Oct 16, 2014

Ebola healthcare workers

Health workers on the Ebola frontline are and always have been at the highest risk of contracting the disease. Ebola becomes more contagious the sicker patients get. By the time they are in the care of doctors and nurses, patients have become a serious danger to the lives of those treating, washing and attempting to rehydrate them.

But in countries such as the US and Spain, which have sophisticated healthcare systems and well-equipped hospitals, healthcare workers should be safe. It is shocking that workers in Spain and now Texas have contracted Ebola from patients they were treating.

As Médecins sans Frontières has proved, it is possible to keep health workers safe even in the difficult setting of west Africa, where an isolation ward can be no more than an area behind a canvas tent flap. The vital elements are vigilance and strict adherence to the rules.

The Texas health worker was reportedly wearing full protective gear – gown, gloves, mask and shield – while providing care for the patient who later died. Either that equipment failed or correct procedures were not followed.

Personal protective suits keep the virus off the body but removing them safely is a skill in itself. It is possible to transfer the virus from the outside of the suit on to the hands. From there it takes a moment’s thoughtlessness to touch the face. The virus enters the body through eyes, nose or mouth or any abrasion on the skin.

In Africa it is so much harder to be safe. The suits are hot, there are not enough available, and doctors and nurses are hard-pressed because there are too few of them to cope with the soaring number of cases. In Liberia there was a critical health worker shortage even before Ebola broke out. Fear over dangerous working conditions was as strong a motivation for recent strikes as very low pay. The government in June doubled the pay of nurses because of the hazard, but was told by the World Bank to rescind the offer, which would have busted the health budget.

Better conditions for health workers in Africa are vital. That is going to have to involve increasing their number and improving training. There will still be, for a while, a shortage of experienced people to supervise and ensure procedures are followed. West Africa needs a great deal of help from the west.

Sep 22, 2014

Scottish independence referendum – what's next?


What’s happened?
On 18 September 2014 the Scottish independence referendum took place and Scotland voted to stay part of the United Kingdom. Voters in Scotland were asked to answer Yes or No to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” 55.3% voted No and 44.7% voted Yes. 84.6% of the electorate participated in this historic vote to decide Scotland’s future.

What happens now?
Scotland will remain as part of the United Kingdom, with its own Parliament. The UK and Scottish governments will continue to make the changes to the powers of the Scottish Parliament that were agreed in the Scotland Act 2012.
On 19 September, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that Lord Smith of Kelvin has agreed to oversee the process to take forward the devolution commitments on further powers for the Scottish Parliament by the three pro-union parties.

What are the next powers to be devolved?
As laid out in the Scotland Act 2012, further devolution of financial powers to the Scottish Parliament will come into effect from April 2015 and April 2016. The next powers to be devolved are:

1. Stamp duty land tax and landfill tax
From April 2015, Scottish government legislation will replace stamp duty land tax and landfill tax in Scotland with the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and Scottish Landfill Tax Revenue. Scotland will become responsible for the collection of the new taxes.

2. Extending borrowing powers
From April 2015, current borrowing powers of up to £500 million will be extended and a new Scottish cash reserve will be created to help manage the new tax receipts.

3. New capital borrowing power
From April 2015, there will be a new £2.2 billion capital borrowing power for the Scottish Parliament, with a limited version of the power in place from April 2013 to allow the Scottish government to fund £100 million of pre-payments for the Forth Road Crossing.

4. Scottish rate of income tax
A new Scottish rate of income tax will come into force in April 2016. This means the Scottish Parliament will set a new Scottish rate – with no upper or lower limit - which will apply equally to all of the reduced main UK income tax rates.

How does the result affect me?
Scotland will continue to be part of the United Kingdom family of nations. More of the decisions that matter to Scots will be taken in Scotland, backed up by the strength, stability and security of the United Kingdom.

How can I find out more?
Find out more about the Scottish devolution settlement
Read more about Scotland’s place within the UK in Scotland in the UK.

Sep 19, 2014

The Japanese will save the world


Japan must not become one of those vulgar countries that see nothing objectionable inn single-minded money worship.We must work to preserve the dignity of our nation.No matter if the price is century-lomg economic decline,we musut stand aloof,we must dare to be different.The economy is not the be-all and end-all.
It may take time, but I believe that it is the Japanese, and no one else, who are now capable of saving the world.

will be the key to help the human rece achieve uts long-cherished dream of abolishing war.That is Japan’s sacred mission.

Sep 06, 2014

The elderly who need help

The rapid aging of Japan’s population has created a situation in which more than half the elderly people who are incapacitated and live in their own homes are being cared for by other elderly family members. In some cases, the caretakers become physically exhausted and stressed out as they work alone to help their loved ones.

Financially strained social security programs such as nursing care insurance do not provide sufficient help. Multiple layers of support, including community-level efforts, are needed to avoid isolating both the senior citizens needing care and those looking after them.

The nursing care insurance system introduced in 2000 was intended to relieve families of such a burden and provide nursing care as part of a social security program. However, care for the incapacitated elderly people today still appears to rely greatly on family members — in many cases, elderly spouses. Nursing care services are available under the insurance program, but people need to first apply and, depending on their conditions, be certified as needing care. Reports show that many elderly people — especially men — tend to prefer to be cared for by family members.

In addition to worrying about the health conditions of the elderly, many family member caretakers are also concerned about their own state of health, the health ministry survey shows. They are also troubled by household financial conditions and by their relations with other family members. They feel that they have no time to spare for themselves.

In recent years, there have been large numbers of tragic incidents in which elderly people who had been caring for family members for years ended up abusing or killing those they were caring for — or committed murder-suicide — after they became exhausted and stressed out by the heavy burden. In many of these cases they reportedly lived alone with the victims.

Some elderly households may not be able to afford medical and nursing care services, or they may not have people they can turn to for information about what public services are available. Various forms of public welfare support are provided only after the authorities have been alerted to the needs of specific families.

Elderly people who have little interaction with their neighbors may keep their problems to themselves without asking for help, further exacerbating the situation. Local authorities need to make proactive efforts to ensure that such households do not become socially isolated and to let them know that help is available if they ask for it.

Sep 05, 2014

Pre-employment examinations

Increasingly, employees are holding their employers liable for injuries sustained while on the job. This responsibility extends far beyond workers' compensation and can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars in complicated lawsuits and insurance claims, in addition to man-hours lost to administrative legal tasks. Considering that a court case may drag on for months or years, that can add up to a considerable sum one with which most companies are loathe to part, particularly if the suit is preventable.

It is not surprising that companies are looking at pre-employment testing as a means of keeping accidents and injuries at bay. Theoretically, an employee who is physically matched to the job is less likely to sustain an injury. Thus, if an employer could determine who is physically best-suited to a position, he could reduce the likelihood of on-the-job injuries.

At issue for the safety field are whether the tests are task-appropriate and how accurate they are in predicting predisposition to physical injury.

Pre-employment tests run the gamut from complete physicals to narrowly tailored exams that test for strength, cardiovascular endurance, drugs or alcohol. Which test is used depends on what the employer wants to discover.

Nobody's Perfect

Sep 04, 2014

Putting an end to the Japan-Korea history wars

Georges Clemenceau, who, as France’s prime minister, led his country to victory in World War I, famously said that “war is too important to be left to the generals.” Japan is now discovering that history is too important to be left to newspaper editors.

In the 1990s, the newspaper Asahi Shimbun caused a firestorm at home in Japan and in South Korea by publishing a series of articles, based upon testimony by the former Japanese soldier Seiji Yoshida, on “comfort women” — Koreans forced to provide sexual services to the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. It has now been more than a month since Asahi admitted that the soldier’s confessions were unfounded, and has disavowed the core supporting evidence for the articles.

That retraction appears to be causing as much embarrassment — and diplomatic vitriol — in Japan and South Korea today as the original series did. But at a time when both countries cannot afford to permit partisan or sloppy abuses of history to roil their bilateral relations, Asahi’s careless work has turned out to be more than abysmal journalism; it has introduced a dangerous element into regional diplomacy.

Some say that Japan and South Korea should follow the example set by France and Germany. Reconciling in the first two decades following the Nazi Occupation of France, these countries’ leaders understood that their security and economic ties were far too important to their citizens’ well-being to allow the old hatreds to fester.

They knew that the unimaginable violence of World War II was a direct result of the antagonisms that had festered since the Napoleonic Wars and were allowed to persist after 1918.

In Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, France and Germany had two of the 20th century’s greatest statesmen, leaders who were able to discern the broad sweep of history through the fog of quotidian politics.

Their loyalty was not only to the citizens who elected them, but also to the generations of the past that had endured the consequences of Franco-German enmity, and to generations yet to come that would benefit from reconciliation.

Of course, given that Japan and South Korea have not fought a series of wars against each other, their relationship is not same as that between Germany and France. But it is clear that no one will benefit from a new round of heated historical debate.

To avoid this, political leaders like de Gaulle and Adenauer are needed. Only when we can discuss the past without endangering the future will the countries of Northeast Asia be able to establish a truly durable structure of peace.

Japan and South Korea need to take responsibility for the future, not obsess about the past.A recent Japanese government white paper called South Korea the country “that shares the closest relationship with Japan historically and in areas such as economy and culture.”

No doubt, many, if not most, South Korean foreign-policy experts and strategists share that sentiment. But it will take committed leadership to transcend the history wars and tap the full potential of Japanese-Korean cooperation, something that both countries’ key ally, the United States, strongly desires, as it seeks to draw China into a lasting and peaceful Asian order.

For too long, intemperate historical debates — often driven by biased newspaper accounts — have poisoned bilateral relations.
Now, as another war of words heats up, Japanese and South Korean leaders need to step back, recognize where the real interests of their people lie, both today and in the future, and calmly begin to take the measures required to ensure durable reconciliation.

Sep 03, 2014

The Financial Times has some amusing details in Japanese Economy Flounders After Sales Tax Rise

Consumer prices rose 3.4 per cent in July compared with a year earlier, including the added tax. Stripping out the tax effect as well as the impact of volatile fresh-food prices — the formula favoured by the Bank of Japan — showed underlying inflation was 1.3 per cent, a level unchanged from June.

The BoJ is facing a dilemma. The dramatic monetary expansion it embarked on in April last year has succeeded in reversing persistent consumer-price deflation, a goal the central bank had pursued fruitlessly for years.

But inflation is now both too high and too low: too high because wages have not kept pace with price rises, making the average worker worse off; but also too low, because the BoJ believes even larger price rises are needed to keep Japan out of deflation for good.

The bank has set a target for core inflation of 2 per cent but most private-sector economists believe that, unless demand in the economy picks up suddenly, more monetary stimulus will be needed to reach it. Yet simply printing more money could further widen the price-wage gap, in the short term if not the longer.

“It is important to recognise that the VAT hike has had a material impact on real income levels, suggesting that spending is now being held back mostly by a decline in real purchasing power,” said Hiromichi Shirakawa, chief Japan economist at Credit Suisse.

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