International: Australia’s Healthcare One of the Best in the Developed World, Study Finds

Australian healthcare system has been ranked as one of the best in the developed world while the US’ is the worst, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by American thinktank Commonwealth Fund, found that the United Kingdom has the healthcare system out of 11 developed countries, while Australia ranked second, the Netherlands third and the US last.

The researchers found that the US performed poorly in terms of access, equity and healthcare outcomes, despite having the biggest spending in healthcare. It not only had “the poorest performance of all countries on the affordability subdomain”, but also on “population health outcomes such as infant mortality and life expectancy at age 60”.

The report concluded by encouraging the US to take important lessons from the top three nations on universal health insurance coverage. “All three provide universal coverage and access, but do so in different ways, suggesting that high performance can be achieved through a variety of payment and organizational approaches,” the report said.

The study’s results came amid the Republican Party’s attempt to repeal former president Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms.

The Senate is set to vote on the legislation in a few weeks. Two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Susan Collins, have said that they will not be voting for the repeal bill.

Sources: ABC, The Hill

International: Paddington Bear Creator Michael Bond Dies at 91

Michael Bond, the creator of children literature character Paddington Bear has died at 91 years old.

Bond’s publisher HarperCollins said he died on Tuesday at his UK home after a short illness.

Bond created Paddington in 1956 after seeing a teddy bear on a shop window on his way home from work. The coat-and-hat-wearing bear first appeared in Bond’s 1958 debut book titled A Bear Called Paddington, and then went on to feature in more than 20 books, a TV show and a film.

Today, over 35 million copies have been sold around the world and translated into 40 languages. The statue of the bear also stands at the Paddington station in London.

Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher at HarperCollins Children’s Books said Paddington “touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations.”

Environment: Switzerland Votes to Ban New Nuclear Plants

Swiss voters have voted to ban new nuclear plants and allocate funds for renewable energy subsidies.

58.2 per cent of the voters agreed on the ban in a referendum on Sunday. “The results shows the population wants a new energy policy and does not want any new nuclear plants,” said Switzerland’s energy minister Doris Leuthard. “The law leads our country into a modern energy future.”

The ban does not apply to the five existing nuclear plants in the country. Currently, nuclear power accounts for a third of electricity generation in Switzerland.

This effort to exit nuclear energy mirrors other European countries such as Austria, which banned nuclear power, and Germany, which pledges to phase it out by 2022. Last week, the newly-elected French president Emmanuel Macron also appointed anti-nuclear advocate Nicolas Hulot as energy minister.

International: Fyre Festival Hit with $100 Million Class Action Lawsuit

Daniel Jung, one of the attendees of the “disastrous” Fyre Festival, has launched a $US100 million lawsuit at the event organisers for fraud, misrepresentation and breach of contract.

The class action suit, filed in the US District Court, names festival co-founders Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule along with Fyre Media.

Jung’s suit alleges that organisers went ahead with promoting the event and selling tickets when they knew “their festival was dangerously under-equipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance”. It also alleges that organisers warned performers and celebrities not to come due to unsuitable conditions.

The suit also protests the “substandard accommodations”, “wild animals” in and around the festival area, and misleading marketing among others.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, McFarland said he and Ja Rule were “a little naïve in thinking for the first time we could do this ourselves”.

“There will be make-up dates, May 2018 in the U.S., free for everybody who signed up for this festival. We will donate $1.50 [per ticket] to the Bahamian Red Cross,” said McFarland. “The one change we will make is we will not try to do it ourselves.”

 

Ja Rule also said he was “heartbroken” and promised that every attendee will be refunded.

On Sunday, the Fyre Festival sent an apology email to attendees, including a link for refund. The form in the link also has an option to receive 2018 VIP passes in place of the refund.

International: Saudi Arabia Voted Into UN Women’s Rights Commission

Saudi Arabia’s election to the UN Commission on the Status of Women has sparked outrage, as the country has been ranked as one of the worst in gender equality.

The country was elected in a secret ballot at the UN’s 54-member Economic and Social Council last week. It is to serve from 2018 to 2022.

The commission’s aims, stated on its website, are for “the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women”.

The election has received strong condemnations from observers. “Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” said Hillel Neuer of UN Watch. “Why did the U.N. choose the world’s leading promoter of gender inequality to sit on its gender equality commission?”

According to Human Rights Watch, women in Saudi Arabia are forbidden to drive cars and require permission from male guardians to travel. They also have difficulty in working, doing transactions or accessing healthcare without a male relative.

Former UN Development Program Administrator Helen Clark has defended Saudi Arabia’s election to the commission, saying that it is “important to support those in the country who are working for change for women”.

International: US Would No Longer Tolerate North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile Tests, Pence Says

US Vice President Mike Pence said “the era of strategic patience is over” with North Korea, following the failed missile test in the North.

Speaking in Seoul on Sunday alongside South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn, Pence said the missile launch on Saturday was “a provocation” to US and its allies.

Pence warned the North to mind President Donald Trump’s foreign military policy, as has been in shown in other countries recently. “Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan,” said Pence.

“North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region… We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable.”

On the same day, Trump also said on Twitter that China is “working with us on the North Korean problem”. US security adviser HR McMaster also indicated that the President would be “comfortable making tough decisions” in order to ensure the nuclear-free status of Korean Peninsula.

International: United Airlines Passenger Bloodied and Dragged Off Overbooked Flight

United Airlines CEO has apologized for “having to re-accommodate” a few customers from an overbooked Sunday flight after a video showing a passenger dragged out of the plane went viral.

The 30-second video shows a 69-year-old man being forced out of his seat and dragged out of the plane by police officers. Tyler Bridges, a passenger on the 3411 flight said United asked for volunteers on the gate to take a later flight for cash remuneration and hotel stay, but no one took the offer. After boarding, passengers were told four people would be randomly selected by computer to leave the aircraft. “We almost felt like we were being taken hostage,” Bridges said. “We were stuck there. You can’t do anything as a traveller. You’re relying on the airline.”

Bridges said when the man in the video was selected and approached, he rejected to leave, saying he was a doctor who needed to see patients in the morning. “He was resisting any way he could,” Bridges said. “He was flailing his arms a little bit and yelling.”

A picture of the man with bloodied face also emerged, sparking outrage.

United spokesman Charlie Hobart said the man was the only person who refused to move, and insisted police assistance was justified. “We followed the right procedures,” said Hobart.

United CEO Oscar Munoz has apologized on Twitter for “having to re-accommodate” the passengers, and said the company is now contacting them to resolve the issues.

Netizens have condemned the airline for going against its promise to “Fly the Friendly Skies”.

International: At Least 11 Killed in Saint Petersburg Explosion

At least 11 people were killed in an explosion in Saint Petersburg metro on Monday, with dozens injured.

The blast tore apart a train carriage which was travelling between two stations around 2.40 pm.

A second explosive device was found at a nearby station and defused by authorities. No groups have claimed responsibility for the explosion.

President Vladimir Putin said the cause of the explosion was not clear yet. “We will look at all possible causes, terrorism as well as common crime,” Putin said.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said while the investigation into the event was based on an assumption of terrorism, it was also considering other possibilities.

According to state media, the bomb contained a kilogram of TNT and was hidden in a fire extinguisher. Law enforcement agencies also confirmed that the bomb was filled with shrapnel.

All St Petersburg metro stations have been closed.

International: Donald Trump Signs a Revised Travel Ban Order

US President Donald Trump has signed a newly revised travel ban order, exempting Iraqi nationals and US permanent residents from the prohibition to enter the country.

The new order, which takes effect starting March 16, will apply a 90-day visa halt on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. It also explicitly exempts US permanent residents and valid visa holders.

The new order comes after the controversies surrounding the original order, which was issued on January 27 and blocked by federal courts following protests and .

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the order was required to provide “a needed pause” for US to review its relationship with travellers from “countries of concern”.

“We cannot compromise our nation’s security by allowing visitors entry when their own governments are unable or unwilling to provide the information we need to vet them responsibly, or when those governments actively support terrorism,” said Sessions.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it would try to block the new order in court, saying the latest revision still amounts to religious discrimination.

“President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people,” said Omar Jadwat, ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project director.

Democrats senator Bernie Sanders said the ban would instead jeopardise the safety of American citizens.

“This ban is a racist and anti-Islamic attempt to divide us up,” Sanders wrote in a statement. “This isn’t about keeping America safe. A president responsible for keeping our citizens safe would not hand over ideological ammunition to terrorists seeking new recruits to kill Americans.”

“A watered-down ban is still a ban,” said senator Chuck Schumer in a statement. “Despite the administration’s changes, this dangerous executive order makes us less safe, not more, it is mean-spirited, and un-American. It must be repealed.”

International: Photo of Turkish Assassin Wins World Press Photo of the Year

Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici has won Photo of the Year at the 2017 World Press Photo awards for his image of an off-duty Turkish policeman standing over a Russian ambassador whom he just shot.

The picture of gunman Mevlut Mert Altintas and ambassador Andrei Karlov, which was taken in December, was controversial among jury members. The awards’ jury chair, Stuart Franklin voted against the photo, saying it was “morally as problematic to publish as a terrorist beheading”.

“It was a very very difficult decision, but in the end we felt that the picture of the year was an explosive image that really spoke to the hatred of our times,” member of the jury Mary F Calvert said.

“Every time it came on the screen you almost had to move back because it’s such an explosive image and we really felt that it epitomises the definition of what the World Press Photo of the Year is and means.”

Ozbilici’s picture was chosen among 80,408 photos submitted to the competition by 5,034 photographers from 125 countries.

Ozbilici said upon receiving his award, “I immediately decided to do my job because I could be wounded, maybe die, but at least I have to represent good journalism.”

The jury awarded prizes in eight categories to 45 photographers from 25 countries, including USA’s Brent Stirton for his rhino poaching picture, France’s Laurent van der Stockt for his Mosul photo, and Russia’s Valery Melnikov for her long-term project Black Days of Ukraine.