News, July 8th

How remdesivir can save lives in nations with lower hospital capacity

Amid news that the US has bought up virtually the entire global supply of remdesivir, a new study outlines how the drug could save lives in countries with a lower hospital capacity, such as South Africa, where COVID-19 is beginning to overwhelm intensive care units (ICUs).

The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, estimated that remdesivir’s ability to shorten ICU stays could increase the number of patients treated in South Africa’s ICUs by more than 50%.

“There are many countries with limited ICU capacity that could benefit from this double impact on mortality,” says study lead author Dr Brooke Nichols, Assistant Professor at the Boston University.

For the remdesivir study, the research team used their South African National COVID-19 Epidemiology model to look at the estimated three to six months when severe cases will exceed the country’s 3,450 available ICU beds. If every one of South Africa’s ICU patients with COVID-19 received remdesivir, reducing the average ICU stay, the researchers estimated that the number of patients treated in ICUs from June to December would increase from between 23,443 and 32,284 patients to between 36,383 and 47,820.

The findings showed that the increased capacity of remdesivir could save as many as 6,862 lives per month as the country’s cases peak and the drug could prevent the deaths of as many as 13,647 South Africans by December.

The mortality rate for Covid-19 in ICUs varies from country to country and hospital to hospital, so the number of lives saved from increased ICU capacity would also vary, the study said.

The research team has been modelling South Africa’s COVID epidemic to help the country’s government make informed decisions, and previously predicted that the country’s ICU capacity could be overwhelmed as early as this month. “The hardest-hit province, the Western Cape, exceeded ICU capacity in June,” the study authors informed.

Earlier this month, the European Commission had authorised anti-viral drug remdesivir for the treatment against coronavirus, making it the first drug authorised at the European Union level for the treatment of COVID-19.

Illegal trade in fake or faulty COVID-19 products booming, new UN research reveals

A surge in demand for medical products to combat COVID-19 has led to a jump in the trafficking of substandard and faulty merchandise, according to new UN research published on Wednesday.

“Health and lives are at risk with criminals exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to cash in on public anxiety and increased demand for PPE and medications”, said Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Among its countless other impacts, the coronavirus has further highlighted the shortcomings in regulatory and legal frameworks aimed at preventing the manufacturing and selling of these products, points out the UNODC research brief, entitled “COVID-19-related Trafficking of Medical Products as a Threat to Public Health”.

The research reveals that criminal gangs are exploiting both the uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus along with inconsistencies in national regulation regimens.

“Transnational organized crime groups take advantage of gaps in national regulation and oversight to peddle substandard and falsified medical product”, explained the UN crime-fighting chief.

The falsification of medical products bears significant risks for public health as products may not properly treat the disease and may facilitate the development of drug resistance.

Criminal groups have also quickly adjusted to the opportunities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic to exploit the vulnerabilities and gaps in the health and criminal justice systems.

Evidence shows that fraud, scams and seizures, involving the manufacture and trafficking of substandard and falsified medical products, have followed the spread of the virus.

In one case, German health authorities contracted two sales companies in Switzerland and Germany to procure €15 million worth of face masks through a cloned website of an apparently legitimate company in Spain.

“We need to help countries increase cooperation to close gaps, build law enforcement and criminal justice capacity, and drive public awareness to keep people safe”, Ms. Waly upheld.

The pandemic has also highlighted a boom in data-based scams – including phishing, and business email attacks – or the creation of fake corporate websites to fool purchasers.

UNODC’s research also predicts that the behaviour of organized criminal groups will gradually change over the course of the pandemic.

When a vaccine is developed, it will likely lead to a shift in focus away from PPE smuggling to trafficking in the vaccine.

Moreover, cyberattacks on critical infrastructure involved in addressing the pandemic are also likely to continue in the form of online scams aimed at health procurement authorities, according to the research.

Strengthening legal frameworks and penalties, and a more harmonized global approach to the criminalization of the manufacture and trafficking of falsified medical products is crucial, as only a common approach will enable effective responses to crimes impacting individuals and public health, the UNODC brief maintains. At the same time however, preventing, detecting, and responding to medical product-related crime will require people who work in the medical product sector to acquire new or additional skills.

Morality as our banner

Once again, an attempt was made to manipulate the issue of human rights to discredit Cuba, following the same dishonest, 60-year-old prefabricated script. The double standards, political manipulation and selectivity in addressing the issue were deployed unsuccessfully, in an effort to overshadow our achievements before the world.

The stage on this occasion was the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, where an individual attempted to present a long list of lies attacking our country, in a brazen anti-Cuban show, to be amplified in the slanderous media campaign against the island.

But Cuba’s unwavering commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights for all, alert to the interdependent and indivisible nature of such rights, is recognized within the international community, and undercuts all fallacies, no matter where they come from.

Article 41 of our country’s Constitution states: “The Cuban state recognizes and guarantees to individuals the enjoyment and exercise of inalienable, undeniable, indivisible, universal and interdependent human rights, in accordance with the principles of consistent progress, equality and non-discrimination,” which is still an illusion for many peoples on the planet.

Our nation continues to move forward in building an increasingly just, prosperous and sustainable society, and to support those in need in other parts of the world. More than 400,000 health care workers have completed missions in 164 countries, over 56 years. The most notable of these involved Cuban participation in the fight against cholera in Haiti, Ebola in Africa and the COVID-19 battle being waged today by several brigades of the Henry Reeve Contingent in 31 nations.

More than ten million people in dozens of countries have learned to read and write using the Cuban “Yo sí puedo” method, more than one million have reached a Sixth Grade level via the “Yo sí puedo seguir” program, and more than 35,000 professionals from 136 nations have been trained in our universities in careers associated with public health alone.

Our achievements in education, health and social security have been recognized many times worldwide. Cuba has ratified 44 of the 61 international instruments in the field of human rights – representing 72.13% of the total – and is among the UN member states with the highest number of ratifications of such instruments, according to the National Report of the Republic of Cuba to the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council in 2018.

Our activism on this issue within the United Nations is historic and widely recognized. Recently, the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council adopted three resolutions at Cuba’s proposal, concerning the impact of Foreign Debt on the Enjoyment of Human Rights, the Right to Food, and Cultural Rights.

Cuba maintains a policy of zero tolerance for any form of trafficking in persons, implementing a national action plan to address the issue.

In a UN forum on the subject, any dignified Cuban would strongly denounce the intensification of the U.S. blockade of our homeland, as an act of international genocide and a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the human rights of our people. And condemn the ruthless campaign of the U.S. government against the medical collaboration Cuba offers to other nations, a hurtful crusade that affects the right to health of millions of human beings.

He or she would raise their voice for the end of unilateral coercive measures by Washington against Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Syria and other states; for the cessation of armed conflicts worldwide, violations of international law and the United Nations Charter, all serious threats to the right to life and peace.

In the face of such lies and manipulation, Cuba will continue to advocate for multilateralism, solidarity and cooperation, in defense of a better world.

New corporate tax statistics provide fresh insights into the activities of multinational enterprises

New data, released today, provides aggregated information on the global tax and economic activities of nearly 4,000 multinational enterprise (MNE) groups headquartered in 26 jurisdictions and operating across more than 100 jurisdictions worldwide.

The data, released in the OECD’s annual Corporate Tax Statistics publication, is a major output based on the Country-by-Country Reporting requirements for MNEs under the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project.

The BEPS Project has seen more than 135 jurisdictions collaborating to tackle tax avoidance strategies by MNEs that exploit gaps and mismatches in international tax rules to avoid paying tax. Under Country-by-Country Reporting, large MNEs are required to disclose important information about their profits, tangible assets, employees as well as where they pay their taxes, in every country in which they operate. Country-by-Country reports (CbCRs) provide tax authorities with the information needed to analyse MNE behaviour for risk assessment purposes, and with the release of today’s anonymised and aggregated statistics will support the improved measurement and monitoring of BEPS.

The anonymised and aggregated CbCR statistics for 2016 have been provided to the OECD by member jurisdictions of the Inclusive Framework on BEPS. This new dataset contains a vast array of aggregated data on the global tax and economic activities of MNEs, including profit before income tax, income tax paid (on a cash basis), current year income tax accrued, unrelated and related party revenues, number of employees, tangible assets and the main business activity (or activities) of MNEs.

While the data contain some limitations[1] and it is not possible to detect trends in BEPS behaviour from a single year of data, the new statistics suggest a number of preliminary insights:

There is a misalignment between the location where profits are reported and the location where economic activities occur, with MNEs in investment hubs reporting a relatively high share of profits compared to their share of employees and tangible assets.

Revenues per employee tend to be higher where statutory CIT rates are zero and in investment hubs.

On average, the share of related party revenues in total revenues is higher for MNEs in investment hubs.

The composition of business activity differs across jurisdiction groups, with the predominant business activity in investment hubs being “holding shares and other equity instruments”.

Noting the limitations of the data and that these observations could also reflect some commercial considerations, they are indicative of the existence of BEPS behaviour and reinforce the need to continue to address remaining BEPS issues as part of the Inclusive Framework’s work on Pillar 2 of the ongoing international efforts to address the tax challenges arising from digitalisation.

The new OECD analysis also shows that corporate income tax remains a significant source of tax revenues for governments across the globe, accounting for 14.6% of total tax revenues on average across the 93 jurisdictions in 2017, compared to 12.1% in 2000. Corporate taxation is even more important in developing countries, comprising on average 18.6% of all tax revenues in Africa and 15.5% in Latin America and the Caribbean, compared to 9.3% in the OECD.

This second edition of Corporate Tax Statistics also collects for the first time, information on controlled foreign company (CFC) rules, which are designed to ensure the taxation of certain categories of MNE income in the jurisdiction of the parent company in order to counter certain offshore structures that result in no or indefinite deferral of taxation (BEPS Action 3); as well as new data on interest limitation rules, which can assist in understanding progress related to the implementation of BEPS Action 4.

Presidential Message on the 50th Anniversary of the Federal Policy of Indian Self-Determination

On July 8, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon issued his “Special Message to the Congress on Indian Affairs,” which served to herald a new era in Federal Indian policy: Indian Self-Determination.

In his message, President Nixon applauded the adaptability and creativity of Native Americans in the face of overwhelming obstacles, praising their enormous contributions to our Nation through art, culture, resilience, and spirit, and embracing strong Tribal governments and respecting Tribal decision-making.  Building on this momentum, Congress passed and President Ford signed into law the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) of 1975, which recognized the primacy of the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the United States and Tribes and led to the establishment of an Indian civil service and a recognition of Tribal institutions through contracting and, later, compacting between the Federal Government and Tribes.

My Administration has taken historic measures to build upon the legacy of the ISDEAA.  In addition to signing the first-ever Presidential Proclamation recognizing missing and murdered indigenous peoples, I was proud to sign an Executive Order establishing both Operation Lady Justice and the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.  These initiatives are developing and implementing an aggressive, government-wide strategy, working with Tribal leaders to combat the crisis of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives—especially women and children.  In furtherance of these goals, in Fiscal Year 2019, the Department of Justice awarded over $273.4 million in grants to improve public safety, serve victims of crime, and support youth programs in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.  My Administration is also delivering unprecedented resources to combat opioids and drug addiction to nurture healthy families and communities for all Americans.

My Administration has also advanced important cultural priorities for Indian Country.  This includes allowing federally recognized Tribes to retain bald and golden eagle remains found on their land.  Additionally, my Administration reached an agreement with Finland to repatriate culturally important remains and artifacts to the Pueblos and other Tribes with heritage in the Mesa Verde region.  We have also taken a whole-of-government approach to enhancing coordination regarding economic growth, jobs, infrastructure, and improved standards of living in Indian Country, including elevating Federal Tribal energy development collaboration, hosting the first-ever Federal Tribal Broadband Summit, and continuing technical assistance to identify priorities, opportunities, and resources that improve connectivity for native communities.  Additionally, the Department of Transportation recently published a final rule to establish the Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program, which will remove regulatory burdens and provide a flexible, effective framework for the Federal Government and Tribes to work collaboratively to improve transportation infrastructure, economic growth, and quality of life in Indian Country.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of the Interior and federally recognized Tribes, has disbursed nearly $8 billion dollars from the CARES Act’s Coronavirus Relief Fund to Tribal jurisdictions.  This is the largest single investment in Indian Country in our Nation’s history and is delivering critical resources to respond to and recover from the coronavirus.  The Department of Health and Human Services, the Indian Health Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency also continue working in close partnership with Tribal nations to deliver life-saving and life-sustaining assistance and financial support, including $500 million to Tribal health organizations from the Provider Relief Fund and $30 million to Tribes for meals and home and community-based supportive services.

Today, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Indian Self-Determination, we commit ourselves anew to ensuring the sovereignty, strength, and health of Indian Tribes and Tribal citizens.

World Bank Appoints New Country Manager for Uzbekistan

Marco Mantovanelli started his assignment as World Bank Country Manager for Uzbekistan on July 1, 2020, replacing Hideki Mori who was in this position since March 2017.

Mr. Mantovanelli has over 20 years of development and management experience working for the World Bank in Latin America, Africa and Europe. Most recently, he was the World Bank Country Manager for Kosovo and North Macedonia. He has also served as Country Manager for Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and has held various managerial positions at World Bank Headquarters in Washington, D. C.

“I am delighted to start my new assignment as Country Manager for Uzbekistan. The World Bank is a committed partner to the Government of Uzbekistan, as the country continues its historic transition to a competitive, inclusive, and sustainable market economy. I look forward to working closely with the authorities and our international partners to continue supporting the reforms through our financing, knowledge, and advisory assistance,” said Mr. Mantovanelli. “A top priority for me in the coming months will be to ensure that the World Bank continues to provide the best possible support to the Government as it continues with its impressive policy response to the significant human and economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic in Uzbekistan.”

One of Mr. Mantovanelli’s priorities over the next year will be working with the Government to prepare a new Country Partnership Framework that will outline the strategic direction of the World Bank’s financial and technical assistance to Uzbekistan from 2022 to 2026.

In response to the Government’s ambitious and comprehensive reform agenda, the World Bank’s financial and technical support has grown substantially since 2017. In just over three years, the World Bank’s investments in Uzbekistan have more than doubled, from about $1.8 billion to $4.4 billion as of June 2020. This growth in investment is a testament to the Government’s continued efforts to transform Uzbekistan’s economy and society in line with its 2017-2021 Development Strategy.

The World Bank’s country program in Uzbekistan currently comprises 23 projects that provide critical support in areas such as economic management, agriculture, health, education, water supply and sanitation, energy, transport, social protection, urban and rural development.

In recent months, the World Bank has moved rapidly to provide additional support to Uzbekistan as it faces unprecedented health, economic, and social challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. In April and May 2020, the country received emergency financing totaling $295 million to strengthen health systems, acquire additional life-saving medical equipment, increase financial support to poor and vulnerable people affected by the economic consequences of the pandemic, and fill the unanticipated budgetary gap that emerged in the immediate aftermath of the crisis.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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