ICELAND: ‘ Recovering Fastest in Europe After Jailing Bankers Instead of Bailing them Out’

arrest-bankers#AceNewsReport – ICELAND:June.18: After Iceland suffered a heavy hit in the 2008-2009 financial crisis, which famously resulted in convictions and jail terms for a number of top banking executives, the IMF now says the country has managed to achieve economic recovery—“without compromising its welfare model,” which includes universal healthcare and education. 

In fact, Iceland is on track to become the first European country that suffered in the financial meltdown to “surpass its pre-crisis peak of economic output”—essentially proving to the U.S. that bailing out “too big to fail” banks wasn’t the way to go.

Iceland is beautifully, yet unfortunately, unique in how it chose to handle the disaster. It simply let the banks fail, which resulted in defaults totaling $85 billion—lending ample justification for the prosecution and conviction of bank executives for various fraud-related charges. The decision seemed shocking at the time, but the gamble has obviously paid off. Choosing a different route, the U.S. bailed out the banks and let executives off the hook by levying fines that ultimately ended up being paid by the corporations—meaning the executives ostensibly responsible for the mess got off scot-free.

“Why should we have a part of our society that is not being policed or without responsibility?” special prosecutor Olafur Hauksson said after Iceland’s Supreme Court upheld the convictions for three bankers—and sentenced them to between four and five and a half years each. “It is dangerous that someone is too big to investigate—it gives a sense there is a safe haven.”

Hauksson, a police officer from a small fishing village, ended up taking the role of special prosecutor after being urged to do so when the first announcement to fill the position drew no applicants. The Icelandic Parliament even aided the prosecution’s effort by loosening secrecy laws to allow investigation without the hindrance of requiring court orders.

Six of the seven convictions that ended up in Iceland’s Supreme Court have been upheld, and five cases were scheduled for the top court as of February. An additional fourteen cases appear likely to be prosecuted. By contrast, the animosity Americans felt toward their largest financial institutions after the bailout has grown bitter. After the banks pled guilty in May for manipulating global currency and interest rates, the court imposed a paltry fine of $5.7 billion—which won’t even go to the people most affected by the fraud. Iceland’s successful prosecutions and economic recovery remain the subject of envy for Americans.

Shortly, however, Iceland’s economic health will be put to the test.

Strict capital controls that were applied when banks were circling the drain six years ago will now be loosened, allowing foreign investors—whose assets have essentially been frozen since then—to take their business elsewhere. To prevent a possible repeat crisis, the finance minister announced a 39% tax for anyone choosing to do so. “The danger is capital flight and a consequent fall in the value of the krona,” explained University of Iceland economics professor, Thorolfur Matthiasson. “That would be tantamount to October 2008, bringing back bad memories for ordinary people and possibly making most businesses unsustainable due to balance-sheet problems.”

Though many are nervous, there is still cautionary optimism since Iceland has certainly weathered the storm before.

Claire Bernish writes for TheAntiMedia.org, where this article first appeared. Tune in! The Anti-Media radio show airs Monday through Friday @ 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Image credit: Javier Soriano.

Courtesy of Activist Post & Posted on by Claire Bernish

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SAUDI ARABIA: ‘ Supreme Court final decision 1000 lashes for Blogger ‘

#AceNewsReport – Post Update:SAUDI ARABIA:June.07; Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has upheld the sentence against blogger Raif Badawi saying it was a final decision, the blogger’s wife Ensaf Haidar told AFP in a telephone interview.

“This is a final decision that is irrevocable,” she said. Badawi, 31, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes on charges of insulting Islam in January.

He has already received the first 50 lashes, but subsequent rounds of flogging had been postponed on medical grounds. Haidar said that the punishment “might resume next week.”

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Big Data+Big Pharma = Big Money

#AceHealthNews says a recent article courtesy of Charles Ornstein ProPublica,  dated Jan. 10, 2014, 12 p.m.

Need another reminder of how much drug-makers spend to discover what doctors are prescribing? Look no further than new documents from the leading keeper of such data.

IMS HealthcareIMS Health Holdings Inc. says it pulled in nearly $2 billion in the first nine months of 2013, much of it from sweeping up data from pharmacies and selling it to pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The firm’s revenues in 2012 reached $2.4 billion, about 60 percent of it from selling such information.

The numbers became public because IMS, currently in private hands, recently filed to make a public stock offering. The company’s prospectus gives fresh insight into the huge dollars 2013 and huge volumes of data 2013 flowing through a little-watched industry.

IMS and its competitors are known as prescription drug information intermediaries. Drug company sales representatives, using data these companies supply, can know before entering a doctor’s office if he or she favours their products or those of a competitor. The industry is controversial, with some doctors and patient groups saying it threatens the privacy of private medical information.

The data maintained by the industry is huge. IMS, based in Danbury, Conn., says its collection includes “over 85 percent of the world’s prescriptions by sales revenue,” as well as comprehensive, anonymous medical records for 400 million patients.  

All of this adds up to 10 petabytes worth of material 2014 or about 10 million gigabytes, a figure roughly equal to all of the websites and online books, movies, music and TV shows that have been stored by the non-profit Internet Archive.

IMS StatisticsIMS Health says it processes and brings order to more than 45 billion health care transactions each year from more than 780,000 different feeds around the world. “All of the top 100 global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are clients” of its products, the firm’s prospectus says.

Dr. Randall Stafford, a Stanford University professor who has used IMS data for his research, said the company has grown markedly in recent years through acquisitions of competitors and other companies that host and analyze data. As the pharmaceutical industry has consolidated, he says, IMS has evolved by offering more services and expanding in China and India.

“They’ve tried to beef up their competitiveness in some areas by making all of these acquisitions,” he said.

IMS has especially expanded its database of anonymous patient records, which can match patients’ diagnoses with their prescriptions and track changes over time, Stafford said.

IMS sells two types of products: information offerings and technology services. The information products allow pharmaceutical companies to get national snapshots of prescribing trends in more than 70 countries and data about each prescribers in 50 countries.

IMS’s prospectus offers examples of the questions companies are able to answer with its data, including which providers generate the highest return on a sales rep’s visit, whether a rep drives appropriate prescribing and how much reps should be paid.

IMS Health’s data collection and sales have been controversial.

Several years ago, three states passed laws limiting the ability of IMS and companies like it to collect data on doctors’ prescriptions and sell it to drug-makers for marketing purposes. Their intent was to protect physician and patient privacy and to reduce health care costs by reducing marketing of brand-name drugs. Once a drug loses patent protection and becomes generic, promotion essentially ceases.

IMS and other companies sued, and the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled in their favor, finding a First Amendment right to collect and sell the information. (ProPublica and a group of media companies filed a legal brief supporting IMS on First Amendment grounds.)

ProPublica has sought to purchase data on each provider from IMS and some of its competitors but was told by each that it could not buy the information at any price.

Instead, reporters obtained data from Medicare on providers in its taxpayer-subsidized drug program, known as Part D, which fills more than one in every four prescriptions nationally. The data are now on Prescriber Checkup, where anyone can look up each doctor and compare their prescriptions to peers in their specialty and state.

ProPublica has found that in Part D, some of the top prescriber’s of heavily marketed drugs received speaking fees from the companies that made them.

Physicians and privacy advocates have argued that prescription records could be used to glean information about specific patients’ conditions without their permission. In addition, physicians have argued that they have a right to privacy about the way they choose drugs 2014 but aren’t asked before pharmacies sell information about them.  

Stafford said those concerns have parallels to recent revelations about mass surveillance by the National Security Agency.

“It’s part of a larger dialogue, which things like the NSA scandal have brought up,” he said. “There’s a lot of data out there that people don’t necessarily know about. … We’re living in a time where people can accept some loss of privacy, but they at least want to know how their privacy is being compromised.”

In its prospectus, IMS cited several challenges to its growth, including data-protection laws, security breaches and increased competition from other data collectors. The filing notes that the United Kingdom’s National Health Service in 2011 started releasing large volumes of data on doctor prescribing “at little or no charge, reducing the demand for our information services derived from similar data.”

Until 2010, IMS Health was a publicly traded company. At that point, it was acquired for $5.2 billion, including debt, by private-equity groups and the Canadian pension board.

Bloomberg News, citing confidential sources, reported last fall that IMS’s owners may seek to value the company at $8 billion or more.

IMS Health declined to comment for this story, citing the regulatory quiet period before the public offering takes place. No date has been set.

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“Group of Little Sister’s that Care’s for the Elderly and Poor Get Dispensation from the Federal Contraception Mandate”

#AceHealthNews Blessed Jeanne Jugan (October 25, 1792 – 1879)...

#AceHealthcareNews says according to WASHINGTON D.C., January 2 (CNA/EWTN News) .- A group of religious sisters that cares for the elderly poor in the U.S. was among several religious organizations to gain protection from the federal contraception mandate shortly before it took effect on Jan. 1.

“We are grateful for the decision of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granting us a temporary injunction protecting us from the HHS contraceptive mandate,” said the Little Sisters of the Poor.

On Dec. 31, just hours before the mandate was to take effect for religious non-profit groups, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an emergency stay temporarily blocking the regulation’s enforcement against the religious sisters. The federal government has until 10 a.m. on Jan. 3 to reply to Justice Sotomayor’s order.

The Little Sisters of the Poor – who have provided physical, spiritual and emotional care for the elderly and dying in communities throughout the U.S. for 175 years – voiced gratitude for the decision.

“We hope and pray that we will receive a favorable outcome in order to continue to serve the elderly of all faiths with the same community support and religious freedom that we have always appreciated,” the consecrated sisters said in a Jan. 1 statement.

Justice Sotomayor’s stay applies to the Little Sisters as well as more than 200 religious groups insured by the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust. It protects these groups from the demands of the federal contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization, and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

Employers who fail to comply with the mandate face crippling penalties.

Because the Little Sisters of the Poor are not affiliated with a particular house of worship, they do not qualify for the religious exemption to the mandate.

The federal government has argued that it has sufficiently provided for the religious freedom of the Little Sisters and other religious organizations through an “accommodation” under which the faith-based employers can pass the burden of providing the objectionable coverage to insurers, who must then offer it directly to employees without cost. Critics, however, argue that the costs of the coverage will ultimately be handed on to the employer in some way.

English: The Little Sisters of the Poor facili...

English: The Little Sisters of the Poor facility in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is helping represent the Little Sisters of the Poor in their lawsuit, welcomed the news of the stay.

“We are delighted that the Supreme Court has issued this order protecting the Little Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund. “The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people – it doesn’t need to force nuns to participate.”

Justice Sotomayor’s decision joined more than a dozen other preliminary court orders to block the mandate. The majority of nonprofit groups that have sued over the mandate have received temporary relief.

Also on Dec. 31, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted last-minute injunctive relief to several Catholic colleges and organizations, including the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and The Catholic University of America.

The Archdiocese of Washington welcomed the injunction in a statement, saying that the court’s decision is “in line with the rulings of courts all across the country” in its recognition “that the HHS mandate imposes a substantial and impermissible burden on the free exercise of religion.”

“These decisions also vindicate the pledge of the U.S. Catholic bishops to stand united in resolute defense of the first and most sacred freedom – religious liberty,” the archdiocese stated.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has asked U.S. President Barack Obama to extend temporary protections from the mandate to all religious employers who object to it.

President Barack Obama and Justice Sonia Sotom...

President Barack Obama and Justice Sonia Sotomayor meet in the Oval Office prior to a reception for the new Supreme Court Justice at the White House, on Aug. 12, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a Dec. 31 letter to the president, he noted that the government has already chosen to delay a regulation requiring employers to offer health insurance to employees. However, religious employers who do wish to “provide and fully subsidize an excellent health plan for employees,” but object to covering contraception and related products, face “crippling fines of up to $100 a day or $36,500 a year per employee.”

This position “harshly and disproportionately penalizes those seeking to offer life-affirming health coverage in accord with the teachings of their faith,” the archbishop stated. “The Administration’s flexibility in implementing the ACA has not yet reached those who want only to exercise what has rightly been called our ‘First Freedom’ under the Constitution.”

“In effect, the government seems to be telling employees that they are better off with no employer health plan at all than with a plan that does not cover contraceptives,” Archbishop Kurtz said, adding that this position is “hard to reconcile with an Act whose purpose is to bring us closer to universal coverage.”

 

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“Archbishop Kurtz Asks President Obama for Temporary Relief from Burdensome Fines Against Ministries of Service to the Poor, Sick and Vulnerable”

English: President Barack Obama with Judge Son...

English: President Barack Obama with Judge Sonia Sotomayor in the East Room of the White House where the President introduced her as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David, May 26, 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#AceWorldNews says Archbishop Kurtz Asks President Obama for Temporary Relief from Burdensome Fines Against Ministries of Service to the Poor, Sick and Vulnerable

1. Urges temporary relief from HHS mandate while courts decide

2. Highlights other exemptions, extensions granted for economic, administrative reasons

3. Mandate’s penalties to hurt, rather than help, shared goal of expanding coverage

 

Extracts from WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has asked President Obama to temporarily exempt religious institutions from crippling fines if their insurance plans exclude sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives.

English: Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court j...

English: Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court justice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Archbishop Kurtz also asked the President to consider that the U.S. Supreme Court already has agreed to hear two cases related to the mandate created by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). At least 90 cases have been brought to federal courts by individuals and institutions objecting to the imposition of the HHS mandate. Most of the decisions to date have favored those bringing suit.

Archbishop Kurtz’s request comes as the Administration has offered exemptions to numerous people and organizations having difficulty in implementing the ACA. Individuals who faced penalties for not meeting deadlines for enrollment have had deadlines extended. Businesses with 50 or more employees will not be fined if they drop or otherwise do not offer health insurance at all for 2014. After 2014, if these businesses do not offer a health insurance plan, they face a fine of $2,000 a year per employee.

Meanwhile, beginning as early as January 1, 2014, organizations such as church-sponsored universities, hospitals and social services, face a fine of $100 per day ($36,500 per year) per employee if they provide health coverage that does not include contraceptives, including abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization.

“The result is a regulation that harshly and disproportionately penalizes those seeking to offer life-affirming health coverage in accord with the teachings of their faith,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “The Administration’s flexibility in implementing the ACA has not yet reached those who want only to exercise what has rightly been called our ‘First Freedom’ under the Constitution.”

“I understand that legal issues in these cases will ultimately be settled by the Supreme Court,” he added. “In the meantime, however, many religious employers have not obtained the temporary relief they need in time to avoid being subjected to the HHS mandate beginning January 1.  I urge you, therefore, to consider offering temporary relief from this mandate, as you have for so many other individuals and groups facing other requirements under the ACA.”

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Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The entire letter follows:

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the Catholic bishops of the United States, I wish you and your family every blessing in this New Year.  The bishops pray regularly that you and our other public officials will have renewed strength to fulfill the duties of your office with integrity, justice and compassion.

In this regard, your Administration recently relaxed the rules governing individual health plans under the Affordable Care Act, so Americans whose current plans have been canceled may claim a “hardship exemption” from some requirements.  This is the latest in a series of actions to advance the ACA’s goal of maximizing health coverage, while minimizing hardships to Americans as the Act is implemented.  For example, the ACA exempts small employers from the mandate to offer health coverage, and you have suspended this mandate for all employers through 2014.

One category of Americans, however, has been left out in the cold: Those who, due to moral and religious conviction, cannot in good conscience comply with the HHS regulation requiring coverage of sterilization and contraceptives. This mandate includes drugs and devices that can interfere with the survival of a human being in the earliest stage of development, burdening religious convictions on abortion as well as contraception. To date, at least 90 lawsuits representing almost 300 plaintiffs have been filed to challenge this mandate, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear two of these cases in its current Term. Most lower courts addressing the issue have found merit in the plaintiffs’ claims and granted at least temporary relief, while some courts have denied relief or have yet to act.

Many Catholic and other nonprofit institutions caring for those in need through education, health care and other services are not exempt from the contraceptive mandate.  For reasons articulated by the courts, the Administration’s final rule of July 2013 does not alleviate the burden on their religious freedom.

Please consider, then, the result of your Administration’s current policies.  In the coming year, no employer, large or small, will be required to offer a health plan at all. Employers face no penalty in the coming year (and only $2000 per employee afterwards) for canceling coverage against their employees’ wishes, compelling them to seek individual coverage on the open market.  But an employer who chooses, out of charity and good will, to provide and fully subsidize an excellent health plan for employees – but excludes sterilization or any contraceptive drug or device – faces crippling fines of up to $100 a day or $36,500 a year per employee.  In effect, the government seems to be telling employees that they are better off with no employer health plan at all than with a plan that does not cover contraceptives.  This is hard to reconcile with an Act whose purpose is to bring us closer to universal coverage.

The result is a regulation that harshly and disproportionately penalizes those seeking to offer life-affirming health coverage in accord with the teachings of their faith.  The Administration’s flexibility in implementing the ACA has not yet reached those who want only to exercise what has rightly been called our “First Freedom” under the Constitution.

I understand that legal issues in these cases will ultimately be settled by the Supreme Court. In the meantime, however, many religious employers have not obtained the temporary relief they need in time to avoid being subjected to the HHS mandate beginning January 1.  I urge you, therefore, to consider offering temporary relief from this mandate, as you have for so many other individuals and groups facing other requirements under the ACA.

Thank you for considering this urgent plea. Again, be assured of my continued prayers in the coming year as you seek to serve the American people.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
Archbishop of Louisville
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

SOURCE  U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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