Bremmer).

The USA is starting a new era with shades of isolation and unilateralism. This compromises the Atlantic Alliance, the centre of gravity of the twentieth century. A new “special relationship” with post-Brexit Great Britain is sought while fantasizing over the end of the Euro and calling the EU a “vehicle” for Germany. It looks down on supranational organizations, the safeguards of multilateralism, while at the same time escalating tensions with China that may end in triggering the greatest danger the world now faces.

The USA is starting a new era with shades of isolation and unilateralism. This compromises the Atlantic Alliance, the centre of gravity of the twentieth century. A new “special relationship” with post-Brexit Great Britain is sought while fantasizing over the end of the Euro and calling the EU a “vehicle” for Germany. It looks down on supranational organizations, the safeguards of multilateralism, while at the same time escalating tensions with China that may end in triggering the greatest danger the world now faces.

Internally, its democracy is beginning a new chapter based on Schmitt’s Dezisionismus. A sovereign power that does not respond to legal norms or rational discussion. Without checks and balances, without judges or press. In the field of economics, trade barriers are foreseen. Care must be taken as, what do these targets (Mexico, Germany and China) of the new President all have in common? They are great exporting powers. The hostility of the White House is a reflection of one of its greatest weaknesses: its current account deficit. And also one of the greatest global macroeconomic imbalances. Once again, economy and international relations are intertwined.

Putin’s Russia feels strong and has reason to do so. After a gradual loss of domination over the strategic ‘rimland’ (Spykman), Russia has shown that is prepared to do anything, even cyberattacks, to maintain its position. All of its latest moves in the Caucasus, Ukraine or Syria have led to an increase in its influence. Putin’s authoritarianism has masked its economic problems and it seems that the electoral results in the Western world are a fortune smiling in his favour.

And Putin also now hopes that, with an American administration that is more than favourable, trade sanctions will be eased or even lifted. Trump and Putin speak the same language and their connections are more than evident. But be careful, the USA may be using the Kremlin against the Asian giant, just as Kissinger did in the opposite direction during the Cold War. A new anchor to hold down, in this case, the Chinese ascent. Trump is a dangerous character – folkloric and ridiculous, yet it would be wise not to dismiss everything he does as stupid.

The old continent can see these changing international relations as a party to which it has not been invited. Fragmented, terrified and left without the Atlantic umbrella, suffering the worst hangover after the Great Recession, and all in a year of electoral heart-attack. The biggest risk is that a great Troika made up of Washington, Moscow and Beijing will find a new international balance ignoring Europe.

At the same time, as Europeans, we have the opportunity to occupy an enormous hole in a world looking for reference and left by a retreating USA. We could take on the role of defending Enlightenment values: rule of law, democracy, tolerance and open societies. These continue to be attractive and enlightening values, but even the best ideas need to be defended. That is why the EU must restore its undermined social model, equipping it with a shield in terms of security and defense.

We need to activate a flexible Europe, through enhanced cooperation, to unblock the process of integration and end the paralyzing tug of war between capitals.

It is more vital than ever to look for allies who share our vision of the world: laws, dialogue and multilateralism. Our relations with Latin America and Canada take on a new significance. It would suit us to find a new equilibrium with Russia and strengthen ties with China. We will also need to pay special attention to the candidacy for German Chancellor of the social democrat and pro-European Martin Schulz. His victory would have a huge impact on the hegemonic power of the continent.

Read more: The Geopolitics Of Chaos