Category Archives: Healthcare

Here’s how Biden could undo Trump’s deregulation agenda

Biden could use Trump’s playbook to reverse his regulatory moves on pollution, worker safety, health care, and more.
By Sarah Kleiner – Cutting workplace safety inspections. Allowing subpar health insurance plans to be sold to Americans. Permitting tractor-trailer drivers to blow past previous driver-fatigue limits. Waging war on birth control.

These deregulatory actions and others taken by President Donald Trump’s administration have adversely impacted the health and safety of Americans, as revealed in reporting for System Failure, an investigative series produced by the Center for Public Integrity and Vox.

Trump’s actions may not stick. Now that President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office in January, he has a few tools at his disposal to undo some of Trump’s regulatory maneuvers. Some could be more difficult to quickly put to use with a split Congress, however.

If Democrats take control of both houses of Congress, they’ll be able to quickly wipe out regulations pushed through in the last 60 legislative days of Trump’s term, because of the Congressional Review Act, part of the Contract With America that Newt Gingrich and House Republicans campaigned on in 1994.

But, while Democrats maintained control of the House, it’s still unclear which party will hold the majority in the Senate. All eyes will be on Georgia’s runoff for two Senate seats, which will happen in early January. Neither of the Republican incumbents, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, garnered a majority of the votes in last week’s election, forcing a runoff with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively.

If Ossoff and Warnock ultimately prevail, it won’t be clear until January when the Congressional Review Act’s 60-day period began — because it all depends on how many days Congress meets between now and January 3, when its current term ends — but experts predict it started sometime during the summer. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Would you trust a machine to pick a vaccine?
Machine learning is being tasked with an increasing number of important decisions. But the answers it generates involve a degree of uncertainty.
By Emily Lambert – Back before COVID-19, Chicago Booth’s Sanjog Misra was on vacation in Italy with his son, who has a severe nut allergy. They were at a restaurant and couldn’t read the menu, so Misra opened an app that translates Italian to English, and pointed his phone at the menu to find out if one of the dishes was peanut free. The app said it was.

But as he prepared to order, Misra had a thought: Since the app was powered by machine learning, how much could he trust its response? The app didn’t indicate if the conclusion was 99 percent certain to be correct, or 80 percent certain, or just 51 percent. If the app was wrong, the consequences could be dire for his son.

Machine learning is increasingly ubiquitous. It’s inside your Amazon Alexa. It directs self-driving cars. It makes medical decisions and diagnoses. In the past few years, machine-learning methods have come to dominate data analysis in academia and industry. Some teachers are using ML to read students’ assignments and grade homework. There is evidence that machine learning outperforms dermatologists at diagnosing skin cancer. Researchers have used ML to mine research papers for information that could help speed the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

They’re also using ML to predict the shapes of proteins, an important factor in drug development. “All of our work begins in a computer, where we run hundreds of millions of simulations. That’s where machine learning helps us find things quickly,” says Ian Haydon, the scientific communications manager for the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington. Some scientists there are developing vaccines, and others are trying to develop a drug compound that would stop the novel coronavirus from replicating. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

Reimagining the auto industry’s future: It’s now or never
Disruptions in the auto industry will result in billions lost, with recovery years away. Yet companies that reimagine their operations will perform best in the next normal.
By Thomas Hofstätter, Melanie Krawina, Bernhard Mühlreiter, Stefan Pöhler, and Andreas Tschiesner – Electric mobility, driverless cars, automated factories, and ridesharing—these are just a few of the major disruptions the auto industry faced even before the COVID-19 crisis. Now with travel deeply curtailed by the pandemic, and in the midst of worldwide factory closures, slumping car sales, and massive layoffs, it’s natural to wonder what the “next normal” for the auto sector will look like. Over the past few months, we’ve seen the first indicators of this automotive future becoming visible, with the biggest industry changes yet to come.

Many of the recent developments raise concern. For instance, the COVID-19 crisis has compelled about 95 percent of all German automotive-related companies to put their workforces on short-term work during the shutdown, a scheme whereby employees are temporarily laid off and receive a substantial amount of their pay through the government. Globally, the repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis are immense and unprecedented. In fact, many auto-retail stores have remained closed for a month or more. We estimate that the top 20 OEMs in the global auto sector will see profits decline by approximately $100 billion in 2020, a roughly six-percentage-point decrease from just two years ago. It might take years to recover from this plunge in profitability.

At the operational level, the pandemic has accelerated developments in the automotive industry that began several years ago. Many of these changes are largely positive, such as the growth of online traffic and the greater willingness of OEMs to cooperate with partners—automotive and otherwise—to address challenges. Others, however, can have negative effects, such as the tendency to focus on core activities, rather than exploring new areas. While OEMs may now be concentrating on the core to keep the lights on, the failure to investigate other opportunities could hurt them long term.

As they navigate this crisis, automotive leaders may gain an advantage by reimagining their organizational structures and operations. Five moves can help them during this process: radically focusing on digital channels, shifting to recurring revenue streams, optimizing asset deployment, embracing zero-based budgeting, and building a resilient supply chain. One guiding principle—the need to establish a strong decision-making cadence—will also help. We believe that the window of opportunity for making these changes will permanently close in a few months—and that means the time to act is now or never. more>

It’s the most important election in our lifetime, and it always will be

We never know how important an election really is until long after it’s over.
By Ezra Klein – “There’s just one month left before the most important election of our lifetime,” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted in early October.

Two days later, Sen. Bernie Sanders backed him up. “This is the most important election, not only in our lifetime but in the modern history of our country,” he said in Michigan.

In 2016, it was Donald Trump deploying the cliché. “This is by far the most important vote you’ve ever cast for anyone at any time,” he said.

I won’t be coy with my view: I think the most important election of my lifetime was 2000, and I’ll defend that view in this piece. But more interesting than the parlor game is the framework of this debate. What makes something the most important election of a lifetime? How would we know?

Before 2016, the campaign in which I heard the “most important election of our lifetime” talk most often was 2004, when George W. Bush ran for reelection against John Kerry. It certainly felt pivotal. It was a referendum on the Iraq War, which was built on lies and carried out by fools, and left Iraq soaked in blood. It was also a referendum on the hard right turn Bush had taken in office, away from “compassionate conservatism” and toward neoconservatism abroad, and a politics of patriotic paranoia at home.

Kerry lost that election. And yet, in retrospect, it clearly wasn’t the most important election of my lifetime, and it may even have been better that Kerry lost it. The ensuing four years forced Bush, and the Republican Party he led, to take responsibility for the disasters they’d created. The catastrophe of the Iraq War became clearer to the country, leading to a Democratic sweep in 2006. The financial crisis, which had been building for years, exploded, leading to Barack Obama’s election and the massive congressional majorities that passed the Affordable Care Act. more>

Budget 2020: promising tax breaks, but relying on hope

By Peter Martin – Tax cuts aren’t the half of it.

The personal income tax cuts promised in the budget will cost A$17.8 billion over four years.

The measures aimed at supporting businesses – the temporary instant tax write off of capital investments, the temporary ability to use losses to reduce previous tax payments, the JobMaker hiring credit and the enhanced apprentice wage subsidy — will cost $26.7 billion, $4.8 billion, $4 billion and $1.2 billion.

That’s a total of $36.7 billion — a subsidy for private businesses without precedent.

The clumsy wording in the part of the budget that sets out strategy says the aim is to “drive sustainable, private sector-led growth and job creation”.

‘Driving private sector-led growth’

Driving private sector-led growth doesn’t quite make sense, but it’s easy to get a handle on what it means.

By itself, business isn’t in a position to drive much.

Even with the budget measures – even with the Australian Taxation Office allowing most businesses to write off everything they spend on equipment over the next two years – non-mining business investment is expected to collapse 14.5% this financial year and bounce back only 7.5% the next. more>

A Message From the Future II: The Years of Repair

Can we imagine a better future? If we stop talking about what winning actually looks like, isn’t that the same as giving up?
By Naomi Klein – Another Covid-19 lesson we wanted to highlight had to do with why the abuses that long predated the pandemic suddenly received so much more attention during it. It’s a lesson, perhaps, about the relationship between speed and solidarity. Because for those of us privileged enough to self-isolate, the virus forced a radical and sudden slowdown, a paring and editing down of life to its essentials that was undertaken in a bid to stop the virus’s spread. But that slowness had other, unintended effects as well. It turns out that when the deafening roar of capitalism-as-usual quiets, even a little, our capacity to notice things that were hidden in plain view may grow and expand.

There is no one answer or simple explanation for why we find ourselves in the throes of the deepest and most sustained public reckoning in a half-century with the evil that is white supremacy. But we cannot discount the “solidarity in vulnerability that the pandemic has generated,” as Eddie Glaude Jr. put it, while discussing his brilliant and highly relevant biography of James Baldwin, “Begin Again.” In forcing all of us to confront the porousness of our own bodies in relationship to the vast web of other bodies that sustain us and the people we love — caregivers, farmers, supermarket clerks, street cleaners, and more — the coronavirus instantly exploded the cherished, market-manufactured myth of the individual as self-made island.

For all of these reasons and more, as we searched for a unifying principle that could animate a future worth fighting for, we settled on “The Years of Repair.” The call to repair a deep brokenness has roots in many radical and religious traditions. And it provides a framework expansive enough to connect the interlocking crises in our social, economic, political, informational, and ecological spheres.

Repair work speaks to the need to repair our broken infrastructures of care: the schools, hospitals, and elder care facilities serving the poor and working classes, infrastructures that failed the test of this virus again and again. It also calls on us to repair the vast damage done to the natural world, to clean up toxic sites, rehabilitate wild landscapes, invest in nonpolluting energy sources. It is also a call to begin to repair our stuff rather than endlessly replace it in an ever-accelerating cycle of planned obsolescence — what the film refers to as “the right to repair.” more>

Updates from McKinsey

What it will take to create a more inclusive economy
By Liz Hilton Segel – What do we mean when we talk about building an inclusive economy?

An inclusive economy is fundamental to building a next normal after the COVID-19 crisis where we can thrive. It means creating an economy that provides opportunities to underserved people and communities; creates resilient, higher-wage jobs for workers; and ensures the mental health needs of people are met, enabling more productivity, greater personal and professional fulfillment, and many other benefits.

Businesses are facing a host of new challenges right now, and leaders in every industry have a full-slate of change on their agendas. But building an inclusive economy has never been more critical—and the time is now to embark on the journey. Here are three elements I shared with the FT that will help us along the way.

In a recent McKinsey survey of 800 executives in nine countries, 85 percent said their businesses have somewhat or greatly accelerated digitization during the pandemic, and nearly two-thirds reported that their companies have accelerated automation and artificial intelligence. To ensure this transformation doesn’t leave vulnerable workers behind, organizations must identify the skills their recovery business model depends on, then develop and scale tailored resources and programs to close any skills gaps among their employees.

These reskilling programs and workforce policies should be developed in partnership across departments and in tandem with industry leaders, business associations, educational, and social-sector institutions to build a better-prepared, resilient talent pipeline.

For instance, McKinsey recently joined the Rework America Alliance, formed by the Markle Foundation. The initiative will help millions of workers, regardless of formal education, move into good jobs in the digital economy by accelerating the development of a system of worker training that is specifically aligned to jobs that employers will need to fill. McKinsey is working to translate analytics into targeted guidance on reskilling opportunities, leading to better wages and better quality jobs. more>

Why Modi’s government is not up to the task

By Prabhat Patnaik – A striking aspect of the 24 percent decline in India’s GDP in the first quarter of 2020-21 compared to the previous year’s first quarter is the decline by 10.3 percent in public administration, defense, and other public services. This is a sector where the GDP is estimated not by the “output” of the sector but by the government expenditure incurred under these heads. The decline in the GDP originating in this sector therefore means a decline in public expenditure. This is surprising for two reasons: first, it shows that government expenditure, instead of being “counter-contractionary” has been “pro-contractionary”; second, during the lockdown caused by the pandemic, one would expect government spending on health care to go up, and thereby raise the overall government expenditure, instead of the fall we are actually observing.

When there is a lockdown, and output contracts, it is incumbent on the government to increase its expenditure. The rise in expenditure reduces the degree of contraction; and it puts purchasing power in the hands of the people so that many of them can maintain their consumption without getting into debt. Even if the government is timid enough not to increase its expenditure, at least it must maintain its expenditure to limit the contraction in GDP; but a fall in government expenditure during the period of a lockdown, which accentuates the overall contraction, is just the opposite of what the government should have done.

True, in such a period, there is a fall in government revenue; but to reduce government spending because of this, so that the fiscal deficit does not increase, is the height of folly. It worsens the contraction of the economy and greatly increases the sufferings of the people. This, however, is exactly what the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has done.

What is more, the Modi government is persisting with this folly. Some may find this accusation strange since on the very first day of parliament the government has come with a supplementary demand of around $32 billion, which, it may be thought, represents substantial additional expenditure. But this impression is wrong. These supplementary demands are meant to cover the expenditure that the government had already announced earlier to cope with the pandemic, which was over and above the budgetary provisions. This already announced expenditure, we know, was quite trivial, amounting altogether to no more than about 1 percent of GDP. True, these supplementary demands will revive India’s flagship program for rural employment scheme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005. This program had come to a virtual standstill because of lack of funds, but such revival will only entail what has already been promised, not any further expansion. more>

Have our governments become too powerful during COVID-19?

By Yee-Fui Ng – In the fight against the coronavirus, the Australian government has enacted a series of measures that have expanded executive powers. These include the use of smartphone contact-tracing technology, mandatory isolation arrangements and the closure of borders and businesses.

While Australians seem broadly supportive of this type of government control in times of crisis, critics have expressed concerns about the long-term implications of these measures for individual rights.

There are a few salient questions: how does executive power accelerate during a pandemic — and why is this a cause for concern? And what type of oversight of executive power should there be in a democracy?

The government of the day exercises executive power to implement programs and policies. Our democratic system dictates that the use of executive power is checked by the other two branches of government: the judiciary and legislature.

But in exceptional times of disaster and crisis, the executive government tends to take a pre-eminent role. Under our biosecurity and public health laws, governments can declare states of emergency and disaster, which give them significant coercive powers.

As crises such as pandemics, disasters or wars threaten the very existence of the nation, the rationale is the government needs these enhanced powers to protect the people.

By contrast, the parliament and courts tend to stand on the sidelines and reduce their scrutiny of these powers.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an expansion of executive power at both the federal and state levels. more>

Updates from ITU

Leveraging regulations and technology to safeguard maritime communication and navigation
By Mario Maniewicz – Maritime transport is the backbone of international trade. The safety of shipping and protection of the maritime environment are therefore critical to promoting a sustainable maritime transport sector. Moreover, the safe and efficient movement of goods and people at sea is vital to attaining the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and especially SDG 14: Life Below Water.

As the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), ITU works to support and improve safety and security in the maritime field through the allocation and protection of frequency spectrum for maritime communications and by developing standards for maritime radio systems.

In addition, ITU updates and makes available its maritime service publications containing information on coast and ship stations used worldwide, as well as the rules for establishing communications at sea. Technical and service information concerning coast and ship stations is also accessible through the ITU Maritime mobile Access and Retrieval System (MARS), which is available 24/7 online.

At the last World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19) held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, ITU Member states took important decisions concerning the enhancement of safety at sea through the introduction of new maritime communication systems and increasing efficiency of spectrum utilization. more>

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