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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Forex kitty swells Mumbai

Business Briefs

Forex kitty swells

Mumbai, July 4: The country’s forex reserves rose $932 million to $264.58 billion for the week ended June 26 compared with $263.65 billion in the previous week. Foreign currency assets during the week jumped $924 million to $253.73 billion against $252.80 billion in the previous week, the Reserve Bank of India said in its weekly review.

Cash chase

Mumbai, July 4: Jaiprakash Hydro Power will raise up to Rs 1,500 crore through qualified institutional placement of shares and issuance of foreign currency convertible bonds and depository receipts in the domestic and international markets and merge Jaiprakash Power Ventures with itself with effect from April 1, 2009.

Power plant

Balatur (Sikkim), July 4: Union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde today dedicated to the nation the 510MW Teesta Stage V hydel plant 18 months after it was commissioned by the National Hydro Power Corporation for generation of electricity at its full installed capacity.

Europe's free, state-run health care has drawbacks

LONDON – As President Barack Obama pushes to overhaul the American health care system, the role of government is at the heart of the debate. In Europe, free, state-run health care is a given.

The concept has been enshrined in Europe for generations. Health systems are built so inclusive that even illegal immigrants are entitled to free treatment beyond just emergency care.
Europeans have some of the world's best hospitals and have made great strides in fighting problems like obesity and heart disease.

But the system is far from perfect.

In Britain, France, Switzerland and elsewhere, public health systems have become political punching bags for opposition parties, costs have skyrocketed and in some cases, patients have needlessly suffered and died.

Obama has pointedly said he does not want to bring European-style health care to the U.S. and that he intends to introduce a government-run plan to compete with private insurance, not replace it.

Critics fear Obama's reforms will lead to more government control over health care and cite problems faced by European health systems as examples of what not to do.

Other experts say Americans could learn from countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, especially in the debate on how to reorganize health insurance.

"These countries are in some way an inspiration for our reforms," said Uwe Reinhardt, a health economist at Princeton University. "All of these countries somehow manage to assess risk and compensate for it ... we could learn from that."

Many European health officials applaud Obama's attempt to provide health care to millions more Americans, but they also advise him to proceed with caution.

"What we can be proud of in Europe is the ground rules, that everyone has the right to health care," said Jose Martin-Moreno, a health expert at the University of Valencia in Spain. "But the implementation has been difficult and one size does not fit all."

Private health care is also available in Europe, creating in some instances a two-tier system that critics say defeats the egalitarian impulse on which national systems were built.

When Britain's National Health System was founded 61 years ago, it pledged that with few exceptions, patients would not be charged for anything.

All prescription drugs are covered, and the government regularly sets health targets, like maximum waiting times in emergency rooms or for having an operation.

Critics say the policies are often driven more by politics than science. Last week, Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised that patients unable to see cancer experts within two weeks would get cash to pay for private care. Brown had previously argued against paying for private providers and some say the reversal may be a gimmick to boost his sagging popularity.

More serious problems in Britain's health care were reported last month, when cancer researchers announced that as many as 15,000 people over age 75 were dying prematurely from cancer every year. Experts said those deaths could have been avoided if those patients had been diagnosed and treated earlier.

"There is nothing inherently different about cancer in the U.S. and Britain to explain why more people are dying here," said Dr. Karol Sikora, of Cancer Partners UK.

The U.S. already spends the most worldwide on health care. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the U.S. spent $7,290 per person in 2007, while Britain spent $2,992 and France spent $3,601.

Still, experts say that before committing the U.S. to footing the bill for universal health care, Obama should consider it has cost Europe.

A World Health Organization survey in 2000 found that France had the world's best health system. But that has come at a high price; health budgets have been in the red since 1988.
In 1996, France introduced targets for health insurance spending. But a decade later, the deficit had doubled to 49 billion euros ($69 billion).

"I would warn Americans that once the government gets its nose into health care, it's hard to stop the dangerous effects later," said Valentin Petkantchin, of the Institut Economique Molinari in France. He said many private providers have been pushed out, forcing a dependence on an overstretched public system.

Similar scenarios have been unfolding in the Netherlands and Switzerland, where everyone must buy health insurance.

"The minute you make health insurance mandatory, people start overusing it," said Dr. Alphonse Crespo, an orthopedic surgeon and research director at Switzerland's Institut Constant de Rebecque. "If I have a cold, I might go see a doctor because I am already paying a health insurance premium."

Cost-cutting has also hit Switzerland. The numbers of beds have dropped, hospitals have merged, and specialist care has become harder to find. A 2007 survey found that in some hospitals in Geneva and Lausanne, the rates of medical mistakes had jumped by up to 40 percent. Long ranked among the world's top four health systems, Switzerland dropped to 8th place in a Europe-wide survey last year.

Government influence in health care may also stifle innovation, other experts warn. Bureaucracies are slow to adopt new medical technologies. In Britain and Germany, even after new drugs are approved, access to them is complicated because independent agencies must decide if they are worth buying.

When the breast cancer drug Herceptin was proven to be effective in 1998, it was available almost immediately in the U.S. But it took another four years for the U.K. to start buying it for British breast cancer patients.

"Government control of health care is not a panacea," said Philip Stevens, of International Policy Network, a London think-tank. "The U.S. health system is a bit of a mess, but based on what's happened in some countries in Europe, I'd be nervous about recommending more government involvement."
Associated Press Writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report from Washington.

Health officials issue warning about unauthorized food vendors

LOGAN — Health officials have issued a warning over an increase in the number of people selling home-prepared foods from their vehicles in Logan business parking lots.

The Bear River Health Department says there's no way to ensure the foods were properly handled because they're not inspected by the government.

State law bars the sale or distribution of home-prepared foods to the public.
The agency urges the public to purchase prepared foods only from permitted establishments or from those with temporary food handler permits.

Officials warn that foods not properly handled or not kept at specific temperatures can cause life-threatening illnesses.

They say such food-borne illnesses include hepatitis A, E. coli, salmonella and botulism.

Swiss develop new form of knee surgery

BERN, Switzerland, July 4 (UPI) -- A Swiss medical team says its technique for treating torn anterior cruciate ligaments in the knee provides quicker healing and more stability.

A torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, most often is treated by grafting a tendon from another part of the body. Replacement tendons, however, are never as good as the original ACL, which acts like an antenna and collects information about where the knee is about to move, Dr. Stefan Eggli of Bern University Hospital said.

Eglli's technique involves helping the patient's own ACL grow back by stabilizing the knee with a spring that is placed inside a small screw in the shinbone. The mechanism stabilizes the torn ligament at the proper position for it to heal, the hospital said in a release Saturday.

"You can still move around and walk normally and with this implant the knee is not unstable anymore," Eggli explained.

Healing of the ACL is boosted by clotting some of the patient's blood and placing it around the injured ACL, he said.

Sanford's Argentina trip mixed biz, love

CHARLESTON, S.C., July 4 (UPI) -- A three-day trip by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford to Argentina last year that included a visit to his mistress mixed business and pleasure, records show.

Records examined Saturday by the Columbia, S.C., newspaper The State show Sanford left behind an official state trade delegation bird hunting in Cordoba, Argentina to go to Buenos Aires, a trip he has acknowledged was to see his lover, Maria Belen Chapur.

Sanford has reimbursed taxpayers about $3,300 for the trip, the newspaper said.
South Carolina Commerce Department spokeswoman Kara Borie said the department set up the 2008 Argentine meetings at the governor's request, even though the U.S. Department of Commerce had not conducted a trade mission in the country between 2002 and 2008.

Borie said Sanford did not steer the trip toward Buenos Aires and it was just a coincidence that the governor had a secret lover there.

"In this case, since the governor was already going to be in Argentina for the bird hunt, Commerce was asked to add trade-related meetings in Argentina to the agenda as well," Joel Sawyer, the governor's spokesman, told The State.

Maliki: No U.S. political help needed

BAGHDAD, July 4 (UPI) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says the United States' help isn't needed in reconciling the country's political and ethnic factions.

Meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden Friday in Baghdad, Maliki made it clear he didn't want Americans as closely involved in the Iraqi political process as U.S. forces prepare to depart next year, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Maliki's spokesman, Ali Dabbagh, told reporters the prime minister impressed on Biden that "the reconciliation issue is a purely Iraqi issue and any non-Iraqi involvement might have a negative effect. We don't want the Americans to come and get involved."

Asked how Biden took the stance, Dabbagh told the Times he "received the message well, and he said he is ready to help whenever the Iraqi government asks."

Biden, who is on a two-day mission to Baghdad to work with Iraqis "toward overcoming their political differences and achieving the type of reconciliation that we all understand has yet to fully take place," said he gave Maliki a message from President Barack Obama that "Iraqis must use the political process to resolve their remaining differences and advance their national interest. We stand ready if asked … to help in that process."

Biden also took part in a naturalization ceremony for 237 U.S. troops and later recounted the event while having lunch with troops, including his son Beau and other members of the 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade from Delaware.

"We did it in Saddam's palace," he said. "That S.O.B. is rolling over in his grave right now."

Official: Gaza crossing to open monthly

GAZA, July 4 (UPI) -- The Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip will open three days each month to allow travelers and aid to cross, a Gaza official says.

Ghazi Hamad, head of borders and crossings in Gaza, said Egyptian officials informed him the Rafah crossing would be made accessible three days monthly, as it was June 25-27, Integrated Regional Information Networks reported Thursday.

"I, of course, asked for more, especially for medical patients," Hamad said.

During the June opening, 1,865 travelers were allowed to cross the Gaza-Egypt border.
Three trucks of medical aid were also allowed to enter Gaza from Egypt during the border opening, Hamad said.

The Gaza official told IRIN his government was obeying the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access regarding the border and was open to international efforts.

"We would welcome the return of the European presence on the border," Hamad said, "and would allow Israeli surveillance (of the crossing)."

BBC bosses get millions from taxpayer

From The Sunday Times
July 5, 2009

Two BBC bosses have racked up the biggest pensions in the public sector, together worth more than £14m.

Mark Byford, 51, the deputy director general, is to receive a pension of at least £229,500 a year from a pot valued at almost £8m. This could rise to more than £10m if he works at the BBC until the age of 60.

Alan Yentob, 62, the arts presenter and creative director of the BBC, has accumulated a pension worth £6.3m, giving an annual retirement income of £216,667 for the rest of his life, according to new research.

Until now it was thought that Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, had Britain’s largest public sector pension. His pension pot is valued at £5.7m, paying a retirement income of £198,613 a year.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury spokesman, said: “As more and more massive public sector pots are revealed, it only strengthens the case for reform. Taxpayers simply cannot afford to be paying lavish pensions for executives who are already extremely well paid.

“For teachers and nurses these schemes can deliver an appropriate pension, but these figures show that they can deliver obscene retirement packages for senior executives.”

This weekend it also emerged that the BBC has for the past decade rewarded senior executives with lavish receptions and leaving parties, with one farewell costing more than £150,000. The extravagant send-offs were not disclosed last month when executives’ expenses were published.
The Sunday Times asked Hargreaves Lansdown, the financial services group, to analyse BBC executive pensions after the corporation rejected a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to disclose the size of pensions held by executives below main board level. The BBC said the scheme was exempted from FOI because it is managed by a third party.

The analysis found that Mark Thompson, the corporation’s director general, has a second “hidden” BBC pension worth nearly £2.9m. No details of this pension, accrued between 1979 and 2001, appear in the BBC’s most recent accounts. They record only the pension rights he has earned since his appointment as director general in 2004, after a short spell at Channel 4.

Similarly, the corporation makes public only the pension earned by Jana Bennett, the director of BBC Vision, since she returned to the BBC in 2002. It fails to reveal the value of her pension accumulated from 1979 to 1999.

Hargreaves Lansdown calculated how big a pension pot an individual would need to buy a given value of annuity. The valuations took account of how long the executive had worked at the BBC, their age and current salary.

The BBC said: “It is irrelevant to talk about how much it would cost to buy these pensions on the open market because they are not on the open market.”

Members of the BBC’s final salary pension scheme contribute 6.75% of their annual salary to the pension. The full cost of meeting these pension benefits far exceeds the members’ contributions.

US Marines fight to expel Taleban from south Helmand as canal seized

Tom Coghlan in Kabul
British forces in the central areas of Helmand announced the seizure of 13 strategically important canal crossing points.
US forces were engaged in a fierce fight in Helmand as thousands of Marines forged ahead with Operation Khanjar, their offensive to drive Taleban fighters out of the southern part of the Afghan province.

British forces in the central areas of Helmand, meanwhile, announced the seizure of 13 strategically important canal crossing points.

In the largest offensive operation by US Marines since the retaking of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004, Brigadier-General Larry Nicholson said that the American troops had run into stiff resistance in some areas. He confirmed that the Marines had taken casualties, with the death of a first soldier in combat.

The US push into the southern districts of Nawa and Garmsir is intended to clear an area known to British forces as “The Fishhook” because of the shape of the Helmand River at that point.
About 4,000 Marines are involved in the operation over a 55-mile front. The Taleban has controlled the area for the past three years.
Brigadier Nicholson said that while the 1st Battalion of the 5th Marine force was making steady progress elements of the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Marines had run into fierce opposition. “For 2/8 there is a hell of a fight going on in the southern quarter of the sector,” he told reporters.

British forces seized 13 canal crossing points in the central district of Nad-e-Ali, in what was described as one of their “most strategically significant operations”. The seizure of the Shamalan Canal, as part of Operation Panchai Palang (Panther’s Claw), drives a wedge into Taleban-held territory in Nad-e-Ali.

British commanders believe that they will be able to control the movement of supplies and Taleban fighters into the heavily populated districts west of the provincial capital, Lashka Gar, before the presidential election in August.
New checkpoints occupied by the Welsh Guards, Light Dragoons and 2nd Royal Tank Regiment have been under repeated attack since the canal was taken.

Hamas denies plot to target PA brass

JERUSALEM, July 3 (UPI) -- A Hamas spokesman denied recent media reports of plans to target Palestinian Authority PresidentMahmoud Abbas and other key Palestinian leaders.

A report by the Ma'an News Agency said Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza , denied recent reports in the Palestinian media suggesting Hamas was plotting to target key Palestinian Authority officials, possibly for ongoing arrests of Hamas operatives in the West Bank.

Zuhri accused the Palestinian Authority of resorting to "blackmail and threats" and "torturing our affiliates to get information.

Ma'an said Abbas had been quoted in the local media saying his security forces had uncovered evidence of a Hamas cell operating in the West Bank in preparation for the attacks. Abbas reportedly said the Palestinian Authority will expose those involved in the affair "when the time is right.

Quoting a recent interview with a Russian television station, the news agency quoted Abbas as saying his security forces had uncovered two tons of explosives belonging to Hamas and had evidence Hamas operatives were stockpiling weapons, including rocket propelled grenade launchers and Presidential Guards uniforms.

PA security arrests man 'who received 3 million euros from Hamas'

Ramallah - Security forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have arrested in Ramallah a man who received three million euros from the Islamic Hamas movement for an alleged assassination plot, a security source said Saturday. The source, who spoke in condition of anonymity, said Hamas transferred the money to the man identified as Zaher Abu Jebba "under the pretext of purchasing goods and construction materials."

"The arrest of the man and the money found with him is linked to Hamas plans to assassinate senior Palestinian Authority officials in the West Bank," said the source.

"The man confessed that the money was intended to be transferred to Hamas movement in the West Bank under the pretext of purchasing goods and construction materials."

Since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Abbas security forces has been cracking down on Hamas movement in the West Bank amid a perceived threat of Hamas also seizing control there.

Last week, secretary general of the Palestinian Authority, Tayeb Abdel Rahim revealed that the PA security arrested two weeks ago six Hamas members were planning to kill senior PA officials.
Abu Jebba was arrested in an apartment in Ramallah, with a Gaza woman, said the source, adding: "When she was asked about her presence with the man, she said they are friends and she is there for medical treatment."

The source said: "The detained man has direct contacts with Hamas and its armed wing al-Qassam Brigades. The three million euros were transferred from Gaza to Ramallah through a money exchange agent."

Hamas and Fatah failed in Cairo talks last week to reach a reconciliation deal ending their rift, and Egyptian mediatiors have set another target date for an agreement to be reached by July 28.

Matt McCarten: No Amnesty for Israel in new report on Gaza

4:00AM Sunday Jul 05, 2009
By Matt McCarten

Two days after last Christmas Israeli armed forces invaded the Gaza Strip killing 1400 Palestinians, almost all civilians including 300 children. During that three-week campaign three Israeli citizens died. Israel barred international media, allowing Israeli spokespeople carte blanche to spin their propaganda without the nuisance of independent verification.
Israeli troops returned home leaving the Gaza in ruins and Amnesty International has mounted an independent investigation into the claims made that both sides had committed war crimes. That report came out this week.

It speaks volumes that from the start Israel refused to co-operate with Amnesty or with a separate UN fact-finding mission. On the other hand, the so-called Hamas terrorists did. I assume that's because Israel didn't believe its claims would stand up to outside scrutiny.

Before this week's report had even been published Israel's spin machine had been in full attack mode, claiming its findings would be unbalanced. And they were right to worry. The 127-page report is devastating in that it just tells the truth. Unsurprisingly, it finds that war crimes were committed by both sides. But Israel, as any objective observer knows, was the prime culprit. It's instructive Israel refused to respond to any specific incident that Amnesty investigated or attend any meetings to discuss the findings.

Hamas and other Palestinian militants' rocket attacks on towns in southern Israel were indeed war crimes. These attacks whipped up the Israeli population and were the publicised reason for the invasion. However, the report states the obvious, in that the scale and intensity of the Israeli response was completely out of proportion leaving over a thousand civilians dead and thousands more maimed. More destruction was caused and more people killed in the 22-day attack that any other conflict since the establishment of the Israeli state.

Most were killed in or near their homes by missiles launched from drones or gunships where the operators with optical equipment could see their victims in detail. What goes on in the heads of someone who deliberately fires into children playing in their back yards or a mother hanging her washing out to dry? The report itemises many cases where this happened and concludes Israeli operators knew they were killing civilians before bombs were detonated or shots fired. Civilised societies call it murder.

Israel claims most civilians were accidently killed in crossfire or used deliberately as human shields by Palestinian militants. This was blatantly untrue, and it was Israelis who used children to enter buildings they suspected of being booby-trapped. The report further finds that almost all civilians who died were either killed inside their homes by artillery or shot by Israeli soldiers when they emerged. Civilians were told they were to leave their homes and shot when they tried to leave. Even UN safety zones were bombed.

When rescue workers tried to come to the aid of wounded they were either shot themselves or prevented from helping the wounded. The report says many of the casualties would have lived if they had been helped.

According to the report Israeli war crimes were deliberate and authorised at the highest levels. Despite denials, phosphorus shells were deliberately and widely used on densely populated areas. These shells explode mid-air, spreading acid fire that grotesquely disfigured any surviving victim. Entire neighbourhoods were deliberately wiped out.
Soldiers report their commanders told them "the gloves are off" and to shoot at anything that moved without fear of repercussions. The prime minister promised soldiers protection from any war crimes.

Graffiti left by soldiers saying "we come to kill you" and "a good Arab is a dead Arab" pretty much sums it up.

Anyone who wants to know the truth about the Gaza invasion should get a copy of the Amnesty report from its website. Israel can spin all it likes, but it can't hide the truth. Israel cut off Gaza from the rest of the world and then carried out a vengeful exercise in mass slaughter of innocents.