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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Euro Area Unemployment at Record High

The jobless rate in the 17-nation euro area reached a record high of 11.6 percent in September, the European Union’s statistics office said today. The report also underscored youth unemployment in the region, which increased to 23.3 percent. Spain is the hardest hit, with more than one in four people out of a job, and more than one in two young people is unemployed. Greece comes as a close second, with 25.1 joblessness. Austria is doing better than any other Eurozone member, with 4.4 unemployment. Five countries in the region were pushed into a recession by the debt crisis, eroding consumer and investor confidence and accelerating layoffs. According to Nobel Prize in Economics Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, austerity measures either self-imposed (in the case of Spain) or set as targets by international lenders of last resort (in the case of Portugal and Greece), have contributed to pushing nations into “depressions.” Austerity “had the predictable effect of bringing the economy into a recession, and now into a depression,” Stiglitz said. “There’s very little that Spain can do. [...] Why Europe is inflicting this on themselves is a mystery to me.”

Post-Sandy Chaos Continues as Obama Visits Region

Two days after the passage of hurricane Sandy, U.S. President Barack Obama went on a tour of New Jersey to evaluate the damage. He and Republican Governor Chris Christie, in  a rare show of unity, noted devastation on the state’s shore, with houses flattened by the waters and others burnt to the ground. Thousands of people were stranded  by the floods in Hoboken. This morning, 900,000 homes in the state were still without power. Christie praised Obama for his leadership during the crisis. He described how Obama called him three times, including once in the middle of the night, and gave him his direct telephone number. “The president has been all over this and he deserves great credit,” Christie said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Asked on Fox News whether Republican Candidate Mitt Romney would visit New Jersey, Christie responded “I don’t know. [...] If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, you don’t know me.” In New York City, the subway system was still immobilized, with stations filled with salty water. While many returned to work and the stock exchange reopened, people struggled with endless commutes. Mayor Michel Bloomberg said the mandatory evacuation for zone A still held and added cars with fewer than three passengers would not be allowed to drive into the island of Manhattan.

Libya Parliament Approves New Government

A new government led by Prime Minister Ali Zidan was approved today by Libya’s General National Congress. The vote comes a day after demonstrators interrupted a parliamentary session to protest the chosen members of the new cabinet. The new government is comprised of liberals and Islamists, with representatives from the two largest groups in Congress. Zidan also said he appointed two women and tried to bring in people from Libya’s various regions. Crucially, the defense and interior ministries are said to be led by representatives of Benghazi, the city that is thought to have started the revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi’s regime last year. Interim leader and head of Congress Mohammed Magarief stopped today’s session early to avoid a repeat of yesterday’s events.

U.N. Calls Burma to Order as 130 Muslim Refugees Drown in Shipwreck

Investigators from the United Nations (U.N.) urged Burma today to end discrimination against its Muslim Rohingya community, and warned the government against using sectarian violence as an excuse to expel them from the country. Eighty-nine people died in the past 10 days in a conflict opposing Rohingyas and Buddhists from the nation’s western state of Rakhine. At least 130 Rohingya refugees drowned in the wreck of an overcrowded fishing boat. Decades of persecution have forced the exile of  hundreds of thousands of Rohyngia Muslims, who often head to neighboring Bangladesh. These events also put pressure on Democracy Activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party has kept silent on the violence since October 24, when it released a brief statement.

Best 2013 Medical Innovations Target Diabetes, Migraines, Cancer

The Cleveland Clinic released today its Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2013, a list that includes a hand-held device that can scan the skin to identify melanoma, a small implant that helps relieve migraines (available in Europe, but not in the U.S.), and bariatric surgery, which, while not new, has been recently shown to control type 2 diabetes as well as promote weight loss. Bariatric surgery aims at reducing the size of the stomach. Another innovation that was rewarded is breast tomosynthesis, which provides better, more detailed images of a breast than a standard mammography. Also on the list is a new method to repair lungs, called ex vivo lung perfusion. This technique of “lung washing” can regenerate damaged lungs and allow more people to receive lung transplants of otherwise unsuitable donor organs. Another major innovation on the Cleveland Clinic list is the bipartisan Medicare Better Health Rewards Program Act of 2012. The program aims at encouraging Medicare beneficiaries to take control of their health, by rewarding improvements in body mass index, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, vaccination, and tobacco use.

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