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Insurance Australia Group
02 ноября 2016, 12:05

How Artificial Intelligence Will Redefine Management

Many alarms have sounded on the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to upend the workforce, especially for easy-to-automate jobs. But managers at all levels will have to adapt to the world of smart machines. The fact is, artificial intelligence will soon be able to do the administrative tasks that consume much of managers’ time faster, better, and at a lower cost. How can managers — from the front lines to the C-suite — thrive in the age of AI? To find out, we surveyed 1,770 managers from 14 countries and interviewed 37 executives in charge of digital transformation at their organizations. Using this data, we identified five practices that successful managers will need to master. Practice 1: Leave Administration to AI According to the survey, managers across all levels spend more than half of their time on administrative coordination and control tasks. (For instance, a typical store manager or a lead nurse at a nursing home must constantly juggle shift schedules because of staff members’ illnesses, vacations, or sudden departures.) These are the very responsibilities that the same managers expect to see AI affecting the most. And they are correct: AI will automate many of these tasks.   Report writing is another relevant example. The Associated Press expanded its quarterly earnings reporting from approximately 300 stories to 4,400 with the help of AI-powered software robots. In doing so, technology freed up journalists to conduct more investigative and interpretive reporting. Imagine technology like this drafting your next management report; in fact, this is already possible for some analytical management reports. Recently, the data analytics company Tableau announced a partnership with Narrative Science, a Chicago-based provider of natural language generation tools. The result of the collaboration is Narratives for Tableau, a free Chrome extension that automatically creates written explanations for Tableau graphics. The managers we surveyed see such change in a positive light: Eighty-six percent said they would like AI support with monitoring and reporting. Practice 2: Focus on Judgment Work Many decisions require insight beyond what artificial intelligence can squeeze from data alone. Managers use their knowledge of organizational history and culture, as well as empathy and ethical reflection. This is the essence of human judgment — the application of experience and expertise to critical business decisions and practices. Managers we surveyed have a sense of a shift in this direction and identify the judgment-oriented skills of creative thinking and experimentation, data analysis and interpretation, and strategy development as three of the four top new skills that will be required to succeed in the future. Insight Center The Automation Age Sponsored by KPMG How robotics and machine learning are changing business. As Layne Thompson, director of ERP Services for a U.S. Navy IT organization, told us: “More often than not, managers think of what they’re doing as requiring judgment, discretion, experience, and the capacity to improvise, as opposed to simply applying rules. And if one of the potential promises of machine learning is the ability to help make decisions, then we should think of technology as being intended to support rather than replace [managers].” Practice 3: Treat Intelligent Machines as “Colleagues” Managers who view AI as a kind of colleague will recognize that there’s no need to “race against a machine.” While human judgment is unlikely to be automated, intelligent machines can add enormously to this type of work, assisting in decision support and data-driven simulations as well as search and discovery activities. In fact, 78% of the surveyed managers believe that they will trust the advice of intelligent systems in making business decisions in the future. One company that is trying to address these opportunities is Kensho Technologies, a provider of next-generation investment analytics. Its system allows investment managers to ask investment-related questions in plain English, such as, “What sectors and industries perform best three months before and after a rate hike?” and get answers within minutes. Picture how such technologies could support individuals and teams of managers in assessing decision consequences and exploring scenarios. Not only will AI augment managers’ work, but it will also enable managers to interact with intelligent machines in collegial ways, through conversation or other intuitive interfaces. AI will be their always-available assistant and adviser. Practice 4: Work Like a Designer While managers’ own creative abilities are vital, perhaps even more important is their ability to harness others’ creativity. Manager-designers bring together diverse ideas into integrated, workable, and appealing solutions. They embed design thinking into the practices of their teams and organizations. A third of the managers in our survey identified creative thinking and experimentation as a key skill area they need to learn to stay successful as AI increasingly takes over administrative work. In an interview, Peter Harmer, CEO of Insurance Australia Group, emphasized the need for managers who foster collaborative creativity in the digital enterprise: “We need people who can actually layer ideas on ideas. Not somebody who has to win in a competition around ideas, but somebody who can say, ‘Crikey! If we bring these two or three or four things together, we’ve got something very, very different.’ That’s the creativity, the curiosity [we need in managers].” Practice 5: Develop Social Skills and Networks The managers we surveyed recognized the value of judgment work. But they undervalued the deep social skills critical to networking, coaching, and collaborating that will help them stand out in a world where AI carries out many of the administrative and analytical tasks they perform today.   While they will use digital technologies to tap into the knowledge and judgment of partners, customers, and communities, they must be able to tease out and bring together diverse perspectives, insights, and experiences. Steps to Success AI will ultimately prove to be cheaper, more efficient, and potentially more impartial in its actions than human beings. But such a scenario should not be cause for concern for managers. It just means that their jobs will change to focus on things only humans can do. Writing earnings reports is one thing, but developing messages that can engage a workforce and provide a sense of purpose is human through and through. Tracking schedules and resources may soon fall within the jurisdiction of machines, but drafting strategy remains unmistakably human. Simply put, our recommendation is to adopt AI in order to automate administration and to augment but not replace human judgment. If the current shortage of analytical talent is any indication, organizations can ill afford to wait and see whether their managers are equipped to work alongside AI. To prepare themselves and their organizations for the kinds of human-led work that will gain prominence as technology takes on more routine tasks, leaders must take the following steps: Explore early. To navigate in an uncertain future, managers must experiment with AI and apply their insights to the next cycle of experiments. Adopt new key performance indicators to drive adoption. AI will bring new criteria for success: collaboration capabilities, information sharing, experimentation, learning and decision-making effectiveness, and the ability to reach beyond the organization for insights. Develop training and recruitment strategies for creativity, collaboration, empathy, and judgment skills. Leaders should develop a diverse workforce and team of managers that balance experience with creative and social intelligence — each side complementing the other to support sound collective judgment. While oncoming disruptions won’t arrive all at once, the pace of development is faster and the implications more far-reaching than most executives and managers realize. Those managers capable of assessing what the workforce of the future will look like can prepare themselves for the arrival of AI. They should view it as an opportunity to flourish.

07 апреля 2014, 16:02

Австралия/США: Wesfarmers продаст одно из своих подразделений компании Arthur J. Gallagher & Co за $

Австралийский ритейлер Wesfarmers заключил соглашение о продаже одного из своих подразделений компании Arthur J. Gallagher & Co за A$1,01 млрд ($938,74 млн). Стоит отметить, что сделка, следующая за продажей страхового подразделения фирме Insurance Australia Group за A$1,85 млрд, подлежит одобрению регулятивных органов.

07 апреля 2014, 10:18

Австралия/США: Wesfarmers продаст одно из своих подразделений компании Arthur J. Gallagher & Co за $

Австралийский ритейлер Wesfarmers заключил соглашение о продаже одного из своих подразделений компании Arthur J. Gallagher & Co за A$1,01 млрд ($938,74 млн). Стоит отметить, что сделка, следующая за продажей страхового подразделения фирме Insurance Australia Group за A$1,85 млрд, подлежит одобрению регулятивных органов.

16 декабря 2013, 17:58

Австралия: IAG приобретет подразделение Wesfarmers за $1,66 млрд

Крупнейший в Австралии страховщик автомобилей и недвижимости Insurance Australia Group (IAG) заключил соглашение о приобретении страхового подразделения ритейлера Wesfarmers за A$1,85 млрд ($1,66 млрд). Сообщается, что IAG намерена привлечь A$1,2 млрд путем продажи акций с целью финансирования данной сделки.

16 декабря 2013, 15:31

Австралия: IAG приобретет подразделение Wesfarmers за $1,66 млрд

Крупнейший в Австралии страховщик автомобилей и недвижимости Insurance Australia Group (IAG) заключил соглашение о приобретении страхового подразделения ритейлера Wesfarmers за A$1,85 млрд ($1,66 млрд). Сообщается, что IAG намерена привлечь A$1,2 млрд путем продажи акций с целью финансирования данной сделки.

16 декабря 2013, 10:57

IAG станет крупнейшим страховщиком Австралии

Insurance Australia Group вскоре станет крупнейшим страховщиком Австралии. Компания покупает страховой бизнес Westfarmers, действующий также в Новой Зеландии. Стоимость сделки составит 1,85 млрд австралийских долларов ($1,66 млрд). IAG станет крупнейшим страховщиком АвстралииВ результате сделки доля IAG достигнет 27%, при этом компания уже сейчас является лидером в таких сегментах, как автострахование и страхование жилой недвижимости. В декабре прошлого года компания избавилась от активов в Великобритании и с тех пор стремится наращивать свою долю рынке не только в Австралии, но и в АТР в целом, сообщает Bloomberg. Примечательно, что для Westfarmers страховой бизнес является только одним из подразделений, компания владеет и управляется розничными магазинами, угольными шахтами, предприятиями по производству химической продукции, а также инвестиционным бизнесом.

16 декабря 2013, 09:57

IAG станет крупнейшим страховщиком Австралии

Insurance Australia Group вскоре станет крупнейшим страховщиком Австралии. Компания покупает страховой бизнес Westfarmers, действующий также в Новой Зеландии. Стоимость сделки составит 1,85 млрд австралийских долларов ($1,66 млрд).

16 декабря 2013, 09:57

IAG станет крупнейшим страховщиком Австралии

Insurance Australia Group вскоре станет крупнейшим страховщиком Австралии. Компания покупает страховой бизнес Westfarmers, действующий также в Новой Зеландии. Стоимость сделки составит 1,85 млрд австралийских долларов ($1,66 млрд).

06 декабря 2013, 15:33

Австралия: Insurance Australia Group может приобрести подразделение Wesfarmers за $1,8 млрд

По сведениям из осведомленных источников, крупнейший в Австралии страховщик автомобилей и недвижимости Insurance Australia Group (IAG) рассматривает возможность приобретения страхового подразделения ритейлера Wesfarmers. Сообщается, что стоимость сделки может составить более A$2 млрд ($1,8 млрд).

06 декабря 2013, 14:02

Австралия: Insurance Australia Group может приобрести подразделение Wesfarmers за $1,8 млрд

По сведениям из осведомленных источников, крупнейший в Австралии страховщик автомобилей и недвижимости Insurance Australia Group (IAG) рассматривает возможность приобретения страхового подразделения ритейлера Wesfarmers. Сообщается, что стоимость сделки может составить более A$2 млрд ($1,8 млрд).

Выбор редакции
22 августа 2013, 11:52

Австралия: годовая прибыль Insurance Australia Group выросла более чем в три раза

Крупнейший в Австралии страховщик автомобилей и недвижимости Insurance Australia Group (IAG) зафиксировал более чем трехкратное увеличение годовой прибыли благодаря повышению размера страховых премий и снижению объема выплат. Так, в году с окончанием 30 июня чистая прибыль компании выросла с A$207 млн годом ранее до A$776 млн ($697 млн), аналитики в среднем ожидали A$819 млн.

31 марта 2013, 06:22

Проект «Холокост». Признаки мошенничества в особо крупных размерах (1944-1945 гг.)

1944 - The Palestine Post, January 23rd, 1944 «Only a handful of Polish Jews survived the extermination. They were now either with the partisans in the forests or living as Crypto-Jews. The death toll was six million, they declared»1944 - The Montreal Gazette, March 18th, 1944, page 11 «There must be insurance that the Germans, unrepentant as they were after the last war, do not prepare another holocaust»1944 - Rabbi Michael Dov Ber Weissmandl, May 15th, 1944 «And you - our brothers in Palestine, in all the countries of freedom, and you, ministers of all the kingdom - how do you keep silent in the face of this great murder? Silent while thousand on thousands, reaching now to six million Jews, were murdered. And silent now while tens of thousands are still being murdered and waiting to be murdered? Their destroyed hearts cry to you for help as they bewail your cruelty. Brutal you are and murderers too you are, because of the cold-bloodedness of the silence in which you watch»1944 - Rabbi Michael Dov Ber Weissmandel, May 31st, 1944 «...heads of government and radio must announce what was done to our people in the slaughter house of Belzec, Malkinia (Treblinka), Sobibor, and Auschwitz. Till now six times a million Jews from Europe and Russia have been destroyed»1944 - United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Convention Proceedings, September 25th-29th, 1944 «WHEREAS: History records no parallel to the bestial cruelties inflicted on the Jewish people of Europe by the Nazis and their satellites, whose coldly calculated program of extermination of all European Jews very nearly succeeded, almost six million Jews having been murdered in cold blood...»1944 - Chicago Bar Record, October 1944 «There were then at least eight million virtually homeless Jews in Europe who acquired rights under this treaty. Happily, perhaps, for the Arabs, that number has been cut down by six million»1944 - Illinois State Federation of Labor United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Convention Proceedings, Vols. 62-66., October 2nd, 1944 «WHEREAS, Six million Jews were murdered by the Nazi henchmen during the time the Nazis kept Europe under their bloody heel...»1944 - Youngstown Vindicator (Ohio), November 27th, 1944 «A five-volume "black book" containing a documentary record of the German massacre of approximately 6,000,000 European Jews is being prepared by the state publishing house»1944 - The Pittsburgh Press, November 28th, 1944, page 5 «Six Million Jews Listed Slaughtered. A five-volume "black book" containing a documentary record of the German massacre of approximately six million European Jews was being prepared today by the State publishing house. ... The work was under the general editorship of Ilya Ehrenburg and the editorial board included Poet-Playwright Konstantin Simonov, Writer Vsevold [Vsevolod] Ivanov and Poetess Vera Imber»1944 - The Leader, November 28th, 1944 «Russian "Black Book" lists German crimes. The first volume of a five-volume Russian "black book" recording the documentary form of the German massacre of approximately 6,000,000European Jews has been completed by the Soviet state publishing house ... The five-volume work is under the general editorship of Ilya Ehrenburg, noted Soviet writer and war correspondent, with an editorial board that includes poet-playwright Kanstantin [Konstantin] Simonov, writer Vsevold [Vsevolod] Ivanov and poetess Vera Imber. Editors of the work -which will be published in both Russian and English in press runs of hundreds of thousands of copies- estimate from data now available that the Germans killed between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 Jews in Russia, Poland and western Europe. They believe an additional 500,000 now are being murdered in Hungary»1944 - The Palestine Post , November 28th, 1944 «SIX MILLIONS MURDERED. The Soviet State Publishing House is preparing the publication of another "Black Book," a documentary record of the German massacre of approximately six million European Jews. ... According to the Soviet editors, the Germans killed between five and six million Russian, Polish and Western European Jews, and an additional half million are being murdered in Hungary now»1944 - The Jewish Criterion, December 1st, 1944 «...5,500,000 Jews have been killed in Germany and German-occupied territories since the outbreak of the war... Yes, the Germans murdered close to six million Jews...»1944 - Nahum Goldmann, Jewish Western Bulletin, December 8th, 1944 «... apart from Jewish losses in combat service, 5,500,000 Jews have been killed in Germany and German-occupied tesritories [territories] since the outbreak of the awr [war]. These figures exceed the number anticipated even by the most pessimistic... Yes, the Germans murdered close to six million Jews...»1944 - Ilya Ehrenburg, Soviet War News, December 22nd, 1944 «In the regions they seized, Germans killed all Jews, from the old folks to infants in arms. Ask any German prisoners why his fellow countrymen annihilated six million innocent people...»1945 - New York Times, January 8th, 1945 (New York Times archive) «6,000,000 JEWS DEAD. The Jewish population in Europe has been reduced from 9,500,000 in 1939 to 3,500,000. Of the 6,000,000 European Jews who have died, 5,000,000 had lived in the countries under Hitler's occupation»1945 - New York Times, February 11th, 1945, page 10 «1,200,000 Jews survived of the 6,000,000 who had been under German rule during the war, and that most of them were eager to come to Palestine»1945 - New York Times, February 17th, 1945 «Dr. Joseph Schwartz, European director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, estimated today that 500,000 of Europe's 6,000,000 Jews had escaped destruction by emigration and that only 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 of Europe's 6,000,000 Jews were now left on the Continent»1945 - Joseph Thon, president of the National Organization of Polish Jews in America, March 22nd, 1945 «I accuse the whole German people that in the years 1939 to 1945 they slaughtered upward of 15,000,000 men, among which there were 6,000,000 Jews. ... The German people murdered, in cold blood, in excess of 6,000,000 European Jews, among them over 3,000,000 Polish Jews»1945 - Ilya Ehrenburg, The Advertiser, March 27th, 1945 «...the Germans tortured the last handful of Jews. The Germans killed six million Jews -all the Jews of Poland, Hungary, the Ukraine, Lithuania, Byelo-Russia, West Europe and of course Germany»1945 - Army News (Darwin, Australia), April 11th, 1945 «NAZIS HAVE MURDERED SIX MILLION JEWS. Of a population of 16 million Jews in the world before the war, more than six million had been murdered by the Nazis»1945 - New York Post, April 21st, 1945, page 9 «The Nazi leaders felt they had nothing to fear. They murdered six million Jews, but nothing was done. In the words of the Czech delegate to the London War Crimes Commission»1945 - Stephen S. Wise, May 1945; Friends Indeed: The Special Relationship of Israel and the United States, Norman Finkelstein, 1998, page 33 «The Christian world, and I include England, of course, in the Christian world, suffered six million of the people of Jesus of Nazareth to die in a most horrible manner. The Christian world owes the Jews some reparation»1945 - New York Times, May 2nd, 1945 «...estimated that only 1,000,000 of 6,000,000 Jews in Europe in 1939 were still alive»1945 - The Pittsburgh Press, May 13th, 1945 «Nazis Destroy six million Jews. ... Of the eight million Jews living in Germany and German occupied countries before the war, 6,200,000 have died from either execution, cruel treatment or starvation, according to latest figures compiled by Jewish welfare organisations here»1945 - New York Times, May 20th, 1945, page 7 «...seemingly endless streams of former "slaves" from all parts of Europe and by the huge cantonments of liberated victims of Nazism. More than six million of them have been liberated...»1945 - Dr. Jacob Robinson (lawyer), June 11th (12th), 1945; Nuremberg: The Last Battle, David Irving, 1996, page 61 «How great were these losses, inquired [Robert H.] Jackson, seeking a figure to use at the coming trial. 'Six million,' responded Dr. Robinson, and indicated that the figure included Jews in all Nazi-occupied lands 'from the Channel to Stalingrad' ... Jackson noted that day: 'I was particularly interested in knowing the source and reliability of his estimate as I know no authentic data on it'»1945 - The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, August 3rd, 1945, page 7 «This commission is gathering all materials, documents, and photographs illustrating the martyrology of Polish Jews and of the Jews of all Europe. This proves that the Germans murdered six million European Jews in Poland»1945 - The Canadian Jewish Review, August 10th 1945, page 1 «while the Jews, who had lost 6,000,000 victims to Nazism in Europe»1945 - The Times (London), August 14th, 1945 «...some 6,000,000 men, women, and children - were put to death by the Nazis and their satellites»1945 - The Evening Post (New Zealand), August 21st, 1945, page 5 «Two-fifths of all Jewry-nearly 6,000,000 men, women and children-were butchered»1945 - The Guardian, September 5th, 1945, page 8 «Altogether, it is estimated that six million Jews have been killed»1945 - The Canberra Times, September 6th, 1945 «SIX MILLION JEWS KILLED BY GERMANS. Throughout the war the Germans killed 6,000,000 Jews, the number left in Europe being approximately 1,600,000 ... most surviving Jews desired to emigrate to Palestine. The agency plans to send six groups of six men each to help Jews in German camps. ... It is planned to erect a monument on the summit of Mount Scopus to commemorate the Jews who died. It will bear the names of all the 6,000,000, including soldiers, partisans and ghetto fighters. All the Jewish cultural documents and religious objects left in Central and Eastern Europe are to be collected in Palestine»1945 - The Evening Post (New Zealand), September 6th, 1945, page 7 «The Germans killed 6,000,000 Jews during the war, said Mr. Eliahu Dobkin, head of the Jewish Agency's immigration department, on his return to Jerusalem from Central Europe»1945 - Jewish Western Bulletin, September 7th, 1945, page 43  «Almost 6,000,000 Jews were wiped out during these years»1945 - Jewish Western Bulletin, September 7th, 1945, page 47 «Throughout the world there is a growing indignation over the barbarism and the unspeakable cruelty of the mass murders of six million Jews by the Nazis»1945 - New York Times, September 17th, 1945 «Six million Jews have died as martyrs and their blood cries up from the ground»1945 - American Zionist Emergency Council, New York Post, September 27th, 1945 «It was our very unhappy conviction all along that the responsibility for the extinction of six million Jews in Europe was not Hitler's alone. The Entire Christian world shares that responsibility»1945 - The Canadian Jewish Review, September 28th, 1945, page 8 «We mourn six million dead adults, the aged, the young and the little Jewish children. We remember them»1945 - September 30th, 1945. At a Zionist rally at Madison Square Gardens NYC, a huge banner approximately 50ft long and 2.5ft high, hung above the stage on which the speakers addressed the audience. The banner said: «AREN'T 6,000,000 JEWISH DEATHS ENOUGH?»1945 - New York Post, October 1st, 1945, page 15 «While "we waited patiently for the fulfilliment of Great Britain's pledges to the Jewish people," they said, "six million Jews were killed in Europe... ... Aren't 6,000,000 Jewish Dead Enough?»1945 - The Evening Post, October 2nd, 1945, page 7 «The 6,000,000 Jews who had been killed...»1945 - The Manhattan Zionist Club, New York Post, October 3rd, 1945, page 21 «For years we waited patiently for the fulfillment of Great Britain's pledges to the Jewish people, We waited in vain. In the meantime, six million Jews were killed in Europe»1945 - The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, October 5th, 1945, page 6 «You now propose to continue to keep these doors shut against our survivors, after six million of our people perished, for whose death your country [Britain] is not without blame»1945 - The Chester Times, October 10th, 1945 «It was our very unhappy conviction all along that the responsibility for extinction of six million Jews in Europe was not Hitler's alone. The entire Christian world shares that responsibility»1945 - The Observer, October 14th, 1945, page 5 «At the entrance to its office, a large poster asks the searching question: Six million Jews have been murdered-world, where is thy conscience?»1945 - The Canadian Jewish Review, October 26th, 1945, page 12 «They look about and behold the tragic suffering of Israel during the past decade in which six million Jews perished and they seen to see Israel as a defeated nation»1945 - The Observer, November 2nd, 1945, page 10 «The horror of the Middle Ages with all forms of torture was brought down upon European Israel with the result that six millions of Jews perished»1945 - Lebanon Daily News (PA), November 9th, 1945, page 11 «Six million Jews have perished—victims of the Nazis»1945 - Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill's son, Daily Boston Globe, November 22nd, 1945, page 9 «Six million Jews have been murdered in the past six years and the problem of finding a home for the two or three million European Jews who remain is one of urgent importance»

10 марта 2013, 08:39

Trans Pacific Partnership: A new Constitution

Update: Application, clarification of "New world Order". I have put this update at the beginning of the post for I believe it is an aspect of my post on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)  that should not be dismissed by myself nor by a reader of the post. Now that I have had the day to contemplate J. Goodwin's comment and after googling “new world order”  I can appreciate his concern and response. I assure everyone, that last thing on my mind with the writing of that phrase was: a conspiracy theory in which a secret elite is conspiring to rule the world via world government and globalization. The TPP is not being written by a secret elite looking to rule the world. On the contrary, the document is being written in secret such that we do not know the specific persons involved, but everyone knows the class or groups represented. The authors/parties feeling of need for secrecy only speaks to their understanding of the potential opposition and not to a devious plot of mad scientist. It's not a James Bond story. This TPP is not about ruling the world. I very much doubt those involved want such a responsibility. This document is about reducing the regulation a sovereign entity may apply to an investment to the point that any investment is almost certain to pay out whether by actually carrying out the investment or through reimbursement for not being able to carryout the investment. Heads you lose, tails I win. This is accomplished in many ways (kind of covering all bases) but mostly by giving a representative of an investment equality to a nation in the eyes of the “law”. It is the elevation of an entity created solely for the purpose of profit (though there is some language toward nonprofit) all the rights and liberties that a nation of people reserve for themselves. There is one thing the investment entity receives that the nation entity (“party” as used in the document) does not: A guarantee against loss. This guarantee comes in the form of insurance. The insurance is the full faith and credit of the nation...it is the ability to tax it's citizens. That is a new world order as in: any period of history evidencing a dramatic change in world political thought and the balance of power. Thank you for reading.  This past week the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement has been post worthy on a couple of the more read blogs. There are specific groups working to get the public up to speed on this treaty. One is the Citizens Trade Campaign.  Crooks and Liars posted Lee Camps Moment of Clarity episode regarding the treaty.  Common Dreams posted a video by Friends of the Earth.  This potential treaty has direct bearing on the subject of innovation, production and infrastructure as discussed in the posts regarding Richard Elkus's thesis in his book Winner Take All and MIT's latest report on the subject. Basically this is being referred to as NAFTA on steroids. It is an agreement being negotiated in complete secrecy with only those considered to be a direct player called “clear trade advisers”(600 in the US) having access. Direct players are not you and me, nor congress (you thought the drone unitary executive stuff is tough to get? Ha!) nor that fourth branch known as the press. Yes, Obama is up on this in that he is pushing it. I'll let Citizens Trade Campaign sum it up:  “The TPP is poised to become the largest free trade agreement in the world, potentially impacting jobs, wages, agriculture, migration, the environment, consumer safety, financial regulations, Internet protocols, government procurement and more. The pact is currently under negotiation between the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, but is being specifically written as a “docking agreement” that other countries can join over time. Canada, Japan and Mexico are currently pressing to do so. The thirteenth major round of TPP negotiations will be held at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel from July 2 – 10.” Recently a portion of this document was leaked. It is called the “Investment Chapter”. Public Citizens has a review of it here. I have read the first 17 pages of the Investment Chapter. It is these pages that provide the definitions and the cans and can nots for the signatories. The remainder of the document provides the means for achieving satisfaction. (Do read at least the definitions of what is considered “investment”.) What struck me in Public Citizens review was that the system being setup as the arbiter of the trade agreement is following the US' fascination with “extra judicial” proceedings as a viable means of following the ideals of our Constitution. It's those same thought processes that gave us rendition, enhanced interrogation, military tribunals, unitary executive. You can't help but see our past 35 years of leadership in the realm of pioneering new concepts in equality, fairness, justice, and processes to achieve such. Concepts of “free market”, “invisible hand”, and process of deregulation, economies of scale, etc. How else do you explain the use of rotating corporate tied lawyers as judges? Where is the separation of the judge and the plaintiff? This is right out of the current US play book on how to better your nation with the social institution known as “revolving door”? You can see in this document the culmination of work performed over the last 40 years (yes Carter started the deregulation) by the conservative (internationally known as neoliberal) ideology merged with Milton Friedman's economics and Ayn Rand's objectivism. Dare I say, the TPP is to capitalism what our Constitution was to democracy? And that is where I really started thinking. This document is not just about the particulars. It's not just about how trade will or will not happen, or whether a company will be able to privatize the gains and socialize the risks and losses, or whether people will be harmed. All those things will be the result of the document. Nope, this document is much more.  This document is the constitution of a new world order. It is an order that has been the dream of many for ages upon ages that until this time in humanity was not possible do to the limits of the technology of the time. This is the document of what I coined a few years ago as The United Corporations of Global. It is this aspect of the document that the people of the world should be most fearful of. It is not a trade agreement as I believe the common man (as in the court concept of the “common man”) would think of the phrase “trade agreement”. This is a constitution that is coming prepackaged with the rules and regulations already written. Only, there is no need for ratification to be a part of the creative process. This document comes pre-ratified in that all a nation has to do is say “I'm in”. It does not take a majority of the worlds nations or a super majority like the original 13 colonies for this document to have power. It has power because those writing it already agree to follow it. Passing it in the US? Can you say “fast track”? The documents greatest power is what I alluded to when I mentioned rendition, unitary executive, enhanced interrogation, military tribunals. Rationalization. This document codifies the use of rationalization as a viable thought process for achieving the advancement of humanity. It reinstates the fallibility of human thinking, turning on it's head the enlightenment age because this document believes it is of enlightened thought. It rationalizes as enlightenment the freeing of people to trade to the greatest level of monetary efficiency. Such a thought is putting a human creation ahead of humanity. It is totally antithetical to the goal of enlightenment. ( I have to say, at this point our fellow Angry Bear Bruce Webb I hope will add to the discussion as our resident historian.) What follows below are specific excerpts from the document. It is legal speak. But it is not hard to understand. I feel it is important that people read these excerpts as this is how you will know the thinking and overall goal of the document beyond the obvious selfish power grab by any particular player or industry. This is a document written by people who envision the world structured far differently than how we are taught to view our social organization based on the US Constitution and it's meaning to the world. It does not matter if you believe our national identity is a lot of myth, that we don't hold up well to our constitutional ideals. The fact is, the myths and ideals have influence and they are not the myths and ideals held by those writing the TPP at worst or are considered not applicable nor appropriate for their desired structure at least. This document is not just about how nations will relate to each other, it also gives the same rights and privileges to individual investor entities as representative of a nation. Thus, keep in mind that anything you read here also means a rich person or a business entity is treated as if they are the nation. However, citizens are not at anytime mentioned as being a “party” of any type other than when it comes to citizens potentially creating a loss for a “party” or it's investor representative. In other words, “citizens” are at all times considered to have lesser status such that citizens have no claim to inalienable rights and the resultant rule of law. It is less than slavery for in this document, the only recognized covered entities are “party” which means a nation of signature and it's participants in the sector of said parties social interaction referred to as “investment”. In fact, there is a defined party entity specifically that is not of the party: investor of a non-Party means, with respect to a Party, an investor that attempts to make, is making, or has made an investment in the territory of that Party, that is not an investor of a Party There is nothing in the list of definitions that suggest or implies “citizen”. The only entities covered and regulated by the TPP are those entities that are creations of man.  Man is of no consideration regarding the benefits of the relationships developed in this new constitution. Man is only mentioned as a consequence of potential harm to the “parties” in the form of financial loss. That's it. WE HAVE TO COME TO KNOW THE MIND OF THE DOCUMENT! Even if we can prevent this document from taking effect, we will not put an end to the ideology behind the document if we only defeat the document based on it's ability to do material harm. We have to come to know the mind of this document so that we can be certain to identify the thought within the new words that will be written and spoken when those behind this document make their new attempt at forming the world according to their ideology. We need to know the mind so that we can educate those who will certainly face the next attempt to implement such an ideology. This is why the document is being created in such secrecy. We have learned from NAFTA et al and those that are the mind of the document are aware of our knowledge. Thus I present the sections as they relate to what I believe is the thinking of this new constitution so that we can be aware of the overriding concepts that ultimately reorder societies and would require a new thinking regarding who and what we are, what our purpose is and where we are going as a species on this planet. The TPP is presenting a new ideal of social order. It is one I that find represents the worst of humanity. This is where the sovereignty breaks down and the new social order is created: Article 12.4: National Treatment 1. Each Party shall accord to investors of another Party treatment no less favourable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to its own investors with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory. 2. Each Party shall accord to covered investments treatment no less favourable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to investments in its territory of its own investors with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments. The treatment to be accorded by a Party under paragraphs 1 and 2 means, with respect to a regional level of government, treatment no less favourable than the most favourable treatment accorded, in like circumstances, by that regional level of government to investors, and to investments of investors, of the Party of which it forms a part.] Article 12.5: Most-Favoured Nation Treatment 1. Each Party shall accord to investors of another Party treatment no less favourable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to investors of any other Party or of any non-Party with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory. 2. Each Party shall accord to covered investments treatment no less favourable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to investments in its territory of investors of any other Party or of any non-Party with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments. This is where the responsibility is defined for achieving “favorable treatment”. The “Party” is obliged to: Article 12.6: Minimum Standard of Treatmentll 1. Each Party shall accord to covered investments treatment in accordance with customary international law, including fair and equitable treatment and full protection and security. 2. For greater certainty, paragraph 1 prescribes the [applicable rules of] customary international law [minimum] standard of treatment of aliens as the [minimum] [general] standard of treatment to be afforded to covered investments. The concepts of "fair and equitable treatment" and "full protection and security" do not require treatment in addition to or beyond that which is required by that standard, and do not create additional substantive rights. The obligations in paragraph 1 to provide: (a) "Fair and equitable treatment" includes the obligation not to deny justice in criminal, civil, or administrative adjudicatory proceedings in accordance with the principle of due process embodied in the principal legal systems of the world; and (b) "Full protection and security" requires each Party to provide the level of police protection required under customary international law. Who determines which party's law is part of the “principle legal systems of the world”? What is “customary”. These are the phrases of those who are trying to hedge. People agree to such language when they believe they have a hidden advantage. This is not language of certainty. Here is where the citizens of the world become hog tied: Article 12.6bis: Treatment in Case of Armed Conflict or Civil Strife 1. Notwithstanding Article 12.9.5(b) (Non-Conforming Measures, subsidies and grants carveout), each Party shall accord to investors of another Party, and to covered investments, non-discriminatory treatment with respect to measures it adopts or maintains relating to losses suffered by investments in its territory owing to armed conflict or civil strife. 2. Notwithstanding paragraph 1, if an investor of a Party, in the situations referred to in paragraph 1, suffers a loss in the territory of another Party resulting from: (a) requisitioning of its covered investment or part thereof by the latter's forces or authorities; or (b) destruction of its covered investment or part thereof by the latter's forces or authorities, which was not required by the necessity of the situation, the latter Party shall provide the investor restitution, compensation, or both, as appropriate, for such loss. Any compensation shall be prompt, adequate, and effective in accordance with Article 12.12.2 through 12.12.4 (Expropriation and Compensation, paragraphs 2 through 4), mutatis mutandis.) Consider the XL pipe line protests. With this agreement, the protestors will have put the citizens of our nation in jeopardy of having to pay for the losses. In other words, a nations taxing apparatus is now bound as insurance against an investor's loss. Capitalism? Read about Excelaron and San LuisObispo County's Huasna Valley.  This clause also pits a nation's government against it's people and pits it's people against each other in that civil protest, maybe even strikes become compensatory offenses if a loss in incurred by an investor.  So, just how will a nation respond to assure it's citizens “behave themselves” such that the other Party's investor does not suffer a loss by means of social unrest? This is where loss of sovereignty is further accomplished as it relates to a nation determining how best to structure it's economy. Article 12.7: Performance Requirements 1. No Party may, in connection with the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, or sale or other disposition of an investment of an investor of a Party [or of a non-Party] in its territory, impose or enforce any requirement or enforce any commitment or undertaking: 12 (a) to export a given level or percentage of goods [or services] ; (b) to achieve a given level or percentage of domestic content; (c) to purchase, use or accord a preference to goods produced in its territory, or to purchase goods from persons in its territory; (d) to relate in any way the volume or value of imports to the volume or value of exports or to the amount of foreign exchange inflows associated with such investment; ( e) to restrict sales of goods [or services] in its territory that such investment produces [or supplies] by relating such sales in any way to the volume or value of its exports or foreign exchange earnings; [ (f) to transfer a particular technology, a production process or other proprietary knowledge to a person in its territory;] [or] (g) to supply exclusively from the territory of the Party the goods that such investment procedures [or the services that it supplies] to a specific regional market or to the world market [; or (h) (i) to purchase, use, or accord a preference to, in its territory, technology of the Party or persons of the Party13 ; or (ii) that prevents the purchase or use of, or the according of a preference to, in its territory, particular technology, so as to afford protection on the basis of nationality to its own investors or investments or to technology of the Party or of persons of the Party] . 2. No Party may condition the receipt or continued receipt of an advantage, in connection with the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, or sale or other disposition of an investment in its territory of an investor of a Party [or of a non-Party,] on compliance with any requirement: (a) to achieve a given level or percentage of domestic content; (b) to purchase, use, or accord a preference to goods produced in its territory, or to purchase goods from persons in its territory; (c) to relate in any way the volume or value of imports to the volume or value of exports or to the amount of foreign exchange inflows associated with such investment; or (d) to restrict sales of goods [or services] in its territory that such investment produces [or supplies] by relating such sales in any way to the volume or value of its exports or foreign exchange earnings. 3. (a) Nothing in paragraph 2 shall be construed to prevent a Party from conditioning the receipt or continued receipt of an advantage, in connection with an investment in its territory of an investor of a Party [or of a non-Party,] on compliance with a requirement to locate production, supply a service, train or employ workers, construct or expand particular facilities, or carry out research and development, in its territory. Again in the above section 12:7 we see the continuation of the individual/citizen carved out from the money. Sure, a nation can make some demands, but those only refer to the citizen as work done within the investment and not as a beneficiary of the work done. The benefits and results of the work done shall not be restricted by the host party of the investment. Section 12:7 does allow a nation to protect it's natural resources and the environment by adopting laws however, they cannot be inconsistent with the TPP: (i) necessary to secure compliance with laws and regulations that are not inconsistent with this Agreement; Understand that what is consistent with the agreement is that the investment is protected at all times against not being fulfilled. Lastly we see the final severing of a nations sovereignty; the loss of the right to have the host party represented within the investment entity. Article 12.8: Senior Management and Boards of Directors 1. No Party may require that an enterprise of that Party that is a covered investment appoint to senior management positions natural persons of any particular nationality. 2. A Party may require that a majority of the board of directors, or any committee thereof, of an enterprise of that Party that is a covered investment, be of a particular nationality, or resident in the territory of the Party, provided that the requirement does not materially impair the ability of the investor to exercise control over its investment. Thus, you can put some people in positions that theoretically may have power to prevent the investing entity from harming your nation, but not so much as the hedge phrase is: materially impair. This is another example of using “common man” language to hide the uncommon results. Personally, this language sounds like a ripe area has been created for the allowance of corruption. Consequently, what we have here is an agreement that the investing entity is protected via insurance in the form of the host nation's taxing ability that becomes a mechanism for “encouraging” shall we say, a host nation to take measures to assure it's citizens remain compliant. This is the new social order. This is the corporate model of relationships. Yes, there is a section concerning the protection of the environment and in general -- health. Article 12.15: Investment and Environment] [ ,Health Safety and Labour] [ Article 12.15: Health Safety and Environmental Measures][ 1. Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed to prevent a Party from adopting, maintaining or enforcing any measure otherwise consistent with this Chapter that it considers appropriate to ensure that investment activity in its territory is undertaken in a manner sensitive to environmental [ , health, safety, or labour] [ , health or safety] concerns.] 2. The Parties recognize that it is inappropriate to encourage investment by relaxing its health safety or environmental measures. Accordingly, a Party should not waive or otherwise derogate from or offer to waive or otherwise derogate from, such measures as an encouragement for the establishment, acquisition, expansion, or retention in its territory of an investment of an investor.] It even talks about “Social Responsibility”. But...it's voluntary. Article 12.15 his: Corporate Social Responsibility [ Each Party should encourage][ nothing in this Chapter shall be construed to prevent a Party from encouraging] enterprises operating within its territory or subject to its jurisdiction to voluntarily incorporate internationally recognized standards of corporate social responsibility in their internal policies, such as statements of principle that have been endorsed or are supported by the Parties. [ These principles address issues such as labor, the environment, human rights, community relations and anti-corruption. The Parties remind those enterprises of the importance of incorporating such corporate social responsibility standards in their internal policies.]] Well isn't that a fine one. How do you encourage social responsibility when a nation can not dictate what is to happen to the resultant product of it's citizens' work nor can their representatives on the board of the investment entity effect the management of the investment. Most importantly how do you encourage such voluntary “responsible” activity when the host nation is on the hook for any loss of money that may result from the investment entity's not so socially responsible actions that result in civil protest? Remember, “civil strife” is specifically stated as a compensable event if it produces a loss for the investor. What will this agreement do to the effort to get this world to wake up to the planet warming up? How does this agreement prevent the furtherance of a naturally human trend of selfishness resulting in further policies of exclusivity and extraction of wealth (see: Why Nations Fail)? It doesn't. That is what the ideals of our Constitution are supposedly about. The recognition of the human mind's frailties and a governance structure to assure such frailties do the least amount of harm. The further we go with implementing these types of agreements the further removed we are from the enlightenment concepts that resulted in a group of people writing prose such as our Constitution. You can forget about the ideal bound in our Declaration of Independence. And, the further we are moved toward the model of business organization as the dominate model for structuring a society. It is too accepted that the purpose of business is to make money. There is no longer any talk of “social responsibility” within today's business model. Business no longer is a means for creating wealth that society then puts to work in reducing life's risks. Business is simply about making money...stop. The declaration for the TTP would simply read: We hold this truth to be self-evident, the purpose of business is to make money. Isn't it ironic that in science fiction, a common theme is the threat of man creating an artificial entity that ultimately comes to dominate it's creator. It's a robot, a computer, some kind of machine even biological or any combination or all 3. We obtained the power of the creator only to realize our ignorance toward the full potential of all there is to know. The theme is always dismissed as artistic fun. One thing always is consistent with such stories and dreams. At no time is this entity ever not recognized as nonhuman. Yet, in truth we have created and are willingly moving our self into such a living situation: the corporate structure for managing human relationships. The corporate structure is a creation of man (I don't think a woman is credited with this considering the position of women in centuries past). It is a creation that we have been investing with human social stature and traits. We made this thing. We have given it “personhood”. (Personhood is the status of being a person.)  With that birth we have also given it standing within the circle of human relations. It is the physics of two entities occupying the same space in that the corporation is both human in action and representative of human action. And, we have given it one thing that humans do not have and the one thing that is the singular moment of all human endeavor: the real potential of eternal life. The corporation has the ability to do what we can't: defy death. The science fiction writers had it correct as to our drive, they were just looking at the wrong sciences. It's not the material life that will do us in. It is the cognitive life that has the most potential to do us in. The Trans Pacific Partnership agreement is the realization of our self destruction potential.

26 февраля 2013, 01:36

Charles Heck: U.S. Health Care: Misplaced Pride

A greatest-country-in-the-world syndrome sometimes makes it hard for us Americans to recognize ways in which other societies are outpacing the United States. Health care presents a striking discrepancy between common domestic perceptions of relative U.S. performance and actual comparisons with other high-income countries. A common argument in the debate over U.S. health care reform has been that "the American health care system... is already the finest health care system in the world" (as Senator Mitch McConnell put it on Fox News Sunday on July 1, 2012). But evidence continues to mount that health outcomes in the United States are among the worst in high-income countries, while expenditures on health are far and away the highest! Wealthy foreigners come to the United States for the most sophisticated operations, and medical research and pharmaceutical development is outstanding, but from the perspective of society as a whole, something is badly wrong. The latest wide-ranging evidence regarding comparative health outcomes comes from an impeccable American source. At the request of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine established a Panel on Understanding Cross-National Health Differences Among High-Income Countries. The Panel's report appeared in pre-publication form last month (January 2013) under the title U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health.* Health outcomes in the United States were compared to 16 "peer" countries: Canada, Australia, Japan and 13 European countries (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland). Panel members were themselves surprised by the strength of their findings. "We uncovered a strikingly consistent and pervasive pattern of higher mortality and inferior health in the United States, beginning at birth: • "For many years, Americans have had a shorter life expectancy than people in almost all of the peer countries.... • "For the past three decades, this difference in life expectancy has been growing, especially among women. • "The health disadvantage is pervasive - it affects all age groups up to age 75 and is observed for multiple diseases, biological and behavioral risk factors, and injuries." Comparing U.S. outcomes to peer countries in specific "health domains," the Panel found, for instance, that • "For decades, the United States has experienced the highest infant mortality rate of high-income countries.... • "Since the 1990s, among high-income countries, U.S. adolescents have had the highest rate of pregnancies and are more likely to acquire sexually transmitted infections.... • "For decades, the United States has had the highest obesity rate among high-income countries." How is this "growing U.S. health disadvantage" to be explained? The Panel finds no single factor that fully explains what is happening. • The U.S. "health system" is one prominent factor. It "is highly fragmented, with limited public health and primary care resources and a large uninsured population. Compared with people in other countries, Americans are more likely to find care inaccessible or unaffordable and to report lapses in the quality and safety of care outside of hospitals." • Adverse social and economic conditions matter to an important extent, though further research is needed to establish specific causal links, not just "co-occurrence." The United States "has higher rates of poverty and income inequality than most high-income countries. U.S. children are more likely than children in peer countries to grow up in poverty....(A)lthough the United States was once the world leader in education, students in many countries now outperform U.S. students." • More surprisingly, and pointing to different societal phenomena, the Panel found worse health outcomes even among Americans not afflicted by adverse social and economic conditions. "Americans with healthy behaviors or those who are white, insured, college-educated, or in upper-income groups appear to be in worse health than similar groups in comparison countries." Just as surprising, "the nation's large population of recent immigrants is generally in better health than native-born Americans." From a societal perspective, it is baffling and unsettling that comparatively poor U.S. health outcomes go along with U.S. health expenditures far higher than any other peer country. The OECD Factbook 2013 gathers the numbers for the United States and peer countries in 2010 or the latest available year. U.S. public and private expenditures on health came to almost 18 percent of U.S. GDP, roughly half again higher -- an astonishing difference -- than the Netherlands, next highest at 12 percent. The mounting evidence of a "U.S. health disadvantage," against a backdrop of extraordinarily high health expenditures, should erode whatever complacency remains about the performance of U.S. society in this regard. In the television interview noted at the outset, Senator McConnell went on to say that "we're not going to turn the American health care system into a Western European system." There is more than one health care system in Western Europe, and no need to adopt any other system wholesale. But given the better health outcomes in Western Europe (and in Canada, Australia and Japan), it would be the worst of American blind self-satisfaction not to look for innovative ideas beyond our borders as well as within them.

25 февраля 2013, 15:09

Ten Things for Your Radar Screen

The week has begun off with a bang.  Follow through selling of sterling in early Asia saw its losses extended to almost $1.5070 before recovering almost a cent by early Europe to about $1.5165, filling the gap created by the lower opening in Asia. The dollar gapped higher against the yen on reports that Asia Development Bank Kuroda may become the next governor of the BOJ.  The dollar reached a new 2-year high near JPY94.75 before coming off a big figure to JPY93.75 in the Europe. Japanese stocks liked the yen's weakness.  The Nikkei jumped 2.4%.   The gap extends to last Friday's high near JPY93.52. Cross rate buying has lifted the euro against the dollar, and has taken out  initial resistance near $1.3250.  Intra-day technical readings warn that it is getting stretch.  European shares are higher with the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 up 0.8%, with all sectors advancing; led by technology and building materials. The debt market is less clear cut.  Japanese 10-year government bonds and Italian and Spanish 10-year bonds are bucking the heavier tone seen in core bond markets.  On the other hand, 2-year notes are generally firmer in core Europe and Japan, but softer in Italy and Spain. Here are 10 items that investors will be watching this week. 1. Just before the weekend, and after two weeks of persistent rumors, the UK lost its AAA rating. Moody’s cut its rating one notch to Aa1 and adopted a stable outlook. There was little market reaction to previous rating downgrades of high income countries, like the US, Japan, France and Austria. We do not expect the UK to be an exception. At the same time, our analysis suggests that the macro-economic conditions and debt dynamics are more consistent with Aa3 (of AA-). Investors should not be surprised if the other major rating agencies make good on their negative outlooks for the UK and if deeper cuts are eventually forthcoming. 2. The passive tightening of the euro area monetary conditions does not appear to be as aggressive as it had appeared and this reduces the likelihood of offsetting ECB action. The early repayment of the second LTRO was considerably less than anticipated at not even half the pace in which the first LTRO was repaid. Some 356 banks will repay 61.1 bln euros this week from the second LTRO. The large number of banks and relative small average (0.17 bln) may point to small German bank participation. On the other hand, Italian banks may have refrained given the election uncertainty. 3. Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke provides semi-annual testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday. We expect him to help “correct” the reading of the recent FOMC minutes that some observers seemed to understand somewhat hawkishly, expecting an early end to QE3+. It was only in December that Bernanke led the FOMC to more than doubling its outright long-term asset purchases. With economy growth slowing below the pace needed to lower the unemployment rate, we see little reason to expect a change of heart. A few regional presidents disagree, but they are a minority at the Federal Reserve and especially among the voting members of the FOMC. 4. The US Congress has a few days to avert the sequester—the deep spending cuts—set to be enacted on March 1. It calls for $1.2 trillion cuts in spending over the next decade, with $85 bln to be delivered in the current fiscal year. This is on top of the $1.4 trillion of spending cuts to discretionary programs announced over the past two years. While there may be a last minute deal, as there was with the fiscal cliff, it seems a bit less likely. Assuming a 1:1 fiscal multiplier, the sequester is expected to shave US growth around 0.5%. It is possible that Congress later authorizes additional, which may mitigate the fiscal drag. 5. Results from the Italian election will likely begin around 9:00 am EST.  A tight race is expected. A center-left victory in the lower chamber is expected, but the Italian polls have a habit of projecting greater support to the center-left than actually materializes and Berlusconi appeared to be enjoying some momentum in the days leading up to the last official polls. The Senate is a different story. The center-right can block an outright PD majority, forcing a coalition, depending on how Monti does. The most dramatic market reaction may be if the center-right receives the most votes in the lower house. Grillo’s 5-Star movement, which seems largely a protest vote, is also a known unknown, to borrow a phrase. High levels of undecided voters warn of the potential for surprises. 6. The usual battery of month end data will be released. In terms of important, potentially market moving data, the week begins off slowly. We would highlight the mid-week euro area money supply and the private sector credit-creation. The continued trend toward less accommodative financial conditions will likely be evident. US January durable goods orders are expected to show a weak start to capex in Q1. The UK Q4 GDP is unlikely to be revised, but revisions of Q4 US GDP, based on the combination of trade, inventory, consumption, and construction spending will likely replace a small contraction with a small expansion. Friday is the big day with PMIs, flash euro area February inflation, US auto sales and January personal consumption and income figures. 7. On Thursday, February 28, Bankia will report its full year earnings and is expected to admit to a loss in excess over 19 bln euros, making it the largest corporate loss in Spain’s history. Its restructuring will include the divestment of substantial holdings in several large Spanish companies, including IAG Group (12% stake), Iberdola (5.3%) and Mapfre (15%)—an airlines, utility and insurer respectively. In this way, the financial crisis in Spain will lead to industrial and governance changes. At the same time, the fact that Bankia failed within eleven months of it being listed , when it raised 24 bln euros, has generated persistent protests as the Rajoy government as hundreds of thousands of small investors who bought at the IPO as looking at a 97% loss. 8. The Abe government is expected to announce a new management team for the central bank. It will include the governor and two deputies. The latest reports suggest Asian Development Bank head and former MOF official Kuroda may get the nod as governor. He is moderately dovish and has advocated buying of long-term securities. He has a strong international reputation. If Kuroda does in fact become the next BOJ governor, reports suggest it will nominate Fin Min's Nakao as his replacement at the ADB.  Back channels suggest China will not compete for the completion of Kuroda's term. 9. A combination of minutes from the recent meeting and comments by the governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia suggests that a March or even April rate cut by the RBA is less likely than it appeared a couple of weeks ago. While the evolution of the economy in the coming weeks is important, it now seems that, barring a significant deterioration in economic conditions, the Q1 CPI due on April 23 may be the key to a May cut. 10. In the emerging markets we note the following: HSBC flash China PMI for February was reported overnight, and came in at 50.4 vs. 52.2 consensus and vs. 52.3 final in January, which was a two-year high. This is the first reading for February, and we note that some January data was not reported due to the Lunar New Year holiday, including retail sales and industrial production.. These two series report January and February combined as one reading. On Friday, official February PMI will be reported, with market consensus at 50.5 vs. 50.4 in January. We will also get the final HSBC PMI report on Friday. We continue to believe that everything is lined up for modestly improved China data in H1 2013. Both HSBC and official PMI readings have been above 50 for three straight months now, and that has been largely reflected in improved trade and IP data recently. Elsewhere in EM, the Israeli central bank meets today and is expected to keep rates steady at 1.75%. Hungary's central bank meets Tuesday and is expected to cut rates 25 bp to 5.25%. Brazil reports Q4 GDP as well as February trade and PMI data on Friday. These readings will be important coming ahead of the next COPOM meeting March 5/6, where many analysts are looking for the central bank to signal a more hawkish stance in its policy statement.

21 февраля 2013, 01:27

What Does It Takes To Be A Flight Attendant?

Depending on whom you ask, being a flight attendant isn't just a job — it's a lifestyle, and a competitive one at that. After all, not many occupations include 'travelling around the world' as part of the job description. Earlier this month, Air Canada announced 150 positions for the first wave of flight attendants as part of their low-cost carrier, Rouge. To see what it would take to become a flight attendant in an industry no stranger to turbulence, Huffington Post Canada Travel spoke with Angie**, a flight attendant who's been with Air Canada for five years, asking her to share what she's learned and what advice she has for prospective airline attendants. **full name has been omitted at the request of the interviewee. Huffington Post Canada Travel: If you can take us back to your interview process back in 2008, how would you describe the competition? A: It was pretty fierce — they called it a “cattle call”. There’s a really large banquet room — a holding room, if you will — and there are just rows and rows of chairs. Every now and then, we would shift seats — it was like musical chairs. When you got into the next room there was another large banquet room filled with rows and rows of tables. There was a guy who was basically like customs, and you would go up and have an interview for 20 minutes or so, and that would be the first round. If you were approved, you’d go onto another room and do language testing. It just kept going like that. HPCT: I understand you speak multiple languages. Did that help with the job process? A: Definitely. In general, Air Canada only wants to ever hire bilingual flight attendants. The only reason why there’s any unilingual flight attendants is because Air Canada bought up Ward Air and Canadian Airlines. Those companies did not always require bilingualism, so we do have some flight attendants who only speak English. HPCT: Can you tell me more about the level of education or background needed to be a flight attendant? A: Air Canada’s mainline, and I believe Rouge, only requires that you graduated from high school. I've met a lot of people who've had no post-secondary education or even experience in the hospitality industry. HPCT: Are there any physical requirements to being a flight attendant, like height? A: There used to be, but no longer. It’s a human rights issues, so it’s no longer an issue they can discriminate against during the physical examination. However, practically, I don’t think that it’s desirable, because there are physical elements to the job. But I've worked with a flight attendant who was about 4"8 and she was not able to perform all of the duties that we were supposed to. In regards to being too tall, we do have some very small aircraft that are called ’Embraer.’ Anybody who is over, I believe, 6"2 can elect not to not work on the Embraer. HPCT: How about personality-wise? A: It’s a very different thing for a low-cost carrier like Rouge than a mainline because it’s a different kind of flying. But in general, then it would be that you have to be a detached person. You have to be able to spend lots of time alone, adapting to new environments, new people and regulations — that’s always been surprising. I've been flying for over five years now but regulations are actually always changing. HPCT: So what exactly do you mean by detached? A: In the first two years I was laid off twice, and that was a pretty big surprise. I think that’s going to be very interesting to see what will happen with Rouge because of Air Canada’s other attempts at starting low-cost carriers — this is their third. So, we’re all very interested to see what will happen for this and all these new hires that will be promised the world might go through all these ups and downs in the next year or longer if they’re successful. HPCT: Why were you laid off? A: It’s a cyclical business. So in ‘08 when I was fired, it was a bad economy around the world. Beyond that, in 2009, it just happens — that’s what the expectation was. They over-hired, they under-planned and basically it happens to most flight attendants. I would say that about 70 per cent of flight attendants have been laid off at least once in their careers, regardless of what their experience is, whether it’s five years or 30 years. If you do [get laid off] once, then there’s a good chance you can get laid off up to three times in your career, because it’s seniority-based, and anybody is at the bottom at a bad time will get cut. HPCT: So people looking to be flight attendants should expect little-to-no stability in their jobs? A: I think that has been the best advice I was given. At the time, I took a pay cut and decided to do this [job], I really had no expectations, I just wanted to see the world and experience new things. It’s easier if you’re not depending on the income — which wasn't very much — and if you potentially have a stable income from a partner or from your family or if you have little attachment or are just renting an apartment or just have a sublet. You know, you can just pick up and go. HPCT: What would you say is the most memorable trip you’ve had? A: That’s a tough one, because I like to joke the best experiences have been during my layoffs. When I was laid off, we were the first group to ever get discounts even while on layoffs. So I just went backpacking both times. Generally, when flight attendants get laid off, they have to go back to their old jobs or collect employment insurance and it’s a bit of a struggle and you’re biting your nails waiting to be called back, but I just went off and did what I could, and got called back both times. HPCT: So where did you go when backpacking? A: I went to Australia for three months. And that was the first time and the second time I went to Japan for a month. So those experiences were only made possible because of the company. But work-wise/ layover wise, the first time I went to Japan — the only time I’ve ever been on a layover to Japan — was one of my most fond memories. I was on call and surprised by a phone call and they said ‘if you can make it here [the airport] in 40 minutes, then we will send you to Japan.’ Because we’re a seniority-based company, you bid for whatever you want to fly and in general, more senior flight attendants will bid for more productive flying. So when you’re on on-call and someone calls in sick, you can get lucky. Another flight attendant was a German speaker and had spent his entire four years working flights to Frankfurt because he was pigeon-holed — he was forced to fly to Frankfurt because he spoke German and we were short German speakers. He wanted to see something else and so he put his name down for extra hours and he got Japan. The two of us were ecstatic to be there for the first time and instead of going to the hotel, we got changed and at the airport, we gave our bags to our crew who took our bags with them to the hotel and we took the train straight into Tokyo and we went out all day and all night. In the morning we came back and slept all day before leaving. HPCT: Do these kinds of adventures happen often? A: Pretty much never. Because of course with seniority — not that I’m ancient or anything — it’s just that there are different priorities. I can understand if you’ve been somewhere many times then you’re not dying to go out and explore, so in general, when we have these exciting flights, they’re not with exciting people. Over the summer I was on reserve and got a two-day Barcelona layover and my entire crew didn't want to do anything. I ended up going on to Couchsurfing and meeting up with strangers. HPCT: How has this job affected your social life? A: That’s something I always caution people about when they first start, because they have to start making a very big effort to keep in touch with the people in your life that are important. It's only shown me who I actually care for in my life and the things I want to spend my time doing. You know when you’re up in the air all the time, when you come home, it’s to do laundry or to cook and clean. Flight attendants who are a little bit younger, who don’t necessarily have discipline, for lack of a better word, to live on their own, they find having relationships very difficult. So say you’re living with your family and you are not able to see your friends all the time because they’re not nearby, or you can’t easily go on dates because you’ve got chores to do or you’ve got family to take care of. HPCT: On that note, do you have any advice for anyone gunning to be a flight attendant? A: I think that you definitely have to learn how to be frugal and make smart decisions and I don’t think that necessarily translates to living a lower quality of life. You just have to be decisive in what you want, because I find that in this job when there’s a lot of solitude and there’s a lot of mobility and a lot of choice. Flight attendants end up falling into a pit of going out and even alcoholism, and that’s not healthy in the long run and they don’t see it when they’re young. You’ll see these older crew members that are divorced and broke because they spent all their life doing this [lifestyle] and you know, not working on their relationships or their passions and not saving. HPCT: Do you feel that there are there any misconceptions about flight attendants that people should know about? A: Honestly, I would never say it’s not glamorous, but it’s not as glamorous as it’s made to be seen. But I’m thankful that I get to see new cities every day and go on vacations very often, extend my discount to friends and family, attend lots of festivals and see a lot of things that never ever in my life would I be exposed to if I wasn’t doing this. So right now I’m in Edmonton looking out the window and seeing this whole new city. That wouldn’t be possible and I would have probably never come here otherwise. HPCT: Was there anything you wanted to add or comment on? A: The two things I would add is that we are not supposed to lift bags and put them away and we don’t get paid until after pushback — the moment the plane moves. HPCT: So if there’s a delay or a cancellation then... A: We’re not getting paid. This topic has come up so often and I’m shocked that a lot of people still don’t know that. I think that it's something people need to know, like potential flight attendants, applicants and flyers need to know that this is the case. So when we are helping flyers doing things, we’re working very hard. We also have to show up an hour ahead of time before boarding and we’re not getting paid for that too. We’re in work mode even while on the bus. HPCT: So you guys are almost always on the clock. A: I’m happy to help and I’m happy to give directions when I’m on the bus. I’m happy to find space for your bag and I’m happy to give you water for your medication. Or you know, do all my safety checks, but I’m not getting paid. I think that it’s quite absurd and unbelievable but it’s the truth. So I think this is important people know this, because sometimes people get very upset with us when we refuse to help them put their bags away, but they’re very, very heavy when we sometimes have to do four to five flights a day, and just that action is very bad for us. HPCT: So are flight attendants left to their own devices in these situations? A: Yes, that happens a lot, because we’re sometimes put in situations where nobody is there to help an old person who cannot lift their bags but packed it themselves or there’s someone sitting by a window and needs their bag. So you know, we’re lifting a lot of weights repetitively and it’s not healthy for us. It’s many, many bags throughout the day and many throughout the year and throughout our lifetime and we’ve got our own backs to watch out for too. Our own bags need to be lifted too, like on the subway and up and down the stairs, when we switch planes or flights. So it’s something that needs a little clarification about how it’s not personal, it’s for our own safety. HPCT: That’s fair. I mean it’s one thing to have a grumpy flight attendant but no one wants a complaining flight attendant — that just wouldn't be professional. A: Yeah, that would not be professional. I’m really hyperaware of that. I never want to complain in uniform because I don’t want to project a negative imagine on the profession I’ve chosen. It’s just mutual understanding and from a common sense, ethical standpoint, if everyone just knew some of these things then it would make a lot of sense. This interview has been modified for clarity and length

05 февраля 2013, 01:34

Marty Kaplan: Being American Is Bad for Your Health

"Americans are sicker and die younger than people in other wealthy nations." That stark sentence appears in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, and it comes from the authors of a landmark report -- "Shorter Lives, Poorer Health" -- on differences among high-income countries. You probably already know that America spends more on health care than any other country. That was one of the few facts to survive the political food fight pretending to be a serious national debate about the Affordable Care Act. But the airwaves also thrummed with so many sound bites from so many jingoistic know-nothings claiming that America has the best health care system in the world that today, most people don't realize how shockingly damaging it is to your wellness and longevity to be born in the U.S.A. This is made achingly clear in the study of the "U.S. health disadvantage" recently issued by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, which was conducted over 18 months by experts in medicine and public health, demography, social science, political science, economics, behavioral science and epidemiology. Compare the health of the American people with our peer nations -- with Britain, Canada and Australia; with Japan; with the Scandinavian countries; with France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Side by side with the world's wealthy democracies, America comes in last, and over the past several decades, it's only gotten worse. With few exceptions -- like death rates from breast cancer -- we suck. Our newborns are less likely to reach their first birthday, or their fifth birthday. Our adolescents die at higher rates from car crashes and homicides, and they have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections. Americans have the highest incidence of AIDS, the highest obesity rates, the highest diabetes rates among adults 20 and older, the highest rates of chronic lung disease and heart disease and drug-related deaths. There is one bright spot. Americans who live past their 75th birthday have the longest life expectancy. But for everyone else -- from babies to baby boomers and beyond -- your chances of living a long life are the butt-ugly worst among all the 17 rich nations in our peer group. In case you're tempted to blow off these bleak statistics about American longevity by deciding that they don't apply to someone like you -- before you attribute them to, how shall we put it, the special burdens that our racially and economically diverse and culturally heterogeneous nation has nobly chosen to bear -- chew on this: "Even non-Hispanic white adults or those with health insurance, a college education, high incomes, or healthy behaviors appear to be in worse health (e.g., higher infant mortality, higher rates of chronic diseases, lower life expectancy) in the United States than in other high-income countries." And by the way, "the nation's large population of recent immigrants is generally in better health than native-born Americans." Why are we trailing so badly? Some of the causes catalogued by the report: The U.S. public health and medical care systems: Our employer -- and private insurance-- based health care system has long set us apart from our peer nations, who provide universal access. The right loves to rail against "socialized medicine," but on health outcomes, the other guys win. Individual behavior: Tobacco, diet, physical inactivity, alcohol and other drug use and sexual practices play a part, but there's not a whole lot of evidence that uniquely nails Americans' behavior. The big exception is injurious behavior. We loves us our firearms, and we don't much like wearing seat belts or motorcycle helmets. Social factors: Stark income inequality and poverty separate us from other wealthy nations, who also have more generous safety nets and demonstrate greater social mobility than we do. In America, the best predictor of good or bad health is the income level of your zip code. Physical and social environmental factors: Toxins harm us, but our pollution isn't notably worse than in other rich nations. The culprit may be our "built environment": less public transportation, walking and cycling; more cars and car accidents; less access to fresh produce; more marketing and bigger portions of bad food. Policies and social values: To me, this is the richest, and riskiest, ground broken by the report, which asks whether there's a common denominator -- upstream, root causes -- that help explain why the United States has been losing ground in so many health domains since the 1970s: Certain character attributes of the quintessential American (e.g. dynamism, rugged individualism) are often invoked to explain the nation's great achievements and perseverance. Might these same characteristics also be associated with risk-taking and potentially unhealthy behaviors? Are there health implications to Americans' dislike of outside (e.g., government) interference in personal lives and in business and marketing practices? My answer is yes, but I'd plant the problem in recent history and politics, not in timeless quintessentials. Since the 1980s, in the sunny name of "free enterprise," there's been a ferocious, ideologically driven effort to demonize government, roll back regulations, privatize the safety net, stigmatize public assistance, gut public investment, weaken consumer protection, consolidate corporate power, delegitimize science, condemn anti-poverty efforts as "class warfare" and entrust public health to the tender mercies of the marketplace. The epidemic of gun violence has been fueled by anti-government paranoia stoked by the gun manufacturers' lobby, the NRA. The spike in consumption of high-fructose corn syrup has been driven by the food industry's business decisions and its political (i.e., financial) clout. In the name of fiscal conservatism, plutocrats push for cuts in discretionary expenditures on maternal health, early childhood education, social services and public transportation. The same tactic that once prolonged tobacco's death grip -- the confection of a phony scientific "controversy" -- now undermines efforts to combat climate change, which is as big a danger to public health as any disease. More accidents may be shortening our lifespans. But we're not getting sicker by accident. This is my column from The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. You can read more of my columns here, and email me there if you'd like.

12 января 2013, 22:05

Deaths From All Causes: The Short (But Not Necessarily Happy) Life Of Americans

Wolf Richter   www.testosteronepit.com   www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter Americans under fifty are paying the price. We don’t know exactly why. Even the panel of experts that authored the massive report, U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, admits that it can’t entirely pinpoint the reasons. But we do know how Americans under fifty, particularly males, are paying the price: with their lives. The US health disadvantage, as the report calls it, is more prevalent among “socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.” But even if you’re “white, insured, college-educated, or in upper-income groups” and live a healthy lifestyle, you’re less likely to make it to 50 than your counterparts in the other 16 wealthy “peer” countries of the study—Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US. And if you do make it to 50, you’re going to get there in worse shape. The report, based on mortality studies for the years through 2008, carves out three categories, “Deaths from Noncommunicable Diseases,” “Deaths from Communicable, Maternal, Perinatal, Nutritional Conditions,” and “Deaths from Injuries.” The latter, which I discussed in yesterday’s post, distinguished between deaths from “intentional injuries” and “unintentional injuries.” Grisly statistics. [Read.... How Americans Stack Up In Dying From Violence, War, Suicide, And Accidents]. “Deaths from Communicable, Maternal, Perinatal, Nutritional Conditions” is divided into dozens of categories and subcategories, and every country has its own nightmare. In Portugal for example, 7.4 people per 100,000 die of HIV/AIDS, more than double the rate of the country next in line, the US (3.4), and 246 times the rate of Japan (0.03). Do the Japanese cover up their deaths from that scourge by declaring a different cause of death, such as pneumonia? Or is their reliance on condoms for birth control responsible for that immense success, at least in the hetero community? For example, in love hotels, and they’re everywhere, there is always a condom near the bed. One. If you need more, bring your own. One of thousands of tidbits I discovered in Japan—that all became the backdrop to an awesome story. And then a book. It started in France with a Japanese girl. Check it out on Amazon.... BIG LIKE: CASCADE INTO AN ODYSSEY. Yet in Japan, 29.7 people per 100,000 die of respiratory infections, three times the rate in the US (9.7) and almost eight times the rate of Finland (3.9). On the other hand, in Japan, with its socialized healthcare system, the infant mortality rate is only 1.3 per 100,000. In the US, it’s 7.1. Over five times the Japanese rate. By far the worst in the group. But is it an endorsement of socialized healthcare? The second and third worst countries in infant mortality, Canada (5.9) and the UK (5.2), also have socialized healthcare. No easy answers. Another conundrum: in deaths due to nutritional deficiencies, France is in the hot seat with 2.0 deaths per 100,000, twice the US rate (1.0), and way ahead of third place, Finland (0.14). Overall, Finland has the lowest rate of “Deaths from Communicable, Maternal, Perinatal, Nutritional Conditions,” with 11.1 deaths per 100,000 people. On the other end of the spectrum: the US (33.7), the UK (36.1), Japan (40), and Portugal (45.5). So the chance of dying from these diseases in the US is three times higher than in Finland; but in Portugal, it’s four times higher. Non-communicable diseases are the biggest killers. And easy answers remain elusive. For example, melanoma and other skin cancers kill 5.8 Australian per 100,000, the worst in the group. So we speculate about the ozone hole, the brutal sun, and people spending time on the beach. In Japan, the death rate is 0.47, by far the lowest in the group. So we speculate about people wearing gloves, hats, and protective garments every time they step outside. But then Norway has the second highest rate of deaths (4.7), followed by other northern countries, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The US (2.8) is in the middle of the pack. And sunny Italy (2.0) and Spain (1.8) are outdone only by Japan. Wedged between “Deaths from Neuropsychiatric Conditions,” such as unipolar depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and epilepsy are deaths from “Alcohol Use Disorders.” Danes succumb to it at a rate of 9.9 per 100,000—not including accidents. Next the French (4.0), the Germans (3.9), and the Austrians (3.9). For the latter two, the culprit may be per-capita beer consumption [Beer, A Reflection Of The World Economy?]. The US (1.6) is in the middle of the pack. At the bottom: Spain (0.38), Italy (0.25), and Japan (0.16). In another conundrum, Alzheimer and other dementias kill Finns at the highest rate (34.9) followed by Americans (24.8)—both countries with relatively low life expectancies. At the bottom, Germans (5.9), Austrians (4.4), and the people who live longer than just about anyone else, the Japanese (2.5). Cardiovascular diseases are a scourge in all wealthy countries, led by Germany (174.9), Finland (163.6), and the US (155.7). Least affected: Mediterranean countries Spain (115.7) and France (99.2), and finally Japan (97.3). But there are some areas where Americans are lucky. Stomach cancer, for example, kills 2.76 Americans per 100,000, but six times more Japanese (16.8); and liver cancer kills 3.9 Americans per 100,000, as compared to 11.1 Japanese, almost three times more. Overall, non-communicable diseases kill Danes at a rate of 440 per 100,000, Americans at a rate of 418, and Japanese, the healthiest in that respect, at a rate of 272. So, life expectancy for Americans is ugly: “Something fundamental is going wrong,” lamented Dr. Steven Woolf, who chaired the panel. “This is not the product of a particular administration or political party. Something at the core is causing the U.S. to slip behind these other high-income countries. And it’s getting worse.” The panel tried to nail down the culprits: a health-care system that leaves millions of people uninsured, the highest rate of poverty, education, eating habits, socioeconomic and behavioral differences, cities built for cars not pedestrians.... But it determined that these reasons cannot adequately explain the differences—because even wealthy, educated, insured whites with healthy lifestyles are getting the short end of the stick. And worse: high infant mortality, traffic accidents, violence, HIV and AIDS, and alcohol-related mortality hit younger age groups the hardest—leaving them with a lower probability of surviving to age 50 than their peers in wealthy countries. And the lucky ones who do reach 50 get there “in poorer health than their counterparts.” All this despite the costliest of all healthcare systems that eats up 18% of GDP. But now anecdotal evidence is coagulating into numbers that weigh down corporate earnings calls. It appears the wily consumer is having second thoughts about prescription drugs. And is fighting back. A paradigm shift that is causing “unprecedented concerns” in the industry. Read.... The Consumer Revolts Against Prescription Drugs.

03 ноября 2012, 18:15

Up In Smoke: Romney Spiked Massachusetts' Model Anti-Smoking Program

WASHINGTON -- In the mid 1980s, Massachusetts Department of Public Health official Gregory Connolly began a seemingly hopeless campaign to end smoking in his state. He had no full-time staff and a piecemeal budget. More people complained about his smoking cessation clinics than attended them. If he wanted to check his effectiveness with his own colleagues, he just had to get up from his desk and inhale. "My building was filled with smoke," he told The Huffington Post. "Doctors, nurses smoked." It was hard to see a public policy solution. At the time, nearly one-third of the state's residents smoked, with little hope of kicking the habit. The U.S. Surgeon General affirmed in 1988 that cigarettes were as addictive as heroin. Still, Connolly, who worked out of the dental health division, kept chipping away, speaking out at community forums, organizing with other health groups and buttonholing any member of the state Legislature who would listen. In 1992, with a push from the American Cancer Society, Massachusetts residents passed a ballot initiative to fund his smoking-prevention work through an increase in taxes on cigarette sales. The tax generated $123 million that first year, of which Connolly's program received $56 million. Connolly invested the money in community programs, municipal grants to enforce laws against selling cigarettes to minors, and lobbying to pass local bans on smoking indoors. If a resident wanted to quit, the program offered free nicotine patches, counseling and a quitters hotline. New initiatives were geared toward youth smokers and pregnant women. And the program alarmed every Massachusetts resident, smoker and nonsmoker alike, with its ad campaign. One ad featured a man showering with a hole in his throat. In another, a mother spoke just before her death about what it might be like to say goodbye to her children and how she struggled to breathe with her emphysema-wrecked lungs. In a third ad, a doctor squeezed a deceased 32-year-old smoker's aorta like a tube of toothpaste until a mass of fatty deposits squirted out. In a short time, Connolly started to see dramatic reductions in smoking rates in Massachusetts that far outpaced the rest of the country. The Massachusetts program was so successful that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) used it as a national model. Dozens of other states put Connolly's ads on TV. Even other countries latched onto the campaign, beaming the ads into television sets as far away as Crete and Australia. They continue to serve as a model for public service ads today. "We had the cure for cancer," Connolly said. "It was the most exciting thing anyone could ever experience. We achieved the impossible." But 10 years into his crusade, Connolly met a tougher opponent than Big Tobacco: Mitt Romney. While Romney's signature achievement as governor was reforming Massachusetts' health insurance system, axing cheap prevention in favor of pricey treatment was also a hallmark of his tenure. Romney attempted to eliminate or gut programs providing hearing tests for newborns, screenings for prostate and breast cancer, counseling for young parents, support for people living with severe physical disabilities, and suicide prevention services. The Democratic-controlled Legislature ultimately overruled him. But before taking office in January 2003, Romney had promised the state's anti-smoking advocates that he would increase funding to the tobacco-control program. Instead, he cut its budget from $5.8 million to $2.5 million, far below what it needed to be effective. Romney ignored the warnings of public health experts, while working to secure a tax cut for some of the state's richest residents. His efforts all but killed the program and serve as one of the most dramatic examples of his preference for short-term political gains over long-term health care solutions. Romney has continued this approach as the Republican nominee for president, vowing to repeal President Barack Obama's health care reform law while insisting that emergency rooms provide effective treatment for the uninsured. "We expected Mr. Romney to come in and restore the tobacco program to its level for the past 10 years and make himself a national hero," said Connolly, now a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, where he directs the Center for Global Tobacco Control. "But he did the opposite. ... We got the Marlboro Man." SLASH AND BURN The post-9/11 recession had hit Massachusetts hard. Connolly's anti-smoking program, with its emphasis on prevention, became a fat target. Between taxes on cigarettes and the 1998 landmark settlement with tobacco companies over their deceptive marketing, the state was raking in more than $570 million a year from Big Tobacco, some of which was intended for anti-smoking efforts. Nearly all of it, however, would be siphoned off to other programs. Romney's predecessor as governor, Jane Swift, slashed the smoking-prevention program, from $33 million in 2002 to $5.8 million in 2003. Tobacco-control advocates went looking for a savior and believed the 2002 governor's race would produce one. A coalition of groups, including the American Cancer Society, Children's Hospital, the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, put pressure on Romney and his Democratic opponent, Shannon O'Brien, to pledge to restore the program's budget. "Despite $800 million in tobacco revenues, the governor has destroyed the state's tobacco prevention program," the group wrote in a full-page ad in The Boston Globe. "To save our kids, the next governor must restore it." O'Brien agreed to restore funding to the anti-smoking program, and Romney appeared to do so as well. In an Oct. 30, 2002, letter obtained by HuffPost, Romney campaign manager Ben Coes sent the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids an explanation of his candidate's position. "It is our view that it is a shame our state leaders mismanaged the budget so that worthwhile programs have been cut," Coes wrote. "Mitt Romney's goal as governor will be to fundamentally restructure government so we can restore funding for worthwhile programs, including the tobacco control program." At the time, anti-smoking activists did not know about Romney's close ties to the tobacco industry. As HuffPost reported in October, after Romney took over as CEO of Bain & Co. in the early 1990s, the consulting firm performed key research for Philip Morris that formed the basis for a price cut on which researchers blame a dramatic rise in teen smoking. The firm also worked with two cigarette companies to expand the Russian smoking market, making millions of dollars in the process. L. Scott Harshbarger, who labored over the tobacco settlement as Massachusetts attorney general, said that Bain & Co.'s work with Philip Morris and British American Tobacco during Romney's tenure as CEO would have been a major red flag for public health advocates, who would have mobilized many of the state's political institutions against Romney. "In Massachusetts in 2002, if you were in any way tainted as a tobacco advocate, it would have been a major negative as a candidate," Harshbarger said. "It would have been a very tough sell." The advocates believed Romney was on their side. After he was elected governor in November, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund announced that Romney's victory was "a win for Massachusetts kids" and that the "outlook is optimistic" that the governor-elect would reinvest in the anti-tobacco campaign. After all, this government program, with its mix of civic engagement and cutting-edge methods, actually worked. From 1992 to 2003, per capita cigarette consumption declined by more than 47 percent in Massachusetts, compared to 28 percent nationally, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The Boston Globe reported that between 1990 and 2002, the smoking rate for pregnant women dropped 52 percent. The anti-smoking program also reduced lung cancer death rates in the state by 9.5 percent and was responsible for a 31 percent plunge in heart disease deaths, according to studies co-authored by Connolly that isolated the program's direct effect on those conditions. The program saved the state money, as well. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study in 2000 found that the program reduced health care costs by $85 million per year. For every dollar the state spent on Connolly's effort, it saved two dollars in treatment. Despite the smoking-prevention program's benefits, however, it became one of Romney's top targets as he worked to close the state's $1.2 billion budget deficit. In his first year in office, Romney attempted to slash the program's budget further, to just $1.8 million. Democrats in the state Legislature balked, overriding the governor and preserving $2.5 million in funding -- which still represented a 57 percent cut. Connolly felt that the program had been singled out: Its cut was deeper than others within the health department. Advocates like Connolly were "severely undermined," said Harshbarger. "Then-candidate Romney had been all things to all people in this ... and all that a governor had to do at that point to keep the program was to say, 'No, this is important to me,'" he explained. Instead of restoring funds to the anti-smoking program, Romney chose to fight for a tax cut for Massachusetts' richest residents. One of his first budgetary moves as governor was a capital gains tax rebate worth $250 million -- enough to fund the tobacco-control program at the level the CDC recommended for more than seven years. Romney played hardball with the state Legislature on the tax rebate, instructing the Massachusetts Department of Revenue to send notices to about 48,000 taxpayers who might be eligible for it, thereby generating public support for the measure. In the end, about half of the total tax payout went to just 278 wealthy taxpayers, The Boston Globe reported in 2005. PENNY-WISE, POUND-FOOLISH In contrast to the tax rebate, the cuts to the anti-smoking program had a minimal impact on the state's fiscal crisis, representing just 0.2 percent of its budget shortfall. But the impact on the health of Massachusetts residents was huge. With a budget of only $2.5 million, the program had to back off its support of law enforcement, and cigarette sales to minors nearly tripled, from minors buying cigarettes in a little over 8 percent of their attempts in 2002 to nearly 23 percent in 2007. Cheryl Sbarra, senior staff attorney for the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards, told HuffPost that she and other advocates warned Romney's administration about the importance of keeping the tobacco-control program intact. She said that she pressed the case personally with then-Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who is now an adviser to Romney's presidential campaign. Sbarra gained the impression that Healey didn't know how effective the program had been. "She said in no uncertain terms, 'You need to show us the facts that cutting this program the way it's been decimated has actually had negative outcomes,'" Sbarra recalled. Sbarra organized compliance checks in 68 cities and towns that had lost funding for tobacco control. Nearly everywhere they went, they found stores willing to sell cigarettes to minors. "The rates of sale [when minors tried to buy cigarettes] were just astronomical," she said. "Some were as high as 60 percent sales-to-minors rate." All the cigarettes they bought, they showed to the administration. "We did what Healey wanted, and it made no difference," Sbarra said. "It was like talking to a closed door whenever we talked to the administration." Neither Healey nor the Romney campaign responded to requests for comment. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reported that per capita cigarette sales in Massachusetts actually increased in the third year of Romney's term by more than 3 percent, while they declined nationally. And with sales to minors rising, smoking among the state's high school students plateaued, after declining by 41 percent from 1995 to 2003. As smoking stats in Massachusetts soured, the Romney administration sought to downplay the importance of the tobacco-control program. A spokesperson for the Department of Public Health told The Boston Globe in March 2004 that the "agency could not draw a direct link between budget cuts and increased sales to minors." The spokesperson called the program a "supplemental check" on retailers. "The responsibility for cigarette sales to teenagers rests at the retailer's door," the spokesperson said. The Globe's editorial board sharply criticized the cuts that same month. "Underfunding tobacco control programs is a textbook case of penny-wise, pound-foolish. Every analysis of the state's budget problems focuses on the accelerating increases in Medicaid," the board wrote. "But smoking-related illnesses cost Medicaid about half a billion dollars a year. Skimping on tobacco control now simply ensures that this cost will rise in coming years." A year later, Healey admitted that the fight against youth smoking had been neglected. But she defended the Romney administration. "We in truth are investing hundreds of millions into health care for people whose health has been complicated by use of cigarettes," she said. Public health advocates, however, portray Romney's emphasis on treatment rather than prevention as closing the barn door after the horses have left. "It was saving people's lives," Rachel Kaprielian, who as a Democratic state representative argued for anti-smoking efforts, told HuffPost. "All the efforts were promptly reversed." QUITTING TIME Romney's dismal tobacco-control legacy as governor is mitigated by 2004 legislation banning smoking in the workplace, including at restaurants and bars. The law made Massachusetts one of the first states, along with New York and California, to end smoking in watering holes. Dozens of states have since followed suit. But Romney had little enthusiasm for the legislation, lawmakers and anti-smoking advocates recall. Sbarra said that his administration essentially sequestered the state's public health officials while the bill was pending. They were "hardly allowed to leave the building," she said. "They weren't allowed to testify or talk to legislators about it." Connolly, the state's leading public health expert on smoking, had testified 12 times before Congress on the Massachusetts program before Romney assumed office. On his own time, he had also traveled across the country, testifying in 19 state legislatures to persuade them to fund their own tobacco-control programs. The vast majority of those states ended up adopting similar efforts. When it came time to debate the smoking ban, however, Connolly said the Romney administration didn't let him testify for the bill. "He didn't want us involved in it," said Connolly. Connolly had spent the first year or so of Romney's governorship banging on the administration's door with Sbarra and the rest of the anti-smoking advocates. He was shut out of the budget process, no matter how many memos he sent up the chain of command, he said. "At the height of the program we felt we had defeated Big Tobacco," Connolly recalled. "When the cuts hit, it felt like Big Tobacco had defeated us." During the budget battles with Romney, he learned of the governor's connections to Philip Morris. "You couldn't help but think that the longstanding relationship of millions of dollars between Bain, Philip Morris and Romney was the reason why," he said. Connolly's own history with tobacco was very different. In the 1970s, he learned about smoking's deadly effects firsthand while working at a hospital in the low-income section of Boston where he had grown up. He handled the late shift in the respiratory care unit, treating patients who were dying of emphysema. "It's tough seeing someone die," he said. "They were basically drowning in that bed for two, three weeks. ... These people are not being cared for by society, except treating their end stages of addiction -- keeping them alive to suffer. ... They stayed with me my whole life. We put those images on TV." Then under Romney, his ad campaign had to be shuttered. "What was left [in the budget] was not enough to put posters in high school gyms," Connolly said. The final blow came in late 2004, when Connolly received yet another invitation to speak before Congress at two different hearings. The Romney administration refused to let him go. "He sent me a clear message," Connolly said. "It was my time to leave." Connolly could never gain an audience with Gov. Romney. But, now, if he wanted to, he might get Romney's attention with a neighborly wave. His old nemesis lives across the street from him in Belmont, Mass. He has seen Romney on his front lawn, leaving the house in the morning or walking to a car. Once, Connolly ventured to say something to the former governor. "He walked into his house as I approached him," Connolly remembered, "probably without noticing me."

10 октября 2012, 00:42

Four Reasons Why: You Want to Keep Owning Stocks in the Fourth Quarter

Stock market investors could rejoice in capturing a 15% gain in the S&P 500 in the first nine months of 2012. But a run like that also generates unease about the prospect of a pullback. Here are four reasons you might want to consider sticking to your guns, and staying put in the stock markets – and the names of four companies whose stocks may benefit from these investment hypotheses. Welcome to the fourth quarter of 2012. If you’re like most equity investors, you’re looking forward to the next three months with mixed emotions and a degree of trepidation. True, rallies triggered by the aggressive actions on the part of the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and other monetary policymakers in recent weeks have propelled the S&P 500 index to a gain of as much as 18% for 2012 as a whole. That’s more than double the return that many economists and other pundits had warned us that we could expect, on average, in the coming years. It also is considerably more than investors could have earned from investing in most other asset classes. So, if equities seem to be just about the only game in town for returns, the logical next question is, what can we expect in the way of an encore? The knee-jerk response would seem to be, “not much”. It’s hard to imagine central bankers becoming still more interventionist, and stock market gains already have been impressive. So owning equities now might make one nervous, at least in the short run. But the fundamentals suggest sticking with stocks, for the long run, as long as you can maintain discipline and refrain from chasing winners whose valuations have moved into nosebleed territory. In fact, we see four reasons you may want to stay put in equities, with the specifics depending on your particular investment strategy, risk tolerance and style. Reason 1 – Don’t Fight the Fed This is never a good idea – ask any veteran investor. Today, it’s even dicier. Yields on U.S. government debt and other fixed income securities remain at artificially low levels thanks to what can only be described as financial repression in the shape of an insistence by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke that key lending rates will remain near zero until at least 2015. This policy, known as the “Bernanke Put”, continues to force investors who would normally seek fixed interest returns into the risk-on equity arena in ever-growing numbers. Media reports proclaim that the strategy of investing in stocks that pay out high dividend yields is overdone, overcrowded or about to underperform. All three may be true to some degree, but that’s not to say that yield-starved investors are paying attention; they still want some income, and if they can’t get it from bonds … One way for investors to try to ride the slipstream of the Fed’s easy money policy is consider buying shares in those companies that pay out an above-average dividend yield, while retaining an above average amount of their free cash flow. (In other words, look at companies with high yields and low payout ratios.) That’s the way to acquire a portfolio of companies that remain cash-rich while still being generous to investors. Microsoft (MSFT.O) is a poster child for this strategy. While the average yield on the S&P 500 is 2%, Microsoft offers 3%. Moreover, the stock’s price has climbed 15% as of the end of September, a gain that is in line with that of the S&P 500. Moreover, the company recent boosted its quarterly dividend to 23 cents a share from 20 cents previously. Nonetheless, even at that higher payout level, Microsoft will still only use about a third of what StarMine estimates will be its $3.08 per share of earnings generated over the coming 12 months to fund dividends. StarMine’s analysis of the earnings forecasts produced by analysts who track Microsoft tells us that the five-year compound earnings growth (CAGR) is expected to be 7.7%. That’s about in line with the S&P 500 CAGR of 7.9% — although, given that Microsoft generates a higher yield, it’s reasonable to expect that the long-term earnings growth would be more subdued, and along the lines of many high yield and low payout companies. Reason 2 – Quality Still Matters For the time being, try to put the idea of whether you are “risk on” or “risk off” to one side entirely. Instead, think about quality, and specifically, earnings quality. Those companies able to boast that they have an above-average degree of earnings quality – that is, that they are able to provide a degree of comfort to investors that they will continue to generate solid returns over the coming quarters – may lag the broader market during the kind of “junk” rallies we saw in the second half of 2009. But during unstable economic environments, and over a full market cycle, these quality companies reasonably can be expected to demonstrate an above-market performance. One way to identify high-quality investments is via the StarMine Earnings Quality Model, which measures the degree to which past earnings are likely to continue into the future. Independent petroleum refiner Tesoro (TSO.N) currently scores 92 out of a possible 100 when measured by this model; the company’s returns on net operating assets (RNOA) of 26.7% for the quarter ended June 30, 2012 dwarf the 11.2% RNOA generated by the energy sector as a whole. Profit margins – one of two drivers of RNOA – at Tesoro have remained steady at around 4% (versus 19% for the energy sector). It is the other driver that accounts for Tesoro’s high score: the company’s asset turnover is 6.6 times, compared to 0.5% for the sector. The bad news? Tesoro’s share price has been on a tear this year, and at around $43.24 today, it is up about 85% so far this year. Most recently, news that Tesoro will purchase a package of refining and marketing businesses from BP, discussed previously on AlphaNow, has given the stock an extra boost. StarMine calculates that the company’s five-year compound EPS growth now stands at 13%, while the market price implies a growth rate of -0.6% over the same period. Translated, that means that in spite of the stock’s recent price rally, it still appears to offer solid value. Reason 3 – Value: Who Can Resist a Bargain? Despite the stock market’s gains this year, there appear to be plenty of values still to be found. This group includes several insurance companies; in an industry characterized by consolidation, some members are still a bargain. Reinsurance and underwriting company Validus Holdings Ltd. (VR.N), up 22% so far this year, offers long-term investors a few characteristics calculated to appeal to long-term investors, including a 3% dividend yield. The company hasn’t reported a loss for a full year since its founding in 2005, despite the very difficult first quarter of 2011, during which it, along with its peers, faced liability claims from earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand as well as floods in Australia. For those investors with a penchant for stocks offering low price/earnings ratios, the Validus forward 12-month P/E lies at 7.2, roughly the same level as it has been for the last two years. Validus trades at a mere 0.9 times its forward 12-month price to book value. That means investors are being paid almost twice the current U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield to wait for an industry upturn. StarMine rates the company in the top 83 percent of relative valuation as compared to its industry peers. Indeed, as the table below demonstrates, Validus’s scores on an array of StarMine models range from average all the way up to excellent. Reason 4 – Growth is Always Sexy Companies that show that they are able to increase both bottom line earnings as well as top line revenues are always popular among investors, especially when the broader economy is merely plodding along. Finding a company generating good returns with a valuation that hasn’t gotten ahead of itself is a tougher proposition. Even during such a modest recovery as the one the U.S. seems to be experiencing today, growth companies worthy of the moniker are likely to be trading around their highs of the year; on that front, DIRECTV (DTV.N), up 24% so far in 2012, doesn’t disappoint. According to StarMine SmartEstimates, the satellite television company should see its earnings grow by 19.5% and revenues climb 6.9% over the coming 24 months. Analysts put DIRECTV’s five-year earnings compound growth rate at 12.8%, well above the current S&P 500 projection of 7.9%. The illustration below provides more insight into DIRECTV’s above-average sector and industry ranks. So far, we have focused on the potential for generating investment returns in this article. But investors may also be pondering other important investment objectives: risk in the form of attractive risk-adjusted returns, investment time horizons, the specific investor’s need for liquidity and their particular tax considerations. The four stocks we have discussed above are only examples of the kinds of companies that represent each of the factors that, collectively, argue in favor of investors staying put in stocks through to the end of the year. Investors will need to factor in and weigh their own objectives when building a portfolio. In an era during which pundits still predict that single-digit returns will be the most that we can hope to glean from the equity markets, what is crucial for all of us is to recall that one of the factors most likely to put a crimp in our final returns are the costs of strategies that lead us to move in and out of markets. Learn more about how StarMine analytics can help you pinpoint critical developments in your portfolio or watch list.Request a free trial today.